February 2010 Archives

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hello Sir,
I'm an avid SurvivalBlog reader. I noticed that in your latest book ("How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It") you mention avoiding any type of pool shock containing ingredients other than "Calcium Hypochlorite" . While searching around for calcium hypochlorite I couldn't find it at my usual shopping locations and started searching around about "Sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione" and "Trichloro-s-triazinetrione" as they seemed to be available in abundance in my area.

My local Sam's Club had the following types of "Pool Shock":

1.) Sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione hydrated 99%
Available chlorine 55.5%
50 pound bucket of granules = $105.48

2.) Same as above labeled "quick dis shock"
A box containing 24 one pound pouches = $57.34

3.) Also present were 3" chlorinating tablets (Trichloro-s-triazinetrione 99%) But I have found no data about their safe use.
Available chlorine 90%
40 pound container = $91.87

While asking around about the possible use of these chemicals for water treatment, I was given this link that contains directions regarding the use of dichloro-s-triazinetrione for drinking water treatment. Dichloro-s-triazinetrione, in it's 99% pure granular form, will purify a 55 gallon drum of water with only a 1/4 teaspoon of product. Provided that the water to be treated was somewhat pre-filtered, that equals up to 4 million gallons of treated water from one 50 pound bucket!

I was leery to accept that dichloro-s-triazinetrione was a suitable chemical for treatment of drinking water at first, but I have since discovered that the new style of water purification tablets sold by CampingSurvival.com also use dichloro-s-triazinetrione as their listed active ingredient.

Hopefully you or maybe some of your readers with knowledge about sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione could add to or further clarify this chemicals ability to be safely used for drinking water treatment. The ability to purify millions of gallons of water out of a 50 pound bucket is too good of an opportunity to pass up if it is indeed feasible! Granted, the bucket price is $105.48 (that may be pretty steep for some folk), but it would sure allow for a healthy margin for charity use!

Your brother in Christ, - Chris in West Virginia

JWR Replies: I'll defer to the knowledge of someone with a chemistry degree, on that question.

Mr. Rawles,

I have black belts in two different styles of martial arts: Okinawan Karate and a form of Japanese Jiu-jitsu. I can say without a doubt though that studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu/Grappling and Mixed Martial Arts (grappling and kickboxing) is bar none the best and most effective way to learn to fight and made my previous training largely irrelevant.

You don't need years to become effective in grappling styles as I've seen people with six months of training take down and submit much larger opponents who were fighting as hard as they could. In addition to this, the focus on competitive training builds reflexes, muscle, cardio endurance and the ability to take hits and keep on going. Martial arts that do not use competition and real life sparring to practice are not more deadly. Only those arts that actively encourage students to spar against others who are forcefully resisting have the proven track record of dealing with hostile opponents. In one former school we routinely had people from other styles come in to prove their mettle against our "sport" and our instructor would just make them spar a middle-rank student first and get beat. There was no need for a senior student or instructor to even get involved. Often these other systems do not focus on real-life sparring and as a result the students are out of shape, cannot react to spontaneous and unpredictable situations quickly, nor can they take a punch and have the wits about them to follow-up and take the fight back to the attacker. Virtually all of these other styles of fighting were helpless once they landed on the ground where a large number of fights eventually wind up.

It is my experience that those who do not train "sport" martial arts will quickly lose their steam inside of two minutes with a grappler and easily be submitted. Those that have never taken a strong hook to the jaw, likewise. Sport fighting is the most exhausting and intense activity most people will ever do. Whether it's grappling, judo, boxing, kickboxing or wrestling. Indeed, the most dangerous fighters I've sparred with have always been grapplers. Not only is grappling effective in dealing with single opponents, but it also trains you stay on your feet against multiples so you can make a quick exit if you need to. Not just this, but the cardio it develops means you can outrun your attackers which is the best way to deal with multiple opponents. As a side benefit, grappling arts like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be done until a very old age as they are low impact. One of the founders of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Helio Gracie, practiced grappling well into his 90s.

Those interested in learning martial arts should stick to those styles that have a proven track record in full-contact and full-resistance competitions and should not discount such activity as "sport." Those who dismiss a martial art because because it is a "sport" have obviously never been in a full-contact sparring match and wouldn't stand a chance against a trained fighter with rules or not. Yes, this is a challenge to anyone reading this who thinks otherwise to go into a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Mixed Martial Arts school and prove what you're doing works better. I've yet to run across a "secret" martial art that can stand up to cold hard empirical testing that a cage fighter or experienced grappler can bring to the equation. - Craig


While I agree with Joe G. on the utility of learning to fight empty handed, his reasoning is wrong. Humans have never relied upon empty handed technique unless they were forced to do so by a government who outlawed weapons. Unless you are caught off guard in the shower, I can't foresee a set of circumstances that wouldn't allow you to have an effective weapon of some kind. A bow, spear, club or knife is always going to be available, because you can make them. In fact, I can't imagine most of your readers ever running completely out of ammunition for their main battery.

I congratulate Joe on defeating 10 opponents with only his bare hands, but I question whether this would have worked against armed or resolved enemies. I too have studied several martial arts over the last 35 years and hold advanced belts in 3 of them, but I consider an unarmed fight against 10 resolved opponents pretty much hopeless. Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan together probably couldn't survive a street fight against 10 armed opponents. Don't get caught up in martial arts myths.

Combat skills are magnified by the weapon you use. A highly skilled man with pistol can beat several unskilled opponents because he has a tool capable of killing at a distance very quickly. His ability to shoot fast and accurately can really make a difference. Skill with a knife magnifies the natural lethality of the knife and allows you to kill very quickly. Any decent weapon can kill or disable in less than a second. Skill at punching, kicking and grappling don't make nearly as big a difference because they are not lethal enough to put someone away before their buddy can kill you. Killing with bare hands is much slower and even a skilled opponent can be overwhelmed by multiple opponents. Unarmed combat should always be considered a last resort. Any weapon is better than none at all, so why would anyone choose to fight unarmed?

Don't lose sight of the real threats. Real combat is not a schoolhouse brawl where you can yell "uncle" and they will let you up. Real combat lasts seconds, not minutes. It's fast and brutal and usually ends with somebody dying. Close combat is about killing your opponents as quickly as possible so you can escape. Always use the best weapon you can get.

About choosing a martial art: The newest ones that have been proven in combat are the only ones worth learning, period. All martial arts start out as a simple set of combat skills and progress into a martial art and then to a "martial way" like Tai Chi which is nothing more than a dance. This is because most of the instructors in the chain of tradition have never been in combat and don't fully understand the moves they are teaching. All martial arts lose effectiveness as they age. Many martial arts still teach techniques for unhorsing an enemy or bypassing a specific type of armor. When is the last time you have seen a street thug riding a horse? The oldest martial arts have become insanely ineffective and contain moves that will get you killed in real combat. Don't waste your money and time. Learn a new, effective set of combat techniques like the "Marine Corps Martial Arts Program" or army "Combatives" instead. You can learn enough technique to be very effective in less than 40 hours instruction. Any martial art that requires "years of dedication" to learn is bull. Here is an excellent book to guide your training program.

BTW, all the effective systems teach you how to use common weapons like clubs and knives (and bayonets sometimes). Learn those skills first!. Regards, - JIR


In response to Joe G.’s article on taking up martial arts as a dedicated study to prepare for the possibility of life without the security of conventional weapons in the event that “the ammunition dwindles and ability to procure or even manufacture more is gone” I disagree that effort put forth in martial arts training is well spent in a survival context.

If one has a passion for martial arts of course nothing is wrong with working hard at it. It will keep you in great shape and it will give you a tremendous edge in bare handed combat . However, beyond a basic self defense course (in the event you are caught off guard or are dumb enough to be found unarmed) I don’t see the practicality of it in a true survival scenario.

The reason I say this is because of the amount of time needed maintain proficiency in any martial art. (daily practice as I understand it) I had a friend that had a passion for Wing Chun Kung Fu, a very practical and effective street fighting martial art. He worked very hard at it and was deadly with bare hands. In the space of a year or so he had occasion to use it several times. He was able to knock out a guy with a single blow that smashed a bottle over his head in a bar one night, another time he quickly put a road raged aggressor on the ground in a parking lot. Still, a single bullet fired from a gun in the hand of an 80 year old woman with one eye would have defeated him.

Rather than practicing a martial art daily to prepare for the possibility that ammo runs out I just stock pile ammo and experiment with making more from scratch. Reloading [used cartridge] primers is possible now. (See the YouTube videos on the subject.)

I also disagree with the opinion that “A true effective martial art will be just as effective for the 18 year old as well as the 80 year old.” That statement is not believable by anyone that is actually 45 years old let alone 80. I’m only 41 but I’ve got arthritis in both knees, one elbow and my strong side shoulder. I’d need a baseball bat at least to handle most 18 year old aggressors.

Still, there is nothing wrong with martial arts if that’s your passion. Just don’t count on it as a serious self defense system in a survival scenario. - Mark S.

Mr. Rawles:
I just have a couple of comments to add to Joe G’s.

There are various pros and cons to choosing a self-defense system versus a martial art, most notably, how long you must train before the method you choose is combat applicable. For example, Krav Maga, the official combat method of the Israeli military was designed and refined over time to bring recruits up to a functional skill level quickly and with a minimum of training time, whereas in some traditional martial arts it can take years just to make the art functional under survival stress.

The right self-defense system will not limit your responses to a few situations, and will typically have the added benefit of enabling one to use their skills in self-defense fairly quickly compared to a more traditional martial art, typically. However, many traditional martial arts can have benefits far beyond simple self-defense. Many comprehensive martial arts, such as the Russian art Systema, or Japanese Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu impart skills and strategies for avoiding danger in the environment and survival under myriad circumstances, though some may find the Buddhist symbolism imbedded in the Bujinkan not to their liking. Systema’s philosophical basis is rooted in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which some may find more palatable.

The best way to choose, however, is to take stock in what your needs really are. What threats are you likely to face? There’s an excellent book written by Maj. Forrest E. Morgan called “Living the Martial Way” that has an excellent chapter on evaluating what your needs are in relation to your body type, and how to evaluate a combat system’s doctrine, strategy, and tactics in relation to your needs. I believe this book has been mentioned previously in your blog, and I can’t recommend it enough to your readers.

I would offer my own recommendations, in addition to Joe G.’s Chinese Kuntao, to include Russian Systema or SAMBO (the military version, not the civilian sport version), Filipino Martial Arts as taught and practiced by the Dog Brothers , Krav Maga (see www.kravmaga.com and www.krav-maga.com), Sammy Franco’s Contemporary Fighting Arts (his stuff is pretty brutal and he tends to use a lot of profanity in his materials, so be forewarned), and Combat Hapkido. This list is hardly comprehensive, but it provides, I think, a good overview of what’s out there and what might be useful to the community.

I would like to conclude by reiterating Joe’s advice to avoid martial sports in favor of non-competitive martial arts. This, regrettably, applies to most commercially taught martial arts in the United States, at least. Most commercial Ju Jitsu, Karate, Tae Kwon Do/Tang Soo Do, and Kung Fu schools tend to be geared towards competition first, and street survival as an afterthought, if it’s given any consideration at all, so let the buyer beware! - Scott B.

Being fairly new to preparedness (only a year or two under my belt) I vary rarely write in, especially to criticize another contributor, but when I read empty handed survival it threw me for a loop. This article is very misleading when it comes to self defense in a survival situation. The author claims that for thousands of years man was able to flourish with open handed survival. This is just pure fluff and a very narrow view of developing societies throughout history. Every single culture had a method of hand fighting, that much is true, but every society also equipped their warriors with the absolute best weaponry available. Spears, clubs, swords, bow and arrow, what have you. Even in the far east where a lot of today's popular "martial arts" were developed they still carried swords, learned to shoot a bow and arrow, and developed some of the most intricate and deadly weaponry in ancient times.

Now I don't want to come off as totally against training to fight with your hands but I think that it needs to be approached with a realistic understanding of what hand fighting is all about. First off, the same guy that will tell you that your handgun is only used to fight your way back to your rifle will tell you how he can easily disarm three opponents barehanded without breaking a sweat. Fighting empty handed is the absolute last resort. If anyone, and I mean anyone, tries to fight an armed opponent empty handed then there is an almost absolute possibility that they will either be killed or severely wounded (a slow death in a TEOTWAWKI situation). There is a reason that every army that has ever walked the face of the earth carried weapons. The samurai didn't dominate Japan for as long as they did because they were good hand fighters. Second off, this authors encounter with 10 assailants reads like a Bruce Lee movie. There's no way on Gods green earth that any fighting "system" can teach anyone to handle 10 dedicated assailants at once. Oh sure, if they conveniently come at you one at a time then everything is gravy, but if even two of them decide to do a good old fashioned "prison rush" then its curtains (especially if you are unarmed).

There are hundreds of martial arts out there today and all of them have their merits, they will teach grace and balance, discipline, and will get everybody reasonably fit. However, for true self defense (I am no expert but I have been raised in a military family by WWII, Korea, and Vietnam vets and served in the Marines myself) things need to be simple, very quick, and effective (meaning deadly). Everybody should learn how to throw a couple basic of hand, elbow, knee, and foot strikes and practice them over and over and over again because in a high stress situation our bodies will revert to muscle memory and those of us without 30 years experience are going to be out of luck trying to remember the flying dragon claw in the moment. The truth is: A) there is no way to practice a real life or death struggle, they just happen, B) Winning is all about the will to win and the ability to adapt to given situations, C) If you have to fight remember to strike the soft parts of the body (face, neck, abdomen to include the low back, and the groin) and try to break the joints (specifically the knees and feet so you can run away) either by striking (kicking the knee, stomping the foot) or simply bending them the wrong way as aggressively as possible, and D) Learn to use weapons of opportunity (rocks, sticks, dirt, water, whatever) and learn to strike suddenly so that surprise is on your side.

I apologize that this is such a long response but it is unconscionable that someone would urge the use of empty handed methods or defense in a survival situation, especially those taught in a dojo (even one where the instructors work for free, you will probably get what you pay for). We must think as realistically as possible and look at what people in other times like we are headed for did. They fought dirty, they attacked from ambush, they never let their opponent get in the first blow, and they were always armed. I have included two links to a web page that should be required reading for anyone interested in hand to hand fighting, with or without weapons.

All in all its is best to forget choke holds, arm bars, ground fighting, flying kicks (any kick above waist high for that matter), and anything else you have seen on television or in the safety of a dojo or ring. Fighting in the situation we are addressing is about one thing only: kill or be killed. God help you if you are completely empty handed in a survival situation. Remember that even though King David had God on his side he still to weapons of war (that he was familiar with) into battle with Goliath.
No Nonsense Self Defense - Traditional Martial Arts and No Nonsense Self Defense - Knife Lies

Regards, - Doug W.

There is great merit in learning martial arts for self-defense as proposed by Joe G. However, time and budget constraints, competing self-reliance skills to learn, and age/health issues, many prep-minded folks may feel overwhelmed with the commitment required to master such a demanding discipline to be reasonably competent

As a second-best method, I would recommend preppers to learn effective pressure points and breaking away techniques. Regardless of one's strength or size, the use of tried and true techniques against various parts of the human anatomy will prove effective against the strongest foe. Anyone can learn a dozen or so simple tricks to use, and with less practice required
than a dedicated martial arts course.

Sincerely, - Ron S., in New York

Matt B. notes that the residents of Hawaii (reacting to the recent tsunami warning, following the Chilean earthquakes) seem to have ignored the Boy Scout's Motto.....it just goes to show how out of the blue emergent circumstances can catch all of us who ignore preparations unaware. Imagine your family at home and you 'waiting in line at the super market' because you were not prepped for the most likely event to disrupt civility. Reader M.M. echoed Matt's sentiment: "Even if this is a big nothing for the state of Hawaii, it should be a wake up call to everyone. Get yourself and your family prepared. Better years too early than a second too late!"

   o o o

Some bad judicial news: Canada - No Constitutional Right to own or use firearms. (Ontario, Canada's Court of Appeals decision announced Thursday, on the Bruce Monatque firearms case. See numbered paragraphs [20] and [21] , in particular. ) You can always vote with your feet.

   o o o

The latest from Nanny State Britannia: Woman who found coin worth £2,000 in garden becomes first to be prosecuted for not reporting treasure. Not only is the treasure reporting act a bad law, but it is also is an ex post facto law. (She found the coin 14 years ago. The law was enacted in 1996.) A tip of the hat to Chad S. for the link. (I could mention voting with your feet, but that would sound repetitious.)

   o o o

A reader spotted this job listing on Craigslist: Wilderness Field Instructor (Saint George Utah.) That would be great job for a SurvivalBlogger. And Zion National Monument would be practically in your back yard.

"When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace." - Luke 11:21(KJV)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round will include:

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Walking with a loaded pack on your back is what the United States Marine Corps Infantryman refers to as "humping".  And while it may not take a lot of brains to put a loaded pack on and walk, it has definitely become an art, science, or skill that is constantly honed by infantrymen of all types.

With eight years as a Marine Corps Infantryman I have learned quite a lot about the art of humping myself.  There are several factors that come into play before you strap on your pack and take your first step.

  1. PHYSICAL FITNESS:  What is your current level of physical fitness?  For those of you who have thought about or have a plan for when the SHTF, you know that this is an important factor of yours and your family’s survival.  If throwing on your BOB and heading for the door with fifty lbs. of survival gear on your back is the first step of your plan, then your not going to get very far if you haven’t conditioned your body to take this kind of physical exertion.  The best type of physical conditioning for humping is humping.  You don’t have to be a long distance runner to be a good humper.  The best thing to do is to just strap on your pack and step off for a mile or three and then gradually increase the distance each time you go out, or at a reasonable rate (add a mile a week).  Every time you increase your distance you should also increase the weight of your pack.  I don’t recommend starting out with a fifty pound pack.  As with any kind of body conditioning you should start out light and work your way up as your body becomes used to your training.

  2. PACKING:  Got a good pack?  If you don’t you better get one.  If the pack you have isn’t a good one you’ll find out once you start humping with it.  I won’t recommend much gear, because all personal gear is just that, personal.  Its your preference.  I will say this, you can’t go wrong with an ALICE pack. Are there better packs out there?  Yes, but when it comes to affordability including durability…it’s a proven product.  In the end it all comes down to what you prefer.  Packing is a separate art in itself.  The first rule in packing is “Ounces make pounds!”.  Nothing goes into the pack that you don’t absolutely need or can’t live without.  You should consider the weight and size of everything as you pack.  One of the most important packing aids that I’ve found through the years is one gallon zip-lock bags (buy the good ones they’ll last longer).  Use these to pack things separately inside your pack.  Stuff them full and then zip up the bag almost to the end, then (if packed with non-breakables) smash the bag to get all the air inside the bag out.  Then zip the bag up the rest of the way.  This will help keep you from wasting space inside your pack.  I would recommend packing breakable items in outside compartments, or packed in between zip-locks of underwear and T-shirts or something soft.  Zip-locs also help waterproof your gear inside your pack.  Using a waterproof bag or a trash bag as a liner will also work but this will give you added protection. Zip-locs also help keep your pack organized.  These can also be used as a washing machine as I found out in Iraq.   Stuff everything into your pack as tight as it will go, then cinch down the outer straps as tight as you can get them.  Second rule in packing is “A tight pack is a comfortable pack!”  If your adding or strapping items to the outside of the pack make sure they are secure.  When theses outer items shift our flop around they will cause you to sway and possibly fall if they are heavy enough.  Just the movement alone can cause you discomfort.  I would also recommend not strapping things to the top of your pack (sleeping bags, etc.) unless they are small.  These will push on the back of your head and cause unneeded neck pains, and you will have plenty of pains to worry about already.  These may also hinder your vision.  Strap them to the bottom of your pack if possible.  I would recommend food or energy bars and often used items to be in outside compartments.  This makes for easy access on short halts and maintains spillages to separate compartments.  Field strip your MREs down to the individual packages, get rid of the cardboard containers.  You can over-pack a few pounds on food.  Because you will be eating the food and essentially lightening your pack at the same time.  And your route to wherever your going may be unexpectedly altered, and you may be on the hump longer than you anticipated. And the third rule of packing, “If you can't put it on by yourself, It’s probably too heavy!”

  3. GEAR POSITION: When you put your pack on make sure it’s adjusted to the center of your back.  Make sure all of the straps are secured to the pack frame properly and that they are tight around your body.  You may have to alter positioning of your personal gear that you are carrying on your body (canteens, ammo pouches, butt packs, etc.).  I recommend that your gear be positioned so the back pad of your pack frame sit squarely in the small of your back, adjust your pack straps accordingly.  Improper ride of the pack will cause extra back pain, and shoulder pain as the straps will be digging into your shoulders.  And setting the pack on top of your pouches may cause damage to them that you may not be able to repair.  I recommend your weapon go on last.  Be sure you are able to deploy your weapon as needed and get to spare ammo without the pack getting in the way.  And if you have to dump your pack, then make sure you can do so without it getting caught in your high speed sling and choking you.  You should know in the first mile whether you need to adjust your gear and pack. 

  4. BOOTS & FEET:  An Infantryman or “Grunt” can probably tell you as much about foot care as a foot doctor, as these are generally their primary mode of transportation.   As before, I can’t and won’t recommend a boot.  Its personal preference.  However, please consider your local weather and terrain in selecting the proper boot.  Boots weigh a lot and take up a lot of space.  You can pack a spare set, but you may not have the room.  The best way to break in a new boot is to hump in it.  (Don’t forget to pack extra laces.) The only recommendation I’ll make is don’t skimp when it comes to buying boots.  They should be considered one of your most valuable survival tools.  Because having feet means you can still survive.  Pack plenty of socks, cotton or wool.  When humping, if you will wear a pair of dress socks under a pair of cotton or wool boot socks this will help prevent blisters.  Although you may still get them.  Only extensive humping and conditioning of the feet will prevent blisters.  They also make humping socks made out of Teflon that work good.  From my experience moleskin doesn’t work well if you are going to continue humping.  It just pulls the blister off. Ouch!  The best cure for blisters is Tincture of Benzoin Be ready for some pain.  It feels like someone is putting a blowtorch to your feet for about ten minutes.  But after that you will only experience minor pain or no pain at all from the blister.  You can put it on an open blister or draw the puss from the blister with a syringe then insert the tetra-benzoine into the blister with the syringe.  I’ve had it both ways.  I prefer the syringe method because it leaves the skin on over the blister.  This method once cured me of two half dollar-sized blisters, one on each heel.  After only a ten miler in broke in boots.  I felt no pain within fifteen minutes, remained in the field the whole week and we speed-humped out that Friday and I got no blisters.  It works.  But it will make a grown man cry.  Or want to.  Don’t forget foot powder and anti-fungal powder or cream.  Change socks daily, or soon after your feet get wet.  Also when humping don’t take your boots off until the end of the day, or unless changing socks.  When you stop for a break take off your pack but try not to sit down.  This makes your feet hurt when you stand back up and start walking again.  Let your feet air out in the open every chance you get.

  5. HYDRATION:  Water is good for you anyway, but you will need a lot if you are humping.  You may have to plan your route around watering spots.  Try and hump as much water as possible.  Don’t forget to consider the weight though.  Get a camelback or similar hydration system.  These work great while humping since you don’t have to mess with screw caps or bottle tops.  If you can wear the hydration system under your pack it’s beneficial in case you have to drop your pack you don’t loose your water.  Always keep some kind of water on your body with your personal gear.  I recommend filling the hydration bladder on each stop to prevent running out between scheduled stops.  Some type of sports drinks or powder are good to have on hand as you will loose a lot of electrolytes while humping and these are good sources for replenishing those and will do so faster than plain water. 

Now I know that a lot of this information may not apply to everyone since a lot of you will only be moving so far to a retreat or cache.  And you will all be moving at your own pace, or as fast as the slowest person in your group.  A lot of you may not even be going anywhere.  But if a time comes when you have to "Ruck Up” then this may come in handy.  I may have some more points to add later. 

To follow up on an earlier letter and your reply, Thermoelectric Generators (TEGs) work by generating power from the movement of heat from the hot side to the cold side of a dissimilar metal junction. An important consideration is that TEGs can become heat saturated or worse if you can melt your TEG, so don't just throw it in the middle of a fire!

I followed a design from "The Boy Electrician" by Alfred P Morgan 1913. It uses German silver wire and copper wire with hammered junctions, there are better combinations but this was easy to get. It would make enough electricity to run a small radio like the kind found on dollar store crank radios or a few LEDs. Modern TEGs are much more efficient and use a solid state Peltier–Seebeck chip. Be sure to buy a high temp solder chip, since the ones used in coolers will melt at much lower temperatures. These solid state devices can also be used with lanterns. In my experiments, I used one attached to a home made brass reflector on a kerosene pressure lantern and produced less than a watt at 3 volts. But several can be ganged [together in series,parallel, or series/parallel arrangements] for higher voltage or amperage. TEG lantern/radios are available.

Shalom, - David in Israel (SurvivalBlog Correspondent in Israel)


Since I have messed with TEGs for some time, I ran across the guys at Hi-Z Technology. Check out the work they and others have done with their product. - Robert, in Nashville, Tennessee

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room." - Peter Sellers as President Merkin Muffley, in Dr. Strangelove. (Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mike C. liked an article comparing ammunition with other barter items. The authors list and rankings are interesting.

   o o o

I noticed that there are some great links to information on gun caching and long term storage, over at MouseGuns.com.

   o o o

I've been pleased to see that GunPal--the pro-gun alternative to the PayPal online payment service, is expanding rapidly. You can now buy thousands of items with the GunBroker.com auction service, where payments are accepted via GunPal. As background, I must mention that for nearly a decade, PayPal (owned by eBay, and both headquartered in California) has gradually turned the screws on anyone making transactions related to firearms or ammunition. It is clear that PayPal and eBay are trying to apply California-style Political Correctness on the entire nation. They have suspended accounts of thousands of gun owners, often tying up their money for months in the process. They have destroyed the livelihoods of countless "mom and pop" gun-related businesses. I recommend that you both avoid eBay as much as possible, and get a GunPal account, since it just takes a few minutes to set one up. Their payment fees are lower than PayPal's, too! Several months ago, I added GunPal as one of the payment options for Ten Cent Challenge voluntary SurvivalBlog subscriptions. I was glad to provide folks with a way to avoid PayPal!

Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round will include:

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

We are living in a time when all has gone wrong and societies rules and conventions no longer hold true.  People no longer respect the sanctity of life and well established morals and honor have become a thing of the past. You have prepared yourself and your family to survive without the amenities we have grown accustomed.  You have enough food, a secure shelter, preparations for clean water and enough fuel and weapons.  At least you thought you did.

As the evaporation of society continues and you begin to watch your inventory of all things drastically shrink you begin to ask, what now.  Are you ready to venture outside your secure compound to begin to trade to rebuild your supplies?  Are you prepared to handle life without the security of your conventional weapons?  As the ammunition dwindles and ability to procure or even manufacture more is gone, what will you do?  Have you prepared yourself, let alone the others in your group, to handle yourself empty handed?

For thousands of years man was able to survive and even flourish with the empty hand.  The idea of training to protect yourself with your hands alone is frightening to many.  Being within arm’s reach of your adversary is not a comfortable situation to the untrained.  To the trained it can actually increase your confidence.  The internal knowledge to know you are ready and willing to confront any adversary, armed or unarmed, without hesitation or fear can have a calming effect.  To know you have control and are not a victim will bring a sense of security.

The question of what course of empty hand survival you should study becomes key.  Should you study self-defense or a true martial art?  Self-defense can prepare you for certain situations, but will limit you to those specific scenarios.  A true martial art will prepare you for ever changing scenarios.  Your course of empty hand survival is now narrowed to a true martial art.  The next and critical question is which of the hundreds of styles will be most effective?  The answer to this question will be answered differently by individual instructors.  You must be prepared to ask the important questions and filter out the hype and flash of the various styles.  As you begin your journey into the realm of the martial arts it will seem overwhelming.  Do you study Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Filipino or many of the other country specific styles?  As you begin your search, any style that includes the word sport can immediately be discarded.  We are not looking to win a tournament and have a big trophy on the mantel. We are not looking to get our name in the paper or become the next internet YouTube sensation.  You can never forget the ultimate goal is empty hand survival

Many may have family or friends already studying in the martial arts.  Ask them for their opinions.  Begin visiting the various schools within your locality.  Ask if you can observe and possibly participate in a couple classes (without cost).  If the answer is no, then move on, do not waste any more time.  Any serious martial arts instructor should have no problem with such a request.  Ask for a brief history of the style and the instructors.  Ask if any of the instructors have had to utilize their skills in a real world situation. It is important to know how long the instructors have been teaching and how long it took them to reach the rank they currently hold.  If they claim to be a master and have only studied the art for a few years, thank them for their time and move on to the next style on your list.  To be a true master you have to put a many years of hard work and dedication.  Inquire as to what the progression schedules to advance and the associated fees.  Again, if the progression schedule is too fast and the fees increase as you move up or you must pay to advance, move on. 

You need to find the instructor that is doing this because of their love of the art and desire to pass on the knowledge they have learned.  They are doing this to honor their previous instructors and prepare their students for real life situation.  Those types of instructors are out there, they do exist.  Trust your instincts and first impressions of both the instructor and the school. Do not be taken in by the amount of stuff in the school.  They may have pictures, weapons and the latest training equipment strewn throughout the school.  There are many out there who will tell you what you want to here in order to take your money.  You must be able to see through the words get down to reality of the style.  Ask them if this is a style they can do effectively as they get older.  A true effective martial art will be just as effective for the 18 year old as well as the 80 year old.  When you find the instructor that will allow you to both watch and participate you are closer to the martial art of your choice.  Watch before participating as you can miss many things while participating.  Observe not only the higher ranking students, but the beginners as well.  Are the movements natural to the way one would normally move?  Are the beginners learning the foundations of the system or being thrown in with the higher ranking students?  As with all things, without a strong foundation it will fail.  You must be prepared to ask the question what if.  Your goal is to survive a real world situation.  Does the style effectively move from one technique to the next?  One cannot assume to have a single strike that will stop every attacker.  There are those out there that will require an extended serious of strikes to subdue or eliminate.  If you cannot effectively transition to the next technique in your arsenal, you will fail.

I began my martial arts study at the age of 10.  I was introduced to the arts through my father whom felt it was in mine and my brother’s best interest to begin our training.  For the past 30+ years I have been training in the very effective and deadly art of Chinese Kuntao.  The system has been passed down in its purest form throughout the years.  I have had the fortune of participating and seeing many other styles during my martial arts journey.  I have yet to see one that I feel would be more effective.  Many of the questions that were posed above have led me to continue my training in Kuntao.  The school I trained in is a non-profit organization and the school I operate charges no fee.  My instructors and I do this for the love of the art.  We are not motivated to promote or carry large numbers of students to generate income.  We do not have to be politically correct for fear of losing students.  The art is presented as it was passed down from generation to generation.  It is a pure fighting art. We do not participate in tournaments and you will not find us on the Internet.  The instructors throughout the years have had to utilize their skills in real life situations.  It works and works effectively.  The movements are natural and the Grandmaster and Masters of the system are just as effective in their advancing years as are those of the younger black belts.  The art has become second nature.  No thought is required when a situation arises nor do you have wonder what to do when the first tactic fails.  You move on immediately until you determine the fight is over.  The situation does not end when your opponent has said enough; you end the fight when you decide.  You must neutralize the attacker, this may be giving yourself the ability to flee or it may be terminating your aggressor.  You will learn how to read the situation and apply the necessary force without thinking. 

In my youth I had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or at least my aggressors thought so.  I found myself in a not so friendly place late at night in a large city.  I could see the situation was deteriorating quickly as the number of aggressors increased from 4 to 10.  Through my training I became calm and collected, I knew they could not all attack at once.  I positioned myself with my back against a wall, thus protecting my flank.  My attackers could only come in from the front and sides.   The first attacker struck quickly with a blow to my face.  I then proceeded to subdue him while the second attacker came in from the right.  As your peripheral vision will allow you to react quicker, I immediately recognized the threat and eliminated it.  As the remainder of the aggressors realized I was not going to be a victim they broke off their attack before they ended up like their comrades.  As you have read, I did not come out without a scratch, but my training caused me not to panic and continue.  The training allowed my fight or flight instinct to be fight.

 The task of selecting the most practical school may seem overwhelming and impossible.  However, if you take the emotion out of your search and be analytical and methodical you will find the system that best suits empty hand survival.  Do not wait, the longer you train the more effective you will become.  You will be able to make your art part of your life and everyday routine.  You will become an empty hand survivalist.

James Wesley,
What are the chances of you posting a link to all food items and such that have an indefinite shelf life as they come from a store, I have heard that items like Crisco vegetable shortening have an indefinite shelf life. Is this true or just hearsay?
Thanks in advance for any info and also thank you so much for the huge wealth of information you have made available to me through your blog! You have probably saved more lives than you can imagine. - Jeff

JWR Replies: Tables of shelf life info are provided in my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course. Much of the same info can be found scattered throughout the four and half years of the SurvivalBlog archives, free of charge. (Do searches. There are now almost 8,000 searchable archived posts!)

Crisco actually has a short shelf life, and has even been found to be borderline rancid, from day one. Take a few minutes to do a search of the SurvivalBlog archives on "fats and oils", for some detailed recommendations.

Some foods with very long shelf lives (30+ years) include whole hard red winter wheat, honey, and salt. The latter stores indefinitely.

I recently read the paragraph in your most recent book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" that when we consider retreat architecture, that we should "think medieval castle". Well, evidently the U.S. State Department must have read your book too, and taken that passage to heart, because an interesting new feature in the proposed US embassy in London is a moat. For some details, including a photo of an architectural model, see this article. That piece includes a link to a Times of London Online article. All the best, - Yishai

The various state budget crises are increasing in severity. Here is the news from California, and Illinois. (Thanks to GG, for both links.)

Reader "Burrito Boy" forwarded this warning of darker days in Europe: Greece leads Europe's winter of discontent

Michael H. suggested a piece by Professor Bainbridge: What, Me Worry? Credit Default Swaps on US Treasuries. Oh, don't miss his advice at the end of the article: "Although sovereign defaults are hardly unknown, things would have to get incredibly bad for the US to default on Treasuries. And if they got that bad, you'd probably have been better off investing in a survivalist camp than CDSs."

Items from The Economatrix:

Quantitative Easing May Have to Restart. (They're talking about monetization, folks. Be ready for some serious inflation, in coming years.)

A Desperate FDIC Begs Americans to Open Savings Accounts During "America Saves" Week

Chart of the Day: Banks Continue to Pull the Rug Out From Under the Economy

The Expanding Economics of Austerity

Steve W. wrote to mention that he'd found an interesting resource web site with links to appropriate technologies of all sorts: Practical Action.

   o o o

Courtesy of Kevin S.: Where have all the MANPADS gone? And here is a related article: Anti-Missile Jammers on Commercial Jets

   o o o

A trend to watch? Spokane Tax Assessor Wants Low Altitude High Resolution Photos of Private Property. A hat tip to Chad S. for the link.

"Every person has a natural, fundamental and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right to obtain and carry their weapon of choice without asking anyone's permission." - L. Neil Smith, addressing the Libertarian 2nd Amendment Caucus

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Good Morning Sir,
My question pertains to a February 24, 2010 blog post, where there was mentioned an EMP ground for one’s vehicle. This is the first I have heard of a ground wire for today’s vehicles that would prevent electronics from being damaged. Is this true sir? Thanks for providing us all the education to survive. - Tim S.

JWR Replies: A grounding strap offers only marginal EMP protection for a vehicle. The type that were mentioned are the sort that you can see used on many trucks, especially fuel delivery trucks, where the concern is a buildup of static electricity.

With a quick web search, I found one vendor on the Internet with straps at reasonable prices. They do eventually wear out, so you should probably buy several. But again, they are more for static electricity discharge protection than EMP protection. Sadly, the only way to make your vehicle truly safe from close proximity EMP is to convert it to a traditional ignition system. Alternatively, if you leave the electronic ignition system installed, you'd have to carry spare ignition components in a couple of layers of Faraday protection. ( Alternating layers of aluminum foil and ziploc bags should work fine.

I should also mention that once parked, while preparing to unload fuel, gas tanker trucks use a separate grounding cable, for even greater protection, from a static discharge kablooey.

It is important to note the EMP is a different animal than lightning, so the grounding rules are not quite the same. For example, a ground connection can actually be counterproductive to EMP shielding if you use a lengthy linear object underground, such as a water or sewer pipe. For anyone with a basic understanding of lightning protection, it may sound hard to believe, but EMP can actually couple with underground linear metal objects! So if you do decide to use a ground for any of your electronic gear, then don't use anything longer that a six foot long ground rod.

A SurvivalBlog reader who is an Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) engineer added these comments:
"Many people are under the false impression that a ground connection is some sort of magic sump into which they can dump electric current and electromagnetic fields they don't want. To some degree this impression comes from the fact that power lines and other electrical wires entering our buildings are grounded at the point of entry. The reason for this ground is to give a path for lightning strikes to wires external to the building a lower resistance path back to the source of the electric current (in this case the Earth) than though something inside the building. The service entrance ground rod does not play a part in electrical safety insidethe building provided by the ground wires run with the hot and neutral power wires. The key issue here is that the ground wires are connected to the neutral wire at the service entrance bond point. That same bond point is where the ground rod is connected, but the physical path to earth ground is not why the ground wires in the house help safety.

By the way this is why portable generators do not need to be grounded per the National Electrical Code (NEC). All they need is the internal bond from neutral to the ground wire.

In a similar way, when it comes to electromagnetic energy (radio waves) the important issue is shielding rather than grounding. The most effective shielding is made of a continuous conductive surface that totally surrounds what we want to protect. This is why the advice to wrap equipment that we wish to protect from EMP in aluminum foil is excellent. The continuous conductive surface of the foil with joints that overlap each other provides extremely effective shielding from all types of electromagnetic waves including those from EMP. Grounding the foil to an earth ground makes no difference in its effectiveness.

Static electricity also is stopped by shielding, and discharges to a conductive shield flow around the outside surface of the shield and do not damage equipment inside the shield. Again a connection to earth ground will make zero difference in the protection provided by the shielding.

Ground straps on vehicles provide a path to equalize the local static electric potentials and reduce the chance of a static discharge that might cause fuel fumes or other explosive or flammable gasses or liquids to ignite. A separate ground wire as you mention is even more effective. In both cases they work because they reduce or eliminate static electric potential differences that could cause a spark, not because they are tied to the physical earth."

You folks do an outstanding job of informing those who want to learn! I was just wondering if there was information about homemade thermocouples out there. I was watching my woodburner last night and it has one of those little fans sitting on top that start to spin when they get hot and was wondering if I could find plans to build a bigger version of the thermocouple. I envision something about the size of a briefcase . In a grid down situation this would be set on top the woodburner that would be going for heat and cooking and hopefully produce enough power to run a few lights and charge some batteries etc. Is there anyone who has an information source that could tell me how to go about building this?

Thank You, - Rich N.

JWR Replies: In my opinion thermoelectric generator (TEG) technology has been pitifully under-developed, given its potential for using otherwise wasted heat.

Here is a video of one experimenter's project. And here is a commercial TEG site. I also found a web page for a commercially-built stovetop fan that is powered by thermoelectricity, marketed by Sportsman's Guide.

I encourage readers to do some experimentation with TEGs. Given their irregular voltage output, it would of course be wise to route the power through a charge controller into a battery bank, for later use with a stable output. If nothing else, it will give you the means to trickle charge a few small batteries even when the only fuel you have available is firewood.


I'm watching a documentary titled "Heimo's Arctic Refuge" that I think your readers would truly enjoy, produced by VBS.tv. It is about Heimo Korth, who is the last inhabitant of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), in Alaska. VBS.tv has many unusual documentaries. I've truly been educated by the other documentaries they done about the homeless of Las Vegas living in the network of tunnels under the city (they actually got to film down there), and the homeless orphans of Bogota, Colombia. They also live in the tunnels underneath the city.

I've been a daily reader for SurvivalBlog.com for several years and truly enjoy the hard work you've put into it as well as your novel. Thanks, Manny in Tualatin, Oregon

El Jefe Jeff E. sent this one: U.S. New-Home Sales Drop 11.2%. "Unexpectedly"??? What planet are they from? I suspect that we'll see a further drop, seasonally adjusted this summer, as mortgage credit tightens and as another wave of foreclosures further flood the housing market.

GG mentioned an article in an Indian newspaper, wherein Jim Rogers says that the UK will lose its AAA bond rating this year, and that inflation and a currency crisis are inevitable.

I noticed that The Total Investor Blog has had some great posts, recently.

Items from The Economatrix:

Bernanke: Record-low Rates Still Needed

Stocks Rise Ahead of Bernanke Report on Economy

Freddie Mac Loses $7.8 Billion. (Senator Everett Dirksen said it best: "A billion here, and a billion there, and pretty so you're talkin' about real money." )

Bad Credit Sidelines Some Jobless Workers

World Economy to be Hit by Several Sovereign Defaults

Consumer Confidence Down Again

Oil Rally Fizzles, Drops Below $80/Barrel

GG sent this: The Boogeyman Bomb; How afraid should we be of electromagnetic pulse weapons?

   o o o

Israelis Building a NBC-Proof Hospital. (Thanks to P.S. for the link.)

   o o o

SurvivalBound has just launched a new spin-of web site: SurvivalClassifieds.com. I'm hopeful that it will flourish. Please check it out, and take advantage of their free classified ads.

   o o o

Here they go again, this time in Illinois, with another proposed "assault weapons" ban law. I recommend that any Illinois residents contact their assemblymen, to let them know your position on this legislation. (Thanks to Brett, for the news tip.) Oh, and for the record: Marko had it it right, when he wrote: "Assault is a behavior, not a device."

"I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the Atmosphere." - Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Abigail Adams, February 22, 1787

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Just in case laws change, and I must bury my collection of [modern] guns [to avoid registration or confiscation], then what do you recommend me buying for an "above ground collection" of 1898 and earlier guns? I'm assuming that they'll still be unregulated [in the United States]. That is a great exception in the law, I think!

My thanks to you in advance, sir. - G.K.B.

JWR Replies: These are my recommendations for the most practical and affordable Pre-1899 guns, at the present time:

  • Finnish Model 1939 Mosin-Nagant rifles built on hexagonal Pre-1899-dated actions. (They re dated on the tangs, inside the sock.) Pat Burns is a good Mosin dealer that usually has some Finnish M39s built on antique (1898 or earlier) receivers available. (Scroll down to the second half of the yellow table of M39 listings for the pre-1899 antiques.) Please note that most of the 7.62x54r ammo on the market is corrosively primed. Search for the Russian Silver Bear 7.62x54r ammo, which is non-corrosive. J&G Sales in Prescott, Arizona often stocks it.
  • Mauser military bolt action rifles. These include M1894 Swedish Mauser carbines, and the Ludwig Loewe-made 7x57mm Mausers. (Mostly made for Chilean military contracts.) The years of manufacture is marked on the Swedes, but not the Chileans. But all Mausers marked "Ludwig Loewe - Berlin" are antique, because Loewe ceased to exist in 1897, when it became part of DWM.
  • Early (pre-1899) Marlin lever action rifles. The only models that are certain to be legally antique are the models for which ended production before 1899 are the Model 1881, 1888, 1889, and 1891.
  • Pre-1899 Winchester rifles. In terms of ammunition availability, .30-30 and .44-40 are the best chamberings to look for. You can often find these rifles at gun shows at bargain prices, especially if you don't mind a gun with a well-worn exterior. Remember, it is the mechanical condition and bore condition that are crucial. Everything else is just a beauty pageant. Sometimes you can get lucky, and find a seller doesn't realize that what he is selling you is pre-1899, or the significance thereof. So it pays to carry a hard copy of my Pre-1899 Cartridge Guns FAQ with you, when you attend gun shows.
  • Winchester Model 1897 12 gauge pump-action shotguns made in 1897 or 1898.
  • Colt Model 1892 series revolvers chambered in .41 Long Colt. This was one of Colt's first swing-out cylinder designs. Now that .41 Long Colt ammunition is again being manufactured by Ultramax and a few other companies that cater to the Cowboy Action shooter market, it makes these guns once again practical to own and shoot. The double action models are largely overlooked by collectors, who are fixated with single actions, and Cowboy Action shooters, who are limited to single action guns by shooting competition rules. (Except, if I understand the rules correctly, for double action "Second Guns", if fired in single action mode.) So this leaves the double action models as some of the most affordable antique Colts.
  • Smith and Wesson top break revolvers. As I've mentioned once before in the my blog, I anticipate that S&Ws will nearly "catch up" to Colt prices in the next 20 years. The .38 caliber S&W top breaks are often available for less than $300 each, and .44 calibers for less than $900. My top choice would be one of the "New Frontier" double action variants, chambered in .44-40. (The .44 Russian ammo is also quite potent, and also now back in production.) These revolvers are sold by a number of antique gun dealers including Jim Supica (at The Armchair Gun Show), and Joe Salter.

As I noted in my Pre-1899 Cartridge Guns FAQ, many antique guns models span the Dec. 31, 1898 cut-off date, so you will have to do some serial number research. (I've already documented many of the cut-off serial numbers, in my FAQ.)

You can find many pre-1899 antique guns available without a paper trail by mail order through GunBroker.com, AuctionArms.com, and GunsAmerica.com. Just include the word "antique" in your search phrases.

Dear James;
Here is an easy way to determine a year's supply of anything. You just need a calendar, a pencil, and the ability to count to two.

Say you're down to your last jug of cooking oil. Instead of buying one at the store, buy two, and write the item you purchased on the starting date on your calendar. Now, every time you replace that empty item, buy two more, instead of one, and rotate the oldest.

At the end of the year, when you transfer over Birthdays, etc, to next year's calendar, be sure to add the items you're tracking to the appropriate months.

At the end of one year's time, count the items you stored, and write that number down on your calendar. In one year's time, you will not only have stored a full year's worth of that item, you've recorded that amount on a permanent record. A year's worth of information eliminates unconscious over/under use or the occasional craving that might skew the desired tally.

If you've got a piece of scratch paper handy, here's how it works...

Make a mark for the one of whatever you're using. Add two more marks for the replacements, and line out the first mark you've theoretically used up. Now line out one of the marks, and add two more... Say you ran this out to 10 marks lined out. You have 11 marks left ...10 stored items, and the current one you're using. Neat trick, eh?

I suppose it's more fashionable to do the same thing on a shopping database, but we farmers are a stubborn bunch. Now, if only the banks would give out these wall calendars with the pocket for the month, like they used to, I'd be a lot happier. - Feral Farmer

In the 1960s I hunted and fished in the mountains of Southern Utah and as I traveled by Jeep and on foot through the forest I became aware of the many blaze marks on the aspen trees. There was always a clear path, wide enough for my Jeep to pass near the blaze marks, After some observation and study I was able to discern the meaning of the blazes, and have used them ever since to navigate my way from one drainage, over the mountain into the next drainage. One blaze means turn right another indicates a left turn, one indicates water in the distance, yet another tells of pasture, The Basque headers pulled their horse drawn sheep wagons, unimpeded through the thickest forest and over the roughest ground year after year following these blaze marks as they camped for months at a time tending their sheep.

With the knowledge that these blazes were made by Basque sheepherders as a method to get from one spring to the next or one mountain meadow to the next I have been able to pull my Range Camp behind my Jeep and go into areas that are sheltered, watered and remote,

Old skills come in handy and could provide you with an "out of the way" place to camp in safety, on government land at no cost. These blaze marks are seen in the forest of California, Nevada, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, Your readers might want to be made aware of their existence should they have a need to move a Range Camp or Sheep Wagon into an area for a peaceful retreat. - Peter X.

Jim, et al,

Your reader was correct about what your garbage, mail, kids, etc. say about you as a preparer for when TSHTF. But keeping everything too close to the vest has negative consequences, too. So it's very important to remain open and friendly. Not only is this the right thing to do morally, but it also offers a layer of "social protection" if needed. This is especially vital if you have no choice but to stay where you are in a compromised area. Some tips, if this is a struggle for you:

First, don't be a recluse. Everybody knows that guy, and not necessarily in a good way. Yes, it can be tough to integrate into communities that we may see as ignorant or troubled, but if you are known to be generally pleasant that will go a long way. Tip your hat or give a casual wave (whatever fits your regional culture) whenever you see someone you have even a casual acquaintance with even if you say nothing. You do not have to give up your ideals or values to become part of a community. Join something that doesn't constantly test your opinions, or get to know others through activities that meet infrequently and don't require much disclosure on your part.

Second, remember that most people don't care if you talk, they care if you listen. The most loved, most respected -- and most protected -- person is the one who always had a few minutes to hear about the latest injury, illness, family news or local gossip. So practice becoming a better listener.

Third, do something important in your community. That's not to say it has to be high profile, but is should be service or compassion-oriented. Go ahead and join the gun club, but also consider the Kiwanis, and make sure you're the hardest worker at the pancake breakfast and that you readily help the old ladies carry their trays to the table. If you are a church-goer, skip the usher job or landscaping, and help with the food pantry or the homeless shelter instead.

Fourth, as Mr. Rawles says so often, practice charity now. Purposefully plan this spring to grow extra produce to give away, and make sure the neighbors next door get at least one of your jumbo chickens after butchering, eggs from your hens, etc. Offer to help with yard or household projects (such as putting up a shed or car repair) when it comes up naturally in conversation, or you see them working outdoors. Although that shows some of your abilities to self-sustain, it also makes you the expert when others need help, instead of some prepper who hides in the house.

In general, work hard and be nice. And that goes for the family, too. Other adults will disregard children's claims if they see the parent as a sane and helpful person, rather than a "hide in them thar' hills" type. - Gretchen in Northern Illinois

Several readers mentioned this Wired article: Extreme Test: Going Ballistic on Bulletproof Vests

   o o o

Our Editor-at-Large Mike Williamson sent this: Nature's power plants; On the hunt for renewable energy, scientists revisit Mother Nature's original power source: Photosynthesis and plants

   o o o

Here in the U.S., a new Federal law that allows carrying guns in National Parks went into effect on Monday. This will be a relief to our readers that live in bear country. (Up until Monday, all that could be used to stop a bear attack inside a National Park were shouts of "Bad bear, go home!" and pepper spray.)

"We must remember that one man is much the same as another and that he is best who is trained in the most severe school." - Thucydides

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Today we present Part 4 of an entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Safety, Aluminum Sources, Melting, and Pouring

We are now at the most exciting and most dangerous part of the aluminum casting process. You will be working with fire, an extremely hot fire, fed with forced air. But the biggest hazard lies in a possible spill of molten metal. Before I even start the fire I wear tall, heavy leather boots, this is no place for sandals, or plastic tennis shoes. I also wear a pair of welders suede leather leggings, and a welders suede leather apron. It is wise to wear long pants and long sleeve shirts. This is a pain in the summer, but even with good clean charcoal there will be cinders blowing out of your forge. Make sure there are no flammable’s within a 10 foot radius of your work area. The most dangerous would be a forgotten 5 gallon plastic gas can laying near the forge. If you do not already have a fire extinguisher, then buy one, the biggest baddest [dry chemical A-B-C] one available, and keep it close by. When it is dry I take my garden hose and water down the entire forge area. [JWR Adds: Never do this anywhere except on soft soil. Wet gravel and concrete will spall into "formidalbe projectiles", in a steam explosion.] It is critical to protect your head, face, hands, and lungs. I wear a respirator, not a simple dust mask, but a respirator with a valve. Molten metal gives off toxic fumes that you don’t want in your lungs. I also wear a standard military issue boonie hat, this keeps cinders out of your hair. I wear a full [Lexan] face shield, the kind that you wear when brush hogging or grinding. Lastly, you need to wear thick leather gloves, since your hands will be closest to the heat. Lineman’s gloves or welder’s gloves are best. And if you have not guessed already, you need to do this outdoors. There is one last safety step you will perform when doing the actual pour and I will cover that later.

You are going to need some aluminum to melt. Look around, chances are you already have pieces of aluminum scrap. The trick is to find or cut down scrap pieces that will easily fit into the crucible. Yes, you can heat up an automotive transmission in a charcoal fire and bust it down into smaller pieces, but that takes an enormous amount of work. Stay away from aluminum soda cans, they provide very little metal when melted, and are coated in latex that gives off foul fumes, and can contaminate your melt. The absolute best aluminum scrap around are door and window frames. Almost every window made has aluminum bars that hold the glass in. Once the glass and rubber gaskets have been taken out, the window panes and door frames, can be pulled apart into nice long bars. If there are any steel rivets, screws, or hinges they need to be removed prior to melting. If they are painted, don’t worry about it, the paint will burn off quickly. You don’t even need to cut them down, just feed them vertically into the crucible, once melting temperature has been achieved. I have a scrap dealer/junk peddler in the neighboring town who sells me all the window panes and door frames I can carry for just a couple dollars. Unfortunately not all of us have a good scrap dealer, but do look around, if you can’t find one then you will have to get creative in finding aluminum to melt. Many scrap yards do not even sell scrap to the general public anymore, they only buy scrap, and this irritates me to no end. Be prepared to cut down many pieces of scrap into smaller pieces.

