July 2011 Archives

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Today we present the final entry for Round 35 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. This is a corrected version of an article that was initially posted last week. It was removed so that a couple of facts could be rectified, and so that the article could be expanded.

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 36 begins tomorrow, 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 an after action report (AAR) of sorts on my experiences with buying registered NFA items with a $200 transfer tax, and to piggyback on the few entries in SurvivalBlog dealing with suppressors.  There are a few reasons to not buy a silencer.  Mainly that you lose a bit of your privacy by giving info to the ATF, but you do that whenever you fill out a Form 4473.  After much internal debate, I decided to go off of the deep end after reading an article here on Survivalblog.com.  It dealt with problems in Argentina when the SHTF down there.  The author stated how having a suppressor would have been “handy” in some situations.  Coupled with my philosophy of “Buy it now, before its illegal”, I bought four suppressors.  Now my HK USP .45 sounds like this.  That being said, you really only need three suppressors.  I’ll explain that shortly.

When you set out to buy your suppressors, there are many things to keep in mind: caliber; subsonic ammo; metal composition; and most importantly, the threading.  And don’t forget the obvious: “Do I live in a Nanny State that tells me what I can and cannot own ?” (Some states have their own laws on suppressors and full auto guns.)

Caliber.  You want to stick to common calibers. Always!  You only want three calibers, and in this order: .22LR (pistol/rifle); .45 ACP (pistol); and .308 (rifle only). Why only three calibers of suppressors?  The reason is simple—a thread adapter opens up more calibers to you.  The .22 LR suppressor is good for all similar diameter bullets and smaller (like .17 HMR).  The .45 ACP is good for all .45 ACP to include all smaller pistol calibers.  And the .308 suppressor will be good for the smaller calibers such as .223, .270, and similar calibers such as 7.62, .30-06, and .300 Winchester Magnum.  Please check to see what your suppressor is rated for first, as well as check the threading (more on that later).  Lastly, bear in mind that there may be some loss in decibel reduction when firing a smaller bullet through a suppressor not normally used for that caliber: i.e. a 9mm through a .45 ACP suppressor might be louder than a suppressor specifically designed for a 9mm (not to mention that that round is [normally] supersonic).
Metal composition.  Most suppressors are made of aluminum, steel, or titanium.  Bear in mind that over time, your suppressor will lose some of its efficiency.  I think it’s negligible. 

Aluminum: By far the least expensive.  Suppressors made of aluminum are typically for your .22LRs and other pistol calibers.  These are lightweight and dissipate heat well.  The internal baffles are usually aluminum as well.  Being made of aluminum, rust is not a problem.  However, being made of aluminum, they damage more easily (i.e.: the threads might strip more easily, or it might get crushed by something heavy).  Moreover, being made of a cheaper metal, they will not last as long as those made with more durable materials.  I do not mean that to mean your suppressor will go bad on you after 10,000 rounds.  It’s just a less durable material.

Steel: Cost more than aluminum suppressors, but cheaper than titanium.  Very durable.  Typically for your rifle calibers from .223 on up.  These get hot!  As with all suppressors, exercise some caution in removing them by wearing a glove.  My steel suppressor was so hot after firing about 50 rounds of .223 I had to wait until it cooled off sufficiently enough because it was hot enough to melt plastic even after 15 minutes.  This meant I could not return it to my backpack.  One more thing, steel suppressors are heavy!  Put one of these on the end of your gun and it feels like an anchor is on it.  And don’t forget that steel rusts.

Titanium:  The most expensive.  Super light compared to the steel suppressors.  I do not own one but the one I held gave me the impression that it would hold less heat than its steel counterpart. Most durable material there is.  Will last the longest of the three materials.

*One note: make sure you screw the suppressor on tightly.  They have a tendency to come unscrewed as you shoot them.  If you have a suppressor that unscrews from either end, be careful.  The threaded end screwed onto the barrel may get stuck on due to heat expansion, making removing the item difficult since the screw on piece is still on the barrel after you have removed the rest of the suppressor.  My solution was to put blue Loctite on that end.  I've had no problem ever since.    

Cycling (ammo and the need for a piston):
--Pistol suppressors:  Some suppressors for pistols require a “piston” in order for the pistol to cycle.  The Gemtech Blackslide features such a device.  Otherwise, you may have to charge your pistol after every shot.  Make sure you look into the suppressor’s literature before you buy.  You’ll usually only have this problem with subsonic ammo, and not the high-powered stuff.

--Rifle suppressors: No need to worry about a piston, however, cycling with subsonic ammo will be a problem with semi-autos.  When I was experimenting with loads, some led to semi ejected rounds (in my AR-15) until the charge got low enough to where the bolt stayed close.  At this point, I had to manually eject each round.

Subsonic ammo
.  Contrary to Hollywood movies, regular (supersonic) ammo in a rifle makes a lot of noise.  The thing sounded about as suppressed as a banshee.  Subsonic ammo is what you want for your suppressor.  Subsonic .22 LR ammo is readily available.  For .22LR, if not marked sub-sonic, then ammo that states its fps is around 1,070fps will do fine, even though it’s a bit louder than subsonic.  [JWR Adds: Most "Target" grade .22 LR ammo is subsonic.]

Most .45 ACP is subsonic.  This is one reason you want your large caliber pistol suppressor to be in .45 ACP.  You ge t knockdown power in a pistol that transitions from "boom!" to just "thump".  Unless you plan on firing any of those hot .45 ACP rounds, odds are that your .45 round will be subsonic. [JWR Adds: In contrast, most 9mm Parabellum and .40 S&W ammo can be supersonic, depending on the elevation. You have to pay more for special subsonic 9mm ammo.]

Adapters allow you to keep the number of suppressors you need low.  For $60 you can buy an adapter that will allow you to place a 5/8” x 24 TPI .308 suppressor on your ½” x 28 TPI AR-15.  The same goes for your .45 ACP pistol.  Buy large, and adapt down.  And remember, you cannot fire a .308 through a .223 suppressor!

  This is very important.  Pistols and rifles have different threads.  The most common threads are ½” x 28 TPI, ½” x 36 TPI, and 5/8” x 24 TPI.  Keep this info in mind if you wish to thread one of your bolt actions to get a flash hider put on it, and to use a suppressor on that same rifle.  Most .22LRs have the ½” x 28” TPI, to include .22LR pistols.  Large caliber rifles tend to have the 5/8” x 24 TPI.  A word of caution, be careful when buying a suppressor for a pistol/foreign pistol, or a foreign rifle (metric measurements)!  The threads get whacky for many of the barrels, and it’s here that you may be only able to get one suppressor for one type of pistol (i.e.: you want a suppressor for your FN FiveSeven).  The reason is that not all pistol barrels are the same diameter, whereas most rifles are threaded to the same specs regardless of the barrel diameter. 

Threaded suppressor or quick detach? 
Threaded suppressors of course require a threaded barrel.  Quick detach (QD) suppressors require a flash hider tailored to the suppressors quick detachment cut-out, or the flash hider’s thread.  Make sure that you do not buy a QD suppressor for a threaded barrel because the pitches/grooves are nowhere near the same for the flash hider as they are for the barrel, and you may have to go through hell and high water to get your barrel threaded to accept the QD flash hider, just to mount a suppressor.

  As Mr. Rawles has said, if you get this job done, be discreet.  Make sure you are clear in describing what you want, and make sure the person is reputable.  The thread must be true or else the suppressor will go on crooked and that can lead to what is called a baffle strike.  I was told by one gent that most suppressor manufacturers will not service your suppressor (under its warranty) if they do not know the person, or business, who performed your threading because it could be a defect in the threading that caused the strike and not a manufacturer’s defect.  Check with them to see if they have an “approved list”.

Firing wet. 
You can fire your can "wet", but this does not mean your can is designed to be fired “wet”.   This reduces the sound because it reduces the temperature of the hot gases which are responsible for most of the noise (minus the sonic crack, of course).  Make sure you check the directions before you do so.  I added a little water to my Blackside and the difference was huge.  Some folks use WD-40 (I would not do this!), and lithium grease.  My Blackside came packed with lithium grease.  When I fired it, the sound was very low, but there was so much smoke as to think that a semi had just changed gears going up a hill!   And remember that steel rusts.

Buying a sheath.
  I recommend this.  I thought the sheaths were for camouflage, until I tried to take mine off using my naked hand (dumb).  When I was a child, I accidentally grabbed a glowing orange/red jumbo sparkler.  It felt exactly the same.  Buy a sheath.  It’ll also provide a little more protection to your suppressor since they are slightly padded Nomex.   And just because you have a sheath on your suppressor I still recommend using a glove when trying to remove it.

Firing with a suppressor.  A few observations I’ve noticed about firing a suppressor.  Your ammo cases get really dirty!  I say this as a heads up to reloaders.  The other thing is hard to explain.  When firing my AR-15 suppressed, it was as if the gases were coming back at me.  It was like they just went in my eyes and nose and tried to come out of my mouth.  Could have been the back pressure.   So if you are trying to kill zombies trying to steal your food and gold, keep this in mind: the gases may make your eyes water.

The process.  My goal here is to keep this simple and tell you what I had to do because neither  the local Sheriff, nor the Police Chief, would not sign off on his portion of the paperwork.  My guidance came from the Class 3 FFL dealer.  The traditional way requires that you accomplish:

  • Two passport photos for each ATF Form 4 (money).
  • $200 Money Order/check for the tax stamp.
  • Copy of citizenship form (2).
  • Finger print cards (2).
  • ATF Form 4 for each item (the sheet itself is duplicate).
  • LEO form signed by the Sheriff, Judge, D.A., Police Chief, etc.
  • Pay the transfer fee the store usually charges you.  About $75 (once you get the item).

I do not recommend this method because: it costs more; longer wait; less privacy; and it’s more difficult to leave your NFA items with someone you know.  Finally, you then send all of this in and wait 4-6 months!

Here’s what my Class 3 FFL guy told me to do:

Buy Quicken WillMaker Plus 2011 (or later) and set up your Revocable Living Trust (RLT) ($14).  I already had my suppressors at the store (which meant I had the serial numbers and the physical description) so I added them (some might disagree with this). Get it notarized.  No need for a lawyer who will charge you $150! 

A word of caution here.  This is what I did based upon the advice of my Class 3 FFL who has had numerous NFA transfers approved using this method in this state.  Some recommend that you go through a lawyer, or a professional, that specializes in the creation of RLTs as opposed to using a software program.  Whatever bed you choose, you will have to sleep in it.

I put my immediate family in my trust.  The benefit to the RLT is that if you have to leave your NFA items behind, you can leave them with those on the trust as opposed to transferring the items to them, and thus having to pay the $200 transfer  tax, and then waiting for the turnaround in paperwork.  Furthermore, anytime you wish to add another NFA item, you just write it on your RLT once you take possession of the item (you still have to go through the same NFA process!).  One thing: Make sure those you list on your RLT know what they are getting into when you leave these items with them.  You owe it to them. 

Some benefits to the RLT route:

  • No fingerprints
  • No photos
  • No citizenship form to fill out
  • No LEO signature

All that you need to do if you've established a trust:

  • Pay transfer fee to FFL.
  • Fill out ATF Form 4.
  • Pay $200 tax stamp. 

A key point: If you buy multiple NFA items and submit the paperwork at the same time, do a USPS Money Order for each item since one benefit is that it will instantly clear.  The FFL explained to me that if there is a discrepancy in your paperwork for one item, and not all of them, the examiner may hold up all of your items if you, for instance, wrote a $600 check for three items.  But if you send if separate Money Orders, then the unaffected items can still go through the process because the payments for those items is independent of the frustrated item.

Using the RLT method, the turnaround time for me was three months, only because some ATF person had forgotten my paperwork in their in box.  As soon as my FFL called the ATF, the Examiner signed the docs and sent them out the next day. So really it was like 2½ months.  The FFL guy I was working through said he got his back in two months using the same process.  He said that this was the quickest he had ever seen it done.

ATF Form 4s. 
Once complete, you must keep the ATF form 4s with the items whenever you move them.  The FFL dealer showed me this really cool idea.  He had his copied and shrunk down to a card that a local place made into something akin to a driver’s license.  What I did was go to a UPS Store and have them shrink it down and then laminate each ATF Form 4.  Each card is very legible and fits in my wallet.  Keep your originals in a safe place.  I’d make digital copies of your forms as well and store that file in a safe place.

Crossing state lines. 
Unlike other NFA items, you do not need to complete an ATF Form 5320.20 when taking a suppressor across state lines. (I got this confirmed by an ATF branch agent in West Virginia).  However, you must take your ATF Form 4s with you for each NFA item in your possession whenever transporting them.  Never leave home without them.   [JWR Adds: Of course state laws also apply, so check the laws of the states that you will be transiting, before you travel!]

Inspections.  Speaking to the local ATF rep, I found out that the ATF does not conduct administrative visits for private citizens in possession of NFA items (to include machine guns).  She stated that this is a nationwide policy, and that they only inspect licensed dealers with NFA items.  She added that in New York that there could be [state] inspections. (Which is why you should vote with your feet).   In addition, she said local laws may vary, and in that regard the local authorities may be able to inspect your NFA items.

Reloading: Creating your own subsonic rounds.  If you wish to do this, bear in mind that you are giving up a lot of oomph with your .223 or .308.  My AAR observations when trying to create my own subsonic .223 rounds are as follows: 1) most subsonic rifle rounds are heavier than normal; and 2) subsonic rifle round manufacturers  ‘suggest’ that you use a faster than normal rifle twist with their bullets.  For example, I’ve seen commercial .223 subsonic weigh in at 100 grains and ask for a 1:7 inch twist.  I’ve also seen subsonic .22 LR in 60 grains and ask for a 1:9 inch twist.  When you start designing your loads to get the right combination, safety first!  You do not want an undercharged bullet to get stuck in the barrel [or strike a baffle]s.  Using a chronometer (with your rifle barrel four to five feet back), start with heavy charges and work your way down to lesser grain charges as opposed to starting weak and working your way up.  Point the barrel at the ground or at any target which you can easily discern a hit.  I suggest using the ground as dirt will fly up with each hit.  If you see dirt, then you know the bullet left the barrel.  Catalog each bullet as you decrease in grains.  Bear in mind that in a semi-auto you will go from a cycling bolt, to a partially cycling bolt with its jammed expended cartridges, to a bolt that does not cycle at all.  Keep track of the kind of brass you used (not that important), the primer, the powder, the bullet brand and grain, the seating depth, the barrel rifle twist, as well as the barrel length so that you can recreate your load and possibly share with others under what conditions your bullet was subsonic.  And keep an eye on your chronometer.  Make sure you do not get too close or you will be measuring the velocity of the bullet, and sometimes the gases.  I made this mistake and several times got a reading of 4,400fps even as I was decreasing powder charges.

In closing, one person put it, getting an NFA item is a lot like getting a CCW permit.  Lastly, remember to “buy it now before it’s illegal” (and that goes for everything).  They’ve already started banning lemonade stands, home gardens, and walking while texting. Who knows what’s next?

And thank you to those who provided feedback to the earlier posting!

Mr. Rawles,
The owner of CanadaAmmo.com recently posted on a public forum (Canadiangunnutz.com) that the Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP) Firearms lab "is encouraging importers to hold off on new imports until the fall, when they expect the prohibited list to be 'updated' to reflect new models."  Updating the prohibited list in all probability and precedent would mean sweeping confiscations of some firearms. [JWR Adds: Unlike here in the U.S., Canadian gun laws don't have a tendency toward "grandfather" exclusion clauses.]

Even though the Conservative party of Canada now holds a majority government in Parliament and the party has claimed for years they would abolish the much hated Federal Long Gun Registry, they also have allowed the RCMP to reclassify and confiscate a variety of firearms in recent years, including the Norinco Type 97 bullpup carbine.

In all probability, high ranking RCMP bureaucrats in association with well funded, well organized gun-control lobbyists are petitioning the government to reclassify a wide range of currently "tacticool," firearms contained within the long gun registry through an undemocratic order in council provision that exists in the draconian Canada Firearms Act.  These include:

M1A (M14)
[Robinson] M96
[Robinson] XCR
[HK] G36
Swiss Arms [Presumably the SIG 550 or 556 Series?]
[IMI Tavor bullpup] TAR-21
[HK] SL-8
[E.M.F.] JR Carbine

Before it's too late, Canadian gun owners need to contact their members of parliament to let them know that government confiscation of property is theft; regardless of the creative excuses police bureaucrats come up with. - Mr. X.

JWR Replies: No doubt, they'll cite the actions of a crazed bomber/gunman in Norway, as justification...

Dear Mr. Rawles --
Here is a link to a story in this morning's New York Times about Jefferson County, Alabama. It seems to be a microcosm of what the whole country faces as the threat of Federal default becomes real.

The reporter says, "There are lessons for everyone here, and they are all painful: lessons for those who are not concerned about the prospect of mounting debt, for those who insist that steep cuts can be relatively painless, for those who think the bill for big spending can safely be put off into the future, for those who have blind faith in the market and for those who think the government can always be relied upon to protect the interests of the people." Best, - Mary F. in New York

In his latest subscribers-only newsletter, veteran market analyst Porter Stansberry describes a U.S. sovereign debt downgrade as "inevitable". JWR's comments: Make your plans with the assumption that there will be a rating downgrade by all of the credit ratings agencies. The current AAA rating for U.S. paper is just a convenient fiction. Obviously a debt downgrade will mean higher interest rates. This will in turn ratchet down the U.S. economy in general and the residential and commercial real estate markets in particular. This will delay any recovery for many years. Plan on a riding through a depression that could last for decades!

John R. recommended this commentary by Jim Quinn: This Country Defaulted Long Ago

U.S. Economic Data Disappoints Immensely, QE3 Readies

KAF sent this: Downgrade Day: What It Will Look Like

US Army proposes new retirement plan. (Would "save" $400 Billion, by breaking promises made for generations.)

The Debt-Ceiling-Debacle: The Surprising Way a Default or Downgrade Could Crush the Global Economy

G.G. sent this: U.S. regulators close three small banks, bringing total bank closures this year to 61

Items from The Economatrix:

US Debt Deadlock Hits World Shares

Citi's Top Economist Says The Water Market Will Soon Eclipse Oil

Job Listings Say Unemployed Need Not Apply

Gold Breaches $1,625, US Credit Ratings Downgrade Now Almost Certain

Ravenous wolves colonise France, terrorise shepherds. (A hat tip to F.G. for the link.)

   o o o

Signs of The Times: Detroit to set services by neighborhood condition. (Thanks to J.B.G. for the link.)

   o o o

KAF sent this: 2010-2011 drought likely to be among costliest on record for Texas farmers, ranchers

   o o o

Reader Shawn in Ohio asks: "If they riot at a movie, how bad will things get if we default?": Riot Police, Crowd Clash Outside Hollywood Premiere of Film on Electric Daisy Carnival Rave

   o o o

Are you planning to "Bug In", in the Big City, in the event of disaster? Then consider the trash factor.

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." - Galatians 5:1 (KJV)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 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.

Primitive tasks require primitive tools.  When endeavoring to prepare for an extended grid-down or without rule of law scenario one would do well to have on hand a ready mix of equipment and supplies which can meet the challenges requisite to providing for basic needs.  Would-be survivalists often point to hypothetical situations when which they would gather water from some nearby source and make fire within there hastily crafted shelter beside their tilled, loamy garden bed, while butchering game, harvested casually in some illusionary, post-apocalyptic, Shangri-la. Without primitive or pioneer type tools, basic human functions can become impossible.  A simple and comfortable pail may some day be a family's life line.  An axe could be the only tool available with which to harness heat energy or make shelter.  An old and worn kitchen knife the only butchering tool. 

A preparedness mindset requires that we take advantage of the readily available resources of today and the pioneering knowledge and techniques of yesterday to ready ourselves for a return to the austere conditions our luxurious technologies have over come.  Today, we can walk the "Lawn and Garden" aisle of a local hardware store and for a couple hundred fleeting U.S. Dollars acquire enough tools to provide for many of our needs.  Some day soon we may wish we had laid up some of these basic tools.  You have an axe, but do you have a maul and wedge?  Do you have a froe and mallet (used for making shakes and squaring timbers)?  Have you a stone on which to grind your axe or froe or maul.  You have a saw, but what kind?  Is it a large cross-cut for felling trees, can it cut through metal, remove the head of an elk?  A man needs several types of saws for doing these relevant survival tasks. 

People of today have Honda powered garden cultivators to make short work of the backyard garden patch.  Now imagine clearing and amending a vegetable patch larger than your entire yard in order to feed your family some staples.  And if you manage to clear this area of turf and weeds and rocks enough to support seed plants you must now weed and aerate and irrigate and fertilize and harvest this vast stretch of ground with the tools you had in your garage.  So you have a spade, do you have a MacLeod (a cross between rake and pick used for ground clearing, trail building and fire line), a Pulaski, a mattock, a turf spade, a stirrup hoe, a sling blade, a pitch fork, a grain scoop?  These are just a few of the necessary hand tools which were common on every homestead, even seventy years ago.  Go back a few hundred more years and the very same tools were also the only weapons on the farm.  Take inventory now, acquire what you will need , start using these tools and techniques, harden your hands and backs.  Ready yourself mentally, physically and materially for what may lay ahead. 

Do you have a sturdy watering can? You'll need one that will not clog or crack if left in the cold.  How about your series of rain barrels from which to draw and water your crops.  Now, we just move the hose and sprinkler around, twist the faucet, and believe our electric well pumps or worse, municipal water will flow and flow and flow.  How many barrels do you have in your garage, are you equipped to catch the rain or snowmelt from your roof.  Could you build an elevated (tower) type catchment system which could irrigate a broad expanse, without electricity and with the tools and lumber you have on hand?   Planning on moving timbers for firewood or building structures, make sure you have a peavey (log handling) and a block and tackle to gain mechanical advantage.  With regard to harvesting timber, we currently lean heavily on our two stroke chainsaws.  I know I do, we run a side business selling firewood from our retreat, ensuring that we always have at least ten cords on hand and continue to perfect local, low tech harvesting and processing methods.  Properly viewed a good chainsaw is a pioneer type tool.  The simple two-stroke motor has no circuit boards which will fail in an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) emergency.  I would assert that if you have limited fuel storage capabilities, you store premium, non-ethanol gasoline, mixed with a high grade two-stroke oil.  We have been able to start and run old Stihl two-stroke equipment which sat for years with a 50:1 mixture of Stihl oil and premium non-ethanol, 93 octane gasoline.  This oil has a stabilizing ingredient in it, and non-ethanol gasoline is much better for long term storage than the Al Gore alternative of  "corn gas" which can gum up or go stale in under six months.  If this approach were embraced, a whole other essay could be composed on which two-stroke tools to acquire. 

Imagine being able to barter your ability to fall and buck your neighbors timber or run a two stroke cultivator through his lawn to save hours of shovel work turning a lawn into a garden.  The two-stroke concept aside and returning to the basic premise of primitive, non-electric hand tools for pioneering chores.  The notion of bartering your services with these tools and techniques is strong.  In the past, neighbors and churches got together to clear a field or build a barn.  The Amish still cooperate around shared pieces of equipment and tools. [JWR Adds: As I've mentioned in my book and blog, I consider small bottles of 2-cycle fuel mixing oil ideal to keep on hand for barter. This has several advantages: compact, lightweight, pre-measured, long storage life, readily recognizable, wide appeal, likely scarcity, et cetera.]

Imagine the mission field of  folks who can't do for themselves, but you show up with a unique tool or ability and exhibit beautiful Christian charity by lending a hand or tool.  If the idea of now starting to accumulate all of the tools you may need is daunting, incorporate conversations with your group or family or church friends.  Find out how your equipment compliments that of others you will depend on in emergencies or after a collapse.  These are the tangibles that Mr. Rawles has been advocating we as preppers shift our investment portfolios into.  Financial resources put into these pieces of equipment will benefit you tremendously even during peaceful and prosperous times.  The ability to improve your home, retreat or garden.  The spiritual and physical benefits of working with your hands and getting a bit dirty.  Learning processes that can provide for your own needs and passing them on to children and friends, preserving the knowledge of the old way of doing things.  Every task that was previously performed with the assistance of electricity or electronic modules can and should be re-thought.  Mr. Rawles has strongly advocated that every prepper have at least one vehicle manufactured decades ago, which has no crucial circuitry that is microprocessor-based. I currently use my 2005 four wheel drive pick up truck every day.  Were an EMP event to occur or my fuel supplies run out, I would have to revert to man and beast for my hauling and skidding.  How hard is it now to acquire a more primitive vehicle and get it into reliable condition.  The late 1960s vehicles from the novel "Patriots" comes to mind, how I wish I hadn't sold my old Toyota long bed four wheel drive years ago. 

Those individuals with stock animals capable of load work and the accompanying tack and gear will be so much better off.  A mule, donkey, draft horse or ox will be prized so much higher than the show horses and warm bloods which are the status symbols of today's equine societies.  If you are a suburban or home based prepper be sure you have one or more sturdy wheel barrows, carts or sleds.  Put away a bicycle pump for airing up the tires when you can't just run over to the filling station to air up a flat garden cart tire in the spring.  Anything you do not have for survival after TEOTWAWKI will have to be made, grown, harvested, scavenged, bought or bartered.  Hammers, pliers, pullers, bits and augers, it is almost unfathomable what we take for granted or do not use anymore do to the readily available, chinese made, disposable items we use to sustain our every day comforts and needs.  We can go online to "Harbor Freight" for the disposable equivalent of power tools.  Dig a little deeper, we currently have many resources for finding the older, US made tools which continue to ably do the job they were made for.  Pawn shops, Craigslist, garage sales, and even scrap yards can hold tools and equipment that today's consumers don't know the value of.  A wash tub and washboard for clothes cleaning.  Hand pumping well head and an inventory of piping or trough.  Simple mechanical farm equipment like plows and threshers.  A drilling brace will enable you to drill holes if your electric drill is useless.  How many pounds of nails, screws, spikes or pegs have you put up?  Centuries ago, whole structures would sometimes be burned to the ground that the nails which held them together could be gathered up and reused. 

Remember all of those old wood working tools that grandfather had and used, in an austere environment? And those primitive files and chisels and planers will be invaluable.  In the fields, rakes and shovels and picks of all manner and styles will be used and broken, then mended or augmented to get the many tasks accomplished.  Leather working and sewing, hide skinning and tanning, water gathering, shelter building and repair, gunsmithing and reloading, farming, silage harvesting, hauling, candle and soap making, all of these necessary tasks require specialty tools to complete and in the absence of readily available grid power become especially daunting.  As we ready our retreats, homes and farms for come-what-may, we must put on an attitude of confident can-do. 

Consider, realistically what it will take to provide true necessities and keep the homestead going.  When focusing on beans, bullets, band-aids and boomsticks, do yourself, your family and community a favor and also prepare for the basic and historical tasks of a more primitive existence.  God Bless the SurvivalBlog community as we hope for the Savior's return but prepare for the worst.  The tools and concepts I have referenced only scratch the surface of what one day might be required, I look forward to letters and lists from this community to thread together a strong resource for those just beginning or learning about self sufficiency.

Section One

The Bug-Out Bag is an icon of the preparedness movement. The principle is well known and agreed upon: we may indeed have to pack-up and take flight to a more orderly, less hostile environment, intelligently. This would be either in anticipation of a great upheaval of social order or in its aftermath. How we will face the situation and deal with it is our part to play. Bug-out is an emergency measure, supplying us with a three-day margin for action: decisive action, evasive action, survivalist action or other salutary maneuvering. You must make an informed plan for your exodus. Considering that this would be enacted on foot, there will be an urgent need to map-out a route, determine an objective, establish foreseeable safe resting places along your intended escape-and-evasion route that include points of re-supply or hidden caches. Make back up plans.  Now, try out everything in a realistic rehearsal, pack up your Bug-Out Bag and start using it. There is no better time than now. If you plan on using military gear, you might practice with more discreet colored civilian camping gear so as to avoid curiosity. Try bugging-out in increments, start with good weather and light loads. Work towards nighttime and inclement weather scenarios. Add weight as your personal physical condition improves. The goal is to gradually rule out most potential surprises and unknowns. Whether solo or with like-minded comrades, practice equals preparedness.  If you are the leader of a family or group, members of your troop must train as abilities of age and state allow. It will be harder, and more practice will be necessary.
This proverbial “Three day” limit is not realistic for most situations we are likely to face. “72 hours” is a military standard. Soldiers are re-supplied, but who will come and re-supply you after 72 hours? There is an urgent need to rise above this imaginary status quo. Common sense tells us to select and pack items that can be used not only for the hypothetical three-day scenario, but rather indefinitely. In light of this, a solid and foolproof modus operandi must be established: the B.O.B. must serve our resolve to remain pro-active and prevent us from falling victim to circumstances of the unexpected. It is a tall order. Contents lists, ideas and examples abound on the Web. Most of it is show-and-tell. Some of it is abstract theorizing. Consult, sift through the media, but you will soon agree that people are not understanding the seriousness of the situation. Either they underestimate the critical nature of bug-out, likening it to a picnic outing, or they get sidetracked in the materialism of gear gadgetry. The bug-out market has caught the eye of commercial capitalists. Survival kits in sardine cans...?  So beware. Shun the disposable, wasteful, throw-away mentality. Cheaply made and cheaply purchased items are indeed disposable, not like your hard-earned money you handed over in vain. When the worst is upon us, no one will be replacing any so-called “unconditional lifetime guarantee” items for you.
Beyond the tedium and disagreement caused by excessively detailed lists, here are fundamental, building block elements that will form the backbone of your kit. Here is what works. Sorry if there are no sparkling gadgets to make you think bugging-out will be fun and games. If something happens that will truly require a bug-out scenario, it will be catastrophic. People will face death. “Pray that your flight be not in winter or on the Sabbath...”  In real world bug-out, the first thing necessary will be to remain rational, and keep the Faith. Keep your bearings. Keep to the proven principles. Important choices have been made here, and this principle of discernment is a key factor in assembling your personal kit.  The definitive checklist is strictly your business. Your ultimate choice of gear should be the things that serve your purpose to remain in control, and to rise above the situation at hand. Consider what is being put forth, it is foundational and proven. Source references are for suggestion only.
The Bug-out Bag: get a backpack and get the best you can afford: it may very well be your lifesaver. But it has to perform, full. It cannot fail in rigorous or sudden use: It should be able to withstand dropping, dragging and hastened concealment. It should also withstand whatever you might do: like falling, crawling, swimming or accidental situations. Imagine being pursued, being a possible target, hunting, defending a perimeter: you should be able to run, sit, duck, lie prone or take a moment of rest with your pack on, in reasonable comfort.

Whether with or without a traditional frame, here is the definition of the ideal: A medium-size pack 2.500-3.500 cubic inches more or less, with a padded hip belt that puts the weight on your legs: the legs having the most powerful muscles in the body, with shoulder straps being only for load control. This is better and safer than slogging with an unpredictable, overloaded small pack that will cause suffering. An overloaded large “moving-van” pack will be even worse, maybe fatal. Medium-size is where the balance of moderation is.  It is a good spiritual and mental factor as well.
Your pack should be either camo to match your local woods or civilian colored for discretion. Camouflage means to blend in with your immediate surroundings. Urban scenarios might fare better with civilian gear. Not everyone will be able to have recourse to the back of beyond. Think about where you will go, then blend in accordingly. Civilian gear does look a little less threatening. Solid colors in earth tones would be a good balance: Coyote tan and O.D. green are better than black. Nothing in nature’s background is truly black, though your protection and concealment will be in darker shades of most colors. Avoid loud colors. If you want the visibility option, use a pack cover or a separate piece of material in the color you want to be seen. Put it away and save it for when the time comes.
The pack should be top loading. Few or no zippers that will break or fail at the wrong time. If there must be a zipper, make sure there are back-up straps and buckles to remove weight and stress from the inherently weak zipper closure. No Velcro, which is noisy and prone to clogging and failure in inclement conditions. In essence, a pack is just a vertical sack. Cutting openings and compartments will only reduce the structural integrity. A strongly constructed single space bag is the original and still the best. Inside, pack items in small dry bags by category. Mark them with permanent marking pens or colors for rapid recognition. You should never have to be digging around inside your pack for some loose item. There is a forcible and rational order of things that go in and come out of a bug-out bag. Establish a priority of items by use: primary use, secondary use, etc, so that when arriving at your destination, especially if it is a temporary bivouac, necessaries will come out of the pack quickly and efficiently according to purpose. Articles abound on this subject, study, learn and practice how to efficiently set-up and pack-up any scenario that involves the use of your kit.
There is a need to approach your initial B.O.B. purchase with clarity.
Judge the ruggedness of your potential pack by putting weight in it and grabbing and pulling on all straps. If the seams start to give out, the sewing is probably low-quality throughout. Try it on with a load. Politely and reasonably abuse it while still in the store. Features should be truly useful and not frivolous. What looks good in the store might fail in the field. Now make your judgment, take notes and move on to another pack if you have your doubts. Remember, what is best for you, and you alone, is what matters. It has to fit your size and your natural dimensions. That means it must not extend above your head or be wider than your shoulders, it should not hang much below your waist.  It should fit your torso perfectly. If you are presently fighting the battle of the bulge, then choose a waist belt that fits both now and when you will be in better shape.
Military and non-military packs are legion. But no one makes a pack like Americans do. Watch out for imports. The ones coming down the tracks, loaded in those ominous shipping containers, are getting less and less cheap only because of corrupt marketing strategies. Prices are being deviously re-calculated and raised because it is a known fact that cheap junk is cheap. If it costs more, it must be better ... Beware of this and other big lies. European imports are inflated because of the manipulated exchange rates. There is indeed a price for buying local, but isn’t this part of the present battle?  Domestic shops are still in business, call them and communicate. Support them. Thank them for staying home to make their products. There are small companies that make camping and tactical gear, proving that yankee ingenuity is still the best. You can also search for outdoor gear at www. Still made in the U.S.A. com. You will find your kindred spirits there. You will also find items that should outlast the coming ordeal, within the range of your budget. Avoid supply purchases at the mega-store globalist marketeers who film you while you shop, beg you to spend less money by joining their club, and ask for your phone number or zip code at checkout. It goes without saying how you should handle this affront.  Common sense is in the balance. Most small hunting or military surplus shops are still ma-and-pa operations. Support them first. Some e-Bay "stores" are actually gifted artisans trying to make a living without being able to afford a brick-and-mortar storefront. Look up the contact info and deal directly. You will know right away if they are legitimate. These micro-industries are to be supported. Their proprietors are often geniuses, and honest. 
External frame packs: The ubiquitous ALICE pack is still in use today by respected military. The original version is the medium-size. It is a marvel of simplicity and solid engineering, very easily obtained at a reasonable price. You can get OD or camo versions. The frame is the Achilles heel: drill out all rivets that will likely fail. Replace them with fine thread 8/32 stainless steel bolts, with round heads that have an Allen or Philips slotted head, depending upon what your multi-tool can do in the field. Use stainless steel locknuts. The medium ALICE can remain minimalist or it can be built up with add-on modular components. It can be used without its frame if it fails. Upgrade the shoulder straps and waist belt if you want more padding. The MOLLE II waist belt is an inexpensive and effective upgrade. Replace the steel buckles with quick-attach Fastex buckles if you want the added convenience. TacticalTailor.com, HighSpeedGear.com, SpecOpsBrand.com are just a few of the military-class producers of improved accessories. Backpacks that resemble the medium ALICE are made by DownEastInc.com and others, with a modern polymer frame and other upgrades. They keep strictly to the original principles of the ALICE wherein the dimensions do not surpass the average natural dimensions of the wearer. This is important in bug-out when speed and maneuverability are expected. Most packs are intentionally not 100% waterproof. If you have to move through water or soaking rain, you will quickly understand why. The pack should be able to drain. With your BOB contents packed in dry-bags, water is no longer a threat. And if necessary, your pack will now float in extreme water-crossing scenarios. Practice before you take the big plunge.
Internal frame packs: some frame designs are effective while others fail before their weight capacity is reached. Some kind of frame is needed for average loads of 35 lbs. or greater. If the internal frame is too minimalist, it will flex and compress, your spinal column will do the same. Wearing an internal frame pack loosely will reduce the critical nature of potential problems, but the problems are not completely eliminated since internal frame or frameless packs are not designed to be worn too loosely. Beware of overheating from direct contact with your back. Lungs and parts of organs, muscles extend rearwards in your torso, when they overheat, you, too, will overheat. Plan on your back being soaked from shoulders to waist when wearing an internal frame pack. In winter this will increase the danger of chills. Variations of the internal frame theme are as numerous as brand names. Some are practical and minimalist while others are cerebral and scientific. Top-of-the-food-chain medium-size internal frame packs are listed in order of size: Eagle Becker Patrol, Kifaru Zulu, Mystery Ranch SATL. They have PALS webbing for add-ons. Even if they are above your means, they are the best example of what other comparable packs should be. The military has tried many internal frame packs in the larger-size category, like the CFP-90, the SPEAR, the ILBE but the external frame pack is the current choice. The USMC, having tried these packs, is also going back to a contoured external frame.
There is also a possible third category of pack, a hybrid fusion design, where the best of both worlds has been attempted. High-end military level makers such as Kifaru and Mystery Ranch are among the designers of this type of pack. It comes under the larger-size category. They have made a quasi-external frame that functions with the close-hugging benefits of an internal frame. The problems with internal frame packs are thus resolved, except for the overheating part.  Their efforts at inventing a cooling system for the back are a failure. Only a true external frame will give the necessary air space to keep cool and dry.  They are also quite expensive and disproportionately heavy for the most part. They are works of art but you must be truly committed to this design if you want one, after ruling out every other possibility. They have elaborate web sites and customer forums where feedback is published.
For backpacks in general, the military is a good rule of thumb since soldiers are load-carriers by profession. The military also established the bug-out concept. You will not be disappointed with a military level bug-out bag. It is made to withstand the abuse you will need to personally undergo in bugging-out. The newest versions of military packs are a far cry from the old instruments of torture used in the John Wayne movies.
Repeat: what matters in choosing a pack is what is best for you only. Size and shape matter a lot when moving quickly. You are the one doing the moving. The medium-size category is where we want to be in the bug-out context. But if this range is truly insufficient for you, consider the newer military packs from Specialty Defense Systems that still use an external frame such as the MOLLE II Rifleman Pack, the main ruck is 3,000 cu. in. The attached sleep system carrier is a failure, replace it with something else, or rotate it downward so it does not project out from the frame like a tail. Military users of this system have colorful words for this bobbing sleep system compartment... You will also need to upgrade to the Down East 1603 Generation IV frame, which replaces the original 1602, quite breakable frame. This new frame has fallen out of helicopters and hit the ground, nothing broke. If you envisage a "big-B" bug-out, needing a house-on-your-back rucksack, the 10th Mountain Ruck is the current U.S. Army issue, 6000 cu. in. MOLLE pack. It is basically the previous generation two-component Rifleman pack in a one-piece configuration. This pack represents the current military philosophy in load bearing. You can find it in woodland camo, coyote tan or multi-cam. The current, ineffective ACU camo will be phased out.  The large-size ALICE is currently getting more attention as well. Some speculate that bigger is better because you will have extra load capacity.  A completely full, large-size ALICE, as well its upgraded improved versions, such as the BDS Mountain Ruck, the HighSpeedGear Trash Bag, or the Tactical Tailor Malice, can be dangerously unwieldy when full. These formidable moving vans, when fully loaded, will severely limit your speed and agility. Though this level of pack may have a place in the extreme bug-out scenario, its wearer will be constrained to pack mule velocity. Even trained soldiers collapse beneath big rucks. They complain when having to double-time with these prime movers. If you are bugging-out with bulky but lightweight insulated cold weather gear, the larger size pack will not be unbearably heavy. Bug-out is not the same across the board, in all climates or foreseeable conditions. It is time to experiment according to your personal plan, which will be carried out in your bug-out theatre of operations. It is better to make a medium-size pack bigger with removable add-ons than to make a large pack smaller by carrying it half empty, where the load will be off-balance. Civilian frame packs have extension bars behind the head, such as the classic Kelty. If you need to duck, the frame won't. In contrast, most military packs stop at shoulder height, allowing the user to move through low-clearance situations more intuitively, the pack will move with you.

How much is to be spent on your BOB? Surplus military gear is an excellent value for the budget. There is a certain mystique about military gear, with which the common man has been made into a warrior… Tactical suppliers who upgrade soldiers or outfit various law enforcement groups abound on the web. But they need to hear you ask if it is made in the U.S.A. Excellent civilian gear is abundant as well. You can also rent quality name brand equipment from a backpacking outfitter. Try both kinds of packs, external or internal frame. Start deciding right now what works best for you by manual and physical trial and error. Tempus fugit.
Add-ons should include a chest pack, suspended from the backpack frame and not from shoulder straps or sternum straps, so it can be flung rearward, up and over the head, if necessary. Put quick-release Fastex buckles so it can be adjusted and disconnected. Ingenious, multi-compartment organizers, also known as E.D.C. essentials bag, medic’s bag, in every shape and configuration, are readily available from tactical gear suppliers. Kifaru, Maxpedition and others make these. They can be military or civilian in appearance. The G.I. Field Training Pouch makes an effective chest pack. Just like the ideal bug-out pack, it is top loading, single compartment, with a drawstring inner closure. The chest pack principle is to keep small, first-line usage items within immediate reach, accessing them without having to stop and remove your main pack, wasting precious time and exposing yourself.  The chest-pack keeps your overall load better balanced, with the weight of your most essential gear forward. Keep an empty dry-bag packed inside your chest pack so it can be quickly put to use in the event of a water crossing.  Your chest pack is the container of critical equipment. It must be kept dry. Being up front, it will always be under your watchful and vigilant gaze.

Extra pockets, removable waist packs and a compartment for a sleeping bag or more gear can be attached to the medium ALICE.   If you need more food provisions, put them in drop-leg pouches that hang from your waist belt.  Your leg muscles can handle the extra weight more easily than back muscles. Make sure you can swing your arms without hitting these drop-leg additions. Some individuals like to wear a MOLLE LBE vest rig beneath their backpack. Just make sure you can crawl or lie prone with all this gear on. What about trekking poles? Try them and decide if they are a help or a hindrance. In most cases, four legs are better than two. Carrying a load downhill puts stress on the knee joints. The poles minimize this undesirable effect. Trekking poles can multi-task. They can be used to quietly ward off pests instead of firing a shot, which will attract unnecessary attention. They can prop up your shelter; they collapse for quick storage. If you are humping serious weight for yourself or for others, 25-30% of your bodyweight, consider spandex compression knee braces. GI kneepads help as well.

The bug-out bag is meant to equip you, to support your will to act and to prevail, and to keep peace of mind.
Section Two
In the bug-out moment of truth, you will have to depend on certain basic things to help you survive. They must not break or fail. They are tools, but remember, you are the one doing the surviving. Material failure is one thing, but if you are the one who fails, it will be tragic. So choose the tried and true: simple, well-made designs, favoring heavy-duty and versatile things. Learn their manifold uses. Do not go out testing your kit in a bug-out-ops scenario until you first learn the limits of your gear at home, in a controlled environment.
Bug-out pack contents: the four classic elements of survival are what you are GIg to carry. 1 - Shelter, 2 - Fire, 3 - Food and 4 - Water.
Shelter: definition: protection from the elements while moving or resting. Tents are out. This is not recreation. This is survival, adding the word “reasonable.” Combine poncho and tarp, GI types will usually mate, check the snap configuration. Two ponchos can mate as well. This will give you room to expand your comfort zone or your safe zone, depending on circumstances. Prevent grommet failure by attaching 1/8” shock cord loops to your tarp and pre-tie lengths of 550 paracord so you can set-up faster. Your shelter is worth more than cheap plastic sheeting or woven plastic, both of which are highly disposable. Get a well-made nylon tarp that will serve you for the duration. Above and beyond the GI issue standard fare, are the Wiggy's Hootch, Jacks'R'Better hex tarp, and Equinox Egret among others .

Enduring the elements can be critical if you have not yet found a safe site for shelter.  Foul weather gear should be kept in the quick access parts of your pack, such as inside the lid compartment or in an outside pouch accessible by simply reaching and without having to remove the pack.  Beyond the classic poncho, if you are a consummate jacket wearer, Gore-Tex type rain gear, both tops and bottoms, are easy to find. The GI issue versions come in all shades of camo, they are still some of the best. Be they military or civilian, Gore-Tex products are an investment. The poncho has its virtues and vices, but when stealth shelter is needed fast, the rain jacket will not be enough. Shoot your poncho or other waterproof gear (not the Gore-tex) with Camp Dry spray. Gaiters: keep a pair with your rain gear. Besides their obvious use for snow and rain, try them once while hiking through wet brush or just wet grass. You will be a believer.
Tents: if insects or reptiles are really a problem in your area, or you get violent storms with high winds, a lightweight tent can offer the desired sanity-factor protection. Hilleberg.com. Stephenson Warmlite, Biblertents.com and others make the ones that fit this category. Eureka!com sells their military tents to the public; they are heavier than backpacking tents but also heavier duty. The price of tents at this quality level, from any source, will remind you that they are an investment. If you have a family or group to house, separate into two’s or three’s so as to keep to the smaller, stealthy tents. Distribute tent parts to keep loads lightweight. Always try out your shelter in the backyard before you take it on bug-out ops. Shelter is a priority concept, whatever configuration you choose, it should come out easily and quickly from your pack upon establishing a safe and secure campsite.
Sleeping bag and bivouac bag. The military modular sleep system: a lightweight warm weather bag, a medium cold weather bag plus a Gore-Tex bivy bag make the modular parts of the system. Combine all three for extreme conditions. For the space-critical bug-out bag scenario they compress surprisingly well. Wiggy’s.com makes an improved but somewhat bulkier sleep system. Synthetic fill holds up to the elements better than down. You can add some kind of sleeping pad as well. Self-inflators draw in ambient air, scorching hot or ice cold are the risk. Beware of the ultra high-tech, which is prone to failure. The standard GI foam pad or its civilian equivalent is plenty good. The basic sleeping pad can be used for many things besides sleeping. Think sled. Think flotation. Kneel on it when working in camp. If you want to survive the long-term, a sleeping system will be necessary. The bottom line: rest is necessary for survival.
Hammocks are not for everyone. Try one and decide if you are pro or con. Grandtrunkgoods.com makes one that compacts to a softball size and weighs mere ounces. Jacks'R'Better.com makes the ingenious lay-flat hammock as well as a camo tarp to cover everything. Clark makes the stealth, camo Jungle Hammock. Brace yourself for sticker-shock. Junglehammock.com.
Use a poncho liner or a wool blanket if the sleeping system is beyond your bug-out eventualities. Put on loose-fitting clothing, covering all cold-sensitive points such as feet, ankles, neck, wrists, head, with clean, dry and preferably wool clothing. Then add the poncho if condensation will not be an issue. One trick is to breath outside of the poncho so as to minimize condensation. But your body will naturally release humidity. Wet weather and condensation are problematic when living inside nylon. Ponchos, bivy bags and tents need adequate ventilation: waterproof is a double-edged sword.
The uniform: little or no synthetic clothing. If you are wearing a military uniform, consider the golf-suit: mismatched camo. Your legs should match tree trunks or ground covering while your torso should match branches and foliage. Older military clothing, which can still be found new or barely used, is made better, and the fabric blends contain a higher percentage of natural fibers. By far, aside from the military uniform, wool is still the best for every clothing item. Do not think of wool as exclusively winter clothing or as something that keeps you warm even when soaking wet, as testified in the Filson catalogues. It is indeed every bit of that. But wool is also for warm weather. Lightweight wool t-shirts are made by Ibex.com and Icebreaker.com. Fine wool is expensive, but you buy it "once"--to last. Other natural, God-made materials would be a second choice. Linen, cotton, raw silk, canvas. Wool does cost more than synthetic clothing, which really is just a plastic imitation of the natural fibers. We are no longer accustomed to buying long-life clothing items, so take care of these as in all investments. [JWR Adds: See the many warnings that have been posted to SurvivalBlog about cotton clothing. Search on the phrase: "Cotton Kills".] Somewhat loose-fitting is best.  Pack a small squeeze bottle of Woolite or one of those all-purpose biodegradable detergents such as Mrs.Meyer's. Natural fabrics wash and dry out rapidly if there is sunlight, they can be dried near a fire without melting. “If your feet are cold, cover your head:” Boonie hats that obscure the human form, wool watch caps and helmet liners will keep your head warm in three very different ways. Headgear should allow for the ears to be uncovered. Unobstructed hearing is essential in bug-out survival. Cover your ears only when you really need the extra warmth. Keep a bandana around your neck; keep it wet in hot weather. It will keep the spirits cool, core temperature also. A wet bandanna is best for wiping salty sweat from the face before it burns your eyes. The G.I. wool tube scarf is for cold winds and winter. Carry two and you have makeshift wool long johns. Cut one in half, wear it like pullover collar. No more flying in the breeze.
Boots: Forget style and fashion, or the latest glossy magazine fad. You are the Infantry; your feet are your transportation. Treat them with care. Boots should give ankle support as well as total foot protection. Include removable insoles that can be washed and disinfected.  Judge sufficient support requirements only when standing with a full load on your back. Shoemakers are beginning to understand. Lightweight boots with a stiff ankle section are becoming available. High-tops do not always mean better support. Avoid side zip. Put the boots on, put on a load, now stand on ramp: uphill then downhill, your toes should never touch the front. Now stand sideways on the same ramp, try to roll your ankle, simulating a sprain. It should be next to impossible with the right boots. The boots should also be able to withstand total water immersion without dissolving. As they dry out, they should still fit. Use 550 paracord instead of shoelaces. This will give you two spare lengths when needed. Three sets of thin and thick socks are standard. Blister-provoking friction should dissipate between the layers. Wool is still the best. Add silk liners for the ideal set.
Fire: it warms both flesh and spirit. But in the bug-out strategy, the romantic, dream-inducing campfire will be rare. Have three ways to make the flame. Sparking steel, waterproof matches, refillable all-metal lighters are three that tie for first place. Trick birthday candles ? Do not pre-make petroleum soaked cotton balls. Keep cotton balls dry and sterile for more uses before you commit them to a last ditch fire-starting scenario. When inclement conditions call for a fire starter, far superior to Vaseline, and maybe providing a moment of comic relief, is a tube of Preparation H, containing petrolatum, beeswax and paraffin... Cotton balls, gauze or tissue with this petroleum ointment added will burn with a steady candle-like flame. Some facts about fire: where there is smoke there is fire, and where there is fire there is smoke ... If you are evading, a smoky fire might as well be a flare signaling your position. Firewood itself can also be an issue. When scavenging for campfire fuel, avoid deadwood from poisonous or questionable bushes and trees whose smoke can kill. Some wood is toxic. In 1809 Napoleon lost seven soldiers not to the British army, but to meat rations cooked on Oleander spits. See Fine Woodworking Magazine issue 114, “When Wood Fights Back.” See also “Toxic Wood” from the same.
In bug-out, the small fire, made only for cooking or boiling water, is what you want. A stove is better. Use a very basic commercially produced or self-engineered wood-burning Ranger stove. “Ranger” usually denotes a product of self-engineered genius. People are now selling commercially made versions of these simple stoves. Some, like Littlbug.com, are made of stainless steel as well. You have heard this “stainless steel” nomenclature elsewhere. Aluminum is lighter. Does it really cause Alzheimer’s disease? Is “cast” aluminum safer than “spun” aluminum? Regardless of the answers, one fact still stands: Aluminum is an unstable alloy. Steel is real. The weight vs. utility co-efficient should be the keep or reject rule for every item in your kit. If bug-out is indeed evasion from the confusion of chaos, it is also a focus on surviving the long-term. The extra ounces in steel products remind you that you have long-lasting, durable tools for one thing: to outlive the ordeal.

Fuel canister-type stoves will eventually run-out and become pitifully useless. You can carry a lot of fuel, but the weight will be disproportionate to the convenience factor. Or you can bring a minimal amount of fuel for the emergency.  But bug-out is already an emergency. One which, in all probability, will last longer than we anticipated. Multi-fuel stoves are better.  Circumstances may allow for siphoning of fuel from abandoned vehicles, fuel can be cached along your evasion route, if you are able to follow it. Alcohol is a proven system, so is solid fuel, which is a lightweight and compact back-up strategy. Be careful not to breathe the fumes. Surplus stores have a lot of solid fuel choices because the military dropped many of them for safety reasons.
The Ranger stove is for the unknown and unforeseen duration. This wood-burning type stove can be as simple as a section of snap-together stovepipe, ranging from 8 to 12 inches in length, 5 or 6 inches in diameter. Commercial versions are variations on a steel tube that looks like a muzzle brake for a bazooka. Less is more with these stoves. The principle is to produce contained, intense and protected fire. Use discarded paper products, dry grass, twigs, pinecones, anything that burns. Rows of holes at the bottom and top of the tube allow for a full airflow. The fire rests on an elevated perforated plate or a piece of steel mesh, and roars in seconds. The tube utilizes the chimney effect, creating an upward draft. With a little hand-pressure to reshape the top opening of the tube, you can make your G.I. canteen fit right into it. There is your one-quart teakettle. Transfer hot water into your canteen cup and continue boiling more water. Cook your own recipe-concoction directly in your stainless steel canteen cup, or in the components of the G.I. mess kit, the only cooking set needed. Grab hot items with leather and canvas work gloves. Winterize your leather gloves with G.I. wool liners. Synthetic hunting or shooter’s gloves are a hazard around fires. They will melt with your hand inside and cause severe burns. Neither leather nor wool will ever be a problem. Your multi-tool works best for gripping hot steel. This bug-out micro mess hall makes cooking pots and pans totally unnecessary. The mess kit can work like an oven. Place coals on top and beneath for a Dutch oven effect. Pour boiling water over grains, clamp the mess kit airtight, and you will have steamed food. Who says survival means being constantly miserable? If you are a staunch “cooking-pot” chef, having mouths to feed, take a look at the heavy-gauge stainless steel vertical shaped pots from Grandtrunk.com. The vertical shape better utilizes the heat rising upwards. It also fits into a pack more easily than a wide diameter pot. Avoid Teflon or coated cookware. The toxic coating wears off and you ingest it. Titanium is available, at a price. 
See CascadeDesigns.com or Titaniumgoat.com also offering the Caldera wood-optional stove. Initiation in working with fire includes a tube of Calendula burn ointment in your First Aid kit.
Enclose the G.I. stainless steel spoon & fork, squeeze-bottle of MrsMeyers.com natural detergent, Scotch-Brite combo sponge or stainless steel scrubber and anything else you can fit inside your mess kit. Tall squeeze bottles will fit into the depressions of the mess kit lid. Put in a natural sponge as you close it up. This will compress and keep the contents quiet and secure. The natural sponge is a thing of beauty and holds many times its weight in water. For collecting water from dripping cracks and small springs a natural sponge is unbeatable. The sponge bath gives instant relief from the stress of survival and restores you to an acceptable state of hygiene. A medium-size sponge will practically soak up a canteen full of water. It weighs virtually nothing.

So far the kit has been minimalist and broad spectrum in its philosophy. Those two terms really do go together in bug-out.

Section Three
The bug-out bag should contain much more than carefully chosen gear. It should include strategy dynamics, and other peace of mind intangibles. If we are sufficiently equipped for the duration, if our modest bug-out kit of tools will aid us in prevailing, we will not be so desperate as to fall below our human dignity. The next part deals with food and water. We are more spirit than flesh. Be willing to share.
Food: Health is more than not being sick.  Remember that we are emulating trained combatants and athletes when we are bugging out. The need to keep mind and body alert is critical. The effort to keep energy at peak level is not optional. Pack basic food elements for situations where you might have more time to prepare your meals, you will be thankful to eat a traditional meal that not only looks and tastes like a real food, but has the salutary effects of balanced nutrition.  Avoid pre-packaged, ready to eat junk foods that are full of preservatives and additives that cause health side effects. The appearance of convenience is an illusion.  Select and pack your food separately by food groups from bulk quantities. Use various sized re-usable vitamin bottles, or other screw cap plastic bottles that have been pre-tested for being leak-proof. Food storage should not allow light penetration. GNC makes colored bottles. GearPods.com canisters are modular. Take care of your food. Vacuum wrap or stretch wrap is less re-usable, but a moderate quantity of heavy-gauge foil is essential. Those fuel-stove foil shrouds are very versatile.  Be sure to include a P-38 or bigger "P-51" G.I. can opener in your tool kit.
Phase-1 bug-out is usually intense and evasive. Use your ration packaged athletic food and drink mixes for this initial phase only.  Phase-2 bug-out is when you have achieved a reasonable measure of safety and security, even if it is temporary. Build-up your health as conditions allow in these moments when a stove can be used. Freeze-dried food or MREs are practical but better fare is not difficult to achieve. Phase-3 bug-out is when you have attained your projected destination or objective. Food re-supply takes place then, usually upon the arrival at a retreat or outpost. Nutritional overhaul takes place now. What you choose to carry or store will be for maintaining the balance in your strength and performance. It is unacceptable to think that taking toxic doses of vitamin B or other shock-energy drinks will be enough, you will be in for a few surprises. You should be training in the present moment, and your strength and endurance levels should be on the rise. Solid nutrition, not chemicals or instant-ized pseudo-foods, will keep you stable in this state.
On a 33-day 500-mile course, few of us came back the same. Many of us dropped dangerous amounts of weight. The high-tech sports food had no more effect after the first week. It has its place, to be sure, and its limits. It doesn’t rebuild or restore for the duration. Classic nutrition saved everyone. Learn now which foods support you, discard what doesn’t without apology, even if it fills full-page ads in the magazines. You will not find bug-out nutrition outlined anywhere. Forget calorie-nutrition-exertion co-efficient tables. Bug-out is off the charts. It falls under the extreme exertion category because it is both mental and physical, more akin to sustained warfare than survival. Bug-out is the will to overcome, to remain in control because of the foresight of preparedness. Load your B.O.B. with the most concentrated forms of only the best foods. The term “lightweight food” is an oxymoron. Watch weight, but better food means better performance, the scales tip in favor of nutritional value. There is no room for convenience-packaged junk. Intelligent food rationale is an essential part of bug-out.
The principle in stressful conditions such as the bug-out scenario: high fat content is necessary. Eating a steady diet of wild game, such as venison, long after your freeze-dried backpack food and MREs have run out, can cause sickness and even death, if that missing element: fat, is not added to the extra lean game meat. What is fat content? If your food has any flavor, it is probably the fat. The old-timers talk about this important fact of living off the land. Refer to the classics in survival reading. “How to Stay Alive in the Woods” is just one of Bradford Angier’s many excellent readings, or grab the works of Colonel Townsend Whelen. Their books are among the old hardbound classic treasures if you find them used. These are luminaries among the real men.  
For the extended bug-out context, pack highly concentrated foods, such as dried meats and fruits, pemmican, food bars, dark chocolate, (Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt is 5 star) various dry grains and legumes for boiling or for sprouting, raw cane sugar, sea salt, powdered milk, potato flakes, grain flour. Most trail mix is anything but quick energy, the nuts are slow digesters. Seeds are more quickly assimilated. Canned meats and fish, and various cheeses and butters are highest in total fat content. Load nut butters, honey or non-clogging fruit jams into refillable squeeze tubes. Soup based dishes re-hydrate us and make food easier to digest. Carry a small squeeze bottle of olive oil. It is both medicine and condiment. Study, learn to recognize local wild edibles as well. Get a published guidebook for your region. Attend classes on plant recognition and use.
First Aid: Band-Aids are the least important. Gauze, cloth medical tape and cotton balls can multi-task outside the parameters of First-Aid. Hydrogen peroxide is still the old favorite for cleaning wounds and other uses, keep it in the brown bottle. Essential oils and herbal poultices are also traditional.  Insect bites and stings, poisonous plant irritation, intestinal imbalance, any health condition that worsens by nature, needs immediate attention. Thermotabs prevent muscle cramps and dehydration without provoking the dry-heaves, keep them in your chest-pack. Chafing is a problem in hot weather marches. Foot powder should double-task for this. Tools: Foldable sewing scissors, tweezers and dental floss, suture kit, needles and alcohol wipes for blisters, tongue depressors. Examine the military Blow-Out Kit online, see if it pertains to your Bug-out curriculum. Avoid individually foil-wrapped travel-size pharmaceuticals that waste space and only placate most problems. First-Aid kit contents should focus on basic, broad-spectrum elements of healing and immune system defense.
Keep an eye on problems and stop them in their beginning stages. Besides the need to patch up cuts and scrapes, which become more easily infected in the out-of-doors, your immune system may need some first-aid as well. Include whole food multi-vitamins and compressed green super-food tablets. They are not cheap, but they will keep up your health. Most airborne sickness begins in the mouth. Add three drops of Super Strength Oregano Oil from North American Herb and Spice at P-73.com to your gargle water to kill everything. This variety of oregano is actually akin to hyssop, the biblical bitter herb. Timeless, natural remedies handed down from the ancients, as well as proven home remedies are the subjects of other articles published on this blog. Learn to react at the first sign of declining health.
In the Bug-out context of events, there will have been a massive upheaval of social order, making our departure the only rational solution. Catastrophic events, whether they be acts of God or engineered through human malice, imply the potential outbreak of disease. Your First-Aid kit should include de-contamination: radiation, toxic chemical or vapor leaks, bacteria, viruses, etc. The best remedy is usually physical distance from the stricken area. You can walk 15-20 miles in a day. Running with a backpack, maybe 5-10 miles more. Is this far enough away? There is a category of items, “better to have and not need than to not have and need.” A gas mask that works, medicines and antidotes for pandemic viruses, penicillin, surgical mask and gloves, anti-bacterial liquid soap. Keep an old-fashioned thermometer in your kit. Learn to count your pulse rate with your watch, memorize the fever zones and danger zones. There are also herbs and traditional remedies that help keep you calm and focused in the stress of bug-out. Remember the charming story of Thieves oil, fact or fiction, it represents the savoir-faire which is the foundation of any First-Aid kit.
Water: Learn how to find water. Look downward into gullies, look for green, only water can do that. If there is a choice, it should be flowing rather than still. If you find it before you need it, collect it anyway. Anticipate the need for water. Keep a collapsible canteen or bladder in your kit for this purpose. Purification: boiling is still the easiest and most economical way to purify water. The old method for purifying water consists of two steps: filtering the water through a cloth such as a dedicated clean bandana, then putting it to boil 3-5 minutes, adding 1 minute per 1,000 feet in altitude. Water purifiers are also available in countless shapes, sizes and prices. Some even work. Articles on this subject, field-testing reports abound on the subject of water purifiers. Most ceramic and synthetic filters are imitations of two natural water purifiers: charcoal and cinnamon, both are effective bactericides, cinnamon being from biblical origins. Cinnamon in capsule form or drops, has proven more effective than Imodium, it can be used daily as a condiment while in reality, it is being taken as a preventive measure. Being around water in the wild, cinnamon would be better in your stomach instead of stowed away somewhere in your kit. Read and study this important question of water purification. Everyone seems to have a preferred “best” method. Foil-wrapped or bottled tablets are also available, some are better than others. Water filter pumps: the extra-rugged Katadyn Pocket Filter is the golden standard.  Its mere weight tells you it is all business. The MSR Mini-Works squeeze pump screws directly to a standard bladder to eliminate contamination. Sterilize your water filtering gear and keep inlet and outlet hoses apart to avoid cross-contamination. This seems extreme but deadly bacteria are microscopic. Water is life. It can also be death. Treat water with respect, then do not forget: water is more important than food. Thus the critical survival rule: do not eat unless you can also drink. Under duress, we need more hydration than nourishment. Stress and anxiety are dehydrators. So are diuretic drinks such as coffee, tea, alcoholic beverages, certain soft drinks and commercial fruit juices: these “refreshments” cause fluid evacuation.  Compliment them with twice the amount of water to curb dehydration. Never wait until you are parched with thirst to begin drinking. One military unit urges pre-hydration: the day that precedes operations is spent drinking larger than usual amounts of water, though without exaggeration.  
Your bug-out water container must be able to multi-task. The legendary kidney-shaped G.I. stainless steel 1-quart canteen, or an unpainted stainless steel water bottle can be placed directly in a fire or a stove for the absolute fastest boiling of water. Loosen or completely remove the cap. For purifying water or cooking, time is always critical: 10 minutes to bring a quart of water to boil is too long.  And you might have to add the extra time for purifying. Survival is stressful enough; let alone fooling around with fire and water boiling. Think of the teakettle. The top is domed. A cooking pot with a flimsy flat lid is the worst way to boil water. A steel canteen is always ready to serve the cause. Along with the G.I. canteen is yet another marvel of engineering: the nesting steel canteen cup. CanteenShop.com has raised this lowly military artifact to an objet de art. It holds a generous 24 ounces. That equals more than enough water or food for one person. Add the G.I. canvas canteen cover, which is felt-lined.  Soak it in water to keep canteen contents cool or leave it dry for insulation in cold weather.  The 1-quart nylon MOLLE canteen covers are not insulated. The 2-quart covers are fake-fur lined. They also melt. But they are still very good additions to your kit, just be aware of their quirks. Carry several quarts of water. Several meaning many... as many as you can. A gallon per day of drinking water, that means four quarts, is considered the average personal intake for moderate exertion. One gallon is eight pounds. If you like to drink on the move, use the hydration bladder, but get the kind that open all the way at the top so you can put your hand inside for cleaning. Sourceoutdoor.com makes them. Whatever vessel you choose to carry your H2O, the puncture resistant, fire-compatible steel canteen should be the foundation of your hydration system.
Miscellaneous: As far as other practical gear, here are some personal notes.
No flashlights. Two headlamps are better, one heavy-use and one spare. [JWR Adds: I concur with this wisdom. A headlamp can also be used as a hand-held light, but not vice versa.] A single “white-light” beam is better than the blue light produced by inferior LEDs, which is not true light, and causes depth perception failure in rapid evasion. Single-beam lights cost more but their purpose is to move you at night without incident. Petzl, SureFire, PrincetonTec and a few others make the single beam lights favored by military and night riding mountain bikers. They are essential for night ops. For all other purposes, the inexpensive LED lights are sufficient. Study the question of colored light, red, green or blue, decide if this feature is an advantage for your circumstances. Petzl Taktikka XP and PrincetonTec Eos Tactical are two that include colored filters.

