October 2010 Archives

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Today we present two entries for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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 recently took part in a Tactical Shotgun class with the US Training Center and learned a great deal. I am obviously not an operator and have not engaged dozens of insurgents, but I feel the training I received was logical and correct. I’ll skip all of the obvious safety and protection comments which were part of the training and very well covered. I’ll also not discuss the media hatchet job performed on their earlier incarnation “Blackwater”. Here are my lessons learned from the three day class:

  1. Tactical does not mean cool looking, adorned with a plethora of accessories or clad in black. Tactical means light weight, easy to manage and successful in your mission. Eight pounds of shotgun, ammo and a light on your shotgun is manageable. Twelve pounds is less so. Speed and accuracy wins every time. Light weight equals speed. Accuracy is up to you.
  2. Equipment should be minimized. You don’t need a laser sight, a spare light and multiple side saddles. You need A light (singular), a sling and a source of ammunition replenishment (speedfeed stock, A side saddle (singular), ammo belt, shell pouch, etc). Firing off eight hundred rounds with your selected equipment will tell you all you need to know about it. I saw after market parts flying off left and right—unfortunately even some of my own—occasionally factory parts from Remington 870s and Mossberg 590s. By the end of the class most students had taken half the extraneous stuff off their shotguns. Robust designs usually have the least amount of failures because they have the least amount of components that can fail.
  3. Train the way you plan to fight. If you are going to bring an ammo belt to a fight, don’t practice with a shell pouch. If you are going to bring a side saddle to a fight, don’t practice with a bandolier. Use the shotgun you are going to have access to in a tactical situation, not a different weapon. You must know how your weapon functions, because they are all different. And you must know how to feed your weapon from somewhere other than the magazine tube.
  4. Tailor your ammunition selection to your mission specific goals. Will you be shooting in an area that has paper thin walls? Will you possibly be “unlocking” doors and need breaching ammunition? Do you need to have precision or is it okay if a few of the projectiles stray a bit? Can you only have a single projectile?
  5. Pick at most two types of ammunition you want for a mission—imagine breaching a door with a slug, or thinking you have a non-lethal round chambered only to find out after the firing you had double aught buck. In a firefight, time doesn’t slow down, it speeds up. Your skills diminish, even if you are an experienced gunfighter. You won’t be able to keep track of the five different rounds you want to carry, so don’t. Pick two. And don’t think for a minute you can play “count the rounds” like you do when watching Dirty Harry.
  6. Learn how to reload quickly. If you have time, opportunity and cover, execute a tactical reload (load the magazine tube). Even if you only have two of the three, perform a tactical reload. If you have one or none of the three, perform a speed load. The speed load consists of turning the shotgun 90 degrees counterclockwise, dropping a round into the ejection port while the forearm is back, then shucking the round into the chamber. It’s better to have that next round on hand, than a full tube without one in the chamber. It’s all about having the next round. Depressing the trigger with no “boom” is more than an unfortunate event. Oh, and when tactical reloading, keep the butt on your hip or stomach and hold the muzzle towards the sky. Load the shotgun while looking straight ahead to keep an eye on your target and most importantly, finger off the trigger. With a little practice and discipline, you won’t need to look down to reload—just watch your target instead.
  7. Diagnosing failures on the fly is critical. Is it a soft malfunction which you can clear by shucking the foreend, or do you need to dump the weapon (or sling it over your back) and reach for your pistol? Unless you have an obvious problem like a stovepipe hull sticking out of the ejection port, you will likely not know exactly what you have (double feed, binding of action arms failing to load a round, etc). The first thing you should do is rack the shotgun action, make sure safety is in the “Fire” position and fire the weapon. This should handle about 90% of malfunctions. If it doesn’t, you may need to consider the above situation. Hard malfunctions usually require removing a shell from the receiver. This could consist of using your fingers, or a pliers/multitool to remove a shell. You may even need to go to a kneeling position and strike the recoil pad sharply on the ground while depressing the action lock lever to eject the spent casing. This must be done with care as you can break parts of the shotgun. Obviously, the hard failures take a lot longer to overcome. Again, time, opportunity and cover are needed to defeat a hard failure. This also underscores the importance of a sidearm.
  8. The fundamentals are key. There are seven: Grip, Stance, Sight Picture, Sight Alignment, Trigger Control, Breathing and Follow Through. These really apply to all shooting, but I think are especially important to shotgun work.
    1. Grip—this consists of the best way to hold onto a shotgun for firing and retention. A pistol grip isn’t necessary, so don’t let the movies fool you. A solid buttstock it a good idea if you are firing more than a few rounds. Aid your recoil with a proper grip and you will be able to require your next target more easily. The most important part of your grip is finding the pocket of the shoulder and mounting the stock in that crease. If you haven’t ever fired a shotgun (I hadn’t), it really isn’t that bad, unless you don’t have the stock buried in there. Leaving the stock an inch away from the shoulder pocket and then firing will leave a bruise. Find the shoulder pocket by pointing your arm out—where your chest meets your shoulder is the pocket.

      Something that is rarely discussed is how important it is to maintain your “Master Grip”. This involves always keeping your trigger hand on the grip. I’ve seen a bunch of “experts” who load with their trigger hand and keep the opposite hand on the foreend. What is easier to do, move your trigger hand back to the grip or move your opposite hand to the foreend? How about under duress? If you need to squeeze off a round, it is a lot easier to simply bring the shotgun to your shoulder and balance it with your off hand. Fumbling for the grip and trigger will cost you extra time and it could be difference maker. Keep your master grip. Load with your off hand.
    2. Stance—there is some argument here, but we learned a symmetric style stance. Feet shoulder width apart, slight bend in the knees and more body weight on the front of your feet. Your chin, knees and toes should be in alignment with a slight hunched over stance to handle heavier recoil of the shotgun. Think boxer stance. Keep your elbows in and head upright—a nice cheek weld to the stock will help with a clean view down the sights. Keep both eyes open to aid in seeing additional threats peripherally—this was a fight for me with my dominant eye, but I learned to blink the non-dominant eye as needed. Eventually I overcame the need to close one eye when firing. The most legitimate reason for keeping both feet collinear is to allow for you to swing the left or right with ease. Changing directions can be difficult if you have one foot far ahead of the other. [JWR Adds: Another advantage is that when wearing body armor with a ballistic panel insert over your chest, this stance also provides the most effective armor protection.]
    3. Sight Alignment—the correlation between the front sight, rear sight and eyes of the shooter is sight alignment. If you don’t have ghost ring or 3 dot sights, the bead should be placed in the middle, top half of the target projecting down the center of the shotgun receiver when viewed from the rear.
    4. Sight Picture—the link between the Sight Alignment to the target. The front sight should be in focus when aiming, not the target. Do not move your head down to the gun, thereby ruining your stance.
    5. Trigger Control—pulling the trigger smoothly to fire the weapon without altering the Sight Alignment/Sight Picture. This can be tough—you need to only move that one finger in a even fashion so that the discharge is a surprise. It is here that a typical flinch materializes when people anticipate the firing. A few soft malfunctions will make you aware of your flinch, if no one else is around to see you flinch when you practice. An inordinate amount of practice should remove the flinch.
    6. Breathing—a tactical situation will already rob you of your fine motor skills and even some of your gross motor skills. You don’t want to lose any more of those skills by depraving your brain and body of oxygen. You may find that you need to remember to breathe if you are uptight in a firefight.
    7. Follow Through—this is the conclusion of firing the weapon properly. There are three main components
      1. Trigger reset—enabling you to fire another round
      2. Sight Picture acquisition—after the weapon fires, you need to assess the situation with these three questions
        1. Did I hit the target?
        2. Was the shot effective?
        3. Do I need to make a follow-up shot?
      3. Scan for additional threats and if possible perform a tactical reload. Be sure to follow through after each shot. Several times (especially early on) I found myself firing, popping my head up and then ejecting the round—this is a deadly habit to form. Follow through after every shot.

I have been very impressed with the instructing at US Training Center and would highly recommend them. I have taken some armorer courses with them and will be attending further pistol and rifle classes as well. I have never attended any of the other schools that are frequently mentioned on Survivalblog, but for the reasonable cost, quality of training, and multiple locations (main campus in North Carolina and satellite locations in Northern Illinois and Southern California ), I can’t imagine a better place to learn. It is my understanding that as of October 1st of this year, the Northern Illinois campus will be changing their name to the North American Weapons and Tactical Training Center. But they will be retaining their staff and excellent training methods.

I have shot firearms for several years. This is my first experience with a shotgun however. I am looking forward to seeing how my skills firing other weapons have sharpened since taking the class. No matter where you are, find somewhere to train with good instruction. All of the magazine articles and opinions fall by the wayside when those shells are flying off to the side and you are suffering the weather, bugs and fatigue. As our friend Boston T. Party (author of Boston's Gun Bible) says, “Ammo turns money into skill”. Indeed.


The reality of the situation is that tactical combat, survival and self defense training is not something that can be mastered in a week or a month.  Training needs to be consistent to the point where the drills become as a reaction that you don’t even have to think about it…. The point is that terrorists and threats to you have been in serious training for a long period of time while many of us still see the concept of learning the inner workings of firearms as being premature.
Private survival training in the present day has often been seen as an invitation to police repression.  Examples such as the Black Panthers in the 1960’s and the Militia movement of the 1990’s are often sighted.  For the most part these organizations stayed within the law and were mainly small groups of private citizens trying to exercise the same Rights as the founding fathers did at Lexington and Concord.  The focus of these organizations was to make an expression through show of force.
Private firearms ownership in America for anything other than target shooting and hunting has been made to appear unwise and even illegal.  For that reason people have become more dependent on the government for their defense than ever before. The reality is that in every one of the 50 states in the Union it is Legal to own and use a firearm in defense of life.   What happens when the National Guard is called up and sent overseas?  Do you know 30% of most local law enforcement are members of the Guard and reserve.  We are becoming more and more dependent on Federal Law Enforcement… and a dependant, defenseless people is an enslaved people.
So you have a desire to train, to become confident in what you carry, how you carry it and what to do with it but you are not a member of the law enforcement community or the federal military. What can you do? How can you train?
Unregulated Live Fire Self-training
“Grab some rounds and head to the local dump or the woods and Go shoot”- NO
This is the worst thing you can do. Worse even than not training. If you go to the local shooting pit and blast a box or two of shells out all you are doing is shortening the life of your weapon and reinforcing bad habits. If you typically are doing something incorrect, odds are- without the proper practice to correct that bad habit- all you accomplish is building the wrong muscle memory. Guess what you are going to do when the SHTF? You will fall back on your worst training which is this.
Avoid this!
Regulated Self Training of Firearms
Research your courses of fire that are available. Go online and Google ‘course of fire” and you will find any number of courses plainly outlined. These include Cooper Drills, Shoot and Move drills, Dozier Drills, the El Presidente, various courses used by law enforcement agencies such as the NYPD and LAPD, military courses of fire for rifles, pistols and shotguns. Go to an actual range (or build your own safe one using established range safety guidelines) and run these drills until you can do them correctly. Exercise your fundamentals of Sight picture, trigger control, good solid position, and breathing. Use actual targets instead of beer cans, washing machines and the like. Paper plates can be substituted.
Inquire around at local gun shops and sporting goods stores for local rifle and pistol clubs who offer regulated ranges and competition shoots in exchange for nominal fees. Many State Departments of Wildlife have free ranges that are open to the public at no fee. This will also introduce you to the best part of training which is networking. Make contacts with like-minded individuals that can help point you in the right direction for your goals.
Live Fire is only a small part of firearms training. You need to spend hours training with an unloaded and safe weapon for every minute you spend sending brass downrange. Again, exercise your fundamentals of sight picture, trigger control, good solid position, and breathing. Practice tactical reloads, administrative reloads, one-handed reloads (for if injured), drawing from cover, firing positions etc.
The Boy scouts
Yes I am speaking of the ubiquitous organization that is the Boy Scouts of America. They are faith based and are represented in every community large and small. They also are a cornerstone of one of the few organizations that still attempt to provide firearms training without profit. Get with your local troops and find out the contact for the Shooting Sports Council for your area. Volunteer your services as a Range officer for the Marksmanship classes they have during semi-annual jamborees. Many councils offer full fledged certified NRA Firearms Instructor certification classes at reduced cost (sometimes as low as $25) to volunteers willing to give up a few weekends of their time to help local scouts learn to shoot.
You can learn valuable skills, gain an expanded knowledge base and provide a legacy for our youth in the process. Again, you see the chance to network your training opportunities by making more contacts and sharing information.
Appleseed Groups-
The non-profit Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA) offers nationwide Appleseed Clinics that generally cost $70 for two days however, it is free for active military/guard/reserve, people who are under 21 years of age, and currently for 2010, women are also free. These provide training in long arms to a ‘rifleman’ qualification. They also offer longer week long courses and 30-hour instructor courses for much less than what you would get from the custom for-profit training academies.
Bring a rifle and a few hundred rounds of ammunition and put in some legitimate training. Spend your down time networking and making contacts to further your training.
PoliceOne Training Articles- http://www.policeone.com/training/articles/ with hundreds of free articles such as “Training Police Recruits to Think”, Relevant and Realistic Firearms Training on a Tight Budget” and “Watch Behavior Indicators for Potential Violence” this resource is vital to anyone who is looking for training needs. While these are written by law enforcement and security professionals for use by law enforcement and security professionals many of the same concepts hold true for a TEOTWAWKI situation, CCW holders, and anyone who just wants to gain the upper hand in a bad life or death situation when the zombies come.
Emergency Management Institutes-
Government and National organizations in partnership with colleges such as the University of Alabama- Birmingham Texas A&M and Tulane University officer online web interfaces such as the South Southern Public Health Partnership, FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute, and the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center
These institutes lean mainly towards Health and Safety aspects of Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism with dozens of amazing free courses such as “Food as an Effective Weapon of Terrorism”, “Preparedness: Factors for the Emergence/Reemergence of Infectious DiseasesApplied Epidemiology of Terrorist Events”, “Agro-terrorism”, and “Medical Effects of Primary Blast Injury” while they are dry are some of the best online training available from accredited sources.
Spend one night a week and devote four hours to one of these free classes. In a single year that is 52 classes under your belt. Take extensive notes that you can understand and create a chapbook with lessons you learned from each class. When the lights go out and the phones die the notebook can be your reference back to those night classes you took.
State Defense Forces
About half of the States in the Union offer a State Defense Force. These range from small relatively top heavy cadre groups such as the Mississippi State Guard to the large and very well organized 1000-manVirgina State Defense Force. Some 23 of these organizations are chartered by the state military department and work hand in hand with the local National Guard AG to perform “State’s only” service as directed by the governor. 
Many of these organizations offer membership regardless of physical conditions to residents with clean criminal records. They typically have monthly drills and an annual summer camp much like the regular National Guard. While some offer limited weapons training most are good for at least an introduction into basic military courtesy, field craft, land navigation, communications and other tasks that will come in handy post- TEOTWAWKI without being in danger of a federal call-up or the unfortunate stigma of ‘militia groups’.
The Red Cross
Well known for more than a century of community outreach the American Red Cross is in every community. Contact your local chapter and inquire about joining their Disaster Action Team (DAT). In exchange for agreeing to help with local disaster response inside your own county the Red Cross will provide all the necessary training. A DAT team member is required to have the following training, at no charge to the volunteer: Orientation to Red Cross, Introduction to Disaster, Disaster Team Training, Standard First Aid, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Mass Care, Shelter Operations, Damage Assessment, Family Service and Providing Emergency Service.
Some of these courses will be more involved than others and each will have its own opportunity to learn lessons and new skills. Networking with individuals on your team can pay great dividends.
So what are we looking at for training as far as an outlay in money?
 You can join your local State Defense Force for free, take classes online from the EMI, NEERTC and other agencies for free, catch the nearest Appleseed shoot for free (in some circumstances), help with the Boy scouts, browse online courses of fire and read your Police training articles all for free.
How about time?
Set up a schedule. Allocate one (four hour) night a week for online classes and articles. Schedule one full day a month (eight hours) to drill with your State Defense Force. Set aside one (four hour) night a week for regulated unloaded training with a safe weapon. Spend one (sight hour) full day a month on the range following a course of fire. Attend an Appleseed or Boy scout range when they come up to help brush up your skills and pass the knowledge along to others. Go to your Red Cross DAT team training dates.
This totals some 48-hours per month on average. This is a part-time job to learn the skill-set now that will be literally invaluable if the worst case scenario evolves and you have to utilize it.
As the old saying goes- it’s better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it.

I just read Dan in Missouri's article "ARs as Survival Combat Weapons, by Dan in Missouri"/ I learned you need to take an AR-M4 and do all sorts of upgrades, buy a $250 chamber reamer, and about $400 worth of backup parts, and you evidently cant pull one out of the box and depend on it - what a sad commentary on the design being inherently flawed and constantly in search of an upgrade. With the AK, one can fire assorted qualities of ammo, neglect cleaning or maintenance for thousands and thousands of rounds, and generally ignore the weapon, and it still works.

I read a book by Col. David Hackworth, a decorated officer of the Vietnam war, where he talks about the AK. He hated the M16s, calling them 'pieces of garbage'. When his battalion was constructing a fire base, a bulldozer uncovered the body of a dead Viet Cong soldier, complete with AK-47. Hackworth jumped into the hole, pulled out the AK, scraped the mud off it and told his men, 'now watch how a real infantry weapon works'. He pulled back the bolt and fired off the entire magazine without a jam or mis-feed. He said the gun worked as if it had just been cleaned, instead of being buried in the mud for about a year. It may not have been the most accurate weapon, but it was unsurpassed for reliability. I have an article by Peter Kokalis discussing firing several hundred rounds through an AK, later to discover it had broken parts inside , all that time. Personally, I would think that if one might be in "extreme circumstances", reliability is the only valid consideration- all else is parlor talk for the carport commandos and gear geeks- I wish Dan's group well - shoot what works for you! I have a real Rhett Butler attitude about the "argument": Just shoot what works for you. - K.T.


I read with interest Dan’s evaluation of the AR for a survival weapon. While I am no fan of the 5.56 in FMJ I am told that civilian rounds can be quite effective. That said, if the 5.56 platform is your choice, then find rounds that reliably feed and transfer the energy into the target. The smaller FMJ round taught all of us GI’s to shoot a lot of rounds. We never counted on a first round stop. This generated into a ‘spay and pray’ mentality. While the lighter weight rounds meant that a troop could carry many more rounds (up to a 1000 for some), they carried all these rounds because they thought they needed them! Military channel did a special on sniper rifles and had a statistic that it took something like 55,000 5.56 rounds for each VC/NVA killed while 1.4 rounds of .308 from the Model 70 sniper rifles for each enemy. While I realize that means most 5.56 rounds missed, my point is that fire discipline seems to vanish if you don’t trust your rifle. It is also good to note that the British, Germans and Japanese all used bolt actions for their battle rifles to good effect in WW2. The M1 Garand was superior because it was an 8 shot, 30-06. The 30 caliber, semi-auto gave sustained fire when needed but the troops were confident enough in their weapon to use aimed fire when possible.

My main reservation with the AR platform (indeed with most .22 caliber platforms) is the absolute necessity for frequent maintenance to ensure reliable operations. I did carry the old M-16A1 in combat in SE Asia. I was totally underwhelmed by everything except the weight and clear air accuracy. The bullet had a tendency to tumble when shooting in foliage and became unreliable. Not so good in the jungle. In tough terrain it was difficult to keep the rifle reliably clean. A condom over the muzzle helped but I was never completely comfortable that the rifle would fire each and every time I needed it. I am alive today because of a 1911A1, not the M16.

The heavy cleaning requirement means that you must stock more cleaning supplies that for other rifles. Also, before deciding that it is reliable, put it in ‘field conditions’ for a month or two and see how well it functions. Being stored in a humidity controlled safe is not the same as two weeks in the field getting wet and dirty. Make sure the magazines function when dirty as well. Can you clean it in the field without losing small parts or needing special tools?

That said, the AK-47 seemed to fire forever. I’ve never run across one that was too dirty to shoot. Until recently, I’d never fired one. I assumed they were inaccurate since all of my experience had been from the ‘wrong’ end of the rifle. Having been shot at quite a bit, they always missed. I got my wife an AK because for her frame size and arm strength it was much easier to operate and fit her better. (Yes, the collapsible stocks would have help the AR here, but she didn’t want one as she found the T handle charging lever awkward to use). She shoots it well and out to 100 yards it is certainly well less than 2 MOA. Because of our age, I’m getting her a scope for longer ranges – neither of us see so well out passed 100 yards. A bit more recoil than an AR, less than say a 30-30 lever gun, but easily handled by my 5 ft tall lady.

7.62X39 ammo is readily available, cheap and can be had from Russian or US manufacturers. It has the further advantage of being a .30 caliber and hence more useful as a game rifle. Ruger makes their Mini-14 as a Mini-30 which is also the 7.62X39. While I can shoot the AK well I find the stock a little short for my 6ft 2in frame so I’m looking at a Ruger or a modified AK for my use. As to cleaning, remove the machinery cover and everything is laid out in plain sight. No tools needed to disassemble, no small parts and almost any cloth or shoe lace or reed can be pressed into service to clean it. Finally, clean or dirty, it functions.

I guess the question becomes one of what fits for you and what you think may be the use for the weapon. Being realistic, at 61 with a bad foot and caring for a mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s, I really don’t envision small unit tactics against an armed force. Being retired military, my suburban home is well laid out for point defense. I am well aware that a trained military unit (or paramilitary unit for that matter) can overcome any static defense if they are willing to pay the price to do so. I am also well aware that the odds of any of us facing a trained military unit are slim. Individual survivalist compounds stand small to no chance against well equipped military units either. (Think Branch Davidian outside Waco.) It is valuable to remember that from Viet Nam forward, the US Army never lost any major engagement. Irregular warfare is about fighting on your terms, not the organized military’s terms. If they can force engagement, you lose. If you are trying to defend a compound, they can force engagement. ‘Crowd Control’ is much different. Utilizing enough force quickly enough almost if not always resolves the situation in your favor. The Golden Hoard are very unlikely to utilize proper small unit tactics. Remove the mob leaders and the followers will go off to select new leaders who will lead them to softer targets. (think Korean store owners protecting their stores during the LA riots.)

If you have an M16 class weapon, find the most effective ammo, keep the rifle and magazines properly maintain (the Army has a lot of lessons learned here), and it should serve you well. If you haven’t purchased your battle rifle yet, find someone to let you handle several before spending a lot of money on the AR. You might find a really good deal (AK’s run for 1/2 to 1/3 the price of a good, solid AR) for a rifle that fits you and your needs better than the AR platform. Parting shot from another Military channel show (Top 10 Infantry Rifles- the AK was #1, the AR was #2) from the curator of a US infantry museum was (paraphrased, don’t remember exact quote) - If I was to be dropped down anywhere in the world or even on another planet and I could only have one rifle, it would be the AK-47. - Captain Bart


While I realize you are aware of this, I wanted to take a moment to re-iterate this for your blog readers: the AR15 is not and never has been, a 'Battle Rifle'. Period. It is, however, a very capable 'Assault rifle' which is a slightly different thing.

A 'Battle Rifle' is a large caliber, select fire (usually) long range rifle capable of carrying considerable power to the enemy at ranges out to 1000 yards. It is not designed for close combat (though it can certainly foot the bill) and isn't always ideal for all environments because of it's size and weight.

An Assault Rifle is a less powerful rifle (often smaller caliber but not always as in the AK47 with it's 7.62 caliber bullet. However the Russian 7.62x39 cannot compete with the NATO 7.62x51 when it comes to power and range and therein lays the difference) designed for close quarter combat and assaults where range and power are less of a factor. Assault rifles are typically select fire weapons capable of high rates of fire with large capacity magazines.

Examples of 'Battle Rifles' are: M14/M1A, FN FAL, H&K G3 Examples of 'Assault Rifles' are: M4/M16/AR15 and AK47

Battle rifle range: 800+ yards Assault rifle range: 300+ yards

Power at 300 yards (battlefield average): M14 Standard with 150grain Full Metal Jacket = 1687 ft/lbs M16 Standard with 62grain Full Metal Jacket = 640 ft/lbs

Notice the M16 is 1000 foot pounds of force weaker at just 300 yards! That is significant when faced with drugged up criminals bent on liberating your retreat from you!

Power at 800 yards (point for M14 and area for M16): M14 Standard with 150grain Full Metal Jacket = 700-1000+ ft/lbs M16 Standard with 62grain Full Metal Jacket less than 200 ft/lbs

Again, notice the massive difference? 200 ft/lbs won't stop a 150 lb meth addict whereas 1000 lbs will!

Just looking at those numbers should tell you why the M1A is a better choice as a 'battle rifle' while an AR15 is a fine choice as an assault rifle perhaps. For one, a battle rifle needs to have the power to kill at long range as well as the power to kill/knock down at close range while an assault rifle needs high rates of fire, light ammunition, ease of operation with low recoil for rapid changes in sight picture -- the AR15 is fine for this purpose but never confuse it for what it is.

Lastly, it is also very important to consider caliber. The 5.56 NATO round was chosen as the round of choice by politically motivated Generals -- and I'm not kidding. Bear this in mind any time you consider this light caliber.

Let's consider the M16 for a minute and it's predecessor shall we? The M14 is chambered in 7.62 NATO (.308 Winchester) and has very similar power and ballistics to the older and well proven 30-06. It is incredibly simple, super reliable and has the power required to stop the enemy at any range. It can penetrate walls, provide accurate long range fire and has a removable box magazine and relatively high rate of fire.

However, it is heavy, hard to shoot for smaller stature shooters, can't be fired rapidly while holding on target (lots of muzzle lift) and the ammunition is heavy and expensive.

The Army at first requested a 7.62 NATO rifle to replace the M14 and the AR-10 was developed for this purpose however about the same time there was a push for a smaller caliber, lightweight, rapid fire weapon to replace the M14 and the 5.56 NATO won out. It was said that it wasn't designed to kill but rather to wound because 1 wounded soldier took two of his buddies to carry him off the battlefield thereby removing three combatants with one shot...something to ponder. Is this what you really want? Those 3 soldiers/criminals may choose to come back.

Now decades later the M16 continues to prove to be a reliable weapon which does what it was designed to do -- but is that what you want for your retreat?

In my case I prefer the heavier M14 and Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq have gone back to using them in some cases; usually when dealing with Urban environments because the M16 can't shoot through walls or when dealing with long open spaces because the M16 just isn't capable of doing much damage out past 500 yards and even then it's not a lot. However, I also realize that some family members can't handle the big rifles very well, if at all and in this case the smaller, lighter and easier to shoot AR-15 is a good second. I'd recommend considering a slightly larger caliber though -- like the 6.5mm for example. Anything to give a little more killing power (because that is what you are wanting whether you admit it or not) that you can count on.

Nothing worse then investing a ton of money into a shooting platform only to find that it won't cut the mustard!

Lastly, the M14 isn't just a battle rifle! It's also an excellent hunting rifle as JWR has pointed out elsewhere. The M16? Not so much unless it's gophers and groundhogs you are after.

So, in conclusion, the M16/AR-15 is NOT a Battle Rifle, it is an Assault Rifle and should never be confused with it's bigger brother, the real battle rifle. The M14, FN FAL and others all rule the roost when it comes to 'battle rifles' and they are far far more capable then the smaller, less effective, less powerful but faster shooting little sisters.

It's the M1A Scout Squad for me unless I'm shooting long range then the M1A Standard will do just fine thank you.

Semper Fidelis, - Erik


Thanks for the great blog.  I find the information in it endlessly interesting and informative.

I almost hate to address this age-old subject.  That is, the effectiveness of the .223.  But I will because the people who read survival blog, and particularly those unfamiliar with firearms, deserve to hear other sides of the story. 

Dan has provided a good synopsis of the AR platform.  I have no argument with using AR-style weapons, provided that all of the perhaps numerous and expensive “required” and “recommended” items listed in his text are followed.  Performing all of these, however, might make the cost prohibitive for many people, and has certainly prevented me from buying an AR style weapon. However, for many people, including my brothers and nephews, it is just about “perfect.”  More power to them.

Firstly, while I have no argument with the AR-15 as a launching platform, I disagree that its use of the .223/5.56 mm bullet is effective to any appreciable range, particularly past 300 meters. Many studies over the last several decades have found that the .223 cartridge is insufficient for stopping a determined enemy beyond that range, and some would argue that 200 yards is more likely the true effective range. Some others might even say that it wouldn’t stop a determined enemy at 100 yards.  Dan mentions:

Max Range – 500 Yards: “This is the furthest that we expect to engage targets with our battle rifles out to.  This is largely limited to eyesight, and proper target identification.  The standard for a "marksman" by organizations such as the Appleseed shoots or manuals such as “Fred's Guide to Becoming a Rifleman” is to be able to hit a man at 500 yards from any position, including standing.  I know this can be accomplished as I can do it, but expecting much more, especially under stress isn’t very practical.  Beyond this range, I’ll be reaching for my scoped bolt-action 308.  At this range, a 55 grain .223 round has 169 lb-ft of energy, which is more than enough energy for adequate penetration.”

While I and many other Marines have qualified with the M16 on the 500 yard line, oh those many years ago and prior to attending the gathering in Vietnam, which attests to its ability to “hit,” striking a man at 500 yards does not equate to incapacitating him in any way.  In fact, people have been hit with the 5.56 bullet at 100 yards, notably in one negligent discharge during Desert Storm in which a soldier was hit at that range and simply walked away after from it.

In his monograph, “Increasing Small Arms Lethality in Afghanistan: Taking Back the Infantry Half-Kilometer,” By Major Thomas P. Ehrhart, United States Army, (excerpted below and available in full as a 70 page PDF) the author directly addresses the notion of the long-range (beyond 200 meters) effectiveness of the 5.56 cartridge.  I would suggest that anyone who seriously considers using a platform that launches a .223cal/5.56mm bullet, particularly as a “survival” weapon to think carefully about what is required of such a weapon.

Which brings me to the second point:  A “survival combat weapon” is somewhat of an anomaly to me, and I think mixes apples with oranges.  To me, a survival weapon is one that will do many things, from shooting squirrels to deer to elk to stopping invading bipeds.  Because this would be truly remarkable piece of one could find it, one generally thinks in terms of possessing more than one “survival gun.”  For myself, I think of a .22LR for smaller game, and a rifle that launches .308 bullets for anything much larger, and most certainly in anticipation of “combat.” I do not, for instance, think of a .223 for shooting deer and elk.

I believe that a combat weapon, by contrast, is something much different from a pure “survival” weapon, for it has but one purpose, and that is to stop a gremlin from close range out to at least 500 yards.  Much as Dan notes, I would be reaching for a bolt gun chambering either a .308 or .30-06 cartridge if the ranges got way out there.  But for very close range and for anything out to about 400 yards, I would use and recommend a semi-automatic rifle in any one of several variants that fires at least a.308 (7.62 x 51mm) cartridge.

I would not encourage anyone to rely for life and limb and for putting meat on the table, which likely will equate to the same thing in a dire situation, on a 5.56 cartridge, regardless of which platform shoots it.  And I have two such, a tricked out Ruger Ranch Rifle which will shoot 1.5 MOA, and a Ruger 77 bolt rifle that will seemingly thread a needle with a .223 bullet. But I surely would not use either rifle for medium or large game, nor for any 500 yard shot, because the 169 ft/lbs of energy mentioned by Dan as being the slapping power at that range is woefully insufficient to do anything but irritate an attacker unless he is hit in the eyeball.  I add that the minimum energy level usually considered humane for taking deer-and-larger-sized animals is in the 900-1100 ft.lb. area. Of course, some might say that that is a “peacetime” figure, and maybe would get stretched in an end-of-the-world scenario.  For myself, in a SHTF situation, I would endeavor to get closer and hit the animal even harder with a single shot, both to conserve ammunition and to save my own energy in having to track a wounded animal.  I would want the animal to go down.

And that is precisely what I would want two-legged creatures to do, as well.  I certainly would not encourage anyone preparing for a societal collapse, particularly those who are inexperienced with firearms and firearms training, to rely upon a .22 caliber bullet for anything but the most close-in fighting and for shooting squirrels, in the case of the .22LR. 

I have selected portions of the 70 page monograph and copied them below.

In addition and for further information on this subject, see Gabe Suarez’s blog, 
for his definition of a combat rifle.

“Two Dogs”, USMCR (ret.)

“Increasing Small Arms Lethality in Afghanistan: Taking Back the Infantry Half-Kilometer,” By Major Thomas P. Ehrhart , United States Army

Excerpt from Abstract:

“Operations in Afghanistan frequently require United States ground forces to engage and destroy the enemy, often at ranges beyond 300 meters.  These operations occur in rugged terrain [like mountainous areas in the U.S.? td] and in situations where traditional supporting fires are limited due to range or risk of collateral damage.  With these limitations, the infantry in Afghanistan require a precise, lethal fire capability that exists only in a properly trained and equipped infantryman.  The thesis of this paper is that while the infantryman is ideally suited for combat in Afghanistan, his current weapons, doctrine and marksmanship training do not provide a precise, lethal fire capability to 500 meters and are therefore inappropriate.”

“There are several ways to extend the lethality of the infantry.  A more effective 5.56-mm bullet can be designed which provides enhanced terminal ballistics out to 500 meters.  A better option to increase incapacitation is to adopt a larger caliber cartridge, which will function using components of the M16/M4.  The 2006 study by the Joint Service Wound Ballistics  - Integrated Product Team discovered that the ideal caliber seems to be between 6.5 and 7-mm.  This was also the general conclusion of all military ballistics studies since the end of World War I.”

Excerpts from text:

“Small arms doctrine defines maximum effective range as ‘the greatest distance at which a weapon may be expected to fire accurately to inflict casualties or damage.’  The maximum effective range of the M4 carbine is incorrectly listed as 500 meters for a point target and 600 meters for an area target.  These ranges only take into account the ability of the weapon and ammunition to hit a target and not the terminal capability of the cartridge. For example, the M1 Garand and M14 rifles, firing a 150-grain bullet, and the M16A1 firing a 55-grain bullet, all had the same maximum effective range of 460 meters.  Clearly, these ranges do not consider the terminal ability of the round to inflict casualties. As discussed earlier, the M855 cartridge is most effective to a distance of 200 meters after which its effectiveness is limited unless hitting a vital area of the target.” Pages 25-26

“In general, the requirements for the infantry squad are that they have weapons capable of reliable incapacitation from close range to a distance of 500 meters.  This capability does not exist in the current family of 5.56-mm ammunition, either with military or with commercial off the shelf ammunition, though efforts are underway to remedy the situation.  Currently, the infantry squad does not have this capability unless its designated marksman is armed with a rifle of 7.62x51 caliber.  Those armed with 5.56-mm versions of the SDM-R are marginally effective and then dependent on shot placement in the small vital areas of the enemy for their effectiveness.”  Pages 28-29

“The requirement for squad designated marksman to engage targets from 300-600 meters requires a caliber larger than 5.56-mm.  As discussed earlier, current 5.56-mm ammunition is not suited for ranges beyond 200 meters.  One solution is a purpose built rifle chambered in an intermediate or full power cartridge.  This rifle would be capable of precision as well as suppressive fire.  This capability currently exists in the M110 sniper rifle.  M110 sniper rifle is a semi-automatic sniper rifle whose lineage goes back to Eugene Stoner’s first creation of the AR10.  In appearance, it is a larger scale copy of the M-16, chambered in 7.62x51mm, fitted with a 3.5 to 10 power telescopic sight.” Page 49

See also: Battlesight zero. Page 49

Excerpts from Conclusions:

“The adoption of the M14 rifle and its full power cartridge was plagued with controversy and the political reaction resulted in the adoption of a marginally capable weapon known as the M16 and its 5.56-mm cartridge.” Page 56

“The environment of the Vietnam War was specifically a close range fight.  Under these conditions, the M16 as originally configured was moderately effective.  The combination of the M16 and 5.56-mm cartridge, the loss of the precision capability in the reorganization of the infantry squad, and the Trainfire qualification course, resulted in the complete inability of the infantry squad to engage targets beyond 200 meters effectively.” Page 56

“Further refinement of the M16 design and the requirement for a light squad automatic weapon resulted in a heavier 5.56-mm cartridge designed to defeat soviet troops wearing body armor on European battlefields.  This cartridge proved ineffective in Desert Storm and Somalia, but the short duration of those conflicts and minimal supporting data, did not warrant change.  The emphasis on urban operations combined with increased movement by vehicles necessitated the requirement for a shorter length weapon.  The resultant M4 carbine combined with the new 5.56mm cartridge further reduced the incapacitation capability of the standard issue rifle.”  Page 56

“Operations in Afghanistan quickly identified the shortfalls in equipment, training, and doctrine for engagements in mountainous terrain.  The M855 cartridge has limited effectiveness beyond 200 meters and therefore requires either an improved cartridge within caliber or the adoption of an improved intermediate cartridge, which can be adapted to a modified upper receiver group.”  Page 57


Mr. Rawles,

I read Mr. Dan's article with using the AR series platform. It was well thought out with most of his recommendations except the use of the McFarland single-piece gas rings. As a team shooter for a US Military High Power Rifle Team I have seen more issues with McFarland rings than using the standard three ring set up. There are issues with McFarland rings not brand new along with them being either undersized and over-sized. The belief that the gaps between the three rings must not be aligned is a misnomer. I have seen master armorers take apart a bolt and upon locating a McFarland ring immediately discard it and replace it with the original factory style rings.

Sincerely, Dan in Florida

Reader E.H. wrote mention: "I recently got into a lot of chiggers. I had many chigger bites all the way up to my waist and some above, with a bad concentration in the crotch area. I put a light dusting of Gold Bond Medicated Powder all over the affected areas. I don't know what I expected, but within 30 minutes, all itching was gone and 2 or 3 days later after renewing the powder at each shower the bumps were also gone. I'm amazed."

   o o o

Some Schumer Coming? As Reid Falters, Schumer Subtly Stands in the Wings. (Thanks to Charley S. for the link.)

   o o o

Scott C. sent this one: Dangers to Global Crops that Could Dramatically Reduce the World Food Supply.

"Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." - Luke 21:36

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Today we present two entries for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value)

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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.

Growing and Storing Your Own Food, by F.E.S.

Let me begin by saying I am a 64 year old male who grew up in the era of duck and cover. Every school child back then was aware of the threat of falling A bombs form the sky with the Russian hammer and sickle painted on their nose. Many people were prepared for a nuclear exchange with fall out rates and blast distance from ground zero calculated. Food reserves were stocked in the pantry or in a shelter and each family member knew exactly what to do in an emergency. To be prepared then was your civic duty and not being organized was viewed as being, at the least ill-informed and at the worst just plain lazy.

Now fast forward to the present, how the times have changed! Today the threat of nuclear war is not our only worry. We have threats of biological, and chemical attacks, or fear of a global pandemics wiping out one quarter of the earths population. And don’t forget the falling asteroids or comets from the sky repeating the extension event that killed all the dinosaurs, or civil and social collapse due to terror attacks or revolution and riots. Then you throw in the 2012 prophecy, and being prepared is even more important and much harder than ever before.

People think you are a tinfoil hat wearing crazy nut job if you talk about being prepared, you are called a survivalist throwback to the bomb shelter days. The comment that bothers me the most is when a person says that they would prefer to die at the beginning rather than suffer trying to survive. My reply to that is, “can you intentionally watch your grandchildren slowly die because you are lazy and unprepared.” Personally I can’t, and that brings me to the reason for this article.

After 9-11, I began to think about survival, not just for me but for my family and especially my grandchildren. My entire adult life I have tried to provide for my family by making things safe for them. But I never gave much thought about preparing for a prolonged disaster and survival if the unthinkable happens. I started to think about the things I would need to do to be better prepared. My brother and sister have been quietly organizing for years so I knew who to go to for information.

A visit with my older brother out of state opened my eyes to how big a challenge it is to truly be properly equipped. The following is the easy and time tested way to build up our family food stores.

Getting started with the basics:

Every trip to the grocery store I purchased extra of the basic foods.

Beans, dried of all types, and came in large 25 lb bags or as small as 1 lb bag.

Rice, long grain white or brown, pasta, noodles and spaghetti.

Oats rolled old fashioned, corn meal, processed white flower.

Sugar, honey, salt, cooking spices, dried yeast, cooking oil, and powdered milk.

Wheat, if you can find it. Hard Red winter wheat is better for long term storage.

It does not take long to begin to build a food store when you start to purchase just a few of the basics. Always remember to look at the expiration date on any caned foods you purchase. Something I learned is that SPAM, canned salmon and canned tuna have very long shelf lives and can be rotated in your food store for a variety in cooking choices.

The Learning Curve Begins

Then I got out my old and dusty, Nesco American Harvest food dehydrator and jerky maker. After talking with my sister by phone about shelf life I found that you can dehydrate almost all frozen vegetables very easily. So I began learning how to dry all our favorite foods.

I started with frozen corn from the grocery store in one lb. bags. I waited until they went on sale and got 20 bags. My Nesco has a temperature dial and according to instructions you set the temperature at 135 degrees. I moved the dehydrator into the garage when I found that the smell of drying corn fill the house. In the beginning you will check on the unit every hour or so, kind of like watching grass grow. So I decided to fill the dehydrator in the evening and let it run all night while I slept.

The 20 one pound bags were processed five bags at a time for about 14 hours, and the total of that drying will fit into a single quart mason jar. I found that if you use a grocery store brown paper bag you can put the 13-½ inch drying tray inside the bag before dumping the tray. And after all five trays were put into the bag you can fold the corner and use it as a spout while pouring the contents into the quart Mason jars.

Another phone call to my brother and sister who have been preparing for years and I knew how to seal the jars of dehydrated corn. By placing the open jars in my oven with the temperature on its lowest setting which is about 170 degrees. Let the jars sit for two hours to heat up, then put your lids and rings into a pot of boiling water for a couple minutes, take out the jars one at a time and put them on a dish towel, use your caning magnet to pull the lid and ring out of the boiling water, wipe off the moisture and place the lid insert on top of the jar then thread on the ring only finger tight. After a short time you hear the pretty sound of the cans sealing with a loud ping each time the jar seals. Now your can of dehydrated corn is ready for long term storage if you did it all correctly it will last for many many years.

The key to long term food storage is keeping the food, no matter how it is prepared, in a cool dry place. Temperature extremes are bad for food storage even when the food is dehydrated. A hot garage is definitely not the place to store food. So with that in mind I have converted one small bedroom closet into my food locker. The room is air-conditioned so the temperature stays fairly constant.

My home dehydrated food supply now consists of Corn, Green beans, Carrots, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Okra, “sweet peas my favorite,” Spinach, Celery, cucumbers, Apples, and Blueberries. All of this food and more is available from several different sources but I prefer to learn how to process it my self. Learning how to survive is more than opening a can it is learning and teaching for the future generations.

Learning to grow your own food

My brother who lives in Washington State visited me four years ago here in Houston and he complimented me on my well kept yard and flower garden. He added that unless I know how to eat grass and flowers there is nothing in my yard that you can eat and live on. That was my awakening and I began to learn how to raise my own vegetables. Since my back yard is very small I had to teach myself how to grow just a few of my favorite veggies in a limited space. The first two years I purchased starter plants from the nursery and they worked well. But this year I am learning how to grow my own garden from seed packages. It is important to re-learn what our grand parents knew from childhood.

It is a learning process, not enough water, or to much water. Then the quality of soil is a big deal in gardening. I learned that it is important to gain as much knowledge as you can so I purchased a book written by our local extension agent. It is filled with the right kind of information to grow plants in our local area. I am teaching both my granddaughters about gardening and when the radishes or small onions get ready to pick they help and will eat some right out of the ground. I am trying to make gardening generational.

Next is picking the proper fruit trees for my area and of course learned how to keep them producing a good crop. Lack of adequate room is a problem so I picked a single self pollinating apple and plum, and because my neighbor has a peach tree I got one that will use his for pollination. My daughter gave me a dwarf lemon tree that is giving me fits but I think its growing well now. Being retired gives me a lot of time to spend in my home garden and I think it has improved my health some.

It needs to be a family undertaking

Getting the family onboard and thinking survival was the next obstacle. For the last nine years my wife has been agreeable and letting me slowly prepare our food store. My children on the other hand did not understand the importance of being prepared for emergencies. To them an emergency is a couple of days without electricity. So they let me build my family food store and they all know where to come and what to bring in an emergency. Keeping the family involved is important and gives everyone structure.

I have started an event called survival food Sunday held once a month where my family will get together at my home to learn how to prepare and eat dehydrated and survival food. It is a good way for me to learn the best way to prepare certain foods and to rotate my older stocks. My family is starting to understand what I have been saying for years and as a family unit we will have a good shot of growing old together no matter what happens.

There is much much more that I could write about but I wanted to tell you how easy it is to begin to build you family food store. I am not an expert just a regular guy that wants his family to have an advantage in any emergency.

Back in the 1940s, Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, asked himself the question “Just what is it that people really need…….?”  After considerable research he came up with an analysis called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  It is usually graphically represented as a triangle consisting of five layers, each corresponding to a category of needs, the lowest layer being the most basic and the topmost – the apex – being the most rarified.

The layers, in order from bottom to top are as follows:

  1. Physiological (breathing, food, water, sleep, sex, homeostasis, excretion)
  2. Safety (security of body, of employment, of resources, of morality, of the family, of health, of property)
  3. Love/Belonging (friendship, family, community, sexual intimacy)
  4. Esteem (self esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others)
  5. Self Actualization (morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts)

He furthermore posited that one couldn’t achieve the next higher order of need without first satisfying the one below and, conversely, that if we lose our lower order needs, we lose interest in the remaining higher order needs.  I disagree somewhat with this statement of dependencies, but more on that later.

What strikes me about the vast majority of writings and methodologies devoted to survival is their tunnel vision focus on the very bottom of the pyramid of needs, and at best a nod in passing, hardly more than an afterthought, to the apex needs.  Needless to say, there are exceptions to this (some mighty good ones at that), but if you look at the public’s view, let alone that of the press, survivalists are regarded as armed, likely dangerous zealots of dubious political and social views whose focus is upon stockpiling food, water and ammo for the Armageddon, and woe to anyone who might interfere with their physical or philosophical manifesto.

Also striking to me is that aboriginal groups consistently show a far greater efficacy through all five levels than today’s typical urban/suburban dweller, who might have a week’s worth of food in the fridge and an intense rage and frustration when it comes to any matters concerning love, esteem and self actualization.  As a note in passing, this has led to a steadily increasing stream of apocalyptic/aboriginal fantasy pieces in the public domain which, though they might have a great bottom line for the publisher, computer game maker or at the box office, have further twisted and confused the real raison d’etre of a survival orientation.

Back to Mr. Maslow’s hierarchy.  Quite a while back, I determined to template my personal “List of Lists” to encompass all five levels of the hierarchy.  On my first attempt at this, I was astonished and thoroughly disheartened at the abject poverty of my proposed manner of surviving and living, particularly at the apex levels.  Subsequently, my “list of lists” has become far richer with every addition of what I call Gear for the Soul.  It weighs nothing and costs nothing, but has more value than any amount of bullion – or “food, water, ammo” - that I can comprehend.

 A final note re my respectful disagreement with Mr. Maslow:  I regard the five layers not as a go-no-go hierarchy, but as interdependent.  The health and vitality of any one depends upon the health and vitality of the others; all exist simultaneously, each to their varying degree.  Should you try this exercise for yourself, remember that it is not a test; there is no such thing as a “perfect” score. Variation between individuals in the balance between the layers should not be construed as a good or bad thing, but as a hallmark of the unique qualities each of us bring to our own lives and the lives of others.

Mr Rawles,
I recently read "Patriots” and wanted to let you know how this book got me to thinking about how to be prepared for a potential social collapse. I thought through all of the steps that needed to be taken and realized that I've been prepping since I was born. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Kansas City, but my family history was one of extreme self sufficiency. My mom who lived through the last great depression taught me how to can, garden, make things stretch as far as possible and be able to survive without really thinking too much about it.

My father's family was one of the earliest settlers in the Kansas Territories and I learned much about woodsman ship, rifle and handgun skills, carpentry, mechanical knowledge, and things such as weaving. My fathers family heritage is extremely rich and have been very active in history and keeping much of the old trades and skills alive. In celebrating our American heritage, I have been a collector of firearms from each war that America has been in. I doubt that I will ever fire a revolutionary or civil war weapon, but all are fully functional - and have a family history behind them. I've kept all my 20th century arms in great condition and all are shootable and represent all modern conflicts since 1910. 20 years ago, my father and I purchased a small 30 acre plot of land with small house for nothing more than a vacation spot - but we are miles from any rural roads. Nothing much, but extremely isolated in dense Missouri hardwoods. I've planted some apple trees, peach trees, grape vines and more just so we could have some fresh fruit from time to time.

After 9/11, I started pulling together some small supplies of food for an emergency for my wife and two daughters. Nothing much, bulk bags of wheat, rice, salt, beans, etc.... every month of so. Now I have approximately 12 months of supplies. After reading "Patriots", it dawned on me that I have been preparing for a potential Crunch or collapse without thinking about it all of my life. I know that my parents never thought that we were preparing for a worst scenario - we were just learning to do what our ancestors had done as part of keeping our family heritage alive. I have continued this with my children and hopefully they will embrace many of these lost arts. We will probably never need many of these skills, but just in case we will have learned these in a manner that made them fun and enjoyable - not a desperation reaction to today's news. The key is to just incorporate these philosophies and skills into daily life. I think too many people get caught up in reacting to the most current bad news. Thanks for a great book. - Brian M.

Every year I seem to be caught in the same dilemma. What to get the kids for Christmas.

Being the divorced father of three kids presents many challenges. First I am always upstaged, which does not matter to me, I am not trying to buy my kids affection. Second, today’s kids get almost whatever they want, if they have a job to save for that Ipod touch or new Blackberry then all the power to them. This year however I am taking a different approach. I have a 20-year-old daughter living in the big city. An 18-year-old daughter living with her mom and my 15-year-old son living with me. Both my ex-wife and her boyfriend are military as well as myself, so I am not too overly concerned about the two youngest. My 20 year old however is in a different situation; I need to be able to give her the best possible opportunity to Get out of Dodge.

Therefore, this year I am going with bug out bags for all three. I was able to get a good deal at MEC, Mountain Equipment Coop, on quality black 45 liter day packs, they have extra loops to use Alice/Malice clips with and have a detachable fanny pack. I chose black because I did not want them to draw attention to themselves as they would if they had bright colors, or camouflage or OD green. Black can blend into any environment. I’ve read so many articles on BOBs that it makes my head swim, and after 22 + years in the military following kit lists packing my rucksacks every year I’ve whittled it down to the bare essentials.

Inside the Fanny Pack:

Note: Can still be carried if they have to ditch the pack.)

- Bic lighter and fire steel

- Small amount of toilet paper. To use as fire starter or well, toilet paper.

- Sewing kit

- Fishing kit

- Leatherman tool

- 550 cord or Para cord 50’

- Signal mirror

- Mini-Mag light

- 750 ml Water bottle

- Silva compass

- State or Province Road Map(s).

Inside Main Pack:

- Poncho

- Poncho liner

- 3 pairs of wool socks

- Spare bootlaces

- Candle lantern with extra candles

- Stainless steel cup

- Alcohol penny stove

- 350 ml alcohol container

- Toque ("Knit cap", for my American counterparts)

- Leather work gloves / knit liners

- Quality hunting knife such as a Russell knife

- 50’ of Parachute cord

- Titanium or stainless Spork.

- Hand crank world band radio

- MREs, 9 entries and accessory packs, broken down. (A three-day supply.)

Being in Canada, we face stricter challenges for self-defence so I am unable to legally purchase 9mms for each of them. However, post TEOTWAWKI; I have no problem ensuring they have defensive capability. They would also have to put in whatever clothing they wanted to pack, hopefully something earth tone.

For my oldest living in the city, I have already started to put together a 5-gallon pail with a Gamma Seal lid together with a week of emergency foodstuffs like flour, canned tuna, baking powder, canned soup, rice, instant coffee and canned ham. She can just throw that in the closet for a rainy day so she can stay put until Dad can extract her from the Chaos.

There are many more things I would do but this is a good base that they can build on for themselves. Again, if given the choice I would make sure that they each had a firearm and plenty of ammunition for it.

I am sure it is not what they have on their Christmas list but I know they will appreciate it when the SHTF. - Scott in Ontario, Canada

At The Daily Bell: The US $200-Trillion Debt Which Cannot Be Named. "Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff says U.S. government debt is not $13.5-trillion (U.S.), which is 60 percent of current gross domestic product, as global investors and American taxpayers think, but rather 14-fold higher: $200-trillion – 840 per cent of current GDP. 'Let's get real,' Prof. Kotlikoff says. 'The U.S. is bankrupt.'"

Dollar Printing Feeding China Inflation

Pimco likens US to 'Ponzi' scheme

KAF sent this: HSBC Accused of Silver Manipulation

Trigger Points, Black Swans, And Other Unpleasant Realities. (Thanks to K.T. for the link.)

Gerald W. sent this: Baby Boomers: Get Out of the Stock Market Now, the Rug is Being Pulled Out By Insiders. CNBC reports insider selling-to-buying ratio for top firms is a staggering 3,177 to 1.

Items from The Economatrix:

Gerald Celente: Market Self-Deception Continues

Silver Money for Americans

Gold at Foothill of a Mania

Trigger Points, Black Swans, and Other Unpleasant Realities

"It is not what a man gets but what a man is that he should think of. He should think first of his character and then of his condition for if he have the former he need not worry about the latter. Character will draw condition after it. Circumstances obey principles." - Henry Ward Beecher, American Abolitionist (and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Today we present two entries for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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.

There are a lot of varying opinions on what make up the best combat weapons for a TEOTWAWKI situation.  My group has chosen the AR-15/M4 platform as our battle rifle, and I’m going to explain the why.  For various reasons, some people have a negative opinion on the AR-15 platform, and I’ll address that as well.  Finally, I’ll show that all rifles aren’t created equal and what you need to do to any rifle to make it function like one of the best.

First, let’s look at the intended role for a battle rifle.  I believe this is an area where some people may expect too much from one rifle.  Here are our requirements along with our reasoning for each one:

Min Range – 0 Yards:
We don’t expect engagements up close and personal, but it must be planned for.  As a result, a short barrel is preferred to make navigation inside buildings and in the woods easier.   The minimum legal limit in the U.S. without dealing with NFA restrictions is 16 inches.  This is what we shoot for, with a maximum of 18 with a flash hider.  The other factor in this is weight - a light weight rifle is much easier to handle.

Max Range – 500 Yards:

This is the furthest that we expect to engage targets with our battle rifles out to.  This is largely limited to eyesight, and proper target identification.  The standard for a "marksman" by organizations such as the Appleseed shoots or manuals such as “Fred's Guide to Becoming a Rifleman” is to be able to hit a man at 500 yards from any position, including standing.  I know this can be accomplished as I can do it, but expecting much more, especially under stress isn’t very practical.  Beyond this range, I’ll be reaching for my scoped bolt-action 308.  At this range, a 55 grain .223 round has 169 lb-ft of energy, which is more than enough energy for adequate penetration.

Rifle Caliber:

Largely due to the 500 yard max range, pistol calibers just won’t cut the mustard.  There isn’t much of an advantage for pistol caliber carbines anyway as they still must have the 16 inch barrel, most only hold 30 rounds max, and the weight savings isn’t significant.  As far as what caliber, that is strictly a matter of preference.  Obviously, more is better, but we feel the .223 is adequate for our needs.

Accuracy - 2 MOA to Max Range:

While less is better, 2 minute of angle (MOA) accuracy is all that’s required to hit a man at 500 yards.  Thankfully, almost any rifle is capable of this, even with surplus ammunition.  The AR-15 shines in accuracy as most rifles are right around 1 MOA right out of the box, so this isn’t an issue.

Large Capacity, Detachable Magazine:

It is important that the weapon have a significant amount of ammunition per magazine to minimize reloads.  Then, when reloads are required, they should be as fast as possible.  We recommend 30 round magazines, usually down-loaded to 28.  The quality of magazine is important too, but I’ll get to that later.


This goes without saying.  Our standard is 20,000 rounds without a failure, which the AR platform can do.

Ammo Cost and Availability:

Common calibers are critical.  Calibers commonly in use by military / law enforcement are best as you may be able to get ammunition from them.

Ease of Use:

Ergonomics are an important determination in a weapon.  If you cannot manipulate the controls quickly and easily, even with gloves on or with your hands numb from cold (or both), then you have a problem.  This is where the AR shines.  This is the major factor that knocked out our other potential candidate – the AK-47.

AR-15 Reliability History:
Most of the issues surrounding the reliability of the AR-15 weapons system were an effect of the issues surrounding the initial fielding of the weapons.  Immediately after the weapons reached combat troops in 1964, jamming issues began to be reported.  Dupont could not mass-produce the nitrocellulose-based powder to the specifications demanded by the military, so the US Government turned to the Olin Matheson Company and their nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin ball propellant.  This different propellant had two side effects – it left behind more soot, and it raised the full automatic rate of fire from 850 to 1,000 rounds per minute.  These issues caused the jamming and mis-feed issues.
The propellant issues were identified and solved, as well as changes to the buffer system and the addition of a chrome-lined chamber and barrel.  Essentially, all the reliability issues the plagued the weapon are mostly gone.  However, it is important to utilize the proper components and procedures in assembly to ensure a reliable running rifle.

The Technical Data Package (TDP):
All of the minimum military specifications on what materials, tolerances, and assembly methods are contained in what is known as the Technical Data Package (TDP).  It is interesting to note that most of the commercial rifles sold on the market do not meet these specs.  These aren’t extra things either – they are the minimum specs. 
Obviously, it’s important to choose weapons that have been constructed properly.  My personal favorite is Bravo Company (BCM).  They adhere to the TDP, and even surpass it in some areas.  They are also a great source for parts.  Colt is the only other manufacturer that meets the TDP today.  If you are curious about a rifle you already have, or one you are looking at, you can see how they all stack up here

Another great resource for the AR platform is M4Carbine.Net.  It is frequented by the industry professionals that know how to make the AR run like a champ.  I will warn you that if you post something that is wrong, they won’t be polite about it.  As I mentioned, these are the professionals, not the mall ninjas that frequent some bigger forums like ARF.com.

If you have an AR that is not built to the TDP, don’t feel bad.  I didn’t buy one that was built properly either.  The bright side is that it’s not hard to make any AR run properly – there are just a few things that need to be addressed, and most aren’t expensive.

Buffer System - Required:
The first thing to look at is the buffer.  This is the gold-colored cylinder that sits against the recoil spring in the buffer tube.  It is a tungsten-filled mass that is designed to help slow the recoil of the bolt and carrier.  The key is to run the heaviest buffer that you can without causing malfunctions, etc.  If you are running a carbine-length gas system (7”), then you should normally use an H buffer.  The buffer is denoted with an “H” on the face.  If you are using a mid-length gas system (9”), then a regular buffer is usually fine (no mark).  There are two grades of buffers above an H buffer – H2 and H3, with the H3 being heaviest.  Each buffer is around $45.

Buffer Tube Staking - Required:
The castle nut that secures the buffer tube to the rear of the receiver should be staked into place.  This is done by using a slightly dulled cold chisel to peen material from the receiver end plate into a notch on the castle nut.  Without this being done, the nut will loosen over time and allow the stock to rotate, etc.  This will eventually wear out the tube or can damage the lower receiver.  It’s an important, but basically free fix that very few manufacturers do correctly.

Gas Key Staking - Required:
The gas key is the protrusion on the top of the bolt carrier that engages the end of the gas tube.  The key is held to the carrier with two socket-head cap screws.  It is important that the gas key is staked or peened so that the screws cannot work loose over time.  Many state that Loctite is sufficient, but Loctite fails under heat, so it is a poor fix.  Mechanically locking the fasteners is the best answer.  This can be done with a slightly dulled cold chisel (what I use), or through special tools like the Michiguns MOACS.  As a result, this is another free fix.

Extractor Upgrade - Required:
One of the biggest improvements that can be made to the AR platform is to replace the spring, insert, and o-ring on the extractor.  This upgrade replaces the existing 4-coil spring and blue insert with a 5-coil spring, a black (harder) insert, and an o-ring.  This greatly increases the force of the extractor.  If you can move the extractor with your thumb, then it definitely needs upgraded.  All guns can be improved, but it is critical with guns utilizing the carbine-length gas system due to the sharper recoil impulse.  This is another inexpensive upgrade at $5.

Gas Rings - Regular Replacement:
This is an on-going check that should be performed.  It is critical that the gas rings be sealing properly to the inside of the carrier for the unlocking feature to work properly.  To test the rings, remove the bolt and carrier from the rifle.  Remove the bolt from the carrier, and clean everything.  Re-assemble the bolt to the carrier and extend the bolt.  Place the bolt and carrier assembly on end, bolt face down, so that all the weight is resting on the bolt.  If the carrier drops down on the bolt, you need new rings.  I recommend McFarland single-piece gas rings, and they can be purchased from BCM, Brownells, etc.  They aren’t expensive at $12 for a set.