You will be astonished at how many chunks of solid aluminum scrap it takes to fill a crucible with molten metal. So before you begin have it all cut and ready to feed the melt. You also need to keep your charcoal fuel close at hand in a covered container. I had a cinder ignite my entire barrel of charcoal one night. You will have to re-fuel the forge quite often, it is also important to have your fire tools close at hand also. I rest mine on a metal table next to the forge, along with my melting scrap, and keep my fuel under the table. Attach your air supply to the air pipe on your forge, I place a small piece of plywood over the air supply to keep it from sucking in embers and ash. Make sure there is a flat level spot next to your forge, a cinder block or brick can be used also. This is to set the crucible on to re-fuel. With a pick or shovel cut some small 1" x 4" trenches in the dirt near the forge, make sure the trenches are away from your main working area. This is where you will dump any leftover aluminum after the pour. You next will fill your crucible with scrap, for these starter pieces, make sure none protrude out of the crucible, get the crucible as full as you can. Fuel the forge with charcoal, fill it at least halfway up, also put your forge lid into place.

Now for the last safety step, you need to do a practice run for your upcoming pour. Go and get your mold and set it down carefully near the forge. Get your hooks, one in each hand, and practice lifting it, practice attaching the second hook to the lower manipulation ring, and practice pulling the bottom up on your crucible for the pour. What we are doing is getting your orientation right, the orientation of your body to the forge, crucible, hooks, and mold. Figure how you are going to move, where you are going to stand, and where everything needs to be located when you move the molten metal from the forge to the mold, for the pour. Make adjustments until you are comfortable with the location of everything and your movements are smooth and fluid. You can leave the mold in place if you like, but put a piece of plywood over it. If it is going to get in the way, then put it up, but remember how and where it needs to be placed. Move the mold slowly and carefully!

Don’t turn on the air supply just yet, I squirt a little lighter fluid over the charcoal and then drop in a lit match. Let the charcoal catch for a bit before turning on the air supply. Take your crucible and set it in the forge on top of the charcoal. Things will begin to heat up, I like to do the actual melting at night, the darkness allows you to see what is going on in the forge and crucible. Have patience it takes some time for the concrete of the forge to heat up, you will not melt any metal until this concrete is hot and refracting heat.

Let the fire burn for a time and then grab your skimmer, I run the skimmer down into the charcoal bed to gauge how much has burned off. If you see a large quantity of ash, then its time to re-fuel. You must turn off the air supply before re-fueling. At first when I re-fueled I just dumped the charcoal into the forge, this was difficult because much of it would wind up in the crucible, too much. When I re-fuel now, I first turn off the air supply, then I grab one of my hooks and carefully lift the crucible out, and place it on the level spot you made earlier. A minute or two out of the fire will not make a big difference. Then I scoop out several handfuls of charcoal with my gloved hands, and drop it into the forge. I then take my hook and lift the crucible and set it back atop the new fuel and turn on the air supply. This also gives you further practice in manipulating a hot crucible. The metal is not molten yet and is still relatively light. It is later on that great care must be taken.

I need to cover why you are resting the crucible on an unsteady bed of charcoal. On one of my earlier melts I rested the crucible on the forge bottom and just kept fueling around it. The aluminum heated up and began to melt then it re-solidified, and no matter how much fuel I kept burning around it, it would not melt. After an hour of this, I took the crucible out and looked at it, the sides were orange hot, but the bottom was not glowing at all. It is crucial that the bottom of the crucible be brought up to a high temperature, if not, there will be no melt. I welded up a little table for the crucible to rest on while in the forge, at first it worked, but when ash built up I had the same problem as before. You could also scoop out the ash at intervals during the burn, but you will be losing heat and wasting fuel. A 3" or 4" diameter pipe that is 8" tall will not fall over in its 8" diameter forge. It may shift some and later it may spill some aluminum, but a small aluminum spill in the forge is neither dangerous or explosive, and the spilled aluminum is easily removed and recovered once the forge has fully cooled. My very first attempt at a crucible was a chopped down empty propane cylinder. I got the aluminum to melt, then the bottom of the propane cylinder burned out, and the entire charge of aluminum went into the forge. I did not even notice it, one second it was full of aluminum, the next second it was empty.

After your third or fourth re-fuel, take a good look at your crucible, gently push down on the aluminum with your skimmer. If it gives at all then it has begun to melt, re-fuel and keep the heat on it. You will see a layer of charcoal and ash beginning to form on the aluminum. This is not a concern and the ash layer actually protects the aluminum, allowing gasses to burn off while keeping other unwanted gasses from entering the melt. Before long your charge of aluminum will have melted, you will see just a small amount of silver molten metal in the crucible covered by a layer of ash. A filled to the top crucible now has less than an inch of molten metal. You have reached melting temperature and the pace is going to quicken, the walls of your forge are now very hot and refracting. This is the fun part, when this happens I find that time flies by, and all your concentration is on the melt. Re-fuel and begin feeding aluminum into the melt, when the crucible is taken out, the entire pipe is orange hot. It will stay orange hot while you are fueling. I only feed the melt when it is in the forge. If you are fortunate enough to have the long aluminum bars, simply put it in the crucible vertically and hang on to the cool end with your tongs. It will quickly melt into the crucible. If you are using broken bits of scrap, only feed them to the melt with the tongs. The temptation to put them in with gloved hands can get you burnt in a hurry. Mind your fire tools, the hook you just used to remove the crucible is still very hot when you set it down to grab your skimmer. I got branded one night for not minding my fire tools.

Continue re-fueling and feeding the melt, when the crucible is half way filled with molten metal, you need to skim out the charcoal and ash layer, otherwise known as dross. First take your skimmer and stick it into the charcoal, get it red hot, this prevents the aluminum from sticking to the skimmer. Now work the skimmer washer across the dross layer and pull up as much dross as you can. Some aluminum will come out with the dross, don’t worry about it. Pull the skimmer out of the crucible and forge, and rap it against the metal side of the forge towards the bottom. The dross and captured aluminum will drop off onto the ground and can be collected and disposed of later when everything has cooled. Repeat until the molten aluminum is mostly cleaned off. You do NOT want to stir the molten metal, you just want to get the trash off the surface. If you stir the metal it can capture air and gasses you don’t want in the melt. With the melt cleaned off, have a look at it, you will see the quicksilver of the molten metal but aluminum also has an orange aura around it. Even when it is out of the crucible, but still molten, it will have this orange glow around it. Continue fueling the fire and feeding the mold until the melt is nearing the top of the crucible. It is up to you to judge the amount of metal you need to fill a mold. And you get better at this each time you do it. For the 6" X 6" sphere you will need the crucible to be pretty full. It is not just the pattern cavity that needs to be filled, but the sprue, riser, filter trench, and channels as well. It is far better to have too much metal than not enough.

With your crucible nearly full, I like to carefully take it out of the forge, you should be pretty good at this by now, for one last re-fuel. Put it back into the forge and turn the air supply back on. This last heat will bring the impurities to the surface. Be sure to orient the crucible so its lower manipulation ring can be accessed from the standing position you practiced earlier. Get your mold and tools ready it is almost time to pour. After letting the final heat work its magic for several minutes, turn the air supply off, and repeat the process of skimming the dross from the metal. Hooks in hand get into your pouring position, lift the crucible out, it will be heavy so exercise caution. Attach your second hook to the lower ring and move the crucible over the mold. Your target is the funneled out sprue hole. Slowly raise the bottom of the crucible and let the metal run into the sprue. Do not stop pouring for any reason, a brief interruption can cause the metal to solidify and wreck the casting. Slow and steady, slow and steady! While pouring, keep your eye on the riser, when you see the aluminum come up to the surface of the riser, you are finished. Stop the pour and move the crucible over to the trenches you cut in the dirt earlier. Pour out any remaining metal into the trenches. You can use an ingot mold instead of trenches for this as well. You need to get all the remaining metal and trash out of the crucible before it cools. Once I have poured off the remaining metal I will hold the crucible with both hooks, bottom up, and tap the mouth of the crucible on the ground several times. This does a good job of cleaning it out for the next melt.

| Look at your mold, if you see aluminum bubbling out of the sprue, your sand was too wet and not properly burned out. Chances are the casting is blown, but this is not always the case, so don’t lose all hope. Once in a while you get a poor fitting between the sand in the cope and the sand in the drag. When this happens aluminum will briefly come out from the seams. It will burn the wood and smell terrible but don’t touch it, just let it cool, and once again, this may not necessarily ruin the casting. If you see just a little steam and water coming out of the vent holes then chances are the casting is a good one. But there is only one way to find out for sure, open the mold and have a look. Keep in mind that it is still very hot inside the mold. I wait 20 minutes before breaking the mold open. Even after 20 minutes you can get a steam burn so wear gloves. While you are waiting clean up your mess, put your tools and air supply away. The forge will stay hot for 12 to 15 hours depending on the outside temperature, so don’t worry about cleaning it up until the next day. The crucible will stay hot for a while, just let it cool.

In the next installment, I will cover: breaking the mold, possible disappointment, and cleaning up the casting.

Just to note, the process and apparatus which Dan in Oklahoma described for making charcoal also goes by the name of "Gasifier." The venting of the volatile gases in the wood can be put to several purposes, to include running carburetor engines on generators and trucks. The Russians used this system extensively for rear area operations as liquid petrol was priority for front line vehicles and aircraft. They would fire them up at breakfast time and run them all day. Me thinks that today's breakfast was probably cooked on yesterdays driving around...the charcoal. Some examples of delivery trucks in the US during the war also ran on them because of fuel rationing.

You won't be winning any races with this set-up, but you can remain mobile. LowTech Magazine has a nice spread on the old and new.

There was also a scene in the Discovery Channel series "The Colony" where they rigged one up with a 5 gal metal Jerry can in an open drum burner and fed the gas into the pressure washer / generator contraption they had built. Primitive, but it made the thing run. Of particular note, the gas hose was not sealed directly onto the carburetor intake, but had enough gap left so it could suck in a bit of fresh air with the wood gas.

In the micro level, a friend who does primitive rendezvous shoots showed me his shoe polish can gasifier whereby he made tinder starters from simple cotton cloth patching. He put a pin hole in the top of the can, put his cut patches in it and placed the whole thing in the camp fire until smoke stopped coming out. What remained was perfectly charcoaled cotton patching that would take a spark from a flint striker really well, which got the larger tinder going nicely.

All sorts of things possible from a bit of mad science and some ingenuity. - Jim in Virginia

The recent SurvivalBlog piece titled "Survival Tips for the Business Traveler", by F. Russell was well written with lots of good information. I also travel on business and didn't see anything I disagreed with but I would add a couple of items if you care to link my comments to the article.

1) No matter how well you plan, if you travel much over the road you are going to be places where the fuel in your tank is not enough to get you home. Be that because of the distance you are from "home" or that traffic congestion or your attempts to find back road routes burns more fuel than normal. The assumption is that obtaining fuel, especially along interstates during a melt down will be Nye on impossible as either the electricity is out and they cant pump fuel or the lines are so long that waiting puts you in danger.

Build your own 12 volt fuel transfer pump (better yet build two). Go to your local auto parts supply store and order or purchase a fuel pump with as much GPM as you can afford. The one I got was about $100 for the pump. Then purchase a good fuel filter, a cigarette lighter "plug" with an in line switch and 25 feet of tubing. I mounted mine to plywood squares that are about 10" X 10". With that device you can pull up next to another vehicle or even into the gas station and put your hose down into the ground tanks at the station and transfer fuel into your tank. I am not suggesting stealing the fuel...this device has saved my bacon already.

2) Cary a bicycle with you. You can go to pawn shops and get pretty decent bikes for $40. Put some extra tubes and patch kits and bike pump in your BOB. I frequently travel to a city that is 180 miles from home. That's only a three hour drive but it would take someone even in good shape a long time to walk. IF you could cover 20 miles a day it would take you nine straight days to walk home. That's a long walk. On a bike however its a much different matter. Riding a bike 100 miles in a day is a hell of a workout but it can be done.

3) Consider putting an EMP ground on your vehicle, especially if you perceive high risk time frames.

4) If you have the resources, this may not be the ultimate road warrior machine but its up there. I travel in a 2007 Itasca Navion (The Winnebago "View" is basically the same vehicle) At 24 feet in length its not much longer than my pickup and on the Sprinter chassis its more maneuverable than my pickup. Its Mercedes Benz 5 cylinder turbo diesel engine and Mercedes transmission run like a sewing machine. There are stories of people getting 22 MPG. I haven't done as well but did get around 19 MPG. Small enough that you can parallel park in downtown name the city but large enough to be fully self contained and carry a lot of stuff. Rest stops and truck stops are dangerous places...you don't need to "go there" as you have your bathroom and your kitchen with you...the only stops you need to make are for business and fuel. If you have a large distance to cover in an emergency you can run that engine for days without shutting it off..do that in gas motor car and you could be in for trouble.
Regards, - B.H.

Today, we look at the Choate Machine and Tool Company M1 Carbine Military Folding Stock. This stock is designed to fit original U.S.G.I. M1 Carbines, but also fits the Plainfield brand of carbine, the Auto Ordnance M1 Carbine and some UniversalM1 Carbine clones (early 1950s models, built with military surplus parts), but will not fit the later Universal or Iver Johnson carbines. Here is a photo.

Installation is drop in, though it was a snug fit, which is good. The stock has positive tension when folded but doesn’t latch. It latches in the open position very positively. The stock swings open handily, and the release button is easy to use. Construction is glass-filled nylon with blued steel hardware and sling swivels. Robust, durable and very well made. It’s shootable when folded, and I could still reach the safety and magazine release with my finger, and the bolt release with my thumb. Those with large fingers might find it a bit tight. However, the positive tension, rather than locking, folded action means even large fingers can operate the controls with little trouble.

Ergonomically, I found the tapered pistol grip very comfortable in size and angle, and the stock very pleasant for a folder. It didn’t really feel like a folder, actually, and I was easily and comfortably able to get a good cheek weld and sight picture. It was also acceptable to my wife and daughter, who are both shorter than I with smaller hands. The butt is a little narrow, but the M1 doesn’t have enough recoil for this to be a problem. Balance is right at the magazine when open, about an inch forward when folded.

The top and side mounted slings are great for either shoulder or subgun carry modes, or a single point sling.

I don’t really see a need for the swivel on the pistol grip, and would rather they converted the hollow area to storage with a trapdoor. I took off a couple of sharp corners with a few file strokes. Those would be my only criticisms of this fine piece of hardware. It is American made and well worth the money. - SurvivalBlog Editor At Large Michael Z. Williamson

JWR Adds: I've always been a fan of Garth Choate's products. They are properly engineered and built to last. I used Choate stocks exclusively, back when I was sporterizing pre-1899 Turkish Mausers, back in the early 1990s.

One word of warning on M1 Carbines: They are fun little guns to shoot, and they are historically interesting to collect, but they shoot an under-powered cartridge that is not a reliable man-stopper! If you want a carbine that is better capable of stopping an opponent, then buy a Ruger Mini-14. They are about the same dimensions as an M1 Carbine and have similar handling characteristics, but at least they are chambered in .223 Remington. (Which itself, in my .308-centric opinion a just marginally capable stopper.) BTW, Choate also makes several types of Mini-14 stocks, including a folding stock.

If you own an M1 Carbine, the then in my opinion it should be relegated to use on small game, or as a transitional trainer for teenagers, and nothing more!

F.R. sent this news item: Shipwrecked students feared remote death at sea. F.R.'s comment: It pays to be lucky, but being prepared is better.

   o o o

A reminder that the folks at Medical Corps are holding another one of their excellent three-day Combat/Field Medicine School courses, April 30th through May 2nd. The class will be held near Caldwell, Ohio at the Ohio State University Extension building. Contact: Chuck Fenwick at 740-783-8009 for details.

   o o o

I noticed that some of the gardeners over at the LATOC Forums have organized: The Great LATOC Seed Swap of 2010. For anyone that saves heirloom seeds, this sounds like a great way to accumulated some new heirloom varieties.

"Man is not the creature of circumstances, circumstances are the creature of man. We are free agents, and man is more powerful than matter". - Benjamin Disraeli

Monday, February 22, 2010

Today we present Part 3 of an entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. It is noteworthy that some folks loosely use the terms forge/forging and foundry/foundring interchangably. Technically, however, the term foundry should be used to describe equipment for melting metal to a liquid, while "forge" should described equipment for heating metal to the point of malleabilty. But in actual practice, some of the same equipment is used in both processes--its just a question of the temperature achieved.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Forge Fuel & Homemade Charcoal

The aluminum melting forge is fueled by hardwood charcoal. To begin making charcoal you are going to need 2 steel barrels. One standard size 55 gallon drum will serve as your outer barrel, the second barrel is a little more difficult to acquire. The inner barrel or actual charcoal out gassing barrel needs to be small enough to fit inside the 55 gallon barrel. The smaller barrel also must have a lid that can be locked in place during the cooking and removed later to extract the charcoal. I was fortunate enough to find Military food barrels at a local surplus store. These are 25 gallons, they come with a lid and locking ring. If you are fortunate enough to find some of these buy as many as you can, they are highly useful. I keep all of our dried goods in them, they are great for storing and mulling your casting sand, and ideal to make charcoal. Drill or knock roughly 8 holes in the barrel lid, the holes do not need to be more than ½" in diameter. These holes will allow your hardwood to out-gas.

Next, you need to come up with some hardwood pieces. Split firewood logs work you just need to make sure the pieces are small enough to fit into the forge. Most woods make good charcoal especially pine, construction sites will often allow you to haul away their cut-off scrap , but you cannot use plywood, since it is highly toxic when burned. The same goes for any type of [resin-impregnated] particle boards.

Fill your smaller barrel up with hardwood, go all the way to the top, just make sure there is enough room to put the holed lid on and lock it. Now place the smaller barrel(Holes Up) into the larger 55 gallon drum. There is another method where the holes are places down and gasses coming off the hardwood can fuel the fire, I have never had any luck with this method. For the charcoal making burn in the 55 gallon drum, tree trimmings work quite well. It takes some time for the fire to get hot enough to burn away the volatile gasses from the hardwood leaving you with charcoal. You will need to keep feeding the fire and watch the holes in the charcoal barrel. When the correct temperature is reached flames will shoot out of the holes of your charcoal barrel, this is the out gassing. After the volatile gasses have burned off I add one more round of fuel to the fire and let it burn out. Usually I let the whole thing cool overnight, it is not worth the trouble to get in a hurry and haul a hot heavy barrel out of another hot barrel. The next day, take your 25 gallon barrel out, pop the lid and have a look. You should have nice black charcoal pieces ready for the forge. This is enough charcoal for one melt, it will ignite easily and burn clean and hot. The pine charcoal is also great for use in your steel forge, and will cook an excellent steak as well. There are many other methods available to make your own charcoal but this method works and is fairly inexpensive and does not take up too much space in your yard.

If you have the funds and do not want to go through the process of making your own charcoal, then it can be purchased. There is a brand of hardwood chunk charcoal for around $8 for 20 pounds, it works well in the forge, you can also use the cheaper dollar store briquettes. The little square charcoal briquettes have some big drawbacks, they are hard to ignite and even worse they are extremely messy when used as forge fuel. The air flow causes them to spit small chunks off while burning, and these little cinders go everywhere, they can cause fires, burn you and fill up your crucible with trash while melting. I would only use the briquettes as a last resort. You have fuel, you have a forge and crucible, you have sand, flask and tools, it is time to draw your first mold.

Drawing the Mold

There is an art to drawing your mold that can only be learned by doing. It took me two years to get this process down and I still consider myself a novice. I need to mention again that you have to keep pushing forward and try, try, try If your mold goes wrong and falls apart, keep trying If your mold goes right and your pour gets ruined wasting hours of work, keep trying Nothing in life, that is worth doing, is ever easy. You will get discouraged, you will have failures, but don’t give up. I am going to talk you through a split pattern mold. This is the easiest one to do, I recommend that you draw many molds before even lighting a fire, I wish that I had.

You are going to need some parting powder, parting powder or dust is sprinkled liberally over the parts to be replicated and at the seams of your cope and drag. The parting dust provides a barrier that allows parts to be removed and seams to be separated without adhesion to the surrounding casting sand keeping your two part mold intact. I use diatomaceous earth as my parting dust but I started with common baby powder. I drew many a mold with baby powder before learning that the baby powder absorbs moisture while diatomaceous earth does not. The difference between the two, in my opinion, are hardly noticeable. For a parting dust spreader simply put some dust into an old foot sock, hold the sock end closed and shake vigorously over your parts to build up a layer.

You are going to need a pattern, this is the object you wish to make a negative of in casting sand so a positive can be made in aluminum. For these beginning molds keep it simple don’t try to make a candelabra for your first mold, or in retrospect, a light saber. Lets say that you want to make an aluminum sphere 6 in diameter and you already have that sphere but it is just a wood ball at this point. For the split pattern mold start by cutting your wooden sphere in half . You now have two half spheres that need some alignment points, so the two halves fit together exactly the same way each time you separate them. Two small 1 nails with the flat end cut off will serve this purpose. Drive both nails ½ deep into one sphere half, match each up in the opposite sphere half and drill a ½ deep hole using a drill bit with a slightly larger diameter than the nail. The two sphere halves can now be joined together using the nails. Make sure that the fit is not tight as you will want them to separate easily in the mold. Now that you have a pattern it is time to start using all that homemade equipment. I trust that you have added water to temper your sand? This should be done, ideally, the night before drawing your mold, but the sand can be tempered in just one hour if you forgot. I keep my sand in one of the lidded barrels mentioned earlier, so it is always tempered and ready to go. Contrary to what many have written do not be overly concerned about adding too much water to your sand, I will cover a drying process a little later on. Grab a handful of your sand and squeeze it together in your fist. It should be wet to the touch but not slimy or runny. When you open your hand you should have a nice fist shaped ball in your palm. Grab the fist shaped ball in both hands and break it, it should offer some resistance and the break should be clean. If it is overly crumbly you need to add more water and possibly some more bentonite. You will know with a bit of practice.

Rest one of your backboards between the 2x4s on your casting table then grab your cope. Place the cope triangle points facing down and resting off each side of the backboard. You need a flush fit between the cope and the backboard with no gaps. Take the sphere half with no nails in it and place it(flat side down, concave side up) on the backboard centered roughly in the middle of the cope. Take your sock of parting dust and shake it vigorously over the cope and the sphere half pattern. You want a good covering of parting dust over the backboard (floor) and over the pattern, if it looks thick to you, don’t worry about it, the casting sand itself will compact the parting dust layer. Being careful not to shake the pattern lay your riddle on top of the cope, you should have sand at the ready on your casting table. Grab a handful of sand and place it in the riddle, gently at first, begin pushing the sand through the wire mesh. You can use a plastic paint scraper for this if you like, but I just push it through with my fingers. Keep going until you have a good layer of sand over the entire cope bottom and pattern, the sifted sand should come up to the bottom of your wire mesh. Pick up your riddle and set it aside, then gently push the sand down with your hands, compacting it around the pattern and cope floor. Put your riddle back onto the cope and push through another layer of sand but this time make sure the sifted sand covers the corners and sides of the cope. Again put aside your cope and compact the sand with your hands. The first and second layer of sand over the pattern are the most important, this is the sand that the aluminum will make contact with. Compact it carefully at the cope edges and corners, you have now effectively locked the pattern down in sand.

Riddle another layer of sand into the cope and this time when you compact it with your hands you can push down harder making sure that you are capturing all the detail of the pattern. Compact the sand on the pattern and the pattern sides, you want to make sure there are no voids or empty spots which can misshape the casting. One last layer of riddled, hand compacted sand, should be enough for a simple casting. Now you can just grab handfuls of sand and fill the cope, it is now that you will use the rammer. For each layer of sand put in, you need to compact its entire surface area with the rammer, paying close attention to getting the sand at the corners good and tight. Start ramming at the edges first, it is OK now to push down hard, and work your way into the middle of the cope, with the rammer. Keep doing this until the cope is full and the compacted sand is an inch higher than the 2 X 4 walls. Take your stiff straight edge and using the 2 X 4's as your guide scrape or cut off the sand. You want the sand flush with the 2 X 4's. Now take your other backboard and rest it the same way as the first on your casting table. Gently pick up the filled cope, flip it over and rest it (Pattern Up) on the second back board. Do not worry, the compacted sand has formed a friction hold with the wood of the cope and will not fall out. With a larger flask you need to add some sand holders but a small 12 X 12 flask holds just fine with friction.

Have a look at the first half of your mold, you will see only the sphere half bottom surrounded by whitened sand (Parting Dust). Clean off the edges of the wood only, if any particles have gotten onto the mold itself they can be blown right off with either a small bellows or your mouth. Try not to inhale any particles when you are readying yourself to blow. With the cope resting on the back board it is time to make the second half of the mold. First grab the other half of your pattern and mate it to the first sphere half using the nail guides. Next grab your drag and using the alignment triangles, which are now facing up, mate the drag to the cope. Make sure the 2 x 4's of both the cope and drag are flush with each other with no particles between them. Sprinkle in a hearty layer of parting dust over the pattern and the drag (Floor) which is now sand and completed pattern instead of the backboard. Then exactly repeat the sand riddling and compacting process you just completed with the cope. Fill past the drag top and scrape off the excess with the straight edge just like before.

You are ready to separate the mold, making sure you have your second back board in place, grasp the handles of the drag and gently pull it apart. Sometimes you need to wiggle it a bit to get it to separate from its triangle guides. Once it has parted, flip the drag over (pattern up) and set it on the second backboard. The cope and drag should be lying next to each other and they should both contain a pattern half. This is why it is important to maintain a loose fit on your pattern guide nails. If half of your pattern does come out of the sand, DON’T PANIC, at this stage many errors can still be corrected. Continue the separation of the mold and get the cope and drag rested, then gently pull the pattern half that came loose off, making sure you don’t pull out the other half in the process, then simply place it all the way back into its mold. If it did come loose then most likely some of the sand at the edges in direct contact with the pattern came loose as well. This too can be fixed by pressing in some extra fresh sand, once the pattern is back in place, and smoothing it with your fingers. If it wants to crumble on you, dip your fingers into some water then smooth it.

It is very important that your pattern remain in the mold during the next step, which is sprue, riser and channel cutting. The sprue is the actual hole in which the molten metal will be introduced to the mold, on the opposite side of the sprue; I like to cut a riser, the riser is a hole smaller in diameter than the sprue, in which the molten metal can exit the mold after passing through and filling the pattern cavity. Many sand casters do not use a riser but having this second hole in the top of your mold has several advantages. It adds extra molten metal weight to the pattern cavity and it also tells you when the mold is holding all the molten aluminum it can handle. It is awful when you overfill a mold with aluminum, molten metal running off the sides, is dangerous, to say the least, and when it hits your 2 X 4's it catches them on fire and emits a foul smoke. My casting flasks have many burns. Now there is a complex mathematical equation that explains how molten metal weight gets your pattern cavity filled, but to put it simply, the weight of the metal at the sprue and the riser will fill the pattern cavity nicely before it cools enough to solidify. Lastly you need to cut channels or gates from the sprue to the pattern, and from the pattern, to the riser. Think of them as small canals that allow metal to flow.

The sprue and riser will be cut into the cope or top part of the mold only. To accomplish this you will need your 1 and 1 ½” diameter segments of pipe that are roughly 6 to 8 inches in length. PVC pipe works but thin walled metal pipe works even better. With the pattern still facing up in your cope look where the most empty sand area is, you do not want the sprue to be too close to the pattern or the wooden cope wall, find an area that has at least 1 of sand between both the pattern and cope wall. This is why it is important to center your pattern in the flask. For this hypothetical pattern there is plenty of empty sand room all around. Pick a patch and run your 1 ½ diameter pipe vertically all the way through the cope sand until you strike the wood of the backboard. Then gently pull the pipe back out vertically, the cut sand will remain in the pipe, and you have just cut your sprue. Now repeat the process with the smaller diameter pipe on the opposite side of the pattern, the sand will remain in the pipe and you have added a riser to your mold. Be sure to remove the casting sand from your sprue and riser pipes with a long screwdriver, if it dries in the pipe, it is a pain to get out. Now you need to pattern out the location of the sprue and riser holes in the drag or bottom part of the mold so you can cut your channels. This patterning in the drag does not need to be 100% accurate so you have several options. 1. Put the cope and drag back together and run your pipes back through the holes to make an indentation in the drag sand. 2. Take a ruler and measure the location of the holes in the cope then use the measurements to find them in the drag. 3. Just guesstimate.

With your drag (pattern up) it is time to cut your channels and filter, this is where you will use your bent kitchen spoon. The channels and filter will be cut in the drag sand only. The filter is a trough or trench cut below the sprue (Larger Hole) its purpose is to catch any errant particles or trash that may get caught up in the molten metal pour as it runs down the sprue. The particles and trash collect in the bottom of this small trench and allow clean metal to run through the channel into the mold cavity. It sounds far more technical than it is, simply cut a small trench in the drag sand below the sprue. It is important that the filter trench be slightly lower than the channel. From your filter trench cut a straight U shaped channel all the way to the wood of the pattern, scoop away the excess sand and drop it into your casting table. Be sure to blow away any particles that may fall onto the mold. Smooth down the entire filter trench and channel with your fingers, any excess particles will be washed into the pattern cavity when you pour. The riser channel is a bit easier, there is no filter trench to worry about, just cut another U shaped channel from the riser to the pattern and smooth it down with your fingers.

Now we need to remove the two wooden sphere halves (pattern) from the mold. This is where your rapper comes into play, start with the pattern half that has the nails in it. Use the nails as your rapping points. Take your Y shaped rapper and gently strike the nail with the two rapping bolts using a side to side motion. I must emphasize gently here, you are not trying to knock out the pattern, you are trying to loosen the pattern from the surrounding casting sand. Rap both of the nails until you see the wooden pattern move just slightly in the sand. When you see the slight movement it means the pattern is free and can be lifted out. Grasp a nail in each hand and slooooowly wiggle or rock it out. If there is any damage along the edges don’t panic and follow the procedure detailed earlier in this segment. Now to rap out the wooden pattern half with no nails. To create a rapping point I use a small punch inserted into the holes drilled earlier. Once it has been rapped loose from the casting sand, two small punches, or something similar, will be used as the grasping points. Insert a tool into each hole, angle each tool to create a friction hold and wiggle it out. With the pattern removed you need to smooth down the channels cut earlier with your fingers, where they meet the pattern cavity, this will allow an unobstructed flow of molten metal into and out of the cavity.

We have one last cut to make in the sand, this is the funnel cut, and it will be performed on only the cope. Take your cope and rest it on its side, make sure it does not fall and ruin your work. You are going to make this cut from the top side of the cope. With the pattern cavity side facing away from you locate the sprue hole (Larger Hole). Take your dull X-Acto knife or even a butter knife and cut a funnel shape around the sprue hole. This greatly helps with the accuracy of the pour, channeling the molten aluminum directly into the sprue. Smooth the whole funnel cut down with your fingers. Be careful not to cut the funnel too deep, this can weaken or ruin the mold cavity on the other side. Before laying the cope back down you need to vent the cavity. This is an important step performed on the cope side only. When the molten aluminum hits the wet sand it creates steam, the vent holes in the cavity allow the steam to escape. Grab the vent wire you made earlier, rotate the cope so the pattern cavity is facing you. The venting only needs to done on the pattern cavity, nowhere else. Push the wire through the cavity until it pokes through on the other side where you just made your sprue funnel. Go gently and slowly with the vent wire both when pushing and pulling it back out. I believe in profuse venting, so on a 6 pattern cavity like the one described, I would vent it 20 times, make sure the vents are all over the cavity. When you are finished with the venting wire while the cope is still on its side, blow off any and all excess particles from both the top and bottom. If a particle is giving you trouble just wet your finger tip, or even a Q-Tip and gently touch the rogue particle, it will stick to the wet surface and can be removed.

Burning the mold is the last step, and once again it is an important step. Steam is our enemy and will ruin the casting. You need to get as much moisture as you can away from the points that will make contact with the molten aluminum. To accomplish this your friend the propane torch will be utilized. Ignite your torch and start burning, burn your sprue and riser from both sides, burn your channels and filter trench, and burn that cavity especially the drag (Bottom Side). You will see the moisture burn away from the sand when the blue flame is put to it, once the moisture has burned away, the sand becomes harder and more brittle, you must be very careful not to bang the cope or the drag. When the mold has been burned blow off any excess particles, it helps to turn the mold cavities upside down and hold them above your head and blow. Lastly you need to very, very carefully put your cope and drag together. You have just drawn a mold It is ready for the pour, a good rule to follow is never start a fire until you have fully drawn your mold. You can prepare the forge before drawing the mold but don’t ignite it.

I need to also note that you are under a bit of a time constraint after burning the mold. As soon as the torch is shut off, moisture begins to creep back into the burned spots. My own rule on this is to re-burn the mold if it has set for two hours. [JWR Adds: Or less, in very high-humidity climates!] As for making a mold one day and using it on the next day, forget it, it is a same day deal. There is also an internet rumor floating around that if your sand is too wet the mold can explode. I have poured into overly wet sand on several occasions, the casting was wrecked, but there was no explosion. The venting and burning of the mold will alleviate any steam problems making an explosion impossible. Aluminum has a melting point of 1,220 Degrees F, this is a relatively low melting temperature, which is why aluminum is such a good metal for the backyard caster. If you were to melt copper you would be dealing with a melting point of nearly 2,000 degrees F, with this much higher temperature an overly wet mold explosion is a real possibility. The next installment of this article will cover safety concerns, the melt and the pour. (So don't start doing anything except mold-making until you have read the next installment!)

Dear Mr. Rawles,

The importance of operational security is well known by most of the readers of this site. It is, however, easy to assume that as long as one doesn't blab it all to the neighbors one is doing just fine. This may not be the case. Security breaches come in more forms that loose lips. There are lots of little ways to betray what is going on behind the quiet facade of 101 Preparation Place.

Do you realize what you throw away tells about what you have? An old lawnmower at the curb reveals my neighbor just purchased a new one. A cardboard box with Stuff on the outside tells the world that a new Stuff Is Inside. This is just the beginning of what our trash says. If you are buying toilet paper by the case, how long before the nosy neighbor across the street begins to wonder why you need a case of tp a week? Nothing may come of it, but with the prevailing attitude that everything out of the ordinary is a possible terrorist plot, do you really want to get a visit from the people in blue? What will you say when they want to know why you are buying all those 50 lbs. bags of rice? Or all that ammo?

By the way, what does the hard drive on that old computer resting on your curb say that might be of interest to thieves? Or cops? What about that box of old discs? This is why they make matches. They are cheap until you run out. So are paper shredders.

What does your car say? That is a really great bumper sticker, but what does it say to those who don't want to vote for Dud? Is it wise to advertise that you have a gun you will give up when they take it from your dead hand? What is gained here? Have you ever been persuaded by a bumper sticker, yard sign, a tee shirt? You have a right to express your opinion, but what are you giving up?

Is the outside of your house advertising for a visit from the code inspector? Is it time to get rid of that junk car that last year you said would be gone by the first of the month? Does your house stand out as better or worse than the rest of the houses on the block? Paint is cheap. Buy some; use it. Blending in is great camouflage. The retired guy down the street who spends every other day on the riding lawn mower will drop the dime on you, so keep the lawn mowed. Bureaucrats are always looking for something to do and people to do it to.

What does the meter reader see? Two cans of tuna on a basement shelf is nothing odd. Two hundred cans of tuna is a curious thing. That gun safe says, "Guns are here; rob somewhere else." It also says, "I know where we can get some guns."

When you are stopped for some traffic violation, what does the back seat of your car say to the cop? The empties may say that it is time to test your breath. Move them to the trunk before you leave home. What will his computer say when he runs your license? Fix this now. Every contact you have with the system makes you more prominent. What will you say when the cop questions you about what you have in that box on the back seat or what is in your trunk?

Contraband, anyone? This is all risk and no reward. It is hard to prepare to survive when you are doing time. What will the gun shop owner say when he finds out about that felony?

What is in your garage? You know what the neighbors have. The cars in their driveways told you they have lots of stuff. Leaving the doors open allowed you to take a quick inventory.

Have you taken the time to update your profile on your favorite social web site? Did you take the test to determine what kind of space alien you are? These sites are being mined by the powers that be. While this information may seem innocuous, each little bit builds a profile. It lasts forever, even after you delete it. This information will not be used to help you.

What do your kids say? You cannot long keep secret disaster preparation from family members. Why should you? They are part of the preparation. It is a matter of unintentional leaks. You children will say things to their friends. They can be pumped for information by school teachers. (This assumes that you have not yet removed them from the government's stupid factories.) During the Green class time little Johnny may decide to assure the teacher that his family does not worry because "we have a generator and lots of food and guns too." This may be remembered during crunch time. The phone book will reveal your address. When you get an unlisted number, make sure it is the kind that is not available from directory assistance because the grid may not go down when you need it to. It is Murphy's Law.

What does the mail man know? He will connect your mail with your address. He has been doing the same route for so long that he has it all memorized. A Post Office Box is cheap, even in another town, where it becomes another layer of insulation between your house and your mail.

The census is coming. What will you say? We are assured that all information is confidential. I also know that this is a government promise.

Your bank records are a great source of information. Money orders are cheap, effective security when they are bought from a bank you don't use. What is the amount of money that triggers a cash transaction report?

I hope this gets you thinking about ways to prevent security leaks. Security is neither cheap nor convenient, but it is essential. - Randy W.

JWR Adds:A recent e-mail from SurvivalBlog reader Todd S. also noted: "Here is a link with some info about Facebook. Anyone serious about OPSEC should never have a Facebook [or similar social networking] account."

Hi SurvivalBloggers,
Have you have ever had a foreign object in your eye, and had a hassle finding and removing it,with or without help? I recommend that you get a big, powerful enlarging bathroom type mirror,the type you see on a swivel,usually with lights around it. These are about a foot square, and have a normal mirror on a swivel with an enlarged mirror on the reverse side. As a regular mirror gives you a half size image, examining your own eye for a tiny object can be difficult. With an enlarging mirror, its lots easier. I use a mirror like that, with a large hand held magnifying lens set directly on the mirror for even greater magnification. The mirror on a swivel and the magnifying lens in combination with a good light on your face, allows a really detailed examination, revealing details the unaided eye can't see and leaving the hands free to use tweezers or a swab,etc.. Don't forget some small hand held dental mirrors of good quality and good quality needle nose tweezers.

If you are way out in the boondocks and really need to examine your face, then this is a portable way to see yourself well. Having a good set of mirrors and various hand lenses on hand can serve a variety of functions such as fire starting, signaling, and so forth. These bathroom mirrors are inexpensive, and can be found often in a second hand store or thrift stores such as Goodwill for next to nothing. But the difference this item could make in first aid care could be life saving or at least eye saving. I now always have a smaller version of this setup when traveling and use it to clear sleep crud caked eyelids. Cheers, - Jose Noway

I'd just like to comment on the forum thread you linked to, titled "MZBs: Are you prepared?", over at doomers.us

The dynamic of the petulant and angry underclass rearing a rather violent head once the social controls are gone is precisely what happened in places like Yugoslavia and Russia.

On the Serbian side, these types were actively armed by the nationalists. On the Croatian and Bosnian side, they came from a pre-existing underworld and before anyone knew what was happening they had almost completely hijacked power in many areas. And they took what they wanted, took out anyone who got in their way and plunged the place into a charnel house. The mild mannered and law abiding who did not see this coming suffered greatly. It got so bad in Sarajevo that in 1993 there erupted a battle within the battle as the government finally had to rein in the gangs.

I too have been in on several conversations similar to the one the writer related. One of the parties was a former US Serviceman who, when asked if he was putting in any kind of stockpile, answered, "I've got a gun and ammo, the rest will follow." This was a soldier. I was shocked by his cavalier attitude.

The big lesson I took away from the Balkan experience is when this starts, identify and ruthlessly eliminate these people quickly. Make some very serious examples and get them under control, because if you lose that control, it is unlikely you will get it back without a great deal of effort and blood. - Jim in Virginia

SurvivalBlog's Editor At Large Michael Z. Williamson sent us this sign of the times: Frustrated Owner Bulldozes Home Ahead of Foreclosure.

Robert H. and A.P. both sent us this link: South Carolina Lawmaker Seeks to Ban Federal Currency

Reader H.M. e-mailed me to mention that he greatly enjoyed a recent radio interview with Jim Sinclair.

Adrian recommended this commentary by John Rutledge: Banana Republics Need Compliant Central Banks. Here is an excerpt: "Wait a minute. Huge increase in government spending. Fast-rising debt. Tax the rich. Appoint political advisors to run the central bank. That’s us! "

Items from The Economatrix:

Jobless Claims, Inflation Jumps as Economy Wobbles

Monetary Inflation and the 32 Cent Gallon of Gas (The Mogambo Guru)

Law of Diminishing Returns of Credit Expansion

Governors Brace for More Economic Turmoil (also sent to us by J.D.D.)

US Consumer Prices Fall for First Time in 27 Years

Pound Slides Further on Surprise Fed Rate Raise

Loren sent this: Is This the Safest House in the World? [JWR's Comment: No, it isn't! To start with, its in Los Angeles... Talk about an OPSEC nightmare!]

   o o o

EliteT sent us a link to an interesting New York Times piece about a home aquaponics experimenter. (Be sure to click on the link to the YouTube video But don't get too excited.. Just think how many PV panels it would take to run those pumps, 24/7. Traditional pond aquaponics are more suitable for preppers. )

   o o o

Thanks to RVL for this article link: What are the Longest Lasting Batteries?

   o o o

Joe Ordinary Voortrekker sent a link to a site with a great way to teach people how radio waves propagate.

”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

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Even if you do not plan to have children at your retreat, they will eventually find you. Kids are survivors and they always find a way to make it – it is the human condition. My wife and I lived in East Africa and we have seen street kids endure things that no child should ever experience. Despite the horrendous circumstances, they move ahead and children in this country will also move forward. We are all planning for the worst, and for some of you, the worst would be lots of children hanging around your retreat. If you are not used to being around children, then you should start making it a point to be with them. Volunteer at your church nursery or work at the YMCA. If you have not been around kids lately, they are much louder and more energetic than you remember. A few brief tastes of their company now could make the transition to life with children easier later.

| This article will discuss the following aspects of children and TEOTWAWKI: our attitude towards children, building strong family relationships, retreat safety, work, education, and health.

Attitude. Regardless of our current feelings toward children, if in the midst of TEOTWAWKI, we still fail to see children as the hope of tomorrow, then we are just as evil and blind as those who are destroying our country today. In preparing for TEOTWAWKI, we all feel a little stressed and overwhelmed at times. Imagine how kids are going to feel. Their inheritance is anarchy and chaos. When TEOTWAWKI does happen, I think the first thing we should do with children is tell them that this is not their fault. It would also be a good idea to ask them to forgive us and the past generations for making some really bad choices. The buck must stop somewhere, and there will be no point in passing the blame onto our kids. Then, we need to invest our energy and resources in a younger generation that will exhibit a spirit of honor, respect, and bravery which this nation has not seen since its creation. We can be the parents and grandparents of the next founding fathers.

| The Bible says that children are a blessing. We must lose our modern distortions that make our kids a liability. As we move back into an 18th century lifestyle, we must also understand that children are a valuable asset in the day to day. For a contemporary model, look at an Amish or Mennonite community. Kids will help in the daily routines and take care of us when we are old and gray. When given the chance, children can also bring keen insight and intuition into a situation. Kids bring huge amounts of joy, laughter and comic relief to the mundane.

Strong Relationships.
Know your kids and allow your kids to know you. (This also applies to you knowing your spouse.) Yes, this does take time and effort. For families accustomed to working, studying, and playing independently of each other, being thrown together 24/7 will be stressful. The more you know and understand other family members, the easier communication and life will be in general. A good starting point to guide you is to know your child’s love language and to know his/her personality type. There is a ton of information about the five love languages: touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and gifts. Everyone speaks at least one of these love languages. Oftentimes, the people we “feel” loved by are the ones that speak our language, and the ones we do not relate well with are the ones who speak a different language. For example, a friend of ours did not feel a lot of love from her dad while growing up. He was a Vietnam vet and he worked two jobs to provide for his family. After studying the love languages, she realized her love languages are touch and words of affirmation and her dad speaks the love language of acts of service and gifts. Now she realizes that her dad was trying to show her love her entire life by working to provide everything for the family. However, she did not perceive his efforts as love because she spoke love in physical touch and words of affirmation. They were showing love to each other but the different languages did not translate well. She was thankful that her dad provided, but she really needed her dad to give her hugs and affirm her with positive words.

| I use this example because you could be speaking your language of love, but your child is not hearing it. Learn your kid’s language early on and speak it frequently even if it is a “foreign” language to you. It may be awkward at first, but I promise that it will get easier with time. Check out Gary Chapman’s books on the five love languages.            

There are numerous models for personality types. You can research online. Personality will make a huge impact on the dynamics of your team so you might want to include a simple personality test in your supplies. It is often helpful for people to realize that other teammates simply deal with circumstances differently. They are not trying to be difficult. (It just comes natural.) Children are going to be a part of the team. Building good team dynamics is possible even in very stressful situations.

Besides all the security of the retreat, give special attention to the safety of your children. When the SHTF, people will lose their sense of power and the feeling of control. People will be looking for a way to feel power and control in their life. Children will be an easy target for physical and sexual abuse – especially from people in your own retreat. Yes, I am saying that family, friends, neighbors, as well as strangers could be your child’s predators. Statistically, children are already more likely to be victims of abuse by friends and family than strangers. Putting families and friends together in a small space during stressful times will only increase the likelihood. Also, I believe that taking hostages for ransom will become a common event – just look at Somalia. When people figure out that you are the owner of a well stocked retreat, your kids could become an easy target. Regardless the situation, the following are some steps that might make things safer for your children.
Safety in the Retreat. As previously mentioned, most abuse to children is inflicted by people know to the children, therefore, safety within the retreat is a big deal. You must give your kids and their living space special attention when thinking about your retreat. Start today by making it a habit to know where your children are right now– especially your younger children. Never leave them alone at the retreat. I am going to investigate a tracking device that might be hidden on my child’s person. This might be helpful if we do get lost in the hordes. (If anyone knows anything about this, I would love to know more.)

| In regards to the retreat, I recommend an open floor plan for several reasons. First, an open plan allows you to keep tabs on everyone’s location and activities in your house. Second, an open floor plan allows for a clear line of sight if any unwanted guests come through your front door. Put a mud room on the outside and you have an even greater defense. Third, an open floor plan allows your kids more room to run and play. A small room to a child is big. A big room to a child is humongous. The more elbow room the better for everyone, especially kids. Fourth, (we have learned this by having foster kids) an open plan allows your family’s rooms to be physically separate from everyone else. Everyone else can either live on other side of the house, (or your family upstairs and everyone else down). No one feels “put out” because the large open space is very inviting and hospitable. Also, design your rooms so that the only door access to your children’s room is through your room. Alarm your kid’s door and windows – some on your door and window would be good too – these alarms are separate from the overall retreat’s alarms. If you have a different floor plan or you get stuck somewhere, sleep the entire family together in one room.

Safety in Obedience. Children must learn to obey upon command – 1st time. This is the best way to keep them safe and secure when it all goes down. If your child does not obey now, how will they respond when you give commands in a life and death situation? You cannot afford to have kids who will not obey you. However, strive to be a leader; not a dictator to your children. Also, understand that a child making mistakes is not the same as a child disobeying. Making a mistake is not wrong. Disobeying is. Know the difference and make sure your child knows the difference. Moreover, consistently enforcing obedience will allow your kids to feel safer. Even when things are falling apart, your kids will find comfort in knowing that dad and mom are still in control of the household. Shepherding a Child’s Heart is a great book to guide you on this path.

. We must train our children. Oftentimes, we mistakenly have a fast food mindset when it comes to training because that is the paradigm that we have often been “trained”. On some jobs I received maybe one example of how to do something, and then I was left alone to figure everything else out. Real training takes time because we must walk with them and they must walk with us. It becomes not just about getting a job done but about building a relationship. One of the major reasons we must develop quality training habits is because our supplies and parts will be extremely limited. We will not be able to break things and simply go to the store and buy new parts. We can take better care of our equipment by properly training everyone on the retreat including the children. Everything we are learning, we must pass on to our kids. All the things that technology has stolen from us that we had to relearn (preserving food, making buckskin, etc.), we must teach that to our kids. We all agree with that, but we have to implement it into our lives. Watch one. Do one. Teach one. As our child is watching us do something, we need to talk them through the why’s of doing it. We must show them how to do it the way we want it to be done. We must watch them for a time as they do it, and they must be competent enough to train someone else to do the same skill. This will be an essential lifestyle change when TEOTWAWKI.

It is essential that our kids do not have this spirit of entitlement that is so rampant in our culture. Three easy ways to “vaccinate” our kids against the disease of entitlement is eliminating television, giving generously, and doing daily chores. For those of us in suburbs or towns, your kids might not have a goat to milk, but there are plenty of small jobs to be done. Wash the dishes or dust the light switches -something. They must be a part of the daily grind. My almost two and almost four year olds wash dishes, fold clothes, pick up, and help cook. Of course, they do these jobs like a two year old and a four year old, but we are not aiming for the cover of Good Housekeeping. Kids need to know they have a part, and they are needed. If you invest heavily in children before age five, then they will easy pay dividends for the rest of the time they are under your roof.

Americans spend a ridiculous amount of money on toys that break or are quickly outgrown. Buy your kids useful tools that they can play with and learn a skill at the same time. Our boys got a tool set one Christmas with a real hammer, measuring tape, etc. My wife and I got them some scraps of wood and a box of nails – they hammered on those things daily for months. Of course, it might have taken him several minutes, but by the time my son was 22 months old, he could drive any nail, no matter the size, straight.

After you give them some useful tools, allow them to work on a real project with you. This past fall, I let my boys work on a chicken tractor. It took twice as long as it would have with me alone. They did a lot of the work, and they were proud of their efforts. I was too. This was not only good for them, but it was good for me. It made me slow down and enjoy the journey. When TSHTF, there will be no cards to punch and no schedule to keep. If we do not start now, we will be stressed by the slow pace of retreat life. A great way to grow accustomed to the slow pace is to let your kids help.

You have taken inventory of your possessions, but do not forget to inventory your children’s tools and “toys”. Keep your bikes and your kid’s bike in good shape in case you have to bug-out on foot. Their snow sleds may be useful. Even your child’s tree house could serve as a nice guard tower. Our current retreat has enough traffic from family and friends that a fortified watchtower would raise too many questions. So, I am thinking about strategically adding a tree house for the boys that will also accommodate sand bags and insulation for a future guard tower.

. I believe a huge emphasis on future education will need to be on social studies – government, history, and true economics. Without the re-creation of a stable government, all the inventors, scientists, mathematicians will have no other choice than to be subsistence farmers for the feudal lord. The only way to get out of the dark ages is to have another renaissance. There is coming a generation that will have to put a government back together again. Our current U.S. Constitution is politically brilliant but it leaves out the one thing that caused the American Revolution. “Taxation without representation” was about economics. Sadly, the checks and balances of our Constitution did not extend into our economics, and it is very evident that our economy has indeed been hi-jacked. Therefore, our kids will have to be educated on what makes money and politics work. Develop your library. Teach them about Blackstone's commentary on English law and political philosophy (including fascism and socialism). The Bible says a lot about law and economics – debt, currency based on precious metals, seven-year economic cycles, and stewardship. Again, someone is going to grow up and be in charge. It might as well be our kids.

The best way I know to research home schooling material is to attend your state’s home school convention. My wife and I like the Sonlight curriculum but each family is unique. My wife and I decided not to purchase all the curriculum for every school year (K-12) in case TEOTWAWKI happens before our boys graduate. It is a lot of money and a lot of storage. Since we currently do not live on our retreat, that curriculum might not make the cut if we suddenly bug out. Instead, we have been talking a lot about what truly constitutes a good education. First, we feel that if our children do not know the LORD, then we have failed as parents. This means that our children need to learn how to pray and how to hear the LORD’s voice. I recommend checking out Mark Virkler and his teaching on hearing God’s voice. (For me, this is the greatest tool my family has when it comes to preparing for TEOTWAWKI.

