April 2011 Archives

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Like many preppers, we've been looking for ways to expand our self-sufficiency.  With 25 years of experience raising chickens for both meat and eggs, adding another meat fowl seemed like a good move.  Although we had raised both broilers and laying hens of many breeds, we hadn't found a good all-purpose bird among the chickens, although many lay claim to the title.  They either laid poorly (eating all the while) or were very short on meat when killing time came. 

As readers may know, chickens in America have been bred for two tracks:  meat (fast growing, often leg problems, too big to properly breed) and egg layers (broodiness bred out, goal of one egg per day bred in, hens 'wear out' quickly, especially if pushed to lay with extra light.)  The standard way of raising for us had been get chicks from a hatchery, raise to eating/laying size, replace with a new set as needed.  This is not a self-sustaining plan.  So, after extensive research, we chose the Midget White Turkey (MWT) and began our personal experience with this breed.

MWTs have several huge advantages for the homesteading prepper:  (1) they're smaller, eat less, need smaller housing and can do some foraging for themselves, (2) they love human beings and are easy to handle, (3) they are good setters and mothers, and (4) they taste wonderful.  The meat is close grained and takes like real turkey.  Every bite, from the long, oval breast to the broth from the bones smells and tastes like an old-fashioned turkey dinner.  Finally, (4) they are easier to kill and clean than bigger birds, and in a scenario where food has to be eaten because of lack of electricity or refrigeration, a MWT can be polished off in a meal or two, depending on the size of the group.

I say 'we', because two homesteads are raising the MWT right now so as to have a larger gene pool.  SW Farm used electricity in the shed this past winter and raised the birds, initially, on wire.  NW Farm got young birds from SW Farm and raised them in a well-insulated shed on wood and on the ground.  So we got to see how different methods worked.

The turkey lore warns of grave problems with disease if turkeys are raised on the ground, and this may be so for young birds or other breeds.  SW Farm found that the turkeys didn't like being on wire and their claws became so long and curved they had trouble walking on a regular floor on the coop.  As soon as they were let out on the ground they ran to get dust baths, then began to graze.  The claws were worn down, as the Lord intended.  So both Farms moved to a 'barnyard' setting for the turkeys.  SW farm uses a moveable pen, with protective netting.  NW Farm uses a stationary yard, with netting, again, against hawks.  Both flocks have done well with no losses to disease.  SW Farm did find it's easier and healthier to have a low screen made of furring strips covered with hardware cloth in the coop under the roosts.  There's less walking in droppings and a quick cleanup by removing the screen, raking out, then replacing it.

Turkey are susceptible to coccidiosis, a bowel disease that makes their droppings look like chocolate pudding.  They do not 'grow out' of this like chickens do.  It can progress to blood loss and small, unthrifty or dead birds.  So we began the birds on commercial feed with Amprolium.  After the birds graduated to regular pellets we still had to treat for coccidiosis with liquid medicine added to their water.  Oddly, the stated cause for coccidiosis in turkeys is from the ground, previous birds, or their own feces.  In our case, the housing was new, the birds were on wire (droppings fell through and were promptly cleaned up) - there was very little contact, yet they got the disease.  The Merck vet Manual seems to imply it's almost impossible to avoid.  With treatment and more space, they seemed to recover, and now there is only an occasional problem that I suspect is more from too much forage than disease.  Perhaps a reader is more expert and can respond to this idea.

Throw away all the turkey legends when dealing with MWTs.  Midgets are not stupid, won't drown looking up at the rain, aren't susceptible to diseases that ravage the commercial birds, such as blackhead, and do not have to be artificially inseminated.  When we initially ordered our birds we had one loss upon arrival and another due to an accident with the waterer.  All the others flourished.  They got wet as dishrags on rainy days, don't mind walking on snow (and we had a lot of it) and seemed hardier than chickens in many ways.

The poults (baby turkeys) were ordered from Murray McMurray Hatchery and came as 3-day old birds on 4/21/2010.  As poultry go, they are expensive, and only straight run were available from any breeder.

They were brooded very simply, with a heat lamp and draft shield.  The first egg was laid on November 1st at SW Farm.  NW farm didn't have the first egg until spring.  This is probably due to the fact that SW Farm has a light in a coop  with large windows and NW doesn't. 

You'll immediately notice that these turkeys mature much more quickly than chickens.  Not only do they get bigger faster, they display pecking order behavior and sex-linked behavior only a few weeks old.  Initially it was hard to tell which were the males and which the females from our straight-run order because the females would fluff out their feathers, fan their tails and display aggressively while finding their place in the flock.  A turkey fight is pretty impressive - the birds grab each other by a beak lock and fight until one is exhausted.  They can and will draw blood in the fight.  They also peck the head and beak of another bird and can damage the beak.  So beak clipping is necessary.  If you clip too deeply, be ready to cauterize with a hot knife.  We did not de-beak them as poults.  Females will fight this way as well as males.

As adults, females will still fight over the mating order, the nests and pecking order.  I found it necessary to re-clip the beaks of the more aggressive ones.  But toward humans, they are friendly, interested, and will allow themselves to be fed by hand and handled.  Keep in mind that birds discover things by pecking, and they'll peck your clothes and skin.  Our turkeys were trained not to peck hands and even a nesting hen would only give a 'warning peck' to a human, that is, not really bite down hard.  A hard bite will leave a blood blister, and those claws are sharp.  So be warned and wear gloves yourself if you're clipping beaks or some unwanted attention.  MWTs are very forgiving, though.  Where a chicken would run away for a week after a de-beaking, the next time the Farmer came in they were all gathering around.  

Under normal conditions, overall MWTs are less aggressive to humans than other fowl I've seen.  This is good, because a WMT male weights 13 - 18 lbs. dressed out, and the females 8 - 10 lbs.  So far there have been no aggressive attacks defending the hens as there were when we had a rooster, even when entering the pen during mating.

Turkey males will fight to the death, so once the birds were able to be out in the ambient temperatures. we chose one male and segregated the second.  In my flock, the chosen bird (called 'Studley') seemed like the best choice - he was big and healthy - that was almost making the fatal mistake among small turkey breeders of choosing the big birds and ruining the breed.  But 'Thanksgiving'  (to remind everyone on the Farm of his destiny) wound up being the flock male because the females liked him better, he seemed to breed more easily, was more attentive and protective, and all around more like the classic MWT bird.  After observing both with a chance at the flock, Studley 'flew into the freezer'.  He was very tasty, and wasn't greatly missed. 

A turkey killing cone is highly recommended when killing time comes.  A bird that big flopping around makes a huge mess and can break wings.  They're strong - don't plan to hold one down.

We use the 'brain stick' method once the bird is immobilized in the cone.  Take the head of the bird in your left hand, and a small knife with the end honed into a sharp on both sides half-circle, in your right.  Insert the blade into the slit in the turkey's upper beak, push the blade toward the palm of the hand holding the head, (think of a line from the blade through the eye and into the brain) and give a sharp twist.  (Obviously, you're wearing gloves, although we've never seen a blade go through the skull.)  There should be one sharp cry and then the bird is dead.  Immediately cut the veins on either side of the neck and bleed out the bird.  There will then be the flapping and shaking, which is why the cone is so important.  Even then, you want to stand back, because a flopping head can spray blood all over the Farmer. The bird should be eviscerated, plucked and chilled as soon as it's bled out. 

MWTs seem to have a high quality down.  We didn't have the chance this year to test it out, but it might be worth cleaning and using the down.  Also, the biggest flight feathers of a turkey have been, and in places still are used to make quill pens. 

In the NW Farm flock, it took a couple of months to determine that some possible males were females.  This is because the Midgets seem to come in two types, those with rose colored feet and more reddish necks in the females, and those that are paler in the neck and have white feet.  Both sexes have a beginning snood.  There is no question, though, as the males get older, that the red necks and wattles, the snood, and blue heads are very distinctive in addition to the tail fanning and low spread of the wings.  MWT males are beautiful birds when displaying.

We soon learned that a 'nesting house' or area was necessary.  When the large white eggs with purple/brown speckles began to come, some birds became broody.  They would compete for nesting space, and the others would keep coming into the nest to see what was going on.  A nesting bird coming out for daily food and water was getting beat up. So we segregated the nesting birds with her young.

A nesting MWT hisses like a goose, fluffs up her feathers and tries to defend her eggs by pecking, but another bird would steal the eggs with a curling motion of her beak, or even sit on top of the nesting bird, crushing eggs.  Since SW Farm has limited space, I chose one female to lay on all the eggs.  Gestation is 28 days, and the first bird hatched Turkeys will lay eggs for several months, at least 6, but not all year.  The eggs are good to eat, a bit more viscous than hen's eggs, and some people say a bit stronger.  They are excellent for baking and quickly incorporate air when beaten.  We had very tender meringues and high-rising quick breads with the extra eggs.

Extra eggs?  Yes.  SW Farm learned not to try to let a hen brood in the winter.  This past year temperature\s were regularly in the 'teens and the eggs died in the cold in spite of everything I could do - two heat lamps, etc.  It's sad to see a hen lose her whole clutch, or to open an overdue egg and find a fully formed poult frozen to death.

At NW Farm they there's no electricity in the shed, so the birds did not start to lay until this spring.  This is a good idea, in my opinion.  Perhaps SW Farm's birds were too pampered. If meat is needed in winter and the hens are laying, plan to incubate them yourself.  There are both electric and non-electric incubators - an ingenious one is available from the Amish at Lehman's.

The standard lore is that turkeys will lay 110 - 115 eggs in 28/30 weeks, 7 - 8 months.  They are 'eating size' at 32 weeks and ready to lay.  We found that the turkeys were small for eating that early, and this is the main reason that MWTs are not commercially raised - they don't grow fast enough.  But for the small farm, time is not that critical.

MWTs will eat out of your hand, so when we were ready to cull our extra male, we put him in a smaller cage and made a point of feeding him high carbohydrate snacks.  The lack of exercise makes the meat more tender, and the high carb diet put on some fat.  But MWTs will not pork up the way store birds do.

Setting hens are very attentive.  I even have to boot mine out of the nest to be sure she eats.  There will be one, large smelly poop a day, and it's better done outside.  Food and water kept near the nest is a good idea, and a handful of rye grass from the garden or scraps will keep her in good health.  When the poults come, she'll eat and drink from their food source, although I keep adult food available for her.  So there has to be enough for all, and the water fount has to be appropriate for chicks. 

MWTs don't like change.  It takes a long time for them to adjust to a new coop or a change in their old one and to find nests.  When they come from the hatchery they take longer to find food and water than chickens - this is extremely important to know.  Like all chicks, they are susceptible to drowning in a small amount of water, so there should be a special waterer), or marbles put in the fount so the water can be drunk but not swum in.  When raised by another bird, though, this doesn't seem to be a problem.  Our poults found the food and water with no problem, were kept warm, dried after coming out of the egg, gently gathered under the hen's feathers when cool...this is the upside of having birds raise their own.

Their long necks mean it is easy for them to scatter food, so SW Farm found that a deep container, like a window box, filled only to 2 or 3 inches, made a good feeder.  NW Farm fed the birds daily in a large pan to conserve the grain - the birds were only given enough for each feeding.  A plain bucket works for water.  They drink a lot, so be prepared for daily fillings.  MWTs are not as omnivorous as chickens, either.  They like the occasional bread crust but prefer something green, and will graze like wild turkeys, whereas our chickens will eat anything that doesn't eat them first.  MWTs can eat a grain of corn whole, useful info for those who grow their own feed.  They swallow, rather than peck at the food.  In winter I used some scratch feed, but they preferred the whole rye grains rather than the cracked corn.  (I personally wonder about that cracked corn - my birds don't like it the way they used to and I think it's because of the poor quality and genetic alteration.  I'm planning to start growing some feed this year.)

MWTs make sounds that have meanings.  The male, of course, has the traditional 'gobble'.  Females will whistle to find each other to point out food, or when they see Their Farmer.  They make a different sound when about to lay an egg or talking to their eggs and chicks that sounds like 'buddle up'.  This sound, with raised back feathers, means an egg is on the way.  If you're collecting to incubate, wait and gather the fresh egg as soon as it is dry.  Don't wash the eggs, because this protective coating is part of God's plan to keep the egg safe from bacteria. 

There is also a sound almost like the bark of a small dog MWTs make when agitated or really need something.  There is a little murmuring sound at mating, or when they're choosing a mate, or when the male is trying to talk a female into mating.  Males mount the females, who present themselves by settling on the ground, putting their feet on the females' outspread wings.  This is another reason not to have too big a male - if you're raising them on wire, they can get hurt. We had some cases of torn feet.  A receptive female will raise her tail, and a male doing his job will be working at this all day.

Once the eggs are laid, they should be candled at intervals and the unfertilized eggs discarded.  Don't wash or refrigerate the eggs.  I'm told eggs will keep at room temperatures for up to 20 days, but a clutch can be assembled in less time than that.  Also, it seems to be true that a hen remains fertile for about a week on the nest, even away from the male if she lays additional eggs.  Mark the date the egg was laid with an indelible marker, candle at least twice during the incubation period and mark the egg.  Remove eggs that don't hatch by 10 days after that date.  A bad egg will actually explode with a sound like a small caliber pistol, and they smell horrible.  I found that a chart (many available on line) showing the development of the bird inside the egg helped in learning to candle eggs. 

Cooking the MWT is a little different than the store bird.  First, store birds are injected with water (and sometimes flavored solutions that contain salt), and are fattier.  Homegrown Midgets have a finer grain of meat and smaller breasts.  The whole bird, plucked, is a bit more oval than the standard store turkey.  They can be dry plucked, but it's pretty hard work, and should be chilled for 24 hours to allow rigor mortis to pass off for more tender eating.

Once the bird is ready to cook, slip your hand between the breast meat and skin, and place pats of butter there and on top of the drumstick.  This will baste the bird from within.  The butter can be seasoned, if you like.  We found cooking them in a covered roaster was best, then removing the lid for browning.  This takes about half the usual cooking time.  In general I think fresh cooks faster than store-bought.  The 'dark' meat will be darker than on a commercial bird and folks who like it raved about the MWT.  (I'm not a big dark meat lover, so I think this is a fair assessment.)  It will be tougher if the birds have had more exercise.  Remember, the store birds are raised in crowded conditions for meat, only, grown just until they are saleable, but your birds will be raised in barnyard conditions.  For a special meal, choose a bird, put it into a smaller pen for a couple of weeks, and feed it the high carbohydrate diet for best eating.  This is what the old-timers used to do with chickens.

Leftover MWT makes excellent soup, croquettes, pot pie, etc.  Unlike the store bird, this meat is good and doesn't need a sales pitch to get eaten.  We foresee a time when any meat will be welcome, but for the small farm, the Midget White seems to be a very good choice. 

In nature, optimizing for one attribute generally means weakening one’s abilities in another. For example, with vehicles, optimizing for speed and maneuverability in tight turns generally means reducing carrying capacity, road clearance and tolerance for rough dirt roads. A sports car is clearly different from a 4x4 pickup truck. Both are optimized for different purposes.

The same is true for the human mind. Optimizing one’s strengths for real-time situations (e.g., physical combat) is very different from optimizing for long-range pursuits that require extended periods of uninterrupted concentration (e.g., theoretical physics).

In a survival situation, it can be crucial to know one’s best strengths and likely weaknesses, both for oneself and for others in the retreat group. Also, it can be very helpful to be able to quickly size up the likely strengths and weaknesses of others that you may meet in difficult times. There is a helpful guide for this in the form of the Myers-Briggs type indicator, which is useful in knowing what sorts of personality “tools” you have for dealing with people, objects, and ideas. Some of us like crowds, while others prefer the wide-open spaces; some of us are handy with tools and crafts, while others are happiest reading books, daydreaming, or working on the computer; some of us make friends easily and entertain frequently, while others are close friends with only a few people; some of us make decisions slowly, with many revisions, while others decide quickly and rarely change their mind, once settled. All of these are ways of approaching the world, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, just like the differences between the 4x4 pickup truck and the sports car.

The Myers-Briggs type indicator is a way of zeroing in on these personality differences, and it focuses on the following characteristics:

Introvert/Extrovert: introverts are one-quarter of the population, while extroverts are three-quarters of the population. Introverts prefer time alone and become tired from excessive contact with large numbers of people, while extroverts gain energy from large crowds and lose energy from excessive solitude.

Sensing/Intuitive: sensing types are three-quarters of the population, while intuitives are one-quarter of the population. Sensing types are well-grounded in the day-to-day world, operate with common sense, and are generally focused in the present moment. Intuitive types are focused almost anywhere but the present moment, and tend to focus more on past events and possible future events.

Thinking/Feeling: thinking types are one-half of the population, and feeling types are the other half. Thinking types focus on facts, while feeling types focus on values.

Perceiving/Judging: perceiving types are one-half of the population, while judging types are the other half. Perceiving types are slow to come to a decision, and generally like to continue gathering information. Once they’ve made a decision, they’re often uncomfortable with their choice and may try to second-guess the result. Judging types are quick to come to decisions, feel uncomfortable before making their choice, and generally feel comfortable with their decision.

Each of these personality characteristics fall along a continuum, e.g., from extremely introverted to moderately introverted, to moderately extroverted, to extremely extroverted. However, most people end up on one side or the other, since these are opposite characteristics. Since there are four sets of opposites, there are 16 different Myers-Briggs types. This can be rather complicated, and so as a useful shorthand, it is helpful to know that the Myers-Briggs types can be divided into the following four groups:

  • SP: sensing-perceivers, these are people who are action-oriented, very much in the moment, adapt quickly to emergencies, tolerate (and sometimes create) chaotic environments, but who often tend not to plan ahead or strategize for the long term. SPs are about 38% of the population.
  • SJ: sensing-judging, these are people who are well-organized, systematic, responsible, and orderly, guardians of traditions and customs, but not usually well-adapted to chaotic or highly spontaneous events. SJ’s are about 38% of the population.
  • NF: intuitive-feeling, these are the actors, storytellers, poets, religious leaders, singers, entertainers, charismatic personalities, and counselors. NF’s work primarily with feelings and sometimes have an aversion to facts. NF’s are about 12% of the population.
  • NT: intuitive-thinking, these are the scientists and engineers, inventors, leaders in technical industrial pursuits, philosophers, mathematicians, and architects. NTs work primarily with facts and sometimes have an aversion to feelings. NTs are about 12% of the population.

Looking at the preceding list, you can see that each type definitely has its strengths and weaknesses. One would not send an NT out to do a hostage negotiation, for example, because they would be likely to precipitate an emotional blow-up. Likewise, an NF would not be one’s first choice for bronc-busting, police officer, or machinist, because they would be likely to accidentally injure or kill themselves or someone else. An SP would likely do a quick and haphazard job of long-range strategic planning and inventory management, leaving a lot of omissions. When seeking an entertainer to help liven up a group and boost morale, an SJ likely would not be one’s first choice.

Given that one has inherent strengths and weaknesses from these characteristics, what are some ways to use one’s strengths to advantage and compensate for the weaknesses? Here are some suggestions that may be useful:

For SPs it can be very advantageous to partner with an SJ or NT for long-term strategic planning and organization. For example, an SJ will be much more comfortable in setting up and organizing supplies and long-term food storage, ensuring that supplies are ample, remain useable, and are cycled through in sequence. An NT with some knowledge of electrical engineering can design a solar power system with adequate batteries, safety features, sufficient power for necessary equipment, potential for expansion for future needs, backup equipment, and safe and adequate cabling. An SP with the same knowledge would be more likely to cobble together an “ad hoc” system that might not fully meet present needs, safety requirements, or potential for future expansion.

An NF can help to bring harmony and cohesion to a group that might otherwise not connect with one another. Most religious leaders (pastors, preachers) as well as counselors are NFs. As negotiators, an NF can provide a finely-tuned sensibility and real-time ability to deal with difficult personalities and situations. As entertainers, NFs can help to boost the morale of a group during difficult times, providing humor, uplifting spirits, and helping to reconnect people with one another.

Each Myers-Briggs family group has its dark side, as well. An SP gone bad can be a bully, a slothful lout, or a gang member. NTs can be a criminal mastermind, the proverbial mad scientist, or creators of intellectual traps for the unwary, while NF’s can create massive dissension and malice within a group, even inciting people to murder. SJs can betray the very traditions and standards they claim to uphold, thereby creating chaos.

On the positive side, SPs at their best are courageous explorers in all facets of the physical world, extending the possible range of human beings from the deepest oceans to the highest mountains and beyond, exploring new facets of sport and physical endurance, expanding the physical limits of human beings in the universe.

Likewise, NTs at their best are expanding humanity’s knowledge and mastery of the deepest mysteries of the physical universe, advancing science and technology for the benefit of all humanity and creating new visions in mathematics and philosophy.

SJs at their best are creators and promoters of systems of organization and customs and traditions that enable everyone to work together with greatest harmony and efficiency. SJs at their best also ensure the continuity of human culture and traditions, carrying the best traditions of the past forward to the future.

NFs at their best are explorers of the true meaning of human values and human existence in the universe, explorers in the realm of human personality and the deepest levels of human communication both with other humans and with the universe at large.

In an ideal world, each of us would only face problems that are suited to our own nature. However, the universe does not respect our limitations, and we often face situations that we are ill-equipped to handle. This will likely be even more frequent during SHTF situations. How can knowledge of one’s own mental strengths and weaknesses be helpful during such times? First, one can use this knowledge to prepare in advance for areas of likely problems. If possible, it is helpful to partner with others who have complementary strengths. For example, SJs, who are great at organizing in advance of events but less handy in the actual chaos of a true emergency, may find it very helpful to partner with some SPs. Likewise, the SPs can benefit from the systematic preparedness of SJs.

Another way to use this knowledge is to make proper allowances for one’s areas of weakness. For intuitive (N) types, operating in the physical world can be a challenge. However, it can be done, and even very successfully. It just takes longer, and it requires more effort. Also, one needs to respect one’s limitations and have an adequate regard for physical safety.

Thinking types, especially NTs, run the very real risk of offending the wrong person at the wrong time. This can be very dangerous in SHTF situations. Avoiding people and living as a hermit is not always practical or possible. But even introverted NTs can develop some social skills in small-scale, safer social environments. Again, patience and persistence are necessary.

Even though most of us tend to associate with others of a like kind, there are many valuable synergies in working together. While NTs may design a new fighter plane, it is likely an SP who is the test pilot. Likewise, while it is generally SPs who actually build the plane, it will be SJs who organize the myriad details necessary to successfully construct and test the aircraft.

There can be many potential conflicts and sources of disharmony when groups of people work together on a project. Often people in the thick of things cannot truly perceive their shared interests or successfully work out solutions to conflicts as they arise. NFs can often be very helpful in this area, finding workable solutions that are palatable to all parties involved and also helping people to understand one another. Sometimes apparent conflicts arise from simple misunderstandings that grow into larger problems. NFs can be invaluable in maintaining the harmony and cohesiveness of a group, helping people to work together even in very difficult circumstances.

If you are interested in more information on the Myers-Briggs types, one helpful resource is the book Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates.

Hopefully some of the information in this article has helped to inform your awareness of yourself and those around you, creating a better understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your family, friends, and co-workers. Such knowledge can be invaluable in survival situations.

Dear Jim,  
For the last 70 years, the dollar's value has evffectively been pegged to oil. We can thank FDR for that, since he removed Gold from backing the dollar. I suppose it worked out okay, but now we have a problem. The oil is running out. You've seen it at the gas stations, and the price of Brent crude is $124 per barrel, and domestic USA crude is $112 per barrel. The USA only produces 5.5 million barrels per day (mbpd). The balance of the 19 mbpd is imported, mostly from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, and Nigeria (not Saudi Arabia or North Africa. Those go to Europe and China). Mexico is running out of oil. Venezuela is running out of oil but wants to sell it exclusively to China. Canada sells oil to the USA under a NAFTA agreement (which is why the USA can't do without NAFTA). And Nigeria just had another fraud election which has resulted in renewed rebellion so expect supplies to be shaky there. Most of what Nigeria sells will probably end up replacing what is lost in North Africa and the Middle East going to Europe and China.  

This means the USA will have to conserve another 20% of its oil demand, dropping from 19 mbpd to around 15 mpbd. Cue economic contraction and further jobs lost, more wage erosion (lower wages and no raises and no benefits). However you feel about Socialism, it is not fun working in the USA today. Some regulation will have to come about or revolution pressures will increase, and its much easier for a semi-Democracy like the USA to just mandate benefit requirements for employers than suffer the consequences of an increased turnover rate in leadership positions (vote the bums out).  

Still, this is the unpleasant bit, not only are we undergoing economic contraction but we also are seeing foreign holdings of T-bills dumped in favor of other currencies, and oil is starting to trade in Yuan, Euros, and other currencies because they're stronger than the Dollar. A tipping point is highly probable, leading to a panic and the dollar will drop like a stone. How low can it go?  

Think Weimar? No, probably not. The USA would impose trade tariffs before that, messing up FOREX markets completely and causing the common man to shrug, preventing panic as far as he's concerned. Irritation over the cost of imported goods will be interesting though. There's likely to see a huge surge in demand for domestic copies of replacement parts for imported goods (cars, electronics, everything made in China, Japan, EU nations) because Tariffs change manufacturing and ends globalism as far as we're concerned.  

Lest ye worry that it would incite war, China is already selling to everyone else. They know as they dump our bonds that they've decided they can accept the loss. It won't be a surprise as they de-couple from the USA economy while we stew like Brazil in the 1970s. The big difference between us and Brazil is the USA can readily adapt to manufacturing and doing so does not require a 5 year lead time for higher education. Assembly line jobs can be taught in hours or days. And we're going to need full employment to accomplish these things, to keep our stuff working. Even the minimal pioneering survival stuff like cast iron cookware and plates and silverware and water heaters and all sorts of things which are best mass-produced.  

The rest of the world can easily block out the "information economy" nonsense since so much of that is being done in India and elsewhere anyway. What they can't ban is USA's food exports, largely because the USA feeds a third of the world's population. They can't adjust immediately without invoking massive civil war over starvation. So they'll pay to keep things under control while they frantically plow their fields, plant their crops, and pay their farmers enough to care. In the years it will take to get their own farming going, the hard currency from USA's agricultural exports (rice, wheat, corn, soybeans) will pay for the critical imports and the more important domestic manufacturing plants, with all the implied jobs. And its going to be a lots of jobs. Everything we use that's imported now will need to be made here in the USA. The USA has 300 million residents. That's plenty of demand, in housewares alone. Exporting anything else is unnecessary, and the insistence that the USA "must export to survive" is nonsense. Beyond agriculture we don't need to.  

That gets back to the original issue: how much is the dollar really worth? Approximately 20% of its value in 2006, the peak value of the dollar before the crash started hurting everything, including other currencies. It will probably drop below that at some point, but fluctuations in the commodities market will stabilize it again. The big industrial agriculture organizations farming all that wheat and rice and soy demand a certain amount of return on investment, and they'll want it in hard currency. Expect the US government to tax those exports, which the foreign governments will pay because they literally can't do without the food or stop being governments and start being in the middle of revolutions. They have to pay.  

It is worth pointing out that the USA's other big export is arms. That's likely to be counter-tariffed so competing nations (Britain, France, China) can sell arms for less. All those arms manufacturing jobs in the USA will probably evaporate, but the machinist and assembly line workers will find work making scooter engines and water pumps and Blue-ray players. Same skills, different products, and we actually need them.  

I believe that Trade Tariffs are just as inevitable as the Dollar Crash. They are the only practical way out of this disaster. Believe it. Even if you disagree its going to be what the politicians in the USA will grab for. The Cult of America can't survive otherwise and insulation is just a step short of cultural marginalization (blame that other guy) and drinking the Kool Aid (implosion, probably at the Federal level freeing the States to govern themselves, something Kalifornia is already doing with its responsibilities and revenues dumped onto Counties). Assuming we survive those particular steps, rebuilding is possible. Keep a handy copy of the Constitution in your safe, and remember that State-Level government is far more accessible.  

[Consider life at 20% of] 2006's Dollar value. No more imports. Export agriculture only. Bootstrapping our manufacturing post cheap-oil. Bicycle to work. That's our future.   Best, - InyoKern

When the cell phone network is down, telephones expend energy constantly searching for a connection. This can increase your battery drain. If you are in a situation where you know the network is not functioning, I recommend you set your smart phone to "Airplane Mode". This disables all radio communication functions of your phone and allows it to act as a hand held computer thus no longer wasting power trying to contact a network that is not functioning. - Mike in Kentucky


Dear Jim:
Being a techie/having worked in a cell store, I enjoyed Kelly's article. What I would like to add in the plethora of apps presented is a (usually) free PDF viewer. Some have searchable features, but the survival-based resources you can find in PDFs is astounding. All the Army Field Manuals, tips on canning, old household encyclopedias, gardening advice, etc.

And do no disregard phones without a micro SD card. It is quite easy to transfer files to a smart phone without one. If you have a smaller internal memory, you might have to do with less games and music and more stuff that saves your bacon! - Jim S.

Mr. Rawles:
I've been reading SurvivalBlog exhaustively for several days, and I don't understand why people store wheat as part of a long term food storage plan. Since yeast is not a long term storable commodity, it will not be available to make bread.  That means that the buckets of stored wheat can be used only for sprouts or as a cereal dish, which is rather unpalatable.  Our food storage plan is centered on rice, pasta, and beans instead of wheat.  Am I missing something? Why store hard wheat?   Thanks for your help,  Michael 

JWR Replies: Yeast can be stored for up to four years. By the time that runs out, I predict that there will have been a resurgence in popularity in sourdough "start", which can be divided and passed around from family to family.  (Some sourdough yeast strains have been in continuous circulation for more than a century.)

Ron D. suggested this article over at the Accept The Challenge blog: Precious Metals Security.

Reader Bill J. liked this piece by Peter Schiff: Bernanke is Lying; Bet Against the Fed and the Dollar. Bill's comment: "I'm in the insurance/financial services business so I can attest to the impartiality of [Martin] Weiss's rating systems.  Their approach is different from that of S&P, Moody's, etc. in that they do not receive compensation from the very entities they are rating. Weiss doesn't have the inherent conflict of interest the others do."

Items from The Economatrix:

China's Central Banker:  We Own Too Much US Debt

Welcome to Financial Slaughterhouse

Physical Silver and Beating Bankers at Their Own Game

The Pain Killers are Wearing Off, the Real Recession Starts Now

$52-$56 Silver By Mid-Year

Loyal content contributor F.G. sent a link to an incredible video of the 1/2 mile wide monster funnel cloud in Tuscaloosa. F.G.'s comment: "Prayers for those who have lost family, friends, and homes."

   o o o

Directive 21 has announced a new product, called the Herbal Seed Bank, which includes over 68,000 seeds.  If you purchase one of their popular Emergency Seed Banks at $134 they will include a free Herbal Seed Bank, valued at $99. This will apply only to orders received between Monday May 2nd, and Friday May 6th, 2011.

   o o o

I was asked by a reader about a recommendation for a video primer on the electromagnetic pulse (EMP ) threat. I highly recommend EMPAct America's DVD and CD-ROM set: America in the Dark.

   o o os

Fellow blogger M.D. Creekmore has requested tagging of his 88-page book Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat, on the Amazon.com web site. If you've read it, please post a review. His book page describes the author: "M.D. Creekmore is one of America's foremost experts on survival, emergency preparedness, and self-reliance. He has dedicated his life to learning the skills needed to stay alive in an increasingly dangerous world. Since its inception in 2007, his blog ( TheSurvivalistBlog.net ) has grown into one of the most popular preparedness sites on the Web."

   o o o

I noticed Camping Survival has 1,000 foot long rolls of olive drab parachute cord back in stock. Since paracord has umpteen uses, every family should own a roll of it.

"Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.

For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken." - Proverbs 3: 25-26 (KJV)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

As I write this I am currently awaiting arrival of my 6,711 pound order that I placed with Bob's Red Mill.  Crazy?  Maybe, maybe not.  This is not something I entered into quickly or lightly.  Please let me explain my reasoning and methods of madness to you in the hope it may strike a chord with you in your own preparations.

Recent national and international events have spurred my husband and I into kicking our preparations up several notches.  We have only been seriously preparing for TEOTWAWKI for a few months.  After reading "Patriots" by James Rawles and "One Second After" by William Forstchen it was evident we had a long way to go.  Both of those are scary reads in that I can see either situation (and many others) happening today.

We decided to bite the bullet and pull money out of retirement to get fully prepared.  We see the dollar losing value everyday and food prices soaring.  We figured we needed to get tangible assets while the money was still worth something.  With the crisis in Japan now, food supplies will be even tighter to compensate for what Japan cannot grow and radiation tainted food that is unusable.

Awhile back I saw a post on this blog from someone who said that you could get wholesale prices from Bob’s Red Mill if you ordered at least 500 lbs.  That got me thinking and I e-mailed the company and found this to be true.  I was also e-mailed their 2011 Wholesale Price List and ordering form.

It pays to always do your homework before making such large purchases.  I spent a good couple months checking out food supplies from several emergency supply places online as well as local sources in my town.  I have found the emergency supply outlets to be short on supply as we all know and expensive for what I needed.  A years supply of food costs anywhere from $1,200 to $1,800 for just one adult.  Since we are looking at a supply for 12-15 people that would be $14,000 to $30,000 just for food alone.  I also found the variety to be somewhat lacking.  Other places carried only a certain item, like wheat berries, which would necessitate getting essentials from multiple sources, which gets confusing and tiresome.

I finally settled on ordering from Bob’s Red Mill and decided it was better to have more than enough rather than less!  Why Bob’s Red Mill?  I have used their products before and found them to be of high quality.  I like the fact that all of their products are from non-GMO seed and contain no additives or preservatives.  It states this on their web site.  I love the great diversity in grains they carry including several that can be sprouted.

Over a period of 2-3 weeks I sat down with the list and went down it item by item.  I looked the item up on their web site which includes a description of the item, suggested recipes and uses for the item, photos of the actual package labels listing nutrition info, and comments from previous purchasers. 

I focused on ordering whole grains as they will store longer than already processed ones if repackaged correctly.  They also offer a nice variety of seeds, beans, cereals, and baking amendments.

Working off the recommended pounds per year per adult person listed in "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" I calculated what I would need for 12 people for 1 year.  Since there are several smaller children in our expected group, I equated 3 of them to being 1 adult .

Here is some of what I ordered:

GRAINS (Rolled, Cracked)
50lbs Rolled Barley 
50 lbs Corn grits                       
37 lbs cereal grains          
50 lbs Millet                                   
100 lbs quick oats       
50 lbs Steel cut oats
8 lbs Rye flakes                       
50 lbs cracked Rye           
50 lbs Asst. Granola
50 lbs Triticale rolled flakes           
50 lbs Spelt rolled flakes

6 lbs Couscous                       
25 lbs Quinoa           
100 lbs Long brown rice
100 lbs Short brown rice                       
50 lbs Country rice blend
100 lbs Semolina flour                       
50 lbs Arborio Rice

100 lbs Barley                       
100 lbs Buckwheat           
200 lbs White corn
400 lbs Yellow corn           
150 lbs Blue corn                       
200 lbs Oat groats
100 lbs Rye berries           
100 lbs Spelt berries           
100 lbs Soy Beans
50 lbs Teff                                   
100 lbs Triticale Berries
1000 lbs Hard Red Spring Wheat           
1,000 lbs Hard White Wheat
100 lbs Kamut Berries           
50 lbs Amaranth                       
100 lbs Sorghum
500 lbs Soft White Wheat

BEANS/other protein source
75 lbs 13 bean soup mix                       
75 lbs Vegi soup mix
75 lbs Whole grains & Beans soup mix           
100 lbs Red Beans
100 lbs Black Beans           
100 lbs Green split peas
100 lbs  yellow split peas                       
100 lbs lentils           
100 lbs Red lentils
50 lbs Adzuki beans           
50 lbs Cranberry beans           
50 lbs Mung beans
4 lbs Hemp protein powder           
3.5 lbs Soy protein powder
25 lbs TVP.

Other items included baking powder and other baking amendments, variety of seeds (flax,pumpkin,caraway,poppy,sunflower,chia,sesame),
Dates, currants, raisins, cashews, evaporated cane sugar, etc.

Some things I did not order but that were available were salt, baking soda, yeast, brown & white sugars, corn starch, other kinds of nuts, pinto beans, etc.  I was able to find local more affordable sources for these items taking into consideration that I was going to have to pay for shipping on all this poundage.  Considering the price of escalating fuel I didn’t want to unnecessarily waste food dollars on shipping costs.

Why did I choose what I did?  I considered very carefully things that I could use for multiple uses.  You can see the nice variety of grains and beans there is.  Variety is an important thing to consider in food storage for long term. I did not order a lot of flour since it is an already processed product and thus would not store as long.  Instead I ordered whole grains that can be ground into whatever type of flour I need with my grain mill.  Some of the more unusual grains you may not be familiar with are very nutritious and good sources of protein.

The different type of grain berries (Rye, Spelt, Triticale, Kamut) can be sprouted for variety and added nutrition.  As well, the Adzuki and Mung beans can also be sprouted.  There was recently a blog on here about sprouting for added nutrition.

Because these are non-GMO grains, seeds and beans, I can even plant them in my field for growing a never-ending supply, harvesting seeds to perpetuate the crop.  I can feed these to my livestock to supplement their pasture grazing.  Thus there are multiple uses and none should go to waste or spoilage.

My family currently consists of 4 people.  While this supply is geared for 12 people for one year, until the Schumer hits and others arrive, my family of 4 can subsist from this for 3 years.  I plan on a yearly basis to order for replacement anything we have used so as to keep the level up and even add to it.

This is certainly not our whole food storage.  I have cases of canned fruit, vegetables and meats.  We also have approx. 130 fruit and nut trees planted which will start bearing in another couple years as well as a whole slew of garden seeds.  I do have more fats, sugars, salt, and powdered milk to buy.

Once I was thoroughly ready to place my order I carefully filled out the Wholesale order form and faxed it in.  I was sent, via email, an order acknowledgment to review and approve.  Being such a large order I checked it over very carefully.  I did find a couple of minor errors.  Those were corrected within minutes and a new acknowledgment sent to me.  It listed how many pounds, shipping costs, and approx. date it would ship out.

It did take about 7-10 days for the order to ship out.  I was then called by the freight company to schedule date and time for delivery to my home and provided with a tracking number.  I was told the truck driver would call 30 minutes prior to delivery to ensure I was home.

The shipment arrived! Well, that didn’t go exactly as planned.  I was given a window of between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. for delivery and it ended up being like 6:45 pm.  I had placed a call to the freight company.  They called the driver and he was running late because some of his freight has fallen over in back and he had to go back to the terminal to get it repacked.  I thought: "Yikes, I hope it wasn’t mine!"   Well, it was.  All in all the three pallets I was to receive ended up being four re-packed pallets.  Of all of this there were 6 bags of wheat that were broken.  The driver and I documented what was broken and signed.  I then took digital pictures that I will e-mail to Bob’s Red Mill in the morning.  Since they are a reputable company I’m sure it will be no problem getting replacement goods. 

Now the hard part starts!  Part 2 of this article will be my experience and learning curve in repackaging all this into 5 gallon buckets with mylar liners.  Bob’s Red Mill even provided me with several product labels free of charge to help me label all my buckets.  

How much did all this cost?  For 6,711 lbs of foodstuffs it was $5342.98 which works out to $0.80 per lb.  Shipping was $844.30 or approx. $0.12 per lb.  So overall just $0.92 per pound of food.  I consider that a very reasonable amount for the food and shipping.

Grand total of $6,187.28.  Peace of mind in having a secure food supply?  Priceless.

I wanted to write about how to possibly get your wife on board for when SHTF from my own experience.  I think I should start out with first giving all the credit to my husband.  In vain he had tried for many years to get me on board.  He would request that we purchase guns, have supplies, buy gold/silver etc.  All that talk and the only word I ever heard was gun.  Are you kidding me?  Guns had always represented a negative feeling inside me.  Now I don’t want to go into the discussion of whether they are right or wrong because that’s not what this article is about.
My husband tried many approaches.  I used to think; here he goes again wanting to play Army Man.   Nope, not going to happen.  It was as if I had blinders on, walking through life.  Yeah, yeah, yeah I heard the news reports, read the paper, listen to the talk.  I was not so naive to believe that our country was not progressing the way it should be.  But like most Americans I was too busy in my own life to get all worked up about problems I couldn’t solve.  Leave all that big stuff to the people in charge.  That’s why I pay my taxes and vote to have people represent me.  Right?

Throughout my husband’s talks he would say a word that would get under my skin and drive me crazy.  He would bring up one word: Mother.  Yep, that’s right.  He would use the seven letter word.  How dare he question that I was not prepared to fight to the death for my children.  How dare he question something that goes to the core of my being?  How dare he question my job of being a mother! Survival?   I was doing that every day. Who did he think was going to the store every week and cooking dinner every night?  If anything it just got me further away from him and his cause.  If he knew me at all he would not be questioning the whole reason I feel I was brought into this world.  To be a Mother.

Now as time went on I would drive to work in the morning/evenings.  When we travel by ourselves we have two options of entertainment available to us.  One being listening to the radio or the second would be no radio but alone with our own thoughts.  Yikes, scary!!!  Well one morning there had been a particularly hard morning in our family household.  You know, that morning.  The spilt milk, the dog ate the homework, where are my shoes, blah, blah, blah.  The mornings that you get into your car and think to yourself, are you just totally messing up your kids’ lives?  Are you the worse parent in the world?  You know the one!

As I drove that morning I didn’t listen to the radio.  Instead I started thinking about thoughts of what in the world would these people do without me?  I started thinking that they don’t know how lucky they have it to have someone care/work so hard for them.   One of those “Calgon take me away" moments.  Then all of a sudden it hit me.  These young children need me.  Yep they need me.  Now if you’re a mother you already know that you are needed.  You know that in order to have a smooth running ship it’s the mom’s responsibility to hold it together.  To be a kind of provider that is different from being a father.  Now please, I just like to make a side note here.  There are plenty of fathers today that can fill this role with no trouble at all.  They are just as capable of handling the day to day grind as a mom.  My point is that there is usually one person in a family that the kids run to when they have the boo boo that needs the kiss.  The one they run to when their first love breaks their heart.  In our family it’s me.  Mother.

Now back to my thoughts.  I started thinking about what it means to be needed as a mother.  I started thinking about how these little people would survive if something would happen to me.  Then it hit me.  It was like I ran my car into a brick wall.  Hellooooo.  I get it now!  I finally got what my husband was saying to me all these years.  He was never questioning my ability to be a parent.  If anything he was complimenting my ability to be a parent.  He was trusting in me to do the right things for our children if/when SHTF.  He was trying to make me understand how much I’m needed.

As I thought some more I started getting a panic feeling settling down deep in my bones.  Oh my goodness, what if the SHTF tomorrow?  I am so not prepared.  If something happened to me I’m sure they would know how to go make a peanut butter/jelly sandwich.  They might even know how to put some seeds in the ground.  But would they know about compatible planting?  Would they know how to treat the slugs on the tomatoes?  Better yet…..would I?  I realized that as much a super mom that I thought I was, indeed I was not prepared.  Yes, I am a fully well-tuned working machine as a mother in today’s easy times.   In fact I consider myself one of the better ones.  But if SHTF, times would surely be different.  Was I prepared to become the mom that they would need?   The answer was no, as much as I hated to admit it.  A sense of doom that had me in tears.

Let’s examine the word MOTHER in the SHTF terms.

M (Maintain):  Today as a mother it is fairly easy to maintain my family’s lives and schedules.  I said “fairly”.  The technology today has made my life so much simpler in the matter.  However if/when SHTF what will life be like to coordinate whose job is it to weed the garden today?  Am I going to know how to maintain some sense of normalcy when their lives are turned upside down?  I need to learn now how to turn the breaker off at the electric panel and go through a couple days of living without all the little conveniences.  Learn to shake their little lives up some just to learn to maintain calm and normalcy.

O (
Optimistic):   In our easy time of living it is so easy to divert my children’s attention to something else to make them feel better.  Be it the XBox, friends over to the house, sports etc.  But what happens when they spend from morning to night tending to the gardens, collecting chicken eggs and all the thousand other things that might become daily chores.  I’m sure their attitudes towards life will change considerably.  Time for me to learn the basic things in life again.  To teach them the wonders of a sunrise/sunset.  To teach them the imagination of a good book.  Teach them how fun it can be to help the family prepare.  I need to become the one to boost their egos to make them want to survive not just exist.

T (Tactical): 
Today I lock my doors/windows, kiss my sweet children and fall into a dead sleep until my alarm goes off the next morning.  What happens if there is a gang/animals/neighbor waiting for me to go to sleep so they may come in and steal all our preparations/resources?  Time for me to learn/master how to use those guns.

(Healer): When my children have a fever today I instantly grab for the Children’s Tylenol.  But when SHTF will I be able to drive to the closest Walgreens and pick a bottle off the shelf?  How long will the current two bottles in my medicine cabinet last? Will I know what to do when their little bodies are chilled with fever?   It is time for me to learn/teach how to grow medical herbs.

E: (Educator):
The other day my son asked me what the Great Wall of China looked like.  Easy.  I just Google searched it and bam the answer was there.  I’m so smart.  But what happens when there is no longer an Internet?  Time to stock up on encyclopedias and reference books to help educate my children.  Time to teach my children skills that would make them useful.

R (
Resourceful): Of course I know how to make a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.  Just watch me whip them up in no time.  I know, I know, you wish you were as good as a chef as I am.  But when SHTF how am I going to open up that can of soup when there isn’t one?  How am I going to roast that chicken when it’s on top of fire pit or on the fireplace insert?  How am I going to make that next loaf of bread?   How will they take a bath?  How will I wash their clothes?  I need to learn to be more resourceful and examine our everyday tasks so that I may prepare.  Reuse, reduce, recycle.

As I type, I continue to think about how important a Mother’s role is in the life of her children. There are a thousand little details the we do that no one sees us do every day.  Many times it’s a thankless job.   I love my children as much as every other parent does but will all that love be enough for them to survive?  Being a Mother in SHTF times is going to require so much more of me than love.  I realize now the steps I take to help my husband prepare for our family is buying insurance that my children will survive.  Just the thought of hearing the words “Mommy I’m hungry!” is enough to make my prepping an everyday/every minute thought and motivate me.  It scares me to my core to think that something would happen to them that I wouldn’t know what to do.  Education and preparing is the only hope/sanity I have.   I have so much to learn but at least now I feel there is a point of all this storing of ammunition/food/water/solar.   It has changed my life forever.

I can only hope that America will pull it together and someday I will be playing safely in the yard with my grandchildren and everything I am doing will just bring my husband and I closer together as we worked as a team.  If not at least I’m on board now before it’s too late for the sake of my children.  I love being a Mother!

Without a doubt, the .300 Winchester Magnum ("Win Mag") round, is my all-time favorite round in a high-powered hunting rifle. What I like about the .300 Win Mag round is, you can load it down (if you load your own ammo) to the velocities of a .308 or 30-06, and it's just fine the way it is, in the factory loadings as well.   In a life-changing situation, where there may be a break-down of law and order, you may find that you need some type of high-powered rifle, that can really reach out there and touch someone. Or, for hunting most big game, the .300 Win Mag will fill the bill nicely, too. People spend several thousands of dollars on "Sniper Rifles" that can shoot 1 Minute Of Angle (MOA). Some folks customize their rifles into their idea of a sniper's rifle. I wish I were rich, but I'm not. So, I have to spend my money very carefully on my firearms purchases, just like everyone else has to do.  

Ruger (www.ruger.com) sent me their new Model 77 Hawkeye rifle over a year ago for test and evaluation. I elected to get the stainless version, with the black synthetic stock. I live in Western Oregon, and we get a lot of rain, so the stainless version, with the synthetic stock was the way to go for me. Of course, even stainless guns will develop rust if you don't take care of 'em on a regular basis. I've found a light coating of Birchwood Casey Barricade really keeps the rust away. The black synthetic stock also won't warp when the gun gets wet. If you've never experienced stock warping on a rifle, you're in for a shock - it can really change the zero of your rifle - and not for the better.  

The M77 Hawkeye I received holds 3+1 rounds of .300 Win Mag ammo. The barrel is 24" long, and overall the gun is 44.75" long. Weight is 7.75-lbs which is just about right for a magnum. You don't want a gun that's too light, nor one that's too heavy if you have to pack it around a lot, or shoot it a lot. I also like the Mauser-style claw extractor on the M77 - they really pull an empty out of the chamber, and feed a load round into the chamber without any problems.   Unfortunately, my last hunting season was a bust. Not entirely the fault of the game, either - I just wasn't able to get out and do as much hunting as I normally do - too much work to get to. However, I did get out and shoot the Hawkeye M77 quite a bit - I really like shooting the .300 Win Mag round as I feel its really one of the more accurate rounds in a rifle - then again, that's just my two-cents worth. I had some .300 Win Mag ammo from Black Hills Ammunition, their 190-gr Boat-tail Hollow Point. Make no mistake, this is not intended as a hunting round. However, game up to deer-size can be taken with this load - but it's not ideal for big game hunting. This round was developed for long-rang shooting, and it's a favorite of high-powered rifle competitors all over the country. Many matches have been won with this projectiles.  

I combined the Hawkeye with a nice Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40mm scope, in a stainless-look finish, to go with the look of the stainless M77 - it was a great match-up, to be sure. I like 3x9 scopes the best - they seem to serve all my needs. I could go with a bigger objective lens, but the 40mm seems to work for me.  

The Hawkeye M77 is a tack-driver, no doubt about it...it's one of the most accurate .300 Win Mag rifles I've ever owned. If I did my best, shooting over a rolled-up sleeping bag, over the hood of my SUV, at 100-yards, I could easily place 3-rds under an inch all day long...and some of my groups were hovering right around 3/4 of an inch. That's match-grade accuracy - it's more than good enough for "sniper" work, too. Let's face facts, I'm sure you've read about sniper rifles, that can place their shoots under half an inch, and some claim better than that. However, that kind of shooting isn't done all the time or every day, either. There's one particular gun writer, who is a legend in his own mind, and I won't mention his name. However, he is, without a doubt, the best rifle (and handgun) shooter who ever lived, or who will ever live. I'm sure he can place 3 round into one single hole, at 100-yards all day long, while drinking wine, eating cheese and standing on his head. Sorry, I can't do that well - and I've been shooting for more than 45 years now. I've shot high-power rifle competition in the past - I had good days where I'd walk away the winner, and the next day, someone else would beat the pants off me.   So, if you think by going out and spending thousands and thousands of dollars for a sniper rifle, you're gonna be able to shoot one-hole groups all the time, every single day - you're only kidding yourself. I've found, that if I do my part, and I have the right rifle and right load, I can hit what I'm aiming at. Again, there are a lot of things to consider in any sort of long-range shooting. You have to take into account the wind, and not just the wind at the muzzle of your rifle - you've got to be able to read the wind where you target is and everything in between, too. You've got to have an accurate rifle and a good load, too - not to mention a good scope.  

I don't do a lot of handloading these days, and I limit myself to two chamberings in high-powered rifles - one is the good ol' .30-06 and the other is the .300 Win Mag. With my experimenting over the years, I've come up with a good load, that shoots very accurate in any .300 Win Mag rifle I've put it through. Take all loading data for informational purposes only - what has worked in all my .300 Win Mag rifles, may not work in your rifles, and always build-up your load - start 10% below what I'm giving you. I've found that, the Hornady 180-gr SP Interlock .308 bullet, over 71-grains of IMR 4350 is a round that is hard to beat. I also use whatever empty brass I have on had - that has been full-length resized, and I put CCI Magnum Rifle primers in the cases. Over the past 10-12 years, every single .300 Win Mag rifle I've shot this ammo through, has proven to be a real winner, and the Ruger M77 Hawkeye was no exception. I've been able to equal the Black Hills Ammunition .300 Win Mag load, but I haven't been able to beat it - even if I tried to tweak my load. So, if you hand load, you might want to try my formula, if you don't hand load, then the Black Hills load is the way to go for the best accuracy around.  

You don't have to spend a lot of money, to get a lot of gun these days. The Ruger M77 Hawkeye proves this. And, you can believe whatever you want, but gun writers do not get hand picked guns. I've had more than my share of lemons over the years, to know this. The Ruger M77 Hawkeye retails for $843 and can often be found discounted. If you top it with a good Nikon scope, we are looking at having a sniper accurate rifle and scope for under $1,000 and the stainless barrel and action, with the black synthetic stock only makes the gun that much more appealing in my book.  

So, if you're in the market for a good sniper-grade rifle, for the end of the world, or for big game hunting, the Ruger is worth a real close look in my book. Anytime I can take a factory gun, out of the box, and get groups that are under an inch, that's a winner if you ask me. Don't be fooled into thinking you have to spend a ton of money, to get a lot of gun - you don't. Make no mistake, I'm not putting down expensive, custom-made rifles - they are a work or art. But you don't have to spend a lot of money, to get a lot of gun - the Ruger M77 Hawkeye proves that. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio      

JWR Adds: One key advantage of .300 Winchester Magnum over some of the other belted magnums is that since it uses .308 bore diameter bullets, you can handload armor piercing (AP), tracer, and incendiary ammunition, using pulled .30-06 or 7.62mm NATO projectiles. That provides great versatility.

Thank you for providing all the information in SurvivalBlog. It is truly a lifesaver. I live in Arkansas, and I’m sure you’ve seen the devastation the tornadoes have caused. This season is possibly the worst I’ve seen in the past 20 years that I’ve lived here. The tornadoes and severe weather have pummeled our state. Thankfully, when disaster strikes, neighbors help neighbors, strangers, and everyone in between. I wanted to tell your readers who haven’t considered the value of neighbors, who have a go-it-alone attitude, they are more valuable than all the gold you could stockpile. When the tornadoes come through, all my neighbors get under one house – the only house in the neighborhood you can get under. All the other houses are on slabs, but none are sturdy enough to really hold up to 100 m.p.h. winds.

Knowing that there will be at least 8 of us and 12 pets, we’ve made some small changes. We’ve placed bottled water, blankets, tarps, and kennels for our animals under the house. I’ve also beefed up my bob bag with consideration to the storms. I’ve added a portable weather radio, battery powered fans, a strand of battery powered Christmas lights (they can light up areas where other lights can’t fit), a gas meter (you don’t want to be close to a natural gas leak), a medium duty stapler (just in case you have to secure a tarp quickly), and last but not least, dog biscuits. They are a small comfort to animals in stressful situations, like being in a kennel under a house for extended periods of time.

Something else I would recommend to your readers are natural gas or LP standby generators. They are expensive, but worth every penny. Also consider a little red wagon, yard cart, or roll around suitcase. When bad weather is coming, and you know you will need more than just a BOB bag, cases of water and snacks are easier to transport on wheels. I hope you will emphasize that a BOB bag is essential in times like these, not just TEOTWAWKI.  

Remember, it might take a while for help to reach you. You will want neighbors who will be willing to risk their neck for you when you are in need. I know that while most of my neighbors are not as prepared as they should be, I will try to take up the slack, just for having the security that I can count on them when the times get bad. - Mrs. D. in Arkansas

Just a few more thoughts on cattle.  

The author had mentioned some of the issues that may arise when raising cattle.  Some treatment methods are important to understand.  The most common treatable problems encountered in cattle will be related to calving problems, prolapse and bloat. 

Calves are born with the front feet first, followed by the nose.  Any position that deviates from this may require some intervention on your part.  A prolapse can also be easily treated.  With the cow secured in a chute, wet the prolapse with water, and wipe down with sugar or dish soap.  Next push it back inside.  Put 2 to 3 stitches  in the labia (near the middle so as not to interfere with the cow's bathroom functions.  Prolonging the treatment of a prolapse interferes with a cows urinary excretion.  The final common thing to know is how to treat bloat, which will quickly suffocate cattle.  Bloat is usually most common in fed cattle.  You should keep a long needle on hand for such emergencies (longer than 2")  If bloating cannot be alleviated by exercising the cow, the air pressure can be relieved by sticking the needle in the rumen in the area between the hip and ribs.  This must be done on the appropriate side.  

Another thing that concerns me with cattle are the diseases TB and Brucelosis.  Every state claims to be free of Brucelosis.  In other words they have managed to control the disease, but are no longer willing to throw money at the problem.  Brucelosis is known as Undulant fever in humans, and is an extremely miserable disease.  It would most likely be fatal without medical intervention.  Cattle handlers often come down with the disease from handling urine or milk.  One of your best bets now would be to keep your herd vaccinated, and tested.  If you have a clean herd now, its probably a safe bet that it will be clean later, providing you don't introduce strange animals into your herd (especially for breeding)  That's my 2 cents on the subject. - J.F.


The "Buy cow-calf pairs in the Spring" strategy described in a recent letter has inherent risks. Cow/calf pairs sold in the spring are often defective in some way. Here are some of the reasons beef producers would sell cow/calf pairs in the spring. Foremost reason is the cow is no longer a viable breeder, this can happen several ways but most common is either a prolapsed uterus (when the uterus turns inside out and extends outside the cow's vagina) or a C-section delivery. The standard treatment for both of these procedures include veterinarian intervention and extended antibiotic treatment by owner. The sale of these animals are normally done after the recommended antibiotic withdrawal interval has elapsed so the cow can be slaughtered. In either case the cow will still be recovering and may not raise a healthy strong calf. In some cases her milk production may have actually stopped during her treatment stage.

Another common reason a cow /calf pair would be for sale in the spring is what I call 'attitude' reasons, these include 'jumpers' (they jump fences won't stay where you put them and cause an inordinate amount of fence damage) or 'rips' (nasty critters that either hate all humans and are dangerous or they hate their own calf and refuse to let it suckle).

The last reason I can think of and it occurs late in the spring season is 'broken mouth' this term refers to an aged cow with either broken or missing teeth. Cows only have lower front incisors to harvest grass with, think about cutting a celery stalk against your thumb with a knife. When these teeth are worn down to the gum level these cows will only be able to graze on tender green grass i.e. irrigated pasture or hay. The other form of 'broken mouth' is when the molars, which grind all of the cows feed into small pieces, have been themselves been ground down to the gums. This inability to chew their food or 'cud' decreases their digestive efficiency which yields poor milk production and weight loss. These pairs are normally sold after winter feeding is done and before the herd is turned out onto rangeland, because the beef producer knows these cows will suffer in these conditions.

One last reason for this kind of sale concerns the calf, it is exceedingly rare (I have seen on three in approximately 4,000 births) and that is a premature calf. The three I have helped raise were from 1/3 to 1/2 normal size at birth and this ratio is maintained throughout it's life. Where normal beef animals attain full size at 1,000 to 1,500 lbs. depending on breed, pre-mes will be all done growing at 500-700 lbs. I have sold pairs in the spring for all of these reasons.

Just remember LET THE BUYER BEWARE All of these types have telltale signs which the buyer should look for so he/she knows what they are buying:

  • Prolapse - Look for a series of healed holes 4 or 5 on each side of the vaginal opening- prolapse sutures are like old fashioned cotton shoestrings and the holes (even healed) are large about the size of shoe eyelets. Also field expedient treatments that do work and are done at really remote locations include inserting a football size rock or even a gallon plastic jug into the uterus to retain the uterus internally until the cow ceases pushing. Veterinarians use drugs to stop the pushing.
  • C-section - A large patch of shaved hair with a central vertical scar extending below the hollow ahead of and below the left hipbone.
  • Jumpers - They will try to jump out of the auction ring.
  • Rips - They will charge ring attendants or kick at the calf as it runs alongside it's mother.
  • Lack of milk production - Teats a matte type finish to skin, and the hair around teat is straight and dirty. A suckling teat will be shiny, clean and surrounded by curly hair.
  • Premature calf - harder to discern because even I have seen so few, obviously very small size but that could be hard to tell if in reality the calf was born early in calving season and has grown for 1-2 months before it was sold. The ones I saw had obvious physical defects including lack of full range of motion in the legs and smaller head size as compared to body size than a normal calf.
  • Broken mouth - The only way to determine is with actual inspection of mouth.

I hope you find this useful. - Mike H.

Frequent contributor KAF sent this: Fed says $600B bond program to end in June. JWR's Comment: Any bets on whether The Fed can break itself from their new-found addiction to creating money out of thin air? I'm betting that they'll find an excuse to continue Monetization (aka "Quantitative Easing"), indefinitely. In essence, monetization is the crack cocaine cooking of the currency world.

B.T.D. sent this: Treasury quietly plans for failure to raise debt ceiling,

Regular content contributor B.B. forwarded this: Wal-Mart: Our shoppers are 'running out of money'

Several readers sent the link to this entertaining "rap music video": Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two

Items from The Economatrix:

Silver's Versatility To Help Sustain Rally

Silver Shortage Will Go Terminal Very Soon

Even the Federal Reserve is Broke

Charting The Course to $7 Gasoline

The Great Gold Tsunami Lies Ahead

Central banks pump £3 trillion into world economy.

Reader J.D.D. suggested this by Rick Ackerman: Finally, a Hyperinflation Argument That Persuades

CNBC reports: Killer Combo of High Gas, Food Prices at Key Tipping Point. (Thanks to C.D.V. for the link.)

C.D.V. also sent: McDonald's warns of higher food inflation

Want to compare the declining purchasing power of the Dollar, all the way back to 1904? See The Inflation Calculator

G.G. flagged this: Whoa Baby, Prices Are Jumping for Diapers, Other Family Basics

It has already mentioned in SurvivalBlog, but it looks like the XM2010 .300 Winchester Magnum is coming closer to fielding: Army May Field More Powerful Sniper Rifle

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Attention Texans: Time to give up eating "Possum on the Half Shell" -- Armadillos linked to leprosy in humans. (Thanks to Sean B. for the link.)

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Announcing two Extreme Survival Workshops in Central Texas: Eating Insects May 15, 2011 (5 - 7 pm). The organizer describes the workshop: "Alan Davisson has been eating insects for the last six years.  He will teach us how to utilize this important source of protein and fat in a fun and entertaining way.  You'll learn what is safe to eat, how to prepare, the nutritional content, methods for catching, and getting over the 'yuck' factor.  This will be the fourth time we've had Alan out for this big party where we all eat bugs together and it is a seriously good time.  The kids take to it like its a natural thing." Admission is $10. And, earlier the same day: Alternatives to Dentists 5/15/11 (9 am - 4 pm) It is described: "Learn how to care for teeth without brushes, floss, or paste, how to handle cracked or chipped teeth, treating cavities and abscesses, and gum disease.  Also learn simple and powerful methods for treating deep infections without using antibiotics.  Taught by Doug Simons who has lived primitively for the last two decades in the Gila Wilderness. Doug has some amazing information to bring to the civilized world."  Admission is $75.  

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You are in our prayers: Tornadoes devastate South, killing at least 248.

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Reader Mike C. sent us the latest from Nanny State Britannia: Shotgun licences given to children under 10, BBC learns. The article qualifies: "Children issued with shotgun certificates can not own a gun, and must be supervised by an adult". JWR's Comment: I fail to see what the fuss is about. Here in The Unnamed Western State (TUWS), we exercise our gun rights without any licenses. And I haven't heard of any local shooting rampages or any suicides by 7, 8, or 9 year-olds...

"When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves." - Viktor Frankl

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Having read the daily entries on SurvivalBlog for a few months now, and reading the novel Patriots it seems to me that an often visited topic is whether and when to “Bug Out.”  As a resident of Houston, Texas, I will try to provide insight from the perspective of a person who has been through the evacuation drill twice…and never evacuated.  So there you have it, I will go ahead and show my cards up front; I am in the “hunker down” camp.  Although I will explain my reasons, I will not try to convince others it is the right option; that is a personal choice.  Additionally, it would be foolish and short-sided for me to suggest that hunkering down is appropriate in all circumstances; it is not.  As with all best-practices, the decision of whether and when to leave your home requires a common sense judgment call on the part of each individual. However, one thing is certain: if you have prepared for most contingencies in your geographic locale, you will be able to choose whether to Bug Out or Hunker Down.  If you have not prepared, you have effectively robbed yourself of the freedom to choose, and will become a banner waving member of “the Golden Horde.”

