September 2011 Archives

Friday, September 30, 2011

A reminder that next Tuesday (October 4th) is Book Bomb Day for my new novel "Survivors". If you have a blog of your own, brief mentions of the book release with links to my Writings Page would be greatly appreciated. Please wait until Tuesday to place your order. That way the book will have a better chance of climbing up to the Top 20 in's overall sales ranking. Thanks!


Today we present the last two entries for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th. A few articles received in the last few days of the contest will be "rolled over", for posting in the next round, because of space constraints.

Everyone wants to be able to take care of the family When The Schumer Hits The Fan (WTSHTF).  We have all read dozens of articles about how to garden, store food, keep seeds, protect our homes, and generally go about the living of life day-to-day.  We've heard the mantra: Life after the TSHTF is not for the faint of heart, nor the easily-grossed-out.  We've also seen a few that go into detail on how to prepare medically for disaster.  While all of us will be working hard to provide for our families and keep them safe, we also need to be concerned about something less-often talked about:  family planning when there is no hormonal birth control, and prophylactics are scarce.  Heaven knows,  when TSHTF, you and your existing family will be busy adjusting to your new life, and may not be ready to welcome a new bundle of joy before your local area stabilizes. 

The dangers of unexpected or poorly planned pregnancies in a situation where medical facilities and options will be extremely limited cannot be ignored.  Communities may have no real medical expertise, and certainly, without anesthetic, a cesarean section won't be a terribly pleasant or successful affair.  A woman who has had problem pregnancies in the past will most likely continue to have problem pregnancies.  If you suspect your partner will have a problem pregnancy, or if she's had one before, extra care must be taken to consider the time and place of birth: for example, temporarily moving to the area closest to the best medical personnel available.  

Another oh-so-fun factor to consider is the very real possibility of being due mid-winter, when snow might be high, and travel difficult.  Families may want to consider planning the children they want to be born in the fall or in the spring or summer, rather than mid-winter, just so that if there is a semi-competent medical person in the vicinity, they can get there in time without being side-lined by a blizzard.  It's not very likely that the county will be out snow-plowing and salting all the roads, right?  This is not to say, of course, that all pregnancies will end in disaster, of course.  Most of the time, with most women, the pregnancy and birth will probably go just fine.
 Aside from the risk inherent in pregnancy and childbirth itself, however, there are other reasons why planning for pregnancy is important.  There are implications for a woman's health after the baby is born, her family's health, and even to some extent, the health of the community itself. 

Families will probably need to be bigger than the “typical” American size of 2.5 children as a matter of necessity.  Where food is scarce, and farm labor is the mainstay of food production, it will be a blessed family that has four or five children to help out.  More importantly, though, a family needs the children well-spaced, so that there is time for the mother to recuperate in between pregnancies. For the preservation of her health, a mother should probably not have more than one child every two or three years.  This is because of the time it will take to recover from the pregnancy, birth, and the first year or two of infancy.  Remember, when TSHTF the baby will need to be breastfed, like it or not, because home-made formula is not a smart option if there is any alternative.  Babies should be breastfed for a minimum of 1 year, but ideally, it should be closer to two years, especially in areas where food or medical aid is scarce.  Breastfeeding beyond a year may be the difference between life and death for a young child after TSHTF. 

A woman who is worn-out from having a baby every year most likely will have difficulty helping with every-day tasks, let alone trying to manage the hard daily living of farm-work, gardening, and putting food on the table when there is no such thing as convenience food.  She might be fine for three or four years, but just try safely focusing on gardening, housework, and making food-- possibly over a fire or wood-burning stove with five under-five-year-old children running under foot.  Some of those babies aren't going to make it, and you'll end up with tiny graves in your plot.  If that thought isn't appealing to you, you need to start considering your options now.

Beyond your own household, though, there may be other factors to consider.  In a smaller community which depends on its members helping each other out, it would be a pretty uncomfortable state of affairs if most of the women in a community end up pregnant all at once.  It would be very difficult for women to help each other with, say, labor, or childcare if they're all in need of help themselves.  There are some tasks that are just not safe with a baby in tow, and women may need to trade tasks.  In addition, can you imagine if there are only one or two people in a community who are even remotely comfortable attending births, and there are three or four women in labor or about to go into labor?  If even one of them has complications, the others might be out of luck when it comes to having someone experienced on hand to help out. 

Now, I'm not saying all the families in a community should be drawing lots for the right to get pregnant, of course.  Far from it.  But coordination among women or families isn't at all a fanciful idea, and may be the difference between having adequate help in the first few weeks or days or being completely on your own.  It's a small enough consideration to hold off on a pregnancy for six months to a year to space babies between families so not everyone is dealing with the squalling of an infant at all hours of the night at the same time. 
For families without the knowledge or supplies for family planning, purposeful spacing most likely won't be possible.  I firmly believe that children are gifts from God, and that He is the one that engenders new life.  On the other hand, I also believe that God expects us to be reasonable and moderate, and use all the (morally acceptable) tools at our disposal to prepare and take care of our families.  In contemporary society, many God-fearing families still depend on hormonal birth control (“the pill”) or IUDs, condoms, diaphragms, cervical cups, et cetera, to help manage child spacing and family size.  While those families can plan ahead a certain extent and stockpile extra supplies, they won't last forever.  Stockpiles containing latex items, like condoms and diaphragms face serious storage issues.  Latex is extremely sensitive to heat, cold, and light.  Without climate control, they won't be nearly effective enough to be reliable in preventing pregnancy past a summer or two   Stores are not even required to notify the purchaser if they've improperly stored them, so even in perfectly storing new condoms in your stockpile, you are not guaranteed a “good” lot that will last for many years.  Hormonal birth control is no joke, either.   Even if you could store more than a year or so worth of pills, just because something works now, doesn't mean it will continue to work-- and there are serious health risks to unmonitored hormone usage.  Or you could get stuck with a stockpile of mis-packaged pills, like the batch that was just recalled.  In the event that manufacturing of these supplies ceases and distribution dwindles, alternatives will need to be explored.

So, then, if “conventional” methods are unavailable, what options are you left with?
I'm sure we've all heard the “sex-ed” talk about different kinds of birth control, and heard how ineffective the “pull-out” and “rhythm” method are in comparison to the standard industrialized hormonal and physical barriers are.  The bad news is that the talk is right:  those methods probably won't help for long, and are pretty unreliable in any case.  The good news is that those are not the only options after TSHTF

You may know that in the animal kingdom, God designed most animals so that they come into “season” or “heat”  at most two times a year.  What you may not know is that although human beings are fertile all year round, women actually have been designed with seasons too, though the human fertility cycle runs on a monthly, not yearly, basis. Everyone knows about “that time of the month”.  Not everyone knows that there are other, equally important parts to the human fertility cycle that are predictable, observable, and measurable.   With the aid of something to write on and a writing instrument, you can use these observable and measurable signs on a day to day basis to determine the fertile and infertile portions of a given cycle.   Using the knowledge of which part of the cycle she's in on a given day, a couple can choose to avoid or achieve pregnancy.  This practice is called Natural Family Planning (NFP) or fertility awareness. 

There is over half a century of solid research underpinning the science of understanding, and the art of working with the human fertility cycle instead of against it.  You may have heard someone mention NFP or fertility awareness and dismissed it as a “glorified rhythm method”.  Unfortunately, if they've even ever heard of it, your doctor may have reinforced that notion.   The average American's understanding of NFP is severely flawed,  and influenced heavily by the pharmaceutical industry's consistent downplaying and misinformation campaign aimed squarely at your doctor.  By deciding to either abstain from or engage in sexual activity, on any given day, the method can be used to achieve or avoid/postpone pregnancy.  The best part is that NFP is actually just as effective as any form of hormonal birth control, with an effectiveness rating of 98% to 99%.  Even women with irregular menstrual cycles can reliably use NFP to achieve/avoid pregnancy.  It's more effective than a condom or a diaphragm.  It's free, and perpetual.  Once you know NFP, you can use it for the rest of your reproductive life without any adverse side effects, and you can teach it to your children when they get married.  You can't “run out” of NFP.  It can even help couples who are having difficulty with trying to get pregnant, so it works both ways. 

There are several “flavors” of NFP, ranging from the simple to the fairly complex.  Whichever method you choose to learn, it's important that you do not wait to start learning.  I strongly urge couples to start investigating this most basic of knowledge before TSHTF so that they can be prepared. While anyone can learn NFP (and I do mean anyone), learning it is akin to learning how to ride a bike, swim, or shoot.  You will have to learn about it, do it, and practice some more before you feel fully comfortable.  After TSHTF is not the time to try and figure it out on your own.  You don't learn to swim when you fall out of the boat, and you don't learn to shoot when you're going hunting for the first time.

It's best that, if at all possible, you find a teacher that can help you learn the symptoms and help you learn to reliably interpret your cycles.  It's important to remember that NFP is not something that a woman is solely responsible for.  For NFP to work, the couple must be in agreement, and communicate on a daily basis. Once your understanding is firmly established, the effort that goes into observing, and charting is virtually unnoticed.  It will feel like a natural extension of your relationship with your spouse, and will have some interesting fringe benefits.  A key point to remember is that, although in the beginning it may seem daunting, the process is quite simple. Really, if you can learn to tie your shoes, you can learn NFP.  I promise.

There is nothing you need to stockpile for it other than something to write on and something to write with and perhaps if you are so inclined, a book or two for reference and teaching your children when the time comes for them to learn about the birds and bees.  You might consider getting certified to teach NFP to other couples through an association like the Couple-to-Couple League.  You can use the training to teach the other families in your community in case they didn't prepare.  You might also seriously consider obtaining a supply of glass thermometers (instead of the digital, battery-powered kind) for several reasons.  Some of the NFP methods rely on cross-checking body temperature with the other signs.  Equally, though, if you want to be able to determine someone's temperature to, say, check if they're getting an infection from a wound or childbirth or a viral illness, a thermometer is important.  The old glass-mercury thermometers are generally not available [new] in the US, but alternatives do exist.  Glass thermometers are more accurate than digital, and have several other advantages:  no batteries to run down, no need for re-calibration after just a few years, they can be sterilized, and they might make a good trade-item later. 

Although God is the only real arbiter of new life, and all our plans are subject to Him, the  knowledge  of our fertility cycles gives us the ability to discern our actions.  Our families do not need to be beholden to pharmaceutical companies to “help” us control our God-given fertility.  When TSHTF, you don't have to be afraid of the specter of more children than you can manage, or your wife  getting pregnant when it would seriously endanger her health.  You can learn how to work with a woman's natural cycle to plan your family safely, reliably, effectively, and cheaply.

For more information: 

“Just think--it may be a new experience.”  For many of us "just thinking" may indeed be a new experience if it means making TEOTWAWKI survival choices purposefully and rationally,  We need to apply that quote and really think before deciding what and how much to buy as part of our survival plan. This is especially true when it comes to choosing firearms because they are our primary survival weapons.

Calm and logical thought processes are vital to selecting tools key to surviving in an “end of the world as we know it” scenario.  But the advice many give about selecting firearms seems to suggest shortsighted, poorly researched decision-making processes that waste resources.  Sometimes I am amazed and even dismayed by some of the choices “preppers” make about the type, quality, and quantity of their weapons.

In general, prepping for survival presents us with the worst possible dilemma:  Having to prepare for the unknown.  We don’t know exactly what a crisis is going to be, when it will happen, how serious it will be, or how long it will last.  Nevertheless we must prepare.  The old saw goes that we should “prepare for the worst and hope (pray) for the best.”

This tool, of all the of  thousands of weapons available in America today, should be the one most capable of providing a reliable, effective, general purpose weapon that will put meat on the table and prevent the survivalist–and those who depend on him from becoming . . . meat on the table.  You need a force multiplier, the one weapon you will grab when SHTF time comes to help you survive for however long and through whatever happens.  

And you must be able to feed it, clean it, and fix it, for however long the storm lasts.  

This is the gun you will grab from the ready rack when the alarm sounds that “Charlie is in the wire!”  This is not choosing what tie to wear to work today.   It is not “Oh my!  We are under attack.  Let’s see, what shall it be today, my AK has a lovely camouflage paint job that matches my Cabela’s camouflage jump suit, but my AR-7 .22 is so much lighter and convenient to carry.  Decisions, decisions.”  We are talking about having a weapon and web gear loaded and ready for instant action to defend your life. 

There is no “perfect” weapon that will do everything for everyone in every situation.  Is that Mosin-Nagant really your first choice?  If not, what are you doing with it?

It would be wonderful if someone invented a gun that can knock an elephant down every time with one shot but has no recoil.  How about a gun that has a hundred round magazine, but weighs just ounces.  A gun small enough to conceal but with thousand yard match accuracy and costing less than a hundred dollars.  It just ain’t hapnin’ any time soon.  So whatever weapon you choose is going to be a compromise. This compromise should be based upon your well thought out and researched evaluation of all of your perceived conditions of use.  

There are several factors to be considered.   They include but are not limited to the following:   Who will be using the gun?  There is no doubt that the Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum is a quality and formidable weapon, but it probably isn’t an ideal choice for the average sixteen year old girl.  Where will the weapon be used?  Your weapon choices might differ depending on locale, an urban setting versus a desert or mountainous region, and so on.     

A “lone wolf” with no dependents to worry about may make choices without considering their effect on anyone else.  If, however, you are a member of a group or family unit then there are several things to consider that may influence your decision.  

In a group situation (as pointed out in the novel "Patriots") selecting a single weapons platform that everyone carries has distinct advantages. Having all weapons fire the same ammunition, use the same magazines, share the same operating system, and use the same spare parts simplifies logistics, training, and support functions.  So the weapon of choice should be one everyone in the group will be able to manage and accurately fire down range.  Remember, every weapon put on the line can be a force multiplier that may mean the difference between life and death for members of your group.  

The ability to carry substantial quantities of ammunition is an obvious plus, as there is no telling when you will be able to restock.  Thirty round magazines are a very good thing.  There is no greater pucker factor in combat than realizing your weapon is between “empty and walk” and you now have to disengage long enough to reload. The fewer number times you are forced to reload the better, and that means carrying more rounds.  

The .308/7.62x51 is a great round but twice the weight of a .223/5.56, so for the same weight allocation, with the former you can only carry half as many rounds. The 12 Gauge round, for example, is heavy, bulky, and decidedly short on range.  Close in the 12 Gauge is a real stopper, but if the zombies are in range, so are you!  I personally don’t plan on letting anyone get within shotgun range in a SHTF situation.   Not when there is a better choice.

The 5.56 is powerful enough for both thin-skinned game and defense and pound for pound arguably provides the best bang for your buck. I simply don’t understand how or why someone could logically choose any weapon platform over the AR for defense, at least not here in the United States.  I would no doubt choose an AK if I lived in the former U.S.S.R., but I don’t.  

More than twelve million ARs are in civilian hands in the United States.  This doesn’t count those held by law enforcement, the National Guard or Army Reserve, and the active military.  There is more .223/5.56 ammunition in this country that any other caliber except .22 Long Rifle.  There are more spare parts, more accessories and more people trained specifically on the AR platform than on any other weapon.  

Buying anything other than an AR platform weapons system in the U.S. would be like buying Nitrous Oxide-assisted powered Lamborghini while living in Alaska.  It will look cool, until the snow falls, but where are you going to get fuel, where do you find parts, and who’s going to work on it?

The concept of a “survival arsenal” completely escapes me.  I like guns, I have lots of guns, but they are not all part of my survival plans.  Most of them will go into a hole until “normal” returns.  In a SHTF situation I can’t imagine having enough time to deal with all of those guns?   If they are not already in a hole they are going to be left behind for the bad guys.  Understand that in a true SHTF, “end of the world as we know it” situation, you are going to be “married” to your survival weapon 24/7. Get caught without it and you may not get another chance.  Under what circumstances are you planning on putting down that nasty old AR or AK with the thirty round magazine and picking up your trusty Mosin-Nagant tent peg?  I believe in charity and having good trading material could provide a way of filling in holes in your prepping inventory, but is it really a good idea to trade weapons and ammunition that could be used to kill you and yours, to people who didn’t even have the common sense to buy a weapon before the SHTF? 

This concept of a “survival arsenal” seems to have started in the 1970s with [Mel Tappan,] one of the early “survivalist” writers. He was a stock broker who (to the best of my knowledge) never fired a shot in anger, retired to Oregon and then wrote a book.  I am no doubt committing some kind of sacrilege by criticizing this guy as he seems to be revered by most as some kind of Grand Poobah Guru of “survivalism,” but I just don’t think the guy had a clue.  He seems to have made this stuff up as he went along with no thought to the consequences of what he was advising.  

The lists of suggested firearms in his book are wonderful for a gun dealer’s retirement plan but a terrible waste of money, and almost unmanageable for a survivalist.  He points out (correctly) that you must store sufficient amounts of ammunition, and spare parts for each gun.  Then in his examples of “actual batteries I have helped clients to select” he recommends a survival battery for a couple (that’s two people) in their late thirties consisting of fifteen (15) different types of ammunition and thirty seven (37) different makes and models of firearms.  

The point here is that we are preparing for a worst case scenario where we may be forced to abandon everything we own except what we can carry. We are not opening a sporting goods store, and this is not a contest to see who can accumulate the most stuff.  How are you going to transport all of those guns, all of that ammunition and all of those spare parts in a “bug out”?  It would be an interesting exercise to figure out how much all those guns and the spare parts and just one thousand rounds of ammunition for each would weigh and cost in today’s dollars.  

If you really want an “extra” gun or are buying for friends or relatives who may show up, then buy another AR or whatever the rest of the group is carrying, and stock ammo and parts for it. Most of us have a limited income and are hard pressed to come up with the money for daily living costs while at the same time we try adding to our store of backup supplies   I have lots of stuff I really need to do more than trying to find and buy parts and ammunition for thirty seven different guns that I don’t need, can’t use, can’t bug out with, and don’t want to trade into the hands of morons who weren’t smart enough to buy their own when they had the chance.  Just a side note here, one of the “recommended” guns for this “survival battery” was a Perazzi over and under shotgun.  Are you kidding me?

If you had this “ideal” battery and were in the middle of a SHTF situation and decided to go hunting, would you leave your defensive gun at your retreat and take your bolt action scoped hunting rifle along?  What if you ran into a flock of Ducks? I guess we need to take along a shotgun too, just in case.  How many rounds of ammunition do you carry for these guns?  And what happens when while out hunting you are confronted by a group of aggressors?  Your force multiplier is at home in the rack and you are armed with what amounts to a single shot rifle and a shotgun with birdshot.  

Or do you pack your battle rifle and full combat load of ammunition, your scoped hunting rifle, and your shotgun along.  Then you use one of them to shoot a deer. Now you have 150 lbs of meat, three guns, and all but one round of ammunition to haul back to camp.  Sounds like fun to me.      

Everything you choose to carry with you in a bug out is a compromise.  It would be nice if we could each carry ten guns, twenty gallons of water, thousands of rounds of ammunition and food for a month, but unless you plan on bringing your pet elephant along to share the load, you are just going to have to make some, logical, tough, informed, well thought out choices.  

(Note; If I lived in big Bear country I might carry a slug or buckshot loaded shotgun. One of us will definitely be carrying a “stewpot gun”–say, a Ruger .22 pistol–for small game.)  

An example of choices to be make and another one of my unfathomables is some people’s fascination with handguns.  I have a Springfield Armory XD in .45 ACP, great gun.  However, the gun, plus forty rounds of ammunition in three magazines, magazine pouch, and a holster weighs four and one half pounds.  

Now, I can choose to carry that handgun or, for the same 4-½ pounds of weight, I can carry one hundred and seventy-five (175) extra rounds for my AR.  That’s either forty rounds of .45 ACP or 175 rounds of Green Tip Steel Core 5.56mm going down range. The same holds true for my wife’s AR, and the ARs of my two sons.  For those of you not keeping track that’s a total of seven hundred (700) extra rounds between the four of us in addition to our basic combat load in magazines versus a total of one hundred sixty rounds of pistol ammo.  Or better yet, eighteen pounds (18 lbs.) of whatever we want.  Can you say, “Duh?”

The bottom line here is to analyze your situation, research the weapons offered on the market today, read SurvivalBlog and any other legitimate source you can find, talk to “experts,” then buy the one weapon that you feel is the best tool, of the best quality, that you can afford.  Then buy all the ammunition, and spare parts you think you will ever need to keep it running, and perhaps even some lightweight accessories you might want to make your weapon truly “yours.”  

Learn to shoot it, clean it, and repair it until you know it like your own body. And then pray.

JWR's Comments: The logic that you've employed is a bit fuzzy. To clarify a key point: Having different guns for different tasks does indeed make sense at home or at a fixed retreat. That is what Tappan was advocating. In his book Survival Guns, Tappan was not addressing "Bug Out " situations. He was primarily explaining gun selection for fixed retreats. G.O.O.D. situation would give a completely different complexion , because of weight and space constraints. Only in situations where budget or transportability are overriding concerns is it crucial to simplify to just few guns or just one gun.

It is also noteworthy that Mel Tappan's detailed "battery" recommendations in many cases were based on adjusting the lists of guns that his consulting clients already owned. Many of Tappan's clients were wealthy. That explains the reference to the Perazzi shotgun.

There is indeed a temptation by gun enthusiasts to buy more guns than needed. And that is often at the expense of other very important preparations. (Food, fuel, commo gear, medical gear, et cetera.) That sort of over-indulgence is a mistake. But to over-simplify is also a mistake. An AR-15 is not the answer to every self defense and hunting situation and circumstance. As someone who lives in Grizzly Bear country, I can state forthrightly that reliance on just a cartridge that was originally designed for varmint hunting would be foolhardy. (This echoes a statement in your e-mail.) In sum, balance is key to preparedness.

Every family needs to tailor their firearms selections based upon their budget, their terrain, their local fauna, and the sorts of personal security risks that they envision for their locale. A family firearms battery for someone living on a rural ranch in the northern Great Plains would be substantially different than for someone living in a forested Eastern suburb. Concealability is also an issue for many folks, especially those living in areas where open carry is either restricted or where it is simply uncommon.

I will be addressing these issues in a book that I'm presently writing: Rawles on Guns and Other Tools for Self-sufficiency. I hope to complete that book in about 18 months.

Woodland pattern battle dress uniforms (BDUs) were phased out by the Army years ago, but the U.S. Air Force has allowed their personnel to wear them longer, even as they transitioned to other camo pattern uniforms.  Final BDU phase out for the Air Force is reported to be November 1st, 2011, so the availability of this used gear will continue to taper off, even in base thrift stores. 

Note that with two forms of identification, most Americans can access a base to visit a thrift store.  Military base thrift stores are usually operated as private, charitable organizations and have limited hours and days. - W.J.

Once again, the American Redoubt shines, as a safe place to live: Firearm-related crimes interactive map.

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S.D. sent: Meet the Zetros: Apocalypse-Ready Motorhome

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Reader C.K. wrote to mention an illuminating article about the Red Dawn remake controversy: Libertas Sees the ‘Uncensored’ Version of MGM’s New Red Dawn

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G.G. was the first of several readers to send this: As Federal Crime List Grows, Threshold of Guilt Declines

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The Federal Reserve Plans to Identify "Key Bloggers" and Monitor Billions of Conversations. So not only does the NSA (a government agency) keep tabs on bloggers, but so will a new intelligence arm of a private banking cartel? Charming. (A tip of the hat to B.B. for the link.) OBTW, please don't write me to claim that the Federal Reserve is an agency of the government. It isn't. Ben Bernanke's Band of Fools is no more "Federal" than Federal Express (FedEx) or Federal Cartridge Company.

"Waking up at the start of the end of the world,
But it's feeling just like every other morning before,
Now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it's gone,
The cars are moving like a half a mile an hour
And I started staring at the passengers who're waving goodbye
Can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?

I believe the world is burning to the ground
Oh well I guess we're gonna find out
Let's see how far we've come
Let's see how far we've come

Well I believe it all is coming to an end
Oh well, I guess, we're gonna pretend,
Let's see how far we've come
Let's see how far we've come."

- Matchbox 20, Let's See How Far We've Come. (Lyrics by Rob Thomas, Paul Doucette, Kyle Cook, and Brian Yale.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th. Note there now isn't room to post articles received in the last few days of the contest, so any received after today will be "rolled over", for posting in the next round.

As we start to age, we have to compensate for arthritic knee joints, arthritis, and the inability to balance oneself on level ground, never mind walking on a wooded trail.  When finding myself in the situation of not being able to work as a Building Inspector, I decided to do something about it.  My problem was not being able to walk on uneven or ice-covered ground in order to inspect construction sites.  Those sites were the equivalent of an Appalachian trail minus the view in my mind.  My solution was to use a broken rake handle and insert a Philips head screwdriver with the handle ground down to fit into the hollow end of the handle,  thus presenting me with a pointed tip that resembled a very large ice pick with a five-foot long handle.  The tip was ground to an extremely sharp point and protruded out six inches from the bottom of the handle.  The idea was simple hold the stick with the point on the ice and walk by holding onto the slip proof staff.  The making of the ice stick just morphed into a great home project, by using materials that were just lying around the workshop looking for the right application.  By using material, that I had stored in the shop made my wife feel   like I was finally going to get rid of my stuff taking up room.  Her idea was that I would be making more room for her stuff in my space.  Ha , Ha! Thanks to many survival readers’ ideas and letters to survival blogs,   I was able to build new stuff out of old stuff and just wound up with different   stuff.  When   the last two major storms hit, my stuff proved necessary and practical: my wife has been quiet about that.  (I still check   the   trash cans for my stuff).  I do not expect that to last long but I believe I will survive her encroachment of her replacing her stuff where mine used to be.  By my warped thinking, she is investing her surplus stuff for use on my survival projects.

I started the ice stick by gathering the materials and finding the required hand tools under mountains of   hardware saved over the years.  All of the items were going to be projects someday and this was the day.  The first thing I picked up was a broken fiberglass rake handle that was cut off square at the bottom where the steel rake used to be.  The top already had a black plastic rubber handgrip on the end.  The length was ideal approximately 5’ long and the 1 ¼” diameter staff was made for the hand and it was strong enough to support my weight while leaning on it. 

In one survival handbook that I came across was a sketch of two Ice picks with the wood handles drilled through to attach corded loops.  This was done so that a gloved hand could slide through, grip the handles, and prevent the dropping of or losing the picks.  The purpose of the picks was to save yourself if you fell through thin ice and you could pull yourself out.  In addition to this, if you fell on the ice you were to lie flat (spread eagle) and by using the picks pull your way onto thicker ice.  With this in mind,  I decided to do the same thing with the walking stick.  Keep me upright in snow and on ice and having the ability to reach unto to the ice to test it.  The pick evolved into a large Philips head screwdriver, modified to serve this purpose.  Modifying the screwdriver was simple with a side grinder and a coarse sanding disk.  Take the screwdriver handle and sand the outer surface until it fits snugly into the bottom of the handle.  The next step was to drill through the fiberglass and plastic screwdriver handle (above the steel imbedded in the plastic) and through to the other side.  Then turn the handle until you are able to drill another hole an inch above the first one, then repeat the drilling again in the opposite direction.  After removing the burrs, push through each hole a 1/4" stove bolt with a washer between the bolt head and the pipe.  When the bolt comes through the other side, complete  the connections  by capping each bolt with another washer, lock washer, and bolt cap.  For the top of the newly created “Ice Walking Stick”, I secured a Para cord wrap with a hand loop, enabling the user  to  grasp the stick with a gloved hand and not drop it on the ground or in the snow.  The idea was also to be able to reverse the pick end to a rounded plastic screwdriver handle for non- icy days.  

I was very happy with my walking stick and it had served me very well until I joined Mr. Charlie Richie’s family of survivalists and became a fan of Richie’s magazine, “The Backwoodsman”.  A month after I emailed my Ice walking stick illustration to one of my favorite web sites,  I picked up “The Backwoodsman Volume 32 No. 3, May / June issue.  On page 53, you will find the article “The Survival Walking Staff” by Raul Limon.  This article was the survival staff, minus the “Carmen Touches.”  After reading the article, I realized that we have been walking around in the woods for years.  I am just catching up to those who used hiking sticks since man walked this world almost erect.  With that new insight from Charlie Richie on how can we improve if possible on what has already been proven to work through trial and error?
As I have enjoyed reading and mentally experimenting with the ideas presented to everyone from all of the subscribers, members, and bloggers (who are genuinely open friendly and sharing).  I wanted to present to them my version of the Ice Walking Stick and ideas for the survival kit.  Therefore, after reading the article it was time to reinvent the wheel or the stick in this case.

The second version of the walking stick that I created was an ice stick with all the survival necessities to protect you in an emergency bivouac in a 1-1/2" diameter PVC pipe, with the ice pick at one end, and a screw cap at the other end, with everything else inside the waterproof stick.

I have taken ideas from every issue of Charlie Riche’s magazine and any information presented from the following sites:,, , , and,,,, Les Stroud and Bear Gryllis DVDs as well as many military handbooks, outdoor survival manuals.  

By taking, the concepts presented,  in each article I built onto the idea and added my new enhancements, hence the term “what is old is new again”, but with a twist.

The stick was assembled with off-the-shelf PVC pipe, fittings, glue, and miscellaneous hardware items. 

The material list for my first generation stick is as follows:
·        1 ½” dia. 5’ – 0” long  schedule  40 PVC pipe
·        1 ½” PVC  female cap socket joint
·        1 ½” PVC  socket female x threaded adapter
·        1 ½” PVC   threaded cleanout plug
·        One Philips head 3/8” diameter steel shaft x 6” long with a plastic handle (clear plastic preferred to be able to see the steel shaft imbedded in the handle).
·        (2)  ¼” dia.  x 2 ½” lg. stove bolts
·        (4) ¼” washers
·        (2) ¼” lock washers
·        (2) ¼” bolt caps
·        1 small can of PVC solvent and glue
·        A dust mask when cutting or grinding the plastics
·         Safety glasses for cutting, grinding and drilling
·        SS machine screw 1” long with a two (2) washers and  a nut
·        Duct tape (heavy duty plastic coated recommended)
To start the stick, work with the screwdriver   first, using a side grinder with an abrasive sanding disk to round off the screwdriver handle.  The handle should fit snugly into the bottom of the pipe.  Insert the handle until the beginning of the screwdriver is flush with the bottom of the pipe. Set the pipe on a vise to hold it in place for drilling.  Mark on the outside of the pipe where the steel shaft lies within the handle before drilling.  Knowing were the end of the pipe is drill about a half inch clear of the shaft a 5/16” diameter hole through the assembly.  Rotate the pipe a full 90 degrees and drill another hole about  ¾” above the last hole working toward the top of the pipe.  You should have the holes running North and South and East and West. The screwdriver handle can  be switched   from the ice pick end to the rounded screwdriver handle end by just reversing the position of the driver.  The bolts will secure the driver in either position for ice, road, and or sidewalk as needed.  Install the stove bolts washers and nuts to the pipe. 

Take the PVC cap and drill a hole directly through the center of the top of the cap.  Use a drill bit the same diameter as the screwdriver, then push the cap onto the tip and up an onto the pipe end.  This will close off the bottom of the pipe and keep moisture out from snow or water from creek crossings.  I thought of gluing this cap, on but that would mean always having the pick end out and not being able to change to the blunt tip.  I glued the pipe cleanout fitting on the  top of the pipe and then screwed the threaded male plug  (hex head) into the cleanout.  To keep from losing the plug on the ground run a metal screw through the plug with glue on the screw threads, and place the washer and nut on tight to the underside of the plug.  The screw head extended above the cap about a half inch with a fender washer to hold a cord attached to the plug and was then tied off to the hand loop to keep from losing the plug.  On a cold day, I would not want to look for the cap if it drops into the snow.  For extra cordage run a length of parachute  cord around the pipe and duct tape the ends only under a few turns of about  of duct tape.  This also forms a grip and tie off for the hand loop.  The hand loop should be large enough to slide a gloved hand through the loop.

The fun part was filling the newly-hollowed pipe with skinny survival gear that fit into the pipe cavity and could slide in or out quickly. My shoulder pack is my extended stay bag and contains full size back up gear and more.  Remember that anonymous famous saying that “One is none routine", and of course my favorite: “It is better to have it and not use it rather than to need it and not have it”.  The meaning has changed substantially from its original meaning, I think.  With this in mind, my walking stick serves more than one purpose other than assisting me while walking on snow, ice or rough terrain.  The stick provides a feeling of confidence that should a problem arise you have assistance available and at hand.

The contents ‘of the Ice Stick is as listed below
·        ¾” copper pipe nipple about 3” long  with caps at each end just pushed on the ends containing waterproof matches
·        Rolled up  cotton pads soaked in paraffin wax (fire starter) (Note: Makeup remover round cotton pads split open, filled with Vaseline, closed shut then dipped in wax to seal.)
·        Round plastic  propane and flint lighter
·        Wax coated cotton  tipped sticks (short double ended homemade mini torches) (Note: Mini torch consists of cotton tipped swab with a paper stick with both ends dipped and coated with candle wax. When lit is lit has a very bright light and last about five minutes of intense heat.)
·        Fishing line and small hooks in a small plastic container
·        Swiss small army knife
·        Reciprocating saw blades metal and wood
·        Small plastic bottle with four days worth of  meds inside
·        Steel and flint fire starter combo
·        ¼” triangular style 6” long metal file
·        Small led flashlight and extra  AAA  batteries
·        Steel 30 # leaders with swivels for constructing snares/ fishing
·        Small bottle of liquid type bandage
·        Sewing tube with nylon  braided line and large  needles
·        9 volt battery for igniting steel wool
·        Rolled up steel wool in plastic wrap
When you carry the walking stick, you can provide more room in your bug out bag.  The shoulder bag provides the shelter, food, ammo, cleaning kit, axe, saw, field first aid kit, and basic specialty knives.
Your imagination will run away with different packing items and uses for the stick. Enjoy and be safe.

As anyone who makes preparations for the survival of themselves and their family knows the number of things you have to take into account when planning is truly vast and can be overwhelming at times. Food storage, reusable resources, home defense, and do-it-yourself medical care are just a few of the things that must be researched, prepared, and enacted to ensure that you are safe and ready for whatever may come. The number of articles giving advice and urging action are equally numerous throughout dozens of blogs, web sites and books. Within all of this however I have seen almost no Information on preparing for something that is essential to almost 60 percent of the American public, Prescription Corrective lens. This really shocked me as it seemed like an item that would be on the forefront of anyone who uses glasses mind, given the level of helplessness that would arise without the corrective lens we rely on.

Glasses are used by a large percentage of people on a daily basis for the essential task of granting usable vision. Anyone who wears glasses will understand exactly how important they are to effectively any activity. I myself am nearsighted, without my glasses I legally cannot drive, without my glasses I am effectively helpless, unable to see more than 3-4 feet in front of me in any usable way. In our current society that’s not a problem, Contacts, Lasik vision surgery, and old-fashioned prescription lens give people like myself the ability to see at almost 20/20 vision with a short examination and a wait of a few days for your lens to be delivered, granting you full functionality as a member of society. Now picture a broken world, roads badly maintained, little to no trade or contact with anyone more than a few miles away, and 0, that’s right 0, access to the specialized equipment and even more specialized skills needed to manufacture prescription glasses. Imagine trying to effectively forage for food and resources while unable to see more than a few feet away from you, or if far-sighted without any close up focus, this takes a situation already extremely difficult and turns it into one where you have little chance of independent survival, and worse in many perspectives, can find yourself a burden to those who love you. Taking this problem, something with such a widespread applicability, as lightly as many people do is simply unimaginable. To truly drive home how dangerous this is and how crippling it can be, think on what could happen if your attacked by unknown people, its late at night your glasses are on the table next to you but in the dark you can’t find them, you grab your home defense weapon, always kept ready and loaded and run to see what’s wrong, as you reach the door  you come to a horrible realization, without your glasses you can’t distinguish between your children, your wife, your mother, your father, and whoever it is that has penetrated your defenses, now you are truly helpless, unable to use your carefully prepared and lovingly cared for weapon to protect your family for fear of hurting that very family.

Considering the gravity of this problem the solutions are actually fairly simple to enact and can lead to either a complete resolution or at the very least the reduction of the problem to negligible risk. There are three main things that can be used to nullify this problem, Lasik, Glasses, and contact lens, each of which has their own pros and cons
Lasik is overall the best option as it is a permanent solution to the problem, and completely removes the risk associated with. The procedure has become easy, quick to perform and easy to heal from leading to its continuing increase among the general population. Despite these benefits there are some downsides that can eliminate lasik as a usable solution. The biggest hurdle for most people to overcome is the expense, Lasik is considered elective surgery by almost all insurance carriers, and as such the full cost must be borne by the patient themselves. A basic Lasik surgery, for a simple prescription change generally cost around 300-600 dollars per eye, while a large prescription, with astigmatism and other complications, can cost upwards of $1,500 per eye. I don’t know about most of you but I definitely don’t have an extra $600-$1,200 lying around much less $3,000. Taking all of this into account Lasik can be seen as a good investment for many people who can afford it and as a goal to work and save towards for those such as myself.