If you absolutely must have a handheld light, SureFire.com or Goncz.net make the real ones. Knock-offs have poor contacts and inferior materials. They will leave you in the dark. Hand crank dynamo lights: squeeze-type military Daco-lites are now collector’s items. They are very noisy, and the dynamo must be constantly going. Freeplay makes the wind-up Jonta, probably the only light of its kind that is not a toy, it also tips the scales at 15 oz. but unfortunately “Made in China”   Chemical light sticks have their place. A thousand uses ? Maybe not. Military surplus stores sell the special holders that control light output. Medics use these.
Batteries: Standardize your battery type and size. Only one size for everything is the ideal. Keep rechargeable batteries only if you have a solar-powered charger. Batteries are fuel. Carry a sufficient supply of battery sets: for example, if your headlamp uses three AAA batteries, your supply should be in multiples of three. Some lights and electronics require specialized batteries, this means keeping an appropriate inventory of spares. If you are not in evasion mode, and not needing bright light, a windproof candle lantern is better than wasting precious batteries for night lighting.
Battery problems: How long will your batteries last? Being parsimonious with battery power may be counter-productive in bug-out. Extreme conditions imply extreme use. Batteries may wear out faster, headlamps constantly used on full-brightness will quickly go dead. There will be no warning with 123a Lithium batteries that go dead without going dim. Other battery issues: can you change a watch battery in the dark or in the midst of confusion, and be able to reset the correct time? Can you change the battery of your rifle scope in the field while your target waits for you? Same for a rangefinder. The more electronics used, the more types of batteries will be needed. Electronics are also fragile. Ask yourself that question of all questions in assembling the bug-out kit: “Can I do without?” Consider non-powered, manual, mechanical equivalents for all but the most essential electronics.
Repair tape. Duct-tape: 100 m.p.h. tape doesn’t need to be 100 miles long. Compress a small roll flat. All adhesive tape will eventually dry out and become ineffective. Protect your tape in a canister or in the humble Zip-lock bag. Get some black or green zip-ties, long ones can be trimmed when the point of no return has been decided. Can you repair or sharpen every item in your bug-out bag? There’s your repair kit list, but keep it micro. Add a Rite-in-the Rain notebook and a pencil or a space-pen. Write and keep notes, record landmarks, physical and spiritual...
Hunting: Constant thinking ahead about food source possibilities should be a permanent state of mind in bug-out. Do not let opportunity pass by, it may never return. Small game is quickly dealt with. Its finality: one meal or two. Big game will consume your time unless you have an established plan for processing this quantity of meat.
Weaponry is highly subjective.  Survival hunting: one rifle is all you can carry. One sidearm. What is the effective range of your firearm? Memorize windage and elevation compensation. For close range, use the sidearm. For noise discipline, shoot an arrow. Try a slingshot. Trapping is silent, snare wire can multi-task as well. Binoculars or a simple monocular: hunting or not, always glass before you go. Is fishing possible where you are? Put together a minimalist kit, and be content with small catches.  Collapsible fishing rods collapse at the wrong time. Make a primitive pole or use a sectional knock down rod if you are casting and spinning.
Knives: k.i.s.s.= keep it simple and sharp. Razor-sharp is normal. No combo-blades:  where the sweet spot once was there is now serration, an unwanted challenge to re-sharpen. Bug-out might include Search and Rescue. Multi-tools have full-length serrated blades and specialty cutters. A razor-sharp plain edge has been used until now for breakout scenarios. It still works. Knives: Rule #1: cannot have too many. Rule #2: a dull knife is a dangerous knife. Get a stone set from Dan’s whetstone.com. His family still sells the increasingly scarce natural Arkansas stones in miniature singles or combo’s, get a piece of the rock. Keep your stones in hard cases or padded pouches to prevent accidental breakage. Double-task your micro-bottle of Hoppe’s or Rem-Oil for lubrication. Stones or diamonds, keep your sharpening system simple. Do not bring what has not already been pre-tested.  Keep your blades scary sharp.  Pre-sharpen every cutting tool you plan on using, each one should be the extension of your hand. Your primary use knife should be non-reflective. Set aside a dedicated stainless knife for skinning and food prep. Maintain your edges frequently, even unused, they still degrade from humidity in the air.
Becker, KA-BAR, Benchmade, Ontario, are among the myriad makers of good knives. They are exceptional American made medium-size knives for the mid-range budget. They still offer plain and simple, well-made knives that get right to work. They all offer non-reflective blades. Buy the best you can afford. Some brands offer a low-end import line of knives. Absolutely avoid these objects designed-in-America but made in... bleep. Boycott such products which offend our nation's deep sense of honor until they are dead and gone. 
Select a few knives, close your eyes and handle them with various hand moves. Imagine both dry hands and wet slippery hands. Buy the one that stays balanced and feels secure in the grip throughout all of your hand movements.  If the hand says its right, it is right. What is a good measure for medium blade length? Lay your hand on the blade, it should be as long as your hand is wide, or thereabouts. Make sure one of your choices has a lanyard slot in the pommel. Attach this medium-size, primary use, “first line of defense” fixed blade knife to your B.O.B, inverted carry, to the shoulder strap opposite of the hand you use. Put a lanyard on it. The best lanyard combines a short piece of 1/8” diameter shock cord added to 550 paracord. Attach the sheath to your shoulder strap with the similar shock cord so it can give and move when falling or crawling. Lanyards: Attach essential items in your chest and waist area with these umbilical cords. Example: the ever-indispensable Cammenga lensatic military compass should be attached so as not to lose it, make sure the lanyard is as long as your reach. Attach all primary-use items the same way, make the lanyard as long as your reach will require. The items you grab for rapid use need to be attached because things get dropped. We fumble under stress. Attach a mini-biner for quick release of your lanyard system. Sidearms should also have lanyards similar in theory to what PistolLeash.com offers, for obvious reasons. Don’t wait until you drop your pride-and-joy sidearm to see the light.
Chopping tools like machetes are lighter than axes. The military had a special short machete made by Ontario Knife, the LC-12. They are still simple and good, you will use this size more often. Heavy “survival knives” try to fill the gap in between a traditional combat knife and a full-size machete. Is there really a gap? The 12” machete is lighter than a survival knife and you will reach for it more often. It is not a thing of beauty. It is strictly business. Its thinner, softer steel blade sharpens faster and when it gets nicked, it is more quickly restored. In bug-out you are not needing a large machete, which will leave damaged vegetation in its wake, signs that say, “follow me.” The short machete is a shelter-building tool. If you still insist on the merits of the big blade survival knife, before you weigh-in your heavy contender, the often imitated, best-of-both-worlds Becker Machax is soon to be made available again through Ka-Bar.  Knife patriarch Ethan Becker at BladeForums.com sheds light on this and all things edged.
Wrap “Ranger bands,” i.e. bicycle inner tube slices, around knife sheathes. These rubber “pockets” can contain small items such as fishhooks, etc. Include both fish and game skinning tools in your collection of blades. Skeletal neck knives like the Becker Necker or Remora from Ka-Bar can be sterilized by dropping in boiling water [suspended by their lanyards]. Keep a variety of knives in different places. A spare fixed blade can go in the chest pack, folders in your pocket. Always have a back-up knife and assign it a place which will never change.

If you really need an E-tool for digging, you can sit on the folding ones like a milking stool. The surplus wooden handle classics weigh about the same as the current G.I. issue tri-folder. The rivets on the classics are three times bigger than the modern version. Both have a folding business end. If you need a shovel for latrine duty only, a small, one-handed gardener is all you need.
Your watch: no quartz, battery types. Manual wind or automatic, heavy-duty types are better for bug-out. Luminous hands. Features such as chronographs, stopwatches, alarms, can and will fail. Accurate time is why you have a watch.  Make sure it can get wet. 
Your eyes: if you plan on fleeing into the woods, which is the ideal, plan on getting slapped in the face by branches. A poke in the eye might be next. Clear goggles will give you a measure of confidence needed for night movement in dense vegetation. Shaded lenses can be swapped out quickly for reduced eye stress in bright daylight. G.I. goggles come with both lenses, they will protect the noblest of the five senses.
If your B.O.B. is going to battle, if it is to include the transport of weapons and ammo in the face of organized military-level aggression, you will need to bug out in stages. Your remote arsenal should be pre-supplied and located in strategic position. Minuteman deployment represents the paradigm of bug-out. This level of the will to act is the most noble of all, but it requires the most experience and training. Bug-out gear will ideally be worn over an LBE vest carrying first line items. Multiple bug-out bags are to be sized for rapid transfer, they must withstand being dropped, dragged and concealed. They must be reasonably lightweight so as not to stall the multiple repeats of re-positioning movement.  Here is where zippered daypacks get ripped open and precious contents get scattered.  Remember, top-loading, no zippers, no velcro …
A note on bug-out vs. bug-in: Defending your castle while standing in your front doorway with your shotgun in hand may remain an unfulfilled dream. The “knock at the door” will probably never come to pass. So don’t wait for it. If you are a known “threat” -- a member of an organized militia, a patriot, a gun collector, a political or religious conservative, then you are probably a target. It is better to establish a communication network in your area, warn each other of the location of the enemy and act accordingly, by anticipation, calculating miles into hours so as to move your loved ones well out of harm’s way in time. You and your property will be observed through the rangefinders of mortar teams or tank crews. The exchange of small arms fire will probably never occur, unless you are the target of a sniper. Modern sniper range is more and more frequently around the one-mile mark. What was once the achievement of the elite few is becoming the standard. Can you see one mile in every direction ? Are you a sitting duck ? Hindsight is 20/20. What has always been the unanimous regret in every case of disaster or conflict, has been the misjudged or lost opportunity for movement. Your B.O.B. is the ready and willing servant of golden opportunity. It will move each family member to reasonable safety, it will carry supplies to an outpost, it will re-position you for recon, counter sniping or underground resistance strategies. Bug-out is salutary movement.

Books and articles wherein theories of what could happen, what might happen, what was going to happen: ranging from the probable to the preposterous, these theories are developed ad nauseam. There is tension in the air. We are all sniffing the wind. The philosophy of bug-out is simple. It is visceral. It corresponds to the gut-level. Taking flight will lead you to more strategic positions of observation and intelligence, where informed decisions can be made by the light of sound reason. Bugging-out is never an act of cowardice.
Put on your B.O.B. and practice agility moves with a full load. Ascend and descend stairs. Jump off the first step, then the second, then the third … Dive onto your bed. Go outside and navigate across a stream, jump across a gully, rise up from a prone position, run bent-over, etc. Be careful with load shifting. Pack heavy items low and close to your center of gravity, which is your lower back: from the base of your shoulder blades to your waist. Forget the way vacationing backpackers are told to load their packs, with weight high and forward. This is bug-out. A complete pack with food, water and gear should be tried-out on a weekend, every item in your kit must face real use. Know what you have on hand and start accumulating the inestimable knowledge of practical experience. Be ready for some surprises. Time is of the essence and now is the time to make harmless mistakes. Later, everything will count. Amend and modify your kit as you train. However, keep in mind that a fully loaded pack used for the first time is never perfectly comfortable. Give it a few tries before you decide to change packs.
Improve your health.  90% of military basic training is comprised of mind and body conditioning. In that order. We fight and we survive first with the spirit. Weapons and equipment come later. Work towards the established average height and weight ratios. Consume low fat in training but consume high fat in survival situations. The finest in bug-out gear will not help someone in poor physical condition. Keep yourself looking respectable and trustworthy; learn to shave with a straight razor that can be re-sharpened. God-fearing individuals should appear as such.
Your true base of operations is within. Improve your soul: learn prayer.
Ask any survivor of combat: God helps him that asks.
There is only one Master of life and of death. Learn how to speak to the Almighty.
A pocket-size New Testament and Psalms weighs mere ounces. It may very well be the most valuable part of your bug-out kit.
Learn to quote the Word of Life by heart, the words spoken by the Divine Master. Be a Good Samaritan and give these words of consolation to a victim of bug-out breakdown, and keep an extra supply of this “oil and wine” in memory. 
We are our brother’s keeper.
Whatever is coming, whatever may happen, it might be beyond bullets. So pray hard.

The winner of the 2011 Ready Made Resources Preparedness Video Contest has been announced. The winner is: Birdbath for his video on Five Edible Plants in Your Yard. Birdbath will receive a brand new Rock Rivers Arms (RRA) Elite Comp M4 (AR-15 series compatible ) complete Barreled Upper Receiver and a Trijicon Reflex sight with a combined retail value of more than $1,400! Congratulations, Birdbath! OBTW, Birdbath also submitted another great video, on P.A.C.E. Planning.

Robert B. mentioned some great ideas for the "hobbies". I don't have a problem with my spouse, but it does give me some ideas of how I can normalize my activities to other people I know. I have an idea for your food storage though: One of my favorite things about food storage, aside from the incredible peace of mind it gives me, is that I never/rarely run out of things. I just go to my pantry. Maybe you could conspicuously run out of something important a few times, necessitating a trip to the store, and then bring up that having extras would make life just so much easier. It won't get you the wheat and rice and beans you need for a typical year supply, but you could get oil, peanut butter, vinegar, spices and such to start, and then maybe work other things in as you go along. Just a thought. - Sarah M.

J. McC. highlighted this article with some fascinating demographic statistics: Rural US disappearing? Population share hits low.

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The folks at Survival Logic recently posted a fairly comprehensive list of outdoor survival schools in the United States.

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Storing Water for a Dry Day Leads to Suits. (Thanks to Ian for the link.)

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Our Editor At Large Michael Z. Williamson wrote to tell me that he has writings in four sci-fi book releases that are all scheduled for August. The first is: Exiled: Clan of the Claw. Mike describes this as "an alternate Bronze Age timeline where the Chicxulub meteorite never impacted, sentient saurians and felines must fight for territory, as the Mediterranean Basin infills.  A shared universe with Harry Turtledove, S.M. Stirling, Jody Lynn Nye, John Ringo and myself." Next is fanciful book, titled Lawyers in Hell. It was edited by Janet Morris. Mike describes it: "In Hell, airborne lawyers including Joseph McCarthy and S.V. Benet must seek the head of the most honest man in Hell, to be deposed by Satan himself.  Also catch my friend Leo's story, "Revolutionary Justice," wherein Che Guevara is condemned to be recognized as, 'That guy off the T shirt.'" Next is an anthology titled Citizens, which I've mentioned once before in SurvivalBlog. It is a collection of stories written by military veterans, including several classic works and some new ones. Mike's favorite story in this anthology is "Alamagoosa", by Eric Frank Russell. The last book on the list is a paperback reprint of Mike's Ripple Creek mercenary story Do Unto Others. In this tale, a family that owns an entire system of resources hires Ripple Creek's best team to keep them safe from hostile agents in a domed mining colony.

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More Gunwalker fallout: Guns from U.S. sting found at Mexican crime scenes. Meanwhile, we read: ATF Manager says he shared Fast and Furious Info with White House and Worse Than Gunwalker? State Department Allegedly Sold Guns to Zetas

"As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me.

Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.

He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle [that was] against me: for there were many with me.

God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. Selah. Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.

He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant.

[The words] of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war [was] in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet [were] they drawn swords.

Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee." - Psalm 55:16-23 (KJV)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Production will end temporarily on Monday, August 1st for the SurvivalBlog 5-Year Archive CD-ROM. (Since Lulu.com is leaving the CD-ROM production business.) The good news is that it has been reduced to just $14.95. We hope to have new production available from a different vendor within a couple of weeks, hopefully at the same price. Thanks for your patience.


Today we present another two entries for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 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.

When starting the process of preparation for TEOTWAWKI we must first plan for the most likely scenario that will cause the survival situation you are prepping for.

When contemplating the TEOTWAWKI scenarios, one is confronted by a plethora of daunting challenges and theories from Magnetic pole reversal, getting hit by a rouge asteroid (don’t worry about this one Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis will save us) to solar flares knocking out technology, and the list continues.  My fear is that the end will not come from a major event but from a minor event that triggers a chain reaction of panic, that causes a societal collapse.

In my former life I have been to areas of the world that have suffered from just this type of situation a relatively small event that causes a panic that quickly spreads like a wildfire until it causes destabilization.  Some critics would argue that this could not happen in a technologically advanced society, because of the quick access of mass information. I feel this quick access to mass information is going to actually cause any panic to spread faster. Please do not conclude from this that I am anti-technology, I in fact love my computers, Internet, I-phones, GPS, and television. I am purely expressing, this flow of information that is unfiltered by logic and fact could potentially cause a problem.

If you Google December 21, 2012 you will get 25.4 Million results, some against a possible TEOTWAWKI situation but most are for it.  I am not worried about a major event ripping the planet apart and destroying all life on the planet, I do not plan on building or buying a long-range spacecraft to whisk me off to another world; I will just sit back and enjoy the ride to oblivion. What does worry me is that with all of the 12/21/2012 hype from television to the Net is that the seed of panic has been planted in the minds of a large population of the planet. If on 12/21/ 2012 a relatively small event dose happen (i.e. California earthquake, a solar flare knocks out a power grid, or even a Terrorist attack) happens it could cause a mass panic with global implications.  Though these events would not normally cause any permanent damage the groundwork has been laid on this day to cause mass physiological damage.

The situation I will prepare for is a small event that causes panic, which leads to society’s collapse.  When a society collapses human nature forces new societies to immediately emerge, some of these societies will survive and some will die out as quickly as they started.  These societies can consist of small bands of people to large groups, predictably with time some societies will merge creating new larger societies and eventually civilizations.  Through out time humans have survived by banding together for a common goal wither that goal is to rob, pillage and plunder other groups or to work together to cover the basics of survival and form a community, these new societies will inevitably emerge.               

After traveling the globe, I have come to the realization that there is no such thing as a big problem only a bunch of small problems lumped together, solved the small problems one at a time and the “Big problem” goes away, this is the methodology I take for my preparation. 

Before I started my family the concept of survival was not a complicated one, I have the gear and skills to basically become a “ghost”.  Simply put, I'd grab my gear, head for the hills, and survive off the land until I was ready to find a stable group to join.  Now that I have my family to protect, survival has become more complicated and has required more planning and preparation, my planning and preparation is based on a flexible timeline (because in survival flexibility is key)  In this scenario society has collapsed  what to do:

Getting home

Because a majority of us work a normal job to support our families the first challenge we face is getting to our homes or safe spot where our families and gear are, thus the preparation of a Get Home Bag (GHB).  There is "no one size fits all" GHB as the gear you need to get home will vary from person to person and location to location, so I will just touch on the items I have for my situation.  I normally wear a suit and tie to work everyday, my office is located in a suburban area, not far from a city center and only 10-to 15 miles from my home, in a moderate climate area. 

While suit, ties, and dress shoes are great for power meetings in a survival situation they do me little good, so the first item I have is a change of clothes that consist of jeans, a long leave shirt, a lightweight jacket, riggers belt, a nondescript hat (with no logos), socks and hiking boots.  I know there are you out there that love your 5.11s and BDUs but camouflage or tactical look in an urban environment in crisis is equivalent to holding a sign that says “Shoot me, I’m an authority figure” I selected this outfit strictly to get home to my family and gear, think about it as “urban camouflage”.

Next, I have my defensive tools, a Glock pistol and Kel-Tec Sub 2000 chambered for the .40 S&W caliber, I selected these weapons for their lightweight and concealment properties rather that any ability to get into a long range, sustained gunfights.  I have 200 rounds of ammo, a sturdy folding knife, ASP baton and a can of pepper spray foam and all of these items can be concealed on my person.

My bag is a nondescript backpack that would not look out of place in any urban setting, in my pack I have water containers, an MRE, Fire starting supplies, 550 cord, duct tape, Flashlight, batteries, space blanket, multi-tool, pen/ paper, and first aid kit. I normally carry my cell phone and have a land line in my office no guarantee they will work but try the simple things first. 

In the event I can drive home, I have four different routes by vehicle and four on foot, most of these routes can be interchanged with each other to account for variables along the way. 

We have a family plan in place, once the crisis begins, I have 72 hours to get to my family before they will bug-out and follow their emergency plan.  If all goes well I would make it home before they bug-out, if not I will make my way to our Bug-Out Location (BOL).

The First 72 hours

At our house, we have preparations for two possible scenarios “Bug-in” or “Bug-out” we have enough food and water to support our family plus four for 30 days, our food stores are a mixture of canned and dry foods that are easy to prepare and are shelf stable for a bug-in situation.  We also have a 14-day supply of portable survival rations that can be pack for transport for our bug-out.  In our home supplies, we have enough food, water, weapons, ammo, and other survival gear to last our family plus four for 30 days.  Based our preparation on 30 days based on the natural lull after a major crisis before that 30 days is up we will either have moved to our BOL or worst case if we were un-able to move we would have started the “scout and scavenge” patrols in our area.

Once we are home the real work begins, in our plan the first order of business to fortify our location, (this is more than just the normal security precautions we have in place already) This includes but is not limited to reinforcing the entry points against brute force attacks. Making the house blend in, if the neighbors’ have fled in panic and the other houses in the area look disheveled with random clothing or items in the yard, throw some non-necessity items in the yard to insure your house look just like the other houses (hiding in plain sight).  Bring your Bug out vehicle (BOV) into the garage (if possible) and get it loaded with your bug out gear if not already packed.

Monitor the situation as best as possible, we keep a survival radio in the house as well as a ham [multi-band] and CB radio on hand with an alternative power source just for this purpose.

After the first 72 hours, you must make the decision to attempt to get to your BOL or to stay in place. If you think, it is not safe to move wait another 72 hours and reassess.                 

The Bug-Out

Our BOBs include everything we need to make it to and establish our BOL, which is at a higher elevation; in a wilderness area approximately 2.5 hour drive on a good day, (which is not the case in this scenario) as with the “GHB” everyone’s “BOB” needs will be different.  You can find hundreds of articles on what to have in you BOB take some time to research and test then make a list and put your Bob together with the supplies that will fit your plans.  Our bags are military style large MOLLE packs and my pack supplies are different from my wife’s, but contain the same basic elements for survival in the case that one or the other packs is lost or destroyed in the bug out process.

Here is where all you tactical and camo guys and gals can get interested, for our bug out we have our more tactical clothing and gear because we are going to do the majority of our movement at nighttime. 

We have not set this up as a combat operation, but more like a survival plan with combat tactics, it is simply moving as un-noticed as possible and using as many force multipliers to assist us as possible, in this case the cover of darkness. Like our “get home plan”, we have several routes established for both vehicle and foot and all of these routes have multiple areas of possible resupply, established waypoints, and rest /regroup areas.  We will attempt to use our BOV (mid 1980s Dodge Ram Charger, with some modifications) to get as far as possible, for this phase my wife will drive, I know insert woman driver joke, but I can confidently say she could out drive most of the readers here.   I have her driving in the event there is a questionable area we have to traverse through, along our route, my training has afforded me the skills to slip ahead and scout the route or shoot from a moving vehicle effectively.  

When setting up your Bug out plans you must make sure they are commiserate with your skills and ability’s.  Don’t make your BOL on top of a ridge that the only way in is a 100 foot vertical climb if you can barley make it up a flight of stairs with out getting winded. If you choose a location like that, make sure you train yourself to be able to make it to your BOL. Do not attempt nighttime movements if you do not have the land navigation skills not to get lost.

The Bug-Out Location 
We selected our BOL for several reasons first of them was its remoteness as stated before it in located a higher elevation in a wilderness area, it is not on the path of least resistance, and it is highly unlikely that someone would just happen upon it.  The area is abundant with natural resources like a fresh water source, wildlife and fertile soil.  Only a handful of trusted people know where our BOL is, and these people are welcome there.

As with the supplies it takes to get here our BOL is stocked with what we need to live not just survive, and everybody’s supplies for their BOL will be different.  Some irregular items we have stocked ours with is salt licks for wildlife, shelf stable seeds for vegetables, solar panels & wind turbines, for energy generation, and we build a smokehouse for food preservation, and extra building supplies and tools in case we need to add or build a new structure.

Our BOL has approximately a 25 yard stand off  from any surrounding cover for defense purposes as well as established hidden escape & evasion routes, the location it sits on has great visibility out to see approaching threats.   

In conclusion, your greatest survival tool is having a flexible plan that allows room for ever-changing variables it keeps you focused on the mission and help to keep you calm facing the stress of TEOTWAWKI until you get to your BOL and start establishing your new society.

I am getting along in my years but, I recognize that I may need a high power Main Battle Rifle  (MBR) in the future if significant issues surrounding our standard of living within the US remain unresolved. So, what rifle should I choose Let me start by saying that a 5.56/.223 in a AR-15 or any other light caliber rifle does not qualify as a MBR with me. The 5.56/.223 55 grain round requires 2,800 fps at impact to produce a large wound cavity. When shot from a  20" barreled  AR-15 the round is below that impact velocity at about 150 yards and from a 16" barrel at 75 yards.(1). I own a AR-15 and I like it but, I limit it to defense and close quarters use mostly. My wife and daughter can shoot it comfortably but, it is more a ‘multipurpose utility’ type weapon. Because you can kill game efficiently, shoot through large cover (12" diameter tree), and drop the enemy well beyond 600 yards I choose a MBR that shoots the 7.62/.308/.30-06 round. As Boston T. Party says, “Boys, give up your carbine toys for a real man’s weapon-a .308 battle rifle” (2). Murphy’s law of combat applies: INCOMING FIRE HAS THE RIGHT OF WAY (3) . The AR-15 debate can rage elsewhere.

Many rifle designs are available using the .308/7.62 x 51 round , even the venerable M1 Garand. DPMS and Armalite make AR style rifles in the .308 ( the bolt locks into the barrel chamber instead of into the receiver like the M1/M14) and, they are very accurate. Also, DSA makes FAL type rifles which are very good as are the HK91s. But, I want an American forged and assembled  rifle capable of shooting an American caliber bullet. Okay, I am biased. Consequently, the FAL and HK were not considered. As for the .308 AR style rifles - they have too many serious negatives with the direct gas impingement system, the design complexity, and  parts availability. The AR-10 (et al) is just not rugged enough for a prolonged unsupported survival situation. Besides, I have shot the Garand and M14 many times in the military. I know and I like them- familiarity means quite a bit. Also, the Garand and the M14 are rated as the best two MBRs available today-  ahead of the FAL, HK, and the AR-10 (4) ( DPMS was not rated and if their customer service rapport is any indication of their product then I can see why !)  It is the Garand and the M14 (called the M1A by Springfield of Illinois) that I will discuss, compare, and from them make a selection.

I learned the Garand during my ROTC days and could disassemble and reassemble it quickly and do this blindfolded. Owning one for many years I have shot the rifle and admire its’ simple design. My experience with the M14/M1A  is less than that with the Garand but, I have shot  hundreds of rounds through this rifle on several occasions over the years. I really like it’s handling and smooth recoil. The two rifles are very comparable in weight with the M14 being around a pound lighter than the Garand (unloaded with wood stocks) but about the same when loaded . Both have the fewest parts of any MBR out there - 62 for the Garand and 61 for the M1A/M14. Incidentally, the AR-15 has about a 119 parts (5). This is significant! I have always examined mean time between failure (MTBF) for components my life depended on - the more parts the more failures-an easily understood and an important fact. Parts for all MBRs  are abundantly available now but, will they be should "The End Of The World As We Know It"  (TEOTWAWKI) occurs? Probably not!

Further consideration of the Garand and its' son the M14 brings us to another controversial issue. The military Garand  receiver ( not to be confused with the commercial variety  receiver serial # 7,000,0000 and above) was made to mil spec which means # 8620 steel forged and heat treated to a hardness of 60 on the Rockwell scale at the US National Armory in Springfield, MA - (not the corporate armory at Springfield Armory, Inc. of IL.) (6). As one writer states: “After July, 1942, receivers used WD Steel No. 8620 Modified, the same as for the bolt. The receivers were then heat treated. They were carburized 0.012" to 0.018" at 1600EF followed by an oil quench temper for one hour at 480E. The resulting hardness was Rockwell D 59 to D 67" ( 7 ).       

In metallurgy, hardness is defined as the ability of a material to resist indentation by an applied load and within limits the strength of a metal increases in proportion to hardness (8). This Rockwell hardness scale was used for the military M14 also but, very few civilian M1A/M14  manufacturers ever made forged receivers - most are cast. We know the story: military Garands are readily available; military M14s are not. However, forged M14s are currently made by LRB, and the James River Armory (using the old TRW US contract M14 specifications). As I recall details from structural engineering I know that cast steel is not forged steel. “Forged Metals tend to be harder, stronger and more durable than cast forms or machined parts. The reason why is simple: pressure alone forms the steel into the right shape, and the metal's response to such overwhelming force tends to align the grain. That means you get more cogent internal structure and a far greater ability to withstand warping and wearing”. (9) Smith Enterprises - probably by others too- reheat M14 cast receivers to Rockwell scale 55 readings (10). This process can encase 'Beachmarks'  which are clamshell marks seen in fatigue failures of materials. Overtime these marks shorten fatigue life which is defined as the number of cycles required for a material to fail at a certain stress (11). Furthermore : Pre hardened and tempered (uncarburized) 8620 can be further surface hardened by nitriding but will not respond satisfactorily to flame or induction hardening due to its low carbon content (12 ).  The process of carburizing steel is applied to increase the carbon content of the surface, so that by suitable heat treatment the carburized surface will be substantially harder than the core (13 ). Reheating these cast receivers makes a hard surface but, a defective core remains unchanged.

Caveat Emptor-  the M1A cast receivers and  parts from the modern Springfield  Armory, Illinois (SAI) are not unanimously recommended. Their M1As are not made with forged steel nor, are those parts reheated to milspec standards.  Some complain that the parts are rough and that some bolts stamped TRW are fake (14 ). Other reports state that SAI  used Chinese made parts in their rifles recently- the Chinese often do not use # 8620 steel. Nonetheless, many strongly recommend the M1A and consider it an accurate and reliable MBR (15 ). Some reports of  failures in the M1A receivers are cursory. In 2001, a report clarified what was believed to be another report of a  M1A receiver problem when the failure was actually induced by the barrel threads ( 16 ). Regardless, forged steel has greater laminar cohesion than cast steel and because of this it is stronger and  harder. Should you have a choice for a MBR then, make that choice after analyzing the facts as well as the costs. A forged  James River Armory M14 costs $2,295 and the LRB M14 costs  $ 2,495 ; a similar configured SAI  M1A costs around  $1,700.  Also, do not forget the Garand.  A excellent  8620  mil-spec made  M1 Garand will cost around $1.400-$1.500 from the Garand Guy with excellent used milspec GI parts and a  new barrel (17 ). "Get the best battle rifle for you, cost be damned".“If you are truly serious about battle rifles then you should eventually get into a forged receiver which will last you at least 75,000 rounds  (just like a real M14)”(18). I agree.

Of course, the venerable Garand wins the cost / milspec contest  hands down. When you need parts to work hardness means greater MTBF and, that is what I want in TEOTWAWKI  when the 'Bad Guys' show up. A soldier’s adage:  “Works good lasts a long time”. To me that means a military Garand serial number at or  below 6,099,905 which was the highest and last milspec Garand serial number). But, if I get richer quickly then a James River or a LRB semi automatic M14 would be a outstanding choice and for some even a better one. Since my MBR will be used in austere circumstances (post SHTF) I want it forged.

The Garand is restricted to a 8 round en bloc clip and, the clips are inexpensive. Many clips can be purchased for a hundred dollars and, they can be stored loaded without weakening anything. Conversely, the M1A/M14 has a detachable 20 round magazine which is expensive (around $25 to $40 each). Besides, the magazines need to be rocked into place and, this can be fussy for the unpracticed. Though the fire power from the M14/M1A is greater than that of the Garand I  tend to believe that the Garand clips are more reliable than M14/M1A magazines so, I regard this as only a small to moderate advantage in favor of the M1A/M14. Consider this: 5 loaded  8  round en bloc clips weigh less than 2 twenty (20)  round M14 magazines (types of magazines weighed is unknown) (19) . As one expert reminds us “A calm and focused M1 Rifleman can get the job done just about as well as with a M14."(20 ).

The real problem with the Garand is the gas system and it is a serious one if ignored. The Garand has a fixed gas system which ports enough gas to the op rod to cycle the mechanism that  ejects the spent brass and that loads another round into the chamber. The .30 US  caliber (.30-06) military ball ammunition for the M1 is made with fast burning powder to keep the ported gas pressure on the op rod head at a level that will cycle the rod without unduly over stressing it (early produced op rods did fail at times ) . Nonetheless, this action tends to be somewhat violent. Most commercial .30-06 ammunition on the other hand is made with slow burning powders that will port too much gas to the op rod causing it to bend or even break during firing and possibly damaging the receiver too. The heavier the commercial bullet the stronger the ported pressure. The Garand was made for 30 Caliber M2 Ball and AP. Their ballistic characteristics were detailed in Hatcher's Notebook pages 29-30 excerpted in the following table:(21)

Comparison of Various Military .30-06 Bullet Types



Muzzle velocity Velocity
@53 Feet
@78 Feet



(ft. lbs.)

Cal. .30 M2 152 2,805 2,755 2,740 2,556
Cal. .30 A.P. M2 168.5 2,775 2,730 2,715 2,780


So, ammunition for the Garand should be restricted to the bullet performances stated in this chart. Hornady is a commercial producer that makes specific M1 Garand ammunition- 168 grain A-Max match. Federal American Eagle also makes a 150 grain .30-06 round that works well as does PMC. But remember this as one blogger asked: 
“Hmmm... I didn't realize you couldn't use just any .30-06 ammo in a Garand. So, I can't just pick a popular hunting round to use for hunting, target shooting, etc. without checking to see if it can safely be fired in it? Short answer..... NO!” (22).

However, a fix for the M1 gas plug is available so most commercial rounds can be fired safely. The Shuster (a set screw allows settings to be adjusted) and the McCann ( must install 1 of 5 independent jets) gas plugs are available for less than $50. These are adjustable and useful especially in austere conditions when any ammo available may have to be used . An M14/M1A does not need these devices since the M14M1A gas system is highly refined, self adjusting and one of the best made. This is a very important feature which at this point makes the M14 a better TEOTWAWKI choice. But wait, not so fast!

The nice aspect about the M1's .30-06 chambering is that the M2 ball ammo is a specific application of the .30-06 round. This means that the cartridges have the same head spacing specifications.(23). Fix the gas problem in the Garand and you are ready to go with most ammunition available. This is not true for the .308 and the 7.62 x 51 rounds which are different (beware some Garands shoot this too). Clint McKee of Fulton Armory, has a very good discussion on the differences between these cartridges on web site.  His companion Walter Kuleck says :”Most of the time it's a distinction without a difference. But if you intend to shoot .308 commercial in a military arm chambered for 7.62MM, first check the headspace with .308 commercial gauges first. You may get a surprise” (24). In another discussion in these same paragraphs  Clint further states : I completely agree with Jerry that if you have a chamber with headspace much in excess of 1.636 (say, 1.638, SAAMI field reject), you must use only U.S. or NATO Mil Spec Ammo (always marked 7.62mm & with a cross enclosed by a circle) since the NATO mil spec calls for a far more "robust" brass case than often found in commercial  (read .308 Winchester) cartridges”(24 ) . So, if you are having a .308  made or buying a MBR made for the .308)  then remember ,“ that 1.631-1.632 is a near perfect headspace for an M14/M1A or M1 Garands chambered in .308 Winchester. But I think that it also near perfect for 7.62mm NATO!” (24). Any reputable gunsmith can check head space. One more caveat- the Garand when fitted or refitted to the .308 / 7.62 x 51 cartridge may also require the Shuster gas plug or the McCann gas plug adapter depending on the brand of ammunition you are shooting. The .308 (oddly) at times produces more chamber pressure than the .30-06 (25)  and, op rods respond only to the ported  pressure so, I recommend the gas plug adapter with this modification especially if you are going to shoot enhanced commercial .308 rounds. The  M14/M1A, of course, does not require this modification.

The overall length of the Garand  is 43.6" while the M14/M1A is about 44.3".  The standard Garand is equipped with a  24" barrel without a flash suppressor while the standard  M14/M1A has a  22" barrel to which you must add 3 - 4" for the specific type flash suppressor attached to  your gun - resulting in a barrel length of about 25". This is an important consideration in a tactical environment. As one author states, “the lack of a muzzle flash is much more tactically important on a semi-auto than a muzzle brake”(26).( I will add that this is true for standard weapons). But, before we press- on  know that the T-37 pronged flash suppressor is available for the Garand at the Fulton Armory for about $36 without installation . The T-37 is about 2.5" in length and making the Garand 46.1" (2 inches longer than the M1) in overall length when added (27).

This information is about the standard model rifles but, not all Garands or M14/M1A’s are of standard length. The venerable M1 does have a variant known as the “Tanker” model. This weapon sports a 18.5" barrel as does the LRB M14 which is called the same name too. Also, not all Garands have to shoot the 30 US caliber (.30-06) which is hard to find and relatively expensive. Modern means optimum length. “If  it’s going to have a .308 barrel, why choose a 24" when something closer to 19" is better ? All in all, a .308 “Tanker” Garand is precisely the flavor of  M1 best suited for the 21st Century rifleman”(28 ).

The loss of energy from a 19" barrel is not significant for the .308.  Many have said  that if you cannot do it with a .308  then a .30-06 will not make any difference. This line of reasoning holds true for the M1/ M14 debate . The “Tanker” Garand  , however, does have a muzzle blast issue and a muzzle brake is recommended. This device can be purchased for about $150 from Smith Enterprises. Remember, it is a brake not a flash suppressor. Nonetheless, if  I were to choose the Garand - it would be the .308 Tanker model.        

Yes, the simple things are hard. This is true when justifying optics for rifles that were made to be shot with iron sights. All of us fall into this consumer oriented trap. We buy expensive optics to bypass what we really need to learn; that is- ' how to use iron sights'! The Garand  and the M14/M1A have excellent iron sights. The former are calibrated in yards while the latter are in meters. Both have front sight posts that transverse about  20" at 250 yards so, if the bad guy is no thinner than your front sight post 'shoot'  him. However, a Battle Sight Zero discussion shall be left for another time.

All this is not to diminish the value of enhanced optics when the iron sights are mastered for these weapons. The M1 has some ability to accommodate scopes although limited and , several manufacturers make a scout rail for the Garand and the M14. The M14 has a better ability to mount optics. In  fact, LRB makes a M14 receiver (M25) with a built in rail for a scope, or a red dot device. SAI also has a scout version for their  M1A. The scout rails designed for the Garand require a barrel that has a military taper (contour) for an easy fit although a non standard Garand barrel can be fitted with a scout rail it will be at added cost. Because the “Tanker” barrel follows a GI taper to a point before it changes shape costly modifications are required for a scout rail (29).  The point is check the  rifle barrel taper before buying a scout rail. Garand scout rails can accommodate Extended Eye Relief scopes, and lights. Remember however, that this discussion is about use in TEOTWAWKI . If you believe that, “Two weeks after the Balloon goes up, iron sights will rule the world ”(30) then a scout rail is redundant. Save the money and buy  night vision equipment. You should consider ruling the night too.

If the enemy is in range, SO ARE YOU       
This statement is not necessarily true for the M1/M14/M1A shooters. The Taliban can confirm this. If getting a  MBR is important to you then most lightweight calibers should be unattractive. The choice for me is between the Garand and the M14. Manufacturers and sellers of these weapons are numerous. The CMP, the Fulton Armory, the Garand Guy, Orion, the James River Armory, plus a few others make or refurbish milspec forged receiver Garands and, they do a great job. Forged M14s are currently made by LRB, and the James River Armory as discussed.

After considering all and because I am not getting younger I must say my choice maybe  different from yours. The milspec M1 receivers are easy to get, but the .30 US caliber ammunition is drying up fast. The .308 Garands are really nice but, by the time you add accessories then the price is around $1,700- 2,000 dollars ( 17). Also, we are talking about receivers that were last forged in 1957. So, because of the age of the milspec receivers, the fact that we do not know how close to the fatigue life we are with these refurbished receivers, that a M1 scout rail modification is subject to barrel contour, that a muzzle brake and magazine adapter are needed, that a gas plug may be required and because we will be operating in a non-support environment the .308 Garand is my second choice. The LRB M14 is my first choice with a  M25 receiver in the scout version with a 18.5 barrel. With this choice I get a new forged receiver, a scope or enhanced optics ready weapon, and no worries about the remaining fatigue life of the receiver. Costs will be around $2,700. Note that the cost of a  SAI  squad scout M1A is ($1,900). With the LRB choice I can, without reservation, pass this weapon down to my kin knowing that the receiver service life started with me and should be good to 75,000 rounds because it was forged.

Not  all of the available MBR choices were examined. I restricted the field to the weapons that I thought were the best. If you have a FAL, HK, Galil  or whatever and, you can use it well, then nothing I stated should change a thing. I also cannot emphasize enough that when you buy a MBR especially a M1/M14/M1A  you must check the headspacing, the throat erosion and, the muzzle wear particularly, if it is used. A bright and shiny bore means nothing but, it is so often advertised as a standard by those who are unaware of what makes a gas gun work. A gun that can hurt you or, those around you if the tolerances are worn beyond limits. This discussion also was for a TEOTWAWKI era.  In this period simplicity, durability, and quality equal reliability and those facets weigh heavier than they would during normal times. So does caliber choice which is why I want a .308. Although I choose the expensive MBR your choice can be the “Tanker Garand” and little will be sacrificed. Regardless, the choice means little if you do not practice with it. Practice using the iron sights until proficient, store up some spare parts and ammunition, and then get some optics if you need them.

1& 2. Party, Boston T.Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed. (2002 -2009)  p. 9/5 & p 10/3

3."Murphy's Laws of Combat". From the Fulton Armory web site, www.Fulton-Armory.com  M1 Garand FAQ;M1 Garand Information Place-bottom of page.
4. Party, Boston T. Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed.(2002 -2009) , p 10/34  and chapter 11.
5. ibid., p10/9

6. ibid., p 11/36

7. The History of the M1 Garand — Springfield Armory and World War II Production , www.m1-garand-rifle.com.

8. The definition of Hardness., www.Scribd ENG1108 -L3- HARDNESS- IMPACT-CREEP _ FATIGUE- OH”S.
9. Forged metals. Metal Tidbits, Forge. Forge Group, www.steelforge.com.
10. Party, Boston T. Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed.(2002 -2009),p 11/37.

11. Beachmarks and Striations. Reed-Hill, Robert E,and Reza Abbaschian. Physical Metallurgy Principles. 3rd ed. Boston: PWS Publishing Company,1994.

12. 8620 case hardening steel. www.interlloy.com/au.

13. The Process of Carburization for 8620 steel., www.crucibleservice.com

14. Party, Boston T. Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed.(2002 -2009),p 11/38.

15. Pat's Product Review: Springfield Armory M1A., www.SurvivalBlog.com, July 18, 2011

16. Most Horrendous M1A/M14 kB! Ever. A comprehensive metallurgical report courtesy of Fulton Armory. Dr. William J. Bruchey, 509 Tome Highway, Port Deposit, MD 21904. www.thegunzone.com, April 5, 2001.

17.Tanker Garand." Tony Giacobbe". gman366@comcast.net., Monday, July 11, 2011 4:49 PM,
To:  author."The tanker with a standard Criterion barrel (they do not make a chrome-lined
tanker) is $1300 after the $100 rebate, and the scout rail, muzzle brake & adjustable plug would be an additional $450". 

18. Party, Boston T. Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed.(2002 -2009), Affordability p10/25. "How good is the cast M1A. made by Springfield Armory"? p11/38.

19. ibid., M1/M14 mag to gun.  p 11/8.

20. ibid., M1. p 10/26

21. Hatcher's Notebook,  Julian S. Hatcher, Major General, U.S. Army, retired, The Telegraph Press,1947. p 29-30. www.m1-garand-rifle.com.

22.".30-06 ammo for a Garand". www.thehighroad.org. tools and technologies, rifle country, Swampy's reply to SteveW13. Oct 1, 2003.

23. "Headspace for a M1 Garand". javelinpress@yahoo.com., email to Boston asking about .30-06/30 US caliber headspacing. June 9, 2011, 8:35 PM.

24."What's the Difference between .308 Winchester & 7.62x51mm NATO?". Clint McKee and Walt Kuleck, www.fulton-armory.com, M14 frequently asked questions.

25. "What's better in an M1 Garand: .308 Winchester or .30-'06?. Clint McKee. www.fulton-armory.com, M1 frequently asked questions.

26. Party, Boston T. Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed.(2002 -2009). p 11/12 (top).

27. M1 .30 Caliber Rifle www.inetres.com/gp/military/infantry/rifle/M1_garand.html.Nov 21, 2004 – Length, M1: 43.6 in (1107 mm) M1C, M1D: 46.125 in (1172 mm).

28. Party, Boston T. Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed.(2002 -2009). p 11/14.

29. "Tanker Scout Rail Question" . Tony Giacobbe ( Garand Guy).  gman366@comcast.net., Monday, July 11, 2011 4:49 PM.. reply to author. "If you want the scout rail for a scope, an Installment would be cheaper (about $150 , compared to $150, + $100 fitting for the scout rail).

30.Party, Boston T. Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed. (2002 -2009). iron sights.  quote from Clint Smith. p 8/11.

Some of us don't always have a spouse that is 100% on board with prepping.  So I thought I'd send a list of some hobbies that help with prepping in a SHFT situation, and have a non-SHTF function too.  Most have worked out well for me, some my wife has become more avid than I, the remaining she tolerates.

Flower Gardening - Allows for purchase of gardening tools, composting, development of good growing beds, fertilizer, books on growing and seeding, and pest control products. You will have to pay attention to vegetable safe products, but in SHTF you will have what you need for the next planting season. I also replaced a number of evergreen bushes around my house with Rosemary. Might as well let as much of the decoration plants have a second use too. 

Coin Collecting - Focus on silver coins. As a side note, keep in mind if you collect silver proof sets from the U.S. Mint, you may have to trade the whole set, to keep that plastic packaged 'silver' stamp on it and to instill trade confidence. Pre-'1965 dimes, quarters, halves and silver dollars - including the modern One Dollar Eagle Silver coins may have a premium compared to buying junk silver, but it gets me fewer strange looks from my wife.

Wine Collecting - It's a great way to have both barter items, and antioxidants/vitamins.  One word of caution: think French bordeaux. The higher tannic levels can allow for 20+ year storage, where California wines will usually not last that long. The downside?  Guess who brings the wine to the family get-togethers.

Birdwatching - Specifically having bird feeders. This brings small game into your area, especially  pigeons, doves , squirrels, and other goodies.  In addition to having surplus bird-feeder seed to attract small game, binoculars are easily justifiable.  My wife looks at the yellow finches, I look at the pigeons and doves under the feeder.

Attracting wildlife - Well, that's what I told my wife when I bought salt licks. When the deer started eating the roses, I just stored the salt licks in the basement. Yep, that went over well.

Grilling - Since propane based grills will probably be out of fuel a few days into SHTF, I recommend becoming skilled with charcoal based grilling.  The grill should be able to smoke meat too.  They are adaptable for wood based cooking, and since coal - hardwood coal - burns hotter and quicker, you can buy in bulk without much convincing.  Hardwood charcoal also (usually) does not have embedded lighter fluid, and can be used to pre-filter water when ground down - buyer beware.

Cooking - Learning how to cook well, can justify iron skillets, heavy duty pots and pans, and general items like mills, manual food processors, and cooking books - one that I recommend is called: The Silver Spoon. It is a Italian cook book, that has instructions including pigeons and doves, pheasant, wild game, and how to butcher the animal -, it's $35-to-$50 dollars depending on where you buy (Phaidon Press, ISBN-13: 9780714844671; ISBN-10: 0714844675), It is thick as a brick; but for me it's worth it. Downside? Now I'm the primary cook in the house.  Thankfully, I didn't have to justify extra plain bleach by doing the laundry.

Target Shooting - When I left Massachusetts and moved to America a few years back, I bought a M1A almost immediately after moving in and getting a new couch. Once my wife saw the cost of .308 ammunition, saving money by buying it cheaper in bulk was easy.   Later I didn't have to argue too much to get a good .22 LR: $9 for 100 rounds versus $18 for 20 rounds. We still buy in bulk to save on both.  Since my wife is a little gun-phobic, she did not have any background with firearms. For safety reasons I was able to get her to take some classes on handling a rifle, and teach her how to shoot. I know, not as good as tactical training, but she is down to 1.5-2" groups at 100M on my rifles that can do it. For me, the key here is not to talk 'tactical', but to talk about firearms as collections, and stress release at the local range. Also, synchronizing when I to to the range, with her prime 'phone time' helps. Ladies, think Monday night Football for getting to the range.

Food Storage - canning as a hobby helped me. But anything beyond a 30 day supply is very hard to justify in 'non-prepping' terms. Personally, I was get up to about 90 day supply  before the 'comments' started. I just point to my grandparents having easily twice that amount, and there weren't 'prepping'; just normal Depression era people.  I still get a hard time about this, but it's worth it.

Medical - Couldn't find a hobby for this one. I just do my best not to call my medical equipment a med-kit, and stick with the term first-aid.  Oh, and I never say that quick-clot is for gunshot wounds, I just remind her how many times she has dropped a knife.  Your mileage will vary.

I'm looking forward to your latest book. Best Wishes, - Robert B.

More Shrugging: Alabama coal mine owner Ronnie Bryant became so exasperated by over-regulation that he declared: I'm quitting." (BTW, I just added this article link to my American Redoubt page.)

Here's a dip in spot silver, just like I mentioned. Buy on the dip days!

Jeff B. sent this: Proposed road rules for farmers anger some. Note that this newspaper article comes from Montana, where in 2009 they enacted a gun law that amplifies the 10 Amendment. Predictably, Federal legislators want to deem purely intrastate commerce somehow interstate. That is utter nonsense. It is high time for the Supreme Court to overturn the absurd 1942 Wickard v. Filburn decision--an example of war-time statism run amok.

Mark in Cyberia mentioned the fascinating Deep Capture blog, edited by the CEO of Overstock.com. His latest series, "The Global Miscreants' Bust Out," shows how various criminal and jihadist organizations are combining to take down our system. This is in Chapter 20 of 24. Mark mentioned that the previous articles are similarly mind-bending.

Video clip: Ron Paul's Urgent Warning of Credit Crisis, Dollar Collapse, and Social Unrest, and Loss of Liberty.

Items from The Economatrix:

A Nervous New World

Financial Suicide

Default?  Don't Put it Past Them

Fed Survey:  Growth Slows Across Much Of The U.S.

Durable Goods Orders Fall 2.1% in June

Prepping goes gourmet! Reader Steve O. was watching a Food Network cooking show and spotted this: Wheat Berry Salad.

   o o o

B.H. sent this: As Criminal Laws Proliferate, More Are Ensnared

   o o o

The first hint of real release date for the remake of Red Dawn came recently when it was announced that it would be released on September 8th in Denmark. Could that be the global release date? Things have been up in the air, ever since MGM transformed the villains in Red Dawn from Chinese to North Korean, after the film was already "in the can."

   o o o

Reader R.D.C. spotted this: Top 10 Reasons America Depends on Survivalists and Preppers

"Give me a M1 Garand [that is loaded] with black tip A.P. and I'll be able to take care of most any problem." - Clint Smith

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

After reading Some Safety Advice for the U.S. Military (an Atlantic article linked from Odds ‘n Sods in the July 22, 2011 SurvivalBlog posts), I was compelled to finish part of something that I’ve written on for some time. While Jeffrey Goldberg’s piece specifically addresses military personnel and contractors, personal OPSEC is an absolute must for civilian travel abroad as well. On that note, I would also draw attention to Survival Blog reader O.P.’s SurvivalBlog article "Emergency Prep for Travelers" from June 27, 2011

In brief, I’ve lived and worked outside the US for the past six years in several countries in the Americas, Asia and Europe. Prior to this, I’ve also had the opportunity to travel extensively with the military and as a civilian. During this time I’ve observed quite a few instances that could have or did end in difficulties for the parties involved as a result of seemingly benign decisions. The majority of such difficulties can easily be avoided or mitigated through maintaining a solid sense of situational awareness and practicing basic OPSEC.

Know Before You Go

At face value, this might appear to be stating the obvious. But taking the time to put a fine point on the following well before purchasing a ticket is the type of common sense that has become alarmingly uncommon. In short: do the research.  

Current Social/Political Climate: The US Department of State web site is a solid starting point; be fully aware of travel advisories for your area and the surrounding areas as well as the location of the nearest US embassy. Stay on top of both international and local news for your destination: what is the current threat level at and en route to your destination? Are there political/labour disputes in the area? Is a public transit strike eminent? Be aware of everything that might have bearing on your mobility and personal security prior to departure.

Medical Concerns: Consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information regarding health concerns for every area that you’ll be traveling through. A lot of inoculations are given in series and take time to complete. Ensure that you have time to complete the appropriate courses. As you would at home, ensure that you have an ample supply of personal medication and spare glasses/contacts.

Local Info: While nothing social can be predicted with 100% certainty, do your recon and find out what recent visitors to the specific area of your destination experienced first-hand. Whenever possible, speak with people and follow up by checking relevant online sources. As with the first point, the goal is to develop the most complete picture of your intended environment prior to departure.

While a multitude of subcategories for each of these could be laid out in greater detail, this is intended as a basic starting point.

Basic Conduct

Central to personal OPSEC is being inconspicuous: you do not want to stand out from the crowd. Generally, “smart casual” clothing is the way to go while in transit, adjusted for climate, of course. Avoid military style clothing, especially during transit. While utility trousers might be your every-day apparel or perhaps appropriate for your destination and activity, they draw attention. On that note, congrats on winning your local IPSC event and completing a course at Thunder Ranch – leave the hats and T-shirts at home.  The same goes for your favourite old 3rd Mar Div T-shirt. These are V-ring bullseyes for those who seek to spread hate and discontent. 

The same goes for the gear or luggage that you’re carrying. Walking through customs, passport control and out of a terminal wearing overtly tactical clothing and carrying an olive drab pack covered with MOLLE webbing draws immediate attention from law enforcement as well as elements of the populace that you’d rather not be marked by. In fact, you are likely to draw as much attention from the authorities as that scruffy, spaced-out 19 year-old kid with dreadlocks. Always remember that you are a foreigner and therefore the subject of increased scrutiny.       

Behaviours differ by location – watch and learn. As a specific example, I once observed a group of children throwing stones at a seemingly affable dog, making a concerted effort to drive it away. While this seemed cruel, I refrained from commenting or intervening. A bit later, a gentleman explained that rabies was a serious issue in the area and medical attention was limited at best. Given the remote location and lack of medical care, the children had been taught to avoid dogs at all costs and to drive them away immediately. Again, what initially appeared cruel was literally the response to a potential life or death situation for the locals.

Death by Misadventure

Unfortunately, the bulk of problems experienced abroad are not a result of natural or man-made disasters. Rather, they are most frequently the direct result of what might be referred to as pilot error. In the interest of avoiding digression, I will keep this simple. If one partakes of the grape or grain, do so in true moderation. As for controlled substances and vice-related activities, they are quick if not immediate vehicles for disaster. Despite their prevalence in any given environment, consider them illegal and grounds for imprisonment. While I take it for granted that this would be SOP for SurvivalBlog readers, the actions of normally savvy individuals never cease to amaze.  

Avoid engaging in political or religious debates. Either is a quick way to put oneself in an extremely bad situation. At the very least, you’ve publicly identified yourself in a potentially negative light in the eyes of the locals. Do not rise to negative commentary about the US. While I am very proud of the fact that I am a US citizen and take pride in having had the privilege of serving in the military, I do not express this by engaging in defensive conversation about US politics or foreign policy. Further, I do not volunteer that I served in the US armed forces. Even if the party you are chatting with appears simpatico to your beliefs, keep your contribution to the conversation casual and know when to politely excuse yourself.

Personal Items

I’ll not go into personal carry items in depth at the moment, as this is a spiraling topic worthy of its own post. Further, the location and purpose of travel – a business trip, mission or charity work, a sport vacation – will dictate varying lists of necessities. Very briefly, I would suggest the following items and practices in addition to the standard copies of relevant documents:

  • A tourist map of the area; know where you are at all times as well as the location of the US embassy or consulate as well as the most direct routes to transportation points
  • A small phrase book; in the event that you aren’t fluent in the local language, the value of this item speaks for itself (pardon the pun); furthermore, it’s helpful to keep a list of often used phrases on an index card in one’s back pocket
  • Good footwear; even if you are required to wear “dress” shoes, have appropriate footwear immediately accessible – no one wants to be stumbling about looking for their shoes when an alarm goes off in the middle of the night or the when the walls begin to shake
  • Money; as with the standard BOB, have an appropriate amount of the local currency in appropriate denominations as well as a reserve of US dollars and credit cards on hand before you land – while one might save a few dollars on the exchange rate by using an ATM to withdraw local currency upon arrival, one might also find machines out of order, the bank/bureau de change closed or any other number of difficulties resulting in lack of funds
  • Encrypt/protect all personal electronics; phone, thumb drive, laptop/iPad, etc.

A brief word on self-defence items: be extremely careful in ensuring that you are in compliance with local law, most notably in the case of knives. Speaking specifically of the UK, Ireland and France, locking blade knives of any description are illegal in an urban setting and at the discretion of any LEO you might come into contact with in any other environment. A diver with a dive knife, a fisherman or someone engaging in bushcraft away from the city is generally okay. That said, “personal protection” is not grounds for carrying any “offensive weapon” in these countries. Again, regardless of what is posted on various forums or in purposefully ambiguous legal documents, regardless of length of blade or make of knife, carry in public is not permitted. In addition to researching this very thoroughly, I further base this on personal conversation with LEOs in each of these countries. Bear this in mind and make decisions accordingly.

Final Words

With all of this in mind, be polite if not friendly. It’s important to note that – contrary to what the mass media would propagate – people of other nations generally do not hate Americans. I have personally found this to be the case world-wide. Dress casual and be casual. Maintain accurate situational awareness at all times. Make it a point to be a gracious, nondescript guest in foreign lands and look out for your fellow travelers.

Best wishes and safe travels!

There have been plenty of essays written on the art of “Bugging Out”, many of them concerning the various vehicles which the authors are fond of for every specific condition which one might face.  In particular, there are several good essays on the use of bicycles as “bug out” vehicles.  This note is going to be a bit different, for I’m not going to even consider the use of a bike as a mode of personal transportation, but rather as a “mule” for transporting one’s kit instead.

There are plenty of bike options out there, and plenty of experts more than happy to discuss with you the pro’s and con’s of each particular style, but from my perspective (at least the one I’m presenting here) such things don’t really matter.  It’s the fact that you have a reliable two-wheeled vehicle which can easily support the weight of several hundred pounds and be pushed with relative ease along paths and trails which would otherwise be available only to the people using their feet as their sole mode of transport.

To really get a feel for just how much weight and what varied cargo can be carried on a bike, I would like to give a few short history lessons.  To begin with, when the bicycle first began to be mass-produced in the later decades of the 19th Century, it gave the working class an enormous boost in personal mobility.  Remember the old song “Bicycle Built for Two”?  Carriages (and more importantly the horses to pull it) were expensive luxuries which only the rich, and those posing as the rich, could afford.  Mass-produced automobiles were just a dream in Karl Benz’s mind, but the bicycle became the affordable transportation for millions, and has continued in that venue for a 125 years.  Even though countries like China and Vietnam have begun to abandon their bicycles for automobiles as their economies improve, they are still a primary mode of transportation in many Third World countries such as India.

During the course of the French wars in Indochina to keep their colonial possessions in the post-World War II period, they came up against the very, very determined forces of the Viet Minh (the direct antecedents of the equally determined Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army which gave us such grief in our own attempts to subdue the area).  They were a very low-tech army, in complete juxtaposition to the French who were for the time quite high-tech (using primarily American equipment).  In order to remain unseen by the French Army and Air Force which patrolled the main roads, the Viet Minh responded by using the most common vehicle in Vietnam at the time, the bicycle, as their primary mode of transportation.  However, since the established  roads were well patrolled by both French Air and Ground forces, the Viet Minh responded by taking to the jungle trails which crisscrossed the countryside.  They didn’t use the common bicycles to ride, but rather to transport an enormous amount of food and materiel from their safe havens in China to the battlefields of Vietnam.  The best example of this is that during the Siege of Dien Bin Phu in 1954, the Viet Minh managed to transport and supply an entire battery of artillery which was sited in a position which the French military engineers had concluded was impossible to either transport or supply. They did this by using bicycle power to provide 100% of their needs.  Cannon barrels, carriages, wheels, engineer’s tools and an enormous amount of ammunition was moved completely by bicycle, much to the dismay of the embattled French forces in Dien Bin Phu, who suffered mightily from the accurate fire from these guns.  In point of fact, this specific battery was one of the causes of the ultimate defeat of the French forces at Dien Bin Phu, which led to the ultimate defeat of the French Union forces in Indochina, which led to the American involvement in Vietnam.  “For want of a nail”, etc.

The successors to the Viet Minh, the Viet Cong, also were quite adept at using the bicycle as a mode of transporting military equipment, and did so quite successfully throughout the years of war between North and South Vietnam between the partition of Vietnam in 1955 and the conquest of South Vietnam by the North in 1975, though they were able to make use to a greater degree of powered transport vehicles along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  Nevertheless, the lowly bicycle remained a standard mode of transporting equipment and food though areas with difficult terrain.

What this means for 21st Century Americans is that there is an available, affordable and very low-tech method of moving fairly large amounts of gear over fairly long distances, through fairly rough terrain at a minimum of cost and effort.  If a bike will carry a 200 pound person and 100 pounds of gear, it will carry 300 pounds of gear if you are pushing it.  (This is not to imply that you can in fact push that heavy a bike over all terrain, but it ought to be able to carry it.)  Even if it is only carrying 200 pounds of gear, that’s a good four times what you can be expected to carry on your back, and as much as a good mule can be expected to haul for you over the same sorts of ground.

(Speaking of which, here’s another history lesson. During the 19th Century, the British Army in India expected an Elephant to carry some 800 pounds of baggage, while in the US Army at the same time, General George Crook in his experiments with packing mules while chasing the Apache in Arizona managed to get his mules to carry 300 pounds of gear.  That’s a lot of baggage!  And having spent the past 25 years researching and playing Cavalry in reenactments and films, I have a pretty good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of equines.  This is one reason why I recommend a bicycle!)


One of the very nice things about using a bicycle as a mode of transporting your gear rather than yourself is that you can get away with a much lower tech bike than you might otherwise find acceptable.  Most folks these days in looking for a bicycle for transportation would look for the latest mountain bike, complete with shocks and every bell and whistle and titanium sprocket on the market.  However, it’s not necessary in the least.  If you can’t find a good bike at the local Goodwill [thrift store], you can always just go to Wal-Mart and pick up their old-fashioned one-speed bike for all of about a hundred bucks.   The only modification you should make is to fit an extension to the handle bars so that you don’t have to walk too close to it and bang the back of your calf against the pedal every step of the way.  Make sure that you make it adjustable, so that you can change sides of the bike that you’re walking on depending upon your trail, but other than that, it’s pretty simple.  In a pinch, a shovel handle and some duct tape will do. [ JWR Adds: Installing folding pedals--such as those used on some collapsible bikes--would also help considerably.]

Of course, you’ll probably also want to make up some sort of pannier arrangement of bags to fill with your “BOB” gear, but that can be extraordinarily flexible.  Just strapping a couple of back-packs on either side will do, and you have the option then of ditching the bike and humping one of the back-packs yourself if need be.  On the other hand, if you chose to you can become quite imaginative in how you are going to organize and fit your kit on to a bicycle due to the fact that you’re not intending to actually ride the thing. This gives you a lot more places to carry things, and the ability to stow a lot more of it besides.  You can also somewhat more inconspicuously carry a long-arm (or two) near at hand, but still ready for action.

Among the advantages of using a bike for transporting gear rather than people is that when pushing a bike you can follow trails (or even non-trails) that someone trying to ride a bike isn’t likely to want to traverse with a heavy load.  Likewise, if accosted by malcontents during your travels, it’s significantly easier to drop the bike and go to a defensive mode while standing on your own two feet than it is to do so while mounted on a moving bicycle.  Besides this, you can always use the bike as a temporary cover/concealment if need be (though I don’t recommend it, as your gear probably isn’t going to make very good cover in the long run, but it beats thin air).  Furthermore, if you find that you have to abandon your bicycle for whatever reason, well, then you do so.  Load up the absolute necessities (just grab the BOB and whatever else you can carry from it’s resting place) and it goes from being a bike-borne kit to a back-borne kit.  At least you got whatever other supplies you’re carrying further down the road than you would have just on your back, and probably at a lower cost to your body as well.

An added bonus to this of course is that you can use routes otherwise not available to your road-bound fellow travelers. Overgrown railroad right-of-way, dirt tracks and even game trails are your rightful highways, and though you’re likely going to take up a bit more space going over a trail than a person hoofing it is, it’s not by much. This is one of the arguments against using a single-axle two-wheeled cart with the same carrying capacity as a bike, in that they take up too much room on the trail.  By taking “the road less traveled” you will there-by be able to avoid most of the issues of dealing with your fellow man, a.k.a. “The Golden Horde”.  There are always “issues” that can arise, but the more you can avoid them, the better off you are.  By being off the beaten track (in other words not on the main roads) you are right away avoiding most of the issues of a mass exit from the cities.  There will likely still be plenty of people on foot to deal with, but the chances of them being dangerous (and operating in a pack) is at leased somewhat lessened. 

Last but not least, having a bicycle when you get to your final destination is going to just be a handy thing to have, be it for transportation, setting up a generator, or what have you.  A bike is a pretty darned fancy “low-tech” vehicle, and when they came out 100+ years ago in mass-production, they changed the face of the world.  They still have the capacity to do the same work today and tomorrow, for that matter.

All in all, for someone expecting to have to Get Out Of Dodge on a shoe-string, or is anticipating driving as far as they can and then going on foot the rest of the way to whatever haven they have in mind, using a bike as either a primary or auxiliary mode of transporting their gear can make an enormous amount of sense.  While you are not gaining any speed whatsoever over the other foot traffic, you are gaining a significant amount of carrying capacity.  The difference between 50 and 200+ pounds of kit is enormous, and can mean literally life and death, especially if you’re expecting to be burdened with someone who is otherwise unable to help out with “carrying their own weight” (such as an aging parent/grandparent, or small children).  If they can provide their own locomotion, you can provide the “horsepower” to carry not only your own equipment, but theirs, too.  If you have no such burdens, you can simply carry more and carry it further than you would otherwise be expected to do, and do it over some pretty intimidating terrain as well.   After all, if the Viet Minh could transport and supply an entire Artillery Battery by using nothing but bicycles for the task, then you should be able to use one to get yourself well on your way to your destination.

The use of the simple, old-fashioned bicycle as a mode of carrying your gear is an option which, in my humble opinion, makes an enormous amount of sense. If I’m caught in an urban area in a SHTF scenario, the first thing I’m going to do is plop down a check  (always carry a few spares.  Even if they do cash it eventually, it’s still worth your while to purchase whatever you may need on the spot) on a bike at whatever store I happen to be closest to, and head for home, in the sublime knowledge that if nothing else, my back and feet won’t hurt nearly as much after the first 20 or so miles as they otherwise would if I were carrying my kit all on my person.

Dear James:
There is a nasty trend to require a government permit to possess body armor.  This is very disturbing because the right to protect yourself is the most basic of human rights - the right to life.  It is  a slap in the face to deny law-abiding people protection that is [in itself] purely passive and harmless.

Australia has "led the way" in telling citizens that they need state  permission to protect themselves - armor is illegal to import without permission, and illegal to own "without authorization" in several Australian states.

Now this evil idea has caught on with Canadian politicians - in 2009 the province of British Columbia made it illegal to possess body armor without a permit.  To get a permit you must "prove a reasonable need".

Exceptions are made for law enforcement, licensed security workers and  "Individuals who possess a valid firearms licence". Otherwise, no permit means your armor can be seized, up to a $10,000 fine and six months in jail.

If you believe you are "at imminent risk" you can apply for a 90 day exemption and hope that the bureaucracy approves it before you are attacked. Good luck with that!

Manitoba has passed a ban with NO exemption for firearms license holders.

Alberta's ban
is currently awaiting final proclamation.

and Nova Scotia is now proposing a ban.

This legislation is evil because it will cause the death of innocent folks who, because of  all the bureaucratic hassles, cannot (or will not) buy a vest ahead of time.  Then they will not be able to get a vest fast enough when the need arises.

The argument given is to keep criminals from using armor but this is naive, as serious criminals will have little problem buying armor via the black market.  Do criminals have too much of a problem getting illegal guns or drugs?  Should we ban cell phones, because they are so useful in carrying out a crime?

Over the years I have helped many people who needed protection in a hurry: victims of criminal attacks, fearing further attacks, and witnesses to court cases, to name just a few examples.

In the US a felony conviction bars you from using Body Armor, but law-abiding citizens are perfectly free to protect themselves.  Right now the only notable exception is Connecticut that has a ban on mail order sales. (But you can still buy locally).  We hope this odious legislation does not spread, but advise folks to be on the lookout, especially in the "Nanny states".  Be ready to call your Representative vote at the ballot box. And be ready to vote with your feet, if need be.

Yours truly, - Nick at BulletProofME.com Body Armor

I agree with the response posted, and your reply. While older versions of Perl used relatively poor pseudo-random number seeds, the original author's use of a time (at runtime) index as a pseudo random number (PRN) generator seed is a reasonably "secure" method of generating a series of PRNs. That was the first thing I looked for in his code, and such a method would be secure given the caveats you suggest. (That is, it won't be up against true high-power cryptanalysis). If applied with random letters instead of words as suggested, (like a "real" one time pad), it would be a better implementation.

As a note, true hardware-based random number generators are available at much lower costs these days. That would dramatically improve the cryptographic security of a generated one time pad.

Thanks for the great blog. - Marc X.


Good morning Mr. Rawles,  
Reader need to be very careful with encrypted communications. It is illegal for amateur radio operators to broadcast encrypted signals. This should be treated as other illegal activities that we would implement only during a true SHTF situation [where there is no longer a rule of law]. Anonymity in the mass of global communications will provide some protection but Ham operators should be extra vigilant as they are holding a Federal license and they should know better.  - G.B.


James Wesley:
I am sure you realize this but the principal weakness of a one time pad does not lie in ones ability to break it by brute force but rather by ones ability to simply kick down your door and confiscate the pad. The police confiscated firearms during Katrina and could easily confiscate one time pads, computers, radio equipment, etc as well.  

A secure system requires that the key (one time pad or other) also be protected using something like a password based encryption process for example.  Ultimately, the human is always the weak spot in any crypto system and is the weakness most often exploited by crackers. If your objective is to prevent local law enforcement or government from reading your messages you’re going to need to protect your keys/pads from searches and confiscations. - F.C.


Thanks for posting my article. I wasn't sure if it was a little too geeky for the blog, but with all the radio communications articles on the site, I felt that I'd be in good company

I've just read Mike D.'s comments on my one time pad (OTP).  From what I see, I think all of his points are valid.  One of the biggest challenges in writing this was identifying what computer skill set to write to.  The Perl programmer in me wants to use all the latest modules, and make the code as cryptic as possible.  But developing code that way would greatly reduce the audience that could use it.  The reason that I chose to use a simpler method was to provide a solution that did not require a computer science degree to implement, or to ask the readers to trust me completely by writing far more complex code.

To me, this breaks down as follows:

  1. By using words and adding your own keywords instead of pages of letter/character generation, communications are kept short reducing the probability of direction finding - it's a tradeoff between air time and code complexity.  Note that in a SHTF condition, a force-decode would require special hardware, software, and analysis. Code breaking teams would probably be prioritized on bigger fish.
  2. Using a dictionary as a base, then adding in your own terms, saves a lot of typing; and if you prefer your own word list, I tried to make the code clear where to reference your own source word list.
  3. A smaller code base also allows for 'open'  and readable code.
  4. By keeping it simple we allow for a larger audience base to use the OTP,  while still needing significant computer resources to force-decode the content - classic 80/20 rule. 
  5. And last, I've learned to never let the perfect prevent the good from being implemented. Implement good first, then improve.  

Hopefully those that have a programming background are inspired to create their own version, and those that do not know programming are able to use this solution without too much trouble. - B.R.

After reading the BYU Kid’s excellent article on physical fitness for TEOTWAWKI, I had to respond.  I had to take exception to his statement that Crossfit wasn’t recommended because it’s “Metabolic conditioning is not conducive to the ultimate goal of being useful, functional and simple.”