First, a little history is in order.  I grew up in a small town South of Houston, Texas and was educated in a small religious private school.  I spent as much time as possible neglecting my studies so that I could dedicate my time to the more important pursuits of bike riding, playing guns, building forts, swimming, and exploring the trails at the back of our neighborhood.  By age 15, I had tied enough knots, built enough fires, shot enough arrows, and pitched enough tents to attain the rank of Eagle Scout.  While I would not consider myself expert, I know the outdoors…and being “prepared” continues to be a part of my being.  My wife and I consider Big Bend National Park one of our favorite places, are avid backpackers, and as such have accumulated enough camping gear to open a small shop. 

In September of 2005 I was living in an apartment five minutes from downtown Houston.  Hurricane Katrina had just devastated New Orleans and now Hurricane Rita was heading to Houston and was twice as big and ten times as bad! While many packed up their vehicles to G.O.O.D., I drove South on I-45 to Friendswood to help my mother and her husband board up their windows with plywood and PLYLOX. By the time we had finished securing the house, I was too late.  I-45 Northbound back to Houston was at a virtual standstill.  Having dealt with Houston traffic my whole life, I had the foresight to get online and find a different route back to my downtown apartment.  Unfortunately, the route I had chosen required me to drive for quite some distance on a toll road.  After sitting in bumper to bumper traffic for an hour, and driving less than a mile, I called my mother from my cell phone and asked that she get online and navigate me back to downtown from the very next exit via farm to market and county roads. 

Lesson: Carry a map detailed enough to show all roads.  Highway maps are not good enough. Here in Texas we have a company called Keymaps that makes books with detailed maps broken into an easy to read grid system that is searchable by street name.  I highly recommend if available in your area.

I would have been in a bad situation had the power been out or had the cell phones been down. For those unfamiliar, I was lucky in that the Houston road system is not only a series of circles connecting freeways that run North, South, East and West; but also a vast maze of connected city streets and county roads.  Literally you cannot get out of your vehicle and walk for more than a quarter mile in this part of City without crossing a road.  Needless to say, I made it back to my apartment safe without too much inconvenience.  I would later learn that many of those motorists I shared that mile-long stretch of toll road with were in the infancy of what would become one of the most harrowing 72 hour ordeals they had ever faced. 

The following day, my mother and her husband joined me (with their five cats) in my 715 square food apartment for a 48 hour ride-out of the storm.  It was tight but we had enough food and water to sustain us for an extended period.  They navigated the same route we had discovered the night before (minus the freeway portion) traveling approximately 40 miles in less than an hour; not bad considering the parking lot formed by thousands of cars stretching North on I-45 from between Houston and Galveston and then on to every major city to the North and West of Houston.

As we sat in my small apartment something occurred to me that I will never forget: Downtown Houston was as quiet as the open range of West Texas.  Anyone who has lived in a big city can attest; it is never quiet.  Day and night you hear horns, engines, sirens, and every other conceivable combination of background noise.  In the hours leading up to the hurricane’s approach Houston was at peace; a stark contrast to the nightmare that was unfolding on our city’s highways and freeways.  90% of the City had bugged out. 

Every person I spoke with in the aftermath of Rita told the same story: “We were just going over to a relative’s house in Hempstead or a friends house in the Woodlands (both within 45 minutes of downtown Houston) so we got in the car, stopped and filled up the gas tank, grabbed a bag of chips and a soda, and got on the road to “get out of Dodge.”  48 hours later, when Rita made landfall, most had traveled less than 20 Miles from where they started (in 48 hours).  I don’t think anyone facing a storm of constant bearing decreasing range would argue that they are safer in their vehicle, not to mention the more serious danger they faced: desperate strangers. During the 48 hours leading up to landfall and the approximately 24 hours it took them after landfall to get to a final destination, they witnessed the worst of humanity. 

Folks, keep in mind this was September in Houston; it was about 100 degrees and 100% humidity; people are easily agitated.  Your sweat doesn’t evaporate, you can’t get cool, tempers run high and patience is a commodity in short supply.  Cars broke down, ran out of gas, or overheated, turning the freeways into parking lots. People were thirsty, babies were hungry-crying-not enough diapers, nowhere to go to the restroom; people, young, old, rich, and poor, defecated in broad daylight next to their vehicles.  The situation was unsafe, unstable, and unsanitary.  People got into fights, businesses on the interstate were stripped bare of anything to eat or drink, the young-old-sick were in real trouble and some did not make it through the awful ordeal.  A bus of elderly evacuees from a retirement home caught fire, burning to death those who were bound to wheel chairs or oxygen tanks.  The sad part is the vast majority of sheeple sat helpless in their cars waiting for help from the federal government and local authorities. 

The federal government and local authorities were not able to provide much assistance because they too were stuck in traffic without fuel.  The irony is these people suffered and died not from the natural disaster but from bad information and an overall lack of preparedness.  Yes, the storm came and Houston took a hit, but the media-fueled hysteria proved to be far more dangerous.  Unless you lived on the Gulf Coast, you probably didn’t hear these dirty facts because it would have necessarily highlighted the borderline criminal negligence of the major networks for their ratings-driven “news” coverage. 

Fast forward three years to September of 2008.  I was now married and living in my current home just North of Houston in an unincorporated part of Harris County.  Hurricane Ike is barreling toward Houston; once again the “media” seems to be taking language straight from the King James Version of the Book of Revelation.  Because my wife works in the safety department of MD Anderson Cancer Center, she was a “first responder” and had been stationed for the day at the Office of Emergency Management helping to evacuate the elderly from hospitals and retirement communities in the evacuation zone.  My wife is was of those whose mission included heading into the Texas Medical Center while the traffic was heading the other way.  On the way home following her shift her car had a blowout and hit the concrete wall of the freeway.  This was September 11th, approximately 24 hours from when Ike would make landfall.  Once again, sheeple were scuttling about Houston like rats on a sinking ship looking for flashlights and batteries.  We were headed to the ER.  Thankfully my wife was examined and released; we went home to “hunker down.”  Once again my mother and her husband joined us. The extra hands were helpful as my wife was confined to the bedroom on pain medication.  Lesson: When one of your team members is down, can you handle making ready your fortifications?  Unlike Hurricane Rita, Ike devastated Houston.  Much of the City was without water/power for weeks.  The effort mobilized by the City of Houston was epic and the relief effort was inspiring.  Volunteers poured in from all over the U.S.  It was the opposite of New Orleans.   However, had the disaster not been so localized, who knows how long it would have taken to get the grid back on line?  Would it have become New Orleans eventually? 

During the ordeal I had a huge “duh” moment.  With my wife’s car out of commission, we were left with one vehicle.  Due to my own procrastination at having a leak fixed, I had been adding air to one of my truck’s tires for about a week. Guess what happened when I wasn’t able to air it up for the 24 hours we rode out the storm?  The problem gets worse; it wasn’t until I went to put on the spare I discovered that my lock lug was missing.  Apparently the dealership had failed to put it back the last time they had rotated my tires.  In two days we had gone from 2 operating vehicles to 0 operating vehicles. 

Lesson: much like Dental work, keep up with routine vehicle maintenance!  There is ample discussion on this board related to preparedness and somewhere I read the recommendation to have a practice weekend.  I agree.  Practice would have revealed the most glaring omission from my fortifications: power.  Luckily we were at Ace Hardware when they began taking orders for generators that were in route from somewhere out of state.  While I waited something like half a day, other members of our party scavenged for gas canisters and gas to fill them.  

Lesson: get a generator and storage containers and fill them ahead of time!  I cannot tell you the piece of mind it provides given the hot humid summers here in Houston, especially now that I have an infant at home.  Ultimately Houstonians kept a calmer head than during the mass exodus of Hurricane Rita and were all the better for it.  Minus property damage and the few fatalities attributable to people who absolutely would not evacuate Bolivar Peninsula, we all came out okay.

My point in telling these two stories is this: even if you are absolutely prepared to “Bug Out” when the Schumer hits the fan, are you confident you would be ahead of the Golden Horde when your car’s rubber meets the road?

First, let’s considers the source of our information today.  The “media” cannot be trusted to provide unbiased information- even in the face of an emergency.  Unfortunately, all media outlets are in business to make money-sensationalism sells.  However, I will mention that from my experience the local media and local authorities were a pretty good bet.  After all, they are in the same boat as you.  The question remains: How will you really know it is time to bug out?  Face it; you are probably rolling the dice on a gut feeling that is at least partially influenced by fear.  Fear-based decisions are rarely sound and will likely lead you into a situation you cannot control.  This leads to an even more dangerous place: Panic. 

I would argue that unless you live in a locale that cannot be made safe (on the beach, for instance) you face far fewer unknown and dangerous variables in your own home than you will encounter out on the “open” road.  Again, let me be clear here, in some cases the smart decision is to Bug Out no matter what.  However, in those cases I would argue maybe you are better off bugging out long before the Schumer hits the fan and find a safer place to live.

I realize that for many, moving is simply not an option for many reasons; but most often it is more the case that people are just too set in their ways.  Ultimately my advice is: in the face of an emergency, don’t follow the crowd of fear motivated sheeple.   Exercise common sense and Be Prepared!

When preparing for any large-scale emergency or disaster scenario our initial tendency is to seek out the most basic necessities for survival: food, water, shelter. Those serious about survival expand these necessities to include protection, first-aid, mobility, etc. I believe one of the most important tools to include in any survival plan is a smart phone capable of offline card storage.  

In my profession, I am attached to my smart phone. I depend upon it to work as much as my Leatherman while backpacking. I also know that during a large-scale emergency or a TEOTWAWKI scenario, a cell phone for the purpose of calling might be completely ineffective. Cell towers, satellites, and the Internet require huge amounts of manpower and infrastructure to maintain. However, if these go down your phone can still be used as a wealth of knowledge that can literally save your life.

The items I recommend are based purely on my own experiences, purchased with my own resources. I have field-tested my gear in several environments, most challenging a six-month stint in Glacier National Park. There are hundreds of different configurations to make this work within scope of your budget and technical knowledge.

Items Required:

1) A smart phone capable of SD or similar card storage. This means a phone in which you can store data offline and access at any point, regardless of cellular coverage. I purchased an HTC EVO about six months ago, but there are several similar phones at any price range. My cell phone carrier limited my options but you do not need a carrier to make this effective.

2) A mobile battery charger and battery pack. I use the Tekkeon TekCharge Mobile Power and Battery Charger. It’s inexpensive, easy to use and easy to store. Again, there are several comparable brands out there. I like Tekkeon because it includes an LED charge display.

3) Rechargeable batteries. I’ve had the best performance using Sanyo Eneloop AA batteries. These low self-discharge NiMH cells are advertised as holding 85% of the charge with no ‘memory effect’ when recharging. In my experience this is accurate.

4) Solar panel charger, with USB port. Here is where doing your research is most effective. There are several brands on the market that advertise as capable of powering cell-phones. While solar panels aren’t created equally, you are generally looking for ones that have the most surface area, mobility, and durability. I have tested several models, but a company called Goal Zero has given me the best results. I was able to purchase the Nomad 7 solar panel for less than $80.

All of these items are for the intended purpose of keeping your phone running when the power no longer flows. I find that charging batteries rather than charging a cell-phone directly is more effective and offers more versatility. The Tekkeon TekCharge allows you to charge your phone with AA batteries.

The real survival information comes by way of Apps, or applications. Almost all are free on an Android phone, and can be transferred from a PC at home to your phone. This allows you to download Apps without having a cell-phone carrier. There are literally thousands of Apps that could be useful in an emergency situation. These are ones I have personally used:

Apps usually download to your phone’s internal memory by default. Because of this, the first app you should download is called “App 2 SD” or an equivalent. What this does is transfer any downloaded App to your SD card for permanent storage. SD Cards can be interchanged and offer much more space than the phones built in memory. You can load up several SD cards worth of information and put them into your phone when needed, or keep them as backups.

Useful Apps
So what kinds of survival apps are out there? The answer is almost infinite to your situation. I will break them down into what I think are key areas for survival.

The “All-in-One’s”
An Application I draw on time and time again is called “U.S. Army Survival Guide” and it is exactly what it sounds like. This App contains the entire Army survival guide. It includes illustrations and diagrams and is broken up into 23 chapters including a full glossary and appendix. It offers basic to mid-level survival tips, ranging from Shelter construction and trapping, to starting a fire and how to stay hidden. It’s always better to know this information off-hand but as a reference, this is the app you want.

Another infinite possibility app is “Google Books”. This allows you to purchase and store an e-book on almost any subject you can think off. A quick search for survival books netted me hundreds of results. What this offers is the ability to download almost any book that you might already own and to draw on it when needed, or even just to learn more techniques when the time comes. Lugging around half a dozen books can be taxing on both space and energy, especially if survival requires being mobile. Beyond survival purposes this is a great way to keep your mind off any situation you might be in.  E-Books are a great way to utilize multiple SD Cards. With the almost infinite library of information at your fingertips, you can store thousands of books and guides.

An e-book might be too much information to quickly draw upon. For this reason I also use an app called “WikiPock” that can download specific Wikipedia entries that can be viewed at a later time. You can be as specific or generic with this information as you want to be. I have several entries ranging from hot wiring a vehicle to greenhouse gardening. As phone storage improves I wouldn’t be surprised if you could soon download the entire English language Wikipedia to your phone. An uncompressed ‘wiki dump’ is about 27 gigs - compressed comes in at about 6 gigs.

There are about a dozen or so free and proven off-line map applications. What this offers is the ability to store and view maps from anywhere in the world without data coverage. The basic principal is that with a little common knowledge of navigation you can find your way. I use an app called “MapDroyd”. I was able to download a vector map of the entire United States at any detail – there are maps for almost any country. A physical map is still going to be your most efficient way to find where you are. But, with these Apps you aren’t limited by size and scope.

Keep in mind this isn’t a topography map. There is an app called “BackCountry Navigator” for topography but costs about $10. Also, without GPS or cell-tower connection you won’t be able to automatically pinpoint your location – this is why basic navigating skills are just as important.

Some offline maps offer tools such as address searching or point A to point B directions. Feel free to experiment with different apps to find the right fit.

Like the other apps, this area of survival has a lot of options to choose from. The Army Survival Guide App also has an entire section devoted to first aid and medicinal plants. For my purposes I use an app called “iTriage”. It has a number of tools to choose from, but is most effectively used as a way to diagnose symptoms. A good guide or reference book is still your best bet for getting detailed information and instructions – both of which can be found with Google Books.

Tools & Miscellaneous
KnotsGuide  - A knot tying reference App with color photos, step-by-step instructions, and recommended usage for each knot. Can’t live without this.

ElectroDroid – Especially useful for TEOTWAWKI scenarios, this App is a great way to learn how electricity and circuitry works, and how to get it working.

Scanner Radio – This App requires a data connection, but allows you to listen to the dispatch radio of almost any city in the country. Get direct information before hearing about it on the news.

Flashlight – By no means a replacement for a sturdy flashlight, but this App is a good backup or tent light. It utilizes the ‘camera flash’ led on most phones when taking pictures.

Google Translate – Need to speak to someone in a different language, or read the warning label on a foreign-made package? This app allows you to type or speak almost any language and translates it to text or speech, especially useful if traveling.

Camera or Video – Your phone’s basic camera or video function is incredibly versatile. It is a way to remember where you started a trail, or to reference a certain plant or building. The ability to keep photographic record is invaluable.

Games – Surviving is not just about keeping your wits, it’s also about maintaining your spirits and fighting boredom. Games are an easy way to take a break from the situation you might be in. It’s not going to get you out of it physically, but mentally it might make a difference.

The Survival Phone in Use:
Last year I spent six months in Glacier National Park. It’s one of the most beautiful parks in the country and is abundant with natural resources during the summer months. Because I knew I would be there for some time I had downloaded dozens of local trail maps and guides to the SD card.

When I got to the park and needed to recharge my first set of AAs I realized I want to be moving during the daylight, even stopping for a few hours can severely hamper any momentum you might have. Because of this, I rigged up a few ways to best power my survival phone:

The Goal Zero solar panel I purchased comes with some standard tips for getting the most juice out of it. But you don’t always have the time to stay in one place and wait for the sun. The pouch that the panels sit in can be contoured around the top of my backpack. I used a bit of bungee cord to secure it in place. I then ran the USB charging cable through a spare hole in my pack that was originally intended for water bladder tubing. This cable continually charged my AAs with the Tekkeon pack as I moved. When resting I just angled the pack toward the sun for the most direct sunlight. I now had a way to charge AA batteries while on the move.

The phone didn’t always make an appearance while hiking. I usually referred to the physical map folded in my pocket for getting a quick bearing. However, once setup in camp I was able to pour through all of the books and information stored on the SD card and relate it practically to my surroundings. I sought out to find edible berries and plants, comparing them directly to the color photo on my phone. I readjusted which trails I would be taking based on the detail I could see on my phone that I could never get with a physical map. If emergency had struck or I needed to diagnose some symptoms I would be able to. I was also able to read some excellent novels for pure entertainment sake.

A common myth is that any electronic device is useless or too fragile in these types of environments. I kept my phone in a waterproof bag zipped inside of an interior pouch. I own an aftermarket hard shell case, which completely protected the device. I have since picked up a couple Pelican cases that are nearly indestructible for both your phone and SD cards.

I would have been fine without my phone, but I have gone backpacking for many years. If it was a survival scenario that I didn’t have time to prepare for, then my phone would be incredibly valuable.

Most people keep their phone on or near them at all times, so you don’t have to waste valuable time getting it together. Unless you have the funds, it is unreasonable to keep a backup phone, but backup SD cards, batteries, and solar panels are fairly inexpensive. Keep your batteries and solar charger in your grab bag and you’ll be set if the time comes.

It’s important to note that a survival phone should just be used in conjunction with basic survival tools and supplies.  It will never take the place of common knowledge and practice. But, if you are unsure of what you should do or how you should do something – it might end up saving your life. The Apps and products I listed are a drop in the bucket compared to what is out there, and every week technology is improving.

James Wesley:
I fly radio-controlled (RC) aircraft, and the Switchblade is a definite possibility.

As you can tell from the video, there is a lot of computer generated "help" going on there, but the concept is solid, the technology to do this is already readily available and has been for some time. It's just a matter of time until somebody completes the package.

The problem is, for an aircraft that small, the maximum payload I could see might be around a pound, maybe slightly less. But a pound of C-4 could put a distinct "dent" in your day!

Lately, the FAA has been coming down hard on the RC modeling hobby. With things like the above going on, and jet RC aircraft approaching the 400 MPH mark, they have concerns. They are now starting to call our models "unmanned aerial vehicles" (UAVs). They tell us that around June of this year, they will make public a new set of rules that we must comply with regarding our hobby. - Pat S.

JWR Replies: As a bit of background, I started writing about potential terrorist use of RC aircraft and other technologies more than 20 years ago. (See my two-part feature article "High Technology Terrorism" in Defense Electronics magazine, January 1990, p.74.) I further outlined UAVs and the threat posed by their misuse by terrorists, back in 2006. Specifically, I was concerned with the threat of UAV-borne Improvised Explosive Devices. (FWIW, I coined the acronym UAVIED in December, 2006.)

This innovation represents a serious terrorist threat, folks. The technology is available off the shelf. In another few years it may make outdoor public venues quite unpopular with politicians. I must add that it is sad to see RC modeling enthusiasts pay some sort of regulatory price for what are just potential misdeeds.

Closing throught: The threat of UAVIEDs is just one more reason not to live in a big city!

Just a few things to be added on cattle raising.

One can often buy older cow-calf pairs in the spring, let the cow raise the calf over the summer, sell the cow as a slaughter animal at auction in late summer or butcher for yourself and have the calf left over at very little cost. You can then sell the calf or wean and raise to a yearling for either sale or fattening for your own butcher beef. These old mommas know how to raise a calf, that's why they got to be old in the first place. Prices for these pairs are basically the value of the cow for slaughter and the price of a baby calf, you generally are paying no premium at all and often they can be bought for at or less than what a cow without calf at side brings. 

Know how to figure the value of the cow for slaughter by the pound and the value of the calf and you'll know what they are worth. Focus on the slaughter value of the cow because that is really the source of most of the worth and what you are paying for.

Older cows don't have much tooth length left so don't run them on desert range but if you have some good grazing pasture they will do fine.

If you stick with older cows you don't need a bull either since your purpose is not to keep them as breeding animals but rather to raise the calf and then use them for their slaughter value. And when you go to sell the slaughter cow and the calf (ready to wean) you often have enough money to then buy back a younger cow that is already bred. Regards, - Aaron R.

Here is a house design with some retreat potential: The First Zombie-Proof House. (A hat tip to Dane for the link.)

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If you've ever wanted to make some parachute cord bracelets, but don't have the skill, the patience, or the time, then I recommend this maker in Georgia: SportBraceletStore.com. Yes, they are American made! An explanation from their site: "The cord can be gutted to use the seven inner strands for fishing line or thread to repair torn clothing. For a medical emergency, the cord can be used to create a sling for an injured arm or even a tourniquet for a life threatening wound."

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Craig W. suggested this editorial by John Stossel: Gun Owners Have a Right to Privacy

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Not survival related, but this is so cool I just had to link to it: Avalanche Cliff Jump with Matthias Giraud

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The folks in the paths of the recent tornados and hailstorms are in our prayers! Every family in that region ought to have a good storm shelter.

"I prefer dangerous freedom to peaceful slavery." - Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Someone recently asked for suggestions on raising livestock.  I won’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve had cattle for more than thirty years so I’ll offer some observations.

Think it through before you begin.  Don’t get cattle because you think it’s something you should be doing, or because you think they will be a cheap source of meat.  Do you have the resources—time, land, money—needed?  Are cattle the best use of those resources?  Cattle are selling at historic highs right now.  Getting started is not going to be cheap. 

There’s also a lot of investment in infrastructure before you get your first cow.  Fencing, water supply and distribution of winter feed, and perhaps shelter.  You’re also going to need some way to handle and doctor the cattle.  This means corrals and/or traps, head gates, squeeze chutes, loading areas, etc.  Or you could work them with horses and head and heel them if you have those skills.  We work our cows horseback, but drive them to the chutes when they need doctoring.  We either work the calves (ear tag and castrate) when they’re a day or two old (at that point, you can just walk up to them and catch them) or head and heel them when they’re older.

Keep in mind that if you’re going to work with large animals you are going to get hurt.  It’s not a question of if.  It’s a question of when and how bad.  You’re working with animals that weigh in excess of half a ton.  They can hurt you with very little effort and no intent.  The better your working facilities the safer you are.  One trip to the emergency room will pay for some pretty good facilities and equipment.  Where would you rather spend the money?

If you’re going to raise cattle select them for temperament.   Gentleness is genetic, and a gentle cow also is a more efficient converter of feed to meat.  One wild cow can contaminate an entire herd.   If you get a wild one either sell it or put it in the freezer.  Be aware that the gentle ones can be even more dangerous than the wild ones.  You’re careful around the wild ones because you don’t trust them.  You tend to let your guard down and get careless around the gentle ones.  Don’t make that mistake.  I’ve pulled calves from cows that were dog gentle, brought the calf around to the cow’s head, and had the cow go after me.  Be careful.

The way you handle your cattle will also affect their behavior.  Learn and use low stress cattle handling methods.  You can ruin a gentle cow with poor handling.  Keep in mind that cattle are livestock, not pets.  I don’t want my cows to run when they see me, but I also don’t want them to come into my space.  That keeps me safe.  I want them calm enough to be able to approach them, and respectful enough to move off when I ask them to do so. 

You’re going to need a bull, but you really only need him for 60 days a year.  Do you want to own and feed him for the other 305 days?  Can you lend him out, or lease him out, for some of that time?  What kind of condition will he be in when you get him back.  Can you lease a bull for your breeding season?  Do you want to learn how to artificially inseminate your cows and get the equipment and supplies need for that.  The bull is half your herd and plays a very important role in determining the quality of your calves.  You need a bull with good genetic characteristics or you’re wasting your time and money.   

Having said all that raising cattle is not rocket science.  They need feed, water, and a mineral supplement.  What keeps them inside the fence is the feed (grass or hay) inside the fence, not the fence.  If you don’t feed them they will find a way out of just about any enclosure.  The acreage you need for a cow/calf pair depends on where you are.  It may be 100 acres in New Mexico and one acre elsewhere.  Don’t overgraze.  Worm your cows periodically. 

Herd health problems are going to have to be dealt with as they come up.  Whatever you’ve prepared for won’t be the problem you’re faced with.  Cows are hardy creatures and will get over most things on their own.  But if you’re going to raise cattle you’re going to loose some to accidents (I once had a tree fall on a cow), calving problems, or something completely unforeseen. 

This winter I had a cow that couldn’t get up.  The vet diagnosed her with grass tetany, which is a magnesium deficiency.  That was strange since she had access to a high magnesium mineral supplement.  We gave her minerals IV to correct the problem.  I was told she should be on her feet within 72 hours, and that there was no point in lifting her to get her up.  Five days later she still could not get to her feet.  That’s five days of hauling feed and water to her inside an improvised enclosure that kept the other cows away.  At that point I lifted her to her feet using a hip bone lifter and a front end loader.  Once on her feet she just walked off.

Next time she lay down she could not rise.  The vet and I decided it was a nerve issue and three days of IM steroid injections followed.  During that time I was lifting her at least once a day.  After four days she started getting up on her own.  That continued for awhile and then she relapsed and was unable to rise.  I went back to lifting her.  After about a week I decided it was a lost cause and decided to shoot her.  My wife suggested I give her another few days.  The next day she got up and has been fine since.

The point of this story is that no one, not even a well trained and very competent vet, knows everything.  Sometime you’re going to be guessing and making mistakes.  Accept it. 

If you have cattle you will eventually have calving problems.  You’ll need a set of obstetrical chains and will have to learn to use them.  Your best resources for learning what you need to know are neighbors who have cattle.  There’s also a lot of information on YouTube.

A lot of calving problems can be avoided by selecting a bull that produces low birth weight calves.  This makes for easier deliveries.  Even so there will be problems.  If you need to do a C-section and no professional help is available you’re going to loose the cow.  If the uterus prolapses (comes out with the calf) your chances of replacing it without access to either professional help, or drugs and the knowledge to use them, is slim to none. 

You have to decide whether to vaccinate and if so for what.  I vaccinate mine only for rabies, and that’s for my protection more than theirs.  On rare occasions you may have to use antibiotics to deal with a health issue.   If you want to avoid antibiotics be sure any feed you buy is not medicated.  This is most common in milk replacer, or calf feeds.

Slaughter.  If you can slaughter and dress a rabbit or squirrel you can do the same with a cow.  It’s the same process, just a bigger, more difficult job.  If you have a choice take it to a slaughter house and pay the fee.  You won’t regret it.

 If you’re going to slaughter do it humanely.  Cows have a big head, but a small brain.  Imagine a line extending from each ear to the opposite eye.  The brain is behind the spot where the lines intersect. A shot anywhere else will not be effective.

If you do it yourself you’ll need a way to cool the carcass before butchering it (cold meat is easier to cut than warm meat) and before putting it in a refrigerator or freezer.  The amount of warm meat in even a small cow carcass will overwhelm home refrigeration equipment.  Instead of cooling the meat you’ll warm everything else.  Slaughter when the weather is cool enough for you to be able to hang the meat outside.

If you’re looking for a reliable source of antibiotic free meat you may be better off talking to a neighbor who already raises cattle and making arrangements to buy whatever you want.  Will that guarantee a meat supply in an emergency?  Probably not.  But could you protect your cattle in an emergency?  Probably not.  If you need to buy feed for your cattle could you get it in an emergency?  Probably not.  But you probably could protect and provide for your chickens or rabbits. 

Does that mean I’m getting rid of my cattle, or that you shouldn’t raise your own?  No.  Just  be aware of what you’re getting into, and that there will be a learning curve.

 Are there other things you need to know?  Of course.  The last thing you learn is always the first thing you needed to know.  There’s no way around it.

The first revolver I ever owned was a S&W Model 36, .38 Special 5-shot snub-nose. I remember getting it while visiting some relatives down in Kentucky - this was before the Gun Control Act of 1968, which made it impossible to purchase handguns in a state other than the one you reside in. You can now purchase handguns from a state other than the one you live, however, the transfer must go through a licensed FFL dealer in your own state, these days.  

As I recall, I wasn't a very good shot with that little S&W Model 36 snubby - I found the small grips didn't fit my hand properly, and promptly replaced them with a more hand-filling set of grips. However, I did use that little .38 Special during a home invasion once, back in Chicago. So, I guess I can't complain too much. Make no mistake, I'm a big fan of Smith & Wesson products - all of 'em, too. Over the years, I've probably owned more S&W handguns than any other brand, bar none.   I still remember purchasing a S&W Sigma in .40 S&W, that I used as a duty weapon when I was a police officer in a very rural Native Alaskan Village. The first Sigmas had suboptimal trigger pulls - long and very heavy. I quickly changed duty guns and was carrying a good ol' 1911 in .45 ACP. Still, the S&W Sigma showed promise.  

Over the years, S&W has made some upgrades to the original Sigma line-up. And, with each upgrade, the guns got a little bit better than the last ones. The newst "Sigma" is called the SD9, and in my humble opinion, this is what S&W should have come out with in the first place. Of course, there are usually some birthing pains associated with many newly designed guns. The SD9 stands for "Self-Defense 9mm" and I'm not about to take-up the age old debate about which caliber is better. In all my years writing about guns, I've managed to shy away from the debate of which is better, the 9mm or the .45 ACP or the .40 S&W. To be honest, no matter what caliber you decide to choose, it still comes down to shot placement. It doesn't matter what handgun or caliber you're carrying, if you fail to hit the target in a vital area, you won't stop the threat. So, please save your e-mails asking me which caliber is "best" - I don't think there is a best, simple as that. I have my preferences, just as many of you do. However, my preference doesn't mean my handgun or caliber is the final word.  

The SD9 (which is also available as the SD40 in .40 S&W) is a double-action only handgun - meaning, each pull of the trigger is the same for all shots. As with the Sigmas, I found that the SD9 sample I had, really smoothed up the trigger pull and removed a lot of the grittiness after firing several hundred rounds though my sample. If you are going to carry any handgun for self-defense, I always recommend to my students that they test their guns by firing at least 100-200 rounds of the ammo they prefer to carry, just to make sure the gun will function with that particular load. I'm not the world's biggest fan of DAO pistols, but I do carry 'em on many occasions - it's a training thing - and no matter what type of handgun you plan on carrying, you should train with it, until you are proficient enough to hit your target.   With 16+1 rounds of 9mm on-hand, the SD9 should be able to take care of most social problems you might encounter. And, the SD9 comes with a spare magazine - and you should always carry at least one spare magazine if you're packing a semi-auto handgun. Of course, for self-defense, you should load your handgun with JHP ammo. It makes for better stopping power, and it might avoid a lawsuit later on. (FMJ bullets tend to over-penetrate, and you don't want to have a bullet pass through and hit an innocent bystander.) So, by all means, stoke your carry piece with JHP, and reserve the FMJ for target practice.  

A 4" bbl, topped with a Tritium night sight on the front end of the slide is a nice touch. The rear sight on the SD9 is a combat type, with white dots - that are not Tritium loaded. I feel this set-up is really fast to pick-up in low-light conditions, too. The frame on the SD is textured polymer material, with a grip frame angle at an ergonomic 18-degrees - just about perfect if you ask me. The gun feels good in the hand - real good! There is also a Picatinny rail on the frame for mounting lights and/or lasers.

The SD9 weighs in at 25-oz according to my postal scale, so you can pack this gun all day long, without feeling loaded down with excess weight.   I found on the Sigma line-up, as well as the new SD9, that it is a real pain getting the last round or two loaded into brand-new magazines. However, after the mags have been fully loaded, and left that way for a couple of days, they were easier to get all the rounds into the mags. If you own a magazine loader, then use it.  

I fired a variety of 9mm ammo through the SD, to include Black Hills Ammunition, Winchester, and Buffalo Bore Ammunition and had zero malfunctions of any sort. When carrying a 9mm for self-defense, I feel comforted by +P loads. The Winchester white box 9mm ammo I tested was the 115 gr. FMJ loads - great for target practice and breaking-in a new gun. I tested several loads from Black Hills, including their 115 gr JHP, 124 gr JHP as well as +P loads in those calibers. Buffalo Bore Ammunition provided me with some of their +P+ 9mm fodder - and it really screams out of a 9mm handgun. However, the Buffalo Bore load is not for all types of 9mm pistols. I believe the BB load is safe in the SD9 for self-defense purposes - but I wouldn't recommend a steady diet of this +P+ load in any handgun - it's meant for self-defense and small game hunting - not for target practice. Once you know your 9mm handgun can handle this load, then stoke your mags with it, and you're good to go.

I like the Black Hills 124-gr JHP +P 9mm load, as I feel it gives a little extra deeper penetration. And, if the load you're carrying doesn't penetrate deep enough and expand, it's not gonna give you the stopping power you need for a self-defense situation. Winchester also provided me with a limited amount of their Supreme Elite Bonded PDX1 9mm 124-gr JHP Bonded load - which is specifically designed for self-defense.  

As I mentioned, I had zero malfunctions with any of the ammo tested, it all performed as advertised. And, I did some limited testing, shooting into water-filled plastic milk jugs - all the JHP loads penetrated through more than two jugs and usually stopped in the third jug, and expansion was great, too. It's not scientific testing, but still a good test of expansion and penetration just the same. I can't possible duplicate the testing these ammo companies do - so I trust their word on what they say the performance is from their loads.   One complaint I have with most new handgun designs is that, it's difficult to find a holster to properly fit the new guns. And, many mainstream holster companies won't jump on the bandwagon and make holsters specifically for new handguns, until they know the guns have caught on and are popular. With that said, I had to carry my SD9 in a ballistic nylon holster from Blackhawk Products. To be honest, there's nothing wrong with these generic-type holsters that fit a lot of different sized handguns. My only advice is to make sure when reholstering, is that, you don't get the carry strap caught between the trigger and the holster - if you do, you'll have an accidental discharge. So, please be careful when using ballistic Nylon holster from any maker. I'm sure, in the not too distant future, Blackhawk Products will have one of their Serpa molded holsters for the SD9.  

I'm always a sucker for a good deal on a gun, and in the case of the SD9 (or SD40) they are selling in for $450 to $500 if you shop around. That's a good deal in my book on a top-notch S&W handgun, with all the bells you need and none of the whistles you don't need. Besides, it's a Smith & Wesson. If you're on a budget, like me and so many others, you have to carefully watch where you spend your dollars on firearms. You don't want to buy junk - you want quality firearms you can depend on for survival. The SD9 won't let you down.  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

I'm often asked about my mentions of the US Dollar Index in SurvivalBlog, and about the Dollar Index ticker link at my Investing Recommendations page. This foreign exchange (FOREX) market index is often mentioned by its shorthand names ("USDX", "DX", or less commonly, "USDI"). It measures the value of the U.S. Dollar (USD) relative to several of our country's major trading partners. Although the mix has changed over the years, presently the index gauges the value of the U.S. Dollar versus six currencies: the Euro, Japanese Yen, British Pound, Canadian Dollar, Swedish Krona and the Swiss Franc. The USDX was started in 1973 with a base value of 100, and has been calculated versus this base ever since. So a value of 110 would mean that the U.S. Dollar experienced a 10% relative value increase, over the life of the Index.

When I last checked, the USDX was down to 73.896, and that is a troubling number. You see, the high water mark for the USDX was 164.7 in February of 1985 and the all-time low was 70.7 in March, 2008, during the worst of the global credit crisis. It is noteworthy that the value of the Dollar probably would have fallen even lower in 2008, were not for the fact that the Euro was having serious problems of its own. Most of the lows in 2008 were around 72, and that is the number to watch for. A break below 72 would signal a major loss in confidence in the US Dollar, and possibly precipitate a full-blown Dollar Panic. Unlike 2008, we can expect no "Dollar Rally" if the USDX again drops below 72. This time there won't be a "bounce" because there is no longer much of a floor beneath the U.S. Dollar. Currency traders now perceive the U.S. Dollar for what is truly is: kindling. Unless monetization of the Dollar ("Quantitative Easing") ends soon, there is a strong likelihood of mass inflation in the U.S. and a rout of the Dollar in the FOREX markets.

Don't under-estimate the influence of the FOREX markets. They are the world's most traded markets, with more than $3.2 trillion in currencies traded each day. Clearly, the FOREX markets are seeing some tidal shifts in currency pair trading. For example, just a few years ago the Australian Dollar was jokingly nicknamed "The Australian Peso", but just recently (April 25th), it hit a 29 year intra-day high of USD $1.0777. Meanwhile, the Swiss Franc has advanced to USD 0.88576 and the Canadian Dollar is relatively strong, at USD 1.04873. You can track daily currency exchange rate moves at Oanda.com.

An aside: Some journalists refer to FOREX as a singular: "The FOREX market". But since they are actually multiple markets that are being traded 24 hours a day, five days a week, in multiple venues, rather than at one central clearing house. So, properly, the FOREX should properly be described as plural, namely "The FOREX markets".

Regardless of your interest in stocks, bonds, the credit market, or the precious metals market, you should watch US Dollar Index. It is not just something of interest to travelers or to currency speculators. Rather, it is an important barometer for the U.S. Dollar. As I've mentioned before, it is likely that the U.S. Dollar will lose its reserve currency status soon. And when it does, be ready for substantially higher interest rates, a huge loss in the Dollar's buying power abroad, and mass inflation, at home.

I once again urge SurvivalBlog readers to get out of US Dollars and into precious metals and other useful tangibles. Presently, silver and common caliber ammunition are my two favorite tangibles.

On a note to the mailorder glasses thread, for all of SurvivalBlog readers that are active duty military, reserve military, federal and local law enforcement, fire, EMS and those holding military retiree credentials, there is a couple other sites that I strongly recommend for buying very high quality eye wear for very discounted prices. The first site is USStandardIssue.com. They are the official site for Oakley military and government sales. They have a spin-off site: ESSeyepro.com. Both of these sites do make prescription sunglasses and Oakley makes regular prescription sunglasses. The ESS site also makes goggles (said to stop a shotgun blast from 35 ft). For you to become a member you do have to fax or e-mail a copy of your credentials which for some of you may not be acceptable due to your personal OPSEC precautions. I encourage eligible members to at least look at the site because this eyewear may someday save your eyesight. God Bless and keep up the prepping. - Steven B.

Mr. Rawles:
I really enjoyed L.N.'s small spaces article and her suggestion to get a mason jar vacuum sealer is right on the money.  Another suggestion your readers may want to consider is a non-power way to vacuum seal.  The Actron CP7830 Hand Vacuum Pump can also be used to create the vacuum using the FoodSaver Wide-Mouth Jar Sealer.  Total purchase for both items is less than half of the powered food sealers.  When the grid goes down, you will still be able to seal your jars and get a arm workout at the same time

Thanks, - Jen G.

Mr. Rawles:  
I found the article by L.N. in Texas quite interesting and would like to add my two cents.  I live in a small house with my wife and two kids, so storage for longer-term preparations can be a challenge.  However, I have found two spaces to be of great value that most homeowners may overlook.  For one, my house sits on top of a stem wall foundation that has a small crawlspace underneath.  This crawlspace was only available from an outside hatch, and therefore was less than desirable as a TEOTWAWKI storage due to its visibility and location.  Gaining access to it from the inside of my house was as easy as installing a simple trapdoor for the cost of two hinges and some time with a Skilsaw.  I simply pulled back the carpet in my closet and located the nails that indicated where the studs ran.  I pulled the nails from two adjacent joists along a two foot strip.  Then I set my Skilsaw blade to the approximate depth of my subfloor and cut out a square.  Making a trapdoor was as simple as cutting the removed piece of subfloor down slightly more so it didn’t catch, screwing down some hinges on the backside, then placing the carpet back over it.  Obviously, make sure before doing any of this to make sure the trap door leads to an open area, not a pipe or electrical line.  Below this trapdoor I have about 3-to-4 feet of vertical storage space.  I made a pallet to one side on which I store about six months of freeze-dried food and several gallons of water in 5 gallon jugs. 

Nobody has seen me haul the stuff in, nor will they see me hauling it out when the time comes.  I have used none of my living space and the air below the house is considerably cooler and drier than my usual storage spaces, such as shed or garage.   The second spot to consider is the intake registers for your HVAC system.  Most HVAC systems blow out the cool or hot air out of floor registers, then take the air back to the heater/cooler through registers near the ceiling.  The air running through there, as a result, is room temperature.  While I wouldn’t recommend storing anything heavy, bulky, or edible up there, removing a vent cover exposes a nice bit of unused space for storage of cash and guns when I leave for the weekend.  - Andy in Arizona

One challenge I have encountered in my survival preparations is the lack of concealed storage space in my 800 square foot house. I recently purchased a king size mattress, being on a tight budget (spending most of my disposable cash on survival preps) I couldn't afford a king size bed [frame and box springs]. In order to fill both needs of more storage space and a place to put my new mattress I decided to use 5 gallon buckets and 3/4in  plywood to construct a simple platform for my mattress. I purchased two sheets of plywood at the lumber yard, and thirty of food grade 5 gallon buckets with lids.

I had them cut both sheets of plywood to 38x80 inches (one half of the size of a king size bed). I placed the buckets 6 across and 5 wide where I wanted my bed. In order to remember where they are, I drew a diagram and labeled each bucket with the contents. I used sheets from my old smaller mattress as skirts to cover the buckets. With the mattress, plywood, and buckets the bed is taller than normal but my wife and are both tall and I feel it is justified in the amount of storage that is gained. The size and number of buckets can be adapted to any size bed. Good luck to all in your preparations and I hope my experience will help with your storage needs. Sincerely, - Northeast BoomTruck

Mr. Rawles,
I completely agree with L.N. about survival prep in small spaces. I increased the storage space under my bed by raising it [and additional] six inches off the floor. I used commercial available bed risers that cost under $20.00 for a set of four. A riser is placed under each of the four bed posts. Just search on “bed riser” or visit local home store. - Larry D.

Mr. Rawles,
Thank you sir for "33 Ways to Encourage Atlas to Shrug" article. I, too, was born in 1960. It's nice to know that you're a young man.

I moved to "the Redoubt" nine and a half years ago, and have no regrets, other than the fact that my state's Workman's Compensation rates are some of the highest in the nation. As a building contractor, I have had to pay upwards of  65% for the privilege of wearing out my knees and back, working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. At the end of the year my wife and I would look at each other and say, "what are we doing"? I employed six men two years ago, but now employ none. I do what I can on my own, simply because I don't want the majority of the fruits of my labor going to the state government.

The lifestyle and freedoms we've enjoyed otherwise do out-weigh the negatives. I'm just "shrugging" and preparing for what comes ahead. - Anthony in Montana


I read your recent "Quote of the Day" by Sam Cohen, and it got me thinking. The quote was:

"The philosophy of gun control: Teenagers are roaring through town at 90 MPH, where the speed limit is 25. Your solution is to lower the speed limit to 20." - Sam Cohen, inventor of the Neutron Bomb

Cohen has the basics down, but he failed to capture just how far into the realm of the ridiculous the regulators have gone. A more complete analogy would be as follows:

The philosophy of gun control: Teenagers are roaring through town at 90 MPH, where the speed limit is 25. Your solution is to lower the speed limit to 20, outlaw any vehicle that has a round hood ornament or that can carry more than 10 gallons of fuel, require sensitivity training and mandatory annual testing for all licensed drivers, require all vehicle purchases to be documented at a dealership (with a 10-day waiting period), and specify the locks on the garage where the vehicles are stored (with their wheels removed and stored in a locked container on the other side of the home).  Meanwhile the most dangerous intersections are changed from stoplights to yield signs, and residential and school zone regulations are tightened with 'no-stop' rules so strict that even police cannot stop to set up a speed trap, thus giving the speeders free reign in the very areas they are likely to do the most damage.

Regards, - Tony B.

Jonathan H. suggested a piece over at Slate: The Great Global Freakout of 2011 Imagining the worst-case scenario if the United States even comes close to defaulting on its debt.

Loyal content contributor B.B. sent an article by James West of The Midas Letter: $5,000 Gold and $300 Silver are Credible Numbers

Bob Chapman of The International Forecaster outlined the current short squeeze in the silver market in a radio interview with Alex Jones. To summarize Chapman's remarks: Gold is going to break out here and is going to go to $1,600, $1,650, silver is another situation, the unusual situation is that JP Morgan Chase and HSBC are short 45 to 1, that means for every contract they have in silver they sold 45 (and there is thousands of them), they're naked short they can't get out they can't buy back into silver which keeps on going up. Three things can happen here, they either can tell their clients we do not have silver and we are going to pay you 25 cents on the dollar or they can default totally. Or, the Federal Reserve can step in and cover their losses at $46 dollars a share. Their losses will be about $90 billion.

Bram S. suggested this blog post: Deflation or Hyperinflation?

Tony B. recommended an economics primer, style after Dr. Seuss: The Jubjub Hole

Items from The Economatrix:

Into The Economic Abyss

10 Signs Of An Impending Bust

Brent Crude Rises Over $124 On Unrest In Syria, Yemen

Earnings Drive Stocks to New 2011 Highs

3M:  Signals Of Continued Economic Uncertainty

Consumer Confidence Index Rises in April

K.T. sent this YouTube video: The Lost Art of Cut Shells. JWR's Comment: Don't attempt to feed cut shells in a pump or a semi-auto from a gun's magazine--instead, drop them into the chamber, one shot at a time. (Otherwise, you can expect some horrendous jams.)

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Cheryl N. sent this: From Stockpiling To Living Off The Grid, More Colorado Residents Preparing For Disasters

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Tam, over at the View From The Porch blog mentioned this bit of whimsy: The Silver Bullet. Also by way of Tam comes an article guaranteed to make your blood boil: A Tale of Modern Healthcare, or why does this cost so much?

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Wheat Advances for a Third Day on Deteriorating Crop Conditions in U.S. (Thanks to Marilyn R. for the link.)

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Reader J.B.G. sent this news item from Nanny State Britannia: Farmer menaced with death threats by gang of travellers dials 999... and police turn up to confiscate her shotguns. JWR's advice to freedom-loving Britons: Take the Gap and move to the U.S., soon!

"The Fed is in a bind. No matter which way it turns, utter failure is a risk. Putting more money into the system risks no less than the dollar itself. Stopping quantitative easing (QE) risks plunging the economy and financial system into another period of turbulent decline." - Chris Martenson

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I live in the country and so I am used to gardening, canning, saving and preparing.  However, when I talk to many people who live in the city and live either with minimal land and perhaps apartments, they do not seem prepared or not as prepared as they could be.  When I ask if they store or grow any food, they just sort of look at me.  When I tell them they should either grow some food or store food not only in case of natural disaster, but even due to inflation and rising prices, the looks become bewildered.  They’ll say that they have no place to grow or store food or they may even act as if that is not important to them.  But, in this time and day, everyone should prepare some food and essentials.  There are reports that crops are being destroyed by elements of drought or floods or freezing and as we can all see, prices are rising and companies are becoming creative at giving us less for the dollar when we buy items.  The world we knew or thought we knew is changing and survival is a key for everyone.  Even in a small space you can prepare for the worse while you continue to hope for the best!

Before we begin talking about how, lets talk about things that are helpful in storing food.  Of course you can go with large buckets and Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers which you can find online at Survival web sites, but what if you do not have that much room?    

You are still in luck!  Invest in a FoodSaver vacuum sealer and get the jar sealer attachments online.  Food Savers will help you store food in either the bags they sell or if you get the jar attachments, you can store food in Mason jars!  We tested the jar attachment by putting dry beans into a mason jar and using the Food Saver jar attachment.  When the machine turned off indicating it was ready, we tried to open the flat metal lid on the Mason jar.  It wouldn’t come off.  When we took a butter knife to the edge to help open it, we heard that vacuum seal pop as we opened it.   So right then and there, we knew we were getting a nice vacuum seal on our jar.  This now allows us to store beans, rice, pasta and other dried foods in jars such as this.  Store trail mix for example in the Food Saver Bags.  These bags are sealed and are easy for you to put into a bin for later consumption.  You can look for Mason jars at local grocery stores, some hardware stores and we also found some really large jars at our local pharmacy of all places!  If all else fails, you can always order them online.   By putting things in the Food Saver bags, it also saves a lot of space rather than bulky boxes and such.  The Food Saver bags are also something quick you can grab if you need to evacuate and put in a back pack.

So you space is small - where can you store?  Start opening your eyes and look around at where you can add space.  A bin on a bookshelf is one more than what you had before!  Get creative and utilize any open spaces you may have.  When the earthquake happened in Japan, many people did not have food stocked up in their apartments and then found they were empty handed and grocery store shelves empty as well!  Remember, grocery stores only have about three days worth of food.  If there is a disaster, that food will disappear quickly.  What if trucks cannot get to your area?  Are you ready to be self-sufficient for a few days, a month or so?  And, when storing, think about climate control.  Do not store anything near heat such as a fireplace, hot water heater or any place that heat can deter the value of the food.

 The following are some ideas of the kinds of places you can store – even in small places!

  • Under the bed – with under-the-bed storage bins or boxes.  This is a lot of space that you have available right now that you can utilize!  You can even get some bins on wheel
  • Your closet – what about bins under the hanging clothes?  On shelving?
  • Install shelving in your rooms and buy nice storage bins--which can even look decorative--to hide items.  If you have no wall space, then what about above the doors?   Put an extra shelf in the laundry room.
  • Use a storage tote bin for storage next to your bed, couch etc. and cover it with a cloth turning it into a night stand or small table.  If you have an end table that is open underneath, again, you can put items in the open area, then cover it with a cloth to hide the stored items.
  • Place or build storage behind your couch and again, cover it with a cloth and place décor on top of it.  No one will ever know!
  • Look in your cabinets – try to consolidate items out of bulky boxes and containers and once you get more room, utilize that space.
  • Purchase an armoire or storage unit with doors on it and use it completely for storing items.  You can use an old entertainment cabinet that has doors on it. Where the television would have gone, you can stack cases of food, put medicines or smaller food or items in the drawers.
  • Plant patio gardens in whiskey barrels or other large planters.  You can grow onions, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and any dwarf variety of fruit this way.
  • Plant herbs in window gardens or in planters among the house. Herbs can be nice house plants and will offer you spicing to your food than an ordinary house plant so begin utilizing planters in the house as well.

Note:  Craft stores sell photo boxes that are usually decorative. These are perfect for putting in small Food Saver bags or making a box for emergency supplies for children.

If you live in the city and have a little land, do all of the above plus:

  • Build yourself a raised bed garden – even a 4 x 4 will give you lots of growing space.  If you have room build a larger 8 x 4 or as many that you can fit on your land.
  • Plant fruit trees if able.  Find out what trees grow in your area and plant trees that bear some type of food for you and your family.
  • Plant berries or small bushes that produce food. 

What items should you think about storing besides food?  Think about everyone in your household, including young children and pets.  When storing things like water and food, be sure to do your homework and research either in books or on the internet on best practices for safe storage. 

 Besides food, think of places you can store:

  • Water    
  • First Aid and Medicines
  • Toiletries 
  • Paper goods    
  • Wet wipes in case you lose water
  • Baby formula and other baby needs for babies in your family.  If small children, think about snacks for them as well as items that will keep them occupied if there is no electricity and no TV.  Colors, coloring books, books, games, and so on.
  • Coin or cash to have on hand
  • Seed for planting
  • Store some “comfort” items.   Comfort can be some candy for example, but whatever comfort means to you, you may want to store that so you have it – especially at times you may want it.
  • Bartering items – Think along the lines of the old days where people would trade one good for another.  If there is a disaster, you may not be able to go to work, drive your car and so on.  What could you trade a neighbor for something they have you may want?    Some people say to buy ammunition for bartering and that just happens to be something I wouldn’t buy as a bartering tool.  That ammo may be what you need for food and they could in turn, use that ammo on you to get the rest of your stash!  Think items like razors, tooth brushes, alcohol, coffee and such.

Right now you may be thinking – this is too much to store.  Wouldn’t you rather have it and be prepared than not have it when you need it?  These items are important to your survival.  Our economy could change overnight by one ruling of say not using our currency as the reserve or some solar flare or EMP that affects our electronics.  Preparedness is key right now. 

The next complaint I hear is, "I have fruit or vegetables, but we can’t eat all of it and some goes to waste."  What you need to do is start thinking along the line of storage again.  You can freeze or can most vegetables and fruits and you can dry your herbs.   There is vast information on the web about freezing, canning, storing and drying food you produce.  This means you may need to look into a water bath canner and pressure canner.   I’ve made for example, homemade salsa, jelly, and pickles and am researching more information on canning and freezing my vegetables.   Making jelly may take you and another person a day of work, but you will quickly find your shelves filling up.  You can use the under-the-bed bins for other items and use shelving for your canned items.  If nothing else, home-canned foods make great gifts too so never think you would not know what to do with it all. 

By now, most people know that rotating their stored food is important.  But, what if you ran across cases of food that will expire in the next month?   Most people without thinking will say they cannot possibly eat all that or do not want to.  Think of others at this time.  Donate it to a food pantry, a large family and so on.  Just do not wait too late and never donate food that will expire within a few days or that is expired!

Of course, all of the above is just a small list of ideas.  Start researching survival items and you will find many more you should be considering right now.   Never think your space or yard is too small.  You will be amazed once you start looking around at all the opportunities you truly have to store or grow food.  And when you shop at a plant nursery – always look for plants, shrubs and trees that will bear food.  It may be what you have to survive on one day!

The lessons of my essay are simply this: talk with your kids, include them in your preps, and listen to them.

My foray into prepping began in 2008, courtesy of my then 10-year-old son. My astute older child noticed how stressed mom and dad were with the rising costs, lowered wages, and cut hours that we were experiencing thanks to the newly developed recession. My son asked if he could put in a garden, a novel idea for my core family unit. He felt the need to help contribute to the family in some way.

I must inject a little background into my story… My brother has been preparing since 2006 so the concept was not foreign to my family. We live rurally and hunting has always been a part of our lives. But despite my attempts at persuasion I could not convince my husband to jump onto the prepping train. Little did I know it would take our kids to convince him.

The first year of gardening was not a success in the typical sense. Our garden bounty needed to be greatly supplemented by local produce auctions. But it did open the door for more preparations.

I’m getting off track here. The story is about my children: I have two sons, currently 13 and 11. They have always been a part of our strategic planning meetings. We feel our children need to know as much as we do about what we have purchased, need to purchase, and would like to purchase. Your kids are going to know that something is going on, it is better to include them than to keep them in the dark. Trust me; if they do not fully understand your situation, they are going to discuss it at school or with their friends. You cannot expect them to notice that you are bringing in pallets of supplies, but not to ask questions about it. Children are curious by nature and that curiosity has led my kids to becoming well educated about some survival topics. Your children also need to know how to use every piece of equipment as well as you do. You owe it to them, as their parents, to ensure that they have all the necessary skills to survive if you are somehow injured or unavailable. Making your kids key elements in your preps not only makes them more desirable, if the need were to arise that you band with another group, but it also makes your group as a whole, superior.

My eldest is still interested in gardening and we have expanded our garden for the third straight year this spring. He is also an avid reader. Along with numerous other genres of books, he is currently reading all the apocalyptic books that he can get his hands on. I read the same adolescent novels that he enjoys. This opens the lines of communication and leads to interesting conversations. Conversations ranging from: Are the teenagers in real-life as ignorant as the teenagers in the books? (He says they are--that is scary if true) How he would handle the situation of surviving on his own? Is he ready to protect himself and his family? Can he live without all the electronic babysitters? (I.e. video games and iPods)

My younger son is the gun enthusiast. He can list more weapon makes and models than my husband, which is saying something. He is more athletic then my older son, but he is also more indolent and stubborn.

Both of our children are required to help in the garden, target practice, and help canning food preservation. They carry in the groceries and help me rotate the shelves. We have raised our children to be contributing members of the family unit. That is not something that can be taught overnight. Nor will it be a lesson easily learned when the times get even more desperate. Because of their hard work, responsibility, and maturity they are rewarded in several forms. They are often the hosts of sleep-overs. Besides the fast that I love having the extra 2-8 kids over, I consider it a form of prepping education. Do you know how much and how often 10 teenage boys will eat? I do. I have needed to increase my food stores because of that reason alone. I also can witness the interaction between the kids. I know which kids have no problem running out in the dark to chase off a stray cat that is threatening our kittens. I know which kids are willing to help in the garden and mash applesauce. I know which one of my sons’ friends treat me with respect. This is all important for when the time comes and my home may become a safe haven for parentless children. I know, it sounds frightening and alarming, but I have come to love some of these kids and would take them in as my own.  

I bring up the point about the extra kids for several reasons. First, I consider the sleep-overs to be an essential par t of our prepping training. I need to know that that I can trust my kids with our secrets around other kids. I like to see how the girls and boys react with a good ole’fashioned game of ghost in the graveyard. I also like to make note of the kids that pitch in with the chores and who can be counted on to follow instructions. Secondly, I use the guise of hosting sleep-overs to hide several of my preps in plain sight. Do you know how many kids will come over without proper winter gear? All of them. So it of no surprise that I have numerous pairs of boots, jackets, hats, and gloves stored in my closet. Lastly, tactically their games of hide-and-go-seek outside in the dark along with Nerf gun wars in the house are great practice. Now, I know that most of you are going to scoff at the suggestions that such childish endeavors have any real practical application. But I know exactly which one of the kids are willing to lie silently in a patch of raspberries for an hour hiding from the rest of the seekers. I also know which kids go running screaming into the night at the first hint of movement. My children have learned every hiding place outside and inside. They also know every line of fire that is feasible. That sounds practical to me.  

Due to my career in health care, I am well stocked in the band-aids area of beans, bullets, and band-aids. My children have practiced drawing blood and starting IVs on a dummy arm. I need to know that they know how to apply an Israel bandage to me if I am not able to care for myself. As an 11 and 13 year old they are more than capable of performing basic to moderate first aid if the need arises, but only if you have taught them. Recently, my younger son took a spill while I was at work. My eldest child calmly called me and asked for advice. He monitored his younger brother for an hour (until my husband got home and took over) for signs of a concussion or a more serious condition. He checked the reactivity of his pupils and his memory skills. This was the exact advice I received from the emergency room physician when I asked him if I should bring my child in for evaluation. Educational opportunities come every day and around every turn. It is our duty as parents to help our children recognize these occasions and step back and allow them to learn. Talking to your kids is not as productive as talking with your kids.

Another such learning opportunity came about just as our first thunderstorm of the season also came about. I was just walking out of work when my son called to inform me that our power was out. By the time that I arrived home five minutes later, he had learned that a transformer was struck by lightning and that we would be without power for several hours. I took the opportunity to open the door for conversation and teach my kids a lesson; little did I know they were going to teach me one. As we were discussing the different scenarios of a storm situation, we also went over our other tornado and fire procedures. That is when I thought I could throw them a curve ball. I asked them, what if not only the power was out but also the phones? (a common occurrence around our place) No problem, they have their cell phones. Well, what if the cell phones were out also? The first things my sons’ ascertained was that I was referring to an EMP blast. Wow, they are good. Yes, my eldest had been reading One Second After and my youngest watches way too much History and Military channels. They went on to explain that one of them would “stand guard” at the best look out window in the house (but not too close to the window so no one from the outside can see them), while the other locks all the doors and pulls all the blinds and secures the property. Pretty good plan for never having discussed it with them. So now, because I’m mom I’ve got to keep throwing curve balls at them. “What if they knew I was not at work that day but off on a prepping/shopping run an hour away? Dad is 25 miles away for his work too.” No problem. They would continue to switch off look out duty, napping when they could until someone made it home. “But what if we don’t make it home?” They would consume the perishables in the refrigerator first, eating them cold or reheating them over the Sterno cans that we have stored.

Great, so they wouldn’t starve. “But what about if someone came up our driveway?” Besides wanting to hide inside the house they told me they know how to access the weapons and better yet they know how not to use them unless they are fired upon first. Okay, so I was pretty dang proud of them. We went on to discuss other problems, an injury, the pets, picking up the stairway so they didn’t break their necks in the dark. Now, for the real kicker. What if they weren’t home when this happened? Hmmm, Yes! I stumped them for a moment. They immediately said they would leave school and head for home. “But how would I know that they were even allowed to leave school?” They hadn’t thought of that. They developed a route for making it from school to my work (less than ½ mile away) and we would walk home together (a mile). They would try to convince another sibling pair that lives close to us to travel together with them. “But, what if they do not allow the grade school children to be dismissed?” My eldest is in the middle/high school located right next door to the grade school. We discussed how the eldest would go and try to convince the younger son’s teacher to allow him to released into his care. If the elder son was not successful he was not to leave the grade school without his brother. If they do not meet me at the hospital in a timely manner, I would travel the route (backwards) and pick them both up. By this time my husband was home and he was upset that I would not immediately leave work to gather our children. That sounds great in theory but our emergency procedures do not allow for staff to leave the building. I realized that an EMP is not quite the same as a tornado warning but how many of the staff members are going to realize what is happening immediately? It would be more suspicious if I took off running, screaming the sky is falling, immediately.

The conversation turned to other scenarios and crisis types. They talked about filling the bathtubs for additional water and how they can get into our locked house. They made their point though. They are better prepared than most of the adults I know. That is a reassuring notion for a mother to carry with her. Times will be difficult enough; I will be worrying about my children every minute. But can you imagine how much harder it would be for my husband and I to function if our children were not well prepped? I’m sure some of you are saying that you don’t want to unduly frighten your children. I agree. During our discussions my youngest son expressed some fears about being able to carry out his duties and “pulling his weight.” It is better to openly address these fears now before they become a reality, rather than to shelf them for a rainy day. No, I do not want my kids to live their lives in fear nor do I want them to grow up too fast. I explained to my sons how we in the medical profession practice and practice every emergent situation hoping that we never have to experience them. I would have been perfectly happy never performing CPR on an infant during the course of my career, but when that time came I am glad that I practiced that skill. It is just like training for a sport, if you don’t practice you cannot succeed. The same is true for prepping.

Another skill my sons are extremely proficient at is shooting our weapons. I realize that almost everyone on here would have multiple reasons against me touting the benefits of a .22 [rimfire] pistol. Some of them I would agree with, some I would not. Our .22 pistol has allowed our sons to become extremely good marksmen. I don’t know about you, but I cannot afford to go out and shoot up a box of .45 or .357 cartridges. The pistols are small and light, easily manageable for their smaller hands and bodies. They are not scared of the recoil. Those are all important features for learning the skills of handling a firearm. The same can be said for the .22 rifle. If I can teach my children inexpensively, safely and confidently how to handle both a pistol and rifle and that is an indispensable skill. Master the .22 and you can master anything. My eldest son proved that lesson this past year by shooting his first deer at over 120 yards, walking, with an open-sight .30-30. That is pretty impressive.

The simple, lowly .22 pistols and rifles have taught our kids how to handle a gun safely and how to hit their target accurately. Tell me another weapon that offers that without that same result without costing a fortune. Given the option of a .22 pistol or no gun at all, that is a silly question. And yes, a .22 pistol can kill all manner of beasts; just ask most local farmers that use a .22 to put down cattle. It works, but only if you can hit your target. My coworker was laughing at my choice in firearm when I purchased my Walther P22 (an excellent gun, BTW) saying that it was a waste of money and has no stopping power. My reply was simply this, “I can afford to target practice daily and fire thousands of rounds through it. Better to hit my target with all of my 10 rounds, then to have a larger caliber pistol that I cannot afford to target practice with but once a year and miss with every shot.” Pistol shooting is a skill and an art that cannot be learned in an afternoon with a couple of magazines worth of ammo.