Magazines – Required:
Good magazines are critical to making the AR function properly.  At this point, there are three magazine makers that I trust:

  • Magpul P-Mags – These are “plastic” magazines, that typically run between $10 and $20 each.  They are what I currently run, and I consider them the best mags on the market.  The feature I like best is the snap-on cover that keeps dirt out of the magazine as well as keeps the magazine spring pressure from widening the feed lips, etc.  These can be left loaded for very long periods with no effects.  The P-Mags are offered in regular and windowed.  The windowed allow you to see how many rounds are inside.  I use the windowed ones, but either are fine.
  • Lancer Magazines – Another “plastic” magazine.  These are basically as good as the P-Mags regarding durability and are comparable in price.  These mags are “clear” so you can see the rounds inside.  Some have argued that the enemy can see your round count too.  But if they’re close enough to count the rounds in your magazine, then you have bigger issues.
  • Aluminum [G.I. contract] Magazines with Magpul No-Tilt Followers – The follower is the critical piece of the equation.  By taking normal GI mags and installing the Magpul followers, very reliable mags can be made.  It is important to check the mags for feed lip issues, especially when left loaded.  These are the least expensive option, as most people already have the GI mags.  The followers typically run about $3 each, but can be found as little as $1 each on sale.

Lubrication - Regular Maintenance:
All firearms require lubrication to work properly, and the AR platform is no different.  Typically people have an inclination to either lube too little or way too much.  It's better to have the weapon too wet vs. too dry, but applying lube to specific points is all that's required:

  • Place a couple drops of lube in each of the vent holes on the side of the bolt carrier.  This will lube the bolt and bolt cam.
  • With the bolt retracted, lube the side of the receiver opposite the dust cover.
  • Lift the upper receiver off the lower, and lube the face of the hammer and the bottom of the bolt carrier.
  • If you see a shiny spot, then it is getting wear and probably needs lube.

Regarding the type of lube, almost anything will work.  I personally use MILITEC-1 and have been very satisfied with it.

Cleaning - Required in Moderation:
Many people believe that the AR-15 must be completely disassembled after shooting to clean everything.  There are also beliefs that the rifle will not function more than a couple hundred rounds without cleaning.  Both of these are false provided that you are not shooting corrosive ammunition.  Most of the regimented cleaning is a holdover from the dark days of corrosive ammunition and doesn't apply today.  Now, all over cleaning will do is prematurely wear your gun.  Cleaning an AR-15 should take no more than 10 minutes.  If you are taking longer, then you are just wasting your time.

Use a chamber brush to clean the chamber and the lugs.  For the bore, I use a bore snake.  Two pulls through with your choice of cleaning solvent, and it's clean.
Remove the bolt from the carrier, and clean the carbon off the cam pin slot, the inside of the carrier (chromed carriers really help here) and the bottom of the carrier.  If there is excessive carbon on the rear of the bolt, then scrape it off.  Use a toothbrush, etc. to clean the bolt lugs.
That's it.  When you are re-assembling the rifle, it's a good opportunity to check out those gas rings...
Regarding the frequency of cleaning - I clean about every 3,000 rounds.  Maybe a little more often if shooting a lot of Wolf or other Russian ammo, but I don't clean often by about anyone's standards and I have yet to have a cleaning-related malfunction.  The key is the lubrication.  If you don't shoot that much, maybe clean once or twice a year and call it good.

Chamber Reamer - Recommended
It has been identified that many barrels, even from reputable manufactures such as Colt may have slightly tight chambers.  This isn’t a big deal for 99% of the rounds on the market, but if a round is made toward the upper end of the specification, it can cause malfunctions.  I have usually seen this manifest as the bolt not closing into battery fully.  Sometimes, it requires a hammer to get the bolt open again, which isn’t good, especially in a combat situation.  As a result, I recommend reaming all barrels with a 5.56 reamer from Michiguns.  It’s not cheap at $250, but it will cut many barrels.  My own reamer has been used to cut at least 10 chambers and it still looks new.  I have yet to use it on a barrel and not remove material, so I think it’s definitely a worthwhile upgrade.  This reamer does not substitute buying a 5.56 barrel in the first place. 

Bolt - Optional:

As part of the TDP, a magnetic particle inspected (MPI) bolt is required.  While all bolts will fail eventually, having a bolt that was MPI tested is a measure of security.  MPI bolts typically run between $50 and $100 depending on who is running a sale.

Maintenance and Spares:

Now that we have your AR running right, it’s important to have the parts on hand to fix any issue that may arise.  Having an entire extra rifle on hand is ideal, but most can’t afford that.  As an alternative, here are the minimum parts you should have on hand to fix common issues:
Bolt                                          $80
Extractor-Upgraded (3)            $15
Gas Rings (6)                           $24
Trigger Group                          $70
Charging Handle                      $45
Buffer                                      $45
Spring Kit                                $50

The foregoing describes what it takes to make an AR-15 or M4 run properly.  I highly recommend you do further research on what options are available to customize the rifle to fit you.  Once you have added forends, stocks, lights, optics, etc. I recommend you shoot it as much as possible to prove your combination.  Nothing will identify weaknesses with your tactics and techniques or the weapon like lots of practice.


- You've either bugged out to your bug out location (BOL)


- You've bugged in


- You've bugged out to wilderness.


- You’re living at your retreat because “sumpthin bad dun happened sumwhere”.

After a couple of days, you've settled in, you've set whatever level of security you can establish, you've started adjusting to living the primitive life.

Suddenly you smell smoke.

If you've bugged in - the house/apartment next door is on fire. Or the vegetation up wind from you is on fire - grass, brush, woods, whatever.

If you've bugged out or living at your retreat- the vegetation up wind from you is on fire - grass, brush, woods, whatever.

Have you prepared for firefighting? Is your area fire defensible?

My Background:

I've been a volunteer firefighter since the 4th grade. I'm 59 now. I have a two-year degree in Fire Protection and Safety. After the service I worked 8 years as a Fire Fighter/EMT on a rescue truck and have continued volunteering.

I've fought my share of wildfires. I've never fought a forest fire. Part of my degree included how to make your home fire safe and your land fire defensible.

I know that I don’t know it all. What I am suggesting you do below has proven to work.


For a bug-out or bug-in location, I'm a big fan of pressurized water extinguishers for most first aid Class A firefighting. You can fill them yourself and use a hand air pump to pressurize them. I also have what would be considered an “over abundance” of BC and ABC dry chemical extinguishers handy.

Here is a review of the classes of fires and the common agents/extinguishers used to fight them.

A – Ordinary combustibles – wood, fibers, plastics – can be easily extinguished by “putting the blue stuff on the red stuff” that is by applying an appropriate stream of water to the base of the fire or droplets of water into the superheated area/gasses above the fire. The latter causes the water droplets to flash to steam smothering the fire. The former cools the fuel below the point that it will burn. ABC extinguishers (generally monoammonium phosphate) can be used on Class A fires.

B – Flammable liquids/gases – gasoline, diesel, propane, natural gas – Foam systems will smother the fire. Dry chemical extinguishers work by interfering chemically with the fire. BC (sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate (purple K) or ABC extinguishers can be used. Also foam and carbon dioxide extinguishers can be used.

C – Fires in electrical equipment – electric motors, stereos, DVD/CD players, computers – once the electricity is shut off then the fire can be fought as a class A fire. If you’re not sure about whether the electricity is off – attack it with a BC or ABC rated extinguisher.

There are two other types of fires using American standards, class D and class K.

Class D fires – combustible metal – titanium, magnesium, potassium, steel, uranium, lithium, etc. Requires special and sometimes specific extinguishing agents. Water reacts with such metals by being split into Hydrogen and Oxygen. When they recombine – you get explosions etc. Explosions around fires are not good things.

Class K fires – cooking oil or fat like deep fryers – You can use class ABC extinguishers on them. You do have to be careful about not blowing burning grease all over the place; same issue with most Class B foam extinguishers. There are also specific Class K extinguishers designed to fight cooking grease fires. As I understand them, the “specially-formulated, aqueous solution of organic salts” reacts with the hot grease to form grease saponified foam. I’ve never used them. I do know of one fire where a built in Ansul system was triggered and the Class K agent worked as it should. Cooled, extinguished the fire without any flare up etc.


1. Make you place defensible:

You have two main areas of concern here. The first being the roofs of your buildings and the second being type/distance of defensible space you have from your buildings to the natural environment.

The simplest, easiest way to take care of your roofs is to have metal roofs. If not then tile roofs or any other roof that will not burn. If not, then uses Class C or better rated building materials. Plumbing sprinklers on the roof has been done before. I’m don’t know if roof sprinklers will help reduce the cost of fire insurance. Generally non-combustible or at the very least Class C or better rated roofs do help with insurance. YMMV.

If you can – have your space/distance from your buildings to be further away than the tallest tree at your site. Having metal roofs doesn’t help much if a burning tree crashes down thru it.

You’ll have 2 to 4 areas of space defense. The closer to the house the fewer plants, bushes etc the better. Having a sidewalk around the house keeps the grasses and weeds from growing immediately against the house. And in the hot dry parts of summer, keeps them from being an ignition point adjacent the house.

As you get further away from your house/building you’ll need to keep the amount of burnable material down as in mowing the grass, cutting branches, getting rid of scrub woody bushes etc. Also you’ll need to be aware of where you place items such as your wood piles and gasoline/diesel/propane fuel storage tanks.

I realize that some of you may have planed blackberry bushes around your house as a “natural” barrier. That’s fine – keep them pruned and green. A big pile of brown [low moisture] bushes close to the house is a fire danger.

This page goes into much better detail as well as a better explanation of what to do concerning sloping land..

2. Active Defense:

Active defense is a somewhat new idea. I’ve heard great reports about how effective it is.

One site talks about a fire prevention gel you spray on your house to defend against an active wild fire bearing down on you. A wet gel on any combustible surface including side walls will keep embers, sparks, and radiant heat from being able to start a fire.

3. Inside the house. You should have at least one medium to large ABC extinguisher (at least a 4A rating - a 4A rating on an ABC extinguisher always has a 60+BC rating). I also have four pressurized water extinguishers I keep. I always take one or two with me when I car camp.

4. It does work. An example: 20 years ago, a friend of mine asked me how he could make his place less likely to burn down from grass fires.

He implemented my suggestions:

1. Clear out all brush for at least 100 feet from home fence line and all buildings.

2. Do controlled burns around the area to help keep grass fires from his house/outbuildings.

3. Permanently plumb in some lawn sprinklers (the impact type) . Make sure the sprinkler coverage will either do the ground around the house/outbuildings and/or the sides of the house/outbuildings around your home/buildings.

4. Spend the money to purchase a pump that and water storage system that will enable all of the sprinklers to run for 45 minutes and as many 3/4" x 100' garden hose stands as he will have. (Tips are the straight bore type with a shut off). A local volunteer fire department had just put a 750 gpm fire truck up for sale – he bought it and put it up on blocks, built a concrete tank that took overflow from an existing windmill supplied water tank, and plumbed them all in.

His home and outbuildings all had metal roofs. Most of his outbuildings are all metal. His big barn is 100 year old wood with a tin roof.

About five years ago a county in Texas had a wildfire that burned 30,000+ acres of land. (That's slightly more than 48 square miles).

After that happened he called me and said what I had suggested kept his home and barn from burning down. The fire burned up to and around his home and outbuildings. He said he started the sprinklers when the fire was about 500 yards away. He and his wife and 2 sons manned the garden hose sections and used them to put out spot fires while his daughter ran the pump station. He said the water supply ran out about 10 minutes after the fire had burned past. He and his sustained no injuries and lost nothing in the home area to the fire.

As part of the discussion he told me that the fire truck he had bought had three (3) 150’ 1-½ inch pre-connects, two (2) 200’ ¾ inch booster lines, and about 1,000 feet of 1” forestry hose. He said he did some hard thinking/evaluation and then plumbed the equipment in at various locations. He said that the sprinklers did a very good job of keeping everything wet while they were able to hustle to the various hose stations to be able to fight the few spot fires. He did say that if someone had not been there to start the system up they probably would have lost the big barn and maybe the house. He said he had not kept the 100 foot boundary from each building like I had suggested and that allowed some of the fire to get as close as 15 feet to some buildings. He said that from then on, he was going to keep a 200’ line. He said based on what he saw that day – for his place – a 200’ fire line would keep the place safe if no one was home. I told him about the new fire gels and he said he’d look into them. I was out that way a year ago and stopped in. I could easily become used to being treated like a King.

Please understand, what I advised my friend to do worked like it did because he took time to carefully understand the exposures/risks and took appropriate action way ahead of time. You’ll have to do the same evaluations, planning, and actions as they apply to your situation.

Disasters can show up anytime, and leave little time in the moment of crisis to prepare with any sense of organization. The worst time to prepare is when you receive a reverse 911 call, or a knock at the door from a police officer ordering an evacuation of your home.

This list is meant for residents of a suburban area located near an undeveloped forested area. This list was put to the test during a wildfire that consumed over 4,600 acres within a five-hour period, fed by winds sustained at 55 m.p.h. and gusting to 70 m.p.h. No matter where you live, what circumstances are prompting an evacuation, or the natural disasters common for your area, preparing beforehand is key.

1.  Plan Ahead.  Receiving an order to evacuate your home, without knowing when you will be able to return is stressful. Having to make critical decisions about “what to take” and “what to leave” is unneeded stress. Taking the time before the emergency is setting up for success. If you live in an area with severe weather, plan a winter and summer evacuation list to ensure the safety and comfort of your family.

2.  5 Minute List.  Sometimes there are mere minutes to get out. If you only had 5 minutes to get out, what items are critical?
Children and Pets.
Documents in the safe (emergency binder, life insurance policies, passports).
Essential clothes. (Winter wear, one change of clothes)
Essential medication.

All the items of a 5-minute list are best contained in a “bug-out” bag. Prepare a backpack for each member of the family with the essentials. Rotate each season to ensure safety and comfort.

3.  20 Minute List.  Some disasters give a bit of warning. Depending on location, wildfires can generate a few hours of warning before the fire is too close for comfort. 20 minutes should be plenty of time for a full-on evacuation of all the critical (NON-replaceable) items.

How do you decide what goes on the list without packing the entire house? This is where early planning is critical to alleviate a bit of the stress.
All documents in the safe.
Current household documents.
Emergency Binder – copies of credit cards, passports, contact information and account numbers for all bills. 
Essential clothes. (Winter wear, one change of clothes)
Essential medication.
Mementos/Photos – only the ones that aren’t scanned.
Hard drive, jump [aka "thumb"] drives.
Remember: Non-replaceable!

Prepare the emergency binder beforehand. Make photocopies of all passports, social security cards and drivers licenses for the first section. The second section contains all critical accounts for banking and bill paying. Include the company name, account number, mailing address, phone number, web site and login information. With this information, you will be able to pay your bills, cancel utilities, or any other critical items while you’re unable to get back to your home.
In this technological age, if all your contacts are saved on your computer or iphone in lieu of your brain, print the critical contacts and add a section to the binder.

4.  Involve the whole family.  If you weren’t home, would your spouse or kids know what to do, what to take, and where it’s located? Is there a list posted somewhere in the house? Does everyone know where the list lives?
Is everyone’s list the same? Does your spouse have a non-negotiable item you didn’t think to add to the list? Does anyone have a new medication that’s not on the list? Would your youngest manage this kind of stressful event without a lovie or woobie or pacifier?

5.  Write it down.  Excel’s user-friendly columns are an easy place to create the 5-minute and 20-minute lists. Bottom line, it doesn’t matter if the list is fancy, or spaced evenly, or even printed. What counts is writing it down, posting it in a central location, and telling everyone where it is. Use crayon if necessary, but write it down.
A central location possibility is the inside of the pantry door. Pick a date to review it every year. A not chaotic choice is on your birthday. If there are young children in the house, their needs change rapidly as they grow, and the list may need to be updated more often than once a year. If anyone has health problems, the list will need to be updated often to reflect any medication changes.

6.  Post it.  Once the list is written down, it won’t do a bit of good if it’s sitting on the computer’s hard drive. Hit print, grab some tape, and stick it up.
The Pantry Door list is a master list. For each room containing 5-minute and 20-minute evacuation items, post that room’s items again on the back of the room’s door (i.e. in the office: household documents, hard drive). Add the item’s location to the list. Be specific enough to ensure all members of the family will be able to find the item based on the location description. Add an item description if there’s room on the list to eliminate confusion.

The more detailed the list, the less likely precious minutes will be wasted running up and down the stairs grabbing forgotten items.

7.  Share it outside your family.  What if you were out of town and your home was included in an evacuation order? Share your list with a nearby family member or friend willing to come evacuate your essentials if a disaster showed up while you were on vacation. Remind both of you before you leave.

8.  Consolidate.  Most lists contain “photos/memorabilia” with a vague sense of where everything is located. Specificity is key. Oftentimes, photos and important family items end up on a shelf to be cataloged later. Evacuation is not the time to find out boxes are half-full, overflowing, or photos are still in frames, waiting to be put away. Catalog all items falling into the “Photo/memorabilia” category. Eliminate duplicates, Eliminate items safe on the hard drive and backed-up online. Group items by date and label the boxes with large lettering, including the date. Use medium sized boxes easily carried by one person (ideally, by the weakest member of the family participating in the evacuation).

9.  Organize.  Where is everything on the 20-minute list stored? Are the items in separate rooms? In the event of a flood or other natural disaster, would they be safe? If you had to leave them, would they be safe? Can everyone find them?
When storage is tight, creativity is king. Some of the items on the evacuation list may not be in use every day, or on a regular basis. It may be tempting to store items such as photos and memorabilia on a bottom shelf, out of the way, out of sight, out of place. If possible, find an ongoing location that keeps all the items out of harm’s way for most disasters.

10.  Practice.  Once the list is complete (both the 5 and 20 minute), items are organized, and labeled, it’s time for a Dry Run. Set the timer, grab the family and see what happens. This seems silly, but it’s a critical test. Practice eliminates panic. Practicing more often (a monthly drill) will hone the skills of every member of the family, instill confidence in even the youngest member, and cut the time it takes to complete an entire evacuation.
Be prepared to take notes during or after the practice. While you practice, notice things to change, eliminate, or add.

11.  Change it.  During the Dry Run, what issues or obstacles surfaced? While you practiced, what did you notice? Are there things to add to the list? Was everything on the list where it was supposed to be? Did you complete the Dry Run as a family? What would happen if you practiced as individuals – can everyone find all the items? Did you practice with the Person you assigned in Step #7?

12.  Reorganize and Put Away.  As you’re putting things away from the Dry Run, be aware of the changes you’ve made to the list in the last step. Do things get to move around? Are they logically together? Are they easy to get to? Don’t just plan for one emergency – plan for all of them.

13. Keep It Up. As the family grows, and new items get added to the list of items, organize them as you go, catalogue them, and remember to tell all the family members where the new items are located.

At the close of each year, rotate household documents to ensure the most up-to-date items are in the evacuation location.

Consider an online backup solution for all your computer files. External hard drives can fail, and an online solution is one less item to pack in the event of an evacuation.

The best evacuation preparedness is an ongoing task. It might be easy to get complacent once the list is done and one Dry Run is completed. Practice is crucial, and ongoing practice is priceless.

With a little planning, and a lot of practice, you'll be ready for anything nature throws you! - The Survival Mama

Backyard Food Production Systems For a Backyard or Small Farm is a great video and useful resource. Not only is it based on a lot of research, but on more than a decade of home farming in central Texas, which is certainly one of the tougher environments in America to farm in.

Very clearly narrated and demonstrated. It’s a little handheld and shaky at the beginning, which emphasized the small scale involved, but professionally filmed and edited after the intro. This is a farm for a family of four, run very efficiently and productively. It starts with a chapter on the most important aspect: Water. Subjects include collection and distribution, with some welcome attention to cleaning—often overlooked in other publications. Rainwater, gray water, well and commercial water sources are all covered, with extensive discussion of catchment and cleaning of rainwater. Ponds and catfish are mentioned, too.

The chapter on gardening covers critical issues such as shade mapping, soil types, compost production, including safe composting of human waste. The narrative is quick and clear, and mentions lots of documents, helpfully provided on Disk 2.

Rabbits. Raising and butchering rabbits—I’d recommend adding a gut hook and shears to the demonstrated method, but it’s good to learn how using just a basic knife. This section is professional and clean, but the killing and butchering of a rabbit is probably not something to show children who are not familiar with the realities of meat. Also covered is how to use the rabbit waste for compost, and the rabbits are fed off shade trees and garden waste, for a very efficient cycle.

The chapter on poultry is almost exclusively about chickens, kept free range for eggs. While chickens are certainly edible themselves, the eggs provide a much more efficient source of protein and are useful for cooking or trading. Here again, the chickens serve another purpose, eliminating ground insects and weeds and providing fertilizer.

Dogs are useful, even essential to protecting a garden from the predations of wildlife. There’s a good discussion of socializing and raising them to respect the human and keep paws off the other animals.

Perennials include fruit trees. It’s important to work with fruits that thrive in the area, not try to force commercial crops to fit. Geese make a good adjunct to an orchard, providing fertilizer and winter eggs.

The chapter on Essentials covers calorie rich foods, such as grains and tubers, natural pesticides, first aid, contour mapping and covers how to check imports (hay and other composts) for toxicity.

There are summaries at the end of each section. Each chapter has great tips on saving power and resources by nesting and stacking various plants, animals and tools to minimize waste, labor and costs.

Overall, it’s very clear. It seems a little chaotic in spots on a first viewing, but there’s a lot of inter-related information here that has to be covered. It’s worth watching several times and keeping as a reference. In all, it was very watchable, very lively, and what a good documentary and summary instructional video should be.

The second disk has the extensive documentation, references and recipes. There are sections on composting, companion planting for nitrogen fixing, acorn flour, tanning hides, soil amendments, processing of various plants for seed oils, root cellar construction, a solar food dehydrator, and various fruits that are uncommon these days, such as persimmons and pawpaws.

I highly recommend this as an overview, aid and morale booster for anyone planning to do home gardening or farming to improve their sustainment and off grid capabilities. - SurvivalBlog Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson, author of the new science fiction novel Do Unto Others.

Electromagnetic pulse impact far and wide. (Thanks to Chet for the link.)

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I've been mentioning Peak Oil in SurvivalBlog since 2005. Here is a scary bit of confirmation that oil supplies may indeed reach their limit in this century: Alaska's untapped oil reserves estimate lowered 90 percent

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F.G. liked this one: The Toyota Pickup - Why U.S. Special Ops Units Prefer it

"If man is not governed by God, he will be ruled by tyrants." - William Penn, founder and first governor of Pennsylvania

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I must address a Federal Regulation. Consider this my annual statement: Per FTC File No. P034520, I state for the record that I accept cash-paid advertising. To the best of my knowledge, as of the date of this posting, none of my advertisers have solicited me or paid me to write any reviews or endorsements, nor have they provided me any free or reduced-price gear in exchange for any reviews or endorsements.

A quick “how to” system that will gather air on one end, run it underground, and output it to another system that collects the moisture from it in order to produce drinking water while altering the temperature of a living structure to a level that can sustain life.  Please note that every house, landscape, and geographical location can be vastly different than the next and it’s therefore impossible to give a thorough how to, independent research must be conducted by the reader.

Preppers have the amazing talent of separating need from want in life, and the need factor basically falls into two master categories – food and shelter.  Every other “need” need can be easily placed under one of these two headings since keeping things simple is also a prepper trait (e.g. water would fall under food even though it’s not food per se).  Overcoming the challenges of each category in the most efficient manner possible is one of the keys to survival, which is why buying the latest and greatest technology may not always be the best answer.  In fact, nature has provided a free solution to many survival dilemmas and in most cases it’s just a matter of piecing together the puzzle.  Take that same completed puzzle, wrap it in a shiny plastic housing, find a catchy name, and now it can sell for loads of money…there’s not a product out there that somehow defies the laws of nature and is original.
With these things in mind, a simple solution to keeping a structure at a suitable living temperature can be pieced together using the very basics of science and carrying a price tag ranging from extremely low to really no more than the price of a good used car.  A basic system of heating and cooling used today has an input, a temperature conversion, and an output.  Depending on the process there may be other outputs as well but most of those are based on mechanical processes and ultimately go to waste.  But what if multiple outputs could be generated and put to use in a more natural, efficient manner. See this illustration.

Gathering the Input
No matter where a retreat is set up, there will be varying temperatures, sunlight, and precipitation.  The simplest and most independent way to gather the needed input (air!) is to harness one factor and protect from the others.  In other words, a solar powered fan system with a housing to cover the actual fan components is going to be a simple solution to gathering said air.  There are many window mount, solar powered window fans on the market now and with some slight modifications these can become an air moving system.  Choosing which fan (and how many) is going to take some additional research because of the next step in the process…not to mention the actual square footage to be heated and cooled at the output level.   Calculating cubic feet per minute (CFM) against anticipated system length into the space cooled may not be everyone’s forte, so luckily there are plenty of web sites out there to assist in the process (even Sears has one) – after all, they are trying to sell an HVAC system.  While solar power is not mandatory in this case, it’s going to provide the most independent and renewable source of airflow.  The cost of solar room fans is also fairly low, and although they are not made to take a beating from the elements, once again some simple modifications in the form of a fan housing can extend their lives indefinitely.
Hiding the input is another consideration, for example four solar fans mounted in a small housing and blowing into a hole is not only interesting to any passerby but is also a direct path into your living quarters where even smoke from a fire could make life hard.  While keeping the panels themselves uncovered, it’s entirely possible to camouflage the rest of the structure – prevention is gold.

Temperature Conversion
At 4 feet below the surface of ground level at any given point in the more populous latitudes on Earth it is very likely that a constant temperature of 55-to-60 degrees Fahrenheit will be found.  The system used in this design uses that constant to cool or heat the inputted air.  There are some factors to consider in this design, especially in the long term.  Assume that a four fan system is pushing enough air into an 8 inch PVC pipe that drops 4 feet below the surface, zigzags across a 75’x75’ area (a typical backyard for example) using over 500’ of pipe and emerges at the other end with the output air.  If the air goes through too fast then it’s not given the chance to drop (or raise) to the desired level, and a lack of CFM would give off the proper temperature but only cool or heat the output area.  These are factors that have to be considered when designing the conversion area, even the thickness of the pipe.  Some other factors that are critical would be keeping it level, drainage, and making certain mold accumulation does not occur.  While this would all seem an insurmountable task, with the abundance of current technology and better yet, the qualified people in this field these are actually easily answered questions when it comes to design.  Picking out the site, having the facts about the site and designing the conversion chamber will be the easiest of the process.  Renting and running backhoe, laying pipe or venting with graveled bottoms, and attaching all the pieces together will be a bit more of a challenge.  Don’t hesitate to walk into smaller HVAC businesses and start chatting about such things, most people in this field become instantly intrigued and want to explore the possibilities.  Lastly, try and think ahead 20 years and consider what the system will have to endure, design it to last.

Drainage And Mold
The system described herein has not been tested for the long term.  A simple ditch structure with a brick tunnel might suffice in some areas while 8” pvc with drainage holes may be necessary in others.  I cannot stress the importance of preventing mold in a system that goes underground and obviously is capable of not only attracting mold spores but giving them a place to thrive.  The number one preventer in mold growth is to not have standing water. I suggest with the time we have that owners look at their chosen site for such a structure and begin some independent tests.

The outputted air will carry whatever humidity there was from outside, and any accumulation that occurred while underground.  Once again, a single design cannot be expressed for the purposes of this document because of the plethora of variables.  It’s within the occupant’s bests interests to remove at least some of that humidity from the air for the sake of comfort and to convert it to drinking water.  A simple Internet search for “air well” reveals an age old design of collecting moisture from the air through the simple process of natural heat exchange.  Even the ancient condensation collectors discovered in long gone civilizations were efficient at collecting the water from the air.  A higher end design would include an actual powered unit that costs around $1,500 USD and will output at least 5 gallons a day…just have a generator on site to handle its power needs (a medium grade solar generator can easily handle this unit with power to spare).  Bear in mind that powered units will also produce a warmed air that goes above the ground temperature so that could be put into a very advantageous position for the retreat dweller.   In the event that nothing electrical is used on the output side and moisture were collected naturally then the 55-60 degrees would be enough to keep people alive, perhaps not comfortable, but ultimately only needing another 10-15 degrees to be in a good range.  Having a good way to measure hacumidity and temperature will do a person a world of good when fine tuning the system.

If TEOTWAWKI occurs, food and shelter and all their little subcategories will be our main concern.  If a person can dig a trench, hook a fan (or fans) on one end and on the other end enjoy the natural temperature of the earth then that person is already ahead of the game – and it beats living underground.  A few tweaks to the design might be in order depending on exact circumstances, but if a person sticks to the principles of simplicity then they are easily overcome and handled.   Perhaps one of the strongest selling points of this system is that it’s very versatile due to the fact that it can be integrated into almost any survival retreat or plan – no matter how great or small.  It can also be accomplished on a budget that is less than the average family output on dining out, or can become a professional endeavor that a person looking for a way to become self employed and all the more independent.  When a person successfully sheds the bonds of society’s “have to have” luxuries and gets back to the basics, it’s amazing what can be done.

In Part I of this series, I explained the definition of pharmaceutical expiration dates and ‘do not use beyond’ dates, and how both are determined. Additionally, I reviewed information from the Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP) database, which led to a temporary Emergency Use Authorization in 2009, permitting the use of certain Tamiflu products (to treat H1N1 influenza) for up to an additional five years beyond the imprinted expiration date. (See Part I of this series for more information. )

Part II will examine the data regarding use of common antibiotics beyond their expiration dates.

The following is excerpted from my upcoming book, Armageddon Medicine.

Does a can of tuna go bad overnight? What about a bottle of medicine? Common sense suggests the answer is no, but is there any evidence?

The primary source of information regarding the prolonged stability of medications comes from the Shelf Life Extension Program database. Rather than discard millions of dollars worth of expired drugs stockpiled for emergency use, the U.S. federal government tested representative lots of selected medications for extended stability. These stockpiled drugs are aimed at emergency use for injuries and infections rather than chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. The most useful data for the layman is related to drugs to combat bacterial and viral infections.

Of the antibiotics tested, all passed assays for stability, potency, and appearance for at least a year beyond the original expiration date.

Of the lots tested, the following had their expiration date extended by the number of months indicated.


Medication Name Dosage Form Average extension in months (range)
Amoxicillin sodium Tablets 23 (22-23)
Ampicillin Capsules 49 ( 22-64)
Cephalexin Capsules 57 (28-135)
Ciprofloxacin Tablets 55 (12-142)
Doxycycline Hyclate Capsules 50 (37-66)
Erythromycin lactobionate Powder 60 (38-83)
Sulfisoxasole Tablets 56 (45-68)
Tetracycline HCl Capsules 50 (17-133)
Silver sulfadiazine Cream 57 (28-104)

A summary of the Shelf Life Extension Prorgarm (SLEP) data is available in The Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Vol. 95, No. 7, July 2006.

The Medical Letter, a respected professional newsletter, addressed the topic of expired medications in both 1996 and 2002. Regarding safety, they say: “The only report of human toxicity that may have been caused by chemical or physical degradation of a pharmaceutical product is renal tubular damage that was associated with use of degraded tetracycline. . . Current tetracycline preparations have been reformulated with different fillers to minimize degradation and are unlikely to have this effect.” (The Medical Letter, Vol. 44, Issue 1142, October 28, 2002.)

Liquid preparations may be much less stable, and degrade more quickly if frozen or heated. The Medical Letter advises that “Drugs in solution, particularly injectables, that have become cloudy or discolored or show signs of precipitation should not be used.” For oral medications, color changes may also be related to the dyes rather than the drugs. The primary concern pertaining to eye drops is microbial contamination once the preservative becomes ineffective.

Overall then, the concern is not regarding safety, but rather effectiveness. “Many drugs stored under reasonable conditions retain 90% of their potency for at least 5 years after the expiration date on the label, and sometimes much longer,” per The Medical Letter.

The SLEP data does not describe testing for any controlled-release antibiotics, such as Biaxin XL and Augmentin XR. Controlled-release delivery systems vary from drug to drug and would require testing not only of the medication itself, but the delivery system as well, to assure adequate drug delivery. Therefore, the regular versions of both Biaxin and Augmentin may be preferable for stockpiling. Essentially the only advantage of controlled-release antibiotics is less frequent dosing.

In the case of antibiotics, a 10-25% loss of potency over time may make little difference in treatment, and could be made up for by higher dosing in serious infections. Even now, generic medications are only required to be within 20% of the stated amount, and so the dose administered may already vary as much as 50% from one generic to another, or from pill to pill. For example, a 100 mg brand-name tablet must contain 95-105 mg of the active drug, whereas a generic of the same is permitted to have 80-125% active compound. Also, generics may not be equivalent in terms of integrity, dissolution properties, or coatings. In the case of generics, “Made in the USA” is probably preferable to those manufactured elsewhere.

To sum it all up, the good news is that most tablets and capsules are very likely safe and quite likely effective for several years beyond the printed expiration date. Using expired medications may suffice for a decade beyond the end of the world as we know it. (But what then?)

In my next post I will examine the use of other common drugs beyond their expiration date. - Cynthia J. Koelker, MD.

About The Author: Cynthia J. Koelker, MD is the author of the book 101 Ways to Save Money on Health Care. The book explains how to treat over 30 common medical conditions economically, and includes dozens of sections on treating yourself. Available for under $10 online, the book offers practical advice on treating: respiratory infections, pink eye, sore throats, nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, urinary infections, allergies, arthritis, acne, hemorrhoids, dermatitis, skin infection, lacerations, lice, carpal tunnel syndrome, warts, mental illness, asthma, COPD, depression, diabetes, enlarged prostate, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and much more.

Dr. Koelker has recently started a new medical blog on surviving TEOTWAWKI, ArmageddonMedicine.net. She welcomes your questions, comments, and critiques.

Mr. Rawles:
Regarding the reader who had the chimney fire and put it out with a 10 pound bag of baking soda:

We were told by our fire chief that some insurance companies will refuse to pay for damage done in an "undocumented" chimney fire. How do you "document" a chimney fire? You have to call the fire department, and then it becomes a matter of record. In addition, putting the fire out in the firebox does not guarantee that a smaller fire isn't burning somewhere up in the attic or the eaves.

So you might be embarrassed, but even firefighters get chimney fires at their own houses. Far better to call the trained professionals than to risk greater damage or have your insurance company refuse to pay for the fix. - Janet S.


The contributor's chimney fire report included information about flue tiles damage and consequent repair expense. A metal chimney insert would be far less expensive and also upgrade the safety of the existing chimney. Bob

Dollar Selloff Is Going 'Too Far, Too Fast': Strategist. (Thanks to Susan H. for the link.)

Greece Likely to Default Within Three Years, El-Erian Says

Seal Beach home from a price listing of $2,900,000 to selling for $900,000. Chasing the housing market down.

Could someone be expecting a market crash? Watch the smart money: Insider Selling Volume at Highest Level Ever Tracked. (Thanks to Jonathan C. for the link.)

Items from The Economatrix:

Stocks Eke Out Gains On Mixed Earnings

Consumer Confidence Rises Only Slightly in October

Steel Industry's Outlook Gloomer on Slower Growth

Foreclosures Push Home Prices Down in Many Cities

Gold Continues to Outshine the Field

Crooks Stealing Consumable Goods: Beer & Food A sign of things to come..."A crime alert in Chesterfield [Virginia], where robbers want your food and beer -- and will use violence to get them. Right now police are handling 16 investigations in which crooks snatched edible goods from homes, cars and people on the street."

California Is Broke: 19 Reasons Why It May Be A Good Time To Leave "The unemployed in California is equivalent to the populations of Nevada, New Hampshire, and Vermont."

Jason in Central New York mentioned this PDF from the NRC : High-Impact, Low-Frequency Event Risk to the North American Bulk Power System (regarding the risks posed by Cyber or Physical Coordinated Attacks, Pandemics, and Geomagnetic Disturbance / Electro-magnetic Pulse.

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The folks at J&G Sales in Arizona noted in their latest e-newsletter: "Starting the end of January no ammo dealers including J&G Sales may continue to ship handgun ammo to individuals that live in California. This is a new law, now passed and signed by Governor Arnold [Schwarzenegger] called AB962. All handgun ammo sales in California will have to be face to face with a thumbprint provided and a log entry made of the sale. Mail order pistol ammo will be a thing of the past, with exceptions only for deliveries to FFL dealers and C&R holders if they have a COE. We encourage everyone to stock up now to avoid being cut off!" JWR Adds: I further encourage all California gun owners to vote with their feet. Get out of that Mickey Mouse state!

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From Nanny State New York: Bad Driver? In Debt? Proposed NYC Law Would Ban You From Owning a Gun. Thansk to both J.V. and B.B. for sending that link.

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Failure Shuts Down Squadron of Nuclear Missiles.That was 50 ICBMs, a significant portion of the US nuclear arsenal. Thanks to Jim P. for the link.)

"Choice is an illusion created between those with power and those without." - Lambert Wilson as The Merovingian (The Matrix Trilogy). Screenplay by Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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.

Power outages are quite common here in Hawaii. It seems like a couple of times a month, the lights flicker, get dim, and then go out. Sometimes they stay out for an hour or longer. We recently had a blackout on one whole side of our island, which truly woke me up to the possibilities of an endless blackout (worse-case scenario).

Usually I come out of an anxiety session unscathed, but since I currently belong to an emergency preparedness group, I have been reading tons about the many scenarios that could happen to our island home including tsunamis, earthquakes, flooding, volcanic eruptions (we live close to the Big Island), terrorist attacks and many others. This time, when the lights went out, and stayed out for longer than I thought they should, my worrying just would not stop.

What if the lights never came back on? How prepared was I to deal with it? What if this was really the beginning of the end of the world as we know it? Sure, I had a few cans of Spam and tuna, a couple of gallon jugs full of water, oh, and a first aid kit. In fact, I even have a 72-hour kit for my husband and I. But what if I was unable to dry my clothes that were now waiting in the washing machine. I don’t even have a clothesline or clothespins! (Pretty trivial, right?) Going further, where was that recipe of how to make my own soap when it ran out? Mental note: Get a clothesline and learn how to make laundry soap.  That was just the beginning of my worries.

Surely, if the electricity went out for an extended time, or indefinitely, it would cause pandemonium. A majority of the food we eat is brought in from the mainland, New Zealand or Asia on ships. Would we be isolated from the rest of the world?  It would be a dog-eat-dog scenario, seeing who could get to the stores the quickest – that is if they were even open. If it was a worldwide disaster, we could not expect others to help us for a long time, if ever.

And, if I was one of the lucky ones to get a supply of canned foods, did I know where my manual can opener was, since the one we use every day would be useless? As our freezer would no longer keep our meat frozen, how were we going to cook it? We could have a big feast, at least until the food spoiled – unless we knew a way to preserve it.  Mental note: learn how to preserve meat, and purchase a couple more can openers, and put them with my emergency kits.

Thanks to a garage sale, I have a tiny little barbeque grill. Also, since living in Hawaii, we have learned how to make an underground oven. My husband can start a fire with the husk of a coconut (lucky me, right?). We are saved, I gloated to myself thoughtfully! Also, as an artist, I have quite a bit of artwork with frames that I have spent hours on. I wondered how long it would be before all of the art became fuel for a fire to cook our dinner. Mental note: Get an ax to cut up art for firewood, and store it safely

If it truly was TEOTWAWKI, I tried to think of the good things about living on an island, as well as the bad. The good part is that it never gets very cold here, so we will not freeze to death (highly unlikely).  We can go fishing in the ocean, which is vast, although we don’t even own a fishing pole or fishing net. Mental note: Get a fishing pole and fishing net, and learn how to fish with both.

Another thing that is beneficial about living in Hawaii is that we have temperate weather. It is not too hard to grow certain types of food all year round. Luckily, I have a little square-foot garden going in the back yard. Black-eyed peas, lettuce, beetroot, and Swiss chard are doing well; at least we would not starve to death right away. But, I could not just run down and buy more seeds, so I would need to know how to harvest seeds Mental note: Learn how to harvest seeds.

Water – what about water? Luckily in Hawaii it rains quite frequently, and I have a bucket that catches the runoff from the roof. I have also purchased some water purification tablets, which is a start in the right direction, but it would be beneficial if I obtain knowledge of how to distill and filter water. Now that water is packaged and sold, there really is no reason not to have a supply of on hand, except perhaps storage space. Mental note: Learn how to distill and filter water, and store more drinking water.

Fortunately, my husband manages a small farm plot near our home. Certain crops grow here in the islands better than others. I have become accustomed to eating many different types of food. Being from Utah, I used to be a meat and potato, white bread, white rice girl, (which we now know is not healthy), so I am glad that my tastes have broadened to include taro, poi, tapioca root, green bananas, pele (wild hibiscus), and many other island foods. We also have experimented with many different spices, and I can stand my food pretty “hot”. I am thankful that I have been able to adapt to many different types of cuisine.

Also, I have recently learned how to sprout beans. This knowledge has helped me realize how easy you can grow a miniature garden in your own home with mung beans, clover, fenugreek, alfalfa, barley, sunflower and wheat. I also learned that when sprouting, the seeds, grains or legumes provide a large amount of nutrients. With these small seeds and beans, we can store quite a bit of food in a small amount of space.

I love candles, so I have quite a few decorative ones, but they are not the long burning emergency candles, and obviously won’t last very long. I also have a kerosene lantern and a flashlight, but am very unsure how long the matches, kerosene, and batteries I currently have will last. Yet, another mental note: Purchase humidity proof matches or lighters, emergency candles and safely store a supply of kerosene.

I realized how dependent we have become on technology, which may never work again if things go downhill. My biggest worry is that we will be unable to communicate with our children and grandchildren who live miles away. No e-mail, no cell phones, no Facebook. Would we even be able to find out what was going on locally? Where is that old radio? Do we have enough batteries to keep it running? Do I know which frequency emergency instructions would be broadcast over the radio? Maybe we will have to rely on a ham radio operator. Do I know who in the neighborhood is trained in this skill? Mental note: Find a ham radio operator and make friends. Meantime, purchase a small emergency radio and a generous supply of batteries, or get one that you can crank, or even better, get both.

Another worry that snuck into my mind was how well did we know our neighbors? Would we be able to share with them? If we ran out of something, could we ask for it without them scoffing (or worse, shooting) at us? Online banking would be impossible, and there would be no way to withdraw all the money we have been so carefully saving each month to pay for anything. If things should get really bad, we may be forced to barter our possessions for necessities. Memories of Mad Max surfaced in my mind. Would we be survivors like Max himself with the new world order, or be annihilated by the gangs that no doubt would surface? Mental note: Be kinder to our neighbors.

I realized that it is a given, we all must die, but would we prefer to die of starvation, or by our own ingenuity be able to help ourselves and others delay the inevitable? Could we keep our minds focused – which led me to another worry ­– my medications.  Since I take a few prescription medicines on a daily basis, what would I do when they run out? I cannot stock up on my medications because the insurance won’t allow me to get more than a few months supply at a time. Do I know enough about natural remedies to offset the lack of medication? I have quite a few herbs in my garden. Would I know which herb was for which ailment? I also have an essential oil family emergency kit that I am learning how to use.  Mental note: Learn which herbs and oils help which ailment.

How long would it take for us to get used to the new normalcy? Would we have to experience a severe mental shift, or could we just stay calm and take things as they came? Would we feel afraid, become dismayed or lose faith and feel betrayed? My husband and I are Latter Day Saints and have had a lifetime of warnings from our church leaders telling us “if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear”. How seriously have we taken their advice? Mental note: Heed their advice, now!

Worrying can be a good thing. It can move us to action.

Luckily, the lights finally came back on, I said a prayer of gratitude, and went down and cooked myself a delicious breakfast.

James Wesley,

You recently posted this article: Seven banks closed in Fla., Ga., Ill., Kan. Remember something we've been trying to focus on?

Watch closely for banks for which the FDIC cannot find a buyer.

Read closely... in that article there were a couple banks that were only partially purchased by other banks. The FDIC held on to some of the liabilities of some of the banks.

The real zinger is the First Arizona Savings bank - completely shut down, no buyer, no more bank. The FDIC is sending checks to those customers (hope you didn't have more than $250,000 in an account there).

I mentioned before on the blog that the FDIC in Illinois is having more and more trouble finding buyers. I do not know about other states but Arizona has been one of the hardest hit so it doesn't surprise me that we'd see one of the earliest indications of a cracking foundation there.

Thanks for the great effort that you and yours put out to keep this blog on top of everything effecting us. - Tanker

Concerning the article titled "The Tire Shop Option for Nitrogen Packing Food Storage Buckets". My dear friend said that I should let everyone know that a much easier way to use nitrogen for your buckets is to pick it up at your local welding supply. You could then do 1,000 (who really knows how many) or more buckets in the privacy of your own home. - Steph in Colorado

I've been packing buckets and other containers for years without the use of dry nitrogen, but I'm pretty sure the contents are actually nitrogen packed. If we look at the major constituent gases that make up our atmosphere we get primarily: Nitrogen (78%), Oxygen (20.9%), Argon (0.9%), and all other gases excluding water vapor (0.04%). Water vapor makes up from 1% to 4% depending on the humidity. Adding these numbers may look like more than 100%, but when there is more water vapor in the air, the percentage of the other gases is slightly smaller as an overall percentage. Given these numbers, when food or other items are packed with a sufficient quantity of oxygen absorbers and desiccants, within a few days the oxygen is removed (actually converted and sequestered as iron oxide). Likewise, the water vapor is absorbed and sequestered in the desiccant. If you take the normal atmosphere and remove the oxygen and the water vapor, you are left with dry nitrogen and a tiny bit of trace gases, nearly all of which are inert. I'm not sure if using nitrogen helps, but I've never used it, relying instead on larger oxygen absorbers and additional desiccant. - LVZ in Ohio

JWR Replies: Yes, oxygen absorber packets can be effective, but the nitrogen wand method is more reliable and less expensive. The biggest problem with oxygen absorber packets is that there is no sure way to know whether or not a package of packets has been compromised. Once they are exposed to the atmosphere for a few hours, they are "used up", and rendered useless. Thus, we have to depend on the honesty of everyone in the chain of ownership of the packets from the manufacturer, to the wholesaler(s), to the retailer. In many instances, large bags of 1,000 packets are resealed into smaller bags, for retail sales. All it takes is a minor slip up, and they become useless. These days, I don't put a lot of trust in the integrity of worker bees. Few are willing to own up to their mistakes.

Using a CO2 or nitrogen "wand' (or "probe") to displace air from buckets is far less expensive than using oxygen absorber packets if you pack more than 20 per year.. It can also useful for re-sealing a single bucket, if you only need to use part of a bucket's contents. I highly recommend the wand method for anyone that plans to pack more than ten buckets. If you want to buy your own CO2 cylinder then all you'll then need is a valve, a three foot length of plastic tubing (1/4-inch inside diameter), and an 18" long piece of stiff copper tubing (1/4-inch outside diameter) for use as a wand. With a nitrogen cylinder, you will also need to include a pressure regulator to drop the pressure from 2,100 p.s.i.! If you are uncertain about how long you should leave the valve open with your particular cylinder and bucket size, you can use a lit fireplace (long) match or the stub of a candle, as test. Position it inside the bucket, just under the lip. Simply observe the sweep second hand of a wristwatch. The count you take from when you open the valve fully to when the flame is extinguished is the count to use for subsequent buckets. Add two or three seconds, just to be sure. One word of warning: if the contents have been stirred into an airborne dust, they may form an explosive atmosphere in the container (think grain elevator explosion). If this condition exists, the oxygen has not been displaced yet, and an ignition source (match) is introduced an explosion may occur. This could make your day very interesting. Flour, dried milk, and even household dust are explosive if they are airborne and in the right concentration.

"Why is it so difficult to explain survival to family and friends? Well, for starters you first have to explain that the country they think they live in simply no longer exists." - SurvivalBlog Reader Roger D.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm happy to report that "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" will soon be published in Portuguese by Sextante Publishing of Brazil. There are now eight foreign publishing contracts in place, for editions in seven languages.


Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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 evaluation of “Medical Assets” depends greatly upon the evaluator and the mission. For the purpose of this discussion, I consider people, places and things collectively and individually as “assets”. This discussion is meant for a group of non-medical personnel who need to assess whether a person, place, or thing will further their short and long term goals (mission). But how do you make that assessment or know when it has been done properly?

Base assumptions:
1) The group has little to no medical knowledge.
2) The needs include general medicine, surgical procedures, veterinary medicine, and dentistry.
3) The most important asset is the person with their knowledge and experience, then items and equipment.

Our group contains three medical asset personnel: one primary medical asset, two as secondary medical assets. Of these three personnel, two are physicians and one a first responder with combined 25 years of experience in urgent care, primary care, wound care, triage and multiple site/multiple personnel management. We are now in the early phases of putting together a group of 19-to-23 individuals for TEOTWAWKI purposes. We have been increasingly interested in preparation for two years, and frequently reference SurvialBlog.com as well as other sites.

What this is:
This is an attempt to clarify and describe our group philosophy towards the medical component of our group. This approach, we believe, can be used for most other group components (mechanics, security, agriculture, etc.). Our hope is that responses to this article by other readers will help improve our approach. What this is not: Within the confines of this article, we do not propose to give a list of supplies, instruments, books, courses, and medicines – that has mostly been done on this site and others; however, a brief description of what our group is working towards will be offered. Although a much more detailed discussion is good and necessary, it is large and beyond the scope of this article. Additionally, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions and flexibility in planning is important.

Mission: This is perhaps the first critical assessment. The mission is the task or job that must be done. The mission dictates the personnel, supplies, and equipment. The mission can be as simple as basic wound care for a group of a dozen or so while tending an herb garden, versus multiple trained medical personnel running a clinic or hospital for a town of 2,000 people. Different missions may have completely different supply, equipment and staffing considerations. The U.S. military has a long history of thought on these issues and scalable units, each with it’s own supply and equipment lists. Army Field manuals provides a framework that does not require reinvention and many manuals can be found in digital format on the Internet.

Within the context of personnel we think terms of knowledge, experience, and functional capacity.

Knowledge and experience are two concepts are interrelated and cannot be separated. The day after TEOTWAWKI where an individual trained and what initials they put after their name is secondary (at best) to what they know and can do. In other words, give me an experienced fleet navy corpsman over any M.D. doing research at Harvard, a good large animal veterinarian over most freshly trained primary care physicians, or an experienced ER nurse over a radiologist. Their initials, race, gender, or language can never matter as much as what they have in their hands and head. The paper a nursing/medical/dental/veterinary license or diploma is written on can substitute for toilet paper if supplies run low.

Where the rubber meets the road you want a tire that can roll; however, most modern medical providers in developed countries are trained to function in highly complex and fragile environments that are far from austere. When the electricity goes away and the tertiary care structure collapses leaving us without many diagnostic and treatment tools, your favorite internist or psychiatrist may be more of a liability than an asset. Take away the operating room, support staff and surgical instruments and many modern surgeons may not be as valuable to a small group as an experienced and trusted EMT with multiple survival skills. A modern medical provider that is willing to seek further training should more quickly become an asset than a layperson without any formal training. Knowledge and experience can be gained through: 1) formal non-university courses such as wilderness medicine, BLS/ACLS/ATLS as well as 2) rigorous long-term academic courses such as a medical, nursing, veterinary or dental school 3) less rigorous academic courses at your local vo-tech or community college in EMT or nursing fields (think task orientation for selection), 4) volunteering, which could include overseas medical missions (excellent practical experience), many rural fire departments, and more rarely, stateside emergency rooms. The discovery channel is not very helpful in this regard.

Knowledge via reference material should be carefully maintained in a dry, safe area. Most medical providers have quite a collection of books in their area of expertise, but a well-rounded collection of both digital and non-digital format is required. We value the digital format for storage and carry, but are concerned with vulnerability to damage and catastrophic loss. Without specific recommendations, we value many of pocket-sized manuals meant specifically for training as well as many of the military manuals. Procedural references need good illustration. These reference materials may be used by the primary medical asset to help train the rest of the group to perform in an assistant’s role. Many high-level specialty references require frequent updating, but most basic references do not since human anatomy and physiology have changed little in recent years. In digital format we have stored many texts from the 19th and 20th century that do not involve a great deal of modern technology.

If you plan to share a pot of soup with your “docs” when the lights go out and count on them for medical treatment like they count on you for experience and knowledge in agriculture, blacksmithing, or perimeter defense then you must identify what you expect them to be able to do, both medically and non-medically. Beyond skill and knowledge these expectations should include functional capacity. Functional capacity can be degraded by a lack of equipment and medicines as well as their physical, emotional, and mental capacity. A poor survival attitude, refusal to contribute in non-medical roles, or a severe physical handicap might also affect their secondary and tertiary job assignments as well as their ability to perform medically. A small group should not be able to keep them busy all day applying Band-Aids (hopefully), so be mindful that many medical personnel often do not posses many other secondary skills to offer a group due to their focus and long hours in their profession. Make very few assumptions and ask if they can pull weeds, sew a sock, shoulder a weapon, or mend a roof. Our Plan: The needs of even a small group encompass so many areas that a single traditionally trained individual will not be “ready to go” off the shelf. Additional training and skills are almost certainly needed. If we did not already have medical personnel, we would search for an individual(s) who had or could gain the ability to perform most of the following:

  • Basic assessment of ABCs
  • Airway control
  • Hemorrhage control and I.V. access
  • Rudimentary chest needle decompression and tracheotomy
  • Basic wound care and dressings, including suture/staple placement
  • Basic labor and delivery skills, pre and postpartum management
  • Dental preventative care, evaluation, extractions and fillings
  • Reduction and immobilization of dislocations or fractures
  • Basic preventative medicine (where to place the latrine, sterilize water, etc.)
  • Evaluate and treat infections
  • Basic veterinary care (some basic care may be common to most species)
  • Have knowledge of herbal medicine and be willing to establish an herb garden
  • Evaluate and treat pelvic and abdominal conditions (+/- surgical intervention)
  • Basic supportive and nursing care, including temporary catheter placement
  • The willingness and ability to teach all of the above as a force multiplier

How much area to dedicate to the medical component depends, again, on expected tasking. For a small group that is relatively healthy and in a peaceful locale, only an interior room is needed for temporary periodic isolation of infectious diseases and routine recovery. A larger group under fire would seek a larger room or multiple rooms with protection from projectiles, perhaps below grade. In all cases, the ideal would be an area that is clean and well lit with running water, a heat source and space to perform procedures.

Our plan:
For a group of two dozen who are relatively healthy in an area expected to have good OPSEC, we allocate only a smaller interior room for a 2-3 week, 2-3 person isolation or recovery need. If a larger need arises we can hang sheets from 550 cords to separate out space in a larger open shop area, ward style – this is less than ideal in terms of environmental control or security. Longer term, we plan a below grade basement area that would be an improvement in most all ways.

Supplies and Equipment:
As a recurring theme, supplies generally follow from the defined mission. The caveat here is that the mission may change in ways you cannot predict. You may start out with an EMT as your primary asset for fifteen people during an expected three month event and two years later find yourself part of a larger community that includes a surgeon and ER physician, still partially grid down. Like beans and bullets, you need to be deeper in Band-Aids than you might expect. If you consider the list of tasks you need your medical asset to perform, the equipment list becomes clear: airway control requires bag-valve-masks and ET tubes; lacerations are repaired with suture material as well as forceps, scissors and needle drivers; for a bad tooth dental extractors are needed. Splint material, coban, gloves, scalpels, a host of different needles and dressing material will make it to the list. The list can be enormous – worse without defining what your group actually needs or what your “doc” can actually use. We won’t even touch on use of conventional and traditional (herbal) medicines in this article. Supplies, whether consumable or non-consumable (stainless steel retractor versus gauze), perishable or non-perishable (medicines versus cotton balls) must be stored properly. Stainless steel instruments can rust, mice will love to nest in gauze, and isopropyl alcohol burns. Certain supplies, such as pain medicine and “medicinal Everclear” will need to be secured from people (including the “doc”) as well as the environment using a rotational two-party accountability system. Medical supplies, like any other, should be pre-positioned if possible. They are better than gold when you need them – treat them as such. Beyond direct use, there is always the potential to use as a barter item, although (much like now) medical support and supplies are devalued until they are needed. In a rapid collapse scenario (EMP, etc.) expected die off should go parabolic, leaving many non-perishable supplies available for many years. In a slow, stair-step multi-generational decline (i.e. peak oil, resource depletion, chronic conflict) many consumable perishable and non-perishable supplies will eventually be used up, but not adequately replaced thereby creating chronic shortages.

Sources and Storage:
The Internet is a game changer for supplies as well as information. eBay is a really good starting point for instruments and supplies, like Amazon.com is for printed material. Most supplies are less expensive via eBay than we can purchase from traditional medical vendors and with better OPSEC. The quality is fine as long as you keep to top rated sellers, and many sellers also have a separate web site. Being successful on the Internet often means that you know exactly what you need and what the item should cost through other vendors. Many non-perishable supplies (surgical instruments, etc.) are relatively inexpensive for now and store well, so we stack them deep. In our case medicine is not difficult to obtain, but legal restrictions apply to many medicines, nonetheless. I generally agree that veterinary supplies can often be substituted without much difficultly and that, again, the web is a good source. Several good articles on this and similar topics apply. Because of perishability, relatively good group health, and our relatively good access we do not stack medicines as deeply. We store much of our non-perishable items in five gallon non-food grade buckets. They stack well with our food pails and can be stored in the same area. Perishable items (medicines) do best in a refrigerated environment; most perishables like hydrogen peroxide need to be stored away from light.

Dear James,
I have been a Survival Blog reader and Ten Cent Challenge subscriber for about a year or so. Thanks for all you do. The advice I read in SurvivalBlog from a rural firefighter -- to keep on hand a 10 pound bag of baking soda to throw on the fire in case of a chimney fire -- just came in handy!

My husband and I were just enjoying our first fire of the year in our brick masonry fireplace. We have our chimney cleaned about every three years. I was upstairs and my husband called out "we're having a chimney fire!" -- he had heard roaring despite a small, calm fire in the fireplace. We looked outside at the flue to see fireworks, threatening to set a nearby tree on fire.

We almost called the fire department, then I remembered about how to put our a chimney fire from SurvivalBlog by throwing baking soda on the fire in the fireplace. The chimney fire went out immediately! We were spared an embarrassing visit from the local fire department, our tree catching on fire and possibly setting our house and neighborhood on fire.

Now we are facing an expensive flue relining job because the creosote burning at 2,500 degrees cracked all the flue tiles. The cracked tiles exposed the frame of the house to fire risk. We are told that insurance may help pay for the repair.

Bottom line: It is wood burning season, have you had your stove or fireplace checked and cleaned? Do you have trees and shrubs trimmed properly around your house? Do you have 10 pounds of baking soda handy? We consider ourselves lucky. Keep up the good work on survival blog. Thank you, - Louise in Colorado

JWR Replies: Thanks for that reminder. Chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year, or even more often if you burn wood often, or if you burn wood that creates copious creosote. It is important to learn how to clean it yourself, and buy your own chimney rod sections and brush. After all, chimney cleaning tradesmen won't be available in a worst-case societal collapse.

For those interested in preserving food in bulk containers in larger numbers in a quick easy fashion.

Most of your up to date tire shops now offer nitrogen gas instead of air for your tires. The biggest advantage of this over normal pressurized air is that the nitrogen machine removes all the water from the system. No water, no water vapor, less change in air pressure while you drive your car. The shop can give you lots of reasons why you want nitrogen, but mostly, its just dry. For a comparison, watch a tech hook up an air nozzle to blow something clean and see how much water vapor is blown out of the normal (usually black) shop air hose vs. the (usually green) nitrogen lines at the tire machine station.

We test our system every morning and the nitrogen levels are generally around 95% purity. When packing our bulk food, for a couple days I would just bring my rice, beans, wheat, pasta, etc filled buckets to work in the back of the Jeep, pop the corner off the lid, and drop the nitrogen hose into the bottom of the bucket. Let the nitrogen displace all the air for 15 seconds or so (nitrogen hose blowing from a 120 psi tank), then pull the hose out from under the lid and snap it tight. Make sure to clean the hose before you get started, and if you have several buckets of evaporated milk, make sure to fill them with nitrogen outside the shop with the buckets sitting outside of your vehicle. If you purge the evaporated milk buckets in the shop, make sure its the bosses day off....

If you don't know the guys at your shop, minimize your OPSEC by dealing with just the service manager and buying the nitrogen towards the end of the day after most of the techs and tire changers have left for the day. Hopefully you do know your local auto techs and they are already getting prepped. The normal charge for 4 tires is around $20 for nitrogen filled to 30+ psi, you should expect about the same for a truck load of buckets purged at 0 psi. Not a bad lick for zero moisture and 5% oxygen. - Dale in Tennessee

Jim, the letter about the value of storing enriched white rice was good, but I think a little more emphasis needs to be put on stocking up on lots and lots of spices to "liven up" the rice. I buy a couple pounds of dried or powdered spices a week--cumin, cayenne, garlic, dried onion, red pepper, fennel seed, cajun seasoning, anything with a strong flavor that can really "amplify" meals--and label them, date them and seal them up in quart-size mason jars. The danger of food fatigue/appetite fatigue is real--there's plenty of research out there showing that some people (especially children and the elderly) would rather stop eating altogether than just eat the same thing day in and day out over an extended period of time. The psychological boost to having far more spices than you could ever think of using can have huge psychological benefits when it comes to mealtime.