The second solution is one familiar to anyone preparing themselves and their family for periods of unrest and lawlessness, namely building up stores of necessary tools and materials, in this case Glasses and contact lens. The expense is once again a stumbling block; glasses are expensive ranging from a hundred to several hundred dollars a pair at traditional retailers with contact lens costing nearly $30-$100 for a 3 month supply. A solution I have found and frequently employ is online discount eyeglass retailers. My preferred point of sale is Zenni Optical, due to their low cost and general high level of quality but there are several other retailers as well. At Zenni you can get most prescriptions for 6.99 a pair and can get progressive or bifocal glasses for only $40-60, which as anyone who lives with corrective lens can tell you, is a significant savings. By using online retailers you can purchase several pair for under a hundred dollars, and with each pair you will receive a hard case, cleaning cloth and pay low shipping, making them perfect to put in several different locations for all eventualities. I myself have ordered some 30 pairs of glasses from Zenni and several pair from Goggles4u another of the online retailers. I keep several pair throughout my house along with five pair in a secure location away from my home, I have a pair in my car and one in my BOB along with the pair I keep with me at all times.

When you place your order you simply take the prescription given to you by your doctor and input it into the fields provided on the order page, then choose whatever styles and materials you like along with any add-on’s such as non reflective lens coatings and things of that nature. Make sure you ask your doctor to do a full eyeglass prescription for you as you won’t have the technicians at the store to take Pupillary Distance (PD), which is the distance between the pupils of your eye, and facial measurements all of which are necessary to ensure a comfortable fit. The only real downside to using Zenni in particular is that they have almost no customer service available, a trait which seems typical for the entire field, for instance except in instances in which they’re manufacturers made a mistake in the prescription or the glasses are broken upon delivery they will only offer 50% in a refund. Despite this the overall quality of the lens and frames are very high, I’ve only had one pair in which the prescription was off and it was quickly replaced for shipping costs only. When I compare the $6.99 glasses I receive from the bargain retailer versus the $239 per pair I last purchased from Lenscrafters. I can see no difference in the quality of the lens and with the frame the pair from the online store is actually sturdier and less susceptible to scratches and bending. In short I would seriously recommend checking out these online stores in order to build up a cheap store of eyeglasses to protect your vision.

With contacts it becomes both more expensive and provides a shorter term benefit. Contacts have a usable shelf life of only a few years which limits the amount you can reliably stockpile as without regular rotation they will become less and less viable. Along with the lens themselves solution and proper maintenance materials must also be maintained. Contacts must be regularly removed and cleaned to prevent the buildup of dead cells on the surface of the lens which can lead to the formation of a corneal ulcer. With no regular medical service available what in our current society is a treatable condition could easily lead to partial blindness.  On the other side of the argument contacts offer several benefits over eyeglasses, ease of use, relative security from theft, and ability to work and do activities without worry of shattering or damaging them. By wearing contacts it is much more difficult for anyone who captures you or attacks your family to exploit them as they can’t be knocked off or removed as easily as glasses, a major tactical benefit. While wearing them one doesn’t have to worry about accidentally hitting them or knocking them loose through an incautious movement, thereby accidentally depriving you of corrected vision. In a world without optometrists and the ability to produce new glasses eyeglasses could have a great deal of value as a potential trade good, given that with many lower level prescriptions there will be some overlap among prescriptions, leading to possible theft of eyeglasses for trade.

To procure contacts I would again recommend taking advantage of discount online retailers, as the price is generally much lower than traditional brick and mortar companies. 1-800 Contacts is the company I use for all my contacts but I’m sure there are others available. By using them I save $10-$15 for each three month supply I purchase, which allows me to buy an extra several months every year without going over budget. By ensuring that I rotate my supply out each time I purchase new lens I can keep about a year’s supply on hand at all time, thus giving me a buffer between breaks in supply and a way to slowly move myself off of contacts without too much difficulty if the supply is completely cut off.

By using these methods and planning ahead anyone with a need for corrective lens can ensure that they have continual and unimpaired vision even though the ability to produce new glasses is no longer in existence.

Dear SurvivalBloggers:
So you think that your residence, bug out location, or retreat are going to be easy to hide?

See this news article: Police: Burglar used Google Maps to case upscale suburban homes

Think operational security (OPSEC)!

I've noticed in my neighborhood who had "photo roofs", who ran a generator during the recent Hurricane Irene, and who has "interesting" bulk food boxes put out for recycling. 

Now I'm not going to be part of the Golden Horde. I'll be dead of a stroke if TEOTWAWKI happens. (Never been right before in my predictions.)

But if I see this stuff, the bad guys and soon-to-be bad guys will, too. 

Arrgh! - J.R.C.

Bob G. mentioned: Flower Pot Fridge. This incredibly simple "old school" evaporative refrigeration technology could be a life saver for diabetics, to keep insulin refrigerated in the event of a grid power failure.

   o o o

Michael Z. Williamson (our Editor at Large) pointed me to this: Things I Learned From My Patients. Mike describes it: "Emergency Room stories of interesting, frightening, horrific, educational, creepy and even disgusting things.  Very educational.  Language safe, but certainly some very adult references." This web page is not for children!

   o o o

James C. noted that a classic Army training film is now available free, online: U.S. RIFLE, CALIBER 7.62MM, M14

   o o o

Ah, yes, Wisconsin, Land of Liberals Lakes: 'Firefly' and Anti-Fascism Posters Get Professor Threatened with Criminal Charges on University of Wisconsin Campus

"We're not huntin' trouble, we're peace lovin' people. 
But if trouble should find us, we'll stand up and fight." - Red Steagall, "Stand Up and Fight"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We've just added several new items to the SurvivalBlog Amazon Store, including Dakota Alert passive intrusion detection systems, a Grundig Yachtboy shortwave radio, and some more optics including light amplification (Starlight) and thermal night vision gear. For anyone not familiar with our store, here is how it works: If you click on one of our Amazon links and then either search or "click through" to order ANY product from (not just the ones listed in our catalog), then we will earn a modest sales commission. Please shop with our our paid advertisers first. (See the ads in the right hand bar of the main blog page.) But if they don't have what you are looking for, then you can shop via our Amazon store, and help support SurvivalBlog. Please keep our store links in mind for all of your purchases. Remember that you need to click on one of our SurvivalBlog Amazon Store links first, for SurvivalBlog to get the commission. Thanks!


Today we present another two entries for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th. Note that if there isn't room to post articles received in the last few days of the contest, then they will be "rolled over", for posting in the next round.

Recently (based on a suggestion by a SurvivalBlog reader) I began a Meetup Group for Emergency Preparedness.  One of the Meetup events that I’m soon to host is entitled “To Build a Fire”.  Hosting this Meetup which I originally conceived as simply a fire building class has forced me to think logically about tactical fire building in a WTSHTF scenario where you are forced to build a fire for survival purposes.  I’ve synthesized these ideas into this article.

By “tactical” what I mean is “low observability” because technically no true definition of tactical perfectly fits this discussion.  However people should generally understand the points I’m making.

My experience with fire building includes six years in the Boy Scouts (attaining Eagle) in addition to years of post-Scouts camping and using working fires for various reasons on my property.

Inherently a fire is not tactical; however building a fire may be a requirement when no other alternatives exist.  Thus the question is posed: How can I make a fire as tactical as possible?

People may think that in the worst of future scenarios they can simply bugout and build fires for warmth & cooking.  My hypothesis is that using a fire in such a situation is the worst thing to do because of the high likelihood of negative outcomes, such as getting killed for your supplies.

Why do we build fires?

Much of the time it’s for pleasure: Inviting friends over to chow on good grub, or just hanging out in front of a warm bonfire and having a great time.  Other times a working fire is necessary for burning dead wood on your property or for other reasons.  When camping, fires are useful for cooking and to provide a lighted, warm, and friendly environment around which campers will gather.  Not as common are survival fires for sterilizing food and water, raising one’s body temperature, drying clothing, signaling, or repelling wild animals and insects.

Tactical strategies are generally not important for these types of fires and usually not even considered by the fire builder.  This can be a huge problem in a SHTF scenario because the effects of such fires tend to be highly observable.   Easy observation by sight, sound, and smell makes the pinpointing of a fire’s location simple, both during the fire and afterwards.

  • By sight: Fire, smoke, and general site destruction (broken or cut tree limbs, absence of normal levels of dead wood, footprints, trash).  Thermal imaging devices increase the chance a fire will be observed.
  • By sound: Preparation activities (breaking, sawing, or chopping fuel) and popping wood while burning.
  • By smell: Smoke and cooking food.

Tactical strategies are extremely important when building a fire in a SHTF or bugout scenario.  Starting a fire for any reason will attract people for miles unless extreme care is taken.  My recommendation is to not create a fire at all unless absolutely necessary for survival reasons.

Alternatives exist that must be considered prior to igniting a fire to keep your sight, sound, and smell observability to a minimum:

  • Food: can be eaten cold
  • Water: can be filtered or sterilized by other methods
  • Hypothermia or freezing: body heat can be shared and/or shelters built.

Stoves can be used if raw food must be cooked or water boiled but only if you’ve prepared with such equipment.  (Read this as: prepare with such equipment!)

If no alternatives exist and building a fire in a SHTF world is required for warming people in critical hypothermic or freezing conditions or to remedy other survival problems, then you must: 1) Know how to build a fire (an extremely important survival skill.)  2) Control and limit the observability of your fire.

(My disclaimer) Prior to the next discussion pre-SHTF safe fire building practices must be mentioned.  These are:

1) Know your local fire ordinances. 
2) Remove combustible material from around your fire building site.  The larger the fire is the greater this requirement.  Don’t forget to remove overhanging branches.
3) Do not build a fire in windy conditions. 
4) Prepare a readily available and continuous water supply. 
5) Ensure your fire is “cold out” when you’re done with it.  After spraying plenty of water on the remnants of the fire, turning over all unburned fuel and spraying again, carefully put your hands in the wet ashes to ensure no hot coals remain.  Bonus: after rinsing the ashes off your hands you’ll notice they are nice and clean from the mild lye solution created by the water and wood ash.

My experience is that most people think they can quickly start a fire in the wild because they can light a barbecue or a fire in their fireplace.  Fire building in the wild, especially under survival conditions and with added tactical considerations, will be quite daunting.

Building a fire is fairly simple but without knowledge and practice is challenging.  In less than ideal conditions starting a fire is extremely difficult.  Watching SurvivorMan on television does not make you an expert and when a fire is needed for survival reasons it’s critical that one is made quickly. 

Three prerequisites are required for a successful fire: ignition, combustibles, and air.

Ignition: Creating the initial heat source which is then amplified during the next sequential fire building steps.  Many tools are easily available for igniting a fire, prepare your bug-out bags with several of these options and practice using them.  Examples are: Waterproof/weatherproof matches, lighters, and magnesium style striker tools (BlastMatch, etc.).  While its fun to watch Les Stroud igniting a fire using a fire bow, this takes long hours of practice, precisely the correct wood types, and a relatively long time to manufacture the tool and to produce an ember.  Use a match instead.

Combustibles: Generally described in three categories: tinder, kindling, and fuel.

  • Tinder is composed of the smallest or finest flammable material.  Its purpose is to amplify the ignition source enough so that kindling can be burned.  Examples are: Pine needles, dried grass, tree or vine bark (cedar, birch, or grapevine), mouse nests, bird nests, etc.  The list is endless.
  • Kindling is woody material that is the next size up from tinder, but smaller than the fuel.  Size ranges from about 1/8” to 1” in thickness.  Its purpose is to amplify the fire enough to light the fuel.
  • Fuel is the material that’s added to the fire after the kindling stage.  Generally smaller sized fuel is used in the early stages of the fire but as the coal bed becomes larger the fuel can increase in size.  The fuel’s purpose is to be the main working part of the fire.  It provides the direct heat or burns down to hot coals with which to cook food, warm bodies, or for other reasons.

When building a fire you must sequentially move in order from tinder to kindling to fuel.  Skipping a step will not work, especially in wet conditions.  Combustibles must be as dry as possible for effective fire building.  Techniques exist for dealing with wet conditions, such as using a knife to expose the dry insides of the combustible material; you should familiarize yourself with these skills.  Another tip is to use hanging dead branches as they tend to be drier than fuel on the ground.  Finding sap covered tinder or kindling is a bonus.  Pine or other sap is flammable and very helpful when starting a fire. 

Air:  At first you may not think air is much of a problem because we are building a fire on Earth, not the Moon.  However, when a fire is not properly constructed, too little air will flow into the ignited fuel and the young fire will not effectively burn or will go out.  This is the last thing you want to have happen if you are attempting to build a survival fire.

Airflow is controlled by the fire lay.  A fire lay is the fire’s method of construction and an effective fire lay is critical for starting a fire.  A mature fire usually ends up as a pile of fuel with a hot coal bed, so the fire lay eventually disappears.  If a mature fire goes out, it can typically be restarted by adding fresh fuel onto the hot coals.

Too many fire lay configurations exist to review in detail (teepee, lean-to, hunter’s, log cabin, etc.)  You should research and practice using different types so you know when to build a specific one.  Fire lays can generally be categorized as “above ground” or the less common “below ground.”

Below ground fire lays are superior for controlling and limiting the observability of your survival fire.   A below ground fire lay of particular usefulness in a SHTF world is the “Dakota Fire Lay” or “Dakota Fire Pit” (DFP).

A DFP consists of a jug shaped hole dug with a wide base and narrower top.  The lower part of the hole is connected to a smaller angled air intake tunnel.  The air intake entrance is dug upwind from the main hole.  In essence it’s a small wood burning stove built into the ground.  An above ground fire lay is used to start the fire within a Dakota Fire Pit.

As a Scout I never made a DFP because they were too time consuming to build.  I made one this week and it took me 75 minutes to dig and that’s with proper hand tools.  For a young Scout that’s too long when you can use an above ground method to prepare and ignite a fire within a few minutes.

Again, not building a fire is the best way to maintain your operational security, however if a fire must be built and you have the time the DFP is excellent for these reasons:

  • Minimal light and heat signature:  Most important for tactical considerations is that it produces the least amount of observable radiant light and heat because the fire is totally underground.
  • Efficient burning of fuel:  Little or no smoke is produced, again reducing sight and smell observability.  The design of the DFP is such that a draft is created to supply fresh air to the fire as it burns.  This configuration allows the fuel to burn completely which produces little smoke.
  • Quiet: The DFP is quieter than other fire lays because the sound of popping and cracking wood is suppressed.  When digging it I suggest using sticks or other non-metallic tools because when a metal hand tool is struck against a rock it’s quite noisy.
  • Safe for windy conditions:  A low chance of the fire spreading exists because (That’s right!) it’s underground.  Furthermore this fire is easy to light and maintain in such conditions because the wind has little effect on a below ground fire.  Wind actually improves the fire by blowing through the air intake and increasing the burning efficiency of the fuel.
  • Easy cooking: Lay a couple of green sticks across the top of the hole and put your pot on it, or create a green stick grill onto which meat will be laid.  All of the heat is concentrated with this fire lay instead of spreading out as with other types.  You’ll notice your food cooks more quickly than expected, a definite tactical plus.  You can also wait until the fire burns down and cook directly on the coals, or use the pit as an oven or smoker.
  • Simple site restoration:  Just fill the hole with any remaining signs of your camp and fill it with the dirt that was removed.  If no chip producing saws or axes were used to prepare the fuel, then the vacated site will never be recognized for the campsite it was.

If the ground is too wet, frozen, rocky, or otherwise unsuitable for digging, or if no time is available to properly dig a DFP, quasi-underground alternatives exist which aren’t as effective, but are better than above ground fire lays.

One example is the trench fire lay which is a simple trench dug in the ground into which the fire is built.  It’s not as efficient or secure as a DFP however it achieves some of the same results.

Any fire should be kept small to minimize the output of light and heat.  Small fires also reduce the amount of fuel consumed which means less fuel collection and preparation is required, ultimately translating into minimal site destruction.  Additionally, fewer calories are used by the people maintaining the fire which means less food consumption is necessary. 

Ideally no tools should be used for preparing the fuel.  It should consist of small pieces that don’t need further cutting, again minimizing site destruction and leaving few telltale clues (wood chips, saw dust, or limbs broken or cut from trees) that you occupied the site.  You want your location to be 100% unrecognizable as a camp after you depart.  Also the sound of chopping wood with an axe can be heard for miles, and sawing is quite noticeable in quiet woods too.

To summarize:  In a SHTF world a fire will draw unwanted attention.  Before you make that fire always think of alternative methods of eating, sterilizing water, or getting warm.  If a fire must be built, keep it to the smallest size possible to meet your needs.  Use cover (dense woods, low spots, cliffs or rocky areas, even buildings) to help hide your fire, and seriously consider digging a Dakota Fire Pit to maintain your operational security.  This type of fire lay minimizes observation by sight, sound, and smell thus reducing the chance of attracting attention.

Lastly: Practice this essential skill now!  Don’t assume you can build a fire in the wild. Identify and use native materials around your bugout sites and travel routes.  Practice in both dry and wet conditions and in different seasons.  Prepare your bugout bags with some of today’s commonly available fire starting tools (magnesium type fire igniters, paraffin & fuel type fire starters, etc.).  They increase your chances to successfully and quickly build a fire; however don’t think you can build a fire just because you pack them.

I still remember the first day in my Philosophy of Religion class back in the good ol’ college days.  My professor started the class with the question, “what is philosophy?”  Of course, being the smart-aleck that I still am today, I eagerly raised my hand and responded, “Philosophy is where you think really hard about something, and when you’re done, you know less than when you started.”

I got a few laughs (and some angry looks from the philosophy majors), but I was only half joking.  There is some truth to that statement.   What it really means is that, until you question your underlying assumptions, you probably think you know a whole lot more than you really do.  If your understanding is built on a shaky foundation, then, with the right type of shaking, your belief system will collapse faster than the Greek banking system.

For the 99% of readers who are not philosophy nerds, I need to explain that the philosophical process is very similar to the scientific method.  A philosopher starts by presenting a theory and then he or she looks for analogies or examples that logically negate that theory. In this way, you can’t really prove anything, but you can disprove a poorly formed theory. This may sound really boring so far, but by logically collapsing shaky theories in the “classroom”, you are less likely to be surprised by faulty thinking in real life.
When it comes to survival philosophy, this process could mean the difference between life and death.  If you don’t question your assumptions, then your beliefs may crumble when a real disturbance hits outside your expectations.  If you are sufficiently taken by surprise, you are more likely to make poor decisions or even panic in the face of the unexpected.  But “life and death” is a little overly dramatic for me.  In spite of my philosophical nerdiness, I am a practical guy, and there is a much-less-dramatic but still-important reason to philosophize on survival:  Questioning assumptions could be the difference between mere subsistence and relative comfort.

Of course, my tongue-in-cheek definition of philosophy is incomplete.  Philosophy only questions assumptions in order to help you gain clarity about those thoughts or beliefs.  Finding clarity about survival preparation is what this article is all about.  I am not going to give you any practical survival tips here.  Instead, my goal is to distinguish clearly between survival and luxury in an emergency situation.  I want to introduce a theoretical framework for maximizing your luxury without failing at that whole survival thing WTSHTF.  How this plays out in real life will look very different for different people, but I hope to introduce a way of thinking about prepping that helps you to be more purposeful about it.  With that in mind, much like my religion professor, I would like to start with a simple question:  What is survival?

This question is simple, but there is a big difference between simple questions and easy ones.  You might know survival when you see it, and you certainly know what the opposite looks like, but before we can talk about it intelligently, we need a solid definition of survival.  Well, defines survival as “the act or fact of surviving”.  That’s wasn’t very helpful.  Okay, then maybe it will be easier to define it by what survival isn’t.  You might say that survival is “the opposite of dying”.  That’s a good start, but what about the man who dies comfortably in his old age, surrounded by friends and family?  Did he fail at “survival”?   Of course not.  Dying of old age is the definition of a successful survivor, but that definition doesn’t really help you learn how to survive either. 

See how this philosophy thing works now?  We theorized on a definition of survival and then we found an example counter to that overly simplistic definition.  Obviously the “not dying” view needs to be a little more specific.  Since everybody will die eventually, survival is only meaningful if it is discussed in reference to some specific challenge or event that threatens a premature death.  So let’s narrow our definition of survival to “not being killed during some challenge or event that is capable of causing premature death”.  Does that sound more reasonable?  It does to me. 

The first thing you should notice about this definition is that it doesn’t say anything at all about a survival kit or survival skills.  A survivor could just be lucky.  This definition is equipment-agnostic and skill-agnostic.  Either way, survival is definitely not something you carry in your pocket.  So now let’s work through a hypothetical situation and see if our definition passes the philosophical smell test. 

Let’s imagine that there is a TEOTWAWKI event: nuclear war, economic collapse, zombie apocalypse… it doesn’t matter what, but let’s say that this event wipes out the retail supply chain, health care services, coffee shops (take a deep breath… this is just a thought experiment), communication systems, and the power grid.  Some people will die off immediately either directly from the TEOTWAWKI event or because some critical life support was removed… obviously we can’t call them survivors.  Now other people survive the initial shock but are trampled during food riots at the grocery store or are killed by roving bandits:  also not survivors.  But what about you?  In this thought exercise, we’ll say that you grabbed the kids and hopped into your up-armored minivan.  You bugged out to that über-Rawlesian country bunker which is stocked with enough food and ammo to fend off the raiders for years.  Is that survival?  If you are a fan of, then you can’t possibly say no.  So this hypothetical version of you kicks back, raises some chickens, and sleeps soundly behind those two-foot-thick concrete walls somewhere in the wilderness.  You are a survivor.  You are “doing” survival, because you continually avoid death despite a series of hazardous circumstances.  So far, so good.  Our definition seems to be holding up to this scenario at least.

But what about me?  In our little experiment, I’m no country boy.  No, I’m a die-hard suburbanite.  I love my air conditioner, and I keep just enough food in my house to make it to the next paycheck.  When TEOTWAWKI hits, do I survive?  Don’t be too quick to say no.  My survival kit is far from Rawlesian, but I still have one.  Here are a few things on my list: 
-Hunting knife
-Change of clothes
-Duct tape
-Several means of lighting a fire (magnifying glass, matches, lighter)
-My truck (yes, I consider that a big part of my kit, and it’s with me most of the time)
-My family and friends
-My air conditioner
-A cold refrigerator full of fresh food
-The gas station down the street
-A steady paycheck
-My bank
-The internet (just in case I forget how to tie a clove hitch)
-A complex system of delivering food and consumer goods to local retailers (so that I can buy stuff with my debit card when supplies are low)

As you read my list of survival items, you are probably thinking, “That’s the dumbest survival list I’ve ever seen! That’s not survival, that’s just you living your life!” Of course, you’re right.  My survival kit only works if a crashing Euro doesn’t drag down my bank and nothing disrupts my precious system of just-in-time retail supplies.   Remember what I said about philosophical foundations crashing in the face of the unexpected?  Well, whether we like to admit it or not, my survival kit describes the survival plan for the vast majority of the population.  It works 90% of the time, but under catastrophic circumstances, this kit fails miserably. 
So back to our TEOTWAWKI event.  My kit is pathetic, but remember that our definition of survival doesn’t mention any gear or skills.  For the sake of this thought experiment, let’s say that I adapt quickly to my new environment.  While my fellow urban dwellers are raiding the gas station for one last nicotine fix, I break into the library and permanently check out several books on native plants.  I fashion a sling from junk I find in my closet just before my house gets burned by a rioting mob.  The streets are not safe, so I take shelter in a drainage tunnel in the greenbelt behind what used to be my favorite subdivision.  While my fellow khaki-clad barbarians are killing each other in the streets, I play it smart and lay low.  When I get hungry, I use my sling to hunt birds and rodents, or I pick berries and dig up roots in the greenbelt.  Is this survival?  Well, I didn’t die.  I think this also counts as survival by our definition.

Alright, so our definition of survival still seems to be holding up under two very different circumstances.  I think we can all agree that “not getting killed” is necessary to survival, but this definition doesn’t say anything about how you live.  While the prepper hunkered down in relative security with plenty of food and a good shelter, the urbanite survivor was barely getting by day-to-day and he will have to move out when the rainy season hits if not sooner.

Now take a look at my urban survival kit again, and be honest:  If it was possible to throw all that stuff into a bug-out-bag, wouldn’t you want to?  (I know, this is sort of a silly argument, but remember, this is philosophy… we aren’t constrained by reality).  If you have electricity, refrigeration, gas stations, and your friends and family with you, then it would feel more like a vacation than TEOTWAWKI, right? 

Obviously we can’t pack a retail distribution system into a BOB, but it does bring up an important point.  Preparation is about far more than mere survival.  Preparation is also about minimizing your loss of luxury.  I know that many within the survival community tend to hold “luxury” in contempt at least on the surface, but I think what should really be looked down on is not luxury but “wasteful, unsustainable luxury”.  If you are truly against all luxury, then you should be happy living like a caveman for the rest of your life.  Now ask yourself:  If I never took another shower the rest of my life, would I be ok with that?   Think about it.

At this point, I would like to introduce a concept that I call “The Caveman Survival Index” (CSI for short).  The CSI is a mental tool I use to determine my expected quality of life (i.e. level of luxury) during a survival situation.  At the very top of this index, you will find… me!  I am the ultimate modern urban survivor.  I thrive on the globally connected veneer of a stable information-based society.  I have air conditioning, social networking, coffee shops, and a smart phone.  My food comes from restaurants, and when there’s a problem with my shelter, I call a handyman who got good reviews on Angie’s List.  I don’t start fires… I microwave.  If I get cold, I crank up the thermostat!  Life is full of freedom and comfort, and I like it that way.

Now, at the bottom of the Caveman Survival Index, we of course find the humble caveman.  Caveman survival is what many people think of when they say “survival”.  The word “caveman” conjures up images of hairy men running naked through the woods and starting fires with sticks and rocks.  Isn’t this what a lot of survival schools teach you?  (Well, ok maybe they don’t talk about the hairy/naked part… that mental image is bad for business). 
Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing to know how to live like a caveman.  In an emergency situation, “Threat Level: Caveman” means that the only way I can avoid imminent death is by rubbing two sticks together to start a fire.  It means the only way I will eat is by killing rodents with a crude club or a sling… just like a Stone-Ager would do.  In a survival situation (or daily life for that matter), this is the last place I want to be, but without survival skills, many unprepared urbanites will hit “caveman” status pretty quickly after TEOTWAWKI.

Back to our thought experiment:  Let’s say that I (the unprepared urbanite) at least have some limited prep skills.  Before my beautiful house was burned by a hungry mob, I duct-taped my hunting knife to the handle of a garden rake.  With a little practice, I can use this makeshift spear to hunt larger game.  Plus, where I live, there is an abundance of flint lying around in the greenbelt behind my neighborhood.  If I find a hardened piece of carbon steel, then I just moved up the Caveman Index from “Caveman” to “Viking”, because I now have steel tools.  A Viking may still have to forage for roots and berries, but at least I am using a lot less energy to get a fire started and my meat is easier to come by.  It is important to note here that it is not only the tools that advanced me from Caveman to Viking.  I also needed the skills to recognize and make use of those tools.  If I don’t know how to start a fire with a flint and steel, then, when it comes to starting fires, I am still in Caveman mode even if I am surrounded by Viking materials.  Likewise, if I don’t know how to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, and TEOTWAWKI reduces me to Caveman living… I won’t survive.

So now do you see how the CSI works?  There is no comprehensive list of “levels” within the Caveman Index.  The CSI is simply a way of thinking about your current situation and how you want to change it.  The main point of the CSI is that you probably want to be as far from living like a caveman as possible at all times, but if you find yourself in a situation where you have nothing but rocks, sticks, and your own wit, then you’d better know how to survive at least long enough to improve the situation.  Personally, I hope I never need those skills, but if I do end up in a “Threat Level: Caveman” scenario, one of my first goals will be to get out of the Stone Age as quickly as possible. 

Now that I have defined survival as not dying during an emergency, and I introduced the Caveman Index for rating your quality of life during survival scenarios.  I would like to ask one final question:  How does this affect your preparation for emergencies? 

By our working definition of survival, the only requirement to achieve “survival” is that you have sufficient skills or enough luck to not get killed.  That’s not what most people would consider “good” preparation, because the caveman life is not much fun.  You don’t want to prepare for “survival”.  Instead, you want to prepare for luxury!  If you think in terms of the CSI, your preparations should really do two things:  First, you want to have the equipment necessary to minimize regression down the Caveman Index.  Second, if a sudden setback is unavoidable, you need skills that will help you rapidly climb back up to a comfortable level on the CSI. 

Ah, now this brings up another important point.  In addition to quantifying your general comfort level, the Caveman Index also helps to highlight the purpose of equipment versus skills when prepping.  In terms of the CSI, your skills can determine how far and how quickly you move up to a higher comfort level, but it is actually your “stuff” that determines how comfortable you are.  For example, a skilled marksman with no ammunition is still stuck in the Stone Age when it comes to acquiring meat.  Likewise, if you are surrounded by unfamiliar equipment that you don’t know how to use… well that’s equally problematic for escaping from the caveman lifestyle.  So you see that the CSI shows you the importance of matching your skills to your resources while preparing for an emergency.

The CSI also explains the behavior of those unskilled hordes of city-dwelling moochers.  Because it is not skill, but “stuff” that sets your living standard on the Caveman Index, you now understand why moochers want to steal all your stuff.  Theft and robbery are the only methods they understand for moving up to a higher standard of living.  Without the necessary skills to adapt to a survival situation, most moochers will rapidly waste their resources and regress to more primitive living… at least until they find another victim to take more stuff from.  So you see that many people will swing from living high-on-the-hog to living like a brute again and again WTSHTF.

Getting back to our TEOTWAWKI thought experiment, let’s take one last look at you, the ultimate prepper.  You are secure from the looters in your country bunker.  You are raising chickens and hunting with rifles.  You use a woodgas generator to power the light bulbs in your kitchen.  Maybe you aren’t updating your Facebook status anymore, but your life has not changed quite as drastically as all those urban savages.  You may not have 100% uptime on your electrical system, but most of the time you fall somewhere between “Late-1800’s Cowboy” and “1950’s Traveling Salesman” on the Caveman Index.  Even if you lose everything you’ve got, you won’t stay in Caveman mode for long, because you have the skills to move back up the ladder quickly by making the most of your available resources.

So now you see that good preparation helps you not only to survive but also to maintain a relatively steady and comfortable lifestyle in the midst of chaos.  I hope you will also agree now that luxury during survival is not necessarily a bad thing.  The CSI concept helps you to analyze your survival situation whether you are surviving a zombie apocalypse, an anti-banking riot, or getting lost in the woods.  When it comes to choosing what type of preparations to make, I hope that the Caveman Survival Index will be useful in helping you choose the right skills and the right equipment to maximize your comfort level in spite of TEOTWAWKI. 

And who knows, some day you just might let a philosopher join your survival colony! No?  Well, okay.  I wouldn’t either.

Dear James Wesley,
In regard to intake of Vitamin C, many people overlook sweet and hot peppers [as natural sources]. Red sweet peppers have the highest amount of C that is found in vegetable versus citrus fruit. Red peppers have more than green peppers. It seems that freeze drying or dehydrating does not substantially degrade the level of C in the vegetables.  Other good sources in vegetables are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, dark leafy greens and cabbage and sauerkraut. The last two vegetables were very important to Northern European people who had no easy access to citrus fruits. I’m talking 15 to 17th centuries.
Thank you once again for a wonderful and informative blog. I'm looking forward to your new book! - OkieRanchWife

Chris D. recommended this piece over at Don't Tread on Me: 12 Reasons Not To Fear September’s Gold And Silver Price Smackdown. JWR's Comment: In this piece, Scott Wolf notes that the COMEX governors just raised margin requirements on gold, silver and copper again. They can keep manipulating the rules in the futures market, but they cannot stop the demand side of the physical market. In the long run that is what will prevail--even if the futures market is destroyed by outrageous margin requirements--a la Silver Rule 7.)

G.G. flagged this: Fed Vice Chair: Economy worse than you think.

Also from G.G.: Plan To Return America To the Gold Standard

Items from The Economatrix:

Jim Rogers:  Next Global Recession Will Be Worse Than 2008

Fed Unleashes $400 Billion Plan to Save Ailing Economy

Fiat Currency Crisis Commenced This Month

Billboard Signals of Collapse

K.A.F. sent this: U.S. Government Used Taxpayer Funds to Buy, Sell Weapons During 'Fast and Furious,' Documents Show

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Safecastle has updated their Freedom Awards contest blog post.

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Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large) sent this: Police disciplined for throwing football with boy. Mikes's comment: "Yeah, God help us if cops actually interact positively with citizens..."

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A video by an Idaho congressman has been getting a lot of play: The Agenda - Grinding America Down.

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There was an interesting post over at Radio Free Redoubt on some Department of Defense OPSEC training: Social Networking Risk Awareness

"The fearful danger of the present time is that above the cry for authority, we forget that man stands alone before the ultimate authority, and that anyone who lays violent hands on man here, is infringing eternal laws, and taking upon himself superhuman authority, which will eventually crush him." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Just one week from today (Tuesday, October 4th) is Book Bomb Day for my new book "Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse". Please wait until October 4th to place your order, so that we can get a big move into Amazon's Top 10. Thanks!


Today we present another two entries for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Note that if there isn't room to post all of the articles that are received in the last few days of the contest, then they will be "rolled over", for posting in the next contest round. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

While TEOTWAWKI may or may not happen soon, one can never be too prepared. Loss of job or illness can happen any time. Being prepared can lessen the stress in your life and also lead to strengthening your family bonds. Not everyone has the financial or physical means to opt out or bug out at a moments notice. What we can do is start with Baby Steps and work our way up to where we want to be.

• Research
• Plan
• Schedule
• Execute
• Learn to be thick-skinned
• Follow up and be flexible.  Change can sometimes lead to opportunity.
• Try new things when possible.
• Don’t get discouraged.
• When you can’t trust your own government, trust in God

Below is how we started.

Baby Step 1Get out of town if possible. If you are in a city, at least try to position your family / self as close to the edge as possible. If you ever need to escape quickly, the closer you are to the edge, the higher the probability of making your exit strategy work.

After many years of research and talking about moving out of town and becoming self sufficient, last fall we finally had the means to do what we called our first Baby Steps. We purchased a new home on 5 acres out in the rural farm area. While not as off-the-beaten-path as we would like, it was what we could afford at the time and it had several advantages.

It is largely wooded, with a creek running along the property, deep well that is connected to one of the largest aquifers in the country, septic and leach field already in place, sufficient outbuildings to get us started, and no neighbors for a quarter mile. The downside is that it is on a state highway and is totally electric. We can’t remedy the location, but will do our best to be off grid as soon as possible.

While we had been talking about doing this for years, many of our friends and family thought we were nuts! No we are not right wing fanatics, just realists. My husband and I have watched, listened, read, talked about trends we see happening in our country and figured, better safe than sorry.  Raised as a Mormon, it was routinely pounded into my brain that we needed to have 3 years food storage. While I'm no longer Mormon, I still believe that they were right about being prepared. Our journey had begun.

Baby Step 2.: Do your research. Write your plans down and make a schedule. When possible include family and let them help you execute your plans. Develop a thick skin as you will always have someone who doesn’t get it.

I am very lucky that my 76-year-old mother has always supported me in anything I wanted to do. She is one smart woman and realized that what we were contemplating was not only to our advantage, but hers as well. If SHTF, she too would be cared for. God blessed me with a wonderful mom and to this day, she still inspires and encourages me to do my best and knows I can do anything I set my mind to do. She has also come out to the farm to help with canning, gone to yard sales looking for supplies and even come out and taken care of our animals so we could be elsewhere for a few days.

Baby Step 3: Learn to be flexible. Plans can change and rigidity can lead to disaster.

This spring we bought our first chickens. We didn’t have a coop yet, but bought chicks and had them in a big tub with a light and feeders lying on top of wood chips. Watching them grow fast, we realized that we needed a coop quickly and began to prepare in earnest. My husband designed and built a very affordable chicken tractor that would allow us to move it around to a fresh spot on our property every day so that the chickens could forage. They can get in out of the weather when needed and have a safe place to roost at night. While this was a good start, after two months of having to move it every day, we soon realized that we wanted a more permanent coop before winter. I really didn’t relish going out in the cold to move it or even to feed and water the chickens in the cold. Also, watering in a tractor in the winter could be impossible in freezing weather. We will continue to let them free range in the warm months, but are building a new 9' x 12' coop with a covered 20' x 20' run for the winter to keep them safe from hungry predators. This will also allow us to increase our flock size.

While they may be dirty little birds, they can be quite endearing as well. All of our chickens come running to greet me whenever I come out. I have a couple of small hens that when I sit down, will jump up and sit on my lap and wait to be petted. They don’t do this to my husband or anyone else, just me. This may seem weird to some readers, but they tend to lay more and larger eggs when I treat them well. They will eat any scraps we have and between the chickens and dogs, we don’t waste anything! They are now laying eggs every day and our friends and family who once thought we were nuts, are asking if we have any extra! Eventually we hope to produce enough eggs to provide local family and have extra to sell to cover the cost of feed. We will also be raising chicks to coop-ready size and selling them to folks who don’t want to raise baby chicks but want to have a small backyard coop. Again, this should offset the cost of feed and supplies. They are also great for barter or for a charity item.

Baby Step 4: Be willing to try new things.