Of all the skills my sons have learned through these difficult times, the most important is the value of being fiscally responsible. My kids rarely ask for toys, treats, or presents. They would rather have a used book or better yet an afternoon all together as a family playing board games. They know the value of a dollar (less every day) and they respect what it means not to spend the money when you don’t have it. Often when I ask them what they would like to do for a special occasion or afternoon together, they tell me they would like to play a board game or bake bread together.

What is going to happen to all of those kids that cannot live without their parents spending a fortune on them? You know what kids I mean, the ones that get a $60 video game for cleaning up their own room. Really? It is their mess they should not be awarded for that, they shouldn’t have to be asked. And yes, it is really that bad. Or the girls that I had the privilege of witnessing this past weekend, strutting around a band competition wearing a mini-skirted tube dress and heels and then throwing themselves to the floor and kicking and screaming when their results were not posted fast enough. I am not making this up, I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t witnessed it with my own eyes. (And for the record they were 13 years old.) My kids are not perfect; I will never claim they are. But I know that in whatever situation we are faced with, be it tomorrow, next month, or in a year, or never, that my kids will be responsible and mature. I know I will be able to count on my kids to be able to survive TEOTWAWKI, high school, or the real world with confidence and dignity. Please talk with your kids, start right now because a family that preps together survives together.

Mr. Rawles,
Thank you for all you do. I cherish my daily visits to SurvivalBlog. The recent letter titled "Living in a Small Town - An Australian Perspective" by Margaret G. inspired me to write you.

We moved from a large city to place just outside a small town a year ago. We are just now being accepted as part of the community. I agree very much with Margaret G.! Another thing I can add is joining the local Volunteer Fire Department. Through the dept and a lot of hard work we find ourselves a part of the community. Because I am over 60 (and not as physically fit as they require) I cannot fight fires. On the other hand, there is a heck of a lot I can do to help the dept in terms of administration, cleaning equipment after a fire, etc. Now the department has a "Rehab" group that supports the firefighters in a larger fire with water, food, taking vitals and so forth to keep the firefighters functional and thus safer.

I'd like to encourage other preppers to look into volunteering. More than 70% of all firefighters are unpaid volunteers, and without them we are in serious trouble, SHTF or not. By the way, with very rare exception, volunteer firefighters have just the kind of character and selfless courage you want as neighbors. OPSEC still applies, of course.

In God we trust, - W.B.

I read with interest the recent letter that included this:

"I  fully realize what a hungry man will do to feed his family and have even been told by a law enforcement officer that he don't need to store food. He said that he could take it for his family so they don't starve. I know he has a large arsenal and I get his drift."

This fallacious and frankly un-Christian belief that the writer encountered is not unique.  I was discussing the need to obtain an emergency food supply with a couple of  lads who work at the local shooting range.  I told them that the hard times that are fast approaching and they needed to make some preparation now while there is still time to do so.

They laughed and said they had plenty of ammunition and weapons and figured they could "take what they needed" when TSHTF.

I told them: "There's one problem with your 'plan'.  The people you could take from won't have what you need.  The people who do have what you need are in all probability going to be a lot better prepared and organized than you are, and you aren't going to be able to take anything from them."

Anyone foolish enough to think they can easily prey upon their fellow citizens to make up for their failure to prepare is going to be in for a rude awakening. Living in this country several million very hard ex-military and current military or law enforcement, not to mention rural farm boys and girls who literally grew up shooting.  They are not going to be easy to victimize.

In conclusion, anyone planning on looting their fellow citizens when the Crunch comes, should probably consider a Plan B.  That, in and of itself, might just ensure their own survival. - Brad in California


The writer mentioned that a LEO with a large arsenal stated he did not need food storage because he was well armed, implying he would shoot innocent people and take their food, or at the least, threaten with the use of deadly force to acquire food.  I worked in a gun store for almost three years, selling directly to and interacting with all sorts of customers.  I would make it a point to mention how uncertain the times were and encourage them to stock up on food as well as ammo.  The answer I got 90% of the time was to the effect of: "I don't need to do that, that's what guns are for."  

Sadly, the majority of gun owners I met carried this mentality.  So should worst come to worst, we cannot simply rationalize that there are a hundred million gun owners in the country, so we will be able to resist any threat to our nation.  If the elite allow this country to starve for a few weeks during a hyperinflationary collapse, or prior to a foreign invasion, the fact is that the majority of gun owners will begin killing each other off while fighting for resources.  The minority will be prepared to weather the crunch period.  We will need to be prepared to defend ourselves against well armed, potentially well-trained (LEO/Military) who want our supplies.

This is why I always advocate having equipment that gives you a complete advantage in a firefight.  Body armor, night vision, [registered] sound suppressors, good optics (like ACOGs) that allow you to:
1. Identify threats at a distance
2. Engage accurately at a distance
3. Engage day or night
4. Remain concealed
5. Not draw attention to yourself. 

I believe it is likely that if you are not geographically secluded from population centers, as am I. you will need to be able to fend off numerically superior foes who come at day or night.  Range, stealth, and armor, multiply your ability to defend yourself, and go offensive if needed. Good luck, - R.R.

Dear Editor:
I recommend Gatton Farms, Fathers' Country Hams.   These are the best hams I have ever tasted.  If you have never had one, you are missing out , it is not like any other ham in the world.

The hams that store are the Uncooked variety. I would inquire of them about storage temp and humidity requirements as well as aging out time.  The mold continues to grow on the exterior on the rind as part of the aging process and may have to be arrested at some point before it detracts from the meat quality.

Additionally you cannot just pop them in the oven. Here is a quote from the Gatton Farms recipe section for country hams:

"Clean ham with hot water and stiff brush to remove mold; if mold is very heavy scrape with knife. Ham may be soaked overnight to help reduce salt taste. Cut off about 3 inches of hock, which may be used for seasoning in cooking other foods. Remove the skin (easier done after cooking while warm); weigh the ham in order to calculate cooking time".

You have to cover it with water in a tub and soak at least overnight otherwise it is much too salty.

It takes a little practice to remove the skin after cooking when warm, it is fairly thick. The first time I did this it slipped out of my hands and shot out onto the floor leaving a huge pork fat slick in it's wake!  It really was the  "catching a greased pig " moment for me, and the pig won!  I could not pick it up either. I was not smart enough to just stab it with a fork, I tried to grab it again and it slipped away even further across the floor, I slipped and fell as well.  At that point I had to stop laughing at my own stupidity before I could get 'er back on the counter. The memory although 25 years old still makes me laugh, I was young and embarrassingly inexperienced as well as covered in warm pork fat

However, once on the platter surrounded by roasted, cinnamon stuffed, whole apples and pears it is the most incredible meat since man has been given divine permission to eat animals after worldwide Flood ( Genesis 9:3 ). I know some folks would argue that pork is forbidden even for Gentiles, but...

It is a good recommendation for a storage addition if it has an extended shelf life out of the farm's locker. I will be considering and researching proper storage conditions for my own "larder", pardon the pun. - Ann H.

Robert R. wrote to recommend an interview with Bob Chapman of The International Forecaster wherein he lays out "details on where gold and silver is going and explains the shorts by the big banks, market crashes and dollar defaults, and warns to buy plenty of freeze dried foods, battle rifles, thousands of rounds of ammo, and plenty of spare magazines."

Price of gold means panning supplies and metal detectors are flying off shelves. (Thanks to F.G. for the link.)

C.D.V. was the first of several readers to send a link to an article that was also featured on The Drudge Report: IMF bombshell: Age of America nears end

Courtesy of G.G.: A Dollar's Worth of 'Junk Silver' - Now North of $30

More Shrugging news: Tom in southern California mentioned that Boeing is being sued for, of all things, building a new plant here in the United States. Tom explains: "It is not because they are threatening the environment (would be a logical guess), but because they are doing it in a right-to-work state (as opposed to doing it in China)."

Items from The Economatrix:

The Price of Silver is Rising and this Time There are No Scapegoats

Mainstream Media Puts Good Spin On Bad Real Estate Market

US Dollar Frail, Tokyo Stocks Slip, Gold Shines

Buffett Turns Against the US Dollar, Advises Against Investing in US

Mixed Earnings Reports Weigh On Stocks

New Home Sales Rose In March After Weak Winter

Feds mine Facebook for info. JWR Adds: I expect this sort of intrusive intelligence gathering to be commonplace, soon. Avoid social network services!

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Tom F. recommended these two Altoids tin hobby projects: Altoids Solar Charger and Altoids Emergency USB Charger.

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I just noticed that our SurvivalBlog visitors map shows that I have a reader on Madagascar and one in Antarctica. The Internet is a simply amazing way of linking folks, globally. I'd like to welcome our many new readers. (SurvivalBlog now gets well in excess of one million unique visits per month!)

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Tim R. sent this news item: State Dept. wants to make it harder to get a passport. JWR Adds: That sounds more like an application for Special Background Investigation for a security clearance, to me!

"Peace if possible, truth at all costs." - Martin Luther

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ayn Rand's 1957 novel "Atlas Shrugged" is enjoying renewed popularity following the release of the new Atlas Shrugged movie. Rand's story describes a group of American industrialists that lose patience with onerous regulation and taxation, and "shrug"--disappearing from their normal lives to relocate to a hidden valley called Galt's Gulch. While this tale is fictional, it has some strong parallels to modern-day America. And despite the fact that Ayn Rand was an atheist and favored legalized abortion, she was a good judge of both character and the inevitable tendencies of elected governments. When I consider the regulatory and tax burdens that have been implemented in my lifetime--I was born in 1960--I believe that Rand had amazing prescience. Let's face it: We no longer live in a free market capitalist nation. At best, it could called a "mixed" economy with statist tendencies, and verging on socialism.

Reading the news headlines in recent months has led me to believe that the Galt's Gulch concept has a lot of merit. If The Powers That Be wanted to encourage the Atlases of the world to shrug, they couldn't have done a better job. What is the best way to get the most productive Citizens of our nation to go on strike, and retreat to "gulches"? Consider the following "to do" list for those whom Ayn Rand called "The Destroyers":

  1. Remove the homeowner's mortgage interest tax deduction. Yes, they're pushing for it.
  2. Reinstate the Federal estate tax and pre-Bush Administration income tax levels. They want to impose the old tax rates on anyone with an income of $250,000. Oh, and the CBO's budget predictions are all using the assumption that the 2001 tax cuts are reverted. Is this wishful thinking (to make the increases in the Federal debt not look quite so bad), or a fait accompli?
  3. Nationalize IRAs and 401(k)s. Yes, its under discussion.
  4. Increase taxes for unemployment-insurance funds. This is already in progress.
  5. Drag out approval of new mining operations with endless Environmental Impact studies. They're already doing it.
  6. Inflate the currency to rob those who save money--a hidden form of taxation. Standard practice for 40 years.
  7. Drag out approval of newly-developed medicines. Now the status quo.
  8. Push up the rates for "sin" taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and other items. Already implemented in 2010.
  9. Increase the Minimum Wage. Several states have done so, but even worse yet, some unions are pushing for more socialist "Living Wage" laws
  10. Raise import tariffs. Each new tariff causes problems. Didn't they ever hear Ben Stein's high school Economics lecture on the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? (OBTW, Ben Stein is now warning about an economic collapse.)
  11. Increase the tax paperwork burden by requiring "1099-MISC" reporting of all cash transactions over $600. (Attempted, but thankfully set aside for the time being.)
  12. Increase the cost of doing business through mandatory insurance. (The "labor burden" for an employee with a nominal salary of $17 per hour ($35,360 gross, annually) is an additional $20,029 per year.) Workman's compensation, in particular, is getting painfully expensive.
  13. Increase sales taxes. Several states have increased sales taxes, since 2009.
  14. Increase property taxes, as home values decline. Many counties have hiked their tax rates.
  15. Continue to increase the size of the government (and its debts). The Federal debt increases are looking inexorable.
  16. Push for increased mandatory employer-paid benefits for company employees like mandatory health insurance for part-time employees and European-style long term parental leave. Also, push toward excluding companies from government contracts unless they have expanded health care coverage.
  17. Mandate payment of state sales taxes on out-of-state purchases for Internet and mail orders. Yes, they're still pushing for these taxes, and for regulation of the entire Internet.
  18. Create a pervasive Nanny State mentality. For example: penalize companies and consumers for high trans-fat foods, and alcoholic beverages that taste too good.
  19. Sue the makers of guns that actually work just as they were designed. (At least a partial law shield law was enacted, in 2005.)
  20. Use taxpayer funds to destroy classic cars that are in running condition, while subsidizing hybrid cars that use batteries that will pollute landfills for centuries.
  21. Over-regulate small firms out of business. Dry cleaners are a prime example.
  22. Fine farmers and ranchers for using traditional practices.
  23. Create a European-style Value Added Tax (VAT). Yes, they're still pushing for it.
  24. Legislate expansion of company-paid health insurance to cover everything from same sex "domestic partners" and autism to sex change operations.
  25. Lobby for mandating that companies pay for three weeks of paid vacation per year for all employees.
  26. Institute dozens of unfunded mandates from the Federal level, that must be compensated for with higher state, county, and local taxes.
  27. Increase license, permit, and vehicle registration fees. In progress. Meanwhile, institute "temporary" tax increases. These surtaxes on income, sales, or real property are described as "temporary." (But don't be surprised if they are not repealed.)
  28. Providing free education to illegal immigrants while levying taxes on home schooling families for services that they don't use.
  29. Make it illegal for owners to protect their livestock from predators.
  30. Remove the salary cap on Social Security tax "contributions". The liberal think tanks are pushing for it.
  31. Encourage a litigious society where huge lawsuits are filed over trifles, and where the makers of products can be sued even if product buyers intentionally misuse products.
  32. Implement carbon taxes and credits. Still in early stages of implementation.
  33. And lastly, the big one: Implement socialized medicine. Despite a strong public outcry, it is now Federal law. But thankfully there is a push to rescind part or all of it.

The shrugging and gulching has already begun...

Reading the foregoing might have you inspired to find your own Galt's Gulch. Although I admit a personal bias, one practical option that I can suggest is the American Redoubt. (I'm the originator of the plan.) The Redoubt region is inside of the continental United States, so moving there is much more realistic than moving offshore--at least for most of us.

Many folks are now ready to vote with their feet. Atlas is starting to shrug.


Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved by James Wesley, Rawles - www.SurvivalBlog.com Permission to reprint, repost or forward this article in full is granted, but only if it is not edited or excerpted, and all links are left intact.

Letter Re: Inexpensive Mailorder Eyeglasses


Just completed an order with Zenni Optical for a pair of "computer glasses" (as opposed to "reading glasses" for the tech age, I suppose) and I am very pleased.  For $11.90 with shipping and handling. I got a pair of glasses that I was able to customize for computer work.  You can hardly get a pair of generic Chinese-made readers from Wal-Mart anymore for that price.  I plan to make a bulk order of backup glasses for the family from them.  It took a while to get them, but it was within the timeframe that they post on their site.  I also had good service from 39dollarglasses.com in the past, but they're more expensive.

Thanks for all you do for preppers. - Crusty

JWR Replies: It is important that everyone who wears eyeglasses or contact lenses to have at least two pairs of eyeglasses, and preferably three pairs. Remember our motto: "Two is one and one is none."

A point I would like to make to those that are living in a city, suburb or rural setting: If you are in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, then I am guessing you have read much of what is here and hopefully feel somewhat ready to take care of you and yours.

I would suggest that unless you are able and willing to feed a whole neighborhood--I for one, am not--then please realize what smells have to do with your survival. If you go out your door on any given day you will note what is cooking or burning within a few blocks of your house.

During a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI scenario, I venture to say that very few will be prepping food thereby drawing a crowd after the first few weeks. That being the case, if you decide to make food that is heated - realize that all within a half mile will smell your food and very likely come over to beg or or try to take it. I am not of the Christian faith and have no thought to feed any from my house or hand during any "scenario" as mentioned.

I fully realize what a hungry man will do to feed his family and have even been told by a law enforcement officer that he don't need to store food. He said that he could take it for his family so they don't starve. I know he has a large arsenal and I get his drift. If you don't agree then its the safety of you and yours at risk and I at least did my service in penning this missive.

My thought is to use boiling water to make any and all food, without actually baking or broiling food so I can somewhat limit the smell of food.

To try and cook any food outdoors or to start a large outdoor fire will be dangerous. (A fire will be equated with food to everyone.) Even starting a generator might bring many from a half mile to further depending on the amount of time since their last meal.

Using precautions during the preparation of food might save you and yours from disaster. - S. Lobo

The book Poke Greens For Breakfast? is a collection of memories of a woman who grew up in rural Arkansas in the early 1900s.  It is an excellent antidote for those who might overly romanticizing of that kind of life.  The author, Walta Sorrels Jennings, belonged to a privileged class.  Her step-father owned land, cattle and businesses.  He hired people.  And life was still a relentless, physical grind.  Step-mothers and step-fathers were the norm due to high mortality rates.  Some girls married at age 13. (The reason given was that they had "kissed", but likely that was code for intimate relations.)

The title comes from when her step-father buys the milch cow from a down-on-their luck family.  He was invited to stay the night due to the late hour and the terrible roads.  Breakfast was a smidgen of cornbread, poke greens, and some black coffee.

The writing is not fabulous.  It has continuity breaks and you will read some of the same information in two or three places.  But the information is riveting. - Joe H.

Hi  James,
I wanted to share that Jo-Ann's (a chain craft store) has half-price sign up days for their classes once per month.  The next two half price days are May 7th and June 11th. I am not 100% sure but I think the knitting 101 and crochet 101 basics include supplies. They are under $20 per class, if you sign on the half price days.  They also e-mail out either 40% or 50% coupons once per week. Two months ago they had a $5/off any $5 purchase. I was able to buy several circular knitting needles for $1 - $2 each.   With the 50% off coupon I can get 7 oz of acrylic yarn for under $1.50.  Today, I used the 50% coupons to buy 2 sets of cable needles we needed to learn new stitches. (You can't use a coupon on a sale item, so you always double check to make sure it's not on sale at the register.)    

I know a lot of readers are probably cringing at my mention of cheap acrylic yarn :-)  I think higher end yarn/needles and learning from a yarn shop owner is ideal but the cost might prohibit people who are just starting out. I wanted to mention the half-price classes and coupons as an inexpensive way to learn the basic stitches from hands on instruction and obtain some supplies to practice with. There are so many skills within knitting, crocheting, tatting, spinning, looming, etc to dive into later if someone wants to invest more in classes and  supplies from a yarn shop.    Happy Easter! :-) - Lisa E. 

JWR Replies: Handspinning, knitting and darning are valuable skills, and I do recommend learning them. But as previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, those skills are best suited to very long term TEOTWAWKI situations. For most folks, simply buying several Merino wool sweaters at a thrift store and buying a footlocker full of factory-made spare socks will suffice for preparedness for situations lasting up to five years.

Some localities have tank certification ordinances that virtually prohibit private ownership and therefore supplier shopping. Suppliers certify their own tanks and refuse to fill "un-certified" tanks. Depending on the locality obtaining a certificate can be a hair ball. Those who are considering private purchase of a tank should first inquire among the local suppliers to ascertain if any bureaucratic roadblocks are lurking in the way of obtaining propane fill-ups. - Dollardog

Michael Pollaro writes in Forbes: US government’s fiscal plight, the numbers say it all

J.B.G. sent this from The Telegraph: Gold price could rise to $1,700 an ounce

More housing market doom: Distressed Properties Claim 40% of Existing-Home Sales. (Thanks to SurvivalBlog's Poet Laureate G.G. for the link.)

Loyal content contributor F.G. sent this: A Frightening Satellite Tour Of America's Foreclosure Wastelands

Doug C. recommended: Survivalist Ahead of Silver and Gold

Items from The Economatrix:

Government Cash Handouts Now Top Tax Revenues

Obama Warns Spending Cuts Could Trigger Second Recession. "Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!"

US Home Foreclosures Soar to Level Never Seen Before in History

$6 Gas By Summer?

Top World Bank Economist Warns US Starting to Look Like Russia

Silver Surges Over $46.25 oz As Rumors Of A Short Squeeze And Cornering Market Gain Credence. (JWR Adds: When I last checked, spot silver just jumped another $1.50 per ounce at the opening bell on the Globex, Sunday evening, to $47.61. The short squeeze is on! By the way, keep a close eye on the U.S. Dollar Index. A break below 72 for several days could signal a Dollar Panic.

Gold Launched To New Record Highs By 50 Factors

Ron in Florida suggested this YouTube slide show: How to Make Powdered Eggs

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I'm considering doing something special to celebrate SurvivalBlog reaching the 30 Million Unique Visits milestone. That is coming up soon. Any suggestions?

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K.A.F. kindly sent this: Five Tech-Related Ways to Reuse an Altoids Tin

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Jeff F. sent a link to a bit of data, for those considering retreat locales: The Best and Worst Run States In America: A Survey of All Fifty. Of course, state indebtedness is just one factor to consider. For example, Hawaii is highly ranked, but who would want to live with such draconian gun laws?

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New York case underscores Wi-Fi privacy dangers. (Thanks to K.T. for the link.)

"The philosophy of gun control: Teenagers are roaring through town at 90 MPH, where the speed limit is 25. Your solution is to lower the speed limit to 20." - Sam Cohen, inventor of the Neutron Bomb

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Many of our family and friends have teased us about my husband's and my desire to live as independently and as far away from others as we possibly can. They have often scoffed at our (as one relative called it) “end of the world pantry”. These are of course the same family and friends that love to vacation at our place. The very same that called immediately after 9/11 and asked if the violence and terror reached near their homes could they come and stay with us. These same people have begun calling in the days since the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan and are asking what they can do, or should do to prepare for a possible earthquake or other natural disaster in their area. The laughing and teasing has stopped and the listening has started, but we fear as with the 9/11 attacks, as soon as the around the clock media coverage dies down, so will the listening.

There are a good many people reading this that are like my husband and I once were. You are dreaming of the day that you can afford to move to your ideal place, but not quite there yet. We spent 14 years dreaming and planning, but almost no time at all actually preparing for the life we now live. We read many books on homesteading and wilderness living. We attended every outdoor type show we could find. We talked about living in the woods and wore out our copy of the Lehman’s catalog and Abigail Gehring's "Back to Basics" book. However we didn’t do much actual learning and practicing of the skills we need to live where we now do. In that respect, we were not much different from our unprepared and panic-stricken family and friends.

Our home is located seven miles from a very small town of about (to quote a recent local graduate, from a graduating class of 12 students) "400 people and 10,000 cows". It is primarily farmland, campgrounds and hiking trails. To get to the place we have called home for 14 years now, you go through the small town, past the last campground and park at a pullout on the county road. If the weather is conducive (it is often not) and the snowmobile is running well (it is often not) then we can snowmobile in the two miles to our home. Much of the time we walk. The trek is two miles with a gain of about 1,000 feet in elevation. There is no groomed trail, we have had to climb over downed trees, walk around mudslides and hike through chest deep snow. We have come face to face with cougar, bear, and elk on this trail. Perhaps scariest of all, we have several times run in to illiterate hunters and mushroom pickers as well as quite a few looky-loos that just want to see “the weird survivalist people” that live up the hill. (The use of the term “illiterate” is justified as these poor folks cannot read the numerous "No Trespassing" signs, nor do they have the capacity to understand gates and chains.)

It doesn’t matter if it is raining, or below zero, or the ice is so thick that there is no way for our crampons to dig in as we attempt to slide uphill, that steep trail is still the only way home. In the non- snow time, which is about 4-5 months a year here, we can drive our old one ton pickup in and out for our larger deliveries. That is if the road is not washed out and if the creek can be safely crossed and if our old truck can handle the switchbacks and steep trail and if it is not too muddy and isn’t too rutted from when it was muddy. Our snow free days are about two months behind those of the valley located only 8 miles down the mountain. We have often hiked out in two feet of snow, and reached the valley to play softball on a completely snow free, green field in 60 degree weather, even though that is less than 10 miles from our snow covered home.

Our water comes from a spring and is gravity fed to our home. Our septic is also gravity operated, so no power for us is no problem. Our only source of heat is wood and that is also often how we heat water and cook. We do have limited power, but we really don’t use it much except for refrigeration and freezers. We homeschooled our children and amazingly as adults they are all intelligent human beings capable of working hard and making a living. We live in a very remote home and we like it that way.

The same friends and family that used to scoff but now ask how they can live as we do seem more panicked than prepared. So many of these otherwise intelligent people don’t seem to have the slightest idea what it takes to live in the wilderness, or even to live in a smaller community on a little farm. They have absolutely no idea how to survive for more than about 24 hours should a disaster of any kind befall them where they currently live. If you are as we once were, dreamers, then perhaps some of our “should have” list could be helpful to you. Even if you currently live in a cramped apartment in the city, or small home in the suburbs, there are many things you can be learning and practicing right now to help you when you do make the leap to the wilderness. Even if you plan on staying in the city or suburbs and riding out whatever storm may come your way, get prepared now and don’t end up like so many of the people we know. Be ready instead of reckless.

I cannot stress this one enough. While model types may look great in a business suit or fancy evening dress, stick thin will most likely not cut it in the woods, even less likely to cut it is the couch potato.  It has taken more strength and stamina than we ever thought we had in us to live where we live. We could have saved some valuable time once here, not too mention exhaustion and blisters, if we had been in better shape. What one wants when living a simpler (ha!) life is lean muscle and lots of stamina. This requires real healthy eating and strength training. Joining an expensive gym is not required, and in fact could be a major waste of money. Instead, walk everywhere you can. After work strap on a backpack with weight in it and walk, uphill whenever possible. If you do not live in an area conducive to walking, then get an inexpensive used treadmill off Craig’s List or your local want ads. Slowly increase the weight in your backpack until you can easily carry at least 1/3 your body weight. Do push-ups and squats and lunges as often as possible.

My husband recently ventured into the valley only 10 miles away from our home, but almost 1,500 feet in elevation lower than our home. While he was gone we had a freak snowstorm that dumped over 4 feet of powder in less than 24 hours. If we were skiing, 2 feet of powder would have been awesome, or snowmobiling in say 1 foot of new powder we would have had a great time. However walking in 4 feet of powder is nearly impossible. It took 36 hours total and three separate attempts for my husband to get back home. He was able on the second day to get the snowmobile about ½ way up the hill but that was only after taking numerous runs at the very steep hill. Then he walked up the rest of the way in chest deep snow as I walked down to help break a trail. I had on our large snowshoes, he, unfortunately, was caught off guard and had to walk in his hiking boots without snowshoes. It took two full hours for me to walk about ½ of a mile down, and the same amount of time for him to walk about ½ mile up. It was exhausting and very difficult. Although the snowshoes prevented me from sinking all the way down in the snow, I was still sinking to about thigh high. Since I couldn’t get my snowshoes above the top of the snow, each step I took I was lifting all the snow that fell in on top of my snowshoes. It was kind of like walking in hip deep water with 20 lb. ankle weights on. My husband was walking uphill without snowshoes and literally pushing snow with his chest. Once we met up it was another hour until we were back in the house. Even though both of us were physically spent there were still animals to tend, fires to build, wood to be brought in and food to cook. We can’t have pizza delivered to our house! At 50 and in good physical shape and used to this type of extreme exertion we were nearly done in. Are you in the kind of shape that could handle this level of exercise? If there were an EMP or other disaster that prevented you from driving to your bug-out place, could you walk there? Are you capable of chasing an elk for 5 miles and then after finally shooting it, gutting it and quartering it could you carry it back to your camp or home? You can and should be getting into real physical shape right now while you are waiting to get to your ideal spot.

As for eating, there is an excellent book titled “Nourishing Traditions”, by Sally Fallon. This book has been a literal lifesaver for us. We used to live the “low fat, soy protein, low salt” type diet and what we got for it was hormonal imbalances, extra fat, and poor health. Now believe it or not we eat lots of animal protein, veggies and fruits and healthy fats – like eggs and milk products and olive oil and nuts. We are by no means puritans when it comes to our diet, but we are living proof that every little bit helps. After following the outlines in this book, we are now at healthy weights and have (for the first time in a long time) healthy cholesterol levels, and healthy blood pressure. We are at real healthy weights, not some ridiculous insurance company’s idea of healthy weight. Although overweight according to the charts, our fat to muscle ratio is terrific, better than when we were at our “ideal”. We also have only been sick with the flu once in the past 16 years. Unfortunately it was the H1N1 virus, which we believe we picked up on a trip to the city about a week before we came down with it. Other than gallstones (a result of rapid weight loss) and the removal of the offensive gallbladder, we have had no serious health problems at all. Most of our medical issues have been accidents with the snowmobile, chainsaw or chopping wood (all due to our own stupidity) or falls on the ice or post-holing into deep, rotten snow. When we first moved here, in spite of the fact that we had hiked and backpacked often, it still took me about 90 minutes to hike up to our house in good weather. Now on a packed trail I can hike up here in about 20 minutes with a loaded backpack and still have energy once I am home. The overall health benefits from being in shape and eating well are invaluable in the wilderness.


Many places in the woods or desert areas do not have electricity or cell reception. Many people are also addicted (and I mean that in the literal sense!) to their computers, iPhones, iPods, iPads, televisions, DVDs and gaming systems. Not only will many of these things not work if there were an EMP or extreme disaster, but many areas do not have access for making these things work right now. In spite of an ugly cell tower blocking our otherwise beautiful view of the top of the mountain we live on, cell phones don’t work here. In fact, to get cell reception you have to climb up the hill behind our house, or go to the valley where cell phones work in a few choice places. There is no high-speed Internet hook-up either. We are lucky to be hooked up through our dial-up service at 26 kbps – that is on a good day, it can be as slow as 9 kbps. Those television commercials that claim you can have high speed internet no matter where you live, don’t often apply to extremely remote places. Even though high speed is available only a few miles down the mountain from us, we cannot get it here. That translates to no videos, no Skype, next to impossible to download pictures attached to e-mails. We cannot play games on our computer, except for solitaire and a few other card games. No chat rooms or Facebook, no Twittering, basically we can e-mail text only, and view text only sites, or sites that do have pictures instead for us will have boxes with little red “X’s” in them where the pictures should be. All this is contingent on the phones actually being up and running, which in the last 16 years has been about ¾ of the time. We have had visitors that nearly go stir crazy without constant input and instantaneous feedback of their (mostly, but admittedly not always) narcissistic “social sites”. While we are on the subject, no one has 200 “friends”! You may know 200 people, but these are not your “friends” America! These are simply, for the most part, other people that are so wrapped up in themselves they also believe that other people actually care when they took a bath or where they ate dinner. Obviously it can have some huge benefits, such as people being able to contact others letting them know of safety after the Japan earthquake and tsunami, or after Hurricane Katrina. But lets be real here folks: The vast majority of people on social networking sites are hooking up with old flames and bragging, or making stuff up about their lives. There are people in our extended families that can spend hours on the computer, but cannot finish a school or work assignment or housework. We personally know three different people that ended up having affairs and ruining their marriages and they all began on Facebook!

Besides the time-sucking computer, there are also many folks who come home from work and plop in front of a television. That is just as bad, and no, watching television with family does not count as actually spending time with them. Our teenaged niece actually sat at one end of her couch, while her friend sat at the other and instead of talking to one another, they texted each other! One teenaged visitor to our home once asked, “You don’t watch television, and you don’t have video games. Cell phones don’t work here and your Internet connection is lousy and you don’t let your kids get on there anyway. What exactly do you do?!?” He wasn’t being rude; he was asking a question very seriously because he couldn’t imagine what one would do without all the constant electronic input he was used to having. Many of you reading this may be included in this population of folks that “need” their electronic fixes daily. Perhaps you should try now to go without these things. Actually turn off your handheld devices, including cell phones. Unplug your television and gaming systems. In fact, do without as much electricity as possible for at least one week, a month is better.

Obviously we are not recommending that you all unplug your refrigerator or freezer and let your food spoil. Also there are a few (doctors, people on transplant lists, pregnant women) that may actually have need of a cell phone, but maybe limit it to necessary calls only. For those of you with older children, this could be the challenge of a lifetime, but give it a try. Many will find that after the initial shock wears off, you are actually living life, instead of just tweeting about it. Another benefit is you might actually spend some real time in actual conversation or playing with your children or reconnecting with your spouse. In my old life I worked in social services. I was continually told by clients that they did not have time to try out some new discipline technique, or take a class or actually cook with their child. When I asked these people that seemingly had “no extra time” in their schedules if they watched television, virtually all of them admitted that they spent about 4-5 hours each day after work either on their computer or watching television. I would then ask them if they wanted to explain to their child later on that they didn’t have time for their children because they needed to watch a television program, or they needed to update their facebook page. Most, but sadly not all, said that they thought in light of what they were actually spending their time on, that they could change their schedule to benefit their child. There probably isn’t anyone that reaches the end of their life and says, “If only I had spent more time watching television or on the computer and less time with my family”. Get used to not only no electricity before you are forced to do so, but also get used to actually doing stuff with your family – most people enjoy it a lot!

A mother of four once lamented to me that she wanted to get her kids out of the low income housing they were living in and move them to the country. She was upset because she said there simply was no way she could save even one penny each month. She was also very concerned because her children were exhibiting some rather serious behavioral problems. They lived in a cramped three-bedroom apartment, and there were six (yes that is six) televisions in the home. There were gaming systems hooked up to all but two of the television’s. All had DVD players attached – as well as four individual DVD players in the family van.  All the children had numerous handheld games and laptops. Mom had a big computer in the dining room (it was on the table because all the kids ate in front of their own televisions or game systems). She was paying for three cell phone bills for her and the two oldest children. They ate almost exclusively pre-packaged, overly processed food and take out. The family was receiving food stamps, free medical and mom was getting free educational services so she could better herself. The family was stuck in a cycle of self -created mayhem. Her children told her what to do, and blatantly defied even her simplest of requests. They were not allowed to go outside because of the neighborhood in which they lived. This mom asked for my help, so I sat with her for hours and went over her budget and showed her how she could easily save at least $300 per month. Some of the cuts she could make immediately were to get rid of all but one television, and sell all gaming systems. The family didn’t truly have need to be paying for Internet at home as the children never used it for school, and the mother admitted that she mostly (in her words) “got lost” in it to avoid her children. Her schooling to that point had only required printing of papers. Since she lived in an area where free Internet was available through their public library, it really was a waste of her money. Some of her children’s behavior problems might also be alleviated if she insisted on family time instead of five separate individuals living in one apartment. Unfortunately for her children, this woman today, 10 years later, lives in the same low- income apartment in the city. The neighborhood has gotten worse, she is further in debt, and her children that stayed in school (two dropped out) are in special education classes for severe emotional and behavioral problems. She fantasized about living in the country, but was either unwilling or unable to do the work it took to get there. If you are serious about wanting to move from the city, then get yourself in financial shape to do so now.

Cut out all extras. Almost any budget has some wiggle room to lessen output and increase savings. We struggled for a long time financially, but luckily for our children and me, my husband was determined to be debt free. Now as many of our friends and family are drowning in debt and living in homes they owe more on than they are worth, we own our home and vehicles and we have money. Even if we don’t have everything we want, we definitely have everything we need. We have even taken some awesome vacations and paid cash for them so we could truly enjoy the trip, instead of worrying how we were going to pay off our credit cards once we got home. Our children as well, now all adults have proven to be very thrifty and seem to recognize the difference between wants and needs. If you get control of your finances now, you are that much closer to reaching your goals.

Some skills we have needed and used often are cooking from scratch; building a fire (there is an actual skill to this art!); wood cutting and gathering; cleaning, loading and firing a gun; basic home repairs; animal care – including butchering; gardening and preserving of foods; first-aid (I have had to give stitches twice); teaching homeschooling; and many others. While we could and did practice some of these skills before moving here, such as hunting and gun care, and canning and gardening, we had to learn many others the hard way. One such hard-learned lesson was how to build a proper fire and clean a chimney and NEVER burn wet wood! We learned this by a chimney fire that nearly cost us our home. Now we know to burn only properly cured (dry) wood and to clean the chimney about 3-4 times a year. We also learned from an old man to burn a “super hot fire” in the morning and let it “blaze away” for about an hour before dampering it down. Since we have done this, we have little creosote build up when we do clean out the chimney. Also clean chimneys draw better and burn hotter making the house warmer with less wood. Canning is another skill that I highly recommend you practice before you need to actually can anything. It can be tricky and I have found that nothing replaces practice and actual experience in perfecting this skill.

In order to learn and actually perform these skills now there are many resources. The most obvious are older friends and relatives that have actually done these things. There are also gun clubs in most cities and towns that offer beginner classes. Local hospitals and community centers often offer classes for free or low cost on everything from cooking to first aid to gardening. Years ago when I started canning (and even some tough questions now) I found our county extension experts to be a fantastic resource. County extension offices (in the government pages of most phone books) offer free advice and pamphlets on many subjects such as gardening, canning, and curing meats, animal care and others. Home Depot and Lowe's offer classes for free or materials only fees on everything from installing a water heater to putting up sheetrock to building a deck.

Another great resource for learning some of these skills are nursing homes and senior centers. Many older folks are more than happy to share what they know and also most love to have an occasional visitor. Simply ask the director if they could match you up with someone or if you could post a notice on their bulletin stating what you are looking for. Something like, “Young housewife seeking to learn art of baking from scratch” or, “Middle aged man wanting to learn building and home repair skills”. We were fortunate to have grandparents that lived a very long time who were very willing to share what knowledge they had gleaned through the years. To learn about animal care you might consider volunteering at an animal shelter or vets office, you can gain a lot of knowledge and do something worthwhile at the same time. Most people learn best by actually doing things, instead of simply reading about them or watching a DVD.

Basically what I am really talking about here, is instead of wasting your time dreaming or fantasizing about what you want someday, learn to do it now so when you do realize your dream of living out away from all the chaos of a city, you can actually relax and enjoy your accomplishments. Become a “doer” not a “dreamer’.

What is the big picture?  What is the point of it all - all the hours of prepping, all the hard work, researching and sacrifices?  To get to Heaven, where “no eye has seen, no ear heard what the Lord has prepared for the who loves him.” See that?! the Lord prepares too!  but He is preparing for our coming home.  Heaven is our true home and we are but pilgrims on our journey home.  He is planning a big home-coming party for us.  He is preparing a place for us and He wants us to be with him forever.  “And when I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:3-4

Jesus wants to be with us here and now, not only in heaven.  He wants us to find him and be with him in our day to day activities, our prepping, our frustrations and laughter, our joys and sorrows.  I for one can get very wrapped up in life, whether it be family problems, prepping, work, etc.  I can also fall prey to fear and I think many of us are like that.  Fear is a great danger.  The Lord said many many times, “do not be afraid.”  “Take courage.”  “Let not your hearts be troubled.”  He knows full well the human condition, the fallout of original sin yet he still encourages us not to fear.  How are we to do that in a practical way?  In our day to day life?  How can we spiritually prepare?  Here is one way that may help, a tool in your spiritual survival box. 

Some call it lectio divino or divine reading, meditation, reflection - call it what you will.  Whatever you call it, it is a way to get to know the Lord and draw closer to him.  Basically, you take a section from the Bible and chew it up in your mind and heart.  Let me give you an example.  Take the Gospel, the story of the woman at the well, John 4:5-42.  Before you begin to read, pray to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to enlighten you and be with you in the reading, to come to know Jesus better, to experience Him just as real as you experience your spouse, your children running around the house, your family and friends and people you bump into on the street.  Go into the reading asking, “what does this say about Jesus?"  Don’t we want to know more the one who saved us, redeemed us, died for us on the wood of the cross, rose from the dead, conquering death and sin, and is now preparing a place for us, with his heavenly Father?  The one who taught us to call God Father, and made us adopted sons and daughters of the Most High. 

Read it once, then read it again slowly.  Perhaps a particular sentence or phrase struck you, jumped out of the page, stood out.  Perhaps you raised your eyebrows at a particular something.  Listen to the still, small voice.  If nothing stands out, pick a sentence.  In the story of the woman at the well the sentence that stood out for me was when Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work."  Now we are going to pick that apart, continually asking, “what does this say about Jesus?”  In an objective way try to find out what Jesus’ words reveal about himself.  I don’t mean do we think it means, but something we can say is a fact about Jesus revealed by His Words.  The way to do this is to get to the nitty gritty of the meaning of words. Simply pick apart the sentence word by word.  Sounding technical, huh?  Give it a chance.  You will be amazed at what you can learn from doing this.  Part of this is about having a hunger for Him, and knowledge of his Word.   

So, in this sentence the first word we would look at is “food.”  A very popular word, rich with a lot of meaning. Ask, “what is food?”  Food is nourishment for the body.  You can even go to Webster’s dictionary where the definition we see is, “material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy” and “something that nourishes, sustains, or supplies".   Okay, good.  Now let’s move onto the next word.  “Do"  Do means to “bring to pass, to carry out", and “Will" means desire or wish, and request, command.

For brevity I am going to stop at those three words.  Just from that we can say that the will of Him who sent Jesus is that which nourishes, sustains and supplies Jesus. Jesus is fed, nourished, sustained by doing, carrying out, the desire of Him who sent him.  That will bring further questions.  Who sent him?  The sentence may or may not answer that question but we can fall back on our previous studies and say that His Father sent him.  You can ask, what is “father" but let’s stick to just this for now.  Keep going back to the question, “What does this say about Jesus?”  That his sustenance comes from doing his fathers request.  Doing his Father’s will is Jesus’ vital process.  It gives him energy.  Now if I want to be like Jesus I can say, “doing the fathers will sustains and gives me energy.  It invigorates me!  it isn’t a drag, it is a joy.  A joy to serve, a joy to work, to sow, to reap.  That is usually not what I think when I am breaking my back!  My thoughts say that work is a bore, a drag, drains the energy out of me.  But Jesus says otherwise.  Jesus sustains me, his love fills me up. it is the food I need.  If you really want to go deep you can go to the origin of the word, often the Latin , the root of the word.

I may ask, “how am I to live this word today?  This beautiful message I received from God.  1. Be joyful throughout the day and in my toils.  Yes, I may get tired, but remember that doing gods will gives me energy, this will invigorate me through out the day.  And that is what i will try to do, through out the day I will reflect back on what I learned in my morning reading (because that is the best time to do it - first things, when i am fresh,  when my mind clear and not bogged down with the activity and thoughts of the day) of the scripture.  I even write it down on a little piece of paper and carry it with me as a tangible and physical reminder.  When I go to the bathroom or have a moment alone I pull the paper out of my pocket and see written “Jesus sustains me, Jesus gives me energy, Jesus loves me, Jesus is with me” - whatever gem it is I learned/received that morning, can carry me through the day.  It takes discipline, but it is a habit that can quickly come especially because the reward is so good.  It is nice to be invigorated when tired! 

What you learn will sometimes console you, sometimes challenge you.  For example, In Matthew 11:29 when Jesus says that he is gentle, that may sound nice, until you want to curse the guy or gal who just cut you off!  “Jesus is gentle.  Jesus is gentle” becomes the constant prayer.  Or when I am a person who has a hard time speaking up for myself and the reading revealed to me that “Jesus is assertive,” and I want to follow in his footsteps!  I speak up.  If I don’t, then no biggie.  At the end of the day I can reflect on how I was faithful to the word.  Was I faithful to this word?  Maybe the answer is  “yes, I renewed my strength in your word,” or “well, I could’ve talked less and worked more today.”  Did I hope in God’s word?  Did I love?  That is the big picture too!  Charity - did I serve today? Because, “if I speak in the tongue of men and angels ...and have not love, I gain nothing...So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.  Jesus also says: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither rust nor moth consume and where  thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is there also your heart will be.”  Matthew 6:20.

What are we storing up in heaven?  Our retreat houses are full, our BOBs are ready, but what have we stored in our heavenly, eternal home, where our Father waits for us?  Works (Charity) are good, but we also need to know the Lord - know him like we know our relatives, co-workers, best friend.  Wouldn’t that be nice to say?  I know Jesus as my best friend.  After all he is.  He is always there, always strong, always forgiving, and always freeing us.

In this entry, the idea of having a hand pump for the water well, and wanting to have at least some redundancy regarding the ability to pump water, is mentioned. Since potable water is a primary concern for me, I have been looking into the alternatives to our municipal water supply (which currently depends on the electrical grid to be operational).  

Since I sell solar electric equipment, I naturally thought of having a solar powered water pump as a back up. But what if something knocks out my solar array? I ultimately would like to have a manual water pump. At the same time, I have a limited budget, so the equipment needs to be very cost effective.  

Searching for an solution, I found the Simple Pump.

This is the most efficient solar pump that I have found, and it can be powered directly from a single solar panel without using batteries. If the motor fails, then it can easily be replaced with a handle, and even a child could operate the pump manually.   I have talked with several of my neighbors about taking advantage of the Simple Pump "Friends and Family Discount". I really don't want to be the only one in the neighbor with a working well.   Thank you for keeping the discussions going.  - P.B.

Mr. Rawles:
As usual many thanks for the time and effort on the prep subject. Just wanted to pass along a note on grid-down well pumping. My wife and I have been off grid for 20 years now. We enjoy the outdoors and just consider it a long adventure. As to pumping the well the best option we have found to date is the Shurflo 9300 series pump. It has the best power to pumping ratio I have found for low volume pumping at an average of 78watts for 1.2 to 1.6gpm @ 150' total head. We do miss the volume of the conventional 3/4hp pump during fire season but have added 20,000 gallons of storage to help out a bit. One of the tipping factors on the cost/benefit scale is that it can be installed by one average to competent person. - Brent S.


Dear Editor:
Your advice to avoid DC well pumps is out of date. Over 15 years I have installed Shurflo, Solarjack (now Sun Pumps), SunRise (defunct), ETA/Lorentz, SunRotor, Grundfos SQF, and Grundfos SQ (AC only) submersible pumps in my trade as an off-grid PV specialist.

First, the issue has nothing to do with DC versus AC - both have identical voltage drop characteristics. Voltage drop is a function of voltage, current, length, and cable resistance. Older DC pumps tended to be low-voltage; that's where this idea came from.

However, "inefficiency" is a red herring, in that any traditional brush-type DC motor runs at a speed that is directly related to voltage. As long as the pump is of a positive-displacement design (diaphragm and helical rotor are the most common today) it will maintain full head capacity, but simply pump at lower speed. Thus, as long as the water volume is adequate for the need, the pump speed and the resistance losses in the wire are irrelevant.

For a simple, low-cost example, the common $850 Shurflo 9325 DC submersible diaphragm pump is rated to 230 feet max head, fits only #10 and #12 two-conductor flat jacketed submersible cable, and pumps about 1.5 gpm m/l at 35V (the maximum power voltage of a 24V nominal array). It can be run, however, at 12V, off a single PV module, at about 50% output. Doesn't hurt the motor at all - in fact, the low speed greatly increases pump life. Six hours/day at 0.75 gpm is 270 gallons -- enough to sustain a remote residence.

On a separate note, several PV-direct submersible pumps (Grundfos SQ Flex, Lorentz, and SunRotor) all take the DC from the PV array and electronically invert it to 3-phase "wild" AC. This eliminates motor brushes and thus most maintenance. All three run off of DC, and all can be run off of AC with an optional AC converter. The control circuitry in these pumps varies pump output with available wattage - again making conductor losses relatively unimportant.

Your blanket statement to avoid DC pumps is thus quite misleading and limits options, as in deep wells that limits a homeowner to either a fueled generator or a large inverter-based supply to run a conventional pump. Incidentally, none of the latter pumps were available ten years ago. Pumps suitable for remote applications have advanced tremendously in recent years.

James Wesley:
Our local propane dealer had a bunch of return rental tanks and was offering them for sale at a reduced price if we fill it as least the first time with them.  I opted for a 1,000 gallon tank and I am thinking of getting a second 1,000 gallon tank. It's a big chunk of cash up front but propane dose not go bad and the price is only going to increase.   I also had them install a "wet valve" and hose so I can fill smaller portable tanks like the ones on my travel trailer, barbeque, ice fishing house heater, and weed burner.   At present we only use propane for the cooking range, refrigerator, on demand water heater, a small back-up space heater in the basement and multi fuel generator.  

I am thinking if times get rough I'll be able to help some of the neighbors keep warm by filling their portable tanks if roads are closed or they can't get propane delivery for any other reason.  Be sure to have the propane delivery person show you how to fill your tanks safely and wear safety gear including eye protection at all times. Thanks for the great blog site. - B.P., at the end of the gravel road in North Dakota

Reader A.A. described this as "Another retreat that could use some OPSEC": Sanctuary Retreat and Survival Center

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My #2 Son alerted me to this: Internet I.D. System? This does not bode well for personal privacy.

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Eric B. suggested this: Why 'Self-Sufficiency' Should Replace 'Sustainability' in the Environmental Movement

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F.G. was the first of several readers to mention this news item: Termites Devour $222,000 in Indian Rupees Stored in Bank Safe. (Another Matthew 6:20 reminder.)

"But from this earth, this grave, this dust, My God shall raise me up, I trust." - Walter Raleigh

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Most of us know the value of a good friend in times of trouble and how they can be of help. And most of us either have had a prepping setback, heard of such setbacks, or have thought of what would happen in case of a setback. You can imagine the loss of valuable preps to such things as flooding, storm damage, or even theft. But recently I had a major setback come from a completely unexpected direction.

In 1997, through my church, I met a wonderful woman and despite our age differences (she was 21 and I was 34) we committed to each other. Even though she was not into prepping, I felt that she would come to understand the necessity to do so. In 2000 we were married and started making plans for a family. We decided that she would finish her Master’s Degree then I would go back to school. In 2003 she finished her degree, and we were blessed by the birth of our daughter.

After a few months, my wife started searching for a job appropriate to her chosen profession and education level. But after seven months, finances dictated that she accept a job at a rate much lower than she deserved.  Unfortunately, this meant that I needed to continue to work full-time in order to try to rebuild some of our exhausted financial cushion. Then we were hit by four hurricanes in a little over a month. We were without power for the better part of three weeks during this time, and without power, I was unable to work. Fortunately, she was working for a state agency at the time, and they only lost power for a couple of days. This really got me into seriously trying to convince her that we needed to start prepping, but she was reluctant. It was when we once again exhausted our cushion and almost ran out of food that she agreed that maybe we could start buying some extra foodstuffs. As I already owned several first rate firearms and about $100 [face value] in junk silver coins, I thought this was okay.

In 2007, shortly after the birth of our son, we moved from an apartment across the state to her hometown and our first home. During the first load we moved, I included the majority of my firearms and silver, as I felt unsafe about some of the people watching us move out. Turns out, I had it wrong. When we made our second trip to our new house, we found that someone had broken in and stolen my firearms, ammo, silver, television, DVD player and other assorted valuables. I was especial upset, because they had gotten the Garand and M1911A1 that my granddad carried through the Pacific as a Marine during WWII. To add insult to injury, the insurance company refused to pay for our losses as we had moved in two days early, and the policy was not yet in effect. Nevertheless, we went on with our lives.

As time went by, we slowly started building our food preps and other small items. By the middle of 2009, we had maybe two months of food stored for the four of us. In late 2009, my mother-in-law came to live with us, and she is a believer that our government will provide for us in any disaster. Needless to say, she thought I was being paranoid. My wife decided that maybe I was going a little overboard with the need to store so much food, and stopped trying to purchase any more than we already had.

In early 2010, I was accepted into the local police academy. This involved working full time during the days, and attending classes nights and Saturdays. The only time that I had to spend with my family, was Sundays and the time I was home to change into uniform after work. But my family was behind me all the way. After nine long months, in early December, I graduated and passed the state exam. I immediately started filling out applications and the waiting began.

Then the biggest setback to date. Exactly one week before Christmas day, my wife said she wanted a divorce and that I needed to move out immediately. It turns out that while I was at school trying to better our lives, she had found someone else. Needless to say, I was completely shocked and devastated. But knowing that nothing good could come from trying to stay and fight it, I moved into a rented room. I decided that she should keep all the preps we had, as our children would be living with her, and I wanted to them the best possibility to survive. The only things I took with me were a .22 rifle and a 9mm pistol. The AR-15, Remington 870 and Glock I left with her, since she knows how to use them. It turns out, this was a mistake.

I was depressed. I felt betrayed. I was angry. But most of all, I missed my kids. When I get up to get ready for work, they aren’t there to “help” me. When it’s time for bed, they aren’t there. I spoke with my pastor. I prayed for the safety of my children. And yes, I cried. I prayed for a new best friend. I looked into myself and found the things about me that I didn’t like. I’m overweight, out of shape, and suddenly poorer. I decided that I needed to change all of these things. I changed my diet. I prayed for a friend to help me. I started hitting the gym five days a week. I prayed for a friend to keep me motivated. I started trying to buy extra food every payday. I used my tax refund to purchase a well used AR-15, 200 rounds of .223, and $3.30 in junk silver coins. I prayed for God to show me someone that would get me through this troubled time, someone that really cared about me, someone that would be there no matter what. And then one morning (two weeks ago) while shaving, I realized that my prayers had been answered. I had been seeing this person every single day of my life. Looking in the mirror, I realized that the only person that could do all the things that I asked, was me. Nobody could be a better friend to me than myself. I thanked God for giving me this answer, and thanked Him again for being so patient since it took me so long to realize what He was trying to show me. Since that day, I have found myself.

I am continuing trying to prep as best I can, but I am severely limited in the storage space I have. It was while searching the web for storage ideas that I came across SurvivalBlog. I have yet to purchase any of the books recommended here, but I know that I will do the best I can with what I have. I don’t have a BOL or a BOV or even a BOB, but what I do have is mine. I will keep going until I have gone through every bean, bullet and Band-Aid, knowing that my best friend will always be there.

Oh, BTW, the reason that leaving the preps behind with her turned out to be a bad idea, she used the food so she wouldn’t have to go grocery shopping, and sold the remaining guns and gear to buy her new boyfriend a Valentine’s Day present.

Mr. Rawles:

Thank you so much for enriching our lives with your knowledge.  My question is:

I lost electricity this past week for two days.  I had enough water stored for me and my wife for cooking, drinking and flushing toilets stored and for our dogs, too.  But what would I do in a longer duration power outage?

I remember my grandfather having an old hand pump on his well that we used to get a drink from on hot summer days when I was a kid.  My question is, where can I get one of these kinds of hand pumps now and how hard is it to adapt to my well head? Thanks, - Tim P.

JWR Replies: Depending on the size of your well casing, you might be able to use a hand pump alongside your AC submersible pump.

Traditional Pitcher-type hand pumps with the pump cylinder located at the surface ("shallow well pumps") are generally limited to lifting water from a depth no greater than one atmosphere (33.6 feet.) For a hand pump to lift water that is any deeper, you would need to use a pump that has it cylinder at the bottom of the well. Typically, the cylinder is connected to a sucker rod that is attached to an actuator at the surface. A sucker rod arrangement is commonly seen with both windmills and "jack" or "cricket" type pumps. But several vendors like Lehman's and Ready Made Resources sell deep well hand pumps that employ a sucker rod. One relatively new brand is the Bison. They are made of stainless steel.

Deep well pump technology hasn't changed much in 100 years: brass pump cylinders, leather valves, and ash wood sucker rods are still used. Although these days, fiberglass is often used in place of wood for the sucker rods. This is extremely reliable technology--and truly "appropriate technology" for survivalists. It is not unusual to hear of windmill pumps that haven't been serviced in 30 years that are still going strong. It is noteworthy that one half of a set of "leathers" can be changed by pulling up just the sucker rod. But replacing the lower leathers (in the bottom of the cylinder) requires pulling up all of the well pipe sections, to access the brass pump cylinder.

For those who can afford an alternate power system, there are a lot of options for deep wells, including submersible pumps, jet pumps, and Brumby (air compressor) pumps. The latter have recently been developed with great success in Australia. Because the mechanical "works" are at the surface, and even if you have to pull up the cylinder, it can be done by hand. in most cases. Thus, they are a good choice for survivalists who own large PV power systems.

As I've mentioned before in SurvivalBlog, a deep well pump that has its motor "down hole" should probably be an AC motor. (With an alternative power system, AC power could be supplied by an inverter.) Because of the tremendous line loss with low voltage DC cabling, it is not efficient to have a submersible low voltage DC well pump that is more than about 60 feet underground, even when using very large gauge DC power cables.

If you like to target shoot to keep your skill level up like me and have red dot scopes then you know how expensive those coin or "button" batteries are. I have been looking for a rechargeable coin battery for a while. Well I found it. There are now CR-2032 LI-ION rechargeable batteries. For $1.75 each (if you buy 10 or more), I think its a deal. The recharger is only $5.75.

I hope this will help those who enjoy plinking and are looking to save a few dollars. Service was great and fast shipment. Disclosure: I have no connection to this company. - Jeff B.

JWR Replies: As was pointed out by reader Karl A.: The CR-2032 LI-ION battery is NOT a direct replacement for the CR-2032!  It's voltage is twice that of the standard CR-2032.  You might fry your very expensive red dot sight trying it as a direct replacement. If you have a device that needs two CR-2032 batteries, then you might be able to use a conductive spacer made from a dead battery, along with one of the new Lithium Ion batteries.

John R. sent a link to some great analysis by Rob Kirby: Amaranth Kill Shot: Collateral Damage in a 78 Trillion Dollar Derivatives Book Compliments of J.P. Morgan Chase

Also from John, a piece by Claus Vogt: Two Collapse Scenarios

Michael P. suggested the latest ShadowStats report: Hyperinflation - 2011 (Updated)

Scott M. recommended this segment wherein Neal Cavuto interviews Former Treasury Chief Restructuring Officer Jim Millstein: Debt Ceilings and the Risk of U.S. Default

Hedge fund assets top $2 trillion for the first time. (Thanks to Mark W. for the link.)

Items from The Economatrix:

Oil Settles Above $111 Per Barrel

What's Really Worrisome About US Treasury Bonds

The EU Cracks Up

$50 Silver:  The Price Point Of Liberty

Jim Sinclair On Gold And The World Financial System

Reader G.E.C. wrote to note: "I have been surprised to see little mention of Smithfield Hams.  In the South these are called, generically, "country hams", and are considered a special delicacy.  They are salt-cured, bagged in cotton, and hung without refrigeration.  The original "Smithfield Ham" was tested and preserved well for twenty years.  I'll be adding several to my supplies."

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Safecastle has introduced a new Solar Laptop Bag, using components that they've assembled from reliable makers like Maxpedition. (Their Gleneagle Messenger Bag.)

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Keeley flagged this: Second Amendment Rights Once Again at Risk

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A bit of frightening news: Researcher: iPhone, iPad track users' whereabouts. (Thanks to Kevin S. for the link.)

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T. mentioned a handy "finder" map for alternative fuel stations in the U.S.

"If [it had not been] the LORD who was on our side, now may Israel say;

If [it had not been] the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us:

Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us:

Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul:

Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.

Blessed [be] the LORD, who hath not given us [as] a prey to their teeth.

Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.

Our help [is] in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth." - Psalm 124 (KJV)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

For those of you who are contemplating leaving the city and moving to a small country town, there are quite a few differences that you and your lifestyle should take into account if your new life is to be a happy one. Small towns don’t change too much no matter what country you live in. I live in Australia.

I’m retired after working with a variety of state and local government departments over the years. I’ve chosen to live in an old stone church on about an acre of land in a small town of about two hundred people in a predominantly wheat growing district. After leaving home for my first job, I’ve chosen never to live in a city – visit, yes; live, no.
Don’t get me wrong, I like living by myself and after all these years I’m used to living in small towns.

But for those of you who decide to take The Big Step, there are a few things that you may need to be aware of that probably didn’t apply to life in the city.

Fitting In
It’s all very well buying a place in the country and planning to put into practice the skills you’ve been acquiring on a small scale.
But becoming a real part of a community can be a bit trickier. You are a new-comer in a town where probably nearly everyone is related to some degree. I knew how to cope with this from my previous working life – be friendly but not familiar. People will try to find out all about you (and I mean all about you). I’ve always preferred being selective about giving out personal information and opinions and I keep my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut.
Eventually you will find a circle of friends with whom you are comfortable and you may choose to be more forthcoming with them. Note that is still your choice about what information you divulge.
I found it useful to work out a few answers in advance. The one I was asked most often was “Why did you choose to live here and not somewhere else?
I could say with all honesty, “I was born in this state, I still have friends only two hours up the road, I have relatives two hours down the road and my son is three hours away so it’s nice and central”.
The only major thing the enquirer learned from that answer is that I have a son.

Those of you with a spouse and children may find it easier to acquire a wider circle of acquaintances more quickly than a single person because you will be meeting people from a wider range of organisations.

I have not spread it about that I’m a prepper although many people know that I grow my own veg (I’m mostly vegetarian and I give away lots), I bottle and preserve my produce (but so do many country people) and I re-use and recycle where possible (being environmentally friendly). They can’t miss the 55,000 litre rainwater tank I’ve had installed and plumbed though (the cost of water is increasing and I’m drought-proofing my garden) and they won’t miss my solar panels next month (the cost of electricity is increasing). They’ve all watched the progress I’m making with building my chook house (most country people keep chickens).  All perfectly logical and plausible reasons.

No matter how well prepared you may think you are I’m sure that you will come across a situation peculiar to your chosen area that will require you to do things differently from what ‘the book’ recommended.
Be prepared to admit that you can’t do something or you know nothing about it and be willing to accept advice from the locals. As you mix and mingle, gradually you will be let in on where the best fishing spots are, who catches game that you can swap something for, who has the skills that you don’t yet have.
I don’t have a chain saw and I admit they frighten me. My neighbours (Bless them!) drop off a load of wood periodically. In return I pass vegetables on to them, help with computer glitches and feed the animals when they are away.
I have enough farming friends so that I can access bulk supplies of wheat and chick peas in a swap situation.
I can’t weld, but I make sure I patronise the local fellow for any jobs I need doing – and pay promptly. I don’t want to get a reputation as a slow payer with city attitudes. No-one in a small town is anonymous.

When it comes to outside work occasionally a job comes up where two hands are just not enough or I just don’t have the physical strength to tackle it.
Thanks to the contacts and friendships I’ve made, I know I can ask someone for help and that help will be given freely. One day I came home with a big round bale of mulching hay in the trailer and found that there was no way on earth that I was going to get it off by myself. Either it became a permanent attachment or I swallowed my pride and asked for a friend’s husband for help. I chose the latter option.

After your move to a small town another thing you may have to cultivate is patience.
Not only do seeds not appear overnight, neither do tradesmen or parts. This is another reason to stock up on anything and everything. After a meltdown when (or if) materiel becomes available again, which town will be supplied first – the big regional centre or my town of 200 people?
This is why you will end up with skills that you didn’t even know you were capable of.

Much has already been written about the importance of keeping healthy. People far more qualified than I, have written excellent articles for your education.
But I’d like, (albeit reluctantly) to take it one step further.
Because I live alone these are some questions I’ve had to think about and for which I’ve had to try to find workable solutions.
My answers will be very different from yours because of your own individual circumstances.  And again, I live in a small town not out in the middle of no-where.
How are you going to contact someone in an emergency especially if the phones are down?
Who are you going to contact?
How will a friend/neighbour/relative know that you have died – especially if you live alone?

It’s impossible here to go into all scenarios but remember too that a small town hospital (if you are lucky enough to have one) will not have the latest and greatest equipment but will do the absolute best they can for you before flying you out.

And that opens up another set of preparations:
Who will feed your livestock if you are incapacitated or flown out?
Who will keep an eye on your property and possessions?
Who will contact your next of kin?

It’s a case of the old saying again: Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Offer to Assist
Throughout my working life in small towns, it was necessary that I knew people and they knew me. I accepted invitations to every meeting for which I received an invitation. That way I got to know who was who, who talked a lot but did little, the local gossip (important so that I didn’t put my foot in the wrong place and embarrass my employer) and who the appropriate person was to speak with about a particular issue.