The heart of Crossfit is in fact functional fitness for Law Enforcement and our Military.  I’ve been involved in fitness all my life due to my chosen occupation as a police officer (now retired) and my current occupation as a protection specialist which is what most people refer to as a bodyguard.  I’ve been a competitive long distance runner, power lifter, triathlete etc.  You name the fitness activity and I’ve tried it.  I am now 56 years old and discovered Crossfit about two years ago.  I’ve never been so fit, strong and lean as Crossfit has made me.  Crossfit would work well for any prepper searching for a better level of fitness.  All of the exercises described in BYU Kid’s article are either recommended as Crossfit exercises or are very close to a version Crossfit recommends.   Crossfit is completely scaleable to your current fitness level so that you can work at your pace to improve yourself.  I would urge any SurvivalBlog readers interested in making huge strides in improving their fitness level take a look at the Crossfit web site.  You’ll find drop down menus listing all of the crossfit exercises complete with videos to demonstrate their simplicity.  I’m not a crossfit gym owner, I don’t even belong to a crossfit gym.  I viewed their videos and tried the workouts and got results.  That is what’s important to me, results.  It is not even necessary to purchase expensive equipment.  Most of what’s needed involves dumbells, barbells, pullup bar and a place to run.  You can spend as much or as little as you like to build your own home gym.  Try it you’ll like it! - Carl L.

John K. mentioned a simple chart to aid in the practice of learning Morse code.

   o o o

Reader Henry M. recommended the new TNT cable television sci-fi drama, "Falling Skies", starring Noah Wyle. Henry says: "It is actually pretty good viewing and has some common survival strategies in each episode.  It has not really hit it's stride yet, but has great potential.  I would enthusiastically recommend the show, with the caveat that it will probably be Big Brother and not aliens that comes to take our kids away."

   o o o

Swampfox, MD recommended a video from the gun and knife reviewer "Nutnfancy", discussing societal collapse and the importance of community. This complements your material fairly well.

   o o o

Yet another book review, this one from Switzerland: Reading List: How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It

"In a larger sense, we want very badly to believe that we have evolved beyond the implacable rules of the veldt, the iron law of tooth and claw. But in reality, the veldt is always with us, along with the knowledge that some in our pack, our extended family, are irrevocably broken. Rather than listen to his message, or endlessly ponder what series of events or severed synapses led to his rampage, or agonize over greater meanings, the Norway shooter should be put down like the rabid animal he is and let the human beings get on with mourning their dead." - Michael Bane, regarding the July, 2011 bombing and shootings in Norway

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My upcoming novel "Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse" (a sequel that is contemporaneous to the action in "Patriots" ) is now past the Second Galley milestone, and soon will be readied for printing pre-release review copies. The new cover is nearly finished, and it looks stunning. The novel is being published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. Please delay ordering your copy of "Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse" until October 4th. By concentrating all of the orders on just the release day (also the designated "Book Bomb Day"), we hope to help propel the book into Amazon's Top 100. Thanks!


Today we present another entry for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 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.

Three years ago, my husband and I had never heard the terms "prepper", "survivalist" or "bug out".  We were blissfully unaware of our country's and world's dire circumstances and didn't know how to do much of anything truly useful.  This is a chronicle of the journey that brought us to where we are today, and I have included some of the specific books, resources and equipment that are the fruit of much research and thought.  We didn't have much to spend on equipment or commercially packed stores of food, but through providence and thrift, we are much better able to weather the storms ahead.

It was during the spring of 2008, just after our graduation from college, that my husband and I tied the knot.  We were barely aware of the financial troubles that were creeping in on the country, except to say that we had both applied for any job related to our fields, but there were so few out there and neither of us got hired.  My husband took a job for which he was over qualified, but it was enough to pay the rent on our tiny apartment, a converted attic in a very old house.  We had no air conditioning, barely any heat except what rose from the apartment below, and the smallest kitchen in the free world.  Every ceiling was at an angle, which let to a lot of hunching and head-thumping and our one and only closet housed the miniature bathroom. But we were two of the happiest people alive.  We quickly learned how to live on a very tight budget, within our means, and to be content with what we had.

A year later, we had saved and been blessed with enough to put a down payment on a small and comfortable house with a mortgage payment of 5 dollars more than our pittance rent had been.  The house had a yard and I discovered flowers.  It started with a few sorry petunias and turned into an all-out smorgasbord of flowers as I tried to learn everything there was to know about growing plants.  I mowed through stacks of library books on the subject, not knowing where it would take me. At the same time, my husband was developing a keen interest in economics and soon we had competing stacks of books on our chosen topics until it became clear that several bookcases were needed. 

It was during the course of my husband's studies that he came across words like "the gold standard" and "fiat currency."  The more he learned and the more I took an interest in what he was learning, the more alarmed we became about what the government had done and was doing with our currency, legislation, and constitutional rights.  It was not a moment of sudden epiphany, but a slow, creeping uneasiness.  We were becoming aware of the fragility of things like our food supply and power grid, and came to the unpleasant realization that in 17 years of formal education, we had not learned one skill that would keep us alive.  Sure, we could find Uzbekistan on a map, figure out the square root of 64, or explain what Hobbes thought of monarchy, but we didn't have a clue how to grow and preserve food, hunt, or build a shelter using only hand tools.  Like infants, we were utterly dependent on others for the bare essentials.  And we were not the only ones.  There are millions of Americans depending on tomorrow being exactly like today or the day before.  The food trucks must continue showing up at the grocery to restock the shelves, the gas must continue coming out of the pumps at the local station, and the savings in the bank must hold value until they are ready to be spent. 
Were we the only ones seeing the problem with this? Was anybody else paying attention?  We felt very isolated in our new-found realizations, until we discovered sites like SurvivalBlog.com and LewRockwell.com.  Suddenly there was this community of like-minded people who were concerned about the future of the citizens of the country and weren't waiting on politicians or the government to "bail them out" should there ever be trouble.  We were introduced to the concept of food storage and preservation, and realized that if we were to continue eating after grocery stores were cleaned out by the hungry hoards, my gardening skills must be put to use in a large vegetable garden. I bought books like Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth and John Seymour's The New Self-Sufficient Gardener.  I learned the difference between heirloom and genetically modified seeds and why heirloom seeds will be what keep us alive.  I learned to can and stocked up plenty of canning jars (while they were on sale, reduced in cost further with coupons bought on e-bay), enough for several months worth of food.  I bought the All American 921 All-American 21-1/2-Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner because it had no gaskets that would need to be replaced, should there ever come a time when spare parts for such a thing would be in high demand and short supply.  It is built like a tank and will be reliable for years to come.  I learned about root cellaring from Mike and Nancy Bubel's book Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetablesand another excellent book by John Seymour, The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It.

We also discovered the Mormon teaching that each family should have enough food stored up to live off for a year.  We found that the Mormon church has canning facilities across the country where anybody can come and can basic staples like beans, rice, wheat, sugar, flour, oats and more at "at cost" prices.  The canning sessions are four hours long and the whole group packages everything that each person has ordered, packing it either in #10 cans or mylar pouches with the appropriate sized oxygen absorber in each for up to 30 year storage life in some foods.  Use of the otherwise costly equipment is free, the cans and oxygen absorber prices are "at cost", making them much less expensive than can be found online or in stores.  Only items purchased at the storehouse can be canned during the session, but bags of oxygen absorbers can be purchased (at 10 cents per absorber or $10 for a bag of 100), as well as mylar pouches (for 30 cents each) and #10 cans (for 90 cents per can+lid, although I would not recommend this unless you intend to "check out" the canning equipment for a few days, which is also free). We were able to, in a single session, can enough food for six months or more for hundreds or even thousands less than commercially available food storage packages.  While the cannery is a little shy on variety, it is a great start and the rest can be repackaged from items bought at bulk stores like Costco or Sam's Club.  We purchased food items to break up the monotony of eating the same things day in and day out, like chocolate and fruit drink mixes, and sealed them in the mylar bags (using a hair-straightener to seal the bags, which is much easier than using an iron and most households with a female occupant already own one.  Incidentally, we were told not to package items that contain sugar with oxygen absorbers, as it compromises the quality of the food).  As non-Mormons, it was a little daunting to go to our first canning session, but we quickly realized that most of the people there weren't even Mormons.  There was no pressure to "convert" and we were met with generally very friendly people. These canning sessions could be a wonderful place to build the foundations of friendship with like-minded locals, and share the good news of Jesus in due season.  

Just a few months ago we felt very heavy with the prospect of having to learn so much as soon as possible.  We were finding out just how much we didn't know and that was almost paralyzing.  Thanks to God's miraculous guidance, we have become friends with many people who already know life-preserving skills and are willing to teach us.  Like children, we must learn to walk before we can run, and have the humility to ask for help when we need it.  Surviving the chaos to come depends not just on our own skill set, but on the community of capable people we choose to surround ourselves with.   

Both the use of our disposable income and our mindsets have changed drastically over the past year.  What seems very clear to us is not always obvious to those we love and care about.  We have encountered many reactions to this shift in our lives, ranging from enthusiastic curiosity, to denial that anything could ever go wrong, to belligerent opposition.  We have heard from several loved ones, "I will just die and meet Jesus" or "you are worrying and aren't relying on God to provide for you."  On the surface, these seem like pious responses.  We must remind our friends that "just dying" is not an option.  Starvation is a slow and painful process, made even more painful by watching loved ones suffer and not being able to help, when with forethought help could have been given. Instead of "worrying" when times are bad, we have the things we need and won't be in a position of constant worry. To the charge of "not relying on God" we answer that He has given us a sound mind and the conviction that action must be taken before it is too late, thus providing for us in hard times to come.  Like the wise ant in Proverbs 6, we are storing up provisions in summer and gathering food at harvest.  The changes we have made are not just a way to eliminate needless danger, but a way of life.  In good times and in bad, we will grow our own food because it is satisfying.  We will live off the land because it is sustainable and there is pride in seeing the work of our hands.  Being prepared does not mean unpleasantness, but great fulfillment of life.

I have found a lot of free Kindle e-books available through Amazon.com. Most of these public domain books are older, out of copyright [pre-1923] or out-of-print but may still have some useful information in them that could supplement your survival bookshelf. Just go to Amazon.com and download the appropriate Kindle Reader application for what you are using--such as PC, Mac computer, iPhone, Android, Blackberry--or if you are inclined you could buy a dedicated Kindle reader. The priced I haven't tried this, but another SurvivalBlog reader might, see if a Kindle app can be downloaded and used from any computer via a USB drive or SD card.

I know hardcopy is still the best way to have a survival library but if you can get a digital copy at least you can have a backup that is very mobile.

In the following list I did not include very many cookbooks in the list as there are so many out there and all of the ones in Kindle format from Amazon are from the 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s.

DISCLAIMER: Nearly all of the Kindle format books are extremely old so if you or any reader decide to use them please bear in mind that most if not all of the info in these books is out of date so PLEASE USE ANY AND ALL INFO AT YOUR OWN RISK. Take any info from these and other antique books with a grain of salt unless you know for certain that any info will not harm you or anyone else.

[JWR Adds: Keep in mind all of SurvivalBlog's usual provisos on fire safety, toxic chemicals, carcinogens, unguarded blades, obsolete medical practices, mushroom picking and so forth apply!]

There are literally more than one million books available free on the web. Just do a web search on the phrase “free e-books” and you can download most of them in just about any format. (I chose Kindle just to try it out and have another form of backup. I also have a lot of other books and references in PDF.)

Here is a list of the Kindle books that I’ve downloaded thusfar:

The Adventurous Boys Handbook by Stephen Brennan and Finn Brennan
Agriculture for Beginners Revised Edition by Charles William Burkett and Frank Lincoln Stevens and Daniel Harvey Hill
Aids to Forensic Medicine and Toxicology by W.G. Aitchison Robertson
Amateur Gardencraft by Eben E. Rexford
Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by Walter I. Pyle and George M. Gould
The Art of Confectionary by Edward Lambert
The Art of Making Whiskey by Anthony Boucherie
Assimilative Memory or How to Attend and Never Forget by Prof. A. Loisette
Broad-Sword and Single Stick by R.G. Allanson-Winn and C. Phillipps-Wolley
Camp Life in the Woods and the Tricks of Trapping and Trap Making by W. Hamilton Gibson
Canned Fruit, Preserves, and Jellies: Household Methods of Preparation by Maria Parloa
Carpentry for Boys by J.S. Zerbe, M.E.
Cobb's Anatomy by Irvin S. Cobb
The Complete Book of Cheese by Bob Brown
Crops and Methods of Soil Improvement by Alva Agee
Culinary Herbs Their Cultivation, Harvesting, Curing, and Uses by M.G. Kains
Deadfalls and Snares by A.R. Harding
Elements of Military Art and Science by H. Wager Halleck, A.M.
Emergency Childbirth Course by U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
Every Step in Canning the Cold-Pack Method by Grace Viall Gray
Everyday Foods in War Time by Mary Swartz Rose
The Field and Garden Vegetable of America by Fearing Burr
The First Book of Farming by Charles L. Goodrich
Food for The Traveler by Dora Roper
Foods That Will Win the War and How to Cook Them by C. Houston Goudiss
Gardening Without Irrigation by Steven Solomon
Gas and Oil Engines Simply Explained by Walter C. Runciman
Ginseng and Other Medicinal Plants by A.R. Harding
Good Things to Eat as Suggested by Rufus Estes
A Handbook of Health by Woods Hutchison
The Handbook of Soap Manufacture by W.H. Simmon and H.A. Appleton
Handwork in Wood by Willaim Noyes
The Holy Bible English Standard Version
Home Medical Library (series) by K. Winslow (some volumes of this series are sold for $1 to $3 each)
Home Vegetable Gardening by F.F. Rockwell
How and When to Be Your Own Doctor by Steve Solomon and Isabel Moser
How it Works Dealing in Simple Language with Steam, Electricity, etc. by Archibald Williams
How to Camp Out by John M. Gould
How to Sew: Sew Basics by Various Authors
In Time of Emergency by U.S. Office of Civil Defense
In-door Gardening for Every Week in the Year by William Keane
Knots, Splices, and Rope Work by A. Hyatt Verill
Living Off the Grid by Dave Black
Logic Deductive and Inductive by Carveth Read
Making a Fireplace by Henry H. Saylor
Manual of Surgery (Vol. 1 and 2) by Various Authors
A Manual of the Operations of Surgery by Joseph Bell
Mission Furniture How To Make It (Part 1,2,3) by H.H. Windsor
Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking by Unknown
The Power of Concentration by Theron Q. Dumont
The Practical Distiller by Samuel McHarry
Practical Mechanics for Boys by James Slough zerbe
A Practical Physiology by Albert F. Blaizdell
Preventable Diseases by Woods Hutchinson
A Queen’s Delight, the Art of Preserving, Conserving and Candying by W.M.
Shelters, Shacks and Shanties by D.C. Beard
Simple Sabotage a Field Manual by The Office of Strategic Services
Small Gardens and How to Make the Most of Them by Violet Purton Biddle
Small Wars Manual by U.S. Marine Corps
Sound Military Decision by U.S. Naval War College
Surgical Anatomy by Joseph MacLise
Survival Tactics by Al Sevcik and Irving Novick
Textiles and Clothing by Kate Heintz Watson
Things Mother Used to Make by Lidia Maria Gurney
U.S. Army Hand to Hand Combat Manual by Department of the Army
The Untroubled Mind by Herbert J. Hall
Vegetable Dyes by Ethel M. Mairet
Wild Flowers Worth Knowing by Neltje Blanchan
Women's Institute Library of Cookery (series)
Woodcraft by George Washington Sears

Hey Jim:
I am a little concerned about yesterday evening's post by B.R. regarding the generation of one-time pads. It claims to generate a "pad" using a random selection of dictionary words. A properly generated one-time pad requires a truly random selection of letters; it is only as strong as the source of entropy. Using a dictionary of English language words, acronyms, etc. does not seem to be very wise. Additionally, while I am not terribly familiar with Perl, I know that a lot of languages have built-in "random" functions that are not as random as one might hope for; having a computer generate a truly random number is more difficult than an amateur might expect. I may be way off base on this, having only a few moments to glance at the code and description, but a simpler and safer solution would be to generate a truly random number, modulo 26, correspond it to a letter, and write that letter to the "pad". The use of the dictionary is unnecessary; all you need -- and all you want -- are truly random letters.

Best, - Mike D.

JWR Replies: You are correct that most "random number generators" are actually just pseudo-random number generators. However, the computing power required to break such a system will not be available to looters or even local governments in the disaster situations that we've been discussing in SurvivalBlog. Yes, they can be broken by the NSA and their phalanxes of supercomputers. But for our purposes, book codes or locally-generated one time pads will suffice. My concern is that my readers might try to rely on obsolete encryption methods such as Four-square and Playfair substitution ciphers, which are easily broken, even without computing power. Substitution ciphers are just one notch above transmitting “in the clear”. Don't make that mistake!

In his recent article, The BYU Kid offered some pretty solid advice regarding physical fitness, but neglected to mention a couple things that are important for some of the exercises he mentioned. 

1.) The pushup should be done slowly - most people when doing pushups tend to rush through them as fast as they can. While there is something to be said for explosive power training, for the purposes of functional strength the pushup should be smooth and controlled - two seconds for the descent, hold at the bottom for a second, then two seconds for the ascent. Make sure that your body is straight like a rod (flex your abs) throughout and focus on the ground in front of you instead of looking forward or down at your feet.  Its best to grab a baseball or brick or similarly sized object and place it beneath you if you're unsure as to how far down to go. Place the object underneath you and 'kiss' it with your sternum - do not rest upon it.  Pushups can also be made more difficult in several ways other than simply raising the legs.

The first way is to simply slow the pace at which you do a pushup. Try descending/ascending for five seconds, then holding at the bottom for two seconds.  You'll find that the number of pushups you can do will go down with this slower speed. 

The second way is to perform the pushups on gymnastics rings (hanging from above, the rings about an inch off the ground). These can be a little costly but their use for fitness makes them well worth it - I use Xtreme Rings because they can easily be adjusted for multiple kinds of ring work.  You'll find that doing a pushup on a set of rings is far more challenging than normal pushups, as you need to stabilize your arms and balance them on the rings.  Increase level of difficulty further by elevating feet, or moving onto Bulgarian Ring Pushups - where you start with the rings beneath you, turned slightly outwards, and when you descend your arms should widen and your hands should rotate 90 degrees. 

Additionally, if regular pushups are too difficult, they can be made easier by doing them on the knees - the more your legs are piked beneath you the easier they will become. Work on getting your knees further and further away from you until you can do a regular pushup

4.) Pullups and Chinups are not the same exercise. While the movement is indeed similar the two exercises work the muscles in the arms and torso differently - Chinups will work the biceps more while Pullups will work the lats more.  For most, chinups are the easier exercise, while pullups are slightly more difficult.  Ideally you'll want to work on pullups over chinups, as getting over fences, walls, etc will require that your hands go over the obstacle instead of under.  The ideal pull-up should be done from a dead hang - your feet should not be touching anything, (if your pullup bar is not high enough for this, tuck your legs back) and you should be hanging, completely relaxed as low as you can go while still gripping the bar. Pull up smoothly until your chin clears the bar, and smoothly let yourself down, try not to just drop after you make it to the top. Ideally your body should be completely loose except for your arms and upper torso. You should not be swinging, your body should not wiggle or buck while going up, and you should return all the way back down to the dead hang before you go back up to the top.

I see people in the gym all the time doing half range of movement pullups - where they buck themselves up to the chin position, and then let themselves back down, not going to a dead hang like they should. This type of action i've found to cause the occasional tweaked shoulder or neck muscle as it is very tense and frenetic version of the pullup.   If you can't do a full range of movement (dead hang to chin to dead hang) pullup, then you should build strength by doing negative pullups; jump up to the bar with your chin over, and as slowly as you can, let yourself back down to the dead hang. I find that when you can do about 5 of these taking 5 seconds to descend, you should be able to do a pullup, or at least get yourself to the top of the bar.  

As with pushups, the slower you do the exercise the more difficult it becomes.  I like to alternate sets of smooth, slow pullups, with explosive, fast pullups, as I want to be able to do a muscle up, eventually. (A muscle up is when one does a pullup, but does not stop at the chin, and continues to press up until the bar is below their hips.) Pullups can also be modified to work different muscle groups - a wider grip will work the lats harder, where a closer grip will focus on the triceps more. When doing wider grip pullups its important to remember to let the Lats do the work - seek to keep your elbows out instead of inward. 

Finally, Lat Pulldown machines are great but are frequently misused - where possible always opt for regular or negative pullups instead of a lat pulldown machine. 

A truly excellent (and more difficult) variant of the pullup, that works both the legs, core, as well as the shoulders and arms is the L-Sit Pullup.  While in the dead hang position, keep your legs together, knees straight and toes pointed, and raise them 90 degrees so from the side, your body forms the shape of an L.  Hold this position throughout your set while doing pullups. It is far more difficult than a regular pullup, and requires a degree of stomach and quad strength.  Given that, there are two intermediate forms between the regular pullup and the l-sit pullup that can be done to work up to the L-sit.  The first is to simply tuck the legs - your thighs will be 90 degrees away from you as in the l-sit, but your shins and feet will be relaxed, and perpendicular to the ground.  After you can do sets of Tuck L-Sit Pullups, then the next is L-Sit Low pullups, where your legs are straight like the l-sit, but not as high, about 45 degrees less.  I recommend working up to the tuck l-sit by doing ab work in addition to the regular pullups.  Remember to listen to your body and don't push yourself too hard.

5.) Sprints are great, but the writer forgot to mention that a warm up period is essential when doing sprinting training.  For one who is not used to running/sprinting, its incredibly easy to pull or tear a muscle. Before you begin sprinting make sure to stretch lightly, and jog a few hundred yards. For those new to sprinting don't sprint at 100% effort for the first few weeks until your body gets used to the strain. 

6.) Another great variant of this is to drag a tire or two on a rope through the snow during the winter. Not only will this be difficult as the footing may not be sure and/or slippery, but it'll also help you realize how easily one can sweat while bundled up.  Its best to learn now how to keep dry/ventilated in while exerting oneself in the cold weather than when bugging out or in a dire situation. "You sweat, you die"

7.) I agree that olympic moves are simply the best for both strength building and weight loss.  For those starting I would also recommend that particularly with the Squat and the Deadlift they begin with nothing but the olympic bar, so that they get the form down first.  With these two exercises form is absolutely key to both strength building and injury avoidance. Read up about form and watch videos of correct form on youtube. Remember to focus on contracting the muscles that are working while doing the exercises - with deadlifts its the hamstrings and the glutes, with squats its primarily the quads and thighs. 

Finally the exercises recommended, all of them, should be done by both sexes. I've heard from so many women that they want to get strong and in shape but don't want to become like female body builders so all they do are ab exercises and cardio.  Female bodybuilders get that muscly by using testosterone, steroids, or workout routines that are both extreme and focus on muscle hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) and not simply by weightlifting. Women do not build muscle in the same way that men do, so the worry about appearance is a misinformed one.  Furthermore, Squats, Dead lifts, and Pushups/Pullups are excellent exercises for both losing weight and toning up, as they are compound exercises and work multiple groups of muscles, engaging focus, co-ordination and balance. I find myself soaked in sweat at the end of a workout doing olympic moves and pullups/pushups, more thoroughly worked out, than when I used to do exercise machines and bicep curls.  There's a woman at my gym who squats 25 lbs less than I do -- but she's also 10 inches shorter than I am and probably 100 lbs lighter, and she's by no means 'ripped.'  - Z.H.

In case you missed it, spot gold touched $1,620 per ounce yesterday, and silver got to $40.91. I'm glad that so many SurvivalBlog readers took my advice and bought silver back in 2005 when it was under $7.25 per ounce. For those that didn't: There is still the chance to buy on the dip days, since the bull market is likely to continue for several more years.

The Mother of All Bailouts (MOAB) continues to grow: FHA May Be Next in Line for Bailout: Delisle and Papagianis

Dow-to-Gold and Greece-to-Gold

The American Thinker asks: Is Your IRA Going To Be Raided?

Moody's Cuts Greek Debt

One third of homeowners believe they are underwater.

Items from The Economatrix:

City to Firefighter and Police Retirees:  Give Up 50% of Your Pension or Risk Losing it All

The Worst May Still Be Ahead For Housing

Gold And Silver:  We Were Right, They Were Wrong

Were the Bavarian Erdstallen dug by 6th Century preppers? Experts Baffled By Mysterious Underground Chambers. (Thanks to Lamont for the link.)

   o o o

James C. mentioned a new tiny and tough USB drive. Too bad that they are so expensive. (I think that I'll wait about a year until they are available less expensively.)

   o o o

Loyal content contributor K.A.F. mentioned that an Idaho real estate has posted a wealth of web links and phone numbers for those who are considering relocation to northern Idaho.

   o o o

Several readers mentioned this: DHS Video Characterizes Terrorists as White Americans. For the sake of Politically Correctness, none of the could-be terrorists shown were Arabs. The whole "If you see something, say something..." campaign is a fear tactic, and nearly pure propaganda. This dovetails with the nonsensical "Modern Militia Movement" report that was promulgated by the MIAC Fusion Center in 2009. That was propagandist logical inversion, at its best! Let's make no mistake: The

   o o o

A reader in Alberta, Canada recommended Briden Solutions, a food storage and survival gear vendor in Cochrane, Alberta. (Near Calgary.)

"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support; but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." - 2nd Lt. Clifton B. Cates, 96th Co. US Marine Corps, 19 July 1918, 10:45 a.m., from records of the U.S. 2d Division. (Clifton Cates was awarded the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, and Purple Heart. He was also awarded a Silver Star for his gallantry at Soissons. Cates later became the Commandant of the Marine Corps.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Last call! A final reminder that the deadline for the Ready Made Resources Preparedness Video Contest is midnight, eastern time on July 26th. Instructional (nonfiction) videos on any topic related to family preparedness are sought. The prizes are a brand new Rock Rivers Arms (RRA) Elite Comp M4 (AR-15 series compatible ) complete Barreled Upper Receiver and a Trijicon Reflex sight with a combined retail value of more than $1,400. Please keep your privacy in mind when you create your videos. (Don't mention any surnames or towns). You may post up to three videos to YouTube for consideration in the judging. Videos up to 10 minute long that are your original work that are already posted to YouTube are also eligible for the judging. To enter, e-mail the URL for video(s) to: grisrob@gmail.com. Do not send the videos themselves or links to videos stored at other web sites. Only nonfiction videos that you post to YouTube are eligible. The creator of the best video will win a brand new a brand new complete Rock Rivers Arms (RRA) Elite Comp M4 (AR-15 series compatible ) Barreled Upper Receiver and a Trijicon Reflex sight. The deadline or posting videos is July 26th. The video judged best will be announced in early August.


Today we present another entry for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

While re-reading the 'Radio Ranch' chapter in JWR's novel "Patriots", I started thinking about the Book Code method versus a One-Time Pad. I went through the books on my shelf, and noticed the lack of duplicate books; the number of 'common' books; and how many of my books I figured would be in the Uncle Sam's cracked book repository. At that point I thought I'd be SOL when trying to setup a secure method of communication.

Being an ex-Army Infantry turned computer geek and prepper, I figured it would be much easier to write some code to generate pages of random word lists (a.k.a. One-Time Pad or OTP). Besides, creating one from hand would be brutal.

My attitude towards prepping is to start with a grid-down, post-EMP or Solar Storm, condition. Unless I get a Faraday cage up soon which will protect all of my electronics, I'll assume I only have the technology that is secure in large grounded ammo-cans. (Portable communications gear, solar battery rechargers, and lots of batteries).

The code examples, under these conditions, will not be useful unless the output has been printed, in duplicate, and ahead of time.

Since not all of us are computer geeks, I thought I'd cover the following and share with our community.

I've broken them down into the following sections

  1. When One-Time Pads are appropriate
  2. Getting Started: what is needed, how to get it.
  3. OTP Generation: The Code to generate up to 99,999 pages of OTP output
  4. OTP Decryption: The Code to decrypt messages using the OTP method – assuming the computers are still working. Hey, prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
  5. Examples of over the air communication using OTP.


When One-Time Pads are appropriate:

The best use of OTPs are when you need to communicate securely between two or more groups. These groups can be just over the hill or over great distances.  Even if you only have a small retreat and do not expect to use one, it cannot hurt to have two or three printed copies of an OTP ready should SHTF.

This is especially true since we can not predict group expansion, and re-organization (including splitting into smaller groups) due to changes in conditions, numbers, and personality conflicts. Therefore, in my opinion even if you are currently on your own, you should generate multiple printed copies and keep them safe.  Finding multiple copies of an out of print book in a post-SHTF situation will be far from easy.

Because the OTP has to be referenced to de-code the messages, it's best to keep them in a secure location rather than attempting to use them as a means to communicate with patrols, or individuals on the move.

Getting Started: what is needed, how to get it.

The code, covered later, uses something called Perl (a computer language common on Unix/Linux and sometimes Windows systems). I've based the code on the Solaris – aka Unix/Linux operating system.  If you have group to group communications, hopefully there is someone in the group that has a basic understanding of Unix/Linux.  If this is the case, the easiest method it to direct them at this article. A Perl geek will be able to skip most of this article and have you up and running in about five minutes. 

The code is setup to cut-n-paste. There are no additional Perl-modules or fancy install procedures.

Installing Perl (on windows):

UNIX/Linux/MAC operating systems have Perl pre-installed. Perl for windows can be installed via: http://www.perl.org/get.html

Select windows -> download -> Strawberry Perl

Once installed, it is a matter of cut-n-past of code into a text file for execution. Normally the code files have a extension of '.pl', but we will get to the running of code when we cover the included scripts.

A Note on Word Lists

In my case, UNIX keeps a list of words in a file called /usr/dict/words. To improve possible communications I've updated my file to include acronyms from the SurvivalBlog Glossary in addition a number of my own expected terms, local USGS map grid coordinates, expected rally/extraction point codes, and feel free to add in junk – it just helps to confuse any decryption.

The word list is one word per line, example here:

# tail /usr/dict/words

OTP Generation

To use this script cut-n-paste the section between, but not including <CODE>, into a text file. Call that file generate-otp.pl

There are enough comments included in the code to walk a Perl knowledgeable person through the steps, but for others, it's just a matter of cut-n-paste.

#!/usr/bin/perl -w

# ONE-TIME PAD Generation.

# This perl code generates a random list of words,
# 10 per line, 59 per page. Created from a text file
# containing a source list of words. Every word
# in the list is used.

# The initial word list is one word per line.
# To help simplify the process, the script uses a
# UNIX word dictionary, supplemented by words
# and acronyms added manually.

# Output is collected where $output_directory is defined as
# words-00001.txt is page 1.  The code currently supports
# up to 99,999 pages.

# Every time the script is run, there is a different order
# of words.

# The number of passes through the word list is defined by
# $cycle_count

# The default settings run through the word list 5 times
# Each time the script is executed it will overwrite any
# existing words-#####.txt file, so move them some where safe
# before re-running the script.

# set how many lines per page to output

# set starting page number. Useful if running many
# cycles of this program.

# Number of times to run against the word list.

# Where the word list is.

# Where to put the results



# Main Processing Starts Here

for (1..$cycle_count) {

@file = <WD>;

while ( @file ) {
  $choice = splice(@file, rand @file, 1);
  push(@line, $choice) ;

  # Check if there are 10 words in the array - done to print 10 words per line
  # of output. If you want more than 10 words per line, adjust here.

  if ($count eq 10) {
    s/ ^\s+//gx for @line;
    push(@page, "@line\n");
    # reset count for 10 words per line starting at 0
    # zero out the line array.

  # If we have reached the max lines per page, generate a new page
  # of words.
  if ($line_count eq $lines_per_page ) {
$page_write = sprintf("%05d", $page_count);
open(FW, ">$output_directory/words-$page_write.txt");
print FW "@page\n";
# There's almost always some words that didn't fill up the line or page
# arrays. Dump them to the last page written.
$page_write = sprintf("%05d", $page_count);
open(FW, ">>$output_directory/words-$page_write.txt");
print FW "@page\n";
close (FW);

Next make the script executable:

UNIX/Linux: chmod +x generate-otp.pl

WINDOWS NOTE: Right click and have it run as Perl. Note that the directory paths will need to be changed, and possibly some of the code updated.

If you want the output placed somewhere other than /tmp, see the section of code where it can be adjusted (comments are clear). You can also adjust the number of times it cycles through the word list.

OTP Decoding

To create the decode script, cut-n-paste all code between, but not including <CODE> into a text file called decode-otp.pl. 


sub _help {
print "USAGE: decode-otp.pl filename\n";

if (@ARGV != 1 ) {


if ( -e $filename) {
} else {
   print "$filename does not exist\n";

sub _decode {
 while(<PG>) {
  if (sprintf("%03d", $count) eq $line ) {
@myword = split;
$found_word = @myword[$word-1];
chomp $found_word;
print  "$found_word " ;

sub _process_file {
 open(DC, "<$filename");
 while(<DC>) {
($page, $line, $word) = split;
_decode($page, $line, $word);
 print "\n";

The decode script will expect a text file as an argument. You add the OTP codes into it that you want to decode. One word per line.

Example of this would be as follows

001 019 001
999 059 010
023 043 009
006 012 002
863 001 006

To run the decoding use the following command:

./decode-otp.pl ./decodeme.txt
meet me at the house

Examples of over the air communication using OTP.

The first item to take care of are 'call-signs'. These should never be something that indicates location, or the group/person sending or receiving. They should be as randomly selected as possible.

For this case, lets say that first group's call sign is C19 (Charley One Niner), and the second group is DFX (Delta Foxtrot Xray).

In addition, let's assume they have a run-book of challenge/response codes.  This is a list of items to ask, and answers expect as a response. Each challenge/response code should only be used once, then scratched off, and never used again. If the wrong response is given, all communication is stopped by the challenger. Best not to even give a reason, or a 'keyed' mike. Just stop listening, and if possible turn off the receiver. Make sure not to send any outgoing signal that could be used for Direction Finding equipment.

Remember, they may send you junk to keep your mike keyed for direction finding to have enough time to track your location.

As an example, let's assume that Blue 16 is the challenge and Alpha- November is the expected answer.  Side note: you could have a specific signal change as part of the authentication.

Using the example decode text above, a radio or phone communications would go as follows. (Please forgive any mistakes, the last time I used this Baghdad Bob was on CNN), after all – OTPs aren't exactly military communications methods anyway. Make up your own SOP.

C19: Delta Foxtrot Xray, this is Charley One Niner, come in over.

DFX: Charley One Niner, this is Delta Foxtrot Xray, authenticate Blue One Six, over.

C19: Authenticate Alpha-November. Over.

DFX: Authentication received, send message over.

C19: message as follows, break.

C19: Zero, Zero, One, break, Niner, Niner, Niner, break, Zero Two Tree, break, Zero, Four, Tree, break, Zero, Zero, Niner,  how copy over?

DFX:  Say again after Zero, Four, Tree, over.

C19: Zero, Zero, Niner, over.

DFX: Copy over.

C19: Copy out.

Bad Rambo Mistakes

Remember there are many 'movie' based terms that are not a part of the Phonetic alphabet, nor the normal military radio-telephone procedure. Some of these may have nasty consequences.

The one that comes to mind is 'repeat' repeat has a specific military usage. It means to resend the same artillery barrage that was last requested. If you want someone to 'repeat' what they just said, use 'say again'.

Another common movie term is 'actual' as in: 'request to speak to Charley One Niner actual.'  I'd strongly recommend not using this at all. It tells Traffic Analysts (TAs) that someone in charge is talking. Then with Direction Finding (DF), they will learn where should target their artillery fire..

These examples could go on for a while, so I recommend reading Army Field Manuals (FMs) that cover calling for artillery. Best not to have an 'oops there it is' moment.

Use common sense, and keep the message short by using pre-determined keywords. 

On a side note, if both groups have someone that speaks an uncommon language, leverage that. Include those terms in the word dictionary. This will help prevent any compromised communications.

For a departing comment, if you ever expect an attack of the Tidy Bowl men, I'd recommend an extensive use of slang. Slang is not usually covered in English classes run in other countries. Use this to your advantage, and include these terms in your communications and word lists. I still remember, years ago in college when I used the word "awesome" in a sentence and an English as a Second Language student thought I meant 'very very bad'. It seems that their dictionary only had the formal definition. I guess the same could be said for breaking out the old Oxford dictionary and using hundred dollar words.

There's one thing that's guaranteed in any SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation, and that's the age old adage that only the strong survive. But how do we get to that point? How can we improve our strength with things that will actually be adaptable to a survival situation? I would like to lay out a few selected exercises that have direct carryovers to very important skills and suggest a program for you (not my own) and offer a couple workouts that you can incorporate into your current routine.

First, let’s talk about what’s not necessary: any routine found in a bodybuilding magazine. We’re talking survival, not show, and what you want are exercises that will help you thrive. Excess muscle is costly metabolically, so we’re not necessarily looking to gain muscle, but we are looking to increase performance. Another: any routine given by a personal trainer. These guys are alright for some people, but odds are you’ll get a copy and pasted program involving every single exercise machine in a straight circuit. And another: crossfit. While crossfit can be challenging and they use some of these exercises, they metabolic conditioning programming is not conducive to the ultimate goal of being able to be useful, functional, and simple.

Secondly, a few principles; namely:
-Bodyweight strength is the foundation
-Free weights beat machines
-The more work you can do daily the better off you are (if you’re sleeping and eating properly)
-Movements are trained in a progressive fashion- either by adding weight, doing more, doing it faster, or doing it longer (that’s what she said)
-If you’re unfamiliar with an exercise, ask for help
-If you can do an exercise with no fatigue, find a way to make it harder

1) The Pushup

The pushup is an exercise everyone is familiar with but no one gives the credit it needs. You don't need any equipment to perform it, and there's a number of ways to make it more difficult. The pushup transfers into all overhead pushing that may be required, and it helps you to lift your own bodyweight. Pushups can be made more difficult in one of two ways (I don't recommend combining them, but you can if you're ambitious): first, feet elevation, secondly, adding resistance through bands or weights. Strong shoulders, pectorals and a core are vital to survival. When doing pushups, you can go to failure, but I suggest doing 4-5 sets of 10-12 reps with very little rest in between.

2) Sledgehammer

Using a sledgehammer has been a hit lately in functional fitness, and for good reason- pounding the crap out of a tractor tire is fun, it is work, and it makes you explosively powerful. It directly carries over into many aspects of survivalism from chopping down trees and splitting logs to construction or demolition. For this, the key is to find the balance between explosiveness and sloppiness- once you reach it, step away. Remember to go with both arms, or each arm individually.

3) The Deadlift

The deadlift is perhaps the king of exercises. It requires the whole of a person to perform correctly- from your feet to your neck can be activated and benefited. Proper form needs to be exercised- when you deadlift, don't focus on pulling, instead focus on sitting back and having the weight ride up your legs. Wearing longer socks is recommended. The carryover is perhaps most important- notably, the deadlift improves your grip, and grip will be an important thing for any survivalist- from climbing to pulling to breaking, grip work is extremely beneficial. One can increase the grip difficulty by adding fat grips or making their own. The other aspects of the lift- holding heavy weight- will have enough of a strength carryover that no other lift would. With the deadlift, focus on lower reps (4-6) and heavier weights. You can always add in a straight set of higher reps if desired.

Another aspect of the deadlift I want to make clear is the psychological one. It is a true test of strength- getting a weight off the ground, your own bodyweight, maybe even doubled. That is something that is so hard to describe. I personally have deadlifted over 650 lbs, and the mental aspect of that lift was more important than muscle or mechanics. I can’t say for sure the deadlift activates the fight or flight response, but it really separates the men from the boys.

4) Pullups/Chinups

Pullups and chinups are essentially the same exercise in function- you pull your bodyweight up. The movements themselves are much better and effective than machine substitutes. A chinup is performed with your palms facing you, a pullup is performed with your palms facing away. Either way, being able to pull your body up with just your arms is a skill that you will want to cultivate. For simplicity's sake, I'll refer to either as pullups. Again, grip strength is a benefit and these require a lot of it. If you can't perform one, then looping an exercise band around the bar, or using a partner to help you during the concentric (contracting) portion of the lift are good ways to build up strength. As you are able to do 15+ pullups, you can add weight through a vest, a backpack, or a weight on a belt or held between your legs. You can also make these more difficult by using thicker bars, or using towels to pull yourself up.

5) Sprints/ Jumps

Sprinting is the best cardio. Odds are you won't need to plod along anywhere at 7 mph, but a quick 1-2 minute sprint session may absolutely be required of you in any survival scenario. Sprints can be tricky to program, but I highly recommend that they be done in a way that's referred to as Escalating Density Training (EDT). It essentially means that you try to do more in less time, or do more total. Jumps I included with sprints because it's the explosive nature of the movements- they can be thrown in in any situation you want and they are easier to recover from. Remember, the more work you can do and recover from, the better.


6) Loaded Carries/ Sled Drags or Pushes

These are fun exercises. You grab the heaviest dumbbell in each hand, a loaded barbell in each hand, put on a weight vest, throw a bag over shoulder, however you can, you get a weight and you carry it for as long as you can as many times as you can. The carryover is immediately evident and aside from that, it gets you grounded. All these exercises are designed to keep you in touch with the basic human movements- push, pull, jump, run, hold, etc. Farmers walks are also fun to combine with sled drags- get a harness on yourself, throw a bag over your shoulder and drag a sled. Combining the two movements is challenging. Pushing a sled for distance or for time is a conditioning workout that will challenge you but also improve your physical performance and has a carryover to many movements. Building your own sled using a tire and rope is fairly easy and plans can be found with a quick web search.


7) Olympic Moves

These are last on the list because while they are great exercises, they may or may not be as useful as the others. The thing about olympic exercises is for many people they're too technical, or weird, and they're worried they'll mess it up. If you feel that way, don't bother. These are slightly more dangerous exercises and as such you should be very careful with them. I personally love the power clean and the power snatch and I work them into my workouts every week. Learning to generate explosive force has a better carryover to things that require an extended time of work than extended work has to explosive movement. Go and look at videos or train with someone who can coach you through these lifts.

I highly recommend Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 Program. It is a simple, basic strength training book that will get you on the right track for strength and health. If you are interested, please go ahead and purchase it- it's a worthwhile investment. It's not just about survival of the fittest though, it's about survival of the most useful. If you do, I recommend these setups for the exercises:

Main Lift: Bench
Accessory Lifts: Pushup, Dip, Pullup

Main Lift: Deadlift
Activation: Power clean (performed before the main lift to activate the nervous system)
Accessory: Sledgehammer, Jumps

Main Lift: Squat
Activation: Power Snatch (performed before the main lift to activate the nervous system)
Accessory: Sprints and either Sled Push/Pulls OR Farmer's walk

Main Lift: Overhead Press
Accessory: Face Pulls, Pullups, dumbbell presses

 But if you're happy with your gym setup and are just looking for a workout that you can do here are two that will get you on track:

Workout A
Power Snatch 3 sets of 3 at a lighter weight
Deadlift Pyramid up sets of 5 reps until you can't do 5 reps (add 20-30 lbs each set) with 1-2 minutes rest between sets
Pushup 5 sets of 10
Sledgehammer 30 reps (either 30 overhead or 15 per hand)

Workout B
Jump to a box 4 sets of 6
Pullups as many sets of as many reps- aim for 100 reps total per session (over time)
Loaded carries- the heaviest weight you can carry for as long as you can carry
Sprints- 4 x100 meters working up from there.

Remember, the more work you can do, the better. We're not looking for excessive amounts of muscle, we're looking for the ability to perform. Good luck and happy surviving.

Vitamins and minerals are a multi-billion dollar business currently in the US.  Our food is plentiful and fortified, and the use of these pills are generally completely unnecessary.  Medically, the recommendation for vitamins and supplements--from multiple sources--is as follows:  There are no vitamins or supplements needed for typical adults eating a balanced diet with regular sun exposure or consumption of fortified dairy products.  That being said, WTSHTF there will be obvious changes to our typical fattened-calf diets.  Plan accordingly, but there is very little that some people will do, stretching the valuable resources of the rest of us.  Depending on the circle of people that you may need to support, you may be facing less than you were planning too.  Our Christian natures will bring more to the table than we might plan for...so there are likely to be shortages of "plenty" and we may be at "adequate" or even worse "survival" diets.  Starvation is not an option for the survivalist, and there is no good reason that starvation will plague the knowledgeable prepper.  Now that we have established that you will have some food, but not necessarily a balanced diet, we can start to talk about different vitamins and minerals.

Essential vitamins include both long-lived (fat soluble) ones like A, D, E, and K; and shorter-lived (water soluble) ones like B and C.  Vitamin A is also called Retinol and is found in meat, some vegetables, and eggs.  Vitamin B1 is Thiamine and is found in pork, grains, and yeast.  Vitamin B2 is Riboflavin and is found in leafy green vegetables, legumes, almonds, and yeast.  Vitamin B3, or Niacin, is found in meats, fruits, vegetables, grains, and yeast.  Vitamin B5, Pantothenic; B6, Pyridoxal; and B7, Biotin are all commonly found in many foods and are unlikely to be deficient in any non-starvation diet.  B9 is Folic acid and is found in green, leafy vegetables, fruit, grains, and meat. Vitamin D is found in fish, tuna, eggs, and is nicely made by our skin with proper sun exposure.  Vitamin E is found in wheats and green, leafy vegetables.  Vitamin K is also prevalent in green, leafy vegetables too.  Important minerals include Calcium, Iodine, Iron, and Zinc.  Calcium is found in dairy products, many vegetables, and eggshells. Iodine is found in [most] table salt [in Western countries].  Iron is found in meats and green, leafy vegetables.  Zinc is found in seeds, beans, and grains.

Important deficiencies to worry about depend on the age and situation of a person.  Folic acid deficiency can cause an anemia and also birth defects.  B12 and Iron deficiencies can also cause anemia and is most often found in strict vegans, which will be a thing of the past WTSHTF.  Vitamin C deficiency will affect those with limited stores of fruits and vegetables after they run out.  Vitamin D will be important to consider in northern climates with limited sun in wintertime, especially for those that are older adults.

Now, after stopping at my local megalomart, recommendations are pretty easy to make for TEOTWAWKI.  Pregnant women need supplementation of vitamins and minerals, specifically B9, or Folic acid.  This can be accomplished with either Folic acid supplementation specifically, or a good multivitamin, or both.  So, if you have a supply of multivitamins, make sure that any likely child-bearing female is taking one regularly.  Older adults should also take a good multivitamin or Vitamin D supplementation.  This will help bone strength and prevention of falls.  As diets get more "lean" and approach "survival" levels, a good multivitamin will be important for everyone to take at least weekly.

Which one?  Good question, really.  Turns out there are some differences in your basic store vitamins.  Nature Made "complete" is a very good multivitamin that covers all the basic needs of a person across all vitamin and mineral recommendations.  The other name brand vitamins are decent, but in almost all the major brands the "women's" versions are a better vitamin and are superior to the basic or "men's" vitamins.  If you can get enough, there is no reason you would ever be deficient in a essential vitamin or mineral.
Vitamin C is unique and needs special mention.  Anyone suffering from an illness or wound should take Vitamin C twice a day to help with healing.  Those with potentially deficient diets or kids should take a chewable Vitamin C twice weekly.  Chewable Vitamin C is usually just as cheap as the tablet form, either will do.
Zinc is found in sufficient amounts in any of the multivitamins found on shelves, but there is one group needing additional zinc.  Kids with diarrhea lose zinc much faster than adults and are more sensitive to this deficiency.  Zinc lozenges are the best form to buy for this specific use.   One tablet twice a day will help supply the zinc lost through frequent stools and will increase survival and decrease the length of the diarrheal illness.

So, to sum up:

  1. My recommendation is either a "women's" blend or Nature Made multivitamin.  Everyone with a deficient diet should take one weekly, older adults and potentially pregnant females should take one daily.  
  2. Everyone with a deficient diet in fruits and vegetables should take Vitamin C twice a week, along with any children.  Anyone with illness or a wound should take Vitamin C twice a day until resolved.  
  3. Zinc should be taken by children during any severe diarrhea spell until normal stools return.  
  4. Specific supplementation of Vitamin D or Folic acid is best approached replacing those along with the other vitamins and minerals found in a multivitamin. There is no need to buy specific supplements other than Vitamin C and Zinc lozenges.  Hope this helps, stay strong.  - Dr. Bob

[JWR Notes: Dr. Bob is is one of the few consulting physicians in the U.S. who dispenses antibiotics for disaster preparedness as part of his normal scope of practice. His web site is: SurvivingHealthy.com.)

Dear Editor:
Keep-it-Simple Suburbanite made a common error in thinking that home canning butter is a good idea. Canning butter at home is not a good idea. Botulism toxin cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted and it can be present in canned butter. I'm guessing that Keep-it-Simple heated the butter and either water-bathed it or simply sealed the hot jars without processing. Heat shocks botulism spores (which are normally harmless) into producing the toxin. To prevent that, botulism needs the much higher temperature of pressure canning to be killed. Even then, fat molecules in foods such as butter and cheese can encapsulate botulism and protect it from the heat of canning, allowing the toxin to form.

Botulism poisoning is rare and I'd like to keep it that way. Most low-acid foods that are canned incorrectly can be made safe to eat by bringing the food to a boil and continuing to boil for 10 minutes at sea level, longer for higher elevations. Obviously, that won't work for canned butter. For those who persist in unsafe canning practices, they should warn anyone who is about to eat it, or stir it well (stirring is necessary because botulism toxin can exist in pockets in thick food) and eat a bite of the food before serving it to others. That way they will be the first and only victim of poisoning if the food is contaminated. If the home canner doesn't become ill, then the food is safe to serve to others. Botulism toxin is classified as a biological weapon by the government. It disrupts nerve function, causing paralysis. It is usually very fast acting. When botulism poisoning occurs now, there is a good chance of living if medical intervention is fast. However, the victim often has permanent nerve damage and will very likely have a shortened life. In a short-term SHTF event, or long-term TEOTWAWKI, the victim will die. For myself and my family, I'd rather go without [stored] butter. - Bonnie in Washington

Good Morning Mr. Rawles,
This is not necessarily directed toward the propagation and extending of tomato harvests, but geared more toward making your tomatoes better. I have found that amending the soil (pouring a quarter to a half a cup in the hole before planting) of powdered milk has a profound effect on the growth of tomatoes.

The tomatoes will grow a little shorter, significantly more stout, and have a darker green color. They even produced about the same number of flowers and tomatoes. I am sad to say that I could not do a taste test between the fruit of the two groups (non milk and milk) because a hailstorm came by and flattened the thinner non-milk tomatoes.

Better to have a hardy crop than broken stems! - Jim S.

Chris D. suggested this: Fed’s $16 Trillion Dollar Secret Slush Fund Props Up Our Way Of Life. The enormity of this secret bailout is staggering. The math on this is pretty simple: If you double the money supply, what can you expect to happen to the purchasing power of the currency? Hmmmm? Get ready for inflation and higher gold prices.The National Inflation Association (NIA) reports:" Currently, the U.S. 'officially' has 261 Million ounces of gold. If U.S. money-$13.5 Trillion in M3- were backed by "U.S. gold", there would be over $51,724 Dollars for every one ounce of gold." (So, after the $16 trillion in new "from thin air" money....)

Jim Rogers: "Get Ready for the Next Financial Crisis"

The Never-ending Depression

Jeff B. sent this video from Tacoma, Washington: An Elaborate Welfare Housing Project.

Memphis Board Delay's School Year Start Indefinitely in Demand for City Funds

SurvivalBlog's Editor At Large Michael Z. Williamson suggested this: Coal-fired power plants may have to close or cut operations

Yishai mentioned this over at Lew Rockwell's blog: Gasoline at 20 Cents a Gallon. (If you pay in silver coins.)

Items from The Economatrix:

Preparing For The Worst As Debt-Limit Talks Drag On

Impasse Over US Debt Limit Sends Stocks Lower

Fiat Currency Is The Bubble, Not Gold

Gold Price Forecast Rise as Jitters Intensify

Sale ends tonight! Ready Made Resources is running a two-day special 25% off sale on Mountain House canned long term storage foods on July 25th and 26th. They are offering free shipping on case lots, any multiples of six cans of the same variety per case. And, if your order at least one full case of the same Mountain House item in #10 cans, you can add a Katadyn pocket water filter for just $279 ($40 off.) Don't miss out!

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Report: China building electromagnetic pulse weapons for use against U.S. carriers

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Reader R.J.R. suggested this article: Gambiologia, The Brazilian Art and Science of Kludging

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In an attempt to grow their emergency preparedness business, Providence Supplies (in Canada) is now be issuing a coupon can be redeemed at SilverGoldBull.com for some substantial savings. Please contact them at providencesupplies@gmail.com for more details.

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Blistering heat wave stressing nation's power grid

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Some commentary by our friend Tamara: Speaking of bloody shirt waving... Oh, and just as I posited on Sunday: Breivik isn't a Christian. (Thanks to K.A.F. for the latter link.)

"Some people are contriving ways and means of making us collapse." - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, as quoted in 2008, at near the height of the country's currency hyperinflation.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I heard that Ready Made Resources is running a two-day special 25% off sale on Mountain House canned long term storage foods on July 25th and 26th. They are offering free shipping on case lots, any multiples of six cans of the same variety per case. And, if your order at least one full case of the same Mountain House item in #10 cans, you can add aKatadyn pocket water filter for just $279 ($40 off.) Don't miss out!


Today we present another entry for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 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 are accustomed to having safe, easy, instant access to electricity. After a disaster electrical power is low on the hierarchy of needs.  On the other hand, avoiding electricity may become a priority.  Damp clothes and wet, lacerated skin make us much more vulnerable to electrocution.  By definition, improvised or post disaster grid power won’t be as safe as we’re used to today.   After a disaster, electricity becomes an elemental threat that can kill you dead if you miscalculate.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to prepare a bastion with solar and generator power, do a good job now and you won’t have to worry later. Many of us don’t have the means to make this choice, and will instead make do with a combination of bugging out or bugging in.  What follows are my suggestions gained from experience doing off grid solar work in the Third World, disaster relief and maintaining remote scientific equipment.  I am not a licensed electrician.

If you find yourself needing AC power in a location you haven’t prepared, or your existing environment has suddenly changed for the wetter and worse and you want to improvise a solution, stop!  Turn off AC breakers and avoid AC power until you have the time and mental space to make sure things are done right. In the mean time, if you've prepared, an affordable toolbox-sized 12 volt DC power system can keep you in charged AA batteries, light and radio communications. It is possible to hurt yourself with a low voltage system, but the starting risks are much lower than with 120 VAC. You’ll also have the benefit of traveling with a system you prepared and know you can rely on. Home Power magazine's web site and the Internet have plenty of advice for building portable DC photovoltaic (PV) power systems, so I’ll cover aspects unique to this audience. The product links are examples rather than specific product recommendations.

Must-Have Tools

Multimeters help make safe improvisation possible.  You can buy a simple meter for AC/DC Volt-Ohm meter for around $5 on eBay and not much more at a local Radio Shack. Used ones will work fine. Buy a stack of them, so that you can afford mistakes and to allow for wear and tear on their test leads. Older analog panel [pivoting needle] volt meters that don’t need a battery are more repairable, but less protected against humidity and drops.

Splicing Wires 
Plan A is to buy a butane powered soldering iron and learn to solder. Learn how from YouTube or at Sparkfun.com. First practice getting two wires to stay connected and how to solder a wire to a copper pad. That will cover most of the repairs or modifications you may need to do.  12 volt and A-battery powered soldering irons exist, but a butane soldering iron has consistently worked best for me outdoors.  

Plan B is to stock up on [solderless] splicing hardware.  For temporary work, I prefer Euro style terminal connector blocks. These are fully insulated devices that let you securely join two wires using a flat blade screwdriver. They’re hard to use incorrectly. Wire nuts work too, but be sure stock up on tape to use with them.   A cheap and sturdy screw driver spice for larger wire can be found in your hardware store as a “well pipe waterproof splice kit”.  If you need waterproofing and strain relief, then wrap the wire in self-fusing silicone tape. This tape stores well for several years in Ziploc bags or in a heat sealed plastic.

Strongly Recommended Tools
At some point you’ll need a tool that requires a 17.1 volt proprietary battery.  DC-DC switching converters are the solution for using a standard battery with this tool.   Most readers have used an adapter to drop a 12 volt battery down to something safe for a cell phone or radio. Older models got very hot to the touch, as they converted excess voltage (and half of the precious watts) into heat. Newer models use a “Buck Converter” which can be more than 90% efficient.  If you need to get from a pair of AA batteries to 5 volts, you need a “Boost Converter” to increase the voltage.  Some circuit designs combine the two. A “Buck/Boost” allows 9-16 volt input to produce a constant 12 volts output.  The catch is that Buck and Boost converters require the output to be 1-3 volts different from the Input. So you may not be able to get from 12 volts to 11. Buck/Boost circuits tend to allow a smaller input range, and usually handle fewer watts than comparable dedicated Buck or Boost circuits. 

Commercial DC/DC products exist, but tend to require small proprietary parts too easily lost in an emergency. I recommend buying parts used for industrial prototyping. These tend to be made in China using the exact reference specifications of the DC-DC chip maker.  Look for models that allow a screwdriver to change the output voltage, and if possible, allow you to set the output current (this reduces the number of fuses required). Well-built models include heat sinks, potting/ plastic to protect the circuit, and ideally screw terminals for the inputs and outputs. I’ve had good luck with models from xscyz.com. Keywords to look for on eBay or other sites are LM2577 (boost) and  LM2596 (buck). With a current limiting Boost converter and a multimeter, you could permanently power that 17.1 volt device directly from a 12 volt solar panel or a handful of double AA batteries.

Fuses exist to reduce the risk to you and to equipment you won’t be able to replace in an emergency.  This includes things like wires we now take for granted.  For DC systems, put fuses at the battery, between strings of batteries, and on the cord of every item you can’t replace. Put fuses between the solar panel and the power plug used to connect it to the charge controller. ATC automotive blade type fuses have many advantages:  They’re easy to use, water resistant holders are cheap, and you can get them in a wide variety of amperages down to 1 amp.  ATC form- factor circuit breakers are available.  Standardize and stock up, particularly on the small sizes that make debugging short circuits safer for your equipment.

Obtain several microprocessor-controlled DC-powered chargers for AA batteries. You’ll want the ability to charge just one AA or handfuls at the same time.  

Nice to haves:
For circuits below 1 amp, manufacturers use cylindrical glass fuses in too many different sizes. Whenever possible I avoid them by switching to a self-resetting fuse called a Polymeric Positive Temperate Coefficient (PPTC) thermistor. These devices get hot and trip like a circuit breaker when there’s a problem. After power is removed, the PPTC will cool down and reset.  You can buy radial  PPTCs from Digikey.com or Mouser.com for about 40 cents each. If you're very lucky, there's a local electronics supply or television repair shop selling them near you.  PPTCs can be used in parallel, but may not be appropriate in very hot or cold conditions.

Many SurvivalBlog readers have already discovered Anderson Power Pole connectors. By combining colors and polarization you can make a DC power system that’s hard to assemble incorrectly. I use yellow and black connectors for the solar panel to the charge control, then red and black for the charge control to battery. I use color beside black to mean 12 volts. With 5 volts I use violet and place the color above black. This looks different and is impossible to plug into 12 volts.  This is not the Anderson standard, but I try to use polarization for things that would be disastrous to plug together, and colors for reminders that are protected by a fuse and can wait until I have a light.  

Buy an older copy of the book Illustrated Guide to the National Electrical Code (NEC). You may never need it, but a used copy is less than $10, and you’ll have the answers.  Mirrors of MikeHolt.com and the John Wiles Code Corner would also be useful.

Thanks to car culture, there is a wide choice of waterproof 12 volt LED light strips.  I find that most of these crack and fail within a few years. I’ve found the UV-stabilized strip lighting for ponds seems to wear better.

A non contact voltage tester like a Fluke AC Non-Contact Voltage Testeris handy today, and could be a lifesaver when testing if pipes or other unexpected items are electrified.  A ubiquitous receptacle tester is a more simple way to do the most useful AC checks around a house.

The last and most optional part is a DC watt meter like the "Watt's Up". These devices measure voltage and current, but also keep track of watt hours used. Track the power put into your battery by day to know your power ration at night.

Saving your life with a multi-meter
Fallen and flooded power lines are obvious threats, but there are two subtle AC power problems likely to increase after an emergency: poorly installed systems and grounding issues.  The good news is that checking for these problems is fast and simple.  You may not have the luxury of fixing things, but you can quickly leave or reduce your risks.  

The normal NEMA ("surprised face" style) North American wall outlet has three wires: The tall slot is the neutral wire, the short slot is the hot wire and the round one is a ground.  If you look at a light bulb socket, the outside rim is the neutral, and the inner dot the hot wire.  Modern appliances will have the outside metal shell connected to ground.

If everything is built to code, back at your circuit panel, the neutral wire is connected to the ground line and a big copper spike in the earth.  This makes sure that when you stand on a wet floor and touch the outside of a light bulb socket, the neutral line will have a better connection to the earth than your body and you won’t get shocked (as badly).

In practice, people frequently wire things backwards so that the outside of the light is hot and your body is the best path to ground. This is particularly common on cheap generators that require some assembly.  Dangerous inside a dry room, but suicidal outside after a hurricane.

Having multiple connections to ground can be dangerous. A common example is a site between two widely spaced generators or long extension cords between houses. Under the wrong circumstances, simply touching both grounding wires can give you a shock, and touching the ground from one and neutral from the other is likely to be fatal.  The fast fix is to remove all connections to one power source from your area. All other solutions are more complicated, requiring study and spare equipment you might not have.

To find out if you have a wiring problem, first pause and reflect if you can test a socket without increasing your risk and if you are certain you can test without your body becoming part of an electrical circuit. If so, use a receptacle tester or follow your multimeter’s instructions to measure AC voltage. There should be roughly 120 volts between neutral and hot.  If it’s down around 90 and you’re using a lot of power, someone probably disabled a circuit breaker and your risk is higher. If there’s .05 or zero volts you probably don’t have a real ground spike connection.  This is common with inverters.  If there are 90+ volts between neutral and ground, measure hot to ground. The circuit is probably installed backwards.

If there are more than 2-3 volts between neutral and ground in an average house, there had better be a good reason. Sadly, there are both legitimate reasons and dangerous reasons, which is why we have electricians and the NEC. The danger increases with the voltage. Above 5 volts, you almost certainly aren’t getting the protection you and your equipment want.

Finally, measure voltage between the plug ground and water pipes or other metal things that are likely to connect to the ground. If you might have two sources of power, measure the voltage between ground plug holes.  Anything above 2-3 volts between grounds is cause for concern.

You now know if the outlet is good, gray area, or obviously bad.  Your safety is up to you. Reflect if near this outlet is likely to get more dangerous (wetter).  Avoid combinations of temporary electricity and any existing plumbing or electrical infrastructure.  Set up the generator powered radio out of reach of the sink and tape over the nearby wall plug.  Put one hand behind your back before flipping circuit breakers, touching new appliances or testing circuits.  This is all common sense, but many of us have to unlearn decades of being lucky breaking the rules. The AC checks show if your environment is really as normal as it seems.  

Photovoltaic Power for the Bug Out Bag
There are four problems to overcome: Getting enough watts from the sun, building something that travels well, keeping it affordable, and having it work when you need it.  

There are some great looking solar chargers that would fit in a normal bug-out bag. Most of them tend to be fragile, non repairable, and have about 5 watts of solar power. When combined with bad weather and poor solar tracking (lashed to a backpack), this frequently isn’t enough to keep up with the demands of flashlights. 

I favor 20 watts in a more luggable 25 pound system using standard parts. I can’t carry it at a dead run, but it travels well by car or bike and I can take it to a new house if need be. Most important, one sunny day can get me several days of power.

Smaller panels cost more than larger ones and need more mounting hardware to be useful.   Unbreakable panels cost 2-4 times more, so I’ve chosen to buy more  breakable panels as spares and trade goods.  Right now the best value /portability compromise is a 20 watt glass panel with a surface measuring about 2 feet by 1 foot. Sandwiching between pegboard and foam insulation protects them. Look for UL-listed panels, since that filters out the most dodgy imports. Using 10 watt panels does allow a wider choice of luggage, so decide if you want cheap containers or cheap panels.

Flexible solar panels are designed to curve around boat decks, not be stuffed into a backpack. I haven’t tried the $400 military models, but the affordable thin film folding designs tend to quickly wear out at the folds and are impossible to repair if pinched. Thin film requires much more surface area per watt.  Since I have to protect the panels anyway, I’ll stick with crystalline ones.

Rigid panels have a second advantage: they’re easier to point at the sun. Tack a nail straight into a flat scrap of wood. Point the nail head at the sun. When the shadow disappears, match the solar panel’s angle to the wood’s. Paying attention and tracking the sun increases your power by 20-50%. A small tracked panel can exceed the output of a larger floppy panel on the ground.

Panels have to be visible to the sky, above grass and not shadowed by bushes. This makes OPSEC difficult, particularly in northern latitudes where the panels must be near vertical.  Camouflage netting works well to cover the sides and back of panels.  Black solar cells flash less than blue ones.  Try to place your panels behind a bush to avoid flashes down hill, and look out for where you can be seen from above.

While there are great solar charging lithium battery systems for sale, the price per watt hour is too high for most people.   The best compromise is still a sealed Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) battery. A 15-20 Amp hour AGM mower battery weighs less than 20 pounds and can survive a few accidentally deep discharges.  When you buy a battery, write the manufacturer’s preferred charging voltage and current on the side of the battery. Print out the data sheet and store it with the battery.

Unfortunately, different brands and models of AGM batteries have different charge voltage limits, and chargers ignoring those limits will damage them.  Everything will work for the short term, but a bad charger can burn out your battery in weeks.  If you aren’t going to be able to produce a spare, spend more on a charge controller that allows you to specify charge voltages or has an AGM setting matching your battery. The Xantrex (formerly Trace) C12 is the only low watt commercial controller I know of that doesn’t require a computer and will work with any battery.

MPPT charge controllers are  advertised as increasing daily watts by 10-20%. I find the true advantage is being able to get from zero watts to barely useful (AA charging) watts with shadowed panels. I’ve bought no-name MPPT controllers that worked, but they wouldn’t be my choice for an emergency. A solid state PWM charger is a better bet.

Charging cordless electric hand tools requires compromises.  Manufacturers of lithium-ion power tools love to create bulky and expensive cradles for 12 volt tool chargers. Using an AC charger with a 150-300 watt pure sine inverter has more general utility for same price and bulk, but is 30% less efficient in charging the tool [than a DC-to-DC vehicle charger.] Cheap modified sine inverters have been known to kill DeWalt and other brands of AC-to-DC microprocessor-controlled battery chargers.  I’ve tried using small lithium ion chargers intended for remote control hobbyists, but fear I’d use them incorrectly under pressure. A DC to DC converter will charge NiMH tools, but manufacturer's own chargers seem to be the only good choice for lithium battery packs.

There are two phases for keeping your solar suitcase useful when you need it:

1.) Put a small solar panel out today. Even positioned flat in a bad site, it will recharge your AA batteries. This will familiarize you with the system and keep it topped up.

2.) After the SHTF, constantly disable unneeded power draws. Most small inverters draw 5 watts when idling.

Hopefully the Morningstar SureSine inverter will spur competitors.  I’ve accidentally killed batteries by leaving just the wattmeter and charge controller status lights plugged in for a few weeks. I now disconnect the battery when I know I won’t be using panels for a few days.

Be careful and be prepared!

It's no secret that my all-time favorite handgun is the M1911 in .45 ACP. I can often be found carrying some type of 1911 on my hip, when I'm not carrying a Glock of some sort - or another handgun that I'm doing a Test and Evaluation. However, given my druthers, when the chips are down, I'll reach for a good ol' 1911 stoked with some .45 ACP ammo.

The gun under review here is the SIG-Sauer 1911 TACOPS in .45 ACP. A couple of years ago, I wrote a review about a similar gun from SIG, and it was their 1911 in .45 ACP that they called the "Blackwater" special edition - named after Blackwater Security - the private security contractor firm. However, shortly after SIG came out with the Blackwater 1911 (and a P226 Blackwater Special Edition) there was a lot of negative press about Blackwater. At that time I asked the nice folks at SIG if they were going to continue their collaboration with Blackwater on these two handguns, and I was assured they would. They didn't! I don't know all the details about what Blackwater Security did, or didn't do, and it's none of my business. Personally, I think they got a bad rap by the press- just my two-cents worth on the entire thing. Blackwater did change their name to "Xe" which is spoken "Zee" (like "Xenia") , and the ownership of the company changed hands as well.

In any event, what we have with the SIG 1911 TACOPS, is basically the same gun that SIG was producing under the Blackwater Security name, with a few slight changes - that being no Blackwater logo or markings and the ambidextrous safety is different. We have a full-sized, updated Government Model 1911, with a 5" barrel, night sights, Picatinny rail, checkered front strap, ambi-safety (more about that shortly), extended beavertail grip safety, extended magazine well, Ergo grips, match trigger (not trigger pull), external extractor and some other goodies. All the things that most serious Model 1911 lovers want on their guns.