Besides knowing the LORD,  there will need to be a  practical application of learning that many Amish and Mennonite communities now use. Forget the curriculum mapping. Frame education around life. Honestly, allowing your child to help with calculating the logistics of preparation for TEOTWAWKI will cover math and science up to high school. It would be great if you had room for instruments and art material. I do think that high school students will need some textbooks. I would prefer lower level college textbooks. Just buy an older edition for pennies online. My essential high school textbook list would include the following: world history, United States history, United States literature anthology, English literature anthology, geometry, algebra, pre-calculus, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics, a broad art anthology, and possibly a foreign language of whatever country is invading us at the time.

Facing TEOTWAWKI, children must be educated about the life cycle. Birth and death are complicated matters for any child, and most children in our society are exposed to the life cycle through television or video games. Kids and adults will have many questions about this topic when the SHTF. Already having a paradigm for life and death will make things slightly easier on everyone around you. A farm is a great place to learn. If you are not on a farm, connect with a farmer and take your kids along to see a birthing or a death of something, anything. We involved our kids (age appropriate and what my wife could handle) as much as possible with our last home birth. At the bare minimum, expose them to funerals and funeral homes.

Along with the life cycle, kids need to understand that good and evil do exist and that good does prevail. I believe that story telling is probably the best way to convey this message. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and the Bible are great sources. Almost every night, I tell my kids stories before they go to bed. They request accounts about “good guys” and “bad guys”. I usually tell them stories from the Bible – unedited. We do our children a huge disfavor when we only give them the edited Sunday school versions. My boys love the story of David and Goliath (although my two year old insists there is a shotgun somewhere in the telling of that story) and how David chops off Goliath’s head in the end. Which led me to a realization one night as I told them a story: after the adults screw things up and cower in the corner, God will use a kid (a Joseph, a David, a Daniel, an Esther) to make things right and save an entire people. Ultimately, I tell my boys that Jesus is coming back and his garments will be stained red from the blood of killing the wicked (Isaiah 63) and that Jesus will establish his Kingdom to rule and reign. Happy bedtime stories at our house. But I want my kids to know there is a greater Hope that leads us through the sometimes difficult journey.

Health. I am certainly not a doctor, but I am going to outline our general philosophy on children’s health. You are free to take it or leave it. First, I strongly recommend praying for those who are sick. Besides complete healing miracles, there is research showing that prayer does bring healing quicker. I am not going to suggest that I know why some are healed and some are not. I do know that I am commanded to pray.

I am amazed at how many people, including children, are on prescription drugs. Our friends adopted a girl who was on eleven prescription drugs that cost $800 a month. For the past 12 months, they have worked with the doctor and have her down to four prescriptions. They are on schedule to eliminate those drugs within the next few months. Work with your doctor to scale back and eliminate everything if possible. One alternative to prescription drugs is to study naturopathy and homeopathy. Many pharmaceutical drugs are synthetic imitations of chemicals that exist in plants. There are many resources out there, and I am not qualified to expound upon them. However, my wife is currently studying naturopathy, and we have been using homeopathic solutions with good results. We are open to any type of medical care that works: chiropractors, fasting, Genesis/Levitical diets, muscle response therapy, iridology, etc.

With children, it is important to diagnose quickly. Baby 411 and Toddler 411 are geared toward the modern medical philosophy, but they have saved us numerous trips to the pediatrician. Children will recover from many illnesses when given enough recovery time. Knowing which symptoms are “wait and see” and which ones need immediate attention by a physician can bring a lot of peace of mind. We are currently researching more alternative children’s health resources. If you know of any, please post it.

Our kids were getting sick almost every other week. As soon as they recovered from one cold, they would get another. A chiropractor friend told us the best way to keep kids healthy is to keep them on a routine with plenty of scheduled sleep, vitamins, and probiotics. We started by cutting out some activities that occurred in the evening because we were getting to bed late. We read how many hours our kids were suppose to sleep and set-up a sleep schedule for them to follow.  Also, it became important for our kids to always be dressed appropriately to conserve their body’s energy. It was amazing how much healthier our kids were. Our plan on the retreat is to keep our kids on a schedule and to practice quarantine-like practices for those who are ill.

Children are our future. Our attitudes toward them, relationships with them, and physical, emotional, and spiritual concerns for them all deserve consideration and careful planning.

Dear Mr. Rawles:
I recently had an experience that allowed to me confirm a basic lesson: Start with good boots and warm socks.

The weather forecast for my north eastern city was for 2-4” of snow. Anyone with half a lick of common sense knows that this means anything from blue skies to a foot of ice. By the time I left work at the end of the day, the snow was falling very heavily, but the warm-ish temps quickly converted it into wet muck.

My usual commute involves the combination of a subway ride and then a bus, but the local station was brought to a halt by a disabled train. The major downtown terminal is almost two miles away. Instead of standing on the crowded platform waiting to be rescued, I went back to work to prepare for the walk to the station. I pulled a pair of thick hiking socks out of my bag, put then on over my thin dress socks and then tucked my trousers into my boots. I added a silk long undershirt and filled my extra platypus water bottle. My standard winter garb always includes a long, warm coat with a waterproof finish (and an insulated hood), thick gloves, a scarf and water-proof boots.

The trek was uneventful, but the main station was chaos. Rush hour had just started and trains were already 1-½ hours behind schedule. Not wanting to get stuck in town, I managed to catch a bus that would get me half way home. While in the station I looked around and was surprised by how few people weren’t prepared for a cool, dry day, let alone the freezing slush were experiencing. After watching fashionably dressed people trying to walk out of Manhattan after 9/11, I seriously changed how I dress for work. High heels and a trendy pocketbook have been replaced with “sensible shoes” and a small backpack. I always dress for 10 degrees colder than the forecast and all my outerwear is water proof and has a hood. And I carry a very small number of “just in case” goodies.

After a long trip across town through clogged streets we reached another major station. It was more chaotic than the first. Busses that usually run on scheduled loops were stuck in traffic and not returning to the station. The tiny coffee shop was out of food. Inappropriately dressed people were cold and wet. Most people were not wearing boots and their feet were drenched. The station was not heated. It was clear that if I wanted to get home in the near future, I would have to walk.

By now, the temps had dropped and under the ankle deep slush there was a growing layer of ice. And the wind had picked up. I carry a simple, homemade pair of gaiters made out of sil-nylon. They’re lightweight and not meant for wilderness backpacking, but they’re perfect for emergencies. A little duct tape about the bottoms and I was waterproof up to my knees. A pair of Yaktrax came out of my bag to keep me upright on the ice. Gatorade powder was added to a water bottle and I surprised myself by drinking it in just a sip or two. It’s easy to forget to hydrate when it’s cold. I’m not a big fan of sugar, but it’s a good way to boost your metabolism and keep yourself warm.

The four-plus mile walk was mostly uneventful. A quick pit-stop to add some moleskin to the balls of my feet prevented a blister. An energy bar helped keep me from getting too cranky or too cold. I tightened my headlamp around my arm and set it to “red-blinking” to help the cars and snowplows see me.

By the time I arrived home, it was clear that the power had been out for a bit. The temperature inside had dropped to 55. A small generator was fired up and the pellet stove, frig and freezer were soon humming. I keep my JetBoil camping stove handy and was able to enjoy a cup of hot tea just minutes after arriving. (Reminder: never use camping stoves indoors.) And Mountain House freeze dried beef stew has never tasted so good!

Quite a few of my fellow commuters never made it home. They had to deal with burst pipes, hotel bills and unhappy pets. A few just crashed in their offices. Just a few common-sense items allowed me to get home. No big survival knives, no emergency fishing gear, no extra magazine of firepower. Just good boots and dry socks. Thank you for your work. - Scout

The latest recommendation on heart attack CPR: 100 press-per-minute continuous chest compressions.

   o o o

I heard from my editor at Penguin that they are going back to press in March for another 10,000 copies of my recent nonfiction book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times", which will bring the total in print to just over 70,000 copies. Thanks for helping to spread the word, folks!

   o o o

"Cowboy" sent us this from The Los Angeles Times: 'Survivors' on BBC America--The British are so civilized at world's end. The tongue-in-cheek review begins with these priceless words: "Even if you watch "Survivors," a post-apocalyptic drama premiering on BBC America, with the sound off, you would know it was British for one reason: No guns. A plague quickly wipes out 90% of the world's population leaving a few scattered survivors, and no one has the sense to bear arms. Except one clearly crazy man who shows up in Episode 2 to terrorize the "good guys" with a lone rifle [JWR Adds: Actually, it was double-barrel shotgun] not once, not twice, but three times and still no shots are fired. I realize the British gun laws are stricter than ours, but still -- these people did build an empire once upon a time, and they didn't do it with pluck and goodwill."

   o o o

There is a great post on fire starting gear posted over at Leon Pantenburg's new blog. His blog emphasizes outdoors survival topics. It is well-worth bookmarking!

"If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed." - Exodus 22:2

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

For many, the idea of preparedness seems like an impossible undertaking. The amount of equipment and supplies needed is staggering. When I first came to the realization that I was under prepared, the gap between what I had and where I needed to be was too much for my public servant’s paycheck to bear.

I would spend a lot of time discussing preparedness with a group that I would go shooting with, and all of these meetings would always gravitate to “which weapon do you plan for X meters?” or “how many rounds do you think I need for X weapon?” I love to talk guns, but if we were discussing preparedness as a whole, we were leaving out lots of basic needs!

It seemed that the plan was to square one area of preparedness away before moving on to the next. I asked myself “what happens if I have to leave tomorrow?” I realized that having a little bit of everything to survive was better than having a pallet of ammo, but no food or water. This is where I decided that being honest about what I actually set aside for emergencies and developing a starting point was the best plan.

A friend of mine once said “you can’t boil the ocean; you have to start one pot at a time”. I developed the idea of categorizing my list of necessities then deciding what was a minimal level all the way to when I felt fully prepared.

This Good/Better/Best approach has helped me get a handle on the holistic approach to preparedness while still allowing me to keep my bills paid. A side benefit is that this incremental approach was that it was easier to get my wife to think about being more and more prepared without being in the poorhouse.

The first step is to categorize what types of things you deem necessary to survive. There are great resources already written that lay out categories and what goes in each, and this is not the the purpose of this article. For ease of discussion, I will use a couple examples such as food, water, communications, medical, etc.

The second step is to determine what your realistic plans will be, and set minimums for each option. Looking at these plans through the good/better/best approach I will explain how this incremental plan allowed us to stick with a plan and grow it as we can.

Good Plan (Bug In). This is most likely for many of us, such as floods/tornadoes/earthquakes. I know, to many people, planning on bugging in is not considered a ‘good’ plan, but this is compared to being totally unprepared, so being self sufficient at your house is a good start. The fall of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 gave my wife and I a wind storm that knocked out power for 10 days at our house, and an ice storm that knocked out power for an additional 8 days. Now the situation was not dire enough to pick up and leave, therefore the “bug in” was appropriate for us both times. Having set minimum supply requirements for a ‘good’ plan allowed us to manage the wind storm without any problems. Now lessons learned during the wind storm allowed us to plan for the following ice storm. We were better prepared for the second storm than the first, and it was fortunate since the weather conditions were worse. I can guarantee that we are better prepared now from those experiences.

Better Plan (Bug Out). A better plan would be to not only be prepared to bug in, but have the ability to mobilize with needed supplies and move to a predetermined location. This would be some factor that makes it not safe to remain at home. My wife and I have just built on to the existing supplies by adding the proper vehicle, and storing supplies in such a manner that they can be loaded into the vehicle in a matter of minutes. One thing that we both had to agree on was where were we going in case we had to pick up and leave. We still aren’t in a financial place to acquire retreat land, but we have trusted friends on a farm that we have that agreement with, and not only do we have our routes planned, but we have also stored some additional supplies at this ‘better’ location.

One thing that my wife and I have agreed on is certain red flags that prompt a bug out. We both work in emergency services and watch the news and the general demeanor of the public that we deal with on a daily basis. While nothing has necessitated a evac, there have been plenty of times when I drive to work loaded down with supplies and plans to meet her on the way out of town.

Again, let me reiterate that we weren’t comfortable moving to bug out plans until we felt that we could sustain ourselves at home for one month, since this was the what we considered as our minimum criteria. I wanted to get a bug out vehicle first, but after thinking about it, if I didn’t have a minimum supply of things such as food/water/shelter, then the vehicle wasn’t going to do a lot of good. Once our minimum amounts were met, then a truck was squared away, while also adding more to our supplies. The key was not to let the ‘fun’ purchases such as guns and vehicles get ahead of more mundane things such as spare medications and kerosene.

Best Plan (Retreat Living). As Mr. Rawles has pointed out, this is the ideal plan. Being able to weather any problems that befall us from within the confines of our own well prepared retreat is great. This is our ultimate goal, and with each bill paid off, it comes a little closer. However, I would guess that the most of us don’t wake up one morning and decide that ‘I think I’ll go buy a remote tract of land and build an uber-retreat on it’. You will have to decide when you can financially make this move, but you can’t go unprepared while you are saving for that moment.

I can’t give you a perfect plan to see you through incremental preparation, since no two people will have the same situation. What I can suggest is that you start with a pencil and paper, and be honest with what is set aside for rough times. Decide what supplies you will need per person (don’t count regularly used groceries, these are off limits until they near their shelf life- then replace, use or donate), and set a minimum of each category so you can gauge where your gaps are.

If you’re like us, when you sit down and write out what you have in the house, then separate those supplies from the others, you may be surprised at how prepared you are compared to what you thought. You may be well above minimum on certain things and seriously deficient on others.

Setting benchmarks for your categories should keep you on track as far as reaching each level of preparedness in a holistic way. Without these benchmarks, it becomes too easy to focus on one area, and neglect others.

Using the Good/Better/Best approach as it pertains to specifics.
Another place that I use the good/better/best approach is in each category of our preparedness. I consider a good (minimum) is having a quantity on hand, a better is having the means to get more, and best is having a sustainable/replaceable supply. I will give some examples of how this approach may be interpreted.

Good- One gallon per person per day, for X number of days.
Better- In addition to stored water, having purification means such as chemical/UV/filtration systems.
Best- Having a well, spring or refillable cistern in addition to the aforementioned.

Good- MRE’s and stored food.
Better- Stored food as well as hunting supplies and seeds
Best- Healthy land to hunt and farm, as well as canning means.

Good- A single 50w HAM radio and some training
Better- 50w mobile base station and 5w handhelds for members of the group.
Best- A base station/repeater, 50w mobiles in every vehicle, and 5w’s for the group.

Medical (training)
Good- EMT
Better- Paramedic
Best- Wilderness Paramedic.

These are just some examples of how the good/better/best approach can allow you to become prepared all around incrementally, without running yourself into serious debt while doing so. Notice how each step builds on the last, as this allows you to constantly improve your preparedness, while not neglecting any area.

One last note- I challenge everyone to thrive by learning to adapt, rather than artificially maintain your comfort level. To clarify, during our winter power outage, my wife and I found alternate means to bathe, heat the house using our woodstove/kerosene heater, and worked by lamplight. Some neighbors tried to run their homes via generators, to find that some were stolen, broke down, and frequently ran out of fuel.

My challenge to you is to become familiar with your comfort zones and push past them. How long can you go without hot coffee? How about cigarettes or alcohol? How picky an eater are you or your family? These are not things to deal with when TSHTF. If you can quit any vices and expand your comfort level to outside the norm, then when the time comes, your stresses will be lessened.

Mr. Rawles,

First thanks for a great blog. I've been a regular reader for a year or so now.

I've read with interest the entries by Dan in Oklahoma on the home foundry. I learned the foundry trade from my father by helping him in a small bronze foundry. I've learned the pattern making trade from my father and by jumping in with both feet and making patterns. I've since moved on to my own business casting aluminum parts for the WW2 aircraft restoration industry and hope to add magnesium castings to my capabilities.

I have one bone to pick with Dan in Oklahoma about terminology: A forge is what a blacksmith uses to HEAT metal. A furnace is what a foundry uses to MELT metal.

I am in west central Ohio and use the Keener Sand Company in Columbus, Ohio for any sand supplies I need. They can supply the western and southern bentonite (the clays) and the olivine (the sand). One should be aware that there are different grades of fineness of olivine. Some foundries use a mix of grades depending on what type of metal is being cast and the specifics of the part to be cast. Silica sand can also be used, again in a mix of grades, but it has health disadvantages and the proper protective equipment must be used. Olivine has very little free silica and does not cause silicosis, so it is the better choice.

The sand is prepared by "mulling" in a muller. This is a machine in which measured amounts of sand and clay are poured along with measured amounts of water. The mulling action bonds the clay to the grains of sand. This is what gives the sand its "green strength", its ability to take and hold a shape. Molten aluminum is hygroscopic, meaning it will absorb moisture from the sand and from the atmosphere. In my experience, the less damp your sand is the less surface porosity your casting will have. This is where the "art" comes into play (and lots of experimentation).

In casting metals with higher melting temps, the bentonites will eventually burn out and the sand will have to be mulled again. We poured bronze at around 2,350 degrees F and the sand turns black. I pour aluminum anywhere from 1,150 to 1,350 degrees F and have yet to re-mull the sand.

As for melting aluminum, melt quickly and pour quickly. I've read that the crucible will lose one degree of temperature for every second of time once it is removed from the furnace. Once the furnace is shut down, and the crucible removed, don't dawdle. Pour the molds as fast as the mold will take the metal. Remember the metal is cooling and cools even faster when it comes into contact with the cold sand. Once the pour is started don't stop until the mold is full. Stopping the pour and then starting again will produce a defective casting every time. Get the pouring lip of the crucible as close to the mouth of the sprue as possible. This reduces the amount of aspirated air into the mold, and in aluminum, helps reduce porosity. For aircraft parts, I use only virgin metal of known analysis. Scrap aluminum can be used in general run work but make sure it is clean. Oil impregnated aluminum is really of no use to a foundryman.

As to safety, I can't stress safety enough. Think through the steps for what you want to do and have the tools needed to do the job at hand. Do not put your foundry on a concrete floor. The molding floor (where the molds are made) may be concrete but the "pour floor" (where the molds are filled with molten metal) should be sand or pea gravel. The reason for this is when molten metal comes into contact with the moisture in concrete you get an instantaneous steam explosion. Concrete shrapnel is no fun. Gloves, face shields, and steel toed boots are a must. Lastly give molten metal the respect it is due. It will burn through leather and skin.

Read and study everything you can get your hands on relating to the foundry and pattern making. One of the best places to get books on foundry work and pattern making is Lindsay Books. The series by Steve Chastain and Lindsay's reprint of the 1944 US Navy foundry manual are "must have" books.

Foundry work can be very rewarding. I get immense satisfaction knowing that I make my living in what is essentially a dying art and in my small way am helping to keep the trade alive. If anyone would like to contact me with respect to the foundry, they can do so via e-mail on my web site. - Barry A.


Mr. Editor:
Some feedback on the recent article series:

Don't use concrete for the forge body. It can spall unexpectedly, fall in the melted aluminum, and decorate the personnel in various shades of pain.

Re-bar is made from an alloy that can red-short; in other words, if it gets up to dull red, it can suddenly fail catastrophically. There is a heavily spalled concrete floor up at a nearby university where somebody decided to cast 100 lbs. of copper using crucible handling gear made from re-bar. It failed catastrophically. Only one of the participants got a foot caught as the giant slosh of copper froze, and he lost the foot.

You can get enough heat out of a simple campfire to do this if you first bury several sections of pipe or conduit in a radial pattern , with the outer end sticking up to about knee high or so, and the inner ends converging in a simple divot under the middle of the fire. Then you have a bunch of friends sit down around the fire, and blow into their tube sequentially, around the circle. This will work for smelting Aluminum, or even for smelting Copper from ore, like Malachite. You don't really need a foundry really until you start working with larger quantities, and [the higher temperatures required for] bronze or iron. This is how they did it in Africa right up until the Europeans came, and severed the oral histories and tribal craft knowledge. Constant air draft, no bulky equipment, no electricity or concrete (or re-bar!) needed. - D.J.

Mr. F. has written a very good article on a subject often neglected by many. As a fire service professional working for one of the largest municipal agencies in the country, I must warn against the use of candles whenever possible. Paranoid? Not after seeing burned up children, loss of property, etc. If you must, please place them well away from any combustible materials, and never carry one when lit. - SplitHoof.

JWR Replies: I generally discourage the use of candles, but if and when they are used, my advice is to: 1.) Never let them burn unattended, and 2.) Over-engineer their supports. Don't just use a cup-base candlestick holder. Place candles in the middle of a large cookie sheet or a broiler pan. (Look for well-used ones at thrift stores and at garage sales.) That way, even if a candle were to burn unevenly and tip over, there would be no risk of a fire.

Mr. Rawles-
The subject of fire safety is seriously overlooked in preparedness, as evidenced by the large losses of life and property we experience even in "normal" times. Mr. F's piece is a needed wake-up call.

Allow me to add that there is good reason for owning the proper fire extinguishers in the event of an attack on your retreat/home.

Those of us that remember the 60's will recall that the Molotov Cocktail was a favorite weapon used by rioters and general trouble makers. These were generally gasoline filled bottles with some primitive ignition device like a fuel soaked rag. Some had more sophisticated ignition. Generally they were not good weapons and not too effective. However if one lands in your living room it can at least distract you from more important matters.

A portable fire extinguisher rated as ABC for the three classes of fire in the 10 to 20 pound range is sufficient to quickly take care of one of these improvised incendiary. I have both demonstrated this and seen it demonstrated in more controlled tests. A few extinguishers at the ready can do dual duty in peace and war. Consider them as you would firearms and get them big enough and in quantity. - Palmetto


Mr. Rawles,

I'd like to add a quick aside to Mr. F's excellent article on Survival Fire Safety:
I've always had an interest in firefighting, but not so much that I ever considered it an appropriate career option. About a year and a half ago, we moved out of a major metropolitan area to the outskirts of a very small town (census population less than 100) a few hours away to establish a retreat and small family farm where we now live.

Shortly after moving here, I realized that most all the fire departments were staffed by volunteers. I asked around, and eventually got in touch with the chief of our local volunteer fire department. Long story short, I went through a few dozen hours of state-funded training and am now an active member of our local department. I was issued a full set of structural firefighting protective gear (boots, turnouts, gloves, Nomex hood, and helmet) which stays with me at all times. I was also issued a pager, and a radio is soon to come. There are ongoing training opportunities available, including medical training which I plan to take advantage of later this year.

Over the past six months, I've responded to a number of fire calls—ranging from very minor to one recent call where a just-vacated house burned clear to the ground in the middle of the night, having progressed much too far by the time a neighbour discovered there was even a fire. To say I've gotten valuable real-world training and experience in even this short time span would be an understatement. It's made me re-evaluate how and where we store liquid fuels, more closely monitor our woodstove/chimney and electrical system, and generally be more cognizant of combustibles in and around our home and how we should respond in the event there is a fire. We've always kept fire extinguishers on hand and maintained smoke alarms, but I'm now much more deliberate about these important items. Our department historically deals with quite a few brush/woodland fires in the warmer months, so I'm anticipating those learning experiences to come as well.

What's more, in addition to now being trained and equipped, I'm on my way to becoming a much more active and recognised member of the community. My wife's family has been here for generations, but we're new and our name was previously unknown. Now, I'm serving my community in a unique and important way, getting to know folks, and in the process getting valuable training and access to gear which no doubt will help me serve my own family in a SHTF scenario.

If anyone has a similar interest, I would highly recommend at least looking into it. - CH

Mr. Rawles,
I would like to add too your posting on this subject, I am a member of a volunteer fire department in Tennessee. For chimney fires, we use what we call an "One Pounder" to put out this type of fire. A One Pounder is a plastic bag (zip lock, lunch bag,or a a thin small plastic bag) that weighs an about 1 pound after the dry chemical fire extinguisher powder has been put into the bag. (Baking soda has been used as well, but it takes more of it). We get on the roof, throw the bag down the chimney, the bag melts and release the powder, and the fire goes out. Some what clean and simple, please don’t get buried and/or fall of the roof. If the fire does not go out, in goes another one, but that is very rare this has to happen.

Always check with your local fire department on their process for putting out this type of fire. Support your local Volunteer Fire Department.

Have a good day. - Jason B

SurvivalBlog's "George Gordon" (GG) suggested this article: Five Million Workers to Exhaust Unemployment Benefits by June.

Also from GG comes the link to this Seeking Alpha piece: The Municipal Bond Crisis Is About to Begin

Yishai sent us a link by way of Glenn Reynolds (at Instapundit): International Monetary Fund to sell another 191 tons of gold. This is panic-driven market manipulation, folks!

Items from The Economatrix:

Low Inflation Gives Fed Room to Keep Rates Down

Fewer People Falling Behind in the Home Loans

Stocks Edge Higher as Fed Eases Bank Supports

Oil Prices Up 12% in Two Weeks

Reader Rick V. recommended a piece by Nadia Arumugam in Slate magazine: Expiration dates mean very little.

   o o o

The Marines are Looking for a Few Good Rounds: Corps to use more lethal ammo in Afghanistan

   o o o

Travis H. sent us this link: Smuggled guns used in cartel hits. What the liberally-biased CNN journalists don't mention is that the vast majority of guns used by the drug cartels are either stolen from the Mexican Army, or smuggled in from Mexico's southern neighbors. Their U.S.-sourced guns are the small minority of what they have, and many of those are stolen--not purchased from storefronts or at gun shows!

   o o o

The folks at Sunflower Ammo are offering a special for SurvivalBlog readers: The first 20 readers to purchase a AA flashlight will receive a free 4 pack
of Rayovac AA 4.0 NiMH 2300mAh Batteries--these are the "Hybrid Rechargeable Low Self Discharge Ready to Us" variety. The batteries are a $14.99 value. Readers just have to write "SurvivalBlog" in the Special Instruction box when checking out.

"Neither a state nor a bank ever have had unrestricted power of issuing paper money without abusing that power" - David Ricardo, "The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo", 1817

Friday, February 19, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

In our preparations, we’ve all made an in depth survival plan.  We have stocks of food items and a means to hunt or grow more.  We know where we’ll get water and how to treat it and have solutions for cooking, heating and lighting.  Perhaps some will operate gasoline or propane-run electric generators and some may distill alcohol or use wood gasification for fuel.  We also have adequate supplies of medications, vitamins and first-aid items.  We’ve thought of everything, planned for any contingency.  Right?

What about Fire Safety?  Our plans mostly or entirely rely on fire for cooking, heating and lighting.  Do you have working fire extinguishers or another plan to deal with a fire if one erupts?  If you are planning to use a generator it needs to be properly wired to prevent fire.  And what about your fuel storage?  Is it a hazard?  After all, if services have deteriorated to this point, the local fire department isn’t coming either.

Of all aspects of our daily life, Fire Safety is most commonly overlooked.  The second step to mitigating any safety hazard, after removing the process entirely if possible, is to engineer out the hazard.  Today, this is done for us in the form of model building codes, UL listings and other industry standards.  Not surprisingly, it isn’t forefront in our minds.  But when SHTF, we’ll be trading our electric lights for kerosene lamps and candles, electric ranges for camp stoves and wood fires.  Many things will be home-built or improvised from available resources.  Have we already, or will we, engineer in those safeguards?

The Science of Fire

To understand fire potential, and extinguishment, it is important to understand the dynamics of a fire.  Some of you may recall learning about the “Fire Triangle” in school.  The theory being that combustion occurs when all three components (oxygen, fuel and heat) are present, and removing one or more will extinguish the fire.  While this is a simplistic approach, it makes an appropriate foundation to start with.
First off, this means that the fuel and oxygen components must attain proper geometric distribution or fuel to oxygen mixing.  This usually requires that the fuel, though it may be in a liquid or solid form, must be heated until it vaporizes.  This is where heat comes into play.  “Flammable” means that it will vaporize at temperatures below 105 degrees F and generally includes liquids such as gasoline, alcohol, propane, etc.  “Combustible” refers to fuels which vaporize at temperatures greater than 105 degrees F, thus requiring more heat input for the combustion process to occur.  This is also why it is harder to start a campfire in the dead of a Canadian winter than summer in west Texas.

As a fire burns, the combustion reaction produces large amounts of energy in the form of heat.  This in turn becomes the heat necessary to sustain and/or grow the fire.  The hotter the fire, the more fuel that becomes available and the more rapid the fire’s growth. The only limitation now is the available air. It is important to note, however, that not all fuels need to be in vapor form.  Fine dust particles, when airborne in high enough quantity, can attain the proper mixing with oxygen to burn quite rapidly.  This is important for anyone with bulk storage of grains, coal, sawdust and even dusty hay.

The oxygen, or oxidizing agent, in the context to which we are concerned with comes from “standard” atmospheric air – roughly 20% oxygen, 79% nitrogen, etc.  As the fire burns, hot combustion gases expand and rise in a superheated plume.  As these gases rise, fresh air is drawn into the fire at the base, heated, consumed in the fire and again released upward.  This is what is referred to as convection currents and one reason why you aim a fire extinguisher at the base of the fire. Also note, however, that in some instances such as with gunpowder, no outside oxygen is required for combustion.  Some chemicals, such as nitrates, contain sufficient quantities of oxygen within the molecules, and are easily released during the combustion process.  These burn rapidly and are difficult to control.

Okay, a fire just broke out!  Now what do we do?  First, we need to know what classification of fire it is (that is to say what materials are involved).  This is important so we can determine the proper method of extinguishment. 

Class A Fires
involve “ordinary” combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, etc.  This is the most common fire you can expect and will most likely occur from a campfire that got out of control, a lantern getting knocked over, a lit candle or some other similar incident.  A little care can go a long way here.
Water is going to be the best means to put out a Class A fire but it’s likely to be a precious commodity.  Snow is another excellent media since it is also very effective at blanketing the fire.  If it is small, you can also try smothering it with a blanket or jacket but make sure there is no flammable liquid involved (guarantee you’ll set the blanket or jacket on fire if there is).  In the case of a small to medium fire outdoors, sand or soil shoveled onto the fire is also effective.  However, sometimes it may be best to simply let the fire burn itself out while you prevent it from spreading.

Chimney Fires can creep up unwittingly.  Unburned volatiles called creosote are given off primarily due to green/wet wood, low temperature fires and insufficient airflow.  This creosote builds up until it either blocks the flue or is ignited by a hot fire.  If a fire occurs, immediately close all inlet vents on the stove to smother the fire.  If it is an open fireplace, extinguish the fire below then carefully try to close the damper if you can.  Do not attempt to cover the chimney but do try to water down the roof if possible.  There is otherwise very little that can be done for a chimney fire.  Water sprayed into the flue will likely crack the flue liner.  Even the extreme temperature generated is likely to cause damage to the chimney.  Damaged flues and chimneys drastically increase the likelihood of a structure fire.  It is best to take every precaution to avoid a chimney fire. [JWR Adds: Chimneys should be cleaned at least once per year!]

Class B Fires
involve generally flammable liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, paraffin, alcohol, etc.  These pose a great risk because they ignite easily and spread quickly.  Accumulated vapors can ignited with the smallest spark, even static electricity.
If you encounter a flammable liquid pool fire, do not use water.  Remember, most of the flammable liquids we will be using are hydrocarbon based and float on water.  Application of the water will cause ripples in the fuel, causing a flare up as well as spreading the fire.  Flammable liquid fire must be extinguished by smothering.  This is best accomplished by dry chemical of foam fire extinguishers though small fires in containers may be carefully covered.

| Now let’s say you are refueling a hot generator and it flashes over.  You now have flames coming out of the fuel tank as well as the gas can.  Get away!  It is important to keep your distance as explosion or eruption is possible.  This is a bad situation and there is little you’re going to be able to do.  A pressurized hose could be used to cool surfaces but at the risk of overflowing the tank or can, thus spreading the fire. In the event of a leaking propane line that catches fire, shut off the gas at the source if it can be done safely.  It is unlikely that anything else you try will be successful and even if it is, you’ll be releasing raw fuel that is likely to re-ignite.

Probably one of the most common and dangerous fires in this class is the grease fire.  This generally occurs from superheating animal fats or vegetable oil and also applies to paraffin.  Again, do not use water.  Find something to cover it with, such as the lid to a pot if you are cooking.  The next step is to do nothing.  That’s right, don’t touch it.  Let me repeat that.  Do not touch it.  Don’t even think about.  You see, as oil, grease or paraffin burns, its’ auto-ignition temperature decreases.  That means that if any air is introduced, it will flash over again unless it has cooled sufficiently.

Class C Fires
involve energized electrical components such as wiring, motors, generators, etc.  In this case, the ignition source is the electricity and the fuel is usually the wiring.  The first step in this situation is to kill the electricity – trip the disconnect, turn off the ignition, shut down the generator, what have you.  Now it is simply a Class A or Class B fire.  DO NOT use water around live electricity.

Class D Fires involve metals, such as sodium, magnesium, aluminum, etc.  These may be found in some fire starters and flares as well as around metal grinding and cutting.  It is possible for two metals, along with a catalyst, to ignite.  Such fires burn rapidly and extremely hot.  However unlikely it is that you will encounter such a fire in a survival situation, this is one you can’t affect without specialized firefighting equipment.

Fire Extinguishers are an indispensable safety item for every household.  Each extinguisher will be labeled for the class of fire and fire size it is capable of being used on.  There are several styles available so familiarize yourself with how yours operates before it is needed.  There are also a number of different extinguishing agents so choose wisely.  Water and water based foams will freeze and the powders used in dry chemical types wreak havoc with electronics.  Do you homework. They also require some regular maintenance.  For instance, dry chemical powders need to be “fluffed” every so often to keep them from caking.  This can be accomplished by turning it upside down and hitting the bottom with a rubber mallet.  And also check to make sure the bottle is free of rust or other mechanical damage.  I recall one incident in which a woman intended to operate a fire extinguisher on a small fire.  However, the bottle was severely rusted and when she “charged” it by firing off the supplied air cartridge, the top blew off and killed her. Also, with the exception of the old “Indian fire pumps”, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to refill them.

Doubtless, the most fearful fire of all is one that upon your person.  In the event that your clothes become involved, don’t run.  STOP, DROP and ROLL to smother the fire.  If you see someone else on fire, this is where  your time on the high school football team comes in handy.  Grab a blanket, preferably wool, and tackle them (albeit gently).  The goal is to get them on the ground and covered with the blanket, smothering the fire.  Depending on the circumstances and clothing involved, there will likely be some first aid required.

Up in Smoke

Aside from the inherent dangers of fire itself, combustion by-products may pose an even greater hazard.
In complete combustion of organic materials, where adequate free air exists for the fire, carbon dioxide and water are produced.  Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a colorless, odorless gas which, being heavier than air, collects in low areas.  An increase of only 2-3% CO2 in the air we breathe can result in impaired memory, loss of fine motor skills and weakness.  Higher concentrations can cause unconsciousness and death.  If you find someone a victim of CO2 exposure, ventilate the area.  Do not go rushing in and become a victim too (you won’t do them or yourself any good like that).  Remove the victim to an area with fresh clean air.  In some cases, the victim may require further medical treatment my trained personnel.

If the fire is starved for oxygen, then carbon monoxide (CO) is produced.  Again, CO is a colorless, odorless gas, but it is even more dangerous.  Generally, CO exposure causes a feeling of sleepiness in the victim, but also nausea, headaches and vertigo.  Once the victim becomes unconscious, death soon follows.  The complicating factor here is that CO molecules bond to hemoglobin, the oxygen carriers in the bloodstream, preventing oxygen from getting to the cells.  Simply getting the victim to fresh air will not adequately purge CO from the system.  Treatment for CO exposure usually requires 100% oxygen or hyperbaric treatment.

When inorganic materials such as plastic, paint, glue, particle board, wire insulation and other man-made materials burn, there is virtually no limit to the volatile and toxic chemicals that are released.  These can result in serious illness and death very quickly and will almost certainly require medical treatment you cannot provide at your survival retreat.

An Ounce of Prevention

While we want to be prepared to deal with a fire if one starts, our best bet is to “engineer out” the hazard and prevent a fire altogether.
Make sure that lanterns, lamps and candles are placed on a flat, stable surface.  Candles should be in a proper holder or on a porcelain or tin plate with sides to catch melted wax.  An empty tuna can works well for this.  Ensure that all combustibles are kept away and be mindful of shirt sleeves and loose clothing when working with or around such items.  Also, be careful around children and animals (remember Mrs. O’Leary’s cow).

As I said before, chimney fires are best avoided and regular maintenance is the key to preventing them.  This starts with regular cleanings.   If you are burn strictly for heat in cold months, this means at least one cleaning before the burn season and possible more during the season.  If you will be burning regularly for cooking, you’ll probably be using a smaller fire, thus creating more creosote.  Burning hot and staying away from “green” wood or wood heavy with resins such as pines will drastically help reduce buildup. 

There are various products on the market which claim to help with creosote buildup.  These products are simply burned periodically in the fire.  However, while these would likely help, they are certainly no replacement for proper cleaning.  Make sure you have a brush or two of the proper shape and size for each flue.  In a pinch, a bundle of chain on a rope will work for small flues. 

Even as I write this, I received a call from a woman who just had a chimney fire last night.  Today she is trying to make repairs so that it is again safe to burn.  Metal chimneys are expensive but easily replaced if you have spare parts.  However, damage to masonry chimneys is much more difficult to repair.
Take extra care with flammable liquids.  When stored, ensure that they are in approved containers with good seals.  On his 1911-12 journey to the South Pole, Robert Scott left caches of food and fuel.  On the return trip, he found that many of the fuel cans were empty, having leaked at the seals.  The lack of fuel eventually led to their deaths.

Flammable liquids should be stored out of sunlight and in a well ventilated area.  And for God’s sake don’t use anything with a flame around flammable liquids.  Even a flashlight is a potential ignition source.  If you need to have something for light, get a small flashlight with a Class 1, Div.1 rating.  I use ones from Pelican and UA.
Also avoid using gasoline and the like for starting fires.  The accumulation of fumes can have deadly results.  A good alternative is to use gel starting fluid for pellet stoves.  The gel is less volatile and won’t flash or explode like gasoline will.

Also be very mindful of the clothing you wear around or when starting a fire.  Nylon, rayon and the multitudes of synthetic fibers used in clothing today are extremely dangerous.  They ignite easily and melt even easier thus increasing the need for medical attention.  Natural fibers such as cotton and wool are best.
When possible, buy instead of building anything that uses a flame.  This includes lanterns, stoves, burners, incubators, brooders and heaters.  There are also several manufacturers of fire resistance coatings that can be applied to almost anything.

Be careful with outdoor fires, especially when windy.  The last thing you want to do is start a fire that burns your house or shelter down with your supplies in it.  Remember the rule of 3’s?  You can survive 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without food.

Don’t use stoves or flames inside of tents unless both the tent and the stove are intended for such a purpose.
If you are planning to use a wood framed structure for your survival shelter, you may want to think about fire resistance.  A number of manufacturers offer concrete fiberboard siding that is fire proof as well as water, weather and insect proof.  There are also a number of options for roof coverings such as metal, clay and cement fiberboard.

Unless you are competent in electrical wiring, make sure to have everything checked out by a licensed electrician.  If you plan to use an electric generator, use the proper connections and transfer switches.  Don’t try to jury rig this - the shock and fire potentials here are extremely high.

Smokey Bear always said “Only you can prevent forest fires”.  This is essentially true in a survival situation too.  Many of us will be living in somewhat primitive conditions compared to what we are used to.  We need to be vigilant at every moment.  Think Safe, Be Safe.

I did some research after reading the recent "Making Change in a New Precious Metals Economy" article. The following will make it easier to determine the metal value of coins. Thank you for your great blog.

Ounces of silver in pre-1965 coins:
Silver bullion coin = 1 ounce
Pre-1965 silver dollar = .77344 (90% silver, 10% copper)
Pre-1965 silver half dollar = 0.36169 (90% silver, 10% copper)
1965-69 silver half dollar = 0.1479 (40% silver)
Pre-1965 silver quarter = .18084 (90% silver, 10% copper)
Pre-1965 silver dime = 0.0715 (90% silver, 10% copper)

There is no silver in most post-1965 coins, except the aforementioned half dollars, and in some proof sets:
Post-1965 clad dollar = weighs 0.260 troy ounce. (copper 88.5%, zinc 6%, manganese 3.5%, nickel 2%)
Post-1970 clad half dollar = weighs 0.365 troy ounce. (nickel plated copper- 8.33% Ni, 91.67% Cu)
Post-1965 clad quarter = weighs 0.1823 troy ounce. (nickel plated copper- 8.33% Ni, 91.67% Cu)
Post-1965 clad dime = weights 0.0729 troy ounce. (nickel plated copper- 8.33% Ni, 91.67% Cu)

Nickel coins:
Mid-1942 to 1945 (56% copper, 35% silver, 9% manganese)
1866 to present except 1942-45 weighs 0.1615 troy ounces. (75% copper, 25% nickel)

Penny coins:
1793–1857 (100% copper)
1857–1864 (88% copper, 12% nickel)
1864–1942 (95% copper, 5% tin and zinc)
1943 (zinc-coated steel)
1944–1946 (95% copper, 5% zinc)
1946–1962 (95% copper, 5% tin and zinc)
1962–1982 weighs 0.080 troy ounces. (95% copper, 5% zinc)
1982– present weighs 0.080 troy ounces. (copper-plated zinc- 97.5% Zn, 2.5% Cu)

Base Metal Content Values
(The following are as of February 2010. See www.coinflation.com for updated figures)
Pre-1965 silver dollar = $12.47
1965-69 silver half dollar = $2.38
Pre-1965 silver half dollar = $5.83
Pre-1965 silver quarter = $2.91
Pre-1965 silver dime = $1.16

1971-1978 Eisenhower Dollar = 18 1/2 cents
1979-1981, 1999 Susan B. Anthony Dollar = 6 1/2 cents
2000-2010 Sacagawea Dollar = 5 1/2 cents
2007-2010 Presidential Dollar = 5 1/2 cents

1971 to present half dollar (clad) = 9 cents
Post-1965 quarter (clad) = 4 1/2 cents
Post-1965 dime (clad) = 2 cents

1946-2010 Nickel (except 1942-45)= 5 cents
1942-45 Nickel= 91 cents

1909 to 1981 penny except 1943 = 2 cents (95% copper)
1982 to the present penny = 1/2 cent (97.5% zinc)

JWR Adds: Because it was a transitional year, there were a mix of copper and zinc U.S. pennies minted, but all bore the mark 1981. As I've previously noted, it is not worth anyone's to sort pennies by date.. If you are serious about stockpiling lots of pennies, then buy a Ryedale electric penny sorting machine. But be advised that you will need to sort several thousand dollars worth of pennies to have that machine pay for itself. So my more conservative advice is to stockpile just nickels now. At least for the present time, nearly all of the nickels in circulation are 75% copper and 25% nickel. (There are still a few silver "war nickels" floating around out there, but they are very scarce.) But once a new debased nickel is introduced, then we will have the same sort problem that now exists for pennies. The new nickels will most likely be made of steel. Yes, the American people will be robbed of our valid specie once again--just as we were in 1933 (gold) , 1964 (silver) , and 1981 (copper pennies). But this shouldn't come as a surprise, since the history of coinage debasement is sordid and lengthy--pre-dating even ancient Rome. You've had plenty of warning. Stock up on nickels now, or you'll kick yourself about it in just a couple of years, especially if inflation returns in earnest.

Also, keep in mind that it is currently illegal to melt or bulk export U.S. pennies and nickels, but that would likely be rescinded, if they are dropped from circulation.

Yishai alerted us to this clever set of plastic kitchen products: Jar Tops: Universal Lids for Mason Some Jars.

   o o o

J.B. mentioned this: Finns propose ban on handguns after shootings. Who do they think that are they kidding? In a nation with 5.4 million people and an estimated 4 million privately-owned guns, I suspect that the only one of the panel's recommendations that will actually get implemented will be raising the age threshold for owning handguns.

   o o o

Reader R.S.R. wrote to mention that Wal-Mart stores are presently offering a "killer deal" on Coleman dual fuel stoves. They are sale priced at $29.99. This is the same stove that Amazon.com sells for $68.99.

"It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error." - American Communications Association v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382,442

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

A salvage economy is a post-production economy. The economy is based on salvage and then reuse or remanufacture of salvaged materials. The current modern equivalent of this are those individuals who sort through trash heaps and dumps for recyclable materials. The historical equivalent of this are the stone masons in Egypt who tore down ancient monuments for building material. For example, the lost Pyramid of Djedefre was thought to have not been built until its foundations were found, including a mortuary temple and queens’ pyramids. Where did it go? Must of it was used to build buildings in Cairo from 1300 through the 1700s. It was easier and cheaper to take apart an existing pyramid near the city than find, mine and transport new limestone blocks from now-distant quarries.

Salvage occurs when the manufactured product is unavailable in a new state, has become too expensive for anyone to purchase, or has a supply chain that has fallen apart to the degree that the product is often unavailable most of the time.

For all of the discussion on survival, why focus on long term survival on a salvage economy? First of all, many people will not set up a refuge in the wilderness. Their best survival opportunity seems to be within the city. While difficult, it is not impossible, especially for those who prepare. Secondly, if we do slide to a post-technical or “eco-technic” society, we should not expect to return to “Little House on the Prairie”. More than half of the world’s population lives in the cities. Those cities will still be there even if some catastrophe, be it nuclear, chemical, biological or EMP, manages to kill most of its inhabitants. And we should not expect all cities to be lost, even if several major ones are destroyed in terrorist strikes or war. If those untouched but partially depopulated or damaged but re-buildable cities can be utilized to rebuild civilization, which should be part of a larger goal. This rebuilding will then requires a salvage economy. And last but not least, if we have a multi-generational decline, we will fall into a salvage economy as manufacturing capacity fades. Even if we retain the capacity for a high-tech manufacturing capacity and find it crippled by environmental regulation and economic depression, we will find a salvage economy as has exploded in California.

If faced with a salvage economy, the question then rises: how do you survive long term in such an economy? More importantly, how can you prosper in a salvage economy?

1. Use creative recycling within your own household. If opportunities present themselves that can be ethically utilized, do so, but avoid scavenging for a living. (Hunting and gathering of food are excluded from this discussion. Here we are only discussing physical materials.)

2. Do not be a scavenger or salvager of materials yourself. This is to literally be at the bottom of the economic food chain. Be the collector or buyer that buys goods from the salvagers and then sells it at a profit to the recycler or craftspeople. This level of the supply chain is safer than doing the manual labor of salvaging, and your supply is both more diverse and continuous than those who do the actual salvaging. There is also less personal risk of injury or illness than salvaging. By becoming a collection point or “depot”, your own time is still mostly spent on survival related activities instead of searching for materials one only hopes to trade for items and resources needed for survival.

3. Have close and direct ties to multiple smelters or material re-processors. This provides more stability in sale price than if there is only one customer. A single purchaser can set their purchase price based on their ability to refuse to buy until you are hungry enough to sell at their desired price.

4. Invest in the replacement materials and goods that will replace salvaged product. After all, salvaged goods will eventually run out. This may be smelting equipment that can melt down the newly recycled metal into yet another material, compared to smelting equipment that melts down old steel beams into new steel goods. It may be plastic grinders and pellet makers that can turn new plastic materials into another form. It may be the act of investing in green energy projects as Peak Oil runs out and salvaging wood and plastic to burn winds down.

5.  Supply the material working tools needed by re-processors. This may be forges to be sold to metal workers or fuel to smelters. It could be molds or presses that can be sold to those recycling plastic. Create or produce what is needed for the salvage economy to turn salvaged goods into useable goods. The additional benefit of this is that there may be more than one re-manufacturer to sell these industrial essentials to, and one can always have the fall back of setting up the re-processing facility on their own property or help a neighbor do the same if the main re-processor shuts down.

6. Help develop the distribution market for existing salvaged goods, whether finding new uses for old salvaged goods or new demand for recycled products. By creating new markets or new customers, the profit margin is higher than competing with the existing salvage economy.

7. If shortages of obviously long-term useful materials are clear, consider stocking up on them. However, it is best to do so only if you can use them in your own business or own property. For example, copper tubing can always be used in plumbing projects or manufacturing of stills – or be sold to those manufacturing their own equipment. However, it is unwise to have hundreds of pounds of copper tubing sitting in storage if the money and space could be used to items with greater value to your household. Having a large stockpile of [cables or] solder wire may be critical if you are an avid ham radio operator and can generate extra income fixing and selling older rigs. But if you have no significant personal or business use and cannot barter it in sufficient quantity to acquire goods needed for life, use the space for food, water, or more valuable tools. However, if you have a small business that could use the materials or goods and it is a critical supply for those who may need it to rebuild technology as we rebuild, consider stockpiling it as a way to profit from the salvage economy.

8. Have the skills to fix salvaged items yourself. This may range from fixing broken toasters and radios to making small car parts to restore a heap of junk to a functioning car. Those who salvage are a dime a dozen. They could have been the migrant poor before the collapse, or they may have been hedge fund managers and bureaucrats who have no others skills than looking for and collecting salvage and scrap items. However, those who can take those broken things and make them functional will be a precious minority. If you do not have these fixer-upper skills, consider learning them.

Consider encouraging younger family members to learn these skills – be it wiring, tool and die cast, equipment repair or even complex mechanical assembly. Learning to read blueprints and manufacturing instructions would be an engaging project for any elementary school child. Fortunately, many of use have already stocked up these kinds of books in our homes, if only in the form of repair manuals for equipment and appliances we already own. Make it a reading assignment for yourself or your family members. Having these skills makes your labor valuable and your teaching ability even more so – and a non-tangible trade good that cannot be taken away.

Dear Jim,
I have some comments on the comments regarding batteries:

Nickel Iron (Ni-Fe) batteries do indeed have very long shelf and operating lives. But they also have some significant downsides. Similar to NiMH cells (they are not the same) they have a very high self-discharge rate. In some cases approaching 40% per month. If you have a large solar array that is always making excess power, you are all set. But if you are charging with a generator, and have a large bank to keep power available for extended periods, you will waste a lot of the generator's output on self-discharge.

Ni-Fe batteries also do not like high charge/discharge rates, which means you may need a larger bank of them for the same type of service. This effect gets worse as the temperature drops. If you have a big bank, you will also need to waste more energy keeping them charged. Basically, there is a penalty for having your battery bank too big for the application. You would want to make the bank last you no longer than a week or so of typical service, thus limiting the amount of energy wasted to keep it charged.

On the plus side, you can leave the battery discharged for long periods without any problems and they will not freeze (in any sane temperatures). That's good for a little used location. There is only currently one importer in the US that I know of.

There's no conspiracy to keep them out of the market, it's just that most applications work better, smaller or cheaper with lead acid. As the cost of electricity goes up, no one wants to use them for standby applications anymore due to the energy cost with keeping them charged. But as photovoltaic solar power becomes more common, perhaps there will be a revival of the technology.

Regarding lead acid cells with no acid, there are several issues with drying out a new battery for storage. If any acid is left it will cause undesirable changes to the plates. If you attempt to air dry the battery, the air pumped through the battery to dry it out will lead to oxide forming on the plates, ruining the battery in the drying process. There's at least a few patents out there to address some of these issues, but none of them are ideal. Realistically, you would need to discharge the battery, then partially re-charge it, dump and flush the acid and then use inert gas to dry out the plates. Probably not worth the effort, and the required discharge/charge levels would vary based on
interior construction. Not likely to be economical or produce reliable results.

It's too bad that none of the manufactures sell "green" batteries that have not yet been converted, but the required acid mixture and charge cycles to form the plates are most likely a proprietary process that they have no interest in sharing.

You can make your own batteries, but they won't have anywhere near the capacity of a commercial product. Consider that the standard car battery has dozens of square feet of surface area and has been optimized over years of experience. Home made batteries, especially large ones, can lead to seriously unpleasant accidents. Having seen smaller batteries explode due to internal shorts, I would want nothing to do with a 5 gallon bucket of H2SO4 and rolled up sheets of lead.

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned simply not using batteries at all. If you live in a sunny location, one can simply use electricity when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Not perfect, but virtually guaranteed to work even after sitting idle for 10 years. Regards, - Cactus

James Wesley;
I found an interesting short video linked at Silver Bear Cafe about Nickel-Iron Edison Cells--a design battery I hadn't about previously. I thought you might enjoy it. Thanks for the web site and all of the information. Regards, - Joe

Monday's post mentioned the Nickel-Iron Edison battery. During its evening broadcast on 1-29-10 The Intelligence Report described a method to build your own Ni-Fe battery was discussed in the second half hour of the 8 PM broadcast. It was also mentioned where one could get Nickel without having to resort to melting nickels. At The Intelligence Report's web page, click on "archives" in the left hand part of the screen. Scroll down to 1-29-10 then click on the "8PM" to download the mp3 file.

Great job with the blog! Thank you for the work you are doing. - Mr. C.