Now that I don’t have to have such a high profile but still want to be involved with my chosen community the easiest way was to turn up at all community events, meetings and working bees.
After a while I got to know enough to make an informed decision about which organisations I would like to be involved with.
I chose to become involved with the Development Board because of my background and that was where my skills would be most useful. I now get requests for help with spread sheets, forms and grant applications.
There is another answer-in-advance you may wish to work on - how to decline gracefully and diplomatically numerous committee positions for which you will be nominated. I got around that by saying, “Thank you for thinking of me but as a new-comer I don’t feel qualified as yet. I’ll be glad to help where possible but I don’t feel that I should accept a committee position”.
As a newcomer it is “baby steps” all the way and showing a willingness to help where possible.  

I’ve always loved small towns and the close ties I am able to make with people and I’m sure you will enjoy the closeness that comes from living and working in a small community.

Pat's Product Reviews: Benchmade Marc Lee "Glory" Knife

Make no mistake, I like big knives. I don't care if they are folders or fixed blade knives, I like mine big. I've found over the years, that a big knife can do more than a little knife can, in most situations. Don't get me wrong, small knives have their place, too. However, I've just found that a big knife can do just about all I ask of it on a daily basis.   The new Benchmade Knives, Marc Lee "Glory" Knife, was made to commemorate US Navy SEAL, Marc Lee, who was the first SEAL to lose his life in Iraq. This touched home to me, as I live in Oregon, and that's where Marc Lee was from. I'm saddened anytime I hear of one of our brave military personnel losing their life, but even more so, when it's an Oregonian! Marc's valorous conduct, exemplary leadership and extraordinary self-sacrifice for his fellow service members, have earned him the highest respect and gratitude of his fellow SEALs and the US Navy, and our nation. A portion of the proceeds from every knife sold will be donated to the Marc Lee Foundation.  

The Marc Lee "Glory" Knife is a big fixed blade knife, with a 7.30" long blade, that is 0.190" thick. The knife weighs 10.10 ounces. For such a big knife, it's very fast in the hand. The blade material is 154CM, one of my all-time favorite stainless steels - at one time, used exclusively by custom knife makers. With a 58-61 Rockwell hardness (Rc), the blade will hold an edge a good long time, too. As for the blade itself, it has a recurve to it - meaning, it actually has a longer cutting surface than you think it has.  

The handle scales on the "Glory" Knife are made out of super-tough G10, and are coyote tan colored, to go along with the ballistic Nylon coyote tan colored sheath - that is lined, so the knife won't poke through. The sheath is MOLLE compatible, too, and will fit on a tactical assault vest, as well as on a pistol belt. Overall length of the "Glory" Knife is 12.50" - it's a good sized knife, to be sure. The G10 handle scales are textured and will provide an outstanding grip under any circumstances you might run into, in the field. The blade is also black coated, for non-reflectivity.  

I found my "Glory" sample to be more of a slasher, as opposed to a stabber. Oh, that's not to say, the knife can't be used for stabbing. However, it is better suited for slashing, digging and other everyday field chores you might run into. I don't have a problem with this, as most knives carried afield, be it in combat or a survival situation, are used more for chores, than they are in combat. The knife will hold its own in a combat situation, though.  

The butt end of the knife also has a lanyard hold, but no lanyard was include. There is some tan 550 para cord on the bottom of the sheath, and you could remove it and place it on the knife if you'd like. I think Benchmade should have included a length of 550 para cord on the butt of the knife, in the lanyard hole - just my two-cents worth.   If you need an emergency digging tool, the "Glory" Knife can fill that need. It's also a great chopper, if you have to clear brush or chop wood for a sniper's blind, too. The knife balances extremely well in the hand, and that's important in any knife I select. If a knife doesn't feel just right in my hand, I'm probably not gonna carry it afield.  

You can also choke-up on the knife if you need more precision - you simply move your fore finger onto a groove on the lower portion of the blade, which was designed for a hold like this. There is also a raised thumb placement on the top of the blade, for use in the fencing grip, too.   I wish I could say I packed this knife around on my hip for several weeks, but I didn't. I don't need to carry a fixed blade knife on a daily basis in order to evaluate it. I did do some field testing, though. We have a lot of blackberry bushes in Oregon - a plant that was not native to this state. While I, and my family, love blackberries, it's a constant chore keeping the blackberry vines in check. In case you didn't know it, blackberry vines are tough, real tough. The Marc Lee "Glory" Knife made quick work of chopping off the blackberry vines to keep them in check - that says a lot to me. I did some light chopping on some tree branches, too - again, as I mentioned above, this knife is a better chopper than a stabber.  

As with all good things, the Marc Lee "Glory" Knife is high-quality, and quality never comes cheap. The full retail price on this knife is $350 - and they are actually very hard to find. Lots of knife collectors are buying 'em and putting 'em in their collection - never to be used. There is also a limited collectible version of this knife, and that's $1,000 - if you're into collecting knives, and I'm sure it will only rise in value over the years.  

I showed my sample "Glory" Knife around to a lot of folks, and they all liked the way it felt - no one had any negative comments about the knife, and that's unusual in my neck of the woods.   - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

I read R.E.'s article on Small Campstove Cooking with interest. Thank you. I've tried a few as well varieties of stoves as well and to date my favorite is the Littlbug. It's sturdy, stainless steel, comes in two sizes, folds up, it has some adjustments, and can burn solid fuels or twigs very efficiently. Twigs removing the need to carry fuel. Blessings, - Steve B.

Just a quick note about a comment R.E. made in his article: "Whether a stove unsafe for a small tent would be safe in a home is uncertain. Just remember that carbon monoxide (CO) is lighter than air."  Carbon monoxide is only very slightly less dense than air (1.145 g/l^-1 for CO versus 1.184g/l^-1 for air - a smaller difference than there is between oxygen and nitrogen).  It is not light enough that you can expect it to rise to and collect at the ceiling or in upper levels of a structure and in a home CO will mix homogeneously with air.  My intention isn't to ding R.E. but to make sure that folks don't get the idea that sleeping on the floor would make them safer while using an inefficient heater or other CO source.   - Matt R.


I thought I would pass this along-Last night I received a call from my propane provider. They call every year about this time asking if you want to fill your tank. The person was saying that prices were low this time of year .I have a 250 gallon tank and only use around a 100 gallons a year. I said yes and inquired about getting a 500 gallon tank. They said there  was only a $79 tank change fee. I know that each tank only holds 80 percent of tanks stated capacity, so a 250 gallon tank holds around 200 gallons. This is a two-year supply for me. I have a 6-burner cooktop and fireplace logs and am lucky to live in a mild winter area. It got me thinking this may be a good time to change to a bigger tank and increase my propane capacity to 400 gallons (four years).We don't know what the future holds, what the price or availability of fuels will be,or what our finances may be in the future. This will enable me to breath a little easier and sleep a little better. Just a heads up to the people like me who are preparing. - Rob M.

JWR Replies: My general preference is to purchase rather than lease a propane tank. The total cost is lower in the long run (assuming you own a house for 12+ years). The other advantage is that if you own your own tank you can buy propane from any local vendor. That way you can "shop by phone" for the lowest delivered price. If you plan to have a propane cooking range, a propane hot water heater, a propane chest freezer, and a few propane lights, I recommend getting at least a 500 gallon tank. Underground tanks provide better OPSEC, as well as better protection from brushfires and small arms fire.

Science fiction writer David Brin (the author of The Postman) offers his observations on societal fragility: Our Worst Frailty: An Electro Magnetic “Hit”. (Thanks to G.G.)

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Dateline: Nanny State, New York: Summer Camp Tag, Wiffle Ball Will Come With a Warning, Thanks to New York Politicians. "Camps that want campers to play the games will be required to pay a $200 registration fee and have medical staff on hand." (Thanks to Eric B. for the link.)

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B. sent a link to a video about the only remaining B-29 Superfortress that is still flying: Fifi Flies Again.

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Reader G.J. wrote to mention that there was some debate at his local retreat group's recent meeting about where the Rawles Ranch is located, and he asked me for a hint. Sorry, but I'm not telling. That is a secret on a par with Mount Yamantau.

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"Atlas Shrugged" box office success stuns liberal Hollywood. (A tip of the hat to Marilyn R. for the link.)

"There are two kinds of people, those who finish what they start and so on." -  Robert Byrne

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

There are situations where the difference between a hot meal and a cold one is literally life and death. A hot meal can stave off hypothermia, and bringing food to boiling can prevent disease. Fire is good, and using fire to cook is better.

I used to do a lot of camping and hiking, and have vague ambitions of returning to those pursuits. Because of that, and because I like having alternate means for important resources, over the past year I have been doing a lot of research into methods of heating food and drinks when away from utilities... or when utilities fail.

This was brought home to me, personally, during a recent five hour blackout which hit my county and two adjacent. Adding to the problems the situation caused, this was late on a very cold Winter night.

My neighborhood has long had problems with the electrical supply. Things are much better now, since the utility company came through and upgraded much of the equipment a few years ago. However, we still have brief blackouts - usually only a few minutes - a couple of times a year, with occasional longer outages. This, though, was a record, in both duration and geographic extent.

Because of the recurring outages in my neighborhood, many people around here were well equipped with candles and kerosene heaters during the big blackout. However, I had candles, a pair of Aladdin kerosene mantle lamps, a natural gas mantle lamp rated for indoor use - mounted to a wall in the basement - a Kerosun kerosene heater (which doubles as a stove), and a neat little folding camp stove. I fueled the kerosene heater, put it on the basement floor and lit it. I also lit the natural gas mantle lamp. Upstairs, I had both kerosene lamps and four large candles going. Briefly, I also used the folding stove. When the power came back my upstairs temperature was still quite comfortable, having dropped only a few degrees in five hours on a very cold night.

Better, during that long outage, I was able to make a large mug of steaming hot tea. I put that camp stove on my kitchen range and used it to heat the water.

The folding stove - meant for camping and hiking - is made by Sterno. It's steel, so it's heavier than many folding stoves for the same use. However, it is sturdy, folds almost flat, and can be used with a wide variety of fuels. Using Sterno cans - there are some specifically intended for cooking, with a higher output than the tray warmers - it would still take quite a while to boil enough water for a bowl of soup or a mug of tea. However, the can holder in the bottom will also hold many other types of fuel containers. They can be found in many places, but the best prices I have located are on eBay. The stove usually comes with a couple of the Sterno camping fuel cans.

That cold, dark night I didn't use the Sterno cans. Instead, I used the fuel can for a very clever little stove made for the Swiss Army, the M71. It burns hotter, for longer, with a cleaner flame, than any other canned heat I've tried. It has a re-closeable lid, and when you first open it there's a thick aluminum seal you need to cut out. After use, simply put the cover back on. It comes with a springy steel sheet metal pot support which stores around the stove, and which in use fits in the groove inside the can's top lip.

The M71 when used as intended is quite secure, very light and compact, and it produces a lot of heat at a high rate from its gel fuel. Prices vary widely for these, so shop around. These stoves come plastic wrapped with fuel canister, spring steel stove and a book of matches. The only caveat I know of is that if the thick gel fuel has bubbles those will pop from the heat. The fuel is so thick I've never seen it spatter when this happens, but it might. Oh, and the instructions are in Swedish.

Why didn't I just use that little stove, instead of the the Sterno folding stove? Two reasons. First, the Sterno stove is much studier and more stable. Second, the folding stove holds the pot or pan higher above the flames, which allows more complete combustion. This reduces carbon monoxide production, and also fumes from unburned fuel.

Though the odor from the Swiss stuff is pretty mild, that doesn't hold true for all canned fuels. Some have noticeable odor, as do some solid fuels. Whether the odor will be objectionable to a particular individual depends on the person and how enclosed the space. (Speaking of odor, that was one reason I didn't heat the water for my tea on the Kerosun stove, with another being because it was too large to go easily on my kitchen range, and I didn't feel like squatting over it on the basement floor.)

Speaking of fuel, alcohol - either liquid or gelled - is very popular for hiking and camping stoves. (Many canned heating units used gelled alcohol, but what I mean here is the separate alcohol gel fuel.) The gelled alcohol fuel I've seen is military surplus, in little olive-drab packets with instructions on one side and pithy bits of advice regarding military life and operations on the other. The gel is so thick it takes a bit of effort to squeeze out, but it also stays where you put it, even when burning. You can use it in any stove designed for fuel tabs, and some designed for fuel cans. Note that many alcohol fuels produce very little visible flame, which can be a problem with liquid fuels. A bit of spilled liquid fuel from filling a stove which ignites might not be noticed until it sets fire to something, or burns the user.

There are two types of solid fuel tabs I have experience with, both developed for military use but today having civilian versions. One of these is the US military's trioxane. The other is the Esbit-type fuel tab. These - as well as the gel - burn vigorously, quickly bringing - as an example - a canteen cup of water to a boil. Both types have little odor (again, this will very by person and situation) leave little ash, and some formulations produce very little visible flame.

Other common fuels are Coleman/white gas (naphtha) and kerosene (for kerosene I am include a wide range of fuels, such as diesel and heater fuel, as well as dedicated lamp oil). Gasoline is rarely used, even though unleaded is no more dangerous than naphtha.

Kerosene, gasoline and naphtha have a bit higher energy density per unit mass and volume than the alcohols, but the difference is small. Surprisingly, the solid fuels have less energy than even alcohol per gram, though more per milliliter. Paraffin, beeswax and mixes are about the same as the more potent liquid fuels per gram, and more compact, but don't really burn vigorously enough for practical cooking.

There are many camping stoves out there, of a wide variety of designs and using a number of different fuels. There are even flameless heaters, which depend on adding water to make them rust very, very fast. I live alone, so a small, single-burner stove is enough for emergencies. If you have a large family you may need something like a Coleman two-burner pressure fed stove using naphtha (white gas). These cook quickly, and are adjustable so you can simmer or warm with good control. You do have to pump them, though, and pay attention to the pressure.

Gas canister stoves use low-density fuels such as butane and propane, or a mix, in pressurized cans. They are often lighter than pressurized liquid fuel stoves. They - like the pressure stoves - produce intense heat and are also adjustable, making cooking easier and more flexible. Many canister stoves are specifically rated for use inside tents. (Keep in mind that the carbon monoxide ratings for camping stoves are for very enclosed spaces, such as tents. Whether a stove unsafe for a small tent would be safe in a home is uncertain. Just remember that CO is lighter than air.)

The Zip Stove has the disadvantage that it uses batteries, to drive a forced air fan. However, it has a major advantage over most camping stoves in that it uses available materials - such as twigs and pine needles - for fuel. While wood has too low an energy density to be worth carrying with you, dry wood is readily available most places people hike and camp, and you could easily stockpile some at your home. The forced draft of the Zip Stove makes fires easy to start and hotter burning, speeding cooking. Once it gets going good, it will even burn damp materials.

There is a compromise in stove design between adequate ventilation and keeping wind from blowing the heat away. Some stoves handle this better than others. Another reason I like the Sterno folding stove is that it includes a moveable front flap which can be used to adjust the airflow. Normally it would be fully closed to direct the convective flow of air upwards and help reflect heat, but if things are cooking a bit to fast you can open this to adjust the heat. Note that this is not a very large adjustment without a some wind to defend against.

In the very small category there are things such as the Vargo Outdoors Triad titanium stove, which only burns alcohol, and the Triad xe, which burns alcohol or fuel tabs or gel. Both are available for under $30. The Triad is about the size and shape of a can of shoe polish, and very, very light. Unfold the three legs and the identical (except for being on the top instead of the bottom) pot supports, add fuel, light and cook. Note that while the stoves are very small and extremely light, you still need to carry the fuel for them.

I have one of the multi-fuel Triad xe units, and it's very interesting. There's a center puck - normally held in the tray by the folded pot holder stems - which is used with alcohol. For solid fuel tabs or gel alcohol, simply remove the puck, put the fuel in the tray, light and cook. Using alcohol requires a bit more work. You twist the puck apart, producing a small pan and a vented cover. Fill the pan with alcohol, put the cover back on, put the puck in the tray, pour a little alcohol onto the puck to prime it and light. If you've done it right, by the time the outside alcohol has burned away the inside alcohol is hot enough to produce vapor.

Some folks actually make their own stoves similar to the Triad from aluminum soda or beer cans. I'm not that eager to save a few dollars in exchange for aluminum cuts. (Ouch.)

The folding WetFire stove is even smaller. It comes in steel and titanium versions, with the latter being the lighter (and more expensive). It has three flanges riveted to the bottom of a small tray. The tray is just slightly bigger than a fuel tab. The flanges unfold, pivoting around the central rivet, to form both legs for the stove and a stand for a pot or cup.

Several armies have military canteen cup stoves. These serve as both stove and cooking stand, take fuel tabs or gel, and when not in use fit around the base of the issue canteen cup, which in turn fits around the bottom of the canteen. There are both military surplus and civilian versions available. The limitation of these is that they are generally shaped to securely fit the canteen cup and nothing else.

A more generally useful military-originated stove is the Esbit. There are many versions besides the original, with different mixes of good and bad points. For example, Coghlan's makes a version which isn't quite as sturdy as the Esbit, but comes with more fuel. The Esbit was originally a WWII German Army stove, and is still in use by several militaries. Again there are both military surplus and civilian models. When folded closed it will store enough fuel tabs to heat over half a liter of water, depending on starting temperature. Somewhat larger than a deck of cards closed, it unfolds to hold the burner pan off the ground and support a pot or pan high enough for generally good combustion with fuel tabs or gel. There are even disposable Esbit stoves, which come flat in a package with some fuel tabs. Just fold the heavy foil into shape, add tabs and light.

Coghlan's makes a folding stove which seems to be popular. It is cheaper than the Sterno folding stove, but is heavier, doesn't block the wind as well and is shorter, allowing less distance between flame source and flame target. It also comes painted, which baffles me. When you first use one of the Coghlan's stoves you smell the burned paint. Substantial use is required before enough of this burns off that you don't get the odor. The Sterno stove is scent-free. However, the Coghlan's stove has a burning tray which will hold canned heat, fuel tabs or gelled alcohol.

This short article barely scratches the surface of the topic. There's a huge variety of portable stoves out there, of many different brands, for any sort of cooking. Whether for hiking, cooking at a campground or preparing meals during an emergency; for yourself, your immediate family or your entire block; whether fancy or simple; there's something for everyone. Tailgate party-goers bring entire kitchens, including portable barbecue rigs. There are even portable electric stoves and ovens, if you have a generator or are at a campground with utilities. Prices range from literally $2.50 to hundreds of dollars. Everyone should have at least something for emergencies. As noted here, this doesn't have to be expensive or difficult.

In my line of work, if you are tracking someone, you are always behind them.  The only way to catch them is to run and that creates it’s own set of dangers.  

Sign-cutting is finding a track or “sign”, using human nature, the terrain and the environment to get ahead of the people you are tracking and waiting for them.  It is about being students of terrain, the environment you are in, and human nature.  

Let me break this down for you:  

Human Nature – Most people will not walk a strenuous path.  They will follow fence-lines, gulleys, ditches, game trails and possibly even snowmobile or quad trails  (I think the latter would be rare but they would make great escape routes).  They will not walk over hills or hummocks.  They will not walk against a furrowed field for very long.  Generally, people will follow the easiest path available in the general direction they wish to travel.  Of course there are exceptions to every rule.  Professionals will take the harder road because again, human nature, will lull you into thinking nobody will climb over that hill to get you!  One last type of person, the sheeple, will obviously follow the roads.  

The Environment – When traveling at night, humans will likely key in on an environmental feature, antenna light, airport strobe, city lights, lampposts, anything that is visible to be their guide, while still following human nature.  During the daytime the above features plus sounds can be added.  Don’t forget smoke from chimneys or fires will also be used by people as a visual guide during the day.  Weather will also play a role here, mainly in aging your sign but it may also slow down the group you are after.  

The Terrain – This is one of the most important aspects of this craft.  You must know the surrounding terrain, at least 1 mile beyond your retreat property.  Topo maps are a great second choice for this.  I like the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer state topo map books. (I have no affiliation, I just use them.)  But nothing beats feet on the ground.  Know the ranch or farm roads, the fence lines, the private access roads, etc.  Plot these on your maps.  Use a GPS to get accurate locations.  Don’t forget to check your environment at night.  Look for “guiding lights”.  This is a great opportunity to get in shape hiking the countryside.  You can also GPS fence lines from dirt roads as well.  County Platt books help in establishing fence lines and boundaries also.   The main idea here is to know the terrain so you can accurately predict routes that people will likely follow (or plan your escape route to avoid other groups) using the things stated in the Human Nature heading.   Another important reason for knowing the terrain is that you can reliably determine the route the individual/group is going to take.  This is why it is essential you know your area.  For instance, you found footprints walking south at the north end of John B’s fence line and you know that John B’s fence line intersects Road A, 3 miles south of your current location.  Knowing the property around that fence line to be predominantly swampy, you can accurately guess that the subject that made those tracks will be staying on the fence line.  So if you wished to intercept the subject, you would drive to Road A and park a distance from the fence line, stealthily move to the fence line and check for the exact same footprints you saw earlier (having memorized the pattern and any peculiarities of that pattern).  If you see them continue on, if you do not find them there, it’s a good possibility that you are ahead of the subject and can find a good vantage point and wait.  That in a nutshell is sign cutting.  

The Sign – Yes, this is just a footprint, but it can tell you so much.  It can tell you if the subject was running, walking, limping, tired, type of footwear, direction of travel and how many people are in the group.   To become proficient you must practice.  The easiest way is to find an area of bare earth.  Use an area that has the same type of soil as the majority of your property.  Clear it and rake it smooth.  Walk a straight line everyday for a week using the same footwear.  Make these trails side by side about a foot or two apart (pun intended).  Keep track of the weather for that week also, dew, rain, wind, etc.  Hopefully, you will have had dry weather for the week.  If not, it just got a little tougher.  Compare the edges of the prints.  Look to see how defined the new ones are and how the print edges degrade over time and weather.  Refer to your weather notes when looking at the sign.  Look at the indentation of the heels and toe.  The heel is usually sharp and deep.  The foot then rolls flat and up onto the toe as the step progresses.  At the finish of the step, there is usually a little dirt "kickup" just behind the toe print as the footwear leaves the ground for the next step.  

Once you think you are good at judging tracks.  Have a friend lay these same tracks but mix up where he walks them in the area.  Make sure he keeps a good drawing of when and where he walked.  You keep track of the weather for the time period.  Now go out at the end of the week and judge the age of the tracks.  Tell your friend when you think he laid(walked) what track and see if you are right.  Don’t get discouraged.  This takes awhile to learn.  Once you have this down fairly well, add rain, grass, etc.  Remember; don’t set yourself up for failure.  Add one element at a time, use soft soils until you get the technique.  

There are two types of running prints, the toe runner, this usually indicates sprinting meaning the subject heard you coming, saw you or got nervous about something.  These types of track usually only have toe prints.  They are deep and have a lot of kickup.  They usually progress into the next type of track due to fatigue.   I call the next type of runner the loper.  He is in for the long haul.  You will usually see a deep heel impression which may be partially filled in by the large kickup as his toe pushes off for the next step.   A tired person will usually drag their feet and these drag lines will be visible.  They usually are made by the toe and may come and go depending upon the age and level of fatigue of the individual.  You may see one at either foot or on both feet.  It can also look like a scuff mark made by sliding the whole shoe.  A limp will have two different types of tracks with the same footwear.  Usually the injured leg has a flat track with no heel depression or toe kick and it may have significant drag marks.  

Type of footwear comes with knowing what tread patterns look like.  I try to concentrate on remembering military style soles so I know who I am following.  

There are the crafty individuals who will attempt to “brush out” their tracks.  They will use a piece of cloth or brush to “sweep” the area in an attempt to cover their tracks.  This is obvious once you know what to look for (prep for this by “brushing out” your own tracks).  You can also avoid falling for these by not looking at just intersections for tracks.  Check up and down both lines of the intersection at least 20-30 feet.  

Sign-cutting is a craft.  I cannot stress highly enough that you must know the terrain you are in to be effective.  Knowing the age of the sign alone is not enough.  How people move is important.  Take a walk in the woods with friends.  Watch how people move through the terrain.  Which routes do they pick? How do they move through dense brush?  A park is perfect for watching people move through various types of terrain.  Where I live I have parks with steep ravines, rivers and large boulders.  You can see how people avoid hard trails and pick the path of least resistance.                

So, how does this play into operational security (OPSEC)?  First, having learned how people usually move, do the opposite.  The professionals do so must you.  Another point is knowing how people move, you know which routes to expect visitors from and you will be able to tell how many people went by, how long ago and what was their direction of travel and even more so, whether they stopped and watched or not.  Always watch for tripwires and ambushes.  the professionals know all this stuff and will be prepared to cover their back trail.   Stay safe, Stay alive.

Mr. Rawles,  
I pulled out my copy of Bankruptcy 1995: The Coming Collapse of America and How to Stop It by Harry E. Figgie, Jr. and discovered on pp. 85-87 three warning signs that the US is headed for what Mr. Figgie calls a "deep, deep depression." They are:   

  • Tax revenue is no longer sufficient to service the debt;   
  • Substantial government debt is purchased by the Federal Reserve; and   
  • Congress and the administration not only fail to address mounting deficits but make the situation worse.  

The book is copyrighted 1992. It would appear Mr. Figgie was off by about 16 years.  

It is time to take another look at preps, snug down the seat belts, and make sure seat backs and trays are in an upright and locked position.   Wishing you and yours all the best. - Home's Cool Mom

JWR Replies: I concur! By the way, the second item "Substantial government debt is purchased by the Federal Reserve" is a practice commonly called monetization, or in the current parlance "Quantitative Easing." Get ready, folks!

I'm sure you've noticed that US Dollar Index is down to 74.4, spot gold is up to $1,507 per ounce, and spot silver is at $45.89. As I've been warning you since September of 2005: Get out of U.S. Dollars and into useful tangibles! If you feel that you've missed the boat on precious metals, then buy guns and common caliber ammunition while they are still affordable. I suspect that they won't be affordable (in U.S. Dollar terms) in a couple of years. Also, be forewarned: The COMEX Governors are soon likely to slam on the brakes on the precious metals markets by changing their trading rules. (Most likely by raising margin requirements.) Prices will get very volatile. Be ready to take advantage of any steep sell-offs.

J.D.D. forwarded this: Balancing Budgets on Drivers' Backs

Eric B. sent this: Asian Investors Risk Losses on Dollar Holdings After S&P Outlook Cut

Reader "AmEx" flagged this: Gold-Shortage Threat Drives Texas Schools Hoarding 664,000 Ounces at HSBC. If just 10% of futures contract buyers start demanding physical delivery, then there will be a monumental shortage.

G.G. offered this: U.S. corn reserves may hit 15-year low

The best currency is gold and silver, says Marc Faber. (A hat tip to B.B. for the link.)

Count On It! This is an article about raising the debt ceiling. OBTW, if they keep raising it so consistently, why do they still call it a 'ceiling'? Perhaps they should more properly call it an elevator.)

Items from The Economatrix:

Five Years From US Housing Peak, Still No Bottom

10 US Housing Markets at Risk of a Major Collapse

J&J Lead Dow Stocks Higher

Sell-off Spreads to Asia After S&P Downgrades US Debt

S&P's Ratings Warning is a Small Step, But a Giant Leap in Every Other Sense

Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large) sent this: Stuff To Consider When Planning For SHTF Scenarios.

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Reader F.G. suggested this: Earth Class Mail – Best Mail Forwarding Service So Get A Ghost Address

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Dan S. recommend this article: Banning Guns by Changing Definitions, Part 4

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For those of you who are news junkies, bookmark this one: The InnoPlexION

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When the drug you need to cure a cancer is nowhere to be found. (Thanks to F.D. for the link.)

"Cows make excellent lawnmowers, but their exhaust systems will ruin a good game of croquet." - Dirk van Loon, in "The Family Cow"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Since we have all been reminded of the principle the “two is one and one is none”, it brings me to the conclusion that being prepared is really about “having a backup for your backup”.  So if “two is one”, then “three must be two”.  That has led me on a quest to discover at a minimum, three different ways to approach the problems we’ll face in a disaster situation.  If you are new to prepping or just want a different perspective of looking at things, maybe this will help.  To get us started, the first thing you should be thinking about is the three most likely events or disasters you are likely to face in your area or region.  It wouldn’t make much sense for you to study up on and prepare for a tsunami when you live in the Oklahoma.  Just like winter storms may not mean much where you live but hurricanes may be the norm. I have tried to break everything down in digestible categories.  Make a list of the sections below as well as any that I may have left off and list as many ways of replacing how it is done in your home right now.  If you can’t think of at least three ways, mark that area as needing more work.  

After you identify those events that are most likely to put you in a tailspin, we need to look for resources to educate us on how to prepare for those specific life-changing events.   As someone that loves to read and likes having the material around later for reference, I started reading all I could find on the subject.  You should have a lot more than three books, you could have three books just on first aid and not cover everything.  One thing that I have done was to search out what I think are three of the best non-fiction books on preparedness, because most of ideas and skills will be learned from them. The list could go one for pages as to which books are best, but the ones I think will serve you for the longer term are When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need To Survive When Disaster Strikes by Cody Lundin, The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery , and either the SAS Survival Handbook by John "Lofty" Wiseman (for outdoor survival) or Preparedness Now! by Aton Edwards (for urban survival).

Add to those three books, the best three fiction books on preparedness.  For this list I feel like the best book on the market with a financial collapse as the setting is Patriots by James Wesley, Rawles.  For those of us that are concerned with a total grid down scenario that could be caused by an EMP, then there is One Second After by William R. Forstchen. If you would like to read about life after a nuclear exchange, Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank would be my choice.  Each of these have almost a cult following and are revered in the prepping world as definitive works on the subject.  So for a little more that $75 you would be on your way to the wealth of knowledge needed for your family’s survival.  OBTW, I just received the Survival Blog Archives CD in the mail.  I am enjoying reading and in some cases re-reading articles that are tried and true from real-life people.  These books aren’t listed in any particular order, but I might would purchase one fiction and non-fiction at a time or in pairs.  The fiction you will obviously read straight through and the non-fiction can act as your reference material for acquiring the skills we’ll talk about later.

Food and Water:
Many arguments have been made as to what comes first, food or shelter.  That is not an issue I’d like to debate in this article.  Hopefully as you prepare, you can cover several areas at the same time in different degrees.   Both FEMA and the Red Cross recommend having a three day supply of water on hand for emergencies.  The more you store the better off you’ll be should an event last longer than three days or visitors show up needing help.  You should also be able to immediately identify where you can find at least three different sources of water once what you have is depleted.  In addition to locating various sources of water, you need to know at least three different methods of treating water to make it potable. Some methods are easier than others and some require that you purchase additional equipment.  You’ll pick up ideas from the books listed above on where to find water and the SAS Survival Manual as well as When All Hell Breaks Loose both has excellent chapters on how to treat it.  Choose what works best for you but don’t limit yourself to just three methods.  Remember, with three we are just covering the basics.

For life sustaining food, we need to learn at least three ways to obtain food outside of our pantry.  For most that means fishing, hunting, trapping, gardening, bartering, scavenging, etc.  Mastering those skills takes lots of time but if you don’t start today, you’ll find yourself out of time to learn and very hungry.  To take the pressure off of you, make sure you start building a deep pantry.  For beginners, let’s start with 3 days, working our way to 3 weeks and then 3 months worth of food storage.  You should start working on this today as this could be a critical deficiently in your plans.  Just think, with very little money and one trip to the store you could have 3 days covered pretty quickly.  The goal should be one year’s worth of food with lots of heirloom seeds for resupply, but for now we are just trying to get you started.  Now that we have food, we should focus on the three best methods of preparing it and preserving your food.   I would start with the basics though and go from there.  For cooking, think about cooking with grid power, barbeque grill, camp stove, and an open fire.  Charcoal stores well if kept dry.  While it would be difficult to convert a charcoal grill to propane would take nothing much to burn charcoal in the propane grill once the propane is all gone.  It takes some practice to get good at cooking with a solar oven or Dutch oven.  Don’t count them out, but look for the most logical way to cook right now and learn to cook with those methods once you have the faster or easier alternatives covered.  They definitely have their place, but take care of the basics first and work your way up to these.  For preserving food, learn canning and dehydrating now while your life doesn’t depend on it.  Don’t forget about smoking or curing your meats as well.

This brings us to point or skill that we must master.  For lack of a better place to include it, I’ll cover it in this section.  We have to learn how to make fire.  This is an area that I think instead of learning three ways to make fire, you should learn maybe six ways.  Look for the easiest ways to accomplish this with lighters, matches, and a fire-steel.  But don’t stop there.  We have all seen the lone survivor on television trying to make fire by rubbing two sticks together…let this be your last resort because you know so many more ways to make it happen. For probably less than $10, you can scratch this category off the list.  Check out Firesteel.com.  They have great prices on firesteel and you can get just about any size you’d want.

Without shelter, being exposed to the elements can get you killed no matter how well rested, feed, or watered you are.  Learn at least three ways to provide shelter for you and your family.  It can be as simple as a tent, or living out of your vehicle, but explore as many ways as possible to put a shelter over your head.  Now try to think of ways to do it with the least amount of resources possible.  When you think about shelter, don’t forget about how you would keep it heated or cooled.  The book When All Hell Breaks Loose has a great section on creating micro-climates within structures to do this very thing as well as a poor man’s sleeping bag made out of newspapers and trash bags.

Another area that doesn’t get covered as much as some ideas in the blogs is where you’ll be staying.  We cover retreats in great detail, but what about those of us that don’t have that as a luxury?  It should be the ultimate goal, but what about the time between now and then?  Well a simple solution would be to have at least three alternate places to “stay” or “rest up” while you recover from whatever drove you from your home.  This location could be shared with you by any number of friends, family, or neighbors.  Be willing to offer the same accommodations to them as well.  Letting someone stay at your house while repairs are being done on theirs will pay dividends in the long run.  The number one goal for my family is to not have to show up at a FEMA center or shelter.  Let’s learn to ride out the storm with our own resources.  From what I have read, I promise you the experience of being stuck with hundreds if not thousands of refugees is not going to be pleasant.


Survival Kits, Bug-Out Bags, Etc.:
So much has been written on this particular area, I will not try to add anything to it except to say that you should have at least three kits or BOBs.  Some refer to a Level I, II, III or Tier I, II, III, etc.  My thoughts on this area is maybe a “Get Home Bag” for getting to the very place where maybe all your supplies are, a “Vehicle Kit” for each car, and maybe a “Get Out of Dodge Bag” for the time that you may have to leave immediately with only what you can carry in your arms or on your back.  I always enjoy reading articles about this topic as well as viewing the videos on Youtube.com.  There is always something to take away from seeing what someone else is doing. 

Don’t let the kit get so big and heavy that you never have it with you.  What good is all that stuff 10 miles from where you need it.    Think of all of those displaced people in Japan that would love to have what they could carry on their backs as extra provisions.  If you hunt a lot, then maybe a small survival tin should be in your hunting coat at all times.  A great little kit for that is the Altoids Survival Tin.  Google it and you’ll find all kinds of neat things to stuff inside of it.  As you read the fiction books and watch television, make mental notes of what would have been helpful to have for certain situations.  Look for items that can serve a multi-purpose.  Tin foil and Duct-tape pop in my mind here.  There are some great videos on Youtube.com that cover every known kit you can imagine.  Lots of great articles have been written in the blogs as well.  You can’t use what you don’t have, so always be thinking about this.  Bug-Out Bags are in a constant state of evolution and are updated as other situations come to mind.

Lights and Power:
Try thinking of three ways to provide lighting.  There are Kerosene lanterns, battery powered lanterns, candles, flashlights, headlamps, etc.  Each one has its place during a crisis.  Try working on your car in the dark while holding a flashlight in your mouth.  A headlamp would be great for this.  A lantern works best when trying to provide light for a larger area but requires a larger supply of wicks, oil, or batteries.  It doesn’t matter what the disaster is, life doesn’t stop when the lights go out.  For some, that is when things really get scary.  Nothing adds moral like being able to see when it is dark.

Well where there is light, there must be a source of renewable energy.  Even candles require wax.  When it comes to items that are battery powered, rechargeable batteries are the way to go, but they must be recharged.    Enter the power source.  Think of three ways to generate power.  This could be a small setup for solar power to recharge small batteries and maybe even a deep cycle battery or two…or three.  Keep three sets rechargeable batteries on hand for each device that you’ll be using.  One in the device, one ready to use and you’ll have one charging when the time comes.  The most obvious source of power would be a portable generator.  Keep in mind that fuel will be in very limited supply and you’ll want to stretch it out as long as you can.  There have been many great articles on solar power and generators, but think outside the box.  In January there was a great SurvivalBlog post that described converting a gasoline generator to a tri-fuel generator for less than $200 and just about anyone can install the parts. Don’t forget about wind power as well. Often this is a little harder to wrap our minds around but at least consider printing off some plans and maybe purchasing the key components now while they are available.

If you have taken any leadership classes you’ll remember that more and more people complain about the lack of communication they receive from their higher-ups, even in the digital age we live in.  In an emergency situation, communication is critical but is also the last thing considered in the immediate area affected.  This is definitely not a situation where “No news is good news”.  It should also be noted that communication is just as much about listening than talking.  Just ask those we live and work with about it.  For this, let’s think about three different ways to both get and give out information.  What comes to mind are scanners, shortwave radios, handheld two-way radios, CB radio, etc.  As you think more about this, more ideas will pop into mind.  Think about your emergency contacts for instance.  We all should have a local emergency contact person(s), someone that is regional, and someone that is national.  During Katrina, local calls where impossible but if you were lucky you could make a long-distance call to relatives or friends.

Always have three different routes to get home from work or school.  It is not likely that a disaster will be severe enough to affect all three routes at the same time.  Have three modes of transportation as well (think vehicle, bicycle, walking).  Most of us wake up every morning with one mode already attached and ready to go, our feet.  Take care to put good boots or shoes on them, they may be your only way out.

Firearms, Security, and OPSEC:
As with all other areas, we’ll leave the detail to the experts and further reading on your part to determine what options are best.  The objective here is to get you to think about all three areas in units of three.  For firearms, three separate calibers of firearms are the basic level.  After reading many posts here and elsewhere it seems to come down to the .22 rifle, a shotgun, and a center-fire rifle of some type.  Owning these three and being able to safely use them will put you ahead of most people.  There are many out there that claim they’ll just take what they need, but you never hear about them practicing with their firearms.  They may be the ones getting the surprise. 

When we think of security we should think in terms of layers.  There hasn’t been a fortress built yet that can’t be penetrated, given enough time.  What we are looking for is an immediate deterrent and setup for alerting us when there is a problem.  For your home or retreat, what three things can provide the best security for the time and money that we have to dedicate to this area?  It might include fencing, bars over windows, thorn bushes, lighting, dogs, etc.  With three layers out there, it would be difficult for someone to get through all three quickly without tipping you off.

For force multipliers we can also apply the rule of three.  Think of the three most affordable things you can use as a force multiplier. Perhaps the best force multiplier is not letting anyone know you are there and what you have.  Camouflage, Binoculars, scoped rifles, high capacity magazines, communications, etc. increase your chance of surviving in case you get pushed into a corner.

Miscellaneous Items:
What would be the best three barter goods?
Create at least three caches of goods.
Think about the three most useful skills to attain?


In closing, I hope that this has given you more to think about and do.  Preparing yourself and your family is more about knowing and doing and less about spending and having.  Search the blogs for the details and realize that more can be done with a mind that thinks outside of the box than someone with a truckload of equipment but doesn’t know how to use it.  Lastly, always be on the lookout for three families to prep with.  Surviving any type of disaster is much more bearable with a core group of people with a good mix skills.  Just think about all the resources that six adults with the right attitude could provide.  It is true that there would be more mouths to feed but also more help for every area.  If you had two other families that you were close to and felt like you knew each other pretty well and had to provide practically everything else as far as provisions go, you’d be better off mentally than trying to go it all alone in a rabbit hole somewhere.  Once you identify those that your family would be most compatible with, ease them into the mindset of prepping so that you don’t have the burden of prepping for families outside your own.  Now that we having you thinking about doing everything in units of three, think of how far ahead you’d be if we had five different alternatives for solving problems that will arise right after a critical event.

So you stock up on a year’s supply of medications. What then? There comes a tremendous sense of confidence when you know how to find and grow your own “medicines”. I have to begin with my very favorite herb and actually most common “weed”; though, weed is a dirty word in my vocabulary! You will find that most of the plants we consider nuisances are some of the most beneficial herbs for healing. This article has an emphasis on herbs for respiratory ailments.

Herbs You Can Find Growing Wild:

Plantain can be found virtually anywhere in the United States and every continent except Antarctica. And no, I’m not talking about the banana. Over 200 varieties and all equally potent. Long-leaf is the most common in the US. Plantain is a powerful astringent. Used by our ancient ancestors to heal--the bites of mad dogs, staph infection, snake bites and venomous creatures, bee stings, abscesses, boils, congestion in the lungs, the list goes on forever! We had what we believed to be an breakout of methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA) over a year ago, and using only plantain (external and internal), tea tree oil (external), and clove (internal) we were able to completely eradicate it! NO antibiotics, NO topical creams….and not a single breakout since. I would never want to be without plantain! Can also be used for earaches, and has been said to restore quite decayed hearing when it’s infusion is placed into the ears.
It’s Uses: expectorant, astringent, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, anodyne, styptic, diuretic, the list goes on.
How to use it: Direct Poultice: If you’re outside and you get stung by a bee, spider, snake, anything you want to pull the venom out immediately, grab a few leaves (it usually grows anywhere, though you may have to walk around a while to find it) chew them up in your mouth until they are nice and juicy J and then place on the area you want to draw the poison out of. You will be amazed at how quickly this helps with pain!! I am highly allergic to bees, and every year somehow I get stung. If I apply plantain asap, usually there is very minimal swelling, and very little pain.
Infusion: You have a chest cold and you need help getting rid of lung congestion. Gather a large handful of leaves and pour boiling water over. Let sit at least 30 minutes…the longer the better. Drain the liquid-this is what you drink. Sweeten if you need to. It also helps with lung congestion to make a poultice from the leaves and place on your chest for as long as you can bear to leave it on.
Tincture: Winter is coming and you want to store some plantain in your cupboard for that upcoming cold/infection. Of course you can dry the leaves if you want. However, a tincture is much more potent. Fill an entire mason jar full of the leaves, seeds, roots, and pour vodka until they are completely covered. Let macerate for 5 weeks, shaking the jar once a day, and keeping it out of sunlight in a cool place. Drain liquid out. For just external uses you can do the same thing with olive oil. And if you don’t want to use alcohol, you can substitute it for apple cider vinegar.

For identification, go here.

Elderberry can be found throughout North America. It prefers moist ground, so you will usually find it alongside creeks, rivers, and streams. An infusion made from the berries is an excellent remedy for cold and flu season. An infusion made from the flowers is a wonderful eyewash for conjunctivitis. Elderberry is absolutely wonderful for the respiratory system! A powerful immune-booster. Every time I feel a cold coming on I go straight to elderberry tea! Typically within a few hours I feel myself again!
It’s Uses: Leaves: emollient, vulnerary (topically), strong purgative, expectorant, diuretic, diaphoretic. Flowers: diaphoretic, anti-catarrhal, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory.
JWR Adds: Elderberry contains a cyaniad producing glycoside in that is particularly dangerous to small children. It also contains an alkaloid that is toxic in fruit that is not ripe, so beware of that as well. As with any herbal remedy, reserach it well before use!

Berries: Diaphoretic, immune-building, laxative, anti-rheumatic.
How to use it: Syrup: Place around 5 oz. Fresh berries, or 3-4 oz. dried berries in a mason jar, cover with boiling water. Allow to sit over-night. Drain out the liquid, and reheat slightly. Add about ½ c honey. Now you have your infusion. If you have it I add about 15 drops of grapefruit seed extract (GSE). It adds many benefits in aiding your immune system as well as preserving your infusion longer. Adults take 1-2 tablespoons every few hours, children around 2 tsp. Store in your refrigerator. Will last at least a month.

For identification, go here.

Honeysuckle If you can’t find  Elderberry near you, or the birds get to the berries before you can,  Honeysuckle can work quite nicely as a substitute. The flowers are traditionally used for bacterial dysentery, urinary disorders, eliminating toxins from the body, colds, fevers, flu, asthma, coughs, chest congestion, and laryngitis. It can be used as an external wash for boils, infected wounds, swelling, scabies, tumors, and rheumatism. The flowers have components that help to lower blood cholesterol, as well as being anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-tuberculostatic.
How to use it: You can make a tea from the flowers. The berries, however, are toxic. So stay away from those. The leaves are fine as well, however the flowers are much more potent.
Tincture: Fill a mason jar with flowers, cover with brandy. Shake once a day, keeping in a cool, dark place, for around 5-6 weeks. Strain though a cheesecloth or a T-shirt, and you can add (but not necessary) 10-15 drops of GSE.
Syrup: The same way as the elderberry syrup, only fill the entire jar with flowers.

Mullein Is another of my favorites. It grows throughout the Northern tier and Eastern half of the United States. It is a strong, self-sowing biennial. You will find it particularly on road sides (though I wouldn’t gather mine here), waste grounds, pasture fences; it typically grows in poor soils, and even sandy soils. The leaves  are used for asthma, allergies, bronchitis,  coughs, croup, pulmonary diseases, mild sedative, antihistamine, swelling, pain, and the list goes on. The seeds  rapidly pass through the intestines and have been used successfully in intestinal obstructions. However, some say that with repeated use they can be toxic. They have a pretty strong narcotic effect as well. Dr. Christopher states that it is the “only herb known to man that has remarkable narcotic properties without being poisonous or harmful. Great painkiller and nervous soporific, calming and quieting all inflamed and irritated tissues.” They are also used in asthma and infantile convulsions. The Flowers are excellent for earaches and ear infections.

How to use it: Poultice from the leaves. Tear a few leaves pretty finely, pour just enough hot water to barely wet. When it cools enough to touch, apply to affected area.
Tea: Put one or two leaves in hot water and allow to steep for around 20 minutes. Remove the leaves, and sweeten if you need to.
Infusion: Gather the flowers every day (there will be new buds each day) and place in olive oil. Place in a warm spot, but not to where the sunlight is hitting it directly. What I do is place it either in the sun under a cardboard box, or in my car under a blanket or cardboard box. Shake daily and allow to infuse for about 3-4 weeks. Strain though a cheesecloth or old T-shirt. This is what you use for ear infections. Works like a charm!

Preserve the leaves by allowing to dry. Just KEEP THEM OUT OF SUNLIGHT. I cannot emphasize this enough. It applies to all herbs, and it is very important because the sun creates oxidation, which eventually leeches out all the minerals and nutrients in the herb.

For identification, go here.

Red Clover is absolutely powerful. It relaxes the nerves, and the entire nervous system. Can be used as a sedative. It has also been used quite successfully to fight cancer. It is a marvelous preventative for health problems, and a great wash for sores. It is especially good for pertussis (whooping cough), and it can be drunk freely. It is also wonderful externally for burns, sore, athlete’s foot, and ulcers. An anti-spasmodic and expectorant, also good for asthma.
How to use it: Tea: made from the blossoms. Place 4-5 blossoms in a cup of hot water. Steep for 20 minutes. Sweeten if desired.
Tincture: Fill a mason jar with only the blossoms (the other parts are not harmful, however, it is the blossoms that are the most potent), cover with vodka. Let sit in cool, dark spot for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily. Strain through cheesecloth or old T-shirt.
Preserve the flowers by drying.

For identification, go here.

Blackberry Is known to prevent fluid loss during dysentery. It is also well known for stopping gastric bleeding. Regular consumption of the berries (can make a tincture) can aid in killing off the free radicals that are linked with the development or heart disease and cancer. However, the leaves and roots are wonderful too! Absolutely wonderful for colds and flu. It is also used for fever, arthritis, gout, pain, and infections.
It’s Uses: Astringent, tonic, alterative, anti-emetic, hemostatic, anti-abortive, parturient (leaves).
How to use it: Tea from the leaves and woody part of the bramble is wonderful for diarrhea. Tea from the berries is wonderful for colds and flus.
Leaf Tincture: Fill jar with leaves and roots, cover with either cider vinegar or vodka. Process goes as all other tinctures. Used for fever, arthritis, gout, and diarrhea. Used topically for pain. 1 tsp./hour until fever drops.
Berry Tincture: Same as above, only with berries instead of leaves and roots. Used for colds, flu, and infections.

Herbs You Should Grow at Home:

Not that you shouldn’t be trying to grow any of the others. Red Clover, for example is an easy, important herb that you can and should be growing now. It’s in the other list, however, because it can easily be found in the wild.

Oregano is used for coughs and colds, degenerative arthritis, rheumatism, upset stomach, urinary tract infections, sore throats, infections, fever, vomiting, jaundice, and asthma attacks. It is an antiseptic, antiviral, and anti-microbial. Strong anti-oxidant.
How to use it: Tincture made from the leaves for coughs, rheumatism, bronchitis, asthma, infections, and sore throat.
Tea  3 cups of boiling water over 1 cup fresh leaves (or half cup dried leaves), steep 20 minutes. Take ½ cup three times a day.
Infusion Made with olive oil from the leaves is a powerful antiseptic externally.


Lobelia is probably the most vital plant that you should be growing. Especially if you or your child, or someone you know, has asthma. I have asthma and this is what I rely on for TEOTWAWKI. Inhalers will be hard to come by, and I know what a down hill slide asthma can be when you have nothing to treat it. Lobelia can be balanced by taking it with cayenne.
It’s Uses: Anti-asthmatic, anti-spasmodic, expectorant, emetic, bronchodilator, nervine (a Stimulant, in small doses, but a Relaxant, in large doses), diaphoretic, diuretic, cathartic, and astringent.
How to use it: Tincture: Fill jar with herb, and cover with apple cider vinegar. Lobelia’s components work the absolute best with apple cider vinegar. It is important that you don’t allow it to get too warm, either. The structure of lobelia is lost when it is heated even slightly, so take care. It only needs to macerate for two weeks.

The tincture can be used for such a wide variety of ailments. Such as asthma, croup, infections, boils, sedative, lockjaw, ringworm, hepatitis, and convulsions. It is excellent for convulsions. Can be rubbed on the body or placed in the mouth and the body will absorb it quickly, relieving convulsions. Rubbing the tincture on the shoulders of a restless child is wonderful for helping him calm down and go to sleep. It also helps to rub on the gums of a teething baby. Especially good for croup and respiratory ailments.

Preserve through drying.

JWR Adds: Be adviswed that Lobelia is poisonous in high doses.


Comfrey I would not want to be without this marvelous herb! A powerful allantoin and traditional healer. About a year and a half ago I had a complete humeral spiral fracture. Needless to say it was extremely painful, and I had been told that it would take at least 10-12 weeks for it to heal enough to have moderate use out of it. Everything I read, most sufferers from this break never had 100% use of their arm even after two years of healing and therapy. Not to mention the lingering pain they had on cold or wet days. After 1 week of healing I was able to begin applying comfrey poultices to the break (I had a removable cast). After only seven weeks I was able to remove the brace that supported my arm, and I had no pain! I didn’t even do physical therapy (other than daily push-ups in my workout regime). My arm is now stronger than it ever was, and I have no pain from it whatsoever!
It’s Uses: Mucilaginous, vulnerary, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, anti-psoriatic, astringent, expectorant, anti-tumor, cell proliferant, nutritive, and hemostatic. Amazing healer.
How to use it: Poultice made from the leaves applied to cleaned wound. Will heal extremely quickly. Even better if combined with plantain. The plantain removes the toxins, while comfrey heals.

Neither of the lists is by any means exhaustive. There are so many herbs I would love to write about, but these are some of the top of my list.

Remember, when dealing with herbs, you are being your own doctor, so be sure to:

  1. Do the requisite research.
  2. Identify the plants with absolute certainty.
  3. Label tinctures clearly with ingredients and dates prepared.  


For those that have requested it, I turned my American Redoubt post into a static page. I also added a map to illustrate the concept.

To answer some of the critics who have recently bashed me at a survival forum, I added an important point of clarification: I do not, nor have I ever advocated asking anyone already living here in the Redoubt States to leave, nor would I deny anyone's right to move here, regardless of their faith, (or lack thereof).

I forgive the people that try to put words into my mouth, or dream up nonexistent sub-texts, or try to make me look like some sort of racist. I refuse to either retaliate or get into an endless debate with them. They can attack me repeatedly, and I'll keep forgiving them, repeatedly.

Clearly, I have shown through all of my writings dating back for four decades that I'm an ANTI-racist. My stance against racism is abundantly clear in my Precepts page. Yet still people fling mud, reflexively. They seem to erroneously assume that devout Bible-believing Christians must have some secret racist attitudes. The truth is, there is only one race, the human race. That is what the Bible teaches. May the Love of Christ surround our enemies.

Tom L. points out that it took a while to find steri-strips and latex gloves needed to treat a wound so not to cause an infection. I would have to indicate that [bulk-packaged] latex gloves that you find in Wal-Mart or Walgreens are not sterile gloves. They are gloves that protect the wearer, not the one being treated though they are cleaner than bare hands. Proper washing of the wound with sterile saline water would be the best procedure and use the steri-strips for the closure under such late night conditions. Truly sterile gloves that surgeons use are individually packaged and wholly different that the boxed bulk gloves you can find in pharmacies. Watch the wound for any sign of infection and treat with appropriate antibiotics if necessary. This will probably include a discussion with you physician unless you have a copy of "Washington Manual of Medical Therapeutics" or "Sanford's Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy" Pocket Guide and a cooperative physician who has given you a prescription for a broad range of antibiotics for your TEOTWAWKI pharmacopeia cabinet. My physician who is a prepper as well, is trading suture training for amateur radio instruction/training. Very fair deal. - Frank B., 14 Miles From Asphalt

A few things to take into account when thinking of apple trees.  I planted three trees about five years ago and they are still far from being fruit bearing.  I figure they have about five years more before they are capable of bearing fruit.  This isn't to say that you shouldn't use them, but its defiantly a plan ahead thing.  

Another thing to take into account is that they require a bit of yearly maintenance to keep them bearing decent sized fruit.  An un-pruned tree bears a fruit that is about three fingers wide.  A properly pruned tree bears fruit that is closer to the size of what you see in a store.  It can take a few hours to trim a single tree with a trimmer. But with hand trimmers it takes about half a day per tree.  This is something that only needs to be done once a year, normally in the yearly spring. 

 Bugs are also a major issue that apple trees will run into the trees need to be sprayed once a year.  In a SHTF situation your not going to have bug spray handy but there is an easy natural way to take care of problems like this.  Buy a few pods of Praying Mantis eggs.  The Praying Mantis will eat the bugs that give you problems and not harm the plants you are trying to protect.  Because you are controlling them by nature; on the years that the bug populations are an issue then more of your predators will take care of the problem, and on the years where you are light on pests then you'll be lighter on the predators.  As a nice by product you'll also have less of other insect pests as well.

Apple trees will produce a nice amount of fruit for the last half of summer and the first half of fall.  During the Winter and spring you'll need to have canned any excess from the year before.  Also Apples shouldn't be your only source of food.  You need vitamins and minerals for more than one source.  While your researching the trees that you want also research things like Black berries and other fruit sources that will allow you to have a variety of food.  You can easily make sure that you have a variety of food that will return without the need for replanting on a yearly basis.  With the example of black berries you can easily make a couple of short fence rows that goes through the tree rows and plant the black berries to grow on them.

Cross pollination between tree types can be your blessing or curse.  If you research different trees and find that the fruit of one apple tree that will grow powerfully in your area; but you in your quest for the perfect Apple your find that this Apple is way to sweet for your taste.  Then you stumble on another that you find is to sour for your taste.  You can plant these 2 trees within your planting range.  (apple trees are suppose to be planted within around 15-25 feet of each other, or at least mine are.) So your trees will cross pollinate and give you a resulting fruit that is a combination of the original trees.  This is also where your curse comes in.  If your neighbor likes sour fruit and you like sweet fruit then you might end up with a combination because some of his trees are close to some of your trees. 

Some plants to look at:

  • Apple trees
  • Blueberry
  • Blackberry
  • Raspberry
  • Hazelnut
  • Almonds
  • Cashew
  • Cherry
  • Pear
  • Fig Trees
  • Pomegranate

Also as an advantage of keeping things like this going is that you'll attract small wildlife such as rabbits and Squirrels.  Which is another nice food source. - W.P.

JWR Replies: One downside to having a lot of fruit trees and berry vines is for those of us that live in bear country. Bears can be very destructive. They often knock down fences and tear limbs off of fruit trees. In many states it is illegal to shoot a bear in defense of your crops and trees, unless you have a current bear tag and it luckily coincides with bear season. But thankfully most states sanction the killing of bears when a human life is in immediate danger.

The convenient fiction that the U.S. is worthy of a "AAA" credit rating continues: S&P Cuts U.S. Ratings Outlook to Negative. How long can Uncle Sam dog-paddle in a sea of red ink? (Thanks to M.E.W. and several other readers for the link.)

Deborah B. sent this: U.S. Taxpayers on the Hook for Portugal Bailout

Items from The Economatrix:

Builder Outlook Falls Ahead of Spring Season

Poll:  US Economy Improving Despite Global Events. (If they sprinkle around enough hundreds of billions in quantitative easing funny money, it has to have some impact on the economy...) temporarily.)

Morgan Stanley Defaulted On Loan And Walked Away From Commercial Office Building In Japan (This is a good indication of what the outlook for Japan's future really is.)

There is an excellent new blog that I can recommend called the Preparedness Advice blog. It is chockfull of useful information. Unlike so many other blogs that are long on diatribes and short on practical skills, the Preparedness Advice blog is full of clear, concise, level-headed advice. This one has been added to my blog roll.

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Reader K.A.F. sent this: Video: Atlas is shrugging already

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Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large) spotted this: Georgian woman cuts off web access to whole of Armenia: Entire country loses internet for five hours after woman, 75, slices through cable while scavenging for copper.

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If you've been waiting to buy a Finnish M39 variant of the Mosin-Nagant rifle, I just heard that Pat Burns is running special 10% off sale. The sale even includes a few Finns that were built on pre-1899 antique receivers. For those, there is no FFL required to order, but state laws might apply. (See my Pre-1899 FAQ for details on the legalities.)

"My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement." - Meg Ryan as Patricia in the movie Joe Versus the Volcano (Screenplay by John Patrick Shanley)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

There a have been several new property listings added at our spin-off web site, SurvivalRealty.com A few of them are truly exceptional off-grid properties. Please take a few minutes to see the new listings.


Today we present another two entries for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

In my journey as a prepper, I’ve been able to amass quite a bit of bulk food.  Present estimates place the tally at roughly two tons.  As of late though, I can’t help but look upon all that food like sand in an hourglass. It is disturbingly finite and in the grand scheme of things, a fleeting resource.  I come from a large Italian family and I already know that in a post fan scenario I would be shepherding at least 12 family members. My Christian convictions would not allow me to turn them away. This makes a measly few tons of food woefully inadequate for any long term survival situation. I realize that for my family to be truly self sustaining, I must secure a renewable food supply. I have a double city lot (100 ft x 120 ft) on the outskirts of town which doesn’t amount to much arable land. There is an apple orchard about 10 miles from our home where I take my family to pick apples each fall.  During each visit, I’ve always been amazed by the tremendous volume of fruit that can be produced by a single tree.  This was the catalyst that drove me to some exhaustive research on the survival potential of the apple.

Bear with me for a little math as I drive home the value of the apple as a survival crop; the daily caloric requirement necessary to sustain life is a moving target based on your body mass and your base metabolic rate. I’ve seen many figures quoted on minimum caloric requirements, from 700 to 1,200 per day. I’ve read that during WWII, the Jews in the concentration camps were given just over 700 calories per day and we all know the horrible outcome of that scenario. One look in the history books at the gaunt faces and haggard eyes of those poor emaciated souls is enough to convince me that 700 calories is decidedly not enough.  

For the sake of argument, let us assume that a diet of 1,500 calories per day will be sufficient to keep us alive (albeit a little hungry). One “dwarf” apple tree will reportedly produce between 3-5 bushels of apples per year once fully mature. A standard size tree will produce between 5-10 bushels. With a bushel averaging 45 lbs in weight you can expect 135 - 225 lbs per year from a dwarf tree and 225 - 450 lbs per year from a standard size tree. One medium sized apple is roughly 80 calories. At roughly 126 apples per bushel you would net 30,240 – 50,400 calories per tree per year from a dwarf tree. To contrast this, my research showed that one pound of wheat yields 1,429 calories. This means that one dwarf apple tree would generate the caloric equivalent of 21-35 lbs of wheat per year. The average life expectancy of a dwarf apple tree is 15-20 years so that single dwarf tree can be expected to generate 604,800 to 806,400 calories over the course of its life time. A standard sized tree will live much longer (80-100 years) with a productive life of 30-40 years and producing between 1.5 million to 4 million calories over the course its life time for a single tree.  (Did I mention that they only cost about $22, shipped?)

The square footage that would be required to grow the equivalent amount of wheat as the dwarf tree (calorically speaking) would be roughly 1163 square feet (I will spare you the math). I purchased 15 dwarf trees which will be planted in a single row spaced 8 feet apart along the 120 foot stretch of my property line. This small micro orchard will generate between 453,600 to 756,000 calories in a single year and a best case scenario of 15 million calories over an assumed 20 year life span. It would take 10,580 lbs of wheat to generate that many calories. The local LDS cannery sells bulk wheat at 30 cents per pound (not including the cost of mylar bags, O2 absorbers and food grade 5 gallon pails). This would cost $3,174 for the caloric equivalent in wheat. Considering I only spent $336.96 delivered for all 15 trees, it seems like a fair amount of calories for my money. Apples will give my family much needed vitamins which may be deficient in a storage diet comprised largely of bulk staples.  Apples contain vitamin A, vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, as well as fiber which we can all appreciate after a diet of MREs. Apples are also very rich in antioxidants which help to eliminate free radicals (linked to causing cancer and Alzheimer’s). It’s worth noting that calorie crops like wheat also need to be replanted every year and you must set aside a portion for seeding purposes whereas apples are less labor intensive and I can even plant edible crops beneath them as companion plants.

GENERAL INFO: A member of the rose family, there are 7,500 varieties of apples worldwide. Of these, 2,500 varieties are grown in the U.S. and roughly 100 are grown commercially. Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, California, and Virginia produce the majority of the country’s commercial apple crop. I was surprised to learn that most commercial apple trees are actually two separate trees grafted together. Apple trees grown from seed will be genetically unique from the fruiting parent so germinating a seed from a supermarket bought apple could very well yield a crab apple tree. Rather than choosing what’s behind “Door number three”, commercial growers propagate apple trees by grafting a young branch (scion) of a successfully producing tree to a hardy rootstock. There are over 20 different rootstocks for apples. Combine 20 different rootstock possibilities with 2,500 different cultivated varieties (cultivars) and you can see how selecting the correct apple tree for survival purposes can be intimidating.  Let’s distill the issue down to the most important factors you must consider when growing apple trees.

The size of a tree (determined by the rootstock) will have an impact of how hardy it is, how productive it is (lbs of apples per year), and how difficult it is to harvest (you will need a ladder for a standard size tree). Apple trees come in three possible configurations: dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard. A dwarf tree will grow to be about 10 feet tall, a semi-dwarf to 15 feet, and a standard tree to 20-30 feet depending on climate. Colder climates will produce shorter trees.  Most dwarf trees will also need to be staked as their root structure is not as beefy. Dwarf trees seem better for OPSEC as they are easier to hide from hungry passersby (unlike a 20-30 foot standard tree which telegraphs its presence to every hungry maw within line of sight). Dwarf trees also start producing in 3-5 years whereas you can expect a 5-7 year wait with a standard size tree. It will also be much easier to integrate any necessary pest management (IPM) strategies by companion planting directly beneath the dwarf tree or even placing a net over the tree. You can find a primer on the various rootstocks at the Cornell Cooperative Extension web site.