At the beginning of summer we decided that we needed to be raising meat in some form, but couldn’t afford to buy a cow, pig, or sheep. After researching alternatives we decided to invest in rabbits, so we purchased two small female California/Mini Rex cross rabbits, and soon after added one California buck and two California does. In August we were lucky enough to obtain another California doe and a New Zealand Buck.  Breeding began. We had our first two litters last week and are getting ready to breed the other does this week. These first litters will be part of our breeding stock. Their offspring will be dinner! Many of our friends and family are watching our farm’s progress. I know when it comes time to butcher; there will be those with their hands out wanting meat since prices are steadily rising, even here in farm country. Rabbit meat tastes much like chicken but is much leaner. We have limited freezer space,  so we will be canning much of the meat as well as smoking some of it. 

Baby Step 4: Don’t get discouraged if you have to deal with stumbling blocks. Think of them as opportunities.

This was our first year to have a garden and we were very unprepared. To say that it didn’t do well is an understatement! When the opportunity to make friends with a couple of local farmers arose, I grabbed it. We now have a list of farms and orchards to get fresh fruit and veggies and have been canning up a storm.  I have even canned chicken and inexpensive cuts of beef. Later we will be doing venison and rabbit…. Yum!

We have a room with really good light exposure and I hope to grow herbs, lettuce and whatever else will grow there this winter. I’ve already signed up for a Master Gardener class in January and hope not to have the same issues with my garden next year.

We don’t typically eat much jam, but I decided to can as much of it as I could. This can be used for gifts or as barter down the line. I let all my friends and family have samplers of my Caramel Apple Jam to try. Getting volunteers to come help is no longer a problem! I can always use the help and this is also a way to get them to start thinking about prepping for themselves. Apples don’t can well unless you are making apple butter, jam or apple sauce. Using a dehydrator we have been able to put up a bushel of apple slices with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. Later they can be eaten as is or added to oatmeal, bread, muffins, or anything else.

Food storage is such an important part of our survival / self-sufficiency strategy and knowing how to store is important. We would love to have a nice hidden root cellar or storage room, but it isn’t feasible yet. For now we have  converted a small room into our storage room. We purchased metal shelving from Sam’s Club that are easy to put together, take down or move and have shelf height flexibility. Everything is dated and oldest items are used first. I have divided the room into six sections.

  1. Canned foods/ bottled foods
  2. Non-foods such as shampoo, soap, zip-lock bags, aluminum foil, garbage bags, paper towels and toilet paper, etc.
  3. First aid supplies.
  4. Barter and/or gift items
  5. Animal feed and supplies.
  6. Seeds for next year.

One of the things that drew us to our property was the backwoods. When we initially walked the property, there were signs that deer had been bedding down in the little glade out back. Neither of us have had much experience hunting. I have been once many decades ago but really want to develop that skill-set. We bought my husband a shotgun and I’ve been encouraging him to hunt. He loves my cooking, so talking to him about a recipe for venison pot roast or spicy venison sausage gets him thinking about hunting. I may try to hunt myself, though being only five feet tall, I am unsure of how I would get it strung up or transported without the help of a much sturdier person.

Our dryer went out and the washer is on its way out. We have been nursing it along for weeks now. Instead of going out and buying another big expensive set, we have ordered a small portable washer and a dryer that mounts on the wall. We put up several retractable cloths lines, two in the house and a large one outside. While I don’t particularly like the feel of line-dried clothes, they will do in a pinch. To save on our electric bill, I am line drying everything we don’t need right away and the things we do need quickly, starting them on the line and finishing in the dryer when they are just slightly damp. This also softens them up so they don’t feel like cardboard. It is good to have options!

This summer I took up fishing and was able to stock some fish in the freezer. Some of it was carp. People say they aren’t edible, however, they are a great source of protein for our animals. I keep and process anything that was legal size. I would love to learn how to smoke them the way the Indians did. For the time being I am only able to can, freeze or dehydrate anything that we want to store.

Division of labor has been a big deal here. My husband works seven days a week most of the time and because it is third shift, his internal clock is not on the same schedule as mine. We discussed the division of labor when we first got together 17 years ago and while the workload has increased dramatically since we moved out here, we have tried to stick to it. He brings home the majority of the money that allows us to survive and I take care of the day-to-day things. I am able to generate some income from my home, but can only do so in my spare time. I currently design web site for local groups, do art work and hope to add more money to the family kitty by selling eggs, chickens and maybe a few rabbits. For any woman reading this, there are always things you can do to help your family financially. Whether it is bartering or cash, it all helps.

During our Baby Steps process, one of the most important lessons I have learned is to keep myself on a schedule. If I keep to one, I get things done in a timely manner and have extra time to read or try new things. If I miss a scheduled time, my whole day seems to be flipped upside down and I feel exhausted by days end.

I tried cleaning the rabbit hutches and coops every day, but found that it ate up too much of my time and really could be done every other day. Now I have set it up so that the chicken coop is one day and the rabbits the next. The rabbits and chickens can’t tell the difference.

There will always be extra projects to take up your time. If you stick to a schedule as much as possible, you will have time to do more! While we are still taking Baby Steps, we can foresee a future where we are self sufficient and ready for anything. With God’s blessing and many Baby Steps, we know we will survive what is to come!

I am not like most people; mainly because of the way I was raised as a child.  Hunting, fishing, trapping, and outdoor/survival skills were not only practiced but often encouraged by my father.  In hindsight I can say it wasn’t necessarily that he thought I might need the skills someday.  I think it was more because it was a good way to keep me and my brothers out of trouble.  It seemed to work.

My father was always the type of guy to take us out of school for the important things in life.  The opening day of fall firearms deer season (a damn near holiday in Michigan), a week of spring camping ‘up north’ in the backwoods of Fairview, Michigan to turkey hunt, even when we were too young to hunt. 

As my father always says, “There are some things that schools just can’t teach.” 

Too bad not everyone sees it that way.

One of my early experiences of ‘roughing it’ was with a friend when we were about 12 years old.  He and I hiked to a remote spot on a piece of State land in the dog days of summer.  We set up a tent and brought with us no supplies other than matches, oil, flour, a couple of empty canteens, fillet knives, a travel fishing pole each and of course, our Crossman pellet rifles.  Not those underpowered Daisy lever-actions, but the good [Crosman] Model 760s. 

We boiled our water from a nearby lake, we ate bullheads (Michigan’s version of a small catfish) from that same lake for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two days.  We started our own fires from tinder and down logs in the area.  We then hunted blackbirds with our pellet rifles because squirrels were scarce, and fish just didn’t sound appealing any longer.

I hate to sound clichéd, but believe it or not, blackbirds taste like chicken - they have dark and light meat like a turkey though.  Just remember if you attempt this on your own, you need about ten birds per person to make a meal.  Our blackbirds went just fine with the cattail roots we dug up and boiled like potatoes for dinner on the last night of our adventure.

My friend and I later critiqued our successful trip, knowing that we could do ‘it’.  That we could survive on our own if need be.

Many years later I reflect back on that incident, and although I am one of few people I know who has eaten blackbird, I also know that we were extremely naïve that we could do ‘it’ on our own.  A fine example of the innocence of youth.

Now having my own family, a wife and two small boys, I know I could not do it on my own.  I know that at some point in time I am going to have to sleep and cannot protect my family 24/7.  I know that any knowledge I have will be woefully underscored by the knowledge of a joined group.  I understand that the work I would have to do to provide for my family in a disaster situation can be lessened by more members of a combined ‘family’.  Many hands do make light work.

So although I was on board with combining a larger family if the need arises, I had other people to convince. 

First was my wife.

This was easier than I expected.  I persuaded my then citified wife, who is the exact polar opposite of me in most things in real life, to read a couple of survival books; fiction and non-fiction.  She agreed much to my astonishment, if of course you call reading listening and buying the books downloading them to MP3.  Whoever said print is dead is right.

The change of direction in my wife’s way of thinking amazed me.  She immediately began to ask ‘what if’ questions and prepare for disaster situations.  She required the off-road stroller be kept in her vehicle at all times in case she had to walk with the children if her vehicle became disabled during an event.  She keeps extra water in her car and even asked me to plan the easiest routes home for her avoiding expressways and major travel arteries.

Of course, not everything with the Misses has gone according to plan.  While talking about routes of travel, I advised her that she should rest during the day and travel only at night, walking like she was on a battlefield. 

Her response, as though she immediately knew better, was, “Well, I’m going with a different plan.”

Much to my consternation I asked what that was.

My wife smiled and said bluntly, “I’m going with the idea that the good in people will outweigh the bad.”

“Yeah,” I replied, “let me know how that works for you.”

Conversation between my wife and I next turned to planning on who to invite to our retreat/home.  It was decided on her family as mine all live several hundred miles away.  And invite isn’t so much the right word.  More like convince.

I would like to say that it was easy to convince my in-laws to leave their city homes in a disaster situation as it was to convince my wife to read (well, listen to) the survival books I had suggested.  It wasn’t for some of them.

When I first suggested the idea, my mother-in-law looked up from her Kindle wireless reading device and asked mockingly, “What type of books are you reading exactly?”

“Don’t you know that print is dead?” I asked sarcastically.   “I’m not reading any books.  This is about lifestyle change in case things go bad.”

I proceeded to tell her, and the rest of my in-laws, about my concerns of a ‘double-dip’ recession leading to depression, pandemics, food or fuel shortages, extended power outages, natural disasters, economic collapse of a deflated or hyper-inflated dollar and the worst case scenario, the disintegration of our government.

My mother-in-law stopped me on the last one and stated, “Well, I really don’t think I want to be around if that happens.”

I didn’t say anything, but thought, ‘I wonder of Romans thought the same thing as their Empire fell around them?’

I then asked my in-laws to think about it and just do something simple at first.  Start out small and build from there has always been my philosophy.  I asked them to start sorting their change – saving all pre-1965 dimes and quarters and start saving nickels.  Everyone was shocked to find out that a pre 1965 dime has, at the time we were talking about it anyway, about $2.65 worth of silver in it.

A few days later my father-in-law responded to the above request by stating that he didn’t think saving coins was ‘where it was at’.  He believed that having cash on hand was more important.  When my wife (yes, it was actually my wife who piped up first) retorted back that paper money would have no value in an economic collapse, my father-in-law responded carelessly by stating that he could be reached at their cottage near Reed City, Michigan and that if the phone lines were down, we could send him a letter there. 

“Great idea,” I told my wife, “he has no firearms, no coins, nothing to barter with, and zero food.”

So back at the disaster preparedness drawing board, I set out my concerns on paper.  By the time I was done I had seven pages of why we need to prepare along with travel routes to our retreat (and a secondary retreat in case the primary is compromised) both driving and walking.  I ran down a list on what to pack and what not to pack – including a note to my sister-in-law to leave her ‘beauty products’ at home as they couldn’t be bartered for anything.  I concluded with what we will continue to do in the next few years, as a group, to fully prepare for an extended disaster event, including food stocks, ammunition purchases, medical supplies, et cetera.

Well, something must have clicked. Our preparedness family went from two adults (my wife and I) to seven adults (father-, mother-, daughter-, her husband, and brother-in-law).

“Nice work,” my wife and brother-in-law both said when they heard the news.  My brother-in-law had been a steadfast supporter since the beginning.

“Thanks, but seven is an unlucky number,” I said.

My wife looked at me, mouth agape, before she responded, “I do believe that seven is a lucky number.”

“Not when you need shifts of two or four for security patrols,” I responded.

I turned to my brother-in-law and asked, “What about your friend, Ryan?  He seems to have a good head on his shoulders.”

“No way,” my wife responded hastily.  “Family only.”

My brother-in-law stated flatly, “Yeah, you might want to reconsider.  Ryan has a generator, has over 2,000 rounds of ammunition stored in his basement and is a self taught auto mechanic.”

I could only think back to my father’s words right then.

‘There are some things that schools just can’t teach.’

Without hesitation, I replied, “Ryan’s in.”

In Conclusion
We are just starting this adventure of preparing for the worst.  I have no idea where it will take us, other than giving us the peace of mind that when ‘it’ does hit the fan, we will be ready.

Dear Jim:
Recently, while doing some genealogy research, I discovered that my great aunt died at age 22 in Sunderland, England.  She had married in 1906 and died in 1907.  We all assumed it was childbirth related.  Not so.  The death certificate says:  "Scurvy septicaemia".  This is certainly not anything I have heard of before. 

I did some reading and found that Scurvy is is a lack of Vitamin C with symptoms of weakness, spongy and bleeding gums, and hemorrhages under the skin.  As scurvy advances, there can be open wounds filled with pus, loss of teeth, jaundice, fever, neuropathy and death.   Septicemia is blood poisoning.   So, it appears she had an advanced case of scurvy with open sores which became infected.  Because her system was so weakened, the infection spread through her whole body and killed her.

If we are considering preparing for crisis situations, two simple things may prevent what happened to great aunt Mary:  (1) a stockpile of Vitamin C and (2) lots of soap and clean water.  These remedies are inexpensive and preventative.  Stock up! - Gracie

JWR Replies: All well-prepared families should plan on both storing commercial Vitamin C tablets and collecting and storing their own sources. By coincidence, the folks over at the excellent Paratus Familia blog (one of Avalanche Lily's daily reads) just posted this: Wildcrafting - Rose Hip Jelly.

Rickets (due to lack of Vitamin D), is also easily avoidable. Natural sources of Vitamin D include cod liver oil, fatty fish, eggs, lard, many dairy products, and fish roe. You can store cod liver oil in bulk. But of course without measured doses, there could be the risk of over-dosing Vitamin D. So be sure to use a teaspoon measure, rather than just a brave gulp.

As I mentioned in my book How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It, Vitamins K, A, D, and E are all fat soluble, so there is the risk of overdosing. Not so for water-soluble vitamins. With those, anything excess to a body's needs are excreted in the urine. But that would be a waste of a resource that might be crucial for you and your neighbors.

A "Strong To Severe" geomagnetic storm is expected for up to 36 hours, starting tonight. Get ready for some pretty aurorae. Disconnecting the power cords and antennas for your primary radios and full Faraday cage protection (trash can with tight-fitting lid) for your spares would be wise. This is good practice, if nothing else...

   o o o

F.J. found this gem: Box food dehydrator

   o o o

Camping Survival's Paracord Giveaway ends soon. Describe your favorite paracord project, or list some of your favorite uses for paracord and how you execute them, and you can win a 1,000 foot roll of top quality paracord. This contest will run through the end of September.

   o o o

A tongue-in-cheek piece over at the Rural Revolution blog had me laughing hysterically: Wood Cutting 101 by Husband of the Boss.

   o o o

Jeff H. and F.J. both sent this: Man with broken leg survives 4 days in Utah desert. F.J. notes some Lessons Learned: "(1) Water is essential. (2) Don't panic (3) Tell folks where you'll be! (4) Have check in times (5) Innovative using flash camera to signal plane."

"There is the moral of all human tales;
'Tis but the same rehearsal of the past.
First freedom and then Glory - when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption - barbarism at last." - George Gordon (Lord Byron), "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage", Canto IV

Monday, September 26, 2011

I'm sure that most of you noticed that gold and silver took deep dips on Thursday and Friday. (Spot silver declined nearly 20%--almost $9 per ounce!) Then an odd thing happened last weekend: I attended a gun show deep in the American Redoubt. I was happy to see that there were four coin dealers that had rented tables there. I had brought some cash with me, hoping to buy some more silver. I also brought a few fractional gold coins to swap for silver, or perhaps even platinum. (Since spot platinum is presently priced below gold!) But my more realistic goal was to swap for silver, since there is presently a very advantageous 53.5-to-1 ratio of silver to gold prices.

But I soon found that all four dealers were sticking to their pre-dip prices. All four of them quoted me asking prices of 26 or 27 times face value for pre-1965 junk silver (90%) coins. But with the recent dip in silver futures and spot silver, the gnomes of New York said that coin dealers should have quoted me a price of around 22 or 23 times face value. Of course, in a free market, dealers can price anything wherever they'd like, and I won't fault them for that. How can I blame them, when they probably paid 24 or 25 times face, wholesale for their current inventories of pre-1965 coins, just a couple of weeks ago. They are of course hoping that the price of silver will soon rebound. (And it very likely will.)

In the end, since the dealers were all standing firm on their pre-dip prices, I didn't work any cash deals for silver coins or small ingots. But at least I was able to swap some "small gold" coins for a few Johnson Matthey and Sunshine Minting serialized 10 Troy ounce .999 fine silver bars.

My experience at the gun show is further evidence that the "real world" price of commodities often differ from the "official" price. In turbulent markets where we now witness huge price swings, we can expect to see these sorts of pricing disconnects more often. Be flexible, keep cash on hand to take advantage of dips, and keep close track of market moves.

Okay, I admit it, I’m a Prepper.  The first time I read the Boy Scout Motto “Be Prepared”, I was hooked.  "Be prepared for what?" someone once asked Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, "Why, for any old thing." said Baden-Powell.  My real awakening with the Boy Scout Handbook was my first introduction to fire.  Learning to make a basic campfire, a cook fire, bonfire and camp-fire television were the first tastes of what would prepare me for the future. I camped, earned merit badges and worked my way to First Class and Patrol leader all the while putting an end to cords and cords of wood with gusto.  Being a Scout taught me at a young age to think about prepping as a natural part of my life.  When I read Jack London’s epic story “To Build A Fire”, I understood that being unprepared can be the harshest schoolmaster.  So I began my life in the workaday world planning on being the one who was prepared.
Fast forward to ‘married with children’ and I can hear my patient, psych-majored, wife say, “prepping meets a basic need”.  In my mind, prepping meant to know ‘everything’ about being prepared.  It was important to understand not just how to prep, but what to prep for and to understand the root causes for why one had to prep.  Several books I read provided the best explanation of what was coming: 1) The Fourth Turning by Strauss and Howe, 2) Conquer the Crash by Robert Prechter, and 3) The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.   All three helped me understand what I was preparing for and instilled a real sense of urgency.  Knowing the why, I also pursued the how by reading: 1) Boy Scouts Handbook (First Edition, 1911), 2) The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery, and 3) How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It, by James Wesley, Rawles, the best among many others.

After years of reading books, articles and blogs, it slowly dawned on me that I would never know ‘everything’ about prepping, but at least I could know ‘everything’ about a couple of things.  My work consisted of designing and building process equipment, which requires large vessels called retorts that are used to heat mercury vapor, hydrocarbons and air to over 1000F.  The retorts are kept under a mild vacuum, to prevent the conditions for combustion and fire from ever happening. After more than ten years of designing and building retorts, I became interested in biomass gasifiers, which are in many ways, similar to retorts.  My prepping had led me to look at alternative fuels for our family’s two diesel fueled sedans.  Although already easy on fuel, I was interested in what alternatives there were to using straight diesel fuel.  Peanut oil, soybean oil, palm oil, coconut oil, used fryer oil, used motor oil, LP gas, compressed natural gas and producer gas are all mentioned as alternatives to diesel fuel.  Wait a second!  What is that last one - producer gas? It is fairly common to convert a diesel to run on LP and compressed natural gas, but what was producer gas?  As it turns out, producer gas is the result of burning biomass (basically wood) with insufficient air. In fact about ¼ of the normal amount of air necessary to completely burn wood will yield a smoky, but burnable producer gas consisting mostly of Carbon Monoxide (CO), Hydrogen (H2), Nitrogen (N2) and smoke (unburned hydrocarbons).  Producer gas from a gasifier must have the smoke reformed into producer gas before it can be piped directly into the intake of a diesel engine. This could reduce, but not completely replace the diesel fuel that the engine uses.  I was intrigued by the possibility that we could use biomass to power our diesels.  After studying biomass gasification for about two years, we built our first test gasifier.  It was a batch-type, stratified, downdraft gasifier, which we built with insulated, stainless steel chimney sections and small axial blower. It was a very simple, yet excellent way to learn more about biomass gasification.  With this test unit we gasified every type of biomass we could get our hands on – wood chips, wood pellets, sawdust, cocoa shells, wood shavings, paper, and dried distillers grains (don’t ask).  In addition to producer gas, the gasifier also yields a charcoal, also known as biochar, as a valuable byproduct.

Needless to say I was excited, but then my wife says I’m always excited about something or other, having been born fully caffeinated.  Now I could make producer gas and biochar simply and on demand.  With some development time, stainless steel fabrication, and a digital control system - I could see this becoming an entire new business.  I made a plan for our prototype and my faithful sidekick, Jake, drew up good looking solid model drawings, which he then built.  To our surprise, the unit worked and generated producer gas that we flared off in an impressive blue flame about two feet long.  To our amazement, we also got it to power a 5 kW gasoline generator which we converted to run on producer gas using the tri-fuel generator kit available from US Carburetion.  So I showed my wife the unit, showed her how it operated, the big beautiful blue flame, ran the generator and told her my idea of how this was the basis for a whole new business.  Her immediate response, “That’s great dear – but don’t quit your day job.” Well I haven’t given up mercury retorts, but I could tell by her enthusiastic response that she was behind me all the way. 

Soon after, young Jake and I were discussing gasifying the various types of biomass, whether hardwood, softwood, nutshells, paper, and grains, and how the process seemed to be straightforward. Our conversation got around to size and again how simple the process was to gasify average size wood chips, wood pellets and other “average” size biomass, just as we could easily gasify small size biomass like fine sawdust.  I mentioned to Jake the importance of testing the other extreme, to which he immediately shot back, “then gasify logs”.  Ouch! Now that smarted.  Wood blocks, can do; small branches, check; short 2x2 cutoffs, no problem; but logs, full size logs?  That little challenge from Jake, faithful apprentice and right-hand man, forced me to think about the real reason we were doing what we were doing.  We really needed to be prepared for the time when the gasoline, diesel fuel, LP and natural gas were gone.  The time when the natural gas pipelines were empty, when we had used the last of our LP tanks, and when our diesel fuel and gasoline tanks were empty.  What happens then?  How would that happen? Whether war, EMP, political upheaval, famine or plague – it matters little.  Because when you’re cold and it’s dark, no one is interested in motives or underlying causes, you just need heat and light. 

All that would be left as a renewable resource would be our firewood, but how can we effectively use firewood?  Normally, the traditional campfire can provide heat to warm you up, cook your food, dry your clothes, signal your location, and provide you with adequate light to see and read.  However, under abnormal situations involving the high stress of no shelter, extreme cold, deep snow, high winds and driving rain; building a fire can be a lifesaving, but tricky proposition especially for the inexperienced and unprepared.  This is the part where having read Jack London’s short story, “To Build a Fire” was crucial to my thought process.  If you never read it - now is a good time.   Just what does it take to properly build a fire in extreme conditions?  It requires: first, shelter from wind and cold surfaces like snow; second, a good quantity dry wood; third, some kindling consisting of dried wood cut in thin sections or slivers; fourth, some flammable tinder, which can catch and hold the smallest flame or spark; fifth, all-weather waterproof matches or flint and steel; sixth, knowing the process of assembling the wood, kindling and tinder that will enable you to start and maintain the fire; and seventh, practice.   The best campfire resource on the web that I’ve seen is The Campfire Dude who provides you with solid information matched with years of practical experience.  Making a campfire is not that easy, in fact it requires skill under good circumstances, and can be near impossible in high stress situations.  Add to that the fact that a campfire is absolutely the least efficient means to burn wood to generate warmth and you may well be permanently disappointed. 

Jake and I had learned that it was easy to gasify almost any biomass using our downdraft gasifier, as long as it had been nicely chipped, chopped, pelleted, trimmed, dried and graded for uniformity.  However to gasify logs required a completely different approach, we found a clue at the 2010 U.S. Biochar Initiative Conference at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. There we saw several versions of inverted downdraft stoves and were intrigued by one large unit in particular.  One big problem was that it required electric power and a blower to operate - we were not interested, as our unit had to operate without power.  Instead we developed an idea, which used the updraft heat from the fire to drive the necessary airflow to feed the fire in place of the electric blower. We designed the layout for our basic prototype from our initial calculations, which required that we place correctly sized openings for primary and secondary air and chimney. Proper location, sizing and spacing all were important, in that they determined, how fast the wood burned, how hot the fire got and how completely it burned the wood fuel.  We built our first unit and were again amazed that it worked at all.  Our testing used metal containers, which ranged from 5 gallon metal pails holding 12 inch long split wood to 30 gallon cans where we tested full sized logs. 

We discovered in our first test that:
1) The burn was extremely hot, enough so to warp the metal container,
2) The wood burned with no visible smoke except on startup,
3) 20 pounds of wood burned down to less than 5# of biochar, and
4) The burn lasted more than two and one-half hours. 

Thus was born our "Commence Fire!" Emergency Fire and Heat unit, which includes:  one 5 gallon shrink-wrapped container, chimney, 20# of hardwood pellets, tinder/fire starter, stormproof matches, metal cups, water pouches, single servings of tea and a reflective Mylar blanket. 

To operate the Commence Fire!, first strip off the shrink wrapping, remove the shrink tube from inside the chimney, firmly pull the chimney completely up until it locks in place, charge the unit with the tinder/firestarter mix by pushing it completely down the chimney, remove a stormproof match from its package, light it and immediately drop it down chimney. 

Within five minutes of opening the shrink wrap, your fire should be well established. Next fill a cup with water and in a few more minutes you will have boiling water ready for hot tea.  Immediately search for about 100 pieces of small diameter logs and branches that are dead but still off the ground, and which you are able to break into 12” lengths using your hands or feet.  Lean the accumulated wood, even if wet, on the Commence Fire! unit to get it dry – as you will be using this wood as a continuing source of fire.  It is also recommended that you stack rocks up around the outside of the container to be heated and later brought into your tent or sleeping bag for long lasting warmth. Proper positioning of the Mylar blanket enables you to shield yourself from wind and rain, while reflecting heat from the backside of the unit.

You probably know that you can remain conscious for only three minutes without air. You may not know that you are likely to remain conscious for only three hours without adequate shelter and heat in extreme cold and wet conditions.  To reverse the effects of exposure and hypothermia you need the means to provide heat and shelter to reduce exposure and the means of increasing your core temperature by drinking warm liquids. With the Commence Fire! you have a unit with everything you need to start and maintain a fire in any weather and to provide shelter and warm liquids fast, especially when it is pre-positioned and ready in your BOV, retreat, cabin, boat, or cache.

Indoors, most folks believe that their fireplaces will be their backup heat. But the harsh reality is that a fireplace can be only slightly more efficient than a campfire in extracting heat from wood.

JWR Adds: The author makes an interesting new stove and tinder kit dubbed Commence Fire! It will soon be reviewed in SurvivalBlog by Pat Cascio. It is notable that the kit is specially dry-packaged for use in an emergency, so the contents stay dry, even if its shipping box gets soaking wet. Here is a demonstration of a Commence Fire! kit. 

Disclaimer (per FTC File No. P034520): I accept cash-paid advertising. To the best of my knowledge, as of the date of this posting, none of the companies mentioned in this article have solicited me or paid me to write any reviews or endorsements, nor have they provided me any free or reduced-price gear in exchange for any reviews or endorsements. I've been told that they will be providing Pat with one of their kits for test and evaluation, but nothing else. I am not a stock holder in any company.

OB?  Not bad if you need one.  CB?  Good times on the road.  PB?  Quite tasty--with or without J.  BB?  Good training gun for kids to start with.  TB?  No thanks.  Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis.  The disease is poorly understood in the US due to rare infections until the last 20 years or so, TB went nuts here and peaked in 1992.  New York City was in some areas more than three times the national average for infections per 100,000 population.  There were many reasons listed for this spike, but the two biggest were immigration and AIDS.  TB has steadily declined in the US since that time, which you would never know from watching the news.  Just like shark attacks, we are exposed to a lot less TB than we probably think due to over-reporting of such stories.  But, TB does pop up more when people are poor, dirty and stressed–like we all will be WTSHTF.  Abuse of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol are all know to increase the likelihood of contracting TB.  So is being underweight, vitamin D deficient, and iron deficient.  Chronic disease and immuno-compromise are also big risk factors for developing TB.  Most TB cases are from immigrants in the US, with more than half of all US cases in foreign-born individuals.

The treatment of TB will not be something possible in the small, self-sufficient communities created by a major grid-down event.  The good thing is that TB will probably not be an issue in these environments either.  If there is a member of your family or group infected currently with TB, they will need to live on the periphery of your community and avoid crowded contact to reduce the likelihood of transmission.  More than a third of household contacts test positive for TB with an infected family member.  Best advice:  that person needs to be in their own separate household.  Not only coughing, but also singing produces the formation of droplets that carry TB.  Risk of infection would exist with socializing with others, which could be markedly reduced with surgical masks on both TB carrier and the people he or she is mixing with.  There would still be risk, albeit very small without a coughing, laughing, or singing fit.  (We invite comments about this risk if you have the knowledge).

TB cases will likely rise in populated areas with no monitoring of the cases and less treatment available WTSHTF.  With less mixing of the population in preppers and rural folk without trips to airports, Mall of America, and the Wal-Mart; TB rates may actually fall in theory.  Open air and non-crowded environments help reduce transmission of the disease.  Crowding and poverty in areas with infected individuals are the real boosters of risk.  Avoid crowding and poverty, even at TEOTWAWKI.  You may have heard this somewhere before, but plan ahead.  Avoid populated areas with TB-infected individuals that will likely inhabit the major federal camps that will pop up to “help” people.  Self-reliance means better health.  TB infection will really not be a major issue for those groups and families that are independent WTSHTF.  Stay strong.

JWR Adds: 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:

I'm looking for info on the range (radius) of direct electromagnetic pulse (EMP) effects from a nuclear detonation. If you could point me in the right direction, I'd be most appreciative.

Sincerely, - Todd H.

JWR Replies: I have discussed this before in SurvivalBlog, such as in my reply to this letter posted in 2009.

Hi Jim,
I’ve been chasing some practical technologies that have proved useful to me. I hope that you find them useful as well.
As you know, power usage in an off-grid environment is a purse to be tightly controlled. After all, when you make your own, you cautiously guard it’s use.
I‘ve been using LED strings from for the past number of years at the off grid ranch and have been well pleased. 
I’ve used the warm white and the cool white and learned I like warm white inside and cool white outside.

Recently I got adventurous and toyed with the Chinese/Hong Kong manufacturers on eBay. Most of my lights use the 1157 single pole DC light sockets so that’s what I centered around. I started out with these since the US guys have already toyed around and found what they liked but, of course, their price is higher.
Then I also got the cheap Chinese ones to try out. I also found these. They work well and put out light in 360 degrees.

Next, I tried the plate style light fixture. They come with Velcro backing so you can stick them up. They work very well for overhead or desk lights or simply put into RV-style house lamps. Here are three different eBay offerings: One, Two, Three

Then I ran across a super nice floodlight, 1,000 lumens and pulls ~.6 amps. A lot of light with a very minimal current draw.
All in all, the overall current reduction has been ~80% less than I was using and the lights are comfortable and reliable.
Nice thing about putting these floodlights on the ATV and tractor is at night, I can turn off the engine and leave all the lights on and not worry if I'm going to run the battery down. 5 to 6 hours of very bright light at night and the engine always starts.

One convenient method for portable applications of the floodlights has been to use a (military) BB-2590 lithium battery (rechargeable of course) powering a single floodlight and it ran continuously for seven days.
All in all, should power go away, using the aforementioned DC lighting solutions makes life a lot more tolerable. And before that should happen, the cost of illumination is drastically reduced I hope you find an acorn or two in the foregoing that helps you.
Best Regards, - The Army Aviator

Mr. Rawles:
In a recent SurvivalBlog post, Alan W. wrote:

"It has a 400w inverter with a modified sine wave output. During Hurricane Irene the
only thing that I could get it to power was a standard lamp with an incandescent light bulb! It wouldn't run tools or electronics."

I believe he is drawing the wrong conclusion from this experience. Instead of blaming the (admittedly inferior) "modified sine wave" inverter, he should have blamed himself for not testing his equipment before the emergency struck.

I own a number of inexpensive inverters with "modified sine wave" ranging from 175 watt to 1000 watt ratings, and have found they run almost everything I have tried to power with them. I have run lights, both incandescent, CFL, and long tube fluorescents with both old magnetic and modern electronic ballasts. I have run sound reinforcement equipment
including mixers and power amplifiers (with a slight buzz but no damage).

Every night I run my CPAP [sleep apnea breathing] machine and charge my cell phone using an inexpensive 200 watt rated "modified sine wave" inverter running from a deep cycle battery that is charged by a small solar electric system.

One way to be almost absolutely sure that an electronic device will be happy running from a "modified sine wave" inverter is to look at the acceptable power voltage range. Many electronic devices today have "universal" power supplies that will accept any voltage from 100 to 250 volts. Such universal power supplies have zero problems using the less than great output waveform of inexpensive inverters. Both my CPAP and my cell phone charger have such universal power supplies.

As far as the tool issue, most motors require 7 to 10 times their running power to start. It is possible that the 400 watt inverter was simply not big enough to run the device he tried to use.

It is also very possible that he had a defective inverter.

He also stated:

"An inverter with a pure sine wave output is a much more expensive design
(and is the same output as your house electric) and is typically larger. It
is often used in back-up power supplies for computer systems."

Most reasonably priced computer UPSes sold in the home and small business market, have "modified sine wave" outputs, not "pure sine wave". Our computers at home are running on four different APC brand UPSes, all of which have "modified sine wave" outputs. This is another example to disprove the common myth that electronics can't run on "modified sine wave" inverters.

And, regarding:

"I realize that the typical generator uses a cheaper inverter and that may
be fine for a few lamps and a refrigerator, but I want to run medical
equipment, Televisions and a laptop during outages."

The "typical" generator does not use an inverter. The modern inverter generators popularized by Honda with their very quiet EU series of generators do use inverters, and the Honda models have a pretty good "pure sine wave" output.

There may be medical equipment that has a problem running on "modified sine wave" inverters, but I suspect many dealers and manufacturers claim pure sine wave is required for liability reasons rather than any actual technical reason. Again my CPAP is perfectly happy running on "modified sine wave" power.

Laptops mostly have universal power supplies these days which don't much care how good the power is you feed to them. In the case of a laptop a better solution is to use a power supply that runs directly from the 12 volt DC battery. This is much less wasteful of energy.

Televisions and radios may pick up noise when running on any inverter because even the best "pure sine wave" inverter has RF trash on its output. Try this before hand and see how much of a problem it is in your situation.

JWR wrote in reply:

"Even the best inverters produce AC power with a slightly clipped or distorted waveform."

This is true. You can largely clean the power up by using a Harmonic Neutralized Constant Voltage Transformer such as the models made by Sola. I have both a small 50 watt and a large 1,000 watt Harmonic Neutralized Sola and use them to provide clean power to very finicky "power prima donna" electronics. The downside of these transformers are that they are large, heavy (my 1000 watt transformer weighs 80 pounds), waste some of the power, and are expensive even if bought used.

JWR Also mentioned:

"Also, when sizing your system remember that the larger the inverter, the
higher its "idle" current draw will be."

That is a very important point. That is why I use a small 200 watt inverter to power my CPAP machine and my cell phone charger. Nothing larger is required. Regards, - R.R.


As a former truck driver, I have used inverters to power all sorts of things in the truck for about 10 years.

I have run various power tools, laptops, desktop computer, and even a deep fryer,cooker combo on my inverter.

The little cigarette lighter plug style inverter puts out around 50-70 watts. It would not power my laptop, but it would charge the battery, it works great for the little household adapters. They usually run around 30-40 dollars at a chain truck stop.

I used a Cobra 800 watt inverter that powered a desktop computer and CRT monitor. This was back in 2000 when laptops were still very expensive compared to desktops. It was mounted in the truck where the television normally goes. I could go many hours on the four batteries in the truck while still being able to start the engine later.

I later upgraded to a 1000 watt inverter to power my cooker, after having problems with my truck mounted diesel genset. With the high maintenance costs of running that little diesel generator, I would have been better off buying 6 or 8 additional deep cycle batteries and installing a second alternator. I spent nearly as much on the little generator as I did on the care of the 500hp Detroit diesel that got me down the road. - M.B.


Instead of spending a lot of money to get a pure sine wave generator or inverter, I'd like to remind SurvivalBlog readers of something that has been mentioned here before: You can place a UPS power backer in the line between the generator/inverter and your electronics. Let the generator charge the UPS battery with squarish sine waves and run the electronics off of the inverted battery power by the backer which is made to run sensitive electronics. I started using UPS seriously when our local power company (famous for high voltage spikes) kept burning out high quality spike protectors. The UPS power backers, take spikes, browns and square waves all the time providing clean power to your electronics. A power drop won't even drop the satellite TV connection. The down side is that you have to replace the battery every few years or so. I've had the internal batteries last for as long as 5 and as few as 2. Almost every electronic device I own is on one except for large current drain items like laser printers and appliances. Those items stay on surge protectors which I do replace as they fail. - F.B. (15 Miles From Asphalt)

John R. spotted this: Hay The Latest Target For Thieves As Prices Skyrocket

   o o o

P.L. recommended an informative firearms article by Grant Cunningham: Lubrication 101

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Allie in Montana mentioned an amazing truly "minimalist" Kydex holster: The Zacchaeus Concealment Holster, made by Dale Fricke Holsters. It is particularly useful for those that like "Mexican Carry", but that don't want a gun to slip too deep down their pants. (That can be embarrassing, not to mention unsafe!) Having the triggerguard fully enclosed is particularly important for pistols that lack a thumb safety lever (and with or without the "safety in the trigger") such as Glocks, FNPs, SIG P250s, and Springfield XDs. These clever little "holsters" are so small that they can be left on a loaded gun even if it is inside a pistol rug, in a pistol rack in your gun vault, or tucked in a glove box or "jockey box' of a vehicle. I'm buying several of them, just for peace of mind with my Glocks and XDs.

   o o o

F.J. recommended this over at Life Hacker: Build Bicycle Panniers from Kitty Litter Buckets

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Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large) flagged this: You'll eat what you're told and like it.