Dear James:
I was interested to read the comments on atlatls in yesterday's post "Getting Prepared: From the Homestead to Living Off the Land". By way of background, I've been interested in atlatls since an anthropology course in junior college, and a couple of months ago bought an atlatl from Bob Berg at Thunderbird Atlatls.

All the points mentioned on atlatls by the writer are true; they are simple to make (my 11-year-old nephew made his own out of scrap lumber in about twenty minutes after seeing mine), and making darts is merely
an exercise in scaling arrows up, although tuning them for best performance is more painstaking. They can launch darts over long distances (my first time out, I made a 63 meter cast without trying too hard) and with really surprising power. And anthropological studies have demonstrated that they are capable of taking game up to and including elephants. I have no doubt whatsoever that in trained hands they are deadly.

However, atlatls shafts are not easy to throw accurately. After a couple of months of occasional practice, I am proud to announce that I am now capable of consistently throwing minute-of-brushpile groups from
fifteen meters. Yesterday I scored two solid heart/lung area hits on a deer target (out of over thirty casts) from the same distance. My aim is improving, but from a survival perspective, energy spent making
an atlatl and dart and hunting with it would probably, unless you're already an experienced hunter and atlatlist, be best spent on other ways of gathering food.

Best Regards, - A Moderately Prepared Canadian.

Reader B.H. recommended this primer, published by a precious metals dealer: Buying silver, buying silver bullion for survival purposes. JWR Adds: I concur with nearly all of what they recommended on "survival"/barter coins. However, I do see the utility of buying some 1/2-ounce silver bullion coins. I also recommend buying some of the new pre-scored "Stagecoach" one-ounce silver bars a and rounds that can easily be chiseled into 1/4-ounce "bits", minted by Northwest Territorial Mint. Also, readers outside of the U.S. should concentrate on buying whichever bullion coins are the most recognizable and trusted in your respective countries. In Australia, for example, that might mean buying silver Kookaburras.

GG sent this: Lone voice warns of debt threat to Fed. (Yishai also alerted us to the same Financial Times piece linked over at the Instapundit blog.)

Also from GG, comes this piece by Jim Jubak: Eight Reasons for Investors to Worry

Items from The Economatrix:

Entitlements Threaten to Crush US Under Debt

Federal Reserve Begins Withdrawal of $2.2 Trillion from US Economy

US Government Paying Banks Thousands to Foreclose on Americans

Mortgage Rates Poised to Jump as Fed Cuts Funds

Silver Price Trends Show Signs of a Bottom

No Sharing Allowed (The Day The Dollar Died Series--Chapter XIX)

Kiss That V-shaped Recovery Good-bye; The US "Worse Than Greece" Says Economist

Stocks Rise on Upbeat Earnings, Economic Reports

Data on Industry Output, Home Building Boost Hopes

Health Insurer Humana Plans to Cut 2,500 Positions

The Medical Corps private training organization is holding another one of their excellent three-day Combat/Field Medicine School courses, April 30th through May 2nd. The class will be held near Caldwell, Ohio at the Ohio State University Extension building. Contact: Chuck Fenwick at (740) 783-8009 for details.

   o o o

The good folks that organize the EMPACT America conferences are currently lobbying Congress for funding to re-fit some US military bases as EMP-proof "bastions" as centers for rebuilding societal infrastructure, following either an EMP attack or a Carrington-scale Solar Flare event. If the BHO Administration wants to spend money to stimulate the economy, then this seems a much better use of taxpayer dollars than paying for the salaries of hundreds of thousands of ACORN employees to shuffle papers..

   o o o

Garnet sent us this: Florida family gives up on small-town North Dakota

   o o o

Craig K. suggested a web site with a lot of useful preparedness and military skills reference links: Drum-Runners.com.

"And this is the law of the jungle;
As old and true as the sky.
And the wolf that shall keep it will prosper;
But he wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk,
The law runneth forward and back.
For the strength of the pack is the wolf,
And the strength of the wolf is the pack."
- Rudyard Kipling, The Law of the Jungle (from The Jungle Book)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


I currently do not fall in the category of the less than 1% of the population that can afford the real possibility of a "retreat" on 40+ acres, based on a Rawlesian criteria. However, I do have a solid brick house on 1.5 acres in a rural area on the southern plains. For the immediate future this will have to serve as my permanent abode. I have always had an interest in outdoor survival skills, and have lived, vacationed, and worked for extended periods of time in isolated outdoor camps while working "in the bush" with limited modern comforts. These experiences have taught me numerous self sufficient survival skills: basically camping or "roughing it" comfortably while providing clean water, safe and sanitary kitchen facilities, latrines, and other amenities. In addition to some time outdoors spent tracking, hunting and fishing, these experiences have given me an "outdoorsman" background. I also believe that I have a basic "survivalist mentality" and am sure I have a better than average knowledge of the skills and planning needed to survive a variety of chaotic situations the future may bring. However, I have not prepared in the past as I should. I have only recently begun to get organized for any serious long-term survival scenario. Part of this process has been to take stock of my situation. In doing so I have identified many of the pros and cons of my lifestyle and current living conditions (I have a young family, am not close to retiring, have some debts, and am a fairly new homeowner with a mortgage). I believe the end of the world as we know it is already happening in a slow, not so subtle slide. Plan A is to keep preparing for a self sufficient life at home and hunker down, and if TEOTWAWKI is in the form of a dramatic upheaval in society (as many describe) we may have to go to Plan B (get out of Dodge), followed by Plan C (make a last ditch effort to live off the land until order is restored within a few months) or until my family unit can join up with a like minded group. I know that Plan B or C have a less than good chance of "success" (they are for true dire straits), but at least we have a fall back plan. As described below, future preparations are still required to strengthen our plan.

The following outlines my basic situation, which I suspect is comparable to that of many citizens who are in the process of preparing better for an uncertain future, and includes a variety of skills and items I have recently taken stock of. In doing so, I will provide some profile information on my current state of readiness (Part 1) while attempting to offer advice on a few sets of skills and items I haven't seen on most of the basic “beans, bullets, and band-aid” lists (Part 2).

Part 1: My Homestead and Basic Resources

Based on Rawles' criteria, my region has a moderate retreat potential.  To start with, the main detractors are that I am less than 10 miles from a large population center (over 100,000), the region has high insurance rates and is drought prone. However, we have fairly strong gun laws in this state with the right to carry a concealed handgun and an improving Castle Doctrine. Other benefits to my immediate region are that the smaller communities nearby and the wider region in general is conservative with strong Christian family values. I have a wife and several children under 13-years old. I have a stable job and pay my bills and taxes. My wife is very frugal and is the list maker. We share the common goal of insuring our family’s future, and contribute to assisting extended family, friends and community when possible. I have not been able to convince her to store the food stocks we should need for a long term period of hunkering down, or some of the other measures suggested by Rawles and others for this scenario. However, the soils are good for gardening and farming. My house is double walled (it was a pier and beam wood frame house that was moved to the current location and then bricked over), our homestead has a deep well (with a brick well house) and septic system. We have piped natural gas for heating and hot water systems, and electricity from a co-op. I have a greenhouse with plumbing, a large garage and shop with an air compressor and well stocked with tools and various home and auto repair materials. We have a small supplemental solar kit that is expandable. We plan to go to a grid-tie with backup system soon and eventually go off-grid with a hybrid solar - wind system. We regularly make a shopping trip to the nearest Habitat for Humanity Restore (we consider this a frugal man’s "home depot"), which has numerous home repair supplies and materials. We stock up on goods such as paint, PVC pipe and fittings, lumber, hardware, solid core doors, appliances and fixtures, etc. for very cheap prices. These are usually used and donated by contractors or home remodelers, and the price we pay is minimal. The money then goes to Habitat for Humanity for their operations. I search online sources for good tools and materials and have found fencing materials, farming and gardening supplies, soil, compost, PVC pipe, steel plates and pipe, appliances, and good used tools. Craigslist.com is one of go to sources for these materials - especially the free and barter goods. We obviously approach these transactions with a “buyer beware” attitude, however we have always had good luck and have met decent and interesting people in doing so. We are always looking for appropriate spare parts, tires, repair kits, hoses, belts, bolts, fluids, etc. on sale at big box stores or in classifieds. We also have other outbuildings and sheds which we have ongoing projects to modify for livestock housing and specialty workshops. I am in the process of designing a self sufficient chicken coop, and goat pens and barn. We are expanding our garden and rainwater catchment system. With any luck, I may in the near future have access to 15-100 additional acres of pasture and woods adjacent to my lot.

Vehicles: I drive a diesel 4x4 pickup, my wife has a fuel efficient VW with a gas engine. I am currently beginning to restore an early 1970s model Toyota Landcruiser. The skills I am learning to restore this vehicle (replace all old and worn mechanical parts, hoses, fluids etc.), and the versatility of this heavy duty wagon will be very useful in an uncertain future. It will soon be a bug out vehicle that can go anywhere, just not very fast. I am developing new “jack of all trades” skills and have always been able to tackle basic home and vehicle maintenance work, but lack experience in advanced auto mechanics or construction. I am planning some long term gas and diesel storage. Since diesel is easier to store for long term, the diesel truck will probably be the last working vehicle we will have if TSHTF.

In addition, I have a 31-foot early 1970s Airstream travel trailer. It has been fully refurbished and is basically self-sufficient with a few modifications. With additional water filters made from four tubes of PVC (gravel, charcoal, fine screen filters, and chlorine) an emergency water source can be pumped from to supplement the tanks. With an added solar trickle charger, the batteries can keep the lights and ventilation fans on. With enough propane, cooking and heating could be maintained for an extended period of time. I plan additional modifications to harden this trailer and improve its utility as our "escape pod". I do not have a private retreat, but hope to someday afford a sufficient amount of land in a good location (with Rawles' list of security details in mind) as a retreat. To keep costs down, all I need is suitable acreage with natural resources such as water and timber. We could transport the Airstream for shelter. I had a family member in the 1980s who had some land in the mountains, cut a small road in, leveled an area on the slope, dug a trench, lowered his Airstream trailer into the trench (stocked with guns, ammo and freeze dried food), and buried the whole thing as insurance against a "red army" invasion of CONUS. I never got to see this and do not know how long the stores lasted, but have recently considered a modified version of this tactic. By digging a ramped trench to back or pull a trailer into I could have concealment; using the back dirt as bunkers it would have built in mass for a ballistic barrier; natural insulation for heating and cooling; and other benefits. Mainly it is less expensive than building an underground bunker. In the mean time and until I can acquire private retreat land, with my diesel truck and “escape pod” I can bug out with the family and dogs anywhere within 400 miles on one tank of gas and be self sufficient for several weeks to months. Without additional food and supply stores or the benefit of a sustainable retreat location, this is obviously not satisfactory as a long term solution.

At present, I don't anticipate many scenarios which would require fleeing the homestead, so Plan A is really to continue to prepare and hunker down. As I mentioned, I am fairly close to a large population, but live in a rural area with dependable neighbors and open land flanking my homestead. In keeping Plan B as a working option, my wife and I plan several trips a year to educate the kids for a self sufficient lifestyle learned from camping, hiking, fishing and hunting and take these opportunities to practice outdoor survival skills. Other Benefits of preparing the homestead  as a "modified full time retreat" include the ability to pay off a few remaining debts as soon as possible. Except for the mortgage, I should be debt free in about 2 years. With a little luck and hard work, we will decrease this time and be financially independent sooner. I live close to work and can be home in 10 minutes, with little chance of running into any escaping hordes on TEOTWAWKI day. By homesteading, I feel I can meet many of the needs that Rowels and others have outlined for surviving TEOTWATKI.

I have a basic set of kits, tools and skills to feel a level of confidence that I can take care of my family in a crisis, and with some efficient planning, preparing, hard work, prayer, luck and protection from a guardian angel, we will be among the survivors if TSHTF.

Shotguns: I have owned a Remington 870 pump shotgun since I was a young teenager and am proficient in bird and small game hunting. I have studied self defense use of the "scattergun" or "streetsweeper" and feel confident I could protect my family and property if needed. I have recently purchased an 18.5” open choke cylinder barrel (riot gun barrel) and keep buckshot for home defense. I have about 300 rounds of various birdshot loads, 40 deer slugs, and several boxes of the buckshot. I would like to take some self defense training and properly engage in a long term training regimen - for all calibers and categories of guns I currently have. I also have 20 gauge, bolt action shotgun. It is solid, dependable and good for small bird and game hunting. 20 gauge shells take up slightly less storage space then 12 gauge, and we have about 120 birdshot shells in 20 gauge.

Rifles: Col. Jeff Cooper was a proponent of the Scout Rifle. (The specifications: .308 caliber, less than 1 meter in total length, less than 7.7 lbs, with a long eye relief scope (LER) and a tactical sling). I have a pseudo scout. I shoot a Remington 750 Woodsmaster chambered for a .243 Winchester. With a 22 inch barrel and OAL at 39 inches, 7.5 lbs, and full scope, it is meets most of the specs for a scout. Additionally, Col. Cooper lists this type of gun as appropriate for young or small-framed people (like myself). Also, my wife and 12 year old son will be able to shoot this rifle (my wife was formerly in the Army and is one of the only women I know who has qualified on the M16). One thing I like about the .243 is that I can shoot it a lot with no recoil pain. Since I am less proficient with the rifle (compared to the shotgun) I need to practice more often with this rifle. It is a semi-auto feed and could carry five shots. I have a regular neoprene sling and BSA 3-9 x 50 scope, best used for deer hunting. I have left the iron sights installed and could drop the scope if needed. Following Cooper's criteria for proficiency, I should be capable of shooting less than 4" in 3 shot groups at 200 yards. I need more practice. I am better with the .22 LR rifle and have two: a single shot and a bolt action. While varmint hunting with friends, I have found that a semi-auto is much more practical (rabbits are not easy to hit on the run). I plan on obtaining one soon. A dependable, basic AR-15 style rifle is also high on my list of needs; we need to protect the livestock from predators/coyotes. I bet my wife will enjoy showing me how to field strip and operate it!

Handguns: I have a Ruger P345. This semi-auto hand gun shoots the classic .45 ACP, but fits my small hand and frame, is relatively light weight (compared to a 1911, or large .357 or .44 magnum revolver). It is appropriate for concealed carry, but I carry my .380 much more comfortably. I have studied Col. Cooper's Modern Method and have been practicing a version modified to fit my gun's specifications. I currently have about 500 hundred rounds of .45 ACP ball for targets or varmints, several hundred rounds of JHPs (I prefer the CCI Lawman 200 grain JHP, aka “The Inspector”) and add a box of 50 whenever I have a chance. If I plan on shooting 50 rounds at the range or on a friend’s ranch, I buy 100 rounds. I also have a semi-auto .380 which is easy to carry concealed. It is a Bersa (Argentinean) and a clone of the classic Walther PPK. The .380 Remington JHP 88 grain bullet can penetrate well enough into a solid wood backstop I use for target practice. It is half the size of my .45 and works well in an everyday concealed carry situation. I don't shoot this weapon as much as I should, but am more accurate in short range (under 20 feet) with it. To quote Cooper: “The purpose of the pistol is to stop a fight that someone else has started, almost always at close range." He also stated that a pistol is used to help get you back to your rifle if you are separated in a fight.

I keep a few of Jeff Cooper’s quotes handy to always remind me why I have a small battery. He also states that, "the police cannot protect the citizen at this stage of our development, and they cannot even protect themselves in many cases. It is up to the private citizen to protect himself and his family, and it is not only acceptable, but mandatory." I also learned from Cooper to think strategically more than tactically and demand of myself proficiency in my gun use. In addition to shooting at targets basically in my backyard, I try to practice shooting in non-target range situations. Hunting and plinking on a friend’s ranch offer some of the few opportunities where I can practice scenarios in handling and shooting firearms in real life situations of being constantly armed with long and short guns (proper gun handling with a group of people, in and out of vehicles with weapons, hunting & target practice in different seasons and different times of day and weather).

Working Dogs
Although all of our dogs are pets and part of the family, they serve multiple purposes. I decided to mention them in my profile for others to consider the attributes of these breeds. I have a Catahoula. This is a multipurpose dog supposedly bred from the first Spanish War Dogs that the Conquistadors brought to the Americas in the 16th Century mixed with Native American dogs. The Catahoula is a ranch dog bred in Louisiana and trained for various tasks: cattle or goat herding, small varmint hunting (they can tree coons and are even known to climb trees in pursuit), hog hunting (they can be trained to pursue and kill wild hogs in specially trained teams of three dogs), and bird hunting (they can point and hold). Although a single dog cannot be trained to do all of these tasks, this is a very versatile breed or working dog that I think would make an excellent survival breed. They are very intelligent and loyal as a family protector, have a medium to large build (50-70 lbs), and are good guard dogs. They do have short coats and would not be a great choice for an outdoor only dog in a location with long cold winters. We also have two Chihuahuas (my wife's dogs), the only use I have for these little dogs is that they make great indoor alarms. If the doors open, windows rattle, or a vehicle comes near the house, we hear the Chihuahua alarm! They are bred for rodent catching and I wish I could use them for this task, but my wife is afraid that they would die from eating poison ingested rats or mice if we used them for such... In a SHTF situation, I would unleash them in the food storage area and let them earn their keep. They are very small and need minimal food and water. If allowed to do what they were originally bred for, I wouldn't doubt they would contribute to the family security by keeping the vermin out of the food storage area.

Our “need to do” list is long. It includes:

  • Food preparation and storage
  • Improved garden
  • Solar pump and new well and storage tank sufficient for several days of no sun
  • Propane tank to convert from natural gas, if necessary
  • High security fence around 1.5 acre homestead
  • Complete reloading bench & tools (have basic scales and brass)

Part 2: Primitive Survival Tools & Skills

If we have to fall back on Plan C (G.O.O.D. and live off the land - at least to supplement our diet), then I have a basic knowledge of primitive outdoor survival skills that should help me to work hard at supplying my family with some basic necessities. In addition to hunting, fishing and tracking skills, I have practiced the primitive arts of making a fire using a fire bow, making and using a hand drill, and flintknapping. I do not offer the following as a substitute for modern tools and techniques, but as an emergency supplement or replacement. We have progressed from Stone Age tools to steel and computer age materials to our own benefit, but the stone age tools and techniques helped man survive for many thousands of years and they could have a use in modern survival situations. Just as with any modern tools (firearms, chainsaws or a 4x4 diesel truck), the manufacturing/maintenance and use of the "primitive" tools is not easy to learn and one should not acquire these skills after your life depends on them. Also, just because these are referred to as "primitive" tools, doesn't mean they are not carefully and expertly made or mastered. I have a lot of practice and can manufacture (through flintknapping) a basic stone knife and set of scrappers that would be suitable for wild game and food processing. With additional practice, I continue to improve my skills in manufacturing stone dart tips for arrows or spears. I have not attempted to make a bow and need to practice this, but have assisted an old friend in the process. However, one expedient tool I can make for throwing a projectile is the atl-atl (or dart thrower).

The atl-atl is a primitive weapon which was used by our early ancestors for thousands of years before the bow and arrow was invented and copied. It is capable of launching a projectile (called a dart) very accurately and with enough velocity to penetrate and kill large game efficiently. Native Americans hunted bison and other large game with this simple tool kit. It is made by carving a shaft of wood with a handle and a spur (or cup) which the dart is seated in before launching it. The atl-atl is about 24-30 inches long, and can be carved from a tree limb (ash or many other hard but not brittle types of wood can be used) with a small hook or stub of a branch left for the spur. It is advisable to attach two finger loops on the handle end. These make it easier to keep the atl-atl in one's hand while throwing the dart. This simple tool allows the kinetic energy to be stored while the arm is in motion (a lot like a baseball pitcher’s motion using the arm and wrist). The dart can be projected 6 times farther than a hand-thrown spear with 150 times the foot-pound energy. With practice, the atl-atl can be accurate to 100 meters, but is best used at close range of around 20 meters. Its value as a survival tool is that it can be easily manufactured and operated silently. Hunting can be conducted with no noise to attract unwanted attention in any situation. One drawback with its use is that the hunter (or thrower) is basically standing and in the open while launching. With practice this can be minimized with camouflage and technique. One uses an atl-atl with minimal effort, and throws it by taking a step or two forward and launching the dart with a quick snap of the wrist. It really doesn't take much effort and is successfully done using a motion like casting a fishing line with a rod and reel. In fact, during demonstrations with 8-16 year old school kids, I have observed that the girls who are just trying to learn to do this without too much embarrassment out-throw the boys who are going for world record launches! 

The atl-atl's "ammo" consists of darts about twice the length of a standard arrow up to 5 or 6 feet. In fact, two modern aluminum arrow shafts can be screwed together with one set of fletching and one dart tip or point. Using natural stems of cane, willow shoots, bamboo, reed, or straight saplings would require a series of steps to complete a working toolkit for the atl-atl. A dart can be made in three parts: a foreshaft, a shaft, and fletching. The fletching is a row of feathers, usually short, trimmed one-sided wing feathers, glued to the base end like on an arrow. They are in three rows with a slight twist to provide steady flight and rotation. One outdoor survivalist (Alloway, 2000) also suggests using credit card strips set into the shaft, what a great way to put that plastic to use after TEOTWAWKI! Instead of a notch, like on the base of an arrow, the atl-atl dart base has a round divot for seating the shaft of the dart to the spur on the atl-atl. The foreshaft (made of a short 3-4 inch piece of shaped hard wood) is attached to the stone or metal point with glue (or tree sap) and sinew. All of the joints or areas on the shaft, foreshaft, and fletching that could spilt have to be reinforced with cordage or animal sinew. Acquiring these materials takes time and knowledge as well, but natural fiber string and "gorilla" glue or similar glue works great. Tree resin (such as pine) works as a natural glue to help hold the cordage intact. Once assembled, the foreshaft is jammed into a joint or hole on the “front” end of the shaft (opposite the fletching). This replacement technology allows for the need to make and carry only a few shafts, which are labor intensive to make, while having multiple foreshaft sections to reload with. The shaft sections also must be straightened. One way is by steaming and drying the wood or reed shaft while bending with a shaft straightening tool (a small block of wood with a round hole through it will work or a stone with a straight groove in it to run the shaft through until it dries). Use the "pool cue" or woodworker's test to eyeball it and see if it is straight. The shafts can and should be retrieved after launching. The other benefit of the foreshaft is that upon impact with the prey, it separates from the shaft leaving the sharp metal or stone point and 3 or so inches of foreshaft embedded where it causes massive internal bleeding as the prey's muscles contract and expand while running. The shaft can then be retrieved and reloaded with another foreshaft armed with a point. A blunt dart shaft or foreshaft can be used to stun or kill small birds and prey with just a fire-hardened wood tip - no need for "expensive" (labor or material cost) points. A side note on terminology: the term "point" or "projectile point" refers to the head, as in "arrow head," of the "projectile" - which is a general term for an arrow, spear or dart. The atl-atl "dart" is not a "spear" (which is a short, inflexible stabbing weapon). An atl-atl dart is a very advanced tool and took our ancestors many years of trial and error to develop as a silent, multi-component, high velocity, manual weapon. 

Fire making is another primitive art that is extremely important in an outdoor (or indoor) survival situation. A "fire bow" kit is easy to make out of natural materials found in most environments (desert, forest, mountain, plains, etc.) and is easy to master with practice. The kit contains a fireboard, socket, drill (or fire stick), and bow. The small bow (made like a toy bow and arrow) is made using a curved, stout but flexible branch or stick (about 24 inches long) with a bow string. The string can be made from a shoelace or parachute cord (natural fiber cordage can be used but tends to break from the rapid motion and friction it has to endure). The string is attached with enough slack to twist a short fire starter stick (called a drill or shaft) in it. It should be adjusted to be just tight enough - not too tight to be difficult to turn, and not too slack where it won't create the friction need to start a fire. The bow is rapidly manipulated (in a motion like a hand saw) to twirl the fire stick rapidly on a notched plank (called the fireboard). The fire stick (8-12 inches long) should be of soft wood (like willow or cottonwood) with a rounded, dull tip on one end that will help produce the ember; and a pointed tip that will seat in the socket (which is held in the non-bow hand) on the other end. The socket has to fit in the hand comfortably and is gripped to hold the twirling fire stick in place. It should be a cupped rock, but hard wood or a dish shaped piece of scrap iron can work. The notch on the fireboard, or plank, is to allow the fine saw dust (created during friction) and the important small ember to fall through on a bed of tender. Dry grass, a dry bird's nest, wasp nest, pine needles, cotton, or steel wool make good tender. The fireboard (plank) should be of dry wood, at least a half-inch in thickness, and thick bark is often the best plank. Pine is very useful in starting a fire due to its flammable resin content and can even be used when damp. Care should be taken to have all materials ready before starting to use the fire bow. This takes some effort, but preparation is most of the battle. Only a small ember is created in the process and must be handled appropriately. This is “cardio vascular” exercise and can produce a quick sweat. Use care to keep sweat from dripping onto the tender or plank and extinguishing your ember. Google these tools for pictures and other tips. One the ember is produced and lands or is placed in the tender, blow long, steady breaths to get a flame. Add this to your pre-set kindling and build up a good fire. (See other entries in the survivalblog for light security and safe methods of laying in wood.) 

One item in everyone's G.O.O.D. kit, BOB, vehicle glove box, bedside table, pocket, belt or boot should be a good steel edged knife. It is one tool that we should all hope to never leave home without. However, if separated from a good steel blade, or to supplement a small knife in a survival situation, one can manufacture a substitute tool kit from stone. Flintknapping is a skill our ancestors used for thousands of years to produce most or all of the tools needed to hunt, gather, and prepare most if not all the food and materials needed to survive in most of the climates humans have ever "survived" in. Hunting, butchering, and game processing, vegetable gathering and processing, hide scrapping and prepping, leather work, wood work, and many other tasks (including mortal combat) can be conducted with stone tools. A basic flintknapping tool kit for producing these tools includes: one or more hammerstones, soft hammer billets made from wood and/or deer, elk or moose antler, antler tines for pressure flaking, and a leather pad for protecting the palm and leg. It is not easy to do, and has a steep learning curve. I will outline the basics and suggest further research, kit assemblage, and practice be planned as part of one's overall survival strategy. There are numerous flintknapping groups across the U.S. and a variety of resources to help one get started. Besides the basic "knapping kit" described above, the main resource needed for flintknapping is a good quality "flint." There are various minerals that can be knapped (chert, obsidian, fossilized wood, quartzites, and others) and identifying useful materials is something knappers and archaeologists who study these primitive techniques do. I suggest Google research on this and a trip to visit a local geologist, rock quarry, rock shop or mountainman's rendezvous to start learning how to identify the right raw materials.

Once preparations are made, please remember that this is a potentially hazardous activity. Knapping is done by smashing a "core" (usually a fist sized cobble of a quartz material) with a "hammerstone" (a stream rolled dense stone, also usually quartz which needs to be solid and hand held). This is done usually by holding the core in or near one's lap or on the thigh. A near miss can cause pain or injury, and rock spalls are the desired result (which can fly in all directions and penetrate flesh, eyes, or bystanders. This should be done over a tarp (to help in cleanup) or in an area that is not a living space, especially one that isn't walked on barefooted, by people, pets or livestock, or used for food processing or sleeping, etc. Eye protection, leg padding, gloves or a leather pad are necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). By striking the core with the hammerstone at a controlled angle, a "flake" can be produced. In fact, one of the longest lasting technologies known to man is called "flake technology." Numerous flakes can be created in just a few minutes of knapping from one core. These are then selected for their ultimate use: arrow points, dart points or spear points; double edged or beveled knife blades; hide scrappers, etc. A core can be used multiple times and reduced to a very small fragment. A good knapper can pick up a core, visualize what he or she wants/needs to make, take a whack or two, pick up the flake, and continue the process. To make a bifacial tool (sharpened on two sides to hold an edge longer and able to penetrate flesh better) the knapper then can switch to the next tool in the kit, a soft hammer billet. These are "soft" hammer because they are softer than the stone material being shaped. In general terms, I think of knapping as whittling stone. These billets are about the size of a hammer and held and operated the same way. They are made from solid antler (deer, elk or moose) and sawn or cut to length. The base of the antler makes the working end of the billet and is ground or sanded round (a lot like the round end of a ball-peen hammer). This is then used to more accurately strike the chosen flake (held by a piece of leather in the off hand and held stable against the padded thigh or a bench) and continue to shape the flake and sharpen its edge. The billet can be used to get the basic shape of the tool set up. The final step is to use the antler tine (or a rigid copper wire with a wrapped tape handle) as a "pressure flaking" tool. The prototype tool is then held firmly (with a glove or leather pad) against the thigh or bench, and the pressure flaking tool is placed just off the edge to be sharpened/worked. It is pressed firmly with a short popping motion toward the working edge which is away from the midline of the tool (difficult to describe, but fairly easy to do with a little practice). This is done to take off very small bits at a time (called micro-flakes) and continued around the sharp edges of the tool until the final shape and sharpness is obtained. To make arrow, dart or spear points or other tools like knives (that have to be hafted to a handle or dart shaft to be usable), the base of the stone tool will be shaped to fit a handle or shaft. The hafted end will need to be dulled (so it doesn't cut through the cordage used to haft it or bind it to a shaft) by gently grinding it on a stone. Even expert knappers have relatively high failure rates doing this, but practice helps with the odds. Beginning with the basic flake produced by cracking open a core, one can expediently produce a sharp cutting implement that is sharp enough to cut deeply into flesh. A raw flake will lose its edge quickly, but with ample stone cobbles around, this technique can be repeated and improved with practice. A raw flake with a little bit of work along the edge can hold a fairly sharp edge for small cutting tasks, and be "retouched" with minimal effort to maintain its sharpness to complete a job like butchering small game, cutting edible parts of a useful plant, etc. Again, these are no substitute for a good, American made, steel knife blade, but just may be needed in a survival situation. Hopefully, none of you will have to rely on these tools and techniques to survive, but I also hope you find time to learn a little more about them and practice once or twice, just in case you do need to rely on some primitive survival tools.

Desert Survival Skills by Alloway, David. Published by University of Texas Press. Austin, Texas. 2000. 

The Art Of The Rifle

So, given that the USA Federal Reserve currency, the US dollar, is going down the tubes, something else will replace it. There will undoubtedly be attempts by various governments to reinstate some version of fiat money, but people are going to see through that, and will not accept it, since fiat money is, at it’s core, an undeclared, and essentially unlimited, tax on those who produce.

Ultimately, people will probably return to a means of exchange with more than 4,000 years of history;  Gold and silver.  Here in the USA, in the aftermath of the coming economic collapse, there will be barter, at least at first, but as economic activity revives, something more convenient will be badly needed.  I am sure that there will be all sorts of private minting of gold, silver and even copper ultimately, but in the meantime, before private mints are established to meet the demand for real money, I expect, as many others have postulated, that pre-1965 US silver coinage will be a recognizable means of exchange.

There is a problem, however, with silver coinage.  Just as gold coins have too much buying power, even in 1/10 troy ounce sizes, for many transactions, so even a US silver dime may have too much buying power for many da- to-day local transactions.  Someone wishing to buy a needle, or a couple of fishhooks is not going to spend a whole 0.0715 ounces of silver (the amount in a pre-1965 silver dime) for a single needle.  Smaller change will be needed, and needed badly.  What to do?

At present (mid-February, 2010), based on the present commodity prices at Coinflation, a silver dime is worth $1.10 US based on spot prices for silver.  A US nickel is worth about 5 cents, for the metal content.  Clad dimes are about the same value as pre-1982 pennies (~2 cents), while clad quarters are slightly less valuable than nickels (~4 cents) and clad halves are worth about 8 cents in US currency.  While most people have not put aside precious metals as such,  (gold or silver coins) there will be a substantial quantity of clad coinage in circulation, and this could be used as smaller change for silver coins.

It is my intention, as economic activity is resumed, to exchange clad quarters and US nickels as 1/20 of a silver dime, essentially ½ of a ‘silver penny’ in exchange, and clad dimes and pre-1982 pennies as half of that value, or ¼ of a ‘silver penny’. 

For example, let’s suppose that I have #6 fish-hooks for sale, at the rate of four hooks for a silver dime.  Mr. Jones wants to buy just two hooks, but has no silver, all he has are clad coinage.  I’d sell him the two hooks for 5 clad halves, 10 nickels or clad quarters, or twenty pre-1982 pennies or clad dimes. 

Another example-  Mr. Smith wants to buy a pound of 8d cement coated nails.  I’m offering to sell ‘old’ factory made nails (not my new handmade ones) at one silver dime per pound (maybe a screaming bargain for him!)  Again, he has no silver coins, but has a bunch of nickels;  I’d sell the nails for twenty nickels.  Local commerce and trade would be facilitated by such an arrangement. 

Until private minting fills the money gap, this would appear to be a workable solution for small local transactions, which is where most of the trade would be, at least to start with. - Larry W.

Mr. Rawles,
Well, we survived this latest storm but it gave me time to finish your novel "Patriots". It was a very easy read and full of useful information. I know I have so much to learn. It really has helped me put things into perspective as far as priorities and what is or isn’t important in life. I can only think of two areas that were not covered well enough that I feel would help in this type of environment:

The first area is the design and use of landscape and terrain to help conceal a retreat. The impression I got from the story was that the farm and access drive to it were clearly visible from the main road. Of course I am using person recollections of remote homes and drives from my personal experiences to expand to the story. It has always been my thought to have a residence that was “around a bend” and not clearly visible from the road. This may have its own fallbacks though if line of site to an access road was needed from a retreat. As far as the entrance drive is concerned, my impression from the story was that it fell just short of hanging a welcome sign next to it. Having the gate at the road would indicate that something of value was there. A curving entrance with the gate set back and out of site may prove more effective. But this is just my personal thought. The access drive to the retreat should also have several bends or slowdown methods to it so a straight run to a second barrier would be difficult. This would also allow for tree and brush growth to help hide the retreat and ambush sites. A cattle gate or two would also be effective for drive barriers. These gates and their components could be removed to provide mini motes. Just some thoughts.

The other area that I thought was glossed over was personal hygiene and the downside of many people in such close proximity to each other. I got the fact that these folks were already friends and acquaintances and had similar values and ideals. But conflicts and bad feelings will arise especially in stressful times. There was a lot of useful information provided about preparing for personal hygiene but little indication of how it was put into use at the retreat except for scheduled bathing times. Of course I am extrapolating from personal experiences when many family members have stayed with us for extended visits.

All in all I thought it was an excellent book and full of useful reference information. I do wish I would have found the glossary before I finished. There were many references that I had to look up before proceeding. Thanks again, - John G.

Could this start a trend? Bill seeks to outlaw lengthy overnights at Minnesota rest areas. (Thanks to Chad S. for the link.)

   o o o

My book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times" is featured in the March-April 2010 Books in Brief section of The Futurist magazine, under the headline: Alarmingly Practical Advice For Doomsday. You can look for it on pages 60 and 61 of the March-April issue.

   o o o

Reader G.S. in the State of Jefferson spotted this interesting thread, over at the Life After The Oil Crash (LATOC) forums: MZBs: Are you prepared?

   o o o

Judge: Seattle gun carry ban declared illegal. (Thanks to Steve S. for the link.)

"An armed republic submits less easily to the rule of one of its citizens than a republic armed by foreign forces. Rome and Sparta were for many centuries well armed and free. The Swiss are well armed and enjoy great freedom. Among other evils caused by being disarmed, it renders you contemptible. It is not reasonable to suppose that one who is armed will obey willingly one who is unarmed; or that any unarmed man will remain safe among armed servants." - Niccolo Machiavelli, "The Prince" (1532)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Today we present Part 2 of an entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

The Aluminum Melting Forge and Crucible

For the forge I started with a small steel barrel that I found on the side of the road, its diameter is 18 inches. I cut it to a height of 2 feet, starting from the “floor” of the barrel. I also cut an 8" ring from the barrel to be used later, as a lid. The forge barrel must be lined to hold and refract heat. Ideally you may find refractory cement in your area, but for me I was left with regular old concrete as my only choice. I used “Quikcrete”. One 80 lb bag will do, you will also need a cardboard round concrete pre-form with an 8" diameter, lastly you will need several lengths of re-bar. The forge must have an air intake to heat the charcoal to the temperatures required to melt aluminum. I used a length of 2" galvanized pipe as my air supply. I cut it to a 2 foot length, this long of a piece sticking out the side of the forge barrel allows the end to stay relatively cool so your blower will not melt. Blowers will be covered later. Bore a 2" hole into the barrel roughly 2" from the bottom, cut a matching hole in your cardboard pre-form 1" from the bottom. You are ready to mix some concrete. I use a bucket or wheelbarrow. The concrete needs to be fairly viscous to prevent air pockets that will cause trouble when heating. First cover the bottom of the forge barrel to a depth of 1" in concrete forming a liner floor. Take your cardboard pre-form and at one end seal it in duct tape, you don’t want any concrete getting on the inside of the pre-form. Set the sealed end of the pre-form on top of the cement layer in the bottom of the barrel, center it, and then run you air intake pipe through the side of the barrel and into the pre-form. The air pipe just barely needs to go into the cardboard, now center everything and fill the barrel with concrete around the pre-form. When filled, smooth out the cement to make it flush with the barrel top.

Next, take the 8" barrel ring you cut earlier and lay it flat on a piece of plywood. This too will need a pre-form but one that is smaller than the 8" diameter used earlier. The smaller diameter of the lid allows heat to refract towards the crucible but allows you an opening in the top to manipulate the crucible, feed metal into it, and to add fuel to the forge. For this pre-form I used an empty Country Crock margerine plastic container anything similar will work, but make sure it is not metal, once the concrete has hardened the plastic pre-form can be easily broken or melted out. Set the pre-form in the middle of the barrel ring and pour your concrete around it. I made two handles for the lid from re-bar and set them into the cement. Allow the concrete a full week to dry.

Making a crucible is not difficult, a simple steel crucible will do nicely for melting aluminum and copper. I started with a 3" diameter pipe nipple that was 8" high. My first crucible had a welded on steel bottom, but what is much easier, is to buy the steel cap for the nipple and simply screw it tightly into place. Near the open top of the pipe, drill two holes, one in each side, a 3/16" drill bit is ideal. I then took a wire paint bucket handle, cut it down a bit and ran one side into each hole, then bent the wire to stay in place. This crucible handle is how you will manipulate it when it is orange hot. The crucible also needs a manipulation point on the bottom for the pouring of the molten metal. I welded on a steel half ring, but if you do not have a welder one can be made from the same material as the top handle. Wrap the wire around the bottom of the crucible and twist it on tightly with a pair of pliers, leave enough wire to twist a loop on the end.

These manipulation points, as I call them, are the backyard hobbyists way of completing the process inexpensively. If you watch a youtube video you will see that the “Professional” metal caster has a fancy set of crucible holders to take the crucible out of the fire and for the molten metal pour. These holders require two people for the pour and are fairly complex in design. I considered making a set but the forge work and materials just did not warrant such an investment in time. My method works just fine, the only drawback is that the paint bucket handle wire needs to be replaced every three to four melts. After several exposures to high heat, the wire becomes brittle, and can break when lifting the crucible out of the forge. I will cover cautions and dangers during the process in detail later on. To use the “manipulation points” all you need are two hooks with handles. I made mine with 2-½ foot lengths of re-bar, bend one end of each piece of re-bar into a hook. I drilled a hole in the other end of the re-bar pieces, I then used lengths of 1" wooden dowels for the handles. Since the handle end of your hooks will remain cool nearly anything can be used, but what you want is a T-shaped handle for the hooks. Now for a test, place your crucible on the ground, with a one homemade hook in each hand. Pick up the crucible by its top handle, I am right handed so I use my left hook, no pun intended, to raise the crucible. Now take your other hook and put the end through the crucibles lower loop. You will use the lower manipulation loop to raise the crucible bottom for the pour. Practice pouring and work out any kinks in the system. (When it is orange hot and filled with 10+ pounds of molten aluminum it will be too late to work out kinks!) I have used my steel pipe nipple crucible for over 30 melts and it shows no signs of metal fatigue the same holds true for the homemade forge.

Castings Tools

We are getting close to drawing a mold and putting fire to that new forge, but you need to make some casting tools first. It is very helpful to have a casting table, nothing fancy, just a small table with some 2 X 4 walls to keep the sand on the table. The table walls also give you a place to rest your molding backboard on, the backboard is where you will rest your cope or drag, giving them a temporary bottom for sand filling. You will need 2 backboards. I cut mine from 3/8" plywood, they need to be just wide enough so the guides on your cope and drag will hang off the sides of the plywood while still providing a complete bottom for the flask. Another critical tool is a riddle or sifter, you can not cast without one. The riddle can be made from 1/4" mesh screening. 1/8" mesh is just too small and difficult to use and anything bigger than 1/4" mesh allows large chunks of casting sand to get through, which ruins the detail of the casting. I cut the mesh screening into a piece 12 x 18" Then made a matching square using lengths of a 2 x 4, I tacked the screening to the 2 x 4 using 1" nails, I nailed them in about halfway then bent the rest of the nail over the screening. The riddle needs to be fairly tough, it needs to hold the weight of the sand and the downward pressure of pushing the wet sand through the mesh into the cope and drag. Next is the “Rammer”, this is used to push the casting sand down over the parts to be replicated, after it has gone through the riddle, and compact it in the cope and drag. The end needs to be square for compacting at the corners. A 4" piece off a 2 x 4 serves this purpose, next attach your square to a vertical length of a dowel or broom handle with a wood screw. It is helpful to paint the rammer so it will not absorb moisture.

Once you have drawn and separated any mold errors and small faults will need to be corrected, you will also have to cut channels for the molten metal to run through. A good start to your sand detailing tools can be had at hobby lobby with a set of clay molding tools for around $7, however if you don’t want to spend the money, then they can be made. The tool I use most in sand detailing and trough cutting is a simple soup spoon that has been bent into a U shape with a pair of pliers. Be sure to check with your Wife first before raiding the kitchen drawers for silverware to ruin, I learned this the hard way! A dull X-Acto knife is also useful for fine detail cutting. You will need two lengths of metal or PVC pipe varying in diameter from 1" to 1 ½", these will be used for cutting entry and exit channels for the aluminum. They do not need to be long pieces 6 to 8 inches will do. You will need a vent wire, this simple tool can mean the difference between success and failure. Take a metal wire hanger and snip out a straight length about 8" long. Twist one end into a loop for grasping and hanging when not in use, and sharpen the point at the other end. You will also need a “rapper” this is a metal fork similar in design to a tuning fork. The rapper is used to gently free parts to be replicated from your sand without destroying the mold when you remove them. Mine is simply two bolts driven into the end of a dowel to form a Y shape. I will cover this in more details when we get to drawing the mold. One other piece of equipment needed in this process is a simple propane torch, any Wal-mart special will do. Lastly a stiff straight edge roughly 12" long will be needed to smooth the mold bottom and top. I used an old baseboard, but nearly anything will work. The primary tool used in sand casting will be your bare hands!

There are still a couple of fire tools to be made, The most important is the skimmer. The skimmer is used to rake out bits of charcoal and other impurities that float to the surface of the molten aluminum. The skimmer is also used to test the metal to see if it fully molten and to aid in feeding metal into the melt. Once again you will need a dowel or wooden broom handle around 2 feet long. I then went to hunt down a long threaded bolt, I came up with a 1/4" fully threaded bolt 16" long. Next you need a good sized washer, this will do the actual skimming, I found one with an 1 ½" diameter. I slid the washer down the bolt until it came to rest on the bolts end, then locked the washer down with a 1/4" nut, making sure it was good and tight. Then I drilled a slightly smaller vertical hole into the dowel, if you are careful you can get the top end of the bolt to “bite” into the wood. I screwed it in about 2 inches, then for good measure attached a hose clamp around the end of the dowel to further secure my bolt/washer apparatus. You now have a skimmer. The next fire tool is a pair of metal tongs, kitchen tongs can be used, I use these to feed oddly shaped pieces of aluminum into the melt. While your cement is drying it is time to secure an air supply for the forge. This can be done old school or new school. I first tried it with a homemade box bellows, this worked but was very slow and took serious elbow grease. I was very sore the next day when I decided to use an electric air supply. We may not always have electricity and I keep the box bellows stored away for a rainy day. I came up with an old hair dryer at the local thrift store for under a $1, the older hair blowers last many times longer than any of the newer ones. Start with the used hair dryer, if you really take to sand casting then move up to a leaf blower. I attached my air supply to the air intake pipe using a PVC fitting, even duct tape will work, the extra length of the intake pipe gives you many options.

Note: The next installment of this article series will describe supplying fuel for the forge.

I couldn't agree with Dan more, sand casting takes some experimentation and tinkering. Once you get your sand and flasks working, it's a snap, but you will mess up a lot of casts before you get everything tuned. His tip for using cat litter as bentonite clay is pure genius, but be prepared to test several brands before you hit on one that works for you. Clay cat litter can be made from almost any clay. Sodium Bentonite (or western bentonite) is often chosen for it's absorbency, but any given brand of kitty litter may vary between lots. "Bentonite Clay" can be either sodium bentonite, or calcium bentonite. They both work for green sand, but they have distinctly different qualities. Other clays can also work well for lead, pewter, or even aluminum casting, but won't hold up to high temperatures very well. Wal-Mart used to have a cheap store brand cat litter labeled "bentonite clay" that I believe was almost 100% sodium bentonite: 'Special Kitty', sold for a few dollars in a 25 pound bag. It works very well for aluminum, copper, bronze and brass. I believe it would hold up with cast iron, but I haven't tried it yet.

Before you start making your own green sand, It might be worthwhile to check around in nearby cities and look for a commercial foundry. (They are pretty rare, but a lot of cites still have one). A lot of founders are friendly and eager to help a beginner get started. A lot of them will sell you used green sand for very little if you will haul it away. They may also sell you "southern" (calcium bentonite) or "western" (sodium bentonite) bentonite clay or fireclay (used to make your furnace), cheaper than you can find them on line. They may also have a wealth of good advice. As a beginner, it's really nice to get a look at a working foundry and see what "right" should look like. Check out their safety precautions while you are at it.

Be careful of breathing dust and fumes from your foundry. Melting metal puts out some nasty chemicals and mixing sands can raise clouds of dust. Great article! V/R, - JIR

Hello James,
I've read your blog daily for several months now, and although I haven't seen it mentioned, I'm sure this topic has been covered somewhere before. If not, then I hope what I discovered this week could be of use to some of your readers. I recently acquired a large lot of old shotguns and rifles, stored for many years, which needed a full breakdown and rigorous cleaning. When I removed the buttplates of these firearms, I noticed that almost all of them had a 5/8" to 3/4" hole running from the middle of the stock toward the receiver, which ranged in length from 6" to 9". My immediate thought was to use that space for a small survival kit.

I obtained a number of re-sealable capped cylinders and small ziploc bags from Hobby Lobby (all located in the bead department) which fit perfectly in the holes. Since space was limited, I focused on survival basics-- fire, water, and food. I was able to fit two cylinders into the stock, one loaded with waterproof matches, tinder, and a match striker (cut from the box and then folded [and stowed away from the match heads]). The other I loaded with hooks, sinkers, two synthetic lures, and 20' of fishing line. In the remaining space, I filled a small sealable bag with water purification tablets. I keep a multi-tool on the sling of my shotgun, so [removing the buttplate] to access the kit would be no problem. And, since they are stored in clear tubes, they slide right out, and the contents are visible. I even wrapped their tops with a length of electrical tape for further waterproofing, with the tape being of use as well, if needed. In the small space around the storage tubes, I was able to slip in a hacksaw blade and G.I. can opener. That is not too bad for a previously unused (and undiscovered) hollow in my buttstock. I also have a good stiff skeleton knife in a stiff sheath screwed directly into my buttstock [as recommended in the book Build the Perfect Survival Kit by John D. McCann], underneath an elastic sleeve that holds five extra shells. My sling has two small vertical pouches, one with a multi-tool/ knife, and the one underneath containing a very basic first aid kit and small LED light.

Of course anything could be put in the buttstock hollows, from extra ammunition to barter silver. In an extreme SHTF scenario where you might have limited seconds to grab only your firearm and run, you could have the basics for survival tucked away in the stock and stored on the sling. I hope this advice can be of use to some of your readers. Thanks again for all you do, and all the best. - Eisen, Prepping Hard in Louisiana

Dear Jim,
There is new info on the Aladdin Lox-on mantle shortage that was mentioned in SurvivalBlog. The new post on the Aladdin site is dated February 10, 2010. It indicates that there are still a number of issues to overcome before production can begin. According to Aladdin's web site pre-production is possible at the end of February with production runs in March and deliveries in April. I hope they have solved their issues and can get this important component of their wonderful kerosene lamps back on the shelves. Thanks for getting this news to those who need to know. - Jay H. in Ohio

Merry mentioned an interesting video on self defense techniques when riding a horse. JWR Adds: BTW, I can personally attest that it takes quite a while to gradually get a horse accustomed to the sound of gunfire (starting with just the sight and smell of guns, then the sound of .22 Shorts, ...), but it is time well spent! The training results (as shown in the various CMSA videos) can be impressive.

   o o o

Desert T. pointed us to an article that ran in The Wall Street Journal: A Growing Obsession: Rare Seeds. (When The Wall Street Journal starts to report about heirloom seeds, then it is time to batten down the hatches!)

   o o o

Americans Most Satisfied in Cold Northern States, Least Satisfied in Nevada. JWR's Observation: As someone that has lived in Nevada, I can attest that a large portion of the population there was born in other states--mostly California. Could it be that these folks were dissatisfied where they were living, and moved to Nevada because it was "someplace different"? Methinks that they brought their dissatisfaction with them. (A hat tip to Richard S. for the link.)

   o o o

Reader Brian F. sent this: String of Snow Days Deprives Many Students of Food. Brian's comment: "It's a shame how many 'sheeple' in the large cities have so little food on hand that they can't even feed their children if there's no school that day."

   o o o

Another GPS-dependent flat lander with no common sense nearly gets himself killed with a "shortcut": Snow traps Indiana driver for days in Rio Grande National Forest.

"Like I told my last wife, I says, "Honey, I never drive faster than I can see. Besides that, it's all in the reflexes." - Kurt Russell as Jack Burton, in John Carpenter's 1986 film Big Trouble in Little China. (Screenplay by Gary Goldman and David Z. Weinstein. Adapted by W.D. Richter.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I set out to learn how to sand cast aluminum and set up a metal working shop at my home more than two years ago. Let me start by saying that sand casting can not be learned overnight and although books are helpful, especially the David Gingery Book 1 "The Charcoal Foundry", there is no substitute for hands on experience. You have to get out there and try, try, try. To get started in aluminum casting it is critical to first come up with the casting sand. This was really difficult where I live, the sand must be very fine to gain the detail for the part being cast. And equally critical is adding the right amount of bentonite clay to hold the sand together. I wanted to come up with materials locally so that I would have a continuing supply. My journey started by the river where erosion had broken down the limestone to a workable fine grain sand. I shoveled about a hundred pounds and brought it home. After many hours of sifting I believed I was ready to go on to the next step. Again I walked near the river and searched out local reddish clay. Again I brought it home and ever so slowly got it sifted and cleaned up. For the first test batch, keep in mind that I was nowhere near even lighting a fire at this point, I mixed 7 cups of sand to 3 cups of clay. Then I added around 1 cup of water. I let the sand “Temper” overnight and the next day started pressing some metal parts into it to see if it would hold its shape. It was a failure, the casting sand would not stay together my clay was no good. I started looking for actual bentonite clay, there are no deposits within 200 miles of where I live, and then I discovered that plain cat litter is 100% bentonite clay.

Having cats I already had litter on hand, but the pieces were far to large to use, and I had to come up with a way of breaking it down. This was another adventure, I tried water, vinegar and a mortar and pestle to no avail. I had nearly given up when I decided to throw a few cups into my “Brass Shaker” or cartridge case tumbler. After 10 hours the cat litter was broken down enough to add to my sand, I still had to sift out the larger pieces. I mixed 7 cups of sand to 3 cups of bentonite clay. The ratio remains the same whether you are using cups or any other unit of volume. I added 1 ½ cup of water, mixed, and let it “temper” overnight. Sure enough this worked the sand held its shape but was still porous enough to let trapped gasses and steam out. I even experimented with molten lead on some simple open face castings. The coolest thing about sand casting is that all required tools and even the forge and forge fuel can be made at home costing very little money.