You must ensure you have a rootstock and cultivar that are well adapted to your climate. Thinking that you can go to Wal-Mart and magically pick out a tree that will produce like the ones you see in a commercial orchard is an unrealistic expectation. Remember, there may come a time when you and your family may rely on your micro orchard to stay alive and it would be quite a tragedy to watch your family starve because you didn’t do your due diligence to find a combination that was drought or cold tolerant.

 Many nurseries will rate their trees resistance to the most common apple tree ailments: fire blight, apple scab, cedar apple rust, powdery mildew, and wooly apple aphid. I personally went with Geneva11 and Geneva 16 rootstocks with Freedom, Liberty, and Enterprise cultivars grafted to them. This selection affords me a high level of disease resistance. Pesticides may be hard to come by post fan so disease resistance is a must.

POLLINATION:  Apple trees as a general rule are not self pollinating. This means that you need another variety of apple tree that blooms around the same time so they may pollinate each other. (Side note: this biodiversity also provides added insurance that any diseases contracted may be limited to only one species vice wiping out a homogenous orchard) Some apple tree varieties are useless as pollinators. See the charts here to determine which varieties are compatible pollinators.        

: Many nurseries will rate apple varieties based on how well they keep in storage.  Enterprise apples will store for 6 months after they are harvested (late October). That means you could conceivably eat apples in late April of the following year without dirtying a single canning jar. Beware any cultivar that specifically states “Does not keep”. You can dehydrate and can them in mason jars but several hundred pounds of apples might require more canning equipment then you stock. See the links below for some specifics on cultivars and look for the “K” code to denote a keeper.

MAINTENANCE: Apple trees greatly benefit from pruning. There are entire books on the subject and tons of how to videos online but this skill must be acquired to realize an apple trees full productive potential. The North Carolina Cooperative Extension has a great “how to” on the subject.

Apple trees should be in soil with a pH of 6.5. Nitrogen requirements are higher in young trees as they are focusing on greatly increasing their bio-mass. Older established trees will require less Nitrogen to facilitate fruiting. Either extreme (too much or too little) can be detrimental to the trees growth. The following table shows what to look for to determine if your tree is getting enough Nitrogen:

Indices for Judging Nitrogen Status of Fruit Trees

Index Point

Low Nitrogen

Normal Nitrogen

Terminal growth in non-bearing trees avg. less than 10 in.
avg. 10 in. – 24 in.
Terminal growth in bearing trees avg. 4 in. – 12 in. avg. 12 in. – 20 in.

Leaf size

small, thin

medium to average

Leaf color

uniform pale/yellow-green

normal green

Fall leaf drop

early; leaves show red in veins

normal time; leaves green
to light green

Bark color

light to reddish brown

gray to dark gray-brown

Fruit set

poor; heavy June fruit drop

normal; 1-3 fruit/cluster

Fruit size

smaller avg./tree


Fruit over-color

highly colored/earlier


Fruit under-color

yellow color earlier


Fruit maturity



The Phosphorus content of the soil is harder to establish since the trees seem to pull it from much deeper in the soil than annual plants. A soil test is always a good idea to correct any deficiencies you may find.

Potassium contributes to improved fruit size, color and flavor. It is also a major factor in reducing winter injury, spring frost damage to buds and flowers, and helping to stave off disease. Permaculture practices like composting should be employed to minimize fertilizer requirements. Nitrogen fixing plants like beans and peas can be planted around the tree. In a survival situation, human urine can be diluted with water in a ratio of 8:1 and used as fertilizer. Tests show human urine has almost as much NPK as commercial fertilizers. The book Liquid Gold: The Lore and Logic of Using Urine to Grow Plants provides justification of this practice based on scientific evidence.

COMPANION PLANTING: This is also another topic that could command its own full article. Good companion plants for apples are:
Clover- Used to fix nitrogen and attract honey bees which are the prime pollinator of apple trees.
Chives, Garlic, Leeks- Prevents apple scab (chives only), deters aphids.
Peas/Beans- Fix nitrogen into the soil.
Savory, Chamomile, Thyme- Attract beneficial insects.
Comfrey- Compost cover crop.

NOTE: Avoid Black Walnut as its roots excrete a substance that inhibits the growth of other plants and trees to include apple.

In closing, raising apple trees is one of the most practical and cost effective solutions to ensuring our continued survival and that of our progeny.  Even if you have a silo filled with grain you are merely delaying the inevitable. The next evolutionary rung for us as survivalists is to work towards sustainability. Only then will we be able to rest our heads on our pillow at night and sleep soundly, comforted in the knowledge that there is no expiration date on our lives or that of our children.

JWR Adds: Each family should research which apple varieties do well in your particular climate zones. Buy your saplings only from well-established, reliable companies that cultivate top quality rootstock.

To insure rapid growth, invest your sweat equity in digging an oversize hole for each new tree. A familiar old saying is: "Dig a $10 hole for a $5 tree."

Although most survival enthusiasts are “of sound mind and body,” many of us have friends or family members who aren’t quite so lucky. Being the parent or friend of someone with special needs in everyday life is often stressful enough, let alone when facing TEOTWAWKI. Making preparations for their survival and long term care will help ease some of that worry in the event of a real emergency or extended crisis.

Obviously, the same basic needs should be met for everyone: food, shelter, water, heat, protection, and health care. With a special needs person thrown into the mix, though, your preparations should include extra measures, such as sanity savers, alternative medicines, extra safety measures, and so on. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Sanity Savers

Ever try to get an autistic child to calm down in the middle of an exciting event? It isn’t easy! As you can imagine, a survival situation may seem like a big game to many autists. Or, worse, they may balk and freeze at the worst possible moment. Either way, you need to learn ways to get your autistic child or friend to respond appropriately to danger. At the least, you need to get them to allow you to take the lead on cue.

Behavioral therapists can help you train an autistic individual to follow basic requests. The minimum they should know is when to follow you, when to stay down, when to be quiet, and when to run. If the therapist asks why you’re interested in teaching these commands, tell them you’re planning a trip to Disneyland.

Many special needs people will not eat unfamiliar foods, so keeping a stockpile of familiar meals and snacks will keep them from starving. Alternatively, you can introduce survival foods to their regular diet, a little at a time, perhaps one new food per week. If you make it seem like a treat to eat MREs, chances are good that they’ll believe you.

Finally, include practical play in your stockpile. Simple games, drawing paper, coloring books, and craft supplies will help keep special needs people busy while you attend to other matters.

Safety Measures

Many special needs people wander, whether they are autistic children to elderly adults with dementia. While electronic monitoring is fine in normal situations, your best bet in a post-SHTF situation is a well trained dog.

If you don’t already have a service dog, start looking for one. Border collie and lab mixes make great service dogs; they’re highly intelligent, loyal, easily trained, and just big enough to look scary if they need to. They also have a natural herding instinct, which makes training to prevent wandering a lot easier.

Dog-training services are available throughout the country, and part of the dog’s training may be covered by grants or volunteer organizations. If you’d prefer to train your own service dog, there are literally hundreds of books on the subject, as well as online courses. Designing your own training regimen will allow you to customize your dog’s responses to common commands, hand signals, and sounds. For instance, you can scream “SIT!” at my dogs all day, and they’ll ignore you, but the second you say “Sit” and lift two fingers, then their tail is instantly on the floor. Teaching the dog to “fetch” people as well as objects will save countless hours searching for everything from your kid to your car keys, as well.

Other safety measures include glow sticks (attach to their bug-out bag so you can see where they are), leashes, simple alarms such as trip wires with small bells to alert you to when they leave or enter an area they aren’t supposed to go, floatation devices, and possibly restraints, if all else fails. Restraints should only be used as a last resort, to prevent the individual from harming themselves or others, and should be promptly removed when they have calmed down. If you feel that using restraints is inhumane, then you don’t have to use them. But you may wish you’d kept some handy if you find yourself with a 12 foot deep rushing wall of floodwater running down the side of your retreat and a screaming, hitting, biting child who can’t understand why they shouldn’t go play in the water.

Alternative Medicines

If your loved one must take a prescription to stay stable enough to function, you need to find some effective alternatives to those drugs. Prescription drugs can be stockpiled, and veterinary medications can replace some “people” drugs, but those may not always be available. Learn about and stock up on alternative medications as a backup to your backup plan.

Some alternative medications that everyone should stockpile anyway include garlic, chamomile, horehound, cloud mushroom, aloe, witch hazel, and boneset weed. Learn to grow and harvest medicinal herbs and plants, their proper uses, signs of overdose, and counteracting agents, if available. If you have a retreat, consider planting a medicinal garden in addition to your regular garden crops, or at least do a bit of seed bombing in the local woods.

“Lost Causes”

I prefer to think that there are no people who aren’t worth trying to save, and that those who can’t help themselves deserve to be helped. Everyone has a value, whether it’s a Down’s Syndrome kid who happens to have a strong back and a good humored outlook, or a doddering old neighbor who remembers how to make rope by hand but can’t tie his own shoes anymore. According to some people, that makes me a sucker, and might get me killed. I’m okay with that. If I die in the attempt to save another human being’s life, that’s the best death I could hope for anyway.

There are, unfortunately, some special needs people who simply cannot be saved in a SHTF situation. As heartbreaking as it may be to accept that, it’s best if you prepare yourself for this possibility beforehand. You may be able to manage their condition for a short while and keep them comfortable, but if your loved one isn’t ambulatory, can’t swallow or eat normal food, or absolutely cannot be controlled without constant drugging and restraints, you may be forced to make a very difficult decision. Your personal beliefs, morals, and individual circumstances should guide your decisions, but not your emotions. Unless you are very honest with yourself, and admit that there is a lot of resentment that goes along with caring for a special needs family member, you may make a decision that you will regret for the rest of your life. Admit to your resentments, and put them aside.

Also, be aware of the fact that many special needs people are more aware of their situation than you might think. Elderly people with dementia have moments of clarity and astounding insight, and may decide to take their own lives to save resources or spare themselves the indignity of having to rely entirely upon others for their care. The same type of behavior can be seen in people with several different mental and developmental issues.

While suicide is a risk for even “normal” people during a crisis, special needs people are at even higher risk. Watch for signs of withdrawal, depression, and hopelessness, and try to counteract those symptoms with gentle reminders that they were important enough for you to save. Keep a close watch on elderly people, who are more likely to attempt suicide than a developmentally disabled person.

Finally, consider the impact of the disabled or ill person on the rest of the group. If you absolutely cannot abandon your loved one for the sake of the group’s survival, that’s fine; but be prepared to take your loved one to another location as soon as possible, or someone else may harm them out of sheer desperation. As much as we like to think that won’t happen to us, it’s a very real possibility in crisis situations-the weakest members of any group often end up outcast, injured, or dead.

Even though many survival groups are made up of close friends and relatives, eventually, someone will bring up “useless eaters” in regards to your loved one. Expect it, and don’t get angry-it’s human nature. Being prepared to leave the group and take your loved ones with you is always a good idea. If you suspect that your group may turn on your disabled family member, have a backup plan in place in case you need to leave and establish your own retreat elsewhere. You may be able to re-join your group at a later time, or at least keep relations friendly between everyone. Simply showing that you are willing to sacrifice your own safety and comfort for the sake of your loved one and your group will often turn the situation in your favor, though. Whether in a crisis situation or not, no one likes to feel like a heel, and everyone likes to think that if they find themselves ill, injured, or incapacitated, someone else will be willing to stand up for them and keep them safe, too.

Airguns are a useful thing to have around for pest control and small game, can be backup weapons when necessary, and are legal in many places where regular firearms are not.  They are relatively quiet, inexpensive, and the ammunition (pellets) can be bought by the thousand for little money. The Gamo CFX Combo air rifle is a handy package, that includes a .177 caliber air rifle with muzzle brake/muffler and 4x32 telescopic sight.  It shoots 1,000 fps with lead pellets, and is actually supersonic (1,200 FPS) with PBA (Performance Ballistic Alloy) pellets.  These are harder metal and harder hitting up close, but do lose some accuracy as they cross transonic in flight.

Ergonomically, it's quite comfortable, with rubber inserts in the forearm, cheek rests on both sides of the stock, and a recoil pad.  While not needed for recoil, this also improves shoulder contact and grip. Length of pull was comfortable for children and adults.  The grip has enough molded checkering to aid in hold, without being abrasive.  Weight is listed as 8 lbs, but it felt a lot less.  The balance is excellent.

The "iron" sights are bright fiberoptic inserts, .6 mm in front, .4mm rear.  This makes them clear and bright, though a little large for small game at the far reach of the range.  The scope has ¼ MOA adjustments, and is solidly mounted to a rail.  It's not a standard 1" rail, but an older ½" style.  Rings are standard 1".

The 35 lb cocking force was a bit much for children (ages 10 and 13), but manageable by all adults, some easier than others.  Pellets seat easily, action is smooth.  The trigger is two stage and adjustable, but was consistent and crisp enough we didn't make any changes to the factory setting.  It breaks at just under 4 lbs.

Our test range was limited by property lines to 87 feet.  Temperature was 75F, 75% humidity, and calm.  Once zeroed, using standard lead pellets, we were able to keep a consistent 3" group for near 50 rounds, with most within 2".  The report is a crack on par with a staple gun, and penetration was through 2" of heavy closed-cell foam and 1" into a tree.  This is certainly adequate accuracy and penetration for rabbits, squirrels, rats, feral cats and potentially larger game.

While not durable enough for real combat or rough use (Especially the scope), it's well-built and reliable.  Nothing about it feels flimsy or questionable.  As a retreat tool, recreational shooter or primary trainer, it's well worth the investment.  List price is $259.95, and as always, many retailers offer good discounts. Gamo brand airguns are made in Spain. - Michael Z. Williamson, SurvivalBlog Editor at Large

People often discuss what would happen in a societal collapse and I wonder how many people have actually experienced one.  My experiences came from living in a foreign country…California.  19 years ago this month, I was living in Long Beach, California after my separation from the US Navy.  I was working in the medical field and came home one Wednesday around noon as usual for my early work hours.  The day was pretty uneventful with the exception of one little item.  The great state of California in all of its infinite wisdom had handed down a verdict of “Not Guilty” on a case regarding four police officers who had been caught on video tape beating a man 13 months before.  This ‘little incident’ would capture the attention of the nation and impact my life for the next six days.

That night I sat down to dinner and to catch up on the news.  I was up until almost 0100 hrs that night even though I had to be at work at 0400.  Like many Americans I sat glued to the news, watching as residents of Los Angeles County initiated what is now referred to as “The 1992 Los Angeles Riots”.  I would like to point out that there was no Economic Collapse, no Natural Disaster, no Terrorist Attack, only the rendering of a verdict in a trial.  12 citizens handed down a verdict on a case after reviewing the evidence presented, and whether it was the “RIGHT” verdict or not, this was the catalyst for the events which allowed the “wolves” to wreak havoc.  I watched from a news helicopter’s camera as “The L.A. Four” pulled Reginald Denny from his 18-wheeler loaded with sand and beat him unconscious with the final blow of a concrete slab thrown at his head.  Next up on the news was the beating of another man named Fidel Lopez where they robbed him, beat him, and tried to surgically remove his ear in very unsanitary conditions. I watched as the news covered the burning of cars, and stores began.  Every channel covered people being pulled from their cars to be beaten, raped, or killed.  The entire time this was occurring law enforcement, paramedics, and fire departments held their positions just outside of the ‘hot’ areas for their own safety and to refrain from inflaming the situation any further.  (“When seconds count, the police are only minutes away”)

Thursday morning I woke up to the smell of smoke from the fires.  I got up and went to work, where we were very busy because some people called in “Sick”.   The mayor at the time in L.A. had imposed a curfew, and there was a call up of the California National Guard, but that took almost a full day to get them in place.  I had worked through my lunch break and was therefore unaware of events that had started to unfold in Long Beach where I lived and worked.  When I left work that day, there were plumes of smoke rising from different places around the city.  I went directly home and took inventory of what I had.  I found I was grossly unprepared.  I was a ‘sheeple’ and I still didn’t know it.  I stayed home that night, watched some of the news and then caught up on my sleep.  I remember watching the local Price Club (this was before it merged with Costco) in Signal Hill being looted of televisions and such.  That is until a couple of Signal Hill Police cars pulled up.  They had a reputation of being heavy handed and were known to carry a semi-auto rifle as well as shotguns in their cars.  Even people who had purchased items stopped and set down their stuff until they were released by the police.  The looters just dropped their ill-gotten booty and ran.

Friday morning I awoke to the same smoke smells and got up and left for work.   This time I didn’t quite get there.  I was stopped on the first major intersection by the National Guard.  They were armed with M16 rifles, and in full combat gear.  They had a Humvee and the road was blocked by K-rails (those concrete things separating most metropolitan freeway lanes).  I was on a motorcycle and had to pull over, remove my Helmet, and show both my Drivers License and work ID.  I was told to be sure to carry these "until the crisis is over”.  They did not detain me long, but I had to go through 2 more of these on my way to work.  Again people were “out sick” so work was again busy, but I took a short break mid morning to go up to the helicopter pad and see the city.  There were about 15 people up there looking at the fires burning across the city.  We casually tried to figure out what it was that was burning, and it seemed for the most part to be stores.  Now remember I lived in the neighboring city of Long Beach, not L.A. and this was still happening. 

I ended my shift and headed home after stopping in the bank located in the basement of the hospital to cash my check just in case.  I was very preoccupied with what I had seen from the helicopter pad on my way home and was thinking about the fires while stopped at a light.  It was at that time that my first wakeup call was delivered.  I felt something hit me in the back of my head, and then got a hard yank on my waist.  Though dazed, I was able to maintain my balance, the brake, and clutch on my bike. Heard a noise to my right and looked over my shoulder to see a 2x4 finish bouncing on the ground and then see a young man running into an apartment complex.  In his left hand was my fanny pack, with the cash from my cashed paycheck.  I was not about to follow him into that complex and felt lucky that I was wearing a helmet or I would have been on the ground.  I ran the red light and headed home.  Having gotten home, I went into the house, locked the doors, and started planning the next two weeks until payday came again.  I figured I had enough food, and had filled up my car and bike so was not worried about gas, but decided I better get my laundry done with the change I had on hand.

I gathered up my laundry and headed to the back of the apartments where I lived with my handful of quarters, when my second wakeup call was issued.  As I rounded the back corner of the apartments I came face to face with three upstanding representatives of society at the time.  One of them greeted me with the usual head nod and "What's Up?", while the other two representatives were nice enough to give me a preview of their fine cutlery products.  They asked for my money.  When I told them I had just been robbed and didn’t have any, they didn’t believe me.  It really should not have been that much of a stretch to believe considering what was happening, but giving them the benefit of the doubt (maybe they hadn’t stolen a television yet to watch what was unfolding) I showed them my quarters and told them that was all that I had left, and they were welcome to it.  They started to approach mentioning the possibility that maybe I had something inside my place they would like better.  That was when a neighbor I did not know, stepped out into this alley holding a very large hand cannon and invited the young men to leave.  His name was Ricardo and I will forever be in his debt.

I decided to forget my laundry and instead to go to a friend’s house since the news was reporting that gangs from the Oakland California area (a six+ hour drive away) were coming to Long Beach to join in on the festivities.  I decide that it was time to Get out of Dodge.  I left on Friday and did not come back until late Sunday night.  Luckily things had died down a bit, even though the California National Guard had shot and killed a person they said tried to run them down.  The curfew was lifted in L.A. the next day and things got back to some semblance of normalcy (as normal as Southern California can be I guess), and I decided it was time to move.

I went on very blindly and still held a sheeple-like “things will work themselves out” attitude and a “People tend to over react” attitude until about a year ago.  I read the novel "Patriots", and while reading thought: "Wow, that sounds similiar to what I went through."  My eyes are fully open now, and I have learned a lot.  This was a collapse of society that I experienced, and even when I was right in the middle of it, I didn’t see the danger for what it truly was.  Again, no war, no economic collapse, or no natural disaster occurred.  The police didn’t help, and as a matter of fact a few others were fired because while this was happening they decided to go into a city park and shoot their guns. 

The paramedics didn’t come to the rescue, because it was unsafe.  I was a Corpsman in the Navy (8404) and I had to go into fire to rescue men, they did not.  The fire department didn’t even come in to put out fires, if there was still civil unrest happening.  And it wasn’t even their choice, as they were ordered to stay out.  We had the military on our streets to maintain order (not peace). Some 53 people died during six days of widespread looting, assault, arson and murder. Therer was more than one billion dollars in damage and thousands of people were injured.  Neighbors assaulted neighbors, people burned the very stores they shopped in, and looters were everywhere. 

The next time that someone tells you that you are crazy, or fringe, or an alarmist, remember I was none of these…I was lucky.  What have I learned?  It is better to be prepared than be lucky.  It is funny what it takes to have your eyes opened.  For me, as a novel written originally in 1991 by a forward-thinking man, about a fictional circumstance brought about by exactly what is happening now… I hope this makes some people say “Hmmm”.  Capt. Rawles, thank you.  To my fellow preppers, fight the good fight, and God bless. - Brad M.

AmEx (American Ex-Pat): suggested this: Case Shiller 100 Year Chart (2011 Update). JWR's Comment: Methinks house prices still have a lot farther to fall. Unless you find that "perfect" retreat property, don't buy into a falling market!

Carl T. sent this: Losing 84 Cents on Dollar Reveals Runaway U.S. Public Pensions

John B. suggested: The Real Silver High

China trims holdings of US securities in February. Sometimes it is these "minor" news articles that speak volumes. (Thanks to G.G. for the link.)

G.P. recommended this piece at the NIA web site: The Truth About Silver and Inflation

Items from The Economatrix:

Why Silver Is Still The Best Revenge

Awaiting The "Zero Hour" Of Available Credit (The Mogambo Guru)

Roman recommended: Your bike - the coolest part of your disaster kit

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Non-Retreat Locale: Riding Along With the Cops in Murdertown, U.S.A.

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Vin Suprynowicz chimes in: The enormous disconnect between 'mainstream' professional reviews and viewer response to 'Atlas Shrugged The Movie, Part I'. Bottom line: Statists hate this movie and the novel that it was based upon. The fact that that a 54 year-old Libertarian novel is presently ranked #6 overall on Amazon, and #1 in Political Fiction no doubt has the posteriors of the statists chaffed to a shade somewhere between pink and red. (Which, by the way, also describes their politics.) Oh, and reader P.I. noted that the reviewers at the Rotten Tomatoes web site gave it a miserable 8% approval rating, while the general public rated it at 85%!

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Not only is this ad a gross distortion and fear mongering, they don't even know the difference between a "clip" and a "magazine". Take note of the "little girl" target poster that the Brady Bunch commissioned especially for the commercial. What sick puppies, they are!

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One of my recent consulting clients was bemoaning the fact that his rural Kentucky retreat property was at the base of a mountain and had a northwestern exposure--definitely sub-optimal for siting photovoltaic panels. But he mentioned that there was a fairly large year-round creek with a waterfall on his property, just 200 feet from his planned home site. Anywhere that there is that much "fall" is a great candidate for micro-hydro power! He will soon be buying some 6" diameter PVC pipe that will originate with a screened creek diversion and a Harris Pelton wheel DC generator. The creek diversion will be 54 vertical feet and 119 lineal feel from the Pelton wheel, so I expect that it will really hum. (Large diameter pipe is best, to minimize friction losses.) There is nothing quite like an alternative power system that generates electricity 24/7/365.

"...the afternoon of April 19, [1943] two boys climbed up on the roof of the headquarters of the Jewish Resistance there and raised two flags: the red-and-white Polish flag and the blue-and-white banner of the ZZW (blue and white are the colors of the Flag of Israel today). These flags were well-seen from the Warsaw streets, and the Jews managed to hold off the Germans for four entire days in their attempts to remove them. Stroop recalled:

'The matter of the flags was of great political and moral importance. It reminded hundreds of thousands of the Polish cause, it excited them and unified the population of the General Government, but especially Jews and Poles. Flags and national colors are a means of combat exactly like a rapid-fire weapon, like thousands of such weapons. We all knew that - Heinrich Himmler, Krüger, and Hahn. The Reichsfuehrer [Himmler] bellowed into the phone: 'Stroop, you must at all costs bring down those two flags'." - From an account of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that began on April 19, 1943

Monday, April 18, 2011

After many months (my apologies!), we've finally corrected the link to our map of SurvivalBlog visitors. You'll always be able to find the map down at the bottom of the left-hand navigation bar. OBTW, please note that some of those locations might not be accurate, because of VPN Tunneling. (Speaking of which, if you are serious about your privacy, I recommend the Strong VPN service for both your e-mail and web browsing.


Today we present an article by SurvivalBlog's Medical Editor, Dr. Cynthia Koelker. She hosts the medical prepping site Armageddonmedicine.net.  Today she writes about prevention and treatment of potentially lethal infections.

In choosing the top five infections in which preppers should be well-versed, I have employed the following criteria: 

  • The infection must be potentially life-threatening
  • The infection must be potentially reversible with treatment
  • The infection must be common now and likely to continue into the future.

Based on the preceding, these five are a good place to start educating yourself.

PneumoniaPneumonia is often confused with bronchitis.  Both cause cough, fever, and difficulty breathing.  However, with bronchitis, the breathing tubes are narrowed, thus decreasing airflow.  Occasionally (primarily in patients with asthma or COPD) the airways will be so swollen that sufficient air cannot enter the lungs.  In these already-compromised patients, bronchitis may be life-threatening, but for the most part, acute bronchitis is self-limited and will resolve without antibiotics. In contrast, with pneumonia the tiny air sacs where gas exchange occurs are filled with infected fluid.  If fluid obstructs the membrane which allows oxygen to enter and carbon dioxide to escape our blood stream, the body may be deprived of life-giving oxygen.  Untreated, pneumonia is frequently life-threatening, especially in the elderly, the young, and those with other chronic breathing difficulties.  Sometimes bronchitis leads to pneumonia, or both problems can be present simultaneously (bronchopneumonia). 

As with most illnesses, there is a broad spectrum of pneumonia illnesses.  Some pneumonia is viral, and antibiotics do not help.  Pneumonia where only one lung is involved is usually bacterial and has a high enough fatality rate to warrant the use of antibiotics.  Untreated, the bacteria (commonly pneumococcus) may invade the blood stream, causing sepsis, widespread infection, and death.  Death may also occur from hypoxia (lack of oxygen causing suffocation).  It will be difficult for the layman to distinguish viral versus bacterial pneumonia (it’s difficult enough for doctors, who don’t always know either).  Diagnosing pneumonia by physical examination alone and distinguishing it from bronchitis is a whole article in itself, but one-sided chest pain is a strong argument for pneumonia in a patient with fever and cough.  (Blood clots, pleurisy, and heart problems may cause similar symptoms, however.)  Prevention of community-acquired pneumonia is 2-fold:  limiting spread via droplets and/or direct contact, and prevention of aspiration.  In the elderly, who have a decreased ability to clear their lungs, inhaling food particles or microbes frequently leads to pneumonia.  Having these folks eat slowly and remaining upright until the stomach clears after eating may decrease the likelihood of pneumonia.  Proper hand-washing for everyone and isolation of any infected patient should decrease the spread within the community. 

As for treatment, there is no single antibiotic guaranteed to work. What you have on hand may influence your choice of antibiotic.  Hospital doctors frequently prescribe IV medication, later switching to oral meds when the patient begins to improve.  You probably won’t have this luxury.  The strongest antibiotics (which you should probably reserve for the sickest patients) are Avelox, Levaquin, Biaxin, and Augmentin.  Appropriate first-line choices to treat pneumonia include erythromycin, clarithromycin, azithromycin, doxycycline, amoxicillin, and cephalexin.  Other possibilities include penicillin, ciprofloxacin, any cephalosporin, possibly trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole or tetracycline.  The length of treatment is another concern.  Five days may be sufficient in a patient making a rapid recovery, but 7-10 days is more typical, and a very sick patient, or one with underlying asthma or COPD may require two weeks of continuous, full-dose therapy.  With a limited supply of antibiotics, rationing will likely be a necessity, and you’ll have to decide early on what criteria you plan to use.

Kidney infectionKidney infection (pyelonephritis) is primarily a disease of women and the elderly, and occasionally children.  Usually, but not always, kidney infection starts with a bladder infection, with symptoms of frequent urination, burning, or abdominal pain.  The bacteria may ascend the ureter and lodge in the kidney, commonly causing one-sided back pain, just under the lower posterior ribs.  Untreated, the bacteria create a cesspool of infection, which may enter the bloodstream, causing sepsis and death.  In older men, the underlying cause is often an enlarged prostate.  Elderly men and women (and sometimes younger people as well) with a kidney infection may not exhibit specific signs, but rather simply appear ill or not themselves. 
Prevention is aimed at cleansing the urinary system by drinking plenty of fluids.  Having a more-than-adequate supply of potable water may be life-saving for the patient prone to kidney infection.  Women should always empty the bladder after intercourse, and should never hold the urine when they feel the need to go.

Appropriate antibiotic treatment of kidney infection usually begins with trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, ciprofloxacin, or nitrofurantoin.  Again, Avelox, Levaquin, and Augmentin should probably be reserved for the sickest patients.  Amoxicillin is generally the first choice for pregnant women.  Cephalexin (or any cephalosporin) will usually work.  I generally don’t use penicillin, doxycycline, tetracycline, or the erythromycins, but they are sometimes effective.  Because nausea is a common symptom of kidney infection, it is best to avoid any antibiotic that has nauseated the patient in the past.  Duration of treatment should be about 5 to 15 days, with the shortest length of treatment reserved for those patients who seem to get well overnight.  If the chosen antibiotic has made zero difference by 3-4 days, a different antibiotic should be tried, generally one from a different class. 
Diverticulitis.  Diverticulitis is a disease of the middle-aged and elderly, those who have been on a western (American) diet long enough to have the little pouches bubble out (like tiny hernias along the colon), where food gets stuck and infection may occur.  The colon is chockfull of germs.  Normally the bacteria don’t have a chance to invade the wall of the colon during their transit along the gut, unless they get trapped in one of these pockets where an abscess-like infection may form.  If the pouch swells and bursts, the patient is a dead man (without emergency surgery and antibiotics).  You cannot wait this long to treat this infection.  There are no specific tell-tale signs, but the problem is more often left-sided than right, and is rare in people younger than about 35 or 40.  A little diarrhea or dark, maroon (bloody) stool may be present.  Urinary symptoms are generally absent.  Doctors themselves are not always sure if diverticulitis is present, but the risk of waiting outweighs the risk of treating when the diagnosis is suspected. 

Ideally prevention of diverticulitis begins in childhood with a lifelong diet high in plant fiber.  For anyone reading this article, your colon may already be riddled with the pouches (diverticula), so your best hope is to prevent the infection from starting.  Many patients find that eating popcorn or other small, hard objects sets off their symptoms (though this is medically controversial).  If I had diverticulitis, I would at least be meticulous about avoiding popcorn. 

Antibiotic treatment should ideally include a combination of metronidazole plus either ciprofloxacin (or Avelox, or Levaquin), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, or possibly Augmentin.  Minimum length of treatment is one week, though two or even three weeks is sometimes necessary.

Clostridium difficile colitis.  Until we run out of antibiotics, we will continue to see c. diff. colitis, also known as antibiotic-related colitis.  This infection is very rare in patients who have not taken antibiotics, but more and more common in those who have.  It causes terrible diarrhea with an obnoxious odor, and may begin any time during or after a round of antibiotics.  Untreated, the infection can cause dehydration, sepsis, and death.  Prevention is aimed at limiting antibiotic use to those infections where antibiotics are essential.  The only readily-available oral drug for c. diff. is metronidazole.  Oral vancomycin is also effective, but much more costly. Conscientious hand-washing among patients and caregivers will help limit the spread of the disease.  As the use of antibiotics decreases, the incidence of c. diff. will decrease as well.

Cellulitis.  Lastly, cellulitis, or soft tissue infection, is theoretically almost entirely preventable.  As long as the skin is completely intact, without a scratch, blister, crack, or abrasion, cellulitis is quite rare.  But probably everyone reading this article has some little imperfection.  Looking at my own hands, I see a few tiny nicks, not to mention the dry skin caused by a long winter with forced-air heating.  A microscopic crack is sufficient to allow a microbe to invade, and the skin is always home to a variety of bacteria, usually non-virulent staph.  Upon invading the skin, the bacteria reproduce, causing either a localized pimple (or larger abscess, like a water balloon) or a more invasive infection, spreading through the tissues like a sponge.  The soft tissues in and under the skin swell, and become tender, red, and warm.  With cellulitis, the infection may spread to the lymphatic vessels or veins, enter the bloodstream, and, as with the diseases above, cause sepsis and death. Most cellulitis is caused by typical staph and strep germs, though other bacteria are not uncommon. 

The methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA) is a special problem.  Your main clue to its presence will be that drugs good for treating typical staph may not work. The best drugs for methicillin-resistant staph are currently trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole or doxycycline.  For typical staph or strep, cephalexin or Augmentin are good choices.  The erythromycins and tetracyclines usually work as well.  Ciprofloxacin (as well as Avelox and Levaquin) are best reserved for cases in which none of the above antibiotics are effective, which may indicate infection with a gram-negative bacterium such as Pseudomonas.  Cellulitis should be treated for about 5 to 15 days, again with the shortest length of treatment reserved for those who respond within a day or two.  If the infection continues to spread after 24-48 hours (or hasn’t started to resolve the infection by 3-4 days) on a first-line antibiotic, therapy should be switched to that for methicillin-resistant staph.  If this makes no difference by 3-4 days, or if the infection continues to spread, switching to or adding ciprofloxacin is indicated.  If none of these therapies work, you might try combining all three, but odds of this working is really quite low, and treatment may be futile. 

In a future article I will address diseases common elsewhere in the world likely to spread in the U.S. if societal upheaval occurs.

Several weeks ago, I talked about some of the multi-tools on the market. I mentioned that SurvivalBlog readers should avoid the no-name, no-brand of multi-tools on the market. They are junk, and you don't want to have to depend on one of these tools to save your life if TEOTWAWKI hits - that's not the time to discover the cheap look-a-like multi-tool won't do the job you ask of it.   My contact person at Leatherman alerted me to the new Military Utility Tool (MUT) that Leatherman is now producing. "Oh great," I thought to myself, "she's playing mind games with me - again." My contact at Leatherman is always sending me yet another new multi-tool or knife to test and write about. She likes making my life miserable - just when I find the perfect multi-tool from Leatherman, she sends me yet another slightly different tool. Then I have to put it side-by-side with some of the other multi-tools and decide if I want to carry the newest and coolest, or one of the other ones I have. Just when I get comfortable with a particular Leatherman multi-tool, that I think will take care of all my needs, something new pops up.  

I've got to say, this new multi-tool from Leatherman, may just be the one I'm gonna start carrying. The MUT was designed, with input from a couple guys at the US Army Marksmanship Unit, down at Ft. Benning, Georgia. I really respect these guys - they are into guns. I took a two-week course from some of these guys in 1970, and was certified as a Coach and Rifle Instructor through them - still have the certificate hanging on my wall, too - I'm proud of it.   Let me put it bluntly, if you own any type of AR-15 style rifle, you need the MUT. Please go to the Leatherman web site, and watch the video that shows all the neat things the MUT can do.

The MUT isn't just any ol' multi-tool, although it does have a lot of the familiar tools you'll likely use everyday. There is a knife blade, as well as a wood saw, and I like their wood saws, they allow you to cut through some pretty thick and tough brush - ideal if you're making a sniper's hide or building a shelter from the weather. The knife - it's sharp - right out of the box, too. Many knife blades found on lesser multi-tools are dull and simply won't take and/or hold an edge, no matter how hard you work at it.   The MUT has screw drivers - several of 'em, too. There is the standard flat and Phillips head screw driver on the bottom of the MUT. There are also some other driver bits - that are much longer - in the handle of the MUT. These are designed to reach into areas that require a longer screw driver. One driver bit even has a Torx head on it - for working on scopes.  

What multi-tool wouldn't come with regular pliers and needle-nose pliers? Well, the MUT has both, as well as hard-wire cutters - for cutting through thicker than speaker wires - and they are replaceable, should they become dull or damaged - great idea! Need to strip some covering off of a wire? The MUT has wire strippers, too.  

Now, here's where some of the interesting tools come into play for those of you who own an AR-15 style rifle. There is a bronze carbon scrapper - for removing built-up carbon deposits on your bolt and inside the bolt carrier. I've seen some folks scrapping the carbon off their bolts and inside their bolt carriers with a pocket knife blade. Wrong! You will damage both the bolt and bolt carrier if you do this 'cause it removes material. The bronze scrapper won't damage your bolt or bolt carrier. And, if you don't clean the carbon build-up on the bolt and inside the bolt carrier, you are only asking for your AR to malfunction at some point.  

How many times have your had problems pushing out the pins that keep the upper and lower receiver together 'cause the fit between the upper and lower is extremely tight? Yeah, that's what I thought - quite a few of us have had this problem. The MUT has a punch on it, that will easily allow you to push the two pins out that keep the upper and lower together, without damaging or marring the pins.   Here's one feature I'm sure you'll appreciate. Have you have had a jam, in which an empty case got caught between the bolt and the top inside of your upper receiver? It's one heck of a jam, and not easily cleared, especially during a fire-fight. Well, the butt of one of the handles of the MUT is specially designed to "hook" the bolt - then you just give the MUT a good pull reward, the the bolt will come back and the empty brass will come out...why didn't someone think of this sooner? This one feature on the MUT is worth having.   The butt of the MUT can even be used for an improvised hammer - it's "that" tough. Matter of fact, the entire MUT is built Marine Corps tough - I don't think a US Marine couple break the MUT if they tried - it's one tough tool.   The screwdriver bits alone, are really nice to have when tightening a scope down on your rifle. However, sometimes, the nut on the other end of the screw can't be held tight enough with your bare hand, and it turns as you are turning the screw to tighten it.  Leatherman thought of this, and included a separate wrench, that has the two most popular closed end wrench openings are included.  

If you need something to cut through a seat belt or light string or rope, the MUT has a "V" cutter on one end of one of the handles. It'll easily zip through seat belts, web gear or other similar material, without having to open the full-sized knife blade on the MUT.   The MUT also has a set-up that you can use to attach cleaning rods, and use the MUT's handle as the handle of the cleaning rod. Who thinks of these things? They are doing a great job, if you ask me.  

There are several different ways you can carry the MUT. There is a MOLLE sheath that you can thread through a MOLLE vest, for a very secure set-up. Also, the sheath can be adjusted for belt carry as well. If that's not your cup of tea, they there is a (removable) clothing/pocket clip on the MUT itself, so you can carry it inside of a pocket, or hung from a tactical vest. One more mode of carry is the carabiner - if you want to clip the MUT to a belt loop on your pants.  

The MUT has a lot of different features that are designed specially for those of us who carry and use AR-15 or M4 style rifles. The MUT is also a full-sized multi-tool as well - not some itty-bitty one that won't get the job done. I guess if I were to change or add one thing, it would be to add a file to the MUT. I use the file on my Leatherman Blast multi-tool all the time. The Blast also has a can opener, which the MUT doesn't have. I'll be honest, I've only used the can opener a couple of times on my Blast. If I didn't have the can opener feature, I'd open a can using the knife blade. So, I can live without a can opener - albeit, it would be nice to have. The file: I'm not sure where Leatherman could put it on the MUT, but I'm giving it some thought.  

The Leatherman MUT doesn't come cheap - then again, as I've mentioned before, quality is never cheap. And, the MUT is high-quality no matter how you look at it. If you want a multi-tool that can really take a beating, the MUT is for you. If you carry or use an AR-15 style of some sort, the MUT is a necessity if you ask me. I can see a lot of our military troops buying a MUT. I'll have to hide my MUT from my youngest daughter when she comes home on leave from the US Army - 'cause I know she's gonna want one of her own. Right now, the MUT is hard to find - they are selling like crazy. The suggested retail price is $180 -- not cheap. They can be found on Amazon for as little at $110. Even that is fairly expensive. But as I've said, quality never comes cheap, and you are buying from the originator of the multi-tool - Leatherman!  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Hello James,  
I read the recent article on survival for apartment dwellers and I hate to burst a bubble but a major factor was left out: SANITATION. It's incredible domino effect is truly mind boggling!   Back in 1999 I was involved in writing a white paper for the government on the effects caused by no running water.   I am afraid I know what I am talking about and it's not a pretty picture.  In 1998 in Auckland, New Zealand there was a lengthy power failure that in turn led to several days without water and what happened after three days will blow your mind.  

People in general are not smart. Rather than try and conserve or make a plan once the water stopped flowing, they would flush their toilets. Without power from the force of water pressure the tank doesn't refill. The domino effect is not only gross but staggering, what human beings that have never lived beyond modern conveniences will do is unimaginable.   What I researched and wrote about blew my own mind...when people were actually confronted with such a situation, they went where ever they could - they filled the toilet, the toilet tank, the tub, the shower, the sink - when the bathrooms became uninhabitable, they went in corners, boxes, bags, closets...most however left by the time they were using the tub. Guess how long that took? That's right, the three days!   In such a structure (high up in a condo), if you do all the right things, in no way will that protect you from all those around you who did not. If anyone lives above you, remember, the pipes are clogged and the stuff is (figuratively) looking to escape out cracks and openings which means their "stuff" comes in though the ceiling of your place.  

Reality check: If you're prepared and they're not, where do you think they go for food and water? Are you going to shoot them all? Are you really a killer? That's what it will take and if any form of police shows up who do you think they are going to take away, never to be seen again?   Truth is, for all you people who think you can maintain in you present homes that are located in cities and suburbs will be at constant war, an out come I'm not sure would be worthy of surviving for, an outcome where projections say only 10% survive...  

James, I just touched the surface of what I wrote about as I no longer have the papers, this was from memory. Imagine if you can, what I just described was happening in one condo complex - now multiply by the number of just apartments and condos in your area. Remember how these buildings have managers right? Wrong. They are the first to go! You will be on your own. And I haven't even discussed the methane problem!  

The biggest problem in all these worse case scenarios is that they only know so much that they are capable of writing about to claim as a worse case - when in fact and in true reality the worse case scenarios are always incomprehensible, case in point today is what is happening in Japan. What was once thought of as sci-fi is now being considered as possible in both discoveries and disasters.   Well, take care - Dave B. 

Dear James:
During the major winter storm here in Texas in January we experienced many hours without electricity. The power outages were caused by rolling blackouts and also by storm related damage. Our family made the decision to use the situation as an opportunity to "see what it would be like".

One major thing that we noticed that we were totally un-prepared for was the loss of the Internet. We quickly discovered how many times a day we use the Internet as a source of reference and information. Our thoughts were previously about e-mail and news updates. Those we could do without, what made the difference was the loss of being able to reference information, solve problems, and answer questions.

Your blog is a major reference source for our family. The archives of information are used daily to answer questions and provide valuable information. Without electricity, we were without Internet, and without Internet we were without our info references.

Our family got an Apple iPad for Christmas and we are amazed at what can be done with this small piece of electronics. It can run up to 12 hours between charges. Millions of people in this country have purchased the iPad and similar electronic "notebooks" since their introduction.

How about using some technology to provide preppers with info when the SHTF. Is there someway that you can make the archives available so they can be downloaded to iPad or similar notebook and be available to folks even if the grid is down and internet is not working or available? All the great store of information would be available at any time. Please consider someway that this information and service can be provided so that folks can have it on hand for immediate reference at any time.

Also, I wonder if you have any update on Anchor of Hope and what is going on with the Memsahib Memorial Fund?

Thanks, - Bryan E.

JWR Replies: A five-year compendium archive of SurvivalBlog on CD-ROM (in both HTML and PDF) optimized for laptops and iPads is now available on CD-ROM, for $19.95. Using a Mac with a CD-ROM drive, the entire contents can be loaded onto an iPad. There is also a Kindle-optimized archive of SurvivalBlog.com Archives 2005-2010 is also available for $9, via the Amazon.com store.

I'm pleased to report that the Memsahib Memorial Fund has thusfar raised more than $35,000 for the Anchor Institute mission and school in very rural Zambia. It is an outstanding charity, because it has hardly any overhead, and the recipients are very deserving. With enough funds, one future project there will be the installation of a photovoltaic power system.


I have been a part time survivalist for many years.  I thought about the topic while still serving in the Army and after retiring I have moved, slowly, to position my family to be able to survive if the Schumer hits the fan.   

I live in a brick home on 1-1/2 acres, surrounded by vast farmland.  Work cooperatively with neighbors to develop cooperative relationships that would benefit all parties if the worst happens.  Have the guns and ammo thing covered.  Food?  Still working on it but think we could make it for six months or more in extreme situations.  

Then, last night, an event occurred that showed me one area I have neglected.  Medical supplies.   My 7 year old daughter fell and busted her chin open on a kitchen stool.  Not a lot of blood but I was faced with the "does it need stitches" dilemma.  I called the emergency room and was given the "we can't make that call over the phone" line.  It was too late to take her to a doctor and too long before I could to leave it neglected.   

I searched the Internet for advice and decided steri-strips would fix the problem.  Of course I then had to find a store open at that time of night that carried the strips.   Long story short, I finally did get the steri-strips and latex gloves needed to treat an wound so not to cause infection but was left with many scary thoughts about medical preparations.   First, what books are in my medical library?  Hard copy books, not the Internet that would not exist in a worst case scenario.   

Second, basic medical supplies for simple injuries.  I am seriously lacking in that area.   

So this small incident drove home a sorely lacking area in my preparations for bad times.  I recommend that everyone check the status of their home medical supplies! - Tom L.

I thought I’d pass this along for your consideration to publish this link: Quarter of Meat Supply Contaminated With Drug-Resistant Bacteria.

This article may be alarming to some of our population, but to most of your readers I suspect it is not a surprise and many have even known or anticipated such an anecdotal report as we’ve been observing an increase in drug resistant bacteria for some time.   

What I took away from this article is the benefit of the extreme care it takes to not only raise animals for consumption (apparent source of pathogens) but thoroughness in dressing and processing animals whether it be field dressing, planned farm harvests or handling meat just prior to cooking/consumption.  It is most likely that folks raising their own meat will be doing so in considerably better conditions than cramped and filth laden feed lots.  However, since pathogens are not discriminating, it is worth pointing out the value of proper practices in raising and processing meat.   

In an effort to be proactive on this matter, maybe someone with farm experience in raising animals for consumption could comment on this.  Particularly someone with pathological training and experience, for example a veterinarian who would be making AB risk assessments on a regular basis.  Factually stepping through the process of husbandry to final preparation of meat for consumption would probably be quite useful and well received by your readers.  

Thank you for your work.  I submit that each and every one of us is a ‘survivalist’ whether we acknowledge it or not.  The difference is the breadth and depth of knowledge and skill to be as independently successful as one desires or finds necessary on life’s journey. In Liberty,  - Ricardo in In Indiana

Mr Rawles,    
Thanks for hard work and invaluable resources. I have a suggestion buying surplus military equipment. It appears the government liquidators mentioned have some sort of fees involved. Anyone can go to the DoD's Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service web site.  This eliminates any middleman and lets you look at available equipment online.  

In addition and maybe more usefully, every military base that I have served on or visited had a Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office (DRMO), and they hold regular sales, some walk-in like a surplus store and others by sealed or open lot bidding.  - J.J.

C.D.V. sent us a link to a Zero Hedge piece: Jobless Claims Huge Miss to Expectations of 380K, Print at 412K, Previous Revised Upward, Core PPI Higher Than Expected

Also from C.D.V.: Zoellick Sees Economic Risks From Food Prices, Debt, Inflation. In related news: World Bank president: 'One shock away from crisis'. (Thanks to Mark W. for the latter link.)

Pierre M. was the first of several readers to forward this link: More Americans leaving the workforce.

John S. highlighted this one: Banks Face $3.6 Trillion 'Wall' of Debt: IMF

J.H. was the first of several readers to mention this news story: University Of Texas Invests Nearly $1 Billion In Gold Because Kyle Bass Told Them It Was A Good Idea.

Joe Ordinary Voortrekker sent this: BRICs demand global monetary shake-up, greater influence. Joe's comment: "...but they still want to 'promote a just economic order'. More like they will be promoting the fall of the Dollar and with that an International Financial Crisis that will have people screaming for a solution.....(Fanfare please) and out comes the new 'and just' Global Currency. Meanwhile, we read: BRICS credit: Local currencies to replace dollar.

A Run On the Central Bank of Belarus as Devaluation Fear Forces Halt to All Gold Sales

Items from The Economatrix:

Consumers Feel the Pinch of Pricier Gas and Groceries

Gasoline Averaging $4 a Gallon In Five States

Six Banks Shuttered; Makes 34 Closed in 2011

Moody's Cuts Ireland by Two Notches, Euro Falls

U.S. Companies Shrink Packages as Food Prices Rise.

Reader Bryan E. wrote to mention: "Over the weekend we had visitors who are in the wholesale food distribution business. They were relating that they had experienced a 14% increase in wholesale food prices during just the month of March. Here are some examples:

Item Size March 1st Price April 1st Price
Sugar 55 lb. $33 $37
Flour 50 lb. $11 $16
Butter 30 lb. $74 $91
Margarine 30 lb. $17 $24
Catfish 15 lb. $54 $89
Cheese 42 lb. $2.55/lb $2.91/lb

Restaurateurs are greatly concerned about how they are going to adjust for these major monthly price increases during a period of already slow business. Many imported food products now have limited availability because the home countries are retaining them for domestic use."

Reader J.D.D. sent this: Week Ahead: Inflation on the Mind

Bill in New York sent this: Prices at LDS canneries show inflation for food up between 11 and 49%. Here is a quote: "The LDS's raising food prices at their canneries by 11 to 49% in just three months should be a serious wake up call to all Americans on the true inflationary conditions that exist in our economy, and that we need to constantly look outside government reports for the true data affecting our spending and finances."

Zach L. sent this: Indiana Farm Bureau reports grocery prices up 4% (in First quarter of 2011.)

Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large) recommend this National Geographic documentary: Witness: Disaster in Japan. Mike's comments: "This is an excellent presentation.  The first 30 minutes is raw footage from cell phones, local cameras and news, with almost no commentary.  There are English subtitles.  Watching six minutes of magnitude 9.0 shaking and collapse, followed by 20 minutes of blasting waves demolishing buildings and sweeping everything inland in a filthy black crush, is very sobering. The sheer level of devastation is a reminder that natural disasters dwarf anything that we might do ourselves."

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How about Gas for $2.80 a Gallon? Just one catch—it’s in Mexico

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The popular "When Your Family Thinks You're Crazy" thread over at The Mental Militia Forums just keeps getting longer.

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Reader R.B.S. mentioned: A Workaround For Domain Name Seizures?

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I noticed that the now classic Libertarian novel "Atlas Shrugged" just jumped to #4 in Books, on Amazon.com! No doubt this renewed interest can be attributed to the new Atlas Shrugged movie.) Some mainstream movie critics like Roger Ebert (known for his statist bias) have panned the film, but all of the SurvivalBlog readers that I've heard from have liked it.

"Last, but by no means least, courage—moral courage, the courage of one's convictions, the courage to see things through. The world; is in a constant conspiracy against the brave.  It's the age-old struggle--the roar of the crowd on one side and the voice of your conscience on the other." - General Douglas MacArthur

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Growing up on a farm in the Midwest I was exposed to the “self-sufficiency” mindset early on, even though I probably didn’t fully appreciate it at the time.  I can remember my grandmother keeping a large kitchen drawer nearly stuffed full of aluminum foil scraps, string, and assorted sacks and bags, all to be reused and never thrown away until completely used up.  Being snowed in for a few days each winter was never a big concern.  When the electricity was out we had propane and firewood to heat the house, plenty of food had been canned in the summer, and the worst thing we had to do was chip ice out of the water tanks for the livestock.  It seemed like a fair trade for some welcomed “snow days” away from school.

Like many of my cohorts, I grew up and left that world for a career in business and the relative “security” that a salary and benefits could provide.  Some 25 years later, however, it became apparent that the need for tangible security through diligent and thoughtful preparation was far more important than the gratification of immediate but not necessarily important wants.  Now having started to give serious attention to prepping only about one year ago, it’s amazing to see how the deliberate accumulation of “beans, bullets, and bandages” begins to come together as an appreciable stockpile. JWR's “List of Lists” spreadsheet is a great help in the preparation process, but it’s at around this time that I began to realize that it’s not enough to just buy the necessary or recommended supplies.  I really started feeling pressure to organize more effectively and find a way to manage all the items that are accumulating.

With particular attention to the food supplies being stored, I knew I needed to be able to answer the following:

  1. Exactly what foods (type, quantity, & nutritional value) are stored?
  2. What dates are the foods set to expire?
  3. What is the value of these foods?
  4. How long will these foods support my family and me?


The reasons to know this are important and simple. 

  1. I need to know how to consider the foods already stored against the list of foods still required to balance a diet (assuming you may not be able to supplement your stores for some period of time). 
  2. I need to know the expiration date of stored foods in order to rotate stock effectively and be able to donate those food stores to an appropriate shelter or organization while they still have enough life to be distributed and used by those in need. 
  3. I need to record the value paid for these foods so at the very least we can deduct the cost on our tax returns under charitable contributions.
  4. Most importantly, I need to know how long these stored foods will hold out.


Since I have a penchant for Excel, I developed a simple spreadsheet to track my food stores and help me plan for future needs.  This spreadsheet is organized in three sections, with several columns for recording information.  For purposes of example I will use a can of cooked chicken breast to illustrate how the spreadsheet works.  This can of chicken breast is 13.0 oz. and costs $2.00 at the local Sam’s Club.  The label says each serving is 2.5 oz and has 70 calories, 2 grams of fat, no carbohydrates, and 12 grams protein.  The expiration day is December 2013.

The first section includes the general information about each food, such as Category (i.e, Meat), Quantity, Description (Chicken Breast), Brand (Member’s Mark), Package Size, Serving Size, and so on. 








Serving Size




Chicken Breast

Members Mark

Sam's Club








The second section is for the nutritional content of each food.  This includes serving size, the calories per serving as well as the grams of fat, carbohydrates, sugar, protein, and fiber in each serving, as well as columns to calculate the total nutrients. 




Per Serving (g)






Total  Calories


Tot Fat


Tot Carbs


Total Protein



Chicken Breast









Nearly every commercially available food product in the U.S. has a label which contains this information.  For home canned or preserved foods, a kitchen scale can be used to record the weight of a container and either a label from a comparable commercial product (such as canned fruit) or a food guide available from www.usda.gov or a good bookstore can be used to estimate the nutrition value of those items.  Now with all of this information I can begin to make informed decisions about how many people I can feed and for how long. 

In order to do this I’ve added three lines to my spreadsheet.  The first is a total for each of the columns called Total Calories, Total Carbohydrate, Total Fat, and Total Protein.  The second line is used to enter the average daily nutrient requirements for each person.  And the third line is simply the number of people to be supported and the calculated number of days our supplies will last.

In order to complete this part the spreadsheet I need to know what amount of nutrient components a person will require each day.  As a guide I used the Daily Reference Intake (DRI) available from the USDA web site.  The chart below is an adaptation of the daily needs for an individual based on the DRI information.  For people four years or older, eating 2,000 calories per day, the Daily Values are:

Total Fat

65 g

Total Carbohydrate

300 g


25 g


50 g

*Source adapted from: USDA. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (2002/2005).

The DRI and other sources of information from the USDA and FDA are extensive and can help you plan needs using more exacting numbers than contained here.  The complete data includes guidelines including by gender, age, activity level and even information for pregnant and lactating women.

In this example and for simplicity, I will plan for four adults.  Of course, you will want to modify these requirements depending upon the actual number and make up of those people with whom you going to share your food stores.  You may also want to allow some margin for friends and neighbors that will inevitably end up on your doorstep when trouble begins as well as any supplies you want to designate for charitable giving or barter.

Now let’s assume that today my food stores include a total of 160,000 total calories, 6,000 grams of fat, 20,000 total carbohydrates, and 5,000 grams of protein.  Using the guidelines above, and with the arithmetic formulas in the spreadsheet I will determine that I have about 20 days worth of calories, 23 days of fat, 17 days of carbohydrates, and about 25 days of protein.  The chart below illustrates these numbers:




Total Calories


Total Fat


Total Carbs


Total Protein



Total Values:










Average Daily Requirements:



65 g


300 g


50 g

Persons Supported:


Days Supplied:









Not too far off balance, but if your goal is 30 days of supplies on hand you might be surprised to learn that you have a little ways to go.  But nonetheless, using this tool still gives me a better idea of how to plan future purchases and the number of days I can support people with a reasonably balanced and varied diet.   

The third section is where I record the price paid for each of these stored foods and the expiration date stamped on the container.  Instead of Expiration Date (it really doesn’t expire, does it?) I prefer to use the term “Donate By”.  Here columns exist for Price/Package, Price/Unit of Measure (typically ounces), Price/Serving, Total Price, and Donate By Date. 








  Total Price

Donate By


Chicken Breast








Total price is of course the price per package x the number of packages purchased.  At the bottom of this column I total up the entire amount spent of food storage.  This helps to understand the amount of money required to maintain a well stocked pantry or to replace those stocks when consumed or donated.

The one item I haven’t mentioned here is water.  Your stored water supplies whether in bottles, buckets, or barrels can be tracked using this spreadsheet as well.  However, since there are no nutrients to consider, I just make sure to divided my stored water by 7.5 liters (about 2 gallons) as an allowance for each person per day.  You may want to allow more for increased cooking or washing requirements, but it’s still very easy to calculate.

To be successful (in nearly every endeavor) you need a well thought out plan.  Since the accumulation of emergency food provisions is not likely to be done all at one time, and that those stocks need to be rotated and certain foods will be more or less available at any given time, it’s important to inventory what you have and how far it will really go.  I am more than happy to share my workbook with other preppers and hope you find it useful for planning and tracking your stored food resources.

JWR Adds: D.G.'s Excel spreadsheet is available here.

I bought and read your book ("How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It") and have read several sections of your blog, but I'm having a lot of trouble finding an item you mentioned several times - "defensive road cables". I have Googled this exact term and all I get is your article quoted over and over. Can you please send me a link or two or three where I can buy these or other info that will help me find them. Thanks.   - M.B.V. 

JWR Replies: To block vehicle traffic from roads, I was referring to 1/2" to 5/8" diameter steel cable and cable clamps to fit the same. These are available at any logging or machinery supply company.  They are set 18" to 24" above the ground, and locked with large padlocks. If large trees are not already growing in suitable locations for attachment, then you should set stout steel posts in concrete. Used lengths of standard gauge railroad track work well. You can use a cutting torch to punch holes through the thin (side) sections, to thread through the cable. After the cable clamps are positioned and tightened, you should braze or weld a blob on each bolt and nut end, to prevent the nuts from being loosened.

An important proviso: As previously mentioned in my blog and per widely-accepted military doctrine, any obstacle that is not within line of sight (and line of fire) of your retreat's defenders will only serve as a brief delay--not a true obstacle to advance.

Dear Mr. Rawles,  
I would like to add one more consideration to the post-collapse coffee junkie.  My fellow caffeine addicts may be under the misperception that their fix has to come from Java, Columbia or China.  Not strictly true.  Although it is not "coffee" per se, there is a native plant which can provide a caffeine jolt, hold off that dreaded withdrawal headache for you or be used to treat asthma attacks.  Ilex vomitoria var pendula, a.k.a. "Weeping Holly", is the only native caffeine producing plant, and grows very well anywhere other hollies grow.  The preparation is a little different, in that young leaves and twigs can be dried then roasted to a golden brown and ground in a mortar to a powder.  To prepare what the Native Americans referred to as "the black drink" you put some powder in a vessel, add cold water to steep then add hot water before drinking.  The steep time and dilution need to be experimented with to your taste, but can be anywhere from a mild tea to a heart-pounding, nausea-inducing level of caffeination. 

Incidentally, although they are very pretty and wildlife loves them, the berries are mildly toxic (and the source of the very unattractive species name) and should be left alone. -  Chris in Virginia

Disaster in the Deep South: Death toll from severe storms rises to 17

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C.A. in Oregon mentioned: Price of Tomatoes Has a Lot to Do With These Thefts

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F.J. suggested this, over at Lifehacker: Download Emergency Medicine Manuals for Free

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Sun's Storm Season Finally Heating Up. (Thanks to Steve S. for the link.)

"Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God:

Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.

He giveth to the beast his food, [and] to the young ravens which cry." - Psalm 147:7-9 (KJV)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I'm an amateur caver, all the caves I know of I found through a local college caving course which I've taken a few times. We learned from our instructor, a former Marine, with lots of experience, that most cavers are very zealous when it comes to locations of caving sites. Largely because graffiti pop-culture day-hiking tourists are so devastating to pristine cave environments, serious spelunkers will not share that information beyond their associations. I would not expect to find that kind of information resource online. Serious cavers simply won't breach their own operational security (OPSEC) to do that. IF anyone were to find a source online, I would expect that database to cover already known tourist and day-hiker caves. I've been through enough such caves to see what unsteward-like conduct will do to an otherwise gorgeous environment.

Which brings us to the question, from a prepping or survival standpoint, are caves a viable option? I've been giving this some thought. I am presently deployed to Balkans and, unfortunately, separated from my lists, notes, and references. What follows is strictly off the cuff from my own personal experience over the course of a few semesters of adventure caving and my own hiking encounters. My intended audience are the souls who have little to no experience with caving in any capacity and who are considering utilizing natural caves as part of a bug out, retreat, or cache plan.

Caves and Mines are not a good first choice for a bug out, retreat, or cache. That is my bias, up front and as a general rule I believe that statement to be accurate. To be clear, I am a prepper that happens to enjoy recreational caving, climbing and rappelling. What follows are some pros and cons that should be taken into consideration.


Caving is not as simple as grabbing a flashlight, bottle of water, sneakers, a sweater and heading to the nearest dark hole in the ground to explore. Recommended: If you are interested in prepping possibilities of caves or mines, first search out a local intro level class to caving/spelunking. The safety considerations are identical whether you are a day hiker wanting to casually poke around, or a prepper wishing to factor this into your contingency plans. An intro level class by an experienced recreational caving specialist is the best way of learning about recommended equipment, planning, and especially safety. What I cover in this article is by no means exhaustive and is directed to a specific audience: preppers who may consider including caves or mines as part of their G.O.O.D., Retreat, or Cache plan.
Underground terrain may be of the man-made (mine tunnels) or natural (lava tube) variety. Naturally occurring sub-terrain being perhaps a little safer than man-made: how old are those tunnel braces? Regardless of which you choose to venture into: the subterranean world is a hostile environment. Surface temperatures in excess of 90 degrees Fahrenheit will still yield subsurface temperatures in the high 50s or low 60s. Do not expect to find food or water and be warned that even your air supply is suspect. Any waste generated must be carried out: it will not decompose below ground. Cavers have to carry everything in and pack everything out. Light, food, warmth, water, insulation, etc… You can dehydrate underground and become hypothermic (all that cool rock and air will just suck heat out if you aren't careful).

It is never recommended to enter a cave solo. Once well underground it is YOYO time. Cell phones and radios won’t work deep underground. Our instructor shared this story with us: a group of cavers entered a local lava tube. From parking lot to end of tube took 30 minutes at a totally unhurried pace, maybe 2,000 meters total: 3/4s of which was underground. One caver fell and broke a leg. Someone had to go above ground for help. After the ranger station was notified, it took 12 hours to extract the injured person, 8 hours of which were spent by the SAR team extracting the casualty: a young Boy Scout. Litter-bearing in a cave environment is way more complex, exhausting and time-consuming.

Now, in this same cave, another day group entered once-upon-a-time. On their way out, one of their party, wearing a hard hat, took a step up and received a concussion after smacking a boulder directly above her. In a different cave, a day group stopped to take a break: a man put his hands on the roof above him to rest, little did he know that when he dropped his hands to resume movement a 70-lb chunk of rock would have been dislodged just enough by his unsuspecting contact to fall.