"Between the hand wringing over Greece and the Eurozone, the Palestinian-related hair-pulling at the UN, the stock market cra**ing the bed, and NASA running around yelling that the sky is falling, the only way you can tell the front page of from SurvivalBlog right now is by the graphics and color schemes." - Tamara, at the View From The Porch blog

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

One of the most often overlooked and underestimated issues regarding first aid are environmental related injuries.  In the event that ambulance services and advanced medical personnel are unavailable, there are measures that a person can take to alleviate symptoms, prevent organ damage, and possibly save a life.  From my own personal experience as a paramedic, I have found that these emergencies are usually unexpected even in people who are in relatively good medical condition.

Environmental injuries are problems we don’t usually encounter on a regular basis in our daily lives.  While our bodies can usually compensate for extreme environment exposure, the natural protective mechanisms that our body provides can sometimes prove to be inadequate.  When these extremes are too much for our bodies to handle, the result may lead to shock and even death. 
There are basically two extremes that a person is likely to encounter; extreme hot conditions and extreme cold conditions.  Heat related injuries, or hyperthermia (abnormally high body temperature) can result in heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.  Cold related injuries, or hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature), can result in chilblains, frostnip, or frostbite.  Another environmental injury not related to hot or cold conditions is trench foot, also called immersion foot, which is similar to frostbite.

There are preventative measures that should be taken in order to ensure that the chances of these types of injuries occurring are avoided.    Dehydration is a symptom that presents early and can be avoided by drinking plenty of water.   Wear proper attire accordingly for the environment you expect to be exposed to.  Wear loose, light colored clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat to provide shade in hot weather.   In cold weather, make sure to cover all exposed skin, and layer clothing to provide dead air space to act as insulation from the cold.  One should be careful to not layer to the point of sweating.  If sweating occurs, you should begin removing layers, as sweating will quickly lead to hypothermia.  Monitoring the amount of physical exertion in extreme environments, getting plenty of rest, and maintaining a proper diet are also important factors in regulating body temperature.

While anyone can be affected by these extremes of climate and temperature, it is often those with certain risk factors that are at a higher risk of developing an environmental illness.  Risk factors include:

  1.  Age of the individual – Children and elderly are at higher risk because of their inability to tolerate variations in temperature.
  2. Current health of the individual – Fatigue, hypoglycemia, malnutrition, and other chronic health issues such as diabetes, cardiac related illnesses, respiratory disease, and mental instability can interfere with the body’s ability to recover from environmental exposure illness.
  3. Medications – Many medications can affect body temperature.  For instance, diuretics can worsen hyperthermia; beta blockers affect the heart rate and can interfere with the regulation of body temperature.  Anti-psychotics and antihistamine medications can also alter the temperature in certain deep tissues of the body.
  4. Level of acclimatization – This is the person’s ability to adjust to changes in environmental conditions, or climate.
  5. Length and intensity of exposure – Factors such as humidity and wind can contribute to the susceptibility of environmental illnesses, and accelerates the effects of exposure on the human body.

Heat Related Injuries
Signs, symptoms and treatment of heat related injuries are best described as follows:

  1. Dehydration – This occurs when your body does not have as much fluid as it needs, and usually leads to other heat related disorders if not addressed immediately.  Signs and symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, blurry vision, decreased urination, skin loses elasticity, and altered mental status (confusion, disorientation, etc.).  Note:  Thirst is a poor way to identify the level of dehydration.  Treatment includes rehydration by drinking fluids if the person is conscious and able to hold fluids down.  Encourage them to sip small amounts of water frequently, rather than to take large amounts at once.
  2. Heat cramps – This occurs when a person’s muscles are overexerted while exposed to hot temperatures.  Signs and symptoms are sudden painful cramps of fingers, arms, legs, or abdominal muscles, weakness, feeling dizzy, moist and warm skin.  Treatment consists of removing the person from the environment by placing them in a shaded area.  If the person is alert, have them drink a sports drink (such as Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) if available, or substitute by mixing a solution of 4 teaspoons of salt to a gallon of water.  Salt tablets are not recommended because they may cause stomach irritation.  You may even try massaging the painful muscles, and placing moist towels on the forehead to reduce body heat.
  3. Heat exhaustion – A mild reaction to heat exposure.  If not treated, it may lead to heat stroke.  Signs and symptoms include increased body temperature, skin is cool and clammy with heavy sweating, and breathing will be rapid and shallow with a weak pulse.  Other symptoms may include diarrhea, weakness, headache, anxiety, numbness and tingling, impaired judgment, and sometimes loss of consciousness and even psychosis (hallucinations or delusions).  Treatment for heat exhaustion includes placing the person in a shaded area, lay them on their back with the legs elevated, remove or loosen tight clothing especially around the neck and wrists, and cool them by fanning but not to the point of causing them to chill or shiver.  If the person is conscious, have them drink a sports drink if available, or substitute with the salt solution mentioned above. 
  4. Heat stroke – This occurs when the body is unable to regulate its core temperature, and can cause damage to kidneys, liver and brain.  Signs and symptoms are lack of sweating, hot, red, dry skin, but may still be moist from prior sweating, deep respirations that become shallow, rapid respirations that become slow, a rapid pulse that may slow down later, confusion, disorientation, unconsciousness, and possible seizures.  Treatment includes removing the person from the environment to a cooler environment, attempt to rapidly cool the person by removing the clothing and placing a wet sheet over the body.  Fanning and misting with water may also be necessary, but be careful to not cool to the point of shivering.  Please note that cold water immersion or sponge baths should not be attempted, as this can cause a rapid change in body temperature and result in shivering causing further complications.  If the person is alert and able to drink, fluid therapy should be attempted with a sports drink or using the salt solution.  Seek advanced medical care if available.

Cold related injuries
Signs, symptoms and treatment of cold related injuries are best described as follows:

  1.  Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature falls due to heat loss caused by exposure to cold weather.  A person’s body will naturally try to warm itself by producing “goose bumps” or shivering.  Signs of mild hypothermia are shivering, impaired judgment, slurred speech, and stiff muscles that cause uncoordinated movements such as stumbling or staggering.  Person’s with severe hypothermia will become confused and disoriented, possibly to the state of euphoria or a sense of well-being.  Shivering will stop, and muscles will become more rigid.  To treat for hypothermia, begin by removing any wet clothing.  Lay the person down on their back and cover them with blankets, and prevent from further exposure to moisture.  Heat packs may be used, placing them in the armpits and in the groin area or between the thighs.  If heat packs are not available, heated rocks from a campfire may be used.  Be sure to cover heat packs or rocks with a cloth to prevent burns.  You may also use your own body as a heat source to assist re-warming of a partner by simply lying next to them under the blankets.  If you are re-warming specific parts of the body, you may place the frozen areas like, hands or feet, on your chest or abdomen.  Take care to handle the patient gently, as rough handling may cause disturbances in the heart.  If the person is conscious and alert, you may give them something warm and sweet to drink.  Do not give them alcohol or caffeine.

  2. Frostbite occurs when tissues in the body freeze, typically in fingers, toes, ears, nose cheeks, or any exposed skin.  The person may complain of a burning or itching sensation.  The affected area will be red at first, which is known as frostnip.  As the freezing reaches deeper tissue, the skin will become white and waxy in appearance, hard to the touch, and blisters may form.  There may not be any pain at first, but could become numb, leading to severe pain as re-warming occurs.  Do not attempt to re-warm if there is the possibility of re-freezing, such as the need to continue walking from a dangerous situation.  Do not puncture any blisters, and do not massage or rub the frozen area.  Cover the area with loose, dry dressings and seek advanced medical care if available.

Also known as immersion foot, trenchfoot is similar to frostbite but does not require freezing temperatures to occur.  The term “trenchfoot” comes from World War I when soldiers were forced to stand in trenches with standing water.  Although today we don’t usually find ourselves standing in trenches, trenchfoot can still be caused by wearing boots and socks that have become wet, either from walking in rainy weather, or from our feet sweating.   The most important thing to remember is prevention.  Keep your feet dry and frequently change into clean socks.   If possible, waterproofing your boots with mink oil or other waterproofing products can help in the prevention of this environmental injury. 

While environmental injuries can encompass anything from altitude sickness to zombie infiltration, the topics discussed here are related to extreme weather conditions only.  Some other topics regarding environmental injuries you may want to investigate are chemical or radiation exposure, drowning or near-drowning, bee stings, snake bites, etc.  With any injury that might require first aid, prevention is the best medicine.  It is always a good idea to keep a well stocked first-aid kit handy.  I would recommend anyone and everyone to take a course in CPR.  An EMT class or other basic first aid training would also be beneficial. 

As preppers we have all heard of the Three B’s those would be beans, bullets and Band-Aids. An alliteration for food, protection/sufficiency and medical supplies. We should know their importance and for the most part practice it as part of our lifestyle. In our home we utilize a fourth B, the Bible. Let me explain why we feel the Bible is just that important.

I am a bi-vocational pastor serving in the Blue Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. In case you don’t understand the meaning of bi-vocational I support my wife and I with a full time job while I pastor a full time church. Small rural churches utilize this type of pastorate very successfully. There is a stereo-type that is inappropriately applied to bi-vocational pastors, one that questions their qualifications. I have earned degrees in electrical/electronics technology and hold an earned Doctorate of Theology from an accredited seminary.

Why did I go through that seemingly self centered introduction? I feel it is important for you to know a little about me considering the subject I am writing about. “Faith when the world falls apart” you see it is easy for you and I to talk about our Christian beliefs when things are going well, but, when the world comes unraveled faster than a cheap sweater, our faith is subject to do the same. Just like you, I get up early, go to work every day, come home and take care of my homestead and family, plus I have the responsibility of pastor to a small group of Southern Baptists at a local church. In addition to this my wife and I are preppers.

Some see the pastor as a wimpy little man who is sickly, who preaches three times a week and is never heard from until he is called upon to do a wedding, funeral, baptism or similar activity. Unfortunately this all some people see of their pastor, but the pastorate is much more. It is about people. Likewise the Bible is about people and their faith in God along with His willingness to answer their prayers. Faith is arguably the most powerful force on the face of the earth. People put their faith in many things, each other, equipment, stores, weapons just to name a few. I want challenge you to think about these things a little differently, think of them as instruments of faith. If you are a person of faith (in God) then you know He can use anything or anyone to meet the needs of His people. For faith to be effective it must be understood and to understand it we need our Bible. Ideally a concordance and good Bible dictionary would make a wonderful trio but if you have a good study Bible handy and are willing to use it God can and will work miracles through it. As you read through my article think about the Bible as your fourth B.

We do approach prepping from a biblical world view, believing that at some time in the future the Lord will rapture the born again believers (the Church), removing us from the Great Tribulation spoken of in the book of Revelation. Furthermore we understand the Bible to teach prepping from both the old and new testaments. For example the book of Proverbs tells us in chapter 30 there are four things upon the earth that are little but extremely wise; the ant, the spider, the locust and the conies (small fury animals that live in the rocks of Sinai). Each of these are used to represent an aspect of prepping; the ants are not strong but they prepare their food in the summer when it is abundant, the conies make their homes in strong fortified places, the locusts have no leader but they work in groups to accomplish their work and survive and the spider is able to defend itself and establish itself in any area.

So how do I approach the “4, B’s”? The answer is much like you do. We store food that is bought and grown in our small garden. Our goal is to keep at least one year stored. Sometimes we fall short sometimes we exceed but we are usually in the ballpark. We have medical kits and first aid kits; my wife has extensive medical training from her military service. She has put together supplies needed for simple colds and flu to minor surgery. We have firearms for hunting and home defense along with an ever-growing supply of ammo.  We also have traps, fishing gear, tools, hand powered equipment and many other necessities for a prepared homestead. Unfortunately pastors are viewed as weak and passive and sadly enough some are, but that wasn’t God’s intention for the pastor. We were to be leaders among His people and examples before the world. Look at your history! During the Revolutionary war England exclusively blamed the war on preachers and pastors, claiming they enflamed the attitude of independence by preaching it from the pulpits. This led to an attempt by the British government to destroy all remnants of religion that did not vow loyalty to the throne of England. Here in the colonies the result became known as the “Black Robe Regiment” a band of preachers and pastors who fought along side the citizen militia while providing spiritual support and encouragement. Pastors are still targets today, targets of the biased media, targets of those who begrudge our message and in an ever increasing role target of the political machine (if we don’t adhere to their doctrine). 

This is where the fourth “B”, our Bible ,comes into play. If you have a Bible in your house then your retreat should not be without one either, neither should your G.O.O.D. bag/kit be without one. When there is only you and a small group of like minded men and women in a stressful and possibly dangerous situation you will be strengthened, encouraged and given hope by God's word. When personalities clash because of cramped living conditions time spent alone with the Bible can provide you with the spiritual insight you need to properly handle a difficult situation. If you are called upon to lead a group what will you base you decisions on, democracy is fine but how will you determine your vote? The Bible can provide insight into making every decision. The group as a whole may go a different direction but you can be at peace with your vote and how you arrived at it. When read and studied there are military strategies that can be used for retreat protection and defense as well. What about the need for group worship, someone can take a Bible with some study and prayer time and put together a very encouraging and productive study. After all when TEOTWAWKI comes, there probably will not be many churches open for normal services; many will take on roles as homeless centers, hospitals or hospices with the pastor being occupied in those capacities. Unfortunately many pastors will simply flee the responsibility they have committed themselves too, if you are in this situation someone may have to step up, without a Bible that will be hard if not impossible to do.

What about children? How will you calm them? Anyone who has visited vacation bible school or Sunday school has heard stories like Noah’s ark, Daniel and the lions den, or the Christmas story and Easter story. These and many more can be very soothing, educational and encouraging to children. The Bible can be used to guide them through activities or conduct plays as entertainment for young and old alike. Also children may not have our experience in life but they are very observant and can come up with very difficult questions, your Bible can be a source of answers and comfort for them during this time.

Most every prepper has stored firearms and sufficient ammo for protection of property and hunting game. We are prepared for the worst. Aren’t we? Have you ever shot anyone? Have you ever taken the life of another human being? How much thought have you given it? I’m sure some of our brave military have been in this situation and they understand the point I am trying to make. I’m not trying to soften anyone up. You see I too believe in protection of life and property and I will enforce it when and if necessary, I expect you will do likewise. After the adrenaline rush is over and you sit down alone and relive the event that just unfolded, how will it affect you? Having a Bible to rely on during this time can be crucial for the spiritual and emotional health of someone coping with a traumatic event such as a gunfight. Being able to show someone where God permits this action and does not hold that person accountable can be the difference between a person living a normal life or living under the question of guilt for many years.

Finally there is a topic that I believe is near and dear to each one of us, injury, sickness and death. During a social/economic collapse many things will take place, among them will be gunfights, sickness, disease and even death. If a friend or colleague of yours is shot and there is a possibility that it is fatal, can you give them hope to cling too. This may be all they need to survive, but could you provide it? In the case of influenza, dysentery, malnutrition, pneumonia or any other illness or disease could you comfort the ill or the family of an ill child? The Bible gives us a foundation and the words to provide hope to men and women in these situations and those similar to them. There are many instances where miracle recoveries have taken place because of faith that was provided from the words of the Bible. Faith is very powerful and it will be very necessary during TEOTWAWKI. Just as people will live during this type event they also will die. Conducting a funeral can be one of the most difficult things a pastor can do, what if there was no pastor available, but it must be done. What if you had to do it?  Without a Bible where would you get the words that would provide comfort to the family? The word of God is powerful and it could provide the difference between someone giving up or continuing to work for a better tomorrow.

I remember a line from the Clint Eastwood movie “Pale Rider” when the town boss gets off the train and asks his son about the gold panners the son tells his dad that they were beaten down until a preacher took up with them. Irate; the boss tells them: “That’s the worst thing that could happen, he can give them hope.” That’s what the Bible can do for you it can give you hope when life seems darkest. Make it the fourth B in your preps.

That was a great article on marksmanship and very relevant for me as this last weekend I participated in an Appleseed shoot.  The instructors are volunteers who did a great job (and refused any monetary tips).  It is a great organization!  They covered many of the topics you mentioned in this article.  For the first time in my life I feel like I finally have the fundamentals necessary to be a skilled shooter.

I've grown up plinking with BB guns and .22 rimfires all my life and have always been a decent shot.  Assuming 95% of your readers will say 'duh!' to one of my biggest lessons learned over the weekend but when acquiring the target I would keep the sights exactly on target throughout my breathing cycle.  I was using a lot of muscle control to keep it on target.  I learned to allow the sight to drift up during inhalation and as I reach the bottom of my breath it should naturally fall back precisely where I wanted it. 

I had also always looked at a sling as just a way to carry my gun and have my arms free.  The instructors took us through a variety of methods that used the sling to stabilize the gun while shooting.  My favorite is to detach the sling from the stock, create a loop and slide it over your upper arm. This technique made the gun extremely stable. 

Not only do you get to practice shooting but they also give great stories on American history.  We were amazing marksmen back during the War of Independence.  The British wore their redcoats as did the officers but the officer's colors weren't nearly as faded as the typical solider and so the officers made for easy targets.  The disproportionate number of officers lost in battle was a testament to the militia's marksmanship.

I started the weekend shooting fairly well and by the end of the day I was shooting much tighter patterns.  One woman thee had never touched the gun and as we were going through safety at the beginning of the day she asked what the muzzle was.  Her first shots were all over the target.  By the end of the day she was doing very well.  Check out the Appleseed program.  I wish this country was full of marksmen again! Regards, - James K.


I feel compelled to respond to the post regarding rifle marksmanship. Sticking with the M16/AR-15/AR-10 family, my major points of contention include the reloading drill, malfunction handling, trigger-pull advice, and accuracy standard.

Firstly, the reloading drill described is that which is commonly taught for pistols, raising the weapon into your "workspace", while allowing you to use your peripheral vision to guide the magazine into the pistol without taking your eyes off the target. Not only would raising a rifle in this manner be awkward (even with practice), it will be slow - much slower than with a handgun. Further, the difference between tactical and combat reloads should be discussed. A tactical reload is executed before the weapon runs dry, whenever you feel you have a second to top off the rifle with a spare mag. It is not done when a bad guy is staring at you, so you have the luxury of retaining the mag either in a magazine or dump pouch. The fresh magazine should be in your weak hand before you release the depleted mag in case your situation rapidly don't want to have a bad guy pop around the corner when the mag well is empty and you're still reaching for another magazine. A proper tactical reload involves gripping the depleted magazine, releasing it with the trigger finger, immediately inserting fresh magazine, then securing depleted or empty magazine, and it is easy to hold two AR/M16 mags in one hand using a "index finger and thumb" grip on the full magazines (bottom of magazine in your palm), and grabbing the partial mag between your index and middle finger This nearly eliminates the time you are standing there with, at best, one round in your rifle. The combat or speed reload is to be used when the weapon runs dry and a threat still exists in your immediate vicinity - drop the magazine using your trigger finger as soon as you feel the recoil buffer lock to the rear, while reaching for a fresh magazine with your weak hand. Better to lose or damage a magazine than catch a round in the chest because you took an extra second or two to fumble with your pouches.

Both of these drills should be executed with the weapon still in [the pocket of] your shoulder, pointed down range. Please note that he tactical reload works well with an AR-15/M16 because the magazine is easy to grasp with the support hand before it is released and falling through the air; it is not advisable for handguns or non-AR family rifles that don't allow you to use your otherwise unoccupied trigger finger to eject the magazine.

Next, I take issue with the advised malfunction drill. "Immediate action" is sufficient to fix many malfunctions (failure to feed being relatively common, as it is possible to bump the mag release on
cover/obstructions). The memory aid we use is "tap, rack, bang" - slap the bottom of the magazine with your support hand to ensure it is fully seated, charge the weapon with the same hand while canting the weapon to take a quick glance at the ejection port/chamber area - and if you see no brass traffic jam, pull the trigger. If no "bang", execute "remedial action", releasing the magazine into your support hand, tilting the ejection port 45 degrees toward the deck, and operating the charging handle three or four times while shaking the weapon in an effort to clear a double feed or other malfunction. If one were to attempt an immediate action as advised, and the magazine has not been seated, "pulling the charging handle several times" will not solve your problem, as the bolt will continue to slide over the top of the next cartridge in the magazine. If the weapon experienced a partial-feed, pulling the charging handle once should eject a round and chamber another. If it double-fed or experienced another sort of jam, you have probably just made the problem worse with your multiple (and unnecessary) charging attempts. If "tap, rack, bang" doesn't work - and it takes about 1.5 seconds to execute - take cover and pull the magazine for remedial action.

As for trigger pull, short-stroking is well and good for match shooting or firing deliberately on a target that is not poised to kill you, but it is not for saving time - if you're trying to save "precious
milliseconds", the implied condition is that your life may be saved by shortening the time between shots. If fractions of a second truly matter, trying to "slowly" short-stroke a trigger is counter-productive
and failing to reset it properly may get you shot. Slightly "jerking" the trigger is not likely to impact accuracy to a degree that will make a difference on a human-size target inside 100 yards. Short-stroking is
a deliberate shooting technique that should not be integrated with "combat marksmanship" training - it violates the "KISS" method.

In zeroing, I'd advise beginning at 25 yards/meters in order to ensure you're at least "close", especially if you don't have the luxury of a 5'x5' target board. It's not necessary to fine tune at this range, but
if your rifle's sights are significantly out of adjustment, you may be "chasing the paper" for a bit at 100 yards. Typically two or three rounds at 25 yards is sufficient before moving out to longer range. I am
worried that many inexperienced shooters will be discouraged by the 1 MOA "standard" in the previous letter - we are preparing for the unpleasant possibility of shooting people with an AR-15; if your weapon comes from the factory capable of firing 1 MOA, great. However, a 4-5 MOA battle-rifle or carbine will pretty consistently put a round in someone's torso out to nearly 500 yards - which will be under rare circumstances anyway. More accuracy is better, but don't beat yourself up over it - you're not going to be required to shoot for the ten ring when a bad guy is down range trying to kill you. We are not talking about taking 800 yard head shots with our .308 "sniper" rifles. If you're shooting for score, tight groups take a higher priority. If you just need to put a 5.56 through somebody's lungs at 200 yards, don't sweat it that you shot a four inch group on the range last week. Semper Fi, - Missouri Marine

Hi Mr. Rawles,
 I really enjoyed reading the Basic Rifle Marksmanship article.  It contains a large amount of good information but if I may I would like to offer a different take on some of what the author states.  He states that in your stance your dominant or strong leg should be slightly forward.  It has been my experience in both handgun and long gun shooting that your strong or dominant leg should be slightly behind your non-dominant leg.  This is a much more comfortable shooting stance and helps to keep your balance while absorbing recoil.  As for magazine changes he recommends pointing the rifle muzzle towards the sky while keeping your eyes on target.  I would advocate keeping your eyes and muzzle on target while executing your mag change.  Magazine changes can be critical to winning a gunfight and should be practiced often with your weapon of choice.  Many weapons are constructed so an empty mag drops free and why catch an empty mag when milliseconds are critical?  Let it drop and be reaching for your reload.  As for malfunctions I didn’t see anything about the most common malfunction which is a stovepipe.  A stovepipe, which is an empty shell casing that didn’t fully eject and usually sticking out at about a 90* angle is easily cleared by sweeping it out with your hand.
Lastly, I would like to offer a different approach when shooting from behind cover.  The author recommends getting up tight to the cover and placing your support hand against the building and using it to support your rifle.  When you brace against the building consider that your muzzle will be extending beyond the corner you’re shooting from and you can’t see around that corner.  This will leave your muzzle hanging out there subject to being grabbed.  When you get close to your cover it also becomes necessary to expose more of yourself to return fire.  Next time you go to the range try standing off 2-3 feet off of your cover.  The cover isn’t any less effective now that you’re a few feet behind it rather than right on top of it. You’ll find that less of you is exposed as you slice the pie and address targets from the outside in.  It also eliminates the opportunity for someone to grab your muzzle from the other side of the cover or barricade.  These are just another way of doing things.  I don’t claim to have the way just another method for our readers to try. - Carl L.

JWR Replies: I'd only add the proviso that those who are preparing to survive a major societal disruption (like most Rawlesian preppers) have more of "Third World" view of logistics. Unlike current circumstances--where there is a reliable supply of replacement magazines on short notice--we may have to adapt to an economy of scarcity. Magazines will become priceless and almost irreplaceable. A magazine that gets lost or scrunched will be cause for alarm or even mourning. I therefore recommend:

A.) Practice using a dump pouch, for empties. In TEOTWAWKI, saving you magazines will be worth that extra second, in all but the most dire lead conversations.
B.) Buy only top-quality magazines, selected for strength and durability. (For example, if you own an AR-15, your primary "carry" magazines should be HK steel "Maritime" magazines rather than the relatively fragile USGI alloy magazines, or buy PMAG polymer magazines which are famous for their strength.)
C.) Stack your spare magazines deep. You can never have too many. (And any that are truly excess to your needs will be very desirable for barter.) and,
D.) If you have an M1 Garand or other rife that automatically ejects clips or links off into the weeds, then buy a very large quantity of spares.

I had purchased two Schumacher brand Portable Power packs-essentially a [gel cell] battery with [just] an inverter without the extra buzzers and bells from a company that makes quality battery chargers.  It has a 400w inverter with a modified sine wave output.  During Hurricane Irene the only thing that I could get it to power was a standard lamp with an incandescent light bulb!  It wouldn't run tools or electronics.  After some Internet research, I found that most units used the modified sine wave because it is a less expensive design.  Unfortunately, it may or may not supply power to the unit that you need to turn on and it could damage some electronics.

An inverter with a pure sine wave output is a much more expensive design (and is the same output as your house electric) and is typically larger.  It is often used in back-up power supplies for computer systems.  These are not portable.  Even the the top end Xantrex unit uses an inverter with a modified sine wave output.  If anyone has any advice on where to find a portable unit with an inverter with a pure sine wave output.  I realize that the typical generator uses a cheaper inverter and that may be fine for a few lamps and a refrigerator, but I want to run medical equipment, Televisions and a laptop during outages.  Any ideas? - Alan W.

JWR Replies: From what I've read, the term "pure sine wave" inverter is a bit of a marketing myth. Even the best inverters produce AC power with a slightly clipped or distorted waveform. (And for that matter, even utility grid power doesn't have a perfectly symmetrical waveform.) But both Xantrex (formerly Trace) and Outback manufacture sine wave inverters that produce very "clean" power that works very well with even the most finicky electronics such as desktop (AC transformer) computers and laser printers. Some of their small, low-wattage models are ideal for small photovoltaic, wind, or microhydro power systems. To save money, look for sine wave inverters in used condition, via eBay or Craigslist. But be sure that they are guaranteed to be working. (Commonly called a "No DOA" Warranty.) Also, when sizing your system remember that the larger the inverter, the higher its "idle" current draw will be. Even without a load, they put a load on a battery bank. Again, the higher the wattage rating, the bigger the idle current draw.

Mr Rawles:s
Silver alloys cannot be refined by just melting and skimming the dross from the top--no precious metal alloy can.  Silver alloys usually contain copper as a hardener, some of the new sterling used in jewelry is alloyed with other metals to keep it from tarnishing.  Simply melting silver will not cause the copper to rise to the top and oxidize. Separating silver from copper requires nitric acid and should not be attempted at home.  I’m not sure how some of the other alloys are refined.  Furthermore a home chemist will never get scrap silver refined to .9999 or .999 fineness (pure).  Also, as you brought up, what are you going to do with approximately 98% silver that you can’t do with 90% or 92.5% silver?

If you have large amounts of silver you want turned into ingots you can send your silver to a reputable refinery and trade your scrap for silver coins or stamped ingots.  A few refineries I have had good dealings with, or that have good reputations in the jewelry industry, Hoover & Strong, Pease & Curren, McGuire & Strickland and North American Metals.  You can find these companies on the Internet, I’m not affiliated with them except that I have sent scrap in to a couple of them. Regards, - Kestrel

Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large) sent this: So much for "Secret" Data Centers.

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Jonathan B. sent this sad news from Nanny State Britannia: A gamekeeper fined and gun permits revoked - risks losing his livelihood...why?  Because he fell asleep while cleaning his guns!

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F.J. mentioned that Lew Rockwell re-posted a useful article from the 2009 archives of The Art Of Manliness: How to Build Sturdy Basement Shelves

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More about prescription drug shortages, from a Florida television reporter: Local doctors prepared for drug shortage

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File this under "What Justice?": Massachusetts motorists must pay courts, even if they prevail. (Thanks to Richard S. for the link.) Richard's comment: "Do nothing wrong, pay the state anyway (in addition to time and aggravation, of course), while everybody else involved in the festivities gets paid by you."

"Confess [your] faults one to another , and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."- James 5:16 (KJV)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Why Keep Honey Bees?
Wandering into the woods and staying lost for months is something I love to do. I have been an survivalist for 24 years, and have been keeping bees for more than 10 of those years. With these experiences under my belt, I have begun to teach people how to be a survivalist, and one subject I focus on is the art of beekeeping.

Before I tell you the benefits of having bees and some cheap ways to keep them, I suggest that you find a book about beekeeping to help you understand the terms I use and show you more details on how to keep bees for the long haul. One of the best books I have read is The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture. I also suggest that you try to find some beekeeping courses in your area—not only to learn more about it, but to connect with peers and mentors. For my disclaimer, you should also research your local and state laws on beekeeping.
Apis mellifera, more commonly referred to as the honey bee, is one of the most beneficial insects in the world. Did you know that we have the honey bee to thank for one third of all the food we eat? Why, without the honey bee, we would mostly eat rice, wheat, and corn instead of the wonderful variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts we enjoy every day. Not only do honey bees help make more food from pollination, they make a wide variety of products as well.

The most recognizable product, honey, a sweet food made by bees from the nectar of flowers. Aside from its common use in sweetening teas, honey is used to treat burns, alleviate allergies, and use in IVs (intravenous) for blood transfusions. It is also well known as a key ingredient in king’s mead, honey wine and man’s first alcoholic beverage. It is great for cooking in place of sugar, and has more nutritional value than cane or corn sugar. Honey has an endless shelf life when stored at room temperature in a sealed container. Most raw natural honey crystallizes, providing the survivalist with an endless supply of sugar that never goes bad.
Bee pollen, or pollen from flowers that is collected by bees during pollination, is harvested and used to fight allergies and treating mild cases of hay fever. Medications that use pollen include Claritin (loratadine), Benadryl (diphenhydramine), and chlorophrenamine. Pollen is a great source of carbohydrates and is used to provide athletes energy boots.
Propolis, a resinous mixture that honey bees collect, relieves inflammation, viral diseases, ulcers, and superficial burns or scalds. It is also believed to promote heart health, strengthen the immune system, and reduce the chances of cataracts . Old beekeepers recommend that a piece of propolis be kept in the mouth as a remedy for a sore throat.
Beeswax, a natural wax produced in the hive, has long been called the ancient man’s plastic, and is used as such today. Common products you see beeswax used in include body creams, coating for  cheeses, cosmetics, fine candles, furniture and shoe polishes, modeling materials to create jewelry and sculptures, pharmaceuticals, among hundreds of other items. It is often mixed with other ingredients such as olive oil (sweet oil) and sometimes paraffin. For hundreds of years, beeswax was used as a sealant or lubricant for bullets in cap and ball, and firearms that use black powder. Beeswax was also used to stabilize the military explosive Torpex, before it was replaced by a petroleum-based product.
Apitherapy is the medical use of bee products—most commonly associated with bee venom therapy, which uses bee venom in the use of health conditions. The active component of bee venom is melittin, which has a powerful anti-inflammatory action. Bee venom is a complex mix of a variety of peptides and proteins, some of which have strong neurotoxic and immunogenic effects. The most well-known bee venom therapy is for autoimmune diseases and multiple sclerosis. Bee venom therapy is also used to treat arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, dissolving scar tissue (keloids), and herpes zoster, among other illnesses. Just a little sting and you have just been to the doctor.
As you have just read, the benefits of keeping honey bees for products and pollination is infinite. Not only can you use these products yourself, you can sell them to make money at local farmers markets or boutiques, or barter with clans around the woods. I recommend keeping three to five hives at your home or survival camp. The benefits of the honey bee can not be matched for the survivalist.
Now that I have told you some of the many the benefits of having bees, I am going to tell you the basic style of beekeeping and some cheap ways to keep bees. Again, my focus is on survival beekeeping, or “off the grid” beekeeping. I will give you a list of what you need, and then tell you how to make some of the items, or find them cheap. Once again, I suggest that you find a book about beekeeping to help you understand the terms I use and the different kinds of hives available for beekeeping. You can find books everywhere—used book stores and yard sales are the cheapest, and you may even find used equipment there as well.
As a beekeeper you must have protection. Beekeepers suits can be expensive—cost of protective gear ranges from $100-$200, depending on what you get (hoods and gloves, full body suits, etc.). Suits can be found online, in beekeeping stores, swap meets, or yard sales. However, if you’d like to take a thrifty approach you need to have:
·          High rubber boots, which can be found at farm supply stores or retail centers such as Wal-Mart. Make sure you own a pair that you can get in and out of quickly and can go over your pants.
·          Pants that can be tucked into your boots. I like to use duct tape to tape the boots onto the pants so your legs and feet are completely protected.
·          Long-sleeve shirts than can bed tucked in to your pants.
·          Hooded jackets, which can be cinched tightly around your face, so only your face shows.
·          A ball cap worn under the hood—the starting point of a screened hood. To make this, stitch screen over the top of the hooded jacket and then use duck tape all around the screen to keep the bees out. The cap pushes the screen away from your face.
·          Welding gloves that you duck tape the ends to the jacket sleeves so you’re all sealed up.
Another cheap way is to use a rain suit that you can duct tape your gloves, boots, waist, and stitch a screen over the face. Now that you are protected from head to toe, let’s focus on where you will keep the bees, or the bee hive. The most commonly used hive is called a Langstroth hive. It is made as an open top hive and holds frames that can be removed to inspect brood (aka baby bees or larva) and to pull honey out of the hive. You can order a pre-built hive or find plans to build your own hive from the internet. There are also many books on how build and use the Langstroth hive. I will repeat myself again: find a book and use it as a resource. And take any classes you can find in your area. I have been keeping bees for more than 10 years, and have lost hives over my learning experience. But just like any thing, you never know until you try.

          Now that you have your protective gear, a hive for the bees, and a book to reference, you are ready for the bees. There are nearly 20,000 species of bees—honey bees represent a small fraction of the species with between seven and 11 species and 44 subspecies—and they come from all around the globe. Bees can be ordered online, and from local bee clubs—most are shipped via UPS.  A package of bees can cost around $80-$200, depending on the species that you decide to purchase. The package weighs between three to four pounds, and has around 10 to 20 thousand bees inside, which is a good number to start building your hive. Bees can be installed into the hive in a manner of minutes—and if you take your time, you can watch them get to work in the hive immediately.
            Naturally, my favorite bee is the free bee. Free bees can be found when bees swarm, which happens when the queen bee leaves a colony with a group of worker bees in search of a new hive. They often gather in trees or the eves of houses, which leave them in harms way by people who do not want them around. By offering to collect swarms, you can get free bees for your hive. Put an advertisement in the newspaper, or local listing, that you are willing to remove swarms. When the swarm first settles down and forms a cluster, it is fairly simple to capture. Swarms normally last no more than 24 hours, so you must be ready. To capture a swarm, you’ll need: 
·          A box or a bucket with a lid. I use five gallon buckets that have a hole in the top laced with screen so the bees are able to breathe until you can put them into a hive.
·          A soft brush and a wide scraper. These help to move the bees, if needed.
·          A ladder to climb on to get to the bees so you are not reaching up in the air swatting at them—sometimes they are  high in the trees, or the roof of the house.
·          Your protective gear—you do not want to get stung when collecting a swarm of bees for your hive.
When collecting a swarm of bees in a bush or tree, put the bucket below the area the swarm is in and give the branch a good shake. Let the nest fall into the bucket. Use the brush to sweep the remaining bees into the bucket, and then place the lid on the bucket. If the swarm is on something that you cannot shake, take the wide scraper and place it so you can scoop the bees and place them into the bucket. Use your brush to sweep the bees on the scraper and drop them in the bucket as well. When you have nearly 90 percent of the bees in the bucket, place the lid on your bucket and look to see if the remaining bees start landing on the lid. They will start to land on the bucket and fan, which tells the bees that the queen is inside the bucket and they are moving. Let the bucket set for 30 minutes and let the bees inside and outside of the bucket collect on the lid. Then pop the top of the bucket so all the bees drop to the bottom of the bucket and take the lid off. Flip the lid and brush the bees on the lid into the bucket. Then replace the lid and take the bees to their new hive.
When you get to the hive you’re going to place the bees in, open it and remove four to five frames, or top bars, out of your way. Pop the bucket on the lid once more so the bees fall to the bottom of the bucket and open the lid. Then shake bees in the bucket into the hive. Once you have the swarm in the hive, replace the frames or top bars and cover the hive. You have successfully placed your bees into the hive. Be sure to check the bees in one week to see if they are building comb.
Now you have your bee hive. Read your book and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at I would enjoy reading about your experiences and looking at photos of your work. If you reside in Wyoming, I often offer courses through my company, A BEE Friendly Company—details can be found on my business Facebook page.
As I said, I am a survivalist and love the outdoors and keeping bees will get you outdoors more. Like gardening, the work you put in makes great rewards. Keep your Head up and your powder dry.