Both of my brothers are chefs (and preppers as well), but when I mentioned to one of them that I had several dozen quarts of spices in mason jars in my food preps, he said, “You realize those will go bad after six months, right?” I replied that the spices will only "go bad” if they’re exposed to air for an extended period–but the seals on my mason jars are much more airtight than the containers which the spices came in at Sam’s Club, and unlike people in a restaurant setting, I'm not opening those same jars day after day in a hot, humid environment like you would find in a restaurant kitchen. And quite frankly, I’d rather have “too much” spices than to not have enough--I’ll take “stale” spices any day over bland food. It could literally mean the difference between people eating or not eating.

Also, don't get hung up (no pun intended) on the thought of eating beans and rice every day. They should think of it as the opportunity to try an endless number of soup recipes using rice and beans as their base ingredients. I've paid just a couple bucks each for recipe downloads on eBay that have literally hundreds of soup recipes each. Maybe your readers will remember the Wendy's hamburger chain commercials years ago that advertised that they could make a hamburger 256 ways--eight different ingredients gave diners 256 possible combinations of what they could get on their sandwiches. People using soup recipes for their rice and beans could eat soup every day for years and never use the same recipe twice. I recommend a search for soup recipes on eBay, where your readers should be able to find the same culinary treasure trove that I have.

Have a blessed week, Jim! - Chad S.


White rice is the equivalent of Wonder Bread. Yes, it will store for many years, and this is due to the fact that the oils and other items that may go bad have been removed.

So to avoid long term deficiency diseases we need to add oils, vitamins and fiber back into white flour, ramen noodles and white rice or any 'junk' food we may be eating. Yes, I understand that flour and white rice can be enriched with vitamins, but even these added vitamins will lose potency with time.

In an earlier submission I described how whole grains could be sprouted to create vitamins (especially C), now let us discuss another option for protein and B vitamins.

POWs in Japanese camps in WWII were dealing with this same problem. One of their solutions was to grow yeast on the white rice. This added both proteins and B vitamins. There was Beriberi Dietary Deficient Disease in Japanese POW camps.

There are various yeast types (brewers yeast, red yeast, Biostrath) that you may be able to find and culture. Even baking yeast may be a viable choice.

You will want acquire these yeasts and experiment ahead of time to determine the best conditions for optimum growth given your media choices. People with weakened immune systems (stress, no sleep and malnutrition can do that) may want to cook the yeast first so that it cannot replicate inside their intestines.

You will, for all intents and purposes, be making vitamins at home in a manner not all that different than vitamin companies do.

For information on growing the ultimate nutritional supplement in a fish tank on your windowsill, learn how to raise spirulina. I took a class here... The Algae Lab and recommend it highly. You will also get a starter culture from the good doctor Baum when you go. An advantage of spirulina is that also contains making oils.

Don't forget, egg yolks and liver are very high sources of B vitamins.

Finally, get to know your body. Vitamin deficiencies affect different people in different ways. Look at the symptom lists available online and see if you are susceptible to any of the symptoms. We are all biochemically unique. You may need twice the vitamin B2 than your wife does or vice versa. - SF in Rome


I have Celiac (auto-immune disease requiring a gluten-free diet) and I hope you will allow me to add my two-cents about Enriched White Rice.

White Rice is known to cause Chronic Constipation and, as you pointed out, Nutrition Deficiency when relied upon too heavily in one’s diet. The biggest mistakes people make when they are diagnosed with Celiac is they start eating all those rice-based crackers and products to replace the more fiber-based options they can no longer eat. One of the reasons people say to add beans to rice to be complete is because the beans make up for the lack of fiber.

Ask our American Military Medics what one of their biggest non-battle related problems they have to treat, and many (that I’ve talked to) will say Constipation (mostly because of the MRE’s.) I remember this being addressed in your novel "Patriots” as well. If you plan on eating a lot of MREs and White Rice, then make sure there is enough laxative to go around.

Weight gain is another problem because of all that starch. Thus people who run to White Rice often trade one problem for another (or more). Perhaps why we don’t see a weight gain problem in Asian cultures is because they are more active generally, and after thousands of years of rice consumption their bodies can metabolize it better than the average American. The word “enriched” usually means that after the nutrients have been stripped off and the grain has been bleached, minerals are then sprayed onto the grain to offer at least some value to the now depleted grain.

People who do not have Celiac don’t realize the consequences of relying too much on White Rice, and TEOTWAWKI is not the time to find out.

I would also like to address the ludicrous mantra: ‘If 500-million Chinese can do it, so can we!’ often heard in regards to White Rice. Like any food-storage food, if you don’t eat it every day, right now, then chances art your body isn’t going to adjust well later. Also, the Chinese Government isn’t exactly known for its love of humanity in regards to its own people. Just because they do it, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I wonder what all those poverty-stricken people would say after a hundred years of actually having a choice! Studies of the Asian diet also show it is their eating of seafood and vegetables that gives them longevity, not white rice!

Our American POWs from the Vietnam War didn’t come out looking good after being fed a bowl of rice everyday for so many months--or years. Tooth decay, muscle-loss, vitamin deficiency …the list goes on.

White Rice certainly has it's place, but Americans are not exactly known for our Balance and Control in regards to our diet, either. If not used properly, White Rice is about as useful as French Fries for survival food. - Rebekah

John G. in England sent this: Nuclear bomb shelter for sale in Devon

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Emerging Threats File: Three men posing as ATF agents break into home, kill resident. (Thanks to K.T. for the link.)

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"Exterminator" armored truck in Illinois. (Thanks to regular content contributor Jason M. for the link.)

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RBS sent: Just how bad is Facebook applications privacy problem?

"Everyone is waiting for the Fed's November surprise. They are waiting for an announcement of a major new plan by the Fed to print up hundreds of billions of dollars. This is 'quantitative easing,' also known as 'Bernanke as a drunken sailor on a spree.' So deeply Keynesian are the nation's financial analysts that they think this will be a great benefit to the economy." - Dr. Gary North, The Daily Reckoning e-newsletter

Monday, October 25, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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.

Having a back stock of emergency food is a great idea, but not many are able to set aside as much food as they would like to have. It’s expensive, consumes a good amount of personal storage space, and rotating stock can become difficult to manage over time. However, those who don’t have large budgets, big closets, or the time needed for food rotation schedules can still build an emergency food supply which meets their needs. But, first, we need to have the right mindset when it comes to the idea of building an emergency supply of food.

During a time of emergency some will tap into their reserve food supply as if it were the only source of food left in the world. They will not visit the grocery store any longer and they will not be hunters or gatherers. Regardless of how much food a person can put back for emergency use, what happens when it runs out? For some that day will arrive after only one week while a rare few will have put back enough food to postpone that day for six months or even a year. Regardless, that day will come for all and then the scrounging will begin. Scrounging for food could include hunting wild game, fishing, picking wild berries, or growing your own vegetables. It could mean waiting in line for hours to acquire a small quantity of food when it becomes available at a distribution center or grocery store. It could be any manner of things necessary to acquire food. If this is going to be the reality for everyone anyway, why have a back stock of food on hand at all?

Keep in mind scrounging efforts are not always successful, even today when we are not under pressure to acquire food of our own two hands to survive. A hunter or fisherman sometimes returns empty-handed, but that doesn’t mean there will be no dinner for him that night. He simply pulls out the steaks from the freezer and fires up the grill. The key point of having an emergency food supply is not to avoid having to acquire food entirely, but to help us survive when our efforts to obtain that food on a daily basis are unsuccessful. Even during times of crisis our efforts to acquire food should be ongoing so we can avoid tapping into our emergency food supply.

So, if we have a full year of food stored away, that means we can tap into that supply for 365 days of our life. That does not mean we should tap into it every day for 365 consecutive days before we start scrounging for food. What it does mean is that we have a source of food which can sustain us on the 365 days that our scrounging efforts are unsuccessful. If, for example, during an emergency situation a person scrounges for food every day by fishing and fails to bring food home 3 days per week, then he can tap into that emergency food supply three times per week. At that pace the one-year supply of emergency food will actually last 121 weeks (2.3 years).

Unfortunately, most of the food people choose to stock such as canned goods has an expiration date of less than two years. Wouldn’t it be great to have an emergency food supply that could last for several years rather than days, weeks, or months?

Think about white rice for a moment. Asian people have survived for centuries on little more than white rice combined with a few vegetables and perhaps a little meat or fish. When the additional ingredients were not available they could still consume their plain rice. Although a bit lacking in flavor, rice was the staple food in Asia for thousands of years and two-thirds of the world today is still dependent upon it as a primary food which is often part of every meal. If it works for them it can also work for us.

Enriched white rice (not the instant kind) is inexpensive, compact (triples in volume when cooked), weighs little, requires no refrigeration, cooks easily, contains useful nutrients, is very portable, and satisfies hunger. It is also free of fat, cholesterol, and sodium; and is even one of the world’s few non-allergic foods. Rice is quite versatile as well since it can also be prepared in a variety of ways as a main entrée or side dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is perhaps the perfect long-term storage food.

During these days of plenty when grocery store shelves are full make a habit of purchasing two-pound bags of enriched white rice. In fact, buy four bags for $1.50 each. If the additional cost must offset then put a case of soda back on the shelf, use coupons, or switch from premium brands to generic items. If the grocery store is visited once each week then a years’ supply of food will be acquired after 37 weeks and without spending any extra cash to do it. In total it will cost $219 for an emergency food supply for one person (Note: Daily ration is two cups of rice per day, regardless if two or three meals are prepared each day). A family of four could make this supply of food last three full months. If a full year supply of rice is desired for each family member then continue buying enriched white rice as described herein until the goal is reached.

After arriving home from the grocery store, place four bags of enriched white rice in the freezer to kill off any stray bugs which might have found their way into the package. Every time four new bags are placed into the freezer remove the four frozen packages and allow them to thaw in a dry place. Prick a small hole in the plastic packaging of the rice so air can escape and then seal the rice in a food grade bag using a vacuum sealer (available in stores for as little as $25). It is important to remove as much air as possible before placing them into long-term storage. An oxygen absorbing packet can be included just before sealing if desired, but this is optional [if the rice is frozen before packaging]. In this air-tight packaging the rice should have a shelf life of ten years to thirty years depending on storage temperature (should be less than 70 degrees F). Store them in plastic tubs with lids, such as 24 packages of rice in each of 6 tubs (each tub will weigh 48 pounds), and place them in a cool and dry place such as a basement corner or in the back of a closet. Because the packages are air-tight the tubs need not be sealed with tape or silicone, although they can be for added protection.

Having a one-year supply of rice on hand for a future time of emergency is great piece of mind, but not having to rotate it for a decade or more is even better. Because the shelf life is so great one could easily put back enough rice to last for several additional years.

Of course, additional items can be included in your emergency food supply above and beyond the supply of rice; such as spices, canned goods, and Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs). However, these items will need to be rotated to maintain freshness. The rice will still be available for use long after these items are consumed.

When the time comes to use that emergency food supply don’t wait until it is exhausted to begin scrounging for food on a daily basis. If scrounging efforts fail then plain white rice can be prepared for dinner, but adding more food to a plate of plain rice will make for a healthier, better tasting meal. Also, if the neighbors notice one person on the block isn’t scrounging for food they will naturally assume that person has access to personal food supplies. They will then attempt to beg, steal, or borrow to acquire that food.

Because the rice is stored in two-pound packages they can make for good barter items. If medicine is needed, for example, it might be good to trade one package of rice for a small bottle of Aspirin. If a family member has fresh meat it might be a good idea to negotiate a trade of one food item for another. However, take care to protect the food supply from everyone, including distant family members and neighbors. Maintaining it as a well-kept secret is the best way to do that.

After ten to twenty years it would be wonderful to still have that entire supply of rice on hand. Chances are it will still be edible too, although probably due to be replaced by that time. If that be the case, rest assured that $219 bought you a lot of peace of mind for all those years. If the food supply is needed during an emergency then it will be the best $219 that you will have ever invested.

JWR Adds: It is of crucial importance to store an assortment of foods that when eaten combinations provide a complete protein. Meat is a complete protein, but rice by itself is an incomplete protein. Eating rice and beans together provides a complete protein. An exclusively rice diet will quickly lead to serious health consequences. The classic core food storage mix is wheat, rice, beans and honey, for good reason. That combination provides both complete proteins and other important nutrients. But even with those, something important is missing: essential fats and oils. See the SurvivalBlog archives for details on fats and oils.

In summary a very inexpensive food program can be assembled with wheat, rice, beans and honey, and either frozen olive oil (plastic bottles freeze well) , or perhaps some canned butter, or canned clarified butter (ghee). BTW, I don't recommend storing Crisco, because it is an unhealthy fat, and is prone to rapid rancidity. To round out this program, also store a good quality daily multivitamin and mineral supplement and some sprouting seeds. (For sprout salads.)

Also note that by buying rice in 50 pounds sacks and re-packaging it yourself (instead of buying two pound bags), you'll end up with about twice as much rice for your money.

Greetings Jim,
I am finally closing on my house next week and have been putting together a plan (on paper) for turning the back half of my basement into a secret room accessible via a hidden staircase from one of the main-floor bedrooms. The basement is currently accessible only via a door in the floor of a utility room on the back side of the house and I plan to build a closet over the door to conceal it. However, making another hole in the floor to add a staircase leading to the basement will require far more skill than I am capable of if the structural integrity of the floor beams around the secret entrance is to remain intact.

At the same time, I'm concerned about any would-be construction workers knowing about the very project I'm seeking their help on--how many home-construction workers have enough knowledge about certain homes and homeowners that they could be an OPSEC risk to the homeowner?

So what's a homeowner to do in an instance like this? My fiancee is disabled and uses a wheelchair outside the house, so I could frame the issue from that perspective, but that still doesn't address possible OPSEC problems.

It's an old house--built in the 1890s--and I'm guessing that there would have to be some kind of steel support structure around an added stairwell leading into the basement. But I'm neither an architect nor even much of a handyman at this point, so I certainly wouldn't want to try something like this on my own. Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated. God Bless, - S.C.

JWR Replies: I recommend that you simply hire a carpentry contractor who lives at least 40 miles away to do the job. At least that avoids any local talk. Then hire a different contractor to construct the closet and/the basement partition.

Tell the first carpenter that you want a "framed laundry chute hole with a 24-inch square opening", since your wife-to-be is disabled and cannot walk up and down stairs. You should be able to handle much of the rest of the work yourself. That should include the ladder that leads down from the "laundry chute" aperture, the partition in the basement, and a secret door between the two halves of the basement.

Build the ladder and the concealed shelf unit/door last, after the carpenters have finished all of their work and won't be back in the house

Letter Re: Cleanliness--Maximize Your Productivity and Protect Your Investment

Please remind your readers that there are two bars of soap that you should always keep a good supply stocked:

The first is Lava hand soap. Lava bar soap will lather up even in cold salt water - so then there are no excuses that you can't "clean up".

The second bar of soap is Fels-Naptha laundry soap. Fels-Naptha bar soap is so very important because it will lift urushiol from the skin when you get into a poison patch and keeps it suspended long enough to wash it from your skin and clothes too. You will find it in the laundry detergent isle of your local grocery store.

Due to my dog always getting into everything to "check it out" I never know when she has been into the poison oak, so I bath with it regularly to prevent outbreaks of poison oak on my skin. A web search on "uses for Fels-Naptha soap" will give you many uses that most of us never even thought of.

From the top of a wind swept ridge, - Tim P.

I have been reading your bug out articles for awhile now and I think that there are things missing in the discussion of disaster preparedness in the US.

Based on several other "end of the world" scenarios that have played out in the past 60 years or so, there are situations that really have not been discussed. I have listed several disasters that happened and how they played out.

1. The Iraq war. For the Iraqi people it was the end of the world as they knew it. I witnessed this personally and have been in the war zone here for over five years starting in early 2004. What happened: some people starved, many emigrated, some became rich. Many were killed in fighting although not the million the socialist newspaper reporters would like us to believe. Currently, the infrastructure is better than before the war and oil drilling is going on at a frenetic pace.

2. Philippines in the 1980s "People power" revolution. That revolution overthrew a president who had taxed and spent the country into the ground while enriching himself. The crime of "plunder" was defined legally.

3. Argentina and the great currency devaluation. Many emigrated, there were riots but after a couple years life went on.

4. Balkans war in the 1990s. America supported the Islamists and went to war against the Christians. The Islamists now are funded and inspired by radical Saudi clerics. Again, many emigrated.

The common theme is that many people emigrated. Emigration is possible even during a SHTF scenario. Our forefathers did it, why can't we? Irish potato famine comes to mind, WWII, even in the Sudanese war people were able to emigrate. Dubai is full of Iraqis who emigrated, and Israel was founded largely by refugees.

I saw the writing on the wall and started the emigration process five years ago. I have a nearly paid for house in the northern Philippines. We are in a part of the country that has no Moslems or Communists. The area is at least 95% Christian with a number of Korean, and Chinese immigrants of other faiths making the balance. We have water, 365 day growing season, a secure gated community, the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, and English common law based system with the laws written in English and a representative form of government.

It is not perfect, but everyone knows how corrupt the politicians are and the politicians corruption has; in a side way made more freedom. It sounds counter intuitive but the politicians are so corrupt that they are unable to be efficient in enforcing laws. Things like business licenses, sales tax collection, income taxes etc are not strictly enforced.

Of course the downside is that scammers can flourish as well. Property squatting, theft of electricity, poor emergency response services, awful driving habits, and crowded roads due to lack of infrastructure are also results.

It is not paradise but the locals already threw out not one but two corrupt presidents in the last 30 years, and if the world does end for some, our land can feed us with a surplus for trade.

R.F.J. sent a piece about the far-reaching effects of China's embargo of rare earths: You Don't Bring a Praseodymium Knife to a Gunfight

Sue C. forwarded this: Fed's Fisher: Policy Makers Must Be Aware of Dollar Impact

B.B. suggested this piece by Bob Chapman: We See Totally Surreal Markets

Thanks to Susan O. for this one: 75 Ways That The Government And The Financial Elite Will Be Sucking Even More of the Life Blood Out of the American People in 2011

Wiedemer: Inflation on the Way Despite Deflation Fears

Carlos in the U.P. wrote: "I noted with interest that the Wal-Mart I shop at had cleared the shelves of "Great Value" brand coffee in 39 oz cans for about 2 weeks. Today the new can appeared, with the following differences: 1.) Can is now 33.9 oz, down from 39 oz. Also conspicuously missing is the conversion of 2lb, 7oz therefore no comparison in pounds is easily made. 2.) Price for this smaller can is up from $9.88 to $10.48, by my rustic math an approximate 20% increase! 3.) Contents of can are no longer 'Premium Columbian' Decaffeinated. Now labeled '100% Classic Decaf'"

Marc Faber and Mish Shedlock continue their polite sparring on the threat of inflation.

McDonalds to raise prices

Dr. Marc Faber: “Print, Print and Print”

General Mills Signals Faster U.S. Food Inflation. (Thanks to Keeley for the link.)

I just heard that Jerry Ahern's anticipated new novel "Written in Time" is now shipping to bookstores. This new sci-fi novel is about time travel, and of course the protagonist is very well-armed. (Jerry Ahern will be remembered as the author of the umpteen-volume adventure novel series "The Survivalist" from the 1980s and 1990s.)

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Perennial content contributor F.G. sent us this: Hiker killed by Mountain Goat in Washington State National Park

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Republican congressional candidate says violent overthrow of government is 'on the table'

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F.G. sent a link to some truly amazing ultra high speed photography of bullets and birdshot impacting steel plates, paper targets, and ballistic gelatin. It will also give you an appreciation of why I specify 1" thick plate steel for doors!

"A return to the principles of a gold standard that constrain government spending and retain the value of money will in turn enable the return to the more enduring values of humanity. In the meantime, the writing is on the wall for all to see. Be careful because it could fall at any time." - Peter Souleles, in Sydney Australia’s ABC Bullion Blog: Buy Gold Young Man

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Today we present two entries for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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 describes how to figure the Who, What, Where, When, Why, How Long, and How Deep of preparedness. Preparing for TEOTWAWKI is a lot like buying insurance. You hope you never have to use it, but the consequences of being uninsured or under insured are severe enough to warrant the investment. Determining how much, and what type, of insurance to get can be a daunting task. The purpose of this article is to provide starting points for discussions on how best to allocate your resources in preparing for catastrophic events. It considers only those calamities, natural or man-made, at the scale of a community or larger. Getting struck by lightning may be catastrophic for you, but does not pose a threat to the survival of a community, culture, nation, or species.

Before we start, a word about psychological preparedness. In her book The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why, Amanda Ripley discusses how training and mindset preparation can have a major influence on survivability. Hopefully, her research will provide you with the motivation to overcome the ‘readiness fatigue’ and the Black Swans that you will undoubtedly encounter in this journey. A mantra of ‘If it is to be, it is up to me’ will serve you well. The bureaucracy is unwilling and incapable of responding to disasters in a timely or proactive manner.

Risk assessment is one means of guiding resource allocation. Obviously, high probability, high consequence events deserve more attention than low probability, low consequence events. When trying to make the best decisions about the allocation of resources, questions about the relative importance or ‘weight’ of the various factors can play an influential part. Identifying meaningful ‘weights’ is sometimes difficult due to the sheer number of factors and their variability. Decision matrices can be a starting point for discussions. They provide a way to rate, rank, grade, and compare the relative importance of factors for your situation and modulate your responses. A review of some of the risk parameters will help us engage in prudent preparation versus “Chicken Little” activities. The traditional questions of Who, What, Where, When, and Why, as well as the questions of How Deep and How Long, provide a framework for this article.

WHO (caused the problem)
This part of the WHO question isn’t central to our discussion. Other than armed rebellion against a corrupt and/or dysfunctional government, retaliation against the instigators of a man-made disaster is above my pay grade. As far as natural disasters go, they too, are above my pay grade.

WHO (is involved)
This part of the WHO question is very dependent on location and event scope, and is covered later.

WHAT (to prepare for)
The first part of the WHAT question promotes discussion in terms of the overall odds of a particular event occurring. In the example below, some selected events are ranked in the order of likelihood from most likely to least likely and some probabilities are listed from high to low - rank your event in the list, select a probability and use the number in the cell where they intersect to help you determine relative importance as compared to any other event and probability. Scientific American magazine, September 2010, has an article which rates the possibility of eight catastrophic scenarios in case you can’t come up with any. By their account, there is a 50-50 chance of a terrorist nuclear attack in the next fifteen years and a 50-50 chance of a pandemic in the next thirty years. A terrorist nuclear attack with a one in two probability (50%) has a relative importance of (9) as compared to a Super Volcano with a one in one million probability (.00001%) and a relative importance of (2).

Decision Matrix
(Cell numbers indicate relative importance.)



1/10 (10%)

1/100 (1%)




Financial Crash






Nuclear Attack












Solar Storm






Super Volcano






Giant Asteroid






A second part of the WHAT question promotes discussion for the odds of an event peculiar to your locale. For example, California has a low probability of wind events (per FEMA 320) and a high probability of earthquakes. Parts of the Midwest have a high probability of wind events and low probability of earthquakes. Use Financial Crash, Wind Event, Floods, Forest Fire, Earthquake, and Hazardous Material in your Event column for those discussions.

The WHAT question matters only in the short run. Whether an EMP, pandemic, financial meltdown, etc., these national, continental, and global scenarios differ mostly in how long it takes society to spin down to the common outcomes depicted in Patriots, One Second After, Lights Out, The Postman, etc. If you’ve prepared, protected, and shielded yourself enough to survive the acute phase of the catastrophe (e.g., gamma radiation from a solar event), you will find the chronic phases will be remarkably similar. In any of the scenarios, you will need resources for however long it takes to regain social and economic viability.

The WHEN question is a SWAG (Scientific Wild Axxed Guess) and subject to many prophecies and conspiracy theories. It is “Scientific” in that there are probabilities touted by various parties - some more responsible than others. The Scientific American issue mentioned above has some proposed probabilities that are probably as good as any. It is “Wild Axxed” in that there are some paradigm busting theories such as Planet X, etc. It is a “Guess” in that you can work the odds and still be surprised when you get hit by your personal Black Swan, a meteor from the edge of space. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, trust (God), but prepare.

Decision Matrix
(Cell numbers indicate relative importance.)

Time Span to Occurrence

1 yr

10 yrs

100 yrs

1,000 yrs




Financial Crash






Nuclear Attack












Solar Storm






Super Volcano






Giant Asteroid






As an example, a financial crash which occurs within 1 year has a relative importance of (10), and warrants the most attention. There are those who say we’ve already started the Financial Crash.
The WHERE question is posed in terms of how wide spread the impact of a catastrophic event may be. Use a table that has possible events on one axis and event scope on the other axis. An example of a local event is a tornado; an earthquake can either be local or regional in scope; Katrina is an example of a regional event; an EMP, as described in the book One Second After, can be an example of either a national event or a continental event; a solar flare or CME could be an example of a global event. Though a local financial crash does not have the relative importance (1) of a global financial crash (5), both pale when compared to a global solar storm (8). One of the ways to use this matrix is to discuss external agency (e.g., FEMA, Red Cross) response and recovery times for each possibility. For example, compare response/ recovery times for a local tornado with those of a hurricane - how long will you be on your own? Will they ever show up in the case of a national or global event? As one blog entry asked, How Long Can You Tread Water?

Decision Matrix
(Cell numbers indicate relative importance.)








Giant Asteroid






Super Volcano






Solar Storm












Nuclear Attack






Financial Crash







The WHY question has two answers. The first answer has to do with human originated disasters. The second has to do with fate. For the first example, the bad news about Haiti was that 250,000+ people were killed. The good news is that 250,000+ people were killed thereby reducing the population load on a country that cannot sustain itself agriculturally or economically. Among other things, they chose to not limit their population growth and are suffering the consequences. As for the second answer, I recommend that we all be ready to meet our Maker at any time.

You now should have enough knowledge and information to construct decision matrices for answering the questions of How Deep and How Long. Consider that the answers to those questions interact and will depend in part upon how soon we start addressing the possibilities and remedying the causes. As the saying goes, Pay me now, or pay me later . . . and lot more if it’s later.

Another useful decision matrix has event type on one axis and preparation type on the other axis. It also may provide an opportunity to discuss ways to save resources by making an item multifunctional. For example, a storm shelter is appropriate preparation for a wind event. With a little modification, a storm shelter can also be used for a solar storm shelter and/or a nuclear bomb shelter. Note that the below matrix is for the acute phase. You may wish to modify your shelter into a bunker for long term scenarios.

Decision Matrix
(Cell contents indicate probable importance.)

Preparation types

Food Storage



Self Defense



Financial Crash






Nuclear Attack












Solar Weather






Super Volcano






Giant Asteroid






Restoring society and the economy after a large scale disaster will take some time - the less we have to restore, the faster we get back to our “new normal.” When I was growing up, we could always milk the cows or pump water by hand if the electricity was out. Now, we would have to make the tools to make the tools to make the tools needed to regain the level of technology we currently enjoy. Some estimates say recovery would take ten years, others say more or less. Making the correct decisions about disaster preparedness may help you achieve your “new normal” sooner and may even save your life. More importantly it may save the lives of those you love. Choose wisely.

Authors Note:
In 1974, I made a presentation to my OCS class based on the book Limits to Growth. Few understood the implications of increasing competition for decreasing resources from a military standpoint. Growing up on a farm with an industrial arts and agricultural education followed by a 32-year military career has increased my understanding of the significance of World Watch’s State of the World series, Montgomery’s Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, Club of Rome’s The Limits to Growth, and The Limits to Growth - 30 Years. We have already exceeded the carrying capacity of the earth, and it is a disaster. Jared Diamond’s book Collapse plus his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, and Joseph Tainter’s book The Collapse of Complex Societies are harbingers of our future barring our intervention. It would be better if we reduced the load on this earth voluntarily; nature will be less kind with her culling process. Witness the ruins of the great civilizations throughout the world. They never thought it could happen to them... but it did.

Your car broke down on the side of the road, miles from help. You didn't even bring an heavier jacket, because you figured you wouldn't even be getting out of the car. Your cell phone batteries dead or has no signal. You have no choose but to walk for it. It's only 50 degrees out there. That 50 degrees is now going down to 30 as the night comes on. In the morning they found you all huddled up in a ditch, trying to get out of the wind. They took your body off to the morgue and they called your family. What could you have done differently?

Life is a survival situation. When we go to work we are making money to buy the things we need to survive. If we have enough then we help(should help) others to survive too. It's not just the Christian way, it's the human. Few other animals help each other the way that human beings do.

I know a lot of people just don't feel that they have the time or resources to prepare for something they believe will never happen. All I can say is read your history books. Catastrophes happen every day. It may not be the end of the world for everyone else, but it might be for you.

I've read a lot of survival manuals and I think this article pretty much puts it all together in simple terms. You do need to practice as many survival techniques as you can. I could hardly get an ember going with a primitive bow drill, but I eventually did it. It took a better part of an afternoon to learn how. This is truly valuable experience.

The Boy Scout handbook is a good place to start. [JWR Adds: I recommend buying a pre-1970 edition, to learn about serious outdoor survival and woodcraft skills. The more recent editions have been horribly sissified.] Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen teaches the basics in Primitive survival. A couple of other good books are SAS Survival Handbook and the Air Force Search and Rescue Survival Training Manual. Also FEMA has online courses that are very informative.

I use specialized kits as a way to carry items for situations I might be in. One kit can be added to the other kits or you can make them all redundant kits--just in case. The following lists my kits and their contents:

A. Personal Carry Kit

B. Mini Kit

C. Pouch/Butt Pack Kit

D. Backpack Kit

E. Automobile / Boat Kit

F. Home Kit

G. Shelter



A. Personal Carry

1. Lighter or matches

2. Pocket knife (multi-blade/tool type preferred)

3. Small Flashlight

4. Optional: compass, small First Aid kit, trash bags

Note: I realize few people carry flash lights and compasses in their pockets. I have to force myself to carry a lighter after I quit smoking. My pocket knife has a compass on it.


B. Mini Kit

1. Waterproof matches

2. Razor blade or small knife

3. Aluminum foil

4. Large magnetized needle

5. Zip lock bag

6. Trash bag

7. Fishing line, hooks and sinkers

8. Thin wire for snares

9.Wire saw

10. Electrical tape to wrap the tin to keep it water proof

11. 550 para cord wrapped around tin (15-20 ft.)

12. A candy tin to put it all in

13. Optional; a small camera pouch to wear it on belt

The main thing here is to have something small you can carry in your pocket, purse, or belt. I keep mine in my glove box in the truck. If I take a walk in the woods I just grab it and go. The aluminum foil can be used for cooking or signaling. The magnetized needle can be used for repairs and turned into a compass by floating the needle on a leaf in a still puddle. The zip lock bag is for carrying water. The trash bag can be used for a rain jacket (with a few holes added) or to retain body heat. The candy tin can also be used for cooking or signaling. I put several warps of electric tape (for waterproofing) around the tin because you never know what repairs it could be used for. One extra item I put in the pouch is a credit card survival multi-tool.

C. Belt Pouch/Butt Pack/Haversack/Day Pack

1. Map of Area

2. Compass

3. Flashlight/radio

4. Magnesium/Flint and Tinder

5. Multi-tool

6. 2 large Trash Bags

7. Several small safety pins

8. Aluminum Foil (2-3 ft.)

9. Large needles (magnetized)

10. 10 ft. thin wire

11. 20-50 ft. of 550 Para cord

12 Small Fishing kit

13. Emergency blanket/poncho

14. Water purification Tablets

15. Solar Still (desert areas or at sea)

16. Bullion flavor packets

17. 1/2 in. width masking tape 2-3 ft.

18. Large balloon, condom, surgical gloves (water containers)

19. Good hunting or survival knife

20. Pepper spray(works good on man or beast)

21. Food bars

Instead of zip-Loc bags I carry a small purifier bottle. Without water in it, it's light and I can drink from puddles if need be. As I live in the mid-west so I'm not really worried about not being able to find water, just how polluted it is. Carry one or more solar stills if you live in an arid area. Cotton soaked with petroleum jelly (tinder) is a great fire starter on wet wood.


D. Backpack or Bug Out Bag

1. Water

2. Food

3. Tent/tarp

4. Sleeping Bag and pad

5. Cooking stove and fuel

6. Cooking kit

7. First Aid Kit and medications

8. Sewing and repair kit

9. Tools - hunting knife, axe, shovel, machete or whatever you feel the need to carry

10. Rope - to keep food away from bears.

11. Personnel items-towel, soap ,comb, toilet paper, etc..

12. Extra clothes, Winter clothing, and rain gear.

13. Gun and Ammo

14. Mobile Phone, CB Radio, or other communication devices/extra batteries

A survival backpack is basically a Hikers backpack with a few minor changes. Remember to add the other kits along with this one. Food would be MREs and Ration Bars to last for longer periods of time. Freeze dried may taste better. If you want the better food you will need to rotate your food. You can also use a Dufflebag to pack up more food. Store water in 2 liter containers, since they are stronger than plastic milk jugs. This list can be as long as what you want to carry.

Guns? Remember your in a survival situation not a hiking trip, you may have to deal with dangerous animals, criminals, or crooked officials. A gun might be the difference of whether you eat that night, or not.

A grab and run bag (or "bug out bag") has it's merits. One thing you might consider is a canoe, if you live close to a river or lake. They carry up to 800 lbs. (that’s me and 600 lbs. of gear and food).They call it canoe camping when done for fun. Also a bicycle can be altered to carry extra stuff too. You'd be pushing your stuff instead of carrying it. Remember we're not talking hiking here we're talking survival.


E. Automobile

1. Highway trouble kit

2. Small Mechanics tool kit

3. Food

4. Water

5. Extra clothes (Cold weather)

6. Larger tent (if desired)

7. Rifle or Shotgun

8. Extra Gasoline

This list could get really long, but it depends on whether you keep all the supplies in your vehicle all the time. Foods must be able to tolerate extreme temps. The best foods for this are USCG approved ER Ration bars. A three day supply only costs $3 to $6 and takes up little space. If your not a good mechanic, then you'd probably be better off to carry money or trade items like cigarettes, booze, etc... I figure even if you know how to fix it, where will you get the materials. Also have a couple of pre-planned routes and destinations. You can't drive around forever.


F. Home

1. Water (55 gal. Barrel)

2. Food (up to a year)

3. Candles and oil lamps. [JWR Adds: Candles should be considered only a backup lighting source, and exceptional safety precautions must be used to prevent fires!]

4. Back-up heating system (wood stove or kerosene heater)

5. Back up electric (photovoltaic or generator)

6. Garden--or at least seeds

7. Livestock

The "stuff hit the fan" (survivalist slang) and you are still alive with your home intact. The electric and gas are out and it's freezing outside. You've got drinking water and plenty of stored food including MRE rations, and canned goods to last a while. You got a wood stove and plenty of wood. You've got candles and kerosene for the oil lamps. Yes, the cable television is out, but you've got all those survival books you meant to read. There's a lot of things you can do to make your house more survivable. Solar power. Kerosene heaters. Raise chickens, rabbits, or a garden in the backyard. Having talked to Great Depression era people I've found the hardest things to come by were clothing, and shoes. All these would also be great barter items. Trade and commerce is why the Vikings actually sailed the world.

It won't take long for the government to get back on it's feet and demand a piece of your pie. They'll probably want you to go kill someone in some war too! Remember the war that started all this. So keep your guns and ammo close you'll probably need it one way or another. If your Amish your life probably won't change that much. Horse and buggy would be nice to have. Hmmm. Maybe mules or pack dogs.

G. Shelter

Shelters should be conceived with the intent to survive catastrophes. Nuclear bombs, Tornados, House fires, etc... You will need to study your area. Build the best shelter suited for your area or your budget. You need plenty of food and water and all the aforementioned survival items. If you don't have a shelter, then know where to go for protection. A simple shelter is to dig a hole and place logs or railroad ties over the top. Cover with tarps and then dirt.

Thoughts on Modern Survival

If you've noticed, there is a lot of stuff that a modern survivalist could carry. The problem is we probably wouldn't want to carry all this stuff if you are hiking down the road to a safer place. The early military organizations gave their soldiers very little to carry and even then they dumped a lot of stuff along the way. To keep it simple carry Kits A, B, and C. Add a wool blanket, tarp, canteen, and maybe some cookware. Put it all in a small pack. Take as much food as you can carry. Learn what plants are edible. All meat is edible wither road kill or the family pets. Know how to purify water, sine clear running streams today are full of mercury, PCBs, bacteria, viruses and who knows what.

There are a lot of things you can do to prepare yourself for trouble. Something as simple as a squeeze generator flashlight or wind up radio. A survival knife stashed in the car or a solar blanket. These things may save your life or keep you from being lost or maimed. Ultimately, "survival" is in your head, along with some good preparation. Take trapping for instance. You don't have to do it unless you really need to, but you need to know how. Trapping is more profitable then hunting and you can be doing something else while your traps are catching game. Like planting a garden.

Take your family camping, it's fun and good practice for survival. Even a little survival knowledge can help you survive a lot.

Most citizens are older people, children, and handicapped. They are more likely to be refugees than combatants. If you expect the government to save you you'll probably be dead in no time.

Look at the experience of Hurricane Katrina. It was a week before the government got around to doing anything. People died. One family dragged their grandmother around for days and they could not help her. She died in the street. People went without food for a week and [because they lacked water filters] they were forced to drink the muddy polluted water.

Eventually the troops came pouring in to save the day (and to clean up the mess). They were shot at by gang members who had been robbing, raping, and terrorizing the locals. Some of the police had given up and fled with their families. It wasn’t a complete breakdown of civilization, but it was close.

Most people's response is that "It can't happen here." Let me point out that the most severe earthquake in American history happened in the mid-west. It was on the New Madrid fault. Luckily it hit in the 19th century were there were few settlers there. The Mississippi ran backwards and changed it's course of flow. It also created a large lake in the area.

The American population is growing and makes it more likely that a small event could kill lots of people and make many homeless. Simple and small steps to prepare can make a difference in whether or not you survive. It doesn’t hurt to have a pantry of extra food on hand for special occasions.

"There are certain principles that are inherent in man, that belong to man, and that were enunciated in an early day, before the United States government was formed, and they are principles that rightfully belong to all men everywhere. They are described in the Declaration of Independence as inalienable rights, one of which is that men have a right to live; another is that they have a right to pursue happiness; and another is that they have a right to be free and no man has authority to deprive them of those God-given rights, and none but tyrants would do it. "These principles, I say, are inalienable in man; they belong to him; they existed before any constitutions were framed or any laws made. Men have in various ages striven to strip their fellow-men of these rights, and dispossess them of them. And hence the wars, the bloodshed and carnage that have spread over the earth. We, therefore, are not indebted to the United States for these rights; we were free as men born into the world, having the right to do as we please, to act as we please, as long as we do not transgress constitutional law nor violate the rights of others... "Another thing God expects us to do, and that is to maintain the principle of human rights... We owe it to all liberty-loving men, to stand up for human rights and to protect human freedom, and in the name of God we will do it, and let the congregation say Amen." - John Taylor, 1882, Journal of Discourses, Volume 23, p. 263

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Today we present two entries for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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 has been interesting to watch “prepping” go mainstream. From when the U.S. DHS first advocated a three day supply of food and water to Sunset magazine running an article on a “fire season” bug out bag last month, ideas that were once considered outcast and questionable are now accepted as prudent and normal. It has also been interesting to watch off grid living and homesteading be accepted and embraced by both the “survival mindset” crowd and the “reduce your carbon footprint-local food” crowd. This is a great opportunity for us. A large majority of the country seems to be waking up, and taking the first step towards preparing. While discussing this with my wife and family recently, we came to a realization, and that was that since we had already taken the first step, we needed to take the next step as well. (Those familiar with the "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course will understand what I am referring to). This article will show you what woke us up, how we took the next step in the retreat/retreat group area, and hopefully encourage you too also.

I consider myself the “average” SurvivalBlog reader. We live on the outskirts of a suburban area. We stay up to date on political events. My wife and I are both LEOs, and have training and skills. We both carry, and are prepared in all the basics: ammunition, magazines, water, food, fuel, lighting, waste etc. We have bug out bags packed, and ready. We keep our vehicles full of fuel, and practice OPSEC. We also have limitations. We live in a house on a smaller lot. We have a garden, but not one big enough to live on for an extended time. We are on city water and do not have a well, but have made provisions and store a three month supply of water. We have done the “weekend off grid” experiment. (On a side note…..We also invented our own version of that experiment that was quite enlightening, which consisted of not purchasing anything for a month. While this was originally designed as a way to save money, it was very eye opening in discovering the little things you run out of and helped adjust and shape out future purchasing patterns.) We have a purchasing plan, and are slowly adding to our preps. While we have a few like minded friends, and have talked about when the SHTF, it is a far cry from an organized retreat group.

The realization came to us that with all of these things and skills we had, we were preparing in the wrong way. The wake up call came when we thought of our immediate neighborhood. We have an honest three month supply of water for three people (two adults, one infant) and provisions to purify more. We began to laugh when we thought about our neighborhood. How many of them store food? How many of them store water? How bad would things in our neighborhood get by the time that we were near the end of our initial water supply? How bad would things get in your neighborhood by the time you ran out of supplies? Sure, you had thought ahead, but have your neighbors? How much food and water do you have stored right now? How bad would things have to get for you to use all of your food storage? Think of your town. Think of your street. Think about using up even one month of your food storage (i.e. things are bad enough that people in your area are not able to purchase food for one month) or cracking open that second case of ammo. Can you begin to picture how bad things would be? Unless you live in an area where people can provide for themselves, you would be living in a war zone. For us, by the time we even thought about opening up a bucket of wheat or a #10 can, things would be horrible all around us. What we realized and what I hope you do also is that without a natural supply of water and a way to grow food all you are doing is buying time. Even if you were able to go unnoticed long enough to use up all of your stores, you would still eventually reach the end of them.

We had to admit that for our situation, we were over-prepared for where we lived. Was what we had better than nothing? Absolutely. Is two months of food better than one month of food? Absolutely. What we were faced with though was the idea that we were limited by location, both in proximity to people and means of production.

If you are comfortable with that, then stop reading. For the majority of disruptions, we would be fine. We would be prepared for most any disaster that has beset our nation thus far. If you have a similar setup, you would be too. However, for long term disruptions, we would eventually run out. For our family, this was not an acceptable outcome. We needed a retreat. We have been aware that JWR has been preaching this for years, but this was the first time the realization of how important it was hit us. Someone recently posted on here about the “pipedream” of a retreat. For most people, us included, this was always our view of it. Everyone knows it would be great to have an off grid 40 acre retreat somewhere with a small commando force, but it was never considered a real, immediate option. We had jobs, bills, a mortgage, etc, but mainly plenty of excuses. With this wake up call though, we decided to take the next step, and make it a reality.

To purchase land, we needed money. So we started saving. As LEOs, my wife and I each make around $45,000 a year before taxes. Not a lot, but plenty to get by and live comfortably. We had a son last year, and decided before he was born that my wife would stay home when the little one came, effectively halving our income. To us, it was worth it. With my income, we were able to cover bills, mortgage, have enough for food, and save a little each month. Just being in this position, and having a little money left at the end of the month (instead of the familiar having month left at the end of the money!) we realize how lucky we are. It involves a strict budget. We cancelled cable television before the baby was born. We use coupons. We drive old cars. We operate on a cash basis only. When the cash is gone, it is gone until the next pay day. I learned to fix a lot of things.

I worked overtime where I could. My wife babysat here and there for extra money. When more money came in, we stayed on our budget. This is the key to saving. People have a tendency to spend windfalls rather than save them. Anything extra went towards the retreat goal. We sold some things to add to the fund. We had enough supplies on hand to weather a few months of things getting Schumeresque, and decided to put our monthly purchasing on hold until land could be purchased, adding this to the pot. I had a small retirement account we closed to add to the fund. But still, we were far from the goal.

We prayed about it, and went to my family. I am blessed to be close to my two brothers and parents, both literally in distance and figuratively. They also have seen the writing on the wall, and realized the prudent need for a retreat. We decided to go in together and purchase land. This may or may not be an option for you. For us, it was. We trust each other explicitly, and went into it with the understanding that each would contribute what they could towards the goal, no questions asked. We specifically did not make this a “business venture” or an “investment” in the typical sense of the word, but viewed it more as an insurance policy, something that could be passed on to children.

We began to look around for a good area to purchase land. Utilizing JWR's retreat area guidelines, we chose a small town (around 800 people) well off of the beaten path. It is reachable by multiple avenues if needed. It is well off lines of drift, as evidenced that many people in our current area have actually never even heard of it, even though it is only around a three hour drive away. Soil is rich, and water depth is good. We located a piece that we liked. It was not that big, under five acres, but backed up to national forest, and had a well in place with water at 100 feet. Surface water in the form of multiple creeks are nearby. It has good sun exposure, and is defensible, with a good mix of timber and meadow. It is on the smaller side of properties in the area, which we like. I view it as buying the least expensive house in an expensive neighborhood.

We decided up front that we would not finance anything. We passed on some amazing properties because we accepted the fact that we could not afford them. Cash however is perfect for the current economy. People are willing to deal. I won’t get into specifics, but the seller took roughly 60% of his asking price in cash, and was happy about it. We later learned that he had two previous offers on the property fall through while in the financing process. Cash is king. Saving is not easy, but it is possible. Four families, three of which are single income, saved enough to pay cash for the land in two years. Two of us cashed in 401(k)s, and another sold some gold.

The retreat is still a work in progress, as we purchased the land only last month. Our first step will be to dig a second well, most likely converting the current one to a hand pump, and the second to a solar or wind-powered pump for redundancy. This will be done as we can afford it, paying cash as we go. This will take longer, but we will stay out of debt. We are also looking at what will grow without irrigation, and will plant that ASAP. The county zoning allows structures of fewer than 200 square feet to be built without permit or plan. Our goal is to be as off grid as possible, and we plan on building a small bunk house in the spring to serve as a base while we make improvements. In keeping up OPSEC, we will try to do as much of the work as we can. We have some construction experience, but figure this will be a great learning opportunity. My parents have agreed to live at the retreat year round when they retire in a year or two to avoid theft and squatters.

We had to think outside of the box and make some sacrifices in order to make our retreat a reality. Ideally, we each would have been able to purchase a retreat, but we got tired of thinking and dreaming of what was ideal, and decided to start making something a reality. We also decided that a less than ideal retreat was better than joining the Golden Horde because we failed to act. I strongly encourage each of you to take a long hard honest look at your current situation with a critical eye. Can you be truly sustainable where you are, or are you just buying time like we were? If you are just buying time, accept that fact and take the next step! Look at your budget. Look at your assets. With the 401(k) takeover that is looming in congress, you need to decide what is more important to you. For us, it was well worth it to convert money in the bank or a retirement account that was losing value daily to real land. You will have to decide, because you will be the one to live with the choices you make. I encourage you to look into it. We actually found quite a few low priced options, including two and a half acres in the same general area for as low as $25,000. With the price of a new car being above this, it comes down to being a matter of priority.

The process of purchasing land also helped pave the way for beginnings of our retreat group. As mentioned above, while we have some good friends that we have had conversations with about TSHTF, we did not have a retreat group. I know a lot of people are fearful of talking about their preps to other people, and for good reason. OPSEC needs to be maintained, and people are weary of coming off as crazy or chicken little, etc. The reality that we need to accept though is that you will be hard pressed to do it alone. Three to four families/couples are a minimum to secure and work a small farm. I understand that this is not an option for everyone. It is an option though to expect you to look at your current situation, and improve it. For us, a family based retreat group was the most logical option. When we spoke about purchasing the land, it was refreshing to hear that everyone was having similar thoughts regarding the future. If you do not have family close by, maybe you have a close friend, co-worker, or a shooting or hunting buddy. Maybe your neighbor.

Start small. Take it to the next step. Probe. Enough ads for gold have been on television and radio that it would not be hard to wait for one to air, than ask the person what they think about it. Bring up politics. Bring up the wildfires in Colorado, and the Sunset magazine article on being ready to bug out. Be prepared to take your time. Opening people’s eyes is a slow process. Wherever you happen to be on the continuum, take it to the next step. If you have never had the conversation with anyone, have one. Ask about something safe, or in the news. Ask about canning, or something “green” or acceptable. Have a way out if the conversation turns sour. Do not reveal too much. Do not expect to have a retreat group hashed out in an hour or two. Plant seeds. If you are still unsure, start a false email account, and forward yourself and some friends a link to this web site to bring the topic up.

For most SurvivalBlog readers, I assume you are in the same boat we were. We had close friends and family who saw the writing on the wall, albeit at differing levels. We ranged from a gun or two and a few weeks food to gun safes full and many months of food storage. So we took it to the next step, which was organization. While talking about purchasing land, the topic came up of why. We went through a threat assessment. We ran the spectrum of expected threats. We talked about being able to man and defend the land. One of the things that everyone agreed on was even in a depression/recession scenario, absent war and civil unrest, having paid for land and a means of food production was a necessity. We talked about weapon standardization, as well as BOBs and other bean/bullet/band-aid issues. We agreed to start more intense firearms training and small squad training, etc. We talked about what skills people could bring to the table.

We still have a ways to go to having a full-fledged-up-and-running retreat. We are not fully squared away by any means. But we have a plan now, and some place to go. We took the next step. This is better prepared than we were a month ago and we will be better prepared next month than we are today. You can be too. I encourage you to take the next step. Look at land. Accept that less than ideal but real is better than a pipe dream. With a little planning, even an acre could produce more food than you think. Look at your budget. For my brothers and I, we are roughly forty years away from retirement. We have no idea what those years will hold. But having land where we can farm and live made a lot more sense than money tied up in an account somewhere that you don’t have control over. Examine your priorities. Talk to your friends, talk to your family, plant the seeds, and take the next step. God Bless, and keep your powder dry.

I’ve enjoyed the SurvivalBlog.com site and articles for some time now, but I never thought I would contribute an article! I have been prepping for a few years, and my husband and I have secured enough food, guns, ammo and other necessities to care for ourselves and a few relatives for at least 12-18 months. We live in the country, have spring-fed ponds, gardens and lots of game in our immediate area.  Still, we can never get cozy with the idea that we are fully prepared.  Prepping, I am finding, is a lifestyle and life skill that continues as long as we are able to keep it going.

Recently, my activities in the area of organization have prompted me to share some ideas  on this subject.  Fall in the northern United States requires a level of prepping that most people here understand and undertake, without reference to TEOTWAWKI. Heating fuel and wood must be procured and stored, gardens “put to bed”, winter clothes and bedding aired and installed in closets, extra food and water stored for snow storms.  We put away the garden tools and bring out the snow removal equipment, stash emergency supplies in the car in case of being snowbound, check winter boots and replace, if needed.  Life is just a little more difficult at -10°, with snow on the ground measured in feet.  Those who fail to prepare suffer this more than necessary.  In fact, my first experience with prepping came from notion of storing enough staples so that I did not have to lug lots of grocery bags from the garage, uphill to the house during the winter.  (Our previous homes had attached garages, but we no longer have that “luxury”.)

The term “nesting instinct” is sometimes used to describe the peculiar drive, sometimes more prevalent with women, to secure one’s home for the winter months.  I’ve talked to many people who recognize this drive to prepare and organize for the winter.  This year I’ve been feeling an even stronger drive to organize and prepare than in the past.  Perhaps it’s from a sense which many of us have, that more than just winter is coming.

I’ve always been somewhat of an organizer, (I hate messiness and clutter) but just recently started to really enumerate the values of organization when it comes to prepping.  I hope this article will show how good organization of your home/retreat/supplies can:

  • Save money
  • Improve safety/security
  • Improve efficiency

So part of my fall cleaning to-do list included cleaning out parts of the house that we all have that tend to get cluttered: junk drawers, garage and basement, closets, etc.  This led me to looking at organization as an important part of prepping.  Let me give you an example:  While going through these cluttered areas I started collecting things into groups.  I found spools of thread in my craft closet, my bathroom drawer, the junk drawer, the laundry room, etc.  When all collected, I found I had over 50 spools of thread!  I had recently bought some because they were on the "100 Most Sought-After Items after TEOTWAWKI". Now, all the thread, needles, safety pins, sewing supplies are gathered in one box.  Not only do I know what I have, I know whether I need more, or how much I might barter off, if needed.  Not only that, anyone in the house can quickly find these items when necessary.

The same method was applied to many other needed supplies such as batteries, matches, first aid supplies, candles, winter hats and gloves, paper goods, office supplies, electrical cords and gadgets, etc.  Many of us have taken time to organize our food storage and ammo, but what about the rest of our “stuff”?  It’s really amazing how much there is in the typical American home.  If you begin to organize what you have on hand, you may find that many items that will be important for survival and for barter are already in your home. I found that I could quit buying certain items because I had a good supply (now organized in one place) on hand.  I also was able to see what I should buy, thus using my resources more efficiently.  You also will save money in the long run because items will be stored properly, thus extending their shelf life and protecting them from damage.

Safety and security is not something to consider only in relation to an uncertain future, it’s an important element for each family every day.  Having your home organized in a way that allows items to be found quickly, when needed, can go a long way toward personal and home safety.  Making sure that dangerous items (medicines, matches, ammo, cleaning products, etc) are stored where young children can not access them is also important.

For me, organization helps me feel “in control” of my home and family life.  Believe me, my home is not pristine – I wouldn’t have this massive fall cleaning project going on if it was!  But organizing helps me get rid of clutter (you wouldn’t believe how many things I found that I can sell on ebay! – more money for needed items!), make room for further storage goods, and protect my investment in goods that will help us in the future.  My home just runs more efficiently when we can find the things we need, and replace just what we need.

Organizing your home and your preps does not need to cost a lot.  I used some plastic totes I had on hand, but also cardboard boxes, labeled with a magic marker.  Inexpensive shelving can be used as well.  I generally buy shelving or storage containers if they are on sale.  At a recent auction I bought big Rubbermaid totes for $1.00 each!  Be creative – we have cases of freeze dried food in #10 cans.  The cases make good supports for simple board shelves.  This is how I store toilet paper and paper towels off the basement floor!  The cases are set on top of plastic totes filled with extra clothing, thus, only plastic rests on the floor and everything is protected from possible dampness.

I hope that these few ideas will encourage you to begin organizing your “nest” to make life easier now, and in whatever future the Lord has in store for us!  God Bless!

First off, let me thank you for a great web site with lots of practical information. Over the last few months I have taken the liberty to read a large portion of the information i the SurvivalBlog archives. I have, I believe, an untouched tidbit: Many folks live in areas susceptible to frost. Some of us live in areas susceptible to sub-zero temperatures. Cold starting a vehicle, either gas or diesel can become problematic at best, or almost impossible when the thermometer dips into the minus figures.

Having lived in an area that sees the minus 70s (without a wind chill factor) and having to start vehicles or airplanes (or the snowmobile for that matter) without the advantage of oil pan heaters, head bolt heaters, battery blankets and all the other things that need a electricity to pre-heat the engine I revert back to the old [propane] weed burner trick. I first used it while wintering in the Wrangle Mountains to pre-heat the Supercub and then used this method for pre-heating while living off grid for a number of years in the Interior of Alaska.

The tools are simple. A propane weed burner, propane tank, several sections of stovepipe and a 90 degree elbow. A blanket or tarp will speed up the process a mite. The object is to create a forced air furnace of sorts by sticking the weed burner just inside the straight section of stovepipe and point the elbow up towards the oil pan. You need to have a stovepipe with a larger diameter than the weed burner end, a couple inches will do. If you get too small a diameter stovepipe, the stovepipe simply becomes a long flamethrower and overheating will result!

Once you ignite the weed burner and stick it into the end of the stovepipe, the force of the flame pulls outside air into the stovepipe, heats it, and sends it down the line to the engine compartment. It is pretty simple to adjust the heat and distance to the the motor to avoid melting anything you do not want melted and to avoid boiling the oil.

A couple of finer points that I've learned over the years:
Propane fails to reach vapor state at around minus forty. The weed burner will slowly turn to not much more than a candle flame. I simply set the tank slightly forward of the hottest part of the stovepipe and off to the side enough to catch some radiant heat. You must monitor this carefully as it is quite possible to get so much heat to the propane tank that the LP begins to expand which creates a larger flame, more expansion and it will experience a not so pretty ending. (Unless you hate the rig and have good insurance)

If you have an oil pan heater on the bottom of the pan you need to keep the heat to a minimum so as not to damage the oil pan heater. Smaller cars (like my wife's Subaru) need smaller stovepipe and hence a smaller weed burner (to facilitate airflow around the weed burner tip and into the stovepipe) I can pre-heat my old Toyota at minus fifty in less that twenty minutes with this method. My crew cab diesel pickup takes twice that long.

By throwing a blanket or tarp over the hood so that it drapes to the ground, you will find that not only has the engine warmed up but you have also heated the front wheel bearings, tranny, battery and coolant. When I have a tarp draped over the front, I simply feed the stovepipe under from behind the front tires.

While it is much easier to have the electric doo-dads in place, there comes a time when you simply do not have an extension cord long enough to plug the things in.

As a side note, I have, in the past, pre-heated with everything from a bucket of coals to the MSR Whisperlite [backpacking stove]. While it may seem like a royal pain, it is actually quite simple and far easier than draining the oil and coolant and pulling the battery every night to leave them near the woodstove. I hope this helps someone to get up and get going some frigid day in the future. My best, - Scotty (aka "Coldfingers"), Fairbanks, Alaska

From the UK: Coins fall prey to spending cuts. JWR's Comment: Well, actually, this is just a sign of gradual currency inflation by the government. When even base metal coins have a value that exceeds their face value, then it is obvious that the people are being robbed by their government. The same situation exists in the U.S., where a five cent piece (the "Nickel") costs seven cents to produce, and has a melt value of more than six cents. Currency inflation is robbery, in slow motion. The government is the perpetrator, and you are the victim. Destroying the purchasing power of a currency is a hidden form of taxation. Our silver coinage issued in the early 1960s (debased in 1965) is now worth 16 times its face value. When governments replace real coinage with debased tokens, cui bono?

KAF flagged this: UK unveils dramatic austerity measures. Oh, don't look for anything similar coming out of Washington, D.C. If anything, we can expect more spending, bigger and bigger bailouts, and massive debt monetization.

More FDIC Friday Follies: Seven More Banks Bite the Dust

Items from The Economatrix:

Strange Events at the Comex

Who Was Responsible for the Global Financial Collapse? Filmmaker Charles Ferguson Finds Out In "Inside Job"

Doubling the Value of Silver (Mogambo Guru)

Some American Families are $133 Away From Great Depression-Like Problems

Unemployment Rate Drops in 23 States in September

Stocks Waver After Another Batch of Earnings

Dollar Plummets on Report Fed Plans to Pump $500 Billion Into Economy

A new report calls on NASA to establish a Planetary Defense Coordination Office to lead national and international efforts in protecting Earth against impacts by asteroids and comets.

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Bad news from Nanny State Britannia: Every e-mail and web site visit to be stored.

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Hydroponics will work almost anywhere you have power for lights and pumps, and of course water and decent temperature range: Now serving fresh garden salad at the South Pole. (Thanks to J.J.C. for the link.)

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Backyard Food Production is offering an end-of-the-month special for SurvivalBlog readers: 10% off on the DVD tutorial "Food Production Systems for a Backyard or Small Farm", which teaches folks how to create an organic food producing system on their land. See details at their web site to receive the special price.

"He who has faith has an inward reservoir of courage, hope, confidence, calmness, and assuring trust that all will come out well, even though to the world it may appear to come out badly." - B.C. Forbes

Friday, October 22, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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.

Over the years, many people have told us that WTSHTF, they are coming to our place in the country. When people say things like this, we hear, "...so that you can take care of me." This document is presented as a source of information for those who might need a realignment of their expectations, a clarification of ours or both. It should serve as a harsh wake up call for anyone who plans to flee to someone else's survival retreat should the need arise.

If you have neglected, failed or refused to complete your plans for survival, here are things you need to know, should you decide to depend on someone who has been more diligent.

  • No One Will Provide You With Shelter
  • No One Will Feed You
  • No One Will Provide Drinking Water
  • No One Will Protect You
  • No One Will Provide Medical Attention

Did the Children of Israel expect Moses to provide all of these things for them? Nope! He started walking and they had to keep up. Everyone carried what they needed and everyone did everything they needed to do to survive.

Let's take a look at what your life might be like WTSHTF.