The Casting Flask

The casting flask is a two part box that is open at the top and bottom for compacting sand around the item you wish to replicate. It consists of a “Cope” top part and a “Drag” the bottom portion. Making your own casting flask is not hard I started with a 2 X 4 and cut it into 12" segments to make a total of 8 parts. 2 X 4's placed on top of each other give your flask a total depth of 7". This is a good starting point for replicating smaller parts. I am a huge sci-fi fan and my goal with the first castings was to make a “Lightsaber” or more precisely a “Lightsaber” pommel. If you wish to make larger parts you will need a larger flask, but it is important to START SMALL, there is still much to learn. You will also need some smaller board such as a segment of 1/4" plywood to make the guides or line up points. It is imperative that the Cope and Drag line up together each time you put them together, and that the two parts are as flush with each other as possible. Take four of your 12" segments and form your first square on a flat surface such as a table or board. When you are satisfied that your square is flush clamp it together tightly.
I found out the hard way that when you drive in the wood screws it can throw the whole thing off, if not clamped. I used a Work Mate bench as my clamp, you can use nails as well but the banging can quickly throw the boards out of alignment. A total of 8, 3 ½" wood screws, two at each corner, and I had the first half of the flask. Now form up the second half of the flask but instead of using a table, place your four segments atop your newly completed drag. This ensures a good fit, clamp it, then run in your wood screws. You now have a cope. It is time to make your alignment guides, start by cutting two triangle shapes from a 1/4" piece of plywood or whatever you have laying around. The triangles need to be roughly 6 X 6 X 6, the triangles will be attached to your cope. Again clamp your cope and drag together making sure the two halves are as perfectly aligned as you can get them. It took me two wood clamps and the work mate to lock things down. Take your first triangle and put it halfway between the cope and the drag, making sure half the triangle is facing point down towards the bottom of the drag. Nail it in place, the nails will only go into the cope, not the drag, I used small 1" nails.

Next, cut two small 1 X 5" strips from your plywood and place them tightly against the triangle point on the drag only. Nail them in place, what you are doing is ensuring that the two halves of your flask fit together at the same point whenever they are separated. Repeat the process on the opposite side of the flask. Next you need to add handles to both parts, when the cope and drag are “rammed up”, or filled with compacted wet sand, they can be quite heavy. You will be moving them around often when you are making the mold or “drawing the mold”. I used some scrap 1 X 1" boards cut into 4" lengths and nailed them to the sides opposite the guides. Lastly, you need to give the entire inside of the flask a heavy coat of lacquer. Clear spray paint or plain paint will work also. The casting sand will be wet when used and you don’t want the moisture creeping into your boards. You now have a Casting Flask, these cost $70 to $300 if ordered off eBay or other vendors. There are other types of casting flasks but this type will be used for most home castings. Next up, the forge and crucible.

A quick note about cloth diapers: Many stores (Wal-Mart and its French-owned counterpart at least) have flannel sheets on sale right now with twin sets running between $6.24 and $10. Woolrich is one brand and they seem to be of decent quality. That is a lot of fabric for little money. I picked up a half dozen sets. They provide warm bedding, but large pieces of fabric, often in dark or natural colors could have many uses. I will set aside at least 2 sets of the chocolate brown ones to make more cloth diapers for the baby we are expecting in September- no concerns about stains! The scraps will be useful for cloth pads for the same reason.

Also, I have found that snaps are better than velcro. On the original diapers I made for my older children I used Velcro. Not only does it tend to stick to everything else in the wash, but it takes lots of it to make an adjustable diaper and that gets expensive. I bought a Kam Snap pliers set and have been happier with the results, though you have to squeeze hard to get them on well through so many layers of cloth. I put 6-8 "male" snaps across the front of the diaper and then the two "female" snaps on the tabs can be snapped to any front pair to fit the child as he/she grows. I also used the basic pattern provided in Backwoods Home and was pleased with the results. Be sure to use the narrow elastic she recommends.

With regards to diaper covers, I have had the best performance from ones with "leg gussets." They tend to prevent many more leaks and I have been able to use them longer since they will accommodate a larger diaper. You don't need many covers since they dry almost immediately, so I consider it worthwhile to get quality ones.

With regards to rinsing diapers, I have an unconventional method. We live out in the country on a farm so when weather permits, I take the diaper out to the hose and spray it off behind a bush. Newborn and young nursing babies' diapers will usually wash clean in the machine without any special pre-rinsing. I hang dry my diapers so they don't tend to wrinkle or ball up in the dryer. They take longer than an average load to dry anyway and it saves a lot of wear on them to hang dry. In good weather, they go on the clothesline in the sun. Otherwise, I hang them on skirt hangers, preferably near the pot-belly stove.

Thanks for the great site and to all those who contribute! I recommend you often! - Laura in an Unnamed Southern State

I have been following with interest over the last several days this thread on batteries and feel I have some information to share. To begin with, the only solution to a long term lead-acid battery bank is to make your own cells. Lead has a perpetual shelf life and oxidizes very little over time if protected. Contrary to the confusion established by the battery manufacturer cartels, both plates begin as simply pure lead (Pb). It is only after the initial charge is applied that the positive plate changes chemically due to the sulfur ion action. While home made cells will not have the high ampacity to pound ratio of commercial cells, they would have qualities most suitable to the long term prepper; namely serviceability and parts replacement. In addition, the positive plates could be made as thick as one wanted to prolong their life span. One could make them in 3 gallon HDPE buckets using standard stud mounted battery posts on the lids. The electrolyte is simply 30% sulfuric acid to 70% water. The plates need maximum surface area exposed to the electrolyte so one must drill many holes or corrugate the lead sheet to increase the surface area. Older plumbing stores still sell large sheets of lead for roof vent stack flashing. Or if one is handy with metal fabrication, a grid plate mold could be fashioned from steel and lead cast into it. Wheel weight lead-alloy will work too. Additional compounds such as antimony are not essential in a home made cell when you have a room full of replacement plates stacked up. They can be either coiled or flat plates. Do not expect the performance of a commercial cell from these, but when sustainability is all important, performance can be compensated for. Just add more cells to the array bank.

However, the real solution to perpetual deep cycle sustainable battery power for the long emergency lies not at all in the lead-acid cell. It lies in the lowly Edison cell. A little known fact is that there are still banks of Edison cells in deep cycle applications today over 80 years old. Edison cell plates are nickel and iron and use lye and water for the electrolyte so they are alkaline and not acid cells. The plates do not corrode over time and they can be stored dry forever before filling and charging. All those nickel [US five cent coin]s that everyone is saving could [conceivably be melted down to provide the material for] the nickel plates for your grandkids batteries if you are wise today. Edison had over 50 patents on these cells and at the turn of the century entire fleets of delivery trucks used these day in, day out hauling massive loads with electric motors running on Edison cells. They were in direct competition with standard oil and big oil plans for gasoline vehicles so they had to be stopped. The electric car industry was eradicated as gas vehicles could go so much faster. Exide eventually bought all the dies and machinery and was still making them until they sold everything to china some years ago. The only importer now from that china plant to the U.S. is a company called beutilityfree.com which is where I bought mine. They only order like 4 times a year and it takes 3 months to get here and they are pricey, but I personally felt the investment was justified and truly multi-generational for my family. Companies like Eveready began several years ago making what was touted as "new technology" and called the cells "nickel-metal hydride" or NiMH as we all know them today. When they first hit the shelves, I just laughed and told my wife, "Look honey Edison cells in AA size". - Dad4Him

"River Chief" was the first of several readers to send us the link to this article in The Guardian: Americans stock up to be ready for end of the world

   o o o

Sale ends tomorrow! JRH Enterprises is running a sale on new Third Generation AN/PVS-14 night vision weapons sight/monoculars--now with a five year warranty--for $2,995. I bought one of these from JRH last summer, and I love it. I have it mounted on a "flat top" AR, just behind an Aimpoint Comp 3 electronic red dot scope (with a 2 MOA adjustable brightness dot). With a flip of the throw-lever on the GG&G mount (sold separately) the PVS-14 detaches. This allows me to use it as a hand-held monocular, and makes the rifle available for daytime shooting. What a great combination! Orders yours, before close of business on Tuesday, February 16th. Quantities are limited.

   o o o

Tamara's commentary on the recent hoopla in Massachusetts over some guy's gun collection: If the pants fit, wet them. Why did the police display a bunch of legal guns and ammunition. So far as I can tell, their only legitimate beefs were some tear gas grenades, and the gent doing some plinking in his attic. They seemed to go into apoplexy at the sight of 17 full ammo cans. Shoot, I've bought that much ammo at just one gun show. Based on the number of guns he had, I'd rate him as positively light on ammo!

   o o o

Reader JDD suggested a very informative FBI report in scanned PDF format titled "Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers".

“If cowardly and dishonorable men sometimes shoot unarmed men with army pistols or guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary and gallows, and not by a general deprivation of a constitutional privilege." - Arkansas Supreme Court, 1878

Sunday, February 14, 2010

James Wesley:
In response to the letter asking about combination guns, I do recommend having one. I have a Savage 24C .22 LR / 20 Gauge that I take hunting more than any other gun I have. Where I live in North Carolina, I can and have taken any game that is in my area. From deer using OO buck or slugs, birds, rabbits, or any small game using birdshot or the .22 rimfire barrel. I would not be afraid of using the 20 gauge barrel on black bear either, if I had too in an emergency. When hunting, I do take a sidearm in .357 Magnum just in case I do run into a black bear as a backup. Yes, I agree that it is not a defensive weapon against multiple targets, but it does serve a purpose in having one. If lost in the woods the 24C would be the gun I would want to have. - Randy in Asheville, North Carolina

Hi Jim,
I noticed this article on Zero Hedge today that I think you will find interesting, if you haven't seen it already. This is regarding the fiat system and how it the assumptions it is build upon are probably faulty. This, coupled with human nature, make collapse of the fiat system very probable, if not a certainty. Lots of good data in this article as well.

Thanks for all you do. I am learning much from you. I am now re-reading "Patriots" (after just finishing a stint that included 'Alas, Babylon', 'Lucifer's Hammer', 'Tappan on Survival', your new book ["How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It"], and 'One Second After'--do you think I should read something a bit lighter next?) We have many blessings to be thankful for; at the very least, your work has made me appreciate this.

God Bless, - Neal in Birmingham, Alabama


I would like to send a quick note along to any of your readers who still live in suburbia. My wife told me about an email going around suggesting that you keep your spare car keys at your bed stand when you retire for the night.

If something goes bump in the night you can use your panic button to set your car alarm off to do anything from deterring trespassers that you hear outside to alerting your neighbors that you have an intruder and are in dire need of help.

I thought it through and decided to take it up a step building it into our neighborhood "block watch". Rather than just having the keys in our bedroom and calling it good, I told my neighbors what we are doing and suggested that they do the same. It makes a good conversation to let them know that you are ready and willing to help any way that you can when they are in need. It is also a good chance to update emergency contact phone numbers. I have also found some like minded people and possible friends in the future. I know now which sector I may need to keep my eye on WTSHTF and who may be seeking out charity.

One thing about this system to keep in mind is that your remote may not reach out to your car from your bedside. Make sure you test this out, just like you test and trial run your window ladders and fire escape routes and rally points annually, right?

One last note, my adjacent neighbor and wife work out of town for 2-3 days at a time from time to time. When the snow started to fly this year I approached them and asked if they would mind that I drove up and down their drive a couple of times in fresh snow when they are gone as they normally park in their garage. I had to explain that it gives their house an occupied look and they were all for it. I am not as concerned with their property as I am with allowing degenerates to notice a soft target so close to my house. This may be a good idea for any of your readers with vacant houses in their immediate area.

Thank you and God bless, - Ken A. in Ohio

Hello Jim -
I took interest in your response to the post by Steven J S "Letter Re: Some Real Life Battery Data" and the concept of storing "dry batteries". From my long and intensive research on this, you are absolutely correct. Finding a true dry battery (one that was not flooded and then emptied) is nearly impossible. Perhaps some other SurvivalBlog readers can provide some help on this topic, but I have found that in order to truly get a dry battery - one that has never been flooded with acid - one would almost have to work at the manufacturing factory or component supply level - i.e. be an insider in the industry. My interest in this topic, as I am sure most of your readers', is in the area of deep cycle and commercial batteries. I do have a small solar generation system, and would love to be able to buy shelf-stable batteries to put up for the future. I find that I get about seven years out of my Trojan L-16s [before they sulfate to the point that they will not hold a charge.] It frustrates me that I can't store extra batteries for future use. Really, most all the companies (Including Trojan) that I have talked to tell me that they can not (or will not) sell true dry batteries to the general public.

So here is the question I have for the chemists out there in your readership base. Would it be possible to buy some freshly manufactured batteries, and then remove the acid yourself and store separately? How difficult is it to evacuate a battery? Can the plates then be neutralized by adding an alkaline solution to stop the small amount of sulfation that has/would take place if the batteries plates were not neutralized? Should the battery then be flushed with fresh water? There has to some way to accomplish this and produce a shelf stable storage strategy for what will become very precious assets in the future. Any help your readers could offer would be much appreciated, and of course, all the safety precautions you mentioned in your first must be strictly adhered to when doing this type of work. Thank You, - Fullclip

From GG: California Teachers Pension Fund $42.6 Billion Short

Truckman sent this; Commercial Real Estate's Coming $1.4 Trillion Crisis

From JDD: Report: 1 in 5 U.S. homeowners underwater

Items from The Economatrix:

Inflation: Ignoring Doesn't Make It Go Away (The Mogambo Guru)

Chapter XVI: When Shopping Is A Pleasure (The latest in The Day The Dollar Died series)

Globalization is Killing the Globe: Return to Local Economies

FEAR Davos 2010, Into the Bomb Shelter

Why Silver Price Will Boom to $50/Oz.

Bernanke Says Discount Rate May Rise "Before Long"

Trade Gap Unexpectedly Rises on Imports

How A New Jobless Era Will Transform America This raises interesting questions: What do all the jobless people do to survive now? What happens when the unemployment runs out? Will government increase welfare, which will raise taxes even more?

Bobbi sent us this sobering news: Haiti, One Month Later

   o o o

C.N. sent us an interesting article on bear preparedness.

   o o o

Several readers mentioned this troubling article, written by Declan McCullagh: Feds push for tracking cell phones

"Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah.

Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me;
There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god.
I [am] the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." - Psalm 81:7-10 (KJV)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I'm both a family man and a business traveler. When I'm on the road, my primary mission is to do the best job I can and get home again. In the event of an emergency, that mission immediately reduces down to get home as fast as I can.  Most families have emergency plans that assume that the family or group will be together. But what happens if one or more of the group can't be there? When you're on the road, your primary mission in any catastrophic emergency is to get home to your family and support system. You can't fulfill your part of your community/family emergency plan if you're not there to do it. For those in a position similar to mine, I offer the following suggestions. These suggestions are preparatory in nature for the start of any catastrophic situation and carry the following assumptions: Trouble comes unexpectedly. Chance (luck & fortune) favors the prepared mind. And in periods of catastrophe, while good will may abound – predators abound as well.

  1. Make sure that your family has an emergency plan that includes what to do when you're not home. Have primary, secondary and tertiary meet spots, as well as innocuous signals that will tell the other parties if they've left and where they're going.
  2. Don't tell strangers or your casual neighbors (anyone not in your network) how long you'll be gone, even inadvertently. (Not even in your church as a prayer request!) My usual spiel goes something like this: “yes I travel for business, but with us trading vehicles and the garage, you can never tell which of us is home.” and: “I don't have a solid schedule, it's just a day here and the next day I'm there.” Also: “Not telling” includes you generous souls who leave your garage door open all the time. You may think it's not a big deal because nothing ever gets stolen. But are you sure that you want undesirables to know that your family is there without a critical part of their survival plan? (You!) And don't think that someone isn't taking inventory and will notice if you aren't home. If you are gone and there is something that someone needs bad enough on the other side of a garage door – then the door is coming down. Once past the garage door, don't think they'll stop before checking out what they can get out of the house proper.
  3. Have a “get home bag” and keep it with you. This is usually just your three day bug out bag (BOB) bag kept in the car. Though you might specialize the bag somewhat I'll still call it BOB. Keep your BOB with you. It's your friend. You don't want your friend to get lonely do you? Not too long ago backpacks, and especially camo backpacks were unusual and drew a lot of attention in the business world. Not so much anymore. Even in airports, (which I strongly suggest you avoid), it is not unusual to see men in suits with camo accessories. In any event, my Kettlebell draws more attention than any backpack.
  4. Do not under any circumstances use BOB as your travel bag. They serve an different purposes. The get home bag is to get you home. It has no room for your work laptop, or even an extra change of socks for the trip. The next thing you know – you'll either leave BOB home or use it to live out of. I'm sure your luck will be better than mind, but I expect that about the one time I used BOB as a travel bag TEOTWAWKI would happen and I would be in the middle of nowhere with half-used resources.
  5. Stay fit. The road is a great place to break your diet and get weigh over your target weight (pun intended). If “it” happens, you may end up walking home at least part way with BOB on your back. Better to do so when you're in good shape. Pick the diet that works for you and stick to it. Carry your workout equipment and routine with you if you can. Exercise equipment varies widely from hotel to hotel; but my Kettlebell is always the same. I was at a national brand upper scale hotel and found that 4 of the 6 machines didn't work at all, and due to liability issues, you can pretty much forget about free weights in any hotel chain. Take responsibility for your own equipment and work out in your own room. From personal experience, I know that this more than doubles the likelihood that you will actually exercise. An additional advantage is the when working out in your hotel room, you never need worry about who is watching you. While I prefer the Kettlebell, other great options include elastic straps, weights that fill with water, and mats for stretching and yoga type exercises.
  6. Don't fly unless you absolutely must. Drive whenever you can. Airlines will make you leave or check all of your goodies. Unfortunately, the days of carrying even a pocketknife or multi-tool on a plane are gone forever; and (again) while your luck will probably be better than mine, my luggage is lost or late at least once per year. In 2008, I flew cross country with my company training materials checked in the plane. But it was hot that day and when I changed planes, they left my luggage on the ground to save enough weight to get the plane in the air. I was told that they could deliver the luggage “tomorrow” but I needed the materials by 7am the next day. So I sat in the terminal for 6 hours hoping my bags would show up on the next flight. BOB will do you no good if you are in Sacramento and BOB is in Los Angeles. So for business expediency, I have adopted a 4 hour rule: I will always drive if I can drive there within 4 hours of the door to door flight time. This is the equivalent of a ~500 mile radius. If the trip difference is less that 6 hours, I will usually drive, with my current location, this is the equivalent of a quarter of the US.
  7. If you must fly, try not to share rental cars with people outside your your own geographical locale. In the event of another airline emergency, the flights will be grounded and if you don't already have a car or rental then you probably won't get one. I was 800 miles from home on 9/11. I had to fly out to the job site, but fortunately already had a rental car and was able to drive home. Typically I shared a rental car with another manager three states away in the other direction; fortuitously, we had for this “one exception,” acquired separate cars for this trip. Had it not been for that exception, the other manager and I would have been flipping a coin for the right to take the car home. I have never broken this rule since.
  8. If you can legally carry a concealed handgun do so; and carry whenever you can. You never know when trouble is coming and just like your BOB or Get Home Bag; it will do you no good at home or locked in the trunk of your car. And let's face it, if you knew when and where trouble was coming, you wouldn't be going there in the first place right?
  9. Know your surroundings. Sit where you can see what's going on, don't just look around, look around continuously. Know who and what is around you. This applies not only in restaurants, but in hotels, businesses, and even (or especially) on the road. Use your eyes, ears and nose to let you know what's going on. While on a business trip to Milwaukee in the late 1990s I found myself sitting in a regional chain family diner during the late lunch period. The activity in the kitchen changed and we noticed that the smell of food was gone. My coworker and I got up, paid our bill and left the building. As we pulled out of the lot a fire engine (the big one with the pumps, ladders and such) pulled into the lot entryway and parked, blocking most everyone who was still inside.
  10. Be everybody's friend on the road. The waitress, the hotel clerk, the gas station attendant/clerk. Learn to tell a joke that doesn't offend anyone. Smile at everyone. You want to be that friendly guy that doesn't look like he'll harm a flea. Don't be the victim or the strong man. Both are targets for criminals, the victim for the opportunity to exploit, the strong man for his ability to interdict the criminal's plans.

Driving Tips for the Business Traveler:

  1. Don't park “nose in” to a parking spot. If you nose in, you have to back out. In the case of an emergency, you may need to fight traffic to back out and may not have have the luxury of the time to do so. Also, if you back in, then you have the opportunity to make sure that no one is following you. By the way, this includes your own house! Every year, I hear several stories about people who are robbed or worse by predators who follow the driver into the house through the garage door. Turn around, double check your surroundings and then open the door and back in. Close the door and then get out. My more paranoid friends will add that once you back in, put the car in drive until the door closes. This way if predators come to get you, you can go forward out of the garage and away from danger.
  2. Don't park where you can't get out. This includes areas near fire hydrants and dead end parking lots. If I have the choice, I don't park on the same side of the street as the  hydrant. Emergency vehicles will block you in. Losing your vehicle to a crime scene or other emergency makes it difficult to drive home.
  3. Be willing to walk away. Travel is like a delicate negotiation, if you're not willing to walk away, then you increase the odd that your costs will be higher. Be flexible. If you can't abide by the rules, be willing to walk away.  I've been known to drive a few miles out of my way for special food: Great ice cream in Cincinnati Ohio, the best prime rib in Milwaukee Wisconsin, incredible Carne Asada in Childersburg Alabama, and “can't get them anywhere else”Green Chile Rellenos in Albuquerque New Mexico. Actually, I've been known to take a hundred mile detour or more for great food. But more than once, I've driven through or past the lot even after a detour because either it didn't look right, or I couldn't park so I could get out. I'm probably paranoid. But I'm also very alive and haven't lost any stuff.
  4. Be willing to walk. Sometimes in order to comply with the park only where you can get out rule – you end up passing up the closest parking places. You can wear a jacket or hat if you don't want to get wet. Walking in to the building gives you the added advantage of time to check the place out inconspicuously. As with the previous tip, be willing to change your mind to go back to your vehicle and drive away. It something seems wrong, it probably is.
  5. Don't park under a street lamp and not in the dark either. You've got up to a couple grand in your emergency bag. The light makes is easy for criminals to see, the dark makes it easy for them to operate. Pick the middle ground if available.
  6. Don't show your stuff (Keep your mobile office hidden). If you mobile office is your life, don't expose your life to others. A lot of traveling professionals have near bleeding edge toys: laptops, PDAs, scanners, printers, GPS, etc. If you look like a traveling advertisement for the consumer electronics show – don't be surprised when people try to take it from you. Discretion is not only the heart of valor, but of security as well. Discrete does not mean to take all of your valuable stuff from the passenger seat and move it to the trunk whenever you stop for meals. I was at a truck stop in Ohio once where this guy did exactly that; and the entire truck stop watched him do it. Get creative and only have the stuff you need available when you stop. Keep the goodies hidden!
  7. This should be obvious, but: Keep your gas tank full. The questions you need to consider is: How many fuel stops will I have to make before I get home? If I have to turn around right now, can I make it back the way I came, or around an unexpected detour? I'll confess to have broken this rule a time or two trying to get the cheapest gas or stop at my favorite diner. It almost cost me big time when an accident on the interstate made me take a 15 mile detour through no-man's land. I made it to a gas station, but it could have easily gone the other way.
  8. Lastly, keep your car in good repair. Don't skimp on tires or fluids. Especially in inclement weather. One fluid that everyone forgets until they run out is washer fluid. Keep an extra gallon in your car. I shared mine a few years back with a sports car that ran out in middle Kentucky. It was the worst storm of the year and the station had run out of fluid to sell.

I think everyone here knows that preparedness is a much a matter of mind than stuff. And once everything goes south, this will be on everyone's mind. But I tend to view survival as as 24/7 issue: not just getting ready for when “it” happens, but anticipating that “it” could come at any time. And being ready. Blessings to you and yours.

Mr. Rawles,
Regarding the blog entry "Your Post-TEOTWAWKI Diaper Insurance," I wanted to add that the problem with the messiness of cloth diapers can be lessened by using disposable liners. Special liners are sold for use in cloth diapers, however a more cost effective solution is to dry out cheaper baby wipes and use those [as liners]. Thank you for your diligent service to the survival community. Keep up the great work. Sincerely, - JD in Richmond, Virginia

I love your blog site. About the article about cloth diapers -- they are easy to make and cheaper than bought ones. There was an article in Backwoods Home Magazine about making them.

Last year we had two grandbabies born and I made 3 dozen of each size for each baby. Cutting that much terry cloth was messy and the project time consuming, but well worth the effort. Their mothers used them and were glad to save money on disposable diapers. I suggest getting the snap machine and snaps to close the diapers, I never was successful sewing on the velcro.

Also, for the ladies, there are patterns on the Internet for making [washable] ladies menstrual pads. The same materials for babies diapers can be used to make these pads. Here is one of the web sites for patterns for making these.

Thank you for providing such a great site to share ideas for survival. - A Granny in the Woods


Mr. Rawles:
This was a good, informative article. There are a few things that I'd add for your readers:

1. You can save money on cloth diaper systems by buying them used.

2. You can also sew diapers yourself. I sewed pre-folds for our children from old flannel sheets and cotton terry cloth towels: a rectangular center pad of 6 layers of cotton flannel or 1 layer of terry cloth, sandwiched between two wider rectangles of flannel. I made them in three sizes, for newborns up to older toddlers. Leftover flannel scraps went into diaper doublers, cloth wipes, or "mama cloth" (see below).

3. If you can't spray dirty diapers, they can be scraped with an old spatula or an ice scraper for windshields. I've never dunked or sprayed diapers, though the hand-powered sprayer does sound useful.

4. For an emergency diaper, fold a washcloth into half or thirds and put inside a onesie; or use a flannel receiving blanket as a flat diaper, by folding it into a rectangle or triangle. Cloth diapers are easy to contrive--just look at what cotton fabrics you have on hand, and fold them into a shape that is thick in the right places and can be pinned onto the baby. Diaper covers are not quite so easy; in a pinch I would cut a triangle of polar fleece or old sweatshirt, and pin it on over the diaper.

5. Diaper pins are strong and don't rust, you may want to keep some around even if you don't have a baby.

6. At night and while traveling, the key to avoiding overflows seems to be to simply provide enough absorbency. We put a "doubler" (an extra pad of flannel, using scraps leftover after sewing diapers), or a smaller pre-fold diaper folded lengthwise, inside the diaper.

7. Cloth diapers may require some troubleshooting. Typical problems are recurring diaper rashes or diapers that are stinky after being washed. "Stripping" the diapers by washing them with a little Dawn dish detergent, and improving the diaper washing procedure may help. Direct sunlight will help disinfect diapers.

8. For the ladies, flannel "mama cloth" pads can also be made: 6 layers of flannel, or 2 layers of terry between 2 layers of flannel, sewed together into a pad shape. These are comfortable and do the job surprisingly well.

Thank you for your excellent blog, - Peggy

Hi Jim,
There are batteries becoming widely available these days with the lithium/iron-phosphate chemistry (different than the lithium/cobalt chemistry in laptop batteries). These lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4, or LFP) cells were first used in Dewalt brand lithium power tools. The main advantages are a vastly improved cycle life (2,000 - 7,000 cycles versus 500-800 for lead acid and 500-1000 for NiMH), high discharge current closer to lead acid, better deep-cycling performance, they won't explode like laptop batteries and need no maintenance, venting or caustic chemical refills and they operate at almost 100% efficiency. If you topped these batteries off once per year they should remain good for a decade or longer.

The only downsides are the price, which is higher than lead-acid (in Dollars per Amp-Hour) but less than other lithium or metal-hydride batteries. There is also the need for a programmable charger, which can be expensive. The cut-off voltage is unique, unlike lead-acid, NiCd and NiMH batteries, and the batteries will be damaged from overcharging. I've been using a disassembled Dewalt battery pack for my portable radio rig, with this "Dapter" charger. For a house-size battery bank, you could use the Outback Flexmax line of charge controllers, which are programmable from a PC. Most charge controllers support only lead-acid or have fixed settings for only the most common battery types. - Jeff M.

Hugh D. zeroed in on this Telegraph article: China orders retreat from risky assets. The article begins: "China has ordered managers of its vast currency reserves to withdraw from risky dollar assets and retreat to core debt guaranteed by the US government, a clear sign that Beijing is battening down the hatches for fresh trouble on global markets."

Randy F. sent this article: Monopoly "Money " --which notes that it is currently illegal to melt pennies or nickels, and the plans for further debasement of our currency.

Reader JTH found this: Bailout panel cites commercial real estate danger

UK central bank says it may restart debt monetization --after just r4ecently trumpeting the end of it. (Thanks to George Gordon for the link.)

Items from The Economatrix:

Money Supply Data Reveals "New Major Dip" Ahead

Famous Last Words: US Will "Never" Lose AAA Rating (Not as long as the fox is guarding the henhouse!)

The Dumping Begins: Chinese Reserve Managers Notified That Any Non-USG Guaranteed Securities Must Be Divested

Jobless Claims Figures Raises Hopes for Recovery (What a roller coaster this is...it's down...it's up...it's worse...it's better!)

Median Home Prices Show Signs of Stability (Someone saw a green shoot in a neighbor's front yard and misinterpreted it as an economic indicator...correction will soon follow!)

Citi Plans Crisis Derivatives

Darryl Robert Schoon--Davos: The Bomb Shelter

Stocks Swoon After China Brakes Spending Again

Eurozone Economy Falters, Germany Flat

The Rude Awakening of 2010

H.D. in Alaska recommended a piece by Mona Charen in National Review Online: "Frontier Suburbanite".

   o o o

Scientists Invent Rice That Doesn't Need Cooking. (Thanks to Joe P. for the link.)

   o o o

JRH Enterprises is running a President's Day sale on new Third Generation AN/PVS-14 night vision weapons sight/monoculars--now with a five year warranty--for $2,995. I bought one of these from JRH last summer, and I love it. I have it mounted on a "flat top" AR, just behind an Aimpoint Comp 3 electronic red dot scope (with a 2 MOA dot). With a flip of the throw-lever on the GG&G mount (sold separately) the PVS-14 detaches. This allows me to use it as a hand-held monocular, and makes the rifle available for daytime shooting. What a great combination! Orders yours, ASAP. Quantities are limited, and the sale ends sale ends on Tuesday!

   o o o

Tamara over at the View From the Porch blog posted a link to this blog piece: Beretta Revolver Shotgun – Taiwan Edition. It just goes to show, that if there's a will--and a milling machine- there's a way...

   o o o

Global Warming update: University of Oklahoma Student Collecting Pictures of [Simultaneous] Snow in All 50 States

"Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises; for never intending to go beyond promises, it costs nothing." - Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tomorrow is the last day in the 25% off sale at SafeCastle on all Mountain House foods in #10 cans is in progress. They are offering free shipping to the 48 continental states! The sale ends at midnight eastern time on February 13th, so order soon!


Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

After watching MacGyver as a kid I was left in a awe of how someone could create a diversion by blowing up an old abandoned shed in the middle of the woods with a  propane tank, child’s tricycle, the tire’s inner tube, three ball bearings, and a grinding wheel strategically placed near the shed window.  After he launched that “3rd and last chance” bearing, from the improvised “tricycle-sling-shot”, thru the window, striking the grinding wheel and igniting the propane filled shed…KA-BOOM!  My life was never the same…that was the start of my “improvising calling”.

My wife has graciously born the ups and downs of my “need-to-modify” mindset.  I appreciate that your site brings other improvisers to sit around the internet campfire and trade stories and real world, practical ideas.

So why I’m writing: I’m a blessed husband and proud father of two young boys. I’ve always had “how do I protect them” in the back of my mind.  So with that in mind my wife and I have been working on setting up our “emergency” stash.  A few months ago I started looking at the issue of diapers vs. “no-diapers.” This article is from a dad, to all the parents with little ones in diapers, or those anticipating future additions to the family.  The goal is to anticipate diaper changing issues in a prolonged emergency (while currently benefiting from the solution, even if the worst never happens).  I’ll explain that last statement by the end of the article.

Potential Problem

What do you do WHSHTF and there is no place to make a “disposable diaper run” to the store?  I like to call this the WTSHT-LOD scenario, where ”LOD” = Lack of Diapers.
If you think that changing diapers can be messy now; imagine no diapers, no wipes…and no place to get them...now that is a real crisis.   I can’t even imagine trying to change a poop total-diaper-blowout with some last-minute, improvised, t-shirt solution.  I don’t want my wife, nor myself for that matter, to have to be on diaper changing duty in a WTSHT-LOD scenario without a good back-up system.

Possible solution? 

Change to cloth diaper, now (or start kissing your t-shirt collection good-by)

Objection #1               But aren’t cloth diapers messy?

Reply # 2       
Yes…but all diapers are messy.  Cloth diapers are a bit more work, but my wife and I made the switch a year ago and figured out a system of rinsing out the poop into a bucket , then dumping the black water into the toilet.  The cloth diapers then get wash and dried like regular laundry. (I’ll go thru the details below).

Objection #2               But aren’t cloth diapers expensive?

Reply # 2

Think longer-term or call it “diaper insurance”.  We were spending around $60 a month on disposables, and decided to switch to a cloth system ($300 total). Cloth diapers paid themselves off in five months and now we’re ready if there are no disposables available. Plus they are now available for our second boy. Note: I pray we never have to run into a WTSHT-LOD scenario, but if we do, we have diaper insurance.  If it never happens, we save money.  (I wish my other insurance policies were so beneficial).

Objection #3               There are no cloth diapers available in my neck of the woods.

Reply # 3

            Do not get the Gerber brand “cloth diapers” that you might find in stores.  They are more suitable for waxing your car, changing oil or for use as a spit rag.  Using them as a true cloth diaper will only leave your child and yourself very disappointed.
            They have advanced a long way from the old-school style of cloth and pins. There are various different options out there now. We started with a www.fuzzibunz.com cloth diaper system (it uses a “pouch/layer” system to hold various absorbent layers that trap the urine and poop).  After trying that for a while my wife found www.softbums.com (it uses a “cover/layer” system where super absorbent inserts are laid onto the cover).  There are plenty of options out there, pick what works for you.  We like the Softbums (cover/layered system) because you simply change inserts and keep using the same diaper covers..  Additionally, they have a clever “adjustable cover system” (MacGyver would be proud).  The diaper cover grows with the child (saving money versus other systems that require buying bigger diaper covers as your child grows).

Note: My “review” of cloth diaper systems are limited to these two.  I’m sure there are other viable systems.  I’ve got no kickbacks or vested interests in it either. 

If you’ve gotten this far I figure you’re probably wondering: Okay, how do I make the switch?  I’ll go through that in the following paragraphs.

Note: If you happen to change over to cloth diapers don’t toss those disposables away.  They are great as a back up if the cloth diapers are in the wash/dryer.  Now that I think about it, they would be a great barter item.  While they can be bulky, disposable diapers might be the 1st thing that unprepared parents are looking for in a WTSHT-LOD scenario.

Speaking of this, can anyone shed some light with your experience on other uses of disposable diapers…improvised wound bandage?....perhaps even a desiccant (with the amount of  urine they soak up from my baby boys you could bail out a sinking battle ship or use it as a chemical spill boom. I’ve been tempted to toss them into my ammo cans and gun cabinet).

Equipment List

1.)         A long-term mind set (can’t buy in stores or on the web…but if you’re a prepper you’ve already acquired this item)
2.)         Buy a cloth diaper system (see above suggestions or surf the web for others)
3.)         5 gallon “rinsing” bucket to rinse off poop…any hardware store has these (don’t need a lid)
4.)         8 gallon “holding” bucket/container (preferably with a “pop-up” lid)
This will be used to hold rinsed diapers before being laundered.

Optional Equipment #1

             A hand-held sprayer (used to spray off poop from the diaper).  It works like the supplemental hand sprayer on some kitchen sink, but instead it attaches to the existing toilet water supply line.  Check out www.bumgenius.com or for the MacGyver out there you can probably make your own set-up with a trip to the plumbing section at you local hardware store. 
Note: I place this hand sprayer under “optional” but after I used it there was no other option.  The alternative to not using a water sprayer is to dunk the diaper directly into the toilet and agitate by hand. Which is not only messy but will leave you with seriously dry and cracked hands (bless those mothers who used to do it that way).  In a post-WTSHTF scenario you need your hands to be in good shape.  If you decide to use a cloth diaper system with the optional hand held sprayer you will still have to get your hands slightly dirty with the cleaning/wringing, but it will be much less than the dunking method.

Optional Equipment #2
            An unused hand-pump weed sprayer (like the ones found at any hardware store). Why? What if there is no water pressure?  This will provide “off-grid water pressure” in case there is no more water system and the previous toilet hand-held sprayer becomes useless.

How does our system work (with the “optional” hand held sprayer)?

  • When the diaper needs to be change for urine deposits, diapers go straight into the 8 gallon bucket and thrown into the laundry later.  These are the easy diaper changes.  If you want, you can rinse them with the hand held sprayer, although we don’t find this necessary
  • If there is a poop deposit, use a minimal amount of  toilet paper, take off as much poop as possible, and throw that combination straight into the toilet.
  • Now the fun part…Drape the messy diaper inside of the 5 gallon bucket (messy side facing the middle of the bucket)…Turn on the hand held sprayer and start firing.  Note: some poop issues are easier to clean up than others…better aim/technique will come with time…trust me.  If you’re good at the “water sprayer games” at the local fair this will be easy…almost fun. Who am I kidding? You’re spraying water at poop!  But I figure if you having to do this crappy job you might as well make a game of it.  Additionally, instead of getting the satisfaction of winning a big-blue teddy bear, you’ll win the ever incalculably valuable affection of your spouse.
  • When most, if not all, of the poop is off, wring out the cloth diaper and place in the 8 gal “holding” bucket.  When bucket gets full it’s time to do diaper laundry.

Use the black water that is left in the 5 gal “rinsing” bucket to manually flush the toilet.   Another good technique to learn: How to manually flush the toilet from a bucket (without splashing)?  Two keys to that are aim and steady, continuous follow-through.

How does our system work (without the “optional” hand held sprayer?)

  • Same as #1. 
  • This is the really messy part….instead of taking off the poop with toilet paper…you need to dunk the whole diaper with you hands and agitate until it’s all off.  Once again I seriously recommend investing in a hand sprayer.
  • Same as #4 above


While the cloth diaper system requires a little more labor than disposables, there are many advantages:

A.)        Most of all…you’ll have a fully funded “diaper insurance” policy that comes with a sense of peace when you encounter a WTSHT-LOD scenario

B.)        Save money verses disposables (long-term mindset)

C.)        Avoid the last-minute “honey-we’re-out-of-diapers” trip to the store

D.)        Reduce valuable storage space requirements for long-term disposables stash

Note: Even if you were able to buy a stash of disposables. How many cases of different sizes of diapers are you going to have to buy?  What if you have more than 1 child?  You might as well start building a dedicated “diaper storage shed.”  Let me know if you do, I’ll buy some stock in Pampers.

Follow-up note:  Even if you had the cash and storage space for a shed full of diapers, what would you do if you had to G.O.O.D.?  I can see it now, an SUV with a pop-up trailer filled with disposables tearing down the road with a crazed mob of diaperless parents hot on their tail.

E.)        While I would not rely on disposable diapers for my kids, I would think that in a WTSHT-LOD event, disposables (if you have the space to store them) would be a valuable barter item for non-prepared parents.

F.)        If you get the “weed-sprayer” you now have a “grid-down-proof” way of getting pressurized water for not just diaper cleaning but also for rinsing dishes, final bathing rinse in the shower and other water pressure needs.

Hi Jim,
We have been dehydrating foods for a couple of years now and I thought you might like to hear how things went for us.

Green beans are dried down south and are called leather breeches. You can do a Google for recipes. Traditionally you use a sewing needle and sew a string through the green bean and then hang them to dry. We blanched the beans prior to drying in our dehydrator. After the beans were dried we wrapped a handful of the beans in a paper towel and shrink wrapped the package. The paper towel protects the plastic bag from the pointy beans.

To cook, simply soak in water overnight and cook as if you were cooking a fresh green bean. We made ours with pork hock, some shelled dried horticultural beans and potatoes. We cooked them for 12 hours in a crock pot, excellent. Be sure to freeze the beans for three days before putting them in storage because those pesky moths will hatch in them if they are around your area.

Potatoes. We recently came into some free potatoes, some will store in the root cellar but the biggest part needed worked on right away. Scrubbed them, sliced them and placed them in a salt brine for a few minutes.( this helps keep them from turning brown) then into the dehydrator for 24 hours. Dehydration rate is 5:1, for every 5 lbs of fresh potatoes you get 1 lb of dried. The next batch we’ll run through the food processor and make hash browns, then we’ll dry them like the slices. Vacuum packed, these, like the green beans will keep for years.

Tomatoes, we sun dried when there was Sun available and then finished the tomatoes pieces off in the dehydrator. We cut the tomatoes into roughly ¼” wedges and gave them a light coating of salt before setting them out. Use caution as they make a lot of juice at first , we filled a dehydrator without first air drying them in the sun first and drowned the dehydrator in tomato juice. After the wedges are dry but slightly rubbery tightly pack a jar and cover with olive oil. The olive oil keeps the oxygen off the tomatoes, we ate some from last summer last night six months later and they were great.

Eggplant, we sliced, dried and vacuum packed. After soaking in water to rehydrate we found the eggplant was every bit as good as fresh only it was slightly firmer.

We raise our own Shitake mushrooms and when we have a big bloom we will slice and dry these also. If Abigail is making soup the mushrooms will go directly into the pot without soaking first.

We really like drying foods as an addition to our other methods of food preservation; it stores in a smaller area but does require some planning when fixing meals so as to allow enough time to rehydrate. Yours, - John & Abigail Adams

Mr. Rawles:
I loved the letter on the iphone. In addition to what LC listed there are also ballistics calculators for the math-challenged like me. (iStrelok is free and works pretty well). One caveat to consider with the mighty smart phone is the fact that it could potentially be used to locate your location and perhaps even as a bug to listen in on conversations. One work-around is to buy an iPod Touch. You loose the phone and GPS features, but you can still carry God's word and all your multimedia in your pocket!

Thanks again for all you do and God bless, - Red in Oklahoma

JWR Adds: For more detailed ballistics calculations, one of my favorite web sites is JBMBallistics.com. I like their ballistics calculators so much that I included a mention of the site by name in my upcoming sequel to "Patriots" . (Scheduled for release in early 2011.) I recommend developing bullet drop and wind drift tables for the standard loads for each of your centerfire rifles. Print them out on card stock, laminate them to make them weatherproof, and either tape them to your rifle's buttstock, or carry them in each of your buttstock-mounted ammo/utility pouches.

Karen H. forwarded this news item: High sugar prices will soon hit bakeries. Here at SurvivalBlog, we warned you about this as far back as May of 2009. Stock up. (But preferably with more healthy natural sweeteners like honey and stevia.)

   o o o

Bruce T. spotted this in Popular Science magazine: New Armored Wall System Assembles Like Legos, Could Replace Sandbags in Afghanistan. Somehow, I doubt that these Big Boy Legos will ever see much use outside of "Green Zone" roadblock set-ups. Let's face it: Empty sandbags are cheap, and they fit in a backpack. It is safe to predict that sandbags will still be used for a few more centuries. They'll just start making them from Kevlar, or goat milk spider silk, or somesuch.

   o o o

The BBC report: GPS to suffer from awakening sun; As the Sun exits its period of solar activity and the numbers of flares increase, users of sat-nav technology will face errors and outages. (A hat tip to Mac The Gadget Guy, for the link.)

   o o o

Don W. sent us an article to file under: Big City OPSEC: Police: Man with weapons cache was preparing for 'Armageddon'. (This comes from Massachusetts, the birthplace of the American Revolution. My, how times change, and how attitudes differ, regionally. Here in the Unnamed Western State, the sheriff's deputies would just say : "Nice gun collection", and "Gee, what a great place to do some pistol practice, when its snowing." (Or, if inside city limits, they'd probably just issue a stern warning.) Here is William Norman Grigg's insightful take on this, posted over at the Lew Rockwell blog: Paramilitary Thugs Steal Private Arms Collection.

"As things get worse the next time around, there is going to be violence. When the people realize A.) that what the government has done has been wrong, B.) it hasn't solved the problem, C.) it has made the problems worse, you are going to see people unhappy, you are going to see social unrest, you are going to see violence, and you will probably see some more governments toppled--no question about that. That may sound like a radical statement; it's just the way the world has always worked." - Veteran investment guru Jim Rogers, February, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

James Wesley:
A buddy of mine and I were talking about giving out food in a post-collapse world and it occurred to us what we give out could have an impact on your operational security (OPSEC). Unless you come upon the refugees in the middle of your garden, then they'll probably think (unless you tell them or give them reason to believe otherwise) that you are in much the same situation that they are in. The type of food you give charitably could be a message in and of itself.

Give them store-bought food standard-form (processed food that can be picked up at a regular grocery store, in #2.5 size cans) and that tells them "I have some food"

Give them store-bought food in bulk-form (#10 cans, bags of rice, grain or any of the such) and that tells them "I have a prepared stockpile of food"

Give them standard garden-fresh vegetables (carrots, lettuce, the "salad foods") tells them "I have a small source of food"

Give them orchard-grade foods (apples, pomegranates, anything that comes from high-maintenance plants or old-growth plants, or fresh meats other than perhaps deer or common game) says "I have a large and capable food supply"

In the large scheme of things it may be more of an afterthought, but it would be one less thing to draw attention to your group. In my heart I want to help as many people as I can however I can, but my primary responsibility is my family and any others under my care. If people know you have a large source of diverse foodstuffs it makes you an all the more tempting target. Take care, - WPK

JWR Replies: As I've mentioned before in SurvivalBlog. in the event of a societal collapse, I plan to distribute charity anonymously, through a third party: my local church. I believe in "giving until it hurts", but not in getting oneself hurt while trying to give.

In these uncertain times many of us are preparing, some for economic collapse others for a coming pandemic or EMP strike, either natural or man made. Not having the option of relocating to a more ideal area my wife and I decided a few months ago to try to stack the odds in our favor by going a little different route. We have been able to partner with other local families and friends to be each others back-up and support systems. We initially started with just three families (6 of us total) and thru careful vetting and many meetings we have now grown to almost 16 families totaling about 40 people. All of these families have demonstrated a commitment to the group and are either past preppers (Y2K) or those that really "get it". We have been able to find just about every talent we think we may need with the exception of a physician. However, we do have a well-experienced emergency room nurse and a veterinarian.

Realizing that we are not in the best of positions we have been to each others homes and properties and have done what we believe are honest assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of each location. We have looked at location and surrounding areas, water availability, defensibility, lines of approach and egress, construction, heating and alternative energy methods, land available to till and plant. We have found that about half of the locations are too small or are too vulnerable to be of much use so those families will automatically be bunking in with others when the need comes as well as storing their supplies with those families now. As a group we have tried to identify and define what triggers we will use to implement our plans. In the case of a long slow slide to economic collapse we will have some time to sit back and monitor the situation, in the case of something major we have plans for our group to divide into three different locations in our township. We feel that this will give us the ability to not only support each other but will give us fall back positions to go to in the event we are forced out of one particular area.

This has not been an easy venture. We have had some people who would like to join that had personalities that just didn't fit well with the rest of the group. Some people were just too radical, some lazy and argumentative, some wanted the comfort of a backup without being willing to contribute anything to the group, let alone for their own welfare. We have found that group dinners and work days have not only strengthened our bond with each other but has led to some real friendships that we may not have been able to forge. Easy, no, but worthwhile, yes. While we may not be in the best of locations we have through hard work put together a group of people and the synergy that comes along with it. One family alone in this area has no chance, but us, I think we have a fighting change of getting through the times ahead.

Thanks for all you do. K. J., - Somewhere in Ohio

In reading your article on choosing survival guns I noticed that you have a Savage Model 24F listed. Do you have any experience or opinions on the Valmet 412 ST, with barrels for 12 gauge and .30-06? I want to buy one but did not know if it would be a good choice for putting on the list for survival guns. Thank you ,- John

JWR Replies: Combination guns are quite useful for areas where you have the opportunity to do both big game and bird hunting on the same hunt. There is many a time that I've been out on a deer or elk hunt and wished that I had a pistol or shotgun with me to hunt grouse, especially when I've been walking back to my truck, late in the morning. At lest that way I wouldn't have gone home empty -handed.

Combination guns are of course not the best guns for self-defense. But if combination guns are the approach you want to take for hunting and garden pest shooting, then the Valmet 412 is the "Cadillac" choice. Just keep in mind that for the same cost of buying one Valmet you could buy two Savage 24s--providing a wider range of calibers. For example, you could have one that is chambered .22 LR over 20 gauge, and another that is .223 over 12 gauge.

Dear Jim,
I was trying to buy an Aladdin Loxon Mantle #R-150 for my Aladdin kerosene lamp and found that all suppliers seemed to be out of stock. Even Lehman's Hardware here in Ohio was out of stock and showing an April delivery. I spent some time searching and found some very expensive ones on eBay but that was all. I then did a search for "Aladdin mantle problems" and found a cached press release from the Aladdin company. It looks like we have a major problem for Aladdin Lamp owners. From a loyal reader, - Jay H.

JWR Replies: Hopefully this situation will be resolved soon. An aside: My parents thought that I was going overboard, when I bought three spare Aladdin wicks and a dozen spare mantles, back in 1979. In those days, an Aladdin lamp cost around $60, and spare mantles were less than $2 each. I still have a few mantles remaining from that first batch. As with most of my other Alpha Strategy tangible investments, items bought early on and stored properly have proven to be better that money in the bank!

I depend on your invaluable books and Blog daily. I wanted to share with you and your readers my Archives Library system for when SHTF.

I have an iPhone 3Gs ( and a spare one ). I feel that this is a more readily accessible and portable device as compared to a Kindle. I have loaded with many useful applications ("apps") for survival and references. The main apps are :

Carpenters Helper

Photo Album and iTunes (for family viewing of pictures and my DVD collection DVDs ripped at 700Kbps VBR 2 pass h.264 is pretty good and saves on space)
MotionX GPS 9.4 and more importantly the now localized maps for it. (This is for once cell phone networks are non-functional.)
Morse Decoder and Encoder (for semi-secure transmission... just increase the WPM count, the put the iphone next to the receiver and type your text and it will send our tones, at the other end you do the same with the decoder tool
Bible Reader4 - allows you to read the entire Bible offline

Most importantly, I use Evernote which is my central library for all my other reference content, from clipped content to the web, to PDF books and all my scanned household legal documents. Evernote can sync content between multiple clients to the web but nonetheless have it localized on all hosts (that means I populate evernote from my laptop, it's replicated to their hosting site and then sync'ed to my iPhone). Note that Evernote is available for PC, Mac/iPhone, Blackberry and WindowsCE.

Interestingly, I have downloaded all the pertinent blogs and web sites of importance to it for my portable reference guides using Site Sucker and other similar apps (Note for blogs where you don't care for the images, just download the HTML files)

I use a SOLIO for photovoltaically charging my phone

Finally I have both a Otterbox Defender Case (for day to day work) and a Otterbox Armor for when I am transporting it in heavy rain or over water.

God Bless, - LC

Dear JWR:

In article in the February 9th edition of SurvivalBlog, author JIR wrote: "There is no substitute for a good anvil. The bigger it is, the more stable it is and the more enjoyable it is to work with. But, if you need to, you can get by with using almost any heavy chunk of steel or even a big rock. My first anvil was a 16 pound sledgehammer head and it worked pretty well."

The following three links offer descriptions and some thoughts regarding the construction of anvils from short sections of former railroad rail. Though not as suitable as a purpose-built anvil, they'll do as a field-expedient substitute, either until something better can be obtained or arranged, or as a spare or secondary backup anvil to a 'smith's real workday unit.

I hope this info is of use to other potential anvil beaters! - George S.

There are just two days left in the 25% off sale at SafeCastle on all Mountain House foods in #10 cans is in progress. They are offering free shipping to the 48 continental states! The sale ends on February 13th, so order soon!

   o o o

"Hokie" sent us this: High demand for road salt prompts rationing in Maryland and Virginia

   o o o

Just one week remains in Directive 21's sale on the Royal Berkey water filters. Presently just $262.50, the price will revert to $275, on the 18th of February.

   o o o

More about the USDA's plans replace the NAIS plan, posted over at the Truth Farmer blog: Easter Bunny Reports "NAIS is Dead!!!!"

"Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state." - Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

It was the summer of 1985 and I was deep in the rain forest near the ruins of the ancient city of Tikal in Guatemala. Talking over the cries of howler monkeys, the guide showed us a small cave that had been uncovered on the side of the road. He told us this was one of many caches archeologists had found around the outskirts of the crumbling city. Some had contained only empty containers, and some had been full of grain and other food items. Could some of the citizens of Tikal, preparing for what they saw as the inevitable collapse of their civilization, been preparing by caching supplies around their doomed city? Whether they did or didn’t the fact remains that caching can be an extremely effective survival tool. It is my understanding that the Apache Indians had several caches in the Guadalupe Mountains and elsewhere when fighting U.S. Cavalry units at the end of the last century. Caching allows you to spread out supplies so if any one area is hit, you have a fallback position and have not lost all of your resources. However, caches have other benefits as well. In finding and placing caches you learn your area inside and out. You can also learn how to navigate with or without a map and compass. In short it is good preparation and teaches you good skills.