I am a fairly new reader to SurvivalBlog.  I must say I enjoy reading it and have found a ton of useful knowledge here. I have a question If you have time to answer.  I have a large amount of old U.S. Coins and would like to refine the silver out of them myself.  Is the possible for a do-it-yourselfer? If so, what is the best process for this?  I am also considering melting down some old silverware and jewelry.  I would want to cast my own mini bars or silver coins for ease of storing and bartering.  I have reviewed and have determined that I have a lot of coins in the pre-1965 range that contain 90% silver. (Which of course is worth about 25 times more than the face valve of the U.S. currency itself.)
For WTSHTF,  I want to be prepared as much as I am able to for my situation at hand.  I have already been stockpiling ammunition and canned goods. (I'm still a long ways from where I would like to be but I'm working on it one paycheck at a time.) - Trey H.

JWR Replies: I do not recommend melting any recognizable U.S., Canadian, or Mexican coins to cast into ingots. Here is my reasoning: First and foremost, coins have a known, well-recognized purity and value, which makes them ideal for barter. But privately-cast ingots will ALWAYS be treated with great suspicion, and the buyer may demand that they be assayed. Second, U.S. pre-1965 dimes, quarters and half dollars are 90% silver, alloyed with a hardener added, to give them sufficient durability for the rigors of day-to-day circulation. In contrast, silver ingots are typically cast as .999 fine (virtually pure) silver. So creating your own ingots would require a lot of time to not just melt the coins but also require adding nitric acid and extra time to skim away the hardener, which would be set aside as "dross". Why risk chemical and heat burns and spend your precious time and your expensive fuel to melt coins to make them into something LESS recognizable, for barter? That simply makes no sense. Unless you are an expert artisan that is making jewelry, there is no point in melting silver coins. For barter, even silver jewelry is better left in "scrap" form -- just "as is". Furthermore, silver chains can be cut into incremental lengths with diagonal cutters or a cold chisel, to facilitate small barter transactions. This is much more difficult to do with thicker ingots, at least with any precision.

If you have a large quantity of scrap silver, them you are better off trading it to a well known reputable coin dealer. You can ask for either pre-1965 (90% silver) coins or .999 fine one-ounce silver "rounds", in exchange. In the next few years, as silver advances past $50 per try ounce, I predict that 1/4-ounce and 1/2-ounce coins will be made in larger numbers than today. (A one ounce coin is simply becoming too valuable to be used for small transactions.)

Reader W.E.P. mentioned this: Feds tracking articles that include "zombie apocalypse". [JWR's Comment: Of course "zombie apocalypse" is often used as to describe other disasters. This leads me to ask: Are the spooks looking for clues or cues for socioeconomic collapse?]

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Reader D.V. and Stephen F. both recommended this article over at KK* Cool Tools: Homesteading Alone. (It is three book reviews, in one.)

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F.G. flagged this bit of bureaucratic nincompoopery: OTC inhalers to be phased out to protect ozone layer

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Greg C. mentioned Reason # 948 to Leave California: Orange County Couple Threatened With $500-Per-Meeting Fines For Home Bible Study

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Steve G. pointed me to an interesting piece on low-level encryption for generating passwords for web sites

"The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me,
He that rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." - 2 Samuel 23:3-4 (KJV)

Friday, September 23, 2011

My current publisher (the Atria Books Division of Simon & Schuster) asked me to create a few instructional videos, to help promote the upcoming release of "Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse". The first of these is already available on YouTube: Do-It Yourself (DIY) Rotary Hand Awl. Sorry that the video looks a bit amateurish. And I couldn't keep a couple of our roosters from crowing in the background. I'm an absolute greenhorn at this.

By using tight close-ups, the pretty scenery at the Rawles Ranch was not shown--for the sake of OPSEC. (Some of the mountains that could be seen would be recognizable.)

Shooting the first video, editing it, and adding the titles turned out to be much more time-consuming than I had anticipated. But it was a great way for my family to learn some new video and editing skills. I will make more of these videos as time permits.


Today we present another entry for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I am writing our family’s security preparations, specifically the weapon selection and breakdown per family member. I will also describe our “Battle Rattle” (web gear) and survival kits.
First, a little background and base information. I am a retired US Army First Sergeant with over 30 years of military service. I have performed multiple jobs of my lengthy career, mainly in the Combat Arms. I was a Mortarman and Automatic Rifleman in the Airborne Infantry. I was a Unit Armorer, Supply Sergeant and Rifle Platoon Sergeant in the Mechanized Infantry and a Scout Platoon Sergeant and Cavalry First Sergeant in a Brigade Reconnaissance Troop. Those were all active duty positions. I was also a Military Policeman for two years in the US Army Reserve. I retired in late 2010.

My family began preparation for crisis, disaster, TEOTWAWKI in March of 2011. Our efforts have been adversely impacted in that the Veterans Administration has not yet paid my award for Service Connected Disability. I have been waiting almost a year. But, I collected and saved some things over three decades in the Army. I believe that this military equipment will be very valuable in any survival situation. I owned several guns before we began preparation for the pending tragedies. We have purchased multiple weapons specifically for WTSHTF. We have four members of our “Nuclear Family” as Jerry Ahern defines in his book Survive!: The Disaster, Crisis and Emergency Handbook. I have a wife and two teenage sons. I wanted each family member to have both “stand off” and short range firing capabilities. I consider “stand off” to be a rifle or shotgun with slugs and short range to be a pistol.

I will carry a Bushmaster M4 Carbine. This is the civilian version of the U.S. military’s main assault weapon. It is a 5.56mm (.223 Remington) rifle. I also have a Colt Gold Cup Series 70 M1911A1 Cal.45 pistol for a short range weapon. I built my web gear using the vest type suspenders (as opposed to the old LC-1). I kept the two small arms ammunition cases on the pistol belt so to free up the ammo pockets on the vest for a hand held radio, GPS and some survival supplies. This set up holds a lensatic compass, 2 one-quart canteens, a canteen cup, pistol holster, fixed blade knife and a small buttpack. The web gear is a complete survival kit containing all the basic necessities for shelter (poncho and emergency blanket), water storage/purification, First Aid, sanitation items (toilet paper, baby wipes, soap), food procurement (fishing kit), plus several pocket knives and multi-tools (pliers and hammer types). The web gear holds about 200 rounds of 5.56mm ammo for the M4 and 50 rounds for the M1911 pistol.

My oldest son is assigned a Mossberg Model 88 12 gauge pump shotgun and a Smith & Wesson Model 19-4 .357 Magnum pistol. His web gear was built using the LC-1 suspenders and a cotton-web pistol belt. I attached a larger buttpack on this Load Bearing Equipment (LBE). It essentially hold the same survival items as my set up, with the addition of wire saw and a snack bag containing trail mix, Slim Jims, Beef Jerky, Nutri-bars and Jolt gum. He has the same 2 one quart canteens, canteen cup and 2 ammo pouches as me. With the addition of a shotgun bandoleer, he can carry 100 rounds of mixed 12 gauge ammo (slugs and “00” buckshot), plus about 80 rounds of .357 Magnum (6- in the cylinder, 4-speedloaders + a box).

I am giving my wife a Savage Model 24J over/under .22 LR/20 gauge combination rifle/shotgun. She also has a Walther PPK .380 handgun. She purchased one of those tactical vests that the SWAT teams use. We hooked the vest on a civilian fanny pack, the kind with the Nalgene water bottles on both sides of the zippered pouch. The vest / fanny pack combination is also a complete survival kit. Combining the sling on the rifle/shotgun and a sleeve on the buttstock, there is 20 rounds of mixed shotgun slugs and numbers 3, 4 & 6 shot. I inserted a prescription pill bottle in one of the shotgun shell loops on the sling. It holds 27 rounds of 22 Long Rifle. She can carry about 40 rounds total for the shotgun, 200 rounds for the .22 rifle and 74 pistol cartridges (3 x 8 round magazines for the PPK .380, plus a spare box of 50 cartridges.) Granted, the Savage over/under is not a great defensive weapon. But, it is a diverse tool for hunting food.

Since my youngest son is somewhat leery of rifles or shotguns with strong recoil, I have assigned him my Henry AR-7 Air Force Survival Rifle. As with the Savage 24J, it would not be my first choice for security. I will point out that the magazine holds 8 .22 LR cartridges. I purchased three additional magazines (to supplement the two that come with the rifle) and affixed a small pouch to hold the magazines on the inside of the buttstock. In very short order, he could put out a hail of .22 LR rounds. I also gave him a [Hi-Standard] Sentinel 9-shot .22 revolver. His web gear consists of the fanny pack with the two Nalgene water bottles.      

In addressing the rucksack / backpack assignments, I will open with stating that I am still using my large frame rucksack that I had as a paratrooper in the early 1980’s. It may be more than I should be carrying with my current medical conditions, but I believe that I am mentally strong enough to push myself into bearing that weight. Periodically, I will “Ruck Up” and go for a Forced March to prove that I can still handle the weight. I have always subscribed to the theory that “It is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it”. On the outside of the military ruck I attached an entrenching tool (small, folding shovel), a 24” machete / saw, a 2 quart collapsible canteen and a small hatchet. I won’t go over all the contents of the rucksack, but I will say that it holds similar provisions as the web gear survival kit, but in greater quantity or more elaborate spread. For example, the first aid kit in the ruck is larger than the buttpack. Where the buttpack contained a $2.50 Space Blanket, the rucksack has the military version of the $12.95 All Weather Blanket. I will credit John D. McCann’s book Build the Perfect Survival Kit for helping me choose the contents.

My wife and kids have smaller backpacks. They are using the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) camouflage pattern medium rucksacks that Army National Guard Recruiters give out as enlistment perks. They are frameless packs with multiple, zipper-closed compartments. They hold complete survival necessities, including ponchos, poncho liners, folding saw or hatchet, mess, sewing, fishing, fire starting and first aid “kits”. There is also space for emergency blankets, Mountain House or MRE entrees, Datrex Rations, toilet paper, baby wipes and a waterproof box holding insect repellant, sunscreen, Chapstick, water purification tablets, baby powder and a small tune of Curel hand cream.

Our packs are more “Survival Kits” than full “Bug Out” Bags”. We each have a separate bag with clothing, more rations, personal hygiene items and a few manuals such as Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties: and JWR's How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It. We also carry an assortment of other books on wilderness survival, first aid, prescription drugs, and home remedies.

I carry a versatile hand truck in my SUV. The cart will hold our Bug Out Bags, a case of bottled water, 1 case of MREs and a milk crate with auto items (larger First Aid Kit, tow rope, folding shovel, field shower, roll of garbage bags and camp toilet seat). This ingenious item is lightweight, but strong enough to hold 400 pounds. It can be set up as a cart on four wheels and be pushed/pulled down any hard ball road. Or, it can be stood up as a hand truck on two wheels and be dragged through the field. (My plan to affix a police ballistic riot shield to the cart has not yet been fulfilled).We also have a collapsible hand truck for any last minute, additional items. Of course, we would only be using these hand trucks and carts if we were forced to walk to our “Bug Out Location”. Our intentions are to “Bug In” at our home. One quick note about storing weapons in my truck: I do not carry all these weapons and bulk supply of ammunition around with me during routine use of the vehicle. In my mind, such practice would not be very reasonable. I do keep the AR-7 Survival Rifle and the Savage Model 24J over/under .22 LR/20 gauge in the truck for most travel within our region. My wife and I both have concealed weapons permits in our home state. At any given time, I have the Colt .45 Auto and she has the Walther PPK .380 or Smith and Wesson .380 Bodyguard. We each purchased at least four extra magazines.

In closing, I feel compelled to state that we prefer a “Bug In” over “Bug Out” scenario, if we are to face any type of crisis or disaster situation. I am confident that we have covered the required security considerations with the mixture and breakdown of weapons on hand. The topography of the land surrounding our home allows us to engage potential threats with all four “Stand Off” weapons: M4 Carbine, AR-7 Rifle, Mossberg Shotgun and both barrels of the Savage over/under system. The handgun calibers: .45 ACP, .357 Magnum  and .380 Auto are ample defense in protecting us in the odd event that robbers penetrate our perimeter. I have plans to enhance our capabilities with the purchase of additional weapons: Ruger Mini-14, Remington 870 20 gauge Pump, Smith and Wesson Governor .410 gauge/.45 Colt, S&W Model 686 .357 Magnum (4” barrel) and Springfield M6 22 LR /. 410 Gauge. My oldest son questioned why I am looking at new revolvers instead of new automatics. I reminded him that a revolver has less moving parts to lube, higher potential to break/jam/malfunction and does not have to be disassembled to clean. I also reminded him that an $1,800 Kimber .45 Auto is reduced to single-shot by a broken magazine spring.

JWR Adds: Instead of buying a Ruger Mini-14 as you mentioned, I'd instead recommend buying a second M4gery. This will give you commonality of training, magazines, accessories, and spare parts. I'd also recommend a .44 Magnum revolver, rather than a Smith and Wesson Governor. Both .410 buckshot and slugs are poor man stoppers, and most factory .45 Colt loadings are very mild. (They are loaded that way with liability in mind, since there are large numbers of Colt single-action Peacemakers still in circulation, and some of these date to before 1896, when Colt switched from iron frames to steel frames.) Furthermore, .44 Magnum and .44 Special have a wider rim than .45 Colt. Most revolver extractors can "miss" the scanty rim on .45 Colt brass, causing a very slow-to-remedy "extractor over rim" jam. This sort of jam is a nuisance at the range, but in the midst of a gunfight it could prove to be either indelibly memorable, or tragic.

I was just rereading the original posting about "beans, bullets and hygiene". The author wrote to be sure to check out the discount bins for after season sales on holiday soaps. He wrote that while the soaps may be strongly scented "nobody will care after TEOTWAWKI what they smell like". But actually, it may matter. 

We live in the country. We're not daily assaulted by the highly aromatic city folks wearing their cologne, perfume and scented body washes. So when we do happen to come in contact with them, we can smell them coming from quite a distance.
Its sorta' the same as noise. Today's world is so full of the noise of cars passing by, planes overhead, radios and television playing (not to mention those things people stick in their ears) that you don't even notice some neighbor pounding a nail or running a chainsaw.
But after all goes quiet, and after daily showers become much less common, folks' hearing and smelling will become much more sensitive. You'll hear saws running and know "someone" has heat and gas. If a neighbor appears cleaner than anyone else, and especially if they smell "fresher" (that is, perfumey/smelly/soapy) than the usual, you'll guess that they have more water, more soap, and therefore maybe more "other stuff". This is not good OPSEC.
We believe that when going out to community meetings, or on other occasions of contact outside your immediate group, it may be well to wear older, dirtier clothes so you don't attract notice. It may also be well to keep in mind that the person who smells 21st Century will be extraordinarily noticeable when everyone else is living 19th Century.
Our suggestion is that in a dark world, don't show your lights. In a world of no gas, don't be the only one to advertise having fuel for generators and saws. And in a world without instant hot and cold water, don't smell like Paris Hilton. - Jim in N. Ohio

Mr. Rawles,

I wanted to call to your reader's attention to the use of soap nuts in place of traditional laundry soap.  We first discovered them when looking for a chemical and fragrance free alternative for cloth diapers and baby clothes.  We now use them for all of our laundry and for many other cleaning jobs around the house.  They are all natural, economical, versatile, and easy to store - taking up much less room than traditional laundry detergent.   They can be reused several times and then composted.  They also work as a natural fabric softener. which is great for line drying.  Soap nuts are fine for septic and gray water systems. 

Other uses include:

  • Hand soap
  • Dishwasher soap
  • Window cleaner
  • All purpose cleaner
  • Shampoo
  • Pest and mosquito repellant
  • Carpet cleaner
  • Pet shampoo
  • Jewelry cleaner

Soap nuts are already very economical.  To get even more for your money, I recommend:

  • Buy in bulk and split the order with friends and family 
  • Don't buy the "whole" soap nuts.  I prefer breaking them anyway to better release the cleaning agent -  The suppliers don't always list the pieces on their web site, but if you call them they often times will sell the "broken" soap nuts at a largely discounted price, especially if you are buying in bulk. 
  • Grind your own powder and make your own liquid.  It's easy to learn and there are many instructions and recipes to be found on the Internet. 

There are various ways to can and preserve the soap nuts liquid, so you can store it in quantity and have it readily available.  We store our soap nuts in a five gallon bucket with a lid, and this lasts our family of four a very long time.   Soap nuts make a great barter item to keep on hand, since they store easily, take up so little space, and have multiple uses. - WoodsyMama


I wanted to add something to the recent hygiene article and responses that I have read and that is dental floss.  Dental floss is one of the single best tools for not only healthy teeth but, just as importantly, healthy gums.  Gum disease and tooth decay has been shown to affect overall health and contributes to heart disease and possible brain trauma due to infection.  Dental floss is compact and easy to store and it lasts forever (you might need to check that regarding the 'flavored' varieties), there is no reason not to pick up a couple extra packs every time you replace toothbrushes and toothpaste because it could be the difference between saving your teeth and having to learn to survive on broth.
  I also wanted to add a hearty endorsement for using a safety razor, as per the article posted on learning to shave like grandpa.  I started using a safety razor a year ago and I will never go back.  The shave is smoother and easier on the skin, the razor is cleaner because there is less tendency for a single blade to get 'clogged', and the blades are indeed cheaper as well as lasting longer since they are double sided.  I don't have an abundance of facial hair so I have only gone through one pack of double sided razors since started shaving this way.  Its better for your face, less expensive, and more durable - the perfect set of features for a prepper\-friendly shaving kit. Regards, - Doug W.

Dear Mr. Rawles,
In reference to J.C.R.'s article on Everyday Carry Items, I have a rather nondescript looking purse that I found at a thrift store that I use for Everyday Carry (EDC). I keep using that purse to carry because it is so handy with it's numerous compartments inside. I have found nothing like it! In one of those compartments, I keep a "Mini Survival Kit". I saw this at the SurvivaLogic web site. It fits in an Altoids breath mints tin. It's the handiest thing ever. SurvivaLogic recommended matches, fishing hooks and line, flash light, compass, knife (high quality with file, toothpick, scissors, tweezers), and a mirror.
In my kit, I put a small picket knife, just a boring old knife I had; maybe someday I will move up to a better one if I find one. I also put in a flint with striker, a small flashlight with AAA battery (not stored inside, to prevent corrosion), fishing hooks, a small compass, a small whistle, a saw, a bobbin of thread, a needle, and one lanyard that came with one of the "Key ring" size accessories listed above. My thought is that, if need be, I could put almost all of my little kit on the lanyard and carry it around my neck. The thread could be used for fishing, mending, or stitches (in skin). The Altoid tin is sturdy, so it keeps the stuff from getting beat up and dirty in my purse. It fits perfectly in a tiny little compartment. I just can't keep it in my purse to fly.
A first aid kit in an Altoids can: Tiny bottle of essential oils: 3 parts lavender oil and 1 part peppermint oil. This is good for pain of many kinds, sunburns, etc. Band-Aids, gauze. Tube of Burt's Bees' lip balm with essential oils; the bees wax is good for many skin ailments. Witch hazel: good for insect bites. Body thermometer. Safety pins. Aloe Vera gel. I am no expert on wilderness survival, but there are many tricks that can be used to utilize the materials at hand. I suppose that Boy Scout training would come in handy. In the absence of a bandage, cotton fabric could be torn and tied around a wound. Certain wild plants (bark for aspirin) can be used for healing-- I need to educate myself.
In the plethora of credit card slots in my purse, that I don't hardly fill up, I have lots of information in little business card size books or laminated cards. It would be perfect to keep a small phone book or small first aid book. I like to make up small books in Publisher in the size of a credit card to fit in those slots. They are also a good place to keep a small mirror and/or a flat magnifier. - Anita L.

I'm sure that you saw the many screaming headlines on Thursday, the global markets are melting down, and the pillars of the EU are crumbling. There were two notable oddities amidst Thursday's panic for those of us that hedge with precious metals: 1.) Spot silver saw a $5 per ounce selloff. This big dip of 12% in one day represents a great opportunity to either convert some of your cash into silver, or ratio trade out of gold into silver. The silver-to-gold ratio now stands at (48.2-to-1.) In just a few years the ratio will likely be 30-to-1, or less. 2.) The price of platinum is now $50+ below the price of gold. With these two aberrations in mind, it is presently wise to swap out of gold and into platinum or silver. You should always take advantage of brief windows of opportunity when markets are aberrant. Do not hesitate!

IMF a Little More Worried About China. (Thanks to K.A.F. for the link.)

Recession's second act would be worse than the first

And John R. sent these cheery news links:

Welcome To The Collapse Of 2011 (Karl Denninger)

The Fed Disappointed… The Great Collapse Is Here (Graham Summers)
Debt crisis: live---Markets tumble after the Fed warns of downside risks, World Bank chief Robert Zoellick says he is losing confidence in recovery and European central bank report questions whether euro can survive. - UK Telegraph
Morgan Stanley's Exposure to French Banks is 60% Greater Than its Market Cap... And More Than Half its Book Value (Tyler Durden)

Items from The Economatrix:

Dow Drops 500 Points on Fears of Another Recession

Mixed Impact On Consumers From Fed's "Twist"

Fewer People Applied For Unemployment Benefits

Fed Moves To Lower Interest Rates

World is on the Verge of a Devastating New Slump: IMF

The Redline:  A Tale Of Collapse (Fiction)

Depressed as a Nation?  80% of Americans Believe We are Already in a Recession

The End of the Phony Express; Or, The USPS Goes Postal on Our Economy

Rash of Bank Downgrades Signals Return to "Danger Zone"

Reader Rick B. wrote to mention: "The most important factor in determining when to plant a certain type of vegetable in your garden is the 'Last Freeze Date' in the spring, and the 'First Freeze Date' in the fall for your area. See the state-by-state charts of these dates, with city specific data, collected over a 30 year period by the National Climatic Data Center."

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F.G. flagged this: Why Middle-Class Americans Are Turning to Dumpster Diving

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K.A.F. mentioned: Extended Interview with Fast and Furious Whistleblower

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Did you cancel you OnStar contract? Sorry, but they are still tracking you.

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"Sarah Connor?" A future for drones: Automated killing

"I stood in the Roman Forum, and I found out that they had a Senate in Rome long ago. That’s why Rome declined. 
Boy! If they declined with a Senate, what will we do with a Senate and a House?" -  Will Rogers, January, 1927

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

The range of topics in prepping pretty much covers the spectrum of life, and all aspects tend to be connected, however, this article is mostly limited to my strategies to power my grid dependant, difficult to defend, suburban home when the grid is down, all the while on a limited budget.  No new, earth shattering, break through here, just a plan that uses lots of basics.

My circumstances probably reflect a sizable demographic of the folks who are attempting to prepare for hard times in the suburbs.  A middle class male, married with 4 kids, living in a stick house, in a small town, near a small city, in the crowded northeast.  Fortunately we do not live on a main line of drift. We have no bug out locale.  I have with no military background or engineering experience beyond home handyman.

Several main ideas have guided my strategies, some of the ideas are related and inter connected:

Finances – my budget is stretched, as I am working on reducing debt, prepping, saving and still trying to maintain a modest, comfortable life style.  My energy solutions need to be affordable, or at least let me add to as my budget permits.  This is not the same as cost effective.  Nothing is a cheap and easy as getting electricity from the grid.

Flexibility – I pretty sure I don’t like what is coming down the road, but I don’t know what it is, or when it’s coming.   May not even know that its arrived till is been here for a while.  My preps have to be able to accommodate as wide a range of circumstance as possible, from no power for a few hours, rolling black or brown outs, to maybe no electricity for a year or more.  I also need to consider TEOTWAWKI, may not occur in my lifetime.

Utility – I would like to be able to get some use of my preps during relatively normal, grid up times.

OPSECOPSEC is key.  I cannot draw attention to my self and family.  We must blend in.  Our survival could very well depend on keeping a low profile.  We are well armed, but would very much like to avoid any confrontation.

Portability – I may have to relocate, hopefully not as a part of the Golden Horde, but possibly to relatives, neighbors or friends in a more easily defended section of my town.  It could be planned and orderly, or I could be quickly putting gear in the back of my truck, or even a garden wagon or bicycle trailer.  My preps must be modular and not too heavy to carry.

Redundancy - Same concept as "Two is one and one is none."

Efficiency - Efficiency is not fully on the list. Of course, I would like all my preps to be efficient, but not at the cost of robustness.  I feel that the drive for efficiency has put the nation in a precarious spot.

With these ideas in mind, my main energy strategy has been to simultaneously lower my energy needs and to meet those needs with small photovoltaic (solar) panels and limited use of wind generators.  It has taken a few years and is still a work in progress. It also requires a change in thinking.   Life will not be the same without grid electricity.

A small system will not power my fridge, microwave, toaster oven, furnace or air conditioning. at least for not very long.  I can, however, power fans, lights, sump pumps, alarm system, security cameras, battery chargers, and laptop computers.

A gas generator could meet my immediate energy demands and is affordable, but it violates too many of my guidelines, especially OPSEC. I wouldn’t mind getting one eventually, but see it mostly as a convenience.

A large solar installation is more than I am ready to spend, and also conflicts with my guidelines about portability and poses serious, although quieter, OPSEC problems.  It would probably work nicely in a remote rural area.

Goal: Lower my energy demands by finishing the basement and using DC power.

The reality is, that the only way we can stay in our home, with a long-term power outage during the winter, is to "camp" in it.  There will be a major downgrade in our standard of living.  My goal is to keep us as safe as possible, out of a FEMA shelter, and to cushion the fall as best I can.

The safest place in the house is the basement; it provides some protection from things that could accompany no electricity, like radioactive fallout, severe weather, and gunfire.  Concentrating our living in the basement also lowers our energy usage and makes light discipline a lot easier.  Essentially, we may need to live in the basement during part of the year and the rest of the house will be a large closet.

Previously my basement wasn’t a place one would want to spend much time. After cleaning the cobwebs, my first step was to add cross bracing to the ceiling joists for support.  I studded and partitioned with insulated walls, added some more insulation to the ceiling and put down inexpensive rubber puzzle mat flooring from a discount store.  I made removable, interior, plywood shutters with radiant foil backing for the windows.  We made two rooms, a utility room and a work out room.  There is a small alcove for a potential camping toilet bathroom.  I added no electrical wiring; only utilizing what was already in place. Neither room draws attention from visiting neighbors.  Both are well insulated and partitioned so as to be livable with little energy. 

While the focus of this article is on electricity, I’ll stray a little bit to heat.  Making heat from electricity, especially from low voltage systems is a non-starter; it’s way too inefficient.  Unfortunately we do not have a fireplace. I have some concerns about the smell of wood smoke drawing attention, but future plans include retrofitting the basement for a wood stove.

My extreme cold weather plan is to drain my pipes to prevent bursts and flooding.  There are numerous Internet resources on draining pipes and preventing burst pipes. 

Heat is from a pair of Mr. Heater portable propane heaters.  Mr. Heater runs off both 1 pound and 20-pound propane canisters.  I have extension hoses, filters and a protective box for the 20-pound tanks.  To conserve we will have to run Mr. Heater intermittently, but I don’t think we will freeze to death.  I am afraid to set Mr. Heater on the rubber puzzle mats, so I built plywood stands.  Mr. Heater is designed for indoor use, but be sure to understand the directions before using it and be careful because it gets hot.

For safety, both rooms have dual battery powered CO detectors two different brands) and a smoke detector.  Propane is my stored energy of choice, because it stores well, and no smoke or smell when using it. I know that the 20-pound tanks tend to be under filled, but it is a manageable weight for my wife and kids.  I keep adding to the cache of tanks under the back deck, keep them chained together to make theft more difficult.  My eventual goal is to cache enough of them to supply our needs for two winters.  We never run out of propane when we barbecue. 

The workout room would be a bedroom, and I have inflatable air mattresses and sleeping bags for the family and the inevitable guests.

In summary, the workout and utility rooms give us a relatively safe, comfortable, easy to heat and light shelter, as well as use during “normal” times.  I did most of the work myself, it took a few months. 

The other aspect of decreasing demand is to utilize 12 VDC appliances.  A quick explanation is that most solar panels store their energy in 12-volt batteries.  Converting the power from batteries to AC to run corded appliances loses a significant amount of energy in the [inefficient] conversion from DC to AC.  Deep cycle 12-volt batteries are designed to be charged and discharged repeatedly.  They are rated in amp hours, which are how long they could run an appliance of certain amperage, at some pre-determined rate of discharge, usually 20 hours.  A 30-amp hour battery could theoretically run a 1-amp appliance for 30 hours.  To preserve the life of the deep cycle battery, they are not usually discharged below 50%, so the 30 amp hour battery, realistically gives 15 amp hours of service.

Some 12 VDC appliances are easy to find; air compressors for inflating tires and mattresses, fans, battery chargers, laptop power supplies, car DVD players and lights, and so forth.  Other items take a little work, like finding a DC power supply for my alarm system and router.  I am still using cigarette lighter plugs and receptacles, but will make the switch to the preferred Anderson Power Pole connectors some day.  Using 12 VDC appliances lowers my electric bill during normal times, and has made road trips more comfortable, as all this stuff can be powered from the receptacle in my truck.  When I see 12 VDC items on sale, I often stock up, for redundancy as well as potential barter items.

When folks start talking about needing an air conditioning unit when the grid is down, it’s hard for me to not roll my eyes.  All of our ancestors survived long enough for us to be here without the benefit of air conditioning.  Air conditioning units are energy hogs and OPSEC disasters.  I get just as hot and cranky as the next guy, but it hasn’t killed me yet.  If your health is such that no air conditioning will indeed kill you, then your survival preparations are going to be complicated [and expensive].

Refrigeration is a tougher problem, and I have taken several steps to mitigate it.  The first is that we do not store lots of frozen food.  We try to keep a good amount of ice in the freezer, increasing the supply if we think there may be a power outage coming.  Our canned and storage foods tend to be packaged smaller, so we don’t have to worry about leftovers spoiling.  Smaller packages are also more portable.  I am learning about root cellars, but haven’t constructed one yet.

Finally, I have recently purchased a 12 VDC cooler, the Koolatron Krusader Cooler.  I haven’t had it long enough to deliver a final verdict, but I think it will be handy.  There is a wide range of DC-powered refrigerators, freezers and coolers.  The smaller ones at least, are different than a traditional kitchen refrigerator because the keep the contents about 40 degrees cooler that the outside temperature, and can also be set to heat the contents instead of cooling.  Many are marketed to the tailgating and RV crowd.

Even though its DC, they still use a good bit of power, drawing about 4 amps per hour, so may be needed to run intermittently.   I am still evaluating it, but at this time, I would rather have several small coolers as opposed to 1 larger one, in keeping with my guidelines.

Providing The Power

I have been using small solar panels and portable power supplies to provide back up power as well as supply some of my day-to-day needs (like my router and alarm).   It is an ad hoc system that has slowly grown as my budget and developing expertise allowed.  Unfortunately, most all of the solar panels and components are made in china, but I try to purchase American made whenever I can.

When I started getting involved in the providing the power part of my plan, I initially purchased a Sunlinq foldable 12 Watt solar panel and Black and Decker Electromate 400 portable power supply.  The Sunlinq was purchased through, while I found the Black and Decker was less expensive at Wal-Mart--after figuring in shipping.

The Sunlinq uses standard SAE connectors that makes a nice tight connection and allows for easy modular additions.  It’s the same type connector as used with the Battery Minder chargers. (I think that the Sunlinq may be made by Sunforce or vice versa.)

The Black and Decker Electromate 400 has an area light, a built in inverter with 2 AC outlets, 2 DC outlets, an air compressor, and attachable jump-start cables.  It’s sturdy and has a nice handle.  It was a good intro combination and very portable. 

The next addition to my collection of solar panels and batteries was the Sunforce 60-watt solar power kit, which I coupled with the Xantrex Xpower power pack 1500, to provide power to the utility and workout room. 

The Sunforce system is four 15-watt panels, a mounting frame, a 7-amp charge controller, a small inverter, and connecting cables.  It uses the same SAE connectors as the Sunlinq.  I have since purchased several more of the kits, via eBay, Amazon and Costco. 

Prices can vary considerably.  Purchasing the complete kits, instead of individual panels has given me modularity and spare parts.  Sometimes the kits are bundled with small extras like a crank flashlight or small battery maintainer solar panel.  The included charge controller is only rated to 7 amps, so if more than 7 panels are linked together, a larger charge controller is needed.  Charge controllers connect between the solar panels and the battery to ensure that the batteries are not overcharged and damaged.  Low wattage panels do not require a charge controller.

I am not sure I would purchase the Xpower power pack 1500 again.  I initially chose it because it is a very convenient package.  It has a 60-amp hour battery, inverter with 2 AC outlets, 1 DC outlet receptacle, and can handle loads of 1,500 watts, with surge to 3,000 watts (I haven’t taken mine anywhere close to that).  It weighs about 60 pounds and has solid rubber wheels.  You could assemble all the parts for less money, but it’s hard to beat the Xpower's portability.  The first one I ordered from Costco arrived with its plastic case broken, as did the replacement!.  After returning the second one, I waited till the spring and bought one from, at a better price, which arrived with a very tiny ding.  The Xpower  1500 comes bundled with a very nice AC battery charger.  The Xpower's batteries are pretty easily replaced, as opposed to the Black and Decker and other various power packs that I have acquired.  As with the Sunforce solar system, prices vary considerably for the Xpower 1500.

I regularly shop around for deals on small solar panels, like the Sunlinq or the Sunforce and smaller portable power packs, like the Black and Decker.  I will use them as spares and barter items.

Goal Zero seems to have a nice package of systems well assembled, but pricey.  The Goal Zero connectors are hard to find unless purchased directly from them.  I like the Goal Zero Guide 10, which is an AA/AAA battery charger, that also is also a light and a USB power supply. 

In a moment of weakness, I bought the Harbor Freight 45- watt system on sale.  I think the Sunforce is a better value.  The Harbor Freight folding 13-watt panel does work well, although the connections are flimsy.  It is a good value when on sale or even better when combined a 20% off coupon.

I have several of the Sunforce 60 watt kits discreetly mounted the south side of the house. The power cables enter into the basement utility room, and via the Xpower 1500 provide most of the power to the room, and makes up for my lack of additional wiring when I finished the basement.  The kits are connected with Powerlet SAE "Y" splitters, which are a little expensive, but well made and tight.  You can also make you own SAE connections; I buy my components at

I purposely mounted the panels in locations that had solar exposure, but that were less than ideal, so as not to be very obvious from the street.  In an unstable Schumer hits the fan (SHTF) situation, my plan is to take down the solar panels, and use them intermittently in the back yard to charge up batteries.  If things seem stable, then I may remount them in ideal, non-esthetic locations to get maximum benefit.  I may deploy the reserve PV power kits as well, or save them to barter. 

I have recently added on to my system with the purchase of some deep cycle batteries.  In keeping with my strategy of modularity and portability I used 35 amp hour UB12350, batteries wired in parallel, instead of single larger battery, to add depth to my energy storage, and provide additional power to the basement.

I keep the various power packs charged with the solar panels, and during power outages, like Hurricane Irene, where we lost power for five days, we placed the smaller power packs in different rooms in the house and either used area lights, or plugged in a lamp and turned them on and off as needed.  Irene was a good test drive of my preps.  There was a time that my main panels were busy charging the xpower 1500 and the ub12350 battery bank.  We recharged the smaller power packs with small solar panels in the back yard and it worked out well.  Having the security cameras and alarm running at night helped the family sleep a little better.

For holidays and birthdays, I have given small portable solar chargers to family members to keep phones and other personal portable electronics charged.

If my vehicles are operational, I have a 1,000-watt inverter that can be connected to the car battery. I can get some short-term power from via extension cords, as long as the engine is running.  This is noisy, but probably less conspicuous than running a generator.

It is important to purchase power packs that can be charged directly via DC power due to the efficiency issues.  I have seen at least one packaged solar power system advertised on the Internet that uses a Xantrex power supply that can only be charged with AC power.

My experience with wind turbines has been mixed.  They are not as easy [to install] as photovoltaics, and to get real benefit, the turbine needs to be mounted fairly high, so it’s an OPSEC problem.  I bought a Gudcraft 300-watt unit and mounted it atop a volleyball net post in the corner of the yard.  It is a clunky unit, that doesn’t produce a lot of electricity where it sits, but is also inconspicuous has not caused any problems.  I have helped friends set up various other brands with underwhelming results, due to lack of wind in our area.