For any number of reasons, you lose electricity without notice and your water stops running. (Public water supplies need electricity) When people eventually realize the outage extends beyond their immediate circle of travel, they will panic and stores will be looted. Stores cannot be protected because...the police departments have no electricity. Gas stations will be closed when they cannot deliver fuel because...they have no electricity. It's funny how that works, isn't it? As more people begin to panic they will assemble into angry mobs armed with guns, knives, baseball bats and sticks. No police presence means no protection for you or anyone else. The police have raced home to protect their families.

You are now officially unemployed with no benefits, you cannot withdraw your worthless money from the bank, you cannot make a phone call, listen to the radio or watch television. Your stove, microwave oven, refrigerator and Internet connection are no longer working. You cannot run to Wal-Mart's camping section to pick up a sleeping bag or kerosene lantern. Your car has less than a half tank of gasoline and your terrified wife and children are begging you to do something.

A horde of lawless desperadoes is making its way down your street, hurling rocks and bricks through windows, setting cars on fire and breaking into homes in search of food and supplies. Through sheer numbers and merciless force, they overwhelm every feeble attempt at defense or escape, leaving death and destruction in their path. Like killer bees, they swarm your home and discover that it is vacant because you somehow managed to escape, either through a miracle, proper planning or dumb luck. They ravage what was once your comfortable home sweet home, laying waste years of financial sacrifice and hard work as you are driving or hiking or crawling down the highway or back roads to The Promise Land, your friend's place in the country.

For the sake of this frightening glimpse into your new reality, let's assume that you and your family somehow beat the one in a million odds and successfully escape the chaos and anarchy in the city. Exhausted and emotionally paralyzed with fear and anxiety, you eventually make your way to an overgrown pasture bordered by woods, provided that you were not attacked and killed on your journey or shot as an intruder when you arrive, which is always an unfortunate possibility.

So, in summary:

  • There is no comfortable shelter waiting for you
  • There is no water
  • There is no food
  • There is no security, no protection at all
  • The mobs will eventually make their way out into the countryside and find you

The place looks deserted, and there is silence as you cautiously scan the edge of the woods. You can't help but wonder how many guns might be aimed at your head.

Welcome to The Promised Land. It is everything you expected it to be?

More than one person has referred to our place in the country as, The Promised Land. It is important to remember that the people followed Moses. He did not carry them...and I am not Moses...and our place is not The Promised Land. Adhering to the analogy, the city from which you fled was the land of Egypt, our place in the country is the desert. The Promised Land comes later if you survive and behave yourself.

In spite of arriving with nothing more than the inappropriate clothes on your back and the meager amount of food that you were able to carry, and given the obvious absence of expected amenities at your adopted survival haven, you are are still somehow confident that you will survive because you've been responsibly paying the premiums on your Emergency and Disaster Preparedness insurance policy.

You haven't been paying the premiums? You did not sacrifice what you wanted today for what you might need tomorrow? The bad news is, your prognosis for survival is definitely grim. There is no good news.

We do not have a rider on our Emergency and Disaster Preparedness insurance policy for you. You have no insurance coverage at our place. Like most people, we have fallen onto extremely hard times and have been barely able to feed ourselves and keep a roof over our heads. We won't even discuss the monumental tasks of paying medical bills and other past-due responsibilities. Severe illness and extended unemployment completely drained our finances and everything that was left of our emergency supplies. The Schumer has hit the fan for us already. If it gets any worse, we may have to come and live with you. Did you ever think about that?

No One Will Provide You With Shelter.

First off, who knows how long we will be able to keep up the payments on our house or how long it will remain standing? In times of civil unrest, windows get broken, doors get kicked in and houses burn. If our house is somehow miraculously still standing when you arrive, consider what that environment would be like if you chose to stay (provided that we let you). There is only so much room in our house. Imagine being jammed and crammed into an increasingly smelly and dirty house with a maniacal herd of hungry, desperate refugees undergoing various stages of mental deterioration, panic and anger, screaming at each other and crying at the drop of a hat. Sound like fun? Not so much.

To set the record straight, my wife and I will never subject ourselves to that psychological nightmare whether our house is standing or not. Not even a fool would do that during the best of times so why would anyone expect us to do it during a time of great distress? We are both getting old and crotchety, we lack patience and we have no desire to convert our house into a loony bin so take that option off the table right now.

If you show up WTSHTF and if we decide to let you stay, you will have to build your own shelter using your bare hands and your own supplies. Do a web search on the phrase "debris hut" for more information. It is presumptuous and selfish to expect anyone to expend their resources and energy to provide this for you out of the kindness of their heart. Your shelter will need to be built in such a way that it will keep you warm in the winter, cool in the summer and it must be able to withstand 60-70MPH winds, torrential downpours and heavy layers of snow and ice often accompanying the wicked storms that we get periodically. Nature is not your friend. It is a heartless enemy that is constantly trying to kill you. Build your shelter accordingly.

So now that you have built your comfy debris hut with three bedrooms, one and a half baths and a deck, let's discuss the next facet of your reality.

No One Will Feed You

We cannot and will not feed you because we were not blessed with unlimited financial resources, the divine calling to set aside food for you, nor the facility to store that extra food. If God wanted us to do that, He would have told us to do it and made it possible. He doesn't. He hasn't. He didn't. He told you to do it and He made it possible. You listened and obeyed, right? Those are the insurance premiums you should have been paying all along.

If you choose to come to our place WTSHTF, you will need to provide all of your own food. Don't count on living off of the land because first of all, you don't know how, and second, it is much harder than you think. There will be a myriad of other critical responsibilities and events that will demand your attention so having a good food storage is wise. When considering what kind of food you should be putting aside, remember that canned goods expire, bulge and rust. They are also heavy and difficult to transport. Dried goods mold, become infested with bugs and everything attracts mice. We have lots and lots of bugs and mice here in the desert. (Potential food source?) Figure out what you will eat, how much you will eat, double or triple that and figure out a way to get it, store it, rotated to keep it fresh and carry it to our place if you still want to come here. (The lack of a warm, dry house is usually a show stopper for most armchair survivalists)

Consider how much food your family consumes in a week, a month, a year. Now imagine what will happen to you and them if you immediately stopped going to the store to replenish your supplies. Remember, you have no job so you have no money and even if you did, money is no longer worth the paper it is written on. There are no stores to go to and no one is going to sell you food or trade their food for your meager possessions. So get that out of your head. Gold coins, if you have any, might make good sinkers should you decide to go fishing but a pound of gold won't buy a pound of rice because no one does that much fishing.

Do you plan on hunting for food? So do a million other people and those heavily armed, hungry hordes with their guns, snares, spears and home made bows and arrows will be stumbling over each other in the woods. You are better than the competition so one shot, one kill and you miraculously shoot the last squirrel left in the entire county (because the other animals were smart enough to leave when all those crazy people showed up). Everyone hears that gun shot and your mission is now to somehow escape those heavily populated woods with your life and your squirrel, in that order. Good luck with that.

Deciding not to risk your life to kill what's left of God's little animals, you might innocently/ignorantly believe that you can sustain yourself and your family by foraging for wild, edible plants but so does every other unprepared refugee who has fled to the country and they are all scouring the countryside, grazing on everything that is green or was green or might be green someday. Do you know the precise differences between edible plants and their poisonous look-a-like cousins? Even your reference book will tell you that pictures are no substitute for experience. Ingesting the wrong plants may present an unpleasant way to die with the retching and vomiting and sweating and diarrhea that precedes the wheezing, contorting and groan. (See: We Cannot Provide Medical Attention)

Note: You cannot eat grass. Your stomach can process the sugars but not the cellulose which contains most of the calories that you will need. A cow can do it but a cow's stomach is equipped to do that and yours is not. Do your research beforehand or suffer the consequences.

I hope you like bugs, snakes and mice. Yum!

No One Will Provide Drinking Water

Do you really believe that you will somehow be able to locate, carry, purify and store at least one gallon of water per day for each person in your family? Did you remember to bring a big pot to boil water and if so, did you know that it takes about forty pounds of wood to boil five gallons of water, which also weighs about the same? Where will you get all of that wood? Chopping wood with an ax (that you forgot to bring with you) burns calories that you cannot afford to burn because you have been eating grass. How will you carry that much wood and store it and burn it every single day of the year through the rain and snow and freezing rain and under the blistering summer sun, even when you are exhausted or sick with the flu or you have a broken arm? (We are busy fetching and purifying our own water so don't call us.) Remember, while you are gathering water and wood, so is every other rueful wretch struggling to survive and what will you do when they square off with you to fight you for what you have, or worse yet, when they show up with thirty of their thirsty friends to steal your water? (See: We Cannot Protect You)

You will need an efficient, sustainable means to collect, purify and store water...lots and lots of water. You will need the wherewithal to store enough extra water to carry you through the hard freeze of winter (no one wants to fetch water during an ice storm), when you are sick or disabled or overwhelmed with other tasks like vomiting because you ate a flower that looked friendly but wasn't. You will need to know how to efficiently as effectively manage and protect your precious water supply and have a backup plan in case your primary supply is disrupted or destroyed. Ponds dry up or become polluted, containers leak and bad things happen. (Which is obviously our fault) Prepare for it, deal with it or die.

Yes, we know about bio-sand filters. How much sand and gravel did you bring? Perhaps you can find a clean barrel somewhere. Were we supposed to supply that? Wow, you must really be disappointed in us.

No One Will Protect You

Remember those angry hordes that frightened you out of the city and burned your home? They will eventually exhaust the resources of the ravaged neighborhoods and make their way into the countryside. When they find you, and they will find you, they will be even more desperate and dangerous than when you last saw them. Additionally, our neighbors, the heavily armed people who inhabited the countryside long before you got here, will be "foraging" for your resources so be careful out there. Desperate people do desperate things and those people will congregate because there is strength in numbers. Now, it's just you against ten, thirty or fifty desperate people determined to take your food, water and resources and they will have no qualms about hurting or killing you. Are you physically, emotionally and spiritually equipped to survive such an attack...over and over and over again because those attacks will continue to happen with increased intensity as people become more and more desperate.

You will need the ability to effectively defend yourself, your family and your resources against undefeatable forces. You will need more than a gun, a knife or a pointy stick. Those are mere implements and implements are a very small part of the complex security equation. Your opponents will undoubtedly have more and bigger implements and they might arrive in incomprehensible waves of death and destruction. Consequently, you will need to be physically fit and experienced as well as mentally and emotionally prepared. You must possess the reflexes of a gazelle on amphetamines, the strength of a superhero on steroids, the spatial awareness of a rabbit surrounded by hungry wolves and divine wisdom to know what to do in any given crisis. You may be forced to run in order to survive or fight in order to survive but you may run or fight and die anyway. Raise your hand when you think it is our responsibility to step in and save you because you can't protect yourself.

Okay, realistically, security is everyone's business and we would not expect you to defend yourself all by yourself if you were a member of our community, but I hope you understand that making it someone else's responsibility to protect you is presumptuous and dangerous. Make sure you are worth saving by participating in the fray with the same intensity that you would expect from others.

By the way, hungry people will kill you for your food. Very hungry people eat even their dead friends. There are many examples of survival-induced cannibalism throughout history. In fact, most instances of cannibalism are for survival, not ritual. The Donner Party, the wreck of the Mignonette, and the plane crash of the Uruguayan rugby team in the Andes mountains are all stories proving that people who are without food for about ninety days or less will turn to cannibalism. Watch the movie "The Road", and see if that opens your mind to possibilities that await you.

If you wander outside of the perimeter, we cannot protect you. If you are kidnapped, we will not negotiate for your return. We may retaliate with a rabid vengeance but we will not negotiate.

No One Will Provide Medical Attention

So, you somehow got your head bashed in or you were stabbed or shot while defending your debris hut/condo, your dwindling food supply of field mice and a half gallon of dirty pond water stored in a leaky, plastic milk container that you found on the side of the road (Again, obviously our fault). You got stung a zillion times by angry hornets or you rolled in a patch of poison ivy (that you were collecting as food). Perhaps you fell out of a tree or you slipped and broke your arm or you chopped off your finger while trying to split fire wood with a rock and a dull steak knife. Maybe you charred your hand while digging through the hot coals of your smoldering camp fire, retrieving a field mouse that fell off of your roasting stick. We did not budget for a private hospital or a retired veterinarian and you are no longer covered under ObamaCare, so all you might get is a slightly used band-aid. Will that make it all better? If you did not bring any medical supplies, you probably won't like what we will do to your stab gash, bullet hole, hornet sting, broken arm, missing finger or charred hand. And by the way, you deserve that case of poison ivy.

Let's see what else...

We will not build your fires to keep you warm, cook your food or provide comfort. Learn to build a fire now without the use of a lighter or matches and practice until you are good at it. We will teach you while we have the time but don't ask us later because we will be quite busy.

If you come to our place WTSHTF, we will not give you a knife or any other sharp object. If you do not already own a good knife, you obviously won't know how to use one safely anyway. (See: We Cannot Provide Medical Attention) Buy at least two good knives, spend a lot of money for them and learn how to use them and sharpen them! If we have to tell you why, you are probably going to die anyway and "very hungry people" will eat you.

We will not provide you with a bathroom or outhouse or a nice warm shower. You may not like the idea of pooping in a hole behind a tree but you will eventually get over it. If that is simply unacceptable, bring along a port-a-potty with a padded seat and plenty of environment-friendly chemicals, biodegradable toilet paper and be prepared to add an addition to your debris hut.

I will address survival community governance at a later date, but in short, a survival community is not a democracy. You will not get to vote like they do on The Discovery Channel's series, The Colony. Get over it. You chose to leave your democracy when they voted to kill you and take your stuff, remember? Ours will not be a society where members of the House and Senate force those who work to provide for those who won't and it will not reward those who steal with bailouts.

Technically, a survival community does not function as a colony but more like a tribe. Embrace the concept of communal life in a tribe. Consider everything tribe members do together and everything they must do for themselves and you will have an idea of what will be expected of you should you wish to be a part of a survival community. Get used to living with rules. If you think your home owner's association is too strict, you surely won't like living with a tribe of dedicated survivalists with zero tolerance for freeloaders or pansies.

A man recently asked me, "What do I have or what could I do that might be beneficial to your community?" My answer was, "I haven't a clue. Only you can answer that question." He never did. I know what he was thinking and we are not interested in what he has to offer. He has stockpiled lots of guns and ammunition, virtually no food for his extended family and all he has for water purification is one ceramic filter. We don't need him. He needs us. If all you have is guns and ammunition, everyone already considers you a threat and you will have absolutely no idea how they have prepared to deal with that threat. When those people die, someone will take their stuff and the "very hungry people" will eat them. Just something to consider in case you decide to become a looter or a bully. To survive, you need a balance of skills, resources, preparation and experience.

Before you ask someone if you can join their survival community, ask yourself, "Why would they let me come to their place?" This is a fair question that deserves an honest answer. A healthy community is the only way any of us will make it through the coming hard times, but in every community, every person must have more than a single redeeming quality.

Remember the parable of the ten virgins. [In contemporary terms] Five of them paid the premiums on their Emergency and Disaster Preparedness insurance policy. The other five didn't. Make sure you are prepared. Your future depends on it.

If, after reading this, you still want to come to our place and realize that you won't be able to bring much with you when you flee the city, you should probably consider getting your stuff to our place now while you still can. No, we do not have additional storage space so that is another thing for you to consider. We will allow you park your motor home or trailer here and you can even build a shed to store your survival items but that offer is only available to a certain few for a limited amount of time. (My wife wanted me to remove this paragraph.)

If you do not know how to build a shelter or start a fire or purify water, I would advise you to get here as soon as possible so that we can teach you while there is still time to learn. Would you like to practice and see what it would be like to put all of these skills together in a controlled environment? Now is a good time. During a torrential rain storm is another good time.

After thinking about it, there is only one way that we might allow someone to show up on our doorstep without resources. Consider the role of an indentured servant and let us know if that appeals to you because that would be your only option.

I first got Wiley protective glasses as issue equipment when I deployed for OIF. I still have the same pair, and use them heavily while driving, shooting, and working with tools.

Let’s start with the most important part, the lenses. These are MIL-PRF-31013 ballistic certified. They are incredibly resistant to scratching—sandstorms, construction, daily wear and carry have not affected them. I even wore out the rubber seals mentioned below, and the lenses were still pristine. They’re still so transparent I’m not even aware of the lens, and I’m someone who has never needed correction. However, if you do, they can make prescription inserts of the same material. The lenses snap easily into the frame and are very secure, but can be replaced without undue difficulty. They also came (this model) with a ventilated rubber face seal that was indispensable during sand storms.

The frame is flexible enough to be tough while remaining sturdy, and extremely comfortable. It’s very modular. You can swap lenses from clear to smoke to prescription, change from ear pieces to elastic strap with a clip connector. The mounting screws for the hinges are full-length stainless. There is a slide on strap for the regular earpieces, with a nut to tighten behind the head. This causes the frame to bend and conform to the face to seal against dust. Even with that tight, the frame is flexible enough to let you pull the glasses up or down over the ears—we had to do this several times a day when moving in or out between facilities and sand.

Most importantly, their customer service is exceptional. When I eventually broke an earpiece at the hinge (and it only broke partially. It was still wearable for the week), their rep assisted me in identifying which model I had, and sent the spare parts gratis, even after I offered to pay.

Wileys are not cheap, but I can’t think of any improvements to make, and they’re useful for any task that requires UV protection or safety lenses. Given the engineering and quality, I find the price very reasonable. - SurvivalBlog Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson, author of the new science fiction novel Do Unto Others.

Hello James,

I see that you link to AnySoldier.com from your blog site. Any Soldier is a great organization that works hard to support our troops in the time that they need it most.

As a Gulf War veteran, I really appreciated the support from Any Soldier when I was over in Iraq. Now that I am back safe and sound, Airsplat, the company that I work for, it doing their part to help Any Soldier. They have pledged to send 5% of all sales to Any Soldier from people who come to the site and enter the coupon code "any soldier". The buyers also get a 5% discount. You can check it out on the Any Soldier site.

Thanks for your time. - John Durfee, AirSplat.com

Mr. Rawles,

I'd like to respond to the Cleanliness article by P. J. W.. The author recommended "lather (with anti-bacterial soap)." Readers should be aware of how unnecessary anti-bacterial soap is and how it's loaded with negative side effects. Although anti-bacterial soap is best at reducing bacteria during hand washing, the use of non-antibacterial soap and water alone are most effective at removing viruses. See this YouTube clip.

Also see this Mercola article. (You may need to register to read, though registration is free.)

Studies have shown that people who use antibacterial soaps and cleansers can often develop a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms just as often as people who use regular soaps.

Part of the reason for this is because most of these symptoms are actually caused by viruses, which antibacterial soaps can’t kill.

But even for symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, which may be caused by bacteria, those who used regular soaps still had no greater risk than those who used antibacterial products.

So, antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary for the purpose of washing away bacteria.

But there’s more.

They can actually cause far more harm than good by promoting the development of resistant bacteria.

Yes, many scientists now fear that the widespread use of antibacterial soaps and various disinfecting products may be contributing to the rise in "superbugs," bacteria that are resistant to modern medicines.

The antimicrobial triclosan, for example, is known to promote the growth of resistant bacteria.

Even the American Medical Association (AMA) does not recommend antibacterial soaps for this very reason.

Additionally, many traditional medical circles now accept the hygiene hypothesis, which centers on the idea that children need to be exposed to some bacteria in early childhood in order to strengthen their immune systems. Children who are not exposed to common bacteria (which are wiped out by antibacterial soap), may become more prone to allergies and asthma as they grow.

But aside from that, the active ingredient in many antibacterial products, such as triclosan, can be hazardous in and of itself as well.

and see this article on toxicity.

The antibacterial agent triclosan, commonly used in certain soaps, is starting to appear in consumer products ranging from socks to toothpaste.

But research shows that under normal household conditions triclosan can react with chlorinated water to produce chloroform, a likely carcinogen.

An initial 2005 study showed that, in the laboratory, pure triclosan reacts with free chlorine to produce chloroform. More recently, follow-up studies on 16 products found that household goods containing triclosan produced either chloroform or other chlorinated byproducts.

In some soaps, the triclosan degraded within one minute of exposure to chlorinated water at temperatures used for household cleaning. Regards, - Erik M.

"For the resolute and determined there is time and opportunity."- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'm happy to report that "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" will soon be published in Russian. There are now seven foreign publishing contracts in place, for editions in six languages.


Today we present two entries for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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.

First please allow me to give you a little background on myself. I have been preparing for TEOTWAWKI for about nineteen years but I have focused (until recently) on wilderness survival. I even managed to get a book published on how to survive when you get stranded in the middle of nowhere (it is called What We Forgot a lesson in survival). About a year ago I heard about this site while I was listening to Coast to Coast one night and I was so thrilled to find out that I was not alone in my thinking. Since then I have managed to store about a years worth of food and have everything ready to go incase I need to bug out. (I know that isn’t enough but my fiancee and I won’t be able to take any more unless we leave other important things behind.) As much as I love what has been written there has been a lack of attention paid to the topic of actual survival skills. After all what good is a survival retreat that is stocked with twenty years of food if you get lost in the wilderness when you are on patrol and die because you don’t know that you can eat almost everything in the woods and that includes all birds and furry animals.
Now because I am the kind of guy who would rather give solutions instead of complaining about what has been done this is what I feel everyone needs to do.

1) Pickup two different copies of a book on how to survive in the wilderness from at least two different authors. (Every one has a different stile and some ways will work for you.) One of them should be the US Army’s field manual because it also tells you how to evade the enemy and if TSHTF almost everyone will be the enemy.

2) Practice in the comfort of your home: Go to your backyard or garage and figure out how to make the skills work for you. When I was ten I spent about three months working in front of my mom’s fire lace trying to figure out how to get the hot coal to form using a bow and drill. Then I had to learn to build the fire from that small ember. (This was my choice after my mom got scared that I would get lost and die in the mountains on a camping trip and got me my first copy of the US army survival manual.)

3) Practice out in the wilderness: Start out small do not go out with only a knife like Bear Grylls unless you have the training and the experience to come home alive. On several occasions I have had to go and save some new survivalists who got a book and decided to try to survive for a week with only a knife. (It was a lot of fun for me but those young people were miserable.) So start by camping and leave something like your tent at home. Then after a few trips forget something else as well. Keep forgetting things until you have nothing but a knife on you. By the time I was in high school none of my friends would go into the mountains unless I was there with them. When I asked them one said, “With you around I don’t need a survival kit.” And another made the claim that I could be dropped north of the Arctic Circle and be found a week later in Mexico City sitting by a pool with a fistful of pesos and a million dollar smile. I do not agree with their statements and I feel that everyone needs to learn at least the basics.

4) Keep up your skills even if your plan is to bug in you will need to leave your home sooner or later. Anything can happen and if you are a little rusty then you and or your family could die.

5) Expand from the basics. Learn to track animals including those pesky talking monkeys (I call all humans that not one ethnic group). Because if you are out there and find an animal you wouldn’t mind eating then kill it. But if you are going to do that you should also learn what plants you can eat so you can stretch the food you brought with you even farther. But don’t forget to learn how to dry the meat in the field an how to tan the hide so you can keep them longer.

Now that I have said all this I you should know that the things that are coming won’t be fun and it will seem like a nightmare even for all of us that have been expecting it. Now I know that probably most of you are not only skilled in survival but well practiced. I did this for those who are new to this and think “All I need is a million bullets and twenty five years of food and I will be fine.” Well to all those who do think that I say I hope you are right but shouldn’t you expand your strategy just incase you can’t stay with your food? Now I know that you are probably thinking that I just want to sell a lot of books but the truth is I would like to give them away but my publisher and my fiancee won’t allow it. I want to help people stay alive that is why I plan to help you to expand your knowledge with topics like smoking meat to dry it, making and maintaining archery equipment and other things that we will need to know after the chaos of the first year to two years has ended in later posts. I hope you have fun and stay safe.

Your preps are complete, your house is bomb proof, you run on alternative energy, and you are on the top of a mountain surrounded by a moat… Who can defeat you? Yourself! It doesn’t matter how extensively you have prepped, how secure your retreat is, or how well you are prepared for a TEOTWAWKI situation, if you let it all fall apart from the inside! So what are some simple things that you can do to set yourself up for success?

We’ve all heard the proverb “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” and most of us have heard the expression “Don’t poop where you eat!” Well both of those statements couldn’t have more value than in a survival situation. Your health will ultimately determine your survival… weather you can digest certain foods, survive a gunshot wound to the arm, make it through a bout with diarrhea, the list goes on. So why would you invest so much time and consideration into planning and prepping, if you aren’t willing to secure your investment? Now by all means I am not talking about the sterility of a neurosurgery room, or to live in a “bubble”, but there are a few simple steps to take, things that we do every day (or at least should) that will set us up for success.

Basic sanitation.
Showers, baths, and hand-washing is extremely important when dealing with field situations. You have heard it your whole life, from your mother, to the school nurse, to the signs at your place of business saying to wash hands before returning to work. Washing your hands is possibly the single most important thing to preventing the spread of common illnesses. Rinse, lather (with anti-bacterial soap) rinse. It’s really that simple. Plus, nobody feels like using their valuable medical supplies to treat a cold that could have been prevented (and that’s what this is… preventative medicine!) Showers and bathing are also important. You need to keep your body clean, and your pores open and breathing. You don’t want to get fungal or bacterial infections growing. Those are a nightmare and can easily spread.

Food sanitation and preparation.
Obviously water needs to be sterilized, and there are a billion ways to do it, so I’m not going in to that… But let’s talk about food sanitation. How many people do you see on family holidays, or large gatherings that have a meat thermometer checking temperatures? That’s what I thought. A simple two dollar tool can save you a ton of time battling food poisoning, which can be fatal if you don’t have the right resources to deal with it. Buy a food thermometer. Additionally, ensure your foods are protected from disease transferring creatures such as roaches, mice, rats, etc. Keep your food surfaces clean and sanitary. You probably have bleach stored for various things, well this is one you will want it for. Dilute it into a spray bottle, and use it to clean your kitchen area. Once again, food poisoning, salmonella, e-coli, etc can be awfully hard to treat without proper medical facilities.

Living areas.
Ever wonder why your mother said your room looked like a landfill? Because it is so dirty, things can grow, rodents can hide, and it can become a potential trip/fall hazard. Simple organization and cleanliness will save you some headaches. Plus, designate a place for meals, and do not have the “bag of Cheetos in the bed syndrome.” You are just asking for rodents to come in. Additionally, clean your living areas with cleaning solution, and keep the dust to a minimum to combat allergens. Have dust masks handy. Also, keep outlets clear and clean, and power cords untangled and organized. You don’t want to create a fire hazard and burn down all of your precious resources! Air filters for your air conditioning systems (if running alternate energy) or replacement screen material for your windows to ensure that bugs don’t fly in during those warmer summer months are a necessity to keep your air flow clean.

This is where we refer to the quote above. Keep your bathroom sanitary! If using an interior bathroom, ensure it is cleaned thoroughly, and stocked with anti-bacterial soap. Wash your hands after using it, and for the men out there, watch your aim! Do your part to help keep the area clean. Use an appropriate amount of toiletries to get the job done. Avoid clogging the toilet, and forcing interaction with bodily waste. If using an outdoor latrine, ensure steps are taken to keep the odor down, and to keep flies to a minimum. Ensure there are chemicals in the tank, or you have the facility far enough away so as not to contaminate a water supply. If you are using a composting toilet (indoors or out) ensure you are using personal protective equipment (PPE) when you move the waste to a garden. Fecal matter has long been used as a lethal poison for a reason. It is deadly.

Medical waste and sterilization.
Obviously, your tools and equipment when it comes to medical matters need to be sterile. That is a point that doesn’t need stating. But what to do after you use it, and what do you do about where you use it? Whether it is a common cold, an accidental knife or axe wound, or a carefully placed gunshot wound, you need to sterilize the environment you work in, not just for the patient, but for everyone else as well.  Nobody wants to treat a patient only to find out that they got everyone else sick by not practicing good hygiene. Obviously wash hands before and after contact with a patient. A patient recovering from an injury already has a weakened immune system from treating its own wound. You do not want to contaminate someone with additional impurities that the body will have to fight off. Also, clean up medical waste after treatment, and dispose of it separately from other garbage. Ensure gloves are worn and a mask is worn if contagious material is around. Then take the waste to a remote location and incineration is generally your best bet. You don’t want to let the medical waste sit and fester in a garbage can.

Rodent Control.
Rodents carry diseases, and diseases kill people! Don’t let rodents ruin your storage and cause problems! First, store your foods in airtight containers, and keep them above the floor. Ensure they are in containers that mice can’t freely chew through. If a rodent finds that it can eat something, it will continue to come back. If it starves, it will look elsewhere… Ants, roaches, mice, rats, raccoons, and opossums all pose potential problems. The best defense is a good offense when it comes to rodents. Place traps, keep areas clean, and keep them from getting what they want!

In a TEOTWAWKI scenario, the lovely neighborhood Friday trash pick-up isn’t going to happen. You will still accumulate garbage, and you need somewhere to put it. So a couple questions will come to mind at first… Did I stock up on trash bags? Do I have appropriately sealed containers so as not to let rodents in, or worse, bears! But seriously, no one thinks about garbage when they are putting their preps together. Another thing that comes to mind is security. Can you safely burn your refuse without putting a signal out to the world that your area is inhabited? If you can, great, but if not, you may have to consider other means. For natural, organic material, composting will undoubtedly be your best bet. It will fertilize your garden, and limit refuse piling up in your castle. Another idea may be to burn cardboard and paper in a woodstove. Smaller, and less of a signal, the woodstove will burn cardboard and paper, and give your home a byproduct in heat. Plastic bottles and metal cans can be sterilized and reused. in-house recycling is always a good option.

In summary, keep your work areas neat and orderly, clean up as you go. Don’t create any unnecessary risks by leaving trash and clutter around. Keep your areas free of rodents, and ensure you sterilize what you can when you can. There is no need to combat half of the illnesses you face every year if you can prevent it. Also, when you practice these simple cleanliness steps in good times, it will be a lot easier to implement them when SHTF. And cleanliness is everyone’ responsibility! It’s simple to teach kids common steps to clean living, plus they will have fun when they see something they do contribute to the success of the household. Remember that this is Preventative medicine! You do these things to prevent something bad from happening. A couple good references are the Army FM 21-10 (Field Sanitation), the Center For Disease Control, and the American Red Cross. Good luck, stay clean, and happy hunting!

Note: This article builds on my recent report, Prediction: Things Will Unravel Faster Than You Think. It explores the coming energy crunch in more detail by looking at existing government planning and awareness, and the implications of what international recognition of Peak Oil as early as 2012 might mean.

The hard news is that there is no "Plan B." The future is likely to be more chaotic than you probably think. This was the primary conclusion that I came to after attending the most recent Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) in Washington, DC in October, 2010.

The impact of Peak Oil on markets, lifestyles, and even national solvency deserves our very highest attention - but, it turns out, some important players seem to be paying no attention at all.

ASPO conferences tend to start early, end late, and be packed with more data and information than should be consumed in one sitting. Despite all this, I was riveted to my seat. This year's usual constellation of excellent region-by-region analyses confirmed what past participants already knew: Peak Conventional Oil arrived a few years ago, and new fields, enhanced recovery techniques, and unconventional oil plays are barely going to keep up with demand over the next few years.

But there were two reports that really stood out for me. The first was given by Rear Admiral Lawrence Rice, who presented the findings of the 2010 Joint Operating Environment (a forward-looking document examining the trends, contexts, and implications for future joint force commanders in the US military), which spends 76 pages summarizing the key trends and threats of the world. "Energy" occupies six of those pages, and Peak Oil dominates the discussion. Among the conclusions (on page 29), we find this hidden gem, which uses numbers and timing that are eerily similar to those that I put forth in my April 2009 report, Oil - The Coming Supply Crunch:

By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million bareels per day (MBD).


While there are two "coulds" in that statement, the mere possibility that such an imminent arrival and massive shortfall could be true should give every prudent adult a few second thoughts about what the future may hold. If surplus production capacity disappears in just a couple of years, there is an entire world of planning that should take place beforehand at the international, national, community, and personal levels.

More on the JOE report in a minute. Next I want to turn to a presentation given by Rick Munroe, who did his best to discover where within the civilian governmental departments lie the plans for what to do in a liquid-fuel-starved future.

To cut to the chase, it turns out that virtually every department that he contacted in both the US and Canada denied having any such reports. In one humorous exchange by email, Natural Resources Canada stated two things in the same email:

“At this time the Department has no views on [Peak Oil]. "There is no imminent Peak Oil challenge…." It will be interesting to see how NRCan words their e-mails once they do develop a point of view.

The main conclusion from Rick's presentation was that Peak Oil is being examined closely and taken seriously by military analysts, but not civilian authorities. The few plans that do exist on the civilian side are decades old.

The implications of this are that North America "remains highly vulnerable to a liquid fuel emergency disruption" and, since because there are only a few dusty plans lying around, there will be greater chaos than necessary.

Now back to the JOE report.

OPEC: To meet climbing global requirements, OPEC will have to increase its output from 30 MBD to at least 50 MBD. Significantly, no OPEC nation, except perhaps Saudi Arabia, is investing sufficient sums in new technologies and recovery methods to achieve such growth. Some, like Venezuela and Russia, are actually exhausting their fields to cash in on the bonanza created by rapidly rising oil prices.

A severe energy crunch is inevitable without a massive expansion of production and refining capacity. While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. (p. 28)

Well, the amounts needed from OPEC are quite, shall we say, 'ambitious,' as they amount to an additional two Saudia Arabias coming on line in order to make up the shortfall. A massive crunch is not otherwise avoidable. Let's be honest; there are no more Saudia Arabias to be found. Perhaps we could cobble one together out of thousands of smaller, less productive fields, but the likelihood of a few massive fields waiting to be found 1,100 feet underground is extremely remote. People in the business of actually producing oil know that producing from smaller wells takes more time, equipment, and manpower.

Meanwhile, I also happen to agree with their assessment that the details of the effects are difficult to predict but that the general theme will be one of reduced growth, and that's under the best of circumstances. More likely we'll have to figure out how to operate on zero or even negative growth.

So I came away from the ASPO conference pondering two completely polar trends that combine to create lasting discomfort. On the one hand, we have more and more private and military organizations coming to the conclusion that Peak Oil is imminent and will change everything, possibly disruptively. On the other hand, there appear to be no plans within the civilian government to deal with a liquid fuels emergency.

While we can expect that such plans will be tossed together when necessary, I would hope that Katrina taught us a few lessons about developing plans on the fly after the disaster has already arrived. Sure, things got done, but they were certainly suboptimal and led to more confusion and more chaos than if they had been carefully developed, practiced, and debugged.

The way that I understand the lack of planning on the part of the civilian side is that Peak Oil does not present any easy political wins, if any at all. Given the two-year planning cycle in DC, it's never a good time to bring up such an unpleasant subject. Politics trump necessity.

What can be rather easily predicted here is that when the next fuel crisis arrives, there will be more chaos than necessary. Some areas will get completely stiffed on their fuel allotments, while other areas will be reasonably well supplied. The reason that this can be easily predicted is because it more or less already happened in Europe during a protest by French fishermen inspired by high fuel prices. They blockaded ports in late May of 2008, and by early June, the action had spread across Europe. Shelves were quickly stripped bare of essential goods, tensions mounted, and petrol stations ran dry in a hurry.

And these were just the effects of a port blockade and tanker truck strike. What would happen with a real and persistent shortage of fuel? Well, if it were perceived to be due to a structural and permanent inability of the global oil market to meet demand, prices would rise stratospherically until demand was cut off. The only problem is, letting prices determine which industries idle back may not be the best plan.

Consider the case of agriculture. If full 'pass-through pricing' is the mechanism of rationing, which it currently is, then less food will be grown. With world grain stocks at historic lows, this is one area where we might not want to let Mr. Market dictate the activities of farmers based on fuel price. To do otherwise would require a plan of some sort, and none appear to be in effect.

That's the source of my discomfort. It's not necessarily that large organizations are beginning to share my sense of timing and impact of Peak Oil, although that will hasten the tipping point of awareness. It's that somehow I always thought that because Admiral Hyman Rickover knew well that this day would come (in the 1950s!), 60 years would have been sufficient lead time to assemble some credible plans.

No plans = unnecessary chaos.

The lack of planning also betrays a very common attitude, which might be summarized as, “We’ll deal with that when we get there.” I detect this attitude in a wide range of individuals and market participants, so it’s not at all uncommon. However, I think it's a mistake to hold this view. When (not if, but when) full awareness of Peak Oil arrives on the international stock, bond, and commodity markets we will discover just how narrow the doorways really are. Only a few will manage to preserve their wealth by squeezing through the doorway early; most will not make it through. As mentioned frequently on this site, our What Should I Do? guide for developing personal resiliency against a Post-Peak future offers a valuable resource for those just getting started in their preparations.

This thinking is explored in greater depth in Part 2 of this report (enrollment required), in which I discuss strategies to fill the official vacuum by developing our own plans for what we should do in response. - Chris Martenson, author of the widely read Crash Course

James Wesley:
In the article "Keeping Secrets in Surburbia--Constructing Our Hidden Basement Room, the author describes the difficulty they had removing hard-packed dirt with the consistency of dried concrete, and using an air chisel to break it up for removal and excavation. I've faced a similar problem with an underground excavation of a basement and egress tunnel in the granite and sandstone beneath the foundation of my own retreat home in the Western US.

My answer came in the form of a good deal on a slightly used Bosch #11304 "Brute" breaker hammer electric jackhammer, suitable for use either with 115-volt/15 Amp household current or a 1,500 kilowatt electric generator. Though I picked mine up used for a bit under $1,000 [less than an ounce of gold, and well worth it!] they're available from such internet retailers as ToolBarn for $1,389 plus shipping or can often be found as rental equipment at industrial tool rental outlets for around $50-to-$75 a day.

The advantage for me in owning one rather than renting is that this allows me to minimize my use of my own tool to an hour or less a day, then moving on to other projects so as to minimize exposure to noise, jackhammer vibration and dust. I also found it much easier to remove the broken stone from my workface in two-gallon metal pails rather than the more common 5 or 6-gallon plastic pails around the place; these were both easier to maneuver in the close confines and, of course, lighter in weight. - George S.


I loved the fact that everyone pitched in on this [excavation project]. My wife puts up with my tin foil expenditures, and would help if I asked but it is reluctant help at best. My basement is a full basement and wide open and unfinished, on purpose. While we do tons of Martial Arts and I store foodstuffs downstairs, I don’t really want it to be a hang out place. I wish I could fashion a “cave” in the fashion that Andrea did, the layout of the land just wouldn’t allow it. I did however use some carpentry 101, and created a false room in the basement where I keep all of my tactical gear (four load bearing vests, shotgun bandoleers, et cetera), ammo, etc. Basically there is always space under the steps and since I have 10 ft ceilings in the basement that can add up. Basically I enclosed the walls of the steps with drywall, and cut out a non-load bearing stud and dropped in a doorway. Under the highest part of the steps I built shelves on the inside to hold ammo cans. On the outside of the doorway I built a closet space to hang all of my hunting camouflage coveralls, cold weather gear etc. On the inside of the closet it looks like an unfinished wall with plywood on the wall but there is a hidden pull string that opens a section of the plywood allowing access. Inside I have a string of Christmas LED lights to see. This cleared up a lot of space in the basement shelves for more food and provides more OPSEC for those things that people shouldn’t “run” across.

Thanks for all you do Mr. Rawles. Your words and blog site influence a lot of sheep to become sheepdogs and I for one appreciate it. I have listened to the unabridged “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" audio book three times now and it is worth every penny. I have it in my personal library, but I have more time to listen than to read. Thanks again. - A.J.K.

Hi Jim,
As a general contractor, one important item which was not discussed in the construction of the hidden basement is the subject of drainage.

I hope the author will have no problems with this, but given the clues regarding snow and clay I personally would be concerned. Perhaps drainage is already taken care of in some fashion with the already existing basement...I don't know details...but anyone considering such construction needs to give serious thought to how they will handle moisture. Groundwater has a remarkable knack for finding its way in. I would include a perimeter drain and a sump pump (assuming there is no way to [gravity] drain to daylight (i.e. a hillside slope)) in my plans if considering such a project.

Many thanks for the blog. - Tom in Southern California

K. in Montana sent this: Demand for Guns, Food Stamps Indicates Uncertainty

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Cyber attack threat 'could be next Pearl Harbor'

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End of the Earth Postponed. (Thanks to Ian for the link.)

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Rob H. highlighted this: French Fuel Depots Forced Open Amid Strikes

"When young men seek to be like you, when lazy men resent you, when powerful men look over their shoulder at you, when cowardly men plot behind your back, when corrupt men wish you were gone and evil men want you dead ... Only then will you have done your share." - Song lyrics by Phil Messina

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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 year ago our preparations had grown to a point where it was becoming noticeable to the guests who visited our home. Our ability to keep our tin foil hat craziness under raps was becoming increasingly difficult. Aside from the fact that we have teenage boys and a daughter and all of their friends regularly tromping through our house, for security reasons alone, all of our assets were virtually displayed in our basement and needed to be hidden. Yes, our guns are in safes, but the last thing we need is some parent freaking about ammo cans, reloading equipment or even food storage. It is none of their business and keeping our prepping secrets was nearly impossible and privacy was becoming a high priority.

So the discussion became focused on hiding all of our stuff. Our house is of a modest size for a family of five. There is only so many places you can put things. The one thing we do have though is a sort of mish mashed house. The original house was built in 1949. It has a partial basement and a crawl space under one room. Then an addition was added during the 1970s. The addition has a large crawl space. So, we have a basement and two crawl spaces. We thought about simply putting our storage in the larger, newer crawl space, but rotating food would be extremely difficult and the door to the crawl space is obvious and ultimately we want our stuff hidden.

However, the other crawl space had an entrance from under the clothes dryer. Nobody would ever know or suspect that another crawl space was there. We are unsure why this space was never dug out during the original construction and made part of the basement. The only problem with this space was access - under the dryer is a fine entrance to a hiding place we never need access too, but that was not what we were looking for.

So, I basically resolved myself to organizing our existing small spaces and freaking out when the kids had friends over. My husband, Dan, would just have to deal with reloading in a tiny area and our guests would just magically not notice all the tactical gear, and TEOTWAWKI supplies, etc.

Then one day last September my husband said “Lets just dig out the older crawl space and make a hidden room of it.”

“Yeah, whatever” I thought.

But not long after that I came home to a 1’ x 3’ hole in the cinder block which was at chest level, right through the basement wall and just above the poured concrete foundation wall. I peaked in the dark hole with a flashlight to find a creepy, cobwebby, cold crawl space. The earth was about chest high and there was maybe 3 feet of space between the dirt and the ceiling.

Dan and I have taken on many projects together. We enjoy working side by side and since I am young and able I never like to see him do a project alone. But this time I looked at him and said “I want nothing to do with this!”

Over the next month he peeked daily into the hole, trying to figure out the best way of tackling this. He estimated there to be about 42 cubic yards of packed dirt. But, he figured with our boys’ help, they could fill up the other crawl space and that would just about empty the room.

He found a concrete guy on Craigslist to open up a small doorway. Dan first had to make his hole a little bigger, climb in and dig out the area behind the foundation wall where the door would be cut. The concrete guy needed space on both sides of the wall to get his cutter in so he could cut all the way to the ground level.

This gave my husband a taste of what the project would be like. The dirt was packed. Packed hard like concrete. You couldn’t just shovel it into a bucket. No, no. The top foot and a half was like hardened cement and below that was densely packed clay. He had to use his air chisel to break apart the top 18” of dirt. It was unbelievably difficult to dig out - especially while crawling and lying on his stomach - just trying to make space behind where the door would be. But he managed to get it done and the concrete guy was happy to work efficiently for cash. No questions asked.

Once the doorway was cleared of the neatly cut concrete wall, the real digging could begin. Dan and our boys set up an assembly line with Christmas lights for light and sleds to pull the buckets to dump in the far reaches of the large crawl space. My boys, crawling, could empty about 20 buckets in 3 hours working together. They could barely walk afterward from being so contorted in such a small space maneuvering extremely heavy buckets. 20 buckets doesn’t make a dent in the amount of earth needed to be moved. Not a dent! And my husband could only dig for 2 to 3 hours before being completely exhausted. They did this maybe four times before we had to rethink the whole project. Besides, it became clear that there was no way that e other crawl space could hold even a quarter of the dirt from the space he was digging. Not a chance. We didn’t consider how packed dirt takes up so much more area when dug and loosened.

So, a couple of months passed and the potential hidden room sat neglected. The kids were all very busy with school and our business was still in its’ busy season, so the secret room went on the back burner.

But, then the New Year came. Our business comes to a screeching halt in January for about three months. So it was decided that the room must be completed.

Because we were wanting to keep this whole thing obscure - we had a major dilemma now with what to do with 42 cubic yards of packed earth. We are friendly and chatty with everyone on our block, so there was absolutely no way we could have an ever growing pile of dirt in our yard without every neighbor wanting to know and see what we were doing. Not to mention that we were not getting the proper permission (permits) from our local government, so we had to keep this covert. Thankfully, the block tends to somewhat hibernate during the winter. The neighbors aren’t out in their yards as much, so we thought a small pile might go unnoticed. But, we would need to get rid of it frequently and discreetly.

Dan dug, filled buckets and carried them out and made a small pile of maybe 2 cubic yards of dirt. We put an ad on Craigslist for free dirt. Within a few days a couple people had come by and shoveled a few buckets worth full of dirt - but not even enough was taken to remove our small pile. At this rate we would never get rid of it. It took people too long to shovel it up into their truck beds and anyone needing a large amount would never come and remove our small piles one at a time. This process would take forever.

But then Dan had the genius idea of putting an ad on Craigslist saying “Free dirt, you bring your trailer, we’ll fill it, you haul it away.” Within a couple of days we received a call from a lady not too far away who needed fill dirt to raise up an area around her garage because her home was in a flood plain. She would take as much as she could get. So we got started - she brought a small trailer over, never asked us what we were doing and we told her we would call her when it was full.

I decided I couldn’t watch my husband dig alone, so during the days while our children were in school we dedicated two hours to digging, each and every day. At first we could only handle doing 40 buckets in about two hours time. The work area was so small at this point we would have to take turns axing the big chunks off the hard top and then I would fill the buckets and he would haul them through the basement, up the stairs, out of the garage where he would dump them into the trailer. Yes, the dust and dirt was excessive which helped motivate us to get the job done. On snowy days, there would be a mud trail through the basement to the trailer. Thankfully our basement has hard floors and not carpet. What a mess.

At first we were completely exhausted after 40 buckets, sweating profusely and totally worn out. But within a couple of weeks we were marveling at how our stamina had increased. At the start I was having trouble heaving the buckets out of the doorway for Dan to take, and his legs were exhausted from going up the stairs with a minimum of 50 lbs in each bucket, a bucket in each hand. But, our strength was growing by leaps and bounds and by dedicating two hours a day we were making incredible progress. It wasn’t long and we could do 60 buckets in two hours and that filled the small trailer. The trailer lady was great at first about coming daily and getting the trailer emptied and back the same day. But, soon we could do 60 buckets in 1 hour 15 minutes and we wanted to keep going. Her daily pickup slowly became every other day, then every 3rd day. This was not moving fast enough for us. We were starting to see a room emerge which made us want to dig all the more.

We also were getting really good at digging. We joked about how we should be miners since we had been digging in near darkness by the light of two corded mechanics trouble lights in what became known as “The Cave“. Soon I could wield the big mattock and fill buckets faster than any girl and Dan was virtually running up the stairs with buckets in each hand. We were having fun.

One day we decided after filling the trailer to go ahead and start making a pile behind a hedge in the rocks next to the driveway. That day we moved 120 buckets. We spent every day after that doing as much as we could - both filling her trailer and adding to the pile. When the pile was around 8 cubic yards big, we decided we had to get rid of it immediately. We found a guy offering Bobcat services on Craigslist for removal of dirt, concrete, rock and such. Due to the economy and his willingness to work, he gave us a very fair deal on the removal of the dirt. And because he could dump it on the Trailer Lady’s land he didn’t have to pay for disposal of the dirt. We were all happy.

We had our Bobcat guy come two more times all the while continuing to fill the trailer again and again. The last day of digging we squared the 2’ thick earthen ledges and leveled the floor. That day we moved more than 200 buckets.

Due to the fact the two most outer walls did not go down to the floor level, we had to leave an earthen ledge. In researching, we found a 2’ thick earth ledge could keep the walls from shifting, especially since the earth was so hard. So, now we had a level dirt floor, squared ledges and it looked like a room.

The digging was complete! Now it was time for real lighting so we put in 10 recessed can lights between the floor joists above our heads and electrical outlets on the walls. Ahhh, let there be light!

Okay, now we had to decide how to get concrete into this room. We have a lean to structure designed to house our trash cans. This sits on the exterior wall of The Cave. We opened up the trash house, pulled out the cans and cut a 2’ x 2’ hole in the outer wall at ground level. Because we have a raised ranch home, he was able to do this. Dan installed a fire-rated panel access door for commercial buildings he found on Craigslist for $20. The hole, not only was a secondary egress, but also a way to bring in the concrete.

The hole was just big enough to get the concrete chute through it. We called back the same concrete guy who cut the door through the foundation wall. We set up the concrete delivery, and he and his son poured and leveled 6” of concrete on the floor and up and over the earthen ledges. The room - for our purposes - was done.

After the concrete dried we spent several days moving all of our preparations into our new 12’ x 24’ room. One half of the room is dedicated to food storage, canning supplies, distilling equipment, barterable items, etc. The other half is for firearms and tactical equipment, including a reloading area, large safe and ammo storage. The temperature remains almost constant because there is no heat coming in and it is mostly underground. It is cool, dry and perfect for storage.

The room is concealed in the following ways. The opening under the clothes dryer has been sealed off. The exterior hatch in the trash house cannot be opened from the outside and is concealed behind a door and trash cans. The interior opening (the main door going into The Cave) has a heavy 5’ x 3’ steel door with a commercial non electric push code lock. Right now we have a large wardrobe/armoire in front of it which has been discretely bolted into place to conceal The Cave entrance. The armoire houses various jackets and coats which hides the false back which can be slid over easily to reveal the steel door entrance. Just picture The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe, from The Chronicles of Narnia.

The room is perfectly hidden. Nobody would suspect it is even there. Our assets and preparations are finally out of sight. We go “shopping” in our Cave about once a week to bring up food that needs to rotate and Dan spends quite a bit of time in there reloading ammunition. It is spacious and organized. We have built shelves and it is the perfect way to keep this stuff secret while living in the crowded suburbs. Ironically, our neighbors never inquired about the dirt pile or the concrete truck and I imagine they have long forgotten.

We wanted this project to be as minimal in cost as possible. It was a large undertaking for us in terms of labor, but to add almost 300 square feet, the $2,000 we spent (for concrete work and lighting, etc.) was really quite worth it. We are not engineers, but due to common sense and research [and concrete], we knew what we needed to do to keep our house from falling in on us. We were confident in our abilities and judgment to not need to involve the local building authorities to give us permission to do this. But, this is a decision that needs to be taken seriously because one can destroy the foundation of their home if they dig improperly, not to mention get themselves in a lot of trouble, both with the law and financially.

But, you never know, you might have lurking in your suburban home quite a few extra square feet to hide the things you want out of sight. Think creatively, and don’t be scared of hard work. It gets easier every day. And ladies, don’t make your husbands do all the physical work. We can do far more than just the food-related preps. Build the chicken coop with him, learn to shoot, dig out a cellar with him. It will build your marriage and you’ll get stuff done twice as fast.

Growing up and living on the Gulf Coast, for about 50 years, has given a lot of evacuation experiences to me. The most educational evacuation for us was Hurricane Rita.

We thought Rita was coming inland way south of us. A family had evacuated to our house. Got a early morning call, that Rita had grown and was heading right at us. Visitors were sent on their way and we began loading up. Now loading up is a major logistics operation, as we have a farm. We successfully evacuated 4 equines, 3 dogs, 3 people and 3 vehicles. 7 goats, 2 horses and 2 cats didn't get to leave. The cats couldn't be found. We labeled the staying horse's halters with names and cell phone numbers. Our farm wouldn't flood, but wind would be a problem. Luckily our neighbor, a National Guard member would be staying home and guarding the neighborhood.

The word was that most fair grounds had been rented by large horse farms to house their evacuating horses and their friends horses. So I began making calls. Had a lead in San Antonio. But surprise, the highways were already controlled by the police. We couldn't even head west. We couldn't even get out of our neighborhood and head north. The roads were already parking lots. More phone calls. We got a connection in a small town, north of us a couple of hours. Okay, off we go, south to a back road, only locals know. We took it and saved more than 3 hours, in just 20 minutes.

What did we learn? Most important possession is a State Atlas, with all those tiny back roads drawn in. This saved our necks. Think outside the box. Going South sometimes is a better short cut.

Each driver should have a walkie-talkie, cell phone and car charger. Carry lots of drinking water, and snacks All fuel tanks full. Chances are you will not find any fuel, or else you can't get into the station. A bucket for a toilet. Each vehicle have good quality flashlights and extra batteries water bowl with water for each dog leash kept on each dog Dramamine in case pet gets sick. Yeah, my border collie had problems. Most of the time we were stopped and would let the dogs out for a few minutes Any horse trailer, should be kept totally opened, all vents and even the back door. A cow panel, cut to fit, will be a fine door for the back of a horse trailer. Attached to the trailer securely, of course. Remember, the heat build up in a non-moving trailer is atrocious. Keep water buckets full and in front of each horse. Keep electrolytes nearby and in use. Hose down all horses at every opportunity. (For example gas stations, friends' homes, and kindly people's homes.) This saved our 40 year-old pony.

We crossed lots of gridlocked highways to continue on our gravelly back roads. When we came to and needed to cross these parking lots, we would assure the drivers we wanted to cross, not to join them. Every-time, they made room for our entourage to cross and continue on. The typical travel time to our destination was 2-1/2 hours. Our back roads trip, took 12 hours. We had to pass through a few little towns and they were gridlocked, also. The typical driver, on the designated hurricane evac route to this same destination would have arrived after 24 hours or more. We pulled into our unknown, wonderful, future friends' farm, at midnight. We unloaded by flashlight and set up a small corral-panel pen by feel. We all made it safe and sound. God blessed and kept us safe. Oh yes, all our animals that we left at the farm were safe. There was lots of property damage, but that is another story. A quick thank you to all those wonderful people who gave out water, to the evacuating masses. Many of you sat in the back of pickup trucks with water containers and would bring water to the cars, as they crept by your drive-ways. God bless you. - Horsewoman

The Food Crisis of 2010. (Thanks to F.J. for the link.)

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Also from F.J.: Coleman Quad Lantern. [JWR Notes: I suspect that these are made in Mainland China, so buyer beware!)

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Dave B. mentioned another good reason to store extra fuel: Fuel imports into France surge as protests imperil transportation.

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SurvivalBlog's correspondent David in Israel mentioned: "A good link for everyone is SpaceWeather.com. It is a good way to get your radio prop reports and also track flares which might damage satellites or power grids. There is a new solar flare coming, it will probably just make HF carry better via ionospheric skip. Get out your 10 meter band sets and see what you can do."

"Didn't seem to me that Owen Chantry was taking any chances, though. When he put his pants on in the morning he also put on his gun belt and his gun. Most men put their hat on first. He put on that gun belt 'fore he drew on his boots. 'You figurin' on trouble?' I asked him once. He threw me a hard look. 'Boy,' he said, 'when a man comes at me shooting I figure he wants a fight. I surely wouldn't want him to go away disappointed. I don't want trouble or expect trouble, but I don't want to be found dead because I was optimistic. I'll wear the gun, use my own good judgment, be careful of what I say, and perhaps there won't be trouble.' " - Louis L'Amour in "Over on the Dry Side"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Today we present two entries for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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 discussions with other members of the preparedness world one thing becomes abundantly clear. Training is secondary to supplies and generally is handled exclusively by the head of the household. I have found that being a former Marine, and a gun enthusiast, as well as the director of my family's survival plan that many conversations with others all end up at the same spot on the map. The question I pose to the other males leading the charge is, “what happens when the SHTF and you go down early by brick/bullet or from a tap on the shoulder from Murphy?” The response tends to be a collection of, “well I know how not to get hurt”, or “I am aware and well planned” or any other combination of how well trained they are. But at the end of the day, we are all subject to failure at the worst possible moment.

Often neglected in home or family survival is a combination of simple military training tools combined with civilian business training. In the military, in day one small unit tactics, there is the responsibility to learn your assigned task then teach it to others in the unit. Each person has a task, radioman or medic or team leader etc. Once you have your area down you teach others. The theory behind is simple; as someone gets hurt or killed the next person can step up and know what to do to continue the mission. In the world of survival if the train stops due to one person being down or out then the chance increases that everybody could soon follow and that is unacceptable. This is mandatory for anyone in the group that takes the time to learn something or attend a class. Knowledge confined to one person, that is so rampant in the civilian business community, is the exact polar opposite of what is needed by any group working to function as a team.

When tactical training practice is overlooked, as being standard procedure, we become a Murphy beacon. Military and survivalist alike need to understand Immediate Action (IA) drills. It is imperative to understand how and why rally points and action plans need to be set up and practiced before, during and after an event. This concept seems easy if you have been trained or are dealing with others that have been similarly trained, but for a vast majority of people in the affected group, to include family of all ages, this is an area where nobody would expect an issue to arise until the trouble starts – and at that point, it's too late.

The modern family unit, or first group to have to move or connect with other groups, is of the utmost importance to conduct both mind and body drills. With this in mind I would like to introduce business-training techniques into the busy modern family to accomplish this goal. Businesses are always dynamic creatures, growing and changing, always striving to be better.  Changes in procedure are always communicated to the affected group, followed by mandatory training and finally the change is implemented.  All of these steps are handled by those that have a full understanding of the current mission before it starts. If you view children and spouses as employees, they have little time or desire for long boring and dry training sessions. Getting everyone involved and on track is tantamount to a successful completion of assigned tasks.

As a leader, one goal you should have when dealing with a varied audience is to develop your own creativity. You must find a way to take complex tasks and break them down into simple steps for all concerned. The worst thing you can do is stand in front of a group and read from a book. Some may learn effectively in this manner, but when in times of stress, nobody is going to remember what they heard or read unless it is reinforced with hands-on practical training. I have a young son, as I have been explain to him throughout the years, that tactical awareness and knowing what and who is around him is one of the most important things he can learn and accomplish. He loves video games, especially first person shooters, this works well in teaching him small unit tactics, over watch and ambush drills in the safety of our home. I then couple this with walk and talk at the local park as we “play” and practice the same activity to increase muscle memory so at a time of high stress he reacts like he was trained.  I create these small sessions to get him learning and doing so it becomes second nature.

Is this foolproof? No, of course not, but we live in a fast paced society with busy jobs and lives. Carving out time each week to maintain the skills we have learned is difficult, let alone incorporating and teaching new practices. My wife is different then my son in her likes and dislikes but her love of our family and her natural desire to survive gives great strength to our training and practice sessions. Even with her, I find myself spending a lot of time focusing on “What If…” scenarios. I meld this way of thinking into our daily lives, while we are driving, sitting at dinner waiting for food, or in any other situation where we find ourselves with a few extra minutes. By doing this, I am effectively crafting activities and practices that my wife can put in place during times of struggle. For years I have been training her on being aware and using cover and concealment, which thankfully, she knows the difference, because when a real life situation happened her training kicked in.

Late at night, at a deserted gas station, my wife was approached by a drunken stranger who had an agenda of malice. My wife was able to keep focus on the situation at hand. She maintained eye contact on the stranger; she actively kept a safe distance and kept the car between herself and the larger male. During the brief interaction with the stranger, she quickly assessed the situation and developed a mental plan of action in case things got out of hand. This is a prime example of how the “What If” training kicked in, followed up by the “if this then that” forward thinking mindset. During this event my son was in the car. He immediately locked all of the doors, removed his seatbelt and placed himself in the middle of the car incase he had to escape the vehicle on either side. He immediately began to scan the area, watching for others that might be approaching and watching mom when she was had to leave the vehicle, touch base with the scared gas attendant, and contact the authorities.  While my son was giving the arriving officer a detailed description of the stranger, he observed the very same stranger appear from a wooded area and reenter the gas station behind the officer. My wife was able to handle the situation staying aware, and like a trained soldier, give an after action report to me so we could then dissect the positive and negatives to shape our future training sessions. It was after this event my wife finally relented and got her concealed weapon permit.

Tactics and "what to do if you are in charge" concepts are a necessity for everybody on the team. My family does not always see the big picture on why I may focus on one training concept more than the next or how individual training sessions can be combined into series of tactical approaches to a situation. Having been in the Marines, I understand that ideas without actions and goals without training will lead to failure. This is true in business and life. If you have all the jobs and responsibility during a crisis there will be a point where you either need sleep or perhaps receive a minor injury and you will need to rely on others to pick up the slack. Does your team, or family, know how to set up an Observation Post (OP)? If there was an attack in the immediate area, or they got lost or ambushed, do they know where to rally?  Do they know how to treat or care for wounds? At the very least, do they know why we don't use the bathroom in the same vicinity as the water supply? If the answer to all of the above is no, then there is a good chance that you will fail. Why not plan a camping trip or a few nature walks with your family and start your own progression of training evolutions?