A quick look at the TACOPS on the SIG web site will reveal some subtle differences between the SIG 1911 and most other 1911s. Noticeably is the slide shape - it is very "SIG-ish" in style and design, and I like the way it looks. The slide also houses the external extractor and we can go 'round and 'round about which is better, the traditional internal extractor or the external extractor. I don't have a dog in this fight. I've never had any problems with external extractor on 1911s that have 'em - they seem well-made and strong, and the sample on my TACOPS is brutally strong in design. The night sights on the TACOPS are very nicely done, with the rear sight being of the Wayne Novak design - one of the best rear sights I've ever used on any handgun!

The ambi-safety - it's "nubbed" - in that, the safety lever on both sides of the gun are "abbreviated" - however, they are still readily applied or flicked off "safe" without any problems. I think we're gonna see this design copied by many. In the past, I've seen the off-side ambi-safety nubbed, but never on the left side of a 1911. If you carry concealed, you'll appreciate this type of safety - not much chance of the safety accidentally being knocked off "safe." It can happen, but this type of safety will make it more difficult.

Regarding the Picatinny rail on the frame: I'm still not sold on them for the most part, however it's there if you need it. I like the 25-LPI checkering on the front strap of the TACOPS, makes for a secure hold on the gun. The mainspring housing is also checkered. The beavertail grip safety is scalloped, meaning that it's not as wide as many others - I like it - very comfortable. The beavertail grip safety also has the little "hump" on the bottom of it, making for a sure grip on it, for releasing the trigger. The hammer is a skeletonized one for a fast lock-time. The magazine release is slightly extended for faster magazine changes. The grips are from Ergo, and I like them, They make for a secure purchase on the gun and they are ever so slightly thinner than standard wood 1911 grips. The trigger is a match-grade style, without holes in it - it's solid. The slide grasping grooves are wide and slightly angled forward for a good purchase when working the slide to chamber a round.

The TACOPS is all stainless steel, that is coated in what SIG Sauer calls their "Nitron" finish. This looks like it is Parkerized, but it's not. It is a very businesslike in appearance. I like the extended magazine well, too - and if you don't want to use it, you can easily remove it. The TACOPS comes in a smallish black plastic carrying case, with a grand total of four 8 round magazines (made by Checkmate) and they are some of the best 1911 mags around in my opinion. The mags also have a nice polymer floor plate on 'em, and this floor plate is easily removed when you want to clean your mags. Lastly, there is a standard recoil spring and rod, not the extended type. I like that!

Okay, now for the bad news, my sample TACOPS came with a terrible trigger-pull. Oh, the trigger broke at 5-lbs, and that's more than acceptable for combat work. However, the trigger was very mushy - it felt like I was squeezing an over-cooked baked potato - I kid you not. Of course, part of this is due to the TACOPS using the Colt-style Series 80 firing pin safety - it adds parts to the trigger pull on a 1911, and it only complicates the entire trigger pull sequence. The Blackwater 1911 I tested had a very crisp trigger pull of slightly over 3-1/2 lbs. However, I find a 4-to-5 pound trigger pull more than acceptable for combat work - and the TACOPS is designed for combat!

I've been around 1911s all of my adult life, and I was trained as an armorer as an alternate MOS in the military, so I know a little bit about working on 1911s and doing trigger jobs. On a standard 1911, without the Series-80 firing pin safety, I can usually do a really nice trigger job in 30-minutes to an hour - sometimes even less. On 1911s with the Series-80 firing pin safety, it can take as long as a couple hours to get a nice crisp trigger pull. On the TACOPS, it took me about three hours of work to get a good crisp trigger pull of 4.5 pounds. I didn't want to replace any of the trigger parts - and a trigger job doesn't involve just changing the trigger itself (as some believe) - it involves the sear, hammer, etc. Instead, I carefully polished all the trigger parts - which helped the mushy trigger pull some. I looked at the Series-80 levers in the frame - and they were rough - very rough. These two levers in the frame should have been thrown in the scrap heap. I carefully polished both levers to get all the rough edges off them, and I, at long-last had a very good trigger pull that wasn't mushy. This TACOPS pistol should not have slipped past the QC folks at SIG - but every once in a while, a bad guns slips through the best gun companies' QC. I could have packed the gun up and sent it back to SIG and had them work on the trigger, but it was easier for me to do the trigger job myself.

My local gun shop is a small one in Lebanon, Oregon, and they don't stock half a dozen of each gun they have for sale. The SIG TACOPS that I got from them was the only one they had in stock. Larger gun shops might have several samples of the TACOPS you can exam and chose from before making your purchase, so you can check the trigger pull on various guns before settling on one to purchase. However, living in a rural area of Oregon, we have some disadvantages and one is having smaller gun shops - and I don't have a problem with that in the least. Personally, I like a smaller gun shop - they get to know their customers and their likes and dislikes in guns. I knew I could bring the TACOPS trigger pull to where I wanted it and remove the mushy feeling - it just took me longer than I thought it would.

The TACOPS weighs 41.6 ounces - slightly heavier than many full-sized 1911s, and part of that is because of the Picatinny rail and the extended magazine well, as well as the slightly "chunkier" slide design. Most full-sized 1911s weigh around 38 - 39 ounces. So, you're really not going to feel the weight difference of a couple ounces in the TACOPS weight at all.

I like that SIG included a total of four magazines with the gun, and they are outstanding mags. Any more, most guns come with one mag - the one in the gun, and a few come with 1 spare mag. But to get a total of four mags? That's outstanding service and someone put some thought into this gun. I can see this gun being used by police SWAT teams, Spec Ops military personnel and savvy gun owners. There's really nothing you need to add to this gun, other than a good holster and a ton of .45 ACP ammo to shoot through it. It is ready-to-go when you take it out of the box.

One thing you may have a "problem" with is the Picatinny rail on the frame - it excludes the use of most leather holsters because the rail is wide and it won't fit into snug leather holsters made for Government sized 1911s. You can order a custom-made leather holster, or check around at some of the major holster companies and see if they have leather holsters that will allow a 1911 with a Picatinny rail to fit 'em. What I did was check my Blackhawk Products Kydex hip holster, and it stated on the package that a 1911 would fit it with or without a Picatinny rail. It fit perfectly. And, there is also an adjustment screw for adjusting the tension on the gun when it's holstered for a near custom fit. I also like the Serpa design on the Blackhawk holster - it's a passive device that locks the gun in the holster so no one except the individual wearing it can remove it. (As in, a gun grab.) To release the gun, it's a very natural movement, you simply draw your gun as you'd normally do, and extend your index finger along the side of the holster, and press in on a small "button" to release the gun. It's easier than it sounds and very natural to do, with just a small amount of practice. The TACOPS also fit my Blackhawk tactical thigh holster as well - which is highly recommended for military and tactical law enforcement operations. What's not to like here?

I fired .45 ACP ammo through the TACOPS from Black Hills Ammunition, Buffalo Bore Ammunition and Winchester. I had an outstanding assortment of various types of ammo to test in this gun, including 185 grain JHP, 185 grain JHP+P .230 grain JHP and FMJ. The TACOPS never skipped a beat or hesitated in my testing. It gobbled-up everything I put through it. Accuracy was outstanding, with groups of 2-3 inches at 25-yards over a rest. The Winchester 230 grain FMJ USA white box ammo was used to break the gun in - I fired a couple boxes of this stuff through the gun just to get a good feel for it. This is always a good and affordable round for target practice on the range. The Buffalo Bore ammo I used most was their 185 grain JHP +P load, and this one gets your attention - recoil is there - but nothing you can't manage. I also fired some of their 230 grain FMJ +P ammo through the gun, and it didn't seem as stout as their 186 grain JHP +P load was. Black Hills Ammunition sent me 4 cases of .45 ACP to use - I've been testing a lot of 1911s lately and my ammo locker was getting very low. My buddy, Jeff Hoffman, who runs Black Hills has kept me in ammo for 20 years.

The Black Hills loads I had were quite a few different ones. Of course, I had their 230 grain FMJ load, which has always been a great performer and very accurate for me in any 1911s I've tested it in. I received several different 185 grain JHP +P loadings from Black Hills,  including their newest, which has an all copper 185 grain JHP bullet from Barnes Bullets - this bullet will penetrate deeper and will not come apart - due to the fact that there is no lead core - the bullet is entirely made-up of copper, with a hollow cavity. I also had some 230 grain JHP +P loads from Black Hills as well. Again, there were no malfunctions of any sort with my TACOPS sample, and I ran about 500-rds down range over several shooting sessions. Was there a winner in the accuracy department? Yeah, and it was the Black Hills 185 grain JHP +P load with the Barnes bullet. It nudged out the Black Hills 230 grain FMJ load and the Buffalo Bore 185 grain JHP +P loads - ever so slightly. Truthfully, in all the various .45 ACP loads I tested, they were all neck-and-neck in the accuracy department. And, on another day, any one of the loads could have been a bit more more accurate than the other. The SIG TACOPS loved 'em all.

I'm a habitual gun trader - always trading for something else on any given day. However, this SIG Sauer TACOPS has found a permanent home in my meager gun collection - it's not going any place. Now, the bad news, quality never comes cheap, and the TACOPS retails for $1,213 - and honestly, that's not a bad price for all the features this gun comes with. There's nothing I plan on changing on this gun - I'm not even going to replace the Ergo grips with my "Code Zero" 1911 grips that I designed for Mil-Tac Knives & Tools. I believe this may well be the very first 1911 I've never changed anything on. However, one minor change might be in order, and that is, if I'm going to shoot a steady diet of +P ammo through this gun, I'm going to put in a slightly heavier 18.5 pound recoil spring instead of staying with the factory 16 pound recoil spring. Now, the good news - I've checked around on various gun selling web sites, and it looks like the TACOPS is selling for right around $950 - $1,000 - and that's well below the full retail asking price.

So, if you're in the market for a new 1911, then take a close look at the SIG-Sauer TACOPS - I think you will have a tough time passing it up, considering all its features.

Hi James,
I recently attended a close quarters battle (CQB) training course with a company here in the United States. After the course, I was very kindly 'gifted' a 'Breath of Life' emergency mask. I was very grateful for this gesture, and curious as to this product. Luckily, as a volunteer fire fighter, I got the chance to try this mask' effectiveness during one of our training sessions, which can be seen here.

I must say, I was incredibly impressed with this product, and as a long time reader of your excellent site, feel it maybe of interest to your readers also...

I should mention I am not 'affiliated' to this company or product in anyway, merely just aware of it, and lucky to have had the chance to try it out.

I hope these links maybe of some use.

Best wishes, - Toby C.

I love to see teens experimenting!  It's a very good thing.  Learning how to propagate plants from suckers/leaves/etc is a very useful skill.

But an easier way to maximize your tomato harvest easily is to grow from seeds - I keep extra seedlings around (still have some!) to pop into any spare space that turns up.

And the best way to extend your harvest is to make sure that some of your plants are indeterminate.

Those of us who can tomatoes plant a lot of tomato varieties that are determinate - the bulk of the tomatoes on the plant ripen within a short span of time.  Thus, you get bushel loads to can at once, not one or two tomatoes a week for a long period of time.

On the other hand, for eating tomatoes as they ripen and having that happen over a long period of time, what you need are indeterminate varieties of tomatoes.    These plants will set plenty of tomatoes, and keep setting lots pretty much until the first frost.  However, only a couple will ripen every week.  A few indeterminate plants will keep a family in ripe tomatoes for salads, sandwiches, and such, but a garden full will frustrate a canner!

When it looks like there will be a frost, I simply cut the plant off just above the ground, and hang them inside.  The plant will wilt, shrivel (and falling leaves WILL need to be swept up), and the tomatoes will continue to slowly ripen for at least another month to six weeks. - FernWise

We live in a rental property that unfortunately has a lawn that was poisoned by several years of chemicals sprayed on it to kill weeds. So, we have tried to grow a few items in raised beds. One learning experience we had may keep someone else from making the same mistake. We had never heard of black walnut trees causing a toxic effect on tomatoes. They all died because we have three black walnut trees in our yard. Cabbage, eggplant, peppers, and potatoes are sensitive to the toxins plus a few fruit and field crops. We planted the tomatoes this year far away from the walnut trees and they are beautiful plants. This year our zucchini,which was very productive last year, has failed to produce fruit. We suspect no pollination due to no bees around. Next learning experience--learning how to hand pollinate plants that need it. That is something I never thought we would need to know. I hope someone is saved from failed crops do to knowledge from our failures. Thank goodness at this time our lives don't depend on what we are trying to raise. One day, they might. - B.L.

Hey JWR,
I was a little disturbed by J.W.C.'s comments, as he described plants drying up while he was watering them. There should be no drought for irrigated crops. I would hate for anyone to get discouraged about gardening, especially those who have all the resources on hand. He makes it sound like plants are unreliable, but it is the conditions in which he puts the plants. Don't give up, don't blame the plants, go and learn more. You can set up a stronger garden. The good news is people have already figured out how to grow an irrigated garden through heat waves, and it is easy to learn from them.

Is he allowing the sun to hit bare soil? Try some mulch living or dead. Is he watering lightly and often or deeply and less often? The difference could be shallow roots versus deep roots. He mentioned weeding, but does he know that there are many weeds that can help his garden grow (by penetrating the soil, shading the soil, etc.)? He mentioned amending his soil with steer manure. Try adding something bulkier like rotted wood - it can be a great sponge down in the soil. Whatever problems there are there is probably a surprisingly simple solution for each. Don't give up, get help from other gardeners! There are people growing things under circumstances that many wouldn't dream possible (even in the desert). Go and learn from them. For example, please go to Youtube and search for Sepp Holzer and see some of his gardening results. - Juan, South of the border.

The U.S. economy is now spinning out of control. It is now apparent that the 2008 credit crisis was never resolved. Rather, it was simply postponed, by creating $16 trillion out of thin air. With all that cash pumped into the system, a few people are now singing Once In A Lifetime, but most are singing the Hard Times Blues, or even Are They Gonna Make us Outlaws Again?

A recent piece by Tyler Durden: EU Debt Restructuring Leads to Bailout Euphoria / Silver to Double to $100 Say Citigroup. Tyler notes: "...it is very unusual to see such a bullish call from a major bank and suggests that at least some of the major banks see the writing on the wall regarding much higher silver prices. They are likely positioning themselves accordingly."

Anthony T. mentioned: Largest Municipal Bankruptcy in History Could be filed next week (in Jefferson County, Alabama.)

Sue C. pointed me to some commentary from Rick Moran at The American Thinker: You know you live in a banana republic when...

Some commentary by Yohay Elam at FOREX Crunch: US Debt Ceiling: Three Ways This Can Unfold

John R. kindly sent us a big pile 'o links:

We Print Bonds – Not Money Martin Armstrong

Deficits and Stimulus Only Delay the Inevitable Collapse Bob Chapman

100 Basis Points to Armageddon Bill Bonner

How Greece Could Trigger Another “2008″ Event Graham Summers

500 Million Debt-Serfs: The European Union is a Neo-Feudal Kleptocracy Charles Hugh Smith   

"Down To The Wire": Oakree's Howard Marks Takes On The US Debt Ceiling Tyler Durden       

As Europe acts on debt crisis, U.S. dithers Tom Petruno   

Faber: Ben Bernanke doesn’t understand international economics Jim Puplava     

Debt! Debt! Debt! Dave Cohen         

Dinosaurs, Dodo Birds, Wooly Mammoths, and Free Markets Rob Kirby  

David Walker Video: 5 Consequences If America Doesn’t Raise the Debt Ceiling Aaron Task

Items from The Economatrix:

Wall Street Paralyzed By US Debt Talks

The Euro Threatens World With Economic Meltdown

Celente Predicts Gold Standard Will Not Save US Economy

David Morgan on Silver Price Manipulation, Delivery Default, and Supply Shortage Risks

T. sent this charming news: Bill to allow DHS to seize authority over U.S. coastlines (and anywhere within 100 miles of the Canadian and Mexican borders!)

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Martin sent this news story from England: Poacher in the woods: A new breed of poacher is plundering our forests - with wood-burning stoves in mind.

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My #1 Son mentioned that five new retreat property listings were just added to his SurvivalRealty.com web site, including his first one in Africa. SurvivalRealty.com is a successful spin-off of SurvivalBlog that specializes in unusual retreat properties. Most of them rural and remote, and some of them are off-grid. If you have a unique property that would be difficult to sell elsewhere, then consider advertising at SurvivalRealty.com. Custom-designed ads there are just $30 per month, and there are no sales commissions!

   o o o

K.A.F. sent us the latest from The Mickey Mouse State: San Francisco Considers Legal Protection for Criminals. Yet another reason to vote with your feet.

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Some poignant commentary: America’s Human Space Flight Program 1961 to 2011: An Epitaph

"Someday, we'll go to war over rice." - The Dogs of War (Screenplay by Gary DeVore and George Malko, based on the novel by Frederick Forsyth.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 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’ve always wondered why some people tend to plant all of their garden at one time. It never made sense to me. Why have 30 pounds of tomatoes come in at once, only to can it all? Sure, canning is great (in fact we just put away 14 quarts of peaches today), but fresh is better than canned, 100% of the time. And yes, I understand home canning is so you have food to eat in the winter. But why not get fresh for as long as you can? But just hold on, we’ll get back to that later on. Being an unemployed teenager, I decided to do a little bit of experimentation in our garden. One day, I went across the street to talk to my neighbor, that also has a small, but successful garden. I complemented his garden, and we walked through it. When we got to some of his tomato plants he began to explain a way to root new tomato plants from your existing plants. They’re called suckers, and they can change the way you garden, and how much you can produce from Spring until frost. And who knows, maybe one day they could save your life. Okay, tomato plants really aren’t that exciting and dramatic, or are they?

What is a sucker? Stick out your left hand, with the back of your hand facing you. Make an “L” with it. Now, in the curve of that “L” on a tomato plant, there will be a branch that grows out of the “armpit” of the plant. It normally grows out of more mature plants, and can grow to full size and bear blooms and baby tomatoes, just like any other tomato plant branch. Some people say you can remove these “Suckers” off to enlarge your fruit. I personally can’t attest to that. But, suckers also have another special ability. If you remove them off at the base of the “armpit”, and stick them into some potting soil, or dirt, and water them once a day, you can have new tomato plants. Now, Suckers can be rooted very tiny or pretty large. However, when removing suckers from your plant, be careful not to tear the skin down the branch. This can expose your plant to diseases, and it diverts more energy to scabbing the tear open. Now removing a sucker from a tomato plant does not harm the tomato plant, and I have yet to kill a tomato plant in harvesting the sucker from it’s branches. Try and pinch the sucker off, more than cutting him. Cutting the sucker away can damage the plant if you slip, and it really seems to be counterproductive to growing for some odd reason.

Now, how big are you supposed to start them at? Well, I started a number of them anywhere between a single leaf (it broke off so I tried to root it) and up to about 8 inches. The bigger you start them at, the more apt they are to grow. The bigger ones grew more than the smaller ones, I suppose because they had more energy stored up that than the tiny ones. However, the smaller ones still grew. The leaf that I rooted actually developed a root system, about 2 inches long. Also, some of the smaller ones failed to grow much at all, they just got thicker and harder. So my suggestion is to start bigger, at about 6-8 inches.

So, you’ve got your suckers. Now, where to put them? Well you’ve got that empty spot in the garden, that 44 ounce slushie cup from the gas station, and a 6 pack seedling tray that you bought some plants in. Well, I tried all three. All I did to the ones in the garden was poke a hole in the dirt, stick the sucker in there, and water. I filled up every empty spot in the garden with them. And unfortunately, I had about a 50-60% casualty rate. Yikes! Well, I got a couple of the slushie cups, filled them with potting soil, and planted two large tomato suckers in them. They were actually the most successful of the containers, the plants grew fast, and matured fast. They even had blooms on them only two and half weeks after I planted them. I believe they did so well, because the roots had room to grow (If you use the cup method, be sure to dump excess water out of the cups since they have no drainage. We left for one week and had the neighbor take care of them, and there was some heavy rain, so when I got home the ones in the cups were very near floating in their homes). But I also planted about 48 suckers into the plastic 6 pack trays. How did they do? Well, they did okay, I only had one die out of the entire lot. They didn’t get too large, as the roots were confined to the small containers. But, beware, if you use these 6 packs, the taller ones will shade the smaller ones and effectively stunt their growth. I’ve planted my suckers that were mature enough (and I gauged that by how much the roots had grown inside the container) into the garden.

I had actually placed my tomatoes on a retaining wall in part sun / part shade. One of the advantages of putting them into this sort of area is that the sun will not dry out the plants and wilt them. I had no problem keeping my plants happy and wet (and there‘s no problem over-watering them either, as long as they have drainage) . Although because I did this, I also wonder if I could have made my plants grow more, and perhaps let the little ones grow more if I would have moved them into the sun more. But, when you put them into the sun you run the risk of blistering them. Worth the risk? I don’t know, but trust me I intend to find out next year when my tomatoes mature and grow. I also didn’t use any fertilize in any stage of my growing, mainly because I did not have access to any (one of my goals in this project was to keep it low cost). Perhaps if I had, I would have had more success with it. Again, that will be another factor that will be manipulated in next year’s sucker growing.

Okay, you’ve got your suckers planted into your packs, cups, whatever, and may have even transplanted some into the garden. Here’s some helpful hints and tips, that are pretty basic tomato gardening. One of the best things for tomato plants are cages and stakes. Of the tomatoes we planted this year, the ones that were caged grew exponentially more than those that were not caged (Note: None of my suckers have yet to reach a size suitable for caging. However, they have been staked). The stakes also seemed to promote growth. Be careful to try and attach your tomato plant to it’s cage or stake. Simple twine will do. If they grow too much, they will grow out of the cage, and can topple it over (High winds can also damage your caged tomatoes. Unfortunately this has occurred to one of my Roma plants, and has nearly severed one of the most loaded branches on the plant. The plant has started to die back, and I can’t help but wonder if it might be some sort of disease it got when it was opened up. Creating a tomato plant is easy, destroying one is easier.

So, Mister Prepper Extraordinaire, how can this simple, inexpensive, and reliable method be of benefit to you? Well, because it’s just that. Plus, I can give you a few more reasons. Firstly, Heirloom plants are more expensive than your hybrid tomatoes. And they normally come in one packs at the farm supply store. So what we did, was plant these heirlooms and grab the suckers off of them. This increased the amount of our heirloom tomato plants by tenfold, as most plants can give you a ton of suckers. And guess what? When you have more plants, you have more fruit, and more seeds to save. So, say you grab four varieties of your farm supply store’s first shipment of heirloom tomatoes in Early Spring. Plant them soon! Get them growing! As they grow, they will give you suckers (and lots of them). So while you’re gathering fruit from your 1st batch of tomatoes you bought, you can be setting out the suckers from those plants. And guess what? Tomatoes will produce until frost. So you can get a lot of tomatoes from just this little bit of investment. Of course there is some sweat equity, but hey, that’s part of the fun. And believe me, it’s really kinda fun to watch your tomatoes grow. So, you can have fresh tomatoes throughout the Summer and into the Fall by planting these suckers, and staggering your plantings. This will give a lot more seed to save for next year, and plenty of tomatoes to can and preserve for your pantry. And, you will have fresh tomatoes for your enjoyment. Happy Suckering!

Get out of the cities. Most would agree this is a key rule of survival during the end of the world as we know it.  After all, millions of people reside in cities around the globe. Supply store shelves can become bare in mere minutes, water can become rapidly contaminated by overwhelmed sewage systems, and riots can outnumber and overtake law enforcement. The urban environment also renders certain wilderness survival tactics unsafe, such as cooking over a fire. Cities are vulnerable to uncontrollable fires. They make prime nuclear targets. Disease spreads among city dwellers at an astounding rate. There are many reasons why cities are dangerous in a TEOTWAWKI situation. Therefore, the logic to abandon them for a less populated area remains largely undisputed.
But what if one of the following scenarios makes leaving the city impossible?

A 2005 CRS report for the United States Congress, Federal and State Isolation and Quarantine Authority, states that the Secretary of Health and Human Services can give authority for the Director of the CDC to determine that measures taken by local medicine powers to prevent the spread of disease have been ineffective, and intervene directly by taking the “necessary measures”.

Simply put, the United States government has the power to quarantine sections of the country, as do governments in various parts of the world. Below are just several cases of quarantined cities throughout the world in the last ten years. Read and research the facts for yourself through the provided hyperlinks.

In 2003, over 8,000 people were put under quarantine in their homes and watched through installed video cameras due to an outbreak of SARS in Taipei City, Taiwan. More than 7,000 people were also put under quarantine due to SARS in the city of Toronto, Canada.

In 2006, over 60,000 people were put under quarantine due to an outbreak of bird flu in the city of Bucharest, Romania. Over 23,000 more residents were quarantined in the city of Codlea, Romania.

In 2009, the world’s second largest city with a population of 21 million, Mexico City, was put under quarantine for five days in the midst of a Swine Flu outbreak.

These quarantines, lasting anywhere from four days to a couple weeks, are a far cry from what could potentially occur should an outbreak threaten the long-term freedom of urban residents. The general rule of quarantines is simple: No one gets in and no one gets out.

Flooded Roads
Rain storms, broken dams, overflowing rivers, melting snow, and tsunamis are several occurrences which may cause sudden and dangerous flooding of major roads leading out of cities around the world.
In October of 2010, flooding left the city of Gisborne, New Zealand with only a couple round-about ways of entering or leaving the city. Had debris obstructed these roads, the city would have been completely isolated from the outside world.
In January of 2011, nearly 1,000 flooded roads and several closed bridges around the city of Brisbane, Australia only left one unclosed bridge as access to Southern Brisbane.
Also in January of 2011, the city of Rockhampton, Australia was completely cut off by flood waters. Here is a blog written by someone in the city describing their experience of urban isolation.

Collapsed and Closed Bridges
Major bridges in and around cities may collapse at some point due to structural wear, though they are more likely to collapse due to a disaster such as an earthquake, fire, train wreck, sink hole, or tsunami. Total collapse aside, a bridge need only be threatened or damaged by any of these disasters for city officials to make the decision to close it to road and foot traffic.
In August of 2007, the Interstate 35W bridge connecting the city of Minneapolis to St. Paul collapsed into the Mississippi River during rush hour traffic. The MSNBC news article states that the bridge was “a major Minneapolis artery”.
In December of 2009, a bridge collapsed in the city of Kota, India, killing at least 40 people and leaving cars with no way to cross the Chambal River.
On July 14th, 2011, a bridge split in half in the city of Wuyishan, China. While it’s too soon to know how this will affect city residents, it’s fair to assume that months of investigation and repair are in order.

Mass Rioting
Riots can be deadly. If riots consume the streets of your city, it won’t merely be
impossible to drive through the crowds, but dangerous to leave your home. Damage done by rioters could also be severe enough to close roads leading out of the city long after rioting has ceased.
On January 28th, 2011, over 10,000 protesters began rioting in Cairo, Egypt and several were killed. Some policemen even went as far as to join the riot.
On June 15th, 2011, rioting in Vancouver, Canada caused five million dollars worth of damage which took weeks to repair.
On July 11th, 2011, rioting in the city of Belfast, Ireland injured 40 police officers when the Orange Order performed their annual march. The violence continued for over five hours.
Riots are one of the most common forms of social disruption around the globe. Whether caused by political unrest or due to a win/loss at a major sporting event, they can last anywhere from several hours to days on end. [JWR Adds: Stay away from riots! They quite typically devolve into a classic Suave qui peut situation.]

Terrorist Threat
The news is constantly regaling us with stories of how bombers have taken hostages in libraries, schools, city halls, and other public venues. Would it be a stretch then, to speculate that a terrorist could take an entire city hostage? Or that a country could threaten to destroy the capitol of another country with a nuclear weapon? It’s possible that one day, cities may be put under lock down and its residents held hostage until negotiations with terrorists end.

Poor Health
It will be impossible to move out of the city, even if the direct threat is over, should you or one of your family members become seriously wounded. Terminal illnesses, post operation recovery, old age, and disabling diseases can also slow or halt a move, forcing you to stay in the nearly abandoned city for an extended period of time.
So how can you prepare yourself for isolation in the city?

Rule #1: Be Aware
Awareness will be a key component of survival in the cities. You need to be aware of what’s happening in the streets so you don’t stumble into a riot, the location and direction of local fires before they consume your building, and what’s happening in other areas of the city so you know if friends and family are okay. It’s also important to be aware and stay updated on the possibility of leaving the city.

Therefore, a crank radio that at a bare minimum features local weather and news stations is essential. Many people who prepare for emergencies boast the importance of a battery-powered radio. Batteries are expensive, perishable, and wasteful. Personally I recommended the Etón Scorpion crank radio at only $50, which features an AM/FM digital radio, seven NOAA weather stations, an antenna, both a manual hand crank and solar panel for recharging, a large LED flashlight, clock, aluminum carabineer, bottle opener, AUX port, and headphone jack. After about 500 cranks you get two hours of power and after about ten hours in direct sunlight you get twelve hours of power. Be sure to count out the 500 cranks, as it’s easy to get impatient and only charge twenty minutes of power. A radio is one of the best ways to stay aware of what’s happening in the city while safely indoors.

When outdoors, you must be aware of what’s progressing around you at all times. Modern day order has urban residents walking the streets while talking on phones, having conversations, daydreaming, or eying their destination with tunnel vision. During TEOTWAWKI, you must be aware of anyone walking too close, people loitering, dark alleys ahead, people who may be following you or watching you from windows above, or the sudden pickup in the pace of footsteps near you. Anyone could be hunting for prey to rob, rape, and/or kill. Be aware.

Rule #2: Know Your City
The more you know about your city, the more of an advantage you have in a TEOTWAWKI situation. If you know the underground routes and/or back alleys, travel (such as getting home) will be safer than using the main roads. If you know the location of underground rooms, you can move there if fires consume the city or if radiation is at deadly levels. If you know the rooftops that provide the most shelter, you won’t be in a panic if floods wash out the roads. If you know every possible route of escape and place to hide, you can evade any pursuer. Your city may become your world. It would serve you well to know every nook and cranny.

An easy way to begin exploring your city is to study detailed maps and blueprints, walk the streets to confirm what you’ve studied, and to enter public buildings you’ve never been in before. Knowing all entryways and exits, including ladders and fire escapes, could prove vital in an emergency.

Once you’ve memorized the surface streets, seek out tours which take you beneath the historical districts. Seattle, for example, hosts a tour of the Seattle Underground, tunnels created after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. The Brooklyn Historic Railway Association hosts regular tours of a hidden tunnel directly under Atlantic Avenue. There’s a shopping center called Underground Atlanta which covers over six blocks beneath the streets. Houston even has over seven miles of underground passageways! Cleveland, Dallas, Chicago, and many other cities around the world have similar underground passages. All you need to do to find underground tours and shopping centers in your city is to to do a web search on your city's name, along with the term “underground”. [JWR Adds: Some of these underground passageways can be amazing, even akin to the Traboules of Old Lyon.]

The final process of exploring your city is an option called urban exploration. Urban explorers commonly explore off-limits areas such as abandoned buildings, transit and utility tunnels, storm drains, catacombs, and roofs. Discovery Channel’s television show Urban Explorers has made urban exploring more popular in recent years, and has also exposed the risks and dangers urban explorers face. Many abandoned buildings are unstable in structure, house hostile squatters, and contain poisons in the air, paint, and bird droppings. There’s also the risk of being arrested for trespassing and breaking and entering, depending on the area of exploration. Therefore, proper gear and significant research is necessary if you choose to explore your city in such depth.

Rule #3: Know How to Protect Yourself
Protecting yourself goes beyond just self-defense. It encompasses basic knowledge, using your resources, adapting to the situation, and always keeping your personal safety at the forefront of your mind. Below is life-saving advice for a variety of TEOTWAWKI urban situations.
Avoid walking in the city alone. Remember, there is safety in numbers.
Avoid walking in the city at night, unless you need the darkness for cover. Even if you have a night vision lens, if you get into trouble and yell for help, people who don’t have a lens may not be able to find you.
When it rains, don’t take shelter in the storm drains. “When it rains, no drains.”
Avoid looking like a victim when walking the streets. Stand straight, square your shoulders, and walk with a strong stride. Look people in the eye long enough for them to know you’re unafraid, but not long enough for them to interpret your stare as a challenge.
Blend in, blend in, blend in. Don’t call attention to the fact that you’re carrying a gun by wearing military fatigues. Don’t call attention to your supplies by wearing a large backpack around people who have nothing but the clothing on their backs. Don’t call attention to your access to water by being the only clean person in a crowd of filthy people. To not blend in is putting yourself in danger.
If you’re caught in a riot, your immediate goal is to reach a safe shelter. Keep your head down to avoid flying objects and slowly make your way towards the edge of the crowd. If you’re caught by police or rioters, stay calm and say whatever is necessary to be released. Don’t use the main roads to reach a safe shelter.
If you’re in a city building during an earthquake, the safest place to be is under a sturdy piece of furniture against the inner wall of the building and away from the windows. Don’t try to run outside, as objects may hit you as they fall. If you’re already outside, stay as far from buildings as possible, which may be in the middle of an intersection. Watch out for falling poles and objects. Be ready for aftershocks.
In case TEOTWAWKI occurs before you’ve obtained and practiced with a gun, your best bet is to learn some knife defense techniques now. A knife also serves well as a backup weapon if you run out of ammunition. Due to the density of city populations, I’ve chosen a short video presenting the Tactical Defense Institute’s knife defense technique used against multiple attackers.
There are an indefinite number of circumstances in which knowing how to protect yourself in the city can save your life. Do you know how to protect yourself from looters trying to break into your apartment? How about from disease by keeping your small living space sanitary? What would you do to ensure your safety if the city air raid sirens started going off? Have thoroughly-researched and practiced plans in order to protect yourself.

Rule #4: Have Supplies and a Bug out Bag
While it’s possible to survive without supplies, urban conditions will make it extremely difficult. Rather than expend the energy it requires to trap and cook city delights such as rats, pigeons, and squirrels, you could be in the safety in your own home eating from your stockpile of food. Rather than risk a city fire by boiling all water from a questionable source, you could make use of a ceramic water filter such as the Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter, which has a 13,000 gallon working life. Rather than face looters with nothing but a kitchen knife and scissors, you could face them with a loaded gun you’re well practiced with. You get the idea. Preparing now by stockpiling self-tested supplies will raise your chances of urban survival by allowing you to save your energy for when you need it most and allow you to stay in your home, away from the danger on the streets.

A bug out bag is also of utmost importance, as all survivalists know. But in the city there are specific aspects of a bug out bag to take into consideration.
First of all, weapons such as guns, knives, and mace should not stay in your bag. They should be put on your person in several places and close at hand for when you need them. The city is full of small escapes and narrow passageways not large enough for a stuffed backpack. If you need to abandon your bag, you need the ability to do so quickly, with the knowledge that you can still protect yourself in a dangerous situation.
As a city dweller, your bug out bag should be smaller than the bags used by rural residents. This isn’t because you require less survival gear, but because the bigger your bag, the more robbers will notice it and target you. With a large city population, armed robbers will be much more of a risk than out in the country.

A key item in your urban bug out bag will be a long length of thin, strong rope. Think collapsed staircases, blocked fire escapes, and no fire trucks. There are two essential knots to learn and practice for you to be able to use the rope safely. As a sailor, I recommended the Bowline (for tying the rope securely around something at one end) and the Sheet Bend (for a secure connection between two rope ends).

Other urban bug out bag necessities include eye-seal goggles and an N95 respirator to protect against debris dust, maps for when you’re so panicked you don’t remember which streets or tunnels lead where, and an LED light and crank radio (like the Etón Scorpion) to light dim back alleys, read maps, and being aware of situation progress and dangers. If you wear heels day-to-day, consider packing a comfortable pair of walking or running shoes. Then there are the essentials for any bug out bag, such as water, food, and a medical kit.

Rule #5: Keep Fit
If your city became a battleground, how long would you last?
Cities are home to many people on steady doses of anti-psychotic medications, many drug addicts, and many alcoholics. When the system breaks down, these people may face a sudden and sometimes violent detoxification as these substances are no longer available. Criminal activity may soar as thieves, ex-convicts, and sex offenders are no longer under the watchful eye of the law. Usually peaceful people who are unprepared may become brutally cutthroat in the midst of survival.

As the city can quickly become one of the most dangerous places to be, it’s important to always be at your peak physically. To be prepared to outrun pursuers and fight off attackers. Many people in the city do plenty of walking, but may be unprepared to run several miles.

The three basic fitness components include cardio, strength, and flexibility. I would also encourage you to focus on endurance, as there won’t always be time to rest when you’re trying to survive. Adrenaline will only last so long before the stress on your system takes its toll.

And for those of you who already consider yourselves fit, there’s always room for improvement. Keep striving and one day it may save your life.

The following is the "Simple Solution" -  Home made Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) Recipe
Preparing 1 (one) Liter solution using Salt, Sugar and Water at home.
Mix an oral rehydration solution using the following recipe.


  1. Six (6) level teaspoons of Sugar
  2. Half (1/2) level teaspoon of Salt
  3. One Liter of clean drinking or boiled water and then cooled - 5 cupfuls (each cup is about 200 ml.)

Preparation Method:

  1. Stir the mixture until the salt and sugar dissolve.

Oral rehydration will make the difference between life and death with many serious diarrheal illnesses.  Please make sure you have this formula somewhere on your prepper shelves and that you have adequate stockpiles of salt and sugar.  Drinks like juice and Gatorade are fine to use with water until your stores run out.  There are many other formulas out there, this one is simple and easy with just three ingredients.  

Stay strong , people!  - Dr. Bob

[JWR Notes: Dr. Bob is is one of the few consulting physicians in the U.S. who dispenses antibiotics for disaster preparedness as part of his normal scope of practice. His web site is: SurvivingHealthy.com.)

I just wanted to drop an alternate product use suggestion. In my gun closet I have a mesh over-the-door shoe organizer that mount to the doors by hooks. When I swing the door open to get to the gun safe I have loaded magazines in easy to grab and recognizable rows in the shoe holder. I also keep other small parts like extra scopes, bipods, and other detachable items in the compartments.  It is four pockets across and six down, for 24 total pockets. Each pocket will easily hold two loaded AK magazines or three AR magazines.  This gives a ready reserve of 72 loaded AR-15 magazines that are taking up essentially zero [floor] space. - M.A.T. in Virginia

Mr. Rawles,
I am writing to tell you about an amazing movie I just saw titled Phase 7. I saw it at our local AMC theater and realized it was only doing limited showings in limited cities. My interest peaked, I watched the trailer and saw that it was an apocalyptic genre movie about surviving a viral outbreak. I gathered up the wife and headed out. I was amazed to see a low budget film that was all about survival!

The main character is a thirty-something city boy slacker who has a pregnant wife. As things begin to unravel, his neighbor (the ultra prepared survivalist) befriends him and teaches him to survive. First, we think it is just for charity, but by the end of the movie, you see it is for other reasons. There are a few scenes of unbelievable gun violence that are depicted, earning the movie its R rating. Overall, it seems the writer must have been a Rawlesian survivalist. This movie is surprisingly accurate, kind in places, and funny when it needs to be. The survival lessons and tactics used, especially demonstrating how to be prepared in an ultra urban setting are very valuable. Check it out! - I.S.

This is my first time writing to SurvivalBlog. We have been raising goats and sheep for five years. Country Lady's comments in Dairy Goats 201 - Birthing Kids are pretty much on the money. We have had to pull stuck twins, bottle feed when one of our ewes' had 1/2 of her bag go dry(she had twins) and have lost sheep to pneumonia and a goat to bloating. We raise our sheep and goats for meat on the table. My wife read every book about sheep and goats that she could. It was a good information source, But in the end, our vet, who is a wonderful country vet who has seen it all, said "throw those books away!" You have to be with the animals. You have to be ready for what ever. We use old towels to wipe down the babies, we vaccinate right away and babies and mom go to a horse stall with a heat lamp for a couple days. Its can be cold in upstate Michigan. The best advise you can get when starting out is the advise of someone who has done it before. Our sheep and goat experience has been rewarding and we plan to eat if everything falls apart . Happy hobby farming , it’s a good way to be prepared. Remember to help those willing to help you! Chuck in Northern Michigan

Being addicted to raising goats, I was quite interested to read Dairy Goats 201 - Birthing Kids, by Country Lady. I realize that if one crammed 1,000 goat breeders/raisers into a large auditorium, 1,000 different "correct" ways would probably present themselves as to birthing. I'd like to take a moment to point out several issues that in 10 years of being a goat keep I've learned:

First, re: "The father of all the babies listed below is Cappuccino, a half Nubian, half Nigerian Dwarf yearling buck. Since Cappy is fairly small, we expected easy births of smaller babies, but that turned out to be just a theory as both male kids had large Nubian heads that caused a lot of birthing pain for the two smaller does."

Bucklings, specifically Nubians, do not mature until approximately three years. A yearling might weigh 80 pounds and the same three year old might weigh in at 200 pounds. I might look to the width and depth of the pelvic cradle of the does, especially smaller breeds for inability to kid with ease.

"Anne punctured the sack with her fingernail (she had already washed her hands and poured alcohol over them)."

The alcohol is great, the puncturing might present a problem.

In a perfect delivery, goat kids would be delivered with "nose down between legs." But we don't live in a perfect world.

Presentations are likely to be breech, one leg forward with the other hitched behind the pelvic bone, or a myriad of other complications. The placenta is designed to protect and cushion the kid from the outside world until full delivery. If the presentation is not "appropriate" or one must manipulate a tangled set of limbs as the kids seem to "race to emerge first", what happens if the Placenta has been pierced? The fluid, and in some cases the Meconium can be forced back into the lungs. A kid might suffocate before emergence if the delivery is extended beyond several minutes. Worse, the kid might survive to not thrive with constant infections.

God designed a wonderful system in which a Doe in most cases will remove the membrane from the muzzle of the kid by licking. This serves numerous purposes two of which are: stimulating breathing and eliciting the cry which from first breath will be identified as "her kid" strengthening the bonding process.

"We tried to get Baby to nurse Calico, but all she would do was lick her - we realized that Baby must have been bottle-fed and did not know how to mother."

This is a fallacy that many newer individuals subscribe to. While there are Dams who are what we might consider "poor" mothers, Nature has imbued in these critters the drive to reproduce and nurture their offspring. In the case of a CAE (Caprine Arthritis-Encephalitis Virus) Positive Doe if one chooses to "reduce the transmission" (notice I do not say eliminate, but that would be another post entirely) it is imperative that the kids be removed before the Dam cleans them at all.

After years of "clean goats", I did have a positive and did pull the kids. Both Doelings delivered and mothered kids 20 months later. This year our crop of kids totaled 42. Of those I chose to remove a Quad or two, pull some as bottle babies for 4H or Show purchasers, or assist a first freshener with production issues. In the years that I have done this, not one Bottle Doe has kidded with issues of inability to Nurture with the exception of one line that seemed to have a reappearance of this trait. This line was culled as if TSHTF, coddling cannot be continued at this level.

In all it is wonderful to read of someone who enjoys raising goats. I'd encourage those who are interested to research, research, research - now. Our lines have been bred over the last six years or so to maximize production with lower grain input, increase worm resistance thereby reducing our dependency on wormer, and increase mothering skills. - Mutti (A SurvivalBlog Reader via TMM, and originator of The Goat Chronicles.)

Geoff S. sent: Farm Thieves Target Grapes, and Even Bees

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A final reminder that the deadline for the Ready Made Resources Preparedness Video Contest is July 26th. Instructional (nonfiction) videos on any topic related to family preparedness are sought. The prizes are a brand new Rock Rivers Arms (RRA) Elite Comp M4 (AR-15 series compatible ) complete Barreled Upper Receiver and a Trijicon Reflex sight with a combined retail value of more than $1,400. Please keep your privacy in mind when you create your videos. (Don't mention any surnames or towns). You may post up to three videos to YouTube for consideration in the judging. Videos up to 10 minute long that are your original work that are already posted to YouTube are also eligible for the judging. To enter, e-mail the URL for video(s) to: grisrob@gmail.com. Do not send the videos themselves or links to videos stored at other web sites. Only nonfiction videos that you post to YouTube are eligible. The creator of the best video will win a brand new a brand new complete Rock Rivers Arms (RRA) Elite Comp M4 (AR-15 series compatible ) Barreled Upper Receiver and a Trijicon Reflex sight. The deadline or posting videos is July 26th. The video judged best will be announced in early August.

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Confused motives?: An anti-jihadist jihad by a freemason in Norway? Something is not right with this story, and there are obviously some key facts about Breivik missing in the press reports. Obviously, a true "Christian" would not have done this! And who were the accomplices that helped him? (The likelihood of it being a truly solo endeavor is slim.) Just like the never-located John Doe #2 from the Oklahoma City bombing, I suspect that only the approved story will ever be publicized. Oh, and BTW, the liberal pundits (who wasted no time to dance in the blood) falsely claimed that firearms are the "weapons of choice" for terrorists. They aren't. Bombs are. In fact, statistics show that on average, bombs and flame weapons are much more efficient at quickly killing lots of people, than guns. This has been the case time and time again in the modern era, dating back to 1927. The incident in Norway was unusual, in that the terrorist used both a bomb and then guns, but by choosing unarmed victims that were isolated on an island, bullets accounted for more lives than did his bomb. And the plot thickens: An altered Facebook page?

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F.J. sent this, over at The Art of Manliness: Five Unexpected Skills Needed on an Ultra-Backpacking Adventure

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Karen P. Sent this tale of being in the wrong place at the wrong time: Gas tanker truck crashes near Saugus; driver dies

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." - Galatians 5:22-25 (KJV)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

A few months ago, SurvivalBlog posted my article entitled "Dairy Goats 101" which described some basics of goat ownership.  This follow-up article will take you through the five kiddings that we recently experienced. 

Let me start by emphasizing what many others have stated on Survival Blog:  Book learning is not enough - you must  practice survival and self-sufficiency skills.   Don't just read about having livestock, get out there and buy some animals and gain experience immediately before you need to rely on these animals for food.

To get into milk production the does must give birth.  We waited until February to breed our goats because we have long, wet springs - goats are susceptible to pneumonia when wet or chilled.  Five months later in sunny June and July our five does gave birth.  I read books and web sites about birthing baby goats, the only problem is that most of my goats did not read the same books! 

About two weeks before our first doe was due to kid, I prepared a birthing kit containing large and small towels, paper towels, The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery, a bulb syringe, alcohol, and an iodine tincture. I added another large bag of towels, it seems that you just cannot have too many towels, especially when twins come along.  With each birth we spread  towels to keep the babies off the dirt and straw.  This made it easier for the mothers to clean them off and prevented contamination with feces.  We also wiped noses and mouths and sometimes suctioned them out if there was a lot of mucous. 

Assisting with birthing animals is not for the faint-hearted or those with weak stomachs.  My teenage daughter was quite put off by the  amniotic sacs, membranes, fluids and blood attending each birth.  Watching a doe eat the afterbirth is a bit unsettling, but is important for both predator protection and nourishment.  After delivery, I prepared a large bowl of warm water with molasses for the mother.  Some does drank two bowls; a couple refused it entirely.

The father of all the babies listed below is Cappuccino, a half Nubian, half Nigerian Dwarf yearling buck.  Since Cappy is fairly small,  we expected easy births of smaller babies, but that turned out to be just a theory as both male kids had large Nubian heads that caused a lot of birthing pain for the two smaller does.

Birth #1.  Nana, our large Alpine doe, let me know she was ready to deliver while I was milking another doe early in the morning.  How did she communicate this to me?  She stuck her head over the fence to get my attention, then I saw her extremely full udder and that there were two deep hollows on either side of her backbone where it connects to the tail.  I finished milking in record time, then used a halter to slowly lead Nana to a clean stall in our new barn.  We stopped along the way for each contraction and then she bedded down in a clean stall with fresh hay. 

First she passed a mucous plug, which she promptly ate.  Nana is an experienced mother.  She even sucked the wax plugs out of her teats during the contractions so her kids would be able to get the milk easier.  I called my neighbor for help when I noticed a chunk of tissue coming out where I expected to see a sac of amniotic fluid.  Anne, my neighbor,  did not know what the tissue was, but by now the contractions were coming much stronger and finally a sac started to emerge.  Anne punctured the sack with her fingernail (she had already washed her hands and poured alcohol over them).  Soon we saw two little feet, then a nose.  Anne put steady downward traction on the legs during each contraction.   Traction  means that she did not try to pull the kid out, just held the legs downward so they didn't slip back inside between contractions.  Soon a slippery little kid was out and struggling to get on her feet.  We helped wipe the kid down while Nana licked her feverishly, making soothing goat sounds the entire time.  We understood her hurry when she laid down and a second sac began to emerge.  This kid was born much more quickly and again Nana did a great job of licking and cooing to her baby.   About an hour later Nana delivered her afterbirth - a slimy mass of tissue, fluids and blood.  It is important that the entire afterbirth comes out or deadly infections and/or bleeding can occur.  Nana ate part of it, but as soon as she lost interest, I used a plastic bag to gather up the rest and I put it in the trash - we did not want to bury or compost it because the scent would attract our dogs and the local coyotes, mountain lions and bears.

Nana obviously read the same book I did and had a classic delivery - two beautiful twin girls, Keri and Fawn,  who were on their feet within ten minutes of birth and experts at nursing after we helped them a couple of times.   To help a newborn latch onto a teat,  get them sucking on your finger then use your other hand to push the teat into their mouth, squeezing a little milk so they get the taste.  Pushing their heads onto the teat does not work well. 

For several days I had to milk Nana because her udder became too full for the kids to latch on.  After that  I put her in the milking stand with some grain and minerals  just to get her in the routine for milking.

Birth #2. Baby is a sweet half Pygora, half Nubian doe.  She was very uncomfortable during her pregnancy, resting on her front knees when she laid down and not wanting  to be around the other goats.  I eventually put her in an entryway by herself at night.

Baby's birthing process was an absolute disaster.  She went into labor one evening 20 days prior to her due date (typical gestation is about five months). Instead of being bedded down in a clean stall in the new barn, she went back to the old barn which was filthy and gave birth in quick succession to two small, weak kids.  Then Baby began to bloat.  She was grinding her teeth, breathing rapidly and obviously in great pain.  She could not take care of her kids or move.  We figured she was bleeding internally and was unable to pass the placenta.  I thought we would have to put her down if her suffering grew much worse.  We wrapped the kids in towels and kept rubbing them down to get them dry and warm. The male kid was chilled from the time he dropped and died within an hour.  The little doe, whom we named Calico, was stronger. 

We checked on Baby throughout the night and about 3:00 a.m. she had passed the placenta.  In the morning we showed her her daughter (Calico was too weak to stand).  We tried to get Baby to nurse Calico, but all she would do was lick her - we realized that Baby must have been bottle-fed and did not know how to mother.  Calico put up a good fight for a day and a half  (we used a heating pad to keep her warm and an eye dropper to feed her) then she too died.  We kept Calico with  Baby for several hours after she died so Baby would know that she had lost her kid.  Still, two days later when Baby regained her strength, she spent many hours each day looking for Calico and crying for her. 

I had to start milking her due to udder engorgement and it is still difficult to get her to stand still for a milking.  Her teats are small so milking takes a long time.  However, she is giving a half gallon a day of rich, sweet milk.  Now when I lock her into the milking stand I give her a lot of fresh grass along with a bit of grain to keep her occupied while I milk.  Some days it works, some days she fights and fidgets the whole time.  With does who kick and fidget, I milk into small glass jars, emptying them into a larger jar every few minutes.  Much more milk is saved this way.

Our research revealed that the most common cause of premature birth is being butted in the side during pregnancy.   We sold Becky, a doe who continually butted other goats in the side, when we learned this.

Birth #3. We knew that Holly (a mixture of Alpine, Nigerian Dwarf and Nubian) had been bottle-fed, so we were concerned about her ability to mother.  During the latter stages of the pregnancy I noticed that she had an extra teat right above her normal teat on one side of her udder. Her labor began normally, but then the contractions got stronger with no results.  Finally I saw the hooves and began to feel around for a head, then I realized that this was only one very large hoof and I couldn't find the other foot at first.  Again, we called Anne. 

With the contractions getting more forceful and Holly arching her back and screaming in pain, Anne finally got the second hoof out.  Then she extended one leg more than the other to allow more room for the head.  While Anne was at the action end, I was comforting Holly and helping support her body during the strenuous contractions.  With tremendous  effort, Holly managed to get the head out and delivered a healthy buck kid.  The head was Nubian-style, much larger than an Alpine head.  She licked him a little, but we did the majority of the cleaning up.  Anne and my husband helped Holly get to her feet after a while.  She did not eat her afterbirth so we disposed of it.  By the way, washing huge loads of towels was an almost daily chore during kidding time.

Holly delivered late at night so I spent the night in the barn.  She had apparently put something out of place in her neck during labor because she shook her head and cried most of the night.  I comforted her and helped her kid nurse when he wanted to.  She  recovered the next day.  Holly is not  a wonderful mother, but she does an adequate job.  Because of the udder defect we sold her as a pet along with Bandit, her son, to some very nice people who adore her.

Birth #4.  Boots is 100% Nigerian Dwarf, a real cutie and an experienced mother.   Generally a rather timid, stand-offish gal, she buddied up to me before her kidding time.  I spend a lot of time with each doe to be sure we have a bond during labor - which translates to them waiting for me before they give birth and delivering in the barn rather than off on the mountainside. 

Boots did not read the book.  Her ligaments thinned three days prior to kidding and she had a mucous show every morning.  After a few days no one believed me when I said that Boots was going to kid that day. 

On the third day, Boots was ready to go into full labor when a friend arrived for a tour of the property.
While Boots put her labor on hold due to the interruption, our friend  taught us how to use our dehorning iron by disbudding the two kids who were ready.  One of the twins turned out to be naturally polled (hornless).  He also showed me how to tell when the back ligaments are fully relaxed by feeling along the backbone.  He said that Boots would deliver  within a few hours. 

As soon as he left, Boots laid down and went into serious labor.  Again, hard contractions and no action, so dear Anne arrived again.  This time my husband learned how to do the gentle traction as the legs were delivered.  Boots worked very hard to deliver a large buck kid with a Nubian head.  (Nubians have large wide heads, Alpines tend to be narrow and wedge-shaped).  It is unnerving to have your little goats screaming in pain.

Boots also has  a defective udder.  She has double teats on one side,  both of which give milk.  I had to milk that side out for several days until her son was strong enough to handle both teats - now that seems to be his favorite side.  We also sold Boots and her son as pets.

Birth #5. Angel Rose is the daughter of Nana and also a full-blooded Alpine.  This was her first kidding.  Her  ligaments thinned  and her bag got tight with milk, but she did not go into labor that day.  I checked on her a few times in the evening, then opened my bedroom window so I could hear any noises from the barn during the night. 

Early in the morning I ran out and checked, but still no action, so I turned her out with the other mothers.  I was home alone and Anne out of town.  It was afternoon when I saw Angel Rose lying down under the trees.  I checked and sure enough there was a membrane showing and definite contractions.  I coaxed her back into the barn with a bowl of grain.  She ate some blackberries  I picked for her and seemed pretty relaxed.  I went to turn off some hoses in the orchard and by the time I got back I could see two hooves  through the sac. I punctured the sac and soon  a little nose and tongue protruded.  A couple of easy pushes later her kid was born and she began licking and cleaning her up. A few minutes later I saw three different sacs protruding from her .  Deciding it was best to just trust God that all would work out, I enjoyed watching the new baby get to her feet quickly and start looking for food.  But just as she starting rooting in the right spot, Angel Rose moved away, laid down and quickly delivered another kid with the same ease as the first one.  No screams, no hard labor; you would never know this was her first birth.  While the second kid was being born, kid #1 crawled over to her mother, found a teat and nursed as her sister came out.  The second little doe was trying to stand up before the hindquarters were delivered.  All I basically did was put towels in the right places.

Angel Rose was fastidious about cleaning herself up after the birth, so I gathered the twins onto my lap and they took a nap until the afterbirth was delivered and eaten by their mother.   While you do have to make sure that the entire afterbirth is delivered, you do not need watch it get eaten!  I named the precious little girls Sugar and Spice.

So to sum up our experience:  We had it easy, all the presentations were feet and head first, no breech births.  While the two smaller does struggled with the large heads, they both delivered without tearing because Anne used clean gentle fingers to help ease those heads out of the birth canal.  We are very pleased with the four doe kids and will be keeping them as a three-way cross that we expect will give lots of rich milk (from the Nubian and Nigerian Dwarf breeds) for a long time (from the Alpine side).

Because we are keeping the daughters, we have also sold Cappuccino, their father.  We will not be breeding any does this coming fall and to keep Cappy separate from the herd for a year-and-a-half seemed a waste.  To avoid the large head issue, we are going to get a Nigerian Dwarf  or Alpine buck in a year so that all our does can have smaller babies.    We will also be keeping the pregnant does in separate stalls to prevent injury during the latter stages of their pregnancy. 

Within a few days of birth all the kids with horn buds must be disbudded unless you keep a horned herd.  The two kinds cannot mix because goats like to butt each other.  Disbudding is a painful, but quick process that kills the horn cells with extreme heat.  We bought a highly recommended disbudding iron, the Rhinehart X-30 with a pygmy tip, for about $70, online.  We use three people to disbud.  My husband uses a leather glove on one hand to hold the head still and protect the ear while the other hand  holds  the hot iron.  My daughter holds the rear legs off the ground to prevent jumping and I support the upper chest, front legs and help stabilize the head.  It is not easy for us to deliberately inflict pain on our baby goats, but we do three 2-second holds  on each horn bud to be sure the job is done right.  The kids scream bloody murder while the iron is touching them, but quiet down as soon as it is off.  We carry them right back to their mothers afterwards.  Usually they run and play within minutes while we need a few hours to calm down.  Since we sold the buck kids at a young age we made sure that the new owners would know how to castrate them in a few months. 

[JWR Adds: A hinged-lid kid holding box can easily be constructed from plywood. (There are are also commercially-made boxes, available from companies like Caprine Supply.) A disbudding box has a hole for the kid's head. The box minimizes the squirming factor, thus making disbudding safer, and reduces it to just a two-man job. In my experience, a box that is narrower than those shown in most of the online plans works best. The only crucial dimensions are the box height and the size of the neck aperture. Also, do not wimp out on the number of seconds that the iron must be applied, or the germinal roots will grow sharp horn scurs, which can be worse than full-size horns.]

Now that the birthing is behind us, we spend lots of time each day just enjoying the antics of these adorable kids.  They run, jump, climb and play king of the mountain on every stump, then snuggle into chairs, boxes and hollow logs for their naps.  They are learning their names and in a few years will be having kids of their own and providing milk for our homestead.  I am milking two goats presently, getting 1-1/2 gallons of milk daily and making cheese, yogurt, ice cream and kefir to add nutrition and variety to our diet.  I love my goats!

This is a good time of year to buy some goats.  Check out Craigslist, the local feed store, and shopper ads.  Get to know someone who has raised goats for many years who can mentor your first year.  Start small and enjoy these amazing creatures while you become more prepared to face an uncertain future.

Our family lives in an average house on an average lot near the edge of an average midwestern city.  While we have two evacuation invitations and are looking into purchasing “camping land”, our primary plan is to shelter in place.  From the very beginning, JWR’s “blinding flash of the obvious” has been the watchword in my quest for simplicity.  Limited time, space and resources have led to some streamlining that might give others a few helpful ideas.


Have you ever felt overwhelmed and intimidated by all the great gardening advice you read here on the blog?  If so, why not just try a practice garden? 
For me, gardening started when I walked in to a bookstore looking for something to read as I recovered from my upcoming cancer surgery.  I felt the Lord direct me to Steve Solomon’s Gardening When It Counts.  At the time I thought it was to facilitate better nutrition and exercise to get my strength back, but it was also my introduction to SurvivalBlog and the preparedness world.   

Not knowing anything about raising food, we decided to put in a practice garden.  A friend with a rototiller got it started, but it took all summer to dig and plant a little every day as I recovered.  The next year we started practicing Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening.  Every year we “practice” some new things, eat the mistakes and never worry about doing it the wrong way. 


As the garden evolves, discoveries and challenges lead to better design.  Here are some fun facts my garden has taught me.  The things that are harvested all at once can be in less accessible areas, but the salad fixings and herbs should be handy for daily use.  It can be hard to find the fruits under the leaves of vines; but planting vine crops next to trellises oriented north and tipped 30-45 degrees means that they’ll grow with the leaves on top and the fruit underneath.  Root crops generally grow well in clay but are hard to harvest, so put them in areas with loose soil or in deep containers.  A vegetable garden with a few flowers and a focal point is a decorative garden, so toss in a few flower seeds and use interesting discarded items as trellises or art. 

For those of us living in suburbia, aesthetics is an important part of getting along with neighbors.  If it’s ugly, it should be hidden in the back yard, but it shouldn’t get too ugly.  Fences are great for privacy, trellising and security, but can also separate you from the community.  We have opted for hedges of native and edible shrubs.  Most utilitarian gardening should be done in inconspicuous areas, and everything visible to the neighbors should be inoffensive, hopefully even attractive.  The more the neighbors garden, the more they see all gardens as things of beauty.  Sharing seeds, plants, produce and especially compliments can work wonders. 

Perennial landscaping can focus on attractive food-producing plants, and most of these can certainly be in the more public areas.  My next practice garden will be a medicinal herb garden disguised as an English cottage garden in the front yard.  We also have space between the house and evergreen foundation plantings to stack firewood so it’s out of the weather and out of sight.  Decorative features such as arbors and pergolas can also support food production.  A yard can blend in with the neighbors and still be attractive and productive.

Even the best soil needs to be renewed with compost, but it seemed so complicated that I was hesitant to try it.  There are lots of fancy expensive complicated systems out there, but the simplest and quickest method is just to compost in place.  Basically, everything organic will rot and become humus in the soil. Dig a hole.  Put organic material in it.  Cover it up.  Wait a while.  Plant something.  How simple is that?  If you give worm medication to your pets, the feces would kill worms, so don’t compost that.  If you try to compost meat or bones, the neighbor’s dog might dig it up, so you might not want to compost that either.  On the other hand, don’t most people bury dead animals, which are essentially meat and bones?  Leaves and grass clippings make great mulch throughout the garden.  As it breaks down, it becomes more compost. 

Seed saving has been thoroughly covered by others, but here is one simple idea I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Don’t you wish that annual vegetables were perennials?  Anyone with a yard can start a living seed bank.  In fact, two would be even better, one at the residence and one at the retreat location.  This garden takes on a lush but wild appearance, so select the site accordingly.  Simply plant favorite crops and don’t harvest most of them.  Enjoy a few nibbles, but leave most of it to reproduce naturally.  Choose one variety of open-pollinated seeds for each vegetable to avoid undesired crosses.  Potatoes, squash, tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, lettuce, onions, garlic, beans, peas and such will establish themselves and natural selection will finely tune the best traits for your location.  Omitting tall corn and red tomatoes will make the garden less noticeable.  Certainly, not everything will do well, but in time of need it’s good to have an additional source of nourishment and hardy seeds. 


Disposing of wastes is high on the list of concerns for a suburban prepper.  All this talk of five gallon buckets and outhouses is not very appealing.  A friend who served as a SEAL informed me that full five-gallon buckets can and do break.  They also get extremely heavy.  The neighbors might not like the looks of an outhouse, and they are not generally designed for ease of thorough cleaning.  Here is a simpler solution that I haven’t seen anyone mention. 
Simply modify indoor facilities.  Place a 5-quart ice cream pail in the toilet bowl.  (You may need to remove a little water so it doesn’t float.)  Voila, the most convenient chamber pot imaginable!  The family will be more comfortable sitting in a familiar place, and it is easy to keep sanitary.  You may want to put a little bio-friendly soap in the pail first.  It should be lined with sawdust, grass clippings or other suitable material, which will also be used to cover fecal material after each use.  Keep this in another pail next to the commode.
The odor and toxicity of solid wastes are reduced when they are not mixed with urine, so a separate pail for urine is a good idea.  This can actually be stored and used in the shower or tub, which also makes for easier maintenance.  Using a pail for this purpose is easier if one responds to the “urge” sooner rather than later.  If there is an occasional splash, the design of the shower/tub makes clean up easier. 

Hand washing can be done at the sink, almost as usual.  Large liquid laundry detergent containers with spigots can be reused wherever you need convenient hand washing.  (We keep one in the garden.)  If you want to reuse the water, just set a pail in the sink.  That water is suitable for sponge baths, cleaning the bathroom, cleaning the waste pail or all three if you’re really short on water. 

In a situation without running water, keeping the body clean would be more necessary and difficult than usual.  A solar shower designed for camping is what we have for now.  It necessitates a sturdy hook (or two) to hold the shower as high as possible.  Placing it above the tub at the opposite side from the showerhead is most convenient.  You might also want two in front of the bathroom window to warm the water on cold sunny days.  Our solar shower is heavy, awkward, hard to dry out after use, and it cannot produce significant water pressure.  It is OK for a quick wet down and rinse, but a washcloth is going to have to take the place of water pressure.  Several quick rinses throughout the day sometimes work better than waiting to scrub everything off in the evening. 

For simplicity’s sake, one multi-use cleanser is ideal.  Dawn dish soap is good for almost everything.  My hairdresser said the pH is fine for oily hair, and no one is going to shampoo hair unless it’s greasy in an extreme situation.  Dawn is used on wildlife affected by oil spills, so it is nontoxic and effective.  Using a foam soap dispenser makes a tiny bit of soap go a long way.  It’s also Okay for hand laundry, but difficult to rinse if too much is used. 

It is essential to keep the bathroom clean.  Everything from the mirror to the floor should we wiped down every day so there is no build-up of nastiness.  Empty the waste pails at least once a day.  With the small capacity and distinct odor, the pail will demand frequent attention.  Since the handles and lids are somewhat unreliable, be careful to hold each pail with one hand below and one above the pail!  Solid wastes must be buried.  Doing so near trees or shrubs may hasten decomposition, but obviously, you’re not going to bury it near the potatoes and carrots.  I make it a practice to dig a suitable ditch before the ground freezes each fall, just in case.  The waste pail should be cleaned daily.  Consider alternating two pails so one can sit in the sun to dry and disinfect.
This might seem gross when there is perfectly good city water and sewer, but it’s not a bad idea to try it out now when mistakes don’t matter. 

Food Storage

Start in the kitchen. When I first found SurvivalBlog, I started stashing packaged goods in the backs of file drawers and behind books on the shelf, wherever there was a little extra room. What a mess!  The best place to start is in the kitchen, of course. Work through each cupboard, using or tossing the things the family usually doesn’t eat.  This is also a good time to reorganize and pare down the things that aren’t needed.  With all this newfound space, it’s easy to have multiple cans or packages of what you really like.  (Are you old enough to remember the Beverly Hillbillies ads where Granny had an entire cupboard filled with Campbell’s Soup?)

Add the Pantry
If there is already a pantry next to the kitchen consider yourself blessed.  My husband had actually set up a pantry shelf at the foot of the basement stairs for extra food. (Silly me; I had thought it was unnecessary since we already had a fine kitchen.)  I started adding to his stash, sorting and resorting to make new additions fit without giving away the fact that I was building up the stores.  The point is, starting with one set of shelves in a handy place outside the kitchen keeps momentum going without overwhelming the kitchen. 
At this point, it was time to know how long this storage food would last.  There are all kinds of fancy charts and spreadsheets, but anything that complicated was not going to work for us.   A calculator was kept on hand to calculate and label the number of calories in each package.  For our family, about 8,000 calories per day is what we currently consume.  Every time 8,000 calories was added to the pantry, a hash mark went on the tally on a cardboard box on the shelf.  When food went upstairs or was purchased, the tally was adjusted.  It would have been way too complicated to calculate the food in the kitchen, so that was just considered bonus food.  This was a simple way to keep score until there was about 9 months of food in storage.
About this time I also realized that separating my storage and weekly groceries in the shopping cart meant that the food would end up pretty well sorted into the grocery bags.  That made it a lot easier to put it all away. 

Create a Cellar
The pantry at the basement stairs was becoming unmanageable, so one day my insightful husband decided we needed shelves.  That weekend we had four huge shelving units.  These was placed farther back in the basement, in the cool northeast corner.  We knew those shelves would be too heavy to move, so we left plenty of elbowroom.  It doesn’t have to be attractive, but it should be sturdy, easy to keep clean and as discrete as possible.  We placed old bookshelves full of miscellaneous basement junk back-to-back with the food storage shelves, essentially forming a wall to keep the food cellar out of the line of sight. 

If you’re reading the blog, you already know about rotation, buckets, vermin, and such, so let’s skip that.  It is important to have a simple organizational plan.  At this point a place for everything and everything in its place is not optional.  Top shelves, which were warmer, were for non-food items, and the bottom shelves have functioned marginally as a root cellar for garden vegetables.  Medical supplies were located in front at eye level.  Labeling shelves as well as buckets and boxes made it easier for the rest of the family to find what they needed.  Especially important was a handy place for markers, calculators, bucket openers, and a shopping list. 


The kitchen has never been my primary area of strength; in fact, my family calls the smoke detector the dinner bell.  That should give anyone hope.  The simple approach to preparedness has made the kitchen a slightly happier place.


Anyone who can read and follow directions can learn to can.  Butter seemed the obvious first step because it was uncomplicated, it’s not easy to produce at home and you can’t help but notice if it goes bad.  Meat was next, since it is also easy and saves a lot of money.  It would be a waste to mess around with little batches, so it seemed sensible to start with the largest pressure canner available.  Cases of mason jars were found inexpensively on Craigslist, along with a cheap dehydrator to practice drying fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Cast Iron
In preparation for an eventual woodstove or cook stove, I wanted to collect cast iron cookware.  However, when my husband’s used his dutch ovens in the campfire, everything had to be lined with foil or it would stick.  Certainly that’s not how grandma did it.  Paul Wheaton explained things wonderfully in this article on his blog.  Now cast iron is all I use, even on my electric stove.