I have had some experience with an eBay vendor,  They essentially make simple home-made units.  They are only suitable for intermittent use, but are inexpensive and have helped to keep my batteries charged.  I mount them on 1-inch conduit; about 5 feet high and only deploy them when needed.  Over all, I can’t strongly recommend wind turbines for alternative power in the suburbs, but you may find then a useful adjunct.

There are no doubt that larger arrays, ideally placed would be make for a more efficient power, but my ad hoc system seems to work and meet my needs as far as "camping" in my home.  When using small alternative energy products, you need to budget electricity just like any other scarce resource.


Essentially, my strategy has been to make it possible to decrease my “energy footprint” so that I can camp in my home if needed, in a way that doesn’t mess up my home while the grid is up and running.  I attempted to develop a plan I can afford and is flexible, portable, conducive to OPSEC, has redundancy, and if possible, useful during “normal” times.  The electrical power requirements for camping are not large, and growing an ad hoc system over time can meet these needs.  Although not as efficient as a well-designed system implemented at one time, this incremental approach has been affordable and allowed me to learn about alternative energy at my own pace.  Your mileage will vary.

I feel that if every family should have a small photovoltaic panel and portable power supply, either as their main source of emergency power, or as back up to their generator or larger alternative energy setup.  I know that if things get very bad, these steps and my other preparations may not be enough, but that doesn’t mean that I have to quit, and I hope that anyone reading this doesn’t quit either.

Investing in silver and gold is a hedge against potential inflation and monetary devaluation; it is a way to keep high concentrations of wealth portable and off-grid and it can be fun and profitable.   Gold and silver has been a way to grow and preserve wealth since wealth has been defined.   The downside is that silver and gold are expensive and becoming more so, there is a typically a specialized group that you must deal with to see return value and it is not at all edible.

I have been a coin collector on and off throughout my life.  As my anxiety about the world shifted me into full scale preparation; my coin collecting experience was easily transferable into hard asset investments.  However even with my experience, I still made mistakes and learned a few lessons. 

With all things in my life, I am about setting goals with milestones to achieve them.  The goal of this article is to provide a novice a quick way to start gathering a heavy metal horde without getting burned. The milestones within are those that I have crossed myself to share as guideposts to the beginner.

The first goal is to determine how much you are willing to invest.  My personal goal was to reduce my 401(Mk) contributions and put it in a separate account in order to save up to buy a larger quantity.  It is also a good strategy to have a couple dollars for any investment that may come along that is worthwhile. Typically you can get a better deal with gold by buying larger amounts if you are buying from a retailer.  A retailer (such as a coin or jewelry store) will add a profit.  Thus a 1/10th ounce gold coin is a bit more expensive by weight than a full ounce.  However, you have to judge whether the changing price of gold and silver is worth the extra cost now versus buying later.  For example, if you wanted to buy an ounce of gold in the beginning of 2010, it was a bit above $1,100.  A rational plan of putting a hundred dollars away a month to buy an ounce would be ideal, except for the fact that by the end of 2010 the gold was $1,350. Therefore, buying 1/4th of an ounce on a quarterly basis would have been a better investment even with the additional costs. There is no crystal ball to identify if gold will go up or down and that is a risk factor that you have to decide upon as you view the markets. 

Understanding your markets is very important.  There are many useful resources on the Internet.  Kitco is a great site with historical charts on various metal prices. is wonderful for knowing the melt value (price for the metal value only).  My second recommendation is to follow the spot market regularly.  Look at silver and gold spot at least weekly, if not daily.  Check out and know the melt prices of US coins.  This is basic information and until you master it, you will never be more than a rookie.  Read the investment guides both positive and negative and develop your own judgment. All metals derive their value from the limited quantities available and demand.  Demand is determined by the amount mined annually and usage which involves investors and industrial uses.  Both gold and silver can be purchased in a variety of ways although I am going to focus solely on in-hand methods and not stocks, funds or “paper” ownership.  Hard metals can be sold as coin, bullion or jewelry; all of which have value.   By personal choice, I have not purchased jewelry as an investment and therefore my information will be bare on this subject and emphasize coin and bullion.  If you have a spouse (especially female) who is not interested in establishing a gold and silver reserve and may have issues with prepping in general, buying them jewelry occasionally could help on several fronts.  Fortunately, this is not my situation.  So when investing in coins and bullion you need to know the current spot price.  Reputable companies should charge the going spot price for plain bullion.  Plain bullion will fluctuate with the market and is fairly easy to resell.  The difficulty with bullion is that it usually requires a dealer or an educated buyer for a transaction.  Bullion is a specialty market and there have been countless efforts in history to fake or short bullion exchanges.

Coins tend to be safer but are more expensive.  There is a collector’s ["numismatic"] value to coins.  If you are interested in purchasing coins, then you must review the standard references for coin buyers.  There are two books, the Standard Catalog of World Coins (commonly called the Blue Book) for the average consumer and the Red Book (the purchasing price) for dealers.  It is strange that the industry has published a two tier system, but this is how professional coin dealer’s estimate buying and selling prices.  My second piece of advice is to get some practical knowledge and establish contacts.  People react and trade better with those whom they know.  Identify the places where they sell coins (more about this later) and visit it at least once a month.  Regularly purchase yourself a silver dime (pre-1965), quarter or bullion coin of choice.  I recommend dimes due to their inexpensive nature and currently averaging between $2.75-$3.00 on the spot market (see  However, if you are comfortable dropping $20 a month for an educational experience, then buy a quarter.  Enter at your comfort level but remember this is for intelligence only and should not be the bulk of your investment until you have gained some knowledge.  Talk to the store owners and ask questions.  It is my experience that people who work in coin stores love the trade and will tell you all kinds of things.  I’ve learned many valuable pieces of information just talking with people and hanging out at such places.  After you become regular and more knowledgeable they tend to make a better deal with you when you come in with a bigger wad of cash.  The positive aspect is if you are purchasing a dime a month instead of buying a Big Mac, then you are following a primary tenant of investing, which is to buy regularly [a strategy known as Dollar-cost averaging.]  It is a low impact way of creating a silver stash.  You also have a better chance of buying on a dip. 

So where do I buy coins and bullion?  I will buy gold and silver wherever I can find it reasonably priced.  While I do like to frequent certain stores regularly, I don’t want any single place to understand my inventory of precious metal.  So here is a listing of where I bought precious metals over the last several years with the pros and cons.

Retail: Coin, jewelry and other retail outlets are fair places to purchase coins.  You can be fairly confident that while priced fair to high end, you are buying exactly what is described.  They are also good places to determine values for goods as well as getting knowledge.  Retailers are also ideal places for trade.  Most retail outlets are not coin specific and will take newer mint coins at book value, baseball cards, comic books and other stuff that you may have from an earlier life or that you might stumble across.

Auction: Coin and bullion auctions are fairly common and are relatively safe when going through a reputable auction house.  Local estate auctions can be a great way of getting coins at or below market price.  Auctions are advantageous because most are going for coin value and ignore melt value.  I have bought gold coins below melt value because collectors were valuing off the Blue and Red book and had no idea that gold had a recent run up spike or that they simply may not wanted to part with that much cash.  Auctions are one of the reasons I like to have some cash always set aside as they tend to be good opportunities.

Pawn Store: Like in the show “Pawn Stars” gold and silver is pawned routinely.  Many pawn shops, if they have been in business for a while, deal gold and silver like the retail establishments.  What is unique about pawn stores is that if you have anything of value that you no longer need or want you may be able to trade and thus acquiring gold and silver without cash.  They are much more flexible that traditional retail establishments in this aspect. [JWR Adds: Beware that markups vary widely. Do some comparison pricing before you commit to a purchase or a trade. Use the telephone to minimize your legwork.]

Antique Stores: Antique stores are an interesting place to purchase coins.  The majority of the time these places are overpriced and they are selling junk coins at a markup.   Sometimes, there is a big jump in spot prices and the antique stores are not diligent in updating their costs.  This is one of the few places where your knowledge of the changing spot market can be very valuable.

Internet:  There are many places to purchase gold and silver over the Internet.  I have done this several times.  I dislike it every time.  I cannot judge the purchase before I see it and with even the most reputable dealers I have had very long waiting periods.  The other downside is that this is a very documentable transaction. So this eliminates one of the positives about owning metals--the privacy.  Still, it is relatively safe and if you do not have access to other options, it can be an easy way to purchase metal.

Through the Internet I have also bought coins off Craigslist and other avenues, meeting with people at gas stations and fast food restaurants and exchanging coins for cash.  While it feels a bit like a drug deal there are some good deals.  It is important to understand that it is rare to find “a steal.”  The Internet allows people to research their goods and expect a fair price.  If you are willing to deal fairly you can avoid middle man mark up and occasionally find something good.  Your knowledge will help you negotiate better prices as well.

Private Collectors: Aside from the aforementioned Craigslist, I have not purchased coins from private collectors.  This would require some solicitation on my part and at this time I do not have the funds or the free time to do so.  However, if you have both, this could be very advantageous once you are comfortable in your knowledge of the market.

The value of gold and silver is not a mystery and with a bit of time, you will understand the lingo and feel comfortable dealing with the pros.  The last thing I would like to share is that collecting coins and bullion is fun.  Coins have a sense of history both in the US and around the world.  I’ve come across coins dated from the Roman Empire, Spanish coins from the initial conquest of the new world and many other historical items. I am amazed at each time I hold one in my hand.  It is something that you can share with your children (and that they can inherit), family and friends.  It is profitable and a traditional method used to invest and save.  While metal prices may fluctuate, coin values can be fixed due to the limited quantity. 

Furthermore, armed with a bit of knowledge you can make easy money just sorting through circulated coins.  Over the last year, there have been two US silver coins that entered my collection through general every day transactions.  There is a certain amount of pleasure finding a silver dime in your change and knowing it is worth a whole lot more than the ten cents they thought they handed you.

Dear Mr. Rawles,

I was very glad to see J.C.R.'s article on Everyday Carry Items and wholeheartedly agree with him that Everyday Carry (EDC) is of critical importance when preparing for events that happen at speeds that do not allow time to fetch go-bags or other equipment.

While he makes excellent suggestions on items to carry and notes the importance of keeping these items compact and lightweight for ease and consistency of carry, there are some additional notes that I thought your readers may find helpful.

Firstly, rather than limiting the EDC of whistles to women's handbags, I recommend that everyone keep a whistle with them at all times.  This is easily accomplished by purchasing one of those cheap little rescue metal whistles and attaching it to your keys.

Whistles are useful in an emergency to anyone in any location, be it in the city or in a rural area.  Whether you are lost in the woods or trapped under debris in a building, you will be well served by keeping a small but loud whistle with you.  There are several reasons for this.  Firstly, the noise of a whistle will carry a lot further than shouts for help and cut through background noise that would drown out a human voice.  Secondly, a whistle will allow you to make loud noise for as long as you can breathe, whereas your voice will soon fail after repeatedly shouting for help.  Thirdly, in cases were the air is filled with dust or smoke, using a whistle can help you avoid taking the deep breaths of harmful particles that would occur if you were shouting for help.

Secondly, on the note of the cell phone contacts list, I recommend carrying a hard copy of your contact numbers in your wallet as a backup to the contacts function on your cell phone.  The main reason for this is that if your cell phone's battery runs out or the phone itself is damaged beyond use, then you still have a contacts list that is not dependent on power and is far more resistant to water and crushing if properly produced.  Personally, I carry a credit card sized laminated piece of paper with my contacts on one side (with their names shortened to initials to protect their privacy should the card be lost) and two 'In Case of Emergency' (ICE) numbers on the other side in case I am incapacitated and my family needs to be contacted.

Thirdly is the subject of flashlights.  If it is practical, I recommend carrying something that will take AA or AAA batteries instead of the little coin cell lights.  These will give very long running times and are common enough to be scrounged from common electronic items if necessary, such as television remote controls, wireless computer peripherals and other gadgets.  Of course, it is preferable to keep a spare battery on your person instead of searching for one in the middle of an emergency, which is why I carry a modified, cut down version of the PowerPax battery holders, usually two chambers cut off the AAA holder or one chamber from a AA holder.  The plastic is easily cut with a hacksaw and filed and sanded to a smooth round finish.  The battery holders protect the terminals of the batteries well and have good battery retention.  In the case of the glow-in-the-dark PowerPax holders, the glow can be of assistance in changing batteries in the dark.

As for the flashlights themselves, I am a big fan of Fenix brand lights, which I have found to be very reliable and hard wearing.  The Fenix E01 model in particular is a very affordable AAA light that is extremely robust, waterproof and simple to operate, while producing  around 21 hours of 10 lumen light off a single battery, being capable of standing on its tail as an improvised candle type light and being small enough to carry on your keys.  For those with a larger budget, the Fenix LD10 is a very capable AA light too, which I highly recommend for its toughness, variety of high and low settings and potential for seventy hours of runtime in it's lowest 3 lumen mode.

Finally, I am a big believer in keeping a small notepad or at least a scrap of paper and a writing instrument on my person whenever I am out of the house.  It gives me a way to record information easily and reliably, which could be of great help in a disaster should I have to note down important information on the radio or that has been given to me by another person.  In the most dire of circumstances, it could be used by you or another person to write a goodbye note to your family if you are certain that you or someone you come across will not survive their injuries.  Not a pleasant thought but it could bring some measure of comfort to you or another person in your final moments.

I hope that these suggestions will be of use to your readers.

Many thanks for producing such a wonderful blog, it's a great resource!

Regards, - T.C.



I'd like to comment on purses for carrying EDC items. Years and years ago I bought a leather backpack. Absolutely the best investment I've ever made. It's been around the world and though a lot with me. I'll describe it, and try to make the case for carrying something like it rather than a traditional purse.

It has several layers of compartments. On the outside of the main "sack" there are three largish pouches, each with a smaller, flatter sub-pouch. They are all zippered. The front pouch is compartmentalized with space for pens, etc. and is large enough to handle a wallet, checkbook, cell phone, and so on. The side pouches are big enough to handle a gun, hairbrush, Tylenol bottle, etc. These pouches are important because they are convenient places to store every day stuff. If I need my wallet, I can just sling the sack off one shoulder and around without ever having to relinquish possession of the sack. You can say the same thing for a largish shoulder bag, but the even distribution of weight on my back, rather than on just one shoulder makes a big difference. 

The smaller sub-pouches are great places to tuck away a folded trash bag, dental floss, a few paper towels, kleenex-- things you might not need everyday but that come in handy. 

The inside of the sack is huge, and also has one zippered compartment into which I put really sensitive stuff-- the spare cash, my passport, glucose pen. Right now the main sack part has almost nothing in it. But it's plenty big enough to carry an extra sweater, a change of clothes, cameras, video recorders, sneakers-- you name it! Oh, and importantly, it can also hold a real purse! (A nested purse.)

There are a couple of other advantages. Leather can take a pretty good soaking and still protect the contents. My husband has no problem carrying my sack (he would hold a purse but would not carry one around). I always have two hands free. In dicey situations, it's just as easy to carry it in front, instead of on your back, in other words, it's a lot easier to protect than a purse. And it's also a weapon of a certain sort. I have used it to push my way through a horde of beggars in a foreign train station. 

I know that some women would have a real problem carrying something like this around on a day-to-day basis. "The sack"-- as we call it-- has become part of me. It's just who I am. On those rare occasions that I don't actually carry it-- to a [formal occasion like a] wedding for example, or going into a courthouse (where guns aren't allowed)-- it sits quietly in the truck. But it-- and more importantly its contents-- are still accessible.  Thanks again for the article. - Mrs. B.

Jeremiah S. and Ed. B. both sent me the link to this article from Wyoming, New York: Old bomb shelter, supplies harken back to Cold War days

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Andre D. sent this: The Secret Lives of Solar Flares

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In a four-day period that included Labor Day weekend, there were 67 people shot in the streets of New York City. Not content with the manifold lack of success of some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for the enactment of more gun control laws! He was quoted: "We cannot tolerate it, there are just too many guns on the streets and we have to do something about it." Bloomberg is a hypocrite that is thoroughly out of touch with reality. He is well-known as the chairman of a group that calls itself "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" (MAIG). But more accurately, his group should be called "Mayors Against All Guns Except For Us, Our Cronies, The Police, and Our Bodyguards" (MAAGEFUOCTPAOB), or perhaps "Corrupt and Criminal Democrat Mayors Against All Guns Not Owned By The Government Or By Very Special People" (CACDMAAGNOBTGOBVSP). You see, Bloomberg's group has the distinction of an exceptionally high rate of felony convictions among its members, for crimes ranging multi-million dollar graft schemes and theft of campaign funds to wife beating. And, ironically, as felons these members have lost their right to own guns. But they think that they know what is best for us lowly plebes.

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A bad summer for grizzly bear attacks continues: Gutsy wrangler, huge horse save boy from charging grizzly.

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." - Edmund Burke

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I just heard that Jan Lebaron of Healthy Harvest died suddenly yesterday, due to an undisclosed illness. Please keep her family in your prayers. To help the family with upcoming funeral expenses, purchases from their web store would be greatly appreciated. (It is a small, family-owned company.)


Today we present another two entries for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Many of us have plans to get our family and friends to a retreat once the Schumer hits the fan (SHTF). Many of us have written down plans that tell us what things to grab before we leave (so we don't forget something important), but how many of you have written down plans for what to do once you're there, at your retreat? Why write them down? Well, because even though you may know everything you're going to do once there, maybe the others don't. For some unforeseen reason, you may not even make it there. Will your family know what to do with all the supplies you have stored? Will they know the best way to defend your particular location? For that matter, will you remember everything, given the fact that things will be stressful and maybe even chaotic once you get there? Hopefully this article will give you some idea of how to put a plan together. The plan should be printed out and stored at your retreat.

When I put my plan together, I made it like a short book, including using a title, preface, table of contents. This is to make it easier to find information on subjects, rather than reading a single long document.

The sections I chose were - Food and Water, Health & Hygiene, Security and Defense, Energy, Politics, Humanity, and Documentation. Obviously you can choose your own section titles. I try to visualize that my wife and I don't make it to the retreat, and our teenage children do. Although I have tried to educate them on the preparedness mindset, they might have little clue of what to do in an extreme SHTF scenario. So I write to that level. As if they know very little and need a lot of guidance to survive at the retreat. I'll now explain some of the information I try to include in those chapters.

Food and Water -

If you have stored water and access to fresh water, then describe what water to use first, and why. How to get and store more water (yes, preparedness must continue). Different ways to make water safe to drink. How to conserve water (especially if you have limited access to more).

Instructions for Food are similar. What stored foods to use first, and why. I recommend that if the scenario appears that it will be prolonged, then we should begin using the bulk storage foods (wheat, rice, beans, etc.) right away. This will save some of the more portable, easy to cook foods (like canned chili, stew, or freeze dried and MRE type meals) for times when there may not be an opportunity to cook (lack of fuel, long hours of work, bugging-out, etc.), or to take with you in the event you need to abandon your retreat. Yes, you may even have to bug out of your retreat at some point.

Describe how to get more food (hunting, trapping, gathering, gardening, etc.). If you are able to get fresh food right away, then definitely use that before any stored food. Talk about different ways to store new food for use later (by canning, drying, etc.). Discuss conserving the food and getting the most use out of what you get. Things like boiling heads and other parts of animals, even if just to get the fatty oil to surface so you can use it. How about, if you have lots of blackberries, but have no way to preserve them, then eat as many as you can without becoming ill. Like a bear, getting fattened up now for the lean months ahead might mean the difference between living and dying.

Talk about how to cook, to conserve energy and to minimize the signs of your presence. You may not want a smoke signal being sent up in the middle of a clear day. A better way might be to cook when it gets dark, and to use solar to cook on the clear days. At least be aware of your choices and potential consequences.

Heath and Hygiene -

In this section you will want to discuss nutrition, sanitation, hygiene, and mental well being. Talk about eating enough, eating for proper nutrition, and staying hydrated. Talk about proper sanitation (including proper food care, staying clean and dealing with garbage and human waste). Discuss using extra care to prevent work-related injuries. If an extra set of hands can prevent an injury (like cutting yourself or hurting your back), then ask for help. Use protective equipment such as gloves and goggles. Staying safe and healthy is easier than combating an illness or injury.

Talk about the proper ways to cook and handle foods to nobody gets food-born illnesses or diseases. This is no time to become careless about something so simple.

Describe the planned method of doing laundry at your retreat. Wearing clean underwear or pajamas to bed can help reduce the amount of time needed to wash bedding. Even if you normally take a morning shower, it may make more sense to take a shower in the evening, after your work day is done.

Discuss sexually active couples and the risks of getting pregnant during the stressful conditions you are in.

There may be some “down time”. Especially in the evening when there may not be television and movies for everyone to watch. This is a great time for everyone (and I mean everyone) to learn as much as they can, from your stash of medical books, about first aid and advanced medical care. You don't know who will end up being the injured person and who will be the "doctor".

Mental health is another consideration. Everyone should read books you have stored, including the Bible. Keep up on your prayers too. Listen to the radio to try to keep up on what's going on in the world, and maybe listening to a little music (quietly) might help. If you have the ability to watch stored DVD movies, then that may help too.

Discuss keeping each other informed about any significant changes in any aspect of your group's well-being. Being informed and avoiding surprises is important to everyone's safety and mental stability. All of this can help keep your group from going crazy.

Of course you should talk about triage and what to do if dead bodies are encountered (either from your group, or from an enemy). Being prepared mentally for these potentially intense events can go a long way to help.

Security and Defense -

This section you should discuss your planned method of deterring and combating any enemies. How will you be alerted that potential enemies are near (people on watch, electronic alarms, dogs)? How will you determine who is an enemy? How will you determine which ones to confront and which ones to run from? Discuss the advantage of going un-noticed first and then [, failing that,] looking like an unattractive target. If you have look-out posts, who will man them? When will shifts be rotated? Where will the posts be located?

How do you secure your buildings? Talk about light and noise management. How do you communicate, and what signals or codes will you use? How will your group train for these events?

When a threat is encountered, what level of force will you use, and what tools do you have that can accomplish the task. Not every threat is a deadly force situation (either at the beginning, or even throughout the incident).

Who will carry firearms? Which firearms will they use? Do they understand when it's appropriate to shoot?

Does everyone understand how to communicate that there is a threat? How do the lookouts communicate with others? What codes or signs will be given? If you have radio communications, do you have codes to use so someone monitoring it might not know who exactly is talking?

You should address what tactics to use during a battle. What protective gear to wear, how you would deal with a wounded companion, and areas of responsibility are important to address too.

Address fire danger and how to fight fires.

Talk about the importance of knowing your enemy. Can you can gather information about your enemies in advance? What are their numbers, their skills, and their weapons? Is an attack imminent? If so, can you plan a preemptive strike? When do you attack and when is it wise to retreat? (Have those Bug-Out-Bags ready, even once you're at the retreat.)

Talk about the use of force multipliers. Things such as barriers, alarms, decoys, and improvised explosives. Developing good relationships with nearby neighbors can help too.

Energy -

Energy for heat and work. Mainly stored energy, like wood, gas, and batteries. Address how you will conserve the energy you have and make more (by cutting wood, solar charging batteries, etc.).

Heat will be used mainly for keeping you warm during cold weather, and also for cooking food. It may also be used to boil water to drink, heat water for showers, re-hydrating food, and drying clothes during cold weather.

Most work might be done by manual labor, but some things require electricity. Your individual situation will dictate the instructions you give for electrical use. Maybe you can have a television playing a DVD all day, or maybe all you can only allow electricity to be used for is the occasional radio communication or flashlight use.

Describe the importance of using solar energy, whenever possible, for cooking, heating water, drying clothes and food, etc.

Politics -

One of the important things to address is the political makeup of your group. Who is in charge? How will important decisions be decided? Who is allowed to be part of the group? (There will always be unexpected people who want to join.) Who will be assigned what chores [or duties]? What behavior can get someone banished from the retreat? Address the importance of “pulling your own weight” and getting along with each other. Not everyone has the same skills or strength, but almost everyone has something to contribute.

Explain how triage will be conducted in health care [and veterinary care]. How there is a limited amount of skill and supplies.

Even among these tough times and trying decisions, the importance of keeping and promoting a good attitude needs to be emphasized. Attitude is contagious, whether it is a good one or a bad one.

Humanity -

This section will address how you will want to continue to be law-abiding and civil. And by doing so, you will help maintain your sanity, dignity, and humanity. Continue to educate each other, learning new skills, and helping each other. If children are there, start home-schooling them. And pray, as a group and individually.

Arrange for some relaxation time for everyone. A time of rest and play will benefit everyone. Be charitable and social with your neighbors. (But, of course, don't reveal your storage supplies or your tactics to them.) Charity might only be in the form of labor, if that's all you've got to give, but at least it's something.

Keep clean. Staying clean and healthy helps your attitude and makes you feel “human”.

Documentation -

Talk about keeping a journal or log of the events that occur. There should be daily entries describing what you did, what you were thinking, what the weather was doing, etc. Any conflicts or deaths must be documented.

The journal can be very important if it is needed in court several months or years from now. It will also be a valuable item to pass on to your children and grandchildren.

Another form of documentation is photographs. Especially if there is a death. Take lots of photos (if you can), as if it were a crime scene.

Try to keep track of the date (at minimum, it will be nice to celebrate birthdays). Try to keep up to date medical records on each person. And, try to keep an accurate inventory of all supplies. This will help predict your needs for the future.

I hope this information about creating a plan will help. This should be a living document. It will change as your supplies, equipment, and personnel change. I always put the edited date on the front. Just putting your retreat planning document together might make you think of things you need to do or acquire.

To be the best at something we must start out at the basics.  But in marksmanship, what are the basics?  The basics don’t start when we put the magazine in our rifle.  The basics start well before we fire the first shot.  We don’t want our first marksmanship test to be when we absolutely have to fire a shot in defense or necessity.  Marksmanship is something that many don’t come by naturally.  It must be worked on.  For those who it comes naturally to, practice makes perfect and some things need to be discovered in practice before they are discovered too late to correct or save your own life.

The first thing in rifle marksmanship is knowing the weapon that you are using.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a bolt action, a semi-auto, or any other type of action.  In this article we will focus on one of the more popular weapons and in my opinion one that is extremely user friendly.  We will focus on the AR-15, M16, M4, "Black Rifle", or whatever name you want to call.  I use a Bushmaster in 6.8 SPC for a little more power than compared to the 5.56 mm.  Caliber really isn’t a huge issue when it comes to marksmanship because even a well placed shot from a .22 LR will do enough damage to stop someone or something.  We don’t need to cover the components of the rifle with their proper name, but we must know how the rifle functions.  We must sit down with our rifle and become 100% comfortable with its feel, action, and handling. 

Everyone knows how to walk around their own home or apartment.  We feel comfortable with the situation if anyone comes into my domain, I will be at an advantage because I know the terrain.  Walking around the house with no weapon in hand, not worrying about being harmed, and at our leisure is much different than holding a rifle while trying to protect ourselves as the defender, and protecting anyone that we reside with.  It is much like a vehicle, we must know how to handle our weapon in a vehicle with a seat belt on, opening the door, and exiting the vehicle.  Our homes are no different than dismounting a vehicle without knowing how to get our rifle out with a seat belt on. 

I have walked around my house with my rifle in hand clearing the stairway, a bedroom, etc. It is just like urban combat, but we are in our own home, not a war zone or a shoot house.  My house looks entirely different with a rifle held at the ready, I know most people would feel the same way.  A few dry runs may seem ridiculous at the time, but when it comes to a time when your life is at stake, feeling comfortable with your rifle and your domain is a very important part of marksmanship.

Moving on, we get to see the function and actual handling of our rifle to our own body.  We will focus on magazine changes, malfunctions, and overall non-live fire procedures.  Lets start at the sling.  There are all types of slings on the market, there are one point slings, two point slings, and even three point slings.  The one point sling is practical with a chest rig or body armor, but isn’t the best when wearing just a T-shirt or a jacket.  A three point sling is the least practical because the sling itself passes in by functioning parts of the rifle, the bolt release, the magazine release, and the charging handle.  The two point sling is preferred and one that adjusts is the best option.  A two point sling that adjusts by pulling on part of the sling to lengthen or shorten the overall length of the sling. 

The magazine change is an important part of marksmanship because running out of ammunition and not being able to effectively reload puts the shooter at a very big disadvantage.  A magazine change should be simple, quick, and effective.  When ammunition is getting low or completely gone the first thing to do is raise your rifle up at an angle where the magazine well is at eye level and the barrel is putting towards the sky.  Using the trigger finger to press the magazine release and grab the magazine with the non-firing hand.  Place the empty magazine in a pocket or a drop pouch and grab a full magazine with the same hand.  While keeping your eyes on your target, or down range, looking past the magazine well, place the magazine in the magazine well until it seats with a click.  Press the bolt release and allow the bolt to slam the next round into the chamber.  Immediately raise your rifle to firing position which should be a quick movement because your eyes should have never left your target.  The key to effective magazine changes is not looking at your magazines, but continuing to look at your target so you can adjust your next shots and never lose sight of your target.

Malfunctions are a fact of life.  No matter what rifle you are firing, someday you will have a malfunction.  Clearing a malfunction is much like a magazine change.  Your actions need to be smooth, quick, and once again effective.  By knowing your rifle’s action you will know when the recoil or any thing else is not normal for your rifle.  When your AR type rifle malfunctions it is a simple fix, in most cases.  Simply leave the rifle on your shoulder while maintaining a grip with your firing hand.  Quickly reach back with your non-firing hand and charge the weapon several times.  The expended brass should be ejected and rounds should be fed into the chamber of your rifle.  If there is a double feed, or a feed when two rounds or more try to enter the chamber at once, you must drop the magazine, allow the rounds to drop from the magazine well, replace the magazine and continue firing.  Clearing a malfunction is possible without ever having to take your eyes off of your intended target.  Practicing with dummy rounds (fired rounds with a bullet replaced) will make clearing a malfunction second nature and quite possibly save your life, or the life’s of your loved ones.

As stated before, marksmanship begins before any live round is fired from a weapon.  With a magazine placed in your weapon get into a steady firing position.  Feet shoulder width apart, dominant leg slightly forward.  Keep your back straight, but bend slightly forward to help control the recoil of your weapon.  You should raise the rifle to your head, not put your head to your rifle.  Your non-firing hand needs to be as far out on the rifle as you can safely hold.  Holding your rifle this way eliminates the “wobble” zone between your two hands.  No matter what position you start in, prone, kneeling, or standing, your rifle and eyes are always on the target.  When going from standing to prone, you should squat, place your non firing hand flat on the ground and quickly kick both legs behind you simultaneously. Grab your rifle with your non-firing hand, as far out as you can.  Your non firing elbow, magazine, and firing elbow should all be on the ground while in the prone position.  Getting to your feet is the exact same thing you did to get prone, but in reverse order.  Remember, your eyes and rifle will always be pointed towards your target.  For kneeling, the basic premise is that you do not want your elbow on your knee, or bone to bone.  You want to place your non firing elbow into the thigh of your non-firing leg.  By doing this, you reduce even more “wobble” in your firing position.

Firing from cover from any position is also very simple and uses the same fundamentals as any other firing position.  If using a wall or any type of barrier, there are things to do that can steady your shot and make you much more effective.  No matter what position you are in, you simply place your non firing hand on the barrier.  Make a “C” with your thumb and fore finger.  Your remaining three fingers should be flat against the barrier.  Grip your rifle with your “C” and get behind your rifle like you are in any other firing position.  By using the barrier, your hand, and a steady firing position your rounds are extremely effective.

The hard parts of marksmanship are the ones that take the most conscious effort:  Breathing control and trigger squeeze.  Mastering these two can make a world of difference in how well a person shoots.  Breathing control is the hardest of the two.  You must exhale and inhale normally while concentrating on doing it.  Sounds a little strange, but try to control your breathing with a conscience effort and you begin to hold your breath too long or not long enough.  You want to fire on your normal pause between an exhale and an inhale.  That slight pause is the most effective time to fire a round in.  If you hold your breath too long, your body will begin to shake, which makes firing effectively extremely difficult.  If you can control your breathing you are on your way to becoming effective with your rifle. 

The next thing is trigger squeeze.  The operative word is squeeze, don’t pull.  By squeezing the trigger you apply constant pressure backwards until the trigger breaks and the round lets go. [The following is true for most semi-autos:] Do not release the trigger all the way back to the front!  By doing this you reset the trigger and must take the time to pull the slack out of it again.  Slowly release the trigger until there is a definite click, then stop.  Your trigger pull will be significantly shorter if the trigger does not completely reset.  This requires constant attention, but is easily mastered.  A shortened trigger squeeze will save precious milliseconds and will make a substantial difference in your shooting.

Finally we get to the good stuff.  Making ourselves effective shooters using live rounds.  This is sometimes a time consuming, ammo consuming, but fun and exciting experience.  I love getting behind a rifle and firing live rounds.  I don’t fire the old school 3 rounds, adjust, 3 round adjust, 3 rounds, Done.  I fire strings of 5 rounds, observe, 5 rounds, observe, 5 rounds adjust.  Start out at 100 meters or yards it really doesn’t make a difference.  Get in a good prone firing position and fire your first 5 rounds while aiming center mass or at the bull’s eye of the target.  Walk to your target and observe your group.  If it is tight (within an inch or so) you are good, if it’s loose, don’t worry, 5 more rounds and we will see.  Fire 5 more rounds. Observe your target.  We want our rifle to be zeroed at 200 meters so at 100 meters your rounds will be 1 inch high above the bulls eye or the center of your target.  If your group is acceptable to you (that’s your call) you can move your target out to 200 meters or yards.  The process repeats itself over and over again until you as the shooter feel comfortable with your firing.  I have seen people I have trained need over 250 rounds to get good at 200 meters.  What is acceptable to you is your call, but at 200 meters a group should be under 2 inches in diameter.  Since our point of aim is center mass, our point of impact is going to be center mass.  Point of Aim/Point of Impact.  After this is complete you can move onto bigger and better things.  A great exercise that I found to be fun and helpful is an easy one to accomplish.  While standing at 25 meters, fire a shot.  If it hits move back to 50, then 100, 150, 200, keep moving to backward until you miss a shot.  It’s a fun way to test your standing shot ability.  Another exercise is to move between two barriers at a rapid pace while engaging different targets at different ranges.

You may say this all good if you have open spaces, but what about a person who is confined to an indoor range?  The same principles and fundamentals apply to a person inside or outside.  Every indoor range I have used has allowed prone firing.  Move the target as far back and possible and execute the fundamentals and fire.  The same goes for those who do not want to spend the money on the amount of ammunition needed to train effectively.  Go through the dry fire exercises I've mentioned and when you go to the range with a few rounds you will be comfortable with your abilities and will be effective on that day.  Every little bit of practice makes a difference when it comes to being effective behind a rifle.

In closing, a little about myself: I was an United States Army Infantryman for seven years.  For two of those years I was an Infantry Drill Sergeant at Ft. Benning, Georgia.  I spent countless hours on and off a range teaching soldiers how to shoot effectively.  I have been trained by the Asymmetrical Warfare Group’s Combat Application Course, and my company was the pilot company for integrating that block of instruction into basic training throughout the Army.  I cannot tell you how many rounds I have fired on a range, but every one has been "a blast."  Hopefully this article will help you understand the importance of being effective in every aspect of your weapon. 

I recently spent a day at at the Denver Self-Reliance Expo. It was held September 16-17, 2011. The expo showcased a variety of friendly and enthusiastic survival, self-reliance and preparedness vendors and presenters. Several of the companies there are loyal SurvivalBlog advertisers. It was great meeting many of them in person for the first time. Just one example was meeting Dave Duffy of Backwoods Home Magazine. I had been reading his columns for many years, so it was about time!

In the arena of weapons and security, vendors included 5280 Armory, Hilltop Safes, Smart Product Technology (underground security pods), On Sight F.A.S.T. (FireArms & Survival Training), and Blue Line Security.

Alternate Energy exhibitors included UVpaqLite (featuring Tooblite reusable glow sticks and flat packages that provide sheets of light after exposure to daylight or even significant artificial light), Solar City (a full service solar provider in a similar market as CitizenRe), Peak Candle, 4EverLight, Humless (compact portable pure sine inverters with a generous assortment of output connectors), Solar Gadgets USA (iPhone and phone chargers, flashlights), Emergency Prep, JMI Wind Energy (2KW 6-blade 3-phase generator with super-strong magnets) and HVAC companies like Cooper Heating & Cooling, Costco, AccuTemp Heating & Air, Mountain View Mechanical, and Lennox.

Food storage vendors were represented by Ark Ready, Shelf Reliance, Vital Food Storage, Down To Earth Seeds (non-hybrid, open pollinated, GMO free, heirloom seeds), Grandma’s Country Foods, Daily Bread, The Honey People, Soup For Supper, Amanda’s Salsa, G & R Foods Inc., Simply Canning, and Grab N Go Food Storage. All the (generous) samples were remarkably tasty considering their intended extended shelf life.

Berkey Water / New Millennium Concepts, Tanks 4 Less, AquaPail, and Free Water Systems were the featured water storage exhibitors. Kitchen and food storage equipment vendors included the vibrant new company Pantry Paratus, as well as Tattler Reusable Canning Lids, and Daily Kneads (bread-making classes)

Stoves and oven vendors included Eco Zoom, StoveTec, Volcano Grills tri-fuel (propane, charcoal, wood) portable stove/grill, Can Cooker and veteran solar cooker Sun Oven with a live demo outside in the sunlight in addition to their indoor booth.