My wife and I have practice driving techniques while on long family vacations, both talking about what to do and what jobs are whose and what happens if someone goes down. We have done multi car driving adventures to test the skills as well as communication gear and GPS and map reading skills. We as a family have used crowed malls and sports events to practice movement in crowds and hands on direction and movement drills. My son knows without a doubt when I grab his shoulder and start to move him it’s because I see a threat and he is to comply, to the point that if my wife or I take it to the ground that he goes down and makes himself small, allowing us to cover him while making ready with our firearm for defense. It is little moments and opportunities in our normal fast paced life that we can take advantage of and use for training.

The business world and major world events are ever changing, having all the ability and knowledge locked into one person’s head is practicing for disaster. I end all of our training events with the question to my wife, if I go down what is your job?  I then follow it up with the same question to my son, if Mom goes down, what is your new job? We are always prayerful that we never need what we practice, but we plan for the worst. I buy important items in threes. That includes fire starters, water purifiers, maps, etc.  If I go down or my cargo is lost or destroyed, I need to know that the others have when they need to keep going. The last thing I want is to my son to end up lugging three packs with him because his mother and I fell out. If I take a class on firearms that I can’t take with others in my family then my job is to spread the wealth. If my wife learns how to can foods or dress a deer what good does it do if she is the only one with that knowledge? Taking tactical training and making it applicable for others and breaking it down to teachable chunks, that all can understand, and finding ways to make it fun is the challenge, but so is the heart of why we do it. Survival – it’s pure and simple.

All over the Internet are articles on surviving really hard times that are expected.  I note with some humor that most of these articles are talking to about 28-46 years old age groups, at least under-50 somethings.   I have seen nothing directed to the under 26 year-old or much over the 50 year-old.  Considering that we have a problem with what has been termed as an aging society retiring, what about us folks that can no longer throw on a 70 lb pack and hike 20 miles into the wilderness, or no longer have a sufficient income to prepare a TEOTWAWKI retreat?  Since we fall into the aging and retired category, I am going to focus on what we have done in preparation. 

Since I am 70 and my wife is over 60, and our sole steady money income is SS, our ability to put together a truly sustainable lifestyle is very limited.  Because of our age, planning for 20-30 years down the road is unrealistic.  As we age, our vitality for projects like we have taken on is reduced so every major project takes more time to accomplish.  We have currently taken on just about all we can handle.  Oh to be 40 again and all that energy to be put to creative endeavors and self-sufficiency.  

We did sell our house in an expensive area at the height of the housing bubble (which we had predicted would crash soon) and used the proceeds to buy the least expensive one acre plot in a working class neighborhood that we could find in another state.  Very low population density in the area, nearest large city of 85,000 is 30 miles from us.  For $62,000 we got one acre, only partially fenced, a well, a septic system, a single wide 1974 trailer, and a 1½ car garage, well house and a large lean-to wood shed.  We used up another segment of the house sale to put in another deeper well (original was 15 feet), upgrade the septic system, and fence in about 2/3 of the property.  Since the trailer would be prohibitively expensive to heat with wood due to coding requirements, we installed a wood heater in the garage for emergency-keep-warm circumstances and to make it possible to work on projects during the winter.  The trailer is heated with an electric forced air system and we have a back up propane space heater with a years worth of propane in the tank.  Because our well burps up water with large quantities of iron and sulfur, we got a relatively expensive large ceramic water filter for drinking. 

The area we live in has a multitude of mini climates and it can freeze at night anytime from June to September, and does every year.  The ground is poor, being composed of 35 feet of volcanic ash, which is okay for bitter brush and pine trees, lousy for vegetable gardens.  When we moved here, we were told by the “experts” that growing a garden and supplying food was impossible and not to bother.  In my life I have found that when experts make absolute statements, it probably isn’t true, or only partially true.  Being rather cynical in our old age, we decided to try anyway.  First year was a disaster, got a few fresh snacks for our effort.  We started composting heavily, trucked in about 20 pick up loads of horse manure and the second year was a bit better. That year we put in a small greenhouse as a supplement and to extend the growing season a bit on both ends and by the third year, we supplied almost our entire non-meat diet for the summer,  bought a freezer and put up enough to last the winter, sold, gave away and bartered food.  Not bad for a 1,500 sq ft garden area.  The second year we made a place for chickens in the lean-to wood shed and started to provide enough eggs for our use and enough to sell to pay for their feed.  The third year I constructed rabbit hutches and we started to supply some of our own meat. 

I will admit right off that growing a vegetable garden in this area is tough.  We’ve had a rather steep learning curve on how to do it because of the abysmal growing conditions.  Needless to say, the growing season is comparatively short here, so we can’t grow much that takes over 100 days to maturity nor highly temperature sensitive plants outside of a greenhouse, like winter squash, soybeans, pole beans, tomatoes etc.  But it can be done. 

Through all of this development, my wife has also contributed with cooking most meals from scratch from our own produced food whenever possible, and she has been writing a gardening column for the local paper for three years now. We both belong to the local Grange and a local political action group fighting with the county government over some of its nonsense.  She regularly gifts and barters food and we are trying to provide a lifeboat for her son if things get really bad.  We are a tad busy.  And I thought when we retired we would indulge ourselves in our hobbies and just have a good time.  Hah! 

Our food supply is not 100% self sufficient and probability never will be.  Just too much work for our aging bodies to take on.  In the last six years, we have also stockpiled enough food to last us about a year on a minimum diet.  If everything suddenly shuts down, we can make it for a year or so if we are very careful.  If the electricity is shut off for an extended time we insured at least drinking water by the purchase of an Amish water dipper for the well and found a used generator for the short term to keep the water and refrigeration going as long as I can feed it gas.

In anticipation of things getting really tough, and my conservative inclinations included, I could not bear the thought of throwing away rabbit hides.  So I dried them until I could take the time to learn to tan hides.  I also found some other folks in the area that raise rabbits in far greater amounts than we do and got their hides they saved (for the same reason) in the freezer for a very reasonable amount of money.  I now have a stack of rabbit hides worked and tanned pelts to make clothing and such for the winter projects, hopefully to barter and trade and some for our own use.  Hunter friends have promised whatever hides they can come up with for this years hunting season to convert to buckskin for clothing and other uses.  I’ve already gotten half of an antelope hide which I tanned out as a pelt.  Not sure what to do with it yet. 

Our efforts have not gone unnoticed in the area and quite a number of other retired folks have taken on some similar projects, mostly at a reduced level from ours.   We are in contact with other retired folks doing much the same as we are, scattered around the country that live where they don’t have to deal with our lousy growing conditions.  They also recognize their limitations but are doing the best they can.  We all bemoan the lack of some younger people to help out with the heavy work that needs to be done to increase viability.  Our observations are that the younger people that are interested in this kind of living are few and far between and have little interest in some kind of cooperative endeavor to keep us all alive in the event of a TEOTWAWKI situation. 

So, you might ask; why at our age are we doing this?  Good question.  If our living situations become as bad as I see it potentially happening, there is going to have to be some older folks around that have seen and understand the consequences of the massive changes in the world that have taken place in the last 50+ years and pass that on to the younger folks.   Older folks are also needed to pass down long lost skills on how to live without much outside help (and maybe without electricity and running water), like how to fix things, or make work-a-rounds for impossible to find parts or devices.  My observations say there is not much interest in this from the younger folks, so I will hopefully be around to teach the small amount of it that I know when the SHTF

On September 25, 2008, you posted some economic collapse indicators to watch for. I am interested to learn if you have any updates/changes/additions to these indicators. Thank you. - D. in Arizona.

JWR Replies: I don't have any significant changes to that list. Ominously, one of the last items on my list ,"The Treasury starts to extensively monetize debt" has recently been announced, under the euphemism "Quantitative Easing". Speaking of which, several readers sent us this article from Forbes: magazine: QE2 actions will lower dollar and raise gold. That, dear readers, is massive monetization, by any other name!

Be ready.

Oh, and to explain that last item on that list: "Mel Gibson moves to Fiji". I included that as a joke, but in fact he does own an island there.

John Williams Warns of "Severe and Violent Sell-Off in Stocks" (Thanks to G.G. for the link.)

Desperate for revenue: Local Property Taxes Soaring in New York.

The Daily Bell editors ask: As Goes Iceland, so Goes the EU?

N.I.M. flagged this item in the New York Times: Bernanke Weighs Risks of New Action. Any attempts are injecting new liquidity are futile. The U.S. Dollar will be wrecked by the Fed's policies. My advice: Continue to buy silver on the dips!

Items from The Economatrix:

24 Statistics About the US Economy Embarrassing to Admit

Global Illusions Stemming From Money Printing

Robo-Signing Eviction Scandal Rattles Wall Street

The Fed Has Gone Insane So I'll Just Pick Up Some More Gold & Silver (The Mogambo Guru)

America's New Poor: End of the Middle-Class Dream

Gerald Celente On $5,000 Gold, Currency Crisis, and the Crash of 2010

From B.B.: Science may have found silver bullet for the common cold.

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Reader K. sent us to a nice history of food as a weapon, over at the WRSA site.

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More bureaucracy: New Rules Coming for Payments Out of Health Savings Accounts. The article begins: "Under the new health care law, consumers using workplace pre-tax health savings accounts will soon need a doctor's note to pay for Tylenol and an estimated 15,000 other over-the-counter drugs."

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Popular Science asks: How Quickly Could a Single Supervirus Spread to Every Single Person on Earth? (Thanks to The Elf for the link.)

"Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world.; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise." - Albert Camus, The Plague

Monday, October 18, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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 thought I would share some thoughts on my weekend bug out bag guerrilla camping trip. My purpose was to use my BOB in the manner in which I expected to have to use it in an emergency. My general plan has been to get away from people, camp with stealth, and wait for the dust to clear.  With this in mind I mostly want to put my gear through its paces and get my body used to the rigors of backpacking.

I live in central Connecticut.  I am a man in my 40s and have a dropped foot in a brace.  I am an experienced outdoorsman and feel quite at home in the woods, however it had been a few years and before my injury since I had been backpacking. The selected area was the east slope of a mountain in the Metacomet range (It is a traprock ridge only about 800 ft high).  The ground in this area is broken basalt, talus terrain. It is exceedingly difficult to hike on, especially with a 30-40 lb pack.  If you fall, the best you can hope for is a sharp rock in the knee.  So don’t fall – use a hiking stick.  This does have the advantage of minimizing recreational day hiker density. The conditions have been dry and the day (9/11/10) was clear and beautiful – just like 9/11 in 2001. The overnight temperature was predicted to be around 50, with a light wind and no rain until the afternoon of the next day.  A 19 year old former Marine friend of mine ("CJ") and I got out a bit late: about 3:00 pm. We drove to the parking spot entrance to the chosen “wilderness area”. Our biggest issue was to enter the woods without being seen. Camping is not allowed here. We had been back in the area previously checking out a “dormer” on the slope that looked like a potential flat area (camp site) on the map, and also was far enough from the hiking trail not to be stumbled upon. I viewed the area with Google Earth to get an idea of the traffic on and around the site. I was particularly concerned about vehicular access to the site. I figured the worst we would have is an ATV rider, not a ranger or a cop. It being September the deciduous forest canopy gave us (some) cover from the air.

My BOB is based around a forest green Kelty Trekker external frame pack. I bought it mail order from Campmor for about $120. It has the usual 2 main pockets, plus 5 additional 1 qt. pockets and a map pocket on the top flap. I have a North Face mummy sleeping bag that I have used since Boy Scouts 30 years ago.  I have used it in winter weather down to 0 degrees F or so, so this is a piece of equipment that I absolutely trust. I also have a Thermorest self-inflating sleeping pad, wrapped around a Sven folding saw (don’t lose that wingnut!)  For shelter I choose a tarp. In my experience tents are too heavy, too fragile, and too visible. There are no poles to carry, and if pitched properly can give you 360 degree weather protection and a ground sheet. My tarp is aprox. 10’x12’, grommeted and cord reinforced on the edges, and it is earth brown. It was also inexpensive – about $10 at the dollar store. I carry a 2l pop bottle filled with water, and 2 additional 1l bottles of water. In addition I carry a GI canteen with steel cup and canvas holder. I have a Sweetwater water filter but for this trip I left it in the car as I intended to boil water for this short trip if I should run out of potable water. Surface water in the area is plentiful. Rations included Cliff bars, instant oatmeal, Ramen noodles, Tea and sugar, canned sardines, and cigarettes. (Sorry to say I’m still an addict).

Here is a list of gear:
2 Large black plastic 55g. trash bags (many uses)
Knit hat
Insulated leather work gloves (for working with a fire)
Extra socks
Inside another plastic bag:
Change of clothing, including another pair of socks
Polypropylene long johns
A towel and a washcloth
Rain gear: Advantage camo jacket and pants – at the top of the pack
A sweatshirt/windbreaker jacket with hood (it was that or a sweater)
First aid/personal care kit (inside a plastic nestle quick box)
            Lidocaine pad – for stings
            Gauze dressing sponges
            Bandage tape
            Antibiotic ointment*
            Tweezers (eyebrow type)           
            Nail clipper – don’t leave home without one
            Toothbrush & paste*
            Floss (a whole 100y roll – can be used for snares, fishing)
            Duct tape (wrapped around container such that it can still be opened)
            A muslin triangle bandage
            Medicine : Imodium, benadryl, ibuprofen
            Eyeglass repair kit
            A small bar of soap*
            Comb – even though I have no hair
            Sewing kit*
            Surgical scissors and fine tip forceps from a suture removal kit
Insect repellent*
Clip on sunglasses – the kind the eye doctor gives you so you can drive home after an appointment
(I need to add burn cream)
* indicates travel size/ hotel size

“Survival” gear:
            A mylar survival “blanket”
            A combo whistle, compass, and match safe, with strike anywhere matches
            Small fishing kit, including an onion bag net
            A Swiss army knife
            An orange Bic lighter
            A magnesium fire starter
            A plumber’s candle
            A film container filled with Vaseline soaked cotton balls
            A roll of spiderwire fishing line

Mess: a 2 liter stainless steel pot with lid and handle that folds up and over.
            A large spoon
            A small bottle of salt (makes all that wild food palatable)

Misc: A bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint 18-in-1 pure castile soap
            2 hunks of paracord
            A deck of cards
            A grease pencil and a small pad of paper
            Spare glasses
            An LED headlamp and extra batteries
            A small bastard file for sharpening tools

A repair kit with cotter pins for the pack and an extra wing nut for the saw
At the last moment I threw in a fleece stadium blanket and a couple of apples.
Note that most of the weight came from two categories:

  • shelter/bedroll
  • water

Other than my pack and clothes I also carry a walking staff made from an ash tool handle with a carriage bolt gorilla glued into the tip.  I also carry a Cold Steel Bushman knife, which incidentally fits on the end of the staff to use for self protection (Bears are back in Connecticut!). Oh, and don’t forget that in my pockets are: my wallet, car keys, a cell phone (turned off), a “Whittler” boy scout knife, also from my youth, and a disposable lighter (and another pack of smokes). I always wear an olive drab 1970s era boonie hat.  CJ wasn’t as prepared, and asked to borrow a cutting tool. I had two hatchets. The first is a simple camp hatchet with an orange fiberglass handle. The other is a hickory handled framing hatchet. He chose the framing hatchet. I don’t blame him: it is a pretty thing, like a tomahawk.

The woods in this area are fairly open: not a lot of underbrush. On the initial trail hiking was good. Probably 2 mph. Despite my best efforts, something was clanking in my pack. It wasn’t very loud, but bothered me after awhile. I think it was the spoon in the mess kit, or maybe a not fully filled canteen.  When we got into the hilly talus terrain, my speed slowed to less than ½ mph. I had to watch every step. Remember that I am handicapped. CJ had a much easier time, being younger and fitter. At one point I slipped and fell, but I was able to roll with it and was mostly unhurt. CJ stopped me from rolling all the way down the hill. Lesson: bring a partner. I could have been down and out, with a serious injury and no way out.

As we hiked I kept a lookout for wild edibles. Pot herbs were plentiful in the moist areas. There were lots of frogs, but most were too small, or were toads. Small frogs make great largemouth bass bait though: that is what the onion bag net is for. There were no squirrels to be found, and anyway I didn’t have a gun. There were literally tons of hickory and oak nuts, though. Their constant dropping made us feel like we were under fire J. At one point I made a huge find: about 20 lbs of chicken of the woods fungi growing out of a tree. I am a botanist by training, but not a mushroom expert, so I double-checked it’s identity with a photo-text message to a mushroom expert friend of mine – note that this option is not available after the crunch when the cell net is down! I am looking for a really good wild edible field guide that I can trust. I also saw a lot of bear scat and even a whole raccoon skeleton, which I didn’t touch for fear of rabies.

After an hour of bushwhacking my bad leg was taking a beating and had begun to hurt a lot. My pack was well balanced, but the straps still dug into my shoulders. The sternum strap helped a lot with this. CJ had no trouble with his pack, as he is a young former Marine. We had made it as far as we were going to go, and so began to look for a specific spot to camp. It would get dark soon. Almost like a miracle, up ahead of us was a natural Stonehenge: 5 or 6 truck sized boulders arranged in a semicircle. On the down-slope side was a relatively flat area for a tarp, and plenty of stones around for sitting on, building a fireplace, etc. There was no evidence that anyone had used this area, so it was “ours”.  It was nearly perfect. The stones provided cover from three sides, and as the downhill side faced nothing but deep woods, we had found a great “stealth site”. The biggest problem was that nowhere was there a spot that didn’t have a dozen head sized stones poking out. We cleared the area for a fire, and then worked at digging the worst of the stones out. I have a mini-shovel/spade that fits on the end of my staff also, but I had left it behind due to weight (mistake!). It would have made the stone clearing 10x less hard.  A back fill of leaves and forest duff would have to do for the unevenness. CJ built the fire pit and campfire while I pitched the tarp. Within an hour it was dark and we were sitting by the fire. A bit of petrol soaked cotton and a spark got our fire off great. The fleece blanket really came in handy as a butt cushion on those rocks. I smeared my pot on the sides and bottom with liquid soap (easier cleanup trick from boy scouts: the soot washes off, sort of) and put the tea on the fire.

The hatchet didn’t make it. After cutting tent stakes and cutting a pole for the tarp we decided to take turns throwing it at a dead tree. On the second throw the handle cracked right off the head of the axe. Lesson learned: don’t throw your hatchet unless you have a clue what you’re doing, and the axe is up to it
One nice thing about the big stones was that at night they blocked the light of the campfire. From the top of one stone I had a great view of the area, and was not blinded by the light of the campfire. The stones did have a lantern effect though; sending beams of flickering light out across the forest as it slipped between the rocks. Very cool, but it gave away our position. A bit of work (piling stones, brush) and the area was almost invisible to casual observation. From not too far off the tarp even resembled another giant stone, as they were about the same size and color. Inside the ring of stones the firelight and heat was reflected back into the campsite. Our fire was built inside a large ring of basalt stones. These proved to be excellent in retaining the heat of the fire throughout the night and into the morning, as basalt contains a lot of iron.

After dinner and tea we settled down to sleep. Everything hurt. The first time backpacking of the year really lets you know which muscles you need to work on. Even though we were deep in the woods, we could hear the sound of the freeway miles away. Sound really carried on the hill. Overnight my Thermorest pad deflated. This is why I was doing this, to check the reliability of my gear. I guess I will invest in a closed cell sleeping pad.

I woke to the sound of a motorbike.  Wouldn’t you know they were heading right for us? I was surprised that we only had about 30 seconds between first hearing the approaching vehicles and when they passed by. I guess our stealth site worked, because the three bikes passed by only about 50 feet away from our site (on an uphill trail I hadn’t seen the night before) and did not appear to notice our camp. If we had had I fire going I am sure they would have noticed, but we only used the fire after dark, to hide the smoke signature. Then again, they weren’t supposed to be there either! I am sure that a ranger or a search team would have been able to find us easily, but after all, we were in Connecticut, not Quebec. The woods are only so deep here.

After policing camp and returning it to its semi-natural state, the hike back was a bit easier, as we were going downhill, and didn’t have the weight of water or food to carry. In a bug out situation we would have been carrying both, but this was just an overnight trip. In addition, we wouldn’t have been heading back to the car, but deeper into the wilderness, so there is a morale issue here too. I was looking forward to a nice chair and a bath, after TEOTWAWKI those creature comforts would be gone, at least for the foreseeable future.

So what did I learn? First of all, be sure you have equipment that you know how to use and can trust not to fail on you. Know where everything is in your pack: this makes it easier to find in the dark without a light. My burden was not excessive, and well distributed, but after an hour or so of humping it over a mountain I was ready for a break. I need to stop smoking. Not only will cigs be unavailable or extremely expensive after the crunch, but the carbon monoxide load they cause reduced my endurance greatly. Practice! Those skills you read about won’t do you a bit of good if you haven’t practiced them. Have you really ever made a fire without a lighter or matches? The first time I tried fire by friction (in the Boy Scouts) it took hours for me to get the hang of it, and that was with a pre-made bow and drill set. What about cooking over a fire? Accidentally dumping your pot in the fire happens a lot unless you know what you are doing. Finally, bring some burn cream. You will need it! When I got home I was able to repack my kit, but this wouldn’t have been the case if it wasn’t a practice trip.

My goal of this essay has been to encourage the armchair survivalists out there – you know who you are - to get out in the woods to practice woodcraft skills and evasion, and especially to condition yourselves to the hardships of living out of a BOB. Don’t think you have it all covered because you have $2,000 worth of camping equipment in the trunk of your car. Body conditioning is hard work. Remember, you are going to have to carry all that stuff at some point, so it better be worth the weight. I am beginning to understand that bugging out into the woods may not be a viable option in the long term. I guess that I need a retreat! - Stranger


The lady who whose submission is in today's blog referenced the book Joy of Cooking and you provided an Amazon link to the book. The praise for this book - and her quotes from the book - are without a doubt regarding earlier editions. Up until the 1980s or early 1990s The Joy of Cooking contained sections on food preservation, butchering rabbits and other game and a host of other "pioneer" kitchen skills. The current editions (and the last couple, for all I know) are severely dumbed-down with far less emphasis on these topics and more on things like "cooking light" and such.

So while it's a great book, folks should try to procure a used copy from the 1980s, or earlier. They shouldn't be expensive. - Matt R.

Hi Jim,
I spent two years as a security technician for a major armored car company. The idea that banks have silver coins in their circulation is quite remote. Banks get most of their coins from a Federal Reserve coin center pre wrapped and counted. All silver coins, Mexican, Canadian and other coins are thoroughly separated. I have been in one of these Federal Reserve centers and believe me they literally had buckets full of foreign coins. Any silver coins found in a bank would have to come from some local citizen spending them in a local store. Returned to the bank they would only get into circulation if the bank separated and rolled its own coins. [JWR Adds: For finding silver, the best coin rolls to ask for are customer-rolled coins--especially those from school districts. There are typically marked in pen with the customer's account number. ] The one bank on our weekly run that did separate and roll its own coins claimed the silver coins for its own use. And they were getting ready to shut down this process because the local labor costs far exceeded the cost of having the coins custom rolled by the federal reserve center. How much coin does an armored car carry? Our six-day-a-week runs usually averaged weekday 800 to 2,000 lbs of coins each day. Saturday we would perhaps have 200 to 300 lbs. All of our bank customers returned their counter coins not in rolls to the Federal Reserve to be separated and rolled except for one bank. Daily pickups of coins never came close to the amount of coins we were hauling into these towns. I was amazed. Where on Earth were all the coins going? Much more delivered than were being returned to the Federal Reserve? I would say the ratio in to out was 10/1.

Ever wonder how much money goes into an ATM machine? We used to put $250,000 into an ATM in a shopping mall once a week [both $10s and $20s.] It was one of the most dangerous operations we carried out. One to open and load the machine and the other with a 12 gauge shotgun held at high port, standing guard.

I also worked as a shift manager for a convenience store later and that is the place where I got silver coins each week. Often 20 to 40 coins a week. My manager didn't care if I traded them out of the cash drawer. Prowling distant small towns with second hand stores I have recently bought quarters for six times face value. And I do not mind paying $24 for American Eagles in plastic rounds either.

You cannot eat gold/silver nor $10 and $20 bills and the currently-issued coins. But you will be able to trade eventually with silver coins and gold coins for land and machinery. The best trade items will be cigarettes, alcohol, gasoline, diesel, kerosene, ammo, matches and toilet paper. You'd better learn how to make a casket out of pallets and line it with old cast off rugs.

In the area where we live there are massive construction of gas drilling pads being built. These pads usually are some 80 yards square, leveled off and then graveled. With an accompanying well-constructed graveled road and cattle guard at the road entrance. Gas wells here are usually 15,000 to 30,000 feet deep. Drilling platforms are huge to support the weight and some go to 90+ feet. Each site is like a small town with all the support trailers.

The other massive construction going on is the wind farms. Convoys of trucks carrying on each truck a single wide turbine blade or the generator truck-trailers that are 30- wheelers. The extra long trailers for the turbine support stems are 56-wheelers.

My wife and I both will be 70 soon. Little did we expect that the coming years will most likely be the most exciting times of our lives. I have been a prepper since 1970 and my wife and I have been preparing together since 1990. - J.W.C., from the red hills of western Oklahoma

Good Afternoon,

After reading the follow up post from Suburban 10 on his state of preparedness, I have just three comments to make:

1. Congratulations on getting to the level that you’re at now. Realizing that you are not at the level you need to be is half the battle.

2. Now that you have the red wheat berries and a grain mill it is time to take the next step and learn how to cook the wheat. It’s better to have practiced cooking your long term food storage items when you have had the luxury of time to experiment rather than waiting until Schumer time.

3. Make sure that you practice cooking on your wood stove. It is a different skill than using a gas or electric stove.

Thank you Mr. Rawles for your continued hard work on the blog and God bless you and your family. - Julie H.

R.F.J. mentioned this at Cool Tools: Footbike

   o o o

California man killed by rattlesnake.

   o o o

Like something out of a novel... Panic at the pumps: French motorists swamp petrol stations

   o o o

Until the end of 2010 Ready Made Resources is offering a new "Grand Slam Package" of storage foods, at 30% off. They are also offering a one ounce U.S. Mint Silver Eagle for each complete case of six cans of Mountain House foods ordered, as long as the spot price of silver stays below $30 per ounce. At the rate that silver is appreciating, that offer won't last long!

"People will survive this; some because of luck. If you have no food to eat, no warmth in the deep of winter, it doesn't matter whether little green men or Muhammed broke your world. You will still die frozen and hungry. But if you have enough to eat, just enough, and if you have some shelter and safety, again just enough, then maybe your living or dying might have something to do with whether you fall to madness and superstition, or whether you hold onto your rationality." - The fictional character Sergeant Fryderyk Milosz, Polish GROM special forces unit operator, in John Birmingham's novel "Without Warning"

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Today we present two entries for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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 college (in the early 1990s), I was educating myself about finance even though I was not employed in that industry, I felt that if I was going to be responsible for my own financial well being during life I better start my education. I learned quite a bit, but failed to act on any of the information.  I was constantly seeking more and more info, then I had a series of jobs changes and got married, our first house and hence missed the "dot com" stock rally on all levels. Looking back I associate this with information paralysis.
Lesson:  Action beats collecting information any day!

Leap forward to Y2K, I spent some time researching Y2K but was not concerned about the outcome (perhaps still naive). And we took no action to be ready in the event something did happen.

Sept. 11, 2001 was a day that shook me to my core not only did we lose loved ones it showed how fragile our society and systems truly are.
My anxiety grew and grew knowing that this would only be the start of 'events', I felt almost paralyzed with inaction, I knew I needed to do something, but didn't know where to start or who to turn to for help or help getting started. For instance, I wanted to start a garden but didn't make the time and kept busy with other projects around the house. I was my own worst enemy.

From 2002 - 2004 I had submerged myself back into my work putting in 80-to-100 hours per week, seeking advancement, because that is what I felt I was meant to do.  When the job opportunity passed me by I was devastated, but stepped back and took the time to re-evaluate where we were in our lives (across the board).  We lived in one the nations largest  'metro' areas (OPSEC desire not to reveal info) away from any other family member. I was also feeling the pressure to get closer to family in case I needed more help with care for my wife; with her being a cancer survivor. I looked into a career change to allow us to move closer to family.  We felt it prudent to move while we were financially capable and she was in remission. 

Lesson: We can go through life with blinders on and not see that God's Grace carries us though even when we do not deserve.

Move forward again to 2005, I was very concerned with the state of the union and the zero down mortgage loans being offered to anyone who asked. To compound my fears my co-workers were leaving our well paying industry to become home builders... my mind was working overtime thinking about this gigantic bubble.  I re-read my financial books and started to pull together all the ways this could go wrong on a macro and micro level. This also reaffirmed that the days of keeping your nose to the grindstone is a big, shortsighted mistake.  As I had just spend the past 3.5 years burning both ends of my candle in my work and ignoring more relevant issues; even though I should have known better.

I discussed my fears and presented my findings with my wife and we moved all our 401(k) accounts into cash investments; keep in mind this was only 2005. I regretted that tactical move a few times as co-workers were proclaiming how much their funds had moved up this quarter or over the past year.   We had moved into some gold as an insurance policy. Note I didn't say inflation hedge as some of the materials I read show it isn't a hedge against inflation.

By 2007 my worst economic fear(s) were still not coming true; was I wrong?  Not according to the facts... then things were just starting to unravel across the edges of the US financial systems. To compound my anxiety I was still seeking to move to a state which would position us closer to family but not really doing anything to be prepared for such a move or self reliance.  We fully put our faith in God to deliver us on his time frame and in June 2008 our prayer came true. I was offered a position in another state where we could be very close to family and the icing on the cake was I could work from home a few days a week. 

We moved in Sept. 2008 (ring a bell as the start of the maelstrom?) and we were able to sell our home in Nov. 2008 (the height of the financial storm). During the crisis we both had more peace in our lives than we had in a number of years even as the markets fell freely; we were safe in God's grace and close by family. We lived with family and rented a home as our new home was being built (I know how contrarian) and we picked an outside the new metro area. Even while being repeatedly questioned by my new co-workers what would cause me to drive 1 hour + to work?  My initial response was, why do you drive 1 hour to cover 15 miles while I select to drive 70? How is that so different?  This "issue" quickly became a non-issue.   We selected the new living area due to it being close to natural spring and tons of wildlife (Deer, Turkey, Fish, Ducks, etc) and it is far enough away that we can ride out from most of the major waves from the coming failure. We also have two fallback locations to go to if conditions require it.

Since moving we have picked up some hunting and fishing skills, now I can catch, scale and filet a fish, I can also bring down small game, and we will see how I do this fall when deer hunting season opens. Don't laugh I had to learn it because I never was exposed to these activities growing up.

Lesson: The ' financial collapse' took longer than I could have ever imagined, and caused us considerable anxiety while falling into place (no pun intended). The collapse felt like we were moving in slow motion until the slippery slop inverted then it hit the gas like a road rage driver. We had placed full faith in God for our job and move process and he took care of it even as things were falling down across the globe. Sometimes, we rationalize away such discussions with God, how intently do you listen? Another lesson is that skills can come in all sizes, large and small and you never know when you might need them.

In 2009 we found the awesome SurvivalBlog web site and started to learn more about self reliance and we started small garden 60'x40' (or so we thought it was small), we had great ambitions however, between the manual tilling, weeding and bugs we realized many a great lesson (soil, soil treatments, hardiness zones, workload to till that much land by hand). Overall, we did get more out of the garden than we put into it, so we were intent on having a bumper crop in 2010.  We used the long winter learning about soil and how to treat it properly for crop growth. We had been collecting coffee grounds from the local (National) brand shop up the way (when they were available because the other home based farmers were collecting them too).  We also treated the ground with commercial fertilizers, wood ash (to bring down it's high acidity levels). With our efforts we were sure this years crops would be much better based on our efforts. Although, I was confusing effort with results! Mother nature had been blessing our area with plenty of rain right up until May then it just stopped raining and the garden suffered even more in mid-summer when we had to travel extended distances for a couple of funerals, needless to say the summer garden was a total loss. We have since scaled back our garden vision and re-worked it toward new smaller square box garden style (20x8) built using 2x10x10 pieces of wood.  To ensure more garden success I removed the non-fertile soil (at one shovel depth all the way through the new square box) using the 5 gallon bucket method to move the dirt out. To help the square box blend into the surrounding ground we painted it brownish. We strove for the mnemonic Wide rows, Organic methods, Raised beds and Deep soil (WORD) using deep layers of manure to properly support crop growth.  In order to get that manure I needed to do some 'horse trading'. Here is how I did it; I helped a friend cut down several large trees (> 110 feet) and then section them and haul them off. In return, I now had a friend  and who owed me a favor (instead of dinner). I have since made another friend  who in turn has a need for manure too. The new friend also had a truck with a trailer, all we needed to complete our manure equation as I had made a friend  in the spring who had all the manure we could haul away.  Now we feel we have the proper soil to get a successful fall planting. 

This year's global drought impacted crop growth and reinforced what we had seen in our area. With that in mind, I took the time to learn about PVC piping and how I could use it in my garden. Then I designed and installed my own 3/4" PVC irrigation garden soaking pipe system (quick overview version = one long pvc pipe with "T" connectors with shorter sections coming off the main supply pipe drilled through with smaller drill bit to allow water to drain and soak the designated section. I also installed a hose connector on the supply side so, I can just hook up the hose directly to the new under ground irrigation system and flood the square box garden).  I feel this is going to be more efficient way to water my fall crops; this remains to be seen.

We also started to "compost" using four 5 gallon buckets (free), I vented the buckets using a large drill bit and then spray painted them black to allow the proper air exchange and get the heat up on the compost matter.  The 4 buckets were originally desired for a one for each week of the month cycle, there by allowing each week to be further along in the compost cycle than the next. We also envisioned our compost maintenance being simple by stirring each week to ensure proper air / water mix.  However, the compost process took longer than we imagined even though the buckets were solid black and in full sun 90% of the day in the SW position on our property. Since, April we have made 4 complete compost deposits into our garden (beware this stuff is 'HOT' and will indeed burn your plants even the Asparagus which is a strong feeder).  We learned we can put in saw dust and shredded paper for 'brown' material as part of our mix.

Lessons: This year we learned that rain is very critical to crop growth even if you can get water to your garden at regular intervals, something about mother natures version that plants love.  Lots still to learn about proper gardening, we are glad we are learning this now while we can still run to the store for items we need for the menu.  Free items for compost are easy to get (wood ash, sawdust, shredded paper).

We also learned that we can get about 9 months of hard yard / garden work out of a pair of leather gloves before they are worn out.  We learned that moth balls last 2-3 weeks in mid-summer heat (90-100 degrees). We also learned that it took two cans of wasp spray to control the wasp nest creation on the exterior of our new home this spring. We learned that a 5 gallon of bug spray will allow six exterior applications as we used it every two weeks to control the exploding spider population. (Our desire is to keep the bugs out of the house and not have to spray indoors).

Road Warrior:  when I do travel  to / from work or other job sites I always travel with my BoB (which has the essentials such as a normal ankle carry firearm for most state patrol officers loaded with defensive rounds, extra ammo, a full first aid kit, poncho, flash light, large pocket knife, compass, lighter, spare clothing, gloves, food and water).  The water gets replaced daily since, I drink from it on my journey.  If an "event" takes place my wife and I have a standing arrangement that I will do everything I can to keep in constant contact and get home ASAP. If I fail to arrive after 3-days she is to follow the Bug-out plan and proceed to our double-up home.  One of our first self standards for our firearms is to rotate ammo between magazines monthly, to keep the spring(s) in healthy condition. It's easy to remember on the 1st of the month.
I was never a fan of the big box stores (where you were required to pay to for the ability to shop) until I found this web site, while on the road and of course after my work is complete, I can (and do) swing by one of these types of stores and pickup items in need and items for storage as we don't have any close by our home.

Final Lessons:  please understand some of the new warning signs currently flashing are for the coming double-dip recession/depression/collapse. For example, all the Federal stimulus money that was spent and produced something like 11 jobs as governments don't produce anything they only consume from others. The consumer "shadow home inventory" is going to hit the market very soon (Alt-A, Alt-B, and jumbo loans coming due), the looming US commercial real estate collapse,  the delay in home foreclosures can't continue forever as the banks will need to move the 'toxic assets' somewhere. The growing pension crisis (most if not all, are underfunded); do you know what the condition of your pension is in? How concerned are you?  The biggest piece of the pie in my mind is the US Dollar continues to weaken (part of the unannounced deleveraging strategy or think of it as the race to the bottom for all fiat currencies) while foreign governments are seeking gold as an alternative in their currency basket(s).  This market pressure pushes the US Dollar down even more, making the cycle even tougher on US citizens or those holding US Dollars.  You still have time to plan and act.

We trust that you Lesson from our journey that even during the storms (Financial meltdown, jobs, etc) God's Grace and comfort are still above all else!
Things will come on God's time not ours! You must pray for divine insight and listen to your Lord!  Take the proper action based on the previous step and go out and expand your life by learning something new. Even if the bottom of the economy doesn't fall out I have learned new skills, made new friends and have had fun along the way. While the most important is we have drawn closer to God for his Grace!

After a 19 day dry spell, we were hit with one heck of a storm here in southern Pennsylvania last week. I thought I would share with Survivalblog readers the lessons to be learned from this event.

The first 29 days of September had been warm and lovely here, with only about 3 inches of the normal 21 inches of rain we should normally see by the end of September. On the last day of September we received the missing 18 inches. With the long period of dry weather preceding the storm, the ground was incapable of absorbing much of the water that came down. As a result of the weather and soil conditions there was a great deal of flooding.

I woke Thursday morning to find that there were a couple of inches of water in my basement. We have just bought this house 3 months ago, but we have known all along that the drainage for the basement was not in a good state of repair. There is a drainage pipe at the low side of the basement that is designed to provide a path of escape for any water that would pool in the basement. At some point in the recent past, this cast iron pipe corroded through and collapsed. At this time the drain pipe is totally blocked in the middle. This is a problem that needs to be addressed by us for the basement is one of our primary storage locations. We have been looking into a method of repair and fortunately there is a process to restore the integrity of old cast iron drainage pipes that lines the pipe with a maintenance free plastic/fiberglass material without the need to dig up the pipe. This repair is now on the top of our list of needed repairs to our new home. After this repair we will be undertaking the process of painting the basement with Drylock, and re-grading some of the land next to the house to reroute water away from the foundation. To insure that our stored goods stay dry even in the event of some water beyond our methods of control we will be storing all of our dry goods on pallets or shelves, and keeping it all from direct contact with the floor and walls. Lucky for us, the basement on north side of the house is at ground level, and we are on much higher ground compared to the surrounding areas. The two inches or so of flooding is the worst case scenario for us. It was more than enough to get me thinking about repairs and modifications to my structure and property to avoid this level of moisture in the future.

When I left my house to go to work another whole set of lessons were in store for me. I live in an area that is literally awash with small creeks and streams. The area is very hilly and every valley and hollow has a creek of varying depth and width. On this day, creeks that are normally are 6 or 10 inches deep were more like 6 or 10 feet deep. When I came to the creek that passes between the county I live in and the county I work in I was not met with a crossing. This creek, which was normally 15 to 20 feet wide, had swollen to over 100 yards wide. Every bridge had been washed out as had several of the roads next to the creek. There was no way to cross on my normal route to work. I ended up driving up an unmarked road and found a covered bridge, on high ground, that I was unfamiliar with. Bear in mind that I know this area pretty well. I was able to cross the flood waters and get to work after some unplanned exploration. On the way home from work the flooding I experienced on the way to work had subsided, only to be replaced by other flooding and high water on the roads home. The rain was still really coming down, the sun had set, and visibility was much less than desired. I had to drive significantly slower than normal to avoid entering high water beyond the capability of my car to cross. When I was almost to my house, even traveling at low speed, I was surprised by high water on a road after I had already crossed a bridge that forded the creek I had just passed. I was able to stop before entering the water and assess the danger of crossing it with my car before finding myself midway with no way back.
So the lessons learned I learned (in spite of the fact I was able to get home with no major problems);

  1. Even in a known area, it is a good thing to know routes not usually traveled in case an alternate route must be taken- take alternate routes from time to time so you know firsthand what your options are without consulting a map.
  2. Understand before leaving the house what areas on your normal route are prone to becoming impassable or pose potential problems for your travel.
  3. Take the right vehicle- I drove my sedan, which handles better in rain but does not have the clearance or fording ability of my pickup truck.
  4. Make sure that all the safety equipment on the vehicle is in working order- my fog lights were not working, and it would have been a great help to have them.
  5. Never leave without a G.O.O.D. bag- though I am a bug in guy, I did not have a bag packed in the car. If I had been forced to leave my car I would have been unequipped to deal with the weather and the impending hike to safety, on foot.

I am a fan of using real experience to influence the unprepared to become prepared. I found out first hand last week that I still learn the lessons of preparedness every time I leave my house, so long as I have my eyes, and mind, open enough to see them.
Thanks again for this useful web site, and keep up the great work.

I'm writing from the Mid-West - the sea of corn (mostly) and other grains. As of this writing we are getting some relief from the humidity. "Hearsay" says corn is a guilty culprit for contributing to our high humidity. Corn is in high demand for purposes of food and fuel. Besides corn syrup, a byproduct is humidity, and perhaps, rain - which eventually leads to the subject of this letter - ice. Something that I think will be tremendously missed, is refrigeration - either for food or humans. Having stated the obvious, think of keeping leftovers at a safe temperature, making ice cream, making gelatin set-up, or a cool cloth on a hot forehead or an ice-pack for a medical treatment - or just plain comfort. Even with the air conditioning on, there is a fan trained directly on me.

Oral histories, village histories, biographies, living histories, and diaries are all good sources for knowledge of sustainability. However, systems, germs, allergies, and knowledge keep evolving. Generations have been blessed with new technologies and new products (plastic, thermal coolers, etc.) and new insights.

Before there was electricity - and before refrigeration there was ice - harvested from a local water source - kept in storage - with sawdust!

The following are some random stories heard through the years:

  • Our village history reveals there was a building near the railroad track that stored ice. I do not know if the ice came by train or if it was harvested from a local pond. This area is only known for ponds - not too many natural lakes.
  • There was a house in our town that had ice delivered - probably stored in an ice box - the kind that had a drawer to hold a block of ice.
  • The ice house in our village kept the deceased on ice until the mortician from a neighboring town could arrive. (Hopefully not anywhere near the ice for houses!)
  • Our family seems to have a high percentage of births in August. In the 1950s before we ever dreamed of air conditioning (in either a car or house), my father took a garden hose and ran well water through a car radiator and set it in a small room on the shady side of the house with a window fan. He brought in the lawn lounger to make Mom comfortable. Our teeth would absolutely chatter! I was around seven at the time, so this is stretching the memory - seems that the radiator was in the room - but it may have been just outside the room under the carport. In a TEOTWAWKI scenario, one would need a generator or solar powered system.
  • In a house that my father lived in when he was young, there was some sort of a hand pump and stone trough in the basement. They would place butter and food in crocks that sat down in the water.
  • My husband’s grandparents had a cold storage cupboard. A cupboard door opened to an outside wire cage with shelves.

Back to the evolved knowledge. If you do try storing ice in sawdust, use caution on the types of woods and lumber used to create the sawdust. Some woods - or parts of trees and shrubs - may be allergens or even poisonous! This may be a factor in not only the use of the ice, but also if the melted ice water is saved as "gray water" for other uses.

For our preparations for daily use, we plan on placing ice in thermal coolers (type used on camping and picnic trips) to keep foods cool. At the thought of raw pond water ice, think maybe during the coldest months, we will use safe drinking water and make ice for drinks and food and store it in our freezer chest.

Think I will add to the pre-TEOTWAWKI shopping list ice block tongs, ice saw and ice picks. Where is that "To Do" List with the chicken tractor, rabbit hutch. "Hi Honey, can you please pick up lumber and hardware to build an ice house? You know, TEOTWAWKI. Well, do you think we will need ice for next summer or the summer after. "

Thank You, James Wesley Rawles, for your blog site and books - may thousands of lives be saved and life more comfortable from your dedication in recording, editing and maintaining all this survival information!

"Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." - Jeremiah 33:3 (KJV)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Today we present two entries for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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.

Cyber warfare sounds like something out of a Hollywood action movie, but it's something we need to take very seriously. There has been some speculation of possible cyber attacks in the past, power outages in Brazil in 2005 and 2007 could have possibly been caused intentionally. The United States was affected by a power outage in 2003 that blacked out the entire northeastern region and was widely publicized. The truth of what happened in these instances may never be known for national security reasons. Power outages are only the tip of the iceberg though, we have yet to see the realm of cyber warfare blossom, or maybe I should say it is blossoming right now.

Recently a worm known as “Stuxnet” has been revealed to the public. Computer security professionals tend to agree that this worm is unique in that a tremendous amount of resources went into it. It is only about a half megabyte large, but the contents demonstrate a level of sophistication that would take a team effort, a very large team. Allow me to give you an executive overview:

The worm spread by USB thumb drive primarily, but would also infect machines on the local network once the thumb drive had been attached. It was made to hide itself. It stops spreading after three activations so that it won’t spread too far and end up under a microscope (and yet it has).

The methods that the worm uses to infect the host machines were previously unknown to the rest of the world, and there are four of them. Typically one vulnerability will be discovered and a worm exploits this vulnerability to spread across the Internet. This is what has happened in recently publicized worms such as the Conficker worm, which exploited one single undiscovered vulnerability. Stuxnet used four different ones, which would indicate that there is a team of people looking for these vulnerabilities and keeping them a secret.

Another interesting fact is that this particular worm included compiled code that had been digitally signed by two major hardware manufacturers. How is that possible? There are only 2 ways that might have happened, either the private key was somehow acquired by purchasing or stealing from the company which is entirely possible, or it was acquired through the use of another worm, which is the most likely scenario because there are other worms known to do this, most notably the "Infostealer.Nimkey" worm, which scans infected machines for private key files and sends them to the command and control host somewhere in a country you’d never visit.

The last, and most significant characteristic of this worm is that it includes a set of code routines that target a particular type of software known as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA). You probably have some vague notion of what I’m talking about. Picture a computer screen with icons representing individual components in an industrial process showing various indicators like water levels, temperature and pressure gauges and other information. The machine that runs this software has code routines to warn people when a component has surpassed a warning threshold, and may send out additional notification to safety equipment, shutting down the entire system if need be. This software is often connected to the Internet like everything in the world these days, so that it can receive security updates. (Oh, the irony).

This worm targeted a very specific type of SCADA software which is used in Iranian nuclear power plants, and by all accounts it likely succeeded at installing it’s “payload” into the reactor control systems.

Hopefully I haven’t bored you with too much technical detail, who am I kidding--this is fascinating right? The point I’m trying to convey here is the amount of work that went into the Stuxnet worm and the nature of the attack. I'll come right out at this point and say that this particular worm was likely the work of the United States government, or it’s allies in an effort to stall Iran. Lets not assume, though, that this is exclusively the realm of the United States. Yes, we do have a stacked deck. We have access to the companies that make much of the technology. Many of them run on operating systems developed in the United States (Microsoft Windows). Stuxnet infections have occurred in Iran more than any other country, according to anti-virus software companies. It was likely introduced to an Iranian facility by an insider.

I’ve heard it said before that the only way to protect a computer from intrusion is to unplug it from the Internet. That made sense when I first heard it, but since then the world has become much more complicated. Almost everything has a wireless connection, which are notoriously easy to break in to. The Stuxnet worm spreads by portable devices, the same method that the very first computer viruses ever made used, and the least virulent form of transmission. You have to assume that an attacker given a selection of supposedly secure pathways for intrusion will find a way to exploit at least one of them. You have to assume it will happen.

Computer security these days not only centers around ways to protect a system, but how to detect when an intrusion has occurred, and how to protect critical processes and data from being compromised through the use of encryption and physical barriers.

Whoever made the Stuxnet worm obviously did it for a reason. Perhaps they wanted to demonstrate that these critical systems could in fact be compromised. Would you put nuclear fuel in this Iranian reactor? I certainly wouldn’t, but maybe the Iranians are gutsier than I am. The Stuxnet worm had the capability to retrieve software updates from its command and control host in those countries you’d never visit, and also from other hosts on it’s network (peer-to-peer). It had the capability to start new processes. It’s very likely that once the worm had reached its target destination it was then used to install another package, otherwise all that effort would be wasted at this point.

We can think about these packages (worms, viruses, trojan horse) in the same sense we think of a cruise missile, or a nuclear weapon. If this worm has the capability to compromise the control software of a nuclear power plant and make modifications, it may have been used to create a nuclear meltdown. Nobody wants to risk a nuclear meltdown and so the Iranian reactor is delayed which if you go look through news archives you will see has happened. This worms purpose may have been in the interest of humanity, but like all technology the power to do evil is always there.

To make matters worse these threats are often completely anonymous and untraceable. Think nuclear weapon going off in a country and nobody knows how it got there or who made it, and there is no way to trace it.

But that will never happen, right? The United States would never do something like that. And nobody but the United States could ever do something like this, right? No, I wouldn’t say that. Hypothetically, if it were me and I wanted to wreak maximum damage on, say, the entire world, and I knew that Stuxnet was designed to overload a reactor core, all I would have to do is follow this simple procedure:

1. Download Stuxnet.
2. Modify Stuxnet so that it was indiscriminate in the machines it targeted.
3. Modify Stuxnet so that it didn’t wait for command and control to tell it to go bang, make it go bang after a few days or some carefully calculated interval.
4. Add in the latest unpatched exploit that was discovered and reported to Microsoft last week.
5. Add in a social networking component, make it spread through popular web sites like Facebook and Twitter. (Yes, this is getting good!)
6. Release it back into the wild.

So we don’t want nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands, right? Here we have an example of a dangerous and classified military weapon (we're assuming), and it’s certainly in the wrong hands by now. Perhaps it can’t be used effectively, perhaps it was never meant to do any damage, maybe it was just as I’ve suggested someone wanted it to be known that they are all up in someone else's systems.

It’s a very interesting story, I’m sure you’d agree. We all need to be aware of the very unique nature of this threat. Could you make a nuclear weapon in your basement? I will go out on a limb and guess that you’re not going to succeed even if you tried, however if your goal is to take down a countries critical infrastructure, turn the lights out, turn banking upside down with spam transactions from millions of Internet connected sales terminals, make people afraid to drive their cars or some other havoc, I’d base your likelihood of success on the level of ingenuity of you and the people you hire to help you. We all know how fragile modern society has become. This threat has similar or greater potential than an EMP attack, and it is much easier to implement by a determined group.

I have heard a lot of people on this blog make suggestions to put a lot of trust in your computer or smart phone to work the way you expect it to. If you’re storing important information on a computer that you think you’ll depend on for survival then I urge you to take steps to secure it. One of the things I mentioned earlier was physical barriers, the simplest thing you can do right now to secure everything is write all of your data to optical disks (CD, DVD, or Blu-Ray) and take necessary steps to preserve them (cool, dry, dark place) and create a bootable Linux live-CD or two or three to run them off of. Make sure this live-CD works for you. It’s very important that you try it on the computer you intend to use it on because not all hardware will work, a linux distribution comes with a collection of generic drivers that work for 90% of the hardware out there but you will want to test a few things; your network connection, flash or USB devices and also make sure this live-CD has all of the software required to access your files; a web browser, PDF reader, video/audio players with the correct codecs. As long as you are booting off of a read-only disk you can always reboot and get right back where you started. I would use this CD for all of your everyday web browsing if you want to remain uncompromised. Browsing the web is always a risk.

Here is a list of bootable live CDs:


To read more about the technical details of Stuxnet, the Symantec blog is a great source of info.

No one will deny that self-empowerment comes from the additional accumulation of knowledge. Studying, research, and even just plain reading can be devastatingly powerful, if one possesses the willpower as well as knowing how to focus their information gathering. However, other forms of media do retain the potential as knowledgeable gold mines, provided they are constructed in such a manner as to instruct their audiences at least as effectively, if not more, than reading materials.

As a blogger, podcaster, and YouTuber (among other things), I am, at least, moderately versed in written, audio, and video forms of media. I understand how propaganda, culture jamming, and instructional "how-to" tutorials are used and their likely impacts upon their respective readers, listeners, and viewers. I appreciate each forms' strengths and weaknesses, not to mention their individual idiosyncrasies. On several occasions, I have experimented using two or all three methods simultaneously as a "simulcast." From my experience and observations, what people have mentioned time and again is their great hunger for instructional information, regardless of whether it is in a political, military, or survivalist context, but who otherwise would prefer it in audio and/or video formats.

Survivalism's bread and butter media has been written materials, such as books, newsletters, and in more recent history, blogs. While I am certainly not knocking the written word at all (since this article itself is proof that I am engaging in it), I am simply pointing out the necessity of broadening into other types of media, considering their advantages. I'm sure once someone actually decides to become a survivalist they will have no problem reading Dr. Bruce Clayton's "Life After Doomsday" but quite frankly, a five to ten minute or so tutorial on one method of saving seeds is infinitely more useful for outreach as well as for quick reference. Now, it goes without saying that using audiobooks, podcasts, videos, and even digital PDF files of books all require electricity, so learning through these methods pre-SHTF is apparent, but is it also obvious that if provisions were made for some form of electricity, these materials would be particularly useful post-TEOTWAWKI.

Some folks have already broadened into an audio format, such as podcasting and audiobooks. This venue should be explored more by authors of the more traditional written works, especially the audiobooks, considering that in "normal" life, people typically spend a significant amount of time in their cars while otherwise having next-to-no time for reading. Great strides have already been made in this endeavor, including (but not limited to) Clint Portis and David Whitman's "Urban Survival Podcast," and especially "The Survival Podcast" by "Jack," whose accompaniment YouTube username (aka "YT Alias") is SurvivalPodcasting. Even The Corbett Report, which deals with more politically oriented content, does occasional delve into the significance of survivalist subjects (like urban edible gardening or establishing small communities of trust), but other than an socio-political overview of these topics, James Corbett does not provide any specified instructional information. I have also noticed that anarchist philosopher Stefan Molyneaux will read his own books aloud, which he makes available on his web site (Freedomain Radio) as a free downloadable audiobook. As per this example, recording an audiobook need not be as complicated as getting it "professionally" made; all that is really required is a decent microphone, a relatively simple audio recording program (such as Audacity), and the patient skill to actually read aloud any book.

Considering the breadth and depth of survivalism, podcasting provides another avenue for easily accessible information. Unlike audiobooks (even when self-made), podcasts allow for a very easy way of updating information when needed. They also provide a more condensed instructional format and even can be used for interviews. Podcasting's advantage over their video counterparts also lies in the fact that audio digital files occupy much less space on average than video files. If space on your computer's hard drive is a concern, or you don't want to bother with the additional skill required for filmmaking, then podcasting and recording audiobooks would be a better option, and is still a quite effective communications medium. If you are so inclined, you could offer your audiobooks for free (especially if they are of the homemade variety) instead of charging people for a copy, but even if the latter option is where you are at, keep in mind that podcasts have been and will (most likely) always remain completely free to be recorded, downloaded, and listened to by everyone.

My preferred method is actually showing people what to do. Video sharing sites provide a guerrilla media mechanism by which video files can be uploaded to the Internet and be seen by folks who can benefit from it, especially if they are still wet behind the ears, or the task at hand is better taught by demonstration than by pure description. Obviously, the number one video sharing site is undoubtedly YouTube; the utilization of this web site, in conjunction with a video downloading site (such as SaveVid.com or KeepVid.com), allows both brand new and experienced survivalists the ability to view and archive open source instructional videos for free. YT buddies of mine, including Ryanjcus, ShinobiMystic, RodneyAHampton, TheAntiTerrorist, and especially ThePatriotNurse, have, at the very least, delved into survivalist topics at one point or another. A common topic (and which is conducive to demonstration) is the assembly of the Bug Out Bag (aka the G.O.O.D. kit). Fellow YouTubers will whip out their camcorders and shoot a quick look at their laid out equipment that they plan on carrying for when they bug out.

Two YouTubers deserve a more detailed look here, the first of which is ThePatriotNurse. This fine Tennesseean devotes herself to medical SHTF issues, such as assembling different kinds of first aid kits (such as for home, the car, and even a $50 budget version), treating burns, giving an intramuscular injection, stocking antibiotics, caring for gunshot wounds, and storing nutritional food. She will also examine the more logistical and scenario planning aspects, including the true shelf life of drugs, the top five diseases that will become prominent, the psychological impact of societal collapse, and even one video on the categories of people who will die first when the SHTF, which by itself has accrued more than 29,000 views. Her latest three videos have focused on preparing children and newborns for a more survivalist lifestyle. With over 94,000 total upload views and 2,500 subscribers, ThePatriotNurse is already a survivalist force to be reckoned with, and who's emerging success can be attested to her being interviewed by MrLockandLoad (on TheWatchmen.biz).

The other YouTuber that deserves particular attention here is TheAntiTerrorist (AT). A British gentleman who usually focuses on political and especially privacy topics, he, like me, knows that self-empowerment begins with open source intelligence gathering. His two videos on survivalism, "The Larder of Last Resort" and "Bunker In or Bugging Out?," are unusually quite fantastic, and is my recommended starting point for folks who are contemplating preparing for the worst. Unlike James Corbett whose treatment of the field is purely analytical relative to other issues, AT bridges that common gap by giving very basic pointers on preparation, beginning with food storage; he mentions the "why" of preparation for the politically inclined but also describes the "how" as well. Not only does AT make selected transcripts of his video broadcasts available for download from his web site (in this case, only "The Larder of Last Resort"), but he occasionally has downloadable supplemental information packets to accompany his videos. "The Larder of Last Resort" episode had one such packet that was available as a ZIP file, that once unpacked, revealed its contents to be Al Martin's "Protocols for Economic Collapse in America" article, The Bacon Report's list of the "Top 100 Items to Disappear First During a National Emergency," HEO's "Bean Bowl" recipe, and AT's "Survival Links" (which was updated by me recently) that also includes the Survivalist's Rule of 3. This method of including downloadable transcripts and supplementary information packets through a web site can easily be used by any survivalist with a modicum of computer aptitude.

Now, I am well aware of certain claims made by others on YouTube as well as on other web sites, message boards, and forums that anyone who discusses survivalism is simply a wimpy "armchair survivalist" or "cyber-patriot" who should not be taken seriously. I would like to take this opportunity and mention to any genuine survivalist, who is willing to at least consider my suggestions, that such baseless assertions usually tend to be levied by those folks (typically still within the mental confines of the mainstream media) who perceive any and all attempts by anyone trying to achieve a measure of self-sufficiency independent of the corporatist controlled economy as threats to that specific industrial paradigm. Needless to say, a paradigm shift is already in order, especially in light of the thin veneer of civilization which, as AT mentions, relies on the support tripod of the power grid, the financial system, and the transportation network. Like the infamous fire triangle (heat, air, and fuel), if any leg goes out, the others will as well. It is because of this flaw of modern Western civilization as well as other events (such as the worsening recession/depression, the continued devaluation of the dollar, and the likely removal of the greenback as the world reserve currency) that increases even more the importance of effectively and efficiency disseminating survival information in new ways that can improve retention and accessibility.

In conclusion, any survivalist can learn the basics of information dissemination via the Internet. Unlike other political content that has been able to highly exploit the above mentioned techniques for their purposes, I believe that individuals who have been literally begging for survival tutorials will benefit, especially if experienced survivalists teach the newer crowd using these methods. Of course, all the reading, listening, and watching in the world by itself will accomplish nothing in tangible reality without action; however, my observations point to desperate people attempting to learn by doing, and a lot of times incorrectly, hence the incredible need for reliable survival information dissemination, especially through audiobooks, podcasts, and tutorial videos. While detractors do commonly assert that there is plenty of information and a lack of action, my experience testifies to the exact opposite situation.

If you are interested in any of my material, keep in mind that I haven't made any dedicated survivalist content yet, but I do intend to in the very near future after my second documentary, which is about culture jamming, is released exclusively over at YouTube. See my blog, my podcast, and my YouTube channel if you are interested.

Regards, - Sleepysalsa

Hi Jim,

I know you hear it every day, but I highly appreciate the time and effort that you put into your web site. I see that there has been some discussion on burning wood cargo pallets. Tom Baugh has written has a couple of articles about pallets that explain how they can be used in other applications. The reading may be useful to SurvivalBlog readers. The first article (Pallet Projects) goes in depth on the anatomy of a pallet, while the second is an article about a Goat House project that walks the reader through step by step. - Bill Z. in Wyoming

R.F.J. flagged an article about a Building Made from Recycled Phone Books.

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Reader Bob. H. mentioned that the Rite in the Rain web site has downloadable graph paper among other templates. OBTW, many Rite in the Rain waterproof paper products are available from Ready Made Resources. (One of SurvivalBlog's loyal sponsors.)

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Pain rolling in for tire buyers, retailers. Our thanks to Ben S. for the link.)