I live in a small town in Central Texas (we call it "The Hill Country") near a large river. I live in an average suburban house. As a teacher I cannot afford to pay for the perfect retreat. I can only do my best to prepare for the worst right where I am. However, I know I can hedge my bets by getting to know my area of operations as best I can before disaster strikes. In so doing, I can also place caches of supplies and have fallback camps if my home becomes endangered. The best way I have found to do this is through the modern art of geocaching.
Geocaching is aptly described on the web site www.geocaching.com as follows:

“Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online.
Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.”

And that same web site is probably the best place to get started in your geocaching adventures. Geocaching is a great way to learn your area. It will also train you to effectively place and find caches around your area of operations. It does, however, depend on a high tech (global positioning system (GPS) network and satellites that may be susceptible to destruction or an electromagnetic pulse. Therefore, after learning with a GPS you may want to start using map, compass, and landmarks to locate caches. A great book and a true classic on orienteering is "Be Expert with Map and Compass: The Complete Orienteering Handbook" by Bjorn Kjellstrom.

I could go into all these skills but you really just need to explore the resources mentioned above and practice, practice, practice! What I want to spend the rest of this article on is where to cache, how to cache, and what to cache. Although caches can and are placed in the middle of cities, I prefer placing mine on public lands with heavy cover or on my own property. I also have permission from friends to place caches on their property. This avoids potential conflicts with law enforcement; the discovery by “muggles” (non-geocaching folk); and respects the rights of private landowners.

Containers should be watertight and a color that matches the landscape. I like using ammo cans. I wrap the seal with camo duck tape and add additional protection by placing my items in Tupperware or sealing them in vacuum bags. That way, if the can is penetrated by water, my items are still safe and sound. For this article, I recently went back to Houston where I placed an above ground cache along Buffalo Bayou right before Hurricane Katrina. The ammo can was still intact and everything inside looked just like it did when I placed it. I then took the opportunity to cache it in my new area of operations. Keeping caches small and portable is a big advantage!

What you put in your cache really depends on what you anticipate your needs will be. I usually place food, emergency blankets, water, and water purification systems in my caches. I have found that the Katadyn water filter systems have held up the best on my backpacking trips. A cheaper and smaller alternative is water purification tablets or straws. A good collapsible water container is also a must. Those new water purifier bottles make a good addition to any cache or G.O.O.D. pack. Make sure to write down any expiration dates on food, water, glow sticks, etc. on your cache location sheets and rotate out items as needed.

Another good choice for your cache is non perishable medical supplies such as bandages. But until the Schumer hits the fan, you should not cache anything that could be considered the least bit dangerous such as firearms or ammunition unless it is on your own property. Even then, you may want to break firearms down and cache the pieces in different locations. Boxes of ammunition store great if vacuum sealed. I don’t even presently cache fire starting materials for the sake of safety, although I sure keep them ready in my G.O.O.D. bag.
One thing geocachers don’t do but preppercachers (my own term) can do is bury your booty. This makes it almost impossible for others to find. If you do this make sure to camouflage your dig site well with natural materials until time and rain make things less obvious. Also, make sure to record your cache locations on paper. I keep a coded list of my locations in my wallet, another in my G.O.O.D. bag, and yet another in my gun safe at home. A cache is worthless if you cannot find it again. I also visit my caches once in a while to make sure I can find them and that they are still intact. Because I do this I can usually locate my caches without a GPS receiver or map and compass. I simply navigate using landmarks. A great book on landmark navigation is "Finding Your Way Without Map or Compas"sby Harold Gatty. Once again, make sure you write expiration dates on your list. That way you can rotate items out and use them before they expire.

In conclusion, I enjoy geocaching with my family, it has allowed us to learn to work as a team. We all now know how to navigate with GPS units, map and compass, or by using landmarks. We also have learned how to travel quietly through the landscape without being detected by muggles. Geocaching is not only fun but allows you to practice some very important survival skills. Also, preppercaching is a great way to spread out your resources and not put all of your eggs in one basket. But please, when you are caching remember to avoid dangerous items and respect the rights of private landowners! A carefully thought out and placed cache may very well save your life someday!

Greetings Jim,
I hope this letter finds you well. I wanted to touch on a few topics that may interest some of your readers.

I have been in many phases of the construction trade for 18 years, I live on the edge a medium sized city, and like so many others, because of my work, and the need for a population to support my livelihood, my options are limited as to where I live, so I will have to make do with where I am. Being in the construction industry, I learned early on that it's Feast or Feathers, so the mentality of not over extending myself is a practiced form of life. The first thing I did to prepare for the inevitable, and sustained "feathers" portion of the economy was to make my home purchase one that would not over extend me debt wise. Second, was the ability to pay the taxes without too much pain. I believe that property tax, is going to be the focus of local governments in the near future, especially as they look for ways to close in on mounting deficits . Give them a reason to confiscate, and they surely will move in that direction in favor of revenue enhancing programs. Given that property tax is almost always adjusted up to reflect the improvements on your home, I have seen mine literally double in 4 years, and I still have two major projects left before my property is ( considered by me) a suitable, safe place to ride "it" out.

I have focused on building a bartering network to offset the cost of projects.Most of my improvements have been done in the form of bartering with other trades people. Bartering has also allowed me to acquire expensive services that would otherwise set me back financially, I trade with my dentist, my lawyer, my accountant. and even with a couple of suppliers. I have found that many of these professions are eager to avoid the hassles and punitive measures that often accompany the regular coarse of business. Which brings me to my next point. Permits and Inspections.

Home improvements always come with an array of rules and regulation, many of these are understandable for safety sake, However, many are simply [revenue] fodder. (A permit for the replacement of a hot water heater, for example.) But one thing they all have in common is that it allows your Local Government to know things that should otherwise be none of their business. Pulling permits to see who has what, and who has done what, where, is something that can be used against citizens in times of crisis.

The Government surely doesn't inform it's citizens when it undertakes a project to protect it's leaders for times of emergency. (The massive bunker built for the US Congress beneath the Greenbriar Hotel in West Virginia comes to mind ) The citizen preparing for times of crisis or worse, should not be fooled into thinking that the permit they pulled to build that hidden underground room for food,ammo, supplies and "other" storage and equipment won't be used against them to search for supplies that can be redistributed for the "good of the public" I certainly do not advocate living life by breaking laws, But we live in times that I feel warrant certain acts of self preservation.

In making a decision to build, some of the more elaborate projects, such as, subterranean bunkers, with concrete ceilings/ outdoor patio. require engineering to be built safely, so do your homework and don't scrimp on safety. Search out Tradesmen who are thoroughly experienced in their field, and follow their advice and recommendations.

Remember to offer your line of expertise, if you have a skill, or profession, no matter what it may be, you may be able trade out some or part of your project. speak up!, don't be shy make an offer, bartering/trading deals are no longer made in back rooms and bar rooms, it has become a widely accepted form of doing business, every single trade in the construction industry is marred with inspections and regulations, government intrusion and permissions.. tradesmen are happy to avoid the ones they can... If you do trade, remember to emphasis networking, trading is fast becoming one of the only affordable ways to get yourself in position for the inevitable. if you have a tradesman working for you who needs car repairs, dental work, landscaping or even a baby-sitter for his kids.. offer to "spread the word"..practice this form of doing business now. If you are a simple construction worker like myself, don't shy away from the high end professions like doctors, lawyers, and dentists. Many of them are eager to trade.

May God bless us through difficult times, and may the coming challenges give us strength to endure. - Larry O.

Letter Re: Some Real World Battery Life Data

The recent article by 'Cactus Jim' got me thinking about a type of battery rarely mentioned, the 'dry-charged' lead acid, where the end-user fills the battery with acid after purchase.

Initial impression is that this type, if kept sealed in a temperature and humidity stable environment, could last indefinitely, only being flooded and charged when needed. Battery acid is stable and does not deteriorate if kept sealed.

Our local NAPA auto parts store stocks small (motorcycle/garden tractor) units and will special order most any size 12v battery. Price is the same as for the equivalent wet-charged units except the acid must be purchased

If you have any experience with these batteries perhaps you could relate the info to your readers. - Steven J.S.

JWR Replies: Be advised that most of the "just add acid" batteries sold by automotive parts dealers are identical to standard production batteries, but merely "spun dry", after the batteries are factory tested. This leaves traces of battery acid that will cause some sulfation of the battery plates. Also, most of these batteries are designed for engine starting --not true deep cycle duty. But conceivably if you can get dry-condition storage batteries from a battery vendor (such as your local Trojan dealer), then you could leave one of these batteries on the shelf for a couple of decades, add acid, and it would still have a 5+ year service life. In a long-term gird-down scenario, that sure beats the alternative!

When storing carboys of battery acid for this purpose, keep in mind that you' and your helper will need to have the appropriate safety gear, to wit: an apron, heavy rubber gloves, goggles, boots with thick uppers (or better yet, rubber "mud" boots--called "Wellies" in the UK), and a full-coverage heavy long sleeve shirt. OBTW, one trick that my father taught me to keep plastic acid funnels from tipping: Clamp the funnel's lip "tab" in a pair of Vise Grip pliers, to use as a handle.

In response to the recently-posted writing contest article The Cessna 172 Bug Out Plan, by Captain Zoobie:

1. Unleaded gas works perfectly well in Cessna 172s. (Just use some leaded fuel once in awhile to lube the valves). Even with an open window, fumes from gasoline containers in the cockpit will likely be unbearable, especially at altitude! (You have to vent them or they might burst as you climb, the original poster should know this.)

2. If you want to be able to get out in an emergency, you should hangar your plane at a small airport and get out before authorities have time to come out and shut it down. Any larger airport will likely have the runways blocked with vehicles, and you might even get shot down by small arms fire if you try to escape.

3. In a real emergency, there will likely be a nationwide no-fly order in effect immediately, as on 9/11 and thereafter. If you want to escape with a no-fly order in effect, you'd better be able to fly at treetop level, and it would be best to know where radar stations are so you can stay over their horizon. If you fly at 8,500 feet, you are likely to get shot down. In any event, true preparedness would include a way to get down, get to a stashed vehicle, and then get away from the area before authorities show up looking for the 'terrorist' who defied the no-fly order. And if it's your own airplane, they'll know where to look for you. Quickly.

4. Add in one passenger, and the whole weight equation changes. It is better to have a place you can fly to where your stuff is stashed, and that you can drive to if weather is bad. A couple old vehicles at the destination with full tanks of fuel wouldn't be a bad idea either, for use as a fuel cache or escape, depending on conditions.

Conclusion: The airplane as a bug-out tool can be useful if there are warning signs of impending nuclear attack (don't rely on government or news to warn you explicitly), or if society breaks down enough that authorities won't have the resources to stop you. Otherwise, it falls under the heading of 'the more complicated and high-tech your emergency plans are, the more likely something will go wrong when you need them most'.

I'm a pilot, too, and love to dream about using an airplane to bug out. But the reality of it is, it's probably only going to be useful if it's used before TSHTF. Weather, conditions at the departure and destination points, potential hazards en route, ability to even get to your airplane, and running afoul of the air defenses of our military are just a few of the things that can foil this escape strategy.

Thanks for a great blog, - Anonymous John


I think Captain Zoobie has a good beginning on a plan to use his Cessna 172 as a bug out vehicle, but there are a few things I would like to add.

* Beware of density altitude.

I live in the Sierra, and the nearest air port is Truckee (TRK). The airport is at about 5,900 feet MSL, but on a hot summer day the air can thin out so that the density (equivalent) altitude is 9,000 feet! When the air is that thin, you have 15% less power, 15% less thrust, 15% lift, etc.. Experienced pilots have killed themselves (and family members) because they underestimated the effects of density altitude. If there is any chance that Capt. Zoobie may do some mountain flying, I recommend he get dual time with an instructor who is well versed in mountain flying. Also, there is a gem of a book "Mountain Flying Bible " by Sparky Imeson. This is an excellent introduction to issues he will need to know about.

* Do a trial run packing the aircraft.

There is no substitute for practice. This also includes packing the aircraft and determining if all of that gear will actually fit. I would also suggest taking notes on the packing process if it turns out there are special 'hints' he should remember for next time.

* Is the useful load really 900 pounds?

It's been awhile, so my memory may be faulty, but I thought the 172 had a useful load closer to 700 pounds. In any case, the Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH) for the model in use is the gospel. Keep in mind that while the maximum load is legal, and structurally safe, the handling response will be degraded and he should avoid situations where rapid or violent control inputs are necessary (such as spin recovery).

* Ham Radio Repeater Networks

I've recently discovered that there are 2 meter ham radio repeater networks in areas I would not have imagined. If Captain Zoobie has a 2 meter band handheld, he can probably get very good intel on what's going on in the area, before he exposes his aircraft to danger. It
would be handy to laminate a list of repeaters, frequencies and PL tones that he will be traveling near. 73 and Best of Luck, - Bear in the Sierra

The BHO administration seems bent on paving their way out of the recession, with $20 billion in new road and bridge building contracts. But I'm dubious about how efficacious this will be in creating permanent jobs, and boosting economy. This is all just sinking us (collectively) deeper in debt. Take a look at Japan's massive road building program in the1990s. It certainly didn't buy them an economic recovery. How can the BHO administration expect anything different?

Chad flagged this: Is Washington's tax exemption on bullion a gold mine? [JWR Adds: As the majority of the 50 States get increasingly desperate for revenue, we can expect to see similar headlines pop up soon.]

GG sent this: Rash of retirements pushes Social Security to brink.

The Other Jim R. sent this: Italy Seizes Bank of America, Dexia Assets in Derivatives Probe

Items from The Economatrix:

Public Employees: Rolling in Dough

In Praise of Mammoth Deficits

What's a College Degree Really Worth?

Baltic Dry Index Collapses 40%, Signal Further Worldwide Economic Weakness

Mexican GDP Down 6.8% in 2009, Worst in 30 Years

Crisis Looms in Japan as its Economy Slowly Melts

Stocks Trade Mixed as European Debt Woes Remain

Stock Futures Climb Ahead of Opening

EU Searches for Way Out of Debt Crisis

Oil Above $72 on Weakening Dollar

European Stocks Up Cautiously on Hopes for Greece

Reader Dick S. mentioned that there's a great article in the February issue of Field & Stream magazine, titled; "The Ultimate Survivor: Life in the wild with Alaska's toughest trapper."

   o o o

The 25% off sale at SafeCastle on all Mountain House foods in #10 cans is in progress. They are offering free shipping to the 48 continental states! The sale ends on February 13th, so order soon!

   o o o

The recent article titled "Forges Foundries, and Factories" by JIR prompted several readers to write to remind me about the wealth of resources on traditional skills, published by Lindsay Books. Yes, they've been mentioned before in SurvivalBlog, but it bears repeating. BTW, one of their latest titles is devoted wood gasification--alowing you to make electricity from firewood.

   o o o

The folks at Medical Corps are holding another one of their excellent three-day "Combat/Field Medicine School" courses, from April 30th through May 2nd. The class will be held near Caldwell, Ohio at the Ohio State University Extension building. Contact: Chuck Fenwick at 740-783-8009 for details.

"Ultimately, property rights and personal rights are the same thing. The one cannot be preserved if the other be violated." - Calvin Coolidge

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Today we present two entries for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

While you are deciding what to store away, don't forget about the needs of your grandchildren. They will need reference books. After TEOTWAWKI, any survivors in the USA will be living on capital. I am talking about capital in the form of basic commodities, like grain, legumes, clothes, fuels, and machines. Some of this capital needs to be replaced almost immediately, like food, for instance, but some of it will take generations to wear out completely. Until we can replace everything we use up, we will not be truly recovered. Eventually, we will need to replace our generators, tractors, firearms, cloth, etc. Within a couple of generations, we will need to replace our basic garden tools like shovels and hoes and plows. Finally, we will need to resume production of basic materials like steel. We may be able to lean on other countries during our recovery, but It's going to be a long backward road for a long time until we can build and replace the capital we have now.

We used to be a powerful industrial nation, but today, we are not. Most manufacturing capability in the USA has been "outsourced" to China. The metal fabrication shops in the USA evolved over time into larger and more sophisticated (and more efficient) factories and were eventually defeated in the global market by cheap labor overseas. Now, a generation later, we are running out of people who even know how to cast or shape metal. Even as late as 1960, mom and pop metal shops were fairly common in the USA. I remember back when I was a boy, my uncle needed a tractor part that was no longer produced. He simply went to the metal shop in town and handed them the broken part. They made him a new one in a few days and helped him install it on his tractor. This capability has mostly disappeared in the US.

Metal working has become complex and very exact since the 1950s. The tolerances have gotten so tight that manual lathes and mills can't compete with specialized machines anymore. The equipment has gotten outrageously expensive and largely depends on micro-chips. To compete in the global market, you have to use very specialized tools and machines, or cheap labor. The cost of production has dropped so low that local shops with basic equipment can't compete and have slowly been replaced by cell phone vendors or other service economy businesses. A major economic crisis or EMP event would likely destroy most of our remaining production capability (or make the products they currently produce obsolete along with their specialized production facilities).

We need to preserve and pass on as much industrial knowledge as we can to the next generation and the next, because it is our grandchildren who will have the leisure time and capital to rebuild. Our own generation will be too busy providing bare necessities. After TEOTWAWKI, who is going to make pumps and critical parts for important machines? The answer is: Your children and grandchildren. If you can't master and pass on these critical skills, at least buy and store some books. I have some recommendations under each topic. You probably also need to store school books of all kinds, and begin formal home schooling almost immediately after a collapse, so the light of knowledge doesn't flicker out. Make reading, writing and math important to your children so they will pass it on.

If you are able to do it, passing down the skills directly to your descendants is the best approach. Working with your kids to teach them metal working skills can be a powerful way to grow together and instills the child with a sense of empowerment. "Bending the black metal to your will" is a powerful feeling. Metal work builds character and makes you feel like you have some control over the world. You feel like you can accomplish anything.

I believe a basic machine shop with a foundry and forge will be almost immediately valuable after TEOTWAWKI if you can get it up and running again without the power grid. Critical machines in your community will need repairs and parts will need to be fabricated and other machines will need to be adapted to new uses. This is fairly easy work if you have a well equipped shop and some skill. I have no doubt your machine shop will be in big demand pretty quick. The good news is, you can set up your own basic metal shop for a few thousand dollars. For under $5k, you can have a very efficient one or two man shop. You can also acquire metal working skills for free in your spare time as a hobby. The bad news is, you probably won't be able to make much money casting and machining from your home shop. It won't ever pay for itself as long as your work has to compete with China and the throw-away economy. Metal work in a home shop is more of a hobby these days than a valid business plan.

Critical capabilities:

-Smelting. Not immediately useful. This is the ability to turn ores into finished metals. Usually, this is accomplished by cooking ores with the appropriate fluxes and adding elements you want in the finished metal. Some metals like aluminum also require complex processing like electrolysis. (There was no such thing as [large scale production] refined aluminum until 1825.) With all the refined metal we have laying around on the planet, I see no need to learn and practice these arcane skills for many generations after TEOTWAWKI. Visit any junkyard and you can pick up tons of metal better than you could produce yourself. Raw materials are not an issue IMHO and if you have a good supply of general reference books, that's probably all you should do to preserve this knowledge.

-Founding. This is the ability to melt metal and cast it into a rough shape. If you keep this simple it's much easier than you probably think and can be done on a tiny scale in your back yard. Each metal alloy has a different melting point (and obviously many other different properties). Casting aluminum alloys requires a foundry capable of reaching only 1,250F while casting steel requires a much more robust foundry that can reach close to 3,000 F. Casting Iron is probably beyond most people, but non-ferrous metals are not hard at all. Many machine parts can be made of aluminum, copper or bronze castings and work about as well as steel. While cupric metals are horribly expensive, aluminum is cheap. You can practice casting using aluminum for almost nothing. You can build a hobby-scale foundry for non-ferrous metals for under $200 and turn out small machine parts at least as good as any factory. A good reference for this is Stephen D. Chastain's two volume set "Metal Casting: A Sand Casting Manual for the Small Foundry". He also has a book called "Iron Melting Cupola Furnaces for the Small Foundry" that provides complete plans and operating instructions for a larger scale coke fired iron furnace.

-Forging. This is the ability to hammer metal and change the shape. It's much easier and cheaper to pound steel into shape than try to cast it. Blacksmiths heat steel, reshape it using a hammer and tongs and then heat-treat it to whatever temper is needed. A very professional forge can be home-built for under $400, even if you buy most of the parts. A decent anvil can be had for about $400 (or much less if you compromise). Most of your other blacksmith tools, you can make yourself from scrap steel. You can design a forge to burn propane, coal, or charcoal. To learn more, visit Ron Reil's web site and follow the links. I built a propane forge similar to the ones described on Ron's site from an empty propane tank and used a venturi burner made from plumbing parts for under $100. Four years ago I broke down a bought a professionally made burner from Rex Price. Rex is a great American who operates a "mom and pop" machine shop with his sons. He makes venturi burners that I can't recommend highly enough.

If you ever need to convert to another fuel, such as charcoal, it's pretty easy to do. I built a charcoal forge and a bellows in one day from an old grill. If you keep a few fire bricks, and a few pounds of satanite refractory cement on hand, you can build a new charcoal forge in less than a day. These materials are cheap and abundant now with internet shopping, but will be difficult to get after TEOTWAWKI. While you can do without them, they sure make your life easier.

There is no substitute for a good anvil. The bigger it is, the more stable it is and the more enjoyable it is to work with. But, if you need to, you can get by with using almost any heavy chunk of steel or even a big rock. My first anvil was a 16 pound sledgehammer head and it worked pretty well. The Vikings turned out some wonderful steel work with much less. The only specialized or expensive tool I recommend is a trip hammer. They are quite expensive, bulky and heavy, but you can do a lot more work with a power or even a foot operated hammer than you can by hand. It will triple your productivity and save fuel.

Blacksmithing is a lot of fun and easier than you probably think. I can recommend two great references: "The Blacksmith's Craft: A Primer of Tools & Method" by Charles McRaven, and "The Complete Modern Blacksmith" by Alexander Weygers. [JWR Adds: I also recommend Weygers' slim tome: "The Making of Tools"]

-Grinding and filing. This is the ability to abrade metal. Even something as simple as sharpening an axe requires this capability. There are a variety of power tools used for these operations. A good 8 inch Bench grinder costs about $150 and you can get a decent 4 inch belt grinder for around $200 for a home shop. These, of course require electricity and replacement abrasives. The old-school way was a foot powered stone wheel. To my knowledge, you can't even buy one of those anymore. Instead, if the power goes out for good, I plan to build my own, probably based on a bicycle chain drive and use existing abrasive wheels from electric bench grinders. An even older method was to use sand held by damp cloth or leather, but I would sure hate to try that.

Files used to be the most important tool in the machine shop. They were (and are) used to precisely shape and fit metal parts. 19th century machining depended almost entirely on files instead of lathes and mills and grinders. Steam engine parts were largely shaped using a lost art called "Flat Filing". While modern practitioners can't approach the accuracy and uniformity the machinists demonstrated in the age of steam, it's relatively easy to fit machine parts and castings using a set of good files. While you probably couldn't fit a BMW piston, you might be able fit cast parts with looser tolerances, like from a farm Tractor or old Ford truck. Unfortunately, files are extremely difficult to make yourself and they wear out with time. You will probably be able to replace them for some years after TEOTWAWKI by scavenging, but buying a good assortment now will cost less than $150. Buy top quality files. Craftsman (Sears) makes good files. Cheap files are useless. The best way to learn proper parts fitting technique is to just do it.

-Bending/shaping sheet metal: Sheet metal is amazing when you consider it. Imagine trying to beat a chunk of steel into sheet metal on an anvil and you will appreciate that to create new sheet metal after a disaster, you will have to have some large machinery. Fortunately, with millions of dead automobiles and appliances laying around, you should have plenty of raw material for a few generations. You can make almost anything you can think of with sheet metal. It's especially handy for making cooking vessels and containers of all kinds. You can do basic sheet metal work with only a pair of pliers and some tin-snips, but for serious work, you need a sheet metal brake and an assortment of vices and dies. Before you buy any tools read a good book on the topic. This is a great reference, but a little pricey: Sheet Metal Forming Processes and Die Design

-Tapping. This is simply cutting screw threads. Fortunately, taps and dies for cutting screw threads are still manual for the most part.

-Welding. This is the ability to join two pieces of metal by melting them into each other. There are basically 3 ways to weld. Forge welding, arc welding and torch welding. You can also use thermite to weld large pieces. Welding is a huge topic and a whole career field on it's own. Being able to join to pieces of metal with a weld joint is a useful skill.

1. Forge welding is used to mix or join two hunks of metal by whacking them with a hammer. It's useful for making axes, chains and other tools, but in the modern world, it's mostly practiced to make expensive pattern welded (damascus) knife blades. This is one of the skills you master as you learn to be a blacksmith and the techniques are covered pretty well in the blacksmith references.

2. Arc Welding. This is using low voltage-high-current electrodes to create an electrical arc that heats surrounding metal. Arcs are very hot, but they effect a relatively small area. Working with simple low-carbon structural steels, arc welding is pretty easy to learn and requires very rudimentary equipment. $300 dollars can buy a decent basic rig. The hard part is buried in the details of improving on this basic capability. To weld complex alloys to each other or to prevent oxygen absorption (and later rust), requires a lot of knowledge, skill and better equipment. I have the most rudimentary equipment possible and almost no skill, so I can't recommend a reference.

3. Torch welding. Oxygen and acetylene from large tanks are mixed and burned to form a hot jet capable of heating, welding and cutting steel. Getting replacement gasses will be difficult after a couple of years, but while they last, this is a great tool. Again, having very limited skill at welding and no torch of my own, I cannot recommend a reference.

-Brazing and soldering. This is non-ferrous welding. It can be done at a much lower temperature than welding, usually using a propane, MAPP-gas or oxyacetylene torch for heat. Soft soldering is much easier than brazing and is very useful for working on electronics. I don't often braze so I have no recommendations on learning this skill.

-Riveting. This is one of the easiest methods for fastening metal pieces together. Most people have used a pop-riveter. The problem is, pop rivets are not easy to make and the supply will someday run out. Also, pop-rivets are weak compared to heavy steel rivets. Real rivets can be made as thick and strong as you need. They are cut and hammered from steel rods using a forge, hammer and tongs. They are easy, secure and quick to use, so they were very popular in the 19th century. Forge riveting is covered in the references on blacksmithing.

-Cutting. This is the most common operation you will probably do in a machine shop. Everything you make will require you to cut metal. There are a lot of methods for cutting metal, and you may use all of them interchangeably, depending on the materials you have to cut.

1. Hot or cold chisel cutting. This is simply heating metal until it's soft and then cutting it with a hammer and chisel. You can also cut bars quickly and easily on a hardy (an anvil tool accessory). This will be a quite common way to cut bar stock and will be the only method easily available once all the saw blades and torches are useless. I have split a truck leaf-spring lengthwise using this technique. While it's very laborious, it works every time and requires nothing high-tech. For smaller jobs or softer metals. You can also cut with a cold-chisel without heating. Techniques are covered in the aforementioned blacksmithing references.

2. Hand saws. Hacksaws are still commonly used in metal work. They are the workhorse of some shops. With enough patience and enough blades, you can saw a car in half. Buy only good blades to cut hard steel and keep them cool using cutting fluid or oil to cool the cut and remove chips. Making or re-sharpening hacksaw blades is possible, I suppose, but I have never tried it. Once all the hacksaw blades are gone, hand cutting is going to get much harder, so make life easier on yourself and stock up.

3. Power saws or angle grinders. There are many different power cutting options out there and none of them are pleasant. I use a reciprocating saw, jigsaw, angle-grinder and a circular saw. All of them require proper blades which are expensive. After a crash, you may wind up trying to make your own blades or re-sharpen them. For that, the easiest is the simple reciprocating saw. If you get the balance or temper a little wrong on a chop-saw or an angle grinder you might get hurt or even killed. If you get a reciprocating saw blade wrong, you won't get hurt. Also, the blades are much simpler to make on a forge and the teeth are fewer and easier to cut with a chisel.

4. Torch cutting. If you have an oxyacetylene torch (or a plasma cutter) they make short work of cutting steel. Watch out about overheating any steel part that requires a known carbon content or accurate tempering. High temperatures cause loss of carbon and can result in spongy, brittle or soft steel. Some steel alloys react very badly to extreme temperatures and the finished part or tool will fail without warning if burned.

5. Shearing. This is the preferred way to cut thin metal, like sheet metal. A large pair of tin-snips or shears will make cleaner, easier cuts than any other method.

-Drilling. This is the ability to make holes in things. Making a precise hole in hard metal is a complex task. Drill presses with micrometer tables are indispensable to a good machine shop. A good drill press can easily cost over $1,000, but unless you need a very high level of precision, you can get by with a $300 press. If you are planning to buy a mill and your shop is small, you might not need a separate drill press. Drill bits are relatively easy to make yourself, but you will lose precision. There will probably be no problem with re-supply of drill bits for a number of years after a crash.

-Turning and milling. This is the ability to spin a metal part and symmetrically cut it to a perfectly round shape or precisely cut complex shapes into metal parts using a spinning cutter. Lathes are one of the most versatile power tools available and it will be impossible to do without them completely. Some method will have to be found to power lathes after a crash if we are to recover. A good lath or mill can be very expensive. But look closely at what you are buying. You don't want a computerized machine or digital anything. Precision is less important than reliability. For a small shop, a combination lathe/mill makes a lot more sense than two power tools and will save you a little money. A very basic, fairly accurate combo tool can be bought right now for under $1,000. This is the most expensive tool in your shop, so choose wisely. With a combo tool, you can do almost any turning or milling or drilling operation you can think of. (If you have a mill, then you don't need a drill press).

There are no hand powered drill presses, milling machines or metal lathes on the market today. 19th century mills used to power their machines using wide belts driven by water or steam. There are not many steam engines laying around these days and modern appliances are not easily convertible to other power sources. They usually have a belt drive, but it's not situated to make conversion to water or animal power easy, even if you are otherwise set up to do that. Once the power is off, you will need to produce electricity to use modern machine tools. Practically speaking, there is no easy way around this. You might be able to run a small mill off of a vehicle and alternator using a large inverter, but you really need more reliable and cheaper power than a vehicle can produce. You will need some kind of generator, at least 4000 watts to really have a working machine shop. Without power, you will be reduced to using a "brace and bit", anvil and forge and files or grinding stones for all your work and your efficiency will drop off to next to nothing.

So, what can you do with your cool metal shop?

Create a machine replacement part from scratch: Whatever metal part breaks on a machine, you have a pretty good chance of being able to fabricate a new part. If you have an example of the part you want to make, you can usually cast a blank part using your foundry. Even if a part is broken, or missing pieces, you can duplicate it if you can guess the missing parts and build a model from wood or something. Sand casting produces a rough shape only. When you dump your mold, you will have an object that vaguely looks like the part you want. It must be filed, turned, drilled or milled to final shape and then fitted carefully to replace the part needed. Some parts can be forged into rough shape and then filed or ground to fit. You can fabricate and fit a new part in a single afternoon with the right equipment. Useful? You better believe it.

Create a fixture. Often, you suddenly need a hinge, hook or lock or something from the hardware store. You can make mostly anything you can think of quite quickly using your forge and other equipment. I can't count the times I have quickly hammered out new fixtures using junk steel because I was too lazy to drive 10 minutes to Lowe's. Horse shoes and spike candle holders are easy. Fireplace furniture is a snap. Hinges, buckles, latches and hooks are pretty easy too. If you need it, you can probably make it.

Make a tool or knife: With a forge, you can bend and shape steel in many different ways. If you can think of a hand tool, you can probably make it. But, don't expect miracles, you are basically whacking a hunk of steel with a hammer. You cannot create small precision parts and tools on an anvil. You can, however rough them out and use a file to shape them into final form. You can also carefully control the temper of steel tools and produce superior cutting edges, all with primitive gear and no electrical power.

Making a pot, pan, colander, container, or set of dishes: You can make almost anything of this sort out of sheet metal taken from old appliances or cars. If you need a new tool box, just whip one out.

Turn junkyard steel into useful machines. Okay, this is harder than repairing an existing machine, but it's conceivable that you could design, cast, and fit your own steam engine or something equally impressive. The sky is the limit.

The quicker we can get rudimentary local industrial capability back in action, the easier restoration of society will be. - JIR

My Situation
I currently live at the outskirts of a larger metropolitan area. In the event of TEOTWAWKI, I want a way to quickly get out of Dodge. I have a retreat a few hundred miles away from where I live which I know my family can, and almost certainly get to in the event it is necessary.

I have my BOB for both my car and my home and while I could try to drive to my survival retreat, I recognize that survival is about adaptability and relying on my skills. I hold a pilot’s license with multiple ratings and want to discuss my plan for how I would “bug out” in an airplane. In many ways, it would be like bugging out in a car, but there are some special considerations.

As a side note, I have prepared a couple binders with all of my emergency plans and provided one copy to my family and left another one at our retreat. This is an excerpt of part of my plan (as I know that their knowing what I have will make them more secure in what I am capable of accomplishing).

Bug Out Airplane (BOA)

There has been a lot of discussion in SurvivalBlog about bug-out vehicles (BOVs) but I’ve only seen a brief article or two on BOAs (Bug Out Airplanes) and all but one of those (that mentioned Cessna 172s) dealt with having a small recreational single seat ultralight for recon and not real long term travel to a retreat.

My scenario is prefaced on using my Cessna 172. The reason I chose the 172 is because it is the most produced aircraft in the world (over 43,000 have been built since 1955). Additionally, its performance is versatile and needs, if fully loaded, not much more than 2,700 feet of runway at 4,000 foot elevation.

I’m presenting my plan in the hopes it inspires others to (1) share their plans, or (2) start a discussion about other considerations as to a BOA.

Using an airplane in an emergency situation is not always the best idea. In fact, in many situations, such as nuclear war, it may be downright suicidal. However, in the event of an economic collapse, or possible pandemic, it might in fact be the quickest way to get out of Dodge.

There are many considerations that I’ve taken into account and here is a brief outline of my plan.

These are my general planning concepts:

  • Navigation. In the event I need to bug out, I need to begin with the presumption that the total breakdown in society includes the loss of all navigational aids (due to loss of power or other interference). This includes GPS as well as ground based NDBs (non-directional beacons), VORs (VHF omnidirectional range [beacons]), and TACAN (Tactical Air Navigation [beacons]). Thus, in the event of an actual bug out, my starting presumption is that I cannot rely on any air navigation and will have to operate under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). This lack of navigation also includes a loss of FAA services such as radar services. Here it becomes especially important that I adhere to established VFR protocol (specifically altitudes). I ask that if we are in this situation, other pilots have strict adherence to this as well.
  • Weather
    Additionally, because there is a complete breakdown in society, I will not have the luxury of any weather information. To compensate for this, I plan to carry extra fuel (see supplies section for further explanation).
  • Route Planning
  • Altitudes. My plan is to travel at either 7,500 or 8,500 feet depending on my direction. In short, VFR traffic flying easterly should be at odd altitudes plus 500 feet (e.g., 7,500 feet). Westerly bound traffic should be at even altitudes (e.g., 8,500). My rationale is twofold. First, the Cessna’s best performance is based on the airplane flying at 8,000 feet (approximate range is 485 NM +/- wind effect). Second, this altitude is high enough that I shouldn’t be a target for any trigger happy individuals. Third, this should keep me below jet and military traffic. Finally, at 8,000 feet, I should have a 12 NM glide range in the event of an emergency which will give me plenty of time to make decisions and potentially put myself at least a half-a-days hike away from or closer to any location I chose.
  • Avoiding Airspaces. I planned my route to avoid two types of airspaces as much as possible: Class B and MOAs. I’m afraid that with Class Bs and MOAs, there might be some jet traffic and in the event things are an uncontrolled free-for-all, I don’t want to play chicken with someone’s private jet.
  • Navigation. As discussed above, I anticipate a complete failure for major navigational aids. However, I have identified a few navigational aids near military bases and power stations which, as my thinking goes, could still be active in the event of an emergency to help coordinate government. I’m not going to rely on them but I will first monitor those in the hopes that they can provide some directional assistance. GPS is ultimately controlled by the US Government, so I don’t have a lot of hope that it will be a useful resource in complete government collapse.
  • My ultimate tool is going to be Visual Flight Rules (VFR) [piloting] and again, I’ve chosen landmarks in my prepared flight plan which should be easily recognizable (bodies of water, geographic features, large and distinct construction projects, etc…).
  • Route. When traveling, I’ll do my best to fly point-to-point, keeping in the considerations listed above. I have scouted a few isolated airstrips and found a few patches of remote roadways where, if necessary, I could put down to refuel or wait out any weather. I’ve marked all of these on old aviation maps and will alter my course slightly, if necessary to keep myself within range of them. There are a lot of nice small airports that are in isolated locations that, with a little looking, can be easy to find.
  • Radio. Finally, I’ll monitor appropriate frequencies where appropriate, including 121.5 but not broadcast unless I feel it’s absolutely necessary since I don’t want to give
  • Landing. Before I land, I feel it is important to overfly the area I plan to set down to make sure I’m not flying into a danger. I’m also going to make sure that I have enough fuel that if it is not safe or prudent to land, I can abort with a comfortable reserve (preferably 45 minutes). My initial though is that I’ll descend to the desired landing area, overflying and inspect the intended runway and then proceed past it for a while, to not give away my intentions. I’ll then climb to altitude and come in with a simulated engine out (with low power to be as stealth as possible) yet having the ability to add power if needed and climb out.
  • Time of Day. I’ve done a reverse line of retreat and figured out what time I need to depart from in order to arrive at the destination before dark [at the wither solstice]. I have, in the emergency book I’ve prepared for my family, directions on how to communicate with me at the airport when I arrive (code using road flares and non-aviation radios) to warn me of any dangers.

Supplies and Other Weight Considerations

  • The question of what to load into a Cessna Bug Out Airplane Presents a few unique challenges.
  • Any airplane has a weight limit. In this case, my goal is to load 900 lbs of supplies into the airplane (the maximum amount allowed per the POH). There are some weight and balance considerations (see the following weight and balance / loading section for further explanation). This is where your survival planning is really tested because everything needs to be planned out since weight is a major limitation factor.
  • Me. Obviously I need to fly the plane. I’m going to assume that I am fully loaded down with clothes (e.g., jacket, boots, hat and gloves) and just ate a full meal (something I would do in the event I decided to bug out to keep my alertness) at 170 lbs.
  • Extra Aviation Gas. In the event of TEOTWAWKI, we all can agree that fuel becomes a valuable commodity. Aviation fuels are leaded so they won’t work that in regular cars as regular unleaded gasoline won’t work in airplanes. Thus my assumption becomes that the minute I take off, I’m not getting any more gas beyond what I have.
  • My plan is to carry 8 Gerry cans of Aviation Gasoline with me in the cockpit. Each Gerry can weighs about 11 lbs empty and holds 5 gallons of fuel (1 gal of aviation fuel = 6 lbs.). Yes, under normal situations this is downright stupid but after reflecting on this, I feel the risk outweighs the reward and flexibility of having extra gas. My biggest fear is having to divert because of weather and not having enough gas to carry on thereby putting me a worse situation than I started with. These eight cans have a total weight of 320 lbs.
  • To minimize my risks, I’ll take advantage of the fact I can open up a window in my airplane and make sure each Gerry can is tightly sealed. If I could find plastic cans, I would obviously switch to those because I’d estimate that they are less than 3 lbs each and that would save me about 40 lbs in weight but I want to plan for something heavier.
  • Bug Out Bag. I would take my two best BOBs with me. The first is a backpack containing everything I need to survive for 3 days (including food, water – lifesaver bottle, supplies, and even a primitive shelter). I’d also pack my survival duffel bag (including my shotgun and handgun, 2 week food supply, foul weather gear, warm clothes and basic tools) as well as sleeping bag. Remember, that carrying a firearm on a flight line is a crime and use discretion. Combined, these items weight about 75 lbs.
  • Water. I would also take five gallons of water with me (in addition to the water and lifesaver water bottle contained above). Water weights 8.35 lbs per gallon and with the plastic container, I estimate five bottles will be 54 lbs.
  • Briefcase. Inside my briefcase I have my laptop computer and aviation charts. On my laptop computer, I have a folder with .pdf files which include instrument approach charts and emergency preparedness/survival materials. I generously estimate this at 10 lbs.
  • Ham Radio. I have an amateur radio license and have a small kit packed with my Ham Radio and other communications devices. I have the equipment necessary to hook it up to a 12 volt battery as well. This weighs no more than 25 lbs.
  • Generator. I’m sure a lot of you are asking why I plan to take a generator. I have a small 1,000 Watt Honda generator that has served me well for many a football tailgates. I’m not sentimentally attached to it. My reason for taking it is that it comes with a 12V plug adaptor. Since I mentioned that I have accounted in my plans to divert in the event of bad weather, I want to have an auxiliary power source to charge the battery or use it to fire up the engine. The generator (with a full fuel tank), hand fuel pump, and the small tool kit I keep with it have a combined weight of no more than 40 lbs. I also see it having significant barter value. If I make a land stop I can use the generator to help recharge my laptop batteries or power my Ham Radio set.

Total Weight
I estimate my total weight will be just about 950 lbs. I know this is probably slightly above the upper limits of the airplane but I anticipate burning off some fuel during taxi and run-up and am at an airport where I can afford to climb out very slowing. Further, the airport sits in a temperate climate (50-70’s) near a body of water where there is frequently a headwind. I have no major obstacles preventing me from climbing out. If weight is too much (and I’ll probably feel it during my first take off attempt), I can always jettison a fuel can or two but would prefer to have the ability to completely refuel the airplane one.

Other Considerations

Finally, I have a couple cargo nets and tie down kit and will secure everything before departure. Since I’ll be using the front seat, I don’t want cargo to shift and contact the flight controls. I’ve done the math in my head and given how long it takes me, I estimate that within two hours of making the decision, I can leave. I know that two hours may be a long time, but I’d rather spend two hours prepping than be stuck in traffic for two hours and run out of gas or be exposed to a mob.

Weight and Balance / Loading

This is the tricky part because you have to pack things in just right so the weight and balance are within limits. My plan is to remove all of the seats except the pilot's to give me extra space and weight.

Here is a rough draft of my sample packing list a weight calculations:


Weight (Lbs.)

Item Moment Arm Inches
Balance Moment Inch-Lb.


170 37 6290


45 37 1665

Gas Cans (Six, @ 5 gallons each)

243 37 8991

Bug Out Bags

70 37 2590

43 gallons (in aircraft's integral tanks)

258 47.9 12358.2
Rear Passenger Area

Gas Cans (2 @ 5 gal)

81 73 5913

Water (5 gal @ 8.35 lbs/gal)

45 73 3285


10 73 730

Sleeping Bag

4 73 292
Baggage Compartment

Ham Radio Gear

25 95 2375
PASSENGERS ("PAX") AND CARGO 951 (Varies) 44489.2




Arm [aka station or centroid]: 46.78149


Final Thoughts
As I mentioned before, I can drive to my destination but that may not be the most prudent move. The preceding sketch is the start of a plan.

More than a dozen SurvivalBlog readers sent us a television news piece about King, North Carolina (in the Winston-Salem region) banning the purchase of guns, or carrying guns outside one's home, during the recent heavy snowstorm. Here is a quote: "'Other restrictions included a ban on the sale or purchase of any type of firearm, ammunition, explosive or any possession of such items off a person's own premises." [Emphasis added.] Needless to say, this will have some major political repercussions, once all the snow gets shoveled. A police chief will likely have to find new employment, after making such a monumentally-bad judgment call. It is noteworthy that there are more than 80 pages of comments about the story at the television station's web site.

   o o o

Legislation that parallels the already-enacted Montana Firearms Freedom Act is gaining momentum in more than a dozen states. Oh, and speaking of happenings up in Montana, I heard that there is a pro-gun Constitutionalist running for Sheriff in Lake County, Montana.

   o o o

SJ in Montana suggested this video clip: Ron Paul Warns of Coming Social and Political Chaos. He warns of "...the complete breakdown of law and order."

"The best strategy is always to be very strong." - Carl von Clausewitz, "On War"

Monday, February 8, 2010

The 25% off sale at SafeCastle on all Mountain House foods in #10 cans is in progress. They are offering free shipping to the 48 continental states! The sale ends on February 13th, so order soon!


Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Battery technology has come a long way in the last 10 years since Y2K. Back in the late 1990s, I stocked various types and brands of batteries for long term storage or use. Batteries ranged from store purchased alkaline, rechargeable alkalines, NiCd, generic deep cycle marine
batteries, gel-cell sealed lead acid, lithium and even the ubiquitous flooded lead acid Trojan T-105 floor scrubber batteries. I wrote dates on all the batteries and rechargeable batteries had logs kept of use and maintenance.

In most cases enough batteries were purchased to allow for a reasonable statistical sampling, thus providing a real level of confidence in the results. Note that the word battery and cell are often used below in singular, even though the same test was repeated multiple times on
different units. All voltages and times are given as composite averages of the tests, removing clear outlier data, such as an obviously failed cells that leaked electrolyte during storage.

10 years later, most of those batteries were still in my possession, untouched (with a some exceptions) and I decided to run controlled experiments on them to see how they fared. Each battery type is discussed by type and brand if applicable. Finally, as technology has
provided for improvements, some additional battery types are discussed that have only received short term testing due to being recently brought to market.

All batteries were stored in 60-to-75 degree F conditions with <50% relative humidity.

Generic Alkaline
These are what you find at most stores on the shelf, having virtually eliminated the old carbon-zinc batteries that were still sold in the 1990s. An extensive selection of all standard sizes was tested, including Energizer, Energizer commercial use (not sold via retail) and
Duracell. The cells offered 2-4 year lifetimes based upon their expiration dates. All were stored for 10 years, with the exception of the commercial Energizer D cells, which were 12 years old at the time of testing.

Several of the Energizer cells (2 out of a lot of 50) had developed leakage failures during storage, in one case contaminating a co-packaged battery. This matches my anecdotal experience with this brand, with several case leak failures damaging equipment that had Energizer brand
batteries left in them for longer time periods (1-2 years). I expect these are design related failures since even newer batteries of this brand leaked, spanning a sample period of five years.

Interestingly, the commercial Energizer batteries, of which I had over 50, did not have a single failure. They also performed slightly better even though they were older. No failures were seen with the Duracell alkaline batteries, but there was a smaller sample available (20 of each

The aged batteries were tested on a constant resistance tester that tracked battery voltage until the cells were completely depleted, to a voltage of 0.2V, which would not provide even the smallest amount of usable light in a flashlight. Initial current drain of approximately
1/20th of manufacturer recommended maximum was used. (12 Ohms for AA cells, 2.75 Ohms for D cells)

The output voltage of the 10 year old batteries started out at approximately 0.1V different from a brand new battery and maintained this difference until the battery chemistry failed, leading to a rapid decline in voltage. For AA batteries, the usable lifetime (to the 0.9V mark) was 18 hrs for the 10 year old battery vs. 22 hrs for a brand new cell. The voltage discharge curves tracked each other with the noted 0.1V difference. At the 18 hr. mark, the old cell dropped to under 0.2V a matter of minutes. The new cell soldiered on, declining slowly from
0.9V at 22 hrs to 0.2V at 27 hrs.

The commercial Energizer cells matched their retail cousins almost identically to the 0.9V cut off. However, they did not exhibit the sharp 20 minute decline to 0.2V once the battery chemistry started to fail. Instead they provided another 5 hours of possibly usable output with a slow decline between the 0.8 and 0.2V marks. This would be indicative of a slightly longer life span in an intermittent on/off usage where the voltage would creep back up to a more usable range during the off cycle.

When batteries were tested at high loads, the 10 year old units showed excessive voltage droop very quickly. This matches with published manufacturer recommendations that alkaline cells should not be used in high current draw applications.

All working cells showed an open cell voltage of 1.4V before being connected to a load.

Alkaline batteries are usable well beyond their expiration dates.
Alkaline batteries properly stored for 10 years will still provide functional capacity of 75-80 percent with lighter loads such as flashlights and radios.
There will likely be a fallout rate with some percentage of cells showing complete or partial failure during storage. Thus large packs of batteries should be broken up into smaller packs to limit the amount of damage one leaking cell can do and extra batteries should be purchased to take into account such failures.
Batteries sold for commercial use may be built better and will last longer than stuff sold into the general retail market.
If the battery shows a voltage of 1.4V or so after storage, it's still probably usable.

Nickel Cadmium Rechargeable
The entire lot of 1990's era NiCd batteries were found to be unusable, showing shorts or inability to take a charge of any capacity. This technology has drastically improved over the last ten years, although such batteries are still of limited long term storage use due to rapid self discharge and not having a design criteria for long life. There are also many variables that affect the durability of NiCd and NiMH, both from a cycle life and long term storage standpoint. My anecdotal evidence points to cheap batteries not lasting long (as little as 0-3 months for cheap no-name brand packs) and expensive brand name cordless tool packs still going strong after eight years of light use. The well known self-discharge and memory problems are still issues with this chemistry.

Not suitable for long term storage.
Expensive portable tool packs might have long life spans with periodic use and charging.
Probably acceptable for daily use, but there are better alternatives available in NiMH.
Cheaper than other rechargeables.

Rechargeable Alkaline (no longer made)
A group of Eveready rechargeable alkalines were also tested. This technology was produced for a few years but never really saw commercial success. The batteries had low self discharge, thus being ready to go after longer storage periods but could also be re-charged. The recharge
cycle was unusual in that if the battery was heavily discharged it's recharge cycle life was very short, only 16 cycles or so. With shallow discharges, the battery could be "topped off" hundreds of times. Looked like a perfect fit for long term storage, provided that could be topped
up once a year.

The 10 year old AA and D cells were fully charged before testing. All fell significantly short on both voltage and life, even compared to 12 year old alkaline cells. Starting voltage was only 1.2V and within minutes was 0.2V lower than the 10 year old cells. The cells chemistry failed at the 22 hr mark vs. 28 hours for the 10 year old cells.

Be careful with new untested technologies.

Nickel Metal Hydride
No Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) cells were used in the long term test due to their very high self discharge and the technology being in it's infancy in the 1990s. However, this chemistry deserves mention due to some recent innovations. Although NiMH batteries have higher capacity and most of
the memory effect has been overcome, they continue to suffer from very high self-discharge. A fully charged battery can be at 50% in under a month of sitting idle. In general, the higher the capacity of the cell the faster the self discharge.

Recently a new internal construction was designed that allows NiMH cells to retain up to 80% of their initial charge up to year later .[JWR Adds: These are also sometimes marketed as "Low Self Discharge (LSD)" batteries.] I have been extensively testing these over the last year with very good results. No outright failures to date, good capacity compared to alkaline batteries, very good tolerance for high current drains such as radio transmitters and good shelf life.

These cells are often sold as "pre-charged" or long shelf life NiMH. Duracell Pre-charged and Eneloop are the two most commonly available brands.

A technology to watch, may replace alkaline batteries in many applications.
Long term life span is currently unknown or unpublished.

Lithium primary batteries
Non-rechargeable lithium batteries are the king of long term storage. They have been around for decades and are well understood, with devices still working 20 years after installation. There are many different chemistries that are used, with the actual type not disclosed to the consumer, so be aware that not all lithium batteries will have long shelf life.

The CR123A battery size almost always comes in a chemistry that will allow for 10+ year storage without a problem. I'm still using up my 12 year old batteries and even in bulb style Surefire lights they last so close to a new cell that it's hard to tell the difference. No tests were
performed on this stock of batteries since they are so well understood and quantified.

I had a limited stock of AA lithium cells from the 1990s and they too appear to be at 80+ percent capacity. When they reach 15 years I will test a few and see if the group test should be put at the 15 or 20 year mark. Note that the 1.5V batteries use a different chemistry than the 3 volt CR123, thus they may have a shorter life span, but that remains to be seen. At 10+ years, they are still the top choice with the exception of price.

Low weight.
High capacity and high current.
Best for low temperatures.
Extensively verified 10+ year shelf life.
Available in AA, AAA, CR123A and various non-consumer sizes.
Industrial/commercial availability in 9V but metal body versions are slightly oversized.

Lead acid gel cells
Gel cells are a type of truly sealed lead acid battery. They are commonly used in backup devices such as emergency lights and alarm systems. Typically seen as 6V or 12V batteries with connecting tabs, but available commercially in over a hundred different sizes, shapes and

The small batch (5 units) of lead acid gel cells I had from 1999 all died various deaths over the last 10 years. All were 12V 7Amp Hour packs of the commonly available 5.94 X 2.56 X 3.70 size. All showed degraded performance (over 10% capacity loss) after the 5th year, even packs that
were 100% unused and one pack that was under a constant charge. All were trickle charged at least once a year to 13.8V to make up for any self discharge and four of them were used intermittently for various purposes from charging a motorcycle battery to powering GPS in aircraft. None were
ever subject to severe discharge cycles or overcharging.