In the Health and Herbalism department, there was Dr. Christopher's School of Natural Healing, EnerHealth Botanicals (cocoa, coconut milk, meal powder, etc.), dTERRA Essential Oils, and Life Sprouts (sprouters with a diverse assortment of sprouting seeds.) On the other end of the prevention-cure spectrum, FalloutX featured three different products for mitigating the effects of minor, moderate and acute radiation exposure.

LPC Survival, Forge Survival Supply, and Farris Survival filled the Store/Distributor category. Denver Tent and Trek Light Gear's comfy hammocks provided outdoor gear. HayWireKlamper offers a handy strong wire-binding system and My Healthy and Clean Solutions demonstrated anti–microbial (anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral) sanitizers; an interesting approach to sanitizing without VOCs, alcohol, etc.)

In the education, books, and media category, we saw (giving away informative sample DVDs such as Experts Speak Out), Chelsea Green Publishing (books on sustainable politics and living), justly popular Backwoods Home Magazine, International Institute of Natural Wellness Education, The Prepper Podcast Network, Prep Simple, DoctorPrepper / PreparednessRadioNetwork, the American Red Cross, the PathFinder School, Sierra School of Survival, Project Appleseed, Jack Spirko's SurvivalPodcast, and stations KHNC, KLZ and BYUtv. National Geographic had a film crew there interviewing exhibitors and presenters presumably for a "Doomsday Preppers" episode for their network programming.

Vehicles (quads, ATVs, including side-by-side models) were represented by Sun Enterprises and Quality Silver Bullion appeared to be the lone precious metal/coinage entry.

Other vendors included Handy Sharp (knife sharpening), Home Depot and broker Ullrich Insurance. All in all ,the expo was a small but well-rounded trade show with something for everyone.

By the way, the next scheduled Self Reliance Expo will be in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 7th & 8th. Anyone that lives within driving distance shouldn't miss it.

- L.K.O. (SurvivalBlog's Central Rockies Regional Editor)

K.T. mentioned a piece over in the new Survival and Prosperity blog about Nanny State Massachusetts: Boston Businesses May Soon Need A License To Sell Knives

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Drew W. spotted this: How to Survive a Gunshot Wound

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Nathan A. suggested this: Life After An EMP Attack: No Power, No Food, No Transportation, No Banking And No Internet

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Nichole R. mentioned this: Infographic: How Big a Backyard Would You Need to Live Off the Land?

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Secret recordings raise new questions in ATF 'Gunwalker' operation

"A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

As I watched this past weekend several different television shows chronicling the events of September 11, 2001, a thought crossed my mind.  Sometimes events happen so fast in our lives that we don’t have any time at all to prepare and all you are left with is what you have on you and what you know.  Most often that “event” is not life-threatening but more of an inconvenience than anything else.  There have been lots of times when having something as simple as a safety pin would have made all the difference in the world.

As I watched people not only pouring out of the World Trade Center’s but also those that we already on the streets of New York that day with only what was in their pockets or purses I began to wonder what would be some of the minimal necessities.   

Let’s start with the men only because I can relate to them better…I am one.  Our options are really limited to what is in our pockets, in our wallets, on our wrist, or on our waist.  If you had to get yourself to safety or just take care of some minor emergency, we had better choose wisely considering size and weight.  If some gadget you have chosen is too heavy or bulky, you are not likely to have it on you all the time.  For instance, I am a typical accountant and it would look so out of place for me to be walking around with a multi-tool hung off of my belt.  However, it you were an IT professional, it might just blend in with your normal attire and thus give you many more options.  I’ll list out the items in order of importance should the need arise.

The first thing that ever man should consider and choose wisely is a good pocket knife.  I am not talking about a cheap knife that just will not hold an edge but neither am I talking about some type of collectible either.  Personally I have been carrying the Victorinox Executive.  This is of the Swiss Army variety.  The knife is about 3” long, ¾” wide and only 3/8” thick.  I have switched back and forth between this knife and just about every other brand and type on the market.  Because of its size though, I always go back to this knife within a couple of days.  Wenger also makes a good brand and I would recommend you stick with either one of these brands.

The Victorinox Executive comes with both a 2” blade as well as a 1-½” blade.  They are razor sharp right out of the box and are easy to sharpen when that time comes.  You couldn’t skin an elephant but it will tackle most everyday task you’ll run across.  It also has a 2” nail file, a set of scissors, tweezers, and a toothpick.  In addition to that, it has a unique blade to Victorinox that they say is an orange peeler.  In over twenty years, I have never peeled and orange with it, but I have used it a miniature saw and it works wonders on light stuff.  The point of the file can be used for Philips head screws and the point of the orange peeler can be used as a flat-head screwdriver.  Without a doubt the scissors get used the most in my urban environment.  I can tell you this though; I feel in love with this knife when I watched a guy work on the carburetor of his lawn mower and then file and gap the spark plug using the nail file.  Obviously he used something else to get the spark plug out, but I was hooked for life.  I have personally used the orange peeling blade to “knife” open a janitors closest to get toilet tissue and then the file to open the toilet paper dispenser in the restrooms at church.  It was way easier to just go that route than to hunt down the janitor.  The uses for this little knife are limitless.  As with any pocket knife never use it to pry anything open as you will more than likely snap the blade into two pieces.  I know what some of you knife guys are thinking…I carry a big this or that with a pocket clip that I’d rather have for the tight spots.  Don’t get me wrong, when I am in the woods or out in the yard, I carry a different blade as well.  What I am talking about here is our everyday carry knife that you will forget it is there until you need it.  Swiss Army knives have gotten a bad rap for all of the cheap knock-offs that we all see at guns shows and hardware stores for a couple of bucks.  But you will not regret carrying either of these brands and you too will find hundreds of uses.

The next item you should always carry is some extra emergency cash.  Make sure it is not all in either small bills or large bills…mix it up a bit based on how much you want to carry and how thick you can stand your wallet.  We do have to sit on it all day you know.  Lots of things can be had and small conveniences can be purchased with cash.  Maybe as a general rule, you should carry enough to file the gas tank up plus a quick meal.  The trick here is to hide it your wallet, never forgetting it is there but not looking at is as mad money when the next “deal” comes around.  Never let anyone know you have it or friends all over the office will be hitting you up for a few bucks here and there.  If you do spend it, put it back as quickly as you possibly can.  It would really suck if you found yourself in a situation that a few extra bucks would ease the stress a hundred fold and your wallet was empty.

My next critical item is a fully charged cell phone.  I have placed this below just below the emergency cash for a reason.  With extra cash, you could buy a few minutes of cell time from a co-worker or even a stranger.  You could have a trunk full of cell phones but you can’t trade that for a bottle of water or gas in the car.  With this you can let loved ones know you are okay or headed to the hospital.  In the time of a crisis, information will be critical…both getting it and giving it.  Cell phones have all kinds of extra features that may help you.  The greatest one is the contact list.  About a year ago I was faced with a situation that could have been life threatening and I was shocked at how hard it was to dial 911 in the midst of the crisis.  I can’t imagine trying to remember an out-of-state contact person for a regional emergency, so store all your numbers there.  Also remember that you can almost always get a text message to go through before you can get an actual phone call to work.  We just experienced a 5.8 magnitude earthquake on the East Coast and we were a state away and the cell phone circuits were jammed from all of the traffic, but my text to the house made it fine.

Another key item comes in the form of two key pieces, a paracord keychain with an attached Photon II Beta light.  This serves a couple of purposes.  I have some cordage if I ever need it but also don’t send out any “alarms” from others as you leave your keys lying around.  The Photon II Beta light is of the button variety about the size of a quarter.  Be sure and get the one with the locking one switch because sometimes you need both hands.  You can lock it on and lay it down.  You’d be surprised at how much light these little buggers put out in the pitch black dark.  You never know when the power will go out but you can calm down a lot of folks just by providing a little light.

The next item is something that I am sure almost everyone wears every day.  That is a belt.  It could serve as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding or something to secure a splint with.  Let’s not forget that keeping your pants up while you run for cover in mission critical.

A watch is another invaluable item and one most of us wear every day.  Most cell phones have a clock feature but imagine talking to the 911 dispatcher on you cell phone while attending to a woman in labor.  It is so much easier when you can look down at your watch.  In the event of a disaster, there will be all kinds of reasons to monitor the time and you’ll want to save your cell phone battery for more important tasks.  In a real bad situation, you may not want anyone around you knowing that you have a working cell phone, but no one will question your watch.

Lastly for men, I carry a Fresnel Magnifier in my wallet.  It is the same size of the credit cards and you will forget it is even there.  This is good for seeing small splinters in children’s hands, reading small print, or starting fires.  Doesn’t take up much space but provides lots of opportunities.  Once could also carry a miniature BIC lighter for fire starting.  I have one in the desk drawer and one in the car and choose not to carry one in my pockets.  I want to be prepared but not over-burdened every single second of the day.  One last item that I see older men carrying that us younger guys is a handkerchief.  This would be a handy item as many of the folks running away from ground zero were covering their mouths.  Wet it and it keeps out smaller particles and might help you escape a smoky room.  It could be used as a quick bandage or something to use for signaling.  This is another item that has so many uses it is hard to list them but you’d be glad you had one.

While these ten or so items may not be what actually saves your life or the lives of others, they will in fact form the basics of any survival kit you put together.  It will give some comfort in knowing that you have these items on you at all times.  Ask around at how many men you meet that don’t even carry a pocket knife…it will surprise you.

Now for the women.  We have saved the best for last because they have so many more options.  I am obviously not a woman and really look forward to reading their responses as it could help to better dress out my own wife’s purse. 

The very first item to consider is the pocket book or purse itself.  If it is too big, then you are not as likely to carry it or keep it with you as best you can.  If it is too small, it will not serve much of a purpose.  I will acknowledge that there are several instances when a huge pocket book will not work and something slim is more befitting the circumstance.  But again, we are talking your everyday run-of-the mill purse.  After you decided to carry what you like, let’s put a few helpful items in it.

I will still stick to the pocket knife as being your number one item to add, only because of its usefulness.  My wife also carries the same pocket knife mention above in her purse.  It is big enough to handle all we ask of it but not big enough to have her flagged as someone to be worried about.  Both of those brands mentioned above also have pocket knives in all kinds of colors, so you may want to choose the pick one for Breast Cancer Awareness.  Then if you have to pull it out, you’ll also earn bonus points for caring, as you should.

Just as stated above, extra emergency cash should be our second item again for all those same reasons.

Add to the pocket knife and extra cash would be thirdly the fully charged cell phone.  I can’t say enough about being able to get info in and out for everyone involved in a tense situation.

We’ll also stick with the Paracord key chain and attached Photon II Beta light.  You’ll need to be able all of the goodies in your miniature BOB.  I noticed at the last gun show we attended that there was a booth that had all sorts of items made from paracord.  And guess what they had…key chains made with the same pink colors as that used in Breast Cancer Awareness products.  Bonus points again for caring while maintaining OPSEC.

This is where we’ll mix it up a little since we have a little more room to work with.  I would add a very small first aid kit.  What I have in mind here is something along the lines of the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight .3 or .5 kits.  I think one is around $9 and the other around $15 or so.  You could put together a similar kit for a lot less so it comes down to convenience.  Either way though, is very familiar with what is in the kit so you’ll know if you have whatever item you’d be looking for.  If you use a band-aid out of it, be sure to replace it as soon as possible.  To this first aid kit, I would add several safety pins of various sizes.  In either of the Adventure kits, they’d be enough room.

Separately but in the same location I’d add a very small sewing kit, such as those often given away by hotels.  This will not be a life saver but could very well save you from some embarrassing moments if something breaks and you are stuck with it for a while. 

Now we are down to the miscellaneous items.  As in the above section, a watch is something we take for granted until we don’t have it.  I would also be sure to throw in a miniature BIC lighter and either a handkerchief or small packet of tissues.  To round out this very basic kit you could toss in one of those flat ACR whistles that’s US Coast Guard approved.  Let me tell you those things are loud.  Most women already carry some Blistex or some other type of lip balm.  Top this off with several pieces of hard candy for comfort and you have the makings of a miniature BOB that will take care of most minor emergencies as well as possibly get you from point A to point B with a little less stress.

Making Your Water Filter Last, by F.J.B.

When my four boys were young, we did a lot of backcountry hiking. Usually the trip was only a day or two and didn’t require a lot of gear to pack. Each of us carried our own water. I remember one hike we took in the middle of August. It was a two-day trip with daytime temperatures nearing 110 degrees. We were out surveying on a huge western ranch.

My wife was concerned about our having enough water (in the high desert). To address her understandable concerns, I took along an Indian water-tank back pack. This is similar to the 5-gallon, 90G Indian Pump Fire Extinguishers  that backcountry fire crews use.

It weighed 40 pounds full and had an ineffective baffle that allowed constant sloshing. It was a good thing we weren’t climbing any goat trails, or I would have been lost by having fallen over the edge due to the pull of the water in the tank. As it was, I couldn’t walk a straight line, and anyone who might have seen us would have wondered what that drunk guy was doing out in the sun with those nice boys. 

My first experience with a pocket water filter was much later. One of our sons wanted to hike the Grand Canyon with some of his friends on their Christmas break from college. They had it all figured out: what to take, the route, the timing. As I was told, “It’s all good, Dad.”

I was not going to be tagging along but still needed to be sure they were thinking straight. The day they dropped over the rim for their 7-day hike, we first had to get their backcountry permit.

The ranger asked how much water each man was carrying and made sure they knew that water was not available on the route they were taking. Upon hearing this, I knew they didn’t have enough. A park outfitter had just opened that morning, and I dragged all of them over to it while I went inside.

The only water filter they had was as pricey as it could be at the rim of the Grand Canyon at the last minute. I think I paid $350 for the kit, which was about three times what it would have cost anywhere else. It was a MSR filter kit. I gave it to my son and asked him to pack it. He reluctantly did, and they started on their trip. It was dark and snowing as they dropped over the canyon rim.

Seven days later it was still dark and snowing when I met them all back at the top. It was clear they were pretty well spent. I had forgotten about the water filter until one of the group said to me, “I can’t thank you enough for giving us that water filter before we left. It may have saved our lives. We were out of water on the second day, and the only water we could find was from muddy puddles in rock crevasses.” Needless to say, I was very happy to have sent it with them, too.

The filter stayed in my son’s pack for years before I came across it again. It hadn’t been touched since the day their trip had ended. This meant, of course, that it hadn’t been cleaned either. So, I took it down and cleaned it up but, I got a good look at the filter when I did. It was completely covered with thick dried mud and a greenish dried algae of some sort. They really did have a water emergency while on their trip.

We have all read the incredible things our water filters can do. They are truly a great accomplishment of modern man. The instructions on my Katadyn Micro filter state, “ Suitable for turbid and extremely turbid surface water. Makes the water clear (particles will be removed). Suitable for questionable tap water. Suitable for safe tap water (drinking water quality).“

I am certain that all of these statements are true.  All of the instructions for my other various countertop gravity water filters were the same or similar.

Lake water, river water, water from a creek, rain water, water from a small puddle in a depression in a rock; all are acceptable sources for drinking water through our filters.

It was nearly 10 years ago that I first purchased a Berkey countertop gravity-feed water filter. At the time, I had no practical experience nor idea as to how long the filters would last. Knowing that at some time I would indeed need to replace them, I went ahead and ordered extra candle filters. We have used our countertop water filter daily over 10 years, feeding it only tap water. I have cleaned the filters several times (it is amazing to me how filthy tap water is) but am not really any closer to needing the replacement filters.

This may lead us to conclude that if we filter only clean, or clear water, our filters should last a good long while.

But seriously, once the Schumer hits the fan (SHTF) we may not be able to replace our filters. This means we should take care to only feed our water filters clear water, or at least water that is less turbid. Even though the filter can accept a wet mucking mess and render unto us life’s elixir (drinking water), we need to respect our investments better. Putting anything other than clear water through our water filters will have us cleaning and sanding them down too often and greatly reduce their life.

There are several precautions we should take.

First, we can take care when filling a bucket in the lake or river. Don’t kick or stir up any sediment and try to just skim the surface for water. Getting water from a clear mountain spring would help as well. Our goal is to harvest the clearest possible water we can find to run through our water filter.

Sometimes this may  be difficult to achieve. Without a stable environment to store unfiltered water in, we are subject to the stirred up sediment that rain, wind, and other local activity can produce. In order to keep a continuous supply of relatively clear water to run through our filter we need to have stable water storage.

This can be accomplished easily with the use of 5 gallon pails. After carefully filling a pail, let it sit undisturbed overnight before running it through the filter. This will allow heavy sediment in the water to settle to the bottom of the bucket.

Inspect the water in the top half of the pail. You might decide to let the water sit another day to allow any additional sediment to settle. 

This process may take days if the lake or river water is high in turbidity. This may be due to a recent rain or just be the natural state of the water source. Having a series of 5-gallon pails would keep you from running out of clear water in this case. I keep seven pails set aside for just this purpose. As each pail meets your “eyeball” standard of clarity, it can then be either filtered (from the top of the pail) or added to a larger unfiltered storage container such as a 55 gallon barrel.

After filling the 55 gallon barrel and allowing the additional settling of any sediment, water can then be gently scooped or ladled out off the top.

In the old west it was common for the cowboy to knock the side of the water barrel before using the ladle to quench his thirst. Some folks thought this was for good luck but in reality it was to make the pollywogs dive for the bottom of the barrel before he used the ladle. Keep your water barrel protected from mice, frogs, and pollywogs. 

At our retreat, we do not yet have a well and use water from a spring on our property. We do not filter water that is used for bathing, or washing clothes.

Reserving your filter for water which is intended for cooking, drinking or medical use, will also help extend its life.

I now have some practical experience with water filters. We have used our Berkey for many years and have had no issues with it. Several years ago I bought an Aqua Rain counter-top model for our in-town house to filter our tap water for drinking and coffee. The candle filters have held up fine but the stainless steel tank is not a good quality. Ours actually developed a stress crack from use and has split down the side. At $300 we had hoped for a bit better quality and Aqua Rain does not stand by the product either. I ended up replacing it with another Berkey.
As for pocket water filters nothing comes close to the Katadyn Pocket Microfilter. It has a 20 year warranty and can filter up to 13,000 gallons of water. All in a compact size for your BOB.

So remember, having good gear, planning ahead, and having extra food-grade buckets and drums along with our water filters will have us all staying clean and enjoying a glass of cool, clear, and hopefully pollywog-free, water through TEOTWAWKI.

Mr. Rawles,
 Another comment on home made laundry soap. There is a difference between Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate and using the wrong one will make a difference in the quality/effectiveness of your product. If you are having difficulty locating Sodium Carbonate you may want to consider checking with your local swimming pool supply store. Soda Ash (sodium carbonate) is a commonly used chemical to raise the pH in swimming pools. - W.V. Willard

Mr. Rawles:
There are several easy solutions, and a few economical difficult ones. I make my laundry soap out of grated Ivory bars, Borax, generic Oxy-Clean, and baking soda. My laundry soap works way better than the store bought detergent, is cheaper, and takes less per load. There will come a day when those ingredients are not available. I'll probably then just use homemade lye soap and boil the clothes after scrubbing them on my passed down washboard.
The solution to toilet paper is to use fabric rags and re-wash them (in my homemade laundry soap). It's a fairly easy solution. I have a dispenser in my bathroom where I have big rags and little rags in two separate compartments. I have a little canister with a lid, into which I put the soiled rags. I like it better than toilet paper.
Instead of paper towels, I use fabric towels. Again, these solutions are boringly old fashioned, but amazingly foreign to our present culture.
For soap, I use old fashioned lye soap, made my yours truly. I use store bought lye at this point in time, but later, when we will be heating with wood, I will take the ashes and run rain water over them to make lye. I use the lye soap to wash my skin and my hair.
For shampoo, I use this mixture right now:
Step 1: Wet hair. Use a tiny amount of dandruff shampoo, scrub into scalp. Wash out.
Step 2: In an empty shampoo bottle, fill it up with water, and squeeze some (only 2 squeezes) of your favorite shampoo into bottle. I use generic Pantene moisturizing shampoo. Shake up. Squeeze a little bit onto your hair. Lather. Rinse.
Step 3: Take a bar of lye soap. Rub in hair. Lather. Rinse.
Step 4: In an empty conditioner bottle, fill it up with water, and squeeze some (I'm talking 2 squeezes) of your favorite conditioner into bottle. I use generic Pantene moisturizing conditioner. Shake up. Squeeze a little bit onto your hair. Lather. Rinse.
Step 5. In an empty spray bottle, put about 1/4 of bottle in vinegar, fill up with water. Spray all over your hair.
I have long, thick hair to my waist, but I use very little shampoo or conditioner. The key is to use a lot of water. The shampoo is actually damaging to your hair. All shampoos contain several strippers; that's what makes hair tangly and dry. The lye soap contains glycerine, a natural by product of the chemical change that happens in the soap making process. Glycerine is very good for hair and skin. Few store-bought soaps that I know of contain the glycerine. The vinegar is also very good for the hair. Someday I will make some vinegar. From what I read, it's fairly easy to make if you have the apples.
It is very confusing to me to understand the thinking behind the large stores of stuff (paper, etc) that people talk about having. What will happen when they run out of those stores? Why not learn to cope without them now? Is it really self-sufficiency to just go buy everything in large quantity? I don't know, maybe it works for some people, it just doesn't make sense to me. I understand that I will probably still have to buy some things, but I want to be producing or have non-perishable things for most of what I need. - Mrs. A.L.

Gail H. recommended this over at The Art of Manliness: How To Shave Like Your Grandpa

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Jonathan B. was the first of several readers to send this: Farmers flee as world's deadliest volcano rumbles

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Another sign of the times: Father and daughter burned in alleged electrical theft.

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F.G. sent this: Smoking Bans Are No Match For New Yorkers

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Jasper recommended some practical advice over at Lew Rockwell's site: Journey to the U-Pull…

"One of the penalties of not participating in politics is that you will be governed by your inferiors." - Plato

Monday, September 19, 2011

Medical supplies are an essential part of survival and planning can really save you some headaches. You cannot have too much gauze nor too many Band-Aids. Seriously, if you have the room then keep buying them. Sterile gauze is worth having a small amount of, and non-sterile a much larger amount of. band-Aids of all shapes are recommended, I really like the Nextcare tattoo type because they stick so well and help with blister protection as well as all sorts of small cuts. I am not really a big band-Aid person as I like blood and scars, but to each his own. If you feel the need to stop bleeding, nothing beats good old fashioned pressure.  There is an old saying in medicine:  "all bleeding stops eventually"s.  I guess it is supposed to be partly humorous but also is meant to calm those that tend to freak out dramatically at the site of blood.  Pressure on wound for a good two minutes stops the majority of bleeding wounds from knives, sharp edges, and puncturing.  Holding pressure directly is the best way to approach bleeding, then after it slows or stops, then wrapping it with a nice tight bandage with gauze between will stop 95% of non-horrific injuries.

Ace wrap is great to have for a large variety of reasons, including holding together splints, wrapping larger injuries, and making a sling. It can be rewashed and used over and over until its springiness is lost. Getting a variety of sizes from 1 inch to 6 inch is the best idea, with more of the middle sizes like 2 and 3 inch. Chemical ice packs are really a good idea if there is no grid and therefore no ice. How many is a guess, most of the time if you had access to cool or cold water from creeks or springs that would eliminate most of your need for an ice pack. If you won’t have access to these cooling sources, then you need to make room for more chemical ice packs than someone with a nice cold creek or spring on their property. Splints are as simple as 2 sticks wrapped with duct tape, to fancy and expensive blowup units. My favorite are the simple moldable foam splints available at any medical supply store.

To close small wounds, super glue gel or steri-strips are good for largely non-mobile skin like the forehead or mid arm, leg, etc. If it doesn’t bend much, it’s non-mobile skin. For mobile skin, sutures might help, but if you don’t or can’t get them, then gauze and pressure is your best bet. Super glue gel is easier to control than the watery stuff and doesn’t stick you to the person you are trying to help as much.  If the wound bleeds then the gel will just run all over and do absolutely no good.  If the bleeding from a wound just keeps oozing slowly, you have to use sutures or steri-strips to stop it and close up the wound.  Even steri-strips are very tricky with bleeding as they won’t stick to blood.  You have a solid 8 hours to repair any injury, so the key to wound closure is SLOW DOWN and relax unless you see pumping blood shooting out of you or your pal.  Sometimes, wrapping a wound and coming back to it an hour later makes all the difference in the world.

Besides having the supplies to repair and care for these flesh wounds, you need to have a person available with a stomach for the job. Someone in your small tribal society will be the medical person, so make sure they know how to use the supplies and that they are available.  The “Mary Gray” of your group (see Jim's novel "Patriots") needs to train another secondary person to be an assistant or a primary medical person if the 1st choice is missing or gone.  There is nothing worse than everyone freaking out because of blood and the person with the stuff and stomach being a long way away. Don’t wrap any bandages or gauze over super glue wounds for a couple hours, of course. Sutures are nice, but you need the little pliers or needle driver to use them, don’t forget that. Same with a curved needle and thread, it has to either be big enough for your hotdog fingers or get a pliers or driver. The little pliers needed for this is different than the mighty pliers listed in non-medical supplies for pulling teeth, they will not be interchangeable.

So, to sum up, get a good-sized bag for all these supplies as you may need to move it to a person rather than the person to your supplies.  Pack it in order of importance, when you run out of room keep the remaining supplies on the shelves in your prepper area with the food and ammo in a cool, dry place.  Gauze, band-Aids, Ace wrap, chemical ice packs, splints, tape, steri-strips, super glue gel, sutures or curved needles, pliers or needle driver all go into the bag.  The bag necessary for these items is really not that big and will not be that heavy.  Keep two ice packs in the bag and lots of backups on the shelves.  Keep one splint in the bag, a variety of band-Aids, a variety of gauze and ace wraps, and a “set” of supplies for wound repair with backups for all these items on your shelves.  There are certainly many more items that others recommend and that may be fine for some folks, this is a basic non-medical layperson recommendation.  With a skilled, proficient medical person in your group your needs may be much more sophisticated, expensive, and extensive.  Most people are not going to be performing surgery and pulling off blood-typing and transfusions.  For those of you out there that will comfort and pray over the GSW victim WTSHTF, these recommendations will work.  Questions and comments are always welcome. Stay strong.

JWR Adds: 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:

I've had numerous requests from SurvivalBlog readers for some articles on reloading, and in particular, on how to reload. It is beyond the scope of any single article to teach anyone how to reload in several easy steps. There are many videos and reloading manuals available that can teach you, step-by-step, how to reload. There are also some on-line courses you can take to teach you how to reload. There isn't anything magical about reloading, it's really pretty simple and enjoyable - I've been reloading for more than 40 years now, and I personally find it a relaxing way to spend my time.

It doesn't take a lot of money to get started in reloading, either. You can get a simple, single-stage reloading press, powder scale, reloading dies, etc. for about $100 - add a couple good reloading manuals, primers, powder, brass and bullets and you're ready to get going. One of the best things about reloading is the savings you'll get by rolling your own ammo - you can reload most ammo less expensively than you can purchase it off your sporting goods dealer shelves. Plus, you can tailor loads to your own particular guns if you want the absolute best accuracy from a particular gun.

If you're serious about survival, or serious about firearms, then you owe it to yourself to get involved in reloading. I make no claims as to being any sort of expert when it comes to reloading. My good friend, John Taffin, who is also a gun writer, is one of the best when it comes to reloading, and I often consult him when I have a question about reloading a particular round. I had a magazine editor offer me a regular column on reloading not long ago, however, I turned him down. As I said, I'm no expert when it comes to reloading. I do it because I enjoy it and find it very relaxing.

Most of my reloading is limited to only a few calibers these days. I reload the .45 ACP, .30-06 and .300 Winchester Magnum - that's about it! I probably shoot the .45 ACP round more than any other caliber, so I'm only going to cover this round in this article - besides, it's one of my favorite rounds. That's not to say I don't reload other calibers, but the above three are the calibers I've reloaded the most.

I don't own a reloading library, instead, I have a couple good reloading manuals I consult, and my favorite is the Speer reloading manual #13, and one of these days, I'll get #14. I also use the Nosler Reloading Guide, (5th edition). There is also a wealth of reloading information you can find on-line from a number of bullet, brass and powder companies - and it's free information, too.

The .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) has been around since 1905 - that's a good long time, and it has developed a solid following as a fight-stopping round. John Browning chose a 230 grain bullet at 850-feet per second for his 1911 handgun, and this is pretty much the "standard" for this round. Oh, to be sure, there are many ammo companies, like Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition that produce some outstanding +P loads for the .45 ACP. However, I've never loaded my own .45 ACP ammo to anything except standard velocities.

Tim Sundles, who owns and operates Buffalo Bore Ammunition, turned me on to Rim Rock Bullets which is owned and operated by Frank Brown. Frank also manufactures the hard cast lead bullets that Buffalo Bore Ammunition uses in their rounds that use hard cast lead bullets. So right off the bat, I had a lot of respect for Rim Rock Bullets - if Buffalo Bore is using 'em in their ammo - then I knew they would be good.

Much of my own reloading for the .45 ACP has been either 230 grain FMJ, 200 grain SWC, 185 grain SWC and 185 grain JHP bullets. For shooting pleasure and target practice, it's hard to beat the 185 grain SWC and 200 grain SWC lead bullets. My only complaint about using lead bullets in the past have been they were soft lead, and they really get a gun dirty and the barrel needs extra time to clean it - and I don't enjoy spending a lot of time cleaning my guns - I'd rather be out shooting.

The Rim Rock 200 grain SWC bullet is lead, hard cast, so there is no excessive leading in your barrel - what's not to like here? I wish I had discovered Rim Rock's hard cast bullets long ago. And, truth be told, the hard cast bullets aren't very much more money than soft lead bullets are. You can get 500 hard cast lead bullets from Rim Rock for $76.50 and that's cheap enough if you ask me.

Okay, when reloading any semiauto handgun round, you need to put a taper crimp on the bullet - not a roll crimp. I'm not gonna go into great detail here, but most semi-auto rounds, like the .45 ACP headspace on the rim of the case. So the case mouth can't be rolled over the bullet's groove, like you can do on [straight-case] rimmed rounds. (Such as the .38 Special that headspace on the rim of the brass.) And it takes special care to get just the right amount of taper on the brass/bullet so the rounds will headspace properly. It's a trial and error sort of thing, that you'll learn as you get into reloading for semi-auto handguns.

Most of my life, I've only used single-stage reloading presses. This means you can only perform one reloading step at a time. You need to de-prime your old brass, then re-prime it, add your powder and then your bullet and seat it. It takes time to do each step. Usually what I'll do is take about 500 pieces of brass and punch out all the old primers, then I'll use a hand primer to seat new primers - at some point, down the road, when I'm ready to start loading the brass - and this could be months down the road - I'll get my reloading dies all set and adjusted and start measuring and pouring powder in my empty brass, then seat the bullets. Like I said, I'm not gonna try to teach you to reload in this article. There's more to it than this - and one step is to get a case tumbler to clean your old brass and make it nice and shiny before reloading it.

I like a single-stage press as I feel they give me more control and I can precisely load each round exactly the way I want it. I have several single-stage reloading presses, but the one I use most was given to me by a friend from Alaska (now deceased) and it's an ancient single-stage press made by Pacific. I use this press because it works best for me, and there is the nostalgia there - it was given to me by a good friend. I also have several Lee brand single-stage reloading presses as well. The only time I used a progressive reloading press was when I worked for the late Col. Rex Applegate - he loved shooting .38 Special rounds and it was my chore to keep the good Colonel well-supplied in this caliber. Still, I prefer single-stage reloading presses for my own use. Sure, you can pump out hundreds or thousands of rounds faster on a progressive press. However, as I mentioned, I find reloading very relaxing and I'm never in a hurry to reload.

There are any number of good reloading powders you can find for rolling your own .45 ACP rounds, however, I've found that the ol' standby of "Unique" to take care of a lot of my reloading chores - it's been around forever and it's, well..."unique" in that it is very versatile. The .45 ACP doesn't have to be loaded to high velocities to get the job done all the time. For sheer shooting pleasure, I like to keep the 200 grain SWC load under 800 f.p.s.. I've found that with the hard cast 200 grain SWC bullets from Rim Rock, and 5.4 grains of Unique, I can keep these bullets moving along at slightly under 800 f.p.s.. Remember, when working up any new load, to reduce your starting load by about 10% and work your way up to the desired velocity you want - and keep an eye out for excessive pressure - one way is to look at your empty brass for flattened primers. Of course, this isn't the only sign of over-pressured rounds. You'll learn as you go along.

The Rim Rock 200 grain SWC is not only a good bullet for target practice, it's also a good round for self defense and small to medium game out in the field. You don't always need super-hot rounds in a .45 ACP to get the job done. Remember, you are already starting out with a bullet that is almost half an inch in diameter to start with - so it's gonna make a big hole going in. The Rim Rock hard cast lead bullet is gonna give you some good penetration and it's gonna hold together for you and not easily deform when hitting bone, either. I did some non-scientific testing on the Rim Rock bullets, shooting them into water-filled milk jugs, and it easily penetrated through three milk jugs - I ran out of milk jugs for more testing after several tests of penetration.  However, all the Rim Rock bullets looked as if they could have been cleaned-up and reloaded once again. (Tough bullets, to be sure!)

For target shooting, you can load the 200 grain SWC Rim Rock bullet down a bit, by using 4.9 grains of Unique powder, which will have that bullet traveling at slightly more than 700 f.p.s. and it's a very accurate round for punching holes in paper and "killing" rocks and other targets of opportunity out in the field.

I tested the Rim Rock 200 grain SWC hard cast bullets in several different M1911s and there were no feeding problems - the rounds slid out of the magazines and into the chambers without any problems - not something I can say of soft lead SWC bullets at times.

I knew from the start, that these bullets would be good ones, if Buffalo Bore is using 'em in their ammo, then I knew they'd be good stuff. Frank Brown, at Rim Rock Bullets, is one of the good guys. Check out his web site, and I'm sure you'll find some bullets you'll want for your own reloading projects. Frank Brown deserves your business. As I said at the start of this article, I'm not "expert" when it comes to reloading, but I've been at it for more than 40 years, and I know quality bullets when I see 'em - the Rim Rock 200 grain SWC samples I had are high-quality in every respect. And, if you buy in large quantities, shipping is only $15 for up to 70 pounds of bullets - that's a deal!

At one time, dollar stores (former called "five and dime" stores) sold closeouts, leftovers, seconds and special deals.  Increasingly, though, they're selling purpose-made, second-rate, third world junk made just for that purpose.  I would never trust any tool from such a store--they're of pot metal and guaranteed to fail.  They are not, in my opinion, "better than nothing", because they cost money, give you a false sense of security, and don't accomplish anything.

I would recommend finding both actual overstock and closeout stores, and thrift stores, as well as frequenting garage sales.  At the latter two, older tools without the shine and modern high-tech shaping are perfectly functional, usually better made, and often available even cheaper than at dollar stores.  You can often find kits missing one or two pieces, pick them up separately for a mismatched but complete kit, and have name brand quality for pennies on the dollar. - Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large)

Mr. Rawles,
I read the article regarding "Beans, Bullets, Band-Aids, and Hygiene" by Jason L. I thought I would contribute our family's method of making laundry detergent. In stead of paying an exorbitant price for laundry soap, we make our own using Borax, Washing Soda, Fels-Naptha soap and hot water. This is the Duggar Family laundry soap recipe. I give proper credit to that family for the recipe, and it works great. Our clothes have a light clean scent and the monetary savings is tremendous. The simple and cheap ingredients make it very easy to store supplies to make literally thousands of gallons of laundry soap. Thanks for the great blog, as I visit it every day. - J.W. in Missouri 

Mr. Rawles:
My family’s initial solution to the toilet paper problem was simply to buy two cases every time we needed one case. This was an easy way to stock extra paper.
The house we live in now is partly constructed of poured in place fiberglass entrained concrete with # 6 rebar on 12 inch centers. Because every previous house I have ever lived in eventually became short of space, this time I constructed a separate 15 x 30 x 10 foot concrete building (walls and roof) with high security, outward opening steel doors. An internal concrete wall divides this building. Half of it houses a generator and large diesel tank. The generator portion has baffled electrically actuated steel shutters for cooling/ventilation when the generator is running and the exhaust flows through a hospital muffler exiting through the roof. The other half of this building is for storage and contains shelves, two freezers one stopping time on freeze dried food, a large refrigerator, microwave, and washer/dryer.
But back to the toilet paper. Our surplus was stacked on top of the freezers and refrigerator and by the time it reached the ceiling, we had a nice reserve. Because all things eventually reach the end (a pun of course), this nice supply of TP was deemed inadequate to meet our long term requirements. So I cast about for a better alternative to the left hand.
We stocked the following:
Product: Toilet Tissue, 1 ply, jumbo roll, 2000’/roll, 12 rolls/carton KC107223 by Kimberly Clark. Amazon price $ 65.72 from the Factory Depot
(2,000 foot/roll) x 12 rolls = 24,000 feet;
24,000 feet / (2 feet/average wipe) = 12,000 wipes;
12,000 wipes/ (1 wipe/average bowel movement every two days) = 24,000 days;
24,000 days/(365 days/year) = 65 years 8 months.
If the dedicated prepper would stock a carton of 12 of these rolls per family member, all should have happy bottoms for a nice long time.
Sincerely, - Panhandle Rancher


I'd like to comment on the article "Beans, Bullets, Band-Aids and Hygiene, by Jason L" specifically on his plans to get a Wonder Washer.  Having owned one of these for more than ten years now I'd like to point out a few things about it people need to keep in mind.  First, the Wonder Washer is small compared to most washing machines we are used to using today.  I've used it on extended camping trips in our trailer and it works well enough for small items like socks and underwear.  I have yet to be able to fit a pair of heavy pants into it though nor would I be able to clean sheets from a Queen sized bed.  It works well enough for twin or single sheets or those lightweight sleeping bag liners that are sold.  I'd suggest getting a couple of water tubs and a laundry plunger and a washboard for larger items.  If you want to have your heavy clothes dry in less than a week during the most humid times of the year (here in Colorado we get a "monsoon flow" during parts of the summer and line drying becomes close to impossible) you also want to get a wringer.