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David H. pointed us to this: Neat Lightweight Bow/Rifle Scabbard for Bicycles/Motorcycles

"It isn't going to be a world filled with mutant biker gangs, nor will there be blood thirsty zombies. No thermal nuclear wasteland, no empty cities. Nothing that Hollywood said it would be like. All we need to do is look at countries that have succumbed to an economic disaster already. For example look at Argentina..." - Ray Gano, How I Believe The Dollar Will Die.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Today we present two entries for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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 the modern world more and more people are dependent upon their electronic devices to get them from point A to point B. But what happens when those devices stop working? It can happen either through a natural cause such as a geomagnetic storm, or something man-made like electromagnetic pulse (EMP), a terrorist [cyber] attack, or war. What the majority of people do not realize is that the GPS satellite network is owned and operated by the US Department of Defense. In a case of martial law or an act of war on US soil, civilian access to GPS may be restricted. There are also times when you may be going on an adventure where clear line of sight to the GPS satellites is not possible, such as heavy forest, mountains and jungle locations; all cause problems acquiring GPS signal. And there is always human error that has to be considered, such as leaving the GPS turned on and running the batteries out, breaking the GPS unit, or losing it. Without the knowledge of how to use more traditional navigational methods, your likelihood of survival is decreased.

This article has been broken into several sections, proceeding from the simplest compass navigation to the more complex issues of dealing with maps and magnetic declination. Also included is a section on primitive navigation, which is the worst-case scenario when you have no gear at all with you. The objective is to take my military and survival knowledge on navigation and put it in an easy-to-use guide for anyone from an absolute novice to outdoor enthusiast to use.

Compass Only
Learning how to use a compass is easy and could one day save your life.
Every compass has the four directions, North, East, South and West, which are represented with N, E, S, and W on the compass dial. There are a lot of different types of compasses out there, but regardless of their design and purpose they will always have the four directions on them.
The easiest compass to use is a simple map compass that consists of a dial and direction of travel on the base. Within the dial will be the four directions N, E, S, and W, an orientation arrow, orienting lines, and the compass needle. It does not get much simpler than this. Most compasses will have two different colours on the compass needle: some are white and red while others are red and black and some are white and red with a dot of white at the tip of the red. So which way is north when there are so many colour variations?

  • Red & White with glow-in-the-dark white – White is north.
  • Red & Black – Red is north.
  • Red & White with white dot at tip of red – Red is north; the white tip is glow-in-the-dark material.

For this tutorial red and black will be used for the compass needle, keeping inline with the basic map compass. The red portion of the compass needle will always point to magnetic north, no matter which way the compass is facing.
To go in any other direction other than to the magnetic north, you will need to move the direction of travel arrow to the direction you wish to go. The compass dial will have a scale; most are from 0 to 360 degrees, but there are compass dials that range from 400 to 0 degrees. The degrees are used for navigation between the four directions. For instance if you wanted to go half way between N and E on a dial with 360 degrees it would be a direction of 45 degrees. This sounds easy enough, now how to do it:
Hold the compass out away from yourself but in a position that is comfortable and where you can still read the compass. You will want to make sure there is no metal around the compass as metal will throw off the reading.

With the compass held as flat as possible, let the needle find magnetic north; then turn the dial, aligning the N with the tip of the red part of the needle.
Carefully turn the base of the compass to align the direction of travel arrow to the desired direction you wish to go in. Be sure to keep the red part of the compass needle pointed at the N or else you will go in the wrong direction. It is a common mistake to turn the whole compass rather than just the base. It is often a good idea to redo the reading to make sure you come out to the same location on the compass twice before heading off.

Now that you have a reading, walk in the direction of the direction of travel arrow, while keeping the red part of the compass needle pointed to the N. Always be sure to check your course several times to avoid getting off course. Ideally a check should be done at around 80 meters (262.46 feet); checking frequently means less course correction.
Don't make the mistake of staring down at the compass and walking through the wilderness; you will find that you will walk into something, off something, or trip and get hurt. By checking frequently you will be able to navigate the wilderness, reducing the risk of injury. The easy way to do this is to use landmarks that are in your direction of travel. That way you can look at the landmark to keep you close to your course.

How do I really know I am going the right way? There are primitive navigation methods that can be used to ascertain the four directions. When using a compass but when doubt still remains, look at the position of the sun. In the northern hemisphere where I am located, at noon the sun is in the south; if you are on the southern hemisphere, for you the sun would be in the north. So if you are in the northern hemisphere and need to be heading north but the sun is blinding you, then stop! You are going south, the wrong direction! Just reverse this for the southern hemisphere; if you are wanting to go north and the sun is on your back, then do a 180 degree because you are facing the wrong way. Using these primitive navigation tricks with a compass will give you the confidence you may lack.

So remember:
In Northern Hemisphere sun at noon is South
In Southern Hemisphere sun at noon is North
Easy way to remember is the sun is pointing to the equator.
This method will help you get out alive if you are in the wilderness without a map, but yet you know that in a given direction from your current location there is a road, town, river or another object that is big and hard to miss.

There are inherent issues with this method of navigating. It’s not very accurate: if you were looking for a small campsite deep in the wilderness, this method would not help you. But it will keep you from going in circles, what happens to most who are lost in the wilderness; the key to getting out is going straight. A good rule is to bring an accurate and appropriate-scaled map with you to any location you are not familiar with.

Compass with Map

You have your basic compass that was used in navigating with just a compass, but you were smart and also brought a map; this section will teach you how to use your compass with that map, to find small sites with precision navigation.

When using a compass with a good map, your odds of survival and making it out greatly increase. You can look at the map to determine major navigational obstacles as well as most likely areas of rescue or self-rescue. This is an important lesson that should be learned by anyone going into the wilderness; not only will you be able to safely navigate the terrain and make it precisely where you meant to be, but you will make it there alive.

In this example to navigate using a map you will be on a wilderness trail at point Alpha kilometer / mile 0, and your objective is to reach point Charlie kilometer 43 / 26.71 mile without going through Bravo point. This will mean you will have to leave the trail and go cross-country. To determine your course, lay out the map and take the edge of the compass that runs parallel to the direction of travel arrow (the longest edge is usually the parallel edge) placing the bottom corner of the edge on point Alpha and the upper corner of the edge on point Charlie. Point Charlie can be located any place along the edge and not necessarily at the corner. An alternative easy-to-remember method is to use the direction arrow of travel as a way to line up the compass so it points from Alpha to Charlie. It is very important to make sure that the direction of travel arrow is pointed towards the other checkpoint, in this example point Charlie; failure to align the direction of travel arrow to your checkpoint will result in going the wrong way. There is great debate on whether or not one should draw a line on the map to mark the direction of travel. When I was in the military, my maps were placed in a waterproof map case, and with a special waterproof pencil I could draw lines, make notations, etc. without damaging the map, but since most people likely will not have such luxury it is not a good idea to draw a line; it does not add anything to the precision and often puts the map at risk of being damaged and covers up important details. You should make the investment in a waterproof map trail case; it will keep your maps dry and you can further tie it to your pack so you won't lose it on the trail.

No one will complain if you take the time to recheck your work; it is very important even with a map to redo the reading and make sure it is right.
With a direction of travel set you might think you are ready to head cross country. That would be a wrong decision; the compass has to be oriented to the map before it is useful. To do this lay the map flat or stabilize your map case.

On your map there will be lines that run North to South; these lines are called meridian lines. On your compass dial you will see similar lines that run from the N to the S; these lines are called orienting lines. To orient the compass to your map you will need to line up the compass orienting lines to the map meridian lines. In order to do this, carefully turn the dial of the compass while keeping the edge / direction of travel arrow aligned from point Alpha to point Charlie. Ignore what the compass needle is doing for now. Be absolutely sure that the North on your map is also N on your compass dial when the orienting lines have lined up to the meridian lines; if not, your reading will be wrong. Both the meridian north and orienting north have to match up; all maps designate the direction of North; find it so you know which way to line up the lines. It is also important to make sure the edge of the compass base or the direction of travel line remains in alignment between the two points. Failure to check these things will result in course navigation errors.

With the meridian and orienting lines aligned properly and our compass edge or the direction of travel arrow still aligned on the two checkpoints, we have our compass bearing. I like to make a note of the compass bearing; it is a personal preference, because it is extremely important that once you have the bearing, the compass dial or base not move; movement results in a different bearing and consequently navigational errors. With a compass bearing you can store your map safely and navigate using the compass only, as in the first section. The difference here is you are actually navigating with a bearing to a precise location.

Holding the compass as flat as possible, you need to turn your whole body until the red part of the compass needle aligns with the N on the compass dial. Do not turn the dial or the base of the compass. Remember always make sure red is in the north position, or you will never reach the destination. To walk with the compass and navigate, take a minute or two; hold the compass out in front of you while keeping the red compass needle pointed to the N and not turning anything on the compass; look down the direction of travel arrow and pick out something that stands out that is in line with the compass bearing. This will be your landmark so you can walk safely through the wilderness. It is important to pick something that is easy to see in the middle-ground. Repeat and check your direction like before at around every 80 meters (262.46 feet) and you will make it to checkpoint Charlie without having to go through checkpoint Bravo.

Compensating for Magnetic North

The compass needle points to magnetic north, which is where the magnetic fields of the earth align at the northern magnetic pole. This is often mistaken for the North Pole. The North Pole is actually very far from the magnetic pole. It is important to note that the magnetic pole moves often from year to year. The difference between magnetic north and true north is called “magnetic declination”. Because the location of magnetic north moves, it is important to figure out the magnetic declination before leaving home or see if there is a notation on your map as to what the magnetic declination is.

Why should you be concerned with this? Topographical maps are situated to true north rather than magnetic north, so your compass bearings will be off by the amount of the magnetic declination. As well, most modern maps, especially hiking and trail maps, use a grid called the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM). This UTM grid is used for charting a location that lies between 84 degrees North and 80 degrees South, which covers most of the earth's surface. Note that the UTM grid does not have a real north pole; however, the orientation of the grid matches closely to the meridian lines of maps.

How this grid correlates to your map is pretty clever: typically the average hiking map will have a 2 centimeters grid setup; with this distance the map scale is 1:50,000, therefore on a 2 centimeters (7/8ths of an inch) grid distance the actual distance is 1 kilometer (0.62 miles). This is very useful when planning an extended tour in the wilderness to determine how far a person can go in a day or where resources or locations are in terms of distance from your current location.

As great as the UTM grid is, to use it properly as a navigational tool you need to know how much difference there is between the UTM grid and magnetic pole. Plotting a course is the same as in the Map with a Compass section, with the added complication of making sure not to align the orienting lines to the east – west UTM grid lines. Now for the tricky part … once you have your compass bearing, you need to account for the number of degrees of magnetic declination. Sometimes this will mean adding degrees, and other times it may mean subtracting degrees. These degrees come from the angle between the UTM grid lines / meridian lines and the magnetic north location.
By now you will have concluded that magnetic declination varies by your geographical location; this is why it is important to figure this out ahead of time before departing. If you have forgotten to do this before heading out to the wilderness, don't panic.

To figure out the magnetic declination in the wilderness, look at your map grid from your current location and note the grid azimuth. Did I just lose you? Okay, here is what you need to do: find where you are on the map, then measure the angle from the nearest north meridian / UTM grid line to your location. To do this ideally you should have a protractor.

Now that you have found where you are on the map and have your grid azimuth, now look for a very distant distinctive feature; the further away the object is, the more accurate your declination will be. With your compass, aim the direction of travel arrow at the landmark. Now turn the compass dial so that the red compass needle points to N, and when the compass needle is correctly aligned, look at the degrees on the compass dial where the base of the direction of travel arrow is. Note this number, for it is the magnetic azimuth.

To find magnetic declination, take your grid azimuth and subtract your magnetic azimuth; the result is the magnetic declination.
If visibility is an issue in determining a landmark, there is still a way in which to find the magnetic declination. A method used in the military: with your compass edge, draw a straight line passing through your current location on the map and your destination and extend the line across any of the map borders. Now take your compass to where the line you just drew intersects with the map border, positioning the direction of travel arrow in alignment with the line you drew, then align the orienting line with the map edge while making sure that map north and compass north are both in the same direction. The magnetic declination will be the distance from the north orienting line to your direction of travel line.

If the map marker for magnetic north is to the right of the true north line, then subtract the declination value from the magnetic north bearing you took for your destination. If the map marker is to the left of true north, then you will need to add the declination value to your magnetic north bearing for your destination.
For example, in my location the declination is 6 degrees easterly; if my bearing for my location was 140 degrees, I would need to subtract 6 degrees from 140, which would give me a bearing of 134 degrees, which would allow me to use the map that has not been adjusted for magnetic north. If I were in the west and my declination was -10 and my bearing was still 140 degrees, I would need to add 10 degrees to my bearing, making it 150 degrees.

On a lot of modern maps there will be located somewhere a line that points to MN (Magnetic North) and another line from the base of the MN line that points a star symbol (True North), and between these two lines will be a number in degrees, which is the magnetic declination at the time the map was made. You may also notice a GN symbol; this represents the UTM grid ("grid north") , and the line with the GN indicates the declination of the UTM in relation to true north. Because magnetic declination changes, it is important to make sure your map is up to date with the correct information.

How bad can it be if you are only off a few degrees? Well, it can be downright disastrous; an error of 1 degree after 16.09 kilometers (10 miles) will result in you being off course by 280 meters (920 feet). If you compound this error by ten degrees after the same distance you will find yourself off course by 2.79 kilometers (1.73 miles); in a wilderness situation that is the equivalent of being on the moon and will be completely devastating to the person.
Using the methods described here, anyone should be able to navigate their way through the wilderness safely and confidently, but it is important to practice, navigating at home while you can rather than trying to learn these skills when you are in the wilderness and lost.

Primitive Navigation

What if the worst-case scenario happens? You are so lost, with no hope of finding your way without your trusty compass and maps. It now has become a real issue of survival. It may seem as if there is no hope of ever getting out of the wilderness. I will explain various means of finding your way when you have absolutely nothing to navigate with.
The shadow-stick compass is a very old and tried and tested way to get a general direction, much like navigating with a compass and no map. Put the stick in the ground free of vegetation, take a small stick or stone, and mark the end of the shadow. Now wait 10 - 15 minutes and then mark where the end of the shadow is now. You will notice it has moved. Draw a straight line between the two small markers that mark the end of the shadow. This will tell you the east - west line. The first small marker is the west direction and the second small marker is the east direction.

To find the north - south line, look east and draw a line perpendicular to the east - west line. To the left will be north and to the right will be south. Or if you can't remember what is left or right … the line moving away from the sun is north in the Northern hemisphere, but if you are in the Southern hemisphere, the north and south direction is reversed and the line moving away from the sun is south.
The longer you wait to place the second marker, the more accurate the shadow stick compass becomes.
If you find you have to travel at night, the shadow compass will still work with a bright moon. The advantage of the night shadow compass is that you can further verify your observation with the use of the stars.

Stellar navigation is not that hard and it is a fun time to learn about the various constellations and the stories behind them, which makes this a great activity in which to include children in the learning process. In the Northern Hemisphere to find north you need to locate a star called Polaris, which is the North Star. To find Polaris is simple: find the Big Dipper (just about everyone can find that), and the two stars that close the dipper part furthest from the handle point to Polaris, which is the first star in the handle of the Little Dipper. Polaris will also be a fairly bright star. However, this method will not work if you are above 70 degrees latitude or are in the Southern Hemisphere. The cool thing about the stars that even in the Southern Hemisphere there is a way to navigate. You will need to find the Southern Cross, which is a constellation of four stars called Crux. Two of the stars in Crixa constellation point to the Southern pole. The Southern Cross looks like a cross with a fifth star off center from the lower portion of the cross. For people in Australia, this is depicted upon the flag of Australia.

To find your east – west direction, you need to find the constellation of Orion, which can be seen in both hemispheres. In Orion's belt are three stars: the lowest of the three stars is West and the highest is east. On a clear night one can see the whole constellation of Orion including the bow; his bow always faces west; therefore, just remember Orion always looks west.

Should you find yourself unable to find Polaris either because of heavy cloud cover or because the terrain works against you, there are other methods that can be used. The first method is using a single stick. Find a bright star that will be easy to find later. While lying on the ground, look up at the star and point the stick directly at it; since it is important to repeat the same observation position several times, you may wish to use a rock to mark the placement of your head when you observed the star the first time. Ideally you will want to wait an hour, checking on your star every 15 minutes and noting the direction of travel. If the star is tracking to the left, you are facing north; if the star tracked up, you are facing east; if the star tracked right, you are facing south, and if the star tracked down, you are facing west.

This same method can be done using two sticks like the shadow stick compass. You will want two large sticks that are a meter to a meter and a half in length (3 to 4 feet). It is important to have one stick larger than the other. Place the larger stick in the ground. With the first stick in place, sit on the ground by the stick. You now take the shorter stick and aim the top of it in line to the top of the bigger stick, which will in turn aim at a bright star. As in the one-stick method, wait an hour, checking the star positioning every 15 minutes. The second stick in this example takes the place of the stone and provides you with the exact same observation position. Just as in the one stick method, if the star is tracking to the left, you are facing north; if the star tracked up, you are facing east; if the star tracked right, you are facing south, and if the star tracked down, you are facing west.
Another method that can be used to determine direction is called the “Watch” method. If you have an analog watch, hold it out in front of you as you would hold a compass. Use a twig or something to cast a shadow directed to the center of the watch. Now for the tricky part: you need to turn the watch until the shadow splits the distance between the hour hand and 12 in half. When this happens 12 will be pointing South and 6 will be pointing North. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, this would be reversed: 12 would be pointing North and 6 would be pointing South.

Should you find yourself out in the world without your trusty analog watch or you just have a digital watch, this method will still work for you. Simply draw yourself a clock face on the ground. With your big circle in the dirt draw a line that points to the sun; this will be the hour hand. When you have done that, draw a line to the 12 position where it would be in relation to your hour hand on your dirt circle. Halfway between your dirt hour hand and 12 is South.

Any of the methods described in the foregoing will get you going in a general direction; when done properly they are as accurate as navigating with just a compass with no map. So if you know your survival depends on going in a particular direction, for example if the interstate highway is to the east of your location about 4 miles away, this will get you there. It won't help you find pinpoint locations.

In April 2010 I submitted “Suburban Survival". a set of ten steps I was going implement in order to get ready for TEOTWAWKI. Boy… did I underestimate the power and importance of survialblog.com! First and foremost I thank all of you who responded and gave a cold slap of reality. I thought I was going to be in good shape, but now my view and attitude are vastly different. How did it change? It really started when I bought and read Jim’s survival book. It offers solid fundamentals and interesting insight that I am adapting to my particular situation. My situation? Bleak! I consider myself an up beat happy guy; I am a realist, not pessimistic. If the Schumer hits the fan (love that phrase), I am stuck here, on an island with 3 million other people.

My revisited suburban 10 focuses on what my family and I need to survive on in the most simple and minimal terms. No more fantasies about ramming through traffic to get to my underground bunker or of building a stockade around the block with my clueless neighbors and leading them though the battles. One of about ten close friends I approached about ready preparedness is on board with me… others think I am over reaching and most think I’m nuts. They rely on flash lights and 16 oz. water bottles for an emergency, so I don’t respect them enough to let it bother me.

My view on firearms was wrong plain and simple. You need to be equal with or have an advantage over your foe. I decided to obtain a pistol permit. It is not that easy… Here in Suffolk County, New York it takes six months of background checks, a notarized application,  three non-family members to verify that you are sane, a call to your work place, and or any of the those three non-family members and or a neighbor (work place for me) and  interview at police headquarters, fingerprinting and photo identification. The cost ($105) is relatively low compared to neighboring Nassau County. New York City is s for me. There are 80,000 pistol permits in Suffolk County and I now have one of them.

Most of my training is at the police range. I thought bowling was enjoyable, but the shooting range is far more exciting. Most of my training by a friend with years of experience, I read the manuals slowly, and asking questions and share thoughts at the range. I feel confident and capable with my firearm, a 9mm Springfield Armory XD. Most everyone at the range I meet loves to talk about their guns. I listen and learn as to what appeals to them in a firearm. I also got a Henry Survival .22 that my wife uses. It weighs just two pounds the entire rifle breaks down into the stock. Both items and gear fit in my  back pack (no gun cases). I Clean and care for my own weapons because they are expensive finely crafted machines. The economy of 9mm and .22 caliber rounds is what suites my budget and at least my wife has something in her hands that she now uses quite well.

I've found lots of great ideas on SurvivalBlog.com and the beauty is that it is a community of like minded individuals who continually improve. I came to the cruel reality that there is really nowhere to run to… If my home is reduced to nothing but a lean two with a fire pit so be it. It will be home and worth defending. Simple and Minimal for what ever the duration until things get normalized (what ever normalized will be). If we are chased out we will head east away from New York City with our go bags and camping gear and fight to survive as nomads.

Before I get to my new list, two thoughts:

I believe we, as frequent readers of SurvivalBlog.com need to form a simple means of communicating that we are willing to work with and help each other if the Schumer goes down. If we are in turmoil and I am approached by a fellow human: I would like to be able to use a name that demonstrates that we are like minded and on the level. Let’s say I came up to you and said: Do you know a man by the name of Jim Rawles. If yes, then we are like minded and more apt to do fair trading. If not, then I am cautious or at an advantage because this person is most likely ill-prepared. I just started asking if people know of him and one did and was very like-minded. The list is growing fast I am sure.

My second thought is, I love the America I knew, I hope and pray for the America I know. Shame on the ones who just don’t want to take a little extra time, energy and money to just do some kind of preparation! I know many of you reading this are preparing, but for the rest of the population they have the potential to be a burden to everyone. I hope to have enough supplies for charity, but don’t count on me if you bought a flat screen television instead of a $250 water purifier.


Present Status of the Suburban 10

1. Wood Stove- two cords of wood stacked and covered. Gather and hand splitting what I find on the curb.

2. Big Berkey Water Purifier and an above ground swimming pool with 5,100 gal. of treatable water.

3. Several Buckets of red wheat berries and a grinder. (Hope to buy a bucket a month)

4. Two firearms and 600 rounds of ammo (would like to have 1,000 rounds and a shot gun).

5. Entering 5 KM races, keeping my kids active and aware, eating right and working out with my 3’ staff.

6. First aid kit with N95 masks. (Plan to get medical training and more supplies).

7. Go Bag for each member of the family. (Not yet complete)

8. Stocking up on more camping and fishing supplies. Had some good garage sale finds lately. Such as Candles, Oil Lamps, 20 gallon propane tanks, and knives just to name a few.

9. Thanks, Praise and Prayer- These are the good old days so smell the roses now. I thank the Lord each day that I can live in comfort. I hope for the best, but routinely and steadily prepare for the worst. Purchase a little at a time, but buy!

10. Listen and Learn from those who know. Make a list of those who have a skill set that can be of use to you if it is TEOTWAWKI and have the silver coins to make it worth their while to help you.

I am about half way (50%) to the point of where I would feel confident and comfortable in my preparedness. What is your percentage of progress? Thanks again to all of you at SurvialBlog.com for all the great insight and information you provide. We can make it through the tough times ahead and the world will be a better place!

My first guest post on SurvivalBlog.com generated an abundance of questions and concerns.  Among the most popular was that of using medications beyond their expiration date.  Are they safe?  Are they effective? 

It’s easy enough for me to say I think it’s safe, but is there any science to support my opinion?  I spent the week looking into the facts, and found some fascinating information.
To start with, just what is a drug expiration date?  In short, the date (required since 1979) does not indicate when a drug goes bad, but rather a date through which the drug is guaranteed to be good.  Compare this to what you might find on a can of beans:  the “best if used by” date.  
How are these dates determined?  In two ways. 

The first is by real-time testing.  Medications are stored under manufacturer-recommended conditions (which does not mean in your hot, humid bathroom over the toilet).  At given intervals the medications are tested for appearance, drug content, and stability.  Nowhere could I find that they are tested for safety specifically, but if the drug itself is present in acceptable amounts, it seems reasonable to conclude it is still safe. 

Secondly, drugs are tested under high-temperature stress conditions to simulate longer time periods.  Logically, if a drug is only two years old, five years of stability testing is unlikely to have been performed.  However, if a medication remains stable for a specified time period under adverse conditions, one may presume it likely stable and therefore safe for much longer periods.

Expiration dates are only found on the original packaging and apply to unopened meds that have been stored as directed.  This is in contrast to the date on your actual prescription bottle, a “do not use beyond” date.  Pharmacists commonly purchase pills in bottles of 1,000 then dispense them into smaller containers, generally with a shorter expiration date.  The latest this will be is a year beyond the original prescription date.  Although the original bottle may have a date 2-3 years in the future, your own bottle will be dated for 1 year or less from purchase, due to uncertainty about actual storage conditions and patient use.   
One tip on stocking up, then, is to request your prescriptions in the original packaging, typically bottles of 100 (usually not 90, as insurance often prefers, though there are exceptions).  Your doctor will not necessarily know this information, but you can look it up in a PDR to save time.  A used Physicians Desk Reference (PDR) can be purchased on Amazon for under $5.  Generic drugs are not in the PDR.  You will have to ask the pharmacist for information regarding your own prescription.  

The primary source of information regarding the prolonged stability of medications comes from the Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP) database.  Rather than discard millions of dollars worth of expired drugs stockpiled for emergency use, the government tested representative lots for extended stability.  These stockpiled drugs are aimed at emergency use for injuries and infections rather than chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma.  The most useful data for the layman is related to drugs to combat bacterial and viral infections.

In 2009 as a result of the H1N1 scare, two anti-viral (anti-influenza) drugs were granted an Emergency Use Authorization (which has since expired).  Relenza was granted approval for up to one year after the original expiration date, whereas Tamiflu products were approved for up to an additional 5 years.  Tamiflu is easier to use, has fewer side-effects, and comes in blister-packs of 10.  A full dose is one 75-mg tablet twice daily for 5 days, to be started within the first day or two of true influenza infection (which is not always known, a discussion for another day). 

Several antibiotics tested for extended use were found to be safe as well, for an additional one to several years.  At this time I am unsure whether the tested drugs were brand-name or generic, but I am looking into the question and will address the specifics in Part 2 of this article.

Interested in a free teleconference on the use of expired medications?  Sign up here.  I’ll discuss more info that I’ll be including in my upcoming book, Armageddon Medicine.

About The Author: Cynthia J. Koelker, MD is the author of the book 101 Ways to Save Money on Health Care explains how to treat over 30 common medical conditions economically, and includes dozens of sections on treating yourself. Available for under $10 online, the book offers practical advice on treating: respiratory infections, pink eye, sore throats, nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, urinary infections, allergies, arthritis, acne, hemorrhoids, dermatitis, skin infection, lacerations, lice, carpal tunnel syndrome, warts, mental illness, asthma, COPD, depression, diabetes, enlarged prostate, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and much more.

Dr. Koelker has recently started a new medical blog on surviving TEOTWAWKI, ArmageddonMedicine.net. She welcomes your questions, comments, and critiques.

Just a note to Richard C. and others who are interested in creating books from public-domain sources.

I think it's a great idea to give knowledge as a gift, especially in the form of books. However, I'm not sure that Richard's plan is an economical one. Most people have ink-jet printers, with high cost ink cartridges. Plus the added danger of the risk of fading and lack of water-fastness in most ink-jet inks might make the information unusable for the long term. Another option is using a laser printer, which will deliver a lower cost per page and will have much better long-term durability. However, both methods are going to be time-consuming and will require some sort of binding at the end of all that printing.

These days, there is another way that might interest readers, which is print-on-demand services like CreateSpace.com, run by the Amazon.com folks (there are others out there, I just researched this one for a project of my own). According to the pricing guide on their Web site, an 8" x 10", black and white book of 100 pages is only $3.66. A 200-page book is $5.50. The final product looks like a regular paperback book, complete with full-color cover. You'd also pay shipping and handling, but I'm sure you can see that this can be a significant time and money saver, especially if you want multiple copies of the same book. Putting multiple books in the same binding can further your savings.

And after his book is finished and printed for his family at Christmas, he can leave it up on Amazon.com for others to purchase and make a profit on his work if he likes. The gift that keeps on giving! Cheers! - Jason R.

J.A.B. (now on active duty in Germany) sent this: Secret Bundesbank bunker opens to public

   o o o

It comes down to maintenance: The owner of a 1928 Rolls-Royce Picadilly P1 Roadster died at age 102--the ultimate "one owner" car. (Thanks to Jason M. for sending this item.)

   o o o

Beheaded in Arizona: That "South of the Border" violence is here

“….Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!” - Rudyard Kipling, “The Gods of the Copybook Headings”, 1919

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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.

There is only one sure thing about plans: at some point they have a good chance of failing. Not necessarily because the plans were faulty, but because it is nearly impossible to plan for everything. The universe has a way of ensuring that we get to experience the widest range of possibilities. So what if, after all your preparing, storing food, water, fuel, fortress etc., etc, what if you suddenly do not have access to all of that? We don't have to go through all the ways that this might happen, I'll let your imagination work on that. So, could you survive if there was nothing between you and nature, none of the "stuff", the baggage that we store up like squirrels and carry with us like turtles, tending to make us just as slow and cumbersome as turtles? Could you survive and provide for your loved ones if there was nothing between you and the Creator?

If you are interested in learning so called "primitive" skills, then there are many books on the subject, so I am not going to go into full detail on how to do each thing, that would require an article the size of an encyclopedia. So I will leave the research to you, and just give some tips here that you will not find in most survival books, the tips that come from experience and could mean the difference between success and failure, i.e., life or death.

The Crucial Four: Food, Water, Shelter, Fire.
There is always debate as to which of those is more important. It comes down to common sense. If you are in the arctic in winter, shelter is number 1. If you are in desert during the day, water might be first priority. In the jungle at night, you might prefer fire. Food is actually very low in the list. One can go for weeks without food. Three days is about the limit for going without water, though this can be stretched, and extremely hot, humid climates will decrease the time. You will only last a few hours to a few minutes under hypothermic conditions. So in most situations, the two most important things are water and shelter. When you want warmth, think shelter before fire. Anyone who has ever spent a very cold night with nothing but a fire knows that one could freeze to death that way. If all you have is a fire, better to make a very small one, save on your wood, use very small branches, and sit with your legs around the fire. If you have a blanket, wrap it around you to make a bit of a "tipi" with the fire in the middle and continuously feed it throughout the night.

When it comes to building shelters, for cold weather a debris hut is best. This is the simple two short poles in a triangle, with one long pole from the apex of the two short poles to the ground. Then ribs of short sticks are laid against the ridge pole to form the sides, twigs and brush is put on top of the ribs, then leaves, needles and such debris is piled on top. This is a stereotypical shelter, however, what most survival books do not stress is just how much debris is needed. If you wish to survive freezing temperatures, you will need to keep piling debris on until you can shove your hand into the debris and touch the ribs, and have the debris up to you armpit. That is the minimum! Any colder than 30 degrees or so, you need 3, 4, 5 feet of debris. But this is not all. When you first begin to build shelters, you might have a tendency to think of them like a house, a nice roomy little shelter. In cold conditions, this could kill you. The shelter must be barely bigger than your body, and when you finish piling debris of the outside, your job is not over. Drag leaves inside and stuff into every crack, between every rib, then pack the space where you will sleep until you can barely worm your way into it...then add more. It will pack down before the night is over, don't worry. The only mistake you can make is not adding enough. Then pile an armload of debris outside the opening that you can pull in behind you to seal the door. (you enter feet first) What you are trying to do is create a cocoon around you with as little air space as possible, so that your body heat can warm your space. Don't be afraid to cover your head with debris. A bandana can be your best friend for so many things, and here it will help keep leaf mold out of your lungs. If you have fire, warm rocks at your feet, head and on your stomach are nice. Just be sure not to use river rocks, as they have a tendency to hold moisture, which when heated can cause the rocks to explode into dangerous shards. Whether in a shelter or by a fire, stuffing your pants, shirt, hat or bandana, and socks with debris, until you look like a Michelin Man can really help keep you warm. Cattail down is really nice and warm, especially comfortable in the socks.

Water can so easily become the gold of the future. Books will tell you how to make solar stills, use purification tablets, filters, SteriPens etc. You may not have these things, so here are a couple of thing that may help. First learn the indicator species in your area for water. That is, plants, animals, birds and insects that like water. Things like Willow, Slippery Elm, and River Birch usually indicate moist areas, though not always surface water. You might find spots to dig for seeps though, or high moisture soil for a still. Also things like Sycamore and Grapevine that can be tapped for water. Always learn the dangers though, things like Canadian Moonseed, which looks similar to grape, but is poisonous. Some plants will help kill bacteria or boost the immune system against bacteria or viruses. These include things like Echinacea, Olive Leaf, Golden Seal. Water with a high tannin content tends to have less of the tiny varmints, they have a hard time living in such water. Watch for birds, learn the ones of your area that are fond of water. In some places it might be Blue Heron or Belted Kingfisher, other places it might be the Loon or Geese. Turtles or toads do not necessarily mean that water is close by.

Don't forget dew as a water source. Just sop it up with a rag and wring it into your mouth or a container. Be careful about doing this in fields that might have been sprayed with herbicide or fertilizer, and obviously never along roadsides. You can make a filter that will catch some of the larger "animals" in surface water, though it will not help much with stuff like Giardia or chemicals. Anything of multiple layers that you can pour water through will help. Here is a filter that I made one time, to give an idea. I cut a large bull thistle stalk and snipped the prickly leaves from it. It was a hollow stalk about 2 1/2 inches long and 3 inches diameter. I stuffed grass in one end then proceeded to pack it with layers of cattail down, charcoal, sand, gravel, then repeated the layers, filling the stalk about 2/3 full. Then poured some pond water in and let it seep down. It will take a while to drain through. When I did this, I first took a drop of the water and put it under a microscope, it was crawling alive with tiny creatures. After seeping through the filter, there were none. Again, this will not eliminate viruses and certain bacteria, but in a pinch it is better than nothing. If you wish to boil the water, that leads into the subject of.....

Aside from flint & steel, magnesium, batteries & steel wool, (which by the way should be the finest of wool, 0000) magnifying glass, using the striker on an empty Bic [disposable lighter], etc., we will look at the more natural methods. These would include bow drill, hand drill, pump drill, fire piston, fire saw, fire plough. We will stick to bow drill, it is the one you will find mentioned the most in your books. However, if you made and tried to use a bow drill the way it is illustrated in most survival and army guides, you would most likely die of exhaustion before you could get a coal. Here are a few tips. First, practice now, not on the trail. This can not be stressed enough, with any skill. The fireboard should be no thicker that 3/4 inch, the thickness of your thumb is generally good. Flatten and square off the top, sides and bottom. Burn the spindle well into the fireboard before cutting the notch. Make the edge of the spindle hole in the fireboard about a 1/4 inch in from the edge of the fireboard. The notch should be about a 1/8th of a pie, and should apex almost but not quite to the center of the hole. The notch has to be big enough to collect dust for a coal and allow air to reach the coal, but not so big that the dust cools or the spindle pops out of the hole through the notch. The spindle should be fairly sharp on the handhold end, and rounded on the fireboard end. Spindles can have a diameter anywhere from "OK size" (that is, when you make a circle with thumb and index finger--about an inch) to pinky size. Thumb size is generally best. If it is for a small child or someone that does not have much stamina, the smaller the spindle, the more pressure you will be applying per square centimeter, and so generate more heat, quicker. However, a larger diameter spindle will make a larger coal, so can be better in wet weather. Every set is made to your proportions, though eventually you will be able to get a fire with any set. The best length for the spindle is thumb tip to pinky tip when the fingers are extended into the sign for Y or "telephone". It needs to be very straight and scraped free of lumps. Burn a good socket into the handhold, then re-sharpen the end of the spindle. Then lubricate the socket with anything that will varnish and allow the spindle to turn freely in the handhold without burning down and sticking. This can be anything from body oils, earwax, tallow, oil or soap, even pine tar or cedar boughs. Depending on the wood, it may only need to be lubed once, or several times before you get the coal.

On the fireboard end of the spindle, you want it to burn away, so be careful to not touch this end to your skin, as the oils from your body will make the spindle and fireboard varnish and no dust will be produced. You can tell it is varnishing if it gets a shiny look or squeaks like a turkey call. When this happens, scrap the shine from the spindle and fireboard hole, or just add a few grains of sand into the hole and continue bowing. In choosing your wood, dig your fingernail into the wood. If it leaves a dent, you can probably make fire with it. (unless it is treated wood, which is good practice though) If your finger goes through the wood, then no, it is not good for beginners. A harder wood is better in wet weather, as you can bow it for a while and let the heat drive the moisture from the wood. Softer woods like yucca, which usually give a fast hot coal when dry, when wet the fibers usually just spin. Don't use green wood. The bow can be anywhere from 4 inches to three feet. But make it the length of your armpit to wrist, with enough of a curve that the string does not lay on the bow when strung. The string needs to be tight enough that, when the string is wrapped around the spindle, if you let go of the spindle it will pop out of the string, but not so tight that it bites into the spindle, creating ridges. Lots of things can be used for string, try different things. Natural fiber cordage (we'll get to that in a bit) leather strips (tend to stretch a lot) reverse wrapped VHS tape (also stretches) use your imagination. When on the bow, just grab the string with your fingers as you bow, and squeeze to tighten as needed. Place either a small tinder bundle or a leaf or something under the notch for the coal to build on. When the string is wrapped around the spindle, the string should be between the spindle and the bow. Now, form is everything. Turn your foot so that it is pointing toward the side of your body. Place the fireboard under the arch, as close to the hole as you can without the spindle rubbing on your foot. Then kneel with your knee a comfortable distance from the heel of your fireboard foot, the calf of your kneeling leg pointing directly behind you to form an L with your other foot. This position may seem uncomfortable at first, but provides the best support and balance. Wrap your handhold arm around your fireboard leg, and clamp your wrist to your shin. Place the handhold so that the spindle is directly under the center of the the palm.

Start slowly, holding the bow level, adding more pressure and speed, and making use of the full length of the bow. Smoke Does Not Mean A Coal! After you think you might have a coal, keep bowing about 20 more times, or until you can no longer move your bow arm. When smoke continues to rise for more than a few seconds after you stop, you have a coal. Remove spindle and gently blow to give it life. When you see the glow, gently tap the fireboard to loosen the dust from the notch, and take away the board. Gently fold the tiny living coal into a waiting, very finely shredded tinder bundle, being careful not to knock it apart. You do not have to hurry, depending on the size, a coal can last 15 minutes on it's own. At this point it needs two things: food (tinder packed around it) and air (don't pack too tightly). Hold the bundle to the sky and gently breath into it until it burst into flames. (Watch for singed eyebrows!) Now, you have fire, what are you going to boil your water in? If you have a metal container, great. A plastic one you might be able to rock boil in. Again, do not use river rocks. And they do not have to be boulders either. Just medium stones to large pebbles that you can pick up with tongs made of branches. If it is a plastic container, don't let the rocks set on the bottom and melt through, If you are not in a rocky area, you will have to make do with coals, the charcoal will help purify the water. Just be careful with the type of wood you use. If you do not do not have a container, there are several options, one of the best is coal burning. Find a log or piece of wood that you can manage. It needs to be seasoned but not rotten. It can not be green or wet, or else when it heats up, the moisture will expand and cause the wood to crack. If it is very cold weather, first heat up the wood Very Slowly by the fire. Add a few coals to the center of the wood. The idea is to let the coals burn into the wood for a while, scrape off the char, then add more coals and burn a little deeper, until you have a container. You can blow gently on the coals to speed up the process, or set it where the wind will do the job. (watch it though, on a windy day it can burn right through the leeward side of the bowl) Do not blow hard, as an overheated coal will make the wood fissure. If you have a reed or other hollow stem, you can direct the air more effectively. Take your time, and feel what the wood needs, You do not have to have a huge mixing bowl. When you have it burned to the size you want (provided you can not see daylight through the cracks) scrape it well. Waste nothing, save the charcoal, it can be used for many things. You can press cordage into small cracks to help seal them. After the wood is scraped, put some sand or grit in it and use the end of a stick to stir the sand hard against the bowl, to help smooth it. Then take a smooth stone, pebble, knife handle or whatever, and begin to run it over the inside of the bowl, pressing very hard. This is called burnishing, and you will see the wood start to look shiny as you compress the fibers together, This helps to seal the wood so it will not be as likely to crack when you add water, so go over every inch really well. If you have or eventually obtain an ingestible oil or tallow, rub the wood well with that. In the meantime, if you use the bowl to mash some kind of nuts, acorn, hickory, pecan etc., the oil from the nuts will help seal it. But even without that you can now rock boil in your container.

One of the most useful items you will find in survival is string. For bow drill, bow, snares and a million other things. If string is not to be had, you need to know how to make cordage. Cordage can be made from nearly any strong and pliable fiber, from cadmium to fur, though to be feasible it needs to be at least 3 inches long. This is really fun to experiment with. Every grass, fern, bark, and your mate's hair will become an object that must be tested. The technique is simple: Hold two bundles of fibers with the fingers of one hand. With the other hand, grasp the bottom bundle, close to your fingers, and twist it away from you. Holding that twisted bundle with two fingers, use your other fingers to pull and wrap the top bundle over the twisted one, toward you, lapping it tightly so that the top bundle is now on the bottom. You now twist this new bottom one and repeat. If done correctly, after a few laps, you can let go of the ends and they will not unwrap, as the fibers twist back on themselves and hold their place. It should look like rope. Before you reach the end of your fibers, 1-3 inches depending of the length of the fibers, you want to add more. It is best not to do this all at once as it not only makes a thick spot, but a weak point. Instead, vary the length of the fibers, and add new fiber a little at a time to keep the diameter even, tucking each new bit into the center of the bundles to help make the finished cordage smooth and even. With a little practice this can be made quickly. Some inner barks can be used while fresh and moist. Fibrous cedar bark makes great cordage if harvested before it begins to break down, but it is soft and stretchy, so can be hard to use for bow drill. Dogbane (wash hands thoroughly afterward, it is poisonous) Nettles (slide the stems between a split stick to remove stinging hairs) chinaberry bark, wisteria vine bark, dried morning glory vines, mulberry bark etc. etc. One of the very best plant fibers for cordage is yucca, so if you are fortunate enough to live in the south, you can locate some of this great material. In the north, well, you just have to find a nice landscaped area that has yucca, wait until dark.

This is one of the strongest fibers you will find, the entire plant is amazing, but that is an article by itself. Clip a few leaves at their base (be careful of your eyes when reaching down into the plant, the tips of the leaves are very sharp) These can be either fresh or the dried ones at the base of the plant. With fresh ones, they can either be peeled into strands as-is, or first scrape the stiff green layer off the outside, or, if you have time, ret them. Retting is putting the leaves in water and leaving them until the outer green layer begins to rot. You then can simply pull the leaf between your fingers to scrap this off, and it leaves you with very soft white fibers...and very smelly hands. To peel the fiber one of the best ways is to start at the thick base, make a slice with a knife or fingernail halfway between the front and the back of the leaf, then grasp one side with your teeth, the other side with one hand, and with the other hand lightly pinch where the two sides separate, sliding your hand down as you pull them apart. This helps the fibers to separate evenly, so that you end up with nearly full length strands. A good way to separate many types of fibers. Keep separating until you have the fibers as thin as you wish. You can make cordage as thin as sewing thread, thicker for bow drill or bowstring. For a stronger cord, take two lengths of cordage already made, or bend one in half, and begin to reverse wrap them. Twist the bottom strand toward you and wrap the top strand away from you, over the back of the bottom strand, the top strand becoming the bottom. Hope all of this has not left you completely confused, it is much easier to show than to figure out how to describe in print. The good thing about natural fiber bowstring is that it will not get as limp and stretchy as sinew, leather or other animal based strings tend to do.

The first rule of wilderness living is conservation of energy. What you put into getting food must be weighed against how much nutrient you will get back, and how long it will last. Plants don't run away. So they are good to learn, learn them well. Figure out if you can identify plants easier by photos or drawings or paintings, then select a field guide that you feel comfortable with. Then get to know the field guide well. Put it somewhere that you have a few minutes every day undisturbed. (by the bed, in the bathroom, beside the percolator) Just look at the pictures. Soon, when you go out into the field, or drive down the road, you will begin to recognize plants, even if you do not know their names yet. Peterson has one of the best guides for medicinal plants. National Wildlife Federation puts out very good field guides that show multiple photos with every description. Some things look so completely different than any other plant on earth that I would consider them perfectly safe to identify. But then an amateur looks at it and says "oh that looks just like this other plant..."....! At first it may look like a sea of green, but do not get discouraged, within one summer of keeping plants within your awareness, that sea of green will begin to fragment into a plethora of colors, shapes, and personalities. A very good book to help get you started is Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification, by Thomas J. Elpel. Remember that trees are a winter survival food, most are edible, the cadmium or inner bark can be cooked or dried and pounded into flour. (remember though, conservation of energy).

Whenever you go into the wilderness, the first thing you do is pick up a stick. For defense and offence. A throwing stick should be kept in the hand at all times, not stuck in the belt or pack where it will stay as you watch that rabbit tail disappear or that fat snake slither into a crack.

Traps and snares are great, as they do not require you to be on duty for them to work, and you can set many at a time. But they need to be practiced now, or if you go into a survival situation you may spend an entire afternoon trying to get that dratted figure four deadfall to stay up. Or you may get it to stay together the first time, because the notches are so deep that a herd of stampeding elephants could not knock it down, so how will that chipmunk? Get really good at two kinds of dead falls and two kinds of snares. If you learn only deadfall's and go into an area like mine, where there are few large stones, then you will either have to find a log that is not too rotted and not too long (good luck) or tie sticks together to make a door-like deadfall, weight it with something......time, energy. It can be done, but better to take the easiest route in survival. The drawback with improvised snares is the time consumption of making cordage, and that you must make sure that the snare does it's job, or the cordage can be easily chewed through. Two of the best and quickest deadfall's are the figure-four and the Paiute.

You can find a drawing of a figure-four in most survival books. A paiute is by far my favorite though, as it is so fast and has less chance of fouling the fall with one of the sticks. It looks like a figure-four, except that the horizontal bar is not a stick but a piece of string, tied at one end to the stick that is at a 45 degree angle holding the deadfall up. The other end is tied to a very small twig. The string is wrapped around the upright stick at about the middle, the twig is hooked behind the upright, with 2/3 of it sticking out. Then a baited stick is placed with one end against the end of the twig and the other against the underside of the deadfall. If bait is not available, you can place this trap on a trail and use a brushy stick instead of a baited one, when the animal brushes against it it works very well. The two snares that I would recommend learning first is the rolling snare and the T-bar snare. Both are simple, but too complicated to try to explain in print, without pictures. You should be able to find these in books though, or something similar. For bait, open your awareness. What is around you that is chewed on? Here in my area we find a red topped mushroom that the squirrels love. However, in order for bait to work, it has to be something that they really want, something unusual or that they can't normally reach. In other words, don't set a trap with a wilted mushroom in the middle of a mushroom patch. Be careful of your scent. Rub your hands with soil, cedar boughs, ash, charcoal, anything that won't turn their ire. Be careful about using some very strong scented plants as that can make them cautious. Rub the peeled and notched places on the traps with dirt to camo them, don't think that animals are so unaware that they will not notice these. Make your traps elsewhere and carry them to your spot, spend as little time and leave as little scent there as possible. Learn to recognize tracks and trails, and the age of tracks, don't place a trap on a trail that was made two weeks ago when the path lead to a now dried up water hole. Good places to look for animals are transition areas. This is where woods meet field, field meets swamp, etc. Good times to find animals are transition times. When night meets day, day meets night, summer meets fall, and winter meets spring. Remember that animals are smart. If you are setting in a blind with two inches of frost eating through five layers of wool, most likely the deer are bedded down, you are the only one crazy enough to be out there.

Don't forget that snares can be used for fishing. When you are learning the plants look also for those that have some part that can be put in a small body of water to stun fish. I could go on for a few days, but maybe there will something here that will be of some use to someone.

Here is a list of recommended reading, the ones written by those who have actually lived what they write.

Outdoor Survival:
Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills: Naked into the Wilderness by John & Geri McPherson
How to Survive Anywhere by Christopher Nyerges
Wilderness Survival Handbook: Primitive Skills for Short-Term Survival and Long-Term Comfort by Michael Pewtherer
Any books or field guides written by Tom Brown, Jr.

A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs (Peterson Field Guide), by Steven Foster and James A. Duke (Eastern & Central, and Western)
Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places, by "Wildman" Steve Brill
Feasting Free on Wild Edibles by Bradford Angier
Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods by Thomas S. Elias & Peter A. Dykeman
Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification by Thomas J. Elpel
A Field Guide to Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants: North America North of Mexico (Peterson Field Guide)

Bows & Arrows of the Native Americans by Jim Hamm
Making Indian Bows and Arrows, The Old Way by Douglas Spotted Eagle
American Indian Archery by Reginald and Gladys Laubin

Flint Knapping:
The Art of Flint Knapping by D.C. Waldorf
Flintknapping: 100 Pounds of Attitude with Angela Parker (video)

Deerskins Into Buckskins: How To Tan With Natural Materials, a Field Guide for Hunters and Gatherers by Matt Richards (available as a book and a DVD)

Tom Brown's Science and Art of Tracking by Tom Brown Jr.
Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking by Tom Brown Jr.
Mammal Tracks & Sign: A Guide to North American Species by Mark Elbroch
Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks: Third Edition
The SAS Guide to Tracking by Bob Carss
The Tracker's Field Guide: A Comprehensive Handbook for Animal Tracking in the United States by James C. Lowery
Tracking and the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Sign by Paul Rezendes

Mr. Rawles,

I wanted to express a word of caution about wooden pallets. The company I work for throws away many pallets each week and I had the same thought about using them as a free supplement for my wood burning stove. I am a biochemist so before burning any pallets the scientist in me needed to know more about what chemicals I might be exposing to my family.

What I have learned is that many pallets, especially those used in international shipments are treated with a fungicide/pesticide called 2,4,6-tribromophenol (TBE). This chemical can cause irritation of the skin, mucus membranes and the digestive tract. So I recommend the use of gloves when handling pallets, also anyone who has breathing issues should wear a mask when cutting old pallets. One study found that approximately 10% of the pallets tested came back positive for E. coli which is a concern for anyone with a weak immune system and children.

The information I found showed that 2,4,6-tribromophenol is readily absorbed by the body, but fortunately it is also quickly excreted in the urine and feces. This basically means that the compound is lethal only in extreme doses and casual occasional exposure should be okay. [JWR Adds: But I'd avoid any unnecessary exposure, since TBE has not yet been fully tested for carcinogenicity, endocrine disruption, neurodevelopmental effects, and reproductive system effects. And since this chemical is used as a flame retardant, so it doesn't make for good kindling!]

I agree with your recommendation about any wood that has been treated to resist rot, some of the chemicals used to treat this lumber are toxic. The US has stopped the use of the most toxic of these chemicals, but unless you are absolutely sure where the pallet came from don’t take any chances since some foreign countries do not have the same restrictions we have in the United States.

I have begun collecting pallets I felt are free of chemical exposure and besides the obvious use as firewood I have started looking to use them for fencing around my garden and possibly about an animal pen. - Bill

Mr Rawles,
First off, I must say that I enjoyed your book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It". My perspective on firearms comes from an Infantry (though National Guard) mindset. I hope after a little editing this is worth posting for the Really Poor Man.

My friends and I are in our mid- to late-20s, with incomes between $12 and $14 an hour. One has 3 kids and a wife, another has bills (car note payments) and all of us try to find time and have money for limited recreation. When dealing especially with my friend who has a family on a $12/hour income it produces a Unique challenge. Our other Unique challenge is that we have all gotten into buying ammo a little late, politically speaking. My first answer for the Financially Strapped, and what I tell my friends is "Buy Ammo and Food First" I have extra firearms, I would rather that a friend bring 1,000 rounds of 7.62x39, and pass them my SKS, then then have them bring an AK [and little or no ammo] and drain my limited (4,000 rounds) ammunition for what would be my primary rifle. As for food, beans, rice, and multivitamins will at least feed the person. (10 people who prepared can support the one who didn't (as charity), but one person who prepared cannot support 10 others.)

Okay, I digress. My Arms and Ammo Recommendation for the really poor man are as follows:

Note that if you know that you are going to be with people who shoot American calibers, then use the following approach as a last resort. I believe in trying to maintain standard calibers in a group. (we are using 7.62x25, 7.62x39, and 7.62x54R, and soon .s22, and 12 gauge as our standards) and you can never have enough ammo.


Mosin Nagant 91/30 (7.62x54R) $80 to $120 1 spam can 7.62x54R (440 rounds, corrosively primed) $120 (after shipping) [JWR Adds: See my warnings on corrosively primed ammunition, and cleaning commendations.]


TT33 (7.62x25 pistol) $200- to-$300 1 spam can 7.62x 25 (1,224 rounds noncorrosive) $180. (There is Yugoslavian corrosive available much less expensively.)

You now have a rifle, pistol, 1,600+ non-reloadable rounds that won't go bad for decades. This recipe is not perfect, but it gets you in the game, for personal defense and hunting large game, on a budget. [JWR Adds: Full metal jacket (non-expanding) ammunition is not legal for hunting in many States. Be sure to consult your State's laws.]

Body Armor
I've seen that some people are buying body armor, and have had friends ask about it. I am not an advocate of wearing it. But if you are considering it, consider your health and finances. I have a bad knee, the extra weight for me will decrease the life of my knee, putting me out of service sooner. It will limit mobility, and its only good for so many shots, and I believe it has a shelf life. Either remove your Kevlar helmet [and wear a shapeless boonie hat] when concealed in the field (since the round shape of a helmet is not natural and it can give away your position), or break up its outline with camouflaging materials.

As for me, the infantry motto is "shoot, move, and communicate". Getting shot isn't in the motto, but if I do then I'm gonna die comfortable. I'll take my mobility. - J.M., 11B Infantryman


Bob G. spotted this: Ammo Long Term Storage Tips

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K.T. mentioned a web site that houses some rare photos of Assorted Black Ops Toys.[ JWR's Comment: Some of the conclusions drawn in the captions ramble off into incoherent UFOlogy, so I ignored them. Still, it is a great collection of photos. It is fun seeing photos of the fruition of some of the codeword programs that I had heretofore only read about in text descriptions. Shrouded even deeper in secrecy, of course, are the compartmentalized intelligence products derived from some of these platforms. Those may not see the light of day for a century or more.]

   o o o

Individual preparedness for terrorism: Are you ready? (Thanks to The Baker for the link.)

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Rented Books and Custom Pants: Clever Newbies Buck Retail's Downturn

"How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!" - Samuel Adams

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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 left the city earlier this year, and have settled in on property that my grandmother bought 70 years ago. I work from home, in the arts, doing publicity, proofreading, and copy-editing. I have a very quiet life, very private, a few good friends, a deep knowledge of the region. I rarely go more than five miles from home.

The world frightens me much more than it did when I was younger and stronger and living in the big scary city. Havoc, it seems, has already been cried, and it’s not out of the question that the dogs of war will be let slip in Times Square. About six months ago, I began stockpiling. It’s been quite a journey. My emphasis has been on canned goods, dehydrated and freeze-dried food, and first-aid supplies.

And I haven’t told anyone about this except my son.

So, here I am, lady of a certain age, on my own, my only family 100 miles away, my closest neighbor is a man I don’t actually like very much (although he has, if you hold his feet to the fire, a certain grudging and oddly unpleasant generosity of spirit). I never expected I’d spend my golden years alone, but it’s not so bad, come to find out. There’s a lot worse things can happen to a girl than not having a husband. I’d prefer they didn’t happen to me, which brings me to the subject at hand.

Content as I am, I find I want to live a good while longer. I didn’t need a lot of convincing, but there are some good, scary scenarios depicting what it’ll like for those who don’t make any preparations. The movie “Testament” is extremely distressing. So are “The Day After ,” “The Road ,” and “Children of Men.” I don’t have a bug-out bag: I’m not going anywhere. I’m too old, and I can’t think of a place I’d rather be. And besides, I expect people will be bugging out to my place.

My little home has always been a weekend retreat—I own about an acre on a quaternary road. The house is on a wooded hill overlooking a 50+ acre lake on which there are only a half-dozen other houses, and it can’t be seen from the road when the trees are in leaf; it’s not terribly conspicuous even in the winter. It very unlikely it will get flooded. Occasionally in the springtime, at very high water, the little access lane—is there such a thing as a quinternary road?—will be covered with up to three feet of water. I found out a few years back that I was the only person who knew how to get into and out of our little enclave when the lane is under water.

The far shore of the lake is part of a conservation easement on which can be found the remains of the local limestone mining industry, which went belly-up before the Civil War. There’s another lake about a mile back in the woods, and several mines.

My brother and I explored those mines, or caves, as we called them, and, when I was a youngling, I entertained TEOTWAWKI fantasies of hiding out there, finding true love while keeping civilization alive. The caves are unsuitable as retreat locations, for a number of reasons, but my little house is not. It’s my redoubt, where I plan to live out my days and where I will hunker down if the worse—or even something only moderately bad—comes to the worst.

One of the most annoying phrases to come out of the New Age, that lavish font of faux philosophy, mock wisdom, and do-it-yourself religion, is that "God doesn't give you anything that you can't handle." I can handle a lot, but my feeling is that, whether God gives it to me or not, there are plenty of things I couldn’t handle. [JWR Adds: That phrase is a derivation, and a corruption of 1 Corinthians 10:13: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." That verse is about temptation, not physical trials,] Nuclear war, for instance. Nor am I arrogant enough to think I could handle the death of a child. The problem is with the verb: “handle” is trivial, the kind of action taken in ad copy, which is, come to think of it, what a lot of that jejune new-age nonsense actually is. I’ll stick with King David and St. Paul, thanks. And I’ll allow as how “handling” is not the action you’ll want to take when faced with catastrophe of the apocalyptic sort.

My focus recently has been water. I always thought I could count on the lake as a sure supply of water, albeit water that would have to be filtered and purified six ways from Sunday. After reading Paul Erlich’s book The Cold and the Dark: The World After Nuclear War, however, I understand that not only can surface water be contaminated by other than organic means, i.e. radioactive fallout, it is likely, in the event of a nuclear war and subsequent Ragnarök, to be frozen.

There are two wells on the property. The original well is about 70 feet deep, and when I was a child there was a hand pump (and an outhouse). My father modernized the house in the 60s, getting rid of the outhouse, installing electric baseboard heaters and running water, and putting an electric pump on the well. That well went dry in the parched summer of 2002, and I had a new, 400-foot well put in. I’m in the midst of arranging for a hand pump for the old well. (It has filled up again and is perfectly functional. It’ll only cost a couple-three hundred dollars, as the water is quite close to the surface.)

There’s also a pretty constant supply of water in the basement of the house. This has always been a nuisance that called for a sump pump, but now I’m beginning to think I need to collect it in a cistern.

I’ve begun to think about security, too. As I said, I’ve told no one about my preparations, other than my son. I’m on good terms with my immediate neighbors, known all of them for many years. But this is private, and I have told no one.

The woods across the lake are somewhat accessible, although the resort that has title to the land installed, a few years back, some substantial fences (think, Arbeit Macht Frei) at key access points. The lake itself has a public landing where fisherman occasionally put in. I’m not too worried about hordes of refugees from the city, I’m far enough off the beaten path, but local people who haven’t fished that lake for years are likely to remember it and show up for water and dinner and laundry and who-knows-what else. Up until five or six years ago I always had a Doberman or two. Now I’m thinking I should dog up again, but I’m thinking Rottweiler. More intimidating but actually gentler, their less exigent exercise demands more suited to a woman of my years.