Despite not being a great cook, it’s important to serve healthier and tastier foods.  We obtained a number of large genuine Tupperware containers for free about the time I was reading about DIY mixes on the blog.  Unfortunately, many recipes for homemade mixes are decidedly unhealthy.  I took my favorite cookie, pancake/biscuit and other recipes  and multiplied them to fill the containers.  To make it even easier, I marked 10 & 20 cups of flour on two sides and listed the ingredients and directions on the other sides.  This makes it super easy to frequently make healthy homemade foods and to prepare a new batch of the mix.  

Reading a few books on herbal benefits and remedies made me want to add some herbs to our meals.  A few seeds and a few seedlings made a good start.  Then I bought my very first bottle of alcohol, some vodka to practice making tinctures.   Cooking, teas and tinctures are definitely easy ways to start getting the benefit of herbs.   

Cook Stove

Having purchased a used Blaze Princess stove for heat, I was hoping to also cook a few things on it when it’s installed before next winter.  Then a pathetically rusty miniature cook stove turned up for $60.  It had probably been a salesman’s sample, but it works just like the full-sized model.  It’s kind of a joke to look at, but it provides an opportunity to practice using a wood cook stove in the back yard without putting a hole in the roof or smoking up the house.  Glitches that would have been disasters in the house are humorous in the back yard. 

Explaning Your Preps

No doubt about it, the preparedness lifestyle can be a bit out of place in suburbia.  Comments will be made.  A list of one-liners prepared ahead of time makes it simpler to respond truthfully without revealing too much.  Here are a few of my favorites. 

  • “We teachers sure do have odd hobbies, don’t we?”
  • “A friend teaches a unit on Little House on the Prairie, and I wanted to try this.”
  • “Organic food is important for us cancer survivors.”
  • “Think globally, act locally.”
  • “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”
  • “This lowers my carbon footprint.”  Yes, this can be said with a straight face.
  • “I’m doing my part to save the earth.”  Likewise.
  • “We’re a Scouting family; be prepared!”
  • This is my all time favorite.  “It’s for the Boy Scouts.”  My sons are Eagle Scouts, and everything I do is ultimately for them. 
  • When the guy at the bakery asks every few months what I do with all those buckets, here’s the answer.  “It’s for the Boy Scouts.  They’re great to organize food because they’re weather-proof, critter-proof, and you can sit on them.”

The very best explanation I ever gave was to our dearest friends.  When I confided my concerns and preparations, they said they used to be prepared, but now they would just come to our house.  I think I had read this response somewhere in SurvivalBlog.  “Sure, just bring a year’s worth of food, a gun and a thousand rounds.”  They’ve been prepping ever since.  In fact, last month they bought a ton of wheat and two handguns.  Having our best friends preparing with us is one of the best things in my life.

Keep It Simple
There is a lot of practicing going on at our home.  We are preparing, but in a way that fits with our life and neighborhood, because in this suburban household, we are a lot more successful when we keep it simple.

Many years ago, when I was living back in Chicago, Illinois for a couple of years I was working as the Investigation Manager for a large detective agency, that had offices all over the USA. As an extra duty, I also maintained the company-owned firearms that our armed security officers used. We had well over 200 armed security officers in our Chicago office alone, and most of them were armed with company-owned Taurus .38 Special revolvers. I used to keep a supply of spare parts on hand, as those guns were breaking with regularity. Truth be told, I spent more time than I liked on repairing those firearms - when I should have been overseeing some important investigations. Luckily, I had a good staff on investigators working for me, so I only had to check on their work from time-to-time.

Back in those days, Taurus revolvers were anything but "good" in my book. They were meant to be used only when necessary. If you did a lot of shooting with a Taurus revolver back then, you had to expect a lot of problems and repairs in order to keep your Taurus up and running. The detective agency I worked for, didn't require their armed officers to do a lot of shooting, but many did, on their own time, go to the gun range and shoot, and this led to a lot of guns breaking. So, I have something of a history and a lot of experience with Taurus firearms.

I'm happy to report that Taurus has come a long way from what they used to be. Today, Taurus firearms are just as good, if not better, than any of the big name firearms on the market. As an aside, I'm the first gun writer to do web site only gun articles, and my first articles started appearing several years ago on the Taurus web site www.taurususa.com as a result of working with Chuck Fretwell who handles the Public Relations and Marketing for Taurus firearms. Chuck is one of the good guys, he's an ex SpecOps guy, and he knows guns.

The guns under review in this piece are from the Taurus 800 series of handguns. Some folks simply don't like striker-fired handguns. Personally, I don't have any problems with striker-fired handguns, they always seem to go "bang" whenever I pull the trigger. However, some folks prefer a hammer-fired handgun, and Taurus listened, and came out with their 800 series of handguns. These include:

  • a 9mm Parabellum (the 809 with 17 round capacity)
  • a .40 S&W (the 840 with 15 round capacity)
  • a .45 ACP (the 845 with 12 round capacity)

I have had the opportunity to test and evaluate the Taurus 809 (9mm) and 845 (.45 ACP) handguns, and they are both outstanding firearms. My good friend and fellow gun writer, John Taffin also tested the 845 a couple years ago, and he also thought very highly of the pistol.

My 809 sample came from Chuck Fretwell during a visit with him to discuss doing web-only articles on Taurus firearms. I was more than a little excited to get home from Lake Oswego, Oregon to my digs 70 miles away, so I could test the 809. I was really taken with how nice the 809 felt in my hand - it felt "just right" as Goldilocks would say. The grip frame is about as thin as you can get side-to-side, as well as front-to-back. It just plain 'ol felt good in my hand.

The 809 can be carried cocked 'n locked, like the venerable Model 1911, or you can chamber a round, and use the frame-mounted safety/decocker to safely lower the hammer, and carried the gun with the hammer down, in which case, the first shot would be double-action. With the hammer cocked, with the safety "on" - you simply swipe the safety "off" and the first round is fired single-action, with all subsequent rounds being fired single-action - my preferred method of carry on this gun. The trigger reach is outstanding in either the single-action or double-action method of carry. All buy those with the smallest hand and trigger reach will like the way this gun feels in the hand.

Coming in at 30.2 ounces, the 809 is heavier than a Glock full-sized model 17, however the 809 doesn't feel much heavier in the least, as it balances very nicely in the hand. The magazine release, slide release and safety are all ambidextrous, too - so the gun is great for right or left handed shooters. Carrying 17-rds of 9mm, the 809 is also right up there with other hi-cap 9mm handguns [like the Glock 17] when it comes to carrying a lot of rounds. The polymer frame helps keep the weight down on the 800 series pistols.

The frame has an extended beavertail-type frame extension, which helps control the gun during rapid-fire - nice touch. White dot sights adorn the slide, and they are quick to pick-up, under most lighting conditions. Taurus isn't offering night sights on the 800 series of handguns, and that's too bad, wish they would - at least as an option. The frame has an integral Picatinny-style rail for mounting lights or lasers, and this is fast becoming the norm with a lot of pistols these days.

Take-down of the 809 is fast and easy, and requires no tools or paperclips. You can break-down the 809 in less than half a minute for cleaning and maintenance. The grip frame on the 809 has horizontal serrations for a secure grip under just about any weather conditions, too. Finish on the slide is a black Tenifer, which will stand-up to the harshest weather conditions you can throw at this gun.

If you want more technical information on the 800 series of handguns from Taurus, go to their web site. I don't want to bore SurvivalBlog readers to death with specifications.

So, how does the 809 shoot? Well, this is an excellent shooting 9mm pistol. In over 300-rds of shooting, in one range session alone, I never experienced anything remotely looking like a malfunction of any type. I fed my sample all manner of 9mm ammo from Black Hills Ammunition, Buffalo Bore Ammunition and Winchester's white box, USA brand. The 809 ate up 115 grain FMJ as well as JHP rounds, as well as 124 grain JHP rounds and 147 grain FMJ rounds without any problems. The 809 didn't seem to prefer any particular brand or bullet weight over another when it came to accuracy at 25-yards. I could keep  5 round inside of 3" standing on my two legs. The 809 can also handle +P 9mm loads. While most gun manufactures advise you to not use +P+ loads, the 809 handled some Buffalo Bore +P+ loads without any problems. However, be advised, accelerated wear can occur with super-hot loads.

The 809 has a suggested retail price of $656 - and you can usually find most Taurus firearms deeply discounted in most gun shops. In my book, the Taurus 809 is a best buy in a 17-round 9mm pistol.

I purchased the Taurus 845 .45 ACP pistol out of my own pocket, at my local gun shop. Given my druthers, I'll usually take a .45 ACP handgun over a 9mm when the chips are down. I'm not about to start a discussion over which round is "better" - I just happen to prefer the .45 ACP over the 9mm in most cases, especially if I were limited to using only FMJ ammo, as opposed to JHP loads as a man stopper.

Like the Taurus 809, the 845 is very similar in most respects. It has a 4" barrel, polymer frame, etc. It weighs in at 28.2-oz so it's a bit lighter than the 809 is. All other specs are the same as the 809.

The 845 holds 12-rds of .45 ACP in their magazines, and you get one spare magazine with the 845, just as you do with the 809. I personally don't understand why all gun makers don't provide at least one spare mag with their guns. And, it seems like, the more expensive a handgun is, the less chance there is of getting a spare mag - shame on those gun companies who don't provide a spare with their handguns!

As I mentioned previously, my good friend and fellow gun writer, John Taffin, tested the 845 at about the same time I was testing my sample, and he loved it. I concur with most of what John wrote in his article, with one exception. My 845 sample shot low with all ammo tested - and we're talking a couple inches low at 25-yards. This could be easily corrected with a lower front sight - I asked Taurus to send me one - never heard back from them. I've read some place, and I can't remember where, that Taurus uses the same front and rear sights on their 800 series guns, 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. I don't know if that's true or not, however I measured the front sight height on my 9mm and .45 ACP samples and they were the same height.

I really liked shooting the 845, even more so than the 809 sample. Then again, as I mentioned, I like the .45 ACP round better. The 845 had zero malfunctions, and I tested it with Winchester's USA 230 grain FMJ, Black Hills Ammunitions's 230 grain JHP and FMJ loads,  and Buffalo Bore's 185 grain JHP+P loads. As with the 809, the 845 didn't seem to prefer one brand of ammo over another when it came to accuracy, and I could easily keep most loads in the 3" range at 25-yards. I will say, the Buffalo Bore 185 grain JHP +P load catches ones attention - they are stout, to be sure. And, the 185 grain JHP load shot lower than the 230 grain loads, which is to be expected.

I'd like to see Taurus replace the 845's front sight, with one a little bit shorter, so it would bring my point of aim, to the point of impact. Then again, John Taffin, didn't have any problems with his sample hitting point of aim, point of impact. So it might have just been my sample.

The suggested retail price on the 845 is $674 and again, you can usually find Taurus handguns deeply discounted at most gun shops. As with the 809, the 845 is a best buy in a full capacity .45 ACP.

Now, if there is one serious complaint I have with most Taurus handguns it is this: It is very difficult to get spare magazines from Taurus, from your gun shop or most mail-order places. Look, I know the President of Taurus USA, Bob Morrison, and even with that personal contact, I have a difficult time getting any spare mags directly from Taurus. I discussed this with Chuck Fretwell from Taurus, and he said he doesn't understand this problem, either. In any event, you get one spare mag with either the 809 or 845. So, you have a good start with being able to carry your 809 or 845 with just one spare magazine - and you should always carry at least one spare mag with any semi-auto handgun. Spare mags are out there for Taurus handguns, you just have to look for them. [JWR Adds: My philosophy on buying guns when magazines are scarce is to buy a half dozen spare magazines before you buy the gun itself. You never know when another magazine ban might be enacted!]

In the past dozen or so years, Taurus firearms have come a long way from what they used to be, and its all for the better, too. I would have no problem carrying any Taurus handgun, in a fight-stopping caliber, for self-defense. And all Taurus firearms come with a lifetime warranty, too - and they have some really outstanding customer service should you have a problem with your Taurus firearms. If you're in the market for a new pistol, then take a close look at the Taurus 809 or 845. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

As it is affecting so many of us right now, seems like a good time to give you some information about heat-related problems and preventing heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Heat Exhaustion most often occurs when people work or play in a hot, humid place and body fluids are lost through sweating, causing overheating of the body.  Usually a person is dehydrated to some degree, from mild to severely.  The person's temperature may be elevated, but not above 104 degrees.  Now, most of us can go inside a cool down either in air-conditioned vehicles or homes.  Even the movies are a great cooling spot, (as bad as they are until that ape movie comes out that I want to see...creepy apes).  This will not be so simple WTSHTF.  Again, making some assumptions about TEOTWAWKI that may or may not hold true; but, if there are basements that are underground, usually the temperature there is never really dangerous for heat-related illnesses.  Go there for the worst weather of summer.  Or your favorite cave nearby.  Or Starbucks...oh wait...that won't work.  Find your cool area now so that you can plan for it if we get this kind of weather next year. (Possibly without a grid power?)

Heat stroke, also referred to as heatstroke or sun stroke, is a life-threatening condition. Your cooling system, controlled by the brain, stops working correctly and body temperature rises to the point at which brain damage or damage to other internal organs may result, usually 105+ degrees.  About 700 people die yearly due to heat-related illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  And that's now with power and air for most of us to spoil ourselves with.  Think of what that number may reach without a grid and a medical system to back us up.

Infants, children under four years old, overweight folks, and the elderly are more likely to have heat stroke, as are those who are taking certain types of medication.  So if you are fat, lose it.  If you are an infant or child, hurry up and get over four before this all "goes down".  If you are elderly, well, nothing you can really do about that now unless you get some of that swimming pool deal from that old person/alien movie.  If you do, don't tell my granny cause I don't want to have to hear about it constantly and watch her dancing around. The short message of this paragraph is pay special attention to little ones and elderly folks in this kind of heat...they might need it more than the rest of us.

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Prevention
Avoidance of heat exhaustion is pretty easy now but may not be WTSHTF.  Your best try is not engaging in strenuous activity in hot, humid environments.  People who are not used to the heat should be particularly careful.  Intersperse periods of rest in a cool environment with plenty of available fluids to drink.  Avoid strenuous activities during the hottest part of the day.  Hydration is key. Fluids will be important every day but on those days 100-fold more so.  Don't forget electrolytes too, water alone with profuse sweating can cause some electrolyte imbalances in potassium, sodium and chloride that can really get you too.  Best things to do now when it's really hot or then (WTSHTF) are simple things:

  1. Rest in a cool, shaded area.
  2. Drink cool fluids like water or electrolyte-containing drinks.  Salty snacks are appropriate as tolerated.
  3. Loosen or remove clothing.
  4. Apply cool water to skin.
  5. Do not use an alcohol rub.
  6. Do not give any beverages containing alcohol or caffeine.
  7. If you are treating someone that is overheated with exhaustion or possible heat stroke:
    1. Move the person to a cooler environment, or place him or her in a cool bath of water (avoid drowning the person by watching them, please!)
    2. Alternatively, moisten the skin with lukewarm water and fan the person to blow cool air across the skin.
    3. Give cool beverages by mouth only if the person has a normal ability to swallow.

This is really basic information, but hopefully it helps and may get you thinking seriously about this issue if you currently plan to live out on a trailer in the desert WTSHTF.  You won't make it in this weather unprotected from this kind of heat.  Try turning off your air for 48 hours and see what kinds of temps you run in your home...it might surprise you how hot it gets fast or how cool your lower level actually stays.  Everyone's situation is very different so start to plan yours accordingly.  Even you northerners can end up dying of heat stroke when the temp stays above 100 for a couple days, so figure out your preventive strategies now.  And everyone can in theory die from heat stroke if they push themselves without proper cooling.  There's tough, there's smart, and there's alive.  Better to be smart and alive than tough and not.  Stay strong, - Dr. Bob

[JWR Notes: Dr. Bob is is one of the few consulting physicians in the U.S. who dispenses antibiotics for disaster preparedness as part of his normal scope of practice. His web site is: SurvivingHealthy.com.)

Dear SurvivalBloggers,
After reading "The Thinning of The Horde" by Matt B., I would like to make aware the realization that if TEOTWAWKI were to happen during the winter months, which may be as long as five months in the northern tier states, the Transportation Departments (state or local) will not be plowing roads making them impassable by most vehicles. I can imagine the local Good Samaritan plowing out a neighborhood, but in the urban areas, most people do not own plows. In rural America, the distance between neighbors is sometimes measured in miles. A foot of fresh snow would minimize looting in many areas as well as minimize [travel by] those searching for food and warmth. I think that if SHTF during the winter months in the northern states, it would be a dire situation to those that are not prepared. - Dave K. in Washington

Hello JWR,
I enjoyed the recent SurvivalBlog article titled "How Does Your Garden Grow". I like the idea of gardening, but it takes time and a lot of trial and error. I have pursued sprouting as another gardening method. It's easy to do. I bought my seeds and sprouter from Sprout People. - Ken S.

Hi James,  
We have spent six years getting our garden established and working. Fenced and footed in concrete. Electric wire around the outside to keep out the raccoons. An above ground watering system to each of the 16 plots. Four raised beds 24 inches high, 3' x 8' inside dimensions built of reinforced concrete. We had poor soils (silty sandy loam) with a deep layer of blown in soils from the 1930s on top. We have added some 400 bags of steer manure over the years. Last year we applied 4,000 lbs of composted steer manure from a cattle yard. We have adequate water for the garden.   This year we have raised 180 lbs of potatoes. 4 cabbages 4 kohlrabi 4 gallons of strawberries 2 tomatoes 4 gallons of small onions. Our corn crop is failing, our cucumbers are drying up under watering, our okra did not sprout well and those that did during five replantings all died except for two plants. We expect no production from the okra this year. All our beans sprouted well and grew but did not produce any beans and have withered and died under watering our 21 sweet potatoes are looking good but production will only be know in the fall our peppers are stunted and the leaves dried under watering our tomato grew initially mostly in pots and have produced only two tomatoes and look stunted now under watering we have moved the potted tomato plants under the shade of a tree and they are looking somewhat better. If we had to rely this year on our garden we would have starved.

To all those who say "grow a garden and have food", I say poo bah! You cannot depend on a garden no matter how much physical planning you do. No matter how much water and soil amendments you add. No matter how much care you give the garden to weeding and watering regularly.   The outdoor elements will take away your safety system in an instant. A garden must be only a backup to stored foods.   We have applied the best management we know how to our garden this year. It is really scary to do the best you can with adequate tools and knowledge and still fail.   You must have stored foods. You must be ready to migrate to areas where conditions are more conducive to getting production from the land.   I have seen starvation in West Africa, the Sahel, during a tour of duty with the Peace Corps. It is something that I do not want to see happen to my family. I do not intend to be a parasite under failing political, financial and infrastructure systems.   A regular reader, - JWC in Oklahoma

A BFO award to Heidi L. for mentioning that five-round boxes of 12 gauge shells (buckshot or slugs), fit nicely in the standard USGI cotton bandoleers originally made for 5.56mm NATO ammo. What a convenient way to store 35 shotgun shells (5 shells per seven-pocket bandoleer) and have them ready for immediate use! BTW, two bandoleers packed in that manner (70 rounds) fit in a standard USGI .30 caliber ammo can.

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Tom at CampingSurvival.com announced a new 10% off coupon code for all of their Keystone meats and broths.   Great stuff!  High quality, tasty and long shelf life.  This is just a one week sale, so order soon. The coupon code is "keystone".  

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Reader Steve H. in Texas spotted an interesting article at Townhall's Paul Kengor: Could You Survive Another Great Depression? It has a perspective from the writer's grandparents on what they experienced the last time.)

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Outrage: Fury erupts over Ohio police video; NW activists join debate. Out west, CCW holders are treated much more politely.

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I just heard about an interesting science fiction anthology, titled Grants Pass. Avalanche Lily plans to get a copy, and write a review.

"Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret [sins] in the light of thy countenance.

For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale [that is told].

The days of our years [are] threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength [they be] fourscore years, yet [is] their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, [so is] thy wrath.

So teach [us] to number our days, that we may apply [our] hearts unto wisdom.

Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.

O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Make us glad according to the days [wherein] thou hast afflicted us, [and] the years [wherein] we have seen evil.

Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.

And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it." - Psalm 90:8-17 (KJV)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

We are moving from the East coast to the Northern Rocky Mountains, and here I sit in a Midwestern state at my cousin’s house waiting for a part for our car to be shipped in. So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to put down on paper the best answer I have come up with to a question I had before the move: How do we move our family across country with limited funds, lots of stored supplies and more than a handful of tools? My husband and I are walking a fine line to make this move the best adventure that our family has ever had instead of the worst disaster ever. The key is commitment and determination!

It is a coincidence that JWR recently advocated moving to the American Redoubt states at the same time we are moving to one of them, albeit a very wonderful coincidence. We did our homework. We would have even had our retreat purchased (thus avoiding the "apartment in town" stage) had our teenagers not asked why we would go on this adventure without them. So, we are off...

First, let’s discuss the wisdom of moving an intact family if possible. We had a plan to move from the public corporate world to a much less secure and lower paying career after the children graduated from high school. However, I can now see how much heartache that would have caused. We are a very close family, and it would have caused undue pain to be separated by over 2,000 miles from our adult children. It would also have been a terrible thing to leave our oldest daughter living in the East as the United States disintegrates. We began looking at an eventual move from the East where we were raised when our oldest was only in fourth grade. Back then, things didn’t look like they would go bad so quickly. My parents have already moved to the West, but my husband’s parents are choosing to stay in the East. They will visit. We expect siblings and their families to migrate our way.  I suggest that it is better to move the entire family, including grandparents, if possible. Close extended families are difficult to break apart. However, be determined to go and accept that well-timed visits can do wonders.

Consider your timing. Although my husband’s job doesn’t start until December, we are moving the children this summer. There are several important considerations that determined this.

we consider the education of our children as primary. Our oldest is going to be a senior in high school. Senior year is not the time to arrive midway through the year. Our youngest is going to attend a rigorous private high school through a generous scholarship that offset the tuition. If our children were young now, they would never attend public school. However that is not the path we are choosing to take at this time. There is a large, like-minded church community waiting for us in our new town.

, I will have to return to work from being a stay-at-home mom, and I am a teacher. August is a better time for me to move as well. I have been able to get my teaching certification and a job as well.

, summer is a much better time to travel and move into a new place than fall or winter – especially in the American Redoubt states.

, my children have had much experience traveling and camping with only Mom, so we know they have the fortitude needed. This gives us a chance to do some additional backcountry camping and exploring as well.

Fifth, sports start in August. What a great way for the children to know classmates before they get to their school. Much can be discovered about a person after two weeks of close and physical team training. Consider the altitude difference and accommodate as needed.

, having the double income will help with the financial transition. There just are not any available teaching positions back east right now.

, the empty house will give my husband the time he needs to complete projects to prepare it for sale. Resulting, we anticipate, in a higher selling price and quicker sale. After determining that most of the family would be moving before the school year began, the planning really progressed into high gear. The goal of downsizing was tempered by the idea that if something was valued, it needed to be kept. As we progressed, we began to look more closely at what we valued. It is good to have the opportunity for levels of downsizing to allow for “letting-go.” After our first round of downsizing, we all agreed that it was a benefit and couldn’t believe we had kept so much. As we progressed, we did have to say some sad good-byes. But, as stated, if anything still had value to a family member, it was going to be kept – whether hand-carried, stored or shipped. This has been a major factor in keeping our move an adventure.

What else has worked for us?

* Our youngest applied for and was accepted at the college-prep high school specific to his interests. This was a lengthy process that needed to be completed by a certain deadline to qualify for the scholarship. Watch for deadlines. This allows him a level of excitement that has far exceeded his dread of meeting new classmates and leaving his friends.
* Food that might spoil, was frozen, would be difficult to move and was close to being outdated (by my definition) was used as quickly as possible. Food whose value was not worth the space or weight to move or ship was donated to the local food pantry. This took the place of our purchasing canned goods for such donations. Family members were instructed on what dishes to offer to bring for the many end-of-the-year potluck events so that excess foodstuffs were used.
*Any unopened cleaning supplies and extra light bulbs were sold at a garage sale along with other unneeded and useless items. Eventually we did have to sell items that were just too heavy and/or bulky to move (i.e. the dining room table) or too difficult to move (pretty candles, drinking glasses and glass knickknacks)
*Some things were sold or given away that will need to be replaced either because we knew that another  family really needed the item or it was almost ready for replacing ( I seem to go through dehydrators, and will gladly be looking into a better quality one out West!).
*Many items were listed on Craigslist and taken to the local consignment shop for sale.
*Some items were listed on freecycle.com, given to friends, or put out on the curb for free. In this way, we were able to conscientiously downsize without throwing away items that another family could use.
*We even have loaned out some items for at least a year (piano, kayaks)
*We rented the pavilion at our local park for a nominal fee one Saturday before we left and hosted a good-bye potluck for our friends.  It gave everyone closure. The local pool, a Frisbee and a soccer ball provided an active outlet for the children.
So, how does a family move without using a moving company (not even an option financially) or renting a moving van (costly and it would leave us with a vehicle and trailer to move)? Well, here is what worked for our family:

  1. Find a friend or relative who is willing to store and mail boxes as you have the money and the need for them. We numbered our boxes on the top and all four sides. The corresponding number was put on a list with the contents listed. The USPO has detailed specifications as to what can or cannot be shipped, what size the boxes can be, and how the boxes need to look in order to be mailed. They also offer a( lower cost) media rate if regulations are followed. We packed all our media into separate boxes. It is best to attend to the weight of the boxes as well. A simple check with the post office could save money in the long run. This system has worked well for me in the past. Just remember to be detailed in listing the contents of the boxes, not lose the list, and do not mark what is in the box on the outside (I once had items stolen that I still miss today).
  2. If possible, find a reliable place to store items that cannot be shipped or are too large to be shipped. We have a family camp and are storing some furniture and a number of boxes there until we return next summer to determine what to do with them. This way we do not have to rent a storage unit, and we do not need to get rid of things that are important to us or will be costly to replace. We are storing our winter wheat in new metal trash cans, and leaving some white buckets as well. Label, label, label – having your items clearly identified as your family’s avoids problems and arguments later.
  3. Bring what is important to you! Some may question what we are bringing, but we are moving for good. We are not looking to see if our move will work, we are not on vacation,  and we are not on a long term research project. No, we are committed to this move, and as such it is important not to store all our treasures and only bring the pragmatic items. In fact, many of the pragmatic items can be shipped or brought later. In moving this summer, I will not be canning for the remainder of this year. Therefore, we will bring the canning supplies next trip, or even mail them if needed. I am carrying my rather heavy, but spectacular rock collection. They are not replaceable, but canning supplies are. Funny, but the idea that each person should be able to choose what is valuable is sometimes not remembered in the ruckus of the move. Yet, there are adults who still pine for a special item that was not seen as important by their parents. Take care to consider each other as decisions are made. Do not proceed in haste – make lists and check them twice. Tweak, tweak, tweak
  4. Consider packing clothing and linens in vacuum pack storage bags. These bags are a good way to reduce space. However, remember that some cloth items can be used for padding and to fill spaces in boxes to be shipped. Consider how soon you will need the items and plan accordingly. The bags are said to be reusable, however I find that about half of them will actually be able to be vacuum packed again. The bags can be reused still, however.
  5. We are driving across the country and have planned our route to visit a cousin while taking a much needed break. In fact, that is where I am right now. We are traveling in two groups so my youngest child and I could visit with my parents at the same cousin’s house. This gives our oldest more time to work, visit with friends and earn spending money for the transition to a new community. The car I am driving has a hard plastic storage container (consider purchasing one if you do not own one as they are really durable and hold a tremendous amount) on the roof and is fully packed. We are camping, so our backseat holds the camping equipment, our plug-in cooler, camp stove and food stores. The rest of the car’s contents are items for our move.
  6. My husband and older child will be towing a trailer filled with a snowmobile, bicycles and household items. The have been practicing her towing abilities so she will be able to drive as well. They will also have the two doggies and their kennel. Their goal is to drive as directly as possible across the county. They will be camping if needed, but expect to drive straight through to Nebraska my cousin’s for a visit and a rest, and then finish the trip.
  7. We have scouted out the country for the place that best meets our needs, and have taken some month long camping trips over the years. As a family, we are prepared for this move.  To save even more, we look for free or low cost campsites. National Parks are a good option, but require purchasing an annual park pass. The good news is that it is valid for a year, so purchase it as late in the summer as possible. That way, half of the next summer might just be covered. Some camping in National Parks is free, and most is low cost. State parks can be a real bargain. We also use FreeCampsites.net and choose the “official” sites since we have children with us and are tent camping. I know of one family that travels by night and camps near a playground and pool during the day. Dad sleeps during the day while the children play, and he then drives while the children sleep in the car at night. Other families stay in motels or hotels each night. Do what is best for your family.
  8. Prepare your vehicles ahead of time.  And, as I can attest to, even that may not be enough. Join an organization (we use Good Sam, but have used AAA in the past) that provides towing services and such. It is nice to be able to get into your vehicle after the keys are locked in without ruining your door or paying someone heavily to do so. A rechargeable portable battery "jump pack" jump starter has come in very handy – especially when someone has left the interior truck light on after a late night venture to get their pillow. It can be charged while driving if needed. I never let my gas tank get too low. Better to fill up one extra time than run out of gas.
  9. Pack a tote bag for the rest stop – include personal items (nothing refreshes like a washed face and clean teeth after driving for twenty hours), some activity toys for the children (soft football, Frisbee, blow-up beach ball) to use for a few minutes, and any messy fruits and foods to eat. Switching the activities by stop or state keeps things hopping. We also carry gallons of water to refill drink containers.
  10. A plug-in cooler is a gift for traveling. As it cannot take ice and melted water, I like to freeze plastic water bottles ¾ full of water, unsweetened iced tea or juice. I also like to stock some treats for when the ride gets taxing to ease the tensions. The cooler is a good way to keep fruit and veggies cool, as well as cheese and yogurt. Or, whatever foods your family likes to eat. When there is room, I like to keep the bread in the cooler to keep it from being squished. Our cooler has an electric adapter that can be plugged in if we camp with access to electricity. A large black piece of plastic covers it nicely in case of rain and to keep it out of sight.
  11. We also find a DC-to-AC inverter to be a lifesaver for recharging phones and running any electric items you might want to have. It saves having multiple chargers for items that might be electric. (like this one.) An inverter also allows for listening to audio books or viewing DVDs on a laptop. We are watching a Teaching Company series on physics as our son will be taking that class this fall. Just remember to unplug the inverter when you leave the car.

Each family needs to consider what is best for them. As we decided to move earlier than planned, we needed to find ways to move that cut costs and eliminate the problem of what to do with our possessions that we may want or need in the future. The possibility that we would have worked so very hard to live the self-sufficient life and have to give it all away propelled my husband and I to look at this move as a multi-step process. We are so very blessed, and hope that what we have learned might be of use to another family heading out.

I have a good friend, Gene Sockut, who lives in Israel. Gene was the chief firearms instructor for the Israeli army for something like 26 years, so when he speaks about firearms, I listen. Gene is also the author of several books and videos on close combat with firearms, as well as being a much sought after speaker on self-defense. He is also a sniper instructor for the Israel Border Patrol - Gene knows about guns and gunfighting, so I respect his thoughts on firearms. Sockut thinks very highly of the Galil.

The Israeli Galil rifle was used for several years in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) in both the 5.56mm and 7.62x51 NATO version. The 5.56mm version was more popular and made in much larger numbers. I set my sights on getting a Galil for many years, however, the few [pre-ban] examples that are in the US are high-priced and hard to come by. I was excited to hear that Century Arms was producing a semiauto version of the famed Galil. They called it the Golani, named after the famed Israeli Golani Brigade. [JWR Adds: The Golanis are built on American-made receivers, using military surplus (used) Galil parts sets, and the requisite number of of "U.S.-made parts" to comply with the silly Section 922(r).]

Of course, my first thoughts were just how close was the Golani going to be to the real thing? I had a chance to handle a genuine Galil many years ago, so I had something to go by for a comparison. Everything I read and saw about the Century Arms Golani seemed too good to be true. I saw a Golani in one of the gun shops I haunt, and was immediately taken with how well-made it was - the deal was sealed.

The Golani is based on the AK-47 design, with a few changes, nothing much worth noting, if you know the AK, then you'll know the Golani. One thing I like on the Golani is the tipped-up charging handle, which makes it easy to chamber a round with either hand. I also like the side-folding stock. When the stock is opened, it locks-up solid - not something I can say about most AK folding stocks, be they side-folding or under-folding designs.

The Golani comes with a brand-new barrel and USA made receiver, the barrel is 19" long - why Century chose that barrel length is beyond me. I would have preferred the barrel to be 16" in length - making it more compact. There is also a flash suppressor on the end of the barrel which mimics those found on AR-15s. The front handguard is made out of polymer and it just feels great to me. The gun was nicely Parkerized, giving it a very military look - I liked it. The Golani also comes with a 35-rd mag - giving the shooter five more rounds than most AR mags - nothing wrong with more rounds on-hand.

Coming in at 9-lbs, the Golani isn't a light-weight. Then again, most folks who are really into AR-15 type rifles add a lot of gizmos on their guns making them a lot heavier than nine pounds. The good news is, when you fire the Golani, that extra weight helps reduce what little recoil there is from the 5.56mm round. The Golani will also shoot the .223 Remington round.

As is the case with many Century Arms firearms, the gun was dirty and had metal filings on the innards. So, a good cleaning and lube was in order before attempting to fire the Golani. You should also clean and lube any firearm before firing it - just makes good sense, and you can see if there is something in the bore. Don't laugh, I know a gun dealer who found some wasp nest inside the barrel of a couple new rifles he had sitting on his display rack. Had someone tried to fire those guns, something really bad could have happened to the shooter and the gun.

The Golani's mag release is ambidextrous, and is thumb operated, just like on the AK-47 - you can insert and remove a mag with either hand, and the mags lock-up tight. Just like an AK or M14, the Golani mags have to be inserted with the front end going in first, and then rocked into place, locking the mag into the mag well.

I'd like to report that my Golani sample worked perfectly out-of-the-box, but it didn't! I had numerous instances where the bolt rode over the round and didn't chamber the round. I also had a lot of rounds that would take a dive up, and not chamber, beating the daylight out of those rounds. Usually, when you have feeding problems, it can be traced to a bad magazine - and in this case, it was a bad magazine. The mag that came with my Golani was very rough. I've read a number of reports from folks who purchased a Golani having the same problem. Why on earth does Century Arms ship rifles with "iffy" magazines is beyond me - but they did, and still do! Shame on you, Century Arms.

A quick call to my favorite mailorder company, CDNN Sports, and I found some as-new Galil 35-rd mags for $29.99 each, and some in "excellent" condition for $19.99 each, so I ordered half a dozen of the new mags. When the new Galil mags arrived, there were no more feeding problems with my Golani sample. You should also look at a magazine anytime you have feeding problems with any firearms, more often than not, there is a problem with the magazine. I found, upon close examination, that the magazine provided with my Golani rifle had problems - the reinforced top portion of the magazine had split. I had a friend re-weld it, and the mag worked fine after that. I understand that TAPCO is also making a polymer mag for the Golani/Galil rifles, but I haven't yet used any of them.

Be advised, the Golani 35-rd mags won't fit in a standard military ALICE M16 magazine pouch. However, you can find ALICE-style AK-47 30-rd magazine pouches from Charley's Surplus for $12.95 each, that work perfectly for the Golani 35-rd mags (as well for for 30-rd AK-47 mags). The Golani magazines will also fit in some of the tactical vests mag pockets, but not in others.

The safety on the Golani operates just like that on an AK-47, it's on the right side of the receiver "up" is safe, and "down" is fire. It's hard to operate with the right hand. There is also an added safety release on the left side (on the top of the pistol grip) but it isn't very well designed and is also hard to operate.

The sights on the Golani are better than those found on the AK, and you have a long sight radius, giving you a better sight picture, than found on the eastern European and Chinese AK-47s and most of their variants. I also like the longer and more hand-filling pistol grip on the Golani, as compared to the AK-47. There overall feel of the Golani is just one of a very-well made, and solid military-style combat rifle, period!

I tested a selection of .223 ammo through my Golani sample, including various Russian-made ammo, and of course, some outstanding .223 Rem. from Black Hills Ammunition and Winchester's white box USA brand and had no feeding or functioning problems at all - after I used the better mags from CDNN Sports. Extraction and ejection were to the right and about 20 feet from the rifle. I was getting 3" groups with most ammo tested, with a couple around just under 3" with the various Black Hills .223 ammo - the Golani liked the 55-gr bullets best with it's 1:9 barrel twist. I burned through more than 500-rds of the Winchester white box USA brand 55-gr FMJ ammo with no problems at all...it's great ammo and I highly recommend it, especially when breaking-in a new firearm. I tried several different jacketed hollow point rounds from Black Hills, and the gun just ate 'em all up without any problems.

If you're in the market for a great .223/5.56 rifle for survival, or just fun shooting, then take a close look at the Century Arms Golani. I know you won't be disappointed, once you replace the junk magazine supplied with the rifle, with a like-new mag from CDNN Sports. The good news is that, the Golani is still in-stock and readily available. The bad news is, supplies are limited won't last forever. Presently, J&G Sales sells the Golani for only $499.99 - and that's a great deal on a great rifle with a proven design. I've dealt with J&G Sales for many years, and they provide excellent customer service and good prices. So, take a close look at the Century Arms Golani for your next purchase. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

JWR Adds: In my opinion, Galils, R4s, and Valmets represent the very best in the AK weapons family. We have a Galil Golani here at the ranch. My only complaint is that like a lot of other AKs, it has a wicked trigger backlash "slap" that makes it painful to shoot extensively. But I've read that this can be cured fairly easily.

Thanks for posting that link to the best article ever on stopping power! (An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power.) I am completely re-thinking the role of my .22 [rimfire] in light of these results (i.e., The incapacitation percentage is much higher than I would have thought). Apparently the lowly .22 [rimfire] has a place in defense after all. - Neo

JWR Replies: Just keep in mind that this study was an abstract view that doesn't distinguish the circumstances of each incident tallied. For example. .22 rimfires are more often that not rifles, rather than handguns, and they are most likely to be used in home defense against burglars than they are against aggressive armed robbers in street encounters, or someone that comes spoiling for a fight. So there may have been far less "fight" available in the recipients of the lead, from the very beginning.

The fight/flight continuum definitely skews the outcome of gunfights, both psychologically and physiologically. Someone who goes into a fight on the offensive is far less likely to be incapacitated than someone who is just engaged in a sneak and peek burglary. And although inconsistent, the effects of adrenalin can be amazing. Gunfights are messy and complicated. They can also take a lot of rounds to finish, as illustrated by the FBI's 1986 Miami shootout. Sometimes it takes a lot of lead to stop a man. Carry plenty of extra magazines, and don't stop shooting until your opponent is clearly no longer a threat. (But, as recently mentioned in the blog, don't carry on beyond that, especially after more than a moment's interval!)

Also, keep in mind that the statistics in the study also show that shotguns and centerfire rifles still rule. I would only use a .22 rimfire as a last resort. And if I were forced by circumstances to use one, then I would want to put a large number of rounds into an opponent in rapid succession.

Lastly, with any caliber, only shots to critical areas (brain and spine) are sure stoppers, so accuracy counts. (I've been to several shooting courses, and they all stress: speed and accuracy. If at all possible, concentrate on your opponent's ocular window.

Mr. Rawles:
Our young family has some experience with bike trailers and biking with young kids to share.  First, the about the actual trailer, make sure that the hitch can easily switch between bikes.  Another family we bike with occasionally has a trailer that requires a mount be attached to the bike.  We have a Burly bike trailer that we have used for about five years with our three children which will mount on any adult bike.  That allows it to be switched off from adult to adult easily so that no one person gets too tired.  I can vouch that it is well built and will retain your child in the event that it rolls (but still put a helmet on them).  They are rated for 100 lbs. total capacity.  We purchased a used one as well that was converted to a cargo trailer by removing the fabric and putting down some plywood.  It can hold over 200 lbs. of cargo and was much less expensive than buying a cargo specific model.  Having both a place for the kids and the ability to carry supplies greatly extends our radius of travel and in a SHTF scenario, allows us to get supplies and children where they need to be rapidly, regardless of fuel supply.  In a pinch, a conscious adult could sit on the cargo trailer, but still leaves us without a method for hauling an unconscious or feeble adult (maybe a rigged garden trailer?).

Now on to riding with little children.  When our eldest was three we were able to do five mile rides with him.  We had a route that passed things of interest to him and usually stopped at an ice cream shop as a treat.  We encouraged him and occasionally gave him a push but it was almost 100% under his own power.  And this was with training wheels.  When we had our next child we put her in the trailer (one she was big enough) and that also let us carry extra water, snacks etc. so that we could bike more places.  Packing the extra water is important as kids dehydrate easily, and some people dehydrate easier than others.  Now, with three kids, we know that we can get around our rural town in a grid down situation and support our community and family. - K. in Texas.


Mr. Rawles,
In light of the several articles the last few days on bicycles, I’d like to suggest a few handy tips I have found for those folks looking to get into it for free or very low cost. I pair this consideration with a few choice images of the subway shutdown in New York a few years ago (December 20th 2005).  An image of a man painfully perched on his daughter’s pink streamer bike riding to work in his three piece business suit was burned forever in my brain and reinforced the need for having cheap reliable transportation. My article is on how to get into it on the cheap.

Bicycles are a superb mode of transportation, and in an emergency situation they really should be a leveraged option in your survival tool belt—if my article can convince you of this, I believe you’ll realize that it sure beats walking!

My wife and I are big yard sale attendees. Yard sales are the gold mine of bike scrounging. I have been given bicycles by folks who had previously removed and sold a part or two from the bike to another buyer. It is easy to replace those parts with little out-of-pocket expense. One time I acquired a Japanese ‘gas pipe’ bike (a Shogun), named such parlance because the frame is non-buted (buting is where the walls of the bike frame are tapered thinner in the middle and thicker at the ends to save weight and increase strength), and if one were to cut the frame in half, cut a bit of old gas pipe in half, then held them end-to-end, they’d look the same. I got that bike for free because it was missing a seat post—the lady at the yard sale was almost apologetic about the bike when I asked about it and she was happy I saved her a trip to the dump. I spent some time and built it into a single speed rig some eight years ago. It is very low-maintenance, has 3M reflective tape across all the various tubing for night safety, fenders for inclement weather, and about a snowball’s chance of ever getting stolen. I love its simplicity and usefulness. I love that I got it for next to nothing (I did later upgrade parts on it, simply due to preference), and I appreciate its simplicity.

Don’t get me wrong here, the wunderbikes they ride in the pros like you see on the Tour de France are engineering marvels. I choose cruddy bikes instead. I used to own a very nice Specialized S-Works Enduro. (Remind me sometime to tell you about the time I showed up on the doorstep of the house ten years ago with that bike. My Memsahib certainly clarified a few points regarding what constituted proper purchases to my newlywed brain on that day.) That bike had all the bells and whistles, but I sold it. I have since awoken to the fact that I can create something with my hands, on the cheap, that I truly am passionate about. I love cheap bikes.

As I previously mentioned, yard sales are very good for picking up old bikes for next to nothing. Most just need a few parts tightened and oiled, the tubes inflated and they are good to go. I have picked up several Specialized and Trek rigs for under $20 which just needed a good washing (use Simple Green degreaser) and some oil on the chain and derailleurs. I make it a point to always ask about certain things at yard sales, and for some odd reason, old bikes are things folks seem to be ashamed of. I am unsure why this is. Old tools go for a fair bit, and old guns too—bikes go for a song.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Sheldon Brown, the king of Internet bicycle retrofitting. His web site is pretty old school (read: simple early 1990s graphics, et cetera) but it really has a ton of helpful information. Have an old odd duck French bike? He has info on it. SheldonBrown.com is his reference library, and it has helped me with plans several times. It is a great resource.

My friends know I am into fixing up old bikes. I’ve traded odd jobs for bikes and bike parts, I’ve done side jobs repairing bikes for people, and my buddies always tell me when they find a deal. Networking about interests will always lead you some interesting contacts. I also believe that God knows us, and if we’ll talk to Him, he will place opportunities in our path. Ask Him to open your eyes, and when the opportunity comes along, take it, and remember to say a prayer of thanks.

I regularly visit the bike shops in my area and try to send business their way. They are helpful in figuring out stuff I am stumped with, and their advice is always free. I have found that kindness gets me a long way (as a general rule, but especially in bike shops); bicycle mechanics will almost always spend a few moments to chat with you about your project. Methinks they find a kindred soul in someone who refurbishes decrepit bikes. The other nice thing about the shop is they usually have a parts bin (read: used take-offs, parts, mostly nothing new or matching) you can poke around in. I always offer money for any parts bin stuff which I find that fit, but I have yet to pay for any of my scrounging.

Another option, somewhat controversial is dumpster diving. Now, before you write it off as an impossibility, it does work. I realize that some states may have ordinances against finding treasures in the trash pile, but I have buddies who have found entire bikes and some very usable parts checking the trash behind their local bike shops. [JWR Adds: Only dumpster dive with permission, and in accordance with state and local laws.]

Now, as to tools, you can pick up a pretty decent Chinese made repair kit off eBay or Amazon for about $130. I got one for Christmas near a decade ago. True, it isn’t as beautiful as a set of blue handled Park Tools, but I have yet to wear out any of my gear. I got a bottom bracket tool, a crank puller, hex wrenches, cone wrenches, chain whip and freewheel/lockring wrench, spoke wrenches, and a bunch of other bike tool stuff. Some of the specialty tools can be bought separately; the more general tools you may already have. My kit has really only let me down thus far on an old 27” (read: pre 700 CC modern road/29” mountain) wheel set—I did not have the right 3-splined tool to take off the screw on freewheel, and I needed a BMX style freewheel mounted. The old stuff requires older tools; standards back in the day were not necessarily adopted across the various manufacturers like they are today. Sometimes it is worth the shop fixing it for you rather than buying a tool you may not ever use again.

My final suggestion is a bike helmet. I know they are not ‘cool’ or hip. I also know most of us of the prepper mentality would not think of ourselves as either of those descriptions. I can tell you I have crashed several times in the past thirty years and each time I was wearing a brain bucket I was grateful I had head protection. Keep your brain safe!

Now, keep in mind, these tips are for the shade tree bike mechanic. I welcome feedback on this from the fine folks who make a living turning a wrench on bicycles—I am always learning and am passionate about making cruddy old bikes into something beautiful and functional. Hopefully you folks can take something from my thoughts here today and add another option to your survival tool belt. Bikes are not just for kids, nor do they have to just be a survival thing you never use. Google Albert Einstein on a bicycle sometime if you need a smile (the picture always elicits a grin from me). Get a bike, ride with your family—you will not regret it.

God Bless you, Avalanche Lily and the kids, - Jay in Utah

I love the blog and a lot of the articles. I am a dermatologist and wanted to comment on the Vitamin D article posted on July 21, 2011. Despite what you might read on the Internet, you cannot get a significant amount of Vitamin D from sunlight. This is a huge misconception. Even if you tanned for 8 hours, you would only get about 3% of your daily Vitamin D. You would also cause a lot of sun damage which increases your risk of skin cancer. I realize a lot of information says otherwise, but if you check with the American Academy of Dermatology, you will read data from experts.

Also, although Vitamin D is important, science doesn't support a lot of claims in the article about fighting the flu, etc. It is true that is you have a deficiency of Vitamin D, you can weaken your immune system, but taking extra Vitamin D does not "boost" your immune system. I realize a lot of holistic medicine people want to believe this, but it isn't backed up by any science.

Again, not trying to be negative, but just wanting to let people know that tanning is not a good way to try to get Vitamin D. Tanning also has some bad effects (skin cancer). - Dr. C.S.


Hey Jim,
Living in the Eastern mountains with the associated cloudy days and longish winters our clinic has never tested anyone with enough Vitamin D3 in their system.

The accepted norms for Vitamin D3 in adults is 30 ng/mL to 100 ng/mL. Being more interested in finding the optimal level instead of the statistical normal range we aim for most adults to be in 70 ng/mL - 89 ng/mL range and for those with cancer the optimal range seems to be 90ng/mL to100 ng/mL.

We have also found that 50,000 IU per day for only three days to be a good weapon in fighting winter colds, flus, etc.

For the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test, we get the most consistency from Labcorp which is available nationwide. - S.D. in West Virginia

G.G. mentioned a piece over at The Volokh Conspiracy: Foot Voting for Freedom

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Some thoughts on the sad demise of the Space Shuttle program, made worse by stifling the commercial manned ventures with heaps of bureaucratic paperwork: Be Careful What You Wish For… (Thanks to Greg C. for the link.)

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Reader David M. mentioned that there is an extension for Firefox browser called "ShowIP" that displays the IP address of the page being browsed in a small window in the status bar. Handy for making your backup web page bookmarks. (OBTW, please jot this IP address down and keep it in your wallet:

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File under Economies of Scale: Solar power boom shines for consumers.

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OPSEC for military travelers: Some Safety Advice for the U.S. Military. (Thanks to Justin M. for the link.)

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it." - Thomas Paine

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 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.

Gardens will supply a large portion of our food after TSHTF. Those who already garden know that, in many cases, additional amendments and plant foods/fertilizers are necessary for a good crop. While a compost pile will help a great deal in keeping your soil in good shape, there are many other sources for fertilizers/plant foods that will be easily accessible after TSHTF. I'll detail several of them and the manner in which to make and/or use them in this article.

The Acronym NPK stands for Nitrogen/Phosphorous/Potassium. I'll include NPK where applicable for more experienced gardeners wondering about the values.

Human Urine:
Human urine contains nitrogen, phosphates, and potassium (NPK approximately 12/1.1/3.3, varies by individual). These are the big three that plants need to grow. It is sterile when it comes out of the body as well. Urine by itself is far too concentrated to use directly on plants. It can be used directly in a compost pile (simply pour it over the top) or it can be diluted with water and used on the plants themselves. A minimum of eight parts water should be mixed with one part urine. You may need to use more water depending on your urine. I recommend testing the mixture on a small patch or single plant to insure that your mixture is not too strong.

If the urine will not be used shortly after it comes out then it should be stored in a sealable container. While it is sterile when it first comes out it will eventually allow bacterial growth if left exposed to open air. Only urine from healthy individuals should be used and if someone is in otherwise good health but on medication then their urine should not be used either. Once diluted and in the soil, bacterial growth is no longer an issue if urine from a healthy individual was used.

If you have problems with acidic soil, wood ash can be mixed into the urine/water mixture to help alleviate the acidity.

Diluted urine is a fast acting plant food.

For those who are grossed out by, or question the idea of, using urine as a plant food consider that many of the well known plant foods contain urea (although not from humans) as a component of the mix.

Bone meal:
Bone meal contains phosphates and nitrogen ( more heavy on phosphates than nitrogen, NPK approximately 4/12/0 but will vary). It can be easily made at home by one of two methods. Only use bones from animals that you know were healthy.

 The first method is to dry the bones in an open fire or an oven. First you need to boil off any remaining fat or meat, boil for about an hour to do this. Once they are completely dry from your fire or oven you crush them down to a powder, or as close as you can get. If you've gotten them dry enough they crush fairly easily.

The second method is to boil the bones for an extended period of time (in the vicinity of 24 hours is what I've been told, I've only used the first method myself). When they've boiled long enough you can simply crush them down into a mush. Allow the mush to dry if you want a powder or use as mush.

With both methods your best results will be obtained by digging the resultant bone meal into your soil.

Bone meal is a long acting, slow release type of fertilizer. Very useful used at the bottom of potato trenches or dug into the soil near fruit trees/bushes. Application rate for bone meal is approximately five pounds per fifty square feet when first preparing a garden. You can use slightly less in following seasons.

Blood Meal:
Blood meal is a heavy nitrogen source and may contain some trace phosphates and/or potassium (NPK approximately 12/0/0 to 13.5/1/1 depending on blood source). Blood meal has the alternate names of dried blood and powdered blood. The commercially available types are typically made from bovine blood although other types of blood will work as well. Only use blood from animals that you know were healthy.

Blood meal is made simply by dehydrating blood. Preferably all the way down to a powder although I've not had the patience to get it that far and normally use it while it is still relatively clumpy. This can be done in a solar dehydrator or, if you live in a very non-humid area, simply by leaving a container out with a thin layer of blood in it. The quickest way I've discovered is to use a heat safe container with a thin layer of blood in it immediately next to my cooking heat sources or on top of my fireplace insert when it is burning. Keep the blood covered and inaccessible to insects regardless of what method you use. Fair warning, this one can make a nasty smell if done indoors and the pans used may need extensive cleaning.

Blood meal is a quick acting nitrogen source and can be used in powder form (if you get it all the way dry) or mixed in with water.

Blood meal also makes a good compost pile stimulator and, if sprinkled around the perimeter of a garden, may keep some of the four-footed garden raiders at bay. Do not apply blood meal to seedlings and in a warm, most climate you'll want to use less than recommended. Application rate for blood meal is approximately five to ten pounds per hundred square feet, one application lasts up to 4 months.

Wood Ashes:
Wood ashes are a good source of potassium when dug into the soil (NPK approximately 0/1/3 but can vary widely). You do have to be careful with them though as they turn the soil more alkaline. If you live in an area with acidic soil a moderate treatment of wood ashes shouldn't be a problem. If you live in an area with more alkaline soil, you'll want to find a different potassium source.

Be sure any wood ashes you use are from trees that did not receive heavy pesticide treatments or other potentially problematic chemicals. Wood ash application rates will range depending on the ash used and the soil you are using it in. Start small and slowly work up the application amounts if you are using this.

Compost Pile:
A compost pile is pretty much a must if you are doing intensive or semi-intensive planting. Areas planted in these manners benefit from a yearly (or more frequent) addition of organic materials. The best of these would be finished compost from your own pile. I won't go into detail on creating a compost pile as that is covered in many of the gardening books out there and would cause this article to go well over submission length. I will mention a few ways to tweak your pile though.

The addition of human urine or blood meal (or even wet blood, although that is more likely to attract critters to dig in your pile) can help out your compost. If your soil is very acidic, you may want to mix some wood ashes into your pile. If your soil is alkaline you can add crushed pine bark or chopped up pine needles to add some acid into the soil.

In all cases follow the same cautions regarding health and chemicals on additions to your pile. If using pine bark or needles, be sure the tree was healthy and not recently treated with pesticides or chemicals.

There are many forms of manure that can be used on your garden. Starting with humanure (human manure). I do not recommend using this method unless you've studied up on the appropriate and safe ways to do so! If you are interested in this I suggest the book: The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, by Joseph Jenkins.

Other types of manure that may be available to you and are good to use are: chicken manure, cow manure, horse manure, rabbit manure, etc...  You'll note that all these manures are from primarily herbivores (minus the occasional bugs taken in with a free range diet). You don't want to use manure from carnivores or scavengers as there tend to be more problems with these manures.

There are several manners in which you can use manure to increase your garden's yield and provide the necessary nutrients to your plants. The first is to compost it in your pile. If you choose this option, you'll want to add extra greens to your compost pile and add more soil to it to avoid massive nitrogen loss.

The second option is to mix it directly into the soil. Do not do this if you plan to plant the area in the next month or two. The manure affects the carbon/nitrogen ratio strongly enough when first mixed in that it can end up burning your plants. This is a good option for a fall dig-in where you mix it into the soil if you aren't planning a winter crop (or cover crop) in the area. You can mix other items you would normally compost into the soil at the same time if so desired.

A third option is Manure Tea which gets its own entry.

Manure Tea:
Manure tea is made from dried, well-aged manure and water. It can be used in several manners. You can dip the roots of plants about to be transplanted in the tea, use it to fill holes that are about to be planted, or use it to water directly on the soil around existing plants (getting the manure tea on the leaves of the plants is discouraged).

Manure tea can be made by taking five quarts of manure and three gallons of warm water. The manure should be contained in a tight mesh cloth that will allow water to seep through, burlap (or an old panty-hose leg) is recommended, that is tied shut to form a bag. Suspend the manure in the water in a five gallon bucket for three to four days, stirring daily. You can also simply suspend the manure in the water for a week without stirring. In either case the next step is to raise your manure out of the water in the cloth it was suspended in and allow it to drip back into the bucket until it stops dripping.

The manure tea should be diluted with water to about the color of a normal drinking tea when used. This is approximately one cup of the manure tea to one gallon of water. Experience will show you the exact proportions you want to use for your area. The remaining solids can be added to your compost pile or dug into an area of soil that will not be planted for a month or more.

Note: manure tea may well have a very strong odor while brewing. After you are done, you can store it in a sealable 5 gallon bucket for several seasons if it is kept in a cool place. With it sealed the odor won't get out either.

Compost Tea:
Compost tea is another option, but after TSHTF it will only be available to those who have some electricity and some basic aeration equipment. If this idea appeals to you a simple Google search for 'compost tea' will get you very clear instructions.

Grass Clippings:
Grass clippings can be used as a mulch to help maintain the moisture in your soil. Also, if dug into the very surface of the soil they will provide a nitrogen source to your plants. If used as a mulch you need to be careful to not mulch too thickly or you will end up with anaerobic decomposition (decomposition without oxygen present), a bad smell, and unhappy plants. Using clippings as a mulch will also get some nitrogen into the soil but not as quickly as digging them in.

Trace Elements:
There are quite a few trace elements (AKA micro-nutrients) needed by plants. One simple amendment covers quite a few of them as well as providing growth regulators and natural hormones that function like plant vitamins. Kelpmeal is a little expensive but well worth using. Since this will most likely not be available in a crisis (unless you happen to live near a place kelp can be harvested) it can be stocked up on in advance. It is a little pricey but well worth it to have for your garden.

Kelpmeal can be worked directly into the soil or, for a more sparing (on the kelp) approach, it can be applied as a foliar spray (meaning it gets sprayed on the leaves). Foliar feeding with kelp tea needs to be done about every two weeks but if you mix the kelp into the soil you can normally just do so once at the beginning of the season.

Kelpmeal is a component in complete organic fertilizer (COF) as described by Steve Solomon in his book “Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times” but can also be used on its own or with the other amendments/fertilizers listed in this article. You can easily store two fifty pound bags in a thirty-one gallon galvanized steel garbage can with a snug fitting lid.

For existing gardens that have been worked for a season or more, one pound of kelpmeal per one hundred square feet should be more than adequate to dig in. You may want to double or even triple this amount if it is a new garden area being prepared. Kelpmeal can be dug in to just the actual rows/raised beds/hills being planted but there are some advantages to digging it in to your entire garden area if you have enough of it.

Seed Meal:
Seed meal is another component in COF from Steve Solomon's book. It is a slow release nitrogen amendment that is mixed into the soil. I mention it here because it is a byproduct of making vegetable oil and if you make your own then you can use the remnants left behind as a garden amendment. It can also be stored, with two fifty pound bags easily fitting into a thirty-one gallon galvanized garbage can with a  snug lid. The most commonly used seed meals you might have access to after TSHTF are soy meal, cottonseed meal, sunflower meal, and canola seed meal (rapeseed).

Other Options:
If you raise rabbits, chickens, or worms (vermiculture) many of the kitchen scraps you'd normally use in your compost pile can go to them and they will, in turn, produce manure or worm castings (worm manure). Worm castings can be dug straight into the soil shortly before planting. As mentioned before manures from other livestock should normally be composted or dug into the soil months before planting. Use caution with manure from different animals as the NPK and carbon/nitrogen ration of the manure ranges greatly depending on the animal it is from and what it has been fed. A trial and error method is best when using manures, keeping in mind that too little might stunt your plant some but too much can kill it.

I'll close by again recommending Steve Solomon’s book “Gardening When It Counts”. The book details gardening with minimal amendments and, albeit briefly, deals with survival gardening. I've found it to be a very good resource for gardening on a regular basis and the skills I've developed by using it will be invaluable in a SHTF scenario. - Tom From Colorado

Many people take a multi-vitamin.  Some people take multiple supplements.  However, an often overlooked vitamin deserves your closer scrutiny – vitamin D.  New research indicates that vitamin D has holistic effects on the body that cannot be replicated by any other supplement.  These positive effects include, but are not limited to, reduced cancer rates, reduce incidences of heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduced incidences of influenza, and more.  Best of all, for most people, obtaining the proper dosage of vitamin D is incredibly safe, simple, and inexpensive.  In fact, some researchers believe so strongly in the benefits of vitamin D that they consider it “malpractice” for a physician to treat any condition without first determining if a patient’s vitamin D levels are in the proper range. 

As with all information related to healthcare, personal fitness, and nutrition, please consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet or lifestyle.  Additionally, you can overdose with vitamin D supplements.   Watch your intake and have your vitamin D levels tested periodically via a blood test. 

Vitamin D Misconceptions 
Actually, vitamin D is not a vitamin, but a “prohormone” (any substance that can be converted a hormone) produced by the body in the presence of sunlight.  Because vitamin D is actually a "prohormone," which your body produces from cholesterol, it influences your entire body -- receptors that respond to the vitamin have been found in almost every type of human cell, from your brain to your bones.

Vitamin D also differentiates itself from other vitamins because the best source of it is the sun via our skin, not from something we eat via our mouths like most vitamins.   Vitamin D does not exist in appreciable quantities in normal human diets.  While some vitamin D may be consumed by eating some types of fish and drinking fortified milk, the quantity of vitamin D from these sources falls far short of our needs.  We simply cannot obtain adequate levels of vitamin D from our diet.  However, within 20 minutes of full-body sun exposure, most people will generate up to 20,000 units of vitamin D.  To generate even 5,000 units of vitamin D, an individual would need to consume nearly 50 glasses of milk or 10-12 multivitamins – something no one should do!  [JWR Adds: Remember, toxicity is a problem with all of the fat-soluble vitamins, K, A, D, and E.]

With more people working indoors, commuting inside of cars and trains, and, more recently, people using copious amounts of sunscreen in an effort to thwart skin cancer, opportunities to obtain vitamin D from sunlight has greatly diminished.  In fact, many people may be in a vitamin D “crisis” and not even know it!  And, considering how vitamin D affects so many bodily functions, many symptoms and diseases that are being treated with a variety of pharmaceuticals could be greatly reduced or possibly eliminated by simply increasing vitamin D levels. 

Vitamin D – the Superhero Vitamin
While correlation does not imply causation, the following is a partial list of documented events as they relate to vitamin D:

  • The incidence of influenza is inversely correlated with outdoor temperatures (i.e. the higher the outdoor temperature, the lower the number of cases of influenza).
  • Children exposed to sunlight are less likely to get colds. 
  • Influenza is more common in the tropics during the rainy season when people are indoors and receiving less sunlight.
  • Volunteers deliberately infected with a weakened flu virus - first in the summer and then again in the winter - showed significantly different clinical courses in the different seasons.
  • The incidences of influenza are much lower in the months both during and immediately following the summer.
  • Vitamin D deficiency is a major factor in at least 17 types of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, and more. 
  • One recent large-scale, randomized, placebo-controlled study on vitamin D and cancer showed that vitamin D can cut overall cancer risk by as much as 60 percent! This was such groundbreaking news, the Canadian Cancer Society has actually begun endorsing the vitamin as a cancer-prevention therapy.
  • Similar results were shown in another study investigating vitamin D’s impact on breast cancer. It discovered that light-skinned women who had high amounts of long-term sun exposure had half the risk of developing advanced breast cancer (cancer that spreads beyond your breast) as women with lower amounts of regular sun exposure. 
  • When JoEllen Welsh, a researcher with the State University of New York at Albany, injected a potent form of vitamin D into human breast cancer cells, half of them shriveled up and died within days. 
  • The effects of vitamin D were even more dramatic on breast cancer cells injected into mice.  After several weeks of treatment, the cancer tumors in the mice shrank by an average of more than 50 percent. Some tumors disappeared.  Similar results have been achieved on colon and prostate cancer tumors in mice.
  • A study by Dr. William Grant, Ph.D., internationally recognized research scientist and vitamin D expert, found that about 30 percent of cancer deaths -- which amounts to 2 million worldwide and 200,000 in the United States -- could be prevented each year with higher levels of vitamin D.
  • According to a new report, low levels of vitamin D may double the risk of stroke in Caucasians.  Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
  • And for you sports fans, the team physicians for the Chicago Blackhawks credit rigorous vitamin D supplements with improving player performance and being a contributing factor in the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup Championship. 

In the past few years, vitamin D is has finally been receiving the attention it deserves considering its critical role in human bodily function.  Almost weekly, new research is released confirming the benefits of vitamin D.  Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies prefer to manufacture countless drugs to alleviate symptoms that are often caused by lack of vitamin D.  These pharmaceutical companies don't like to advocate vitamin D as a valid course of treatment because they cannot patent vitamin D and profit from it.  And, because these pharmaceutical companies advertise heavily in all media outlets (including magazines and online news sites), they may exert influence to suppress articles on homeopathic and natural treatments.

UV Rays and Vitamin D
Similar to cholesterol which has two main types (HDL – the “good” cholesterol; LDL – the “bad” cholesterol), sunlight contains two wavelengths: ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB).  UVB is the winner (the “good” waves), as these are what converts into vitamin D.   However, UVA (the “bad” waves) is the culprit that leads to skin cancer.  Additionally, UVA is not affected by the position of the sun or clouds whereas UVB is dependent on both of these factors.  Ironically, UVB rays are at their most intense at mid-day – the time of day that most people try to avoid sunlight.  Unfortunately, by spending time outside in the morning or late afternoon, you are exposed to UVA rays (the “bad” rays) while receiving virtually no UVB rays (the “good” rays). 
Recently the FDA announced new guidelines for sunscreens.  In the past, many sunscreens only provided protection against UVB rays which cause sunburn, but offer no protection against UVA rays which cause skin cancer (in recent years, more sunscreens have been offering protection against both types of rays).  Insidiously, this combination of UVB protection and no UVA protection is the worst possible combination because the benefits of vitamin D (via UVB rays) is reduced or severely curtailed and no UVA protection is provided (contributing to skin cancers).  In fact, some hypothesize that the advent of sunscreen actually has contributed to the rise in all types of cancer, including skin cancers, because these sunscreens cause a sharp drop in vitamin D levels which is correlated with increased cancer risk.

How Much Sunlight Do I Need?
Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics has doubled its recommendation for daily vitamin D intake in children.  The new guideline is 400 international units (IU) each day.  Many researchers believe this recommendation is still far too low and children should receive a minimum of 1,500 IU per day if they are not exposed to daily sunlight. 
The best “rule of thumb” is enough sunlight to turn your skin the lightest shade of pink (for most people, this will be less than 30 minutes of sun exposure).   Also, keep in mind that exposing just your head and arms is probably not enough, you will need more exposure (e.g. upper body, legs).  Don’t  forget – sunburn is bad!  You don’t gain any additional vitamin D by getting a sunburn and only expose yourself to long-term skin damage and possibly skin cancer.   Another good “rule of thumb” is this: If your shadow is longer than you are tall, then you are not receiving the best UVB rays. 

If your unique situation prevents you from receiving direct sunlight, another option is take a vitamin D supplement.  Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the preferred choice, not vitamin D2.  The most recent and respected research for oral supplements is 35 IU per pound of body weight.  For a 200-pound person, this would be approximately 5,000 IU; for a 50-pound child, this would be approximately 1,700 IU.  You can purchase vitamin D supplements at most any drug store or health food store.  For children, I give my children “Lil Critters” vitamin D gummy vitamins (purchased at Wal-Mart and Target). 

In the future, if diseases increase and access to physicians and antibiotics are limited, vitamin D can and should be considered an intervention method.  For someone suffering from influenza or a bacterial infection or most any illness, increasing vitamin D levels can and should be considered.  If regular access to sunlight is not possible, increasing oral supplements to 15,000 IU, 20,000 IU, or more should be considered.  Some researchers believe 50,000 IU per day for less than 10 days will not result in overexposure to vitamin D and may help thwart or mitigate infection and disease.  

Warning: You can overdose on vitamin D!  If you receive daily sunlight, most likely you do not need oral vitamin D supplements.  If you need to take oral vitamin D supplements for a long period of time, I strongly recommend that you have your physician check your vitamin D level with a blood test (the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test). 

My Personal Experience with Vitamin D
For several years, I have been ensuring that I receive adequate levels of sunlight during the fair weather months and supplementing with oral vitamin D during the winter months.  During this time, I have had no influenza, virtually no colds, and no other serious health issues.   During the winter months, I take 5,000 IU each day.  If I am traveling on business or not feeling well, I will increase my dose to two to three times that amount.  In the fair weather months, I spend time outdoors in natural sunlight to obtain vitamin D.  Finally, as part of my preparations, I keep plenty of vitamin D in 5,000 IU capsules on hand.  Considering the benefits of vitamin D and the potential increase in diseases during “the Crunch”, vitamin D supplements should be as important as bullets and beans in everyone’s preparations.

Dear Survivalbloggers:
I just finished re-reading JWR's novel "Patriots". Anyone who has read it knows that in Chapter 21 a number was given on the percentage of the population that perished during the Crunch. This has allowed me to open my mind. There will undoubtedly be a Golden Horde, but as you will read, it will quickly and overtime diminish considerably.  