Each cell was charged and then test discharged to 50% once a year to check remaining capacity. Charging was done by constant voltage to 14.2V and discharge test was done at 1/20 capacity, constant resistance to 50% state of charge, as indicated by voltage.

At the seven year mark the first cell had a complete failure. The last unit, which had been installed in a trickle charging backup application failed this month.

Realistic safe life span of five years.
After the five year mark, sudden failures may take the battery out of service without warning.
Require yearly charge maintenance due to self discharge.
Very high current capacity, allowing for use to minimally re-charge much larger lead acid batteries.
Often used inside of car self-jumpstart packs and for backup batteries in alarms and lighting.

Flooded lead acid batteries
I'm going to skip right past car starting / dual use batteries as they are 100% unsuitable for any long term application. While I have had certain vehicle starting batteries last eight years, there has never been any consistency between brand, size or use. I consider any car start battery over 2 years old to be suspect. The fact that they can be seriously degraded or destroyed by a single deep discharge makes them worthless in any situation where one must depend upon them. Even the consumer branded "deep-cycle" batteries are suspect from my experience.

The long term test batteries encompassed two large deep cycle "maintenance free" Energizer batteries from Wal-Mart and a bank of 24 Trojan T-105 6V industrial units. All were maintained as they would be in an industrial setting with water level, specific gravity and voltage checks each month.

The Trojans were connected to a grid-tied solar system and kept at peak charge for the first three years of their life. They were more heavily discharged at least once a year during power outages or for testing. In 2002 the system was converted to use the batteries each day for a period
of 6 hours, with cycling to 25-50% depth of discharge each day. Although their capacity is currently at about 60% of rated and there has been one hard cell failure in the bank, they continue to function.

The deep cycle batteries from Wal-Mart didn't make it past two years. They were used a few times a year to power tools and lights through an inverter. Note that "maintenance free" often means that there is just a slightly larger reservoir of water and acid in the battery. If you want
to try and use these, cheap batteries you should pop off the top caps with a screwdriver and re-fill the water just like any flooded lead acid battery. I consider any such off the shelf consumer batteries as a poor choice and false economy compared to a commercial battery such as the

Buy true commercial/industrial batteries.
They cost more, but even my bottom of the line T-105s lasted five times longer than the cheap "deep-cycle".
Flooded batteries require maintenance (water & charging) or they will fail.
Note: Flooded batteries make hydrogen gas and a fine mist of sulphuric acid when being charged. These must be vented to prevent explosions and corrosion of battery terminals other any nearby items.

Absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries are a type of true maintenance free lead acid battery. They have no ports to add liquid and will re-combine any generated gas internally. The military and aircraft industry use this technology due to low self discharge (1-3% per month) and no liquid to
They have only recently become widely available, both in starting applications and for deep cycle use. My actual test time with them has been limited to only two years.

I have three units in starting applications. All are in vehicles that sit for extended time periods (6-12 months), but then get used frequently, thus creating a cycle of many starts followed by long periods of inactivity. I have had one internal cell failure on the most used
battery in it's first year. The two others have worked perfectly, allowing me to start a car that had sat idle for six months as if I had been driven the previous day.

One unit was subject to a severe discharge, showing less than 3V when disconnected. The unit was charged overnight on a commercial bulk charger and then load/capacity tested back down to 10V. All indications were that the battery suffered no damage and it was returned to starting

Current specifications for heavy industrial AGM batteries and accelerated life tests indicate life spans of 20+ years even under heavy use. This would not seem unrealistic given that old industrial telecom backup batteries are often sold after 20 years of service with buyers reporting acceptable capacity of these 20 year old batteries.

There are many cheap imports being labeled as AGM. As it's difficult to tell the difference between a gel-cell and AGM battery from the outside, stick with brands that have been making AGM for commercial use.

May be the best longer term / large capacity battery technology if weight, space and price are not an issue.
Stick to name brand and industrial battery makers.
Heavy industrial AGM batteries are very expensive but will offer a real 20+ year life.

Contact Corrosion
When batteries are placed inside and object that is subject to motion, and left there for extended periods of time, there is the strong possibility that atmospheric oxidation various types of corrosion will occur. Basically the contacts will become dirty and poor overtime,
leading to the dreaded weak or intermittent flashlight output that magically restores itself when you bang the light a few times. Even sealed flashlights will develop this problem, especially if subject to temperature cycles or vibration, such as storage in a car.

This can be addressed in several ways. The batteries can simply be replaced every year. The contacts can be gently cleaned once a year or whenever low output is noticed. Never use an abrasive to clean contacts, as you may scrape away any protective coating that has been
plated on. Coatings such as gold, silver or nickel are often very thin. The contacts can be safely cleaned by rubbing with with a pencil eraser or clean sheet of paper. The batteries contact areas can also be cleaned in this fashion. Finally, you can place fabric or paper barriers between the batteries and the contacts to prevent metal to metal contact until you want to use the device. Note that this can be useful if you have devices such as radios that slowly drain the battery even when powered off. Some newer electronics use solid state ON/OFF switches or run a clock or memory retention device from the battery, thus slowly draining it. You will want to verify that any any stored settings on the device are saved even without a battery present before disconnecting the battery in this way. If the settings are stored for two weeks, it should be okay to leave the battery out indefinitely.

Mr. Rawles,
I took your advice of socking away nickels to heart. I wanted to start off with an ammo can for each member of my family. I figured why not go to the local bank where my wife has banked since 1993?

I went in, filled out the withdrawal slip for $178 (one ammo can) and requested the payout in nickels. The teller then said that if I withdrew $200 instead he can give me two boxes that came from the Fed. They gave me the nickels but told me that they really only give rolled coins to their commercial customers. At least I got my first batch.

I then went to another bank in town that has the account of the club where I'm the club president. I told them we were doing a fundraiser and needed $500 worth of nickels. Because this bank had one of those coin machines, I was able to get $500 of rolled coins in two canvas sacks! I basically saved them the cost of shipping those coins back to the Fed.

The following day I went back to the first bank and asked if I could get more nickels. I told them I was willing to pay the extra fee. They told me that I really had to be a commercial customer. I then asked about coins they receive [from merchants]. They chewed on that and realized that I was saving them money. The downside is that the coins won't be rolled up. They offered to call me when they had a $100 [face value] bag. I was fine with that.

Lessons learned
- Offer to take the nickels that they are sending back to the Fed. They save money in shipping and get paper money to put right back in circulation.
- Find a bank with a coin counter in the lobby. Those coins may be rolled up already and they will give you the nickels to save them shipping costs.
- When trying to cut a deal, be honest. When I went back to the first bank I told them why I was wanting nickels. We have been loyal customers of the bank and they have done right by us and were willing to work with me.

I found an interesting web site where you can buy $10,000 worth of nickels at face value and copper pennies at spot prices.

Thanks for all you do. Regards, - Cascinus, Jefferson City, Missouri.

JWR Replies: I stand by my prediction that nickels will begin to sell at a substantial premium over their face value in coming years. OBTW, there is a great forum called RealCent for folks that stockpile nickels and the pre-1981 copper pennies. They also have a sub-forum that discusses some survivalist preps--their "Non-Metals section".

The original NAIS plan may be dead! Jeff B. sent us this link: USDA starting over on national animal ID system

   o o o

F.R. suggested this resource that is great for homeschoolers: The Basic English Grammar ebook.

   o o o

FG sent us an item for the "Bring Enough Gun" Department: Giant, 25 foot Crocodile has eaten 200 men in 20 years (This sounds like something out of a tabloid, but it is a BBC news piece.)

"The disease of modern character is specialization...The specialist system fails from a personal point of view because a person who can do only one thing can do virtually nothing for himself." - Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture

Sunday, February 7, 2010

To my readers on the East Coast that are presently digging out from 15+ inches of fresh snow: I trust that you were stocked up on food and had alternative sources of heat and light, with plenty of stored fuel. Most of you, I suspect, were so well squared-away that you were able to help out your neighbors. Congratulations on a successful dress rehearsal.


Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

A recent post on SurvivalBlog was about baking bread and it talked about building an oven to bake bread to give out for charity. As I read the article I was wondering why there are not many articles on Dutch ovens on the blog. Anything that can be baked in a regular oven can be baked in a Dutch oven or cooked on a stove top for that matter. The way a Dutch oven works is 2/3 of the coals are on the top and 1/3 goes on the bottom. The lid has a lip that holds coals on top. They can also be stacked one on top of the other with the large on bottom smaller on top so a complete meal can be prepared all at once, also conserve fuel. Yeah you have to learn how to use one and yes there is a learning curve. Dutch ovens come in a large range of sizes from small desert size to 16 inch 12 quart behemoths. They use any fuel available and do not add a smokey flavor to the product being cooked. In fact when the wagon trains came west in the 1800s while crossing the prairie the only fuel available was Buffalo dung.

All that is needed to cook with a Dutch oven or spider skillet is a pair of leather gloves something to lift the lid with I like a pair of channel lock pliers a good size spoon, fork and spatula. I have an 1800s Spider skillet (a spider skillet differs from a Dutch oven in that it has a handle like a skillet, instead of a wire bale) that came west with my great great grand father. I rescued it from a storage shed and re-seasoned it. The re-seasoning differs from the seasoning in that the seasoning or rust or discolor is burned off in a fire. To season cover the cast-iron pan with oil and heat to 400 degrees for 3 hours and cook with the pan. The re-seasoning process takes three steps:

1.) To re-season cast iron first you need a fire, a rather large campfire works great, bury the skillet in the fire and let it burn till the fire goes out and the embers die, pull the skillet out of the dead embers and let it cool. Do not cool it with water, the skillet will crack or warp and be ruined.

2.) After the skillet or Dutch oven has cooled wash it in hot water and soap. Now the second step in re-seasoning the skillet or Dutch oven you need to use a fat or oil to cover the skillet (outside and inside) and then heat in an oven at 400 degrees for three or more hours I like to use a barbeque pit. I also like to apply the oil more than one time in the three hours. What happens is the pours of the cast iron open and the oil seals the metal. After three hours take the skillet out and let cool.

3.) The final step is to cook in the skillet/Dutch oven. Cornbread is the best food to season a skillet with. Mix up the cornbread, heat the skillet in the oven then add the fat to the skillet allow it to melt and spread it around and then pour in the cornbread batter.

If a Dutch oven is to be seasoned [while making cornbread, then] build a fire let it burn down to coals. Using a shovel scoop out a pile of coals smaller than the Dutch’s oven base, heat the Dutch oven over the coals place enough oil (a couple of ounce’s) in the Dutch oven and heat when oil is hot pour in cornbread, put the lid on the Dutch oven and add twice as much coals to the top as the bottom. It takes about 15 to 25 minutes to bake cornbread depending on the temperature of the oven after about at the mid point in coking spin the lid ¼ turn one direction and the base ¼ turn the other direction. This is to prevent hot spots. Your nose will tell you when you need to check to see if the cornbread is done, when you smell cornbread start checking when a tooth pick comes out clean the corn bread is ready take it out of the oven. It takes 3 or 4 pans of cornbread to finish seasoning a skillet well. Also frying a chicken also works. After awhile a nonstick surface develops on the skillet. The more a piece cast-iron cookware is cooked in the more it seasons. The trick is not to scrub hard when cleaning above all do not use a scouring pad or steel wool, hot water soap and at the most a spatula to clean a piece cast-iron cookware.

What to cook if you are in hurry or feeding a large group? A one pot/Dutch oven meal! Bean’s, stews or soup for that matter. After the main dish is done scoop coals out of the fire and in a pile and place the lid upside down on them makes sure the lid is level and cook what I like to call hoe cakes or corn pancakes. You can use cornbread mix batter or simple batter of water or milk and cornmeal and a small amount of salt and egg to bind. Cook them exactly like pancakes. Oil the lid and pour an amount of batter to make a cake about four inches across, wait for bubbles to form and flip and finish cooking and remove. With several Dutch ovens and a couple of experienced cooks a bunch of people can be feed!

OPSEC should be a big concern! Hungry people can panic and be extremely violent. Just look at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Yes, I know that there was a lawless portion to that emergency. But all things considered I wonder how many of our big cities would fare better? What we need to take away from Hurricane Katrina is to prepare for the likelihood of violence. Food should be prepared away from large groups of people in need and carried to them. Beans, stews and soups can be prepared and poured into 5 gallon food grade buckets, which should be available. Also breads like Biscuits, cornbread, tortillas pack well for that matter in five gallon buckets. What I tentatively plan to do is locate a group living in a Hooverville or passersby. Observe the Hooverville for a minimum of three days. Using 6 person recon/security team and 3 person aid team locate a camp close but not to close to the Hooverville and set up my Dutch ovens. The camp should be setup 90 degrees to the prevailing wind from the camp to carry the smells and smoke away from the Hooverville. For example if the prevailing wind is north south then the aid camp would be either east or west of the Hooverville. Also charcoal produces little to no smoke and light compared to a wood fire. At a time determined by the security team prepare the food. Have the security team approach the camp and make contact with a few people. Set up a meeting place/time of the teams choosing. First feed the people you have contacted at a separate location and then set up a second meeting place. The security must use over watch at any meeting place and should have security at any camp. They should arrive at least 4 hours before the meeting time and establish an over watch position. The aid team should also have first aid training and include at least one EMT. If at any time it is deemed by the security team too dangerous the two teams pack up and leave. Having Dutch ovens and packs the teams can travel light and fast. Using mountain bikes the aid team could carry 200 lbs each. Say having a combat load of 50 lbs 25lbs of Dutch oven and cooking equipment that leaves 125 of food for a total of 375 lbs. That is feeding 250 meals. Using the security team to pack more food you could feed even more. Why bike? Does anyone remember Vietnam? The Vietcong carried considerable loads on bikes on the Ho Chi Minh trail. If the Hooverville is very large another 3 to 6 person team could be employed as packers to pack in supply’s using bikes. Also several teams could operate at the same time. Hopefully from several different retreats to spread the burden around and combine forces. Eventually the teams could employ the same concept of the Special Forces and train people in the camps to fend for themselves.

One last point any cast-iron pot can generally be saved I have saved several pieces that other people thought could not be saved and I picked most up for nothing or next to nothing. I like taking stuff that other people deem to be of no use and make it useful again.

Dear Editor:
With regards to the battery powered carbon monoxide (CO) detector, I just want to second that. When my family went through the Nov. 2007 ice storm that took out the power to half of Oklahoma, we were running off our generator for two days. The first night I put it outside, but close to the house to help shelter it from winds. Our CO detector went off in the middle of the night. We ended up having the fire department come out and check things. It was determined that the CO came in through either the dryer vent, which was close to where the generator was, or through the attic. Our home was built in the 1960s and has attic vents on the sides. We ended up moving the generator about 10 feet farther away from the house and didn't have any problems after that.

We've also found that one of the plastic kid pools works well with some duct tape to provide a temporary shelter for a generator in case of rain. Thanks for running the site, it's a wonderful resource. - Chad in Texas


I really enjoyed reading "Lessons Learned from an Ice Storm", by G. in the Zarks. I went through a similar experience when I first moved to the hills, and resolved to buy a generator so I wouldn't lose all my perishables (not to mention my mind).

Connecting the generator to the home electrical system was easy enough: simply purchase a transfer switch or a "double throw switch" or a "break before make switch" to the tune of about $200 bucks at any contractor supply house. These handy devices are mechanical switches that route your generator power directly to your home electrical system, and physically separate this source of power from commercial power, thereby preventing the generator's electricity from feeding back into the power company's lines and injuring their linemen trying to restore the system after a power outage. Plus, you don't have to worry about tripping over all those pesky extension cords running to your refrigerator or freezer or whatever.

Next, hire yourself a licensed electrician to install said switch. This cost me under $200, but this was over 10 years ago, so YMMV. Knowledgeable, experienced electricians able to do this work are common in the Ozarks, as many make their living installing transfer switches on chicken houses.

When I bought my generator, all I could afford was a 6,500 watt gasoline-powered screamer. I wish I could have bought something bigger and better (read: diesel), but just couldn't come up with the bucks. Consequently, I am unable to power everything in my (unfortunately) all-electric house simultaneously. This necessitates careful load management. For example, I can run a couple of lights,my well pump and hot water heater at the same time, so hot showers are possible. Once showers are done, the well pump and water heater circuits are turned off and the refrigerator or freezer or what ever else needs doing are turned on.

Not the best situation, but until I can come up with the money to buy a larger generator, it sure beats sitting in the dark and cold praying the power comes back on soon. - L.H.


Mr. Rawles:
Re: The article "Lessons Learned From an Ice Storm, by G. in the Zarks" in the Friday, February 5th posts of SurvivalBlog, can I offer the some lessons I've learned in 40+ years as an Ozarker?

First, I listened and learned as much as I could from the fast-dwindling group of Ozark natives when I moved here. Second, I learned to watch the weather and know something about it. I didn't waste my time with the media weather female meteorologists or guys outstanding in the rain. I looked at the weather maps, remembered my years of experience here, and the stories told me by those whose experience preceded arrival of power lines and pavement. About 8:00 the morning the big ice storm was to hit the Ozarks, I committed to not being here when it did. Experience told me I'd be iced in for some time and the come-latelys would be in the ditches or otherwise draining the resources of our overtaxed and under-staffed sheriff's deputies, volunteer fire, and EMT crews.

It took me just two hours to load up and be on the road in my 16 year old conversion van, further converted to a self-sufficient home on wheels kept well stocked. That included preparing the house for what was ahead too. RV antifreeze in all drains and traps including washing machine and dishwasher, drain the water lines and shut off the electric water heater. Since the house is primarily heated by wood, two electrical strips were left on at low level to keep the inside above freezing. Six inch walls and a modest size make my house easy to keep above freezing and at adequate food storage levels, even in below zero times.

I called my sister-in-law, who lives a few miles away, and told her to drop by when conditions allowed to clean out the refrigerator as appropriate, and check for damage from trees in my 10-acres of hardwoods that surround and hide the house. She did, about a week later when the others who live down my road had cleared a path. The storm had given a war zone background to the beautiful mountains and valleys, but nothing hit either my house or two metal-clad outbuildings. A melted quart of ice cream was the worst clean-up problem.

I met the leading edge of the storm about 75 miles south of home, on the crest of our mountain range, where ice began appearing on the antennas on the van. I was out of danger on the flat land another 25 miles south and headed toward Texas via the shortest and fastest route. Once there and rested up after an overnight in a state Hospitality Center parking lot, I began a leisurely 30 days in the Lone Star State's state parks and other favorite and cheaper Texas camping places. With middle seats removed, my van contains a bed, 40-quart chest-type Engel 12 and 120 volt refrigerator with efficient rotary compressor. I can cook on either microwave or propane stoves. There's a Porta-potty tucked under the table holding the microwave, and food, water, coo ware and other
necessities in cabinets made from Sauder kit furniture units all bolted together and anchored to the mounts that held the middle van seats. Plastic storage units fit elsewhere for other supplies. Solar power panels, discreetly mounted inside the luggage rack on the roof to be invisible to any but someone climbing the van's ladder, keep the refrigerator going through a deep cycle battery. The 190 watt solar system also powers a 750 watt modified sine wave 120 volt power supply that runs the microwave for limited cooking such as my 2-minute oblates, 60-second brown and wild rice and meals. The 120 volts can run the laptop computer's TV module when TV stations are in range. Its own batteries handle e-mail. Some Texas State Parks are sources for free Internet hookups.

The van also is outfitted with three amateur radio and two scanner radios and antennas, to keep friends advised of my whereabouts beyond cell phone range or need, and keep me appraised of what is going on around and above me.

What I've learned from my resourceful and self-sustaining Ozark native friends is not to rush out and stock up after the first warning from the Weather Channel but to be ready to adapt to what ever may be coming, and to know if and when it is coming by experience, monitoring the real news sources of public service and other early warning media.

"Lessons learned from an ice storm?" Really be prepared. Prepared in priority. Power outages, winter storms and summer tornadoes or hurricanes, New Madrid acting up, heat, cold, rain or snow; I can ride them out or bug out in hours or less. Financial collapse, civil unrest, madness spawning something else; look for me gone in these less-likely but slower moving crises. I'll be out there somewhere, identifiable from the next vehicle only by license plate, if you happen to come upon me camping or rolling down some highway or back road. - Vern M.

Steve K. sent us this link: Snowpocalypse 2010: Everybody Panic!

   o o o

Mark O. sent us an article that has both libertarian and OPSEC ramifications. Is That A Castle You're Hiding Behind That Haystack? Perhaps Mr. Fidler should have moved to one of the many states in the western US where no building permits are required, and there is no mandatory building code. (except inside city limits, by some local ordinances).

   o o o

A reader recommended getting a copy of the Pocket Ref, by Thomas J. Glover. One reviewer described it as: "... part encyclopedia, part trivia tome, part entertainment and part dispute-solver. Buried in the various tables and charts are tons of data and facts to aid the rider, roadside mechanic or budding MacGyver."

   o o o

 KT sent us a link to The Virtual Turnpike--a site that offers ground-level photographs of house, with n almost frightening level of detail.

"Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness [which] they have prescribed;
To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and [that] they may rob the fatherless!
And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation [which] shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?
Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still." - Isaiah 10:1-4

Saturday, February 6, 2010

In recognition of his many months of faithful service in finding links to relevant news articles for SurvivalBlog, George Gordon ("GG") has been given a place on the SurvivalBlog masthead. Like our other volunteer editors, he will be in it just for the glory, and perhaps the occasional free book or two. George Gordon is the nom de plume of an American businessman who closely follows economic developments and hence says that he "is getting more and more worried." His pen name is is an homage to George Gordon Lord Byron, the British poet who was famously described as "Mad, bad, and dangerous to know." Welcome aboard, GG!


Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

This article has nothing to do with any special properties of the number ten, but rather refers to a progressive planning method based on the size of a problem. This is a way to organize thinking and planning for chaotic situations.  

“If you fail to plan, you’ve planned to fail”.   It would be irresponsible to present any particular plan as suitable for everyone, however, these are some guidelines on how and why you should develop your own plans.  Why do I have the nerve to write this piece?   I’ve been in the middle of more than one “adventure”… and in only one of them did I have any preplanned resources.  I’ve been thinking and planning about survival issues for decades.

SHTF or TEOTWAWKI can mean different things at different times.  While many web sites focus on total breakdowns, the fact is that for any given person walking across the street without looking both ways and being killed by a truck, it’s the same as the whole planet getting smacked by a 50 mile wide asteroid.  The focus of the “Power of Ten” is based on the premise that almost everyone has sudden small emergencies. Preparation for small emergencies as a part of a larger overall plan is a useful approach, because a small one day emergency can stretch out to many days.  Those who are prepared have the chance at survival    

Consider some small emergencies: Imagine losing electric power for four hours. Depending on individual circumstances, this can be an annoyance, up to a catastrophe. Suppose power goes out for four days. Again, depending on weather and climate, this can become a much bigger problem.  My daughter and her husband live in deep New England. Last winter their power went out for days.   No heat, frozen pipes - and even though they were able to get a generator, they had to spend a good bit of time on the phone with me to figure out how to connect it. Do you have a generator? Do you know how to safely hook it up? Do you know why it might not be a good idea to power up your whole house and light it like a Christmas tree? Do you know how to hook up even a small generator to keep just your vital services going?  Will your existing plan for a SHTF situation have any elements in it to help if the power goes out during a 2 day ice storm?

Enough examples, so let’s get to the point.

Every one needs a plan, a realistic plan.  If the plan isn’t written down and everyone who is to participate in that plan does not understand it and their clearly defined roles in the plan, then you don’t have a plan!  The facts are that, “No plan survives its first touch with reality” and “You can’t plan for everything”.  But you can -and must- start to plan with everyone in your household included.

No plan can cover all eventualities when first written, or ever for that matter.  GOOD plans are written to reflect one’s understanding of what they are trying to accomplish with what resources they have at any one time.  GOOD plans are read, reviewed and revised as necessary.  The best plans cover a range of problems.  They contain bits and pieces that help with small, large and huge problems and for scenarios never anticipated. Hence the title of this piece.

Here is where the “power of 10” can help you to get organized. Plan for… 1 day, 10 days, 100 days, 1,000 days….(and gulp)…10,000 days.  You cannot get to day 10 if you don’t survive day 1 and not to day 100 unless you survive day 10.

I am a firm believer in modular planning,  The plan to survive 10,000 days (Yes, 27+ years) is made of elements that one uses to survive 1, 10 and 100 days... after all, on Day 1, there isn’t going to be an announcement saying.. “This event will be over in…” that you can believe anyway!   I believe that it is totally foolish to start one’s planning with “How am I going to survive a total collapse”.   Start with a 1 day plan for each season and for different events, then work towards the 10 day plan, again for each season and for different events. Doing this will help you build that 1,000 or 10,000 day plan more effectively.  You should already have handy what you need for the “one day plan”, if not, get it, then work towards the 10 day plan. When you have that plan written and reviewed, it’s time to start implementing.  Buy what you need and set it aside so it can be used.  Talk to the whole family about the plan.  Include everyone – kids, old folks, and don’t overlook pets.

As an example, I live in a coastal community on the eastern seaboard.  My one day plans are one set of plans, my 10 day plans another…and my 10 day plan will vary depending on what I’m planning for.  A winter ice storm that kills power is one plan, and evacuating in the event of a hurricane, quite another.  Folks talk about are they going to be “Bugging In” or “Bugging Out”.  When asked which you will do, the only correct answer should be, “It Depends!”  You need to be ready for the unexpected.  How do you do that?   Think independence, dependence on nothing other than what you have in hand. When talking to a friend about this essay, they said, “One day plan, who needs one?”.  Who?  Me, you, everyone!  I’ve been traveling worldwide for business on and off since the days of the Boeing 707s.  My rule after my first flight:  always have in hand what you need for at least 24 hours without outside help when you leave for the airport. More than once over the years, this policy has made my life immensely easier and more comfortable. Additionally, planning and acting on a day to day basis for emergencies, instantiates a “survival mentality” that realistically, we need to be in constantly.  Most often, emergencies do not come with warnings ahead of time.

I firmly believe that the minimum plan one should have thought through, written out, and implemented is the 10 day plan… for both “bug-in” and “bugout”.  And on the subject of “bugging out”: One needs to have different destinations for different scenarios.  There are a pair or scenarios that I’ve planned for where we bug out to my brother’s home well north of me and a scenario where he comes here.

As to getting from here to there… as mentioned above I live in a coastal community.  On summer weekends, 90 min trips from “the city” can take four hours in good weather.  If it got to be “bugout” time for us, the last piece of road I’ll be driving on will be the local superhighway. I’m sure if most of you think about it, that nice bit of superhighway that’s your first thought for any trip won’t be viable.    Plan your routes, and your secondary route and if you are fortunate enough… a third route. Try not to depend on the Interstates.  Don’t plan to use that great GPS navigation box in your car.  The GPS system is managed by the government.  It can and has been shut down in the past by the government when they thought they had a need.  Get good paper maps. Mark routes.  As to the Interstates, the legislation that funded them states that the Government can restrict use of the Interstates to military use only as needed.

Okay… you should work towards having plans as follows:

1 and 10 Day:


Weather Related


Civil Breakdown


Bug in/out

Bug in/out

Bug in/out


Bug in/out

Bug in/out

Bug in/out


Bug in/out

Bug in/out

Bug in/out


Bug in/out

Bug in/out

Bug in/out

This does not mean that you need 24 plans… In your individual situation, you probably will only need 2 or 3 bug-in and bug out plans that you can use/reuse/equip/stock as modules.  And for all bugout scenarios, plan what you will do if you end up on foot.

Beyond 10 days to 100 days and beyond…

Now things get more difficult.  You can stock up on 6 months or a year of “survival food” which may work out, if you and that food all get to be in the same place. Is your Bug-Out Vehicle a diesel powered International Harvester all-wheel drive 26 foot truck?  How about stocking six months or a year of required medications?  Or six months or a year's worth of fuel?

Frankly, somewhere between 10 and 100 days is where the (first) big crunch will happen. I’ve heard some say… “Oh, I’ve got my retreat in western “Pennsyltucky” all stocked up!” Yes, you can do that, and that could be your plan, however, I suggest that if all you are going to do is move your kith and kin to a isolated place in the “wherever”, and sit on and eat off your stockpile without having any skills related to the current situation to contribute to the community, you will become a foraging opportunity.  Plan on bringing “value” to whatever community you will be moving into (i.e., hedge fund managers without any other skills, need not apply).  No matter what you bring or have stockpiled, if you don’t have useful skills to bring to the community appropriate to the situation, you will just become a burden to that infrastructure -which is likely to need help not an additional burden.  BTW, being a good shot and well armed is necessary, but not sufficient in my context.

I don’t have any guidelines to share for these very long range plans other than the speculation that beyond 100 days, either our military will be moving in and trying to bring order, or… someone else’s military will (barring an extinction event asteroid),   as one of our “creditors” may decide to “foreclose” to “protect their interests”, or for “humanitarian interests” .   When the military moves in, I suspect that those whose plans started with:  “ my 12 gauge, my AK and my 9mm and 1,000 rounds for each” and ended with a backpack or pickup truck full of food and a plan to high tail it into the woods somewhere, will either be waiting for a burial detail to get to them, or run the risk of being hunted like vermin.

To sum it up…Create a written plan.  Address specific scenarios. (note plural).  Review and discuss plans with those who will be included in them. Change (improve) them as events and resources will allow.  Plans need to be practiced.  Plans should include action/role sheets for everyone, especially for an emergency bugout.  As a small example: last week, my wife and I went to the local range.  I very much wanted to bring my spotting scope as we were firing an iron sighted 22 LR bolt action rifle among other things and I needed it to see shots in the black at 25 yards.  When we unloaded at the range, no spotting scope!   I’d left it home.

Your plans, or even the existence of them, probably should not be topics of conversations at back yard barbeques as there is always at least one “opportunist” at one.  Get to know your neighbors, to see if they could be depended on for mutual aid. You don’t have to like them, but you may need to trust them.  That crusty grump up the street may very well have skills and experience that could be handy.  Running off into the sunset, or the hills, or turning your home/farm/retreat in the boonies into an armed bunker is not a plan… it’s the survivalist fairy tale.  Only those who plan are the ones who may have the chance to live happily ever after.

Dear Editor:
The Oklahoma Ice Storm of 2010 is now melting away and as usual there were lessons learned.   Many of these should have been “known” before but we are never as prepared as we should be.  In that vein I am going to rehash several things that went right, a few that went wrong, and others that we can improve on the next time that “life as usual” is not.

First, the setting: I live in Southwestern Oklahoma and have been here for almost three years.  About January 22nd we started getting word of an impending ice/snow storm scheduled to hit on about January 28th.  As the storm came together we received updates that refined the details.  The reports of January 27th were remarkably accurate to what we would receive as well as the specific times that each type of precipitation would start to fall.

In our town it started to rain at about 7 a.m. on January 28th.   As the temperature dropped that rain froze on metal objects, then on trees and plants, and finally on roads.  At approximately 3 p.m. the rain changed over to sleet and ice pellets and by 9 p.m. we were getting snow.  Unfortunately an inch+ of ice and two inches of sleet/ ice had already destroyed many trees and power lines (both the small distribution lines in town and the major transmission lines into town) were down.
Electricity went out about 11 a.m. and was restored by 3 p.m.  It went out again at 4 p.m. and would remain off at our house for the next six days.  This power outage was universal for every house in town and every town within a 30 mile radius.  I should mention that throughout the storm we had full water, sewer, and natural gas service.  There was concern at one point that the sewers would back up, (the sewer lagoons are at an elevation where the sewage has to be pumped to them) and those concerns brought about the possibility of the city turning off the water to prevent sewer backup but power was restored before this eventuality.

Second, the good news list.  Now that we are settled into what we hope is our last home, we keep on hand sufficient food to last for approximately six months.  With reasonable rationing we could go even longer.  We have a good rotation system and keep on hand about four months worth of food that we eat every day and two months worth of emergency type rations.

We enjoy camping and backpacking and have all the equipment to do both activities year round and be comfortable.  This includes lighter weight stoves, packs, tents and sleeping bags and water purifiers to campsite sized Coleman cook stoves, lanterns, Dutch ovens, tents, cots and heavy sleeping bags.  While most of this equipment was not used it was comforting to know that if the situation continued to deteriorate, that we could adapt.

We bought a standard frame house with brick veneer when we moved to Oklahoma which is approximately 35 years old.  We haven’t spent money on kitchen, bathroom or carpet upgrades but we have put 20 inches of blown insulation throughout (to include over the garage and the porches) and we replaced all of the original double pane aluminum frame windows with energy efficient vinyl frame windows.  Realizing that it is possible to do better, we were still pleased that during one seventeen hour period without any heat source in the house, outside temperatures from 17 to 26 degrees, and 20 mph winds, the temperature in the house only dropped five degrees from 67 to 62.

The house has two hot water heaters-one electric that services two bathrooms and one natural gas that services the kitchen and laundry room.  It was very easy to take hot water to the bathtubs and perform personal hygiene.  Showers were courtesy of the two gallon watering bucket that my wife uses to keep the sun room flowers fresh.

The regular phone system remained operational throughout the storm and recovery period.  However, folks that only had cordless phone systems could not access the lines.  In some cases phones with integrated answering systems could dial out but the phones would not ring if the ringer depended on plug in electricity.  We have one of the old style rotary phones that works perfectly on the telephone line current and were able to send and receive calls.

We topped off all the vehicles and gas cans a couple of days before the storm.  I anticipated trouble getting more fuel trucks to town.  What I did not think about was the gas station could not pump gas without electricity anyway.  Ultimately one old fashioned gas station in town hooked up a generator and could run receipts in his office.  Credit cards did not work so cash or an established charge account with the owner was the way to do business.
Third, what we can do better.  We have a lot of candles.  I have not done an inventory but there are boxes of them.  We discovered that candles that are about an inch in diameter are optimal.  Larger candles, 2-1/2 to 4 inches burn down in the center and leave a candle rim that blocks light. Ultimately they just shine a small circle of light on the ceiling.  We also learned that the best candles put out very little light.  We have a couple of antique oil lamps but they are for decoration and did not have wicks in them.  We are going to acquire more oil lamps, maintain them, and keep sufficient oil on hand for 4-to-6 months.

In the brain dead category we have Coleman stoves and lamps that are dual fuel.  Unfortunately I gave all of our Coleman fuel to the Boy Scouts so we failed in “Being Prepared”.  We shifted to our propane stoves.  I need to point out that these stoves should not be used indoors.  We cooked outside on the patio.  When we do get around to remodeling the kitchen I am going to replace the stove top with a gas appliance.  While we did not bake, we did have the capability by placing a Dutch oven on the propane stove.

In the final analysis we look at the Oklahoma Ice Storm of 2010 as being the most lavish camping trip that we have ever been on.  We never felt as though there were any true hardships and after the initial storm period we spent a lot of time outdoors enjoying the snow and volunteering at the local Red Cross warming/feeding center doing whatever was asked of us.  We look forward to implementing a few changes and the next opportunity to test our preparedness.

I am new to reading your blog and love it! I wanted to comment on the ice storm post. I live in Oklahoma so we know all about these ice storms. I started reading a lot of blogs on prepping and storing food during the holidays. I decided to make a menu and strict food budget so I could afford to buy extra food for long-term storage. I bought a month's worth of food this January. I also bought my first water storage container - a 7 gallon Aqua-Tainer from Wal-Mart. Last year, I had a gas heater mounted on my dining room wall, preparing myself for the next inevitable ice storm. A few days before the storm, I bought emergency candles and I am so glad I did! We didn't lose power (thankfully!), but our little town was cleaned out of generators, candles, Coleman stoves, propane, kerosene....everything. I went to Wal-Mart a few days later (when power was still out all over the county) and the shelves were completely empty in some areas. That was a wake-up call to me. In just a few short days, stores can be emptied. It is wise to not wait until the last minute. I am a single mom and a teacher and I know how difficult it is to come up with extra money to help become better prepared. I am doing a little each month and will sleep soundly knowing that my kids will be warm and fed if anything happens. By the way, the ice storm hit seven days ago and people are still without power.

Thanks for the wonderful blog and such useful information! - Kay in Oklahoma

Please stop! Some well-intentioned (but naive) folks are forwarding the e-mail titled "See with your own eyes Nephilim" with several Photoshop-doctored pictures of supposed skeletal remains of 16-foot tall humanoids. Here is a link to one of the original photos that they doctored. Again, please stop forwarding this fakery!

   o o o

Kurt B. sent this: Nuclear missile threats to U.S. mount; Report warns of Pyongyang's aims

   o o o

Chad S. spotted another piece from Nanny State Britannia: Cheers! Brits toast new shatterproof pint glass. Chad Adds: "Note that this was developed by the British Government, not private industry."

"The people of every country are the only guardians of their own rights and are the only instruments which can be used for their destruction. It is an axiom in my mind that our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of people themselves, that, too, of the people with a certain degree of instruction." - Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to W.S. Smith, 1787

Friday, February 5, 2010

A curious thing happened yesterday (Thursday, February 4th). Both the stock markets and precious metals markets declined. Traditionally, they have moved in opposite directions, but we are living in curious times. I took advantage of the dip in metals and bought some more silver. (I hope that you do likewise, on dip days. I've mentioned that countless times in SurvivalBlog. Has it sunk in yet?)


Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

While watching the local weather over the last few days, it has become apparent that a winter storm is heading for our part of the world, bringing with it the distinct possibility of not just snow, but significant amounts of ice. As I pondered this, it brought to mind our recent experiences with ice storms over the last few years, most notably in January 2007. I thought some of our “lessons learned” were worth sharing with others.

We had been blessed with several years of reasonably mild winters leading up to the 2007 storm. Unfortunately, the good times often seem to lull people into a state of complacency, characterized by an artificial sense of well-being and overall lack of awareness. This is, of course, what the late Colonel Cooper referred to as Condition White.

I freely admit to being somewhat guilty of the “All is Well” syndrome where the weather was concerned also. While I have spent my entire adult life trying to make sure my family is prepared for the myriad of difficulties we experience, I must confess that when the weather man said “Chance of ice,” I didn’t really take him all that seriously. I failed to properly evaluate the nature of the threat. In that particular instance, I didn’t think through the potential ice storm scenario to any great degree, because I considered myself and my family to already be prepared for this event. At the very least, I should have gone through the mental exercise of “what if” and reviewed the supplies I had in contrast to what I was likely to need in this situation. In a real emergency, “All is Well” can get you killed.

The ice came. In the early hours of the morning I awoke to find the power had gone off. This was, frankly, no surprise to me. Temporary interruptions in the grid caused by weather are far from unusual here. What I couldn’t know at the time was our power would not be back on for 8 days. Neighbors not far from us were out for 13 days. In contrast, power in the closest town was only out for hours.

Upon waking, I immediately got up, woke my wife and told her the power was out, and took a hot shower before the water in the tank had a chance to cool. My wife did likewise. A hot shower can become an unbelievable luxury in a surprisingly short period of time when the power is out. (Yes, our hot water heater is “gasp!” electric.) Also, I filled the bathtub and several buckets with water in case the generators failed at the local water district. I already had several cases of drinking water and approximately 200 gallons in drums in the garage as well. These are standard precautions on our part, regardless of the time of year.

Heat was the next issue we tackled. Our home is all-electric, but we supplement the electric furnace with portable kerosene heaters in order to keep utility bills manageable. I isolated the living room, which is where we spend most of our waking hours, by stapling blankets over the doorways leading to our hallways and kitchen. This five-minute modification allowed me to more efficiently heat the living room with a kerosene heater, and minimized heat loss into the unused areas of the house. I used the same “compartment” approach at night when heating the bedroom. Of course, kerosene heaters should never be left unattended for any period of time, and a battery-powered CO detector is a must.

A second important lesson regarding heat is to have ample fuel supplies on-hand to handle an emergency. We were burning kerosene on a daily basis before the storm. When the weather forecast seemed ominous, I asked my wife to pick up an extra container of kerosene on her way home from work, since I work long shifts and would not be away from work before the station closed. She forgot, and we faced the storm with less than 5 gallons of kerosene. On the heels of the ice came painfully low temperatures for several days. It became clear that we would not have sufficient fuel for our heaters to last throughout the cold snap. Furthermore, a large percent of the local population had turned to kerosene heaters in the absence of electricity. Local suppliers soon ran out of kerosene. As a result, I eventually found myself standing in line for approximately four hours in order to purchase 10 gallons of kerosene, when it became available. Fortunately, I did have enough cash on hand to make the needed transaction. ATMs were only intermittently operational. The wait, outdoors in single-digit temperatures, with a few hundred other unfortunates, was by far the most valuable lesson I received during this time. The helplessness, anxiety, and shame associated with my lack of preparation have impacted me deeply. By the way, I now buy kerosene in 55 gallon drums. No more queues for me.

That covers water, shelter, and heat. Our next issue was light. I keep several Dietz lanterns and two Aladdin lamps along with several gallons of high-grade lamp oil on hand. Illumination was not a problem. In addition, I have a wide variety of Surefire brand flashlights and spare lithium batteries for nighttime chores around the house. All of the above were put to good use. I was even able to supply some of my neighbors with Dietz lanterns and oil during the time we were off-grid. Several valuable lessons concerning light were learned. First, the Aladdin lamps are excellent, albeit somewhat expensive. They are bright when used according to the instructions. So bright, in fact, that I recommend anyone planning on using them also spend the extra money for lamp shades. They are definitely bright enough to read by without undue eyestrain. They also give off significant amounts of heat, which was helpful in the cold temperatures. They would be less pleasant to utilize in hot weather, however. I was actually able to boil water by holding a metal cup over the top of the chimney for a brief time. This was an excellent technique for preparing some of the freeze-dried Mountain House food we ate during the event. Buy at least twice as many mantles and chimneys as you think you will need, as these are the most fragile parts of the lamp. Also, read the instructions.

Dietz lanterns are excellent tools for the money, but are significantly less bright than the Aladdins. They are easier to use when you are moving around as they have handles and can be carried while lit. All the standard precautions apply when using anything that is actively burning while you handle it.

Surefire lights are also outstanding illumination tools. The major shortfall is battery life. I discovered that when you are using them as a primary illumination source, you will go through a surprising number of batteries. The good news is the batteries generally have a shelf life measured in years, so you can afford to stock up without worrying too much about discharge rates. Don’t buy CR-123 batteries from places like Wal-Mart; they are too expensive there. Instead, order them directly from Surefire’s web site. You can get them in bulk for less than $2 per battery. The battery life problem can also be mitigated somewhat by buying the newer generation of LED lights, as opposed to the older ones with the xenon bulbs.

Food was not an issue due to pre-existing stocks. All our cooking was done outside on a propane burner from a turkey fryer. Coffee prepared in an enameled percolator was definitely the biggest morale-booster from day to day. We even had friends over for “Mountain House night” to provide a little levity and fellowship in an otherwise dreary situation.

The same morning that the power went off, I removed all perishables from the refrigerator and stored them in a Rubbermaid tub in the cold garage. That food was prepared and eaten first. The freezers were left closed as much as possible, and wrapped with blankets for additional insulation. I keep a 5kw generator with the tank drained along with several gallons of stabilized fuel (religiously rotated) and sufficient oil. My only purpose for the genset is to keep the freezers frozen in just such situations. Only one of my freezers in indoors, the others being outside. It was only necessary to run the generator for a couple of hours every two to three days to maintain the integrity of the frozen food. In retrospect, it would be advisable to have the ability to connect the genset to portions of the house (with the appropriate safety measures, of course) for added flexibility in using a limited number of electric appliances.

During the crisis, I had two different coworkers whose homes were “cased” by potential thieves. Each home was rural and isolated, with no neighbors in direct line-of sight. Fortunately, in both cases, when the armed homeowners confronted the would-be thieves, they wisely ran away.

Keep in mind that, while the power was off for several days, this was in fact only a pseudo-disaster. Roads remained passable, and within a day, Wal-Mart was open for business. Within hours they sold out of bottled water, candles, lamps & lamp oil, manual can openers, flashlights, batteries (D-cells were the most in demand), milk, bread, and most foodstuffs that don’t require preparation. Over the course of three days, I watched my closest neighbor make at least two trips to Wal-Mart per day, returning with armloads of white plastic bags each trip. Also, within days, there were enterprising individuals selling small generators out of the back of tractor-trailers. You could hear the rattle and hum of Briggs & Stratton engines in almost every direction.

On a personal note, the experience was also a validation of the preparedness mindset for my wife. While she has always been supportive of my efforts to prepare, she was from time to time also prone to grumbling about the amount of space occupied by our preparedness supplies. More than once during the storm, she would say something like “Gee, it would be nice if we had…” upon which I would go to the back room, rummage around and return with the item she was requesting. By the end of the storm, her most frequent comment was, “I’m glad you’re my husband.”

Lessons Learned:

  • An "All is Well" attitude will get you killed. Take threats seriously.
  • Have your water taken care of now. It will be one less critical thing to worry about in an emergency.
  • Keep fuel in sufficient quantities for emergencies.
  • Batteries, batteries, batteries.
  • Be able to cook outside.
  • Thieves and looters will come, even in rural areas.
  • It’s not really a disaster if you can still go to Wal-Mart.

I have just returned to my house after 6 days without power. I Thought I was ready. I had plenty of beans, Band-Aids, bullion and bullets. What I didn’t have was the stuff I needed to get through the first week of a massive power outage. We still had water, even though I had an additional 50 gallons of fresh, treated water for myself, The Beautiful Wife (TBW) and the pets. We had enough short term food that we were able to provide a chili meal for some of our friends and coworkers that were doing without. We had more money of all kinds than we needed. What I hadn’t planned for, was the first week. We had enough flashlights, but a headlight would have served much better. Cooking with a flashlight leave the cook one hand short. I knew that I had a Coleman propane camp stove, but I had neglected to put the propane and the connector hose with the stove. I had a Coleman lantern for light, but I had used the last pair of mantels and had not replaced them, you know, I’ll get them on sale or when we go to town next. And then I forgot! I would have paid three times what the cost just to be able to read after dark. Same thing for the propane, I had one for the grill, one for the stove (Oh, yea, I don’t know where that one is), and a spare. Oh, the spare is in the travel trailer, and has an inch of ice over the storage door. Hummmm! Thank goodness for deicer. Oh, yea, I had to go dig that out of storage in another box.

Have a list! Know what things you need to rotate, replace, use up, whatever. Make sure your BTW or your closest friend knows where that list is, and what it means. Abbreviations on a list that have meaning to you, are worthless to your partner, unless they know what they stand for.

Drill! Work with your partner to fine tune the list. We both knew where the spot flashlight was, we thought! We had moved less than a year ago, and the spot flashlight we both thought we knew the location of, well that was in the old house. We found it in the travel trailer on the fourth day. Have a scavenger hunt and find random items on the list. Where is the fire extinguisher, the spot flashlight, the propane for the stove? What do you need to splint my broken arm from a fall in the ice? How am I supposed to get you to a medical facility without a phone?

I have been reading SurvivalBlog for a year now, and I thought I was doing pretty good. Boy, was I wrong!

Keep up the good work and God Bless. - Ray B.

Hand tools are nearly useless if not properly maintained. This concept seems under emphasized in preparedness literature.

One should have a stash of assorted files and sharpening stones, as they can be broken or worn out.

Items like hacksaw blades that are nearly impossible to make at home should be acquired in quantity. People should also buy a quantity of tool steel and drill rod suitable for fashioning cutting tools.

Thanks for your advice on your blog site and for your novel "Patriots" . Regards, - Jim J.

From GG: Revelations of hidden Greek debt "last straw". And here is a related news story: EU toughens demands on Greece

Flavio sent this linkio: It’s Official: California Housing Production Reached New Low in 2009. Down 83% from the 2004 peak!

Pioneering blogger Hugh Hewitt says: We Are Headed For A Fiscal Stroke. (A tip of the hat to Damon for the link.)

Chad S. flagged this: U.S. May Lose 824,000 Jobs as Employment Data Revised

Items from The Economatrix:

Note from JWR: Cheryl (aka The Economatrix) wrote me to mention that there is up to two feet of fresh snow expected there soon, as well as high winds and some freezing rain. So she might be out of contact. Throw another log on the fire, Cheryl!

False Hope in Financial Free Lunch (The Mogambo Guru)

Jim Rogers: Federal Reserve is Worsening the Depression

The Subtle Nationalization of the Banks and Housing Market

Homeowners May Still Owe Even After Foreclosure

Data on Service Sector Show a Struggling Recovery

Gasoline Rises After Unexpected Supply Drop

Ham radio: A fading hobby ... until emergencies hit. (A hat tip to John M. for the link.)

   o o o

Mark A. was the first of several readers to mention this: Digital doomsday: the end of knowledge

   o o o

Joel S. sent us this: Bogota's Bulletproof Tailor

"I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions, and not on our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds wherever we go." - Martha Washington, from The Life of Washington by Anna C. Reed, niece of a signer of the Declaration of Independence; first published in 1842 by the American Sunday-School Union, now called the American Missionary Fellowship (AMF).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round will include:

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

In every TEOTWAWKI circumstance shelter is of paramount concern.  It’s actually a concern every day of our lives, but we seldom think about it – we take the roof over our head almost as a given right in country.  Our houses or “castles” as some states call them are so sacred many states allow us to use deadly force – no questions asked – if someone illegally violates our home’s hallowed ground. 

For a survivalist, “prepper” or even casually concerned citizen preparing for some sort of unknown future disaster, water, food, guns/ammo, fuel, backpacks, etc. are all high on the packing list.  Depending on the geographic part of the US, some citizens may have chains saws and their associated spare parts.  Some really prepared folks may have some hand tools, nails, and hand saws stored away.  But how many people have stored away any building materials?  If a can of beans is going to be hard to find after a natural disaster, how hard is it going to be to find a 2x4, or piece of plywood?

Obviously we can not predict the future or what disasters lay before us.  History tells us weather and nature can do damage at any time whether it be a volcano eruption in Yellowstone, a snow-storm in the Rockies, hurricane on the coast, or a Midwest drought.  We also know there are a lot of people in the world that wish severe harm on the United States.  We don’t know when a terrorist will strike and to what degree – damage could be an internet attack, a dirty bomb, an device, a nuclear bomb, etc.  Perhaps the disaster is economic and the financial sector of our country crumbles.  In any case…and probably even more so during a disaster…a roof over our head is one of the basic necessities of life: water, food, and shelter.

Not everyone in this country is a carpenter and or experienced in home design, but most of us know what are homes are made of by seeing homes under construction, looking in the attic, or doing small remodel projects on your house.  How many trips does it take to the hardware store to fix a leaky faucet?  One, two, three?   And that’s just a faucet.  What happens if a tree falls on your roof, or the wind blows out a window, or the snow from a large storm causes a portion of your roof to collapse? 

Preparing the Shelter
Starting from the earliest notions of preparation, prevention is clearly the best remedy to a structural failure during a disaster.  If possible work with a reputable engineer to design a structure that meets and exceeds all of your possible worst case hazards – be it tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, snow, extreme temperatures, gun fire, intruders, etc.  Just about anything short of a direct nuclear blast can be part of the engineering equations used to design your house/retreat. (It’s not standard procedure but it can be done.)  Even some seemingly severe hazards such as gun fire can easily and cheaply be negated with the use of proper materials.

For those of us that missed the boat on getting it right before it was built and have to deal with a house or retreat that is already built to some pre-existing building code or perhaps no building code, what can be done?  Contact an expert engineer, builder, survivalist, home protection company and have them offer professional advice on ways to mitigate and or strengthen the structure for atypical situations such as gun fire.  Some examples of “home improvements” include steel doors/bullet resistant doors, unconventional door locks such as hidden dead bolts/hinges and heavy timber braces, bullet proof window replacements, walk in safe roofs (easily done in a basement with CMU blocks), adding a standing-seam metal roof (snow slides off the roof and does not accumulate), underground escape routes, interior or exterior cisterns, additional bracing of existing walls and roof, and even steel window shutters (a mere 1/4” plate steel will stop many typical small-arms, handgun calibers).