Here are the other preparations I’ve made so far:

  • Many, many kerosene/oil lamps, both the table variety and the “railroad” kind that swing from a handle; lots of spare wicks, many gallons of oil. I got these lamps years ago, when my life was very different, when I used to entertain rather a lot. I hung them from hooks in the trees, and they lit up the paths and woods around my house, quite a magical effect. I use them instead of a flashlight when I need to go out at night.
  • Books, for reference and to replace what I’m used to finding on the Web. Joy of Cooking is simply indispensable. I don’t know a lot about Irma Rombauer and Marion Becker, but their magnum opus evokes a solid, Midwestern, roll-up-your-sleeves-ladies pioneering spirit. I’ve had a copy since 1976, and have gone through several editions. The recipes themselves range from down-home to haute—Christmas cookies, pâté de foie gras, chicken and dumplings, apricot soufflée, anything you need, it’s here. There are instructions for the field dressing of game (“Find and take hold of the large intestine as near as possible to the already loosened anus...”), stuffing a boar’s head (...a gloriously glazed and garnished presentation, so gird up your loins and prepare to receive a hero’s reward...”), tapping a maple (“Hammer the spout in gently but firmly so as not to split the bark, which will cause a leaky tap hole.”), and beating eggs (“The French dote on copper.”).  A more recent acquisition has been a volume published by The Success Companies in 1908 called Household Discoveries & Mrs. Curtis’s Cook Book. If you anticipate living a lifestyle that doesn’t depend on the internal combustion engine, you’ll want this book. It’s long out of print, of course, but you can find it on the Web. My copy is in excellent shape. It’s full of hints and procedures, recipes and advice. The recipes should be taken with a grain of salt, as it were, but I’ve always been fairly liberal in the interpretation of quantities and oven temperatures, myself. There are substantial disquisitions on laundry, care of the teeth, nursing the sick, household hygiene (“Never throw dishwater from the kitchen door.”), childcare, household and garden pests, preserving and canning, and much more. Things like using slippery elm bark to preserve animal fat and oil; fireproofing and waterproofing; preserving fresh meat for several days with sour milk, vinegar, charcoal, or borax; the fireless cooker; Favorite Meals In Famous Houses; etc. Household Discoveries & Mrs. Curtis’s Cook Book is chock-full of vital information and vastly entertaining with it.
  • Speaking of entertainment, I have many books, as well as board games, decks of cards, and vocal music. I don’t know how many people can actually read music anymore, but I have hymnals and books of vocal arrangements of pop songs, folk songs, and madrigals. Find your own favorites at Singers.com.
  • Blackout curtains from Wal-Mart ($11.99 per panel). These will serve as insulation and as security, keeping light indoors and the house invisible at night. I’ve put self-adhesive Velcro along the window frames and sewn it up the sides of the curtains.
  • My 12-gauge pump-action Mossberg. A five-shooter. I have 10 boxes of shells and pick up a couple or three more every time I go to Wal-Mart.
  • Peppermint oil to keep the mice away, and steel wool to plug up holes where they can get in. Mousetraps for the stubborn ones. Fly-bait powder and flypaper. Flea bombs. Insect repellent (at a deep discount this time of year). I also have hornet bombs that shoot a powerful spray 25 feet.
  • I expect one or another of my gentleman callers will be coming by. Helpless as they seem to be, one of them can dig the sanitary pit and another the cistern in the basement. And of course my son, who’s not at all helpless but who’s not made any preparations and who will, he’s told me, hop on his bike and cycle up here from the city. He can do it, too. He bicycled across the country, solo, in 2001. All the way from here to there and back again. Granted, he’s nine years older, now. But he’s quite fit and just as stubborn as I am. In any case, there’s an advantage to preserving any niceties we can, so I’ve laid in a supply of disposable razors and a shaving kit by Burma-Shave with mug, soap, and brush.
  • For currency, I’m putting aside cash, $10 a week or so. I don’t make a lot of money, so it’s slow going, but I have a substantial collection of sterling silver, from the days when the family was flush. It’s quite valuable, but I need to find how barterable these knives, spoons, pickle forks, and gravy ladles really would be after TEOTWAWKI.

Now, as to what I plan to do in the coming months: goats. I’m made arrangements to get two Nigerian dwarfs in the spring. I can milk ‘em, I can ‘eat em, although someone else might have to slaughter them for me. They’ll nibble on my fingers and keep the lawn mowed. I’ll have to fence in my tiny acre before they arrive, but that’s fine, a little electric barrier (with a solar charger) between me and the rest of the world. It won’t keep the rest of the world out, but it will make them stop and hello-the-house or at least get my attention with their cursing and give me time to grab the twelve-gauge before they’re across the yard and into my stuff.

And ducks. They’ll like the lake.

Over the winter I’m planning how to sequester my supplies. There’s a good-sized dead space where the kitchen backs up to the stairs. It has shelves, and could be easily masked with a false wall of sheet rock and molding, all of which can be held in place with Velcro. (I’m a great believer in Velcro.)

Music is important to me. What I need is a solar charger for the iPod, which is loaded at all times with the Desert Island play list, not as important as keeping gas in the car, but up there. It would be nice to have a working computer, including my music library, whether or not the Internet survives the apocalypse. I have the solar charger from the VW Jetta (turbo-diesel, thanks for asking) with a cigarette lighter male half. GoalÆ has an Anderson-to-female cigarette lighter adaptor that’ll power the amplifier for $6.99 plus shipping. I think. Internet and blogosphere talk of such items gets, usually by the second paragraph, into geek talk that goes straight over my head like a 787. There’s a bit of head-scratching involved in studying up on these power sources and applications. For instance, when I do web search on “female cigarette lighter” I tend to get web sites of Chinese manufacturers of elegant combustion devices designed to be held by dainty hands. Obviously these are of no use to me as I stopped smoking some twelve years back and left daintiness behind sometime later.

Grates from the oven and the Weber grill will do for cooking on the fire pit I have out back, but I’ll be wanting a wood-burning camp or military stove, preferably one that will heat the house, as well. There are such available, and I expect I’ll get one in the spring. I have a good selection of cast-iron cookware, heavy for a lady to lift but useful for pre-industrial cooking situations. I’d like to put in a fireplace insert to heat the house.

What have I learned, making these preparations? I’ve learned that stubbornness and leverage are as important as brute strength. And that it’s not at all painful to buy a little at a time; whenever I shop for groceries I pick up a few more cans of fruit or vegetables, a few more rolled bandages. And I’ve learned that it’s important while making all these preparations to  maintain at least the semblance of a normal life. Normal now is not what it was.

I look at what I’ve done, all by myself, and I’m kind of amazed. I’m not finished with my preparations, not by a long shot. But if the hammer fell tomorrow I would feel, if not safe, at least not destitute by the altered standards of destitution that would obtain in such a development. I’ll have told no one, but I’ll have enough to share if Polite Society comes calling.

Sir, First, from one veteran to another, let me thank you, like so many others, for this outstanding blog. I would like to share my experiences with my like-minded brothers and sisters in the hopes that they too can fill their coffers of coins and silver bullion for free or pretty darn close to it.

We most certainly all know the importance of tangible assets at this critical juncture in our Nation's history. But with upward trend of gold and silver as of late, who wants to pay $23 or more for one ounce of silver? Not me. So I don't. Now, I may not be able to fill my safe twice over with this method but it most certainly can help out. And the contacts and friendships made can be invaluable.

As creatures of habit we all have our preferred places were we fill up our gas tanks, get our groceries or make deposits into our checking accounts. We also all have many untapped sources in our friends and family or coworkers. I started looking for free or really inexpensive coins about 5 years ago at work. I realized that many of the people I worked with were not of the prepper mindset and that they may be more willing to let go of whatever silver coins they had. I was right. I let it be known that I collected old coins and that I was willing to pay for them if necessary. Eventually one of the nurses brought in a handful of silver coins and gave them to me. For free. I then had other coworkers checking their change for silver whenever they had a chance. If you have a good relationship with your coworkers you can do this, too. Some may even be willing to bring in their change jars and let you go through them in your search for silver coins.

Always be on the lookout for silver. Just the other day my mother was looking for her lost keys and had poured out the contents of her purse onto her kitchen island. She had left all her change on the counter and when I came over that day to do some home repair work for her, and made my customary first stop at the refrigerator, I noticed two silver quarters sitting in the pile. After a little work on the house those two quarters were mine. Become good friends with your local gas station attendants. Let them know to keep an eye out for silver coins for you. Deborah, who works a gas station in a nearby town, has been saving silver and wheat pennies for me for the last two years. Each time I see her she has a small handful of wheat pennies for me and when I'm lucky, silver coins. Show your face often at gas stations and get to know the clerks. I have done this at other gas stations and it pays off. Not only can you get coins that the clerks get at the counter, but they may know others who have coins you can get or they may have great leads on some prep gear you may need. Just recently, at a gas station in a town eight miles from me, the attendant was paid for $40 in gas with Morgan dollars. The old man who bought the gas informed him that the coins were old, which he already knew and obviously the old man knew what he was spending, and the attendant took them home with him and added to his silver bullion. This same attendant had a woman buy a single cigarette from his store with four silver quarters. The woman told him they were silver quarters and still only bought a cigarette with them. This particular attendant is smart and holds onto all silver coins that he comes across. But it gets to my point that gas stations are a major way point for silver coins. These coins do still get into circulation, and in hard times like these people are willing to spend them at face value, so keep an eye out and get to know those clerks. At that same station another attendant just sold me a roll of silver quarters for $100. That is more than $67 off of the current going price!

Most people are familiar with asking banks to hold silver coins for them. This is a great source. The gas station strategy works just as well at banks, however, you most likely will have a little more competition from other customers. Make sure you show your face at the bank very often and become friends with the tellers. Let them know that you collect old coins and to hold them for you. Also, never pass up the opportunity, while you are standing at the counter, to make a quick pass through their coin trays. I have pulled many silver half dollars that were sitting right there in the open on those trays. Any coins you get at a bank will obviously cost you face value, so to make it easier on everyone carry a handful of change into the bank with you so the exchange can be quick and painless.

Not only can the tellers get you silver coins at face value, but the boxes of rolls they carry can net you a small treasure. Just this week I bought a box of dimes for $250. I found 7 silver dimes. I replaced the 7 dimes and exchanged that box for another box of dimes. I found 1 more silver dime. I then bought a box of nickels and found a silver war nickel. Take into account the time involved in this silver finding tactic and decide if it is worth it to you or not. And also remember that finding a silver quarter, worth $4.19 today, could be worth over $8.00 in the next few years. That is quite the return on a .25 cent clad coin investment and a little time.

If you decide to pursue this, I will offer some words of advice. When searching rolls of dimes do not bother to strain your eyes looking at the dates. They are too small to read quickly and it would take a lot longer to check them all. Look at the edges of the coins in small stacks. Silver coins will stick out due to the lack of cupronickel "sandwich" layers. Some dime edges will be too dirty to tell so when in doubt, check the date to insure it is pre-1965. When looking for quarters, follow the same guidelines as for silver dimes. Checking the edges, in small stacks, is easier and less time consuming.

When searching for silver halves you need to check the dates. They are larger, easier on the eyes and from the edges you would probably miss out on halves minted from 1965 to 1970, which contain 40% silver, are worth almost $3.50 each as of this writing and appear very similar to the less desirable clad halves. Nickels, if you choose to search them, can be a little more difficult. You want to look for Jefferson nickels dated between 1942 and 1945 and that have the mintmark above Monticello on the reverse. You can't miss it. If you've seen enough 'war' nickels you know that the silver ones take on a whole different look than their undesirable cupronickel counterparts. When searching through rolls you may be able to spot a silver one just by its much more dark gray color. Again, when in doubt check the date, and in the case of nickels, check the placement of the mintmark. Some 1942 mint date nickels were minted with no silver and carry their mintmark on the right hand side of Monticello. Beyond searching these rolls to get silver coins at face value, we need to consider the time spent in re-rolling these coins. If you are going to start doing this regularly I strongly suggest in investing in a automatic coin roller. It doesn't need to be anything fancy as we are trying to keep our silver coin searching overhead to a minimum, but it would be wise to get one as it will save you an immense amount of time. I only suggest forgoing the coin roller if you are going to infrequently search rolls. And again, gas stations are also another great source for rolled coins to search.

When you take your trips to the grocery store, do not forget to search the coin rejection slots in CoinStar coin counting machines [often seen at supermarkets]. These are great places to find silver coins that have been rejected by the machines and forgotten by the person using them. Metal detecting is another great way to find some lost silver. I will not get into the specifics of what detectors are better than others, but nonetheless, for the price of a decent detector you can find all sorts of old silver coins, not to mention gold and jewelry.

This may go without saying, but make sure you check your own pockets and change jars. You could have silver right under your nose and not even know it! This also goes for your family, friends and neighbors. Don't be afraid to ask to go through their change jars and let them know that you will replace the face value of whatever you find or pay them for the coins. More than likely you will be given permission to keep whatever you find for free, but always offer anyhow.

I hope that some of these tips help you find silver for free or for face value. These are great ways to come into the possession of a metal whose value is on a meteoric rise that will most likely only go higher in the coming years due to what governments around the world are doing to the monetary systems. Like anything else, what you get out of searching for free silver will be in direct correlation to what you put into it. Don't forget to always be on the lookout and keep your eyes and your mind open for possible sources of silver coinage. Think outside the box. I sincerely hope that your searches are fruitful, and remember to get while the gettin' is good! - Mitch in Bremerton, Washington

JWR Replies: Readers are warned, do not take take advantage of the naiveté of neighbors and co-workers. You need to make it clear that the market value of what they are giving you at face value. Also beware that some of the silver coins sold by lowlifes are from residential burglaries. Don't compromise your principles for profit! (And it is also a security risk to do business with lowlifes. If they seem even he slightest bit "hinky", then just make and excuse and walk away. And never give your name or contact information to a private party seller! Otherwise they may later come your your unattended house and reclaim their coins, and a lot more.)

As I'm writing this, pre-1965 dimes, quarters, and half dollars are selling for around 14 times their face value. (Hence, a silver dime sells for about $1.40.)

In my experience, the best "bang for you buck" is achieved by buying rolls of half dollars from small town banks. I have often found rolls where the majority are 40% silver and even a few 90% silver. If possible, find out what bank in town is used by the local school district to deposit lunch money coinage. Also specifically ask for an assortment of roll markings, or any that are known to have come from the local school district. (They will sometimes be stamped as such.)

For information on using metal detectors for finding coins, see the Coinshooter Forums, and for information on searching bank coin rolls, see the CRH Forums. Good hunting!

Reader Bill R. liked this piece by Brett Arends: The Great Mortgage Mystery. The article begins: "The big question from the mortgage meltdown isn't why so many distressed homeowners are defaulting on their loans. It's why any of them are still making payments." Oh, and FYI, here is a list of non recourse ("mortgage walkaway") states.

27 Signs That The Standard Of Living For America’s Middle Class Is Dropping Like A Rock

Siggy recommend this white paper from QB Asset Management: Who is John Galt?

Susan H. sent this: The 19 Countries Most Likely to Default: Ireland Surges Higher

Frightening Charts Show Record Low Revenue, Worst-Ever Austerity Measures For US Cities. (Thanks to P.D. for the link.)

Jonathan C. sent this sad tale of The Fed, inflation, and the devaluation of the dollar: Fed Needs to Pump Trillions More Into Economy: Analyst. Jonathan's comment: "It seems to me that if we hit a point where the Fed decides to make an additional $6 – $7 trillion in U.S. debt purchases, it might be time to take a drive out to the retreat and double check inventory and accessibility..."

B.B. spotted this: Review & Outlook: Shutting Up Business

Items from The Economatrix:

Jim Willie: Crisis Redux

Are Apocalyptic Events Closing In On Us?

Stocks End Flat At The Start Of Busy Earnings Week

Poll: Weak Economic Growth Expected Through 2011

Foreclosure Freeze Could Undermine Housing Market

Survey: Investors Fear Government Far More Than Inflation, Terrorism

I heard about RemedyLink.com, a small pharmaceutical manufacturer produces EDTA suppositories for heavy metal chelation. They offer a 50% discount for folks that identify themselves as SurvivalBlog readers. To get the 50% off, customers will have to phone them, since the web site isn't set up for that sort of deep discount.

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Just a sign of the budget crunch times, or Anarchy, USA? In Multnomah County, Oregon (which includes the city of Portland), the county district attorney said that "low-level crimes" such as shoplifting, trespassing, and disorderly conduct will no longer be prosecuted due to budget cuts. "It is unprecedented", said Michael Schrunk, District Attorney for Multnomah County for the past 29 years, in a press conference that was held on October 6, 2010. (Thanks to reader C.B. for the heads up.) OBTW, the same has already happened in Contra Costa County, California, and meanwhile in Oakland, California, the police will no longer even respond to many "minor" calls.

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RFJ flagged this: Surviving in the Wild: 19 Common Edible Plants

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 Bill M. in New York spotted this web page: Unusual Uses For Vodka.

"The view which defines liberty as the mere 'absence of restraint' may be well-meaning, but this is the best one can say about it. It is a definition which permits, and even encourages, the substance of liberty to leak away. It undermines the sanctity of the person and property, it ignores the moral order, and it undermines the system of contracts. The truly free man is not a captive of his impulses; he controls his own actions so as not to impair the equal rights of others to their persons and their property; he is constrained by moral considerations; and he is meticulous about his contractual obligations. Such a pattern of conduct is not accurately described by the simple label, 'unrestrained'." - Edmund A. Opitz, Essays on Liberty 10:423

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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’ve been preparing for a number of years now and found a great way to prepare others in your group as well. I realized a long time ago that I could not survive alone. Now that I have a family, and close like minded friends, I realize that I don’t have to. A couple of years ago I really started stockpiling my “tactical” gear. I would buy a lot of ammo, good mags, the right tactical clothing, and so on. I started reading up on certain things that would be helpful in a TEOTWAWKI situation and would start to practice some of what I studied. I just recently came to the realization that knowledge is great, but what happens if you are the only one with the knowledge and/or training in a certain area? What happens if you’ve failed to teach anyone else your skills and you became seriously injured or killed? The rest of the group is left with what they know and what you’ve left them with.

I realized that teaching others what you know and have practiced is essential for survival. I don’t want to lay there bleeding out while trying to explain to my wife how to fix me. I don’t want to have to try and figure out how to properly grow fruits and vegetables with only seeds in my hand and no training on what to do with them. After reading "Patriots", my friends and family members have held several meeting to touch basis with each other, talk about current affairs, plan a few things, and do a lot of talking.
We started discussing the skills each of us possessed and didn’t posses, and quickly realized we each had a lot to learn. We realized that we need to start teaching each other the skills each of us posses that the others do not.

To start off, you need to assign each individual or family group a set of skills to teach the rest of the group. A few things need to be taken into consideration before assigning tasks. First, consider what people already know or have training in. For example, I work at a hospital as a nurse; it would make most sense to assign medical tasks to me. One individual is an infantry Sergeant, and has been to Iraq twice. He’s been assigned to teach the rest of the group infantry tactics and how to shoot, move, and communicate. Second, decide whether or not this individual is going to purchase and stock most of the supplies and gear needed to perform their specific tasks. You may want to have each person pitch in some money so this individual can order what the group needs and doesn’t have to pay for it all himself. My group of friends decided they wanted to have their own medical supplies, so I provided them with a detailed list of what I thought would be important and practical to have. These are discussions you need to have early on to make absolutely sure everyone is stocked correctly. You don’t want 20 people with silverware and dishes, and no one with food (you see this on camping and backing trips quite frequently).

Once you’ve identified who is going to specialize in what, it’s time to teach your group. Leave it up to each individual to plan their course, but be clear about how long they should teach and demonstrate for, and there should always be a lot of hands on. The learning process can be ongoing and doesn’t have to take place during one training session. However, be sure that you’re getting good training each time and it isn’t just a reason to hang out and talk again. You will be glad you actually learned these skills when it comes time to use them.

Making reference cards, laminating them, and handing them out to each member, is a great way to pass on knowledge. I made some quick reference cards, about 3x5, and put simple things to remember on them. Such things as the fundamentals of CPR, antibiotic dosages, and how to dress certain wounds were included. The cards are water proof and can easily fit in a pocket or bug out bag. Along with training, these cards will act as refreshers or quick references when needed. I know this sounds like common sense, but don’t burn things on to a CD/DVD. You’re probably thinking why would I do that? I had a friend put a lot of good information onto a DVD. Its great when there is still electricity and you still have access to a computer. You get the point!

Training the person next to you to do your job, and you to do theirs, is key to surviving and thriving. You can never count on any one person to always be around to perform a certain task. Although it is ok to be the expert in certain areas, your teammates need to be proficient, at the least, in the skills you’ve mastered. Continue to have refresher type courses with hands on exercises. This will help keep everyone up to speed with essential skills and will help refresh your memory as well. The ultimate goal is to posses a set of critical skills that are preformed by using “muscle memory”. Muscle memory is the term often used when referring to being able to react correctly without thinking. Practicing gardening so much that it becomes muscle memory isn’t as important as tactical skills and medical performance. The idea is too basically be proficient and confident in critical skill areas that will keep you and your teammates alive. Plus, learning new skills can only help in your everyday life, especially when it comes to basic first aid, mechanical issues, or performing carpentry around the house.


  • Advanced first aid and CPR (military medical FMs are a great resource)
  • Shooting skills at various ranges and environments ( Use battle rifles, long rifles, pistols, and shotguns or whatever you plan on stockpiling for protection)
  • Along with shooting, practice reacting to certain threats (ambushes, long range sniper fire, close quarters shooting, etc.) Be aware of each other and the expectations of each person in your group.
  • Auto mechanics (both small and large engine repair)
  • Gardening on a large scale
  • Meat and other food processing along with field dressing certain types of game animals.
  • Basic carpentry skills
  • Self defense
  • Communications

These are just some of the basic, but important, skills I think everyone should know. You could certainly add as much as you think necessary. Your group may feel that practicing foot patrols and reacting to certain types of threats is a little overkill, that’s completely fine. The idea is to think about what types of situations you might be in, plan for them, and practice the skills you think you need in order to survive and protect yourself.

Now, I would like to talk a little bit about what I said earlier. I said that I had been stockpiling tactical gear over the last few years as well. It’s always a great idea to have weapons, ammo, and the gear to haul it around with, but are you going to be the only one with it in your family? Some situations may arise causing you to bug out with your family only, or at least for a while until you can meet up with others. If you are the only one with the “tactical gear” you may find yourself in a tuff situation. Let’s assume you are married with one child. You will be solely responsible for their entire well being and safety. It will be hard to constantly keep a 360-degree surveillance of the areas you are in. It will also be difficult to shoot and move your family efficiently when you are the only one who is able to shoot back. You can only stay up for so long when it comes to pulling night security of the area you are staying in. You most definitely need someone else to share this duty with while each of you rotates sleeping schedules.

At the very least, your spouse, or significant other, needs to have the correct gear and be trained on how to use it correctly. I started buying all the nice tactical gear and training with it quite frequently. I thought “man if something ever happens I will be set up to shoot, move and communicate. I have all the best gear and it will be able to take a beating in the field. It looks pretty cool to”. My wife asked me what each piece of gear was for every time it would arrive in the mail. I started showing her how to use each piece of equipment, and found myself giving her basic lessons on what to do in certain situations. She later asked me if we could get her some gear as well. We did just that, and I couldn’t believe I had never thought to prepare her as well. Now, we both know how to use the gear we have, know the expectations of each other in a real world situation, and I feel confident that we, as a team, could come out on top of most bad situations. All of this goes back to, once again, training the person next to you to do your job, as well as you to do theirs.

There are so many levels of training any one or more person can do. I’m not trying to turn every so called group into a highly trained militant organization. I just want everyone to realize some of the things we could be faced with in the future and be able to prepare for them before they happen. Each of you will be able assess the needs and abilities of yourself, spouse, and other like minded individuals you associate with. I hope that this article will give you some insight on how to prepare a little better and possibly open your mind to a few things you may not have thought about before. Good luck and God bless!

Dear Mr. Rawles,
My mom gave me a copy of your novel "Patriots" a couple years ago for Christmas. I am married but because college debt and being unemployed for seven months before finding my next job my wife and I do not have much money, (BTW, after reading your book my wife and I saved every penny we could and are now debt free) I have been trying to stash away survival gear, beans, bullets and band-aids, and I have been looking for affordable survival books. In my search for inexpensive books I found out that I could download books using books.Google.com for free as long as the copyright is out of date. [JWR Adds: The general rule in the U.S. is that books printed before 1923 are considered out of copyright. This law won't change until 2019, when the copyright threshold will then roll forward one year, each year.] This led me to search for practical books of everyday life that were written in the 1800s. One of the best so far has been by Henry Stephens on farming. He wrote a three-volume book called "The Book of The Farm." I was able to download the first two volumes but I am unable to find the third volume. Even so there's over 1,000 pages of useful farming information everything from building plans for barns and houses to drainage ditches to caring for livestock. [JWR Adds: Keep in mind that the safety standards of a century ago were far more lax than today's, so all the usual safety provisos on poisons, fire, crushing, un-warded sharp blades, noxious fumes, carcinogens, et cetera all apply!]

I have decided to print and bind over 30 books written from 1779 to 1908 and give them as gifts to my family. This helps because even though a couple of my family members have a survival mindset not all of them do. The topics of books I have chosen are blacksmithing, tanning, textiles, farming, medical, building, toolmaking, fishing, children's games, biographies and history books. The best part of these books is that they are written before everything was powered by electricity. If we expect a TEOTWAWKI situation that puts us back into the 1840s technology, which is what I am prepping for, these books will become invaluable. I hope this helps others who like me can't afford much but still want to prepare and learn. Keep your powder dry, Richard C.

Reader Audrey H. sent this item: FDA Scrutinizing Farm Antibiotics

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Some detractors have called me a "yuppie survivalist", even though I'm middle-age and very rural, and just a skilled worker rather than a professional. Well, here is a member of ill-famed Madoff clan that is the genuine article--a "young urban professional": An Optimistic Seller of Disaster Plans.

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Choctaw Bob sent a link to "a handy item for those restricted from carrying more conventional weapons."

"True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost." - Arthur Ashe, American Tennis Player

Monday, October 11, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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.

Lately, I have been preparing my work location and my commuting routes for the unthinkable “If the SHTF.” I figure that unless I am at home sleeping or on my weekend off of work, there is a great chance that I may be at work and or commuting when the Schumer goes down. This being said, I believe those of us who work away from home should be prepared for a possible workplace G.O.O.D. scenario or trying to get home to our families to G.O.O.D. with them.

I have a bit of a head start or advantage over many of the other commuting working types. I am a detective in a local city police department. This being said, I am able to carry firearms where others may not. I also understand that many others may not have such an easy time preparing or taking their firearms with them to work, depending on your state and local laws.

I would urge you to research ways that you may be able to carry a firearm legally during your commute. Besides, if the SHTF, you will need it and those laws may no longer apply. (Please don’t be the idiot though that decides to use a firearm when he has a tough ride home and someone cuts him off. If that’s you, then don’t carry, you are already too dangerous).

A second advantage I have is being a swing shift detective. This allows me travel to and from work going the opposite direction of the rush hour traffic. This also may aide in my possible hike during night time hours (more on this later).

One thing I have done is carefully choosing my commuting vehicle. I drive my 4x4 Toyota Tacoma to work. Being a V6 it has reasonable gas mileage and still allows me the necessary off road capability if I become stranded in grid lock traffic trying to get home to my family as the world goes crazy. It may not be the most fuel efficient vehicle, such as a small sedan or hybrid, but it is definitely more solid and built for getting me out of trouble.

My truck is also under construction as my bug out vehicle (BOV).  I am slowly turning it into a self sufficient expedition rig. This may not be necessary for a commuting vehicle but with a limited income it needs to serve many different purposes.

Inside my truck I always carry a “Get Home Bag.” Similar to a BOB, but this bag is used for exactly what is says, getting me home to my family. Many of the contents in this bag are similar, if not equal, to a regular BOB. There are some items added that make this bag more sufficient for urban survival. I have noticed that this bag is even lighter and smaller than my regular BOB and contains less since my target is home and not the unknown flight from the city and suburbs or the Golden Horde. I always have this bag inside my truck and it is only taken out to refresh items or add to the kit. I got the idea for my bag from Youtube.

Another important point concerning my vehicle. I try to keep it in the best running condition I can. Sometimes money is tight and I have to push the oil change back a week, but I do my best. It would sure suck to worry about mechanical problems while I am stressed out trying to get home to family while society is falling apart.

I am required to park my vehicle in a designated city parking garage in downtown. I have not completely decided if this is a good or bad thing. I have some ideas that this garage may benefit me but also worry it may hinder me. The parking garage is three blocks from my office building.

This parking garage is made of large interlocking cement pieces. It is kinda built like a large 3D puzzle. The ramps for the garage run up and down through the center of the building, kind of like a twisting staircase. The main floors have parking spots that surround the ramps. In addition to these parking spots, there is additional parking on the ramps themselves. I have decided to park my vehicle along the ramp where there is more cement surface between my vehicle and the outside. Parking on the ramp may also help me get out quicker if there is any structural damage to the building. Parking there may also keep my vehicle safer from looters or those rioting in the streets.

One reason I believe the garage may hinder my flight from the city is the building may be damaged or destroyed by natural disaster (earthquakes or similar) and the possibility of my vehicle being damaged inside. If the structure of the building is damaged, I may not be able to extricate my vehicle from the garage.

Inside the building I work at, I have my own desk in a cubicle. I have taken the time to make sure that even there I am as prepared as I can be. I still need to add things to my work space but already have a plan of action.

When I was in the Marine Corps, I received an award. This award was a Ka-Bar knife boxed in a frame. I keep this award at my desk for more than just show. It the SHTF, the first thing I am doing is opening that box and putting the knife on my belt. It is as if it is hidden in plain sight at my desk.

I also keep a drawer with snacks and small food items. Sometimes I forget my lunch or just need a quick snack. It would not be too hard for me to grab these snacks and place them into my backpack before I abandon my desk and head for home.

We also keep a small refrigerator in the sergeant’s office where we stock bottles of cold water. When we need water, we pay on the honor system in the can and take what we need. There are almost always several cases of extra water under the desk to keep the fridge stocked. If I needed to, I could fill my backpack with as many water bottles as I could carry. One thing I plan on adding to my desk are several military MREs.

We also have a kitchenette on our floor of the building. Inside are two refrigerators and other food supplies and condiments. Many employees will bring their lunches for the week and leave them in the fridge. In all the time I have been here the refrigerators have never been empty (just watch for bad/old food). If I were to get stuck in the building or needed extra food, I would have a fairly decent supply for several days. I am sure those of you who work in the seas of cubicles have similar kitchenettes as well.

Currently, I do not have this at my desk but I have pondered keeping an extra BOB at my desk underneath and out of sight along with a pair of boots.

If I needed to, I could also scavenge the desks of those who are not at work for any items or gear that may be left there. I don’t advocate stealing in any way but, if things go down and you are in need, they may save your life. If you do this be prepared to return the items or replace them.

Many office type employees carry briefcases and shoulder bags. They are great for what they were designed for and many are just for looks or show, part of the daily ensemble. Well they aren’t for me. I carry a moderate looking nylon backpack. It is nothing special and is actually designed to carry my laptop if needed. I get some weird looks and even a few comments about “heading to school” or “going on a hike.” But for me it is another piece of  gear.

My backpack doesn’t look like a military style BOB, therefore hides its real purpose. It looks more like a students day pack. Aside from carrying my daily work gear, I also carry an EDC kit housed in an Otter Box. Attached to the box is a paracord lanyard to provide necessary cordage if needed. Inside the box I carry a small supply of personal first aid, coins, foldable N95 mask, zip ties, powder sports drink, mini lighter, safety pins, light stick, super glue, a pen, marker, can opener, and several other items. This box stays inside my pack and always travels with me to and from work. I also carry a small flash drive that has copies of my important personal documents (guarded by a password of course). Also kept in the back pack are my asthma meds/inhaler, several flashlights, folding knife, and a multi-tool.

If I were to need to get home from work and my vehicle was not working or could not be extricated from the garage, I would consolidate my EDC and other items from the office into my “Get Home Bag” and head for home on foot. I keep a pair of boots in the truck as I know a long hike in business style shoes would really suck.

At work I have been provided with a city vehicle. This is parked in the garage next to the spot where I park my vehicle. After leaving the vehicle, I drive the city vehicle to the office building. Inside my city vehicle are several items for emergency purposes. Some of the items that I could take are, road flares, fire extinguisher, Hazmat kit with bunny suite and gas mask, and my raid vest.

My raid vest is marked with my name, department patches, and police identifiers. These may cause more of a problem than good if I were wearing this in public during a mass exodus or other societal dilemma. When the vest was made the outer carrier was sewn with Velcro so that the patches could be removed quickly. Aside from the obvious ballistic abilities, the vest also carries my spare pistol magazines, a taser, handcuffs, and a hidden holster for my alternate carry.

I also carry another piece of gear that is important for my personal safety and for use at work. I carry a personal Remington 870P police shotgun. This shotgun is the standard shotgun issued to department personnel. Mine is personally owned and carried with department permission. As with any good police style/defense style shotgun, it is outfitted with the necessary gear and ammunition.

Since the shotgun is mine, I carry it to and from work with me in my vehicle. When I am at work, I transition it to my city vehicle to be used while at work. What a great piece of BOB gear, a 12 gauge shotgun. I can sling it and hike home knowing I have a great detractor with me. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people give up after just seeing a shotgun arrive on a crime scene. Even better when the shotgun is loaded and that distinct sound being “racked” is heard. As an old partner of mine used to say, “It’s a crowd pleaser.”

Because of traffic issues, I have two separate routes I take to and from work. My route to work is longer, 30 miles, while my route home is significantly shorter at 23 miles. This occurs because the shorter route is generally backed up with traffic on my way to work. Coming home in the early morning is cake because there are generally few cars on the road.

Because of the two routes, I have had to plan several alternate routes back to my house in case I need to return to the safety of my family. I urge everyone to try taking different routes to work to see how they work for you. Having these auxiliary routes may save your life and keep you and your vehicle from being gridlocked somewhere.

I would also mention that additional auxiliary routes may be needed for your trip home. Just because you are taking the same routes coming to work does not mean they will work in the opposite direction. You may just find a better and quicker way to commute to work. There are a lot of farm and fields in my area. If you are driving a 4x4, you may have access to areas that can get you home faster than taking public roadways. Know the unpaved roads or jeep trails in your area.

If your vehicle is inoperable or stuck in traffic, and you must get out of town, you may find yourself having to head out on foot. I work swing shift and, therefore, would probably be heading for home during the evening and night time hours. I would suggest if you were found in this situation to try and wait until night time to hike. You may not be able to see as well at night but there tends to be fewer people out. Hopefully, if we were under a TEOTWAWKI scenario, the others trying to head home on foot would settle down at night.

I would urge you to travel with someone else, if possible. Find out which of your co-workers live near you and make plans with them to travel together. There is always safety in numbers. I have a squad mate who lives in the general area as I do. She lives about 5 miles away from me. The two of us could drive or hike together to get to our homes. Don’t just choose anyone who lives near you. Get to know them and make sure you can count on them to watch your back. Make sure they have the same goals in getting home and staying together as team. It may be hard to find them but look for someone who has similar or equal tactical perspective or at least like minded.

Lastly, make a plan and stick to it. If you have a predetermined plan and know what you are going to do you, will know what to do when you need to head out. Try running scenarios through your head or role play. When your mind has already thought about these things and the ways to survive, you will find it is easier to do them. I have always been taught to know what I am going to do before I have to do it, almost like muscle memory. Do your best to be prepared and keep you and your families safe. God bless.

JWR Replies: For further discussion of Bug Out Bags and Bug In Bags, see the recently-posted piece by Claire Wolfe in Backwoods Home magazine.

Hello Jim,

Just a quick comment about the scavenging for used brass at ranges in "El Cheapo Prepping 101". In addition to the practical reloading concerns you mention, it's also important that the prospective "brass forager" knows both the written rules and de facto behavioral norms at the range/club they shoot at. For example, I belong to a club that collects (via clean-up efforts of its members) spent brass from the ranges and the club directors sell it for additional funds used to benefit the club. Taking any brass out of the collection bins is a rule violation that can result in expulsion from the club. While there's no written rule about taking brass from the ground, the de facto behavioral norm is that it's okay to collect your own fired brass and a little extra within reason but, in general, uncollected brass is for the club's resale and scooping it up wholesale and pocketing it is frowned upon. Even though you're not violating the written rule, you're violating the behavioral norm of the club and that could have various consequences that wipes out the "profit" of the brass by costing you membership, friendship, et cetera. Regards, - XV

Cause of Mysterious Bee Die-Off Found? (Thanks to KAF for the link.)

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You gotta love Texas: Bank Allows Armed Customers.

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"FJohn" sent a recommendation for the collapsible Sven-Saw. These are compact enough for your bug out bag.

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Vermont, a long-time bastion of the Second Amendment, has expanded First Amendment rights by allowing residents to get custom license plates with Bible verses. (The plaintiff had specified JN36TN plates (a reference to the oft-quoted verse John 3:16), but was denied them by the Vermont DMV. He finally prevailed on appeal, in a lawsuit that began in 2005.

"Yet the criterion of truth is that it works even if nobody is prepared to acknowledge it." - Ludwig von Mises

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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 today’s economy you maybe having a hard time keeping up with the bills let alone preparing for the next Armageddon. Are you sitting in your cheap Wal-Mart chair staring at your computer screen wishing you had a Kifaru pack. Are you wishing you had the money to go to the range even once a year? Let me get out the chalk board and you get your pencil ready. I am about to school you on prepping that will take you to the next level without skimping on the good stuff.

First off I would like to explain I am not cheap, but rather clever in getting what I want. Let me start off with an example of what I mean. Would you rather shoot brass or steel cased ammunition? That’s obvious. Always do your homework and get the right item the first time. I would shoot brass any day over Wolf steel cased. Every time I go to the range I pick up at least three times the quantity of brass that I just shot. Why would you do that you say? There are lots of reasons, but here are just a few:

  1. You can have free brass rather than pay for it.
  2. You can swage cartridge cases you don’t use into projectiles for reloading.
  3. You can also trade brass to reloaders for stuff you may need. All of this can be done with just paying a range fee.

[JWR Adds: Show great caution when collecting range brass. Keep in mind that you know nothing about its origin. Inspect each case very carefully before re-using it, and put any that are suspect in your "scrap melt" bin. For the sake of safety, watch carefully for dented or split necks, stretched or bulged cases, or odd head stamps that might indicate poor quality brass. Also be sure to use a bright light to check for twin flash holes, that indicate Berdan primed brass. At a minimum you will bend a decapping pin if you accidentally try to de-prime Berdan brass with a standard American reloading press. But at worst, you might destroy your die. Talk about the ultimate in "false economy" !]

Learn the art of barter and trade when your money supply is thin. This is why you should do some planning before you go out and spend the few copper pieces you have. Do the research on items you want for your bug out bag first. You don’t want to buy a $100 item to find out on your first camping trip that it failed. I like to start out by checking out forums like survivalblog.com and see what people are recommending. Then I head over to Youtube.com and get a confirmation from reviewers before I make a big purchase. When in doubt by quality gear rather than saying to yourself I will upgrade later. You will thank yourself in the long run. Learn from me because I bought five packs before I found the right one. After that wish list is complete you are ready to start hunting gear.

This brings me to my next point, buy online, out of season, and only on clearance. Everybody likes to walk into their local Gander Mountain [sporting goods store] on a Saturday morning and just gawk at gear. That hard earned dollar will not go far in these overpriced brick and mortar stores. They charge those prices because they are trying to nickel and dime you to pay their bills. Instead head online and sit in your pajamas and scroll over the next few sources I provide. Online stores provide goods less expensively because they have a lower over head and also they have to compete with search engines. Always buy your gear out of season. I like to check out Sportsmansguide.com when summer is over for camping gear. They have good deals on surplus Gore-Tex rain gear, 5.11 pants and shirts for under 20 dollars, and other great deals like wool blankets. Always Google the store along with the word coupon or discount before you check out. I can not even begin to tell you how many times I have gotten free shipping along with $10 or $20 dollars off an order. Next everybody likes name brand gear. Why not roll out in TEOTWAWKI in style? I like to go on E-Bay and look for factory second gear. I once found an Ontario Rat-7 knife (MSRP $180) which was a second for $60. I then contacted the seller through a question and asked if he would lower his price even more. The seller then set the item as a buy it now for the haggled price of $55 with free shipping. Yes when it doubt contact retailers for haggled prices or shipping discounts. I also like to go on forums which relay deals onto their readers. Lots of times people will steer you onto deals you could only dream of. This brings me to my next point, which is to network with coupon clippers and bloggers.

I like to buy about ten Sunday papers and trade with people online (or ask neighbors for theirs). Sounds crazy right? Its not as bad you may think. People will sometimes trade five times as many coupons for a single coupon they are looking for. Once again this is the art of barter and trade! Set aside fifteen minutes a day into reading coupon forums and watch for those deals. Usually the thrifty shoppers know days or even weeks in advance to when a retailer is having a sale (which you can apply all coupons towards). I usually trade exclusively for food coupons and trade away the rest of the coupons I may have. If dates are getting close on coupons I sell bundles of them on eBay.com. Do not let anything go to waste. Remember you are trying to trade virtually worthless things to deck out that B.O.B. So be a smart shopper and get educated by reading those online forums. If you want to even go cheaper watch daily deals or get involved in your local Craigslist. I watch these sites like a hawk and only buy when I find a super steal. My favorite sites are woot.com, steepandcheap.com, and dailysteals.com. These sites can change items fast so you have to be quick. Also I watch Craigslist for my area.

I like to keep my eye out for people trying to get rid of stuff for free. I have seen lots of free 5 gallon buckets, timber, and even tents. When it comes to Craigslist you need to be quick and call fast. Lots of people are weary about meeting people they don’t know on a forum. I always like to do trades and purchases in public places (like a park and ride, or a fast food parking lot. Also you need to train yourself to live like a prepper. That means buckling down and lowering that monthly budget. My wife and I only go shopping at the local food market on double coupon day. Yes there is such a thing! Get to know your local retail managers because they will tell you what days they put out the fresh clearance. Maybe they will even set something aside if they know you are interested in such items. I have even gone out on a limb a few times and asked if I buy in bulk will they sell me the items just above their cost. It never hurts to ask because I have gotten toilet paper that way and I only paid 25 cents above their cost for the big packs. Guess what! I used coupons too. Try to cut down those everyday expenses so that you can splurge on that new Kifaru pack (last years model on clearance of course). My wife and I know our neighbors well and we share a wi-fi connection and split the cost. Trust thy neighbor it can be done. In these tough times with high gas prices we also car pool to work. Why not? Not to mention all the car repairs and oil changes this saves.

Another great saver we do is unplug electronic items that are not in use. When I first started doing this we were saving about $15 a month. You are also less likely to turn on five lamps if you have to plug them all in. [JWR Adds: Power strips with switches are your energy-saving allies. And every power cube is your enemy!] Don’t forget those special energy saving light bulbs. I found them on clearance for a buck each at a local Walgreens one time. Search those clearance shelves high and low. Look for deals on rent and other bills. You would not believe me if I told you that you can haggle with your debtors. I once told my land lord that I would move if he did not shave off a hundred dollars off the rent. He called his boss and thirty minutes later I had a new lease (was the end of my year contract of course). I then thought hey this is easy so I went to my cellular plan. I got my wife and I on a family contract and busted that bill down by another thirty dollars. After that I tried haggling with my cable service and I got them to give me the introductory rate for two years. Of course I will renegotiate when that is up. You have to speak up when it comes down to penny pinching, otherwise they will walk all over you. ? In conclusion get your wish list ready and check it off as the deals reveal themselves. Do not get impatient just keep checking your sources regularly. Always do your homework and get the right item the first time. Make sure you buy quality gear rather than buying cheap. Get those deals buy bidding, couponing, and watching the deals. When in doubt haggle with people and they will usually give in. Also do not settle for high rent. Talk it over with your landlord. Last but not least network with your neighbors they are your best asset. Good luck and thanks for stopping by for TEOTWAWKI 101.

Sources for gear reviews on YouTube.com:

Sources for Inexpensive Gear:

Hello Jim,

Firstly, I would like to thank you for your books and all the information you make available on your blog. The last three years have been very hard on my family and I, but have given us a needed shove to be prepared for what life can throw at us. The information we have gained from you and your site has been invaluable. I thought I would let you know of a free source for firewood. I work for a large pallet company. Every day we bring in many truck loads of broken pallets to be repaired. Pallets that can't be repaired or torn apart and used to make new pallets are hauled to the dump where they are shredded into mulch (6+ semi-trailer loads per day.) The company gives away pallets of 2x4s for free to whomever calls and asks for them. Giving them away saves the expense of hauling them to the dump. A person took 12 pallets of 2X4s the other day, so to say the least, there is an abundance of wood available. The stacks of 2x4s are approximately 4' x 4' x 4' and are not stacks of bone dry, weathered wood. Most boards are pine but there can be oak and other species in the stacks. They would have to be cut in half to fit into most stoves or fireplaces but they are free for the taking. All you have to do is pick them up. Call your local pallet company to see if they have a similar deal. This is an easy way to build up a large supply of firewood! Big Wall

JWR Replies: I live in a region that has plentiful firewood. I love burning Western Larch and Red Fir. But I'm a fan of using pallet wood, mainly as a source of kindling. Just show caution and never burn treated wood, or wood that has been visibly contaminated with chemicals. In my experience, it is not worth the effort to pull nails and staples from pallets. Those twist-shank nails must have been designed by someone with a sadistic streak. (They are an absolute pain to pull.) So I instead just cut up pallets with a Skilsaw. In fact, I have a dedicated older saw with a well-used blade that I use for just this purpose. I don't put my new blades at risk, because just one accidental touch of nail will instantly dull a blade!)

Mr Rawles,
I'd like to take a few minutes to comment about Ron W.'s article, No Law Enforcement in TEOTWAWKI.

He brings up a good point at how truly unprepared most elected officials and government agencies for any kind of real catastrophe.

Three summers ago in the jurisdiction where I am an officer we were hit by the severe winds that came from a Gulf of Mexico hurricane. These winds took out the power to more than 80% of the city and township where I patrol. This included the maintenance and service buildings for the city as well as the gas pumps where we get fuel for our emergency vehicles.

Losing the ability to pump fuel from our own storage tanks has never been much of concern before since our city had a purchase order contract with a local gas station and we had no generator available. However, this power outage affected the gas station as well and by day 2 of the outage, more than half of our fleet was out of service due to no fuel. By day 3, some of our officers drove their assigned cruisers to another city and purchased fuel with their own money just keep a few cars in service.

The sad part was neither the city nor police department administration had a credit card for us to use should the outage carried on any longer. Fortunately, the gas station where we had an account was finally back in service about 72 hours after the initial outage and we were able to get fuel. But, the gas pumps owned by the city were not back in service until almost 96 hours after the initial outage.

Not only was this unacceptable but about two years prior to this event I was part of a work group that warned the city and the police department's administration that we were woefully unprepared for such an emergency. We also made recommendations to the powers-that-be that we at least meet the minimum preparedness criteria set by the Department of Homeland Security. Unfortunately, we still are not prepared and little has been done to do so.

However, I must take issue with Ron W's assertion that a majority of law enforcement personnel will abandon ship should a major, TEOTWAWKI-type event occur.

I know that there will be some that head out but I think that you will see a significant number stay put, especially in the smaller communities. Obviously, we never know an exact percentage unless such an event occurs, but I believe it will be higher than what some people think.

One reason I say this is that many of us are deeply embedded in our respective communities. We have invested years of service and we have a large number of family members and close friends living within walking distance that we could never abandon. In spite of what some people think and/or believe, we do this job because it is a chance to serve others in place that we love and call home.

Another reason is that many of us don't have a pre-arranged retreat area already established by family members or friends. A majority of our family and friends are right where we live and work.

A third reason is, that without a pre-arranged retreat location that can handle a majority, if not all, of our family and close friends, we have to stay put and try to work through it together because we really want to avoid becoming refugees except for the most dire of circumstances.

I have experienced some of the same apathy and negativity from coworkers and admin that Ron has. But, I am seeing a growing number of officers starting to think outside of today's norm and at least considering what could happen. Also, several of these same officers are now taking steps to equip and prepare their families.

I pray that this preparedness trend continues among officers and their families. Hopefully we can start getting elected officials and our departments admin on board as well.

On a side note, I'd like to recommend a fantastic book to your readers. It's called The Modern Day Gunslinger by Don Mann. It's available from amazon.com for less than $17 with standard shipping and handling.

In spite of what one may think when they initially read the title, this is by far the best, most comprehensive book on using a handgun that I have ever seen. It's easy to read and is written for the end-user rather than for trainers only. To me, this book seems to be a culmination of all of the quality handgun training that I have ever received.

One significant part that I think survivalblog readers will get a lot out of is the areas where concealed-carry options and techniques are discussed in depth.

Obviously, nothing can replace competent, hands-on training from a quality training organization. However, there is no way to possibly remember everything that you learn in training. I feel that this book is the reference that I need to keep my skills sharp in between formal training sessions.

Be safe and God Bless, Doug

B.P. suggested a piece over at Box 'o Truth: Common Rounds Versus Level IIIA Body Armor

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I just noticed that the three-part National Geographic documentary "Guns, Germs and Steel" (based on Jared Diamond's same-titled book) is now available via streaming video to subscribers of Netflix.

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SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson sent us another case of "Never bring a knife to a gun fight". (Warning: This shows graphic violence.) This incident took place in Turkey, and it is narrated by a Turkish American.

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Robots Guarding US Nuclear Stockpile (video). Gee, they seem to be catching up to the UA 571-C robotic technology that we use for perimeter security at the Rawles Ranch.

"To be a Christian, in an environment like this, makes it even that much more difficult. Because the thinner I get, the hungrier I am, the more unsafe I feel, the weaker I become spiritually. And it’s very difficult to be the Good Samaritan and love they neighbor when you’re starving." - Jim Armistead, in The Colony, Season 2. (A television show on The Discovery Channel. See the online clip titled “Survivor Reflections”.)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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.

As I’ve been tending the plants that I brought into the house for the start of the winter indoor growing season, I began thinking about some of the other nifty tricks I have learned through experimenting and sometimes failing while learning this skill.  As I said before, this is a skill set that demands practice.  This is especially true if you don’t have a greenhouse or sun room as lighting and temperature swings really effect indoor plants more quickly than gardening in the out of doors.

I pay very close attention to solar gain through the windows.  As the sun angles change throughout the season, the temperature just in front of window glass changes dramatically. You will probably be amazed at the thermal fluctuations even throughout the day.  I keep a small stand up thermometers on the window sills and just peek at them during the day.  If the temperatures rise above 105 degrees Fahrenheit. I will either lower the thermal shades just enough to block the harshest rays of the sun or move the plants away from the windows another four or five inches.  I want light, not heat.  On really cold days the opposite might be true.  If it is really overcast or snowing, the solar gain might be negligible, so I might have to adjust the room temperature a little.  Remember, I said we live with hot water heating, so I can adjust one zone and not have to heat the rest of the house.  You might have to figure a way to moderate the light and temperatures through experimentation. It is important to know that really cold or really hot temperatures will affect blossom set and fruiting bodies growth.   

When the daylight gets shorter, the use of the grow lights becomes very beneficial.  I use simple florescent “grow” lights from the big box stores.  I like the ones that are about two feet long.  They are light enough and stay cool to the touch so I can just place them on the floor and aim them up at the plants.  Like I said before, I use the upside down planters to great advantage, as the plants photosynthesis’ process tells the plants to grow toward the lights. In the darkest part of the winter I might need to give the plants four or five hours of supplemental lighting for the best results.  I also give the pots a quarter turn every fee days to keep the plants growing straight and expose the entire plant to the sunshine.

Watering the plants also takes some practice.  Because the humidity is very low here, I check the water levels every couple of days with a meter. I will mist the plants every couple of days to increase the humidity levels.  The plants seem to love the showers but don’t over do it or you will interfere with blossom set or invite sun scald as light penetrates the water droplets. Over watering your plants is easy to do in the winter as the soil on the top of the planter might feel dry, but an inch or two down the roots could be drowning.  Don’t guess!  More indoor plants die from over watering.  We literally kill them with kindness!

Because we use well water, we have to use a water softener that uses salt.  Periodically, I take several inches of soil from around the plants and replace it with fresh compost from my compost pile.  The extra nutrition gives the plants a boost and reduces salt accumulation in the pots. If you don’t compost available I suggest using the bagged soil from your garden center. It is also very helpful to gently “till” the soil in the planters.  I use a small shovel and just turn the dirt over to the depth of a couple of inches.  I only do this when the soil looks and feels compacted. This aeration is good for the roots as it makes it easier for the roots to penetrate the soil.

Some flowering plants need help in the reproductive cycle.  With no bees inside for the winter, you will need to pollinate some of the plants by hand.  This is very easy to do with a small very soft paint brush.  Just touch one blossom and then another on the pistil, the center of the flower.  I make a habit of pollinating over a couple of days to make sure I touch each blossom.  Tomatoes and potatoes need the help, where peas, beans, greens, and herbs do not.

This week I started some sugar snap peas in hanging pots.  Since the weather is just starting to turn, I keep the pots outside on the deck.  As soon as the nighttime temps dip into the low forties, I’ll bring them in and hang the pots on chains.  As the peas grow up they will become top heavy.  That’s when I will help them drape over the pot edges.  In a few weeks the lovely pea plants will dangle down and the pea blossoms will be a sight for winter weary sore eyes!

Have fun experimenting.  I recommend you start with rapidly growing veggies like radishes, green onions, and mixed salad greens.  When you are rewarded with fresh produce, you’ll be encouraged to add cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas to your “garden”.  When you add this new skill to your life you will gain great satisfaction in knowing you are becoming more self reliant. There is something to be said for surrounding yourself in a lovely indoor garden and watch the snow fly from the warmth of your home!  Happy gardening!

Any serious firearms enthusiast should know the basic makeup of most ammunition normally includes a lead containing primer and projectile and while this does not present an immediately serious hazard per se, anyone planning on handling ammunition and firearms should be mindful of the risk of prolonged exposure to lead components and both pre- and post-TEOTWAWKI, take precautions to protect themselves.

As an Army reservist for eight years (doing the occasional field exercise with blank ammunition and the annual range qualification), we would eat our IMP rations after loading hundreds of magazines without a second thought towards washing our hands. Likewise, after leaving the military and getting into competitive shooting and reloading, I would come home during my lunch hours, load 50 rounds of 9mm while I waited for my lunch to heat up, and de-prime brass while eating.

About a year ago, I started working part time at as a range safety officer (RSO) at a local indoor shooting range where mandatory blood lead level (BLL) tests were required annually. Much to my dismay, I discovered, my BLL was much higher than the community average to the point that I would almost have to quit my RSO job if I didn`t get it under control. It was then that I discovered that my lead hygiene was deplorable and I had to change my habits with regard to the primary source of lead in my life - i.e. guns and ammo. For your readers, here are some tips I have adopted which, after repeated testing, have helped lower my BLL to a safe level, despite shooting regularly and working at an indoor range:

1. Stock up and use lead removing soap. I use Esca D-lead soap and keep a bottle by every sink in my house, my vehicle, my BOB, in the shower, and by my laundry washing machine. Normal soap does not remove most of the lead that is on your skin and clothing, so special lead removing soap is a must.Wash your hands with D-lead for at least 30 seconds anytime you handle firearms or ammunition, especially if you are eating shortly after. I always have a shower when I come home from the range using D-lead body wash and I also separate my range clothes from my regular clothes and wash them with extra D-lead laundry detergent.

2. Get proper PPE. When sweeping up brass or moving forward of the firing line at the end of the day, I always make sure I wear a P100 dust mask. Likewise, when reloading, I wear rubber, disposable mechanics gloves whenever handling all components. I know a lot of IPSC shooters who shoot at my range wearing the same masks, but honestly, knowing the layout of the ventilation of my range (discussed below), I'm not too worried about it when I shoot personally.

3. Observe the ventilation of any range you shoot at. Indoor ranges are as a rule of thumb always worse than shooting outdoors for lead contamination - however at my range, there are massive air ventilation ducts blowing fresh air into the firing line, towards the backstop. Most often if I'm at the firing line I don't wear a mask, however, if moving forward I always do.

4. Mind your ammo. The best ammo to shoot to reduce lead contamination is usually CMJ (complete metal jacket), TMJ (total metal jacket), or BEB (brass enclosed bottom), or CP (copper plated). FMJ (Full metal jacket) is ok, however be mindful of the fact that a lot of FMJ bullets have an exposed lead bottom bullet which generates some lead particulate when fired. I really do not recommend shooting lead ammunition unless outdoors or while wearing at least a N95 dust mask. I find it inconsiderate when people shoot high volume lead bullets (especially .22s) inside an indoor range, however, if that's all your range allows so be it. Just be aware that cast lead bullets are the worst both to reload and for overall air quality when shooting in high volumes. They say most of the lead contamination you are exposed to comes from the primer, so one possible consideration would be to find non-toxic, lead free primers. Given the current ammunition shortage across North America, I'd say to you "good luck with that."

5. Chelation. Anecdotally, I did some research online and found that there are natural chelating agents, such as vitamin C which help remove heavy metals (like lead) from the blood stream. For about a year, I tried taking 1000 mg of vitamin C, spaced out during the day while drinking at least 2 liters of water. I don`t know if it is medically verified that my practice actually worked, but my latest blood test came back normal, and vitamin C is an essential vitamin to keep on hand anyway.

Lastly, don't get too bummed out over lead contamination. Yes, lead is a toxic substance, but no, you won't die right away from having some exposure to it. Especially pre-TEOTWAWKI, the value of properly training with your weapons enormously outweighs the downside of some lead exposure. Post-TEOTWAWKI, probably one of the last things on your mind would be proper your lead hygiene - however, settling into a routine of handling guns and ammo, reloading, etc. it wouldn't hurt to exercise at least a little due diligence and wash your hands and face with D-lead before you eat. I hope that helps, thank you and God bless. - J.L.

Sir, I would like to thank Ron M. for his posting on the potential future scarcity of Law Enforcement officers in future large-scale TEOTWAWKI events. It was one of the few writings that reflects what I've witnessed here in my area as well. My brother, and many of my friends are LEOs, and after having discussed some of these things with them I was made quite aware of the accuracy of Ron's assessment. Most urban departments are issued periodic 'alerts' and 'warnings' of potential future threats from Homeland Security and other agencies. They are requested to draft up plans to manage various different potential threat contingencies, and are often given lists of 'recommended' equipment their departments should purchase. The sad truth is that most of the time these potential threats, contingencies, and any recommended planning is largely ignored across the US. Municipalities, Counties, and local government budgets have always operated Law Enforcement on shoe-string budgets while much of the administrative workers and politicians enjoy being overpaid for 'performing' a bare minimum level of service / work.

Prior to these tough economic times, and prior to 9/11/2001, many departments were still having a difficult time merely purchasing a bare minimum of ammunition for their officers to utilize in practice, training, and barely met qualification requirements. Typically this is the case for more rural departments, while some urban or suburban departments are provided with a few more resources and funding. The sad truth is that these officers usually do not receive any additional training for contingency threats; they do not receive any of the 'recommended' equipment which many of their departments cannot possibly afford, and they do not get paid nearly enough to endanger the lives of their families in such a large-scale event in order to care for those who likewise chose to ignore warnings from various governmental agencies.

Most of the friends I've talked with told me with no uncertainty that in the event of such a large-scale TEOTWAWKI event they would immediately see to the safety and protection of their families first. Urban / Suburban officers have informed me that to stick around might be suicide, and most would bug out as soon as possible. Rural officers, and some SWAT people have informed me that they would stay put, but they haven't done much to plan or prepare for any threat contingencies. Many are quite heavily armed, but do not have a significant supply of ammunition on hand, and most have not made any effort to store any food or other emergency supplies. Two of them have gone so far as to tell me that they would harshly control the populace, put them on 'lock down' (or whatever their delusional version of that might be), and that the people would be so thankful for them having 'restored order' that him and his family will be graciously and handsomely rewarded and showered with food and goods to provide for their basic living needs. Seriously, some of them are downright delusional in their assessments of potential future TEOTWAWKI events.

Considering current economic problems, Department budgets cut even further, and LEOs often being required to purchase their own ammunition and protective equipment with little or no reimbursement (only a tax deduction), most officers are woefully unprepared for long-term serious emergencies. Some Departments have passed on grant money or other funding to help officers purchase some of the 'recommended' equipment (gas masks, riot gear, other tools for civil unrest and NBC threats, etc.) - the officers on an individual level are not being educated in specifically what equipment they should purchase, how to use it, store it, and carry it on hand in the event that it's needed. Many departments will make uneducated purchases of equipment that often isn't effective, doesn't fit their officers, and doesn't bother to train them with the use of that equipment. This solely for the purpose of then showing the DPS or other agencies how good of a job they're doing in response to these ever-changing threats and contingency plans. Often the equipment is then stored improperly, doesn't fit (gas masks, NBC Suits, etc.) and they are either ruined, unfit for use, or are returned to their suppliers shortly thereafter. As such, I've been shopping at local Law Enforcement Supply stores to purchase many of my Emergency supply goods. Often I find $250 NBC gas masks on sale for $50 because a Department or Officer ordered the wrong size. Simply purchase new, freshly sealed replacement filters, follow the cleaning and storage instructions, test the equipment, and then put it away in a convenient and properly prepared storage location. Make sure it's organized, labeled, and quickly accessible. It's a good place to find some decent clearance deals.

One must always have the tools, training, and preparations necessary to hand any potential threat in life, and you cannot depend upon emergency services to provide for your immediate rescue from harm. Only God, yourself, and your family can be relied upon to get you through potentially life-threatening emergencies. EMS / Police / Fire are secondary. God Bless! - Mathew L.

Ron M.’s recent advice to not count on law enforcement is sound, and many of us have personal experiences that back that up.

However, his statement that “Only states like Louisiana that have passed emergency disaster laws protecting guns from police seizure will maintain any sort of civility or order in a disaster” overlooks the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act of 2006. The law isn’t perfect, but after Katrina is was passed to prohibit the confiscation of personal firearms in a disaster. It does not apply to everyone, but it very clearly applies to “officer or employee of the United States (including any member of the uniformed services), or person operating pursuant to or under color of Federal law, or receiving Federal funds, or under control of any Federal official, or providing services to such an officer, employee, or other person, while acting in support of relief from a major disaster or emergency”. It’s hard to imagine any law enforcement agency today that does not receive federal funds for one thing or another, so this law should actually help.