This last semester I took a human geography course which I found especially relevant to the way that a ‘Horde’ would move. In the course I have learned that in a typical East Coast suburb, there are about 5,000 people per square mile! A choropleth map of the United States shown in class illustrated that almost two-thirds of the 300+ million Americans live East of Tornado Alley. A choropleth map is one method to depict population density. The scale of the choropleth map that I was shown depicted one dot = 100,000 people. I feel that referring to the split by Tornado Alley is easy to remember since I still remember it from grade school. For those of you that don’t recall, Tornado Alley is the string of states (the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas) that are most prone to Tornados touching down due to the plains. The states East of these states are home to 2/3rds of the population.

I read You're Ready for the Outlaws, But What About the In-Laws?, by Ellie Mae and that made me think as to how the Golden Horde would thin out in a short time. She portrayed her in- laws as the diabetic-obese type. Data released from the 2011 Diabetes facts sheet indicate that 26 million Americans are diabetic and 80 million people have been deemed ‘prediabetic’. Prediabetic means the blood glucose levels are higher than average but not high enough to qualify as diabetes.

When The Crunch strikes, it won’t strike lightly, it will come with an overdue vengeance. The way I understand it, if there is a socioeconomic collapse or some disaster which renders the whole country disabled (which seems fairly easy to do), power would be the first thing to go. People attached to life support or that cannot breathe on their own would helplessly wither away. Dialysis machines would be unable to operate effectively, meaning those people with kidney and liver damage, as well as other people which require regular treatments, would have no treatment. Hospitals would have no way to effectively operate, especially without anesthesia and sterile operating tools. Oh, and good luck if anyone will stay behind WTSHTF.  Most hospitals don’t keep a large supply of sterile equipment so their supply would quickly diminish.

This will be about the same time that citizens begin looting. Most will go for material objects like jewelry, watches, electronics (but no power to use them), while others who have a family to support would raid supermarkets and gas stations, although they would still be looting. Some of the looters may have small arms like handguns, large kitchen or hunting knives, bats, clubs, and some may have hunting rifles, nothing of a substantially large caliber that could qualify as a battle rifle. Many people that don’t own a gun will begin looting gun stores. Most will be inexperienced with properly operating a firearm, which will lead to accidental shootings, thus thinning the horde by internal bleeding and resulting infection, if the initial gunshot wound didn’t kill quickly enough.

Starvation and disease are the next phase toward thinning the horde. With many people unable to fend for their own food, either by physical inability or lack of knowledge, much of the population will be weakened by lack of nutrition which leaves them susceptible to disease. Without running water or access to proper hygiene products, skin infections, dental problems, disposing of ‘waste’, and lack of nutrients, disease will run rampant across the country, especially in areas with a dense population. Dental problems are not fatal in themselves, but when a tooth is pulled, it is prone to infection and a lot of pain. Fecal matter can penetrate over 10 layers of toilet paper, so always wash your hands after going ‘number 2’ and disposing of it.

Children and the elderly are the most at risk for disease. Children are prone because of their developing immune systems and introduction to extremely harmful diseases to an underdeveloped immune system make children most at risk. The elderly are at risk for the same reason with the exception that immune systems weaken with age, especially if their body is weakened by another type of hereditary or age-dated disease.

The absence of medical supplies, surgical equipment, basic penicillin and antibiotics can turn a simple wound, into a fatal wound. Not only that, but a doctor would have to have survived the Crunch until this point and have a sterile facility to operate. Even gaining access to a facility or even a doctor, are really bad odds.

Another aspect of thinning the Horde to consider is that just because our government and economy have collapsed, nature won’t stop giving us grief! When Hurricane Katrina touched down in New Orleans, gas powered pumps were used to prevent over flooding of water to civilian neighborhoods. When the pumps failed, there was no way to prevent flooding and many people and homes perished. During a collapse, there won’t be any fuel for the pumps, there won’t be any way to get fuel to the pumps, there won’t be anyone in control and there won’t be any emergency responders. Not only that, but unless you have lived in the area of your retreat for your whole life and know the weather patterns during the year, you can and will be hit by unexpected weather. Most of us get a weather report from the internet or a news channel. During the Crunch, that will not be an option.

Given the events for the people living along the Mississippi River, that type of disaster can ruin your whole plan to survive TEOTWAWKI. For those who are unfamiliar, the Mississippi River over flooded, swallowing hundreds of homes and businesses along the river and even miles inland. Hundreds of thousands had to relocate, many of them only with the clothes on their backs. The lucky ones were able to drive out in a recreational vehicle (RV) and now there are communities of RVs with refugees. Most won’t be able to return to their homes for months to over a year. Many don’t have anything to return to.

If your area gets a lot of rain in the spring, but nothing in the fall, you will know when to collect and how much to last through the season. Hurricanes, blizzards, tornados and any other natural disasters you can think of won’t stop because our country has collapsed. Just as the pepper’s motto goes “the Crunch won’t wait for you to be prepared, you must prepare now”, Nature won’t wait for us to reinstate a government or emergency responders, you must have contingency plans in place is a disaster is set to strike.

The requirements for working against a hurricane disaster, goes ten-fold for nuclear power plants. I’m not an expert on them, but what I have gathered so far entail that nuclear reactors must be kept at a cool temperature, usually done by using water, to prevent overheating. If a reactor overheats and is unable to be cooled, another Chernobyl can occur. When the reactor melts down, the concrete shell of the reactor is unable to contain the massive amount of radioactive energy. All of this is prevented by people that work the computers. The effects of Hurricane Katrina would be rice cakes compared to the effects of a reactor meltdown. When radiation escapes into the atmosphere, it travels with the wind. There would be little hope for people in the initial radius of the plant, but the radiation could spread across several states, even continents, affecting tens of millions of people that may have survived the beginning stages of the Crunch. When the radiation escapes the atmosphere and reaches the ground, water sources and crops are prone to being radioactive.

Small amounts of radiation reached New York, from the reactors in Japan. Take the information from the news reports and how low levels of radiation have reached the East Coast of the States. If this can happen half a world away with emergency responders, think of the impending disaster with none of the information and no manpower to advert the crisis.

The effects of radiation are worse if a nuclear warhead is detonated close by or up-wind. Refer to the previous paragraph about radiation, but when a nuclear warhead is detonated, it releases an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). Basically an EMP releases a burst of energy which can literally fry any electronic device within the blast radius [and a considerable distance beyond, via linear coupling through power lines and telephone lines.] Unless you store electronic items in metal ammo cans, then you will be without their use for a long time.

Many of the articles on SurvivalBlog encourage us to gain medical knowledge and stock supplies and medication for our families and member of our group. The spread of disease and starvation have been talked about a lot and are a major portion of the prepping agenda. But other disasters can and will strike even when the Crunch is in full swing. If the contents of this article plus other areas that may have been omitted, the nation’s population of 300+ million citizens would be depleted to a few million citizens. As stated earlier, just because our government is in shambles, nature will still continue to have its depredations. The Golden Horde does exist, but genetics, general stupidity and nature will drastically reduce the numbers. I just hope that any people I come across are ones of sound, rational minds, and the people that reduce themselves to baser instincts of animals, pillaging and murdering, are the first to perish through any means mentioned above. If this does happen, then I may not ever have to raise my rifle.

My Suggestions

  • When scouting a location for a retreat, be sure to take into account seasonal weather, how to prepare for these conditions and take note of typical wind speeds and direction.
  • Get a large map that shows your retreat and mark where potential threats can hinder your ability to live securely. Mark where chemical factories, nuclear power plants, et cetera. Are located and in what conditions would it affect your ability to farm.
  • With recent odd weather patterns in the news, take into consideration event that could happen, even if the threat is moderate to low.
  • On the same or similar map, draw contingency escape routes in case you are overrun, mark off where hordes of people would travel that would affect OPSEC.
  • Create a travel map that would show you how to travel the surrounding areas of escape by avoiding major roads.
  • Have a secondary location and cache if your retreat were to be compromised by the Horde or a natural disaster.
  • If your yearly home and retreat are a distance away, be sure to have several routes to take to your to your retreat and maps
  • Discover if you have any venomous or poisonous plants or animals that you could encounter en route to your retreat or at your retreat. Be sure to abide by laws and research the FDA standards on all medication you are considering purchasing. Remember, we’re thinking of a SHTF scenario where it would be impossible to get access to anti-venoms, which most hospitals will keep on hand if the area has a high concentration of venomous or poisonous animals. But if you’re in an area with a concentration but hospitals have to import the anti-venom, then it would be best to have it on hand before TSHTF.
  • Get elective surgery now. Elective surgery exists to improve your quality of living. Lasik eye surgery which will cancel out your need for an eye glasses prescription. Anything that the doctor says is benign; it could become something later, so it might be good to get it removed. Seek second opinions.
  • Get updated shots, boosters and necessary vaccines as well as dental work. As stated before infection is a major concern of any operating procedure.
  • Get educated on emergency medical care. Especially dressing wounds since once the skin is broken, the wound is vulnerable to disease and infection!
  • Get familiar with performing minor surgery. This can go between patching up a large gash, a non-fatal gunshot wound, or setting broken bones or dislocated joints.
  • Get educated with firearms and how to properly use equipment. A stupid mistake or slip up will make the difference between a completed project and a fatal error.

Mr. Rawles:

You, and numerous other hard money advocates--like Ron Paul--spend a lot of time talking about the problems created by the Federal Reserve. You are right in calling it a private banking cartel--because, yep, that it exactly what it is. But what is the solution? Thanks, - Ralph in St. Louis

JWR Replies: In essence the problem is our reliance on debt-based funny money. (Take the time to watch the Renaissance 2.0 video series. While I don't agree with all of its creator's conclusions, overall it is excellent.) My emphasis on hard goods (barterable tangibles) and hard money (Nickels and precious metals) is part of the solution for disassembling the debt-based money system. We can bypass and inevitably defeat the banksters by not repeatedly cycling money through their system. An just by seeking private loans rather than bank loans and keeping our bank account balances small, we will deprive them of the "float" that is their lifeblood.

Whispering the dreaded "D" word: Federal Reserve Actively Preparing for the Possibility of U.S. Default. ( Thanks to N.B. for the link.)

Columbus [Georgia] Forms Copper Theft Task Force. "Columbus Police say last year alone $2 million in copper was stolen throughout the city." (Thanks to F.G. for the link.)

F.J. sent a link to an interesting piece penned by Eric Fry: Investing Ahead of the Curve. Here is a quote: "In 1969, for example, the Argentine government trimmed two zeros off the existing Peso Moneda Nacional to create the new Peso Ley. In 1985, the government slashed four zeros off the Peso Ley to create the Peso. Then in 1992, the government cut three zeros off the Peso to create the Austral, simultaneously linking it to the US dollar, one-for-one. Ten years later, this peg to the dollar ruptured and the Argentine currency swiftly lost 75% of its purchasing power…again."

Michael W. mentioned a web site of interest to copper and nickel investors: Portland Mint.

Some HKMEx news: Hong Kong Metals Exchange to Open 1,000 Ounce Silver Futures Contract. (Thanks to Chris D. for the link.)

Loyal content contributor B.B. kindly sent several news items:

18 Signs That Global Financial Markets Smell Blood In The Water

Marc Faber on Gold, Silver, Deflation and the U.S. Economy podcast (podcast interview with Jim Pulplava)

Too Big To Fail?: 10 Banks Own 77 Percent Of All U.S. Banking Assets

Bill Clinton: I'd use 14th Amendment

Down but not out: Voices of the long-term unemployed

Items from The Economatrix:

Bernanke's Nightmare

The Money Changers' Last Hurrah

The Collapse of Paper Money and The Vertical Move of Gold

Big US Bank:  If QE3 Actually Happens We Could See Gold at $5,000 and Silver at $1,000

Mr. V. mentioned a site of interest in the Onionspace: A movement devoted to anonymity, resilient communities, and free markets. Mr. V. also mentioned: "There is a table of contents viewable from "vanilla" Internet space. For full access, you will need to get set up in Tor .onion-space, then you can access this board."

More eastern liberal know-nothing feel-goodism: Bullet Tax' Proposed By Mayoral Candidate. Will someone please explain to Otis the difference between a "bullet" and a "cartridge"? Oh, and while you are at it, please show him the way that many .22 rimfire cartridges come from the factory packed in boxes of 500 or 550, and in cases of 5,000. (Thanks to Robert R. for the link.)

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K.A.F. recommended the young adult book series Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer, which is reviewed here. (It was also reviewed by Avalanche Lily, back in January.)

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Two never-finished Navy ships head to scrap heap. (A hat tip to Pierre M. for the link.)

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George S. suggested: Buford, Wyoming, Pop 1, [ZIP code] 82052

"When a country is indebted to the degree that we’re indebted, the country always defaults. We will default because the debt is unsustainable."- Rep. Ron Paul, July 19, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Today we present another three entries for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 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.

About 17 years ago I realized that I could not do all the things that I had done when I was in my 20s. I use to play pick-up basketball for hours, play soccer, stay up way too late, hike lots of miles, and a lot of other things, and not feel too much pain the next day. Well, I’m 47 now and I can barely run or do anything that requires lateral movement like soccer or basketball due to multiple operations on my ankles, knee and back. About the only things that I can do pain-free is swim and ride a bike. I still walk but it is always accompanied by the ever-present arthritis to remind me that I am no longer 25…but I digress. As I said, 17 years ago I decided it would be cool to ride my bicycle across the US. Now, up until this decision, I had never owned a real road bike and had probably never ridden more than 10 miles but I was determined and left the west coast in June of 1995 and rode until I saw the Atlantic Ocean 52 days later. I'll describe some lessons learned during this journey.

I realized I could do anything I put my mind to. I also realized the amazing versatility of bike riding. Not only did I get in phenomenal shape, it also taught me about road ‘survival’ skills. Having spent 20 years in the military, I am pretty sure of myself in regard to surviving in the wild but when I road coast to coast, I became much more road savvy than I had ever been. I learned to listen to the sound of approaching cars from the rear and could tell if they were going to come too close or give me a wide berth.  I also learned how much weight you could easily carry on your bike if you needed to. When I started the trip, my panniers (the bags that hang on your front and rear wheels) carried upwards of 80 pounds of gear. During the trip I slimmed down my load but in a survival situation, when speed is not of the essence, you can store a lot of gear in those panniers. 

I also learned to approach a town with caution and decide on an entry point that gave me options to get out quickly. I never allowed myself to get into a position that only allowed me one way out so that if danger came from that direction, I had other places to go.

I also became very adept at bicycle care and maintenance and could change a flat, put on a new tire, true a bike wheel, tighten spokes (even if one broke), and keep the bike running until I could get to a repair shop. I learned how to ride in a neutral position so that my hands and arms didn’t fall asleep. These are basic skills you should develop now so that the first time you need them is not when the SHTF.  Being proficient in all things related to bike travel is a huge advantage and adds another piece to your survival repertoire.

Although I never used one, I saw several long distance bike riders towing a trailer. This would be a very good essential item in a survival situation.  Let’s say your water source is a couple of miles away and you don’t want to walk and fuel is way too expensive to use the truck. The bike and trailer will get you there faster and transport multiple gallons of water. The ancillary benefit is that you are also in ten times better shape if you are biking regularly than driving a vehicle and the beautiful thing about it is, it’s one of those activities that can be done completely under the radar because training in plain sight is no issue.   Just outfit the family with decent bikes and start riding every weekend! Add some adventure to it and have friends drop you off on a rail-trail path and bike your way home. Pack along food and water and you are building your family’s survival quotient ten-fold.

My first trip across country was brainless to say the least. I simply bought a bike at a local store (a Trek 1220), picked up some gas station maps and traced a route and went for it. I spent the first week in the Mohave Desert and knew nothing about what it would take to make it through. I think God certainly had pity on me and put certain people into my path as it would have been impossible to make it without them. I met a guy named Rodney in the middle of the Mohave and he had been biking cross-country every year for the last six years. He probably saved my life or at least some severe discomfort when he gave me the right information at exactly the right time I needed it to make it across the desert.  I can simply say that God’s grace is sufficient for me. Anyway, I don’t suggest you do the same thing as I did and make sure you prepare for any trip longer than a few miles. Do a competent map study, and be proficient at riding before you hop on your touring bike. I only rode my bike twice before hitting the road for my 3,500 mile trip. (Not good, to say the least.)

Ever since that trip I have become a biking enthusiast. I ride mountain bikes and road bikes, although I prefer the off-road version now; I simply hate riding next to tractor-trailers and semis! The mountain bike also offers an additional option of getting off the hardball roads quickly and quietly if the need arises. Although you will not make the same speeds on a mountain bike as a road bike, in a SHTF scenario, speed is not your best option, stealth and versatility are.

The benefits of having a “bike” option are cost, simplicity, exercise and fitness, training under the radar, fuel savings, flexibility and versatility. Since my first croos country trip, I have completed two more cross-country rides and have become that much more proficient in the area of bicycle maintenance but you do not have to do any long distance trips to do the same. Start local, start riding your bike to get the paper or to do an errand. Get the kids involved. Find a rail-trail near your home and start doing weekend trips to ride on them. Plan a biking/camping adventure with them. Do some research and get a decent set of panniers for each bike in your home. Practice riding with a heavier load. Get a full complement of bicycle repair tools and equipment. I have an extra set of tubes for each tire and I also have two extra tires that I twist into a figure-8, then fold in half and stuff in my panniers. The longer you ride the more maintenance you will have to do to keep the bike running but that is its own reward in proficiency.  I always carried two methods of tire inflation. I carry three CO2 cartridges and a nozzle so I can quick fill a tire in a few seconds. I also keep a decent hand pump along as well. Don’t skimp on a hand pump, spend the extra dollars and get a good one that can pump up a road tire to 60 p.s.i. if need be.  Some pumps don’t cut the mustard on this capability so do some diligent research. Also make sure you know the difference between Presta and Schrader valves, and have the capability to pump into each type. Most gas stations can’t fill the Presta valves but a simple $1.50 conversion bit gives you this capability. I learned this one the hard way, don’t make the same mistake. Know the difference and be prepared.

Whenever I ride, I have several dollars in change in my handlebar pouch. I cannot tell you the number of times I pulled into gas stations and stores after they closed and found a working soda and candy machine outside. Having a supply of change is a lifesaver in some cases. I once was riding on route 66 between Kingman and Seligman, Arizona and pulled into an old decrepit gas station that looked like it hadn’t pumped any gas in decades. The only thing that worked was the soda machine and it didn’t have a slot for dollar bills; it was another one of those moments when I knew God was watching out for me.

Another item that is indispensable is tire liners. I use Mr. Tuffy’s tire liners but there are several on the market that should do the trick. Although it adds weight to your bike, they are worth every cent. I biked nearly 1,200 miles before I got my first flat on my first bike trip and have had similar results on all my long distance rides. A cheap alternative to store bought liners is to save your old tires and cut off the wire rims. Insert the remaining rubber into the tires and then put the tubes in and you have a home remedy to help prevent flat tires. This option is really only effective if your old tires are of the smooth variety. A knobby mountain bike tire will not fit snugly into a new one, even with the wire rimes cut off. You should also carry green “slime” which is a quick repair goop that you fill directly into your tubes. It fills the hole from the inside (provided it’s not too big) and allows you to continue to use a damaged tube without patching. Bike stores even sell tubes with the slime already pre-filled in the tubes. Tires can also help in the flat prevention department. Specialized makes an Armadillo tire that is pretty tough against flats. The only downside is that the tire is pretty stiff and isn’t for someone who wants a real smooth ride but if we are talking a SHTF scenario, these are money for preventing flats.

This brings me to my next point; patches. There are now lots of different options than the old standard vulcanizing patches we all grew up with. There are quick fix patches that are a time saver and are very useful to quickly patch a tire without having to wait five minutes before the glue sets on an old standard repair patch kit. The tradeoff is that most quick fix patches will not last as long as the standard patch but I developed a plan when I rode where I would quick fix any flat and then when I was safe in my overnight dwelling, I would re-examine my tubes, replace with new ones and re-patch if necessary. I never wanted to spend too much time on the side of the road patching a tire. In the event someone took notice who might want to do me harm, you want to get rolling as quickly as possible.

Bottom line: If you are looking at a true survival scenario, use as many of these options as you can to keep you bikes running on the roads and trails.
It also illustrates a point about traveling alone. I rode cross country in 1995, 1998 and 2003 and did all three trips solo. If I were to do it again, I would probably find someone who would do it with me. I was packing iron my 1st and 2nd trips, (Mr. S&W .357 Magnum on my first trip and Mr. Colt .45 on my second) but rode the third one without heavy metal since I was more aware of the state by state rules regarding firearms and probably was not riding in accordance with established concealed carry laws. I had a cell phone on that most recent trip unlike the first two but going solo, with or without a firearm, would be ill-advised in a survival situation. 

On my second cross country bike trip, I ran across an interesting individual in Tennessee. I can’t remember his name but he told me that people around the area called him the “can man” because he picked up cans along the roadside and turned them in for cash. He told me he bought his last truck with the money he saved from collecting cans. It took him several years but he was retired and just road up and down the state roads, about 40 miles each day, and did his thing and had a very healthy outlook on life. He had rigged up a rear seat platform with several milk crates which he used to keep his cans in and had a broom handle extension on his handlebars so he could walk and balance his load at the same time. It reminded me of the stories of the Viet Cong bringing supplies into South Vietnam on the Ho Chi Minh Trail but his little broomstick handle allowed him to walk upright while pushing the bike and not hunched over the way you normally do. I thought about this for a bit and realized the utility that this had to offer in a SHTF scenario. Let’s say you have to beat feet off a road or trail quickly to avoid a confrontation. This little set up allows you to quickly and efficiently push the bike through any type of brush or up a hill so you can cover ground that can't be ridden and get back to a place where you can ride.  I’m not advocating keeping a broom handle taped to your handlebars 24/7, just keep the option open to use if the need arises. You could even attach the handle to you bike frame and use some duct tape to attach it to the handlebars in a pinch. [JWR Adds: With most handlebars, a pair of 3.5" Aero-seal hose clamps Stainless Steel of Aero-seal style hose clamps would work better than tape.]
To make a short story a little bit longer, bikes are awesome and can be fitted to do a ton of stuff in a SHTF scenario. They should be a part of anyone’s survival bag of tricks but the time to get proficient is not after the balloon goes up but as soon as possible to get the family ready and have a lot of fun doing it. Use the internet and get savvy about your bike skills. There is a good online resource by Jim Langley, which covers a lot of the basics of bike repair and maintenance. Good luck and God Speed!

If you know how to ride a bike then raise your hand.  If you didn't raise your hand then you are either lying or don't have hands.  The truth is everyone knows how to ride a bike and everyone at some point in their lives has owned a bike.  If everyone has owned a bike or at least knows how to ride one, then I must beg the question "Why is no one talking more about bikes for TEOTWAWKI type situations?"  Allow me to remedy this quandary.

Possession of bicycles  is highly underrated in topic general.  Additionally, from the lack of information that I have seen I believe that bicycles are a highly undervalued asset when it comes to a TEOTWAWKI type situation.  Many people are unable to look past the obvious use for a bicycle; to ride it from point A to point B.  And although this in itself in extremely useful, there are limitations to this capability which mainly stem from human ability.  The purpose of this essay is to expound upon the many hidden uses for a bicycle.  After all a bike is a tool, a tangible asset, and as preppers we are good at using tools with good skills.  Aren't we?

So go get that rusty Schwinn out of the garage and let's begin.  I'm writing this essay under the assumption and premise that you, as the reader, have at least the physical ability to mount, pedal, and ride a bicycle for at least a 30 minute interval.

We can break down the use of a bike into many different categories and within each of these categories we can find different types of bikes that will best suit the needs of that category.  Those categories are; bugging out, bugging in, cargo transportation, unorthodox uses, bike fitness and basic bike maintenance.  There are many different kinds of bikes out there each with its own strengths and weaknesses.  The four most popular types of bikes I will be discussing are; mountain bikes, road bikes, tricycles, and recumbent bikes.  Let's discuss the types of bikes first.
Types of Bikes

Mountain Bikes
A Mountain bike could be considered the most versatile of bikes when considering a TEOTWAWKI type situation.  They are characterized by their big fat, thick knobby tires which are excellent for gaining traction on non-paved surfaces.  Additionally, they have flat handle bars for optimal control for ideal maneuvering and navigating tight turns.  Most often they will have a front suspension system to soften bumps and do come with a rear suspension variety as well.  Finally, mechanical and hydraulic disc brakes are the most common braking method.  Mountain bikes can also be broken down into three main categories as well; cross country (XC), all mountain (AM), and downhill (DH).

Cross country bikes are light and fast and are going to be the best pick for TEOTWAWKI (if you live where terrain is a bit rougher, then go with an all mountain bike, but stay away from downhill bikes if you have to do any pedaling  at all, they are meant ridden downhill and chair-lifted uphill).  They are meant to traverse rough terrain, but not as rough as all mountain and downhill bikes.  Higher end models can be typically found with extremely light carbon fiber components or even the frame can be made of carbon.  But in a TEOTWAWKI situation we want to stay away from carbon fiber and aluminum components.  We want steel. There is a saying in the mountain bike community, "Steel is Real".  And for good reason.  It is tough, durable and springy.  Aluminum and carbon fiber components are difficult to replace and repair and can be more costly.  Steel is heavier, but we aren't trying to trim weight to win a race, we are trying to survive.  If you can't get steel, aluminum is fine, you just have to take better care of your bike.

When looking to purchase a mountain bike shoot for mid range pricing $300-$600.  Bikes in this range are of good quality and have components that are durable, but not made of the feather light, highly breakable stuff.  Do not go to box store to purchase a bike (i.e. Wal-Mart, Target, etc.).  These bikes are built with poor quality materials under the philosophy of "planned obsolescence."  In other words, they are designed to break after a short time.  A few good suggestions are; Giant Boulder, Trek Police Series, and Specialized Hardrock.

Two final notes on mountain bikes.  Mountain bike come in three different wheel sizes.  26 inch, 650B and 29 inch wheels.  The most common size is the 26 inch and would be the easiest size to find repair parts for.  Also, mountain bike tires can be fitted with special "slick" tires that offer less rolling-resistance on pavement.  This gives them an additional  use in an urban environment.

Road Bikes
Speed is the name of the game with road bikes.  If you have to get from point A to point B fast and there is pavement between point A and point B, then road bikes are your weapon of choice.  Road bikes are super light weight and are characterized by their thin, smooth tires (which have less rolling resistance on a road), curved  handle bars and rim brakes.  Road bikes also have a higher gear ratio that mountain bikes.  That means that every time you push down on the pedal the back wheel spins around more times.  You get less torque, but higher RPMs for your pedal stroke.  This translates into a higher top speed on the road but a lower rate of acceleration.  You could possible take road bikes onto hard pack dirt, but it is not recommended that you ride them anything more extreme than this.

Road bikes are best suited for city environments with off-road conditions are almost non-existent.  They are more physically demanding to ride due to the more hunched over position they put the rider in.  I would recommend that if you are not capable of putting your body into this position for long periods of time that you look at getting a recreational/commuter, which blends many of the elements of comfort of a mountain bike with the speed elements of a road bike.

Road bikes also have their many varieties as well.  You can find them in competition race bikes, time trial bikes, track bikes, or recreational/commuter.  The best pick for a road bike would be a recreational/commuter type bike as this will have the most versatile of uses.  It will not have as fast of a top speed as the other bikes, nor will it be as light.  It will however be durable enough to withstand daily use and will make traversing pavement easier and more efficient than using a mountain bike.

When buying a road bike consider the guidelines above for buying a mountain bike to be just as valid.  A few suggestions for a pure road bike are; Specialized Dolce, Giant Defy, Trek 1.1 Series.  If you require recreational/commuter  then consider these models;  Trek Soho S, Specialized Vita Sport, or Giant Via.

Recumbent Bikes

Recumbent bikes can be considered the ultimate recreational bicycle.  They come in three main varieties, 2 wheel (least stable), tricycle and quad (most stable).  The unique hallmark of recumbent bikes is that you sit reclined on the bike in a seat, not on top of it in a saddle.  The advantage to this is that you get more bang for your buck per pedal stroke.  Each stroke is a highly efficient use of calories when translated to raw power.  The disadvantage of this is that you are limited mainly to paved surfaces and possibly dirt roads. 

The is another big disadvantage to recumbent bikes is that they have more parts.  More parts equal more chances for something to go wrong and break.  Some of these parts are very specialized too, meaning you will have a harder time replacing them.  Recumbent bikes are also much more expensive than their road and mountain counterparts.  This is due to the fact that they take more labor to make and have more moving parts.  Expect to pay as much as 10-15% more for a comparable road or mountain bike.

Recumbent bikes have their advantages too!  Recumbent bikes have excellent capacity for towing.  If you can attach a light weight bike trailer to a recumbent bike then you have the capacity to tow and carry large amounts of good and supplies over a long distance without tiring as quickly compared to a mountain or road bike. 
Categories of Use

Bugging Out

Utilizing a bike for the purposes of bugging out can be either a very smart move, or a very costly mistake.  The duality exists under this simple observations.  Bikes are faster than walking, but slower and more vulnerable than motor vehicles.  Let me elaborate.  Cycling can get you from point A to point B at almost triple or quadruple the  speed compared to traveling on foot, but there are some major drawbacks.  First, you will need to carry with you every tool and replacement part needed to repair your bike on your back. Secondly, unless you have a towing trailer, your ability to carry large amounts of weight is extremely limited.  There are options for bike panniers that can be used to carry more weight, but this combined with a bug out bag or 72-hour kit will make your every top heavy on the bike thereby reducing your ability to maneuver.  Additional weight will also reduce your ability to climb hills on a bike.

The best  use for bugging out with a bike would be a scenario similar to this one.  First, it would be advantageous if you were solo or only had 1 dependent.  Organizing an exodus on bikes for multiple riders on the fly would be difficult to coordinate at best.  Secondly, it is recommended that your point of destination be already predetermined to meet up with a group of people that you can gain secondary support from.  Don't expect to be able to carry enough supplies on a bike for a SHTF scenario unless you have a tow trailer. 

Your destination should be no more than two days away from your starting point and your path of travel should be in the least populated area as possible.   You should ideally live on an urban edge where you can get away from populated areas and avoid being seen as much as possible.  On a bike you are a very easy target.  You are easy to knock over and highly unprotected.

Ultimately, I do not recommend bugging out on a bike unless it is absolutely necessary.  The truth of the matter is that you would have to use your best judgment depending on your situation and location and path of travel to your destination.  I would, however, recommend as my bike of preference a mountain bike outfitted with hybrid tires.  These are tires that are designed to function both on road and rough terrain conditions. 

Bugging In

A bike can be an extremely valuable tool in bugging in situations.  In addition to the obvious uses there are many unorthodox uses for a bike, as I will explain below.  But for now let's look at some of the practical uses for a bugging in situation.  A bike comes into its own within a community.  If, as a prepper, you are becoming active and developing a community type attitude (as you should), then a bicycle will be a boon to this community.  Depending on the size of the community a bike will allow an individual to travel to various parts of that community with less effort and energy expenditure compared to walking.  Additionally, the use of a bike can be relegated to the tasks that are not important enough to demand the use of burning fuel to operate a motor vehicle such as running errands and transporting small items.

What we begin to see here is a variety of living scenarios in which a bike is applicable for bugging in.  In an urban environment, a bike flourishes.  City dwellers can get to close locations very quickly on a road bike.  In a sub-urban environment community leaders can get from house to house quickly in order to pass on news or respond to emergencies.  In a rural situation those long 2, 3 and 4 mile commutes to the nearest neighbor can be cut in half when compared to traveling on foot.  In a bugging in situation a bike can actually reinforce the closeness of a community because of its to save fuel and help people travel quicker than walking.

Cargo Transportation

A bike can find usefulness is transporting cargo, but it take a somewhat dedicated use of a bike.  There are limitations to how much a person can transport and that depends on many factors; the fitness level of the rider, the weight of cargo in question, the size of the cargo in question, the type of bike being used, terrain, etc.  For example, one person of average fitness with a mountain bike fitted with panniers might only be able to transport 20-30 pounds for a distance of 5 miles.  Another person of high fitness on a road bike towing a cargo trailer might be able to transport 60-70 pounds over a distance of 10 miles with no issues. 

Once again, discretion is required.  If you live on a relatively flat location a tricycle with a cargo basket may be perfect fit for you and your fitness level.  If you life in a highly paved area but require long distances then maybe a road bike with panniers is your best option.  If you live in the mountains then using a bike for cargo transportation may not even be a good option at all.  Bike are not best for all situations and you will have to use your head to figure this out.

Bike Fitness

Bike fitness can be an excellent boon to your overall fitness regimen.  If you are already running, lifting weights, swimming, or doing other forms of cardio and weight resistance, cycling can round you out overall.  Remember, as preppers we should not be specialized.  We must be able to adapt physically and a well rounded individual has a higher chance of survival.

If you plan on riding a bike for long distances then your lungs are going to get tired, your legs are going to get tired, your back is going to get tired, and your buttocks are going to get tired.  The only way to remedy these problems is to build up endurance. Get on a bike and ride.  From personal experience if you are starting out riding a bike, a 45 minute ride can be torture on the rear end (especially if you have a streamlined saddle, and not a comfort saddle and ride on rough terrain).  However, one 45 minute ride once a week can be enough to toughen up your derriere to a point that a 45 minute ride is no big deal.  Make this ride a low intensity ride where you are basically spinning the pedals will low resistance.

In order to increase the strength in your legs and lungs  you are going to need to add at least one more ride into your regimen per week.  Additionally, this ride is going to need to be of higher intensity.  Try to find a route that incorporates more hills and climbs than your first ride per week.  This will challenge your legs and lungs.  Try to make this a sustained ride for at least 45 minutes with a high level of resistance.

By combining two rides per week of different intensities one will challenge your body while the other will allow your body to fall into an "active recovery".  This is when your muscles rebuild themselves.  The higher intensity ride will challenge your muscles and lungs.  During days of non riding try to cross train with other forms of exercise so that you are balancing out your exercise routines.  Above all, try not to get caught up in tracking your heart rate, power (wattage), etc. that high level athletes try to monitor unless you really want to engage in a higher level of bike intensity.  At that point you are becoming specialized, and, you probably have bike racing goals.  Keep it simple!

One last thing.  Bike fitness can be augmented by purchasing a cheap bike trainer.  What this is, is a device that attaches to the rear wheel of your mountain or road bike.  It lifts the wheel off the ground and applies resistance.  That way if there is ever bad weather outside or you don't have time to get ready for an outside ride, you can just hop on the trainer and get your spinning done.  Most inexpensive trainers run around $100.  The cost a bike trainer plus a decent road or mountain bike can cost as much as a stationary trainer that you can buy at Wal-Mart or Academy, but you can always take the bike of your trainer and head outside.  Plus the trainer acts as a tool for unorthodox  uses.

Unorthodox Uses

Now for some fun speculation and creativity.  A bicycle is a human powered machine that focuses on rotational power.  When we begin to think about this, what sort of devices that we use every day capitalize on rotational power?  Drills, saws, grinders, blenders, wheat mills, electricity dynamos, pumps, mulchers, etc.  There are many possibilities.  Is it possible to use our bikes to power these devices?  With a little ingenuity it is!  Here is how.

You will need to have a bike trainer for your bike.  This will allow you to work on your fitness but also allow your bike to be converted to a powering device.  By lifting your bike off the ground and removing the rear tread and tube, you can attach a belt to the rear wheel that can be attached to any rotational device with a bit of modification.  Take a look at these examples below:
A pedal powered hacksaw.  Pedal powered kitchen accessories.  Pedal powered water pump.  Pedal powered jig-saw.  Pedal powered water filtration.  Pedal powered washing machine.  Pedal powered AC inverter.  Pedal powered generator.

The possibilities for unorthodox uses are endless and are only limited to your imagination. 

Bike Maintenance

Maintaining your bike is going to be crucial if you want your bike to last.  Here are some guidelines to help you keep your bike in good working condition. 

First, let's understand your bike's consumable components.  The first of these will be bike tubes.  Stocking up on bike tubs might not be the best use of one's money considering this is a permanent option.  Head over to Wal-Mart and pick up a solid rubber bike tube.  Granted, these are more expensive than regular tubes, but you will never need to replace a bike tube.  Additionally,  you won't need to worry about having a pump of any kind.

Another consumable will be your bike tires.  If you are going to be riding your bike on a consistent basis then having extra bike tires around will be a good idea.  The rubber meets the road here, so to speak, and these will wear out quicker than any other component.  Also, understand your terrain and stock the appropriate kind of bike tire.  If you are on paved surfaces then keep road tires around.  If you are near trails then keep mountain tires around. 

Your chain is going to be the next component that will wear out quickly and/or break.  Keep a few extra chains around along with chain links.  Don't forget to get a small chain tool to allow you to attach and remove damaged chains.

Cables and housings for your brakes and derailleurs are good to have around as well.  These will not wear out as quickly as the aforementioned components but keep 1 or 2 spares around for each brake and derailleur.

Lubrication!  Your bike is going to need to be lubricated just like any other machine.  The best lubrications are dry-Teflon type lubricants for your chains and exterior bike components. 
Engine grease is the perfect lubrication for wheel axles and bottom brackets.

Your bike is going to need to be cleaned once or twice a month if you ride it on a regular basis.  If you  have a mountain bike that you actually ride on trails then you should consider giving a good cleaning once a month and a wipe-down once a week.  This keeps dust and debris to a minimum which can damage the paint and then frame of your bike.  If paint on your frame gets chips in it then there is the potential for corrosion to set in.

Finally, if you are serious about taking care of your own equipment, I highly recommend that you purchase one of these two books, or both; Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, and Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance.  These two books are a boon to anyone who wants to keep their bike in tip top shape and will cover way more information than what I have time to cover in this essay.

On the Go and Home Base Toolkits

On the Go Kit:                 

Having an on the go toolkit is essential and there are some essential items that belong in it.  Think of this as your EDC kit for your bike.  Here is what I would include:
1)  A mini pump if your tires have tubes.  (Also include at least 1 spare tube along with patches to help fix flats.)
2)  Handy, but nonessential, are small CO2 cartridges with a bike valve adapter.  These make for quick inflation if you are in a hurry.
3)  A Gerber-type multi-tool.
4)  A small metric allen wrench set.
5)  Chain tool with spare chain or links of chain.
6)  About 10 zip ties.
7)  1 set of spare brake and derailleur cables and housings (many uses that for just fixing your cables).  You will want to make sure that the housings are pre-cut to the length needed.  These cannot be cut with a regular knife.  So cut these before hand and then include them in your kit.
8)  A small bottle of chain lube.

All of these items can fit in a medium size bike bag that you can find at most box store and almost all bike shops.

Home Base Toolkit:  You home base toolkit should include tools that would allow you to conduct almost any repair on your bike.  An excellent starter toolkit is the Park Tool Advanced Mechanic Tool Kit (or similar).  This has almost all of the tools required for any basic repair on a bicycle.  It has tools to help fix everything from broken wheel spokes to removing the bottom bracket from a bike.
You should also supplement this kit with these items:
1) Repair stand.  Not essential, but makes repairs much easier to conduct.
2)  Plenty of spare grease and chain lube.
3)  A good shop floor pump if you have tubes.
4)  Spare chains.
5)  At least 1 spare front and rear wheel.
6)  At least 1 set of spare disc brake discs or 2-3 sets of rim brake pads. 
7)  Extra sets of handle bar grips or grip tape.
9)  Lots of wheel spokes!  These will break a whole lot, especially in mountain bikes that see trail use.
10)  A wheel truing stand.  Not essential, but makes truing wheels easier.

[JWR Adds: By adding some spare parts and scrounging a heap of discarded bikes to cannibalize for parts (yes, they can be bought in heaps here in the U.S., and they are least expensive that way), the foregoing list will set you up with post-collapse home-based business.]

In general, as with all prepping, having extra bike parts will benefit you very much.  About 75% of the parts on a bike will render it useless (or difficult to operate) if they break.


I hope that everyone can understand that there is a place for bikes in a SHTF type situation.  They can be used to transport messages across the mountains between small bands of militia defending themselves against a UN invading force, they can simple help a person get out of Dodge, or they can charge a battery. 



One way to pack emergency supplies is in plastic storage totes, which are available inexpensively at department stores. Many stores have 18 liter volume totes, between five and ten dollars per tote. They also have smaller sizes, which may be more convenient. The smaller sizes may be easier to pack in the car.) [JWR Adds: For strength, the opaque Rubbermaid brand totes are preferred over the more brittle transparent totes. I also recommend taking some detailed measurements and doing some test fitting of bins in your vehicle(s), for the most efficient packing arrangement.]

There are two general categories of action you can take in a disaster situation, assuming you are not a direct victim (and going to the hospital). You either stay at home, or you can evacuate. (Also called bugging out.)  Either way, it is wise to have emergency supplies in one handy place. If you're lucky, you may have 10 minutes to pack your family and get out. You can grab your Rubbermaid  bins  and know you've got the  essentials you need. 

What to pack in your emergency kit? I think there are several essentials to survival during an evacuation. Air, water, food, shelter, medical, transport, fire, light, defense, communications, future income, and entertainment.

Military gas masks and N95 respirators can filter dust. They were in high demand after the World Trade Center collapse -- dust hung in the air for days. 

Bring plenty of clean water along, for drinking, washing, etc. Also good to have a camping type water filter. You may wish to pack some water in half liter bottles (cheap enough in cases of 24 at the stores) in case you want to hand out water bottles to others. 

Bring your own food, as the restaurants and supermarkets may be closed, or out of food. Pack food that requires no cooking, and is familiar to you, and which you enjoy eating. Your food needs and desires will probably be different than other people, so choose wisely, and pack the foods you can use. 

A camping tent is a good idea. In case you need to spend a night out. Clothing and shoes and boots are also considered shelter. 

Pack a large bottle of aspirin or ibuprofen, and lots of antacids. Ask your doctor for an undated "Emergency Use Only" antibiotics prescription. You need at least three days' supply of necessary medications.  plan to wear your glasses, as contacts can be a real hassle.  Sanitation can become iffy at best, so plenty of toilet paper. Diaper wipes can be used as adult toilet paper, as well as for bathing "spot baths". Alcohol based "hand sanitizer" may help you to avoid disease. Latex gloves are very useful, too. Sunscreen, and bug spray. You may be outdoors. 

Ideally, you get in your car, and drive where you want to be. Less ideally, you may need to walk due to traffic jam, or out of gas. You will want sturdy and comfortable boots. Plan B would be something with wheels such as a garden cart to haul supplies. 

Fire provides comfort, light, and helps keep the animals away. Plenty of matches and lighters. 

Pocket size flashlight and a battery-powered camp lantern. A big MagLite for seeing things at a distance.

Again, you can use that big MagLite for burglar whacking. Other weapons where legal, and if trained. 

Cell phone, and both car and home chargers. List of family and important phone numbers. Important family documents you may need to prove identity, contact people, etc. Battery radio to hear the government approved propaganda which some call "news". 

Future income.
Ideally, bring your work tools, resume, and working papers, so you can get started in your new location. 

You may have a bit of time to pass, especially if your family is in a public shelter. Books, playing cards, and board games are all logical choices. If your group has kids, you might need some extra batteries, for the hand held game toys. 

Everything is about sustainability. Housing, heating, food, self defense, water supplies: do it yourself, maintain it. We can't turn away, completely, from the best parts of our civilization however. That means things like centralized small business. Small scale manufacturing is ongoing in little towns with certain specialties. Getting there from semi-remote or rural self sufficient farms for that extra income or making use of a skill set for a high demand part (gunsmiths, CB radio, water pumps, wood stoves, solar panels, small engines etc) are often best built and sold at a central location. It makes sense, for supply issues and for the customer.

Getting there becomes the trick. You can walk. You can ride a horse, if you have a stable at both ends and someone to tend them there. You can bicycle. You can stay in a row house 4-5 days and go home on the weekends. Or you can use a high fuel efficiency vehicle. This can mean carpooling with other workers on the same schedule. This can mean buying an expensive electric or hybrid car. The Nissan Leaf costs $45,000 to manufacture. The Prius costs nearly as much, but only gets 50 m.p.g. (going downhill, with a tailwind). You can think outside the box with 4 doors and improve your power to weight ratio by removing weight from a car or truck with a small engine and gearing appropriately. This ends up uncomfortable and often less safe in a crash. Life is filled with compromises.

What about a bicycle? If its only a couple miles, bicycling uses no fuel, just muscle power. That's great. What if you live more than a couple miles away? Pedal further. How far gets to be too far? You can reduce pedaling by converting your mountain bike to a moped using a bolt on 33cc 2-stroke engine kit. Or get a moped or scooter. Or a more efficient bicycle, or move closer to your job, or your job closer to you.

You can ride to work on a farm ATV, provided the local law enforcement allow them on the roads unimpeded. Some regions do, so don't. It might be worth contacting your state assembly rep to get them legal for future needs. Some just need turn signals, fenders, mirrors, and lights to be legal, depending on the jurisdiction.. Just a matter of registration in some cases.

Three wheeled tricycle motorcycle hacks are pretty common in Southeast Asia and South America. They're pretty cheap, slow, and carry passengers or gear/cargo. An odd kind of thing, but good for those nervous about riding on two wheels. Same goes for sidecars, which come in leaning and fixed varieties, and often bolt on. Even scooters can have sidecars these days.

And there's also motorcycles. Two wheels, don't bother riding in the wet, and requires care on corners with loose gravel. Famously unsafe, but most accidents involve speed, inattention, ego, and/or alcohol. You aren't prone to any of those things. Preppers are a cautious sort, the best sort of riders, really. Dual Sport bikes will cross all kinds of terrain (single track, rocks, mud bog, unmaintained roads) and can't get stuck because you can physically lift them out by hand or go around obstacles that would take time and effort to deal with using a 4WD, using half the fuel of a modern commuter car and less than a Prius. Its Green, in both the ironic and non-ironic sense of the word. Fuel economy via better power to weight ratio. It gets you, the passenger, to work, where the income happens.

There are also scooters, though Underbones have better ground clearance and bigger wheels so can deal with the nastier roads since that's what they're built for, in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia in general. Scooter motors, using 50-150ccs get around 80 to 100 m.p.g., which means that so long as some fuel is getting delivered to your town, and its not raining or snowing that day, you can get to work, keep your mortgage paid and food on the table while sharing skill sets with other locals similarly inclined. I generally avoid 50cc machines unless you live in flatland because they don't climb hills for beans. 125cc should be a minimum, and most states require 4-stroke engines these days. Those are common for imports and have decent power and low noise so it works out. Sadly these are not built in America anymore. All are imported and thus expensive. Do not buy a Chinese scooter unless its a re-badged main production from a proper brand name (Vespa, Piaggio, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha) [and thus will be covered under a decent warranty.] The basic Chinese scooter is garbage and will fail.

Some reliable example machines to consider by type of road surface:

  • Smooth maintained roads: Vespa 50-125cc models, Honda PCX 125, Yamaha Vino 125, any sport motorcycle 250cc. These are what you'll find in city limits and the suburbs in healthy communities that can afford pavement long term. For now, most places are like this. This will not last.
  • Rougher partially maintained roads: Honda Ruckus 300, Honda SH10X, any Underbone 125cc, any standard or dual sport motorcycle with 5 inches of vertical wheel travel in the suspension. Suburbs are often like this, and most rural and poorer communities are like this now.
  • Rough unmaintained roads: Any dual sport with knobby tires such as KLX-250, Honda CRF-230L, Yamaha 200cc, Yamaha WR250X (nice, light, and fast), Suzuki DRZ400 (reputedly the ultimate serious off road bike). These have 11 inches of vertical wheel travel which means they can go over rock falls and speed bumps and potholes and across ditches and not really suffer. They're much safer on rough roads. They look funny on the highway but with slick tires they do just fine, known in the sport as "Supermoto".

For a prepper this is a good idea to track down and learn on, getting wheels with both kinds of tires mounted so you can swap them yourself, should your road maintenance go South for budgetary reasons. An off road capable motorcycle is the equivalent of the .308/7.62 NATO rifle. A good insurance policy. Practice riding monthly, like you would your rifle marksmanship.

The above examples are the smaller-engine machines best for fuel economy. Most are carbureted or have cheaper carbureted versions, thus EMP resistant and adjustable for fuel additives and quality. All are available used, and many are better for it, being broken in. Someday they'll have engine swaps for biodiesel you can grow yourself or from the local Co-op/feed store, even more sustainable. Most bikes either come with or can be upgraded to progressive shocks which make them much safer handling if you have to make them go fast over rough terrain. Most can be bought used for a reasonable price. Boise, Idaho is famous for these kinds of machines, it being an outdoors powersports paradise without the Californians getting in the way. When the Recovery comes, city people will venture out into your community for vacation, sight seeing, or to buy the specialty goods you've been perfecting during this Depression.

At some point in the near (next couple years) future, oil supplies will be greatly constrained in a short period of time, mostly due to the needs for Islamic OPEC nations modernizing following the last year worth of democratic revolutions. I can't blame them. We've done the same thing, only 250 years ago. This supply crunch will likely either bring rationing by fiat or by cost, either way requiring a huge change in how we live. The end of the world as we know it, only without violence necessarily. Just huge adjustment to travel options and thus work. We might end up working the job we don't want because its the only one we can get to. If the ration is less than will work for your vehicle you get to choose between your family and a motorcycle/bicycle. It is up to you. Safe riding is mostly a matter of lower speed and good judgment. Idiots hurt themselves on bikes. Set aside the fear of parody bikers (mostly stock brokers and other rich people pretending to be pirates just because they saw The Wild One or Mad Max. Those people are playing pretend and will go broke.) and consider the tool for what it is: a way to get to work and home with minimal resources. - InyoKern

Billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio foresees a U.S. Dollar collapse by 2013. (Thanks to Tom in Buffalo for the link.)

Dr. Ron Paul in The Daily Bell: Debt Ceiling Drama

Chris G. pointed me to an article where some Tea Party members wax SurvivalBlogish: Money Gone Rogue.

Reader David D. mentioned this in Der Spiegel: Tensions Rise in Greece as Austerity Measures Backfire. David expressed an opinion that the "austerity measures" benefit bankers. Citing the Argentinean experience to contrast the economic nosedive in Greece, David commented: "...the bankers' austerity prescriptions are the quickest and surest way to beat the real economy down even further." 

Bill C. was the first of several readers that sent this: Borders Book Stores to Shut Down. Reader John G. notes: "[These closures] will present an opportunity to stock up on books. Stores will be closing starting this week and total liquidation of all their assets is expected. Stock up [on useful references] now. As an avid reader of paper [books], I am very sad to see them go."

John R. flagged this: The True Elephant in the Room Appears: Trillions in Commercial and Industrial Loans to Europe's Insolvent Countries

Items from The Economatrix:

Bernanke Warns Congress On Debt Default

S&P Joins Moody's to Warn of US Downgrade if No Debt Deal Reached

Return of the Gold Standard as World Order Unravels

And Then They Came For Your Gold

Bernanke: Gold Isn't Money

Casey in Arizona sent a link to a fairly scientific study on firearms "stopping" power that is sure to generate some controversy: An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power. If nothing else, it confirms my long-held belief that it is the man behind the gun that counts. Perfect practice makes perfect.

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Dust Bowl II? Oklahoma hit by relentless heatwave.

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Is there a Nobel War Prize? A mostly distaff and svært-liberal Nobel Peace Prize committee hurriedly and presumptuously nominated President Barrack Hussein Obama after he'd been in office for only nine days. For cryin' out loud, it takes longer than that to get the Army Service Ribbon. But now, after two years and three wars, shouldn't they instead give him a War Prize? Alfred Nobel (the inventor of dynamite) intended his prize for peacemakers, but as Commander in Chief, BHO has certainly used more than his share of high explosives.

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F.G. sent this: Frigid North Dakota Is a Hot Draw For Out-of-State College Students. Notice a correlation with the American Redoubt states and this map?

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SurvivalBlog's Editor At Large Michael Z. Williamson sent this: Local Midway[Georgia] Police Shut Down Girls' Lemonade Stand. Mike's comment: "Good to know your civil servants care about what's really important, to protect me from the predations of young girls with lemonade."

"In 1929 children had hope for the future. Today they are hopeless, helpless and clueless – an entire generation that only knows drugs, gangs, rappers, government handouts, teen pregnancy – and it goes downhill from there." - Wayne Allyn Root, "Why the Greatest Depression of All Time Has Begun"

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 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.

Food storage is important for short term survival, and everyone should have at least a six months to a multi-year food supply. But long term survival requires that you grow your own food. Whether it is TEOTWAWKI or just losing your income because you were laid off from your job, a home food production system is essential to your security.

Most successful food production systems involve using a greenhouse for year round food production, as a greenhouse extends the growing season, and shields your crops from severe weather. Another advantage is that a greenhouse is better protected from nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare than open field farming. And a greenhouse has greater physical security than an open field against pests and animals that might want to share in your harvest, whether they have four legs or two.

One problem with a greenhouse is providing an efficient watering system that doesn't require you to hand water your plants, and that will reclaim the run-off or excess water that would otherwise be lost into the floor of the greenhouse. Water is always an expense, and if your city water supply or electric powered well pump is not working, then it would be almost impossible to manually haul enough water by hand to maintain your greenhouse plants. Another problem is how to keep the temperature of the greenhouse stable without using propane or electric heaters. A greenhouse needs to store the heat collected during the day, and slowly release this heat so that the plants won't freeze when the sun goes down. I believe that the concept of "Aquaponics" solves both of these problems, and is the perfect technique for growing food off the grid in a greenhouse.

Aquaponics is a combination of Hydroponics (growing plants in water), and Aquaculture (growing fish in water). Aquaponics uses low energy water pumps to move the water from the fish tank through a gravel-filled bed to filter the water for the fish, while providing water for the plants growing in the gravel bed. The low pressure water pumps recycle the water for continuous use, and require a very small amount of electricity power which can be provided by a solar panel.

The fish in an Aquaponic system are a good survival protein source, but more importantly the fish create ammonia as a waste product, which provides fertilizer for the plants. The fish ammonia is converted into liquid nitrate fertilizer by autotrophic bacteria that reside in the gravel-filled growing beds, which is where the plants are raised. The water pump moves the water from fish tank into the gravel filled grow beds and back to the fish tank, thereby watering all of the plants automatically, while purifying the water for the fish by removing the ammonia. Around 98% of the water is conserved and reused, with very little makeup water needed. This solves the large water consumption problem that most greenhouses have. And, the large amount of water contained in the fish tank (ours has nearly 1,000 gallons) acts as a temperature buffer, which moderates the daily swings in temperature in the greenhouse by storing the excess heat during the day, and gently emitting the heat each night to keep the plants from freezing. The thermal storage capacity of the water based Aquaponic system fully complements any "Solar Greenhouse" design.

Aquaponics produces a large amount of organically grown food, as much if not more than a standard hydroponic greenhouse, without purchasing any hydroponic chemicals. Once you have the system set up, it pretty much runs itself with much less effort than traditional gardening. And if you can grow your own fish food from duckweed, black soldier fly larvae, earthworms, crickets, etc., then the system becomes almost completely self contained.

Our setup is pretty simple, and cost around $1,500. We built a small greenhouse frame using recycled wood. Inside we built our Aquaponic structure that is 8' x 8' wide and 8' tall. The foundation of the structure is an 8' x 8' wide by 2' deep fish tank made out of 2x12 lumber lined with a 12 mil rubber liner, all of which rests on concrete blocks. Above the fish tank are 4 gravel filled grow-beds mounted on 8' tall 4x4 posts. The grow beds are wooden boxes made from 2x12 lumber that are 8' long, 2' 6" wide, and one foot deep. The grow-beds are spaced 5' and 8' off the ground directly above the fish tank, mounted on top of each other like bunk beds with a walkway between them. Since the grow-beds are only 2' 6" wide, there is room between them for a 3' catwalk over the fish tank to let us stand and work between the two sets of stacked grow-beds.

There are a lot of ways to build a cheaper aquaponic system. Once way is by using recycled plastic barrels for the fish tanks, and making the grow beds by cutting plastic barrels longways and laying them on their sides on a wooden rack and filling them with gravel, and then plumbing everything together with PVC pipe. You can also do it on a small scale with a standard aquarium and small water pump to push water through your potted plants on the windowsill, as long as you have a place for a "biofilter" such as a gravel filled bed or refugium where the bacteria that changes the ammonia into nitrogen can reside.

A working "biofilter" is the key ingredient to a good aquaponics system, as the bacteria in the biofilter keeps the fish water clean, and changes ammonia into nitrogen for the plants. The bacteria need to reside in a wet environment that has plenty of oxygen, and little or no light. A gravel bed that is alternately flooded and drained, is perfect for this type of bacteria to thrive in. Other aquaponic solutions, such as Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) and Deep Water Raft Technique, use a large amount of netting submerged in the water to give a place for the bacteria to reside. We chose a grow-bed filled with 1 foot of gravel as our biofilter, as it is simpler to build.

The bacteria in the gravel biofilter changes the ammonia into nitrogen in two steps. The first step is performed by the Nitrosomonas bacteria, which changes the total fish ammonia (NH3 and NH4+) into nitrite (NO2). The next process is accomplished by the Nitrobacter bacteria that changes the nitrite (NO2) into nitrate (NO3), which the plants use as fertilizer. The ammonia and nitrites are very toxic to fish, while the nitrates are fairly harmless, so it is important to monitor the bacteria by testing the water quality using the inexpensive aquarium test strips sold at any pet store. As long as you have a large amount of gravel or other media for the bacteria to colonize, your water quality won't be an issue. If you are using sterile media, you won't have any bacteria to start with, and you will need to purchase the bacteria from an aquarium shop or from Fritz-Zyme. We used gravel from a creek, as the Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter bacteria is always abundant in river gravel. Since these two types of bacteria work in tandem and do not reproduce quickly, it may take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to ramp up the bacteria to full production. So, it may important not to add a large number of fish at the same time unless you already have a good supply of bacteria at work in your system.

Our first step in construction of our Aquaponic system was to lay an 8' x 8' "carpet" of around 40 concrete blocks for the foundation of the fish tank. It took a long time to get the blocks level using a spirit level and a long 2x4, but this is probably the most crucial part of the construction. The next step was to build the fish tank out of wood, that would ultimately be fitted with a rubber liner. I created a square box out of 2x12 lumber standing on their edges, that was a little less than 8' x 8' and held together by wood screws. I designed it so that the 2x12's had an extra 3.5" overlap or "flap" on each of the corners, so I could drill holes and put carriage bolts through the 4x4 posts and 2x12 sides from two different directions on each of the outside corners. This holds the wood seams together. It is very important to "overbuild" the tank seams on a wooden fish tank with carriage bolts, wood screws, etc. as the water pressure is very great. Once I had my square box built, I made sure it was perfectly "square" by measuring the distances diagonally across from each corner. When these two distances were the same, I knew it was square. Then I covered what was to be the bottom of the tank with 8' long 2x4s, nailed into the 2x12s with a 2" gap between each 2x4. When I turned the 8'x8' box over and placed it on the concrete block foundation, the gaps between the 2x4s allowed me to put shims between the blocks and the 2x4s, so that each concrete block was helping to evenly support the 2x4s that held up the fish tank.

For the bottom of the fish tank, I nailed an 8'x8' section of heavy duty 1" flooring over the 2x4s that were shimmed against the concrete blocks. The next step was to secure the second set of 2x12s standing on edge on top of the first set, to bring the fish tank up to two feet in depth. I again secured it to the 4x4s with carriage bolts in all of the corners, all the while making sure the 4x4 posts were plumb. Copious amounts of wood screws were added wherever possible. After this I inserted the rubber liner to make the tank hold water.

I calculated the weight of the water in the tank as follows: 8' x 8' x 2' equals 128 cubic feet of water, times 7.5 gallons per cubic foot, equals 960 gallons of water. With around eight pounds per gallon, this would give a total of 7,680 pounds of water, not to mention the gravel beds. So, I am giving a lot of detail on how to over-engineer the fish tank, as with this much weight and water, there will be no small failures, only big ones.

Now this is a very large tank, and as you can always add more grow-beds or an NFT system to the tank, but it is not so easy to add another fish tank that is incorporated with the pumps into the same aquaponic system. The general ratio from the research I have read is that you can use 2 cubic feet of gravel growbed for each cubic feet of water in the fish tank. Since I plan to feed my family off this system, I thought it was better to start with a moderately large fish tank, and then add more grow beds later. And, the larger your tank, the less problems you will have with any rapid changes in temperature, pH, Ammonia, or other problems. A larger tank with over 500 gallons of water buffers most problems, and gives you more time to find a solution and correct it.

The construction of the grow beds was much easier, as there were no real water pressure issues. I nailed 2x12s to the upright 4x4 posts to form boxes that are 8' long, and 2'6" wide. For the bottom of the grow-beds, I nailed 2x4s laid on their sides, and covered them with 1" flooring, topped off with the same 12 mil rubber liner I used on the fish tank, which I purchased at FarmTek.

The next part was the plumbing. I used rubber Uniseal bulkheads to hold the 1" PVC pipe straight up for a stand pipe drain in the bottom of each grow bed. The Uniseal is great, you just drill a hole with a hole saw through the rubber liner and 1" flooring in the growbed, and insert the rubber Uniseal bulkhead, and then slide the PVC pipe through the bulkhead. The 1" PVC pipe is a tight fit, but there are no leaks, and you can pull the pipe out later if you have a problem. To keep the gravel away from the stand pipe, I used a 3" PVC pipe about 8" long that I drilled with about 50 ¼" holes and nested the 3" pipe around the 1" standpipe.

By stacking the grow-beds on top of each other like bunk beds and placing the inputs and drains on opposite ends, and I make the water traverse the entire length of each of the two gravel-filled grow-beds in the stack before it can return to the fish tank. I use two 330 gallon per hour fountain pumps I got from Lowe's to pump water to the top growbed. Since it takes about 15 minutes for the grow-beds to fill up, and about 45 minutes for them to drain, I set a timer that runs the pumps for 15 minutes on the hour. This gives me the "ebb and flow" water system that is crucial to aquaponics. Each growbed needs to fill up with water to irrigate the plants and the bacteria for the system to operate. But each growbed also needs to dump all of the water back out, so that oxygen can reach the plant roots, and the bacteria can function. If you don't drain the water, you will have an anaerobic condition (no oxygen), and your plant roots will die and harmful types of bacteria will begin to develop.

One way to create an "ebb and flow", or "flood and drain" cycle is to use a Bell Siphon, which will automatically siphon all of the water out of the grow bed once it reaches a certain depth. Bell siphons are widely used in Aquaponics, and the University of Hawaii has a good research PDF on how to build one. However, the bell siphon can malfunction, and they assume that your water pumps will run continuously. That is, with a bell siphon, if your pumps quit working, you may end up with a grow bed half full of water and no drainage. I opted to build something simpler, with just a 6" long stand pipe out of 1" PVC, with a ¼" drain hole just above the bulkhead. The stand pipe is the main drain pipe, that sticks straight up and keeps the water from ever cresting higher than 6" deep, as it will just flow into the pipe. The ¼" drain hole just above the bulkhead keeps a continual drain going, but the amount of water it relieves is less than the 330 gallon per hour pump is putting into the growbed. So, after the growbed fills up and the water crests over the standpipe, the timer will shut the water off and the rest of the water will slowly flow back out through the ¼" hole at the bottom of the standpipe. I found this approach to be more energy efficient for an off-grid system, and the water retention period in the growbeds is long enough for the ammonia-eliminating bacteria to function completely.

Using "free" river gravel for the media in the grow bed is the cheapest option possible, but other media options are vermiculite, perlite, expanded clay balls (which are sold under the trade names of Hydroton and LECA for Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate), and coconut fiber, which is also called "coir". We have tried adding a layer of coir over our river gravel, and found that it makes it easier to start the plants from seed over planting directly in the river gravel. The coir does not deteriorate, is PH neutral, and wicks the water up to keep the seeds moist for germination. You can get 35 pounds of coir in compressed bricks from Terra Prima Industries for around $70 with shipping.

Fish selection is another topic for Aquaponics. Tilapia are the most commonly used fish, as they are herbivores that eat algae and aquatic plants, grow very fast, handle crowding well, and are very prolific breeders. Tilapia are mouth-brooders, and raise their young inside the mother's mouth. Tilapia have a lot of advantages, but they cannot handle cold water. The White Nile Tilapia, which grows the fastest of the species, will show stress at water temperatures less than 62 degrees, and will die at 55 degrees. The Blue Tilapia is the most cold tolerant, but will die at temperatures less than 50 degrees. Tilapia really need 80 degree water. If you are off the grid in a cold climate with Tilapia, you will need to find a way to heat the water to these temperatures, year round. This means some sort of solar thermal panel that will thermo-siphon or otherwise pump hot water up to the fish tank. Fish cannot handle thermal shock or any quick changes in water temperature, so you will have to construct some sort of heat exchanger that can fit inside the fish tank. This adds a lot of complexity to an off grid food production system.

For this reason, I chose to go with Bluegill, as they can handle water temperatures down to 39 degrees, and the greenhouse always keeps the water at least that warm without assistance. Another reason I chose Bluegill is that they are much cheaper than Tilapia, as I cannot get Tilapia locally. The "Tilapia Source" is a great company to work with, but they would have to overnight them to me for $70, plus charge $2 a fish – for a total of $170 for 50 Tilapia fingerlings. Instead, I bought 100 Bluegill for only $40.00 from Farley's Fish Farm from their truck that came to our local Farmer's Co-Op. Farley's serves about 12 or 13 states here in the Southeast USA, and I found them to be a very reasonable resource for fish.

Bluegill is a good fish for Aquaponics, as they handle crowding well, can tolerate various PH and other water quality issues, and do not generally eat each other. Other fish used in Aquaponics are Catfish, Yellow Perch, Bass, Koi, Goldfish, and sometimes Trout.

I had a minor problem in the beginning with a fish disease called "Columnaris", which I diagnosed from from a "Fish Pharmacy" web site. Columnaris is a small white growth that occurs on the fins. The Fish Pharmacy web site had a toxic pharmacy solution for every fish problem. However, in Aquaponics you are not going to be able to treat the fish with anything that is not organic, or that you would not eat yourself. This excludes all of the anti-fungal treatments, or any medicine that contains some type of poison. Even the regular antibiotics that are meant for fish are not meant for humans to eat, and need to be excluded. I found from research on the web that Columnaris responds well to the addition of salt and other minerals to the water, on the order of 1 tablespoon for every 50 gallons of water. For my setup, I put over a cup of sea salt into the water, and the disease has began to retreat, with only one fish still showing signs. Columnaris is in almost every fish tank, and probably came in with the fish, or in the river gravel I used. It finds an opening when the fish are mishandled in some way. My mistake was to not acclimate the temperature of the fish when I brought them home in a bag from the fish truck, which created a lot of stress. We should have let the bag float in the water for 15 minutes before letting the fish out. The thermal shock and other rough handling I did on day one is probably the reason for the Columnaris problem. But since I only had to add sea salt to the fish tank to correct the problem, I will have no worries about eating the fish at some point. I can discard any fish that show signs of Columnaris, if they still have that problem when I harvest, and only eat the best. I know exactly how these fish have been raised, and what has gone into them, which is much better than what you buy at the supermarket. But what I find most reassuring about raising and eating fish I raise is that when the fish are eaten fresh, there are very few diseases that fish have can be passed on to humans, unlike the trichina worms that pigs can give to humans, tularemia in rabbits, tetanus in horse meat, etc. These diseases can kill you if you live in a time without access to modern medicine. Columnaris won't hurt humans, and aquaponically raised fish will not generally have diseases that affect humans, and so are a very healthy source of protein.

But the real purpose of the fish in Aquaponics is not just for food, but to provide the ammonia to power the bacteria-based fertilization system. If you don't have fish, any organic ammonia source can work. In a TEOTWAWKI situation, the ammonia contained in human urine can work just as well as what the fish produce, and while waiting for my fish to arrive, I actually used this technique to jump start the bacteria in the system. The result was that the water clarity improved once the bacteria were given enough ammonia to thrive. Another option if you don't have fish is to use the ammonia and nitrogen found in a "manure tea", which is made by placing horse manure in a burlap bag and immersing it in the water tank for short periods of time.

Dissolved oxygen in the water is another important topic. Using an air pump to diffuse oxygen through airstones in the fish tank improves water quality by helping the aerobic bacteria to grow and the fish to be active and healthy. Without an air pump, you cannot raise enough fish to power the nitrogen needs of the plants. I purchased a 65 liter/minute Eco Plus Commercial Air Pump from AquaCave for $79.95. This pulls 35 watts on 110 AC, and is quite sufficient, as it easily powers four 12 inch airstones in the tank, plus 4 48" flexible air curtain diffusers I buried under the gravel in the grow-beds to help aerate the bacteria there. This is a floating piston commercial type of air pump, as the standard diaphragm pumps would not have enough power or longevity. For a backup system when the power goes out, I bought a 25 watt 12 volt DC air compressor from AquaCave that runs directly from a 125 amp-hour marine battery, which gives over 2 days of run time. To kick in the DC compressor when the 110 AC power goes out, we used a small plug-in DC transformer to hold open a relay, both of which we ordered from Jameco. When the 110 power goes out, the transformer loses current, and the relay closes which completes the circuit for the DC compressor to draw power from the battery. For a large Aquaponic system with over 100 fish, you have to have redundant air systems, for if the fish go for more than four hours without air they will asphyxiate.