On a recreational day trip this is how I would roll:

Four people minimum, with a “surface watch:” someone dependable who will call for SAR after "x" hrs if not informed of our safe return. Hardhat, sturdy boots (steel or composite toes would be a good idea) elbow and knee pads, leather gloves, eye-protection, headlamps, hand light, back-up light source (another head or hand light), extra batteries, first aid kit, a layer of warm clothing, extra socks and a dry shirt, day’s worth of food and water, a fully charged cell phone that is off, waste “#1” bottle (wide mouth is always better: think empty Gatorade bottle…) waste “#2” bag (Foil zip-lock recommended: plastic will not retain odor completely), as well as climbing harness, rope, webbing and rappel/climb protection equipment as necessary (which will depend on cave environment), for each person.

Why four people? In the event of serious incapacitating injury, one person stays with casualty and two people go for help. Admittedly, you could get by with a party of three but IMHO two heads are better than one (especially in an emergency) and what happens if an injury befalls the party going for help? A four-person team allows some redundancy on this score. A three-person team leaves everyone exposed to a single catastrophic point of failure in the event Murphy strikes twice in the same cave.

Obviously in SHTF situation, you might not have the luxury of setting out with a picked team, and will certainly have no access to front-country emergency care if something were to go terribly wrong.

Other Considerations:
Underground does not equal hard to find or easy to hide. I have a few Army buddies who find caves by poring over topographical maps in search of depression features, which they will then poke around the vicinity to find caves. Also, on topographical maps, mines are often marked. That secret cave or mine may be on every map for savvy eyes to find and explore.
Know your cave! One cave I’ve explored has five possible ways in and out (one is a water feature--stale, no circulation--which I would drink from only as a last resort). Another cave allows for a 90+ ft rappel entry, two access points on foot and numerous opportunities to fall. A cave with multiple entries allows for egress options, but will pose a security risk—especially for someone going solo or a small group. A single access point allows you to clear your immediate area and be reasonably secure in what direction trouble may be expected from. Such restricted access, however, may also serve to trap you.

Cave environments will vary from dry/dusty to moist/damp. If you had to lug a bullet launcher, take the appropriate measures. Underground is not the place to engage in a kinetic lead dual. Sound will be amplified in an enclosed space; infrared enhanced night vision would be a must in a total dark environment, but would only be an advantage against an adversary that is not similarly equipped. Ricochets are a concern of course, but sound and impact bouncing off of surfaces may have greater adverse affects if a roof or wall falls in. Of course…smoke, gas, and hunger would serve just as well to flush someone out of a cave, as would sealing all points of access to otherwise neutralize occupants.

Caves for Preppers:
With all that in mind, let’s look at retreat, G.O.O.D or cache possibilities.


Better than nothing as a last resort. Would still have the logistical burden of pre-positioning preps on site, which would only work if this site was on land you owned. Even at that, a day-hiking trespasser might happen along upon your preps anyway if left inside unsecured. A cave-in or collapse would also be most uncool, too. If you locate a cave on your property free of human traces (and animal for that matter) and which does not also appear on the latest survey map, then such a cave might be worth exploring as a temporary retreat, especially if the alternative is a tarp shelter under a tree.

Caves are fun to explore, and do generally provide excellent shelter from the elements (wind and precipitation), but would make a poor living environment long-term post-TEOTWAWKI for anyone but a small group of healthy active adults.

I can hear it now… what about those cave dwelling tribes of yore in the Southwest? Those tribes (many active, fit healthy adults) took many years to carve their homes out of cliff sides. A very defensible position considering they also stored their own food, as well as the level of war making technology available at that time.

G.O.O.D: If you have Leather Personnel Carriers (LPCs), i.e. boots) bug out route planned sound-of-music style it might be worth identifying caves along the way that might serve as a layover point. This is more likely to be practical immediately after SHTF. Besides competing with animals, other folks may have the notion to squat in any available shelter as time goes on. In an immediate SHTF moment, I don’t think there is going to be an urgent push to go check out every known cave to establish cavemansteads or hunt down displaced persons or survivors. Hope is not a good plan, however, and I would plan on cave-layovers to be brief: a night or two tops. Pick terrain that permits long visibility, exercise strict light and noise discipline and have more than one egress to choose from if possible.

A cave would make a pretty decent landmark; unless serious upheaval takes place it probably won’t be going anywhere. Do not leave a cache in the cave, unless you are willing to lose its contents. Flooding, animals, hikers, etc… better to leave a small cache discreetly somewhere nearby. So if you had to G.O.O.D in LPCs on short notice, you could take a route that allows you to equip, shelter, and rest periodically on the way to whatever-your-final-destination-of-choice is. This mitigates the possibility of discovering that “oops, someone beat me to the cave” and is now: either in possession of your cache or squatting unsuspectingly on it. In such a case, simply acquire stash and move on. Your object, hopefully, being to get to a safe haven (a la American Redoubt?) rather than pick a fight.

In Closing
Caves and Mines are not a good first choice for a bug out, retreat, or cache. Unless I know more about the structural integrity of a particular mine tunnel or cave, I wouldn’t venture further than the entrance unless compelled by urgent need. Nor would I trust the contents of an emergency cache to reside in a cave or mine under any circumstance—I prefer not to accept exposure to so many factors that could be mitigated by simply burying a stash in the general neighborhood. I also like having options: putting shelter and supplies in one basket doesn’t allow for enough flexibility if a carnivore or someone else should claim that shelter space for home territory. Caves make better choices than mine tunnels: they are less likely to be explicitly identified on a map than mines and have less risk (not to be confused for no risk) of collapse.

Caves could be useful to preppers. Just be aware of the risk already inherent to subterranean environs and redundantly cover each base to mitigate risk as well as leave enough flexibility so that you have options if/when/ever the time should come to operationally test your plan.

If you have good knowledge of an area, have put in the sweat equity to know what is available around you, and implemented ways to support your goals while mitigating risk, caves could be a useful option… or a death trap.

Raising chickens is a wise investment in your survival, especially if you are now living on your rural retreat. We live in the deep southern United States, so it would be much different the farther north you live. I can only speak out of my own experience, so you will have to take what I say, combine it with all the other things you have read, heard and experienced on the subject, and modify it for where you live.

You need to have plenty of room for the chickens to live. If your chickens free range every day, less pen space is required. We keep our chickens in 10’x10’Xx6’ dog pens with chain link fence. The roof is recycled roofing tin, attached with recycled electric fence wire. In a pen that size, I keep one rooster and about 12 hens. If they never free ranged, they would need about twice that much room.

Down here, we don’t worry about winter temperatures, since winter is very mild and short. In the winter, we give them a wind break by tying either roofing tin, recycled plastic feed sacks or other tarp-type material onto the sides. We have chickens that are cold and heat tolerant, though the heat is the biggest concern.

We have a dog, which is essential to the life of the farm. He stays in his own 10’x10’x6’ dog pen with metal roofing, while the chickens are out free ranging. When the chickens are shut up in their pens, he roams free, checking for skunks, possums, other dogs, etc. He keeps them from digging under the dog/chicken pens.

Nesting Boxes
The hens need a quiet, dark place to lay their eggs. Five gallon buckets make wonderful nests. Wash it out well, then cut a hole in the lid, with a lip, to hold the nesting material inside. Put the lid on the bucket. Make sure it’s dry inside, then put in some straw, grass, leaves, etc. It has to be refilled often, since the hens throw the hay about, to try to camouflage themselves. If you wish, a nesting box can be made from wood or metal. Dimensions and building plans can be found in various places.


In a SHTF scenario, chickens could be fed table scraps, corn or wheat, and free ranging. While it’s ideal to keep commercial feed in front of them, they can make do with whatever they get to eat. They get a lot of green grass and minerals and bugs by free ranging. I haven’t tried to feed them without commercial feed. There are recipes around for substitutes for the essential nutrients, but I haven’t tried them. I do know that my chickens are healthier and happier when they free range, and it saves a lot of feed (money). Some people don’t want the chicken poop all over the yard, but chickens can be trained to stay out of certain areas. If you have compost bins around your trees and borders around your flower beds, you might want to make them tall enough that the chickens can’t scratch out everything. Compost and chickens make a great combination, since the chickens are more than happy to aerate the compost for you, and they get lots of bugs and other nutrients from it. They do not, however, discriminate against flowerbeds- that’s one way to find out which flowers are edible; the chickens must be trained to leave them alone by firmly and consistently being shoed away. They also like grapes, blueberries, pears and apples, so beware. Remember, they have a very small brain and a very short memory. They operate mostly on habit.

Chickens love cracked corn. You can lead them like puppies with corn chops, so keep it on hand, but try to not feed them too much— fat hens don’t lay too well. When training them to come back into their cage after free ranging, throw some corn inside the pen. If you can get a few to come eat the corn, they will call the others. After a while, they will come to you when you come out to the back yard, expecting to be fed. When training them to follow you into the pen, it’s helpful to pull their feed about 2 hours before close, then lead them back in with corn and feed. If you are fattening some to eat, such as roosters, feed them only corn. It will fatten them up like nothing else.

Having chickens is a (fun) time commitment. You must maintain your relationship with them. If you are not out and about with your rooster enough, he will think you do not belong near his pen or hens, and will attack you. You must consistently and firmly pick him up if he attacks someone, to show him that he may be boss of the hen house, but not of you.

Having a rooster has many benefits. He is very protective of his flock, and when they are free ranging, he is constantly on the lookout for dogs, hawks, owls, possums, etc. Often he will send out a warning call if he isn’t familiar with some sound, and all the hens will hunker down and be very still and quiet. If you have a big problem with varmints, I suppose you couldn’t free range. It is important to keep the roosters’ spurs trimmed. I personally do not like the idea of removing them, since I do want him to be able to fight, but I don’t want him spurring me or my family or the hens, so I believe in trimming them, similar to trimming a cat’s nails. I pay attention to the phases of the moon, not to worship it, but to be able to understand phenomenon in the physical world. It is a good thing to trim the rooster spurs close to the new moon, to cause him as little pain and blood as possible. If you cause him pain, he will cause you pain. It’s best to do the trimming after he’s gone on the roost. Take a file, nail clippers, scissors, or a veterinarians’ nail trimmer, and another person with you into the chicken pen. Take the rooster off the roost, tuck him under your arm and hold his feet, one in each hand. The other person should trim off his spurs. Cut close to the end, then round it off. Next month do it again, and so on, until they are shorter. Work as quickly as possible, then put him back on the roost. If you do draw blood, don’t worry, it will dry and he will forget. The next morning, he will be crowing his cheerful wake up call just like always.

It is a good thing to have a broody hen to be able to maintain your flock if you have no electricity. However, if allowed to free range, a broody hen will often make a nest in some secluded spot, away from your peering eyes. Just follow her when she goes to lay, or watch where she comes from when she cackles, to be able to find her eggs. I haven’t had a hen hatch any eggs, since they are less people friendly when they do. A broody hen is much more self-sufficient, which is a good fit for a survival situation.

Hatching Eggs
I started out with Rhode Island Red chickens, since they are supposed to be a dual purpose chicken (eggs and meat), and my husband liked them. The Rhode Island Red roosters tend, however, to be aggressive. I then tried some Barred Rocks, in a different pen, while keeping the Rhode Island Reds as well. The Barred Rocks are much more docile, and make better meat chickens. And they lay as well as a Rhode Island Red. I am going to try some Buff Orpingtons now. They are supposed to always be broody, though the Barred Rocks are sometimes broody. It is possible to take the eggs off of one hen and give them to another that is broody, so a Buff Orpington or broody Barred Rock can hatch Rhode Island Red eggs. It is important if you want to hatch chicks to have a heritage breed, which all three of these breeds are. A heritage breed reproduces well, generation after generation. It is ok to in-breed chickens, though it is better if you don’t. If you are worried about it, you can get a new rooster from time to time to introduce new blood. Hopefully, you can find one of the same type, to keep your flock of the same breed. In a survival situation, it is a very good thing to start with as healthy chicks as possible, so that they will require much less maintenance with limited resources. Free range eggs make stronger, faster growing chicks. I have hatched caged eggs and also free range eggs, and much, much prefer the free range eggs. I won’t go into the details of how to hatch eggs, as the instructions are readily available. It’s a lot of work to replicate the conditions that a hen provides.

Raising Chicks
When the chicks first hatch, it is important to get them into a brooder box. You can buy fancy expensive brooders that work very well. Or you can make your own, if just for a few chicks, from a cardboard box and light. Put a thermometer in the area by the light. The ideal temperature for very young chicks is 95° to 100°F. Have an area where they can get away to cool off— a long narrow box is a good shape. In my commercial brooders, I have a red fabric homemade curtain to separate the heated area from the “cool” area. They can easily go under it to regulate their temperature. You will learn the difference between a frantic “I’m too cold” chirp, and a calm, happy chirp. If you hear the frantic chirp, and see them hovered under the light for a long time, you might put in a bigger wattage of light bulb and drape a towel over the box, being careful to not touch the light with the towel. It is very important to keep the box clean. In a homemade brooder, you have to change the paper out at least twice a day. A paper towel is a good choice to cover the floor, placed over newspaper to be absorbent. Newspaper is too slick for the chicks to walk on. The commercial brooders save a lot of cleaning by putting the absorbent newspaper under a net wire floor.

Chicks can be started on straight corn meal instead of commercial chick starter, but when they get to be about 3-4 months old, they will need lot more foods with more protein. Always make sure that the feed and water are clean, and make sure that they are always available. If you are using plastic water troughs, add a few drops of vinegar to the water. It helps to clean the digestive track of the little chicks, though free range eggs hatch healthier chicks that don’t have too much trouble with that. Baby chicks can’t free range. They are so vulnerable to cats, varmints and older chickens. If I was having the hen raise them, she would stay in a small pen and not free range during that time.

This isn’t going to cover nearly all the problems, but here are a few.

Cannibalism. This is where the birds (young or old) peck each other and draw blood. I used to have problems with this, until I found out that they only do this when they are terribly deficient in meat. Free range chickens get plenty of bugs and small creatures for protein, so they don’t peck each other. Whenever I have any kind of meat or animal bones that I don’t want, I feed it to the chickens. The bones can either be beaten up with a hammer, if you have a strong arm, or pressure cooked for an hour or more in vinegar water.

Thin Egg Shells. This is the result of a calcium deficiency in the hens’ diet. The cheap and easy way to fix this is to save all your egg shells after using the eggs, wash and dry them, and grind them up. Feed this to the hens. The more effective solution is to buy oyster shells and feed to them. I add both to their feed. It saves a broken egg if you happen to drop one or two.

Blood spots in the eggs. This is the result of bacteria in the water. Always keep fresh water available to them. Better yet, save your rain water to give them— they prefer it. Add a little vinegar to their water, if it is in a plastic container. Vinegar will rust metal containers, which will produce more blood spots in the eggs. A simple solution: cut a hole in a milk carton and put some water in it, and add a little vinegar.

Ant Killer
Here in the south, we have these wonderful (yeah right) creatures called Fire Ants. I have yet to find any way to get rid of them other than to put fire ant killer on them. I have to be really careful about it around the chickens, though, because it will kill chickens. It is poison, wrapped around cornmeal. If it is put down in the ant mound, the chickens won’t bother it, but heaped on top, the chickens will eat it before the ants get to it.  

You have to love the chickens to do a good job raising them. Mine get every little scrap of meat or vegetable I can save for them. They love carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, apples and pears, peaches, etc. And they fight over any little scrap of meat. They love anything made with flour (whole wheat or white), corn, oats, etc. They will clean up termites if given the chance (so I hear). Chickens are so much fun to keep. They are an investment in my sanity during a SHTF scenario since I enjoy watching them. Farm raised eggs also make a wonderful cash crop. You would not believe the demand among people who aren’t quite ready to take the plunge into farm living, but want the best of both worlds. Before my first batch of chickens hatched, I had people asking me for eggs. I have planned to make a little sign for our road, advertising eggs for sale; I might get to that if I ever have any excess eggs. Store bought eggs simply do not compare with farm eggs. The shells are thicker and the yolks are usually a dark, deep orange. The eggs have 4-6 times as much vitamin D, 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2/3 more Vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more Vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene than caged eggs. And no one will ever be able to convince me that caged chickens are happier than my free range chickens, and happy animals make happy meat and eggs.

Mr. Rawles-  

I continue to enjoy your blog.   I read with interest Pat Cascio’s review of the MGI Hydra rifle

I can think of a one very good scenario where such a system is very valuable:  In a political environment where licensing restricts the number of guns that one can own.  The Witness brand semi-auto handguns are popular in Europe for this very reason.  One receiver can support several different caliber conversions.  Unfortunately, those same places usually take a dim view of private ownership of AR-15 style weapons platforms, so other restrictions may prevent ownership in any case.  

For most people, the Hydra is a solution in search of a problem.   The caliber conversion costs as much or more as entire, good quality firearms.  Certainly as much as complete uppers in various calibers for the AR-15 platform.  For the cost of a Hydra rifle and a single caliber conversion, one could purchase two good quality AR-15s in different calibers.  Or an AR-15 and a very high quality bolt action rifle with good optics.  Or a rifle and two good pistols.  And so on.   The parts swap process, although described as reasonably quick, is not conducive to portability or longevity.  Loose parts get lost in the field.  In SHTF times, servicing the Hydra platform to replace a broken part could prove very difficult or impossible.   I appreciate Pat’s reviews, but this one seems like a product that preparedness-minded folks should avoid, unless they have a lot of spare money that doesn’t need to be going to other, more appropriate preparations.   Thanks,   - Rich S.

JWR Replies: One other legal circumstance would also make the MGI Hydra a good choice: Locales where particular cartridge chamberings are restricted. In Mexico and France, for example, there are restrictions on having firearms chambered in currently-issued military calibers. This explains why both AR-15s and Mini-14s have been chambered in .222 Remington. It also explains the popularity of Colt M1911 pistols chambered in .38 Super. (Both 9mm Parabellum and .45 ACP are restricted in Mexico.) A rifle with quick-change barrels would be a real advantage, especially if laws were to change rapidly. Your rifle could easily be adapted quite rapidly.

I’d like to put my two cents in the coffee discussion. I work with a major coffee roaster and I know we and probably no other roaster in the country packages stale coffee. When beans are roasted they can be exposed to oxygen for a long time with out going stale. However, when the beans are ground they do have to be packaged quickly or they will go stale. If our ground coffee is not packed within 28 hours it is sent to the compost center.

The comment about the coffee being packed stale because other wise the bags would "blow up" is misleading. After the coffee is ground is gives off a lot of CO2, as it gets older less CO2 is released. If you were to put fresh ground coffee into a sealed bag, the bag would in deed expand greatly. That is why most if not all roasters have a one way valve built into the bag, the CO2 is released as the coffee outgases and no oxygen is allowed in the bag to make the coffee stale.

Our coffee has a printed shelf life of nine months, but it would take a real coffee expert to tell the difference in taste if the coffee was several years old. - L.C.

I'm sure that most SurvivalBlog readers watch precious metals prices closely. Friday on the COMEX was amazing: Spot gold at $1,486.40 per ounce and spot silver at $43.05 per ounce! At this point, it is best to wait for a big retracement before buying any more.

Big banks are government-backed: Fed's Hoenig

Reader G.P. suggested this Daily Mail article: $5 gas by summer? Prices near $4 a gallon as frugal Americans cut back at the pump (and some even start stockpiling food)

Goldman Sachs Calls the Top in Oil and Metals: Clients Advised to Close Positions. JWR's Comment: Given the market fundamentals, I'm dubious. But as I recently mentioned, this would now be a good time for anyone that bought gold at less than $750 to sell up to one-third of their gold and immediately reinvest the proceeds in other tangibles, to diversify.

G.G. sent this: U.S. Deficit to Rise to Largest Among Major Economies, IMF Says

Larry T. recommended this article: Chinese Real Estate Bubble Pops: Beijing Real Estate Prices Plunge 27% In One Month

The latest FDIC Friday Financial Failure Follies: New Horizons Bank and Bartow County Bank, both in Georgia.

Items from The Economatrix:

Stocks Edge Higher But Leave Banks Behind

Rising Gas Prices Push Wholesale Costs Higher

Senate Report: Goldman Sachs Behind Economic Crash (But the government helped too by not providing oversight)

Higher Prices Because of Japan Earthquake

Americans Saving Money By Purchasing Old Military Equipment. (A tip of the hat to Sue C. for the link.)

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Timothy R. flagged this: New Bill is Direct Threat to Ham Radio

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Frequent content contributor Pierre M. sent this: Yellowstone Supervolcano Bigger Than Thought. Be sure to follow the infographic link.

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Safecastle is conducting a non-fiction video and article writing contest that will last from March until the end of 2011. SurvivalBlog writing contest winners are automatically included in the judging. Safecastle is giving away more than $12,000 worth of gear. Some of the prizes include: Joey-XP Teardrop Trailer, list price of $7,065, an EcoloBlue 30 atmospheric water generator, list price, $1,500, a Katadyn Pocket water filter, value $320, and an Excalibur 9-Tray Dehydrators, value $275. For details about the contest, visit this forum thread. Questions or comments about the contest can be posted here.

"[There is] treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up." - Proverbs 21:20 (KJV)

Friday, April 15, 2011

April 15th is traditionally Tax Day here in the U.S., although this year it falls on Monday the 18th, just so that everyone can can both celebrate Emancipation Day and have a fun-filled weekend of self-flagellation assessment. The good news is that April 15th is also opening day for the new Atlas Shrugged movie.


Today we present another entry for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Preparing for an uncertain future when living in an apartment or a condominium ("condo") can be a struggle.  When the Lord has not chosen to give you land to work with, you work with what he has given you, knowing first and foremost that he is your first retreat, and no matter what happens, "All things work together for the Glory of the Lord...".  There are many limiting factors when you do not have the smallest amount of land.  And if you are reading this, you probably agree that our future has many uncertainties from economic, to natural, to spiritual.  I would like to share a bit of my families walk in this world that the Lord has chosen for us.

Our Situation     
As a starter, I have been married for 12 years, and have two wonderful children who are not in school yet, although when the time comes, we will likely do home-school.  Our finances are poor, weighted down by circumstances beyond our control, and poor spending habits from our youth, so living on a budget is a new thing for us.  We have lived in our condo, that is for all intents and purposes, an apartment on the top floor, with neighbors beside and below, for five years.  Our condo is in a cold climate, with a very abbreviated growing season, but with much hunting and wilderness close by.  Still, as you might expect, the condo is in a small city, about 80,000 population, and not in the best neighbor hood.  During our time here, we have learned many lessons, and would like to share those with you.  

Setting Goals     
Before you start anything, it is wise to have a plan, and a destination.  Our goal over this time has been to prepare for any situation that may arise, so that we will be self sufficient for 30 days minimum in our condo, and then have resources to contribute should we be forced to relocate.

The first concern of any prepping situation should always be water.  It is the most vital component of any survival situation, second only perhaps to shelter.  You can understand the difficulties of storing watering an apartment, but there are some things that can be done.  The 5 gallon office jugs that are used in office are great for storing gallons of water, and can easily be stored in a closet.  For 30 days and 4 people, it was decided that 30 gallons would have to do.  Worthy of note, is that you should still add a cap full of water purifier to this, since it will be stored for a long period of time, and should be rotated about once a year.  This provides a gallon a day, and could be supplemented by a nearby creek.  This is the next step in our water prep plan, to have a water filter capable of handling raw water to supplement what is on hand.  Also an option I have considered, is installing a large water tank in the condo (in a closet or under a cabinet)  and have all the water run through it, so if the water goes out, there will still be a large tank of water we could draw from, and it will constantly be rotated and fresh.  This will take some investment though, and handyman work, so for now, the 30 gallons and filter plan will have to do. 

Food storage is also an issue that has special considerations.  Space being the most obvious.  For living in an apartment, all the same food rules apply, but I would say that storage is a bit different.  Here again, a converted closet fills in as a Larder.  When an item is used up in the pantry, it moves in from the Larder, and you go shopping for the larder.  But there is a catch for the apartment dweller, so everything is made mobile.  Placing everything in 5 gallon buckets, that may or may not be sealed, but this makes them portable in case the need to relocate comes up.  Also, there are no 'root cellars' or basements in apartments, and not in our condo.  So keeping things cool dry and dark becomes an issue, and the 5 gallon bucks with gamma lids seems to work will, especially with mildew issues, that seem to happen.     

Expanding food stores to a year or more is something else that is a important, but as the space is an issue, has to be handle carefully.  We decide to diversify our food and store it within our community of friends, so if a retreat is necessary, we will have already been contributing to them, and relocating should be a little easier.     

A surprise is that a garden is not out of the question.  Although it is small, the association or manager may allow you to put up a small garden were flowers or anything else may grow.  We setup a square foot garden behind our unit.  Its not private, and pretty open to the neighborhood kids, but it is better then nothing, and also teaches us need to know stuff information for when the Lord decides we may have a home.

Fuel is a large concern for apartment dwellers.  It is dangerous to store, and very needed when temperatures can reach 20 below zero (Fahrenheit) all winter, and even colder, at times.  Not to mention the need to cook, and power for other living needs.  Our solution at this time is to make sure we can last for 30 days, and with this in mind, we have gotten a Big Buddy heater.  This has the low O2 sensor on it, and in addition, we have a CO2 detector.  In our apartment, we have ventilation vents, about 6 inches in diameter that allow fresh air into the house, but I don't think I would rely on these.  When push comes to shove, there are also the dryer vent, stove vent and bathroom vent that will allow rotation with outside air.  At this time we haven't tested our heating, and possibly cooking means, but with a little piping, a heating system should be available.  As for storage, Some of the small enclosed fuel for camp stoves are kept in the house, but the large propane tanks that would be required for the heating are stored outside, at a friends house within walking distance.

Security for some people is large concern.  I personally believe it is taken out of proportion to other needs that may exits, that is why I mention it only after 4 other points.  That being said, it is a priority, and I do believe that in a worse case scenario, we would be more like New Orleans then Japan.  To that end, I do have arms in the form of:

  • A semi-automatic rifle with full capacity magazines,
  • A hunting rifle,
  • A .22 rimfire rifle
  • A 12 gauge shotgun

I hope to add a large caliber revolver, later.  

Of more import though is the operational security (OPSEC) of keeping what you are doing out of direct light of your neighbors eyes.  With an apartment dweller, this is all the more important because of the close proximity of potential threats, especially, if like me, you do not live in the greatest neighborhood.  This is best handled in the obvious ways.  Keeping things low key, and moving equipment and food in small amounts.  [JWR Adds: I advise apartment dwellers to use musical instrument cases when they transport their guns. Used cases can often be found for very modest prices at thrifts stores or via Craigslist. ] As a follower of Christ, it is still important to reach out to your neighbors, and form bonds with them that the gospel may be spread through love, but at the same time, there is no need to broadcast your preparation plans.  Here the saying is best applied, loose lips sink ships.

Medical and G.O.O.D. bag     
These two I will mention as they are important to any prepper, but only in passing as these do not differ greatly for an apartment dweller then with a home owner.  But there are some points that I will bring up that I think should be made.     

G.O.O.D. bags are easy enough to put together, and should include a mini set of everything you would normally make for prepping.  I include at the end of this a simple list of our bob bags, a starting point that we used.  We put these together for less then $150 over the course of two weeks.  Special attention was placed on the weight, and should be a special note to an apartment dweller, as if it comes to bugging out, you will have to hike your bag out.     

The First Aid kit or Medical Cabinet as I am coming to call it is also a priority, but does not differ greatly for the apartment dweller.  There was recently a fantastic post about your first aid kit (What is a Well-Stocked First Aid Kit?, by K.M.), and I will simply reference it here and say that is what we are aiming for.  For preparing, there will be a medical cabinet that is currently under construction, a first aide kit for the BOB bags, and a car kit, for any camping or out of the house needs. 

Retreat and Community     
It is apparent to me, as a condo or apartment dweller, making plans beyond 30 days would be unreasonable, as the logistics and OPSEC become more and more complicated and dangerous with each passing day.  The time to move out to a retreat would be highly dependent on the situation.  Should there be an event were a break down in society takes place, waiting 30 days may be suicide.  But this is very situational, and should be handle as such.  I would add to this only that you should not push it, if you wait until the last minute when the decision is obvious, it may be to late.     

Now a retreat is not like it sounds to to most, and perhaps I should not call it so, but for the lack of a better word.  Here it means going someplace for the long term, a year or more.  This could be a friends house, or perhaps a relative, but someplace planed far ahead of time, as dropping in on anyone only adds to your problems, and theirs.  This will likely get you turned away, even by the best intentioned people, when it comes to choosing your family or theirs.  So Planning ahead is important, probably the most important, and this leads into community.     

By connecting with like minded people in your area, you can begin to plan ahead.  Finding out what they need, and building relationships that will endure.  You can learn skills that will add to the group, buy things to supplement what they have or add to needs that they may have already.  This will provide you some place to retreat to.  It is highly advisable that you pre-stage food and other things there ahead of time.  This proves your commitment to them, and at the same time diversifies your assets, in case of fire or other eventuality, all your resources are not lost with your apartment.     

Something else that can be considered in conjunction with the retreat portion is a trailer.  Getting a trailer, or a pop-up camper, is a great way to expand your flexibility.  You may not be able to keep it in your apartment parking lot, but by setting one up, you add to you storage space, add space to store volatile things best stored outdoors, and also provide a living space in case you are forced out at the apartment.

Don't get down yet, there are some positives for being an Apartment Dweller!

This deserves its own special section.  Lets face it, if the SHTF, then apartment dwellers are going to need someplace to go.  But this doesn't have to be a bad thing.  Everyone can't know everything, and as an apartment dweller, you can make yourself much more valuable to your group by learning and expanding skills that will be needed.  In addition to two strong arms and like minded faithful Christian loyalty that any apartment dweller can bring they should also be able to bring other skills, like Sewing, woodworking, cooking with raw ingredients, baking, engine repair, and many others.  Personally, I am focusing on butchering, as that is what is needed in my community.  So I am gathering those skills, as well as some of the specialized equipment that demands.  This coincides with planning ahead for your retreat, so people are not doubling up on skills, and invests you in the group, even if you don't have your own dirt.

Communication is a point that is often overlooked in prepping.  If a community wants to be effective in coming together and working together, then they will have to be able to communicate in a grid down situation.  This is actually an asset for the apartment dweller.  Communications gear, and ham radio training is relatively cheap, and with little creativity, is easy enough to keep out of sight.  For the community, which is likely not in the middle of town, information will become more important then gold.  This is were the apartment dweller can and should shine.  Just like a scout that feeds information back, the apartment dweller can do the same, and holds a highly valued place in the system in which they support.  Countless people have died for lack of good intelligence, and an apartment dweller can give this back to the group like no other.

I often wonder why the Lord keeps me where I am, I have tried to move into a house 5-6 times, and it just was not to be.  But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't do your best to prepare.  When "you see the red sky in the morning"  you should prepare for the storm.  And to those who may think that an apartment dweller has nothing to offer, think again, the Lord has placed us all exactly where he wants us. All things work together for the Glory of the Lord and those who serve Him!

As a final point, I have found very little for apartment preppers, so I have started my own little blog.  Please drop by. If I get enough interest, I will keep up with daily posts and tips on prepping while on a budget and living in an apartment.

Appendix--My G.O.O.D. Bags Contents:

Bag X2 Waterproofing Clothes Base layers Fleece pants Fleece shirts Wool socks Hats Gloves Undies Diapers Covers for Diapers Re-usable wipes for diapers Ring Sling Packable rain coats/ pants x4 Gun and ammo Water Food 6-8 Mountain House meals Chocolate Blanket--wool or emergency blanket Fire Matches Magnesium or fire key Fuel, steel wool, fire sticks Propane cook top Camp cooking set Knifes Sharpening stone Leatherman Saw Hand axe Machete Tarp Compass Magnifying glass Mirror whistle Duct tape String & rope & hooks & Carabiners Documents - copies Cash Optics--binoculars Traps--rat traps Emergency radio Batteries Water filter Pencils, paper, books Waterproof cards Survival books Portable med kit Insect repellant Fishing box Sewing box LED Flashlights and headlamps Children's bags - Blanket, bottle of water, food, book, and stuffed animal

Update, October, 2011: This review has been updated to NEGATIVE. To explain: In my original review, I had posted favorable comments on the MGI "Hydra" rifle system. I am withdrawing that positive review, and alerting SurvivalBlog readers to NOT purchase this product. While the sample I wrote-up in SurvivalBlog worked flawlessly, I have been informed of some serious quality control problems with current production Hydra rifles. Several SurvivalBlog readers who placed orders have received defective guns. One SurvivalBlog reader, after many months, finally did get a working Hydra. Another SurvivalBlog reader is still waiting. He returned his Hydra before he even took it out of the gun shop - it fell apart. And now, despite numerous attempted contacts, he can't get any response from MGI nor have they offered a refund.
It would appear that we were all disappointed to one degree or another. So, be advised that I recommend that you DO NOT do business with MGI until they have corrected their quality control problems and have established a good reputation for customer service in rectifying their past mistakes.

As with many guns and calibers, there is a debate over which rifle is "better" - the AR-15 style or the AK-47. Once again, I've avoided this debate, and as I have said before, there is "no better" when it comes to certain guns and calibers. One of the things folks don't like about the AR-15 style of rifle is the caliber .223/5.56mm - some say it's not powerful enough to reach out there and touch someone compared to the 7.62x39 (AK-47) round. Many say the .223/5.56mm doesn't penetrate deeply enough compared to other rounds, especially the 7.62x39 round. I'll not disagree entirely to the above statements. Many feel that nothing less than a .308 Winchester round will do for their survival needs. We can debate which is "best" from now, until the cows come home, and the argument will never be won.   I've been writing about guns and knives for about 18 years. And, any more, it takes a lot to really impress me in a new gun or knife. So many guns and knives are so much alike to another design, it can make your head spin. In steps the MGI Military "Hydra" modular rifle.

The Hydra is a true modular rifle based on the ever popular AR-15, with a few new twists of its own. The Hydra can be set-up as your basic AR-15 style rifle - firing the .223/5.56mm round, and it comes with a free-floated barrel for added accuracy, as well as a quad-rail handguard and flat-top receiver for mounting your favorite optic, laser, red dot or regular sights. If that's all the Hydra did, it would be a good rifle, it's a big step above many of the economy AR-15s on the market, make no mistake about that. What we have in the MGI Hydra is a rifle/carbine that can easily and quickly change from one caliber to another - in about a minute and a half. The Hydra can change from a plain ol' .223/5/56mm to a good number of other calibers in less than two minutes, with no special tools. That is the good news. The bad news is that in recent months, serious quality control issues have emerged.

My Hydra is set-up with the standard .223/5.56mm 16" barrel. I also have conversion kits so I can use AK-47 mags, 9mm Colt AR mags and Grease Gun mags. I have four different calibers I can shoot through my Hydra, and I'll be looking at getting the conversion kit so I can shoot 9mm Glock magazines - for this, I only need to purchase a mag well that takes 9mm Glock mags - I already have a 9mm barrel and bolt. I added a flip-up rear sight, and a LaserLyte green laser to the quad-rail. the LaserLyte green laser is bright - it can be seen in bright daylight, and is military tough.   - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


In the recent article Coffee in a Post-Collapse Society, the author is talking about Arabica coffee being only cultivated near the equator. Robusto green coffee can be grown in the southern states like Florida, south Texas (same latitude as Cuba, a coffee producing country) basically any place that citrus can grow, Robusto coffee can grow. Robusto coffee can grow at low altitudes although it is not know for it's high quality taste. Robusto coffee beans that are used mostly for instant coffee and a blend with Arabica beans in espresso for a creamier foam.

Yields for Robusto coffee are about 1-2 pounds per bush. For more information, visit the Talk About Coffee web site.

Coffee bean trees are sold as ornamental plants in the south. Available at nurseries that sell ornamental houseplants. Regards,. - M.B.

James Wesley:
Following the link in the coffee article to purchase a [hand-crank coffee] grinder, I found it was no longer available [from that vendor].  But I found the same model, Kyocera Ceramic Coffee Grinder (Model CM-50 CF), on Amazon.com for $5 less, and with free shipping. - Bobby S.


I'm not sure that T.R.'s comment about most ground coffee in stores being allegedly stale is the most important consideration in a post-Schumer-hits-the-fan environment. I hardly think that in the midst of a major crisis, people will complain that they aren't getting freshly-roasted coffee beans--most people who drink coffee will be happy to get any coffee at all, as long as it doesn't taste like it's been exposed to open air for an extended period of time. Having said that, just because coffee is already roasted and ground doesn't mean it necessarily tastes subpar, except to "coffee snobs" who should be happy they're getting coffee at all when Starbucks should be the least of their concerns. There is good coffee out there, it just takes a bit of personal research to find what you like.

My coffee of choice, Cafe Bustelo (which should be easy to find in most major grocery stores across the U.S., and it's very common in the Southeast and especially in Florida), comes in vacuum-sealed steel cans that require a can opener to open them--none of those flimsy foil flaps that are so easy to puncture. Not only is it pretty darn hard to compromise the vacuum seal in a sealed steel can under most normal storage circumstances, but the Cafe Bustelo cans, being all metal, are also very handy as storage containers after the coffee is gone. And at less than $3.50 a can at Wal-Mart, it's a pretty cheap barter and/or personal item to stock up on.

And if things get bad enough, coffee could also be a type of "currency" that can buy you protection or get you out of a dangerous situation. I know that a lot of people are uneasy about the thought of this sort of bribery, but if it helps save the lives of your family or loved ones in an already-bad situation, it's worth it. I've been reading Martin Gilbert's book "The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust" and there are a number of accounts in the book of people in WW2 Europe doing whatever it took, even bribing officials with various items, to help save Jews and others. I think that given the economic Armageddon approaching the Western world, coffee will be just as valuable as it was in war-torn Europe. - S.C.


Hi Jim,

Just a note about today's coffee post:

Coffee is a xanthine (same a theophylline, used to treat asthma). When I spent a year in rural Turkey (archeology dig), my allergist told me about using coffee for a vaso-dilator in a pinch. I found it helpful, and two Turkish coffees in the morning reduced my lung inflammation.   This was 25 years ago.

Here's a link to more recent studies. Thanks for all you do.   Blessings, - Mary Beth

Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large) mentioned this chart: The U.S. Misery Index, showing unemployment and inflation. Note that the numbers for the last 16 years are artificially low, because the back room boys have been monkeying with the inflation statistics. (They have been made artificially low, by the advent of hedonic adjustments.)

Reader RJK wrote: "Jefferson County, Alabama will be bankrupt by July of 2011 and the bankruptcy will exceed that of Orange County, California.  The county is going bankrupt because the county commissioner engaged in [derivative] interest rate swaps that exceeded the level of debt. He and the investment advisors are now known by inmate numbers."

Several readers sent this: Inflation, using the reporting methodologies in place before 1980, hit an annual rate of 9.6 percent in February, according to the Shadow Government Statistics newsletter.

Pierre M. spotted this: Budget tricks helped Obama save programs from cuts.

Items from The Economatrix:

Consumers Buy More Retail Goods in March

Job Openings Rise to Highest Point Since September '08

IMF Warns US to Make "Down Payment" on Massive Deficit

Japan Downgrades Its Economy

Joe D. sent some insight on retreat locales: West Texas becomes ever more lonely as population drops. Since domestically-produced oil may spark a post-collapse renaissance, finding West Texas land with a reliable water well might be a good idea.

   o o o

Commentary from Laurel, over at the Faith and Heritage blog: A Good Children’s Book Is Hard to Find

   o o o

Claire Wolfe comments on the botched Mt. St. Helens evacuation, in Backwoods Home. (Thanks to The Other J.R. for the link.)

   o o o

The folks at Backyard Food Production are again offering a 10% discount for SurvivalBlog readers on the DVD "Food Production Systems for a Backyard or Small Farm". This DVD is a fast way to learn to grow food.  It is a comprehensive tutorial on home food production available showing you how much water you need, how much land, highest efficiency gardening systems, home butchering and small livestock, orchards, and more - all with the focus of how to do it when the stores are closed.  SurvivalBlog readers will get a 10% discount off the regular $28.95 price.  The discount will be available only until the end of April, so order your copy soon.

   o o o

J.B.G. recommended this: De Borchgrave: The coming geopolitical upheaval

"Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked, ‘Account overdrawn.' " - Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

My father introduced me to the art of trapping when I was just 10 years old. I remember walking the edges of rivers checking the sets that he had made and seeing him bring home red and gray fox. When I was 12, I took a safety course and got my trapping license. The first year my father did most of the work setting the traps, while I did the baiting. As years went by he stopped trapping but I continued and by definition am now a professional. Whenever I had the chance to trap where someone else was setting, I studied their sets and made mental notes of what worked and what didn’t. I was offered an opportunity in my teens to trap raccoon with a neighbor who was very well known for his trapping ability. The first year I trapped with him, I caught ten raccoon. He later showed me some sets for trapping beaver. In this article I will share some knowledge with those interested in trapping furbearers. Many of these furbearers can be used as a meat source too, with proper cleaning and cooking. Before trapping make sure you have a valid trapping permit and check local laws regarding which baits are permissible to use.

We will first discuss small and easy game, the muskrat. These little critters are pretty easy to catch and offer both source of food and soft fur. The easiest way to locate muskrats is to search along muddy creek or pond banks. Muskrat make a 6” diameter hole into the bank for their den. In ponds with fallen trees or stumps they will often make a house out of dead grasses, reeds and pond scum. I have found that muskrat dens are much easier to trap than houses. If you locate a den, house, or run where you can clearly see that they are swimming, you can set a fast and easy connibear trap. Connibear traps are the fastest and most humane way to catch and dispatch animals. Connibears used underwater will grip the body of the animal and hold it, allowing the animal to drown in a short time. I try not to use connibears on land as they most generally will kill anything that gets in them, including animals not intended to be caught. As mentioned earlier I find muskrat houses difficult to trap because of deep water, difficulty in locating there entrances and the possibility of scaring them off. I will often set leg hold traps to catch these house living muskrats when they are on floating logs they use for a toilet, or under a tree they use for a feed bed. A feed bed will usually be found under an overhang, in tall grasses, or under a tree so that they will be protected from flying predators. Feed beds will be located in shallow water normally at the water’s edge and will look like mowed grasses. I find apples make great bait for muskrats and often you’ll find slides and runs under apple trees along rivers and ponds.

Muskrat are skinned in a tub fashion. Make a slit from their inner leg to the vent, then make a ring around the tail. Make another cut from the underside of the tail to the vent. You can then simply work the fur down toward the head, pulling and cutting. When skinning take care not to pull too hard on the muskrat as you may rip his stomach open. Use your knife to cut the tissue holding the skin to his body. When you get to the front legs, just pull them through, and the skin will tear, leaving little leg holes. Once to the head you will have to cut holes for the ears and eyes. Once you are done skinning, stretch the fur by placing it on a commercial metal wire stretcher or on a homemade wood stretcher. The meat from muskrat can be used like beef as they are herbivores.  I prefer to grind it and cook it.

The next water-dwelling furbearer I would like to discuss is the beaver. Many of the same principles of trapping muskrat apply to beaver. Beaver also make dens and houses. Their houses are made of mud and sticks. In my state it’s illegal to set a trap within 25 feet of a house. The connibears for beaver are much bigger, and special care should be taken when setting them. If you get caught in the trap, you will not get out on your own. Never fasten a large trap until you have finished your set, in case you get caught and need to go for help.  You can set connibears in runs (large muddy cuts in the river or pond bottom), and in front of dens (again in my state if the den has sticks on top it’s considered a house). Leg hold or pan traps can be set where beaver enter and exit the water. You can bait beaver with poplar tree branches.

To make this set drive several fresh cut 3”-4” diameter sticks in the bank where water is shallow. Put smaller branches behind the larger sticks. Using a knife peel some bark away from the sticks so the scent of the poplar sap can be picked up by the beaver. Push two sticks into the bank in a “V” shape parallel the water so to guide the beaver into the trap. I will usually place a small rock in front of my trap (beaver swim with the legs facing backward, when they bump into the ground, they place both front feet down to support themselves), by placing the rock you can be assured the beaver will bump it and place his feet in your trap. Otherwise you may just catch his chest hair and educate him.

When using flat/pan traps you need to make drowning sets, as beavers will simply chew off your stake and leave with your valuable trap. I make a wire slide using a 90 degree bent washer with a hole drilled in one side. You need to position the washer so when pulled down the wire it will slide freely but when pulled backward it will bind and not slide. Stake the wire to the bank on one end with a metal post. You can use cement blocks, a burlap bag filled with rocks or any other means for the other end but make sure the deep end of the slide is at least 3” deep and heavy enough a beaver cannot pull it out. I once walked up on a livid 55-pound beaver that had pulled my drowning set up onto the bank. Every tree, shrub and piece of grass in a 6’ diameter had been chewed, spit on and put in a pile that he was sitting on top of as if to say, "I dare you to mess with me!" To dispatch a live beaver I prefer a .22 short out of my H&R 9-shot revolver. The .22 Short bullets enter the skull but do not exit and does less damage to the pelt and in a survival situation less damage to the meat.

Beaver will often have fleas so keep them away from your body and dogs. I place mine in a contractor style garbage bag followed by a three-day deep freeze in my chest freezer before skinning them. You can also use flea and tick spray by spraying it into the bag and then sealing the bag. Beaver are skinned differently than muskrats. To skin beaver, ring their tail then lay them on their back. Make a single cut from head to tail and peal the skin around to the back side. Once you’re past the legs hang the beaver by his tail and work the skin off the back. The back has a lot of gristle and works hard. To process beaver you need to flesh them out by removing the fats and meat from the skin. Then stretch in a circular pattern on a piece of plywood. Cook beaver similar to beef, they are an herbivore as well.

Raccoon will be the final animal I'll discuss. They are a curious animal and are relatively easy to catch on land and water. I prefer to trap hillside seeps (wet springs) and river bottoms. I use natural cubbies such as uprooted trees, or stack stones to make a cubby. If trapping along a stream with a high muddy bank, I make a pocket hole cubby by digging a 10” diameter hole at a 15 degree upward angle.  Use your hand to smooth the entrance of the pocket cubby so it looks like something has been using it. For bait I use Jack Mackerel, a marshmallow and some homemade fish oil. To make the oil I place several small feeder fish chopped into 1” chunks into a old jar. Leave the jar in direct sunlight with the lid on loose (this allows for the oil to outgas, keeping it bug free). When baiting my set I place a spoonful of meat on a rock in the back of the cubby then make a small hole in the top of the marshmallow with your pinky finger. Put your fish oil in the center of the marshmallow (this keeps the oil from evaporating or running off the rock) the white marshmallow servers as a visual attractor to the raccoon. You can also use Jello powder at sets to draw in a raccoon and make him work the set more giving you increased time to catch him. I place a pan trap in the entrance of the cubby or pocket hole (preferable covered by 1” of water). If no water is available take care where you kneel and what you touch so your human scent is not left behind. Cover with leaves or a thin lay of dirt. Fasten your trap with wire to a drag so they can get away from the set without destroying it. I have used some set locations for several years allowing them to look more natural over time. I have also just placed a pan trap in shallow water with a piece of aluminum foil over the pan.

Raccoon are curious and grab for the shiny object (make that 102 uses for aluminum foil). Raccoon can also be trapped in blind sets on trails by placing the trap on one side or the other of a stick they need to step over. This assures a clean front foot catch (though you may catch any animal traveling the trail). I have had deer set traps off this way before. Skinning a raccoon is similar to skinning a muskrat with the exception that you keep the tail. Ring all four legs then make a cut from the underside of the legs to the vent. Make a triangle type cut around the vent and continue the cut up the tail. Then work the skin off the animal. To pull the bone from the tail use a clothespin or a tail puller and place around the bone and pull down. The fats on raccoon are very flammable. I have heard of people using the carcasses for heat. The oils could be used to coat boats from leaks, canvass tarps and oil for lighting. I have no idea how the smell would be from the oil light. The meat can be cooked and should be cooked thoroughly as they are omnivores and eat both meat and wild edibles. Most people I know bake raccoon and place the meat chunks on a cookie rack above a plan so the fats drip off (can be used later). If the animal appears to be mangy or have distemper, there is a possibility of rabies and I would dispatch of the creature and bury it where nothing could dig it up.

Many other animals can be trapped using the above methods and most are skinned using the tub type discussed. Snares can be used as well but 95% of the time anything caught in a snare will be dead upon arrival including domestic animals. You can feed the meat of animals to pigs as well but again rabies could be transferred so make sure the animals your trapping are healthy. For a beginner looking to get started I would recommend reading Guide to Trapping by Jim Spencer, Into The Primitive: Advanced Trapping Techniquesby Dale Martin, and Trapping North American Furbearers by S. Stanley Hawbreaker (my personal favorite and can be found at yard sales and library book sales). Also get several different size traps 110 connibears, 330 connibears, #1 ½, #2 and #4 pan traps. A couple dozen traps and a little practice will make sure you can catch and eat animals others might not have access to. As stated before many times on survivalblog.com, knowledge is useless unless you know how to use it.

It is the "End Of The Welding As We Know It".   For a while anyway...  There was an accident at the Louisville, Kentucky plant which supplies most of the calcium carbide to North America. Calcium carbide is the main raw material used for for making acetylene gas for oxy-acetylene welding and more importantly oxy-acetylene cutting. Most welding is done with other processes and most cutting can be done with propane, MAPP (Methylene Acetylene Polypropylene), or natural gas. The cutting torches will require different tips and even when up and running there are those who will dislike the longer preheat times.  

Suddenly the things I was doing and planning to do have changed. There are other, smaller sources of acetylene so critical uses should still get enough to get by though none have enough excess capacity to meet all the demand. I expect prices to rise of course. Funny how the other sources suddenly find it more expensive to produce acetylene. It will be interesting to see how far reaching the ripple effect will be. You don't have to think too long to see how all of society is affected by, if not dependant upon, metal fabrication/welding. A couple times in your novel "Patriots" you mention using welding gases to do a job. This is fortunately not not the sudden and final end but it is a good time to come up with switch to Plan B at least as a trial.  

My side line is repair and light fabrication and for that I use a variety of processes. In case of a major disruption I have a very basic AC/DC transformer welder and a growing collection of welding rods. My Listeroid powered genset runs primarily on diesel but my fuel supply can be easily extended by supplementing it with furnace oil, vegetable oil, propane, methane or woodgas. With just the welder I can of course weld but also do a surprisingly good job of cutting and piercing. Well, the word "cutting" may be a bit generous but "severing" is a fair description and is better than nothing.  

Why a stick welder? Well, there is no denying the ease and speed of wire feed MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding but simplicity, reliability and versatility will be more important to me. I will have no contact tips, liners rollers, guides, shielding gas or squeaky clean wire to worry about. If some one has a better set up and stockpile that will be great but on my budget this will be quite sufficient. If I have a box of rods I can keep going and do so even in conditions that MIG welding is simply not possible.   As for versatility working on different metals means just switching electrodes and no concerns about needing a particular shielding gas. 7018 electrodes are sort of the benchmark for steel but they need to be kept perfectly dry for inspected welds and at least very dry for decent home welds. Electrodes like 6013 and 6011 though are happy on the shop shelf and will run on the most basic, low cost welders. Some may scoff at these two rods or at stick welding in general but in a pinch (or a crunch) they will work pretty well and no one will be X-raying the welds. No big commitment is necessary for diversity; just whatever quantity of specialty electrode you think you can justify. I'll have to admit that aluminum is no fun with a stick welder but it is sometimes possible.  

One especially nice angle is that this survival skill pays me to practice. As it pays I can expand my preps related to the skill or preps in general besides just making ends meet in these uncertain times. Add to this set up a few hand tools and basic supplies like gloves and lenses and the situation is quite capable and sustainable. If there is anything left of society after the crunch I expect to supply a service which is valuable to myself and others. A second welder would make good sense but it's already on my list.   Cheers, - Groundhog

Mr Rawles:  
Well, this is an area of knowledge where I do in fact have some expertise, being a caving professional.  I hadn’t ever really considered caves to be of much use from a prepping standpoint, but as an expedient shelter with a constant temperature they could have their uses.  

A bit about my background -   I have logged about 3,000 hours in caves during the past 5-6 years during which time I have been a ‘wild cave guide’ - meaning that I run tours through rugged and undeveloped caves - not the wheelchair accessible type.  I am also an active and trained member of the regional and national cave rescue organizations.   

The disclaimer:  Caves are inherently risky.  If you manage the risks properly, the danger level goes down, but if you ignore the risks they can be one of the most dangerous environments a person can enter into.  This danger chiefly arises from the darkness, the rugged terrain and from the remote nature of caves.  There is no recourse for help when in a cave – no cell, no 911 – except the people you have with you and the trip plan that you (hopefully) leave with a trusted loved or friend on the surface.   

That said, I love caves and think they are marvelous places.   Caves of any reasonable size are a constant temperature year round.  They generally take on the average temperature of the climate that they are located in.  Caves in the Bahamas are about 90 degrees Fahrenheit while others in the Rockies can be 30-40 or below freezing.  Some caves have permafrost – a relic of glaciations.  Practically every cave has critters, usually in the form of wood-rats, bats, or bugs (like cockroaches in warmer climates).  

Most mine shafts would have the same characteristics of caves, unless they are particularly deep, in which case they can get very warm.  

You might have difficulty finding resources on cave locations, because cavers are tight-lipped and keep their cards close.  That is because they have been burned time and time again by some bozo learning where a cave is and partying/spray painting and trashing the place.  Particularly at risk are the speleothems – the stalactites and stalagmites and so forth.  They take many, many, many years to form and a careless second to be destroyed.  They are irreplaceable.  But this thing called the Internet was invented and it seems to be great at searching out information and disseminating it to all.  Treat the caves you find with respect, I beg you.  

Clubs:  The best place is your local ‘grotto’ of the National Speleological Society (NSS).  Membership is inexpensive, their training is top notch and if you show them you are responsible they will open wide the gates for your area.  In Canada there are equivalent regional caving organizations.  Just about every nation in the western world has a caving organization.  Caving clubs also survey and map every cave they find, usually to a very high standard.  A map (or “survey”) is indispensable.  

Publications:  Books like “Caves of Montana” are usually outdated, as the caving clubs lobbied governments in the 1980s to keep from disclosing new caves that are discovered due to conservation concerns (the bozos I mentioned earlier).  The caves are still there, but access may have changed.  Topographic maps will give you cave locations that were discovered long ago – but the caves are still there.  They are also the best source I know for local mine shaft and adit locations.  There is such a thing as 'Mine Exploration' that is becoming more popular (‘Mine Ex’ or ‘MinEx/MinX’).  Mines are often an order of magnitude more dangerous than caves due to unstable and loose rock from the mining and blasting process.  Mines cave-in, but caves don't.  

Internet:  There are a number of sites where cave locations are posted, usually by amateurs, such as Facebook or personal web pages.  Seek and ye shall find.  There are also several good kml files for Google Earth that users have created.  

Check land ownership and BLM, National Forest or other governing bodies before traipsing out to a cave – there are often restrictions for environmental conservation, such as endangered hibernating bats, and some caves have seasonal restrictions on them.  

From a prepping standpoint, I have cached first aid and hypothermia treatment equipment in caves, bundled in garbage bags and stuffed in five gallon buckets and covered with rocks.  We check it yearly for any problems and in the past 10 years or so have had none.  I can’t say it would be the same if the buckets smell like food, though, as the critters have sharp teeth and nothing but time on their hands.  Caves are also usually very, very humid - up to 99% humidity in some.  So keep that in mind.  And they are, again, generally public.  So you might get pilfered by the five-fingered bipedal rats, too, if you’re thinking of storing anything in a cave.  

Above all be careful.  Join the NSS or local caving club and learn the risks and how to deal with them before you go.  Please, please, please.  The last thing I want is to hear of another cave-related fatality in the news. - E.B.


Hi Jim,
The geological term for areas that have natural underground caves and passage ways is Karst, A German named Karst first described these areas where this type of underground passages exist. It is called Karst Topography. Usually found in geological formations that can be dissolved away with rainwater. Such as limestone and alabaster [gypsum] formations.  

Use a search engine to locate areas of Karst Topography. This kind of topography often shows up on topographic maps if you know what to look for. Areas of Karst Topography that are aged will have many of the structures collapsed. This creates a number of large "dimples" on the surface. The topographic maps will show the larger ones with a broken topographic line indicating it is a lower elevation than the surrounding area. In northwestern Oklahoma north of Woodward and Mooreland is a vast area of Karst Topography. There is an natural underground cave system called Alabaster Caverns State Park north of Moorland.  

You may want to use a search engine to locate alabaster caves also.   I have explored a group of these caves on private property north of Woodward. Most of the Karst Topography in that area is private property. Never came across snakes, coons, possums, bobcats, dogs, cats, insects, rats and other rodents in the caves. However I did encounter large colonies of bats. Many many of them banded with metal leg strips that were different colors, sizes and evidently from differing study groups. Quantities of guano on the floor in some places. Bats carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans.   Be aware that caves formed in alabaster may contain water that looks clear and fresh. This is what is called "gyp" water. Dissolved gypsum which is a superlative transbowel movement piece of music set to moans and flatulence if you mistakenly drink it. It will produce an ovature of movement of feces that may be uncontrollable.

In the Malpai areas of New Mexico exist large lava tunnels and caves created when air bubbles were formed in the molten lava. But this type of geological structure is rare and confined only to areas of Malpai [lava runs on the surface] Karst Topography is much more common.   Cordially, - J.W.C.

JWR Adds: There are also large lava tubes in Hawaii and in the Pacific Northwest, but most of them are very well-known.

Hi Jim,  
Robert R. asked about resources for locating caves, mine shafts or other underground shelters.  I don't have such a resource to offer but would like to point out that many such excavations and formations are on private property and it is unlikely that he will be welcome in the event the SHTF.   

We have a hundred year old horizontal mine shaft (10'w x 7'h) that goes about 500 feet into a mountain on our retreat property.  It borders National Forest land and most who climb the mountain probably assume it is public land. It's not, and neither is the mountain.  I'm quite certain a lot of folks have decided that's where they will go if the balloon goes up.  They will be met with the stark reality that it's not theirs and they will be removed using whatever level of force they make necessary.   Best, - Matt R.

JWR Replies: As previously discussed in SurvivalBlog, there are precious few caves or horizontal mine tunnels on public land that don't fall into any these categories: 1.) Sealed-off, 2.) Well-known, or 3.) Seasonally restricted. In essence, "secret caves"are just about mythical. I suppose that given lots of research, scouting, and logistical planning, there could be some utility in short-term use by families or small groups in the event of a nuclear event. But don't be surprised if someone else has the same idea for the cave or mine shaft that you have in mind.

Regarding the article "Some Investment Options for the Prepper", K.P. suggested: "Real Estate Rentals – Buying real estate now? Are you crazy? No, not at all."

No, K.P. isn't crazy, but I believe that he is uninformed.

For many decades I have been bullish on real estate, but the rules have changed, and this time those changes are permanent and come with very serious consequences for those who hold a mortgage. Details of "The forever mortgage" were quickly spelled out, and then any information of "The forever mortgage" disappeared as quickly as it appeared.

Real estate is great and offers so many more advantages than any other investment vehicle but the rules have changed!

Please, please, please do not buy investment real estate in this market! If you think the prices are great right now just wait until next fall! The prices will be yet lower, and those new rules hiding in the shadows are a friend to no investor.

We had a beautiful view home and the sale of that home came with much anguish but at that time (December of 2009) we knew we were doing the right thing. The house sold for an unbelievably low price, but today the price would be even lower, and now sometime before closing the lender would not even grant the loan.

Real estate is not selling, the prices are still dropping, and new rules will strip away many benefits, and chain you to a mortgage forever.

I always want to own, and despise renting, but the truth is that in any but the best markets it is actually cheaper to rent than own.

One last thing. The word "mortgage" means to engage, or pledge till death. This time our government really means it! - Rick

Trapper Mike sent this: Future farm: a sunless, rainless room indoors

   o o o

Pierre M. sent us a link to an interesting site on van modifications--showing real world experience with both four wheel drive and photovoltaic power systems.

   o o o

Bill in Virginia sent this: Hanging out at the Sensible Preppers Conference (in South Carolina.)

   o o o

F.H. recommended this article: North Dakota the First to Pass New Tactic Against Federal Debt

   o o o

G.G. liked this one: Feral chickens have proliferated in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina

"If, from the more wretched parts of the old world, we look at those which are in an advanced stage of improvement, we still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretenses for revenues and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without tribute." - Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791

As a fellow trapper I enthusiastically read the article on trapping and although I have never eaten Raccoon. I can vouch that beaver and muskrat are good meat sources. Muskrat, I do not eat regularly, but beaver is more substantial and I do regularly take the meat and the skin is durable enough to be used for hats, mittens, coats, etc. When skinning beaver take care not to cut the castor glands, first these smell awful and would taint the meat, second you can sell them, and third you can use these to make your own lure for predators. Here is a link to a nice diagram showing where the castor glands are I often harvest part of the beaver for cooking, the skin for tanning and use the remaining parts for bait for predators. It seems to be a universal bait good for lynx, fox, wolves and wolverines.

For a novice trapper, there are three basic ways to trap critters two of which are lethal and the third is not. First there are snares, which can be made with a variety of gauges of wire and can catch anything from squirrels to wolves, well, bears actually, but I haven't had the pleasure of that, yet. Then there are lethal traps such as the connibear that was mentioned in the article, and finally foot holds which leave you with a live critter, meaning, you have to dispatch it, you have to check your foot hold traps more frequently and the area disturbed by the animal once it is caught is going to probably be a bigger area. There are countless pros and cons to each method. Snares can be made in quantity and are relatively cheap, but often can not be reused. Traps are more expensive up front, but can be reused with minimal repairs for many years. I would recommend for preparedness sake to put in a stock of each of these three types in a variety of sizes.  

As far as trapping for food I would recommend snares and lots of them, they are small, inexpensive, easier to transport and can be used in quantity. In my area rabbits are easy to snare, but if you do not check them frequently you lose your catch to predators such as fox. Squirrels can also be caught in quantity with snares and bait such as peanut butter, the military teaches the making of squirrel poles for survival situations. These are poles (trees leaning at a 45 degree angle. You place bait at the top, or middle and then snares on the top and sides up and down the pole. I haven't tried this but am sure it would work and is somewhat similar to bait poles used for martin.   

My personal preference for muskrats are fish traps (Dyke traps), these can be made of netting material or chicken wire. I would recommend having some of these for catching fish, muskrats, and other small critters, here are some examples.

Anyway, this is a topic near and dear to me and an often neglected area for preparedness minded individuals. There is too much to put in a short note, but please do post more on this topic.

Mr. Rawles, it goes without saying I love your site, I check it daily as does most of my family. Thank you for all you do. - Alaska Country Girl

Letter Re: Let’s Talk About Trapping: North American Furbearer

As a fellow trapper I enthusiastically read the article on trapping and although I have never eaten Raccoon. I can vouch that beaver and muskrat are good meat sources. Muskrat, I do not eat regularly, but beaver is more substantial and I do regularly take the meat and the skin is durable enough to be used for hats, mittens, coats, etc. When skinning beaver take care not to cut the castor glands, first these smell awful and would taint the meat, second you can sell them, and third you can use these to make your own lure for predators. Here is a link to a nice diagram showing where the castor glands are I often harvest part of the beaver for cooking, the skin for tanning and use the remaining parts for bait for predators. It seems to be a universal bait good for lynx, fox, wolves and wolverines.

For a novice trapper, there are three basic ways to trap critters two of which are lethal and the third is not. First there are snares, which can be made with a variety of gauges of wire and can catch anything from squirrels to wolves, well, bears actually, but I haven't had the pleasure of that, yet. Then there are lethal traps such as the connibear that was mentioned in the article, and finally foot holds which leave you with a live critter, meaning, you have to dispatch it, you have to check your foot hold traps more frequently and the area disturbed by the animal once it is caught is going to probably be a bigger area. There are countless pros and cons to each method. Snares can be made in quantity and are relatively cheap, but often can not be reused. Traps are more expensive up front, but can be reused with minimal repairs for many years. I would recommend for preparedness sake to put in a stock of each of these three types in a variety of sizes.  