You can read the full text online. It might even be worth printing out and keeping a copy in your G.O.O.D. gear. - Todd in Virginia


Mr. JWR,
I would like to congratulate you on what I believe is one of the most righteous and informative survival blogs on the net. You are my main go-to information source before I make a decision on a prep, you and your bloggers have amassed a wealth of information. I have enjoyed your books as well and I am eagerly awaiting the sequels.

In response to Ron's article, I have been a cop for 30+ years now. I started in a rural Sheriffs Office, got bored and after a year went on to become a big city cop (BCC). After I retired I swore another oath as a Deputy Sheriff in larger more rural county. I believe Ron is correct in his synopsis , there will not be much LE if there is a TEOTWAWKI situation via a NBC attack, meteor strike, volcano et cetera.

Over the years I too have inquired my brother/sister leo's mindset on this topic. Amongst the BCC the largest percentage will go and take care/be with their families in their time of need. A few, mostly the young ones with no families yet said they would stay on as long as they felt they could make a difference. The senior cops know the futility of the law enforcement situation with the Golden Horde and would bug out/in with their families, BTW these are the ones that are most prepared and think like us.

Most BCC cops are not gun enthusiasts, they'll have a handgun or two, maybe a shotgun and minimal ammo supplies, no kit or MBR. Now keep in mind there are exceptions. Now that I have been in a rural peace officer setting I can tell you that there is a mindset difference between most rural cops and most BCC, naturally there are exceptions. Rural deputies have to be somewhat more self sufficient, some nights my backup is 45 minutes away at 120 m.p.h., versus 2-3 minutes when I was a BCC. Most of us carry at least a AR-15, I carry a SOCOM 16 as well with plenty of ammo for each. My trunk kit has everything I need to survive/manage most of the situations I would encounter.

I believe in a TEOTWAWKI situation the deputies in the more rural areas would continue to function longer because:
1.) more tend to have the "Country boy can survive mentality"
2) their families are more extended and they can pull their resources together better than some city families.
3) most country folk are armed, many armed better than you can imagine, "an armed society is a polite society"
4) will not have the hordes of people to deal with like in the cities.
5) A strong Sheriff, a sworn Constitutional officer, can be a great influence if he has the leadership ability. He can unite his deputies to best assist the populace that needs the most help.

You know I am more concerned about the law enforcement role in a non TEOTWAWKI event, such as government austerity enforcement role or say a monetary collapse. Always remember: "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer " - Psalm 18:2

Best Wishes, - LawDawg

Watch the US Dollar Index. As I've mentioned before, 72 is he threshold to watch for. Below that, there could be huge currency trading turmoil, and formal devaluations.

Reader Richard H. sent us this ominous article: Financial stability set back by debt woes: IMF. Here is a quote: "However, the fund said banks had made less progress in dealing with near-term funding pressures -- nearly $4 trillion of bank debt needs to be refinanced in the next 24 months. 'Overall, bank balance sheets need to be further bolstered to ensure financial stability against funding shocks and to prevent adverse feedback loops with the real economy,' the IMF said."

Middle Class Slams Brakes on Spending

Stimulus Check Winners: Prisoners, Dead People

Tangibles, tangibles, tangibles: The Most Profitable Industries for the Next Three Years

Items from The Economatrix:

Housing Slump Hammers Local Government Tax Revenues

Norcini, Sinclair: Financial Hurricane To Collapse The System

US Loan Delinquencies Rise For First Time in a Year, ABA Says

Yellow Hoard (The Mogambo Guru)

"I invest in anything that Bernanke can’t destroy, including gold, canned beans, bottled water and flashlight batteries." - David Stockman October, 2010. (Stockman was Budget Director in the Reagan Administration)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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.

Prepping has a distinct vein that runs through each choice my family has made to better prepare ourselves for the possibility of the social upheaval that seems to be inching nearer each and every day. Our preps are portable. They have to be, due to the uncertainty of where my family will be in the near future. Over the last six years my family has moved six times, as my jobs changed and the family grew. Due to this movement, the rising price of houses in our area, and being at the very beginning of my earning curve made buying a house an impossibility. We have rented or lived in a parsonage without the long term assurance of owning property that most preppers and non-preppers crave. By default and without really thinking ahead, my wife and I have developed a lifestyle that is heavy on skills and light on infrastructure. If we need to move again (God willing the next move will be the last) the life skills we are developing are the lightest things we own and don’t require cardboard boxes, moving trucks or obliging friends and family. Though I long for an off-grid home and farm I am inspired by this page on SurvivalBlog.

As JWR says, “Survival isn’t about stuff, it’s about skills.”

Below are some of the skills that my wife and I have been developing over that last few years that will be with us for the rest of our lives. The journey has been bumpy but I know that each time I finish a new project the feeling of confidence and competence is worth every ounce of sweat and failure along the way.


I love it. Nothing says self sufficiency like producing your own food. However, after five years of gardens I’ve learned that just because you can grow it doesn’t mean you’ll want to eat it. Everyone says “grow open pollinating heirlooms” and rightfully so. They are sustainable in the sense that you can save the seeds and they will grow true. That doesn’t always mean that they will taste the same as what you are use to from the store. Sometimes this is a boon to the taste buds, ala heirloom tomatoes, while on the other hand we have yet to come up with an open pollinating variety of sweet corn that we found even to be palatable. One other lesson I’ve taken to heart, spread your rows wide enough to get the tiller through. Your back, knees, wrists, ankles and moral will thank you.

Always be trying new things. This year we tried Ground Cherries (which were a hit) and Sweet Potatoes (jury is still out). This fall we are planting winter wheat. Focus the bulk of your efforts though on what you like to eat, stores well and grows well in your area.

Meat Chickens

We just completed an eight week adventure of raising 24 Cornish Cross meat chickens in a bottomless movable cage called a chicken tractor. They came in the mail chirping away, weighing a couple of ounces and now grace our freezer dressed out around four pounds apiece. Raising our own meat birds was an exercise in getting real about our food. Gardening is great but a parsnip doesn’t look you in the eye before you kill it. Introducing our kids to the idea that an animal lives with the purpose of dying and being used for our sustenance was eye opening not just for our little girls but for their dad as well. It was a small glimpse into how far we have isolated ourselves from the fact that death truly is a part of life. Practically speaking I can tell you that I learned a lot on butchering day.

  • If you’re working in the sun use sun block. (Obviously.) The first chicken to get cooked was me.
  • Killing 24 living, breathing sentient beings takes a toll emotionally. We didn’t actually eat any of our chicken for two weeks.
  • Make sure the table on which you are gutting and breaking down your birds is tall enough so that you don’t have to stoop.
  • Just do it. Gutting and killing is gross but necessary. I focused on technique to take my mind off of what I was doing. By the way, there are excellent how-to videos on Youtube.

Maple Syrup

One of the handiest tools I’ve ever purchased is a Turkey Fryer I bought at Target for half price. I’ve used it to scald chickens, parboil large amounts of corn for freezing and this spring made maple syrup for the first time with it. Though it’s not super efficient for making large amounts of syrup I did produce almost a gallon of the sweet stuff and learned that there are things that can’t be learned from a book. Finishing maple syrup to the proper consistence is something I have to put more time into but fortunately the “golden delicious” is pretty forgiving and can be boiled down further should it be too thin or thinned out with water should it be too thick. It also is the sort of food stuff that can be produced with nothing more than a wood fire and a pot and can be saved in canning jars without even a water bath as long as the jars have been cleaned and sterilized. Should the syrup mold it’s relatively easy to skim the mold off and re-boil the syrup for edibility. I am convinced mankind will never reach a total and complete TEOTWAWKI scenario as long as we still have maple syrup to hold us together.

Pressing Cider

Wild apples abound in our neck of the woods and my kids love cider. Pick it, squash it and drink it sums up our experience. For the best taste, in my humble opinion, mix a sweet purchased apple with plenty of wild apples. Make sure you only use apples off the tree to eliminate the risk of bacteria they can pick up on the ground. Only grind and press apples that do not have bad spots on them. Most people who have wild apple trees on their property are more than happy to let you harvest them, but ask first. Relationships are more important than free fruit.

Using a Chainsaw

Instead of purchasing cut and split wood last winter my wife and I opted to buy a load of logs and with the help of a couple of family members who are exceptionally competent with chainsaws we sawed nearly the entire load up in a single day. Never having used a chainsaw before I must say that I was somewhat intimidated by the snarling beast but seven hours of cutting left me feeling like I had a basic understanding of how to safely use this enormously efficient tool. I can only imagine a world where white collar people like myself are thrust into situations where they feel forced to use a tool like a chainsaw without proper instruction and supervision while they get their feet under themselves. Recently I was introduced to the reality that with a lack of antibiotics in a SHTF scenario would greatly increase the risk of dying of infection. This had never occurred to me. How many people (even preppers) will needlessly suffer and die from horrible self inflicted wounds and subsequent infections due to using powerful tools that they are not prepared to use? Not my preferred way to go…

There are a bunch of other things we’ve been working on worth mentioning but due to space I will just summarize: Preserving food via drying and canning, raising chickens for eggs, using a rifle to scare woodchucks away from my garden (someday I’ll hit one, I’m working on this) and identifying, preparing, and consuming wild edibles on the property we are renting has kept us busy over the last 12 months. We also plan on trying beekeeping and perhaps micro fish farming (a tiny farm, not tiny fish) though the infrastructure requirements may be too expensive for us right now.

We rarely get everything we want in life. If I could have a retreat, a 1968 Ford Bronco, 40 acres and an arsenal of cool firearms then I’d be happy as a clam but that’s not where my wife and I are in our life. Instead we have substituted a willing heart to try new things and to fail if we must, an eye for projects that expand our repertoire of skills and a network of friends and family members who we regularly mine for information about what’s worked for them. We trust that will be enough to tackle the challenges life has for us until the day we can add the infrastructure we aspire to.

KelTec is renowned for interesting designs in modern plastic and metal. The KelTec PMR30 continues this. I’d been eager to get hold of one for months, and was quite happy when I did. I only had it for a couple of hours, so my testing was limited.

The PMR30 is a .22 Magnum semi-auto pistol with a 30 round magazine. It has a hybrid blowback/locked breech system that enables it to shoot several different loadings and weights of ammo, depending on chamber pressure. It has an ambidextrous safety, an easy to reach heel magazine release, a forward rail for lights or other accessories, and can accept a top rail or other mounts. Barrel is 4140 steel, frame 7075 aluminum, and all the supporting material is Zytel. It looks very thin and light in construction with its fluted barrel, but is quite sturdy and mechanically sound. Function was very consistent.

It has enough suppressing fire to last several minutes, and sufficient power for small game, or combat stops with multiple hits. With 30 rounds, there’s enough ammo for either.

Empty, the pistol weighs about 13 ounces and feels like a toy. I thought it felt like 5 ounces, honestly. There was nothing to it. I found the grip comfortable, the controls easy to reach, and it pointed very well. Loaded up, it was grip heavy enough for good balance, but still very light. The trigger had a little slack, but was very consistent. I wasn’t able to measure the pull, but it was easily manageable (KelTec claims 4-to-6 pounds, and it felt right in the middle). The fiber optic sights were bright and very friendly, aligned easily with the grip angle. I didn’t do any rest shooting, but off hand was all within silhouette at 15 yards, unfamiliar with the weapon and without doing any real aiming. I just pointed and shot.

I had one stovepipe with rounds tumbled in the magazine during extreme rapid fire. I may have slack-wristed it and recoil jumbled them faster than the follower spring could move. It cleared easily, there were no other problems, and Oleg Volk and others had no issues at all.

I enjoyed the really high capacity magazine a lot. It just doesn’t seem to run out of ammo, and magazines change very fast once it does. It came with two mags, and two more spares would give 120 rounds of suppressing fire, which is plenty for evading trouble and reaching a heavier gun, or could serve as a defensive arm with multiple hits, or is potent enough for small game if stranded in a remote location. It easily fits in a console, under a seat, in a holster, or anywhere else you’d need a backup weapon. Given the very reasonable price, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have one in each bailout bag for commonality of parts and ammo.

The only other downside would be that .22 Magnum is less available than some other rounds, but, it’s light enough to stockpile a few 500 round cartons ahead of time. - SurvivalBlog Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson, author of the new science fiction novel Do Unto Others.

Hi Jim;
I'd like to recommend a book to your readers. It's a graphic novel titled "Safe Area Gorazde" by artist/journalist Joe Sacco. It's about his experiences with the people of the city of Gorazde during the Bosnian War in the early 1990s. It's blunt, the language at times is raw, and the artwork is extremely graphic at times as he catalogs the brutality of that time and what the people suffered when the front lines were often at their doorsteps. Though the graphic novel format makes it look like a comic book, it's definitely not for kids.

While much of the material is about the violence of the times, there is also considerable valuable information at what the people had to do to survive in a true "collapse" environment. Some lessons I gleaned:

1. People who you thought were your friends may turn on you if you're on the wrong side of an ethnic or political line.
2. The boredom of daily living can be crushing when there are no newspapers or magazines, no television, no books or other entertainment outlets.
3. Currency can be things you don't usually think of as currency (soldiers, teachers and medical workers were paid in cigarettes).
4. When the electricity goes out and it's cold outside, you're reduced to burning stuff to keep warm. Walking several miles to find wood so you don't freeze is a bummer.
5. Eating the same thing over and over and over can be maddening, even if you journeyed for four days to get it and are thankful to have it.
6. Have a rifle and plenty of ammo. A pistol alone isn't a good idea.
7. When the cars stop working, a bicycle is a good thing to have.
8. Staying alive without the conveniences of modern life is hard, hard work. It's particularly difficult on women, children and the elderly.
9. You're going to have to make difficult decisions, sometimes with life or death consequences.
10. Never, ever, become a refugee if you can avoid it.
11. Living in an urban environment can increase your difficulties in some ways, but there are some benefits as well. I still think that the cities are best avoided.

The bottom line is that many hardships can be mitigated, but only if you think of the possibilities and prepare for them. You must learn from the past. One man telling his story in the book says, "My grandfather and grandmother sometimes tried to explain to me what had happened (before), but I did not listen, or listened with one ear."

It can happen here. All my prayers are that we will have peace and prosperity, but history tells us otherwise, if we will listen.

Be ready. God Bless, - Jason R.

There is a new radio show on Blog Talk Radio, produced by The Preparedness Radio Network. More information can be found at the Directive 21 web site.

   o o o

Your ticket to a rural retreat? Justin F. sent this gem: Working from home: how to get you boss keen on the idea

   o o o

Most Renters Live in Unaffordable Housing, New Census Data Show. Simultaneous increases in rents and decreases in income are a bad combination.

"The only thing that goes with the flow is dead fish." - Tracy Roberts

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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 am your typical thirty-something suburbanite that lives in a cookie cutter house (on the grid of course) in a nice little subdivision, with a wife, 2.6 kids, a dog, and two cats.  I have a steady job, pay my taxes, keep my lawn manicured, and chat with the neighbors out front.  I try to keep up with current events, and I believe things are going to get worse before they get better.  Not being pessimistic, but realistic.

My roots in preparedness go back to my childhood where my step-father was a military man, and subtly assigned each one in the house a “job” to store a specific item “just in case”.  I did not realize how wise he really was.  As I got older and made my own way, I ended up in South Florida for a while and was exposed to the annual Hurricane Season that comes every summer.  Needless to say a few Category 3 and Category 4 hurricanes opened my eyes and reinforced the principles I learned early on.  But once things got good again, some of those ideas and practices faded.

Now that I have a family of my own, I was unexpectedly thrust into a very unique situation this summer that “awakened” me again to the preparedness mindset.  A couple months back, my wife was leaving our community pool, holding our daughter, when she slipped, rolled her ankle and fell on the sidewalk.  The fall resulted in her sustaining a compound fracture in her ankle and fractured up her tibia bone as well.  The doctor said that rolling an ankle is a very common and easy thing to do.  As far as fractures go, this was a pretty severe injury.  Did I mention that she was six months pregnant at the time of the accident?  Two surgeries later, a plate and seven screws in her leg, and abruptly changing our lifestyle has been a real eye-opener.  I have taken leave from work to stay home and take care of my wife and two year old since.  Thank God no injuries were sustained by my two year old or the new baby.

I am writing to share what this experience has done for me and how it has changed my perspective and the way I do everyday activities.  Before the accident, I went about my daily routine very carefree, checking things off my daily “to do” list and helping to make sure the household runs smoothly and that we have what we need.  I also took for granted simple things, and never realized how any injury of this type would alter our lifestyle.    Because of the severity of my wife’s injury, for the first month and a half, she was virtually immobile.  She had to keep her leg elevated constantly because of the external fixator holding her leg in place, and to keep the swelling down.  When she did need to use the bathroom, I had to keep her leg elevated and assist her with everything.  I had to do everything for her; dress her, get her food, clean up after her, etc.  A gentle reminding of our vows; “For better or Worse”.  Providing twenty-four hour care for a pregnant lady with a broken leg and running after a two year old is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting.  One lesson, stay in shape and maintain good health and fitness to be able to assist others.

The revelation came after reading material from Mr. Rawles and articles on SurvivalBlog that I asked myself, “What would I have done if this happened during TEOTWAWKI or a grid down situation?”  As difficult as this has been with running water, electricity, and lots of take-out/delivery food, I can only imagine how much more difficult if not impossible to do on my own during a worst case scenario.  I have seen several articles on emergency medical aid, medical training, and gun shot wounds, etc.  And given the probability of increase in broken bones and disabling injuries from nineteenth century living, I found this area lacking.  I have yet to read much on short and long-term care of severely injured persons or disabled persons.

As I contemplated this situation in a worst case scenario, several points came to mind.  First of all, as a renewed prepper, I must assess my situation and plan of action for a TEOTWAWKI scenario; given my current family status (wife, two year old, and soon-to-be newborn), bugging out is not that realistic or practical for me, with or without my wife’s current injury.  A lot of different things factor in to be successful in G.O.O.D., and I think the percentages and all the other variables are against me, so I’ve elected to prepare for survival in place in my suburban environment.

Now that I have accepted my plan, one of the next things is getting help.  From what I have read already, most folks are in agreement that whether you bug-out to a retreat or stay put, you can not go at it alone.  As I have gone through this situation with my wife, it has taken a tremendous amount of effort on my part to stay on top of her needs and that of our 2 year old.  Family has come in intermittently, which has helped, but that is more mouths to feed.  There is no way that I could have done these things in a worst case scenario by myself.  In a grid down situation, (as I currently have no “back-up” power sources yet), I would have needed several others to provide security, prepare and cook food, and gather water, etc.  Seeing as we have no family closer than ten hours away, all we have is a few close neighbors, who have been of great help during this time, and a couple other close friends.  In our current carefree society this works great, and is probably more than what most people in my situation have.  But in TEOTWAWKI, I will need help.  So, slowly and carefully I must find and select a support team.  There are many articles and ideas on this, so I won’t go much further, especially since every person and situation is different and one must consider the “totality of circumstances” for themselves.

If a family member or member of your retreat becomes immobilize or disabled, is your current home or retreat compatible to housing a disabled person, or someone who requires a wheelchair or crutches?  I quickly learned that my two-story suburban home was not compatible with a wheel chair, or crutches on the stairs.  There is not a lot I can do now to change the interior of my house, especially since this will not be a permanent situation.  If it were permanent, I would have to make changes.  But I have rearranged things to be more efficient given the increase in tasks I have to do, and the limited mobility my wife has.  I have now established a daily routine in which I get things done for my wife and daughter, but this is in our current “perfect world”.  What if, one of your family members is permanently disabled already?  Are you prepared to accommodate and survive with them?  Our families are the most precious things in our lives, so we must plan to protect and provide for them.

If this type of injury happened in a worst case scenario, do I have the necessary medical training and tools to render proper aid?  Currently the answer is no. Aside from basically splinting the leg, keeping it elevated and providing as much comfort as I could.  In a survival situation, this type of injury could be disastrous to your retreat or survival in place situation.  At the very least your mobility, op-sec, and combat effectiveness will suffer.  If it occurs outside your retreat or home, movement to safety will be a major undertaking, needless to say accompanied by a lot of pain.  I saw first-hand how difficult and painful it was for my pregnant wife to be moved from the ground to a gurney/stretcher and then on to an ambulance.

Another important thing to have on hand is a pair of crutches.  I have not seen this listed too often on medical lists, but unless you plan on carrying your wounded/disabled member everywhere, then go ahead and get a pair of crutches.  We got ours from the hospital, but you could probably find them at any medical supply, craigslist, or from someone who was recently injured and used them.  As I have learned from this experience, compound fractures take a long time to heal, and that’s with today’s modern medicine and rehabilitation.  Even if you find a pair of old wooden crutches or construct your own, something is better than nothing.  We currently have a wheelchair, a walker, crutches, and a shower/potty chair at the house, all which have been used in the recovery process.

Another great lesson for me was communication and servanthood.  We have been married for eight years and feel we have a strong marriage.  But this is the first time in eight years that we have been together twenty-four hours seven days a week a little over three months now.  We both usually go to work and then come home and spend a couple of hours together, before going to bed, and then repeating the next day.  For those young lovers that wish to be with their significant other “all the time”, hopefully you build a strong foundation before you have to, because it will test you.  The vows I took before God, He has held me to.  The Lord has used this time to show me how to serve her joyfully and love her, and to put aside my own desires and needs.  I have learned how important it is to communicate.  And this was during a time when I did not have to worry about water, food, electricity, etc.  Build strong foundations in your marriage now, so that it will sustain through the challenges real stress brings.
In conclusion, I wanted to communicate some of what this experience has shown me that it may help others who have not considered this situation.  What will you do if a member is disabled?  For those who practice weekend “grid down” scenarios, to add a twist, randomly draw a members name and select them to be disabled somehow (blind, use of  one leg or loss of both, etc.) throughout the scenario.  What will you do if you or a member is disabled before, during, or after bugging out?  Would you still be able to make it to your retreat?  Do you have crutches, splints, painkillers, etc?  What if the injured member is the only one skilled in a certain area that is vital to your retreat or home which requires mobility and self-sufficiency?  Is your retreat or home compatible to a disabled person?  How much extra help would you need to take care of a disabled member and/or small children?  In what ways would you need to improvise to maintain survivability should this situation arise?
Just some food for thought for those who have not considered it.  I hope this has helped others, as I have tried to do the best that has been dealt to me right now.  God Bless.

Over the past few years there have been numerous very useful articles submitted regarding bugging out or Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) as they say, if a major regional or national disaster occurs. The articles focus on a number of issues such as the problems/hazards relating to simply getting home from work, making contact with the spouse who may be shopping or getting the kids from school. Then the writers cover the need for a ready bug-out bag “BOB.“ There are suggestions about having the vehicle already (at least partly) packed with enough supplies for either a few days or to get them to their camp or retreat. Then the writer grabs the kids and spouse and hopefully, with enough fuel, takes off and tries to beat having the highway getting jammed up before they get out of town. This is all well and good and I’ve followed all of this advice. But, I never hear them mention kissing grandma and grandpa good-by on the way.

We preppers/survivalists or whatever, seem to forget that we (almost) all have parents, grandparents or sick or elderly members of the family that really should be included in our plans. They may be living alone, not be ambulatory or simply not really able to take care of themselves. We can rationalize about shooting those “Golden Hordes” when they try to take our food but can we really leave grandma behind? Okay. Maybe it’s time for lazy, and too often drunk, Uncle Joe to forge for himself and we can’t fit all of the cousins in the car anyway, but let’s look at that immediate family.

First, maybe it’s a family member’s house we’re heading for. Do they know and are they in agreement that you might show up unexpectedly and have they been briefed as to what might happen? Can the house handle you size-wise and with emergency power and foodstuffs? Of course, you should have stored much of that stuff ahead of time in preparation for such an event. If their location is so desirable however, might other family members, maybe from the other side of the family tree show up? Now, is the ole’ farmhouse still large enough and with enough food? And remember, those folks are going to think they have just as much right to be there as you. And of course, they’re on board regarding pulling their share of the responsibilities.

But what if say, the wive’s (oops, now there’s two sets), parents or grandparents live as many do, in a small condo or apartment, or group home do your plans include trying to pick them up? If they need special medical care and you won’t be able to provide it at your retreat, well, maybe you’ll just have to swallow and live with it. But what if they just need special medication? Do you have some stocked ahead, along with whatever your immediate family may need? What about something as simple as a wheelchair? Maybe you can squeeze grandpa in the back with the kids and the dog, but what about it? Remember, the trunk is already full with your emergency supplies. Have you given thought about the folks living in a distant city or town? Has someone in the family arranged to have somebody (trustworthy, of course, and even then, if the SHTF, they’re likely to be affected also) look after them and get compensated later?

After reading the book "One Second After" it’s hard not to think about those elderly or sick folks in the hospital or nursing home when the lights went out. They’ve got to be considered or you’re not going to live with yourselves all nice and snug in your shelter up in the foothills if you don’t. Outside of everybody moving out to a safe place ahead of time, which is impossible for those tied to their jobs, there are no easy solutions and I certainly don’t have any real answers except that the whole idea of G.O.O.D. when that threat occurs should take into consideration who you might be leaving behind. - H.B.

Anyone that has lived off-grid can relate to this piece by "Enola Gay", over at the Paratus Familia blog: Lights Out. Life off grid isn't perfect, but it sure beats the vulnerability of the alternative.

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A Russian writer suggests: Coldest winter in 1,000 years on its way. (Thanks to Ron M. for the link.)

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This tool rules out some choices for retreat locales: Murder Captured By Google Street View Car (Warning: Graphic images!)

"There are two pains in life. There is the pain of discipline and the pain of disappointment. If you can handle the pain of discipline, then you'll never have to deal with the pain of disappointment." - American college football coach Nick Saban

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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.

Indoor Winter Vegetable Gardens, by Kate in Colorado

The first cool night of the almost changing season gave the squash plants a shiver and they curled their big leaves upon themselves as if to find protection.  I wait for this moment in the eternal gardening cycle to begin preparing my plants and myself for the “indoor” gardening season. You see, I don’t let the thought of thirty degree days or fear of the blowing snow that is Colorado keep me from enjoying the, excuse the pun, fruits of my gardening labor.

With the looming price hike in food and the uncertainty of the times I am comforted with the knowledge that I’ll be picking fresh greens, tomatoes, peppers, beans, and herbs right in the comfort of my living spaces. No, I don’t have a greenhouse. So I thought I’d share a little information of how you too can enjoy the benefits of fresh produce all years round without a greenhouse or sun room.

I live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, so lest you think I have great growing conditions, know that indoor gardening can be challenging.  But, I feel it is a mandatory skill set to learn.  Not only do you have the benefits of fresh produce at a time of year the grocery stores charge a kings ransom for a bunch of scallions or a bit of radish, you will have the ability to augment meals if we run into TEOTWAWKI during winter.

There are a few basics you must have to be successful and you must practice these plant husbandry skills in order to reap any rewards.  Practice is critical as you must understand the growing parameters of the plants you choose and where in the house you will be gardening for best results.

First, examine you home for the best plant locations.  Good lighting is critical.  Without good direct light your plants will grow long and spindly or “leggy”.  If a plant must go searching for light for the photosynthesis process they won’t have the energy to grow properly, let alone set fruiting bodies. I am fortunate in having large south facing windows in three rooms.  I also augment with grow lights, so when I decide where certain plants will spend their winter I set up the lighting before I place the plants. It is easier to get the area ready before you place the plants. Some of my plants are in the topsy turvy planters so I set the lights close to the floor pointing upwards. The plants are suspended on chains held up with hooks in the ceiling. Remember plants grow toward the light.  I think it is very important because some plants hate to be moved around and will be a little temperamental if jostled around to find better lighting.

Think about temperature fluctuations.  We keep our house at 60 degrees during the winter. Yes, that’s really cool.  We have hot water heat and I can adjust the “zones” at will and during the day I turn up heat in the rooms that I will be working. I cluster various plants that need extra warmth at night like tomatoes and peppers together in a room.  Some veggies like cool temperatures like lettuces, green onions, and peas.  These are grown in a cool zone.  If you heat with wood be careful not to place plants too close to the stove as the dry heat will suck the moisture right out of them. You must also watch the temperatures in front of your windows and e careful that the plants don’t get overheated during the day.  If they do, they will have a hard time with water usage and leaf burns.  A window shade is a good idea in case you have to moderate the solar gain through windows.

Next I prepare the pots for the plants.  If you are moving plants from the garden you will need good size pots.  Most plants need several gallons of augmented soil to have plenty of room for root expansion.  Make sure they are scrubbed clean and rinsed in a little bleach water.  After washing and rinsing the pots, I give them a good dose of sunshine to dry them out well.  Place a layer of clean small rocks in the bottom and fill about 2/3 full with garden soil and compost.  They are now ready for your plants.  If the planters are very large you should do the dirt filling in the place where the plants will grow.  The hernia you prevent from lifting all that weight will be appreciated! 

Next I select the plants I will be transferring.  Use your best stock.  I normally transfer tomatoes and pepper plants.  The rest of my garden I start from fresh heirloom seeds, but the tomatoes and peppers take too long to grow so I take advantage of the summer’s growth.  I check the plants for insects and then wash the leaves with a little soapy water and a good rinse.  I then carefully cut back the plant by about 1/3.  This will help the plants root system as it struggles to re-establish itself in its’ new location.  Dig the plants out with a generous root and soil ball and take it to its’ new “home”.  Carefully “tease” the roots to untangle them a little.  Don’t be rough. Just open the spaces to help the roots set out new “feeder” rootlets. Open a hole in the planters soil and water the hole generously and place the plants and place the soil the around the entire plant, tamping the soil lightly.  If the plants are tall, I stake the plants at this time. And carefully tie the plants as to not constrict the stalks.

The choices for your other plant varieties for you garden are endless.  I select fast growers like several types of greens, bunching onions (green onions), green beans, kale, and herbs.  All of these varieties are started in two week intervals throughout the winter. This will lengthen the growing “season”. Just follow the planting directions carefully for each variety.

Gardening indoors takes patience and dedication.  The plants need to be tended frequently.  I mist my plants every day because the humidity in my location is very low. I use a water meter to carefully determine the plants water needs.  Don’t “guess” about soil moisture or fertility.  The inexpensive meters that are available will take all the guess work out of keeping the soil in good condition.  Your plants will thank you by the best productivity possible.

During the winter I make what I call “instant compost” by taking vegetable scraps and place them in a blender with lots of water and liquefy them. I let it settle and then use the water on the top as a fertilizer for the plants a couple of times a month.  I also check frequently for white fly, aphids, and spider mites.  Use appropriate insecticide only if the infestations are severe.  I usually wash any area affected with soapy water and seem to be able to control insects before they get out of hand.

You might ask why I go to the trouble of growing food producing plants indoors because of the effort involved.  To me, the most important reason is that it is a skill that I might need in the future.  What if I had to produce food in the safety and privacy of my home during TEOTWAWKI?  I know that I can, because I have practiced the skill.  Also, my plants teach me patience, perseverance, and observation skills.  I also teach my grandchildren the joys of gardening year round and show them the simple pleasures of nurturing dependent life forms.  There is nothing that gives a person hope for the future more than harvesting delicious food while the snow is blowing sideways during a storm!

I urge you to think about trying your hand at winter gardening this year.  There are many books and periodicals available to teach you all the skills you need to succeed. The most important lessons of all will be the joy of adding a skill you can use the rest of your life  

Two Letters Re: A Little Insight on Diesel Engines

I am prepper, survivalist, as well as a longtime waste vegetable oil (WVO) user. I wasn't gonna get in this diesel game, except that it saved my life. In 2004 I was in a severe commercial truck accident where I was struck in the fuel tank and rolled three times. When the EMT was cleaning me up, she told me that using diesel fuel had saved my life. If I had been in a company truck that was gas-powered (Top Kick C6500) I would have died in a explosion upon impact. That was the day I became a diesel believer, and shortly later a grease diesel believer.

My family owns a 2000 Ford Excursion with a 7.3 Powerstroke, it is fully outfitted with bull bar, inverter, CB radio, real front hubs, but most importantly a Vegistroke (fully automatic WVO fuel system). I love this system and have 103,000 miles on it (including 60,000 miles on WVO) with original injectors. I have a range of 1,500-1,600 miles between diesel and WVO, which is perfect for G.O.O.D. situations, as well as family vacations. We also own a 2005 Jeep CRD (diesel) that has a one-off kit with roughly 55K miles on WVO, original injectors as well.

My successful long term use of WVO was accomplished it part by doing it right: I have a centrifuge that cleans my oil to .5 (yes half a micron) absolute, as well as remove glycerin. It is a Dieselcraft OC-50 complete system, and the back bone to my way of life,allowing me to run my two SUVs and home for next to nothing. My home is heated with a AGsolutions b-150 boiler and gravity fed "Alaska" Bio-diesel stove (no electricity required), as well as a wood stove. We can generate enough electricity with my diesel generator (also runs on bio-diesel), to power the boiler, house and or make enough clean fuel to G.O.O.D., without an issue. We have lived this lifestyle for 5 years without a hitch, and intend on living this way no matter what political, economic, or SHTF scenario comes down the road. - H.L., Prepared in New Hampshire ("Live Free or Die")

Mr. Rawles:
In response to Rick B.’s stated apprehension about homebrewed diesel fuel: Yes all those cautionary concerns are true. Running any homebrewed fuel comes with consequences and extra maintenance issue. But I believe he is missing the point. There may very well come a day when you cannot afford to simply go to the pump and churn out clean dino-fuel due to unaffordable high prices or just plain old non availability.

So then what? Do you turn your prized diesel into a raised bed garden on wheels? No. You improvised adapt and overcome. You move on to the next best thing. And that is, knowing how to use your available resources to get moving.

I have used all kinds or reclaimed oils in several different diesels. I have used a mixture of 20% regular unleaded gas to 80% filtered veg-oil that I have reclaimed from restaurants. I have also filtered used motor oil (which also requires boiling to remove as much of the impurities as possible) mixed with #2 diesel to run my mechanical diesels.

I have used all of the above in my 2001 F-250 for years and have traveled several thousand miles at a time solely on processed oil and [a 20% mixture of] unleaded gas (not bio-diesel). Without any problems other than changing my fuel filter every 3,000 miles just to be cautious.

I have run the same mixtures in my 2005 Dodge 3500 with wonderful results. And my 1990 Ford 350 van loves it.

My point is, it can be done safely. Yes you do have to change filters more frequently. And yes you need to be extremely diligent about your filtering of any oil alternative before using it as fuel.

I do not mess with bio-diesel simply because the processes involved make it less post-TEOTWAWKI friendly.

As for the internal combustion of these homebrewed fuels and the cleanliness of the engine, I can only speak for my self. My 1990 F-350 van was filthy internally, but after running veg-oil (not processed motor oil which can dirty up the engine ) for several years the engine was as clean as the day we rebuilt it.

So IMHO, when approached from the right mindset and through filtering, any waster veg-oil or motor oil is a very viable fuel source for any diesel not weighted down by excessive amount of electronic sensors (probably 2006 and newer).

But beware, do not widely advertise your fuel mixture. Because some states frown on using homebrewed fuel because they are missing out on you paying road fuel taxes. - A.S.W.

[JWR Adds: Readers are cautioned not to use gasoline blends in diesel engines, except in extremis.]

Reader Robert A. sent this: How to Make & Use Gold Test Solutions. Robert's comment: "I recently entered a gold and silver exchange to sell, what I thought was silver, and upon testing discovered that it was a very thick silver plate. Below is a list of solutions used for various testing of gold and silver. I was informed that using the 14 karat gold solution works well for testing silver."

K. in Montana liked this piece over at the Rural Revolution blog: The Economics of Prepping

Dan J. flagged this: S&P: $460 Billion Shadow Inventory [of distressed residential properties] Will Take 41 Months to Clear. Gee, and that is assuming that the market levels off...

R.B.S. highlighted this article: Bill Seeks Increased Congressional Oversight of Coin Production. His comment: "More news on pending changes to those 'terrible nickels and dimes' that 'cost us' to produce..."

H.H. suggested this bit of gloomage by Tyler Durden: Introduction To The Road Through 2012: Revolution or World War III

Items from The Economatrix:

Joseph Stiglitz: The Euro May Not Survive

China Pledges to Prop Up Eurozone and Save Greece

US Unemployment "Probably" Rose in September

The Daily Gold & Silver Report: Massive Mortgage Fraud, Massive Movements in Silver continue

Buying Gold Before The "Blow Off Phase"

S&P 500 Profits Cut For First Time in Year By Analysts

August Factory Orders Decline By 0.5%

Readers J.B.G. and T.B. both sent this: Super-rich investors buy gold by ton

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Richard S. suggested this interesting--albeit very poorly-titled--article: Self-Aiming Sniper Rifles Coming Next Year

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G.G. mentioned that an interview with David Werner, the author of the book, “Where There Is No Doctor”, is available as a podcast at the OffTheGridNews.com web site.

"Plan A is to live a long, prosperous life while enjoying my Freedom, and Liberty. My Guns are Plan B." - From a .sig block at The Highroad Forums.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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 am a Christian, husband and father. I am a former 10 year active Army veteran and three year National Guardsman in Louisiana. My military background is helicopter crew chief, CID (the Army's equivalent of the FBI) and then an Armor officer in the National Guard. After leaving the Guard I became a Louisiana State Patrol (LSP) trooper. I have since left the state police. It is my experience as a state trooper that I wish to write about. I have read on your blog about many things and appreciate them all in many ways.

Recently a writer was predicting the way the police will respond and in this area I would like to add what I know and what I predict. A retired trooper friend and I have polled both active officers at the state, city and parish (county) level. I have worked with Houston PD, Texas DPS, Baton Rouge PD and New Orleans PD. The results of the questions all reveal the same thing. Very, very few active officers even think about TEOTWAWKI. Not only is it not on their radar there are no contingency plans should it become a problem. On the retired side preparedness or awareness is at best 50/50. I think that many Americans will be surprised with the answer many serving officers gave when asked what they will do if TEOTWAWKI ever occurs: Almost to a person they respond they will go home and protect their families or G.O.O.D. As far as protecting anyone else? Forget it. There are no contingencies to bring families in to the department or is there room.

There are many levels of professionalism represented in any force, but it did not matter in my non-scientific poll. I think the word duty now is a throw-away word used by many when it is convenient or the public is present. As a soldier I knew it, I felt it and I lived it but in the LSP the politically correct/aware people have driven it out of daily operations. Many have reported their department is in the same shape. There are exceptions of course, but they have been rare in my search and are to be applauded when you meet them (think of Obama's unthinking words about the Philly PD situation with his friend. As far as protection goes though most officers are very under-armed. They only have an issue sidearm and issue shotgun for most departments. In the LSP we rode heavier than most with most troopers loaded for bear (and a lot of ammo on hand) and then the SWAT teams officers tend to be gun lovers and were even more heavily armed. As far as hiring these officers to provide security then a town/group/community will have to at least provide ammo (budget reductions are beginning to reduce the amount of ammo available regardless of the article where homeland security bought millions of rounds). Further budget cuts are only going to make it worse.

As I see TEOTWAWKI unfolding you have two flavors: natural and man-made. As far as natural events we have the CME or various other earthquake, tornado, hurricanes (we go hit hard by Hurricane Rita-I sheltered in place which is another story). man-made events though will probably tend to be a slow slide as the government will do what all governments tend to do: survive as long as possible. I just read a great fictional work along the lines of "Patriots" that is titled: "The Illuminati" by Larry Burkett. I can't speak about one world governments, but this scenario of the government trying to maintain control no matter what their motivations are is one example of a slow decline into oblivion. The controls utilized in the book are in line with what we are seeing every day now. No longer are many of the ideas in this 1991 book fictional; they are here now and being used in many cases, or are being prepared (think REAL ID). Following Glenn Beck and reading various blogs one must almost certainly conclude that Obama/Cloward/Piven strategy is being used to break down our nation. In that case what will happen to public safety and how will/can it be used against us?

My mother is an emergency management planner for our county in Washington state and is a liberal (my Dad's vote cancels her out). I have spoken to her at length about these types of issues and she and her ilk think the government is basically good and would never hurt anyone. Do not mention our constitutional freedoms though! The 2nd amendment is conditional to public safety! On the flip side our conversations also reveal her (and her peers/professional fire fighters/law enforcers, etc.) tendency and willingness of the government to maintain control in any situation no matter what the cost (lost freedom/liberty/eminent domain/seizure of supplies, etc.) as a significant part of maintaining order and recovering from the disaster. Only states like Louisiana that have passed emergency disaster laws protecting guns from police seizure will maintain any sort of civility or order in a disaster (from now on in Los Angeles).

I was able to prevent looting on my dead end street during Hurricane Rita solely because I had a rifle and was preparing to employ it when the looters made haste. I stood on my corner for an hour and a half before a deputy came along (no phones-cell or land line). He instructed me to shoot the next looters I saw. I need to add here that prepping for Rita was last minute and only authorized access to five neighboring homes to clean out their refrigerators made my home easily livable. I had a generator and 150 gallons of gas-it was used up in one and half weeks. I did not use it sparingly as the end was always in sight. Now that I have found this site, read "Patriots", "One Second After" and a few others and I am moving my family in a fully prepped state. I would also remind everyone that it is the little things that kill you (army aviation experience). So make sure you have the minor things as well: paper clips, screws, Scotch Brite pads, etc. Without these the long-term will become exponentially more difficult and time consuming.

Please understand that people that are not reading this blog or similar ones (and not natural preppers) are not preparing for anything beyond a one week natural disaster event. Most not even doing that according to several homeland security studies obtained from my family. After that there will be a lot of people with no hope. I am known at work as Mr. Gloom and Doom (but not as smart as Mr. Roubini) as I try to weave questions about our fragile society into daily conversations. It is my hope that one or two at least may begin prepping.

Captain Rawles:
Let me add a caveat to burning raw oil (Filtered Vegetable Oil, Waste Vegetable Oil, Straight Vegetable Oil, Raw Vegetable Oil) in diesels.

I have heard claims stating; "These engines will burn anything! You can dump in cooking oil, heating oil, kerosene, bacon fat, filter your used crankcase oil through a nylon stocking...you can even burn perfume!" To that I must add; "Garbage in, garbage out", only not all the garbage goes out... it settles in your engine.

All myths are based on some truth, and those claims are no exception.

First, stay away from animal fats. They clump. They also stay suspended. They just won't filter out. They are a nuisance. Waste Vegetable oil can be filtered, or refined. Fryer oil that has cooked french fries is fine, but when that same oil has been used to deep fry fish, chicken, or worse yet, pork, it is difficult to avoid problems, and those problems will always occur at the worst possible time. Each new load of vegetable oil (V.O.) should be tested for acidity, then even if you plan to burn S.V.O., make a small (quart) batch of biodiesel to test for clumping, or soap. If S.V.O. is to be burned, well, then just roll the dice and hope for the best. Yes, it will work in your diesel, but I guarantee that someday it will fail, and you will miss that job interview, or be stuck in a blizzard. Your diesel will not suddenly stop on a nice Summer day while just sitting in your driveway. Just won't happen.... Second, Vegetable oil, and to a lesser extent, biodiesel will cause coking, which is a fouling inside your cylinders, especially around the valves, pre-chambers, and injector nozzles. Fouled nozzles can make a diesel difficult, or impossible to start, and the colder the weather, the more this condition is exacerbated. Also, fuel filters must be replaced on a more frequent rotation, and the use of an engine oil bypass filter is just plain ol' common sense. More ash means dirtier oil, and more wear. An off-the-shelf oil filter will remove particles down to 40 to 75 microns. The problem is that engine damage also occurs with sub-20 micron particles. Get a bypass filter, and install it right away. The use of V.O. means you will generate more ash, and more ash means more engine wear, and more engine wear means a greater risk of an inconvenient engine failure.

The main culprit is glycerin and no, more heat added to the fuel won't solve the problem. Glycerin is a problem that won't go away, and if an owner is set on burning V.O., or biodiesel, then the injector nozzles must be cleaned, or replaced on a set schedule (every three months, or even more frequent is not unreasonable), and the pre-chambers reamed of carbon to prevent glow plug failure. Biodiesel must be washed, and then precipitated for at least seven days before use. Remember... that glycerin has to go! As for other fuels, yes, you can burn up to 50% kerosene with your diesel, and while this works well in extreme Northern Winters, the price of kerosene makes such a practice very restrictive. Gasoline (up to 10% has been successfully used in cold weather, but that is really just a time bomb. Your (expensive) diesel engine could grenade today, or in several years, but adding gasoline to diesel is not the wisest choice. You may have heard that gasoline can be successfully added to diesel fuel, but be wise and learn to immediately separate fables, from facts. There are better options.

So how do I cope with cold weather? Clean filters, clean injectors, working glow plugs with pre-chambers that are free of carbon, and maintain properly adjusted valves. As for fuel, I go to the pump and buy good ol' dino diesel. I don't have to collect, wash, titrate, filter, or worry about the mess, and sometimes reliability issues that are associated with V.O., or biodiesel. Yes, I do pay more for fuel, and while the (false) allure of free driving is enticing, it is important to remember, there is no free lunch. - Rick B.

Dane S. sent this: Survivalist retreat yields big profits

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Reader "T. Tuttle" recommended the book "On Combat, The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace", by Dave Grossman.

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Mr. B. sent this: Are we raising a generation of nincompoops?

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Thanks to Richard H. for spotting this: MP3 Enabled Radio Launched for Developing World

"Am fear nach gheidh na h-airm 'nam na sith, Cha bhi iad aige 'n am a chogaidh." - Gaelic Proverb ("Who keeps not his arms in times of peace, Will have no arms in times of war.")

Monday, October 4, 2010

Today we present another entry for Round 31 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 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A 500 round case of Fiocchi 9mm Parabellum (Luger ) with 124gr. Hornady XTP/HP projectiles, courtesy of Sunflower Ammo (a $249 value), and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) 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 $400, B.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and C.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing, and B.) a Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.)

Round 31 ends on November 30th, 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 Defense of Prepping: When Disaster Doesn’t Strike, by A.S.D.

Hi everyone. I’m relatively new to the prepping scene, as I’ve only been at this for a few years or so. I’d like to attempt to tackle a subject that, somewhat naturally when you consider what this site is all about, doesn’t often seem to be addressed on Survivalblog: what happens if disaster doesn’t ever happen?

You see, thanks to the diligence and enthusiasm of JWR, we have literally thousands of detailed articles and opinions at our disposal regarding a myriad of topics: food storage, guns, ammunition, homesteading, homeschooling, cache-building, spouse-convincing, water-procuring, and even forging your own metal, if you like. These are all excellent resources and I’m grateful to have them.

But I’d like to take a look at the benefits of prepping for those of us that will never suffer through a disaster. Why? Because statistically all of us will be inconvenienced at one time or another, and some will be in the path of a natural disaster, and at those junctures (and I’ve been through both) prepping already pays some dividends. However, by most estimates, an entire country only completely disintegrates every once in a great while, and the world has yet to end as far as I know it. In the interest in being candid about my position, a lot of people make a lot of money by instilling fear (and compulsion to buy and hoard stuff) in people. I should know, I’ve been a marketing professional for almost a decade and fear (of not being pretty enough, smart enough, or even prepared enough) can be twisted to sell almost anything to almost anyone. I hope it goes without saying that I am an ethical marketer, but it doesn’t change the facts about fear-based profiteering.

Here’s a little background on me. The town I was raised in was a sizable one (about 350,000 people) in the Midwest, with terrible urban planning, lots of sprawl, and at times fairly congested traffic. I grew up in a suburban home with parents living paycheck to paycheck. They had a little money saved, but not much. Our family never went camping, nor did anyone, except me, ever pursue any type of outdoor activity or skills. The most prepping my family ever did was to put a few jugs of water into our chest freezer so that it would run more efficiently. So even though we were completely and utterly vulnerable, I still lived just fine through the gas crisis of the 1970s, the recession in the 1980s, several fugitive murders escaping from prison and roaming our neighborhood (they actually robbed and killed an elderly woman that lived across the street from us), Y2K, and the tragedy of 9-11. We never ran out of food, the government never collapsed, and no riots or natural disasters forced us from our homes. It was, in short, a very peaceable and secure upbringing, despite the thousands of Chicken Littles that swore the world was going to end today (or tomorrow at the latest) from innumerable natural and man-made disasters.

So for the purposes of argument, let’s assume this: regardless of all of the dire predictions about fiat currency, wheat rust, global warming, militant extremists, bird flu, pig flu, dog flu, or e.coli, the world pretty well carries on as normally. I know that’s not a popular conjecture on this site, but let’s assume it does. Your storage food goes uneaten, your home arsenal never gets deployed, your gold sits around collecting dust, your favorite moderate libertarians take over and shrink the government and protect America’s assets and build upon her values, and you never have to stoke up the forge to make your own horseshoes (unless you just want to for fun).

What would the point be of prepping? Would the time and money still be worth it?

Although I believe that the world won’t end tomorrow, my answer to the question above is unequivocally, “yes.” What follows are my reasons why. I think these thoughts are very important to the prepping community as a whole, because let’s be honest, there are a lot of people who think we’re plumb crazy. And there are a lot of us that, Lord willing, will probably not experience the end of the world in our lifetimes. What follows are my reasons of why I will prep anyway.

Prepping is fun.

Prepping, for all of the doom and gloom that can surround it, is a blast! Shooting guns, imagining scenarios, discussing “what-ifs” with like-minded people, shopping, winnowing, and selecting the right things to buy, making things yourself that you used to pay for, what’s not to love?

Prepping can be like a “choose your own adventure” novel (remember those?). There are so many scenarios, and you have to pick a path that will enable you to be prepared for all of them while operating within the constraints (time, money, spousal approval, etc.). You get to focus on gear and equipment that helps you to be more self sufficient in the present as well as the future. While the rest of the world gets caught up on Lady Gaga and the latest political scandal, preppers are engrossed with fascinating survival gear while trying to figure out the real politics that matter to the average person. Plus, you’ll never look at a Sam’s Club or Costco the same way again.

I’m not being trite or facetious. I believe that most of the prepping community enjoys what they do and for them it’s as much a sport or hobby as a necessity. I’d love to hear from your readers on this.

Prepping helps put us in touch with the future.

Several years ago, my wife and I spent a month in Africa among the pastoral Maasai people of Kenya. These are people that live completely off of the land, and whose wealth is always measured by the tangible goods on hand (particularly cows) as opposed how many pieces of green paper they happen to have stored up. They make their own clothes, live off of the land and their livestock, and kill marauding lions with nothing more than a spear they have forged themselves and a handful of homemade arrows.

What’s interesting about the Maasai is that although in many ways they are the very embodiment of self-sufficiency, the most isolated tribes would make truly horrific preppers.

This is because some tribes do not even have a word for the “future.” They live completely and utterly in the present. Because they only focus on today, and they look only to the past for their other answers, the Maasai amass nothing but as much livestock as they can sustainably care for in their present environment. They respond to change by changing their location, but are otherwise extremely vulnerable to any real systemic change such as a long-term drought or the tragedy of urban encroachment upon their traditional lands. In other words, if something were to permanently alter the Maasai ecosystem, such as a bovine flu for example, their way of life and likely the Maasai themselves would be completely destroyed.

So where is this going? Prepping is good for everyone in that it causes the prepper to take pause, asses his or her current trajectory, and to plan where he or she is going. Executed properly, prepping causes us to stop living only in the present and to consider where we might be in the future. So many Americans live well beyond their means and under the crushing pressure of crippling debt solely because they “need it now”. They are literally borrowing against their families’ future by only considering their desires in the present.

Preppers are forced to think about the future. To sacrifice present comforts for future security. Even if disaster never strikes, the prepper is better off for preparing because the prepper’s mind is on tomorrow as much as it is today’s. While this can be done to a fault, it’s definitely a mind-shift from today’s “need it now” consumer, and that by any measure is a good thing.

Prepping can make our community circles even tighter.

Prepping is awesome because by definition is pretty useless to approach it as a solitary activity. Forming small groups or participating in virtual communities like SurvivalBlog is a great way to fellowship with one another. In a way, it’s kind of like we all get to build (hopefully only in our minds) our own little nation-states. Prepping communities discuss governance, utilities, security, recreation, and faith, and they do it with an earnestness and alacrity that goes well beyond simple conversations. They are in it not only for each other, but for an American way of life, religious freedom, and community values.

Plus, in our modern urban society, most don’t know their neighbors anymore. I lived in the suburbs for awhile after I got married, and here’s how my day went.

Get up, get ready for work Go into closed garage and start car. Open garage door. Close car door. Drive away.

Getting home was just the reverse. We never got to know our neighbors because they had cars and garages, too, and with air conditioning and central heating there really wasn’t much of a reason to be outside. It was sad, until we discovered that by intentionally reaching out to them by baking cookies or inviting them over for a cookout, we could get to know them. It took work but was absolutely worth it.

Prepping encourages us to engage our neighbors in conversation and to really get to know them. A close community is a secure community that looks out for one another. This is essential for prepping, and also a fine and satisfying way to live. Even if the sky never falls, it’s a heck of a lot better to know and commune with your neighbors than to live life from garage door to garage door commutes.

Prepping fosters self-esteem.

As a former Boy Scout who stuck with the program for a long time and now continually hikes and camps, I’ve seen this happen not only to myself, but to countless others. The first time someone goes camping, starts a fire, or learns how to cut down a tree, a little light goes off in their heads. Male or female, young or old, these basic essential skills prove to everyone that “I can do it!”

Think about this. As America transitions from a manufacturing and production economy (think building and designing stuff) to a primarily service-based one (think outsourcing, lawyers, and web site designers), fewer and fewer people are interacting with the tangible elements of life. Earth, wood, fire, water. Elements essential to the human experience for thousands of years. Now you can go through an average day and experience none of these things, and most of us do.

Prepping brings us closer to the natural elements we were created (or whatever your persuasion is on this subject) to live in. There is just something in our DNA, something in our soul, that cries out for the types of genuine experiences that activities encompassed by prepping can provide. Milking a cow, going camping with friends, burning wood in a stove or on the ground, grinding grain, growing some of your own food, learning a new outdoor skill. That’s where we’ve come from as humans, and doing these things in the spirit of prepping just feels good and reminds us of just how capable a human being (you!) can still be.

Prepping done right is charitable and sustainable.

To quote the “Story of Stuff,” if all of the countries in the world consumed natural resources in the same way the United States does, we would need 4 more Earths to provide the natural resources that world would require. While I don’t think all of the creature comforts we Americans have designed for ourselves are necessarily bad, I do know it’s not a sustainable way to live on this planet.

Buying houses that are too big, cars that guzzle gas, and eating only fancy imported foods from all over the world aren’t really lifestyle choices that are supported by the prepper. It makes no sense to him or her because such excess consumption now means nothing left for later – for surviving the end of the world as we know it, even.

This is a good thing. And as a practical aside, the prepper that stores food and rotates it periodically can give the rotated food to charity. Same thing applies for the other supplies that a prepper may amass. I have a friend that keeps an industrial pallet of canned goods in his garage rotates it every year. When he rotates it, he gives it to charity with still 1 year left on the expiration dates. That’s good prepping, and great community service.

With a focus on sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyles and keeping enough goods on hand to help out the neighbors, prepping is a win for the individual, the environment, and the community, even if disaster never strikes.

Prepping is Christian (but not in the way you think I mean).

One other piece of personal background you should know is that I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and he saved my life, both this life and the eternal one. One doesn’t have to be a Christian to be a prepper, but I’d like to make the case that the two are mutually compatible. In a loose paraphrase of the words of C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, if you don’t believe, you can skip this part. If you do believe, read on and be challenged.

There’s a rather poignant reference to the ant in Proverbs, where the reader is admonished to “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise.” It goes on to say that the ant, even with no one telling it what to do, works hard during the summer and stores up food for the winter, whereas the “sluggard” plays all summer long and then complains about having nothing to eat in the wintertime.

Prepping is Christian from this standpoint, which is also reinforced by the apostle Paul when he writes, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."” For preppers this is often applied as “don’t sit around and wait for the government to bail you out, get your hands dirty and provide for your family,” with which I couldn’t agree more.

A theologian I am not, but after much personal study and discussion with individuals who are much smarter than me, I think the way that prepping is most Christian is a bit different than simply a robust and inspired application of the Protestant Work Ethic. In contrast (and Jesus was often wont to do when it came to certain Old Testament laws), I think the way that we can be the most prepared for the future is to recognize that we will all die one way or another, and that before we prepare anything physically we had better get our souls in order. Whether a prepper dies in a bus accident this afternoon or after 30 years of fighting for their family after TEOTWAWKI, he or she is just as dead in the end. Jesus Christ said, after all, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At first blush, this may seem like the very antithesis of what preparing is all about. And in a certain way, it is. Our security can’t be found in our goods, physical things, or our communities, which can always be destroyed or taken away. But once this fact is known and truly believed, it frees us to be more generous and future-focused than ever before.

Like the ant, we are responsible to provide for ourselves and to constantly look out for our communities and our homes. Christ’s charge to place our trust in Him doesn’t mean that we sell everything and just sit on our laurels and expect manna to rain from heaven. He tells us to follow (this is an action, by the way) Him, to be like Him, to love like Him. Unlike the ant, our souls do not cease to exist after our bodies do in this world.

The one disaster that will strike all of us with 100% certainty is our own death. Living, and loving, like Christ makes a prepper’s plans completely future-proof, and life worth living even if the other disasters never strike.

I was wondering if you could tell me if it would be wise to buy pre-'65 [United States] silver coins, as I live in Canada. Do you think people would understand their value here? Also, any idea where I would get them? I am not having much luck with Internet searches. Thanks for your time. - Kirk in Canada

JWR Replies: To be sure that they are recognizable for barter, you should buy the equivalent Canadian mint circulated coins. These available at your local coin shop. Ask for well-worn "junk" coins that don't have a numismatic premium price. For example: Canadian Quarters minted from 1920 to 1967 are 80% silver, and the ones that were minted in or before 1919 have 92.5% silver content.

Dear SurvivalBlog Readers:
I would suggest as an alternative to buying wool clothing is to shop the fabric stores for Wool Fabric and practice your sewing skills. I have found 100% wool on clearance for as cheap as $1.99/yard with the average width of 54 inches In Shopping for wool fabrics, you will find a lot of blends. I recommend not purchasing anything with more than 30% mix of synthetic material (example: 70% wool/ 30% nylon). I also find that blends with natural materials to be completely acceptable (example: 50% wool/50% silk). As a note: synthetic materials and fire do not mix! Synthetics melt and burn quickly because most are made from oil byproducts.

Also, do not be put off by color! Wool takes dye beautifully. So if you find an ugly turquoise or pink 100% wool fabric this can easily be dyed a darker color although I suggest staying close to the same color family. If you are dyeing the fabric dark brown or black then color does not matter. If you want to go an extra step, Dharma Trading makes a dye remover that does not hurt the fabric like bleach would. Once the color is removed, the fabric could be dyed whatever color you need.

Some favorite online shopping sites for wool are Fabric.com and FashionFabricsClub.com (shop the clearance sections for the best deals)

I make my own patterns for pants, pullovers, jackets and shirts but if you need a starting place, wait till Hancock Fabrics has their patterns on clearance for 99 cents per pattern.

Hope this helps. - Miss Liberty

After reading Filling in the Gaps on Firefighting and Emergency Medicine by Nate I would like to add a few things about what he said. I myself am a volunteer firefighter. I started by wanting to be more active in the town that I had just gotten a house in. Now that I have really become actively prepping, I see more and more good to being involved with it. The training is great and free. Further, after reading books like "One Second After", I see where it puts me in a place where I can help get things going in a productive way when the SHTF. I hope to be able to help my community should TEOTWAWKI happen. My plan is to stay in my town and do what I can. The way I see it is I am in a place to set up town security and what not already being in a service position. I also would encourage people to get involved in this.

However in regards to how Nate described putting out fires I would have to disagree bases on what I have been taught and seen. Most of what he stated I would agree with and was well written except that when attacking an interior fire with an 1.5-2" hose I have been taught and seen where spraying a large amount of water at the base of a fire can and most likely cause a thermal imbalance. What I mean by that is the water hits the fire and turns to steam. This will put the fire out but the steam created rises and then pushed all the heated air and gasses back on top of you. This disrupts the thermal balance of the room (hot air on top cooler air on bottom). This in-turn cooks anyone in the room especially if they are not wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE). This would seem to be unlikely unless they are firefighters and can keep their gear at home. The way to get past this would be to spray a narrow fog (water pattern set to a 30-40 degree angle) and start by spraying short burst (3-5 seconds -- one Mississippi two Mississippi...) wait a minute to see were the fire is and then spray at the base when the steam has had time to dissipate. This will help from upsetting the thermal balance of the room and keep everyone safer. The trade-off as I see it is that it would potentially take a little longer to do, but in my opinion it is worth not getting cooked. After it is put out clean up and checking for fire extension into the walls and cei