In calculating our total power consumption for running the Aquaponic system using solar panels, the two 330 gallon per hour water pumps for the grow-beds draw 13 watts each, but run only 15 minutes each hour, for an average hourly usage of 6.5 watts. Adding the 25 watt DC air compressor gives a very low total power consumption rate of 31.5 watts. Solar panels and a few marine batteries can easily power this system if you are permanently off grid, and I hope to do this soon.

But to be truly off-grid with Aquaponics involves more than just using solar panels, as you need to create your own fish food as input to the system. Right now, I am using some water containers to grow Duckweed (which is an aquatic plant with high protein that the fish love), but mainly rely on Purina catfish food to feed the fish. To close the loop that would make me independent, I will be building a compost pod that harvests Black Soldier Fly Larvae, along with giving the fish the earthworms from the compost pile. Another protein source I am using is a small electric light about 4 inches over the fish tank with a timer that turns on at night. The bugs fly in and bounce against the light and into the fish tank, where the bluegill snap them up. Now that's a good bug lamp!

The output of produce from the Aquaponic setup is phenomenal. The cucumbers, tomatoes and basil are growing about 3 times faster than in my container garden, and 5-6 times faster than using traditional soil techniques. For more scientific proof on the superiority of Aquaponic gardening, a Canadian research group has written a paper that indicates how Aquaponics outperforms hydroponics. Will Allen of Growing Power has a great video that shows how he grows 1 million pounds of food on 3 acres using Aquaponics. The tremendous production potential of Aquaponics over traditional gardening techniques should make anyone that has a greenhouse investigate Aquaponics.

My next step for the Aquaponic project has been to develop a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) setup, which consists of running the fish effluent through 20' long sections of vinyl gutters, which feeds the plants that are mounted with their roots in the gutters. Thin plywood is mounted on top of the gutters, with a 2" hole drilled every 6 to 8 inches. Inside the holes I put nylon netting that holds some pea gravel to provide support for the plant roots in the nutrient-rich fish water. The top of the plants grow on top of the plywood. The gutters have a 40:1 slope (6" over 20'), and a small pump puts water into the high end, with the water transversing the gutters and draining back into the fish tank. This is nearly identical to a standard hydroponic setup, except I am using renewable fish effluent from the fish tank instead of purchasing standard hydroponic chemicals to feed the plants.

YouTube is an excellent video resource for understanding the various Aquaponic systems. A quick search on YouTube for "Aquaponics" will bring up many videos. Be sure to find the videos by Will Allen at Growing Power (an aquaponic farm in downtown Milwaukee ), or by Nelson and Pade who did much of the original Aquaponic research, or any videos by "Backyard Aquaponics" which is located in Western Australia. Aquaponics is very big in Australia as it is a good solution for gardening in a dry climate. One of the best technical articles online to understand the technology of Aquaponics is "Optimization of Backyard Aquaponic Systems." Any articles written by Dr. James Rakocy of the University of the Virgin Islands would provide another expert source for Aquaponics. Wikipedia also has a good article that gives an excellent overview of Aquaponics, and the picture in Wikipedia of the "small portable Aquaponic system" (which came from Growing Power) is the model I used for my system. I just kept looking at this picture, and it finally dawned on me how simple this is. For more technical advice, the book "Aquaponic Food Production" by Nelson and Pade will teach you everything you need to know.

Most preppers live, or hope to live, as far away from the city as possible. But the problem with rural life is the lack of a steady income. An Aquaponic greenhouse can potentially earn enough to make rural living possible, as long as you can occasionally get to a market to sell your produce. Aquaponics is the only type of hydroponic vegetables that can be certified 100% organic, as all other types of hydroponic vegetables use inorganic chemicals for their nutrients. Premium organically raised vegetables will command much higher prices at restaurants and stores that cater to health conscious buyers. But Aquaponics gives you something that no other organic producer can create, and that is, organic produce with roots that have never touched any soil. You can sell lettuce and other vegetables with the roots attached, as no dirt will have ever been on your roots. By leaving the roots attached and not injuring the plant, the "living lettuce" and other vegetables you sell will keep much longer and your profit will be greater.

The one final thing I have to say about Aquaponics is that it gives any prepper something even better than a nearly endless supply of food, and that is, a large quantity of water. If everything else fails and I end up eating all my fish and produce, I still have 960 gallons of water that I can filter and use. In fact, if I extract the water as it comes out of the gravel-filled grow beds, it already has a good amount of filtration, and is probably healthier to drink than the chlorinated and fluoride filled water that comes out of a city tap. Every prepper needs a large amount of stored water, and this is a great way to do it.

Believing as I do that a tragedy of some form is coming, I expressed to my husband that food security is a great place to start.  As he is somewhat skeptical of what may come, he did agree that a food investment is not frivolous.  We have four children and already know what feeding six people a day is like and are used to buying in bulk and shopping smart.  Our food security began by starting a pantry.  Since our house was built in the 1920s, it has a peculiar little room (about 10’ x 10’) off the kitchen with a built in china cabinet which attaches to the dining room.  This was Providence for us. 

I have created a very efficient pantry with the  purchase of three large wire shelving units with 4 adjustable shelves from Sam’s at somewhere around $30 each (what a steal!).  I also inherited a 5 foot tall used dresser of solid wood with five spacious drawers, which I keep in there.   I store rice, beans, pasta, salt, sugar, cereal, oats, water in plastic fruit juice bottles, and about 3 months or more of canned foods, all that we use on a reasonably regular basis.  Anything non-perishable that we eat, I have a back up. I have also stored toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, tissues and the like, taking advantage of sales. None of the food items are strictly ‘survival’ foods.  All are part of the regular diet, even though we have our seasons for particular dishes.  I buy more heavily foods that store for five years+, like canned salmon and potted meat.  Wheat is still an intention of mine.  I store a year’s worth of vitamins in the drawers, along with candy that I hope the kids will forget about from Easter and parties.  First aid supplies would also go nicely there, along with herbal remedies that should be kept from light.  I have stocked up more on dry herbs from Wal-Mart and used them on ice cream to treat ear infections, colds and other minor problems in my children with success, until I can expand my knowledge about liquid herbs, which are more of an investment.

My previous garden attempts have been dismal failures when it came to growing anything edible.  I love fresh produce and it is a large part of my diet.  This year, we have had plenty of squash and cucumbers from my first real garden, and everything I planted will bear fruit: tomatoes, eggplant, chives, dill, corn, and maybe a pumpkin.  Our soil is red clay, and after my first soil test ever, I realized it is very acidic. The soil test was easy to get.  I used an old pickle jars, dug six different holes around the garden, and took dirt from each, about 6 inches down.  Then my husband dropped it off at the county extension office and paid $6.  My pH was 5.8, which explains to me why my previous garden did not succeed.

My real secret was to follow almost exactly the advice in the book How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine by John Jeavons (7th edition).  One big advantage of this method, when looking ahead to hard times, is that is requires no tractor or tiller.  The other big advantage is that it works, even for beginners and dummies, like me.  It does require manual labor in the spring, every spring, and this requires real conviction.  Many times I told myself, I will overcome my difficulties and push forward.  When the final, most difficult work came, I had to push not only myself, but my husband, and this was a serious mind game!  We have never worked that hard for any garden, landscaping, or any other project I can think of.  Except moving.

This method is organic, yet I found it easy and not expensive to do, and I live in a small town.  Its focus is the soil.  Having good soil means success.  It is also intensive, claiming to grow four times as much from the same land required for traditional gardening.  I think that is fine, but bugs like squash vine borers are a real killer, and go largely unseen.  Next year I will be ready for them!  Preparing the soil uses only a D-handle flat spade and a spading fork.  Initial preparation requires some amendments, which can easily be done now, and won’t be required in future years.  Composting is a must, and the book gives good advice about that, too.  After loosening the soil with the spading fork (12 inches or so), add sand and composted cow manure or the like and work it in again. (Keeping the grown moist makes this much easier.)  Exact amounts are given in cubic feet for your first garden of 100 square feet, which is recommended for the first year.  Then, by using trenches of 1 foot deep and long, by about four feet wide, you use your spading fork again to loosen the subsoil another 12 inches or so.  The soil is never mixed.  Sand and compost are supposed to stay in the upper layer.  Once the first trench is dug, the soil is placed in buckets and the second trench is dug and moved into the first trench.  Now the lower foot of soil is exposed and loosened with the spading fork.  Moving that foot of dirt was tough.  My husband and I used two shovels and lots of muscle, because with clay, it is usually a block.  After repeating to the end of the garden, the last trench is then filled with the dirt in the buckets, and you have effectively loosened 2 feet of soil down from the surface!  This allows roots to really penetrate and make very healthy plants (even in clay).  Also, use a piece of plywood to step on to prevent compacting the soil.  This produces a raised bed, due to all the air added to the soil. 

After smoothing and breaking clods, broadcast by hand all soil amendments and fertilizers.  (As the season went on, I was amazed how the clods broke up!) I found the suggestion for a nitrogen source, alfalfa meal, at a local feed store, as well as ground granite for potassium (packaged for chickens).  I used bone meal for phosphate, but did not prefer it, due to the animals it attracts.  By traveling to a bigger city, I’m sure I can find phosphate rock for next year.  I also added lime and wood ash to raise the pH.  Then I worked these amendments into the top three inches of soil and planted my seedlings.  I watered everyday from a well, using a fan sprayer attachment in a rainbow fashion, so as not to further compact the soil.  I saw nothing but beautiful growth for about a month and a half.  I began to pick squash bugs and cucumber beetles by hand, but it was no problem using leather gloves and a plastic disposable water bottle for their new residence.  I would scrape and squash the eggs in my gloves.  Then I discovered some squash vine borers and I had to intervene with poison.  The book that taught me by means of pictures was Rodale’s Successful Organic Gardening: Controlling Pests and Diseases.  Dusting with pyrethrin was its recommendation, and I did see a slowdown in the effects of the borers after using it, but this requires vigilance and should be done once a week.  Different areas have different pests, so next year I will know that I am vulnerable to them.  Another suggestion was to use insecticidal soap once a week near the ground where the eggs are laid.

This first year of mine as a true novice showed me that experience is the real key.  Mistakes I made are many: I smothered some of my plants by planting too close.  Not protecting against the borers.  (Especially with the pumpkin—I intend to find a more resistant cultivar next year.)  Skip the corn—my garden is too small for it.  Give the vines a place to grow.  The cucumbers seem to be growing in harmony with everything else, but they are really everywhere.  Plant small plants, like bell peppers (the biggest failure) and eggplant and herbs on the south side of the garden, so they will get more sun.

But I am so proud of my success: my daughter is positively sick of squash. (Two of my children love it!)  I give it away, along with my cucumbers, and there is a plentiful supply.  Next year I will learn to prune my tomatoes, but they are producing well and growing large in cages my friend gave me.   Before the end of the summer, I will learn to save seeds and store them, and I will learn to grow seedlings, too!  Most of my plants are heirloom, thanks to a local man who sells them.  This is a game of ‘I can do it if I try.’  I feel thankful for the gift of good advice.  Without that, I wouldn’t have the confidence I do to keep going.  My book also describes how to plant a garden for complete subsistence, and this method has been done in India with great success.

Lastly, I feel I should mention that the useful area in our garden was only 50 square feet after it was all said and done.  Next year, it’ll be 100 square feet!

The latest books on top of my pile include:

  • You'll probably recall my mentions of Enola Gay, the editor of the excellent Paratus Familia blog. I recently received a review copy of her new book: The Prepared Family Guide to Uncommon Diseases. This book covers 20 uncommon diseases including Bubonic plague, Cholera, Malaria, Radiation Poisoning, Smallpox, Typhoid Fever. Also includes a special section dealing with home treatment of Influenza. The book has recipes, treatment of symptoms, shopping lists and more. Much of the information is also applicable to more common diseases. For example, the details on making your own Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) apply to any disease that creates diarrhea. The book was compiled by Enola Gay, Grace Tome, and Maid Elizabeth with Maurice Masar, MD, LMCC, FRSPH.  On Saturday afternoon, I spent about an hour and a half reading through it.  It is an amazingly succinct compilation of 20 uncommon diseases that are mostly now eradicated in First World countries, but still prevalent in Third World countries. Presumably, these could easily reemerge in the event of a TEOTWAWKI  event.  The book covers the disease symptoms, treatment of symptoms and recipes for hydration and treatments.  Many of the diseases mentioned are most easily cured by antibiotics, of which Enola and the good doctor give a list in the book. [JWR Adds: Since it is often very difficult to procure a decent stock of antibiotics for disaster preparedness through a local doctor, I recommend that SurvivalBlog readers in the U.S. use the consulting services SurvivingHealthy.com. Following consultation, they can provide responsible adults with a variety of antibiotic preparedness packs.] The author's provisos include the following: "This book is not intended to replace your family doctor or other health professional.  We merely  compiled facts and put them together in a format we found convenient and easily readable.  We did our best to eliminate non-essential medical terminology and present nothing but the absolute bare essential information needed to identify, treat and contain disease." The Prepared Family Guide to Uncommon Diseases is available from Paratus Familia Press for $17.95 + $3.99 postage. They take payment via postal money orders or PayPal.

  • The Big Book of Family Eye Care by Dr. Joseph Di Girolamo. An excellent general reference. Unlike the typical first aid books, Di Girolamo's book goes into considerable detail about eye anatomy and there are detailed chapters on eye injuries and systemic diseases. In her review on Amazon, reader Vicky Henzel sums up the book: "This is definitely a book that everyone needs to have. It is written at a level the average everyday person can understand. No matter how hard my own doctor tries to explain things, I'm still leaving feeling like I didn't totally understand what was said. This book takes care of that. I feel like I'm sitting down having a regular normal conversation. It's easy to read and easy to understand. It's also an awesome reference to have for in between my visits with my own doctor. It would be a mistake to not have this book in your home." Likewise, I recommend getting a copy of this book for you home medical library. An eye injury that might be considered "minor" in the present day might be a threat to one's vision or even their life, in a world without modern medical care.

S. John's article on higher education generated some great responses, many of which urged careful attention to choosing an area of study that would be of practical use if/when TSHTF, engineering, medicine or nursing rather than law, English, sociology or political science.  I couldn't agree more that practical skills will be needed.   In spite of the general disrepute in which lawyers are held, however, I'd like to suggest that law is and will always be a practical skill.

If I claimed that 90% (or even 95%) of all knowledge in the field of medicine has been acquired in the last 200 years, I doubt anyone would find that surprising.  In a true collapse scenario, how much of that knowledge will still be practical?   Much of it depends on supplies, equipment and medications that will simply not be available, at least in the short run, but maybe forever.  However, what does remain practical will be much more accurate and useful than what was known 200 years ago.   Many of the basic principles of today's medicine were unknown back then.   In fact, in case of illness or injury, you'd probably be safer today in the hands of a reasonably well-read layperson with a well-stocked medicine cabinet than in the care of a doctor and hospital from the 1810s.

On the other hand, if a time-traveling lawyer from Abe Lincoln's era were dropped into the middle of a modern courtroom, after recovering from the shock of the modern technology of law and the presence of women, he would find most of the basic principles familiar.  After all, commercial and property transactions and dispute resolution have been going on for thousands of years, and the law has been distilling its wisdom on how to deal with such transactions all along.   The modern emphasis in media law on crime, civil rights, governmental regulation, and personal injury masks the reality that most law most people see and touch in daily life is commercial law.   It is just so thoroughly integrated in our daily lives that we don't notice it. 

A good engineer may be able to build a bridge that will stand up to the traffic on it, but either a warrior's skills or a lawyer's skills will be needed to make sure the bridge is built on land whose owner won't just tear it down again.   Throughout human history, that's what lawyers have done - found ways and developed systems that substitute contracts for wars, so that human ingenuity can be harnessed through commerce and its fruits can be made more secure.  That's not to say warriors can be dispensed with.  There will always be those who breach contracts, break laws and try to get their way through force or fraud.  Warriors will be needed on the front lines to stop them, capture them and compel them to submit to the law.

A good lawyer has a base of knowledge on how to identify and solve problems that has been distilled over more than two thousand years of human trial and error.   Ironically, preppers are among the people most like lawyers in their thought processes:   Both think beyond the expectation that tomorrow will be just like today, that the sailing will always be smooth; they think about all the things that could go wrong and then try to plan and prepare for them.

Everyone who does attend college would be well advised to take a basic course in legal principles, especially one with a focus on commercial principles.   Whether or not TSHTF, knowing what is involved in making contracts and learning how to read and think about them is a "survival skill" for life.

Having said that, I'm not sure modern legal education is as focused as it used to be on transmitting and refining that base of knowledge.   The mailings I get from my old law school suggest the focus has changed to one of training do-gooders, challenging "privilege" and implementing "social justice."  - Anonymous Attorney

It was no great surprise on Monday to see spot gold punch through the $1,600 per ounce level for the first time ever, and spot silver back up above $40 per ounce. But just wait.... If Greece defaults on its sovereign debt, there could be some real fireworks in the metals markets. (And in the credit markets, and the FOREX currencies market...)

Loyal content contributor F.G. sent this news item: Wealthy Britons Prepare To Flee

Central Banks' First-Half Gold Buying Surpasses 2010 Total. (Thanks to Jeff B. for the link.)

Michael W. sent this: Free seeds helping Americans get by, live healthier

Brain in Michigan suggested this by Bob Chapman: Crisis And Collapse Unfortunate but Inevitable.

Items from The Economatrix:

Moody's Will Cut 7,000 Top-Rated Muni's if U.S. Downgraded, Reviewing More

15 Examples That Show Many Americans Have Become So Desperate That They Will Do Almost Anything For Money

Economic Outlook Grim If No Debt Deal Reached

Regulators Shut Two Banks in Georgia, One in Florida

US Debt Standoff Threatens to Turn Crisis into Catastrophe

Captain Anaconda sent this MiiU link: AxMan's $30 Bug Out Bag. (I'm hoping that the MiiU wiki continues to grow.)

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If you must live in California, then at least live in a county where you have a reasonable chance of getting a CCW permit. Here is a useful map.

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Commentary from Tamara, over at View From The Porch: On brain drains and foot voting...

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The Idaho County Free Press reported that a Christian Reformed Church is forming in the Clearwater Valley of north-central Idaho. Those interested are invited to attend the initial Q&A session Thursday, July 21, at the Kamiah Visitors Center Meeting Room from 7-9 p.m.

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Jonathan B. found a piece on closed loop aquaponics, developed in Switzerland: Farming of the future takes root

"We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality." - Ayn Rand

Monday, July 18, 2011

We are told by U.S. Treasury officials and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that the Federal Government's debt is now just over 100% of our nation's annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and while this level of debt is "alarming", it is "still sustainable." Meanwhile, Greece's sovereign debt is now 157% of its GDP, and the nation is on the verge of default and collapse. I presume that Joe Sixpack here in the U.S. sees the news headlines and says to Mrs. Sixpack: "Wow, those poor Greeks. I'm glad that we don't live there. I wouldn't feel safe, living in Greece." Unfortunately, Joe hasn't been told the whole story.

You see, the "official" National Debt is only around $14.3 Trillion Dollars. But we've been lied to. Our actual long term obligations (including the full run costs of Federal retirement programs including Postal Service employees and military pensions) are enormous. We have an aging population. U.S. Census Bureau population figures project that 20.7% of the population will be 65 years or older by 2050. (Currently, it is only around 12.5%.) So our long term obligations are actually far, far greater than the official "National Debt." All the debt instruments may not yet exist, but one way or another, Uncle Sugar is going to have to come up with a lot more money than just $14.3Trillion. An estimate published by the Heritage Foundation in 2006 mentioned long term obligations of $45.5 trillion. Other estimates range higher: $53 Trillion, or $60 Trillion, or $63 Trillion, or $65 Trillion, or $70 Trillion, or $99 Trillion, or even $130 Trillion. Of these figures, I think that the GAAP-based $70 Trillion estimate is the most accurate. But even that is a shot in the dark, when you consider that future inflation and interest rates are almost impossible to predict. And even just picturing just $1 Trillion (much less $70 trillion) is mind-boggling.

Recognizing that that $70 trillion is nearly 500% of GDP, and that it equates to $233,000 for every man woman and child in United States, we're in a heap of trouble. There is absolutely no way that this debt can ever be paid off--at least in the absence of mass inflation. (Wherein the debts would be paid in "Dollars" that would have a the purchasing power of just a fraction of cent.) America's sovereign debt makes the Greek debt look like a pittance. For comparison, the sovereign debt of Greece is only around €340 billion ($481 Billion USD), with European banks are on the hook for about 17% if it.)

Testimony before Congress back in 2005 showed that that by 2070, Federal outlays on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would jump from 16% of GDP to 28% of GDP. And this came with the rosy expectation that interest expenses would not increase at all. It also had ridiculously low estimates for inflation and subsequent cost of living adjustments (COLAs). This report is typical of the deliberate under-reporting and "rose colored glasses" estimates of future debt obligation figures with low interest rates and low inflation.

The Bottom Line
Reaching a logical conclusion to the foregoing, we can rightly surmise that the debt merry-go-round cannot continue forever. Simple demographics and the mathematics of compounding interest dictate that a debt collapse is unavoidable. As former Comptroller General David Walker (the chief auditor the Federal government until 2008) put it: "We face a demographic tsunami [that] will never recede."

Please soberly consider the implications of the National Debt, and think through what it means for you and your children. In the years to come, we can expect to see higher taxes, a panoply of new fees and fines, decreased pension benefits, and orchestrated currency inflation. Simultaneously, we will face a declining standard of living, shortages, riots, higher property crime rates, labor protests, currency devaluations, currency expatriation controls, bank runs, forced redistribution of wealth, and "social justice" programs that will nationalize entire industries and expropriate productive farmland. This may very well spin out of control until the wealth redistribution and social engineering schemes resemble those in Pol Pot's Cambodia, or Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

Protect yourself by moving to a lightly-populated region such as the American Redoubt where you will be well-removed from the major cities, and become as a self-sufficient as possible. (There are thousands of articles in the free SurvivalBlog archives that describe how to do so.) I also strongly recommend getting out of U.S. Dollars. Re-invest in practical, barterable tangibles, as quickly as possible. Be sure to make your portfolio diverse, because you never know what items the Powers That Be will decide to tax heavily or even ban from possession. It is foolish to buy all gold, all silver, all guns, all ammunition, or all farmland. Again, be diverse, and keep a low profile. Oh, and keep your passport up to date.

I hear from quite a few SurvivalBlog readers about my articles. Most of you are pretty knowledgeable, polite and have questions. There's a few SurvivalBlog readers who are rude, it's okay, we're all entitled to our opinions. When you're reading a review of any product, be it a gun, knife, camping gear, or whatever, you must remember, you are reading the opinion of the writer. Although I've been writing about firearms and knives for almost 20-years now, and I've been a shooter for more than 40 years, I don't consider myself an "expert" of any sort. Instead, I call myself a serious student. When you read my reviews, you are reading what I have learned from testing a particular product. My opinion is based on many years experience, and based on my evaluation of the products being tested.

I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with my findings, especially when it comes to guns and knives. While I might think that a particular gun I tested is right for me, it may not be right for someone else. The sample gun I tested might have operated without any malfunctions, and your same model of the same gun might have problems. Bad guns slip through the QC at the best firearms factories - it's just a fact of life. However, I believe most gun companies are quick to resolve any problems you might have with their firearms - at least based on my own experiences over many years dealing with gun companies.

Okay, up for review today is the Springfield Armory M1A "Loaded" 7.62x51 NATO battle rifle. I cut my teeth on the old military M14 in basic training at Ft. Ord, California back in 1969. About the only complaint I had at that time was the weight of the M14, which was close to 10 pounds. I went into BCT at Ft. Ord weighing in at a whopping 130 pounds. I came out of my infantry school at Ft. Lewis, Washington at 165 pounds. The M14 was heavy, at least for me, and some other soldiers who were small-framed and who didn't weigh a lot. Then again, a lot of the bigger guys also complained about the weight of the M14. The Springfield Armory M1A is a semiauto only version of the venerable M14 - for the most part.

I was also a member of the Illinois State Rifle and Pistol Team, when I worked full-time for the Illinois National Guard. We were issued match-grade M14s and M1911s for competition. We were also supplied with all the ammo we wanted - how I wish I had taken advantage of that - I'd probably still have match ammo to this day - hindsight is wonderful! Our match-grade M14s could easily shoot 1 MOA if we did our part. I competed in quite a few high-powered rifle matches while on the team, and usually won in my division - I was (and still am) into guns and do a lot of shooting. The Springfield Armory M1A Loaded rifle offers exceptional value and performance with it's American walnut stock, air gauged medium weight national match barrel in either stainless steel or chrome poly. There is also a national match trigger assembly, although not as nicely done as the one I had on my M14 competition rifle. The front sight and non-hooded rear sight assemblies are also national match, along with the flash suppressor.

With a 22" barrel, the M1A seems like it's actually longer than it actually is. However, when you compare it to most standard high-powered hunting rifles, the barrel is actually shorter, and when you compare it to most magnum caliber high-powered hunting rifles, the barrel is actually shorter on the M1A. The trigger is a military two-stage, that is matched tuned to 4.5-5 lbs - and I've actually found on most M1A models that I've examined (and owned) the trigger pull as lighter. Overall length of the Springfield Armory M1A is 44.3" which isn't too bad for a battle rifle.

I'm totally ashamed to say, I don't currently owned a Springfield Armory M1A - I know, I know - 50-lashes with a wet noodle. However, the last M1A I owned was a Loaded model, and it wasn't that long ago that I owned this rifle. It was one of those "why did I trade that gun?" deals that haunts a man for many years. My last sample M1A had the chrome moly barrel, which I prefer, as I think chrome moly barrels offer a little better accuracy of stainless barrels. I have no scientific proof of this, only my own experience.

I can honestly say that, I've probably fired tens of thousands of rounds through various M1A rifles over the years, and through my military issued match M14, so I have formed some opinions based on my experience with these types of rifles. I believe the M1A is a very reliable rifle, and I don't ever recall one having any sort of malfunction - period! And, I have fed all manner of 7.62x51 NATO ammo through these rifles. We're talking reloaded ammo, Russian-made steel-cased ammo, match-grade military ammo, military surplus ammo and commercial .308 ammo with a 150 grain bullet weight- and the M1A just keeps on perking along, so long as you clean 'em once in a while and give 'em a little bit of lube.

The M1A is a very rugged rifle, to be sure. It's basically a clone of the M14, withonly semiauto fire possible. The M14 was a work horse, and so is the Springfield Armory M1A - they are meant for serious use, in all manner of weather - be it rain, snow, mud or whatever you might throw at it - the M1A can handle it. I always liked the looks of the American walnut stock. However, my next M1A will have a polymer fiberglass stock on it. I live in the western part of Oregon, and we get a lot of rain here. So, I worry about a stock warping under those conditions if I'm forced to live out in the boonies due to an end of the world scenario. You can teach an old dog new tricks!

The M1A is gas operated, with a short-stroke piston. I've never seen a short-stroke piston go "bad" but I imagine it can happen. Just wipe the piston down every now and then and they are good to go. I've also found that the flash suppressor on the M1A and M14 to be pretty effective, considering that you're shooting a high-powered round. I absolutely love the sights on the M1A as well, they are fast to pick-up, and easy to adjust. Once your front sight is centered properly, you should never had to touch it again. The front sight on an M1A need no adjustment. All adjustments are through the rear sight, that is windage and elevation adjustable with only your fingers.

The Springfield Armory M1A only comes with one 10-rd magazine, and I've yet to figure out why this is. I understand during the magazine ban, that Springfield was supplying 10-rd mags, but I don't know why they are still doing so. In any case, quality 20-rd M14 mags are easy enough to find. Just steer clear of cheap M14 magazines that Sportsman's Guide, a large mail-order company sells. They claim to be military surplus M14 mags - they aren't! Some of the best M14/M1A 20-rd mags being produced today are from Checkmate Industries. You can still find genuine military surplus M14 mags, but they cost more than the brand-new Checkmate magazines - get Checkmate, and you won't be sorry. Checkmate is currently a contract maker for M14 magazines to the US military. So you will be getting mil-spec M14 mags. They run around $25 each and they are well worth it. With a little care, they will last a lifetime.

My late friend, Chuck Karwan, who was a well-known knife and gun writer, did an article for me, when I was publishing and editing a little newsletter called "Police Hot Sheet ." Chuck's article was on the police using the M1A as a sniper's rifle on a SWAT team. Chuck made an excellent argument in favor of the M1A over a bolt action rifle. One of the points Chuck brought up was that a second and third shot was fast to get off than you could from a bolt action rifle - I concur with Chuck on this. And, the M1A is very accurate at least in my testing - you can get 1 MOA if you do your part and you have ammo your rifle likes.

The M1A would be an outstanding addition to any survival battery. The gun can be used as a battle rifle, or as a sniper's rifle if the need arises. When I shot high-powered rifle competition with my old M14 we shot out to 600-yards with open sights - no scopes - and our team would routinely beat civilian shooters with bolt action rifles with scopes on 'em. Go figure? If you do you part, you can hit a man out in the open at 600-yards with your M1A, if you do your part. You can also lay down a lot of fire-power with the M1A in a CQB situation and there's not many places you can hide from a .308 round. When I lived in Colorado, my late friend, Tim Caruso, and I used to regularly go up in the mountains and do a lot of shooting, or on his small tract of land, and we could "cut down" some pretty big pine trees with a full 20 round magazine of .308 ammo. Unless it is huge, you can't hide behind a tree and escape a 7.62mm NATO ball round.

There aren't many spare parts you need to keep on-hand to keep an M1A going. Perhaps a recoil spring, and maybe a spare firing pin and extractor for your bolt. However, don't attempt to replace the firing pin or extractor without the proper bolt disassembly tool and the training to do so. The M1A isn't all that hard to work on for the most part. And, I've never had one break on me - although I have worked on broken ones when I was being training as a military armorer. Anything mechanical can break, but I think the M1A would serve you well, and with a little bit of maintenance and cleaning, the gun won't break down on you when you need it the most.

As I've said many times, quality doesn't come cheap, and you can expect to pay around $1,800 for a Loaded M1A, and a little bit less for a Standard version M1A from Springfield Armory. There are other models of the M1A available, and be sure to check them out on the Springfield Armory web site. You can usually find some M1As at most gun shows, too. Be advised, the M1A is always in short supply, and don't expect to walk into most smaller gun shops and find one on the rack. You can find Chinese clones of the M1A at gun shows, and most are pretty decent rifles, but only after some expensive work. However, if you want the real deal, then you have to get your hands on an M1A, you won't be sorry, trust me on this.

I wish I could report something negative about the Springfield Armory M1A, but on the samples I've owned over the years, I never had any problems. And, my next battle rifle purchase will be an M1A of some sort! And, it won't be sold or traded later on! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Hello James:

This letter is an attempt to throw some stakes into the ground that might serve as  a realistic basis for "expectation management".

People's ability to soldier onward under adverse conditions is very closely tied to the alignment (or gap) between expectations and the reality of the moment.   People who have had every advantage have given up and committed suicide because their expectation was that they were destined to become the Chief Executive Officer of a Fortune 500 company before their 45th birthday.  Others greet every morning with relentless cheerfulness even though their day meant 10 hours of mopping floors, because mopping floors was better than what they expected....at least they were not on their knees scrubbing.

So what might a post-whatever lifestyle look like from a work standpoint?  That is pretty easy to describe if we use a 1880-1920 life style as a basis.  There are ample ergonomic studies from the period and, more recently, sports fitness studies of Old Order Amish.

In a very, very condensed form, expect an amount of physical effort that is the equivalent of walking between 10 and 18 miles, 6 days out of the week.  Younger men will be closer to  18 miles a day (6 hours of walking).  Older men (over 55) and women will be closer to the 10 miles a day (3 hours of walking). 

If you are lucky enough to have tools that are appropriately designed for post-whatever, and if you have draft animals, you can cut those estimates by 50%.

If you are cutting firewood with a hand-saw you might be able to cut wood 3 hours a day if you do no other work.  That is why you will configure your work space (yard) so you can squeeze in 30 minutes of wood cutting every cool evening.  You cannot afford to only do 3 hours of productive work in a day because there will be so many other demands on your time.  You will likely be lamed up by the second day due to the unusual muscle groups you over-stress in 3 hours of hand sawing.  You will move your woodshed close to the house because you will not be able to afford a long walk time (wasted time) if you are only going to make 30 minutes of sawdust.

You will fantasize about wood stoves that can use longer pieces of wood.

The math of physical work is that most of the energy burn is in moving your own body-weight.  A 160 pound man carrying a 40 pound pack is burning 80% of his Calories moving his body and 25% moving wheat, or wood, or fertilizer.  You will find yourself becoming  very inventive at packing-and-strapping to get the optimum load per trip.  You will fantasize about carts, wagons, wheelbarrows and burros.

You will never find yourself walking anywhere without carrying something...and at best carrying something in each direction.  It is not unheard of to put the woodshed between the outhouse and the dwelling.  Putting the woodshed on skids means that you can move the woodshed when you move the outhouse.

"Modern" ergonomics is now heart-rate based because there are factors that stress the body that do not produce productive work.  You have to shake your head because two of the prime examples of these stresses is heat stress and water stress.  When you are working for yourself you get smart about matching the big calorie-burn jobs to the thermometer.  You also get good at dressing in layers so you can tune your clothing to reject enough heat.  Amish are not stupid.  I found that the most suitable top for really rough work is a pull-over with the top half closed with laces.  Zippers and buttons are the Achilles' heal of most tops when your are cutting brush and doing other rough work.

I apologize for the abruptness and jerkiness of the writing, but it is a case of banging it out and hitting send or not getting it written.

God's blessing upon you and your family

Dear JWR:
In his Letter Re: Unleaded Spout Solution for NATO Gas Cans  in the July 14th edition of SurvivalBlog, writer Lee H. wrote that "Like many others that bought military surplus steel NATO fuel cans, I was frustrated by the fact that only large diameter leaded fuel spouts were available for these cans." Happily, this is not the case.

HQ Company ("Surplus and Survival headquarters") in Colorado Springs, Colorado offers both screw-on type nozzles for the old U.S. military Jerry cans as well as the clamp-on NATO-type fuel can spout, both of which have their tips reduced for use with U.S. vehicles with restrictors at the filler cap to allow the use only of pump nozzles meant for unleaded fuel.  They also offer other fuel-can related bits and pieces, including replacement gaskets, can carriers for motor vehicle [and generator trailer] mounting,  and retaining straps.

I have no connection to the company other than being a satisfied customer, very pleased with the reasonable pricing, acceptable quality and prompt shipping I've encountered in past dealings with the firm. I would also note, however, that their Colorado location is advantageous for those of us in the Redoubt States area, as that reduces shipping costs. - George S.

Since I discovered the Safety Siphon [hose] I haven't cared whether cans have CARB compliant spouts or improper size hoses or whatever.  I don't pour gas any longer. I get them at my local Bass Pro Shop, but they are available lots of places. Regards, - Del

I saw this YouTube video two years ago demonstrating how to make a "rip-cord" style paracord bracelet. I made one, but not for a bracelet. Instead of a wallet chain, I have a paracord rip-cord chain with about 30 feet. Same principle, and super-easy to unwind! One warning: When unwound, it's 'loopy' so when unwinding, if possible, try straightening it as you go. - Tangalor


This World News clip on how to tie fast deploying paracord bundles could be a good way to keep the young ones busy on a rainy day.

Your blog is a great source of information and inspiration.  Thanks for your efforts. - Dave C.

Dear Mr. Rawles:
A few months ago I sent in an article titled, 'Midget White Turkey, the Perfect Homestead Bird'.  The article described everything as it was...then.  But we've had a few hitches and I thought if people are preparing for serious times, they might want to know some of the problems we've also faced (and are facing) raising turkeys, especially since Survivalblog keeps a 'library' of all the articles that come in and someone might be using our article as a guide.

After the first successful hatch, we were unable to raise a second one.  Multiple candlings showed most eggs were fertile and began to grow, but then the eggs died.  Changes of nest, weather, which birds were allowed to set, etc., did no good.  Clutch after clutch failed to hatch.  The eggs that were incubated didn't hatch, either. 

There really isn't much out there about Midget Whites, but we finally found someone at a hatchery who was able to shed light on our problem.  It seems that turkey eggs only have about a 50% hatch rate even among the experts.  The hatchery lady said we were very lucky on our first hatch.  The key, she said, is to be sure to have clean eggs, even washing them in a solution designed for eggs.  Bacteria is said to be the big culprit in losses, but there are also tight protocols for incubators.  We don't mind working hard if we get birds out of this!  We're following the new lead now and hope to have more success.  But we would like your readers to know that if the 50% hatch rate is true, this isn't the ultimate meat bird we were recommending and hoping for ourselves. 

The breed doesn't have to be artificially inseminated, is hardy in winter, the birds are calm to work with, and all the rest we said is true.  But without better hatch rates, the feed to meat conversion rate is pretty bad. - L.C.

Jeff B. wrote to mention this site: DNSDown.com. FWIW, our IP address is: Please make note of it--both in your browser's bookmarks file and on the back of a business card in your wallet. And just in case this blog (or even the whole Internet) ever disappears, a SurvivalBlog 5-Year Archive CD-ROM is available for just $14.95. Production of the CD-ROM will end on August 1st, so order soon! (We are currently developing a prototype with a new vendor. Stay tuned.)

   o o o

Reader John R. mentioned the trailer for a high budget Hollywood movie with lots of big name actors that is scheduled for release on September 9th: Contagion. Note that it mentions birds as vectors. The scenario looks a bit like something out of SurvivalBlog, to me.

   o o o

C.R.W. suggested this over at Don't Tread On Me: The Only Six Choices In Your Russian Roulette Future

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I just heard about the Spokane Sustainable Preparedness Expo, being held on July 31st, at the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center. Please note: The organizers just used the same stock photo of a cabin on an alpine lake for their poster and book that had been used on the cover of the new Third Edition of Joel Skousen's excellent book: Strategic Relocation--North American Guide to Safe Places. However, I'm fairly confident that the expo organizers are not associated with Joel Skousen or his publishing ventures!

"Politicians just don’t get what is going on. They are living in a dream world where they are so wrapped up in themselves that they fail to realize (1) they are the problem, and (2) the emperor truly has no clothes." - Martin A. Armstrong

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 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 Early Stages of Preparation, by St. Croix

Over the past couple of years I have had a few people, two in particular, hint to me that it would not be a bad idea to begin picking up a few extra non-perishable items on my weekly visits to Wal-Mart or the local grocery store.  I began realizing, like most of the population, when me or my wife go to the store, we normally only pick up a "few things", or just enough to get us through the week.  However, thanks to their continuous subtle remarks, and the assistance of the many fine web sites, this one being a major one, we have finally decided to actually start preparing for a real TEOTWAWKI and WTSHTF scenario. In only a couple of months, I feel one hundred times more prepared than before I started learning and made a choice to start living this life.  Now let me state,  I am no where close to the magnitude of preparedness we would like to be, with a single income and family of four, the money is hard to stretch to get all of the preparation items we would like.  However, the fact that we are now at least no longer oblivious to the fact that not IF but when something of great magnitude will happen (EMP, Major Rapid Decline of the Dollar, really any number of unknowns) will happen, I know I sleep better with just the small adjustments we have and will continue to make.

Convincing The Spouse
I will be the first to admit that I was not sure how the wife would see my new outlook on life and what the future holds.  We are a middle income family of four in a mid-western city with a population of a little over 500,000.  We have always been able to go down the street for fuel or a couple miles to the local grocery store or a few miles to Wal-Mart.  Now I have to get my wife to understand that in some time in the future, that gas station down the street will not have fuel in the tanks, and the local grocery store will not have food on the shelves, and the Wal-Mart will not have batteries.  And so I associate it with something she understood.  Since she for some crazy reason has gone out on "Black Friday" looking for the best deals, I associate what this would be like if you took the trampling at the Target store on Black Friday that killed a lady x10.  In explaining to her, that scenes like this will be common when TSHTF, she begins to listen.  And with the help of a few books and showing her some great survival sites, she is more than happy to join me in this life alteration.

Small Changes That Will Make a Big Difference
As with every single person or family, how you prepare will be different.  My family is still in what I consider to be in the first stages of preparing, things we have begun doing or already have had in place include:

Batteries, Radios, and LED Flashlights
These are available from eBay, Wal-Mart, Harbor Freight, and many other sources. As far as flashlights go I have begun to rely solely on LED flashlights for many years now.  I am a Fireman, and even in the darkest, smokiest conditions, I have found that Light Emitting Diodes (LED) bulbs far outperform traditional Halogen bulbs.  This is not to even mention the extended battery life an LED light will give you.  As far as batteries are concerned, I have not bought into the rechargeable batteries, not that I do not believe that these can be very beneficial in a worst case scenario, but I just have not yet invested in the solar powered equipment to charge them when/if the power grid goes down, plus factor in the fact that they do not hold a charge anywhere close to the amount of time a lithium battery does without continuous charging.  I will continue to stockpile my traditional batteries.  Radios will drawl minimum power from your batteries, and can/will give you vital information as to what is going on in the world, given the stations are still broadcasting

Five Gallon Food Grade Buckets
The ability to purchase fifty pounds of rice today for under twenty dollars, and be able to store it in a Mylar bag inside of a 5 gallon bucket that will last for 25-50 years seems like an insurance policy that not one of us can afford not to purchase. Let alone the uses these buckets will provide after the food inside has been used, for example; hauling and storing water, using as a toilet, using to start seedlings or covering plants from the cold, hauling fish, small game, berries.  We must remember that once production of items such as these cease to exist, what we have, is all that that we will have. Once-used buckets are often available free from local and large chain bakeries. I have not been charged once for them.

Mylar Bags and Oxygen Absorbers
I found 10 large bags for 5 gallon buckets and 20, 1,000cc Oxygen Absorbers (2,000cc per 5 gallon bucket/pail) on eBay all for twenty dollars, total.  These bags and O2 absorbers will not only kill and keep out any unwanted pests or bugs, but will extend the life of any food that it contains by many years.

Dried Beans, Rice, Pasta, Water, Canned Goods
You have to do your research here for the most product for the least amount of money, look for sales, and when you find them, load up!  I for one can not go out and purchase two years worth of food in just one week, so this is an on-going process for me and my family.  For example, my local grocery store is offering, ten cans of Chefboyardee products at 69 cents a can. ($6.90 for 10 cans.)  That is about what a can of green beans or slice carrots costs, however, with these I am getting servings of vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates, calcium, and numerous other vitamins. I think I have found the perfect survival food!  Plus, with an expiration date well into 2013,  I know I would feel comfortable with my family eating them well after that date, this is a good long term storage food.  Also, if you have not stored enough dog food for your K-9 friend, he or she will have no problem with cleaning up your left-overs, whether it be rice (one of the main ingredients in many "top brand" dog foods anyway, not that it's right, but it is one of the main ingredients in many) or half a can of raviolis (waste nothing). [JWR Adds: Whenever anyone mentions canned soup, chili, and ravioli in SurvivalBlog, I get letters that complain: "What about all that salt?" Well, relax: High Sodium Levels Protect Healthy Hearts, European Study Suggests. Yes, there are healthier foods available than Chefboyardee, but it sure beats eating your lawn.]

Guns and Ammunition
Having a means to protect your family, your shelter, and your food will be paramount.  You do not want to be easy prey for the hundreds of thousands that have not been preparing.  Trust me, these people will be everywhere, the same people that are so adjusted to the government making sure everything is in order, and the same people that think food just magically appears on the shelves and fuel is always in the pumps.  When the food is not on the shelves, and no fuel comes out of the pumps, they will eventually go to desperate measures to attain these things, especially the food.   I would also like to add that I have some friends that continually tell me which guns that I should have because when TSHTF this is what everyone else will be using because these guns are so common, and I am going to want to be able to take their ammunition that is laying around, but every time I hear this, one of my favorite quotes from the movie We Were Soldiers comes to mind:   Lt. Colonel Hal Moore: I think you oughta get yourself an M16.
Sergeant Major Basil Plumley: Sir, if the time comes I need one, there'll be plenty lying on the ground."

Security / Dogs -
In relation to security, better than an alarm system, with the exception that they do not require electricity or power.  I have also found that the majority of criminals these days look at alarm system decals or actual systems as nothing more than maybe a nuisance.  Even if your alarm system is connected to a monitoring system, the alarm first has to be sent to the alarm company, the company then has to try to contact you for your "security word/phrase" to find out if this is a false alarm, then, after multiple attempts of not being able to contact you, they then contact your local 9-1-1 system, who then has to contact a beat officer in your area, then, this beat officer, whom is complacent of "system alarms" because he has made hundreds of security alarm calls which 99.99% of the time are false, takes his time getting to your residence because his Standard Operating Procedures (S.O.P.s) do not allow him to run red light and siren to your residence.  How long do you think this all takes?  Trust me, a good watch dog is worth a hundred "monitored" security systems   

High Power Pellet Gun
A decent high powered BB and/or pellet gun will easily shoot 1,000 feet per second on the low side, easily hard enough to kill a bird, squirrel, or rabbit with the right placement (especially with a Polymag Predator pellet).  Memories of picking off birds and squirrels (food) as a youngster has made me decide to add this gun to my list.  Add in the fact that ammo for one of these guns is extremely inexpensive.  This gun will also serve me well teaching my sons to shoot.  As well as the quietness of this tool while hunting, not to alert anyone nearby, makes it a nice addition.

Fishing Throw Nets
I already love to fish and have plenty of gear, and after some thought, decided to buy a couple more throw nets.  We have a water source near, and if TSHTF, I will be fishing to supplement feeding my family.  I'm not going to be out there looking for an exciting top water bite, especially early on I will want to get there, pull some fish out, and get back.  I have a couple of 6' throw nets (opens to a 12' diameter) that I have caught everything from small Shad and Bluegill,  to over three pound Bass and much larger Carp. It is quick and efficient.  Many times while catching bait or just practicing throwing this net thirty or forty feet away from a friend or my wife that is fishing with a rod and reel, I get called a cheater because while they are catching nothing, I am pulling in net after net full of fish.  However, these nets definitely take some practice, throwing them is easy, getting them to open up to a nice circular pattern to entrap the fish is another story.  Put me and my net up against anyone and their rod and real for five or ten minutes, and I guarantee I will come away with more fish then them. Many more fish.  Get one now, and learn how and where to throw it.

Fire Starters
Matches, lighters, magnesium fire starters, once TSHTF, and it will, these will fly off of the shelves.  Simple items like these, that people walk by everyday will become scarce in the future.  I recently purchased  a decent full tang knife with fire starting capabilities on Ebay for only $10, things like this will be worth their weight in gold.   How else are you going to boil that water to make it safe to drink, or cook that 200lbs of dried beans and 200lbs of rice in your food storage? 

Iron Skillets
I work at a Firehouse that has been there for 30 years, and we still use the same iron skillets they did when the Firehouse was opened, this is where I began using iron skillets.  They are virtually unbreakable, and would also work very well in a solar powered oven since they are black in color.  At home we have multiple that we use in everyday cooking (10" and 12" Pans,  Pots (Dutch Ovens), Tortilla Warmers), easy to clean, and everlasting.  Once you start using iron cookware, you will never go back to your old stuff, try it.

Life Saving References
There are so many good survival books out there now, don't rely on the internet to be there when TSHTF.  Print your favorite articles and guides, but hard copies are a must have.  The information in these books will be priceless, they will be your new guides to modern day living.

I know I have left more than a few things out, but this is just some of the initial important things (to us) we wanted to start with.  The list will honestly never end, and this is something that you have to continually monitor and add to.  Best of luck friends, and I'll see you on the other side of civilization as we know it. - St. Croix

James Wesley:
When my father passed away a few years back my sisters and I split his meager coin collection. So I had a small amount to start out with. At one point when silver’s price dropped a bit I went to a local pawn shop and bought thirty-two 90% silver quarters for spot price. The melt value has increased roughly 10% so far.

Then I went into local banks and asked if they had any fifty cents pieces. Sure enough a teller provided me one 1964 (90% silver) and a couple of the 1965-1970 vintage (40% silver), getting the coins at face value. After that I began to inquire about rolls of fifty cent pieces. Each roll of half dollars contains 20 coins. One bank teller told me she has had five rolls so I bought two and went to my car to search through them. One of the rolls was all 1965 to 1970 and the other was about half of that vintage. So I immediate went back into the bank and got the other three rolls, scoring a total 64 of the 40% silver variety in the five rolls. For my $50, I got roughly $350 dollars in silver value. The rest of the coins I deposited back into my account at another bank. Since that day I have gone to different banks to get half dollar rolls. Some have them others do not. Most times I find 2 or 3 of the 1965 to 1970 coins in each five rolls. And when you think about it it’s a gamble you never lose because if none of the coins in the rolls contain silver you still retain the face value you exchanged for them.

It’s exciting to see what you’ll get and paying face value over spot value is a big win for me. Now that’s a gamble I can afford to take.  Happy hunting. - Dan W.

Texas Rancher’s comments on fence building are spot on.  Build it right the first time or you’ll regret it.  If you’re in big country, then barbed wire is the way to go.  If you have a smaller place, from a few acres to a few hundred acres, you may want to consider high tensile electric fences.  High tensile fencing has a number of advantages over other types of fencing, particularly if you live in an area where there are trees.

If you’re not familiar with high tensile electric fencing take a look at  Kencove.com  They are a good source for information and supplies. 

High tensile fencing is as close to indestructible as a fence can be.  I’ve had trees two feet in diameter come down on the fence.  If they haven’t hit a post I can take a chain saw, cut the tree off the fence and the fence springs back into place.  This happens because the fence is built with springs on each strand of wire.  When something hits the fence, be it a tree or a bull, the fence gives and then springs back.  A tree will lay there until you take it off.  A bull will bounce off.  If the fence is properly built it’s hard to break.  You may have to replace a few staples, perhaps a post or some insulators, but that’s about it.  Use a solar charger and you’re not dependent on the grid.  Plus, a high tensile fence allows for more distance between line posts.  This means lower cost.  I build six wire fences, with three wires electrified. There are other choices.

I’ve built fences from boards, pipe, barbed wire, woven wire, and high tensile.  Unless you measure your land in sections rather than acres I think high tensile electric is the way to go.

Avalanche Lily mentioned some commonsense observations from Enola Gay, over at the Paratus Familia blog: TEOTWAWKI Fatigue

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SurvivalBlog's Editor At Large Michael Z. Williamson offers this, over at his own blog: The Garand: Almost As Good As A Real Rifle. (Thanks to Tam for the link.)

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News from the American Redoubt as seen through the statist lens of The Wall Street Journal: A Gun Activist Takes Aim at U.S. Regulatory Power

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I just heard that Country Living Grain Mills will increase their Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) to a whopping $426 on August 1st. I recommend that you buy yours before that increase takes effect! (Several SurvivalBlog advertisers stock them, and they deserve your business.)

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C.J.B. was the first of several readers to send this: Hunker down or flee? Los Angelenos gird for 'carmageddon' on I-405

"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given [us] everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,

Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work." - 2 Thessalonians 2: 13-17 (KJV)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 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.

Just like everybody else, I am unique. In the disaster prepper field I am unique in that I am both a diehard personal prepper and a college trained emergency management professional.  I did not become one because of the other; my personal preparedness mindset comes from my parents, as well as my internal system of ethics and belief structure.  My career path grew out of my military and correction background.  However, even though they are separate, I find that my skills in one translate to the other even though the goals of the two are not always identical.

I would like to take a few moments and describe how you can take government emergency management doctrine and personalize it as well as scale it to your needs.

The first thing I grabbed from my training manuals to apply to my personal emergency plan is the all hazards approach.  I have seen people jump into panic mode over single issue events like Y2K, 2012, the New Madrid Fault, CME, or whatever is going to kill us all on exactly 12 p.m. Sunday whatever.  These people then run around and throw money at their fear, and then feel taken when whatever disaster failed to occur.  But just like government evacuation orders – If they call for an evacuation, and people leave, but nothing happens, the next time nobody wants to evacuate.  In the case of Y2K so many people that prepped for it, that once it did not happen they now have a bad taste in their mouths about prepping and won’t “fall for that again”.  With an all hazards approach, rather than spend all your energy prepping for a specific event, you build capabilities that help with any event.  As I tell my students, When your doing CPR on me, I don’t care if my heart stopped because I was electrocuted, was shot, or ate too many hamburgers with too little exercise – I just want you to keep pumping…

The next thing I took was the cyclical nature of disaster and the 5 phases of emergency management.  You have a planning phase where perform a risk assessment and then make plans based upon your threats and hazards.  Once you begin planning, you move into the preparedness phase where the planning takes shape – you take training to better prepare.  The lists you wrote in the planning phase become deep larders and tangible goods.  Along with preparedness and planning you need to worry about mitigation.  What can you do to make the disaster either less likely or less disruptive?  Personally I have to plan for the New Madrid Earthquake, so I make sure my water heater is strapped down, and my shelves of glass mason jars are secured so that the jars cannot fall off and break.  Appropriate amounts of insurance are a mitigation step we all can get.  When disaster strikes (We don’t know what or when it will happen, but rest assured you will have an emergency at some point in your life) you enter the response phase where you have to deal with your incident priorities of

  1. Life Safety (Pull the people from the burning building)
  2. Incident Stabilization (Keep the fire from getting worse and spreading)
  3. Property Conservation (Put the fire out and save as much of the building as possible)
  4. Environmental Conservation (Keep the runoff of water from polluting the creek)

Once the emergency phase is over, recovery mode begins.  At some point you have to get back to normal.  Even if it’s a catastrophic event that ends in TEOTWAWKI, you have to create a new normal.  It’s critical to understand that these phases blend into each other and the lessons learned from one disaster turn into the planning phase to improve your plan.  But keeping the cyclical nature in mind, as you create a plan of action based upon your most reasonable estimate of your hazards you need to test and refine, then retest and refine some more.  The more you sweat now, the less you bleed later.

Mutual Aid Agreements and Memorandums of Understandings are common among government jurisdictions and agencies.  During a disaster everybody wants to help, but knowing who is responsible for what and what their capabilities are is very helpful.  Its also important to spell out how damaged or used equipment gets replaced.  Two weeks into a multi year grid down disaster is not the time to get into a fight with your neighbor over who gets to use the tractor first.  Of course OPSEC is a priority, but no man is an island.  The time to network is now.

Have a plan, but be willing to scrap the plan if it does not work.  I tell my students that before you can think outside the box, you better understand everything about the box.  The very act of planning helps with response.  The more you think about your capabilities and what you would do in situations the better prepared your brain is to react flexibly to a situation.  Your mind is a wonderful creation, but you have to program it to work.  If you’re worried about disasters your program it by creating disaster response plans.

The last concept of emergency management I will share today is incident command.  This system came out of the California wildfires in the 1970s.  Military vets turned fire jumpers created a management system called fire scope to deal with the rapidly changing fire situations.  After the attacks on 9/11 the lack of communication, coordination, and chain of command was identified as areas we needed improvement on.  The Incident Command System (ICS) was then adopted as the national standard and all responders in all disciplines were mandated to be trained to a basic level.  Free training in the incident command system is available online at the FEMA training website.  The ICS system is a flexible system geared toward emergency events.  This flexibility is derived from a few essential concepts:

  • There is only one overall commander. [The military "Unity of Command" concept.]
  • The incident commander is responsible for everything, but can delegate roles to qualified staff based upon incident complexity and size
  • Span of control for optimal leadership is 5-7 individuals under a supervisor.
  • Everybody reports to only one supervisor, and everyone knows who their supervisor is.

Obviously there is more to the system, but it allows anyone trained in incident command to rapidly integrate themselves into the command structure because it has clear roles and responsibilities.  Knowledge of this system is important because every responder has been trained in this system and it will provide the basis of any response.  It does not matter if your dealing with a volunteer fireman or a military civil support team, any agency with a role in emergency response has to have this training to receive federal funding.   While I don’t agree with the mandate, I have seen this system work several times, and the disasters I have worked that were not as successful as others also deviated from the plan more than the others. 

The more you understand about the ICS system the more you will know what to expect from the government.  The other reason you should learn about this system is that it works if you apply the fundamentals.  It does not matter if you’re working in a government agency, a local neighborhood preparedness group, or a family these concepts are timeless and reduce confusion.

Besides concepts and theory on emergency management FEMA has also created many courses in disaster preparedness.  Many of these are geared to first responders, but at this time, most of them are available free of charge to civilians.  If you visit the FEMA training website the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) has a distant study program, and has classes in Radiological Response, Hazardous Materials, Guides to Disaster Assistance, Active Shooters, Dam Failure – literally almost any aspect of interest to Federal emergency officials.  I have personally taken several hundred hours worth of their courses and while distance education is not as good as hands on with a qualified instructor, the materials are a very handy and inexpensive resource to put back in your binder.

For neighborhood organization and home preparedness, don’t overlook the Citizens Emergency Response Teams (CERTs). I wish this program would have caught on in more areas, but you can download the training materials for free without any sort of login or identification. 

Right now I am working on using the Citizen Corps materials to help gradually introduce my community into the need for prepping without being labeled with a pejorative term.  My personal situation does not allow me to move to the American Redoubt States (even though I would love to), and my urban homesteading has set me apart from my neighbors, so I feel like my best option is to co-opt a government program as its less threatening to someone that does not understand the needs and causes for the prepper lifestyle.

Knowledge is power, and by taking the concepts our federal government has spent billions developing and testing in real life incidents in both large and small scale will give you a head start in creating and employing your own personal preparedness plan.


The article "A Prepper Goes to College" by S. John aptly points out a problem in which is completely avoidable.  It is heartbreaking to know that so many people are setting themselves up for a life of lost opportunities by being saddled with educational debt.   This problem is the subject of the book Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents by Zac Bissonnette.  "Debt-Free U" points out the huge disparity in the cost/value relationships of the many college education options.  It provides strategies (solutions) for getting a good quality college education and "the most bang for your buck."  It is a well written contemporary investigation into the myths and realities of higher-level education.   We have three college-bound high schoolers.  Our entire family has read this book and enjoyed it, including grandparents.  "Debt-Free U" has changed our expectations for college and convinced us to avoid educational debt at all costs.  I consider it a must-read book for any parent or student considering college.  (Coincidentally, I found out about this book while listening to Dave Ramsey, who is cited in the article by S. John.)

All the best, - John in Florida


I completely concur with John's piece on the college scam.    

My spouse and I lived in a two-room apartment for seven years to pay off our loans. It was painful, but we did it. I would never borrow that kind of money again. The worst part of the bank scam (besides the no bankruptcy)?

When a student is awarded a loan, the bank takes a 10% "Origination Fee," right off the top.   So, if the loan is $5,000, the check to the student is $4,500. What a scam.  What other loan or investment pays off 10% at the beginning of the loan?   Mind you, the student has to pay back the $500 (with interest). And then of course, there is the schools parts in this.   College financial aid ("aid" what a joke) offices point students to particular kinds of loans, frequently the ones that give a kick-back to the college.

And then the colleges apply all sorts of late fees, interest (it was 21% on unpaid balances at my college in 1994), etc. I'm hoping my son becomes an electrician. - Mary Beth


I appreciate S. John's article. He is quite correct in much of his evaluation. However, I believe the crux of his financial problem was not the higher education decisions, but his failure for he and his wife to wait on their marriage until they were debt free.  A decision to marry must include the freedom to marry and anyone in debt is not free.

As a former High School Guidance counselor, I encouraged my students to seek post-high school education with specific goals in mind...e.g. how that education will enable the student to be employed in a career. I encouraged maximum use of CLEP and community colleges. I encouraged them to live at home, attend college year-round and to take the maximum credits permissible each semester (the schools say 12 semester hours is a "full time" load. If you follow that for eight semesters (four years) and you have 96 semester hours (about a year short of the 122-124 semester hours required for graduation). I encouraged Technical Colleges and high schools to learn a trade to pay for their educations (being a part-time welder at $26/hour beats working at McDonald's for minimum wage...while going to college for mech engineering).

Unfortunately, we live in a "credentialed" world...and the beginning credential is a bachelor's degree. The unemployment rate for bachelor degree holders is in the neighborhood of 5% (the under employment rate is quite another matter!). Positions once held by High School grads (retail sales, etc) are now requiring a college education. So, if you must have the education, then get it as quickly and cheaply as possible.

BTW, I am a graduate of Hillsdale College (BS Math) paid for by work and scholarships as well as the Air Force Institute Of Technology (MS Systems Mgt) courtesy of the USAF and St Bonaventure University (MSEd Counseling Psychology) via the GI Bill. I left all schools debt free. My Hillsdale experience was invaluable in setting my life's course. I echo S. John's endorsement. Blessings, - John G.


James Wesley:
I felt the need to add some insight to the article regarding higher education.

I believe the author meant to use the total balance of all student loans instead of total cost of education.  If you play your cards correctly then you will be able to walk out with a degree and much less student loan debt than what your actual educational costs are.  In my case my education cost nearly $250,000 but I walked out with only $60k in student loan debt.

I hope my personal example may be used to help others.

I attended a state university for two years (getting a straight 4.0 GPA) and had to borrow nearly $20,000 in those two years to attend the local state school.  I CLEPed out of three courses from taking AP tests and from things I have taught myself.  In the beginning of my second year I applied to transfer to Washington University in St. Louis, (which happens to be one among the top universities in the nation)

I was accepted into the school and immediately took it upon myself to discover which courses I could CLEP out of.  I spent that next summer in constant self-study.

Prior to arriving at WashU, I applied for school-based financial aid and was able to receive many need based grants and scholarships (nearly $24,000 out of $40,000 in tuition and living costs).  After arriving, I CLEPed out of a few classes at WashU.  So far, I was able to save myself nearly a year of tuition.  The first year I did my best to obtain a straight 4.0 GPA at WashU as well.

Towards the end of my first year I went into the financial aid department  (when they were not nearly as busy as other times.)  I mentioned the fact that the school loans were going to be quite burdensome and that I was doing very well at the school and would like to continue attending but that the loans may become a problem down the road.  The financial aid officer / manager said well we'll take a look and see what we can do.  At the time I was receiving about $24,000 in need based scholarships and I had to borrow nearly $16,000 that first year.  He said "well we can convert this $8,000 school loan into a scholarship and then you'll get free tuition but you'll still have to provide for your own living expenses."  Having that short 10 minute talk has saved me $24,000 plus all of the interest.

After a few years at WashU, I was able to graduate with a BS in Physics and a MS in Computer Science (from the Engineering school).  I had many choices of internships during the summers and most companies were fighting over people from the university.  I took all of the opportunities I could to have an internship over the summers.  They are really worth their weight in gold and even to this day, when I have decided to switch jobs, they still are inquired about.  (But I should caution you, if you do not take the opportunity to have internships then you may not be able to easily find jobs.  I knew of many classmates who had B/C averages and no internship experience and by the time graduation came around they were still looking for jobs.)

When interest rates dropped really low I consolidated all of my loans into one big loan at 2.875% and most lenders will drop 1% off of your interest rate if you make 3 years of timely payments.  I'm now paying 1.875% and it is much lower than inflation (meaning it is essentually now "free" money.)

So to sum it up: Go to a local school first, use that to transfer into a much better school with a much better name.  If you notice it, WashU ended up being cheaper per year than the local state school. Talk to the financial aid department after you show that you are capable of succeeding.  It was such an easy thing to do, that I, at the time, didn't know if it would work or be worthwhile.  But I have been taught growing up that, if you ask, the worst that can happen is that they will say no, but if you don't ask then you will never know.  Mind you, I selected WashU because their endowment per student ratio is very high so I knew there was a good chance of obtaining better financial aid. Consolidate your loans into a lower fixed interest rate.  If the interest rate is higher than inflation or salary increases then pay it down fast, otherwise make the minimum payments. In case you are wondering, my tuition costs the last year were around $45,000, my student loan cost that year was around $10,000.  I was able to get a job immediately out of school starting at $74,000 and I had six offers to choose from.

I'm not sure if this had anything to do with it or not, but I believe it did, you should read the book How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

Thank you and I hope my story will give others ideas on how to better afford their education, kudos to the original author, KJP


Mr Rawles,
I agree with a lot of the post  "A Prepper Goes To College" but there is one paragraph that is wrong: Here it is:

"As an example of this, you must realize that many colleges were created only to get free Federal money, which students have to pay back. “Trade colleges” like DeVry, University of Phoenix, and all sorts of art schools are only there to take students’ money which is “free” to them through student loans. If a school advertises on television then it probably offers junk diplomas."

This is simply not true. DeVry University has been in existence since 1931 and I know that in the field of  electronics technologies that DeVry has a sterling reputation and its graduates were generally known to be well qualified in that field. I know this because that is my profession and has been for over 40 years now.  I graduated from a competing school and am not affiliated with DeVry in any way, so I speak out of respect for DeVry having worked along side many of their graduates. Respectfully yours, T.W.T.

To S. John regarding higher education:
I've been a college professor for more than 20 years - and in higher education generally for twice that -- and I agree -- you have a point in saying higher education is a scam, but...

The system is the problem - not the education itself.  Clearly, a university degree isn't for everyone, but there are some things you can do -- as a Christian and a prepper -- to help:

1) Decide ahead of time if you need a university degree.  For some professions -- including professions that all preppers would probably agree we need -- bursing, medicine, engineering, teaching -- a university degree is useful -- and often required. If you don't need a degree don't do it -- remember the "dirty jobs" -- road work, ditches, sewage -- will always be needing people and you can do them without degrees. Better often to work at Home Depot and use your income (and employee discount) on preps.

2) If you go major in something useful -- sciences, nursing, engineering, computers.  You can always pick up electives -- languages are a good choice. Stay away from majors like gender studies, English, political science, sociology. Remember that your classes in those subjects will be likely biased towards left ideology.

3) Start in a community college.  Most of the first two years is the same everywhere and you save buckets of money.  The big four year schools won't tell you that.  Also think about taking classes on the side at your community/technical college.  Everyone should know how to weld and do electrical work.

4) Pick your school.  The small private school can do just as well as the big name school.  You can also find good Christian universities and colleges if that's your thing. Pick your location.  There are fine schools in many "safe" states e.g. Idaho -- why not spend four years in that area than on some eastern urban campus.  You can find a region (and possibly a school) which is more likely to be "prepper friendly" -- and if you are planning to marry.  Well, what better place to look for a like-minded guy or gal?  There are not too many Montana rancher's daughters enrolled at Florida State, I expect.

5) Stay away from student loans.  Quite right.  If you have all ready "drunk the Kool-aid" remember that you can get student loan forgiveness in a variety of public service professions -- nursing, teaching, librarianship -- make 120 payments and the government will forgive your loans.  Remember that the price on a school is always the "sticker price"-- I see students routinely get deals through grants and scholarships and, gee, working! There's a concept.  Don't buy the "You need to finish in four years"  Take six years, work, and avoid the loans.   Consider, dare I say it, military service and have the government pay for your college -- and you develop some useful skills.  What's better -- two years in camouflage or 10 years of paying loans in civilian clothes?  Stay away from the hucksters offering credit cards! That is the worst thing you can do! You are 18 -- if you don't have cash to pay for something then you can't afford it. And what do you need anyway? A ski vacation in Aspen?

6) Do the work! Students fail because they don't treat it like what it is -- a job.  That's why we have majors in basket weaving -- to accommodate the sheeple. The college librarian can be your best friend -- find the library and live there. Also, take care of your health -- eat, sleep, exercise. Get the habits now you will need when the SHTF.

7) Along with that avoid the sheeple students -- the parties, the distractions. Find a good church in the community and attend.  There are often campus ministry groups but they tend to be somewhat liberal. And if you are living somewhere away from home and the SHTF you want local contacts - not the campus ministry that is closed because it's summer and the sheeple students are on vacation.

8) Do not make an issue of your prepping.  Campuses are hotbeds of liberalism. You say "prepper" or "survival" and you will have the campus police looking under your bed for guns.  The resident assistants in dorms are not your friends -- in some cases I am aware of they were required to submit reports on students regarding their mental state, habits, etc.  in the name of "risk management". Live off campus if you can.  I have nothing to say about the issues of BOBs, guns, et cetera on campus except the lower profile you keep the better.  In a real emergency campus authorities are clueless -- for pandemic planning we were given, as faculty, a "Business Continuation Plan" that suggested that we would be sending everyone home and they (and we) would be doing everything we normally did -- just over the Internet via online instruction.  Right -- let's see how that works the day after an EMP burst, but I digress.

9) Find like minded people.  I was surprised to find a student shooting group from my campus, notably liberal, having a table at the local gun show.  I had no idea they existed. There are guys (and gals) with your viewpoint -- they will just be harder to find. And love your parents -- but leave them at home.  Helicopter parents of students, who hover over their child's every move and call every day -- are a curse.  You are 18, you are a grownup, act like it, -- call mom on Sunday and get on with your life the rest of the week. Be accountable for yourself, moral, and responsible and you won't have problems -- like large debt, arrests, or a pregnant girlfriend -- that you will need help with.

Your points about higher education are justified.  The system is a scam.  The knowledge that is in universities and colleges isn't.  There is alot of value in western civilization and our culture and history.  Universities and colleges are good repositories of that heritage.  Always the best? No.  There's lots of waste and corruption and idiots trying to find better "business models" and promote questionable ideology.  And frankly some scam artists who have figured they can make six-figure salaries managing all this Federal money that flows into higher education. But there are also lots of good people, religious people, preppers, who are genuinely trying to do good for people.  Find those people and pay attention to them. - A Prepper Professor


S. John shared some very insightful views and suggestions to better navigate higher education and ways to find gainful employment.  I would like to share some other approaches and strategies which have worked for me and others, but were not mentioned by S. John.  Higher education is by definition, education past the high school level.  This would include trade, vocational, college, and university programs.  For preppers, not all information, knowledge, or skill can be found in one source.  With anything we prep, redundancy provides greater stability.    