Assuming your residence was either pre-built as a fortress or underwent some “upgrades” towards the fortress classification, what’s next?  Supplies.  Have spare materials on hand to fix potential problems.  Besides the basic plumbing, heating, electrical spare parts, have some building materials stored.  Have several 2x6’s, 2x8’s, 2x10’s, 2x12’s, and plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) pieces at least ½” or thicker kept covered and out of the weather.  Generally the longer the piece the better; a 24 foot 2x12 can be cut into two 12 foot pieces, but it doesn’t work the other way around.  If a window breaks, the plywood would be invaluable to seal the opening - same with the 2x material for a portion of a failing roof, wall, or door jamb.  What if you had to replace a door jamb due to an attempted forced entry, or the loft post in the barn because you backed the tractor into it, or the toilet overflowed and caused the sub-floor underneath it to delaminate?  Are you prepared – remember the hardware store is probably out of supplies, looted, and or closed.  Several large heavy tarps and 10-to-20 bags or concrete and mortar are also highly advised.

Without tools the spare wood is close to worthless.  The basic hand tools should be a given: hammer, nails, screw drivers, hand saws, pry-bars, etc., but it is also worth adding a few more such as large bow saws, two man cross-cut saws, large braces (hand drills) with self-drilling-threaded-tip bits, axes (large and small) adzes, chisels (wood and cold), draw knifes, block and tackles sets/come-along, sledge hammers, large sharpening stones, and or manually powered grinding wheel.  Having an assortment of timber pegs ranging from ½” to 1 ½” in diameter would be helpful. 

Common in the log home industry are a group of fasteners call “log home screws” sold under the brand names of Olylog, TimberLok, Log Home Screw, and GRK.  These screws come in boxes and buckets of 50-500.  They typically have a hex or torx head and are self drilling – commonly accomplished with a strong ½” drive power drill.  They can also be installed by hand with a socket and ratchet wrench.  These screws are the duct tape of the heavy timber framing industry and most are ¼ inch in diameter but scientifically perform like a 3/8” or ½” lag screw.  They are very strong, versatile and can literally be used to bend wood beams.  Have several hundred in various sizes on hand. 

Fixing the Shelter
Up to this point it’s been all about preparation, be it home design, home modifications, tools or materials.  What happens if something goes wrong after TSHTF and the lumber pile in the back yard isn’t enough?  Trees!  Assuming the plot of land on which the fortress resides has some trees, there is wood for the taking.  In general standing dead trees are the most preferred wood source in the drier climate western states; in more humid regions healthy coniferous trees would be preferred.  The subject of timber selection is a book in itself, but here are a few brief reasons for the aforementioned tree type selection.  Wood, in general becomes stiffer as it dries.  (Think of how flexible a living sapling is compared to a similar sized dead sapling.)  Wet wood can also “creep” over time.  This is a sagging of the wood under its own weight and once dry the wood will remain in the bent or sagged formation.  Insects generally like to call living trees home – they may kill the tree in doing so, but most insect and fungal relationships with trees are parasitic in nature as they “suck” the nutrients away from the living tree.  Once the tree is dead, this relationship ceases to exist.  With standing dead trees in dry climates, the wind and sun keep the wood dry and as such eliminate future fungal attacks.  Another issue with live trees is that once the tree is cut down and the wood begins to dry out, it shrinks - often significantly (species and climate dependant).  This shrinking could be ½” in diameter for a 12” diameter log.  Building or repairing a structure with wet wood could cause gaps, bad joints, and even structural failure if not properly addressed in the building design.  In more humid parts of the country (coasts and east of the Mississippi), standing dead timber may be not be a sound choice.  If decay is noted, move on.  Decay or fungus is like an iceberg – only 10% of the potential threat is visible.  In other words, if fungus is noted on the outside of the tree, the inside of the tree is probably 10 times as bad – at least on a microscopic level and structural strength level.

What about hardwoods or deciduous trees?  Hardwoods are strong indeed, but often heavier, harder to work with, and seldom grow as tall and straight as softwoods (conifers, evergreens, etc.). 

So the damage is done, for whatever reason a structural member in the house, barn, or garage needs to be replaced and a direct replacement isn’t available.  How big of a tree should be cut?  If the tree is standing dead without any cones, leaves or even branches, look at the surround living forest.  Chances are the species is the same as one of the living trees.  In most cases, species won’t be a determining characteristic as most people won’t be able to discern the exact species anyway.  But stay away from aspen, birch, and alder.  These species are of the “hardwood” variety (deciduous trees) but generally very weak and decay rapidly when exposed to water.  Douglas Fir and Southern Yellow Pine trees produce some of the strongest wood available in the United States and both are conifers. 

If insulating characteristics are the most important, go with a lightweight, non-dense wood such as spruce or cedar.  If it’s bullets that need to be stopped, the heaviest and densest woods such as southern pine, oak, hickory, would be the best option.

The size of the tree should be close or bigger than the size of the wood member it is replacing.  Unless there is a bio-diesel sawmill on the ranch, the tree probably isn’t going to be cut down to size in terms of width and thickness – only length.  Look for straight, tall, trees with small branches (knots), no visible decay, and no visible gouges, holes, or sap pockets – all which decrease the strength of the wood.  Spiral grain, often seen on standing dead trees with no bark, significantly weakens the structural strength of the wood.  Straightness of the grain and knot size are typically the two most detrimental characteristics to a piece of wood’s strength.  Strong wood has straight grain and few or only small knots.

 The diameter of the tree should be big enough that the piece it is replacing could theoretically be sawn out of the tree.  For example if the piece that is being replaced is a 2x12 (actual dimensions of 1 ½” x 11 ¼” ) the tree should have an average diameter of at least 11 ¼” for the entire length of the 2x12 it is replacing.  The base of the tree will be slightly larger than 11 ¼ but the top of the tree could be 10 inches in diameter.  With these guidelines the tree will likely be stronger than the 2x12 it is replacing.  Many factors determine the strength of the wood and personal experience/expertise may dictate the use of a smaller diameter tree for a replacement beam (beams are horizontal members carrying load their entire length).  For beams the critical dimension is typically the depth of the beam – in this case the 11 ¼” dimension.  In general the deeper the beam, the stronger the beam. 

Columns, posts, or vertical members carry a vertical load and do not act the same way as beams.  A post should be replaced with a tree of equal or larger diameter – a smaller diameter post should not be used.  The explanation for this is complicated, but if the post/column is too thin it will buckle.  Think if a wooden yard stick and how easy it is to compress the ends and get the stick to bend out of plane (buckling), if that same stick was a 1”x1” square, it would be very difficult to get it to bend out of plane by compressing the ends.

After the tree is cut to the desired length the bark should be removed.  Most insects and fungi attack the tree on its cambium layer (the living cell layer directly under the bark).  Removing the bark allows the tree to dry faster and without moisture most fungi will die.  Insects burrowed in the bark are also removed.  As the tree dries it will shrink in terms of diameter and doing so will create cracks or checks in the surface of the wood.  The cracks may be over ½” wide but are not a structural concern so long as the cracks are parallel to the grain and do not go all the way through the tree.  

Building a New Shelter
If everything else fails, the preparation, and the repair, all is not lost.  It is possible to build a strong, almost bullet, wind, storm proof shelter from the forest.  This assumes access to some six-inch-plus diameter trees.  Suffice to say, this short article isn’t the end all instruction manual for building a log home from scratch.  Several books on the topic do exist, some more useful than others.  Should this plan C option be of interest, it might be worth working with an engineer to design and engineer a structure you might build should the need arise.  The blueprints could be kept on file at the retreat.

In any case a new structure needs to built – and in this case the only tool really necessary is a good axe and sharpening stone – every other tool just makes it easier and faster.  It’s the quintessential log cabin; they’ve been built all over the county and even housed former presidents.

Start with the foundation.  Wood decays when it gets wet and the ground is typically wet at least most of the year in most parts of the country.  If the log cabin is known to be a very short term (6 years or less in drier climates and 2 years or less in wetter climates) structure, it could be built directly on level, drained and compacted soil.  If some sort of longevity is desired a stone foundation would be a good start.  Even if no mortar is used stones, rocks, and boulders can be stacked on top of one another forming a small wall 1-2 feet high.  This would keep the rain, snow, and soil moisture away from the wood.  The first course of logs is then stacked on top of the stone wall.  Obviously if mortar is available, it may be used to strengthen the stone wall – even sand or mud could be used to block air flow through the rocks.

Trees are cut, using the aforementioned selection criteria in terms of species, dead or alive, etc. to the length of the structure.  Larger diameter trees provide better insulation, bullet resistance, and require less trees to be cut, but are heavier and harder to work with.  Smaller diameter trees are easier to maneuver, but don’t match up to the larger diameter trees’ other virtues.  Size may be dictated by what’s in the local forest.

The trees need to be full length extending from corner to corner of the cabin, and a four corner cabin is highly recommended.  (Corners are labor intensive and time consuming to construct.)  For log stacking purposes make sure you have an even number of corners, e.g. even though a three corner structure can be constructed, the log courses don’t work.

The logs are stacked just like “Lincoln Logs” – yes, the kids’ toy.  Lay the east and west logs down parallel to one another and then lay the north and south logs on top of the east and west logs.  The strength and warmth of the structure are determined by the corners.  At a minimum the log should extend approximately two times the log diameter past the corner notch – this extension is called a “tail” or “log tail.”  The notch should be about ½ the diameter of the log and the deeper the notch the tighter the logs will fit to one another.  Notches should be cut so they are facing down – if they are facing up, the notch will hold rain water and allow for decay.  If no notch is used the logs will roll off of each other and there will be larger gaps between the logs.  If an extremely tight fit is desired and time is on available, the logs can be “scribed” or custom cut to fit the log below it.  This lessens and may alleviate the need for any chinking or insulating material between log courses.

The process is repeated until the desired height is achieved.  Door and window openings are cut in with a chain saw or two-man saw after the entire square or rectangle structure is completed.  Once the openings are cut, smaller logs are vertically positioned and fastened to the horizontal log courses around the opening to keep the wall logs from shifting or moving out of plane. 

Some may wonder how to get 1,000 pound logs up to the top course, which may be eight feet high.  It can be done with hand tools, rope, and a few strong men/horse.  Logs are angled from the ground to the top of the wall (i.e. log ramps) and the new log is rolled into position up the angled logs.  Ropes may be used to pull the log into place while some men push it up the log ramps.

As for the roof, the simplest design is that of a shed roof and single pitch.  For example the south wall is made two feet taller than the north wall and log rafters are laid at an angle from the north wall to the south wall.  The east and west ends are in-filled with smaller logs or plywood, or even pine branches.  The steeper the pitch the better the weather protection as rain and snow will run or slide off a steep pitch roof.  A tarp, pine bow, boards, etc. may be used to seal of the roof between the rafters.

Obviously the construction details previously listed for a log cabin are incomplete and overly simplified, but the point is that a new structure – should the need arise – can be built from materials (trees) that may be available on the land.  With a good team of people, a simple rectangular structure could be completed in a few days.  For more information check out the various log cabin construction books or speak with a knowledgeable professional.

All being said and done, clearly the Boy Scout motto of “be prepared” takes the center podium when it comes to shelter.  If at all possible have the shelter pre-engineered to address the worst case loads it may face.  If the structure already exists, then fortify it with the help of a professional.  We talk about storing food, guns/ammo, first aid supplies, and even ourselves in our retreat or house, but what good does a two years supply of food do if the first storm blows off the roof and rain soaks the food supply?

Do you know of any good web sites that list where you can buy just an acre or so of land in the woods, where people wouldn’t expect you to actually live? I live right on the Florida/Georgia state line so there's plenty of land around. However, parcels are typically sold in 50 acres or 100 acre chunks. Or [with a lot] they expect you to turn it into a house with a mailbox and all that. I just want some woods. My goal is to excavate for an underground storage shed, with small sleeping quarters. I'll then gradually fill it up with supplies. Thanks, - Rob C.

JWR Replies: One web site that I recommend watching is RealtyTrac.com. They specialize in listing foreclosed and otherwise "distressed" properties.

You should also ask a few real estate agents in your planned retreat area if they have any listings for any bargain parcels in any of these categories:

  • Landlocked properties,
  • "Access problem" properties,
  • "Off-grid" properties
  • State or National Forest In-holdings, or
  • Patented mining claims

One other possibility (usually just an outside chance, in the more populous states) is to visit the County Assessor's Office, and ask about any tax delinquent parcels--especially ones with access problems. Depending on the county and state that you live in, these can sometimes be had just for paying the back taxes, or not much more than that.

I believe that the current collapse in the real estate market will create some rare opportunities to buy distressed properties for the next five to ten years. Be vigilant and prayerful. Lord willing, you'll find the right place at the right price.

I thought that the map at this web page: Electoral College Reform was fascinating. (But of course any such plan would be grossly unconstitutional--so I consider it nothing more than an intellectual exercise.) And ponder this set of graphics at the same web site: 50 States and 50 Metros. If nothing else, these maps illustrate just how lightly populated some of my recommended retreat locales are. (Thanks to Hal H. for the links.)

   o o o

The folks at Survival Bound just did a major expansion to their free manual collection. It was 5 gigabytes, but now it is 25 gigabytes!

   o o o

Ammo proves better than money in the bank: 308 Ammo in 1000 & 1500 round cases (A follow-up post on the second page explains where the ammo was buried, back when the Clintonistas were in power..)

"No citizen has any right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training... The instinct of self-preservation demands it likewise: for how helpless is the state of the ill-trained youth in war or danger!" - Socrates

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Here at the farm we had the first of a series of free and open classes on disaster preparedness on February 1st. One of the things I intend to talk about at the upcoming meetings are various options for joining a community.

When discussing disaster preparations, the first thing to decide is what you think is most likely to happen. If you think the world is a friendly place where snow means skiing and flowers always bloom, then a disaster is the electricity going out for a couple days if a tree happens to fall. You'll need a case of bottled water, some soup and maybe a barbeque for cooking. With just that little bit, you'll still be ahead of most of your neighbors and mostly be comfortable. But what if disaster means, 'The End Of...Everything'? Then the preps you'll need will be very different.

We've all watched the aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina/Haiti/Tsunami/wildfires and snows. Generally life sucks, then the cavalry comes. But what do you do if help never comes? Never. Ever. None. Can you provide for every single thing you will need for the rest of your life, and your children's lives? Food, water, warmth, medicine, security, communication, civil order, sanitation, entertainment, livestock, eligible partners for your progeny, trade goods, tools and so much more? Can you walk into the wilderness right now with only what you carry, build house and barn, and be able to defend against whatever predator awaits, just as our ancestors did? Because that's what TEOTWAWKI means. The end of everything as it now exists.

I believe we live in such a fragile society that if the electricity goes off for several weeks continent wide, it just as likely won't ever come back on. Without power there's no food, gas, medicine, order. Without the basics, too many people will perish. And since we have become so specialized in job skills, it will only take a few key missing knowledgeable workers for the whole system to permanently break.

Two generations ago there where many self-sufficient generalists. There are very few now. My Grandma saved seeds, kept chickens, put wood to stove, and pulled water from the well. And during the Depression she and her brothers sat on the porch at night, holding a shotgun, to protect the apple orchard. Are you ready and able to do all that? Can you fix or make every single thing you will ever need? We've all heard stories about the intrepid pioneers who carved out a life. But for every family that made it, many more failed. Most of them died.

So what do you do? It's not so likely any of us will do well alone. There's just too much to do. I believe the best, and maybe only, survival strategy is to join a community. Seems to me there are only several basic ways to do so. 1). Be in one before TSHTF. 2). Be close friends, or family, of folks in a community so you can join when you need, (and trust they will still let you in). 3). Bargain your way into a community with what you know and the skills you have. 4).Bargain your way in with the goods you carry.

Of course joining a community right now, (or yesterday), is best. There is so much to learn, acquire and establish that doing it now, while times are good, is much easier. It's also much better to work out all the personality issues when not under maximum stress. I've have dozens of dozens of folks living here at the farm over the last 35 years. First impressions don't always count for much. Some people are pleasant to live with, some really make things difficult. You don't want to find that out when its too late. When it comes to survival, you really need to depend on and trust those around you.

There are actually quite a few communities already out there. You've probably already checked the "Finding Others" page on SurvivalBlog. But there's also IC.org . On their home page, click on "resources", then click on "reach book". There are intentional communities all over the world. A lot of the ones listed are "love me, love me" type folks, but there's also some pretty good ones. And of course talk with your trusted friends and at Church to see who's doing what and what's possible.

If you're not already in a safe place, or set up to go to one, then you'll have to walk up to the unknown "door" and ask to join. You'll need something better than, "I'm hungry, my kids are starving". That'll maybe get you a meal, hopefully, maybe. But it doesn't get you in. You'll need skills. Everybody's a babysitter/cook/computer programmer/garden weeder/ditch digger. Don't really need you. Blacksmiths are surprisingly common, (gotta love America and all her hobbyists). What's valuable is a really good herbalist/midwife, a veteran with experience, somebody who knows and can do the thirteen ways of preserving food, a trapper/skinner/tanner, a shoe/boot/wagon wheel maker, a weaver or tin smith. Be a veterinarian or nurse/third world doctor or dentist. Then you have usefulness in really basic times. If you can't get to community now, acquire some of the more rare or valuable skills. You, and they, will need them. With knowledge, it'll be harder to turn you away.

Another way into community is what you possess and can offer. If you have lots of antibiotics, treadle sewing machine needles, surgical instruments, maybe fish hooks, certain books, maybe bullets, the more rare tools for old time crafts and trades, copious amounts of food or a thousand spools of thread, most communities will consider you. The problem is some communities may like your goods better than you. Some might decide to "share" what you have then say bye-bye, (or worse). You might try to bury your goods, observe the community from a distance, then walk in and make a deal. But they better be kind hearted or you'll just end up "sharing" again. And if you hunker down concealed in order to observe a community for a couple days to see if they are worth joining, you probably don't want to join them anyway. If they don't catch you, its not so likely they'll catch the bad guys doing the same thing. With goods, you're possibly valuable, but at a real disadvantage in deal making.

Then there's the last unmentioned way of joining a community. That's "joining" by not joining. For thousands of years there have been traveling tradesmen, craftsmen and peddlers. Folks with tools, goods, and skills who traveled from community to community where they provided items to trade, gossip and information from down the road, sometimes entertainment and amusement to break to sameness of everyday life in isolated villages, and needed specialty skills such as dentistry or pewterer. They'd stay for a short while, re-equip, rest up, then move on. Keeping to somewhat scheduled rounds, so they would be expected and welcomed at the next stop.

Peddling may not work so well in the first months or even year after TSHTF; the world may be too unsettled and dangerous. But for certain personality types, it may be a good option. It's something to think about.

So, I suggest you give some real thought to how you will get into a community. My opinion is we survivors/thrivers will need to. I think it will get that tough. And that soon. Don't know what's going to bite us. If its a pandemic, being near a city might not be so bad, if the hordes die off fast enough and you don't also get sick. If its EMP, then being anywhere within a couple weeks walk of a major city may really suck. And if certain people get re-elected, then we're all toast. I don't really know what will happen first and worst. But whatever it is exactly, I suggest you have a determined way to join with others in order to survive.

A few books that might be helpful, to add to SurvivalBlog's already long list of suggested useful books, are:

The preceding list is just a few of the hundreds that are useful to have. Do searches on Barnes and Noble Used books, or Borders Used Books in subjects that interest you. Get them now. The world will become very small when the power goes out. Also, at YahooGroups there are hundreds of Groups of people with extremely useful knowledge on any subject, trade or skill you can think of. Get the knowledge before it is all lost. - Jim Fry, Curator, Museum of Western Reserve Farms & Equipment

P.S.: For those interested, see the posting at the Preparedness Groups Page for Feb. 1, 2010, about North Central Ohio. Free and open meeting for discussion of disaster preparedness. -- If we can help you now to be prepared, you can help others later when charitable living will be needed.

My preparedness background started as a youth.  My father took us camping often and had an amazing gun collection; I’ve been able to teach my kids what he taught me – great memories both then and now!  In the 1970s, my mom and step-dad bought a little 2-acre farm in the middle of nowhere.  We kept a dozen or so chickens, had a few garden spots (that seemed to grow and multiply with each new season), homemade soap, homemade root beer (an acquired taste!) a “sewing room”, a small orchard, solar heating, our own 250-gallon fuel tank, and a year supply of food (much of it canned at home) for a blended family of 10.  In the late 80’s, I got married and had my wife encourage me to follow the counsel of a church leader “to be prepared for anything”.  I did some homework, organized my gear and ended up teaching others for the last 15+ years the basics of being prepared.   My greatest mentor has been Glenn Anderson, who I met from the Yahoo group PrepJr.  (Check out his survival notebook section in the files).  I have taught disaster education for the Red Cross and served as a police reservist in a couple of small towns.  I enjoy ham radio, beekeeping, shooting, Dutch Oven cooking, serving in my church, backpacking/camping, canoeing, and delving into the many facets of being prepared and independent.  After reading (in quick succession) Lights Out [a free e-book], "One Second After". and "Patriots", I’ve been taking it up a notch and inviting anyone who will listen to join me in a more advanced state of preparedness.  I’ve bought extra copies of the books to loan out (or sent out links to acquire the e-books).  In my church, I am responsible to help some of our local units get better prepared.  During this process, I’ve thought how other churches might want to consider the same thing, and thought I could use this format to share what I have learned over the years.  Being a “work in progress”, here are the thoughts that I’ve come up with so far to help a congregation get better prepared:

Initial goals for this year:

1.  Basic “phone tree” functioning – map out and divide the church boundaries into geographical districts.  Assign each family 2 or 3 other households within a district to do welfare checks, especially during a significant event where loss of phone service is minimal.  Help your members become their brother’s keeper.

2.  List of those with special needs – physical handicaps, mentally or emotionally challenged, critical medicines and/or durable medical equipment.  Make plans on how they can be helped.

3.  Define resources across your membership: specialized skill sets (medical, transport, security, heavy equipment & operators, “prepared”/food storage, etc.)

4.  List of homes willing and able to take in refugees (consider list from #3).  Consult the map to help determine closest options and alternate routing if needed.

5.  Emergency Communications training – locate current ham radio operators across the area and establish a scheduled net to practice traffic handling and prepare to facilitate communications in the event of an emergency.  Use their homes as focal points for the collecting of information.  (If ham operators are non-existent, skip to item #7.) Also, consider befriending local hams and arrange the use of their skills and equipment until such time as you can provide your own Emergency Communications.  Local church leadership can help coordinate assistance as information comes in from across the area.

6. Hold a “Preparedness Fair” to help motivate/kick start the basic concepts of home storage and self-reliance.  Plan to hold mini-classes as members start to see the wisdom of being prepared.

Goals for next year:

7.  Begin ham radio classes – encourage those in church leadership to at least obtain a Technicians license in order to allow “local” communications.  It’s not that hard. Invite the membership to participate.  As more members obtain their licenses, the geographical districts become more manageable and communication is simplified.  Information sharing, especially health hazards, is absolutely critical in allocating the resources available.  It is also a psychological boost to be able to share and learn about local conditions.  Contact your local ham radio club(s) for assistance or go to www.arrl.org

8.  "Disaster Communication" tree – those who choose not to get their ham radio license, make use of what is available outside of phones/internet:  (FRS radios, CB, GMRS, car, bike, foot).  Practice communicating without normal means and check on those in each district. Set up specific hours and frequencies and see how well the equipment works.  For those who are unable to participate “electronically”, a runner will need to knock on the door.  Might encourage more to consider other options.  The goal is to be able to check on each member of your congregation.  Use local weather events to activate communications (flash floods, snow storms, ice, etc).  Encourage acquisition of NOAA weather radio with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME).

9.  Advanced prep classes (designed for those who have at least a couple of months of food storage and have a basic vision of preps):

  • Camping skills and equipment (the foundational layer of being prepared in general)
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Alternate water/lighting/cooking and fuel storage options
  • How to stay warm/freeze protection – alternative heat sources for the home
  • Real "Bug-out-bags" and optional transport
  • Pressure canning, dry-pack, dehydrating, local cannery, etc – food preservation
  • Gardening & herbs - no matter where you live you can grow something
  • Beekeeping
  • Hunting & game "preparation" – team up “novices” with experienced hunters willing to share.  Opportunity to teach many outdoor skills.
  • Home defense & security
  • Practical map & compass and GPS use
  • Raising farm animals
  • EMP preparations (grounded Faraday cages for all critical electronic devices)
  • Prep library – fiction and non-fiction, a never-ending collection. Begin discussion groups to open up the thought process of what we can do right now.  Helps keep “the eye on the ball”.

Goals for the following year:

  1. Pre-positioning & movement of gear - trucks & trailers available to haul members gear to a centralized point if personal safety becomes an issue.
  2. Rally points: Look for areas that allow for shelters/tent sites, water sources, firewood, pre-dug latrines, defense trenches, LP/OP, graves, etc dug while machinery is easily available; perhaps a members property/farm or hunting camp.
  3. Backup plans for those unable to report (see #3) due to their own challenges or needing to use there own "resources" elsewhere.  Cross train.
  4. Security detail:  Safety, Training, practice, CCW,  proper storage of guns and ammo.

Other considerations:

- Any members with large tracts of land that would be willing to “invite” the membership and like-minded individuals to gather for safety (see point #10 & #11)
- Airplane/ultra-lite for recon
- “EMP proof” vehicles (plan to have necessary spare parts on hand)
- Those with farm animals, fuel storage, solar panels, wood lot/firewood
- Potential access to a pharmacy, backup refrigeration for critical meds
- Organized responsibilities: Medical, Security, Sanitation, Burial, Water collection/treatment, Hunter/Gatherer, Construction/Home repair, Firewood collection, Mechanical, Plumbing, Electrical, Communications, etc.

I have appreciated the opportunity to organize my thoughts as I am preparing to implement the plan above.  I just recently discovered SurvivalBlog,\ and found that it is a treasure of knowledge.  Thank you for your time and efforts to help us be better prepared.

Several times in items I've sent out or in live presentations I've mentioned the "Rocket Stove," a simple stove concept worked on over the last 20 years or so at the Aprovecho Research Center in Cottage Grove, Oregon (and elsewhere) by Larry Winiarski and others. The goal in refining this stove was to create a wood or charcoal - burning stove that would use the absolute minimum amount of widely available fuel to boil a given amount of water, thus minimizing fuel use and waste, and also smoke that could contribute to health issues for those tending, or in proximity to, the stove. These are all issues in third world settings where these stoves have been tested over a number of years.

Many designs have been tested over the years. What you see at sites like this is the result of a great deal of trial and error. I have received Aprovecho's newsletters for 15 years and have watched some of this honing process.

Aprovecho has found a manufacturer in China capable of producing a stove that incorporates this very efficient design and they have just begun selling them domestically at a very affordable price.

I have had a hand in working with homemade versions and it involves a bit of work to come up with an easily portable, efficient wood-burning stove. For $40 and shipping this is a unit that can potentially help a lot of people, and not just in the third world.
Besides basic cooking applications and boiling water consider its possible use for heating during a power outage: a covered coffee/paint can, metal pail, pot, or 4 - 8 quart Dutch oven filled with golf ball-sized stones or pebbles, can become a portable "heat sink" after being warmed up on such a stove to bring a source of heat into a makeshift tent you've set up inside your home, or just in a small room (place the hot container on non-flammable material like bricks and keep small children away from it ). Having just small amounts of fuel available can mean having hot water and food plus a means to stay relatively warm in an emergency.

Check out the video - the main video will access more info - videos on building your own stove and/or using Rocket Stoves. You can access a number of "rocket stove" clips as well directly off YouTube.

The link above will give you considerable information on the manufactured unit. Even if you already have a camp or backpacker's stove this kind of unit is one to consider for emergency back-up because of the ready availability of its fuel.

A very small wood-burning alternative is the "Zipstove" for about $65. I've worked with and sold these units going back almost 20 years and they are a proven item.

If you have enough people interested you might consider a package shipment to obtain 200+# UPS discount rates.

Even if you believe you'll have access to unlimited amounts of wood in an emergency don't let that consideration keep you from a very cheap piece of insurance. - Greg L.

I warned you, folks! Coin Composition Change Included in Obama's 2011 Budget. Have you socked away your nickels yet? Do so before they start making them out of stainless steel! Gresham's Law is still in force. (Thanks to CRD for the link.)

Matt B. mentioned that the Geography of Recession interactive map has been updated. This is looking grim!

The Other Jim R. forwarded us a link to this Zero Hedge piece: Brace Yourself for the Coming Gold Shortage

GG sent this: White House to paint grim fiscal picture

Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor At Large) flagged this: Obama’s 2011 Budget Proposal: How It’s Spent

Items from The Economatrix:

Obama Seeks $1.9 Trillion Tax Rise on Rich, Business

Britain's Banks Downgraded by S&P

US Hunger for Gasoline Falls, Unlikely to Return

Is America Broke?

How Japanese Hyper-Inflation Could Turn the USD Into Toilet Paper

From Chad S.: Seed shortages could imperil home gardens. JWR Adds: Stock up on heirloom varieties before gardening season. I'm sure that our advertisers that sell non-hybrid seeds would appreciate your patronage.

   o o o

S.F. in Hawaii mentioned that John C. Campbell's Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina has expanded its course catalog. Some of the traditional skills taught there such as metalworking, spinning, and weaving would be important in the event of a societal collapse.

   o o o

Inadequate sanitation leads to disease in Haiti, just as predicted: Chaos eases as Haiti food lines focus on women. (Thanks to Russ D. for the link.) And, in the No Great Surprise Department, we read: Haiti food convoy attacked; UN warns of volatility. (Thanks to R.D. for the link.)

   o o o

Reader F.D. spotted this: New groups mobilize as Indians embrace the right to bear arms

"He who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan of life for him has no need of any other faculty than the ape like one of imitation. He who chooses his plan for himself employs all his faculties. He must use observation to see, reasoning and judgment to foresee, activity to gather materials for decision, discrimination to decide, and when he has decided, firmness and self-control to hold to his deliberate decision." - John Stuart Mill, "On Liberty"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Today we present the first entry for Round 27 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round will include:

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

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

Round 27 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Proviso: The writer of this article and SurvivalBlog shall not be liable for any loss, damage, injury or death as a result of any actions that the reader may take after reading.  This article is for informational purposes only. 

I write this because one of the core elements of being prepared includes maintaining an above average level of physical fitness.  Having been a swim and fitness coach for over ten years, as well as training for and completing two marathons, along with a number of other road races, I feel adequately prepared to try to motivate readers of this blog to improve their own level of fitness. 
A personal aside: I have also been able to motivate my wife off the couch to start running to stay fit, over her initial protests of various mysterious leg pains.   My solution was to introduce her to a running store, staffed by running coaches, to watch how she took her strides, and have them fit her with an appropriate running shoe (which turned out to be very similar to what she already had.  But interestingly, her leg pains disappeared).   Also, almost a year ago, due to life changes, I had stopped my personal exercise and running routine.  And after about 9 months, I had to motivate myself to restart.  So much of the advice I am about to give, I’ve had to follow firsthand.
I’ve been reading this blog for about a year now, after stumbling across it while searching for reading material on the direction of the price of gold spot.  That led me to read "Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse".   In any survival scenario, physical fitness is extremely important.  It means being in shape to haul your G.O.O.D. bag out of the city; it means possibly hiking six miles to scout out a neighboring camp.  Or, it could simply be that your doctor finally tells you ominously that your heart is a muscle: use it, or lose it. 

Fortunately for me, if you are reading this on this blog, my job to motivate you has already become easier.  You are concerned about the future, and may have already begun great preparations in learning useful skills, accumulating an inventory of arms, storing water and food.  Have you begun to prepare yourself physically?  You can give yourself all the excuses, but I’ve heard them all.  It’s too hot; it’s too cold.  My body wasn’t build to run.  It takes too much time.  There are no good places to run.  I don’t know where to get started.   Let’s start here.
Start by going to see a doctor for a physical, especially if you have been inactive.   One way to help motivate yourself is to get baseline readings of resting heart rates and blood pressure readings, so that after a few months, you can measure your progress this way.  Inform your doctor that you will soon begin to get into better shape by running, and he/she will help insure you are fit enough to do so.  Meanwhile in the days leading up to you doctor’s appointment, start an easygoing walking routine.  Strap on a pair of good walking shoes and head out your door. Pick a time of day where you can spend 20 minutes.  Unless it’s raining, anytime is good.  For me, I’ve found that some days, I’ve run at 11 PM just to get a workout in.  Later, I’ll discuss the benefits of actually going outside, rather than going to your health club and using the treadmill.  Be properly dressed.    Cotton may be comfortable, but if you start running, you’ll soon want the water wicking ability of synthetic fibers over the water absorbing cotton threads.  For me personally, when I run, I am in shorts unless the temperature is in the 40s, when I will wear long sleeves.  Under 40, I will wear gloves, hat, and wind pants.   Wind chill also factors in, and a windy 45 degree day usually also means that wind pants, hat, and gloves are worn with sleeves. But everyone is different.  Find your own comfort levels and adjust accordingly.    

Start with a walk around your block.  Walk purposefully, as if you are going somewhere. (You are!).  Focus on your breathing by inhaling through your nose, holding it for a second or two, then exhaling slowly through your mouth.  Build up a good breathing rhythm as you stride.  Keep a relaxed, brisk pace, just slightly above an easy stroll.  Until you get your doctor’s okay, do not push yourself too hard.  Time your walk with a wristwatch, and mark off ten minutes.  If your block is too big, then walk out from your place of residence for 8 minutes, then turn around and walk back for the next 2.  After 10 minutes of walking at a brisk pace, slow your gait down to an easy stroll, and walk back home. At this point, continue your cooling down by stretching.  Do simple stretch exercises:  Stand with your feet together, lean over and let your hands hang for ten seconds.  Stand up, relax, and repeat slowly, trying to reach for the ground, the second time, placing your palms on the ground if you are able to.   Spread your legs apart beyond your shoulder-width, and lean over to one side for ten seconds.  Relax, then try again, this time lean your head into your knee.  Repeat for the other side.   Then, while standing on your right leg, take your right hand and grab your left foot and hold it behind you for ten seconds.  You should be stretching your left quad muscle.  Repeat for the other leg.  These are a few simple stretches.   At this point, your heart and breathing rate should be close to normal (resting heart/breathing rate).
Repeat your walking for a few days in a row.   Use this time to meditate, clear your head, improve your fitness.   Also, find time to visit a good running store.  I’m not talking about the big box sporting goods retailers like The Sports Authority, or Dick’s Sporting Goods. Runner's World magazine published a list of running stores in USA and Canada. These stores will usually have salespersons who can visually watch how you run.  Specifically how your foot strikes the ground, and whether it rolls in or outward or not at all.  A variety of foot/ankle/joint ailments can be simply rectified by wearing the proper shoes!  Any many stores will offer to replace and refit you, if they don’t get it right the first time. 
After you have been cleared for running by your doctor, you can graduate from walking to jogging.  Again, start with the 10 minute plan.  Still focusing on your breathing, start with a slow jog heading 8 minutes out, turning around, then heading 2 minutes back.  Note that as we begin, we pay little attention to how far you actually go.  But rather, your goal is to elevate your heart rate for a period of time.   The mechanics of how you run can vary from person to person.  But to be simple about it, relax your arms, but keep them close at your side.  You should not be swinging your arms upward, but rather naturally forward with each stride.  Your hands should be relaxed, not clenched tightly.  Some of you may find it easier to hold the tip of your index finger with the tip of your thumb, forming a circle, while allowing your other three fingers  to relax and be open.  Again, rhythmically breathe in through your nose, and out slowly through your mouth.  It may help to purse your lips to channel your exhaling breath.  Again, after 10 minutes of jogging, briskly walk to cool down.  Then complete your cool down with some stretching.
A good general rule is to run three days on, and then take one day of rest (or alternative activity).  Monitor your progress in terms of how you feel.  Learn to embrace soreness as it is a sign that your body has broken down its muscles, but will rebuild them stronger.  But also learn to monitor signs of injury:  Muscle cramps (a painful, sharp tightening of your muscle, commonly in your calf) are possible.  Massage and ice are good remedies.  Other injuries may include sprained ankles (beware of running on uneven surfaces) and shin splints (compression of the muscles in the lower leg will help).  Obviously, if running outside, be aware of your surroundings.  Watch out for text-messaging drivers who aren’t watching the road! 
After at least 1 cycle of 3 on, 1 off, try to lengthen the amount of time you are running.  Go from 10 minutes, to 15minutes, then 20 minutes and beyond, as you see fit.  Don’t try to improve all in one week, though.  Your body needs time to adapt and recover its newly formed running muscles.  Finally, when you build up your confidence in your running ability, find a running club to join.  Often times, these clubs are very open to anyone, with running groups of varying abilities.   A good running conversation sure beats the iPod! 
As a measure of last resort, if it is bone-chillingly cold, running indoors on a treadmill is preferable to not running at all.  But if you use a treadmill as your primary avenue to run, your body is missing out.  Aside from the benefits of learning about your surroundings by running your way around, your bones and muscles will miss out on the impact that a sidewalk or grass would bring.  By running on a treadmill, the treadmill surface “gives” way much more than the pavement would.  Thus making it much softer, lessening the impact.  While it is true that your heart might not know the difference, and you will be able to sustain an elevated heart rate, your leg muscles will definitely feel the difference. When TSHTF, you won’t be on a treadmill trying to get out of Dodge.

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I have read your novel "Patriots" and found your web site. I have been going through your archives to see if anyone has touched on this subject but so far I've only found partial references to this topic. Although I have not made it through all the archives yet.In your book I noticed that the characters knew each other for years and had time to work out differing personality traits or not be included in the group. (BTW, it really saddened me when you killed off two of the characters.) I got to thinking about the types of personalities that will come together when TSHTF. and I wanted to offer some insights to people building their retreat group.

One of the biggest challenges to survival will be to learn to live with others.We won't have unlimited computer time to hide in or malls or friend's houses to escape to and hang out at. There might not be 1,200 or more square feet of private space to storm off to and stew and or pout. most of us will be living in tight quarters practically on top of one another with duties, chores, and responsibilities to attend to. When I was considering the mission field a recruiter/trainer explained that one of the biggest problems with retaining missionaries was not: funding, people, dedication, or training, but rather the lack of emotional maturity and the ability of the team members to live in isolation away from modern familiar creature comforts and to just plain get along. This cost the missions lots of money and time when people deserted their post or demanded to be sent home because they couldn't bear another personality or presence. I am a private person and mostly quiet, with a slightly melancholy personality. This sometimes irks the fun-loving prankster because if the joke is at someone's expense who is not really laughing I don't find it funny and this makes me a spoil sport.

What about the male or female flirt? Think of the tension and drama for a new married couple or an insecure spouse if too much attention or help is given to another, or if those cold and boring guard duty assignments start to seem too cozy. Does this sound silly? But we have all seen public arguments over some poor slob looking at a passing pretty woman for too long. And marriages end over so much trivial stuff now that we've termed it irreconcilable differences. Women need to consider that monthly moodiness that can lead to tears, sullenness and cold shoulders. Now multiply that by a wife, a couple of teenage daughters, and a girlfriend or two. That makes ravaging looters start to look absolutely friendly.

Men: Don't get too smug. You'll face your challenges too. There will be no televised sports. Bye bye NASCAR, NFL, NBA ,WWF, Super Bowl, Rose Bowl and The Fishing Channel. Work becomes tedious and shooting draws too much attention and depletes ammo when there is no rest,or escape from stress, nagging,whining,indifference or complaining.Here are some thoughts on what to do.

Melancholy people: Lighten up, learn balance,compassion, stability count your blessings once in a while everything won't always end badly.

Pranksters and life-of-the-party types: Tone it down. We don't always like being the butt of your fun.

Seducers: Have mercy on the single people,everyone knows your beauty and talent just make sure the praise is earned and the beauty is more than skin deep.

Whiners/complainers: Stop annoying others take it to God only He can give peace and satisfaction in every situation

Addicts (including drunks dopers, gamblers, over eaters, and porn seekers.): Fight and defeat your addictions. Fight now, fight hard, and get help. Seek mercy and forgiveness from family friends and the Lord or you'll find yourself on the outside looking down the barrel of a gun.

Teenagers: Sorry! We adults messed things up and let the wolves get in charge.you will pay a hugh price in loss of childhood but get angry then get over it there are no more malls, iPods or freebies. Pull your weigh. Start unplugging from electronics and the Internet, including MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. Reintroduce yourself to your family. Give them the same courtesy and chances that you gave your Internet friends. Learn to channel that restlessness, hormones, and teen angst in ways that help you grow and aren't hurtful or endangering to your retreat group. Getting your own way all the time is no longer the norm, storming off somewhere or sneaking off to meet unacceptable acquaintances for a little harmless fun will no longer be just selfish or no big deal. Nor will it be an easy fix with mom and dad's checkbook or [social] position but instead a possible life-threatening endeavor for your entire group. Information and facility security must be taken seriously. How much of your family's or the group's supplies do you think will be fair to trade to get you back safely from your new cool friends who understand you oh so much better than your family? If you want to be seen as an asset and as and adult--not a child, burden or liability--then learn something. Help out, take care of others, contribute to the homestead, and be an example and dependable help with younger siblings. Have interests that don't always involve electricity. Remember chess, checkers, board games? As I asked the girls in my church group, if you don't enjoy your own company why should anyone else.?

Procrastinators: Get it done, stay on schedule.

Perfectionists: Have pity, have mercy, have patience. We all know you can do it better and/or faster but you can't always do it alone. Let us help and we'll all get there.

Controllers and Micro-managers: Delegate, rest, trust us, lean not on your own understanding. God is in control.

Fatties: Get chocolate and sugar cravings under control now with nutrition, herbal remedies I found a great book on this called "The Complete Medicinal Herbal" by Penelope Ody from a mention in SurvivalBlog's Bookshelf page and I checked it out from the library. Now I am looking for my own copy to add to my supplies, medicines and exercise. Yes the dreaded "E" word. Exercise can be a walk with your husband (remember him?) neighbor (they aren't all creep) )friend or kid who you have only seen coming and going from the car rear view mirror all week. Keep your eye open for holiday sales of your favorite goodies as a treat not a life or death issue. Learn hobbies that are restful soothing and can be necessary for survival or bartering: crochet, knitting , weaving, sewing, hunting, fishing, flower gardening for soaps lotions and perfumes. (You know... the stuff our grand mothers and great grand mothers did for themselves and their families.)

Parents; Your kids will no longer be the responsibility of the state, school, church, or clubs. Start collecting age appropriate books for games, crafts, and lessons. Homeschooling will become a priority and a necessity not an option.Look to others with skills and temperaments that you would like your child to emulate to supplement your training but they are your kids so get busy There are numerous homeschooling networks available now check the library. How they turn out is partially your doing. Remember why you had them and remember that at sometime you did love them now learn how to like them they're pretty terrific( God don't make no junk).Families;couples and groups star talking resolve those years of hurt and hateful words and actions. Confront the problems, we are running out of time and room to hide. Drugs will run out, alcohol will be scarce or nonexistent and some of us might be tempted to shoot you ourselves if we have to listen to one more petty argument about something stupid someone said or did yesterday, last year or 20 years ago. I read a news story about a man in Italy who tried to get arrested this past Christmas season just to get away from his relatives who had come to visit. When the police wouldn't take him he went next door to a store, threatened the clerk and stole some candy then sat down to wait while the clerk called the police. Pitiful!

I know my faults and I know my failings (mostly). I moved 2,000 miles away from my family to find peace and adventure. I have found both in God but He's not finished with me yet and I am doing my part to not be obnoxious to those around me until He is done. So search yourself , learn about yourself, know yourself, and like yourself . We already have plenty of self love, and you will be in high demand as a retreat member when times turn to TEOTWAWKI. Thanks for listening and much success and many blessings to all you Preppers out there. See you on the flip side.- Theresa in California

Chad suggested this piece on austere medicine: Hard lessons, humility for big-city doctors in Haiti

   o o o

G.G. mentioned that both my novel "Patriots" and my latest non-fiction book were part of this round up book review: Three Views of TEOTWAWKI.

   o o o

SurvivalBlog regular Matt R. recently posted a great vehicular gear list, over at AtlasTrekker.

"In a country like America where riots occur during brownouts, and people stab each other for cutting ahead in service station lines during gasoline shortages, one has to wonder how our society would react to a total disruption of its artificial life-support system. In researching magazine articles I've interviewed urban disaster planning authorities who are more skeptical about saving their citizens from major civil disruption than Mel Tappan ever was." - Massad Ayoob, in "The Truth About Self Protection"

Monday, February 1, 2010

And the winner is... We've completed the judging for Round 26 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. I must mention that the judging was very difficult, since there were 35 great articles submitted!

First Prize goes to Lin for her article: Feeding Your Family Well During Hard -- and Harder -- Times, that was posted on December 9th. She will receive all the of the following: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.), and D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Luger, 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP ammo, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo. This is a $249 value.

Second Prize goes to JIR, for his article COA Analysis of Common Survival Strategies, that was posted on January 13th, He will receive a "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize goes to Bob in South Africa, for his article: Six Survival Necessities That Don't Fit in Your Kit, that was posted on January 9th. He will receive a copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

There were also a lot of great "runner up" articles. I'm sending teh following six writers some free books. They are:

They will each receive autographed copies of both my novel "Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse" and my latest non-fiction book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It".

Note to the prize winners: Please e-mail me, to let me know your mailing addresses. Thanks, and congratulations!

Round 27 (that begins today) will end on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Last week, SurvivalBlog reader Noah C. sent me a link to piece by Dan Denninger: SEC Tightens Rules for Money Funds. Noah made this comment that amplified Denninger's observations: "Here is the most interesting part: That a Money Market Fund's Board of Directors can now 'inform' the SEC (instead of request) that they are suspending fund redemptions." I also heard from our friend Darrin in Wyoming about same topic. He wrote: "A Wall Street Journal report mentioned that the SEC voted Wednesday (1/27/10) to allow money market fund managers to freeze redemptions, in an effort to 'make your investments more safe'". This is the closing sentence from the WSJ article:

"These and other changes will provide significant additional protections and will benefit money market fund investors."

Ahem, but I don't feel any safer, knowing that my money market accounts could be "temporarily unavailable" when the net asset value (NAV) drops below $1/ per share. (They call that "breaking the buck.") This change echoes something that I've been warning about since 2006 over in the hedge fund world. (See; Hedge Funds--A Disaster Story that Could Unfold in Quarterly Episodes.) There, they've already had the ability to suspend redemptions, at will. Seeing a comparable rule implemented for Money Market funds is very troubling. I thought that in the wake of the big credit market meltdown, that government control of the financial markets was going to increase. This new rule is something quite the opposite.

Let's face it: The SEC has a high population of staffers that formerly worked in the same industry that they are now regulating. The "foxes guarding the henhouse" metaphor comes to mind. And to see folks like Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke--both formerly banking industry insiders--now placed in the highest levels of oversight really makes me wonder: In who's best interest are they governing? And, more importantly, from a preparedness perspective: What circumstances are they envisioning for the future that would make this rule change necessary? Why do they need to empower fund managers with a giant "OFF" switch, that can be thrown at a moment's notice? Buckle up, folks. There is a bumpy ride ahead.

I know your time is valuable,so I will get right to it. The recent post on buying [decommissioned underground US Air Force Intercontinental Ballistic] missile sites raises a question. Aren't these sites vulnerable during nuclear attacks/exchange with a foreign country? Thanks for your site and your service. - John

JWR Replies: They would only be pinpoint targets if the Soviets are still using ancient targeting data, and that is very unlikely. From all that I have read, they simply are no longer included in the "target structure" for any nation states that are potential combatants. (Like Russia, China, and North Korea.) I cannot imagine a nation state being that inept. The only significant threat to some of these decommissioned sites is that they are contiguous to--or immediately downwind of--newer, currently-deployed missile sites. That was case for a old Titan I silo that I researched on behalf of a consulting client, who was considering buying it. This site is near Chugwater, Wyoming--which is also the home of a fairly new, active Minuteman III silos!)

On a related note, I should mention that I was forced to use out-of-date nuclear targeting data in my book "Rawles on Retreats and Relocation", but only because there has been no declassified targeting data (that is, CIA assessment of likely Soviet targets) released since the late 1970s.

I wanted to share a money saving tip that applies to inexpensively preparing for TEOTWAWKI. With so many digital devices depending on batteries these days, most of us are conditioned so that, when a device like a digital camera or other smart gadget tells us the AA or AAA batteries need replacing, we simply toss out the “dead” ones and put in fresh batteries. But are the batteries really dead? Usually, not all of them are.

I have a handy little Canon digital camera that we use around the house for insurance documentation, family photo opportunities at parties, pictures for craigslist ads, etc. It uses four AA batteries. Yesterday, while taking some pictures, it issued its standard low battery warning. I took the four “dead” batteries out and replaced them with fresh batteries. I didn’t discard the old batteries. I have a 40 battery rack with tester. I tested each of the four batteries. The tester indicated one battery was completely dead, while the other three still had useful voltage. Without more sophisticated battery testing equipment, I could’t know how much useful amperage was left. So I did an experiment. I placed each of the remaining “good” three batteries in a cheap, single cell AA LED flashlight ($1 each on clearance from Home Depot during the holiday season). I left the flashlights on. For about six hours, each of the lights worked at very good brightness. After that, they continued to produce useful light for another 3 to 4 hours. That’s nearly 30 hours of useful utility/reading/navigating-in-the-dark light from three “dead” batteries most of us would discard without a second thought. How valuable would 30 extra hours of battery powered light be if the power grid was down for an extended period? Very valuable!

I’m putting a simple system in place to take advantage of this: I will now test all “dead” batteries. Ones that still show good voltage go in a plastic bucked, to be used for non-critical, single cell LED flashlight duty. Front-line flashlights (emergency kits, cars, gun mounted lights, gun safes, etc.) will still always get fresh batteries. But the ones I keep in tool boxes, kitchen drawers, etc., now use the “dead” cells. I don’t expect they’ll store forever, but I will keep rotating them and using them until they are truly dead. My fresh battery supply will last longer, and I will save money that can be put toward other preparations.

Keep up the good work. - Rich S.

Your readers recently bring up good points about the advantage of battery powered tools with solar recharging. The advice to use an inverter connected to a 12v deep cycle battery and regular corded AC tools was good advice also, since the batteries may not last very long.

Having just recently purchased a set of Ryobi one+ tools myself, I found a seller on ebay selling an adapter for the one+ tools. It plugs into the tool in place of the battery then you can plug an AC DC power supply into it. This will give the best of both worlds. Use of the Ryobi batteries, then once the batteries no longer hold a charge, you can connect an AC/DC power supply to your 12v deep cycle battery and basically have a corded tool.

Search eBay for "EX-One use AC adapter replace Ryobi One+ P103 Lithium" or seller "lcdpayless". The adapter is only $20 but doesn't come with the AC/DC power adapter. I am not the seller and I haven't ordered one of these yet. I just thought your readers with Ryobi One+ tools might be interested to learn of this possibility for backup power for their tools. - D.L.

A clarification for your readers on the article titled: A Simple Off-the-Shelf Solar Power System and Off-Grid Power Tool., The “Bill of Materials” for this project included; “Interstate Marine/RV 12 volt battery #27DC-1 ($68 from Sam's Club)” I spent some time on the internet trying to find exactly what this battery was, given that there aren’t any Sam's Clubs nearby.

A search of Interstate’s web site leads me to two conclusions:

1) The part number cited is a Sam’s Club number and not likely to be useful elsewhere.

2) Interstate only makes (in Group 27) Start Only duty or Start/Deep Cycle duty batteries for marine use, neither of which is optimal for this application.

The best type of marine/RV battery to use for this application is one rated for true “Deep Cycle” duty. Deep Cycle batteries tolerate more frequent and deeper (more than 10%) discharge without early failure. These are not often found in warehouse stores. My local BJs had one this week, but this is the first time in over two years that I’ve seen one there and I live in a “seaside community”. Deep Cycle only batteries are not often found for under $100.

I was pleased to see that Mel Tappan's hard-to-find book Survival Guns has gone back into print, by Paladin Press. Although the book is now a bit dated, it is still a great reference. His subsequent book Tappan on Survival (published shortly after his death) has also been back in print for about a year. The new edition has an introduction penned by Bruce D. Clayton.) I have often mentioned that Mel Tappan had a profound influence in the development of my preparedness philosophy.

   o o o

Clifford D. May's piece in National Review Online, titled The Sun Also Flares is well worth reading. (A tip of the hat to both Brian B. and Craig M. for sending the link.)

   o o o

EMB sent some sad news: K.B.I./Charles Daly is quitting business. If you have any of their guns and need spare parts, then stock up, pronto!

   o o o

Chad S. suggested a 1997 article from Outside magazine: As Freezing Persons Recollect the Snow--First Chill--Then Stupor--Then the Letting Go; The cold hard facts of freezing to death

"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do." - Edward Everett Hale (A descendant of Nathan Hale)

All Content on This Web Site Copyright 2005-2014 All Rights Reserved - James Wesley, Rawles - SurvivalBlog.com

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2010 is the previous archive.

March 2010 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Visitor Map



counter customisable
Unique visits since July 2005. More than 320,000 unique visits per week.