As far as trapping for food I would recommend snares and lots of them, they are small, inexpensive, easier to transport and can be used in quantity. In my area rabbits are easy to snare, but if you do not check them frequently you lose your catch to predators such as fox. Squirrels can also be caught in quantity with snares and bait such as peanut butter, the military teaches the making of squirrel poles for survival situations. These are poles (trees leaning at a 45 degree angle. You place bait at the top, or middle and then snares on the top and sides up and down the pole. I haven't tried this but am sure it would work and is somewhat similar to bait poles used for martin.   

My personal preference for muskrats are fish traps (Dyke traps), these can be made of netting material or chicken wire. I would recommend having some of these for catching fish, muskrats, and other small critters, here are some examples.

Anyway, this is a topic near and dear to me and an often neglected area for preparedness minded individuals. There is too much to put in a short note, but please do post more on this topic.

Mr. Rawles, it goes without saying I love your site, I check it daily as does most of my family. Thank you for all you do. - Alaska Country Girl

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

My wife and I are both in our late 30s and have just started living a life of preparedness.  Unfortunately, we started this journey just after building a new house on 15 acres in Northeastern Minnesota.  We wish we had a few years back to build over with a different frame of mind, but we count our blessings and enjoy our rural location.  We live on my single income (about $70,000) and have four beautiful children, ages 4 through 9.

While having four children makes life a little more interesting financially, by being frugal, we have still been able to prepare with our limited disposable income.  In the past three years we have:

  • Installed a wood stove to heat the house
  • Installed a hand pump on the well along side the electric pump
  • Put away over 65 buckets of food in Mylar bags and 5-gallon buckets.
  • Built a small inventory of ammo for hunting and defense
  • Bought numerous back-up items like: medical supplies, ordered a Big Berkey, a pressure canner, a grain mill, and put together a large pantry that would feed us for about a year.
  • Purchased the building materials to build an underground root cellar with a small cabin (16’ x 10’) over the top of it.

How did we do all this?  We quit eating out as a family once every week or two.  Now, if we go out for a burger or pizza, it is once a month or once every two months.  We cancelled our cell phone coverage and bought a TracFone.  We stripped down our land line to the bare necessity, and then we shut off our television service.  In addition, we changed investment strategies to give us more money for practical goods.  We bargain shop and buy online a lot through eBay and other such sites (like Lulu.com to get Mr. Rawles’ the SurvivalBlog Archive CD-ROM).

Preparedness with Kids
Having supplies is great, but a true plan must have the full family accounted for.  If it were just my wife and I, it would be much easier to prepare, not only financially, but logistically.  With kids involved, there is much more to think about.  The first step in preparedness with kids is in really getting to know them.  This may sound like a dumb statement, but it is vitally important to know each of you kids’ strengths and weaknesses.  I will come back to this in numerous parts of this entry.

A Firm Foundation
It is our firm belief that a plan made without a grounded faith in the Lord will only be as strong as the individual making the preparations. We believe preparing for all possible scenarios goes beyond that.  Our children have a short devotional time each morning during breakfast where they learn biblical truths through Children’s Bible stories.  We are preparing to not just survive, but to have the ability to help others.

What…No Television?
Last year we decided to shut off the television.  We really only watched football on Sunday afternoons in the fall, but in our opinion, every commercial our kids were viewing was the worldly culture trying to get a foothold on our kids.  We shut off the television and this one single act has paid more dividends than you could possibly imagine.  If the power goes out (which it has) our kids are not glooming over their loss of electronic gadgets, but instead we light a candle and get out a board game, a deck of cards, or we each grab a good book.  It is business as usual for us in that regard.

Investing in Education and Book Reading
We believe strongly in education and want to give our kids the best chances to succeed in school (maybe college one day?).  We recently pulled out all four of our kids’ college funds from the bank that were started by my wife and I and largely funded by their grandparents.  We took that money and invested all of it into gold and silver.  It is our kids’ money of course, but it does give the family a sense of financial security.  We also love to read at the house with our kids and have slowly started to incorporate more and more wilderness adventure stories.  Some of our favorites our:

Gardening and Cooking
Our small garden of a few raised beds has grown into many raised beds, a raspberry patch, blueberries, a couple of apple trees, a pumpkin patch, rows of sweet corn, and an array of garden veggies and herbs.  Our kids take part in picking berries, pulling the carrots, and even pollinating the pumpkins.  In addition, my wife has each kid plan a meal once a month.  They can choose the menu items and then they must help cook the meal.  This is where getting to know our kids comes in handy.  Knowing what our children like to eat helps my wife and me when we are deciding what to stock up on.  In addition to using our traditional kitchen, we cook on a propane stove, over our outdoor fire-pit, using a charcoal grill, and on our wood stove.  We now also make our own bread.  We include our kids in this process as one can pour the wheat berries into the hopper and then we will let the oldest try his hand at cranking out some flour.  It is usually too tough for him at this point, but our children being able to do everything isn’t the point.  Including them in the process is what we are striving to do.

When we installed our wood stove, we were looking to minimize the use of the electric boiler that our in-floor heat runs on.  We instantly fell in love with our stove, but wood heat isn’t easy….in fact, it is a lot of work.  When it is time to go out and fill our ½ cord wood bin outside the basement door, we include all of the kids, even our four year old daughter.  We trek out and carry in wood from about 40 yards away.  It is not back-breaking, but in a small path surrounded by four feet of snow, it can be quite laborious.  Each of the kids carries what they can physically handle, with our four year-old carrying mostly kindling-sized pieces.  I also have each kid watch me making the fires and controlling the damper of the woodstove.  While I don’t let the young ones work the damper, etc. while the stove is hot, I do give each one a shot at starting their own fire.  I believe each of the three boys could start a fire on their own if they had to.

Emergency Ready 
We live in a two story home with the second story sitting on top of a walk-out basement.  We want our kids to be ready for anything, so each spring we have a fire drill.  Two brothers share bunk beds in one room while because of their young age, our oldest boy shares a bedroom with his younger sister.  In our fire drill, both sets of kids must hit the floor and crawl to the window.  Then, the oldest boy in each room, opens the window, pops off the outside screens and helps his younger sibling out the window.  Then they exit the house and meet in our garden shed.  They must do this entire drill in one minute or less.  At first, the kids could not make the time that we had set.  With practice, however, they could do it in one full minute.  Once in a while we will throw in small obstacles to make them “think on their feet” so that they are conscious of what they are doing.  This summer, phase two of the drill will be going over to Grandpa and Grandma’s house (they have the neighboring 15 acres) through the woods on their own with a time requirement.   We also will have future drills that will have us meeting at a small cabin that we are building on a secluded part of our property this year.  Our kids enjoy these drills and really feel good about themselves when they can make the time that we have set for them.  

Smart in the Woods
We have never wanted our kids to fear playing in the woods and exploring all that nature has for them to see.  However, with more and more signs of aggressive and even mangy wolves in our area, and even the rare sighting of a mountain lion, we have had to be smart in this regard.  We are not paranoid, but we don’t need to be the first family in this area to lose their kid to an animal.  The kids can go anywhere they want on our property under the following conditions:

  • They are with a sibling, friend, or adult
  • Wear blaze orange of some kind
  • They carry one of our Motorola handhelds with them, and have the household handheld on and assigned to either myself or my wife.
  • They know where all the deer stands/shelters are on the property and how to get into each of them. (they must pass a test I give them)

Birthday and Christmas Gifts have Changed
Kids love presents and despite what we have tried, they are still in that naïve stage where while they understand the meaning of Christmas, they still look under the tree to find gifts with their names on it.  In a coordinated effort with their grandparents, we have tried to minimize electronic gifts and get them items of “substance.”  For example, our eight year old wanted binoculars like his dad.  This past Christmas, his grandparents got him camouflaged Bushnell binoculars. (They are better than mine!).  They also got our youngest boy the BB Gun he wanted.  When all of our children got new camouflaged pajamas from Santa, they wouldn’t take them off on the weekends!  Gifts now have more of a practical goal in mind.  Yes, they still have normal toys, but our kids are buying into a way of life that is centered around outdoor living.

Hunting and Fishing
While my boys all like hunting, my middle son loves it.  He will sit in the deer stand with me for hours without making a sound or movement. When one of his birthday gifts was a blaze orange vest and hat combo, he was in heaven.  I let all of the boys take turns sitting in the deer stand with me.  When my dad or I get a deer, we bring the boys so that they can see the deer and watch us gut it.  My oldest (Mr. sensitive) watches from about 25 feet away, while my middle son gets right into it and asks more questions than one could possibly answer.  In addition to hunting, my dad has a small 16 foot boat that we take out fishing.  I take two boys at a time and they rotate so they all get to go the same amount of times over the course of the summer.  While we all have busy summers, we decided to “schedule in” two fishing nights each week for the duration of the summer.  This forces us to go and gives our kids great experiences. 

We have much to learn about preparedness, and our family learns more and more each day.  My preparedness plan has my kids joining my wife and I in this adventure.  From canning raspberry jam and green beans to learning how to start a fire to learning how to set the hook for their first fish, we just want our kids to learn more skills that will lead to a life of self-sufficiency.  The more we do now, the better prepared they will be in the future.  If  TEOTWAWKI happens sooner than we want, we hope our simple household preparedness steps will help us serve the Lord in a time period where people will need it the most.

I have read many articles stating that if you have any addictions to nicotine, caffeine or alcohol that now is the time to change your habits so that your dependency on them in their absence are easier to tolerate. My coffee habit is less a habit-at least that’s what I tell myself-and more of an enjoyment of life. That being said, in moderation coffee actually has an anti-oxidant property- justification is always a sign of a habit I know - not to mention the benefit of assisting in staying alert during a night watch task.

As a previous specialty coffee shop owner-prior to the commercialization of the industry by Starbucks -no I am not bitter- the storage of “freshly” roasted coffee has always been an issue. In fact, there is really only one method for long term storage of coffee since once the bean is roasted the oils and converted sugars begin to deteriorate and go rancid very quickly. Most off the shelf coffees that you buy in vacuum sealed containers or bags are actually made stale so that they can be vacuum sealed. Otherwise the bag would burst from the off gassing of the beans. Vacuum sealed freshness is a marketing term that actually means vacuum sealed staleness. I would always tell my customers you would never buy stale bread, why do you insist on paying a premium for stale coffee?

As I said there is a method for long term storage, unless you plan on rotating your roasted/ground coffee on a regular basis-eventually the coffee you have stored will become undrinkable. Or unless you live in the very narrow band of coffee producing countries that are 20 degrees on each side of the equator and 3,000 feet above sea level- coffee in a post-collapse society will disappear quickly. The answer is to purchase green coffee beans. These are the natural unroasted beans. There are many sites available on the internet where you can purchase anywhere from one pound to fifty pound bags. One advantage is that you will save 50% on your coffee budget paying anywhere from $5-7 per pound by purchasing green coffee beans. The prices of coffee have been escalating just as other commodities and the anticipation of future inflation on coffee is expected to continue. If ordering by the internet and paying shipping costs are to be avoided then you could also check your local coffee roaster in the yellow pages and inquire, they may sell you coffee thus avoiding the shipping costs. Most however will make you pay a small fee above their costs to account for their lost profit, it never hurts to ask though.

Now that you have purchased a twenty five pound bag of beans it will arrive in a burlap bag, long term storage in a five gallon bucket and Mylar should follow your preferred method. You may want to store in multiple smaller Mylar bags for extended storage times. At this point the beans are not off gassing so vacuum sealing with oxygen absorbers is possible. Stored in this method your beans will stay fresh from 2-5 years until you decide to roast them. Some Columbian Estate coffees are actually aged prior to roasting and command premium prices.

The fear of roasting your green beans is not scary at all. In fact, I would expect readers of SurvivalBlog to see it as a challenge to learn how to and master it. It should not take any longer than fifteen minutes on the stovetop or in a Dutch oven over a fire if necessary to roast enough beans for a week. I roasted our coffee for the week this Sunday in a Panini Pan (a pan with ridges on the bottom to help distribute the beans and heat) but any pan will work. To roast coffee, start by placing a layer of beans on the bottom of the pan with medium-high heat. As the pan begins to roast your beans, continue to stir your beans slowly, your technique will develop over time, just don’t leave the beans unattended, continue to stir or move the beans around or you wont get an even roast. You may need to decrease or increase the setting on your stove accordingly, but you will start to get the feel of the right setting after your second roast of beans. The oils in the bean will begin to heat up and caramelize, as they do you will hear them begin to crack open, this is the first of two pops you will hear during the roast.

The color will change from green to yellow to a light caramel and finally to a dark brown to black depending on how dark a roast you like. Also, the chaff from the beans outer coating will start to smoke, if you are inside on the stovetop, turn on the exhaust fan-trust me. About ten minutes into your roast and continual stirring you will have a mix of color ranging from light brown to dark brown and the second crack will begin. The last five minutes the colors change over very quickly to dark brown to black and you will need to monitor the color. Unless you like an espresso roast where you have now burnt the sugars and oils you will need to stop the roasting process just prior to the desired roast or color. As the second crack subsides remove the pan from the heat store and continue to stir. There will be a lot of chaff, you do not want this in your beans so I put mine in a colander and toss them out side and either let the breeze remove the chaff or blow across the beans to remove as much chaff as possible. Let the beans cool before grinding. Once you grind your first truly freshly roasted coffee you will be amazed at the depth of flavors. In some coffees you will not have to add milk or sugar. Bitterness that is in brewed coffee comes from staleness not the true nature of brewed coffee. In a post-collapse society a hand operated coffee grinder will be necessary and can be found online as well.

As for brewing your coffee in the absence of an electric coffee brewer, the Cowboy coffee and French press coffee methods work great and both make a great cup of coffee.

Cowboy Coffee
Over a campfire
Fill coffee pot with cold water.
Add one rounded tablespoon of ground coffee for each two cups of water.  (Add the coffee directly to the water.)
Bring the water just to a rolling boil.  Take off heat.  
Add a splash (a couple of tablespoons) of cold water.  This is to settle the coffee grounds.  Allow the coffee to set for a couple of minutes for the settling to take place.

French Press Coffee
Over a campfire
Heat water in a container
Place ground coffee in French Press, about 1tbs per cup
Pour hot (almost to a boil) over coffee
Put lid back on the press, leave in the up position
Steep for about four minutes
Slowly press down plunger after four minutes
Pour coffee to strain grounds v

Post-Collapse Coffee Equipment and Costs

I always appreciate sources for procurement so I will make mine that seem to be the most affordable. Some items-camp coffee pot, heavy bottomed pan, Dutch oven, and coffee press-you can locate at your local big box store. I would still recommend doing your research for the best product for the best price.

My last thoughts concern bartering coffee. During the Civil War the Northern states had coffee for their soldiers in the field because of their ability to import from coffee producing countries. The South was not as fortunate and had to rely on Chicory as a substitute--a poor one at that. Southern troops however had an abundance of tobacco, which the Northern Troops lacked. And through barter each side would arrange for a truce to trade, in fact there are many stories of agreements being yelled across the lines- where soldiers much to their officers disapproval would make unapproved but look the other way arrangements of tobacco for coffee. I can envision trading some scarce freshly roasted coffee for rice/beans or bullets. As a bartering item that contains one of those things that can be habit forming, in the grand scheme of things, coffee is less destructive than alcohol or tobacco.

Having coffee in your provisions could be a very valuable commodity from enjoyment, staying alert and to use as a barter item for other needed provisions.

Mr. Editor:

I was wondering if you could tell us a resource online where to find the locations of caves/mine shafts, or other underground shelters around the country.  I have tried to do this unsuccessfully, maybe a reader knows?  Thanks. - Robert R.

JWR Replies: That goes a bit outside my expertise. I'm not a spelunker. Perhaps some SurvivalBlog readers have bookmarked some good web sites or could recommend a few books.

I recently bought an Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro satellite telephone. I had set some requirements for a satellite phone ("satphone") , including true worldwide operation, good reliability, and reasonable price, and the IsatPhone Pro (introduced in 2010) was not just the best deal, but the only phone that met all my my requirements. I shopped around for a few months and eventually bought the IsatPhone Pro Emergency Kit from GMPCS, a Florida-based retailer.

This kit is priced at $821. It includes the phone (normally around $600 from online sellers), one year of "Emergency" service priced at $150/year with 60 minutes of airtime, an extra battery, AC and DC chargers, a Pelican flashlight, and an orange Pelican 1200 case. (I swapped out the Pelican flashlight for a smaller and much brighter Fenix light instead.)

This represents a good price for the phone and accessories, but the service is actually the best part of the deal since there are few if any other ways to get satellite phone service for such a low annual price. Globalstar's minimum plan is $360/year and Iridium starts at $225/year; both of these rates include no airtime.

Additional airtime for all satphone services usually runs around a dollar a minute. It costs less if you have a high-priced plan and more for the cheaper plans ($1.39 for extra minutes on Inmarsat's emergency plan, for example). That's just for the airtime; customers pay separately for outbound calls, and callers pay hefty long-distance fees for calls to the satphone. If you think you may end up using a satphone regularly (for example, if you expect to use it from a retreat home where cell phone service isn't available), you'd better make sure you can afford it.

(By comparison, though, the cost for the kit plus a second year of service is about $600 less than the minimum cost of an iPhone 4 with a two-year AT&T service contract, so it isn't totally outrageous.)

Physically, the IsatPhone Pro is much larger than any current cell phone, about 6.7" long by 2.1" wide and 1.5" thick. Even so, it's smaller than many older satphones. This size is due in part to the large antenna, which pivots out from the side of the phone and must be aimed roughly at the satellite.

This brings us to the other big difference between Inmarsat and the other two satphone services available in the US (Iridium and Globalstar). Inmarsat's satellites are in geosynchronous orbit, their positions fixed for any location on the ground. Generally speaking, if you can see the sky, you can communicate. Only three satellites are required for global coverage, at least roughly between the Arctic and Antarctic Circles. Those living in Alaska, Greenland, and extreme northern Russia should review the coverage maps.

The Iridium and Globalstar networks have many more satellites, but they're in low Earth orbit. Those networks can be unavailable from time to time because the satellites are out of view, and even if you're able to establish a call, it may be cut off because each satellite is only visible for 10-15 minutes at a time.

The IsatPhone Pro requires a GPS fix in order to operate, but the GPS receiver seems to be reasonably sensitive; whenever the phone could see the Inmarsat satellite, it could see the GPS satellites too. The phone has a convenient "send GPS location" feature that creates a text or e-mail message with your coordinates.

I have spent a lot of time fiddling with my IsatPhone Pro, but not a lot of time making calls. I have found that it always gets a reliable signal from here in California, which is what I expected given that the northern portion of the satellite's coverage area is pretty much centered on North America.

Although Inmarsat states quite clearly that the IsatPhone Pro will not work indoors, I actually found that my phone can get a usable signal right through the roof of my timber-framed, asphalt-shingled house, though some places in the house seem to work much better than others for no obvious reason. This suggests that it may sometimes work even under tree cover, but it definitely won't work through the metal roof of a car.

Outdoors, I've had no trouble making or receiving calls to land line and cellular phones, and call quality is very good. Because the phone has a speakerphone capability built in as well as Bluetooth headset support, it's easy to leave the phone in a fixed position (ideally, resting on its side with the folding antenna aimed at the satellite) during the call.

The e-mail service built into the phone, though limited, also works well. Messages go through quickly, but the key limitation is that e-mails sent directly to the phone (87077xxxxxxx@message.inmarsat.com) are limited to 160 characters. e-mails sent from the phone can be up to 1,600 characters.

Interestingly, text (SMS) messages can be 1,600 characters both ways, but Inmarsat does not have SMS service agreements in place with all US cell phone carriers. The result is a confusing patchwork of interoperability. The IsatPhone Pro can send text messages to AT&T cell phones, but an AT&T cell phone can't send texts to the IsatPhone Pro. T-Mobile phones work normally in both directions. I haven't tested a Sprint PCS phone.

These limits on e-mail and text operation are weird, but not a problem for the way I intend to use the phone, which will be limited to those hopefully nonexistent emergency situations when my cell phone isn't working and I can't raise anyone on my amateur radio. I figure it'll be enough to place a call to a friend or relative as needed, perhaps augmented by a text or e-mail message with my coordinates. Emergency services are another option; Inmarsat says it supports calls to 911 and 112 (the European equivalent of 911), though I don't know exactly where such calls go.

The final feature worth noting here is that the IsatPhone Pro can be connected to a computer via USB and act as a data modem to access Internet services. The speed is very low (2,400 bits per second uncompressed, up to 20 kbps compressed) and data transfers cost $6.50 per megabyte (after compression, if any), but this option allows normal e-mail and Web access when necessary. Windows, Mac, and Linux systems are supported.

All in all, I'm very satisfied with this purchase. The up-front, annual, and per-call costs are significant, but the IsatPhone Pro provides a capability that can't be matched by any other communication method. I recommend it for those who have the rest of their preps in order.

Ponder the implications: Iceland voters reject plan to repay bank debt. (Thanks to Pierre M. for the link.)

Loyal content contributor C.D.V. sent this: IMF Cuts U.S. Growth Forecast on Oil, ‘Lackluster’ Jobs Pace

Over at Fierce Finance: MERS stokes local controversies.

Some interesting observation on global currency moves, over at Malthus University: Update from INET. Reading back through the thread of of posts makes it clear that The Powers That Be (led by George Soros) may have plans for a new global currency. Meanwhile, over at The Daily Bell, we read: IMF Plots Role as World's Central Bank?

Items from The Economatrix:

Drivers Start to Cut Back on Gas as Prices Rise

Paul Drockton:  Sell SILV Stock and Buy Physical Silver NOW!

Pre-Market Summary:  Inflationary Hysteria

Gold and Oil Will Soar When the Saudi Monarchy Falls

Near-term Economic Outlook for a Troubled World

Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large) accurately predicted this recent Doublethink news from England in his first novel: Extinguishers banned as a fire safety hazard.

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Speaking of Michael Z. Williamson's novels, Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore is starting the advance order for "Rogue."  Please note that Mike's novels contain adult situations, language and violence, so they are not suitable for juveniles. "Rogue " is a sequel to "The Weapon", but can be read as a stand-alone work. This is the first hardcover edition, and comes with a tipped in (glued) sheet printed by Baen, and autographed by Mike.  These will be cover price of $24, plus any shipping.  Mike will donate $1 to the Memsahib Memorial Fund for the first 250 orders placed if you mention that you are a "SurvivalBlog reader" in the order instructions. (Benefiting the Anchor of Hope mission school in rural Zambia.)

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After several frantic weeks of filling orders, the folks at Camping Survival (one of our loyal advertisers), now has the following back in stock: Medical Corps brand Potassium Iodate - 60 Count, Medical Corps brand Potassium Iodate - 90 Count, Iosat brand Potassium Iodide-14 Count, and Nukalert personal radiation monitors

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Yummy escargot! Preparing & Cooking Garden Snails. (Thanks to reader Jason R. for sending this piece from the California Prepper's Network.)

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Mike the M.D. send a link to the latest edition of the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. It has a couple of interesting articles on radiation injuries following nuclear detonations. This is useful information, and also provides a needed sense of scale regarding the miniscule amounts of radiation that have made it all the way across the wide Pacific Ocean since the 11-3-11 disasters.

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Mike H. mentioned a "maplet" web app from Carlos Labs that shows the extent of damage from various atomic weapons if they’d been dropped on places we know.

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Ham: US May Consider Sending Troops to Libya. (A beret tip to John B. for the link,)

"The point to remember is that what the government gives it must first take away." - John S. Coleman

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I'm big on food storage and my hobby is finding and photographing beetles. These two interests converge when grain beetles start reproducing in my stored grain products.   I had bought some 50-lb. bags of corn and oats at the Tractor Supply Company store, intending to treat them for insects and put them up in 5-gallon buckets. I never got around to it and eventually noticed tiny grain weevils showing up around the house. The grain had not only become infested with Rice Weevils but their droppings had produced a lot of ammonia that turned the oak flooring dark beneath the most infested bag. I dumped 200 pounds of grain out on the compost pile, a free feed for birds, mice, and squirrels. Rice weevils are hardly the only grain beetle to worry about.

Here are some of the others, belonging to eight additional beetle families, with links courtesy of the Bug Guide web site:  

In addition there are moths, flies, and small wasps that lay their eggs in grain products, all of which can ruin your stored food supply if precautions aren't taken.   Here are three common alternatives for killing off any grain pests that happen to arrive in bulk grains:  

1. Purge the oxygen with another gas. Buy some dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) or a tank of CO2. Put a few ounces of dry ice in a container of grain. Cover with lid but wait several hours before sealing. The CO2 is a heavy gas and will slowly fill the airspace from the bottom up, pushing out the ambient air containing oxygen. A faster method is to slowly fill the bucket by inserting a hose from a CO2 tank into the bottom of a filled container and cracking open the valve. Then the container can be sealed right away.  

2. Absorb all the oxygen with O2 absorber packets. (You can also use hand-warmer packets [, although they are much more expensive].) This method is best used with a Mylar liner inside the storage container ([food grade HDPE] plastic bucket, etc.). Once the O2 absorber packet is added, heat-seal the Mylar bag with a clothes iron against a broomstick or other straight stick or rod, then seal the container.  

3. Add a safe-to-eat physical insecticide, food-grade diatomaceous earth, mixing thoroughly with the grain. I use one cup per 100 pounds of grain. This substance is composed largely of the silaceous exoskeletons of diatoms, tiny unicellular aquatic organisms that died over eons and accumulated in deep deposits of ancient lakes and sea beds long since exposed on dry land. Their exoskeletons have sharp edges that scrape off the protective waxy coating on the exoskeleton of grain pests that permits them to survive in dry conditions. They lose moisture too rapidly to replace and they perish, never being able to multiply. A side benefit to this method is that it abrades the protective coating of intestinal roundworms as well -- good survival medicine.

JWR Adds: All three of those methods have proven efficacy. Needless to say, do not be tempted to use any chemical insecticides, since they can be toxic to humans and would also horribly taint the taste of foods. Also, don't think that by merely sealing newly-bought grains or legumes in airtight containers that you will will protect them from infestation. The chances are quite high that they already have insect eggs larvae present.

My wife and I have been preparing for any probable event for the past five years.  I will start by stating the investments that we started with followed by an overview of various investment vehicles and their pros and cons.

Five years ago my wife and I were your average middle class couple with two kids, a decent paying job, and a lot to look forward to.  We owned a car with no loan and we had an SUV with a loan.  We bought into the 2006 housing bubble not knowing how deep the corruption was.

We discovered SurvivalBlog.com only months after buying into a new and expensive home.  That was when we hit the brick wall and came to the realization that we have been living in a fantasy world.  We were unable to rewind the mortgage because of early payment penalties and ended up getting stuck with it, for a while.

After we were able to balance our checkbooks and other accounts properly we started to concentrate on preparations.  We first started by purchasing extra food like rice and cans that we consumed often.  We bought a Berkey water filter and started filtering our water rather than paying for bottled water.  This resulted in massive savings every month with a rather small $200 up-front investment.

After squaring away the food and water problem we then looked into protection and self-defense.  At this time we were living in one of the People's Republic states and had to take training courses and wait a week before we could ever bring home a firearm.  The firearm addiction soon turned into a burden until we put the brakes on it and only kept to the necessities (a couple of pistols, a riot shotgun, and a few different kinds of rifles).

Having squared away our food, water, and self-defensive items we then started to use our extra [Medical] Flexible Spending Account money to stock up on first-aid equipment.  After getting a few hundred dollars in first-aid supplies we worked on getting our emergency reserve fund back in order.  Most personal finance advisors recommend 3-6 months of reserve funds in a money market or savings type account.  This is useful in case you lose your job or you become temporarily impaired.

I would call all of the investments above “insurance”.  This is insurance against many of the foreseeable or probable dangers that anyone or any family may face.  Now let us look at investments...

Orthodox Investment Methods for Preppers
There are tons of investments out there, some orthodox, most not.  Let us first consider the orthodox ones before we tackle into the infinite realm of unorthodox investments.

Cash – “Cash is King” or so the saying goes, but I would ask someone from Zimbabwe if cash was still king.  While we use cash in everyday transactions, it does depreciate overtime due to deficit spending of the government.  Inflation is yet another form of taxation, albeit “hidden” taxation.  You could and should invest in cash and leave one month's supply in your bolted-down safe or somewhere close at hand.  You never know when the banks may go on a little holiday and you will not have instant access to cash.

Savings Accounts – Low-yielding but they are FDIC insured which is the same as saying that they will never lose face value unless something with the government goes terribly wrong.  The yields are generally lower than inflation and I would only recommend this investment vehicle for your emergency reserve fund in case you lose your job or become ill.

Certificates of Deposit (CDs) – Low-yielding but also FDIC insured.  These are very similar to savings accounts except that you cannot withdraw money from them without paying penalties.  This would be good for the last three months or so of your emergency fund but I wouldn't put them in anything longer than one year CDs.  If you really need the money you can always pay the penalty.  Inflation will eat this investment up as well.

Money Market – Similar to Savings Accounts but they are generally not FDIC insured and some places require a minimum balance of $10,000.  I would also recommend these for the emergency fund.

Stock Market – The stock market is a place where people buy and sell ownership certificates in various companies.  It is a place where people smarter than you convince you to spend your money with them.  Most people believe that they are in fact buying stocks but it is really the brokerage houses that buy the stocks and then put them in your name.  Be sure that your brokerage firm is well-insured and of good quality.  For the small time investors a site like sharebuilder.com is great because there really is no minimum quantity of stock that you must buy.  Most shares are traded in lots of 100, so if MSFT (Microsoft) is selling for $32.25 per share you would have to pay $3,225 plus transaction costs.  The best way to invest in the stock market is to buy good companies when they go on sale.  If you would like to purchase MSFT then think of it as a 2-liter bottle of soda or chicken breasts or whatever at the store.  If the chicken breasts doubled in price compared to last year would it be a good time to buy it now?  How about if the chicken breasts were selling for $0.50 per pound?  Buying stock is like buying chicken breasts at the store, do not overpay for them.  Be smart when it comes to buying stock and those smarter people will not necessarily be able to take advantage of you.  Note that the stock market has been a loser for the past 10 years when adjusted for inflation.  This will probably be the case for the next 5-10 years.  If you need the income then dividend paying stocks are great or you may want to utilize the bond market.

Bond Market – Bonds are nothing more than debt instruments.  They signify a set amount of money that must be paid when the bond comes due.  Attached to the bond is an interest rate and the bond holder will receive that rate until the bond expires at which time the bond holder will receive the full value of the bond.  The market is heavily dictated by the current interest rate.  When rates go up, bonds prices go down.  When rates go down, bond prices go up.  This happens so that the payment closely reflects the prevalent market interest rate.  With current interest rates at all time lows, the bond market is at an all-time high and it would be best to get out of this market unless you really need the monthly income (but don't discount good paying dividend stocks, you could replace your bonds with stocks that pay decent dividends to their shareholders).

Mutual Funds – Mutual funds and exchange traded funds are where unsophisticated investors flock to.  This is the investment for most retirement accounts and people who want to diversify for the sake of diversifying.  If you are unable to monitor your investments then this may be the place for you, but keep in mind that mutual funds, on average, perform worse than the markets themselves.  Mutual funds also tend to cost you more in fees and taxes.  Read the prospectus or you may regret ever buying one.

Precious Metals – Gold and silver used to be real money, today they are nothing more than a commodity.  Gold is predominantly used in jewelry and silver is mostly used in electronics, antibiotics, jewelry, and photography.  They do not generate cash flow and they cost money to store and protect.  They are, however, a good hedge against inflation.  With interest rates so low and the Federal Reserve printing money to fund the government with no end in site, gold and silver seem to be the investments of choice at this particular moment.  In a societal collapse they would be used in barter.  Keep in mind the price of chicken breasts, once they reach a level that you feel is too high then it would be time to bail out and to move your money into a different asset class.  I feel the next investment class after gold and silver will be the unorthodox methods.

Unorthodox Investment Methods for Preppers
Here are a few unorthodox or unconventional ones that most people do not think about:

Real Estate Rentals – Buying real estate now?  Are you crazy?  No, not at all.  You make your money when you buy not when you sell.  If you buy real estate now you will be looking at the potential for the property to generate cash flow and huge tax write-offs.  People always need a place to sleep and as long as society doesn't completely collapse (which it generally does not) then real estate rentals are a good investment option.  If the currency devalues then you can raise rents or you can modify the contract and demand payment in specie (gold or silver).

Home-Based Business – Your home-based business could be anything from mowing lawns, making and delivering food, or preparing books for businesses (record keeping / accounting if you are an accountant).  Whatever your idea is, there is generally room for it in nearly any economy.  For the prepper you would be best off engaging in a business that you could continue in a soft societal collapse.  Everyone should have a side business, it gives you the potential for great rewards and tax write-offs.

Buy by the Acre, Sell by the Square Foot – While this generally applies to real estate it applies to anything that one can buy in bulk and resell in smaller quantities at generally much higher prices.  In real estate many developers will buy hundreds of acres and will then divide them into lots, run utilities up to each lot, and then piece out each lot while making about 10 times as much money as they paid.  You could also buy materials / items in bulk online and then sell them locally for a bit more, but you need to determine the need in your area and whether or not you have enough buyers.  I generally do not buy stuff in bulk unless I have buyers willing to pay me more than what I paid.

Sell Information – Whether coming over the Internet, through television, over the radio, or through print, information is bought and sold more than most other commodities.  Think of survivalblog.com, James provides information for free while collecting money to pay for the bills from the advertisers and donations.  Magazines subsidize most of their costs from advertisers as well (trust me, I have seen the price sheets from agents to see their profits and they are huge, some pay nothing on a subscription but yet charge you $11.95 per year).  There is also the option of writing a book and publishing it yourself; places like amazon.com help to support this model.  This extra revenue would also fall under the home-based business section.

Look Through Junk to Find Gems –

Another way of finding gems is to go to your local bank and request that they order you boxes of nickels, dimes, or halves. Spend some time with the kids going through the boxes looking for silver. You can expect about two 35% silver War Nickels per box. They [generally] appear darker than regular nickel and are dated from 1942-1945 with a big mint mark above the Monticello. You can expect about two silver dimes per box (they appear bright or highlighted from the edge of the coin and are dated 1964 or before). You can expect about 1-2 silver half dollars per box. They also appear brighter on the edge. Those that are dated 1964 or earlier are 90% silver, and those date 1965-1969 are 40% silver. Most people overlook the circulating 40% half dollars [, not recognizing their value]. Do not waste your time looking for silver quarters, since nearly all of them have already been removed from circulation. (I have looked through about $800 worth of quarters and have yet to find a single silver quarter). [JWR Adds: I recommend keeping all of the nickels you acquire. Eventually sorting out any silver War Nickels is simply a bonus. This is explained in my article: Mass Inflation Ahead -- Save Your Nickels!]

There are many things that a prepper must do and these things I labeled as “insurance”: food, water, protection, first-aid, and an emergency fund.  There are many things that preppers can do and these are labeled as “investments”: cash, bank accounts, market accounts, metals, real-estate, businesses, information, and finding gems in junk. 

In case you are wondering, we have left the People's Republic and now live in a state for free thinking people.  We have had personal experience with nearly every investment stated above.

Hello James,
I wanted to pass along an observation from this weekend that I thought everyone could appreciate. This gave me some good insight into what it would be like to travel by foot with a large diverse group of people.

Our local nature center had a nature walk through a historic woodland valley down to the river. The total walk was 3 miles down and back. The beginning of the walk was through pastureland and the second half followed an old road grade through the woods. There were five naturalists assisting on the hike and about 30 guests. The ages of the group ranged from 10 to 80. There were about 10 children with their parents in the group.

My first observation was the way many of them were dressed for the hike. It was a damp weekend and we had rain the day before. Several of the folks only had on sneakers and others had muck boots. Most of the others had more appropriate hiking shoes with trail worthy treads and ankle support.  My only mistake was not wearing a windbreaker or layered clothing. The walk through the pasture was windy and cool, but the walk through the woods was damp and chilly.

As we started out I noticed how the group would string out and we had to wait at certain points for the stragglers to catch up. This made for slow progress and we going about 1 mile an hour. I was amused to think of this group as a herd where the younger “calves” were running around with the energy of youth and the older members would hold everyone back. We also came across several choke points on the walk that everyone struggled to get through. For the most part it was orderly but several times they rushed to get through or took longer than necessary. Often branches or briars would whip back on the person behind if they were not watching. My wife and I have been on many hikes and have learned to watch where we step to avoid slipping or kicking up branches along the trail. On this walk we had to keep our spacing such that we had to let the ones in front tear up the trail before it was safe to follow.

This was a nature walk so there was plenty of discussion about the flora and fauna but also many discussions that made it difficult to enjoy the day. The volume of group chased away any chance of observing wildlife. In a SHTF scenario we would have been discovered with ease. Another observation was how poorly the parents would watch their children. There were many dangerous creek banks and stone ruins that could have been catastrophic if someone would fall over the edge. Those running the group would often warn the children and parents to stay back. But in many cases the adults were just as bad. One child in particular was in need of serious attention. The worst was when he threw a rock at a metal culvert. The bang echoed through the valley and startled everyone. It also kicked up a herd of deer. We did see them but off in the distance with no hope of taking any if we needed to hunt.

Even though we had naturalist who had been in this area before, we did get off the trail once. I had noticed the road grade off to our left and was able to get back on track without too much difficulty. Many of the others had to scramble up a hillside. Even experts can get off track.

The trip back up the valley took about the same time. We didn’t stop to look at every plant and fungus as before but we did have to wait for the slower members of the group. I did notice that our walk down had left a lot of impact on the trail and a blind man could have tracked us in the dark. The leaves were disturbed and branches were broken.

During this hike I was wishing our group was smaller. I was looking for defendable positions, access to water and food or places to set up campsite. I was also playing out scenarios in my mind. What if someone got hurt, we were approached but MZBs, or we got lost. Most importantly I was evaluating our group. I wanted to gauge who could be relied upon to support in an emergency.

It was an interesting experiment in social interaction in a natural environment. I know I would not want to be in a SHTF situation with many of those folks. A smaller, physically-fit, and prepared group is more desirable than a large diverse group of varied abilities. It also drove home the point that that [in a worst-case situation] not everyone will survive. Thanks, - John G.

"T." wrote to mention a useful article at Lifehacker: Make a Map Book Using Google Maps

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Reader F.G. sent a news article about the new British Army issue: 'Stunglasses' that can resist a shotgun blast from 16ft to be issued to 92,000 UK troops

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Bob Mc.C. recommended this thread over at M4Carbine.net: Some thoughts about defending your retreat. (Six myths of retreat security.)

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C.D.V. spotted this: Stranded Japanese farmer, 75, found alone in Minami Soma, city rocked by tsunami, earthquake

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News from Nanny State Illinois: Chicago school bans some lunches brought from home.

"If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." - George Washington

Monday, April 11, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

The Married, But Solo Prepper  - A Woman’s Perspective, by M.G.

Waking up to the realization that my safe, comfortable world as I have always known it to be was not the result of watching any “end of the world” movies or documentaries, or from reading something about it or from a friend convincing me.  I feel it was a gift, a freebie wake-up call from the heavenly powers that be.   I can’t help but think that I am supposed to be a survivor…..at least long enough to keep my children alive and healthy until they are grown and can then survive without my assistance.  My husband on the other hand, has been given no such gift.  He is in denial of anything going askew with the easy way of life he’s always known.  I have tried in vain to convince him of a very dire economic future.  Having information from very reputable sources placed in front of him does no good as he ignores it or explains it’s all wrong.  I feel though, that on some level he is aware but is afraid to acknowledge the reality of it.  I guess a highly unpredictable future can be too much for some people to stomach - but it’s a future, I feel in my bones is to be encountered.  Nonetheless, it’s a difficult situation for a marriage to be in whether the one who has awakened is the husband or the wife.  But I would bet my home-made rain barrels that it’s definitely tougher to be the wife, or female significant other who is the newly enlightened one.  Men for centuries have usually had the final “say-so” in most situations and our society still predominantly leans that way.  As strong and independent a person as I think I am, I still find it hard to go against his wishes.  When he comes home from work and finds I’ve bought another case of TVP, or made another run to the Thrift Store and scored more wool sweaters for the girls, I also feel pain when he winces or shakes his head in an “I give up!” manner.    Our marriage is still a good one, but because of my prepping it has a few dings, dents and rust spots that I wish were not there. 

My ”awakening” just happened, out of the blue.  One day I was blissfully unaware of any potential economic, political, environmental or other such trouble, just happily skipping through life and the very next day I was aware.  Boom!  Just like that.  My day of “catastrophic awakening” was in early December, 2009.  Sixteen months later I feel I am far better prepared than most in my middle class neighborhood, but still not where I need to be to feel really good about it.  It’s been quite an adventure, and a process from which I never get any rest.  If I’m not actively doing some sort of prepping activity I’m thinking about prepping.  I closely watch the economy to see if I need to hurry my prepping up or can I wait until the credit card flips before using it again.  I can’t help but miss the days of blissful ignorance sometimes, but still treat my gift as if it were made of fragile hand-blown glass.  I must continually read, study, buy, make, plan, think, save, and use my  imagination in anticipation of various disastrous scenarios  and prepare for them for all of us, alone.  My husband’s only contribution is paying for most of it.  He complains frequently and loudly and I ache frequently and strongly.  Buying food and all the hundreds of necessary items on a tight budget is a work of art in itself.  I think only a woman can truly understand the logistics of it all.  If it were just he and I, I might not even try to prep.  But I have kids, and that changes everything.

Another heavenly gift I was given was the desire to never become pregnant.  That didn’t mean I didn’t want children, I most certainly did.  I simply never felt the need to have my genetic code replicate itself in the form of human that was half me, and half somebody else.  Even back when I could still get pregnant I felt an inkling of a looming, foreboding future. My environmental courses while attending university didn’t help me culture a positive attitude about our world.  Why should I bring more people into an already “overly-burdened with humans and their endless problems” planet?  Adoption was the answer for me.  I won’t bring any more people in but I will be more than happy to raise those already here.  So after completing grueling reams of paperwork, background checks, intrusive home studies, and a “wait and hold-your-breath” for acceptance from a certified adoption agency, these two recovering alcoholics were finally off to Asia to adopt the most precious two girls in the world!  I am now determined that these two kids will not only survive life, but have the best chance at the best life that I can, and one the “heavenly-gifter” is willing, to provide.   I’m sure I share this deep, primitive instinctual drive with many mothers across the globe to protect their offspring even to the point of death.   Fathers, I’m sure are also deeply driven to protect their children but I’m experiencing it from a mother’s perspective.  I can only feel what I feel and only assume that fathers also feel it.  

So here’s our family situation.  The four of us, plus our foreign foreign exchange student, are stuck out here in suburbia in a big ol’ two story brick house with an unfinished basement.  And it’s the basement that may be our sanctuary.  It’s dimly lit, cold, cluttered, and just plain dirty but I love being there.  It’s where I feel my prepping call the strongest.  When I’m in my basement and seeing the fruits of my prepping labor, I feel closer to my Higher Power.  I receive more encouragement from being there than anyplace else.  And I need that encouragement since I find it nowhere else except on my favorite survival web sites and blogs from my fellow internet preppers and friends.  It would be best if I could get encouragement face to face but I’ve stopped hoping for that.  My husband certainly isn’t going to encourage me any in this life or death endeavor. 

I look around the basement and notice the windows and French doors and see all the work I still have to do to make them as secure as possible from break-ins.  I study various ways of protection but all are more than I can afford.  So, I must think, ponder, mull over and dream about effective ways of very inexpensive home security.  I feel that sometimes I’ve been guided to the right places at the right times.  I was at Lowe’s when they were selling “imperfect” lumber at 90% off and loaded my husband’s pick-up truck with it, and unloaded it alone when I got it home.  It took me two trips to get it all.   So now I have plenty of lumber of various lengths and sizes.  I bought four (4), metal zinc 6 and 3/8” bar holder brackets and have bolted them to the wall studs, two on each side of the French doors and rammed two (2), 2x4’s through them directly across the doors.  I realize that all one needs to do to easily enter the basement via the French doors is to break the one of the many glass panes, slide the board out of the brackets and proceed to kick the door in or bump the dead bolt.  To prevent this I have screwed two (2), 2-½” screws deeply into the exposed stud next to the end of each 2x4 board.  I can pull outwards on the end of the boards to release them over the heads of the screws to slide them out of the brackets, but I can only do this if I’m already in the basement.  Someone on the outside would have a hard time trying to dislodge the boards unless they had a saw, which could be very likely. I can’t keep them out but I sure can slow them down some. (Hopefully long enough for me to grab my shotgun!)

All sorts of projects are in the works and a few have been completed.  My rain barrel project was at first very intimidating but I persevered and now have three (3) of the plastic blue 55 gallon water barrels daisy-chained together and collecting off of one downspout.  And they are nicely hidden behind the huge cedar tree I took as a seedling from my grandmother’s yard several years ago.  I had read many different plans by many different people on how to make rain barrels but none of them really made clear sense to me.  So I ended up taking a little from this plan, and a little from that plan and created my own plan along the way.  The jigsaw I bought my husband for his birthday several years ago finally got used to saw the tops off of each barrel.  And I had to make a lot of trips to the hardware store and think and ponder as I stood in the PVC section playing with all the different parts and connections trying to figure out something that would work.  (The guys working at the hardware store got used to seeing me drop by nearly every day and are still interested in all of my various projects.) Then I had to decide on the best hose to use (radiator hose) to connect my barrels together, and solve a dozen or more other small but very important details.  I had some minor leaks of course at first.  After taking the barrels  apart and trying rubber versus metal washers, and with some more swearing they finally held water-tight and have been for almost a year now.  They even survived a hard freeze with thick ice on the top.  Water is so extremely important.  It’s the most important thing to have I think after shelter.  I should build more rain barrels, and I will, but only after some other things are done first.   I must admit that I’m very proud of myself for building these all by myself.  It was kind of a hard chore but a necessary one.  Hubby was surprised I did it but I wasn’t!  When I’m in the basement I also see the many 2 liter water bottles that I’ve spent hours washing and filling up with tap water just in case of a water shortage.  I used some of the lumber I got at Lowe's to make separate shelves for my canned food and home-bottled water.  I have to keep as much on the cheap as possible so I bought 24 masonry concrete blocks for a little over one dollar each and slapped my boards on top.  Each shelf has a total of three concrete blocks on end supporting it.  Two blocks on the ends of each shelf and one in the middle.  Each set of shelves is three levels high.  I’m tall, 5’10”, and the top shelf is at head level.  Canned food and bottled water weigh a lot so these shelves have to be strong.   They are great to see what I have in order to keep them off the floor and to rotate in and out.  Again, no help from anyone. 

Still, so many other skills needed to be mastered. It still seems overwhelming at times.   I often find myself thinking back to the days when I was a young girl and staying with my grandmother out in the country.   She was a real country woman who could have taught me a lot of self-survival skills.  I watched her work in her huge garden, then canning the vegetables she grew.  She even made her own soap from wood ash and lard out in the yard.  I just took it all for granted, but at least I still have the memories.   My grandmother would be proud of me now.  I’ve learned to pressure can, garden, dehydrate veggies and fruit, sew, (build rain barrels!), make soap (but not yet out of wood ash and lard) and am still working my way up the learning curve.  I need to learn how to quilt, make pottery, hunt (dread that but will if I have too), fish for real – not pleasure fishing, and a ton of other skills.  I also think about skills I need to have in case we need to find a new community to live in.  I want to be found useful enough for us to be allowed into a safe situation.  I’m a music teacher by trade.  I’m always trying to improve myself to become more useful by way of skills.    Women are naturally useful in many ways but those who only have training in artificial human-made vocations such as law and economics may be in for an extra hard time if they don’t get practical training in everyday life skills.   Same of course, goes for men.

Though I speak of possible future community acceptance, right now bugging out is not a viable option for us.   Being a woman, I see things perhaps, somewhat differently from most men.  Instead of focusing on BOLs, BOVs, guns, ammo to a great extent, I prepare for life right here, where we are in our suburban neighborhood.  All of our lives are here, everyone we know and love are nearby.  To “bugout” is not realistic for us, at least at this point in time, so I am preparing for life right here.   I’ve read many pros and cons about bugging out, and feel leaving would definitely not be in our best interest.  If we had a place to go to maybe we would bug out.  But for us to hit the road when all hell breaks loose with nowhere to go would do us no particular good.  My plan is, as a woman doing this without any input or advice from a man, is to stay put for as long as we can.  Danger lurks greater out there for women and children than for men.  I think about situations that probably few men think about.  Most of them aren’t worried about getting raped.  I especially fear something bad happening to my girls such as getting raped, or murdered or both.  Women have deep fears rarely expressed, even to each other.   By far most of our fears relate to our children’s welfare and all the dangers involved.  And all of these fears can happen right at home too.  But I feel my ability to protect is far superior from behind walls with a loaded shotgun than walking out in the open with my kids at my side and all I can carry on my back.  Such exposure I cannot tolerate.  Also, I have to have faith in something greater than myself that we will be alright.  If I do the footwork (prepping) I can leave the results of my prepping to God. 

I didn’t wake up suddenly with a desire to prep for no good reason.  Nor did anyone else who is preparing for disaster whether it be small, great, or somewhere in between.  Those of us who have awoken have done so for reasons that may exist far beyond themselves.  Who knows what the Universe has in store for them.  Hopefully very wonderful things!  If they are fortunate to be living with others of like mind, then their jobs are much easier and much more enjoyable. However, not all of us live in such a good situation and have to carefully balance prepping duties and marriage duties ever so carefully.  Some of us face outright hostility, and others like myself endure mostly silent scorn.  And this hostility, whether it be overt or covert, can cause some irrational feelings to be felt.  I have found myself actually wishing the economy would suddenly crash, or that CME would race towards earth causing destruction of our electrical grid, or even a pandemic to occur just to prove myself not crazy to him.  But that kind of thinking is crazy!  At least I realize it when it happens and see it for what it’s worth.  I’m only human. We’re all only human and so I don’t berate myself about having such thoughts.  I guess if God, or whatever our personal Higher Powers are, wanted us to have help from our spouses or significant others, then we would have their help.  

Prepping is now a way of life for me.  It’s something that I have come to enjoy for the most part, despite having to do a lot of it in secret.  It’s futile to discuss world economic or political situations, or anything that might lead to reasons why I prep.   He and I just aren’t on the same page and attempts to discuss differing points of view always lead to bad feelings in the both of us.  Also, I can’t share even little things like my great news about all the wonderful clothes I bought for next to nothing at my favorite thrift store, in larger and larger sizes for the girls as they grow. Or about the nearly brand new Timberland boots I scored for only $4 at Goodwill!  I bring home my items in secret and store them away in secret without telling anyone.  I check all my favorite web sites everyday for bargains on the things I feel are necessary.  The headlamps, two for the price of one, the large spools of dirt cheap sewing thread, the solar battery chargers and rechargeable batteries, the manual floor sweepers, the survival books, the oil lamps, ceramic water filters, the heirloom vegetable seeds and more – all ordered off the internet in secret.  The other thousand items such as soap, OTC medicines, antibiotics, toothpaste, toothbrushes, boxes of salt, lamp oil, wicks, propane tanks, candles galore, ammo, slingshots and replacement bands, bicycle tires and tubes, toilet paper, tools, etc…. are secretly stashed away in the bowels of the basement.  Sometimes he finds a hidden stash and gives me grief, but I no longer try to explain. He’s finally gotten used to seeing the four shiny galvanized steel garbage cans (though there are five now) packed with dried beans, rice and the tons of food I’ve dehydrated and vacuumed sealed.  I guess prepping is better than many possible alternative addictions.  I could be drinking again!  It’s hard to hide canning jars though so I just leave those out in the open for him to see every day when he walks through the kitchen. 

For women--especially those who are having a difficult time doing what they know is the right thing to do, while keeping the waters calm at home is in the very least, a challenge for which a gold medal should be awarded.  Ending a relationship that otherwise is very good, is a terrible loss.  I refuse to end our relationship over my prepping but wonder would I really if it came down to that? Sometimes I want to, but I can’t help but feel that God put him in my life for a reason, and that someday he will shine as a protector and warrior, as that will be his heavenly gift.  

I've carried a pocket knife of some type, ever since I was about six years old. Growing-up in Chicago, meant you were either going to take care of yourself, or become a meal for the next predator on the mean streets. There was a time, when I was a kid, that it seemed like everyone carried a pocket knife. I can remember going to elementary school, and most of the guys I went to school with carried pocket knives - in school! The police weren't called, and you weren't expelled from school, for carrying a "weapon." It was just part of growing-up when I was a kid, unlike today, where a child is automatically expelled for a year from school, and the police are usually called, and a kid gets arrested for carrying a "weapon." Knives are first and foremost, tools!   The world isn't want it used to be - any more, kids get expelled from school for drawing a picture of a knife or a gun, or for that matter, pointing your finger in the shape of a gun. I don't understand the logic, if there is any, behind this nonsense these days. My wife grew-up in rural southern Oregon on a farm. And, it was common to see high school kids with a rifle or shotgun in the back window of their pick-up truck - in case a kid wanted to get in some hunting before or after school. No one gave it a second thought, and the police weren't called, and no one was expelled from school. We also didn't have mass murders in our schools back then. I still remember, when I took a .22 rifle to school for show 'n tell, the teacher didn't get into a panic. And, everyone went home safe and sound at the end of the day.  

My friend, Lynn Thompson, who operates Cold Steel Knives,  isn't just a knife designer, or simply runs a knife company. Nope, Lynn lives and breathes knives - it's a part of his everyday life. Lynn doesn't just make a living selling knives - he's also heavily involved in the martial arts, and needless to say, knife fighting skills are a big part of his martial arts. I still remember when I first read about the original Cold Steel Tanto - and I couldn't believe what I was reading. No knife could be "that" sharp or "that" tough. I had to get one for myself to prove all the hype. Sad to say, I was proven wrong! The original Cold Steel Tanto was exactly what it claimed to be, and then some.  

I've often said, in my of my magazine articles, that I believe Lynn Thompson put the "sharp" in factory knives. Oh sure, many years ago, you could find a halfway sharp knife, out-of-the-box. However, in most cases, you had to work on putting a hair-popping edge on most store-bought knives, and you still couldn't get the knife as sharp as a Cold Steel knife is, right out of the box. I believe Lynn Thompson set the gold standard for sharpness, and everyone else had to follow suit or get out of the way.   There has been rumors going around for years, that Lynn Thompson, will refuse entire shipments of knives, if they aren't up to his expectations. The rumors are true! Many of Cold Steel's knives are made in Japan or China, and Thompson demands only the best when they reach his office in California. I've seen some of the "seconds" that Cold Steel sells once in a while. That's not to say, that Thompson is lowering his standards, far from it. Usually, a Cold Steel "second" is a knife that will have a tiny cosmetic imperfection. And, you have to have a really good eye to spot these cosmetic blemishes.  

Under review here are two folding knife from Cold Steel, the Recon 1 and the Spartan. I can carry just about any kind of folding knife I want, and in the course of doing test and evaluation articles about knives, I actually do carry and use the knives I'm writing about. My main carry knife, if my right front pocket is the Cold Steel Recon 1 - and I do carry more than one folding knife. I usually have a small folder in the bottom of my right front pocket, and another folder clipped inside my left front pocket - that one gets used a lot. the Recon 1 is reserved for serious "social" occasions.   The Recon 1 comes in a Clip or Tanto pointed blade, I prefer and carry the Tanto version, with a plain edge - they are also offered in a partially serrated blade as well. The blade material is AUS 8A, one of my favorite blade steels for all around edge-holding and cutting. The handle scales are black G-10 laminate, which is super-tough stuff. The blade is 4" in length and has dual thumb studs for ambidextrous opening. The pocket clip is reversible for left-hand (pocket) carry, too. The black coating on the blade is Teflon for a non-reflective finish and it helps protect the blade from rust, too. For a big folder, the Recon 1 only weighs 5.3 oz, and it feels lighter than that for some reason.   Like all Cold Steel knives, the Recon 1 is super-sharp. I don't know how Cold Steel gets their knives so sharp, but I'm not complaining in the least. A sharp knife is easier to work with than a dull one, no doubt about it. The Recon 1 has the patented "Tri Ad" lock - it looks, from the outside, like a typical mid-frame rocker-lock, but don't be fooled by looks. The Tri Ad locking system is extremely strong and I don't worry about the blade getting unlocked and cutting my fingers when using the Recon 1.  As I said before, I can carry just about any kind of knife I want, and I often do carry some expensive factory or custom knives - some of those knives costing several hundred of dollars. My regular carry folder, in my right front pocket is the Cold Steel Recon 1, and it retails for only $104.99 - a real bargain in my book.  

Lynn Thompson also sent me the Cold Steel "Spartan" folding knife. And, this is one mean-looking son-of-a-gun, too. The blade is shaped like the classic "Kopis" and many mistake it for a Kukri-style blade. Like the Recon 1, the Spartan has a blade made out of AUS 8A stainless steel, and the handle scales are made out of black "Grivory" a super-tough synthetic material. Blade length on the Spartan is 4-1/2" and it looks a lot longer than that, perhaps because of the curve of the blade. The Tri Ad lock is also used on the Spartan. Weighing in at 7.5 oz, the Kopis is a bit heavier than the Recon 1 is. Two pocket clips come with the Kopis - one for left pocket carry, and one for right pocket carry. The clips are shaped to follow the curve on the handle and you can't simply move the pocket clip from one side of the handle scales to the other - you have to use a different clip.   Lynn Thompson told me that, as big as the Kopis is, that it was designed for pocket carry. I didn't believe him, and put it to the test. The Spartan comes with a thumb disk on the top of the blade, and this disk can be used to open the Spartan with either your thumb, or by hooking it on the top of your pocket as your "draw" the knife - and when you complete the draw, the blade will be open in your hand. It is very fast, and very easy to learn inside of a couple minutes of practice.  

In short order, I was carrying the Spartan in my right front pocket, and I had completely forgotten I had it there. Thompson was right - the knife, as big as it is, does easily carry clipped inside the pocket of most pants. I don't think the Spartan would fit in my suit pants, then again, I haven't worn my suit for more than 10 years so I'm not too worried about that.  When you hold the Spartan in your hand, it is awe-inspiring, and it will get the attention of any bad guys who might think about doing you harm, too. Best of all, the Spartan retails for only $94.99. How they can sell 'em so cheap is beyond me - you get more than your money's worth with a Cold Steel product.  

For everyday or backwoods survival, or even TEOTWAWKI , it would be hard to pass up either a Cold Steel Spartan or Recon 1 folder. They can do the job many lesser folding knives can't do. Lynn Thompson backs-up what he says about his knives. Check out the videos on his web site and be sure watch the tests the Spartan and Recon 1 are put through - as well as all the knives Cold Steel sells. Be prepared to spend several hours watching all the videos - it's easy to get hooked watching the amazing tests that are done with the Cold Steel knives.   Be sure and stop by the Cold Steel web site, check out their entire line-up of folders, fixed blade knives and other tools they have to offer, and request their catalog. Tell them I told you to stop by their web site. I'm betting good money, you'll find something that will serve your survival needs from Cold Steel.

JWR Adds: I second the motion for Cold Steel Knives. They are some of the best production knives on the market, for the money. I am particularly fond of their large folding knives with a tanto point, such as the Voyager series. If I lived somewhere where it was legal to carry a folding pocket knife but firearms were restricted from concealed carry, then I would carry a large (4" blade) Voyager or perhaps a Voyager XL (with a 5" blade.) These knives are sturdy and versatile, but surprisingly light for their size.

Greetings Mr. Rawles;
First, allow me to thank you for your work.  I have only recently become aware of your site, having heard you on Mike Ruppert's radio show.  In the short time since, I've gathered many useful facts and sources from the material on your site.  We all owe you a debt of thanks.

The post on protection from predators by John L.  is very valuable.  I have no disagreements with any of his approaches or solutions.  I would like to offer an alternative that has worked for us for the last 15 years, and may be suitable for some of your readers.

John L. is certainly correct that dogs are the worst predator problem for most people.  They can also be the solution.  I am referring to livestock guardian dogs (LGDs).  

Our property is located on the ridges running east from the Continental Divide in the Northern Rockies at 5,500 foot elevation.  We are very fortunate to own a small piece of a large private wildlife preserve.  We've been on this property for the last 11 years.  Although not as remote from neighbors as John L, we are on the edge of wild country with all the large predators either resident or transient on the property, including the neighbor's sled dogs.  We keep goats, chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys on the place.  We also have two Great Pyrenees  LGDs.  In the 15 years we've kept Pyrs we have never lost a goat to a predator.  In the 11 years we've been here we have not lost one chicken to a predator- either raptor or four legged.  I did lose two little chicks and a duckling to a raven - but that was my fault. 

On our place we have two and a half acres fenced off - roughly in an oval shape.  Within that perimeter are the house, outbuildings, poultry enclosures, small pond, garden beds and young permaculture orchard.  The poultry -except the geese- are pretty much free range inside the perimeter.  We keep them out of the garden beds during the growing season, but otherwise they are generally free to chase ants and grasshoppers wherever the hunt may lead.  This cuts way down on insect damage to the gardens.  The goats are housed immediately outside this fenced area because of their taste for fruit trees.  Goats will be as tough on your orchard as deer.  The goats' main task has been brush and weed control in this fire-prone country, thus they are not penned, though they do tend to stay within sight of the dogs and the homestead.  This arrangement has made it possible to easily move the poultry - if we need some of them in a particular area - within the fenced perimeter without major interior fencing or structure.  We do this to prepare garden beds and soil by letting the animals do most of the work.  A few short step-in posts and 3 feet of 2" poultry mesh will tend to enclose any of the birds as long as there is plenty to eat.  I've built movable lightweight shelters for the poultry that are easy to re-locate.  To be accurate, the turkeys can fly, so we do have to be careful they haven't landed in the lettuce.  You can clip a turkey's wing, but we prefer them to be able to roost in the trees at night during the warmer season.  Also this allows them the ability to leave the main enclosure and forage for food in the surrounding woods - they fly over the fence and fly to avoid predators - returning in the evening.  Sounds risky, I know, but they stay close to the perimeter and the dogs.  We haven't lost a turkey yet.

The dogs are free to patrol within the 2 1/2 acres because they are completely trustworthy with all the other critters.  As long as the perimeter fence holds predation is simply not a problem.  We've installed the 8' deer fence that is a plastic/graphite combination for the perimeter.  This fence is used by the Forest Service, BLM and various state agencies as an "exclosure" in areas where it is necessary to keep the elk, moose and deer out--protecting stands of aspen trees.   We reinforce it with either snow-fence, poultry wire (along the bottom to keep rabbits from chewing through the fence) cattle panels, or some combination of these.  The elk and deer have not challenged the fence because of our dogs.  Only one of my neighbor's sled dogs (which he occasionally seems unable to control) was ever stupid enough to actually try and dig under the fence to get at our turkeys.  I can't say if missing half an ear has an effect on his ability to pull.

In the last 16 months the property has been visited by the usual assortment of fox, coyotes, feral dogs and bobcats.  No sweat for our dogs.  Although we've had several cougar on the property they stay at least 200 yards from the homestead.  What has made the last 16 months special are the wolves and bear.  In December/January adolescent wolves will leave the main pack and strike out on their own.  We have not had a pack here but have seen several of these loners.  They don't even stop for coffee.  About a year ago a grizzly sow and yearling cub came through the place when they first woke up.  Our lead dog (female in this breed) bit through the poultry wire and the graphite and went out after the griz which were near her goats.  The grizzlies left and raided the neighbor's barn for horse grain.  This last fall a large old boar black bear came through the place with much the same result.