Military Training, Education, & Benefits.  
As a U.S. Army Airborne Infantry veteran, I can attest to the value of training, education, and experience our armed forces provide.  While only 1% of our country serves in our armed forces, it is obvious the commitment to military service is not for everyone.  Some may not be qualified, while others have personal beliefs which prevent them, and others often have skewed views or a lack of self confidence.  I will discuss the Army's programs as I am more familiar with them.  If you seek more info contact a recruiter and research to see if it can work for you.   All branches start with basic training and include training in combat skills, marksmanship, physical fitness, survival, field craft skills, and basic first aid.  The length of training varies from 8 to 13 weeks depending on branch.  The next step is military specialty (specific job) training.  There are numerous combat related functions, such as infantry and special operations, but there are even more combat support and service support jobs with a wide range of technical vocations.  Everything from communications, medical, transportation, engineering, intelligence, law enforcement, mechanical, to legal and everything else in between.  The US Army alone boasts over 200+ specialized job fields.   In addition to this training, some branches have basic training and military specialty schools accredited for college credits.  Those that don't still provide the option of having training evaluated for credit as well.  While you serve on active duty or with the reserves you are eligible for tuition assistance to cover up to 100% of tuition, books, and fees.  If you serve with National Guard or Air National Guard units, depending on each state, most cover 100% of in state tuition at the state university rates.  After you complete your service, the Army College Fund and GI Bill can pay between $44,000 for education after a two year enlistment or up to $81,000 for education after a six year enlistment.  Also, if you have already attended college and acquired a large amount of loans, if eligible, the Army can pay off those loans up to $65,000 in return for service.  If you have an advanced degree, such as law, nursing, or medical there are additional special programs.   After your service you not only have an established experience in a trade, you have applicable vocational training, and the financial ability to further pursue additional higher education.  This provides one the ability to get paid to learn skills others pay money to acquire.  In addition to those skills and opportunity, you also have other VA benefits such as home loan grantee and hiring preference for civil service jobs.    

Other ways to reduce tuition costs...   When I landed on top of a heavy drop (parachute platform with equipment and vehicles strapped to it), after jumping out of a C-17 and screwing up my shoulder, I was told to ride a desk or take a medical discharge.  This was disturbing to me, as I had planned for a career and after seven years, the thought of a desk job in the army did not appeal to me.  I took the discharge, moved back home and decided to pursue a career in law enforcement.  I needed to work, as did my wife, to support our kids and make a living.  I got an easy gig managing security - hired on the spot - just after inquiring about the job and discussing my prior experience in the military.   As I began researching law enforcement in my area and related education through local community colleges and universities, I discovered something few people know of or take advantage of.  I learned that most colleges and universities provide tuition waivers for employees.  These are not like a work related only tuition reimbursement program, but an actual waiving of cost.  Some are like the one I work for, which provides tuition waivers for the employee and spouse (100%) and for dependent children (75%).  In my state, all public colleges and universities, also operate their own public safety or police departments.  This was fantastic for me and my family as I was looking to pursue both a career and education and was able to do it at the same time and the same place.  The university I work at provides these benefits for every staff member employed, from landscapers to janitors, maintenance, IT, to various services, and secretaries.   Using a tuition waiver, in conjunction with GI Bill or Pell Grants, produces the ability to not only attend college, but to actually get paid for it.  The tuition is calculated, then waived, with the remaining funds disbursed to the employee/student for other costs associated with college.  Things such as text books, room and board, transportation, childcare, computers, and internet service.  I have earned an associates degree in administration of justice, an associates degree in law enforcement, and I am finishing a  bachelors degree in emergency management.  My wife has earned an Associates degree in organizational management and is finishing a Bachelors degree in operations management.    All with no student loans or out of pocket expenses.  As a family of seven with us both parents working full time, this wouldn't be possible without the research and time we were willing to invest to make it work for us.  To say it is easy to juggle five kids while both working and going to school full time would be a lie.  Finishing our education is the last step before we join the American Redoubt and move to establish our family retreat.  However, education is only one part of our plan, and it is combined with additional experience, knowledge, and skills.    

Redundancy is required in all things, to create greater stability, not just prepping.  Before you prep, you need to plan and mitigate first.  I second S. John's warnings and advice to ensure you research well and chose your financial obligations wisely.  I would also add to plan your education to match careers available in or near your retreat or if not practical, to match them to benefit you post collapse.  Being able to combine both career and post collapse efforts through education would be optimal and require additional research.    I realize how blessed I am and know this may not work for everyone.  I am confident in the course of action I took and recommend it to my own sons and daughter.  I wanted to share my experiences and hope it works for someone else too.  Good luck! - C.W.  


Dear JWR,    
After reading "A Prepper Goes to College", I felt that I needed to make a qualified rebuttal to this article. Going to college can be a very important means of getting out of the minimum wage grind and building the sort of income needed to prepare adequately for bad economic times. First and foremost, if you go to college, you need to pick a degree in something that will have practical use in a world that has to focus on self-reliance or at least a significantly reduced reliance on the government. I know, for many people, it is their dream to study the arts, music or law. But when you find yourself in a survival situation, the people who are going to have skills of real value will be those who learned how to build or fix things. For the most part, that means people with degrees like mechanical engineering or similar areas of specialization. As someone who learned about fixing cars from my father who was a mechanic for Cummins, I can easily see how an engineering degree can have very practical value for a prepper. I also saw my step-daughter have to incur tremendous amounts of debt in her quest for her PhD in Psychology. She was exceptionally hard working though and is now is an associate professor at the age of 30, specializing in the treatment of autistic children. She literally worked her way through college as a therapist. But even this is the exception, rather than the rule. It will still take her years to finish paying off her debt. Someone with a degree in the liberal arts will find that achieving her success to be almost impossible.     

The article also brings up the very valid points of how the cost of college degrees have skyrocketed and how school loans can be a very heavy burden for years after graduation. It is very important then that when you select a school, that the real cost has to be considered very highly. Students often learn that they pay an unnecessary premium for the privilege of attending a 'big-name' school. Find the least expensive college or state university that carries the degree program that you seek first. Secondly, try to find as many grants and scholarships that do not need to be paid back before exploring loans that do. There are a lot of opportunities for college money that does not have to be paid back, but it takes time and effort. Another option that should also be considered is military service, either with your state's National Guard or with one of the service ROTC programs. They can often pay for most if not all of a student's tuition plus supply a student with a couple of hundred dollars a month of drill pay as well. This option also gives the student to learn other skills like fieldcraft and basic rifle marksmanship training that can prove to be very helpful in a survival situation. If you can, pick an officer specialty that can teach you skills that can translate into the civilian marketplace like Military Police or even Military Intelligence. (The latter teaches a lot of skills that can translate into other fields not to mention that a security clearance that can open a lot of doors.)     

If you do decide to pursue higher education, be serious about it. Don't do to school expecting to have a great time at parties and breezing your way to a degree. Getting a useful college degree is hard work, especially when you are working in more of the more technical areas. If you don't have a decent GPA, your job opportunities can be few and far between especially when competing with other students with 3.5+ GPAs. But it will be worth it in the long run. I found this out the hard way myself.     

I'm sure that the author's wife is very intelligent and likely performed very well in law school. But how much real use will there be for lawyers when the economy shuts down and we have to learn to make do with what we have? I can easily see how an engineer can be helpful by building or adapting machines to produce power or to make the tools that their community can value however.     

Higher education is important, but choose carefully and work hard. The skills that you learn need to be able to sustain you and your family in the future. - Tek

"Fast and Furious" Scandal Making Cops, Citizens Furious Fast. Just one correction: This was not a "renegade operation". It was sanctioned at the highest levels of the BATFE and the Obama Administration.

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I just heard about a company that makes a very clever compact fishing pole: Montana Innovative Fishing Gear. These are American-made. (Yes, I checked: They are manufactured in Spokane, Washington.) They are ideal for backpacking, or even for your "maxi" size bug out bag. These poles can be used for bait casting, trolling, ice fishing, and even marginally well for fly fishing.

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With the Fourth Amendment already under attack, here is a frontal assault on our Fifth Amenment right against self-incrimination: DOJ: We can force you to decrypt that laptop. (A hat tip to Tam for the link.)

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I just read that there is Tulsa Preparedness Expo organized by Point Man Ministries that will be hosted at the Spirit Bank Event Center November 12-13, 2011 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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Just when you thought you had everything imaginable "in a can" stocked in your larder: Rum and Whiskey Cakes.

Friday, July 15, 2011

"And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.

And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint [them] for himself, for his chariots, and [to be] his horsemen; and [some] shall run before his chariots.

And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and [will set them] to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

And he will take your daughters [to be] confectionaries, and [to be] cooks, and [to be] bakers.

And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, [even] the best [of them], and give [them] to his servants.

And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put [them] to his work.

He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day." - 1 Samuel 8:10-18 (KJV)

For the next 24 hours, Lulu.com is offering a further 20% off the already reduced price of the SurvivalBlog 5-Year Archive CD-ROM. To take 20% off the $14.96 price (bringing it down to just $11.96) use the discount code "BIG". This sale ends at midnight tonight -- Friday, July 15, 2011. Also note that production of the archive CD-ROM will end on August 1st, so order your copy today! (Lulu will soon no longer be producing any CD-ROMs. We are setting up production with a new vendor, but the CD-ROM probably won't be available for ordering again until September or October.)


Today we present another entry for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 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 following are some of my suggestions on backyard poultry flocks, based on my experience:

Before you take possession of your birds consider where you will keep your flock. A backyard can work just fine, if your local zoning abides it. If you are going to let your birds roam outside their coop then you will need to fence your yard in to keep the birds in and four legged predators out. Fencing can be as simple and as aesthetically pleasing as you want. If you have an existing solid fence you are in luck. If you do not have any fence in place, consider the cost and what you have available. Wire fence comes in many forms. Typical rural fence, sold as “pig” fence which keeps large livestock in their pastures could work if you put chicken wire along the bottom to keep your birds in. If you are starting from scratch you could use 48 inch chicken wire and T-posts every eight feet or so. Some folks prefer to use an electric fence to keep the birds in and the pests out. Don’t forget a gate so you can get in and out with your wheelbarrow. I have found wire, posts and gates at yard sales and farm auctions.

Next you must consider what you will house your birds in. Take into account how many chickens you want to start with. I would recommend an even dozen to start. There are plenty of designs out there to facilitate a small backyard laying house. Another method is a “chicken tractor’ which is a large cage on wheels. The idea is that the birds are free ranging inside the pen and the pen can be moved around inside your property to keep the grass fresh. Things to consider are ease of cleaning and egg collecting. Some designs have a mesh floor raised off the ground so you can scoop up the future compost without going inside the building. There are designs with the laying nests accessible from the outside, so you don’t have to go in the coop to retrieve your eggs.

Chickens do poop and you need to clean it up promptly to keep the smell and the flies down. Also what are you going to do with the end results? Will the garbage man take it away? Can you compost the litter for your garden?  The litter makes excellent compost but there is a bit of a smell that may cause a problem in the urban environment.
Also you will need to consider what bedding to use. You will need to cover the floor with something to collect the waste. I use wheat straw since I compost the litter. In the past I have used wood shavings with good results, but consider how the wood chips might affect your garden.

To keep the flies at bay a proactive approach is best. I try to keep the coop clean by cleaning out the litter every week. Some flies will hatch though so to get the varmints I hang glue strip fly catchers inside the coop. Just hang them from the ceiling where the chicks can’t get caught in the sticky tape and the tape won’t catch you. You may need to replace them during the fly season as the tape fills up. Also the flies can be trapped using the stinky bait method. You can purchase the bait and trap from your local store. It is usually a plastic jug half filled with fly bait and hung around the coop where flies congregate. Once the trap is filled it can be disposed of or emptied, refilled and reused.

You will need some basic tools. A pitchfork, a flat shovel and a yard rake are the bare essentials. If you go with a bigger coop and a larger flock you will find that a wheelbarrow is essential to haul the litter and the straw bales or wood chips.

Now that you have a fenced in place for the chickens to run and a coop to protect them you need to select your birds. You can order live chicks from any mail order bird supplier and pick them up at the post office. The local agricultural supply outlets usually order chicks and birds in the spring. As a new birder I would recommend you start with grown birds. The mortality rate for the baby chicks can be high and if you start with the grown birds you will be ahead until you have some experience raising birds. Look on Craigslist under Farm and Garden for birds in your area. You can also look for a local sale barn or poultry swap meets in your area. There are merits for the various breeds and they all have their supporters. Heritage breeds are becoming more popular and are a way to preserve history right in your own backyard. The idea is to keep the genetics of the old time birds from going extinct. Look on the internet for ideas for different colorful breeds. I would recommend starting out with hens only. The flock of hens will provide you with unfertilized eggs and be much quieter than a flock with a rooster. The rooster will crow at all hours, day and night and the neighbors may not appreciate the noise. You can branch out into trying to raise chicks at a later time if you so desire.

You have to feed and water your fine feathered friends. Any agriculture supply store will have laying feed for your chickens. You will also need to offer crushed oyster shells and cherry stone to your birds. The cherry stone goes in their gizzard to grind their food and the oyster shells provides calcium and gives the eggs a tough shell. You will also need a place to store your grain. I buy chicken feed in 50 pound sacks and store it in blue barrels with lids in my garage. The bigger the barrel the more feed you can store.
I hang my feeders and self waterers about eight inches off the floor using light weight chains. You can buy the feeders and waterers at the ag store or the net. The birds will eat lots of feed and drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather. For the cold weather there are insulated and heated water containers so the birds can always get a drink. Keep the waterers clean by frequently spraying them out with a water hose. Algae may grow inside the plastic waterer, so add a drop of bleach and let it go to work by setting the waterer in a secure place where the chicks can’t get to it. In a few hours rinse the waterer thoroughly and set it back up in the pen.

Other things to consider. The chicken coop should be locked at night to keep the predators out. Tragedy can be averted by keeping your coop locked up tight at night. My coop has a small chicken sized door that is locked open during the day for the girls to have free access and has a hasp with a spring loaded snap to keep Mr. Raccoon out at night. Ventilation is provided by two doors on opposite sides covered with chicken wire and securely closed at all times. In cold weather there are solid doors to keep the snow out and are wired open in good weather.

Once you have your flock established in their coop you can sit back and watch the eggs roll in. You should check for eggs in the morning, when you refill the feeders and check the water, and in the evening before you lock them up for the night. You may want to check more often in the warmer months. Our eggs go straight into the fridge and once a day the chief egg washer cleans them up and puts them in the carton. Eggs have a natural oil on them that protects the inside. If the eggs are clean you can hold off washing them until ready for use and they will last longer. Cartons are another matter. You can have family and friends save egg cartons for you to get started, or you could buy a gross of cartons from a retailer. Be sure and get the bigger sized cartons so the lid will close over the eggs. Some of our girls lay monster sized eggs. Cartons can be reused several times until being sent to the recycle bin. If you have enough eggs for your own consumption you might consider giving them away or trading or selling them. Check your local laws for the rules on selling eggs in your area.   

This is a short list to get you started. Use your local County Extension office, library and the Internet for resources to get more information. Chickens are easy and rewarding to raise. They don’t take lots of room or time, and they provide eggs for the table. You don’t have to spend a bunch of money to get started. Of course you need to check local zoning and have good relations with the neighbors to make sure you can raise a flock where you are. Good "Cluck" with your birds.

A relative newcomer on the firearms scene is German Sport Guns (GSG) which, as the name implies, are guns made in Germany. GSG firearms are imported into the USA by American Tactical Imports (ATI) and they are causing quite a stir these days. Under review here are the GSG-5 and the GSG-1911 firearms. The GSG-5 is a "clone" of sorts, of the HK94 semiauto carbine (patterned on the Heckler & Koch MP-5 submachine gun) - except it's semiauto only and it fires .22 Long Rifle (LR) cartridges. The GSG-1911, is a virtual "clone" of the legendary 1911 .45 ACP handgun, except it is .22 LR only.

I happened upon the GSG-5 about a year and a half ago, at my local gun shop. There it was, hanging on the wall, and for all appearances, I thought it was a Heckler und Koch Model 94, semiauto, 9mm carbine. The gun looks "that" good! It only took me a minute or so to make a decision to purchase the GSG-5. About a week later, I purchased another GSG-5, this one slightly different than the first. Both GSG-5 models have what appears to be a suppressor on the barrel. However, they are for looks only, and are not sound suppressors. One false suppressor is quite a bit larger in diameter than the other. For some reason, the BATF, told ATI, that they believed these larger false suppressors could be converted into real suppressors, and they had to be removed, and replaced with the smaller diameter false suppressor. Personally, I don't know how people were converting these hollow aluminum tubes into real suppressors. But the BATF employs a lot of boneheads, who have nothing more to do than come up with this garbage. I sent my larger diameter fake suppressor to ATI and they sent me the smaller diameter fake suppressor free of charge.

The GSG-5 comes with one 22-round .22 LR magazine, and I immediately purchased a dozen more - they are selling for around $20 each. ProMag magazines also makes an after-market 22-rd magazine for the GSG-5, and they also work flawlessly, and are priced a few dollar less than the originals. So often, after-market magazines don't work very well, but these are an exception.

The sights on the GSG-5 are adjustable. You can change windage with the rear H&K style drum sight, as well as elevation. I used the lowest elevation setting, which has a buckhorn style sight and left it at that. The other adjustments have a peep rear sight on the drum, for raising the impact of the bullet. The front sight is easily removable and you can change the height of this sight with the additional front sights that came with the gun. I saw no need to change out the front sight, as the gun was hitting where I wanted it to hit. Still, the sights are there if you need them.

The forearm, butt stock and pistol grip are all made out of plastic, which makes the gun very light-weight. The upper receiver appears to be either zinc or aluminum, with the lower being made out of polymer. The gun operates with a blow-back bolt, which is the way all .22 semiauto rifles work, no big surprises there. The charging handle is on the front-left of the upper receiver, just like it is on the real H&K MP-5 or Model 94. You pull the charging handle back, lock it in place, insert your loaded magazine, and release the charging handle to chamber a round. The safety is ambi, and easily reached with the thumb, too. Trigger pull was more than acceptable, and I saw no need to fool around with it. No sling was provided, but it's an easy and cheap fix for anyone.

The GSG-5 models I purchased have the sliver/gray finish on the upper - it's the collector's version, celebrating the first year of production. Current GSG-5 models have an all-black upper.  The magazine release can be operated one of two ways, with either a push of a button to release the mag, or pressing forward on the paddle. I personally prefer the paddle, as it seems quicker and more secure. The HK MP-5 can be found with the paddle, and most H&K Model 94s can be found with the button magazine release.

I've literally put thousands of rounds of .22 LR ammo through my GSG-5 samples - albeit one was given to my wife for a birthday present, she still let's me shoot hers. I've had very few malfunctions of any sort, and all were ammo related - either the rounds didn't fire, or there wasn't enough "oomph" for the rounds to push the bolt back far enough to fully eject the rounds. The guns don't appear to be ammo sensitive at all, and that's a good thing. So many .22s are very ammo sensitive these days, especially .22 handguns, that you have to find just the right ammo to make the guns function.

I've used the GSG-5s for hunting "big" game in my front yard - moles! I've literally lost count of the number of moles I've taken with the GSG-5s, but it's been quite a few. Whenever I see a new mole mound coming up in my rural front yard, I reach for a GSG-5 with a 22-round magazine in-place, and unload the entire magazine into and around the mole hole - dead mole! Some folks in the area use a 12 gauge shotgun for moles, and they make a bigger hole than the moles were making. I prefer using the GSG-5 for mole eradication. In my neck of the woods, the GSG-5 can be found for $400--give or take a few bucks, and for a mean-looking .22 rifle, it is a great deal.

I recently purchased the GSG-1911, and it looks for all the world, like a full-sized Government Model 1911 .45 ACP pistol, except it shoots economical .22 LR ammo. The GSG-1911 is made out of aluminum for the frame, slide, and most major parts. However, most of the innards are genuine all steel 1911 parts - nice touch - should you want to change some parts out, or have spare parts on-hand. The GSG-1911 is very-well made and nicely fitted - better fitted than many 1911s I've owned over the years. The GSG-1911 takes a proprietary 10-rd magazine, however, I expect we'll see after-market mags coming down the pike soon. The GSG-1911 model I picked came with a threaded barrel and had a fake aluminum suppressor on it - it has a very "kool" factor look to it. The fake suppressor can be removed quickly by hand, and you can put a thread (provided) protector on the threads to protect them from damage.

The GSG-1911 is very popular with folks who want to put a real suppressor on them, and who are willing to jump through the red tape and hoops that are required for purchasing a real suppressor with a $200 Federal tax stamp. I just like the super-kool look to the gun with the fake suppressor on it - and it does nothing to reduce the sound signature when the gun is fired. Take note, BATFE: The fake suppressor is for looks only.

Three-dot sights adorn the slide of the GSG-1911, and they are eye-catching, too - neat! The rear sight is adjustable for windage. And, if the point of impact isn't to your liking, there are additional front sights provided with the gun, along with an Allen wrench to swamp 'em out. My gun shoots where I want it at 25-yards, so I haven't changed the front sight. Both the front and rear sight are made out of tough polymer.

There is an ambidextrous safety on the gun, and it's fitted nicely, it clicks on and off with authority. It's actually better fitted than safeties on many .45 ACP 1911s. Personally, I can take or leave an ambi-safety, and I prefer a 1911 without 'em. The grip safety - it needed a little bit of stoning. I had to press the grip safety completely in before it would release and allow the gun to fire. I'm surprised this one slipped through quality control from GSG. If you know anything about 1911s, you can easily correct this if your sample has the same problem. It only took me about 10-minutes to get the grip safety to release where I wanted it to.

Trigger pull! It's outstanding, even though the gun has the Series-80 firing pin safety - which I see no need for. GSG did a great job on the trigger pull - mine breaks at slightly less than four pounds, and it's crisp and smooth, too. Again, I've run across a lot of 1911s that didn't have a trigger pull any where near this good. I saw no need to change the trigger pull on my sample.

Take-down of the GSG-1911 is similar to that of a genuine 1911, with a few exceptions, and an added step or two - it's all there in the instruction manual, and read it before you attempt to take the GSG-1911 apart for regular cleaning and maintenance. Also, if you have a mind to tear the gun completely apart, there are some added parts in the gun, that you need to know about - or you might lose them - I lost a spring in the mainspring housing - it holds in a magazine safety, so the gun can't be fired without a magazine in place. Luckily, I keep a lot of spare gun parts around my digs, and it only took a minute to replace the spring that went flying. The lost spring will show-up eventually, but I wasn't gonna start tearing my office/gun room apart looking for it. Just be advised, if you are removing the mainspring housing, do it slowly and keep it covered with your hand, so when the spring pops out, you'll have it in your hand, instead of it flying across the room.

The GSG-1911 is now my new mole hunting gun. I can sit on my front deck or in my front yard, with the GSG-1911 in my hand or holstered, and I can unleash 10-rds of .22 LR ammo into a newly forming mole hole. The GSG-1911 sample I purchased has an accessory rail for mounting a light or a laser on it, and this gun won't fit in all 1911 holsters. I can place mine in a Blackhawk Products Serpa hip holster, which is made for 1911s with or without rails. (Most molded leather holsters will not accept a 1911 with an accessory rail - be advised!)

I've had zero malfunctions with my GSG-1911 sample. The gun is rated to operate best with high-velocity .22 LR ammo. However, I've used standard velocity .22 LR ammo without any problems at all. The GSG-1911 with the fake suppressor and accessory rail sell for around $360 in my neck of the woods, and the model without the fake suppressor and accessory rail are about $30 less. Spare mags for the GSG1911 run around $30 to $35, not too bad, all things considered.

In the grand scheme of things, I think everyone needs some kind of .22 LR in their survival battery. A good .22 is certainly great for taking small game. However, if all you have on-hand is a .22 rifle or handgun of some type, you can sure make the bad guys wish they had chosen another house or property to attack. Sure, the .22 LR isn't a real man-stopper, but it's better than a sharp stick or throwing rocks. And, it's sure better than going hand-to-hand with an intruder. Truth be told, there's probably been more people killed with the "lowly" .22 than any other caliber. And, I'm willing to bet good money, that more game has been taken with a .22 than any other caliber.

There are a lot of different .22 firearms on the market these days. Of course, the gold standard is probably the Ruger 10/22 rifle, followed by the Ruger .22 pistol (one of the many versions) and they are great guns. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen guys bring tricked-out 10/22s to the gun shows or gun shop and they want to trade them for something else - after they've invested a thousand dollars to make that 10/22 look like some kind of "assault" rifle. With the GSG-5, you have the super-kool look to it - it looks like an H&K MP5 or HK94, without you having to add anything more to it. It also works, and works well. The GSG-1911, again, there's nothing you have to do to it - and with the fact suppressor on the barrel, it also has the super-kool look to it - and those who don't know better, will think you are shooting suppressed .45 ACP when you touch off a .22 LR round.

In a survival situation, you always have to look at how much ammo you can afford to buy and stock pile. With a good .22 rifle and handgun, like the GSG models, you have great guns to start with, and there's nothing more you need to do to them, except buy some spare magazines. And, you can easily stock-up on ten thousand rounds of .22 LR in short order. That's a lot of fun shooting, as well as a lot of ammo to have on-hand for target shooting, pest shooting and small game hunting purposes.

By the way, GSG also makes an AK-47 clone, again, in .22 LR if you like the look of AKs and want to have any inexpensive to shoot trainer with the same ergonomics. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Hi Jim,
Just wanted to chime in here on the recent blog post about multi-family living. There are currently three families in our house: Five adults and and four children ranging in ages from 13 down to 6. (This includes two married couples and a single mom.) And how did all of this begin? Well the spark was friendship.  My wife and my friend's wife were best friends and room mates. We spent all of our time at the girls apartment, going there after church, meeting there for evening outings, etc. I would get back to my apartment with just enough time to sleep before work or church the next day. Eventually I married my wife, and six months later my friend married his. We were finding ourselves staying up very late, and always, one couple would eventually drag themselves off the couch to get back to their respective dwellings. After about a year of this I suggested we find a place together, so we rented a three bedroom two car garage townhouse.  This was over 20 years ago. When I got a job offer to move to the pacific northwest, they decided to come with my wife and myself. We had a hard time finding a house to purchase that would meet our needs. We finally found a 3,500 square foot two story house on 1.5 acres, in a rural area surrounded by pasture and blueberry farms.

One of the best things about our floor plan was that it had dedicated living areas that could be converted to master bedroom/ bath combinations. They were far enough away from each other to provide privacy (one master bedroom is upstairs, the other was built into a bonus room attached to the rear of the southeast corner of the house)  we share common areas, the kitchen, living and dining room, our front school room, and an office area that housed a couple of desks, file cabinets and book cases. We added to our family when a good friend of ours went through a messy divorce and was left homeless, just her and her daughter. She moved into our school room, and we converted a set of rooms and a bathroom into a “mother-in-law” quarters. She and her daughter have their own bathroom complete with washer and dryer, and we placed a refrigerator for her foodstuffs in the pantry.

It has been a long learning curve for all of us, some of us are early risers, some of us are night owls, everyone has different dietary needs and allergies, I think we are one of the few households that actually use up Costco-sized items quickly!   We have learned to accommodate each other , and defer to one another wherever possible .
We are all of the same faith and attend the same local church, this has done more to engender unity than any other single thing in our living arrangement. We have weekly bible study groups, which include people from our local church, and that faith is the cement that really holds us together.   I like to tell people we are like the new testament church in the book of acts, having everything in common.

It is nice transportation wise as there are five cars available if one is broken down there is always a way to get a ride from someone , and there is always a sitter around if one of us wants to have a date night with his/her spouse.

Prepping as a community has its advantages also. Pooling resources we can buy in bulk at wholesale prices form place like bobs red mill, and cash and carry. Being rural we are on a well and septic, and have just finished a solar array to go completely off the grid if need be.   OPSEC and perimeter management is nice also with the instant ability to set watches and assign duties should the flag go up.

The Golden Rule really applies in living situations like ours. We all have different skill sets, that add up to a very unique and advantageous living arrangement. - C.T. in Portland, Oregon

Dear Mr. Rawles:
As a Texas rancher, I understand the difficulties associated with fence building and repair. Too much fence building in a short amount of time will run off a good ranch hand. Mudflap's comments about proper clothing and hydration when fence building are right and should be given attention. We use twisted smooth wire (no barbs) for horse pens but to contain cattle, barbed wire is necessary. Good gloves are essential. Pigskin gloves are very barb resistant. You will be nicked by the barbed wire, so stay current with tetanus shots. Every vehicle on my ranch has a set of fencing pliers and other fence repair items because I have discovered many small repairs over time to be much easier than waiting for things to get so bad entire fence sections need rebuilding. Many small repairs over time is also much easier than continually tracking down stray cattle.

Six wire barbed wire fences are stronger and seem to function longer than those with fewer wires. They also catch more tumbleweeds and blowing debris which in high wind conditions can bend T posts. We go on tumbleweed patrol during sustained wind conditions. I can walk across the prairie and maybe see one rattlesnake but let me work on a fence and they are everywhere. My wife was bitten by a rattlesnake a few years ago and almost died. After that, we got really serious about rattlesnakes and wear pistols in flap covered holsters at almost all times when doing routine ranch work, and at all times when fence building. Flapped holsters are a must in our windy and dusty climatic conditions. They also protect the pistol against wear and damage and help preclude loss, especially when on horseback. Sure these holsters are slow but so is a dirt clogged weapon and where the wind blows almost all of the time, a weapon can clog in one day. Graphite rather than oil helps reduce dirt problems. Blowing dirt also causes magazine feed problems so we use flapped holders for them as well. We disassemble magazines routinely for cleaning but I digress.

Many fencing problems are caused by not placing rigid poles (steel pipe, creosote dipped wood, or cedar) at intervals in a T post fence. We use six to eight inch oil field pipe either driven into the soil with a ram or set in concrete both at low spots to keep a tight fence from pulling the T posts up, and on ridges which seem to be weak places for wind and animal caused shear forces.

We take extra time with T post clips to ensure both ends are securely wrapped around the barbed wire. This causes the wire to be pulled up tightly against the T post. It can be tedious but I believe greatly improves the integrity of the fence. Western union and other type splices can work with barbed wire but I have found that pairs of high tensile crimp style tube splices per wire splice to be more trouble free in the long run. Tab through the photos to see how these are crimped. A well built fence (and it must be surveyor straight - vertical T posts with tops all aligned) will always need less care than a shoddy fence.

At every point where a barbed wire fence changes direction we use six to eight inch pipe braces set in concrete. Such a brace consists of an eight foot long vertical pipe at the point of direction change (three feet buried in the ground) flanked by similar pipes on either side in line with the old and new fence directions. The three vertical posts are connected by five foot runs of horizontal pipe welded a foot below the tops of the vertical pipes. A front end loader is essential because these size thick walled pipes when welded together into a brace, may weigh a thousand pounds. Wooden posts are easier to work with and steeples easy to use, but nothing lasts like thick walled oil field pipe. We wrap several turns of a short piece of barbed wire around the vertical pipes leaving two wire ends, one about two feet long and the other four feet long. The shorter free end is wrapped tightly around the the longer end. The fence stretcher and splices are then used to connect the free end of this wire to the long run on down the fence line. This is the only way I have found to ensure taught wire runs using when metal pipe braces. We strive to get it right the first time.

A good quality fence wire stretcher is also important. T posts can be difficult to pull out of the ground if a fence line is being moved. We use a T post puller T-Post Puller. Everyone should have a Hi-Lift Jack and they work well with a post puller, but if I'm moving a line of fence, we usually have a tractor with a front end loader on site so I chain the T post puller to the front end loader in order to pull up the posts. The loader bucket is also a good place to store the pulled T posts. The higher on the T post the puller is placed, the less chance of bending the post.

I hope these comments help. The only thing I like about fence building is the end of the day. - Texas Rancher

Bernanke: Fed May Launch New Round of Stimulus. It seems that Helicopter Ben is addicted to "quantitative easing"--the Fed's euphemism for monetizing Federal debt. If they can repeatedly get away with creating dollars out of thin air, then the end result is inevitable: the wholesale destruction of the U.S. Dollar as a currency unit.

Reader John T. liked this piece by Jim Willie: The Silver Platter Opportunity

Yohay over at FOREX Crunch posted this provocative article: Captain Ben Can Handle the Debt Ceiling

D.S. sent this: Derivatives Rules to Help Swaps Market Grow $40.7 Trillion, Citigroup Says. The market for interest-rate and credit-default swaps will grow more than 10 percent to $435 trillion by 2013. Here is a quote: "Combined interest-rate and credit-default swap notional values totaled $394.3 trillion as of December, according to Bank for International Settlements data. The $601 trillion private derivatives market also includes foreign exchange, equity and commodity derivatives."

Items from The Economatrix:

Markets May Turn Turbulent Waiting For Debt Deal

Fed Divided Over More Stimulus as Economy Weakens

Motorists Driving Less, But Gas Prices Keep Rising

Economy Faces a Jolt as Benefit Checks Run Out

Obama "Cannot Guarantee" Social Security Benefit Checks Will Be Paid If Debt Deal Isn't Reached

Here is something new for all you paracord hobbyists: BBK Paracord "Rip Cords". It isn't patented, so I suppose it a good candidate for reverse engineering.

   o o o

Just a slight tightening of the noose: Police: Internet providers must keep user logs.

   o o o

Dark Fireworks on the Sun. (Thanks to Frank Z. for the link.)

   o o o

Ready Made Resources has added the Goal Zero PV portable power systems to their product line.

"Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish." - Isaiah 41:10-11 (KJV)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Warning! Today's Economics and Investing news is guaranteed to exceed your recommended daily allowance of Gloom und Doom.


Today we present another entry for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 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 this article I intend to give the prepper some Christian perspective on what is valuable in an education.

First, a couple of quotes:

“Youth is wasted on the young.” – George Bernard Shaw

“Education is wasted on the youth.” – Michelle Hanson

Many people are considering college and advanced education this year, especially with the unemployment at record highs. They believe that having a college degree will help them get out of the economic slump they find themselves in. They imagine a high-paying job in a new field, and economic prosperity.

Unfortunately, college is not what it used to be. Since our public education system has made grammar school an intellectual joke, employers have a skewed concept of what makes a good employee, and college degrees are now mandated in most jobs. At the same time, undergraduate four-year degrees teach the average student almost nothing.

The government and private banks are more than willing to loan you money to go to college. Thanks to subsidy programs, unless you are quite stupid, you can probably get funding to go to college. But how does a Christian prepper view the opportunities for education?

I read recently that half of student loans are currently in deferment. It is a huge financial bubble that will burst very soon, predicated on people with college degrees finding employment that does not exist. Almost everyone has a college degree now, and they are almost worthless on the free market.

Combine those easy student loans with state-sponsored universities which create fluffy degrees in order to attract more debt-leveraged students, and you have a job market that will never recover. The student loan bubble will burst. And it will burst on the backs of young families just trying to survive.

As an example of this, you must realize that many colleges were created only to get free Federal money, which students have to pay back. “Trade colleges” like DeVry, University of Phoenix, and all sorts of art schools are only there to take students’ money which is “free” to them through student loans. If a school advertises on television ,then it probably offers junk diplomas.

Accredited universities do similar things. They create degree programs in Golf Course Management and Hotel Hospitality, attempting to take advantage of ignorant students with an open checkbook from the government. The result is a degree with decreased market value. While a four-year degree used to be a legitimate signaling device to an employer that you were an educated person, now it is not. It simply means you know how to borrow money to buy a college degree.

I am 30 years old, and my wife is 28. We got married last year, and the best man at my wedding gave us Dave Ramsey’s book on debt. We immediately realized how bad debt is for long-term finances, and set about destroying our debt. Thank you, Mr. Ramsey!

Unfortunately, I had $23,000 in student loan debt from an undergrad degree from a state university. And even worse, my wife "Drank the Koolaid” of cheap student loan money in 2006 and decided to go to law school. She came out with a degree from a prestigious school into the worst job market since the Great Depression. Altogether, we are $185,000 in debt to the government for our educations.

Paying off this debt will be our lives’ work. We have an aggressive plan to tackle this monster, but it will be a full decade before we defeat it. There will be no dinners out, and very few fun things for most of the next 10 years until it the debt is gone.

Oh, and that law degree? It’s not very valuable. It took my wonderful wife, who is quite brilliant, 18 months to find full-time employment. Her new job is also 150 miles away, and requires commuting there most of the week.

Higher education is a scam!

In the mean time, we are working on getting prepped. We read your books and your blog and are working on getting a modicum of beans, bullets and Band-Aids. Unfortunately, having debt the equivalent of a mortgage keeps us from really being prepared. We take a little money each month and move it toward something that will hedge against a full collapse in the next 10 years. But it is hardly enough. We are fully on board with the prepping concepts, but handicapped by our stupid decisions.

For those deciding whether to take on student loans, please consider the following: You cannot walk away from it. Unlike a house which you could simply move out of if you cannot make the payments, there are no ways to get out of it. You must pay it back. There are no bankruptcies. You are their slave.

No other industry has so little consumer protection. Even a car loan puts the consumer in a better bargaining position than student loans – you can always sell the car. And since almost all student loans are subsidized by the government, most of them are serviced by banks in bed with the government. It’s not like a credit card – you owe the United States Treasury for your education. And they will get their money.

Every young person, whether they think it or not, plans on having a family. They plan to eventually get married, have children, and hopefully they plan to raise them in the Christian faith. Unfortunately, our $185,000 in debt (I call it a “mortgage without a house”) means we will be cutting it pretty close (biologically, and financially). We are trusting in God that he puts us in a position eventually to do that, and helps us get fully prepped and ditch this debt.

For us, prepping is primarily a financial concern. While we are still learning many preparedness basics, we can’t move forward until we find the money. I love my wife very much. And God elected her before the beginning of time to be his child, and to be my wife. But if I could have met her five years ago, and rescued her from the idea of investing in a career that precludes having children or a family for a decade or more, we would be much better off. We would have only my university debt to pay off, and could be building preps at a retreat in our area.

I repeat, higher education is a scam.

So how do you decide if the college you are looking at is worth it? How do you know you won’t be scammed like my wife and I were?

I have a formula to help:
For undergraduate degrees, take the total cost of your education, and divide it by five. That is the five years you will take to pay it back. Figure that you must make enough money that your monthly payment during that 5 years is not more than half of your disposable income. If you have children in your plan, figure those in. Figure that half of most people’s disposable income is probably less than $500. It may be closer to $100. That means your bachelors degree shouldn’t cost you more than $30,000, at the high end, and $6,000 at the low end.

But you say: “After I get a degree, I will make more money!”

That’s not necessarily true. With a deflating economy and an inflating currency, you may actually come out worse. Your education is a potential risk, not just an investment.

My wife is an attorney, and one of the smartest people I know. She makes $37,000 per year. You’re probably not an attorney. How much do you make? Do the math, folks.

(For advanced degrees, I posit you replace the “five” with “ten” in the previous formula. Your mileage may vary.)

The important thing that preppers need to remember is to do the research before you go back to school. Find out how much money people in your industry are making, apply it to the previous formula, then decide. Do real research, then make a decision based in the real world.

My wife says, “If you’re college advisors are saying there are jobs if you get a degree, but you don’t see any of those jobs, you’re being lied to.”

College advisors do not have your best interest at heart. Unlike other private institutions, they do not have to adjust their prices to their customers. They can charge whatever price they want, because the government will give you “free money” to attend.

You should realize that there is risk. Realize that if you took the money you would put to toward education and bought a fully-stocked retreat in the mountains, you might have something that would save your lives, rather than just your ego at a cocktail party. “Opportunity cost” is something that all preppers should consider. And in a times of political, economic and social volatility, it may make more sense for you to avoid college and do something else with your money.

At the risk of getting on a soap box, there is also a potential moral hazard in the mainstream view of education. As “modern” Americans, we choose to extend our childhood into our 20s. We don’t become adults until we are done with our educations, often when we are 40+ years old. God’s plan of raising children takes a back seat. We worship the god of convenience and success more than the Lord’s will, which would have us support a local church and raise children in the faith. Preppers should keep these things in mind as they decide about college.

Many people are asking, should you even go to college? The answer is, a definitive “maybe.”

Keep in mind, there is still value in a college education. There will be life after the collapse. Civilization will keep going. As a matter of fact, you may find yourself competing with even more folks for the same employment in a semi-collapse. You may be among 50 percent of the population unemployed, and looking for work. A college degree and a work history will help separate you from the pack.

Higher Education The Right Way

So how do you do pick the right college?

After looking at what worked for me in my Bachelor’s, and my wife in her Juris Doctorate, I think I’ve figured out how to do it right.

First, go to community college. Start there, work a job on the side, and get straight A’s. Junior college is dumbed down to the lowest level. If you can’t pull a 4.0 grade point average there, you’re probably not meant for college. You’ll also come out of community college with no debt if you work at the same time. Live at home with mom and dad, and save the cash. I know it’s hard, but work it out. It’s better than debt.

[JWR Adds: I recommend getting as many units as possible via Advanced Placements tests, CLEP tests, "life experience" portfolio courses, and so forth. Dr. Gary North has some great advice on how to do so.]

Get as many internships as possible. They are very valuable. While I have had only one company do a background check to see if I actually have a college degree, all of them saw my work experience. Nobody asks about my GPA, nobody asks about classes I took. They all see the internships. I worked for three businesses while in college, including an internship with a financial company. I still get calls on my resume from that experience, but not from my degree.

Transfer to the school of your choice, preferably one that you can either get through quickly to obtain your piece of paper (such as a major university), or one that will in fact give you an actual higher education, such as Hillsdale College or Grove City. (These two schools do not participate in any Federal funding for students, and have therefore maintained their level of excellence.)

While there, do internships. Do many internships. Do more internships than classes. They are worth more than the classes.

If you do choose a state university, remember that modern colleges are full of evil influences. Feminists, socialists, moral relativists and all sorts of thieves and immoral people teach classes there. Just keep your eye on the prize, hold your nose, get your degree and get out.

In all this, as in all of life, do not forget to listen to the Word of God. It is very easy, when transferring to a state university where women and men are housed on the same floor, of a dorm and alcohol stamps out your conscience, to forget the teachings of Proverbs: “Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.”

There is a vein of thinking among preppers that only trade schools and practical skills are useful. They talk about college, advanced education, the arts and humanities as being inferior to practical knowledge, such as the skill of fixing a car.

There is some truth in that. But it is not fully true. A real liberal arts degree from a real higher education institution is worth more than almost anything in the world. I would encourage readers to visit Hillsdale College in Michigan and listen to Victor Davis Hanson talk about education. There is such a thing as a liberal arts degree that sets a mind above the non-collegiate view of the world.

A truly educated person will be more successful in life, whether that is financial, personal, or moral success. I hope my essay encourages preppers to have discriminating taste in education, and to make the right decisions.

Mr. Rawles,

Like many others that bought military surplus steel NATO fuel cans, I was frustrated by the fact that only large diameter leaded fuel spouts were available for these cans. This meant that I had to either use a funnel or transfer the fuel to another can before putting it into the tank of a car with an unleaded (small diameter) fuel receptacle. A friendly employee at my local Lowe's found me an inexpensive solution.  I brought my spigot to the store so I can test fit items (always a good idea for any home improvement project), and he gave me the following two items:

1.) A Genova 1" x 3/4" Polypropylene Coupling


2.) A Murray #12 Adjustable [Aero-Seal style] Hose Clamp

I stuck the reducer in the hose that was attached to my pour spout, slipped the clamp over it, and tightened it.  I used it tonight with great success!

It cost me $2.74 for two reducers and two clamps, so it was a $1.37 solution for each of my nozzles.  - Lee H.

July is the time of year that Winter Wheat is harvested, priced, and sold.

You can call an area “Ag service” farm and seed center, and ask for a price to buy Winter Wheat by the bushel.  Look them up in the phone book, or ask a farmer.

The Ag service may buy it locally from a farmer for you, and clean it and bag it.  Or they will buy it cleaned and bagged from their seed wholesaler.  You will receive it ready to store or grind.

If they ask why you want 25-50 bushels of wheat, you can tell them you want to plant it, or you want to bake with it, or feed the squirrels.  They won’t really care.  (Don’t be intimidated because you’re not a farmer.  They are merchants looking for customers, and you’re a customer!) 

Before you order, check with any prepping friends who might want to go in on an order with you.

A bushel contains 60 pounds of wheat, and when you buy it at about $9 per bushel, you’re only paying 15 cents a pound.  Since a pound of wheat has about one day’s worth of calories (around 1,750), you’re buying long-storing (25+ years) calories very cheaply.

I put my wheat (now 24,000 pounds) in 55 gallon drums (now 60) .  Figure 400 lbs. per drum.  (I saved all the original bushel bags, in case some day I need to dispense my grain in large quantities, or move it.)

I buy barrels on Craigslist for $10.  I’ve used both plastic and metal barrels, but I prefer the metal for food, plastic for water.  I use drum liners from www.usplastic.com  (55 Gallon LDPE Drum Liner 37" x 40" x 4 Mil).  That is probably overkill with the sealed barrels, but it’s just $3 a liner. 

I drive out the oxygen with 1 pound of dry ice (set on 2-3 paper towels) per barrel.  I let it sublimate (melt) for a day before I seal up the barrel. 

If you put boards across the top of the barrels, you can stack them safely.  I have all my barrels two-high.  That’s still less than 6 ft high.  Then I put on more boards, and fill the 3rd level with 6-gallon buckets. 

Keep the drums in a cool dark place, like a basement.  Put wood or cardboard between the metal or plastic, and the cement floor, to prevent rusting or leaching of chemicals.  Put the drums along the basement wall, and hang a curtain/sheet in front for secrecy, and to keep them even cooler.

If you miss the Winter Wheat harvest, put in an order for Spring Wheat, which will price and be available this fall.  Remember, Hard Red or White are what you want for long term storage.

Also consider storing some Rye.  (Bushels of Rye are 56 pounds.) It’s cheaper per pound, has different nutrients, and works well baked on its own, or mixed 25% with wheat before grinding.

If available, you can also store Triticale (wheat/rye hybrid), Durum Wheat, Buckwheat, Amaranth, Teff, Kamut, Quinoa, Spelt, Sorghum etc.  Variety is fun and healthy.  Oats also store well.

Stop buying 40 pound buckets of wheat for $50-$75 each.  For that money, you can buy 400 pounds (one barrel’s worth) directly.  You’ll know what you’ve got, and how it was stored. 

And at the same time you’ll build an important local relationship that may pay big food dividends if TSHTF. - Scott in Wisconsin

To plan for your recipes, be advised that each of the following whole grains when ground up will yield about 1 cup of grain flour.

• 3/4 C. Wheat

• 1/2 C. Pearled Barley

• 1-1/3 C. Rolled Oats (Grind these up in your blender)

• 2/3 C. Buckwheat

• 2/3 C. Quinoa

• 1/2 C. Navy Beans

• 2/3 C. Lentils

• 1/2 C. Chickpeas/ Garbanzo Beans

• 5/8 C. Popcorn

• 2/3 C. Kamut

• 2/3 C. Millet

Regards, - K.A.F.


Regarding J-B Weld: It is not like most other two part epoxies.  The additives in the product impart a very important characteristic: It can be machined (drilled, grinded, sanded and even tapped.   Normal two-part epoxy tends to chip and shatter when drilled, can't be tapped effectively and is extremely hard to sand.  J-B Weld, on the other hand, is easily worked with normal home workshop tools. 

Just last weekend I had a stripped machine screw hole for the screw that holds one of my car's sun visors up.  I filled the hole with J-B Weld, let it cure overnight, then drilled and tapped to the original size.  It worked just great - sort of a liquid Heli-Coil.  I've done plenty of work with "regular" two-part epoxies on my boat and I know this couldn't be done with a two-part epoxy (like West Systems), at least without additives.

With all that said, J-B Weld is not suitable for a drilling-tapping application subject to (a) much tension or (b) high heat.  I figure any more than about 10-15 foot pounds of torque would cause the J-B Weld to separate and heat makes [virtually] all epoxy resins soften - so it's not going to hold an engine head bolt in with it!

Best, - Matt R.


Hey Jim,
I thought I would mention that Slime tire sealant breaks down fairly rapidly in my experience and becomes a worthless mess inside of your tire/tube.  I have had much better luck with Ultraseal which does not freeze and has not broken down in the 4-5 years I have been using it. Regards, - S.D. in West Virginia

CPT Rawles:s
I know this is a very obscure topic, but having been a communication guy on a Special Forces A Team for many years and a ham radio operator, I know a couple things about wire antennas in trees. I've tried them all, slingshots, bow and arrow, lead weight, one-quart canteens et cetera.

The problem is getting the right weight to mass ratio - otherwise you either can't get the rope up high enough, it gets caught up in the branches or wraps around the branch you are throwing at.

The single best object I have found is an M69 [spherical steel] grenade simulator body (without the screw-in simulator fuse assembly). It is just a hollow metal ball with two holes in it. It is slightly smaller than a baseball and has enough heft to bring it right back to the ground. Simply run the rope through the holes and tie to itself and throw overhand like a baseball. (underhand never seems to work for some reason, though it is easier on the arm)

Once the grenade body gets back to the ground with the hoist rope over the branch, untie and attach your doublet or other antenna and hoist away.

You can usually find grenade simulator bodies at Army/Navy surplus stores.

I hope that this helps someone. - Mike S.

Hi-yo silver! Typically, the precious metals are in their summer doldrums in July and August. but not this year. This coming Autumn could get very interesting, depending on financial developments on the periphery of Europe. All eyes are presently on Greece, but Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Iceland will probably soon be in the headlines again. I wouldn't be surprised if silver gets above $55 per ounce. Its a good thing that most SurvivalBlog readers have been buying on the dips.

Reggie Middleton warns, over at Zero Hedge: Eighteen Percent of the EU is Literally Junk, Carried as Risk Free Assets at Par Using 30x+ Leverage: Bank Collapse is Inevitable!!!

Speaking of silver, don't miss this commentary from James Turk: Huge Base Will Propel Silver to Record Highs With Gold.

And here is some commentary from Chris Duane: 11 Silver Investor Mentality Shifts

Moody's Considers Downgrading U.S. Credit Rating Amid Stalemate Over Debt Limit

John Galtfla:  Total Euro Chaos Tonight

The Lumberman pointed us to this at Zero Hedge: What An American Bank Run Would Look Like

The ever-cheery Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports: Italy and Spain must pray for a miracle--Once again Europe's debt crisis has metastasized, and once again the financial authorities face systemic contagion unless they take immediate and dramatic.

Tom in Buffalo flagged this: 20% Drop in Housing to Cause Recession in 2012, Says Gary Shilling. Here is a quote: "Housing prices will fall another 20% and underwater mortgages will balloon from 23% to 40%."

Pierre M. kindly sent this: Analyst: Even Dollar Stores Struggling in ‘Obama Depression’

Central Falls, Rhode Island, struggles to step back from financial abyss.


Items from The Economatrix:

Gerald Celente:  Arab Spring + European Summer = Winter Of Discontent

Rampant Unemployment = The Death Of The Middle Class - 40 Facts That Prove The Working Class Is Being Systematically Wiped Out

Could Silver One Day Be Worth More Than Gold?

Killer Combo of High Gas, Food Prices are Here

Greece Set to Default on Massive Debt Burden

Health experts warn of new tick-borne threat. (Thanks to Rick for the link.)

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Loyal reader R.B.S. sent this: Answer for Invasive Species: Put It on a Plate and Eat It

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One of my consulting clients took my advice and transitioned from using clunky cigarette lighter plugs to 30 Amp Anderson Power Pole genderless connectors. He showed me a large assortment of cable and terminal adapters, splitters, and and terminal blocks--all with Power Pole connectors. He had recently ordered these from a very reliable company called West Mountain Radio, in Wisconsin. Most of their products appear to be American made. I was particularly impressed with their RigRunner 4004 USB fused power bus. It has both sets of standard Anderson Power pole outlets and a pair of USB power outlets. The same client also introduced me to the PowerWerx AP03 automatic voltage-sensing cutoff switch. This nifty device protects you from draining your car battery, if you ever leave a CB or ham radio turned on. It also uses Power Pole connectors.

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Oklahoma pharmacist gets life for killing robber. Excessive force was apparent to the jury. Legal Tip for Those in First World Countries: Don't shoot an opponent when he's no longer a threat.

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A reminder that the deadline for the Ready Made Resources Preparedness Video Contest is July 26th. Instructional (nonfiction) videos on any topic related to family preparedness are sought. The prizes are a brand new Rock Rivers Arms (RRA) Elite Comp M4 (AR-15 series compatible ) complete Barreled Upper Receiver and a Trijicon Reflex sight with a combined retail value of more than $1,400. Please keep your privacy in mind when you create your videos. (Don't mention any surnames or towns). You may post up to three videos to YouTube for consideration in the judging. Videos up to 10 minute long that are your original work that are already posted to YouTube are also eligible for the judging. To enter, e-mail the URL for video(s) to: grisrob@gmail.com. Do not send the videos themselves or links to videos stored at other web sites. Only nonfiction videos that you post to YouTube are eligible. The creator of the best video will win a brand new a brand new complete Rock Rivers Arms (RRA) Elite Comp M4 (AR-15 series compatible ) Barreled Upper Receiver and a Trijicon Reflex sight. The deadline or posting videos is July 26th. The video judged best will be announced on Monday August 1st, 2011.

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A follow-up to and Odds 'n Sods link a couple of months back: Former Columbus [New Mexico] mayor pleads guilty to firearms trafficking

"How pale is the art of sorcerers, witches, and conjurors when compared with that of the government's Treasury Department!" - Ludwig von Mises

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 35 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 35 ends on July 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 many situations where multiple families may need to live together under one roof.  These can range from retreats for a SHTF scenario, economics such as job loss, ill health of an older family member, to a multi-family vacation.   Recently, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Mexico with my husband’s family where a total of seventeen people shared one house.  In addition to sharing the house, a city-wide water shut-off occurred for three days.  Also, I spent the last seven months sharing my home with a parent that had health problems and did not have means to care for themselves financially.   These recent experiences provided some useful insight into planning for multiple families living under one roof.

Chain of Command
:  It is very important to determine the chain of command prior to any combining of families and living spaces.  Who will make the ultimate decisions?  This will most likely be the owner of the house since it is their house and they need to preserve the integrity of their property.  Other options could include:  a council of family reps, different people for different areas such as finances, food, etc.  In both of my experiences, it was the owner of the house.  Regardless of who is given that responsibility, it needs to be determined before the families combine.  This alleviates a lot of confusion, but most importantly, everyone involved will know what to expect and will take ownership of it.  It will become an automatic given, instead of becoming a power struggle later on.

:  The spiritual ideologies of the families that you choose to combine living spaces with should be seriously considered before combining living spaces.  If you are serious about your religion, it will dictate how you live and your perspective on everything.  In my experiences, we had a combination of devout Catholics, cultural Catholics, agnostics, Old Testament legalistic Christians, and born again Christians.  The agnostics were constantly challenging the others, including the children, and the Old Testament legalists and Catholics looked down on those who do not follow their practices.  While adults can handle questions about their faith and persecution in such situations, the children may be susceptible to doubt and extremely vulnerable to persecution.  And if there is little privacy for the family, it will be hard to sit down with the children and discuss various encounters without others hearing what is said.  And if the adults are extremely busy, it will be hard to monitor what encounters occur and intervene if necessary.  This issue can easily add stress to an already stressful situation.  If combining with families of other faiths is unavoidable, it is a good idea to communicate boundaries with the other families, as well as have daily prayer and family devotions in your family’s designated space or withdraw to a place away from the shelter.

:  Living spaces should be allocated as fairly as possible, and considering the load on the house.  The house in Mexico that we stayed in had five bedrooms and three bathrooms.  In our case, it was decided that each family would have one bedroom to share.   However, two of the bathrooms were only accessible through their respective bedroom.  The result was that the other three rooms/families, a total of twelve people, had to share one bathroom, while the remaining five people had two bathrooms.  As you can imagine, this became quite an issue.  Another factor to consider is personal space.  When multiple families live together, it becomes important for individuals to “get-away.”  It is stressful for families to share spaces, let alone multiple families.  If at all possible, each family should have their own room or space to call their own.   Keep in mind that couples will not have privacy that they may be used to.  Also, lack of furniture may be possible.  Let your bodies to get used to different sleeping and sitting arrangements now.  Our kids had to sleep on blankets over tile floors for over a week, until other arrangements could be made.  Camping is a good opportunity for this.  Another fun opportunity for kids is to let them build forts in their rooms and sleep in them.

:  Food can easily become a major issue due to cost and different eating preferences.  Again this is an issue that should be determined prior to combining living spaces.  In one case, we were on vacation so it was very ad hoc.  Some families were going out to eat, while others were purchasing, cooking and sharing food.  At many times, we would purchase food for ourselves and put it in the kitchen, only to find out later that people had helped themselves to our food and finished it.  One way of alleviating that problem would be to designate certain areas of the kitchen for each family, or to designate areas that are off-limits.  For longer term situations, a schedule of provision would help.  For example, one family could obtain and prepare food for Monday, Tuesday and Friday, while another family obtains and prepares food for Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, depending on the number of families.  Then they can switch the schedule.  In an SHTF situation, more than likely, everyone would working together and providing for the entire group.  However, in that case, there still needs to be a decision maker to make sure that food is allocated fairly and to ensure that random snacking, especially on foods designated for meals, does not occur.

:  In this article, it is assumed that there will be a water source already for the building.  Regardless of the situation, knowledge and practice of water conservation is important.  If families are combined for financial reasons, water conservation will save money on the water bill.  If families are combined for a SHTF situation, water conservation can mean life and death.  Some examples of water conservation are:

- A typical practice in Mexico for showers is to rinse in the shower and get the hair wet, then to turn off the water while shampooing, soaping and shaving.  Once that is finished, the water is then turned on to rinse off. 

Teeth brushing – Water conservation here is common sense: Apply toothpaste, get the toothbrush wet, then to turn off the water while brushing teeth.  Then turn the water on to rinse the toothbrush.  A cup of water should be used to rinse the mouth out.

Hand washing - Get the hands wet, apply soap, turn off the water while scrubbing, then rinse. [Again, this is traditional common sense, but often ignored in our wasteful society.]

Dish washing
- A typical dish washing practice in Mexico is to have a small pool of water in a sink, and to have a wet sponge saturated with concentrated dish soap.  The dishes are washed with the sponge and a bowl is used to dip in the water and pour the water over the dishes to rinse them off.  Very little water is used this way.  Since the dish soap is concentrated, it is a good idea to make sure the soap is compatible with your hands before using larger quantities.

Emergency situations may arise and provisions for emergencies should be considered.  When we were in Mexico, the city notified the residents that the water would be shut off for three days in order to clean the system and change the filters.  Since this is a normal occurrence in that town, most residents already have their plumbing feed directly into water reservoirs that are installed on their roofs and have plenty of buckets and pails filled and available for use.  How much water on reserve should take into account the number of people in the living space.   Preparation for the upcoming shut-off included:  everyone taking their showers, filling the buckets, filling their water bottles for drinking and filling the sink for washing dishes.  Since the reservoir feeds directly into the plumbing of the house, it was expected that flushing toilets would only be done in the case of solid eliminations and there would be no showers.  Other provisions included buying disposable dishes and utensils as well as diaper wipes for hand washing.  [For a short term emergency,] antibacterial solutions, such as Germex, could have been used as well.  Communication and constant monitoring of the children during emergencies is extremely important.  During the shut-off, one child left the sink faucet full blast while brushing their teeth.  Another misunderstood instructions and left a solid elimination in the water bucket instead of the toilet, which used more water and contaminated the bucket.  Water conservation habits and practicing for emergencies can help prevent these kinds of occurrences during true emergencies.

:  When families cohabitate, finances will become an issue.  It is best to keep as many items separate as possible.  However, there will be some items that cannot be separated, such as utilities.  It is best to determine how these items will be paid for, what each family’s payment responsibility will be based on, as well as general usage levels, prior to living together.  Financial responsibilities can be based on percentage of house occupied, percentage of people in the house, anything above a certain usage baseline, etc.  My experience is that electrical and water use is extremely different between families.  Get into the habit of turning off lights and other electrical devices when not in use.  This will save a lot of money over the long run and give fewer opportunities for people to say that you are not paying your fair share in the event that you do cohabitate. 

:  To ease conflict in general, it is a good idea to keep everyone on similar eating, napping (if necessary) and sleeping schedules.  And strategic quiet times will be helpful for those that need more sleep.  We ran into a lot of problems because the adults wanted to stay up until midnight, while some of the children went to bed around 9pm.  The children couldn’t sleep, or they would wake up early the next morning and make noise while the adults were trying to sleep.  And if people don’t get their sleep, they usually get grouchy, which increases potential for more conflict.  It would be helpful to practice now sleeping through a lot of noise. 

Children and discipline
:  Children naturally need direction and discipline, and different families have different parenting styles.  It is preferable to avoid living with people with drastically different parenting and discipline styles, but even families with similar parenting styles will encounter conflict.  In most cases, it is preferable for the child’s parent to do the disciplining.  For example, if a child goes up to another child and hits them and the parent is in the room, let the parent handle it.  It is also a good idea to understand your boundaries with someone’s child, by discussing discipline with the parent before things happen.  If the parent of that same child that hit the other child is not in the room, how would they want that handled?  Would they prefer that you take care of the matter, or would they prefer that you go to them?  If they want you to take care of the matter, what are your boundaries?  It also a good idea for all the adults to develop house rules for the kids and make sure they know what they are.  

:  When the house is shared with other people, the need for cleaning will increase quite a bit.  The responsibility for cleaning common spaces, such as living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms should be shared with everybody and should be distributed proportionally.  Keep in mind that these places will need to be cleaned more frequently due to more people.  A schedule of chores should be made, with input from everyone involved, to eliminate miscommunication.  Cleaning of personal spaces can be at your own leisure, but if it is someone else’s house, things should be kept tidy and clean out of respect.  Train your children and yourselves now to be tidy and clean up after themselves.  Simple things such as habits of picking up their dirty clothes and making their beds will go a long way in these circumstances.  Washing laundry can also present conflict.  It is best to have an agreed upon schedule, giving each family at least a day, so that people eager to clean their items do not rush other people’s loads.  Also, some people are very particular over some of their more private pieces of clothing, so it is best to not help unless they give you permission to.  

:  When multiple families are living together, stress will increase.  The noise level will also increase, which can be extremely stressful for some people.  If you currently do not have a known outlet for your stress, or have destructive or negative outlet, please considering discovering or changing your stress outlet before things get worse.  Exercise can also give the body an outlet for stress, and prayer and/or soothing music can give the mind an outlet. Things such as shopping or eating have the potential to do more harm than good.  As was mentioned earlier, it is beneficial to have scheduled quiet times.  This allows people to gather their thoughts, plan, pray, read, nap, and unwind.  In Mexico, the daily siesta occurs between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., where all the shops and businesses close down. 

:  Communication is key for the success of families living together in a mutually beneficial way.  Everyone should clearly present their expectations and needs up front, calmly discuss options so the decision-maker can choose the solution and present the decision to all involved.  Since the decision-maker has been agreed upon by all, his/her decision should be respected by all, even if people personally do not agree with it.  In the case of financial decisions, they should be written, accessible and signed by affected parties.  In the event that a lawsuit arises (heaven forbid!) from financial decisions, a paper trail should help.  Chore schedules should be posted in areas for all to see.  House rules for the children should be posted as a reminder.  When conflicts or situations arise, communication is vital.  Presuppositions need to be identified in case there have been misunderstandings, before making claims about a particular instance.  One of the family members that lived with me did not know how to communicate when there was a conflict.  His emotional reaction to any conflict completely shut the doors to effective communication about that conflict.  Accordingly, there will probably be long-term implications in our relationship due to relatively minor issues that occurred in the past.  Start now in developing effective communication and conflict resolution skills, and pass those skills onto your children. 

When it comes to planning for multiple families to combine living spaces, prevention and planning are vital.  Practice conservation and stress reduction now.  Choose families that are similar in faith, in child rearing, and level of thrift.  When a family or multiple families is chosen, communicate openly and respectfully regarding these subjects, present expectations and designate a decision-maker prior to living together.  Live with that family with respect and consideration.  When conflicts arise, respectful communication will minimize the impacts of conflicts that will arise.  In doing so, these steps will ensure that living with other families will mutually beneficial.

I have a question and would like your opinion on a question that relates to your recent article, The New Century: An Era of Upright Spikes.  I have also read countless other articles and watched interviews/videos from 'experts' that all have the same general consensus: Our economy, as well as the globe, is either going to collapse or get significantly worse.

My question; I am curious if there is any way to tell how long we have to prepare for WTSHTF of TEOTWAWKI?  My reasoning; I want my family (currently my wife and I along with two dogs) and group members to be as prepared as possible.  While I don't want to accrue any 'new' debt.  I have wondered recently would it be worth it to put preparedness items on a credit card in order to be more prepared, especially if we are weeks or months away.  I do know these things are hard to predict and most likely cannot be predicted, I am curious if there is some point in history that this may help. - D.R.K.

JWR Replies: We are far more likely to see another two or three years of a "muddle through economy" (as economist John Mauldin aptly terms it) before the inevitable dollar collapse.  In the short term, this will be deflationary (in terms of wages and many paper assets). So debt could be very dangerous if you lose your job or have any big medical bills before mass inflation arrives. My advice is to avoid any unnecessary debt, at least for now! When mass inflation arrives, you can of course gleefully chase down your creditors, and pay them off in inflated dollars. But please don't make the mistake of diving into debt. I had a friend that did that just before Y2K, and he ended up despondent and committed suicide.

Hi Jim,
I was just re-reading your tangibles investing article linked in today's blog. 

Please let your readers know that even though preemption is the rule for the Ohio cities that had previously banned standard capacity magazines; Ohio has a very unusual state [felony] law:

Any magazine 31 rounds and larger is classified as a "automatic firearm". This may sound crazy but it is true.  So don't add 40 or 50 round magazines or 100 round drums to your gun collection in Ohio.

Under Title 29 of the Ohio Code: "(E) “Automatic firearm” means any firearm designed or specially adapted to fire a succession of cartridges with a single function of the trigger. “Automatic firearm” also means any semi-automatic firearm designed or specially adapted to fire more than thirty-one cartridges without reloading, other than a firearm chambering only .22 caliber short, long, or long-rifle cartridges." - G.W. in Ohio

After first picking up your book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" on a whim, SurvivalBlog.com has definitely changed a lot about how I live my life, particularly in how I choose to spend money.  As a prospective medical student, I can't buy a retreat property and set it up the way I should (however much I want to).  However, there are many things I have found I can do.  After reading The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason years ago at the encouragement of my Dad, I started to set aside 10% of what I made for investment purposes.  I had a nice little amount saved when I came across SurvivalBlog.  A lot of the things said about the dollar's decline made a lot of sense to me.  However, while I do believe a serious collapse is possible, and I want to be prepared for it, I have a limited amount of funds.  Therefore, I wanted to put the bulk of my funds into something that will help me prepare should something go wrong, be a good investment whether collapse happened or not, and be something I could enjoy no matter what.  That being the case, the two things I have spent most of my money on are guns and books.  While guns fit all the parameters of what I listed above, books are not really a great investment if you plan on getting your money back later on or plan on turning a profit.  

My library is now loaded with most of the survival fiction suggested on the SurvivalBlog bookshelf, a fair number of the other recommended books, and books I personally felt could be of some use (Falcon Guides, books on how native Americans lived, how Civil War soldiers lived, books that would just be an entertaining read, and so forth).  I frequently stop at a used bookstore on my way back from volunteering in the hospital Emergency Room.  Used bookstores are a great way to find books at low prices.  I am blessed to have a rather large used bookstore near my home.  Amazon is of course another great resource but they are usually (but not always) a little more expensive and you just don’t get to have the same browsing experience as you get at a brick and mortar store.  I must take this opportunity to thank Avalanche Lily for recommending The Sign of the Beaver  and The Crispin trilogy.  In elementary school, my school sponsored an event we were allowed to pick out a free book once a year.  Because The Sign of the Beaver had an Indian boy on the cover, and I was interested in Native American life as well as being part Native American myself, I chose it.  I remember I thought it was too long and difficult to read, so I put it on my shelf and mostly put it out of my mind until I saw Lily's recommendation.  Needless to say I changed my view on the length and difficulty of the book and even though it is a "children's book," I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The first Crispin book has proved to be entertaining and informative as well.  I find books written for children can be great resources especially in the realm of survival.  These books tend to cut survival skills down to their basics and are written...get this...so even a child can understand it.  While knowing the exact angles at which to place your sticks to start a fire may be useful, knowing that you should make a stick tepee will probably work just as well.  I am not saying you should do away with the "real" manuals (I have many), but children's books would make a great addition.

I mentioned volunteering in the ER earlier.  I mainly started volunteering to get experience for medical school, but I have since come to enjoy my time spent up there.  You get to help people and gain valuable experience, if not in the way y