When a predator is in the area the goats will crowd up against the outside of the fence as close to the dogs as they can get.  The fun part is that the deer that come in close at night to clean up the goat's hay get the same idea.  The dogs try to bark the deer off the goats' hay but otherwise recognize that the elk and deer are no threat.  This time of year when both mule deer and elk can be seen in large numbers the dogs will sit quietly and watch a group of 20 head or so grazing and browsing less than a hundred yards away.

These dogs are fabulous with kids.  When my grandchildren visit they simply do not go outside the perimeter without at least one dog - that's the rule.  The kids climb on the dogs.  I even have a photo of a chicken standing on one of the dogs.

A good livestock guardian dog is as aware of birds of prey as it is other predators.  However, we see very few raptors here because there is a raven nest close-by.  The ravens, of course, despise hawks and owls and drive them away at first sight. 

LGDs are known to locate sick or injured stock and stay with them until the shepherd arrives. 

Disadvantages?  Well, the fact is that LGDs work at night.  They bark a lot to let the predators know about their territory.  My closest neighbor is more than a quarter mile away and keeps dogs himself so this is not a problem for us.  I have gotten used to the barking and find it reassuring, sleeping through much of it.  I've never had a problem distinguishing between this normal patrol barking and the "Boss, you better get out here!" bark.   In those instances I take the warning seriously, and just as John L proposes, I stumble into my boots, fill my hand with a 12 gauge and go deal.

Also, the Pyrenees will tend to wander a bit if not well fenced.  They don't run away.  They are patrolling their territory.  It is just that their idea of their territory and yours may not match up.  This is a generalization and I've had a female Pyr who never needed a pen or fence.  She just stayed home.

Besides the Great Pyrenees there are numerous breeds of livestock Guardian dogs including Akbash, Anatolian, Kuvaz and Komondor.  They all have much lower food requirements than most dogs of a similar size and though there are differences between the breeds they all share the great protective instincts.  They are not attack dogs.  They are guardian dogs.  If you think an LGD may work in your situation, please do your research.  If someone were considering LGDs I'd strongly recommend getting a pup from working parents.  That imprinting maximizes your chance of having a good dog.  You can occasionally find adult LGD dogs through rescue services.  We have a rescue Pyr now who is absolutely the best guardian dog you could ask for.  I've had another rescue Pyr who was a pleasant doofus and completely useless for watchdog work.  Of course, if you have a good dog, bringing in a pup to learn from the older dog also increase your chances of success.

By keeping LGDs in this manner we've cut way down on the bomb-proof building requirements that would otherwise be necessary to keep the critters and the young trees safe.  In the times to come, when keeping electronic security items charged up and running may be a challenge, LGDs offer a low-tech security option.  It's true, I really like these dogs.  Any critter actively guarding us and willing to give its life to keep the family and homestead safe deserves my affection. Thanks again for your work. - M.F.

Hi Jim.  
Dry wall is made of Gypsum, which is composed of Calcium Sulfate Dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O. It is found naturally and also made Synthetically by Flue Gas Desulfurization at some coal-fired electric power plants. Synthetic Gypsum can be used interchangeably with Natural Gypsum in some applications. There was a problem with drywall from China which contains too much Sulfur probably from the flue gas desulfurization process. When Water is absorbed by the bad drywall, Hydrogen Sulfide is formed which induces corrosion in some metals. I would not trust using drywall as a desiccant for ammo storage. Just think about opening your ammo boxes, finding the contents corroded! That would be "Penny wise and Pound foolish." - Chuck M. from the Northeast Kingdom

The truth behind the "budget slashing" rhetoric: Debt Jumped $54.1 Billion in 8 Days Preceding Obama-Boehner Deal to Cut $38.5 Billion for Rest of Year

If you thought that the systematic looting of the Social Security trust fund was bad, then read this sad portent of future thievery: Treasury may borrow federal retirement funds in debt emergency. ("No cause for alarm. Nothing to see here, move along...")

Over at The Daily Bell: The Story of Entitlement Addiction

Items from The Economatrix:

Shopper Spending Surprisingly Strong in March (Monetization as stimulus?)

Ron Paul:  Gold, Commodity Prices "Big Event" Signaling Economic Collapse

Who Would Sell Gold or Silver Now?

Banks in Illinois, Nevada Fail; Makes 28 Closed in 2011

Christopher Y. sent us a news item about England's NHS to file under Dulce et decorum est: Socialized Medicine Director Dies Waiting for Operation

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Pat Buchanan asks: Is tribalism the future?

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I just heard that Emergency Essentials has some Iosat Potassium Iodide Tablets in transit that are scheduled to arrive early next week. They wrote: "After we have filled all backorders, a limited quantity of additional tablets will be available. Order today and you’ll be put into the queue for this shipment. We’ll stop taking orders after this shipment is sold out. We do have more on order, but we don’t have a time table for when they will arrive. Be sure to order some today." 

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Scott P. wrote to mention: California: Anti-Gun Bills Scheduled to be Heard in the State Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees on April 12. Scott's comment: "From what I can tell, it bans the possession of all ammunition capable of penetrating body armor. That would mean all rifle ammo larger than .22 rimfire! I hate living in California."

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A new, sad, chapter in the history of space flight: “Houston Discovery, For the Final Time, Wheels Stop".

"The economy has already imploded and is now reinflated with volatile hydrogen-like fiat, just waiting for the right spark to bring the whole zeppelin crashing down in flames." - Giordano Bruno

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Is it truly possible for someone to be self-sufficient? I like to garden, grow medicinal herbs and believe it's good to learn whatever we can about the old-fashioned ways of doing things. Some of my friends like to make their own soap, keep bees, garden, can vegetables, make wine, make their own bread, hunt, butcher their own deer, and raise chickens, and I would love to raise goats, sheep and cows if we had enough land.

It appears to be part of a nationwide trend toward natural living. The reasons for the trend, at least in the beginning, appear to be a mixture of:

- An increased awareness of how unhealthy processed food is;
- The aging of the population leading people to try eating healthier;
- People becoming more involved in their own health care (a trend which began in the 1990s);
- Concern about peak oil and environmental sustainability;
- An awareness of living in the end times and getting ready in case they need to survive without buying or selling (Revelation 13).

The movement has gained momentum in the past few years, mostly due to the economy. More women home schooling their kids, necessitating some home budget cutting measures has also added to the movement. Recently, another reason to be self-sustaining in regard to electricity has been presenting itself: rolling blackouts and brownouts in Texas and elsewhere due to environmental regulations and new power plants not being built. If this becomes more widespread, and it probably will, the less we have to rely on the electrical grid the better off we will be.

Some survival sites encourage people to learn how to do everything - from blacksmithing, marksmanship and candle making to midwifery, weaving and setting up your own solar electric system. It would be great if we could learn all the old skills and some new ones like energy production. The thing is, it really isn't possible to be totally and completely self-sufficient.

It's worth trying to learn all we can and to have access to instructions in print, in case the need for something arises. But there isn't enough time in each person's day to be able to learn more than a few of these things, at best, at an expert level. I wonder just how many people believe they're really being self-sufficient while still relying on consumer goods. We may be fooling ourselves since almost everyone still has to rely on regular grocery store trips, maybe ordering ingredients, things that are not produced locally, anything made of or packaged in plastic which is made of oil, shipping to stores or delivery which requires oil, anything requiring electricity or municipal water, or a vehicle that we can't repair ourselves, especially if it has any computer parts. Even if we have everything we may need, it will eventually wear out and need to be replaced.

Since no one can be truly self-sufficient, I believe we will see a trend toward more communal living. Throughout history, families and tribes tended to live together or near each other and to divide labor. Most people living far from their families and not knowing their neighbors is mostly a recent Western phenomenon. Older people took care of and taught younger children while the more able-bodied adults did the manual labor. There have always been economic systems and trade, and the more intricate the system and the more specialized the labor, the better quality of life was in general.

Capitalism remains the best system, of course, because the other extreme, communism, doesn't provide enough incentive for production and innovation. I especially dislike the fact that in communism, the hardest workers get the same credit and compensation as the slackers do. We may end up with something in-between at some point in the future, at least temporarily. The idea isn't an extremely pleasant one but it may be necessary at least for awhile if one of the following or something similar happens to occur:

- The economy completely collapses
- We have war in our own country - civil war or invasion
- If peak oil really is true. We will never suddenly, completely run out of oil. Its easy availability will decline (very slowly at first) and over time become prohibitively expensive. There's "plenty" of oil left, but it will require more energy to extract it from shale and to find it in harder-to-get-to locations.

I believe it would be a good idea to start thinking about ways to cooperate within a family or community. Read about intentional communities and how they organize, their criteria for membership, and their division of labor. Maybe adapt some of their ideas to use in a family household. If you happen to have the opportunity to make some type of alternative living arrangement, you could benefit from taking it and doing it early. It's always better to choose something than have something forced upon you. Maybe you could find out what skills or products others could offer for barter in your area, and figure out what you could offer that isn't already being done. If everyone you know has chickens, you could raise sheep. Find a need and fill it, something that most people can't do. For example, don't rely on growing tomatoes or sewing for barter (unless you have an unusual level of expertise, like making clothes without a pattern). Learn a more unique and valuable skill.

There's a fascinating guest article on a blog owned by Dmitry Orlov, author of Reinventing Collapse. It’s about a 1,050 acre commune in Tennessee [called "The Farm"] that was started in 1971 by 320 people on a 50-bus caravan from San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district. While I don't advocate their lifestyle and don't think we all need to rush out and join a commune of course, it's informative and interesting. They weren't totally self-sufficient either but they had a pretty good system set up.

At its peak, there were over 1,000 people living there plus numerous guests always coming and going, which dwindled to 200 people years later, and lately their population is increasing again. When they got there, they lived in tents and buses while they were building structures for sleeping, bathing, sanitation, and a kitchen. Later they had buildings for canning and freezing, a motor pool, school, clinic, and used an old log cabin already on the property for a business center. They got water from a springhouse, stored in a reclaimed water tower. They had a party line telephone network set up that went to the buildings and even the tents, and was dialed by using Morse code. There was even a line dedicated to emergencies.

Some of the skills they used were welding, auto mechanics, construction, ham radio, printing, teaching, food preservation, and a lot of technical creativity. They had positions for fire marshal, night sentries, gate and patrol security, and medical personnel. They printed a weekly newspaper called “Amazing Tales of Real Life” and printed do-it-yourself books.

Communes are a type of “Intentional Community.” An organization called Fellowship for Intentional Community has a list of over 500 intentional communities of different kinds, and the common ingredient is shared values. Most members are between the ages of 30-60.  Some are just where people live near each other to form a nice family neighborhood. Some are ecology-oriented, many are artists’ enclaves, and some share the same religion. Most of the religious ones tend to be of the New Age variety, but there are some that claim to be Christian. They tend to be egalitarian and democratic. Most are rural or suburban, and some are urban. Very few are true communes, where they share all their possessions.

A few intentional community dwellers deliberately live in crime-ridden areas to be lights in the darkness. More of them, however, form communities to get away from crime. Dmitry Orlov (mentioned above) lived in Russia for 12 years and had an opportunity to frequently visit Russia after their economic collapse. He says jobs providing security detail proliferated and he expects the same thing to happen in the U.S. Many experts advise setting up a serious version of a neighborhood watch if crime gets too rampant in the future.

Communal living, BTW, has gotten a bad name from communism and the recreational drugs and promiscuity of some of the hippies, and rightly so. Remember though, that the early Christians “had all things in common” - they sold their possessions and pooled the money. Some Jews in Israel have taken it a step further, forming kibbutzim (Hebrew for "communal settlements"). They were founded around 1940 mostly by Eastern European immigrants, so they probably were influenced by Soviet Communism. That’s just the lifestyle they were accustomed to, so that should come as no surprise. It’s worth noting that although the atheistic form of Communism has failed, the worshipers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have made it work for much longer - assuming they kept their Jewish roots and didn’t adhere to the atheist aspect of Soviet Communism.

There are around 700 kibbutzim in Israel now, with 40 to 1,000+ members each. Most members live in their own home and have communal playgrounds, dining halls, auditoriums, libraries, swimming pools, tennis courts, medical clinics, laundry, and grocery stores. It’s largely due to the kibbutzim that the “deserts are blooming” with agriculture in formerly barren land. They grow a large percentage of the produce that Israel exports around the world. They have businesses manufacturing a wide variety of things, specializing in metal work, plastic and processed food. They also cater to tourism, with guest houses, swimming pools, horseback riding, tennis courts, museums, exotic animal farms and water parks. They don’t have enough workers for all the labor available, so they host volunteers to live and work there for awhile, and hire locals.

Whether you get inspired to join or start an intentional community, use some of their ideas within your own neighborhood or household, or set up a bartering situation, these people are on the vanguard of what appears to be a positive trend and we can learn from their mistakes and successes.

Mr. Rawles:
Most herbal supply web sites (San Francisco Herb Company, for one)  offer heat-sealable tea filter paper bags (large size, empty 'tea bags' that are used for making tea bags, bath salts bags etc).

You seal them with a regular clothes iron. These are perfect for making the silica packets for putting in with stored ammo. - Paulette

I have to agree with this article.  I first heard about the South Beach diet from a coworker who lost over 100 pound and kept it off for many years this way.  I've successfully used it myself, me, who thought I could never stick to a diet.  It was developed by a cardiologist with the goal being to provide his patients with a diet that would greatly lower their risk of stroke and heart attack and improve their cardiac and blood profiles.  My only caveat is I don't agree with his recommended use of Splenda and NutraSweet.  Use all natural Stevia instead. - Kathryn N.

JWR Replies: I concur! As I've mentioned before in the blog, I recommend minimizing the intake of aspartame-based artificial sweeteners (like Benevia, Canderal, Equal, NutraSweet, Equal, and Spoonful.) They have some profound negative health effects that are just starting to be revealed. I predict that in the long run, aspartame will have a reputation as bad as Red Dye #2.

Mr. Rawles-
I felt I must respond to the article that was presented on the South Beach Diet as a tool to get into shape before TSHTF. It is an excellent way to eat for those who suffer from hypothyroidism and in fact is one that is highly recommended by many endocrinologists for those with Hashimoto’s Disease (of which I deal with and have dealt with for years). The body turns carbs into sugar which causes an inflammatory reaction within the body and for those with hypothyroidism this means muscle aches, pains and low energy. When I stay away from processed foods, fruit and what I will term ‘bad’ carbs, I feel really good even when my TSH levels are way out of whack. Eat one doughnut, one piece of white bread or drink one soda, I can feel. I believe that if your readers who suffer from hypothyroidism just tried the diet with no other intentions except to feel better that they would find that many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism would either be lessened or go away. Protein is the hypo's suffers best friend and carbs are not!   Blessings - Rev. L.B.

Avoiding Federal Government Shutdown: The agreement included some $38.5 billion dollars of extra spending cuts. We are swimming in red ink and all they can agree to is a miniscule cut? Do they think that people will be fooled by the "big number" of $38.5 billion? They will never balance the budget! The congresscritters have doomed us to a Dollar Disaster of epic proportions.

Frequent content contributor C.D.V. sent us this: U.S. Dollar Crisis Looms, Spike in Interest Rates Following End of QE2

Also from C.D.V.: Toxic Dollar: Why Nobody Seems to Want US Currency (Finally, the mainstream media is catching on!)

Items from The Economatrix:

Natural Gas Drops; Oil Jumps Above $110

Euro Sinks on Fears of Bailout

Silver Is Getting Too Popular, Right?

When The Saudi Monarchy Fails

Reader R.W.M. sent an interesting report on violent crime ratings per state: "U.S. Peace Index".   

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Stephen M. spotted this: Oklahoma sees driest four months since Dust Bowl

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My wife Avalanche Lily suggested this article about home dairy goats in the cities and suburbs: A Pet That Makes Milk. (Well, "pet" is probably not the best term, since bucklings are traditionally sold for eventual butcher, and retired does usually go in the chest freezer.)

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Reader J.H. suggested Conservapedia, "...as Yin for Wikipedia's Yang".He also mentioned that it is a good resource for homeschoolers. JWR Adds: At least Conservapedia admits it has a bias. But the cabals of partisan agitprop rule Wikipedia with an iron fist. Wikipedia is noticeably biased toward socialism and against Christianity. The cabals systematically engage in POV pushing, Wikilawyering, and manufacturing artificial “neutral” viewpoints. They are relentless, yet they maintain their Teflon sheen. Even the very existence of cabals is denied. (You have to look hard to find any evidence in Wikipedia, itself.)

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Denny V. wrote to note: "Recently, the LDS [Bishop's Warehouse] cannery here in North Carolina has changed their policies and non-LDS members can no longer use their facilities unless accompanied by a LDS member. I am told it is now a nationwide policy change. You may wish to check on it. I had an appointment for April 6th and it was canceled by the cannery, since I am not a LDS member."  

"O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.

Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.

Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.

Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou [art] the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they [have been] ever of old. - Psalm 25:2-6 (KJV)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I would guess that most SurvivalBlog readers would agree that the mind, including state of mind and skill set, is one’s most important asset during TEOTWAWKI. Additionally, I would argue that being physically fit runs a very close second place. I have always been a prepper to a certain degree; even before I had ever heard the term. However in the back of my mind I knew that my body would not make it far even if my family’s survival depended upon it. In addition to being pre-diabetic, I was taking medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I subtly tried to acquire a stock of my medications from my doctor, but was unable to secure more than a few months’ supply. I also spoke to my doctor about my weight and he mentioned that I should take a look at the South Beach Diet. I bought the book and the ideas sounded reasonable. However, I failed to act upon the information until in January 2010, when after several years of working in front of a computer monitor, I hit 300 pounds. I decided that day that I would not gain another pound and I would do everything in my power to regain my fitness.

In my youth, I had been a muscular 200 pounds at 5 foot 11 inches, and I thought that I would never see that level of fitness again especially now that I am in my forties. After all, I had eliminated soda, and started eating more salads and less fatty foods all to no avail. A few years back I had lost quite a bit of weight while on the Atkins diet, but the way I had implemented it was very unhealthy. In fact I developed gout from the all of the red meat I was eating. Once I went back to my old habits, the gout never returned, but I regained all of the weight I had lost and more. Exercise had proven to be even more of a challenge because I was perpetually tired. It’s amazing how just a day at the office can exhaust you when you are carrying an extra hundred plus pounds.

In my mind diets always represented a short-term state. The problem is that as soon as you stop dieting, even if you had reached your goal, you begin to regain the weight because you go back to your old habits. In order to be successful at permanently losing weight, I knew I would have to make lifestyle changes. I studied the Paleo diet and the South Beach diet. I even revisited the Atkins diet, which had even been revised since the time I had tried it to be more healthy. I found a growing body of evidence that avoiding fast carbohydrates and embracing good fats in moderation would cause you to lose weight, balance blood cholesterol as well as blood sugar. In fact, the low-fat, grain based diet that has been advanced by the FDA, which I had believed in as gospel, could actually have been working against me.

The main concept of this movement (at least to the extent of my understanding) is that your body will burn carbohydrates first until they are gone and then it will burn the fats. The more carbs you have in your diet, the less likely it is that you will burn significant amounts of fat. When your body absorbs carbs it produces insulin to break down the sugars, and if you intake a significant amount of carbs that can be quickly absorbed by your body your blood will get a huge spike in insulin to help burn those carbs. Once the carbs have been processed you still have the insulin in our blood, which will cause you to crave even more carbs. The resulting situation can be self-perpetuating and quite addictive. Some sources of quick carbohydrates that I expected to see were sugared soda and sweets. Other sources were more of a surprise such as white flour, white rice, potatoes and fruit juice. As it turns out, while fruit juice is much healthier, it puts just as much sugar into your system as soda and just as quickly. Once you have stopped yourself from riding this carb pendulum, your body will start to process fats, which will naturally lower cholesterol and help you to lose weight.

I started by eliminating almost all carbs from my diet for the first two weeks to break myself from the carb addiction. Meals consisted lean meats, cheese, and lots of green vegetables. I avoided anything made from grains, beans, fruits, and milk. During this time, I was not concerned that I probably ate even more calories than before I started. I felt that I was missing something from my diet and I was trying to make up for it. By the end of those first two week, I had lost 10 to 15 pounds without counting a calorie or working out, and I was starting to get used to the staples of my new way of eating.

After those first weeks, I started to add a serving of slow carbs each day such as beans, a slice of 100% whole wheat bread, a bowl of oatmeal, brown rice. Be careful with bread and especially more processed foods. Many “wheat” breads still have enriched white flour in them, and most processed foods have an incredible amount of added sugars and other hidden carbs. If you are not eating a whole food, it is imperative that you read every label. You will be absolutely shocked at what you find. I also tried to avoid any carbs first thing in the morning, which helps to lower the possibility of a spike in blood sugar.

By the first couple of months, I had lost about 40 pounds, and began eating smaller portions. I was still not counting calories or letting myself feel starved. If I had cheated, then I just restarted the next day. But, I didn’t cheat that much because I was seeing some serious results, and I wanted to see more. Additionally, I was feeling much better, had more energy, and started to walk every day. A visit to my doctor around this time revealed that my blood pressure had dropped and my cholesterol was spot on for the first time since it had been measured in spite of my long history of taken satins to lower it. As a result the doctor took me off of half of my medications for blood pressure, and reduced the amount of statins that I was taking.

About this time, my wife, who was seeing similar results, and I decided to plan a backpacking trip for midsummer. We knew we would have to work hard to prepare, but all of the hiking and workouts we did in preparation started to seem much more like fun than work. Just before leaving for our trip, I visited the doctor again. By this time I had lost about 70 pounds. My blood pressure was perfect as was my cholesterol. I was allowed to discontinue both medications altogether as long as I promised to self-monitor my blood pressure and go in for regular check-ups to monitor the cholesterol. To this day both my blood pressure and cholesterol are right where they should be without the help of medications.

As it turns out, our backpacking trip went without a hitch, with one exception: we had significantly underestimated how fit we had become, and could have traveled quite a bit more distance than we planned.

Today I have lost a total of 95 pounds, and I have added weight training in the last few months. I find that I actually enjoy exercise now that I have energy and my body has become used to it. The remaining weight has been a bit more difficult to lose, but I am building lean muscle. I am within five pounds of my original goal, and I can comfortably hike all day with a 40 pound pack. Well, okay, I am mostly comfortable. I still get sore feet and am glad to sit down at the end of the trail, but the hike is enjoyable and not a strain.

Now that I am close to maintenance weight and have started weight training I have been changing my diet to reflect that fact. I now eat 2 or 3 servings of slow carbs a day including whole fruits. I also try to limit the meat portion of each meal to the size of a pack of cards while each plate is ¾ vegetables. In fact I now eat much of the things that we have in our food storage, such as dried vegetables, canned or in season, dried or canned beans, whole wheat, whole oats, and dried, frozen or canned meats. The closest we come to eating processed foods is bread, which we still eat in moderation.

I intended this article to show others what is possible. It was not possible in an article of this length to fully cover all of the topics you will need to be successful. If these ideas sound interesting, please spend some time studying how to implement a healthy low-carb diet, and discuss your findings with your doctor. I have found The South Beach Diet to be a wonderful resource. The author, cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston, does not try to sell you foods, but provides the science behind the diet as well as real world examples and recipes. I do believe that understanding the science is quite important because that’s what enabled me to work the concepts in to my daily life and around the types of foods we eat and have in our larder (we never stored processed foods). Believe me if I can do it, so can you!

I particularly enjoyed John L.'s article about predator-proofing property. My family has lived on a 40-acre former farm since 1990, and for quite some time we kept pheasants, chickens, and quail. At times we had nearly 100 birds. To a lesser degree, we did garden as well, though the local whitetail deer tended to make a mess of it. The game birds helped keep the local wild population up and the chickens provided us kids with valuable opportunities to learn how to keep animals for food.  

While not living in mountain country, we had our share of predation as well. The chicken wire we had counted on to protect my 25 chicks brand-new from the Murray McMurray hatchery proved no match for a weasel, which slipped in through the openings and killed and hauled off half of them before their first night at the farm was over. We caught him the next night in a rat trap baited with one that he left stuck in the chicken wire. We also had various other predators come by with less success- including opossums, raccoons, and skunks. The foxes and coyotes on our place never bothered with the pens thanks to a vocal beagle and a couple Labrador retrievers nearby. None of the smaller predators ever made it into our well-built and covered aviaries, but they did set the birds into a panic on a regular basis. A couple of these birds flew up into the wire so hard as to kill themselves. After the weasel attack we fitted our brooding pens with tight-weave metal mesh instead of chicken wire, and the birds were kept in these pens until large enough to fly up and away from a weasel or other smaller predator.  

As John L. mentioned, by far the most-successful predator on our farm was Dad's beloved beagle. We went to visit our grandparents one weekend and found him escaped from his kennel upon our return. He had killed all our pheasants and most of our chickens, chewing through the chicken wire to get into the aviaries. The event so traumatized one old hen that we saw her hoofing it across a neighbor's field, away from the slaughter, never to be seen again. When we tell stories about that beagle, we always remember the great chicken escape along with it.  

We learned from our experience and constructed a kennel with a food of buried fence and big, un-digable rocks along the perimeter and a roof that he couldn't chew or claw through. Our beagle spent the rest of his days looking forward to the winter and chasing rabbits and never again killed another farm bird. Dad still counts him as one of the two best hunting dogs he ever had.  

The point to me writing is to say that dogs are, and always will be, predators. These instincts are exactly what makes them valuable to us humans- and building a proper kennel and training them well can save you, your neighbors, and your dogs considerable heartache over the years. Building your animal enclosures to keep the neighbor's dog away can also save some grief for your animals and neighbors, too.  

SurvivalBlog is one of my daily "must-reads"- thanks for all you do. - G.R. in Texas

We've previously discussed in SurvivalBlog that coins are usually untouched by a nation during remonetization, meaning a significant recovery in purchase value after such event.

What is the likelihood the US would keep the dollar coins in circulation, given their low regard by most consumers?  This would mean the coins would avoid remonetization, be worth a "new" dollar each, offering a significant advantage.

The Fed's only real options would seem to be to attempt to collect them all, or issue notices of their reduction in value/expiration as legal tender.  Neither sounds like something they'd want to do. - Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog Editor at Large)

JWR Replies: Typically nations leave old coinage in circulation at face value, when they  issue new paper currency.  (Typically, coincident with knocking off one or more zeroes.) It is too expensive and a logistic nightmare to pull coinage from circulation, and immediately mint new coins. In 10/ or 100/1 swaps, anyone then holding lots coinage wins.

As an aside, I'm sure you recall in the late 1960s when the British coinage was converted to a decimal system, four decades ago (doing away with the "sixpence"). They left the old coins in circulation for a few years, and they asked everyone to play "let's pretend." (Where a sixpence coin was treated as a “2 ½ pence piece”. Those still circulated legally until around 1980, as I recall.)

I like nickels best, because they are a hedge for both creeping inflation (they presently have a base metal value  of $0.0696) and they will be worth the equivalent of 50 cents each if there is a 10/1 currency swap, or $5 each if there is a 100/1 currency swap. The Sacagawea (and similar) dollar coins are only good for the latter.  (Since their base metal value is presently only $0.0754.)

So, logically, if you have the vault space, nickels (with a metallic value of 139% of their face value) makes more sense to stockpile than debased dollar coins (with a metallic value of only 7.5% of their face value.)

I suppose that the ultimate pessimist would store pre-1982 pennies (95% copper), since they could be used to make bullet jackets. ;-)

Hi Jim,  
I wanted to share with others of how I make my own desiccant packs. Go to a craft store like Michaels and in the flower department you can buy a box of silica gel that is used for drying flowers. I then get a box of family sized tea bags (these are twice the size of regular tea bags but any size will work) Use needle nose pliers to remove the staple that holds on the little piece of cardboard used to squeeze the bags, empty out the tea and use a spoon to now fill the empty tea bags with the silica gel. Re-staple. They are now ready for ammo cans, food buckets etc. [The loose tea can of course be saved to use is a tea-steeping ball.] - Just a Jarhead

We don' need no steenkin' silica desiccants!

Go to most any building site or building supply store and ask for some wall board (a.k.a. gypsum board or "sheet rock") scraps.  For various reasons, there is almost always some pieces around.  The builders or store owner will be happy to get rid of them for free.

Peel the paper off one side and cut the wall board into pieces to fit the containers that you're using.  A piece about the size of a 3x5 index card will protect a .5 0cal ammo can or #10 can with capacity to spare

Bake the wall board pieces in the oven at 150 degrees F for a couple of hours to dry them out, and put them warm into your containers and seal.

Gypsum is extremely hygroscopic, and will suck every every bit of moisture from the air in a sealed container.  This can be used to protect stored electronics, optics, books, etc as well.

This approach is low tech, extremely inexpensive, and easy.  My kinda solution. Cordially, - John N.

Silver and gold certainly had a solid trading week. When I last checked, spot gold was at $1,475.10 per ounce (an all-time high) and silver at $40.93 per ounce! Silver has advanced almost $25 per ounce in the past 12 months and it was $26.75 per ounce as recently as January.

In Housing Market's Suspenseful Story, the Tell-Tale Stat is Inventory

Paul Tustain: Gold Is Sending A Signal That The Monetary System Is In Grave Danger. (Thanks to John R. for the link.)

US Dollar Breaks - LOWER, (Again, 72 is the magic number to watch for on the US Dollar Index. (A drop below 72 would signal a huge loss in confidence in the dollar.)

Items from The Economatrix:

Rising Oil Prices Beginning to Hurt US Economy

Gold and Silver And The Endgame of U.S.A. Inc.

Look Out Above for Gold and Silver Prices

US Dollar Collapse Will Accelerate

Ol' Remus posted an insightful analysis of my American Redoubt proposal.

   o o o

STRATFOR reports: How to Tell if Your Neighbor is a Bombmaker. (Thanks to Flying Mike for the link.)

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Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large) sent us this: Swedish couple have honeymoon from h*ll. "A newly-wed couple on a four-month honeymoon were hit by six natural disasters, including the Australian floods, Christchurch earthquake and Japanese tsunami." (This news story serve as a reminder that travelers should always carry a few key preparedness items. Just be careful of what is packed in your carry-on versus your checked luggage!)

   o o o

Kevin S. mentioned this great thread: Stealthier Internet Access.

   o o o

Scientists find superbugs in Delhi drinking water.

"God [is] our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." - Psalm 46:2 (KJV)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

It was a morning in January, 2007 here in the Northern Rockies, a place far removed from what most folks call civilization. My wife, children, and I had lived here for thirteen years since escaping the now people-overwhelmed State of Colorado. We had searched for “The Last Best Place”, and to us, there was no difference between the State of Idaho and the State of Montana where that alluring slogan comes from. The “Last Best Place” isn’t actually defined by some line on a map; rather, it’s where you have chosen to be and living in a place that fits both your needs and dreams. We are “Northern Rockies” people.

Our youngest son had gone up to the animal sheds to feed the array of poultry, sheep and goats a few minutes earlier. He ran back into the house, and in spite of being almost breathless, yelled “Lion! Lion! A lion killed Carmen (one of the goats) and it’s still there!”

It was “Wild Card Sunday” and I didn’t need this. I was well into implementing my well-crafted plan to do nothing but watch playoff games on a snow-covered zero-degree day, and a real crisis had just been unpleasantly thrust into my life. Foremost was that our seventy five pound son had been within ten feet of an apex predator, separated from it only by a six-foot fence that had already proven its lack of worth to keep such an animal either in or out of the building or the attached pen enclosure. The second concern was our milk supply has just been compromised by at least half, given that we had two milk goats with one an already known casualty.

After a thirty-second kid debriefing, I grabbed my 870 Remington 12 gauge “Slug Gun”, threw on a coat and headed out the door while stuffing the seven round extended magazine full of shells loaded with 00 Buckshot. I also grabbed the next biggest kid, stuffed a .357 Magnum S&W revolver into his hand and told everyone else to stay in the house.

Bigger kid and I arrived at the crime scene a couple minutes later, and everything seemed totally normal. The chickens and turkeys were pecking away and the creek was cascading as usual in the background. The sheep were acting a bit agitated, but I had always been somewhat suspect of their sanity anyway. Yes-sir, “normal” seemed to be absolutely the case.

It was one of those cloudless days, with a full sun glinting off the snow. Absolutely beautiful. Squinting our eyes to sort minimize the glare, we walked around the pens towards the side of the building that houses the goats and sheep. I thought to myself, “The lion saw the kid, and now it’s gone. No big deal.” More than that, nothing could really be wrong except one dead goat, right? Beautiful day, the creek is running the same as usual, the birds are feeding, and if we lost one goat, that’s just the way it goes. And besides, where was all that ominous background music like on the Disney nature movies or those old “The Rifleman” shows when things are about to go south? Not playing. And there had yet to be the “As Heard On Television!” obligatory roars from the lion either! Just a dead goat and life goes on… heck, it might have even been a Bobcat. What does an eleven-year old kid know anyway?”

We arrived at the gate to the pen which is directly adjacent to the door of the shed. I could plainly see a dead goat lying across the entrance to the door, and being a bit snow-blind, it could not see inside the building at all. I was still convinced that the cat was gone, my mind pretty well still “Disneyfied” as I told the kid to open the gate.

Chambering a round just in case (mistake – should have done that when I walked out of the house), I stepped through the doorway into the blackness, and somehow saw movement immediately in front of me as my eyes attempted to adjust to the darkness. There was indeed a lion, and he was right in front of me. All I saw were yellow eyes and fangs backed up by a guttural growl, a big cat defending his kill and I’m blocking his only exit. Think expletives.

On pure reflex I fired a snap-shot at a range of about six feet, killing the cat. I let out a bit of a string of expletives as I backed out of the structure while rapidly chambering a second round, uncertain if the cat was actually dead. Buckshot – my favorite. But dead he was, as well as both of our milk goats. Carmen and Polly, mother and daughter lay there deader than a doornail.

According to the State game agency, a “legal but unlicensed kill” is what such an event is called. [JWR Adds: In some states it is termed a "Defense of Life and Property" (DLP) kill.] I’m talking about the cat here, not the goats. I call it something else, but such is best left unsaid. We called the State Fish and Game, and the fellow arrived at the place a couple hours later. After we loaded the dead lion into his pickup truck (The state gets the animal when it’s a “legal but unlicensed kill”), I asked him how often this happens. He looked at me and remarked, “First of all, that had to be pretty darn exciting, eh?” I shot back, “That isn’t exactly how I’d describe it, but if we’re talking about getting your blood running, yeah.” He then followed up by saying that livestock kills happen regularly even when the critters are kept near the main home. Looking up he sort of chuckled and said, “One thing’s for dang sure, 99.9% of the time the perpetrator isn’t shot dead at the scene, if at all. This deal here is kind of rare and has a whole different ending.”

No argument there…

Folks, the odds of this happening are so close to zero that it is almost not calculable. “Rare” doesn’t even suffice as descriptive. And in many ways, it was my fault. That is why I am writing this, because 99.99% of the time, predation can be prevented.  It is your obligation to wholly recognize the totality of where you live, what critters live around you, and then plan and construct buildings and pens to keep out what you do not want in. And I will add this: You do not want that kind of excitement. Further, the ending could have been a tale told quite differently.   


It is all up to you. I erred completely by not having the pens covered. And I did not lock them in the shed the night before. “Eat at John’s!” My mistake led to an old lion and two valuable goats dead, for he had killed both our does. Did I know there were lions about? You bet I did. We live in prime lion habitat, with wolves, black bear, an occasional grizzly around, coyotes, foxes, badgers, wolverines, raccoons, bobcats, lynx, and weasels, not to mention the occasional dog that wanders in from “neighbors” miles off. Then there are the airborne lot - the eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls. Not covering the tops of the outdoor enclosures wasn’t so much a question of cost. It was a lack of paying attention to a detail I knew was important, but had generally dismissed that detail ignorantly thinking that the odds were low that anything would rally come in from the top. Turns out the odds were 100%.

The building themselves are first class because I knew what was out there as you peruse that list of predators above. Steel. Concrete floors. And even though we’re off the grid, we built our own alternative power system over the years and that little barn has electricity in it. I have seen critters both large and small tear wood off the sides of buildings to gain entry as well as dig underneath. Steel and concrete, period. And with the cost of wood nowadays, if you aren’t milling it yourself, steel is a bargain and will far outlast wood. Ingress to our livestock was at the top of the pen and nowhere else. That weakness was breached and I had failed.

Most of the male readers are probably thinking that facing down a lion at six feet is pretty cool. It isn’t. This wasn’t one run up a tree with a bunch of hounds keeping his attention, which in and of itself is exciting. But this sort of circumstance is a serious and dangerous situation that could have caused the death of one of our children or myself, animal aside. Close quarters stuff. Having the 12 gauge, the .22, a couple handguns and a medium bore rifle or two handy makes sense even though your wife probably wishes they weren’t leaning on the wall next to the front door and side door, but that’s where they have to be. But having them handy didn’t stop this a bit. The goal when you’ve homesteaded or are retreat living is to not feed the wildlife, and killing perpetrators after the fact compromises your own hard-won and self-created food chain.

Last night I was sitting on the porch adding up how many animals I have lost to predation over the years. Since a kid, I (and then “we”) have lost well over two hundred head of various poultry to critters with fangs and fur. Almost all of these were not to wild animals, but to my neighbor’s dogs or my own. Dang near all of them. I watched a hawk kill one of my birds once and on another an owl. There were other kills that I’ve blamed on wild animals, but there was no evidence to argue they weren’t killed by dogs either. I’m not saying wild predators haven’t tried. The amount of coyote, badger, coon and fox tracks I’ve seen around the poultry, sheep and goat buildings is astonishing. But predators are smart. If they can’t get in, they keep going. Killing is a calorie-consumptive activity in and of itself, and if they have to engage in too much demolition work to fill their stomach, they simply trot off looking for an easier meal.

The fact is most of your problem is going to be with dogs, and if you want to be the least popular person in the county, start shooting peoples dogs. A phone call and conversation can go a long way towards rectifying a circumstance where someone’s dog becomes a regular problem. I remember years back when living down in far Western Colorado there was a gal with a German Shorthaired Pointer that had turned chicken-killer. I had to have shot that dang dog over fifty times with a BB gun trying to discourage it, and called the woman probably ten times about him coming over. She fenced her place and he’d dig out. She would then chain him and he’d break the chain and dig out. She would buy a bigger chain and he would pull the stake out of the ground, dig out, and over he would come. He looked like a one-dog sled team, as the chain had collected weeds, grasses and brush, as well as a few small trees on his way over. He’d be dragging twenty feet of crud behind him on his way over to kill more chickens, the plus being he was awful easy to spot.

I called her up again for the hundredth time and she started begging me to kill him. I kid you not. By then, everyone for miles around wanted that dog dead. I didn’t get to kill him, but within a number of short days, I never saw him again. He had made enemies.

Now let us address that subject we most like to ignore, our own dogs. When folks finally shuck off the trappings of city or suburban life and decide to “homestead” a piece of land, they either bring Rover with them or finally get a dog - “Man’s best friend” and all that. “We need a guard dog, dear!” There isn’t a one of you reading whose lived on acreage who has poultry who can deny that your own dog killed at least one of your own chickens. Perhaps five or ten? Twenty? Maybe that pup took a year and a half to finally get it? And then there was that other one – “Remember old Duchess? That dang dog killed more chickens…”

It’s true. We are caught up in either a total fantasy or some faint semblance of reality about those “terrible” predators, when upon reflection, the worst of the lot we actually pet affectionately and then feed Alpo to. We fed it the same day it killed those two Black Australorps and that Barred Rock, right? Admit it! Even your neighbors’ dogs probably weren’t as bad as your own. We rationalize our own pet’s behaviors away, but then when we spot a coyote trotting along minding his own business and not even remotely interested in our birds, that “Where’s the ’06?” mentality takes over.

Stop! You know those mice and pack rats you hate? The garden-destroying rabbits and voles? Those coyotes will kill and eat them. So will Brer’ Fox. Leave them be unless they are being caught in the actual commission of a crime. So will Disney’s “Flower” the skunk. They are the essence of natural order, and we are surely not. Once you’re living in the sticks, it still remains more their place than ours, so the smart thing to do is to learn to cohabitate with them, not the other way around. You’ve simply got to be smarter than the fox, so to speak.

What you have to do first is employ intelligent cultural practices. Put your birds away before dark, as well as the sheep and the goats. And by that I mean securely lock the doors to the pen and the barn. If you choose to leave the doors open, when you build the run for the livestock, trench around where the fence is going to go about a foot deep. Drill the fence post-holes in the trench. Pour concrete in the entire affair or at least fill it with 8”-12” diameter rock. Run number 9 wire as tight as you can on the bottom and secure the other fencing to that wire. Cover the top with hog panels.

If you don’t, it is you rather than the predator that is the problem. Predators are by nature on offense, and the only truly viable defensive strategy is intelligent construction techniques and your own behavior. They are sort of like four-legged MZBs, and you have to out think them.

Now for the other oft-ignored problem: your garden and orchard. There stands Bambi and his Mom, gracing the yard or perhaps standing at the edge of “your” meadow. Thumper the rabbit is around as well; in fact there seem to be Thumpers everywhere. Birds chirp away, their songs being a thousand differing melodies wafting along from their voices, hidden amongst the trees. Pastoral dreams fulfilled…

You have spent countless hours picking rock, hauling and spreading manure, laboring along behind the old Troy-Bilt “Horse” model, bending over to seed and plant, and then irrigating away with dreams of an abundant harvest. Then you find out that those birds tricked you into liking them with that little springtime songfest. Turns out that they love your strawberries so much that they seemingly will eating nothing else. Those ducks you bought because your wife and kids said; “They would be so cute!” really love tomatoes. And I mean “Really Love Tomatoes.” And then there’s Bambi and his Mom - not really too cute after all as they eat your lettuce, cabbage, Swiss Chard and everything else, huh? And deer season won’t solve the problem. This is an April to Snowfly problem, and if you are going to succeed in the presence as a Homesteader or are preparing to deal with life after TEOTWAWKI, this is what you must do. 

Here comes that fencing thing again. Wire mesh eight feet tall preferably, six feet minimum. And for those rabbits? String 4-foot “Chicken Wire” inside and attached to that heavy mesh fence, and sink it one foot below the ground. “Dig through that, you blanket, blank-blank!” You will have to cover plants such as strawberries with bird netting, and your fruit trees with the same.

Got a few bears around? Of course you do. If so, I cannot stress enough the importance of including at least part of your orchard inside the fencing that surrounds your garden. I’ve seen apple trees that look like a tornado hit them after one visit from a bear. And then there are those deer again. Watching them walk on two legs is entertaining until your realize that the little dance going on under the apple and cherry trees means food out of your mouth and into theirs. This is why I recommend the eight-foot fence. You can’t really stop them - you just have to make so difficult that they will seek food elsewhere. Topped with an electric current though, the odds of stopping an entry go way up, and there are solar-powered fence chargers that are pretty inexpensive.

The bear and the deer wander off educated. You eat the apples and the cherries. Your trees survive to produce for years to come. And since bears are generally nocturnal, how many nights sleep are you willing to sacrifice for the rest of your natural life to protect your fruit trees when a good fence makes a good neighbor?

Intelligent cultural practices on your part ensure a full pantry, eggs in the fridge or ice box and meat either canned or in the freezer. Sure, it is a bunch of work up front, but if you thought this was a vacation, you moved to the wrong place. Put on those gloves and get to work!

Remember how this tale began? That old lion and our then dead and now replaced milk goats? We went out and bought some hog panels, using them to cover up the top of both the chicken run and the run that houses the sheep and the goats when they’re not out grazing. Problem solved, right?

Nine months and one week to the day later, my wife did not give birth to another child. Those “so close to zero odds of this ever happening again” statement got shot to pieces, both figuratively and literally speaking. Youngest son had gone out about six a.m. and staked out one of our sheep in a place where we wanted the grass and shrubs eaten down in case of a wildfire. He set a bucket of water out for old muttonhead, figuring he would have to check it a couple times during the day because that sheep had a penchant for knocking over water pails with great regularity pretty well regardless of where you put them.

It turned out that refilling the water bucket wasn’t going to stay on the day’s agenda after all. I was twisting a wrench on a rototiller about ten o’clock that morning and youngest son ran up yelling, “Dad! The sheep is dead! He’s dead”!  The kid had dutifully gone to check the water bucket and found the recently deceased sheep with a big old starting to get stinky gut pile strewn about, and the old fella had been partially consumed.

That critter had been sort of a pet, an initially unwelcome left-over from a county fair eight years earlier when one of the older kids couldn’t bear to see him auctioned off at the “Fat Stock Sale” at the conclusion of “Fair Week.” That’s the bad thing about “bummer lambs” and kids – the darn kids get attached to them after having to bottle-feed them from birth and all. Now the sheep purists out there are about ready to lecture me about killin’ and eatin’ the things, be they “bummer” or not, but no matter. We used that sheep to control brush and grass like there was no tomorrow, and if you want to use your goat’s milk I would surely recommend that don’t put them on fire-fuel reduction duty. The milk tastes just a bit “funny” if you do. So the arrangement we had between that sheep and the family was actually equitable. He had nobly served his purpose until an undeserved and evil fate befell him.

So the kid and I headed off to the carcass and I was thinking “Bear” the whole way over. It was heading towards mid-September, and given that we live along a creek, bears are in there hitting those berry-loaded shrubs that grow along them like there’s no tomorrow. I bent over that old sheep and looked at him, immediately noticing the telltale neck wounds characteristic of a lion kill. Unlike in January I was all legally licensed this time, a “Just in case because this happened before thing”, but still couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He had to have been killed early, maybe within thirty minutes of the kid putting him out. The lion may have even watched him do it. We were all outside and busy by 7:15. Twice in nine months? Zero times in the thirteen previous years? Was this because the wolves were driving the lions off their kills? Regardless of the reason, I had a problem – again.

Around five o’clock that evening, we ate dinner and then brought the dogs into the house. I grabbed a .45-70 Marlin lever gun and headed up to take a position downwind where I had a good look at the kill. For you guys who love hunting stories, I was using 325 grain Hornady “LeveRevolution” ammunition. Remember, it was heading towards dark and there were bears about too. Add to that the fact that the nearest town is thirty miles off (population 2,700) and the nearest neighbor a mile or so and a mountain-side away, so when it gets dark here, it’s “dark.”

I sat down in the high grass and waited about seventy-five feet off, knowing that this could not be allowed to continue. The kill had happened less than sixty yards from the house. That old sheep had to weigh close to three hundred pounds, and not a one of us had a chance if this cat decided to change menu items, and we had already replaced those goats the other lion killed months back. I was done donating animals, so this flat-out had to end and end now.

I waited and waited, hoping the cat would show before it became to dark to see. It’s kind of unsettling a bit when those thoughts run through your head when you sit around a kill all by your lonesome that’s been done by a major predator. “Is he behind me?” “Is the wind right?” I kind of wished I wasn’t alone, or at least had eyes in the back of my head. You are out there doing the man thing, the right thing, what must be done, but there is that almost pre-battle uncertainty to the whole affair. And in might all be in vain because he might not even show.

As the evening progressed towards night and it started to look like he wasn’t returning for left-overs, I was ready to give up and head to the house. I figured legal shooting hours were about over if not somewhat past, and as we live in a creek bottom surrounded by mountains the light flees pretty fast anyway. I was getting kind of cramped up from two hours of motionlessness anyway, and took one more real close look over at that carcass before I was going to leave.

We had covered the old sheep with a silver-colored tarp a few hours before, and thank God we did. Out of the darkness a ghost of a shadow became barely visible in front of it, low to the ground and definitely not a bear. Thoughts were racing like “dogs in, kids in doing homework, not bear, and got to be the perp” as I ever so slowly raised the barrel.
If we hadn’t covered that sheep with that tarp I wouldn’t have been able to see the sights.

I’d already chambered a round long earlier and had lowered the hammer while I waited, so I gently drew the hammer back and squeezed off the round. I heard the round hit followed by a series of growls and such as he bolted through the darkness towards the cover of the creek fifteen yards behind him. He didn’t make it, and kudos to Hornady for a great bullet. Nose to tail he was eight feet long, weighed 188 pounds, and he missed the Boone and Crockett record book by a stinking 1/8 of an inch. I kept this one.

Sometimes in spite of all you do you will lose livestock, and there are always critters that will get into your garden. Nevertheless, if you are going to make it even in “normal times” let alone after TSHTF, construct your buildings and fenced perimeters properly or all you’ll have to show for your expense and labor is happy, well-fed and happy to return  predators.

Hi Jim,   For some time now, I've been using spare food-grade oxygen absorbers with my long-term ammo storage in regular ammo cans. I keep a regular supply of O2 absorbers in a Mason Jar that I re-vacuum each time with the now famous Alvin Vacuum sealer / Tilia Mason Jar Adaptor.   Being able to stack ammo cans is also good. Seeing the sides of the cans squeeze towards the center (and hard to re-open): Priceless. This is one of the reasons why 5.45x39mm Russian is my favorite MBR round: The surplus Soviet ammo is already delivered that way! They knew how to package their ammo for the long haul. - J.E.

Capt. Rawles,  
I read the letter from John S. about using #10 Cans for Ammunition Storage and wanted to let you and my prepper brethren (and Sisteren) know that they can “Check Out” a can sealing machine from the LDS Home Storage facilities for free when they are buying their cans and lids.  As you have mentioned before, the LDS church home storage facilities are open to the public, not just members, and they won’t send the 4th Mountain Bike Brigade (Missionaries)  to your home because you visited.  I have been frequenting the one near our home and have checked out the machines so my family can seal up wheat at home.  They typically give you a couple of days to use it, and can show you how to work it.  It is very simple.  They also sell the oxygen absorbers, plastic lids for after opening, and boxes to make stacking the cans easier.  If people don’t have the time you can even buy some prepackaged cases (6 cans) of food storage.  They have had a couple of price increases since January 1, 2011 due to cost increases, but their prices are very good, and they try to make getting your family prepped easier.   I hope this information is helpful. - Brad M.

I had no idea I could reuse and reseal the cans! I had a "Duh!" moment when I read this. Also, clarify please,  Is it safe to put an O2 absorber in with the ammo that is canned sealed to counter any dampness?   What about Berdan primed ammo? Can I can seal it up too? - K.A.F.

JWR Replies: As I mentioned once before in SurvivalBlog, oxygen ("O2") absorbing packets are not the best choice for ammunition storage. Silica gel desiccants are much more reliable, especially in disaster situations, when replacement )2 absorbers might not be available. The formation of rust takes two ingredients interacting with ferrous metals: moisture and oxygen. Ditto for oxidation of copper and brass. Without moisture present, corrosion will not occur with typical atmospheric oxygen levels

Both types of packets will work in protecting guns or ammunition is fully-sealed containers, but desiccants have far more reliable efficacy. The biggest problem with typical food grade O2 absorbing packets is that there is no easy way of insuring that they were handled properly before they came to you. The O2 absorbing packets that I have seen all have gas-permeable coverings. If the seal on the outer package that the packets were shipped in was compromised, or if they were removed from their original packaging and later re-packaged, then they will have virtually no usefulness. They are effectively "used up" when they come in contact with a large volume of air for more than a few hours. And once used, these packets cannot be reactivated at home. You have to buy new ones.

But unlike O2 absorbing packets, if you use silica gel desiccants, you can reactivate them by simply putting them in a food dehydrator (or in a kitchen oven on a 150 degree F setting) overnight. Using this method, they can be used over and over. This is vastly superior, especially in the context of a survival situation where regular commerce is disrupted. And, as I've mentioned previously in SurvivalBlog, in the present day, desiccants are often available free for the asking. Just make a few phone calls. Piano shops often get musical instrument shipments that include large desiccant packs. Most of these get thrown away.

So if you are going to depend on one of the other for firearms and ammunition storage, in my opinion you should choose silica gel desiccants rather than O2 absorbers. OBTW, beware of re-using any packets that you find in jerky packaging. These sometimes include an integral moisturizing packet, to prevent jerky from becoming too dry. Those packets would of course be counterproductive, for ammunition or gun storage!

Again, only use O2 absorbing packets that are factory fresh, and preferably that come vacuum shrink wrapped. Otherwise, with most of them, you have no way of knowing whether or not they have already been chemically neutralized. (A few brands have pink-blue indicator dots, but most do not.)

I was just included in CNBC's list of “Most notorious doomsday prophets and cults”. When I was interviewed by CNBC about the 2012 craze I emphasized that I don't believe that "2012" has any significance, yet they included me in their list alongside Jim Jones and David Koresh. Rest assured that I'm not in the Kool-Aid dispensing crowd. Oh well, Notorious Doomsday Prophet has a nice ring to it. I'll add it to my resume.

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Deidre recommended the digital archives at Duke University as a free resource. They have lots of interesting publications, like this one: War Gardening and Home Storage of Vegetables

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The previously-mentioned closure of Borders bookstores, has expanded. (See the latest closure list.) Again, this might be an opportunity to buy some deeply-discounted preparedness books. (a hat tip to Lee in Tulsa for the link.)

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A little bird told me that anyone looking for spare parts for their AK-74 should look on eBay. There is a seller that is euphemistically offering "Airsoft AK-74 parts", but when they arrive from the Ukraine, you will see that they are all original brand new Russian ordnance parts, still in the Soviet-era military packaging with their ubiquitous numeric "dangly" part number tags. You will get a double set of parts including firing pins, extractors, and some crucial springs. It is a huge assortment for only around $160 US Dollars.

   o o o

Reader AG2 wrote to mention that some information on driving your own sandpoint well is provided by Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources.  AG2 says: "This is a good PDF to add to your offline library." 

"All the prophets of doom
Can always find room
In a world full of worry and fear
Tips, cigarettes, And chemistry sets
And Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer
So I'm goin' back To my little ol' shack
And drink me a bottle of wine
That was mis en bouteille
Before my birthday
And have me a fantastic time!

Rain on a tin roof sounds like a drum
We're marchin' for freedom today ... hey!
Turn on your headlights and sound your horn
If people get in the way"
- Excerpted lyrics from The "Protest Song" parody of Bob Dylan.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 34 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round 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 $795, and B.) Two cases of Alpine Aire freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $400 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), D.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo , and E.) An M17 medical kit from JRH Enterprises (a $179.95 value).

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) 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 $300, C.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and D.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.) , and B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value.

Round 34 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

This article is to share what we have learned in our attempt to leverage our food preps by buying commercially and in bulk with Survival Blog readers. What works in our part of the world may not be reality in your location but I hope what we have learned will be of value to some readers.

To begin with, one of our favorite places to buy in quantitative is “cash and carry” stores. Cash and carry stores were originally set up by large food distribution firms that allowed businesses such as restaurants, bars, smaller retail stores, schools, etc to come to their outlet and buy products for resale. In years past, most such stores required that you had some kind of license such as a business license or resale permit, or a membership, etc.

Yet today, many of these stores have opened to the public with no requirements for purchase. For example in the Pacific Northwest the food supplier URM operates several stores that anyone can walk into and pay cash, use credit or debit cards or write a check. 

There are outlets for the big national chain called Restaurant Depot, not far from us. I have never been in one of their outlets but would like to some day. They operate stores in 27 states but to date they maintain a reserved membership status. Their web site states that Restaurant Depot is wholesale only. To qualify for a free membership account, on your first visit you need to show a valid reseller's permit (business license) or tax-exempt certificate (for a non-profit organization) and show proof that you are authorized to purchase for said business or organization.

If Restaurant Depot was my only option for buying food wholesale, given my “don’t take no for an answer” personality I am pretty sure I could garner a membership. For example in some municipalities, obtaining a business license is easy. Or, if you know someone with a business license or have any connections with a not for profit -  A little creativity and I think this would be easily solved.

What I like about buying from “cash and carry” type stores;

1) The prices range from good to outstanding. Many of these stores run weekly specials; Food service is a competitive business, keeping an eye out for their weekly specials has allowed us to take advantage of some screaming deals.

2) Buying in bulk is what theses stores are set up for. You can typically buy food in individual units but if you want to stack up the cases of #10 cans or buy biscuit mix in a 50 lb box, this is the place. Nothing against Costco but this is a whole nether level.

3) Because of number two above, nobody bats an eye when you roll up a flat bed cart to the check out with a thousand dollars worth of groceries. It’s the $75 order that’s the exception; everybody buys in quantity at these stores. Probably just not for the same reasons that us preppers do.

How do you find a “cash and carry”? An Internet search engine would be your best start…Just out of the blue I searched “Tennessee cash and carry” and came up with several great hits including this one that right up front says, “open to the public”. 

The next trick we learned is to find out if there are any Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) groups in the area. If so, find out where they buy their groceries. Adventists are pretty strict about their diets with most of them being vegetarian and many are vegans. Typically where there are Adventists in any number there is a grocery store that caters to them, and if so you have likely just found a preppers paradise.

The ones we have patronized have bulk everything!  25 lb bags of every conceivable grain and legume and so on. 25 lb bags of groats, and regular rolled oats and thick cut oats, and steel cut oats, they even sell non fat powdered milk in 55 lb bags (that makes 44 gallons of milk!). They will stock grain grinders and bulk local raw honey in half gallon glass mason jars. The one closest to us sells 25 lb bags of triple cleaned Pinto beans and 20 lb bags of extra fancy long grain white rice for $9.99 each, normal price. My suggestion to flush this out as a potential is to search the internet or your phone book for an SDA church. Then either call or email them and explain that either you are new to the area or that your family is simply trying to eat better and ask if they have a suggestion for a place to buy healthy groceries.

If you have never been around Adventists their businesses tend to be well run, they are good people its just that most of them look like they could desperately use a bacon double cheese burger!

Grains;  In terms of what to do with stored grains, I have nothing to add to the fine article posted in SurvivalBlog on November 24, 2010 by Naomi titled “Using the Grain You Have Stored”. Naomi obviously has a thorough command of the science of nutrition, which was an excellent contribution to this blog.

What I can add though is how to obtain grains in bulk. When buying grains and legumes in bulk you are going to go directly to grain elevators and seed companies. Be prepared to buy at least a thousand pounds if not a ton at a time. Some places will sell smaller quantities even down to 50 lb bags however most commercial outfits are typically moving products truck loads or train loads at a time. That being said, don’t get discouraged if you try this and run upon a dead end or two, just keep going. I have no inside connections to the grain industry whatsoever yet now have numerous sources for buying bulk grains wholesale.

First a bit about terminology; “Food grade and human grade” mean the same thing in our area. “Seed grade” is typically food grade products that have been treated with chemical fertilizers for the obvious purpose of planting. “Screenings” are the bits, pieces and dust that result from cleaning products to attain “food grade”.

For example this year we bought a ton of dried whole peas and a ton of pea screenings. Dried whole peas are split peas that have not been split. When you split the pea the outer skin comes off and you lose a good deal of the nutrition plus we prefer the texture to split peas. Not so mushy! At any rate, in our area a portion of a dry pea harvest is going to be used for food, and a portion for seed to grow next years crop. The portion going to “food” is typically moved in such large quantities that attaining part of it before it hits the grocery store is hard.

However the part of the harvest devoted to seed, typically is moved in smaller quantities and kept locally. All you have to do is find a “seed” company and buy the commodity before they get treated for planting. We found a company that was glad to do this for us. They wanted 18 cents a pound in” bulk” which means they forklift a big wooden box into the back of your pick-up that probably weighs 2,400 lbs. Or, 20 cents a pound if they put them in 100 lb bags and 22 cents a pound in 50 lb bags. For ease of handling we went with the 100 lb bags so a ton of peas was $400. Trust me, that’s a lot of food for $400!

We divided the ton of dried peas with another family and kept the ton of pea screenings  for the chickens and livestock…they love it and its nutritious. A ton of screenings were $110.

In our area this can be done with peas, lentils, garbanzos, wheat, corn and barley. Insist on having a look at the product prior to consummating any deal because “clean” to one person can mean something very different to someone else. Meaning that if you intend to consume the product, it should be almost exclusively that commodity and relatively devoid of dust, or stems or dirt.

Don’t be shy about walking into grain elevators and such to facilitate buying in bulk. I have never encountered a hostile reaction by doing so, most people just want to help you out.

As an exercise of how to do this, again randomly out of the blue I searched for
“Tennessee Seed Company” and immediately came across their “producers list” with lots of contacts. http://www.superiorseeds.org/fallproducer.htm Then I clicked on the web site of one of their members who says they sell all kinds of products including Oats, soybeans, corn, millet and wheat. Their prices seem reasonable and you should shoot for a discount when buying in bulk. I noticed some of their offerings are listed as “coated” which means, as stated above, that they have taken the “human grade” product and turned it into seed grade. Most likely they did this procedure at their plant, so you could inquire about buying the product before it’s treated. And to the extent its all been treated, maybe you can have access to some next year prior to treating.  You just might want to stop by with a box of donuts right before harvest next year to seal the deal.

Generally speaking the higher the protein content and the cleaner the product, the more expensive it costs. For example, food grade, super clean lentils are going for 50 cents a pound in our area because the protein content is about 25% and consequently world wide demand is high. While that is a lot of money, $1,000 per ton, that’s also a lot of food.

Lastly let’s talk about storage. We know of people who round up food grade five gallon buckets at Wal-Mart, Super Target, bakeries and so on. There is nothing wrong with that as they are often free or cheap. The downside is that you can normally only pick up two or three at a time. And buying grains in bulk as described above is going to take more than a few five gallon buckets.

We purchase food grade used buckets and barrel’s from a local juice plant. I have heard of many different commercial operations selling food grade buckets and barrels.  Beverage manufacture’s such as “Cott” and “Clifstar”  have plants all over the country. The one we utilize sells five gallon buckets with lids and gaskets for $1.50 and 55 gallon metal food grade barrel’s with lids and bands for $3. So if you literally want 50 five gallon buckets, if they have them, you can walk out the door with them. Most plants like these have a “visitor” entrance or a “visitor” gate with an intercom. Don’t be shy, just push the button and tell them what you are looking for.

As I pointed out above I thought Naomi’s article regarding what to do with your stored grains was brilliant. However, it also is an eye opener regarding how much grain it takes to feed a person for a year. Buying in bulk as listed above is “doable” for most people..as the saying goes “if we can do it, you can do it”. I think its pretty clear that food commodity prices will do nothing but go up and the value of the dollar will likely do nothing but go down. Converting dollars to food grade commodities that are capable of storing for decades if done properly just makes good sense to us.

Blessings to my SurvivalBlog friends.

Mr. Rawles,  
I have searched your site and others for detailed information on long term storage using sealed #10 cans.  Are there any drawbacks?  I can buy cans from the LDS cannery for around 1.00 a piece, which is much cheaper, by volume, than regular ammunition cans.  Any information you or your readers could provided would be greatly appreciated. - John S.

JWR Replies: The #10 steel can is awesome! For food storage, they don't suffer from the gradual oxygen transmission (permeability) weakness of HDPE buckets. For ammo storage, they work nearly as well as military surplus ammo cans. But be advised that they don't stack well, and they are thin gauge steel, so they must be protected from dampness. The only major drawback is the cost of a can-sealing machine. They are scarce and expensive, unless you luck into a used one on Craigslist. (Normally, $300+)  Without one, you cannot re-seal cans. You can re-seal a #10 can several times, although it loses a bit of height each time.

Mr. Rawles:
I'm certainly not an expert and do not claim to be, but you can tap and produce syrup from a number of deciduous trees.  Anecdotally, I have a Métis friend who learned to tap poplars from her grandmother, and hickory syrup is now considered "gourmet".

Birch syrup, or rather the 'tonic' or straight spring sap, has been a spring tonic in northern Europe.  These resources are not to be overlooked by the people who want to be food independent, especially after a hard winter without any fresh vegetables.  So if you've got a big stand of poplar on your land, might find a market for your syrup, too, and start a home-business out of it.  If you don't have any trees, get planting! - E.B.

To follow up on the recent Letter Re: Internet Resources on Preparedness and Self-Sufficiency, I'd like to recommend some more great resource web sites with free, no-copyright files that would be of interest to those who are studying preparedness and self-sufficiency:

With My Regards, - C.D.V.