I'd also add that the small size of the Wonder Washer makes it great for infrequent washing for one or two people, but with a family of seven at this point there is no way we'd be able to keep up with any laundry other than underwear and socks anyway.  Now, just imagine having an infant and all those diapers to wash as well. - Hugh D.

I also thoroughly enjoyed The Art of the Tactical Carbine DVD as an instructional video to become more proficient in carbine operation.  I also agree, Chris Costa's drop pouch explanation is hilarious but at the end, he makes a more important point: "You, the shooter, have to determine what you want to do."

In most of the training I've taken with tactical carbine and pistol operation, the emphasis has generally focused on winning the fight without much consideration for long term logistics.  This has given much credence to the practice of emergency reloads - dropping the mag to get the fastest possible reload and more rounds on target.  This has merit as civilians when we can just go out and buy new kit we've lost or soldiers and security contractors who can just go to a quarter master to replenish lost stores. 

In an "End of the world as we know it" scenario, AR-15/M16 and Model 1911 magazines likely will be worth their weight in gold as there probably will be few if any retail shops or bin rats available to resupply anyone.  If you watch the extra footage drill Chris Costa and Travis Haley perform, you'll count no less than three mags dropped in under 60 seconds.  There's no guarantee you'll be able to win a fight and be able to collect your kit and even if you do, dropping mags does add fatigue that can eventually cause them to break or malfunction.

To that end, it's important to consider that while dropping your empty magazines (or any kit for that matter) may allow you to perform a reload a few seconds faster right now, it may also turn your semi-automatic carbine or pistol into a single shot, breech loader six months in the future.

While there's strengths and weaknesses to both the emergency/speed reload and tactical reload/reload with retention, it's a good habit to get into not taking for granted the ability to replenish your kit and training yourself to recognize what circumstances would merit either techniques.

America’s Poorest States. [JWR Notes: I was surprised to see Montana on the list. Of course up there they are strong on barter and self-sufficiency, and that economic activity simply doesn't register in dollar terms. A large portion of the population in Montana cuts their own firewood, hunts, and has a vegetable garden. My consulting clients in Montana tell me that lots of transactions are paid for in firewood, shed antlers, and even frozen huckleberries.]

Ayn Rand Institute president Yaron Brook the annual Ayn Rand dinner: The Coming Collapse: “We Can Buy Time, But We Can’t Change the Outcome”

Deep in sewer debt: Jefferson County Approves Deal With Creditors. (A hat tip to Sue C. for the link.)

Items from The Economatrix:

Unemployment Rates Rose in Majority of States

Household Wealth Dipped in Spring

Oil Drops as US, Europe Clash Over Debt Crisis

Almost 1 in 6 Americans Living Below Poverty Line. (Of course keep in mind that the American definition of "poverty" includes living with cable television, a car, XBox, air conditioning, et cetera.)

Five Minutes and Twenty Nine Seconds of Terror: Dramatic New Video of Japan Tsunami

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Greg C. sent this: China Consolidates Grip on Rare Earths. Greg C. notes that China now dominates the world's compact fluorescent bulb market, so they can charge what they'd like. And, by law, we will must buy these more expensive bulbs--we will no longer be able to buy traditional incandescent bulbs. Further, the fluorescent bulbs will contaminate our landfills with mercury. Doesn't it feel great to be a part of the Green Revolution?

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File Under: "Most Ethical Administration in History", "New Era of Responsibility", "What Have You Done For Me Lately?: White House Pressure for a Donor?

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Camping Survival's Paracord Giveaway is still in progress. Describe your favorite paracord project, or list some of your favorite uses for paracord and how you execute them, and you can win a 1,000 foot roll of top quality paracord. This contest will run through the end of September.

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Ryan S. sent this news from California: Gun control bill in Governor Brown's hands. It is incredible that they want to ban the open carry of unloaded guns! California is such a lost cause. It is high time for conservative gun owners in California to vote with their feet. Gun control refugees are welcome in the American Redoubt.

"Folks, did you hear that? The authorities in L.A. say there's nothing to worry about. I'd love to see their dumb faces when Malibu and Beverly Hills get sucked into the gurgling maw of the Pacific. Where are they going to plug in their electric cars then? Ha, ha, ha." - Woody Harrelson as Charlie Frost, in the movie 2012

Sunday, September 18, 2011

First of all, thank you for your blog. I read it every night. I read your post about an employee search in Montana last night. I am doing a similar search. I need a highly skilled CNC programmer and I just can't find one. We are located in Kalispell, Montana.

We presently manufacture rifle barrels, pistol barrels and complete rifles. I am looking at buying a $300,000 machining center, but until I find at least one person to program it and set it up then I can't put in the order. [Some additional information on the company deleted, for OPSEC.] With the new CNC machine, we will be able to make M1911 pistols, AK-47s, bolt action rifles, AR-15s and many others. I am trying to talk my chrome lining supplier into setting up a branch out here in Montana. Anyone who is a fully-qualified CNC programmer and willing to relocate to Kalispell should e-mail me their resume. Sincerely, - Brian Sipe, President, Montana Rifleman, Inc.

Today we present another entry for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Everyone knows the rules, stock up on as many beans, bullets and Band-Aids as you can afford. As important as the big three are I feel that Hygiene is more important than some. Over the last few months I have been monitoring my family’s use of shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, deodorant, toothpaste and bathroom amenities. I can firmly tell you I am not prepared for this area.

How often do we just jump in the shower, grab the shampoo and squeeze a glob onto our hands before washing our hair for 20 seconds and washing it all away? My family likes using body wash and this is done the same way. Grab the squishy ball, squirt some on then wash away the grim. This is fine when we have a Wal-Mart, dollar store or other resource to buy more soap next week but how long will it last and do you have enough saved up? I recently completed a survey of my family on how much shop we use. I am going to make some suggestion on how to make yours stretch longer.

My son and I use the most soap. Maybe we are wasteful or maybe we just get dirtier I’m not sure. I do know that I used a bottle of Dove body wash in 3 weeks. That’s 13.5 ounces in 21 days, about .64oz per washing. My son used slightly more and my wife slightly less though she consumed allot more shampoo (I’ll attribute that to my thinning hair and her long luscious hair). I then tried an experiment where I reused some soap squirt bottles. I was able to get allot more soap/per washing with this approach. I was able to stretch my 13.5 oz several months. It did not feel like I was using that much less soap and the squishy ball still made allot of suds but the total really added up. A few times I would need to double pump when I had been working under a car or in the ditch but for 90% of my washes this worked fine.
A great way to clean up quickly before coming inside was suggest on another site I read. Since then I have tried it and it works rather well. Simply put a bar of soap in an old onion bag and hang near an outside water source (mine is near a frost free hydrant). The advantage is readily avail soap and the neat works well to really scrub the grim.

Toothpaste is another big spender for us. We grab the tube and squeeze out as much as we want. I’ve made myself and my son a ¼” rule. We now put on ¼” of toothpaste and brush away. I see no difference when I am done except we don’t have the toothpaste boogers that always end up in the sink after washing because we use all the toothpaste we put on our brushes. A side note from a friend, by brushing 1-2 times a week with your opposite hand you stimulate the other side of your brain which helps make you more ambidextrous (this could be useful in a firefight if something was to happen to your dominate arm).

I always get a kick out of someone stocking 1,000 rolls of toilet paper. I see this is impractical and a wasteful use of resources. I am going to stock some but more for a barter item for people that think they need it. In the last several years I have traveled to several countries and while they have toilet paper a majority of the people I have stayed with do not use it. How do they clean themselves? They way everyone did 200 years ago. WATER, simply use some water to clean your butt and wash your hands good with antibacterial soap. You can store hundred of gallons of soap in less area than it would take to store 200 rolls of toilet paper and it would last you so much longer. Also using toilet paper your septic system will fill up rather quickly. If you do not having running water and a septic system that is working correctly I would suggest digging a cesspool. I have seen these made by simply digging a 6’-8’ deep pit 8’-10’ diameter and laying cement blocks on edge. You then put some type of lid on the structure and cover with 2-3' of dirt. Leaving a cess pool uncovered is asking for trouble. This is a pooling place and leach field in one. It’s not currently looked upon favorably but would work fine after TEOTWAWKI. I feel this is a much better approach to the dig and bury method suggested by some. In the case were no running water is avail I would suggest making a form of outhouse to sit above one You could use reclaimed water from the roof to flush a toilet and have a vent several feel above the outhouse.

We often shop dollar stores for cheap antibacterial soap. Generally we can get a 1gal jug for fewer than five bucks. Don’t be afraid to check the clearance racks at holidays for the unique seasonal scents like burn turkey, eggnog, holiday mint and pine tree up your nose. These go on sale dirt cheap and after TEOTWAWKI no one is going to care what they smell like as long as they don’t smell like a wet dog and are clean. I also get LAVA brand soap from Wal-Mart. I get the 2pack in the automotive department for under $4, if you shop the beauty section it’s more. I don’t know why but I’ll walk the extra 100 feet to automotive to save the money. By shopping for cheaper brands and specials we have been able to accumulate a year’s supply of soap for under $100.

How will you do laundry after TEOTWAWKI? I certainly don’t want to use my fuel to run the clothes washer. Maybe you have an alternative like this wonder washer ? I do not have one yet but this is high on my list. You can watch reviews of it on YouTube. Until then I have installed a double bowl utility tub in our washroom. I have been told that you can force soap through cloths by using a plunger. I would recommend a separate new never used plunger for such activities. Start with your cleanest wash first and move to the dirty stuff after you go. The gray water I routed outside via PVC piping into a raised garden to utilize the spent water best. My wife washes several things by hand now and while it may not be fun she can do laundry in this fashion if need be. Laundry detergent should be stock up as well. I normally stick with name brand soap but for stocking I use and off brand powdered detergent. By shopping around at places like you can buy 45 lbs of detergent in a 5 gallon bucket for $40. This is a great fast way to have the soap one needs on hand to do cloths. We all know that we will be working hard and longer and will get much dirtier WTSHTF make sure you have enough to keep clean.

My house is fed water with an underground spring that has a shallow well pump connected to it.  We pipe our water just over ½ mile to our houses. This spring use to run to the factory that use to site where my property is currently located. It has been in use for well over 100 years and to my knowledge has never dried up. There is enough drop from the spring location to my house to supply me with fresh water. I simply need a way to move it though the house and heat it for showers. I am in the midst of working on either a solar powered setup with 12 volt DC RV pumps or by a water wheel using an AC generator head. The Solar may be my best option for now, however after TEOTWAWKI I doubt that the EPA would bother me much if I installed a Pelton wheel on the stream that runs through my property.
To heat my water I am going to rely on an old fashioned wood stove. I do not have the particulars worked out yet but my plan includes having a Kitchen Queen cook stove that I can use for heating water and cooking on. In the summer this would force us out of our house so a smaller stove would be able to boil water. I am working on acquiring a solar heater that I can connect to run in the warmer months of the year for showers, washing et cetera. This again will require some type of 12 volt DC pumping system to supply water up to the roof and then gravity will take over and bring the water back down to be used.

I feel that being clean will be one of the best luxuries when TEOTWAWKI happens. I also feel that if you are not clean you will be more apt to get sick. It’s something we take for granted now but by making some small changes you can find out how much soap, shampoo and toothpaste you will need to stay healthy and clean.

I normally don't respond to criticisms of my articles, we are all entitled to our opinions on guns. However, I would like to point out that the letter G.N. sent to SurvivalBlog about my Para USA P-14 articles needs some clarification.
First of all, I can only report on the guns that I have personally tested - period! I'm sure some folks might have had problems with their Para Power Extractor - then again, regular extractors break as well. I have owned several Para 1911s over the years, some with the Power Extractor, and some without - and I had zero problems with neither extractor system.
I'm not one who believes everything I read in gun forums on the 'net. If you were to believe everything or even half of what you read, you'd believe that no one makes a good gun, especially a good 1911. And, I'm not only talking about 1911s - if you believe what you read on many web sites about guns, every gun made is "junk" according to most people who post blogs or their opinions. If all these guns were junk, how can any gun company stay in business? And, if G.N. believes that Para USA makes junk guns, then why are they growing, year-after-year, and with more and more models? I don't think Para could build guns with no one buying them.
As for the Mec-Gar magazines that were supplied with my P-14, I've found that Mec-Gar makes some of the best magazines in the world. In fact, they supply magazines to nearly 50 gun companies. If Mec-Gar is making such bad magazines, then why do so many gun companies use their magazines? If G.N. can manufacture better magazines than Mec-Gar does, then he should do so, and not criticize someone else's products!
As to the Serpa holster from Blackhawk! Products. Once again, I believe that G.N. is nit-picking here. It would seem that G.N. has his preferences, just as we all do, and he reports, without providing any facts, that there has been numerous accidents with people drawing their handguns from a Serpa holster and the gun going off. Well, if people simply followed the rules, and kept their finger off the trigger until the sights are on the target, they wouldn't have any problems. I'm not personally aware of any such incidents involving the Serpa holsters. I'm not saying it can't happen, but I'm not aware of it, You can have an accident using any type of holster - period!
The Para P-14 I tested had their new Generation II Para Kote on it - perhaps G.N. failed to read this, or research this on his own. Once again, it would appear to me that, G.N .is just nit-picking my review on the P-14, the magazines and the Serpa holster.
Look, I give an honest review on all the products I test for SurvivalBlog, as well as the magazines that I write for. I've been doing this for 20 years, and I've been involved in shooting for about 45 years. If I didn't know what I was talking about, then I wouldn't earn a paycheck from the gun magazines I write for. I would like to suggest that G.N. do his own review of Para USA products, I don't claim to be any sort of "expert" in anything. If there was something negative to report in a gun, knife, holster, ammo or any other products I test and evaluate for SurvivalBlog, I'd report my findings. I'm not under contract to any company to give their products favorable reviews - I call 'em the way I see 'em. - Pat Cascio


I purchased a Para-USA GI Expert .45 ACP two years ago.  I broke one of the magazine followers the first night (my fault) and called Para the next day.  The friendly voice in parts said he’d send me a new one free!  When they arrived, they’d sent two of them so I’d have a spare.   They have great customer service!

At the range I had two stove-pipe jams with cheap steel-case ammo, but all else (FMJ and hollowpoints) fed and ejected fine.  After the first 200 rounds there were no jams, even the steel-case crap.   It now has about 1,000 rounds though it, with zero problems.   Talk about accurate?   For this being their bottom priced model, it has a match barrel that shoots tighter groups than I can hold.

Yes, the black finish is wearing where it contacts the holster.  I bought this pistol to shoot, not stare at.   I use a black Sharpie to cover worn areas, and used bright orange paint to cover the rear of the front sight.  I recently added Crimson Trace laser grips for after dark.  It’s a great pistol for CCW and home defense.
Also, I use Serpa holsters daily with various Glocks, SIGs, and the 1911. I've never had any problems – ever.  Never been to a range where my Serpa holsters were considered a problem, either.
Stay low, - GeoMonkey

Mr. Rawles,  
Another problem with the Blackhawk Serpa holsters in when you use them hard in the dirt. We train Close Quarters Battle (CQB) and hand-to-hand in a pit. The dirt clogs up the release and you cannot get the handgun out of the holster. - N.H. Hillbilly


I have been using Serpa holsters for several years with Glocks and a M9 during a mobilization to Iraq. The release for Glocks and M9’s positions the trigger finger alongside the frame above the trigger. To press the trigger the shooter has to curl his/her trigger finger and drop it down to enter the trigger guard. As long as the shooter keeps the finger straight it is virtually impossible (unless one has extremely short fingers) to hit the trigger even if you drop the finger down in line with the trigger. All you will do is touch the front of the trigger guard. The problem occurs when a shooter curls his finger to hit the release and then gets sloppy about not keeping the trigger finger touching the frame until the sights come on target. Bottom line is, KEEP YOUR FINGER STRAIGHT and outside of the triggerguard unless your weapon is aimed at the target. (Safety Rule #2). People shouldn’t blame equipment for sloppy gun handling. - Bill N.

Jonathan B. sent: Seeds of Discontent--Code enforcement targets urban garden.

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Homemade Toothpaste Recipes Put to the Test. (Thanks to K.A.F.for the link.)

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K.A.F. also sent a link to a piece by Michelle Malkin: Fast and Furious update: More guns, more stonewall

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Yet another link courtest of K.A.F.: Huge Defunct Satellite Falling to Earth Faster Than Expected, NASA Says

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
But shun profane [and] vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness." - 2 Timothy 2:15-16 (KJV)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Today we present another two entries for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

For someone who was never a “prepper”, Hurricanes here in the South, will make you one, or at least a beginner, and in this tight economy, a little “Something is always better than nothing”.  I live in an area just north of Houston, Texas. My husband has always been of the mindset “you never know when we may need it”, so I have always had to deal with his “stock up on this or that” or “next time you go to the store, you need to get this or that”, you never “know” when we might need it or even “don’t throw that away, it’ll be useful later on”.  Things you don’t normally or wouldn’t think of are exactly the type of things “Oh, I wish I had that” you need or want.

How did I come to be a “beginning prepper”?  Well, instead of me giving you the full lengthy story or a repeat of a similar one, go read “Whether and When to Bug Out – Hurricanes! by TJD in Houston” on Thursday April 28, 2011.  He hit the nail on the head in that article, dead on. We were prepared for Hurricane Ike (because we chose to stay at home as opposed to leave like Rita’s “Hurricane trip from Hell”). But that opened my eyes to prepping, not only for hurricanes but for when TSHTF as well.. I just wished I had found your web site (and impressive, helpful lists/links) prior to Ike to have been able to see what else we needed then, even though we did fine. We already had quite a bit without realizing we were “prepping” thanks to us loving the outdoors and camping, and to be able to “check off” what we have, has been extremely helpful.  Thank you, JWR.

Money is tight with us, but we do try to “gather” things when we can because “you never know when you may need it”.  Which brings me to my reason for writing, in today’s economy, with money getting tighter and tighter, prices going thru the roof on everything, not all of us can afford to get a lot of things or even expensive top name items…but “Something is always better than Nothing”, there are other options to consider or look at.

For example, when shopping, a lot of the drug stores and grocery stores do “freebies”/coupon (i.e. buy 1 get 1 free) deals or (in the case of one of our larger chain grocery stores here) “deal of the week” where if you “buy this item get this item free” type deal.  Just because you “don’t need it now” or “that’s not my usual brand” does not mean 1.) You won’t use it later on or 2.) You can’t barter/trade it for something else when TSHTF later on 3.) It’s free, so why not get it.  Always try to think ahead, think of not just “others” but yourself as well and not just of weather type situations, but the way the current economy is going or when TSHTF.  Let me give you a few examples of deals.  The store may run a “deal” if you buy this name brand deodorant, they’ll give you for free, their store version of it.  Hey… never know when you may need it or can barter with it!  A year ago, they had a “coupon deal” (no, I’m not an extreme couponer or a hoarder, but when it’s an excellent deal, you can bet I’m going to stock up and get as many as I can, depending on what it is) on Revlon nail products (i.e. clippers, files, manicure scissors, etc) for $2.00 off, at the same time, they had Revlon nail clippers small ones on sale for $2.04, and large ones on sale for $2.08!  With the coupon, that made them $.04 and $.08 each!  I bought every single one that day and two weeks later before the end of the month, I bought more.  20 pairs of each for a combined total of $2.40! Now, trust me, no one in their normal, right mind needs 20 pairs each of large and small nail clippers, But I can trade/barter some for something we don’t have later on!  I do the same with toothpaste and free toothbrushes.  I’ve always done that and when Ike hit and we had friends stay with us, we were handing them out because they had forgotten theirs.  It’s the little things that add up at times.  Same with “freebie” coupons (which are becoming harder and harder to get or to use, especially since that show has come on), even if you don’t use it or it’s not your brand, Something is better than nothing and you can Barter with it, another example, I had received (through emails from the manufacturer) coupons for free Folger’s coffee, certain soda’s, certain chips, no need to “buy this to get that free”.  Even though we do not drink coffee, we realize a lot of people do, it makes a great bartering item, and I have several free cans in my freezer.  While you are at the store, start getting in the habit of buying one pound bags each of rice and beans.  At a $1.00 each or less, stock up! Something is better than nothing.

Dollar stores are great places to get items “cheap” to stock up on, especially the larger ones (like down here we have Dollar Tree, $.99 Only, Dollar King),  not only to have for yourself but to barter with as well when TSHTF.  Cheap paper plates (you can get the plastic paper plate holders to make them more sturdy) not only hold food but is also a way to help start a fire if need be.  You can get and stock up on items for kids/adults as time passers, such as playing cards, crayons, coloring books, small games, toys, some reading books.  Kitchen/cookware items such as potato peelers, manual can openers (must have), knives of various sizes and purposes, cutting boards, pot holders, measuring cups and spoons, storage bowls, spices (Got you thinking doesn’t it??).  Kite string (1001 uses for that, just ask my teenage sons), candles, cheap flashlights, matches (can’t have enough of those), lighters, lighter fluid, toilet paper, paper towels, large plastic tubs/bowls (tons of uses for those), clothes pins (a must), dishwashing soap, laundry soap, fabric softener sheets (multiple uses for that as well), safety pins, sewing needles, thread.  Personal/bath items of all kinds, such as soaps, body wash/sprays/perfumes, toothbrushes, dental floss, and toothpaste.  Band-aids and wraps, again, not name brand, but Something is better than nothing.  A lot of them also sell small tools too, such as screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, screws/nails.  Find a large one in your area and go “window” shopping one day, you might be surprised.

Your Big Market Store (i.e. Wal-Mart, K-mart) is another great place to get good “deals” for cheap at.  For example, you can pick up an 18 pack bundle of wash rags for $4.00, something else you can’t have too many of, for various reasons.  Over the counter medications, store brand, like pain killers, 200 count for $4, allergy pills, 24 count for less than $1.50, something to barter with, and Something is better than nothing.  Solar lights, cheap ones that are $2-$3 each, are great little lights (provided you put them in the sun to charge) to have.  Hand sanitizers, bleach, cleaners with bleach, Wipes of all kinds (Big Ones is a good brand) to “wipe down” with if you can’t get a sponge bath or shower.  Ramen Noodles Soups for a 12 pack box are less than $2 a box, you can easily stock up plenty of those, you can add to them to make them even better (spices, meats, veggies) and Something is better than nothing.  With it being the end of summer, they are getting ready for Christmas, so they are moving a lot of stuff to the clearance section, for example, flip flops for $1 per pair!  Yes, I know it’s not “full coverage” shoes, but Something is better than nothing (they did have other full coverage shoes starting at $5 and up).  After Christmas/winter, they will mark down blankets/throws, something else you can’t have too many of and can barter with.  Look for the clearance section/sales; you’d be surprised what you may find.

Stock up on any and all garden seeds!  Veggies of all kinds (even if you don’t currently eat them) and some flowers.  Something is better than nothing.  Even the dollar stores carry seed packets.  Seeds are good for several years, giving you the chance to start, grow and save your own seeds from your own garden.  There are tons of web sites that give information on how long vegetable seeds will lasts, saving techniques (including freezing to make seeds last years longer), growing information, etc.  Use these resources while they last, especially if you cannot afford to buy too many books.  While you’re at it, start a notebook where you can print information out, put it in the notebook or write down notes for yourself in it. Flowers are not only pretty, but a lot of flowers have multiple purposes, such as pest control or medicinal.  And you don’t have to till/plow huge areas, you can do so many versions/sizes of garden boxes/flower pots, especially with recycled materials.  Look online. Same with survival information, there’s a ton of it, several downloadable reference books and you need to get them.  Whether you print them out, save them to your computer, or zip drive, do it.  I have done all three ways.  My husband and sons actually “read”, discuss and try  out some of the stuff in the books, but later on, when TSHTF, we have “valuable” information we can share/barter with others if need be.  Something is better than nothing.  These free, downloadable books show everything from hunting/fishing to first aid to different ways of cooking or making shelters.  There are even apps for your smart phones you can download.  Start gathering fishing/hunting items and reading/researching homemade hooks, traps, lines, how to filet, skin, etc.  If you can, start practicing now, that way, when TSHTF, you’re already ahead of the game, and maybe you can “pass” that information on to others.

If you can do it, go camping.  It’s a great way to see what you need, what you don’t need, what you can get by with or without.  A camping stove comes in very handy, not to mention they are compact, don’t take up much space, same with the little propane bottles.  A cast iron skillet (or even a dual purpose dutch oven), even though it’s heavy, is worth its weight in gold if it’s seasoned and not dented/pitted (deep dents/scratches).  You can find “used” ones at garage sales for next to nothing, again, making sure they are not dented/pitted, plus “camping/survival” gear.  Which reminds me, those MREs you’ve been saving that are probably expired now, before you throw them completely out, go thru them and separate them.  The food, yes, get rid of it, but save everything else, from the bags, heating packet all the way down to the “condiments”.  It will be useful later on; you can barter with it or add it to your camping stash!  Hit garage and estate sales when you can, it’s a great place to get tools, or other items you may need.

My primary reason for writing this was to bring to your attention other options to try when money is tight (and only getting tighter) but you still want to get “prepared”.  Research information online, download and save to your computer or zip drive the free informational books.  Hit garage and estate sales, go window shopping at your local dollar store.  If you can, every time you go to the store (or at least 1-2 times a month), pick up not only a package of rice and beans, but a 4 roll count of toilet paper, a roll or 2 of paper towels, tea bags, flour  and sugar (have you seen how much they have gone up??  And it’s only going to go higher!), and if you can do it, yeast to make homemade bread and get in the habit of making it.  Even though it may be cheap, store brand or free, when TSHTF, trust me, Something is better than nothing.

Everybody has a set of words that they live by- have you ever stopped to really think about which words might keep you alive? Time to get motivated. Sounds silly but there are eight very simple words that will get you on your way to becoming a different person, a person that identifies who and where they are in the universe, a person that plans, a person that starts down the road towards self-reliance, a person that is not apathetic, a person that commits to learn, a person that executes and maintains what they learn. You can be this person. Take a moment and examine what is important to you now and what should be important to you in the very near future. Mark my words, there will come a time when things break down, get nasty, and your world will lose its coziness- will you have the wherewithal to keep yourself comfortable or keep yourself alive? Take the time to learn these key words and set your goal to become self-reliant.

Yes, I am talking to you about you. No matter what job you have, no matter what role you may play in your family or community, there is no better feeling than having the confidence in your own ability to maintain yourself without outside aid or relying on any outside sources. How can you become independent, isn’t it hard? Doesn’t it cost a lot? Is it really worth all the effort? Ask the people of New Orleans, Joplin, and Japan if it’s worth the trouble. Is it really trouble? Learning how to plan for the worst-case scenario seems to me to be something that avoids trouble. What do you do when the power lines outside your home are blown down on the street? What do you do when water has flooded your neighborhood and there isn’t a drop to drink? What do you do when a group of people has assembled around your home with the intention of taking it over? You become self-sufficient and learn how to plan and live in a self-reliant manner. Could you grow your own food for months at a time? Could you light a fire with what you have on your person right now?  If the world as you know it came to an end could you keep you and yours together and safe? Could you?

Being able to adapt is the key to avoiding a terrible end to a horrible situation.  Having an edge in any predicament that helps you come out on top is invaluable.  How do you adapt, how do you have that edge if you don’t come up with a strategy? When this happens, then do that. Simple. So what is the hold up? Why don’t you know five different routes out of town? Why don’t you have a way to cook food on the road? Why don’t you have extra medication, cash, and clothing in your car for that next trip of more than ten miles from your door? Because you have not gotten serious about what is coming around the bend. Avoid the chaos of the unknown by making it known and create a strategy that will get you through the worst of times. Are you ready to map out your strategy?

Begin right now, read this and then educate yourself on how to survive when society collapses. Did you see that? Not if but when society and your safety net fall apart.  “Fire and police will not arrive for up to 72 hours after an earthquake unless you are located where the most damage has occurred”, that’s the first thing that a Los Angeles Fire Department captain told me at a Community Emergency Response Training (C.E.R.T.) class recently- the class was free, put together through my local Neighborhood Council.  She stressed becoming self-sufficient and pounded it into our heads that we would be on our own in the event of a natural disaster for much longer than most of us were currently prepared to deal with. Get the odds stacked in your favor, start now and educate yourself on the art of becoming self-sufficient.

Avoid becoming apathetic. It’s amazing how many Americans show such little concern regarding not being prepared in the event of a shutdown of some sort. It’s going to happen and it doesn’t have to be the result of a catastrophic tsunami or a global economic meltdown. An electrical worker mistakenly removed a piece of monitoring equipment at a substation in southwestern Arizona last week (September 9, 2011) and caused a power outage for over four million people in Southern California, Arizona, and Mexico. One person got distracted and it affected four million people- how many of them were prepared to deal with that?  No power, no cash from the ATM. But forget about the ATM because the traffic lights will be out and the gridlock will stop you cold. The cold, no power means no heat because your thermostat won’t work. See what’s going on? Your good intentions aren’t worth squat if you become apathetic and allow yourself to be indifferent towards the reality of needing to be self-sufficient.  Stop being apathetic, become passionate, educate yourself, make a plan, execute your plain, and know that you can rely on yourself.

Bandages, a flashlight, and a bottle of water will help you stay hydrated in a dark room while covering a skinned knee; however, will you be able to feed, shelter, and sustain yourself and your family for days at a time?  Months? You must learn how to be self-sufficient- it is not a guessing game. Educate yourself in the many disciplines of self-sufficiency. CPR, water purification, food storage, fuel storage, and strategies for dealing with emergency situations are not listed on the side of a ninety-nine cent first aid kit. Bandages will not get oxygen to the brain of an unconscious and unresponsive relative on the floor. A flashlight is only as good as the batteries in it- how old are those things and are they even in there? Did you know that the suggested minimum amount of water per person is one gallon per day- do you have three gallons of drinking water in your home? Any water in the car? Strategy is important, learn how to save yourself and your loved ones by getting educated. Take a walk through your house and really ask yourself if IT happened right now, would you know how to purify the water in the back of your toilet tank- did you even think about the water in your toilet tank? What about the water in your water heater? Do you know where your water heater is? Learn, learn, and learn because it will happen and you will want to know what to do.

If you’re going to do it, then do it. There is no such thing as almost storing some water or kind of putting a few hundred dollars in small denominations in your “bug out” bag. Unless you, yes you, do it then it will not get done. You have to commit to doing this for yourself and your family. It is tough, it is daunting; however, once you commit you can make it happen. Good intentions will leave you unprepared while committing to getting every aspect of your life as self-sufficient as possible will leave you ready to be on your own when everything around you has failed.

Follow through and carry out your plan. Go buy that generator. Outfit your “bug out” bag and put it where you know it will be. Get that emergency kit together for your car and actually put it in your car. Knowledge is wasted unless you physically implement what you have learned.  Reading about starting a fire with two sticks is great; however, actually starting a fire by rubbing two sticks together is better. Knowing you need a gallon of water per person per day and actually procuring that water and storing it properly is the difference between a comfortable life and an agonizing death. Once you learn what you need to do go do it.

Having one hundred and ten gallons of potable water in your garage is great, going to use it after a year of storage only to find it full of algae and other toxins is just sad. Did you know that some plastics are affected by a concrete floor? Something as simple as a piece of wood between your container and the floor could have kept your supplies ready for use. How about those gallons of gas you’ve been storing for six months, did you know gasoline goes bad? Or what about your firearms, have you cleaned them recently? Do you know how to clean them? Have you rotated your canned food supply? Maintain your supplies, maintain your equipment, and maintain what you know by refreshing your skills- don’t let them spoil through ignorance and neglect. Self-sufficiency is a learned, practiced, and maintained skill. I put an extensive first aid kit in my wife’s car, I know that if I needed to I could open it up and have access to a surgical field kit, at least I thought I did. I was shocked to find that my wife had gone into the kit and used the surgical tape for wrapping Christmas presents, the surgical sheers were nowhere to be found, and the alcohol wipes, hydrogen peroxide, and pain reliever had been pilfered over time. Maintain your supplies, you never know who has been doing what to them. Maintain your knowledge and skill, if you don’t use it you will definitely lose it. Read up on what you think you already know, you’ll be surprised to find out that someone has come up with something new.

That was an excellent article by A. Arizonan! As a former newspaper deliverer (rural route in the American Redoubt), I would like to add that there are benefits to delivering or subscribing to newspapers.

As a deliverer who serviced home customers and coin-op boxes, I could amass "extra" or "unsold" paper to the tune of about 300 to 500 pounds a month. To this day I still have about 2000 pounds in storage. I'd have more but I can't properly store any more.

The added benefit of my former route was that I got to meet a lot of people and explore places near me that I wouldn't otherwise go. This has proved useful in learning more about where I live and who lives in it.

I also found some of my customers would return the rubber bands and plastic sleeves so I could reuse them (as they cost me money to use). I asked one customer if they would return their papers as well so I could "recycle" them and they were more than happy to. (As if I needed more of what I couldn't save, but you see my point).

After giving the route to a friend and fellow prepper, my friend has told me that he now has two customers who want unsold or "used" paper! He, like myself, struggles with storage space (he has about three times what I have in paper) so he is happy to not go out of his way to the recycling place but rather leave the "extra" with someone who has a use for it.
If you would like a massive amount of newsprint in a short amount of time, you can either get a route or simply talk to your delivery person. - T.M.

Dear Mr. Rawles,
One quick point with regard to the statement: "Some frown on cellulose as an insulator because of two of its other main properties, namely flammability and absorbency (ask anyone who has had a roof leak into an attic with cellulose fill)."  Commercially available cellulose insulation is treated with borate, and is actually safer than fiberglass in nearly every regard including fire safety. Regards, Peter in Maryland

A. Arizonan mentioned: "Cooking. My grandparents used to have a grill that utilized only newspaper to cook on. Quite a while back I even saw these advertised on late night TV."

Newspapers may contain toxic chemicals and these chemicals might end up in your food. Typically paper is treated with toxic beaching agents and these toxins remain in paper. Newspaper also utilize recycled paper which may also have become contaminated other with toxins from their previous use. - An Anonymous Reader

JWR Adds: This warning is particularly true of slick color-printed inserts. These should all be shunted off for recycling, as their risks outweigh their benefits in almost every potential application.

I'm writing to contribute my first hand experience to the recent review of the Para USA P14.  After desiring one for 20 years, I became the very disappointed owner of a US-made model nine months ago.

First,  P14s for the last few years have the Power Extractor (PXT), which is a non-standard 1911 extractor. This means you're stuck with it. You can't readily replace it with off the shelf 1911 extractors and you can't tune it.  Mine broke at under 200 rounds.  Although Pat summarily dismisses this as mere 'Internet lore', where there is smoke, there's fire - and there is a lot of smoke on the Power Extractor.  I have even spoken with a former Para USA gunsmith that admitted they see a large number of broken extractors. They have dropped the Power Extractor and added a fiber optic front site and called it a "classic" (which Pat didn't mention).  I'll be curious (and pleased) to see if Para phases out their remaining PXT models.

Second, I'm shocked to hear of Para shipping Mec-Gar magazines and curious if that is normal.  My US made P14 shipped with US magazines that work flawlessly.  I purchased four additional factory magazines and the ones that showed up were Canadian. They fail early and fail often.  All four of them.  I ended up parting with them recently and replacing them with Mec-Gar magazines that seem to work well so far (a few hundred rounds). [JWR Adds: Mec-Gar is the dedicated subcontractor for several pistol makers, including Beretta. When you buy "factory replacement" magazines, they often are actually made by Mec-Gar. They have a very good reputation for quality despite their very large production volume. So pleased don't be "shocked" that any pistol comes from the factory with Mec-Gar magazines.]

Third, on the theme of smoke and fire, Internet Model 1911 boards are too frequently seeing postings from disappointed new Para USA owners with a variety of quality problems.  Most seem to stem from the use of metal injection molding (MIM) parts (such as the Power Extractor) that fail early on.

Fourth, Para Kote finish is known for wearing off quite easily from light normal use - and I can back that up. Mine's only seen a holster on a few occasions and has around 1,000 rounds through it and the finish is starting to go.

Other than reliability (is there an "other than reliability when it comes to defensive firearms?"), the P14 has certainly performed well in the accuracy department and it's a very fun pistol to shoot.  It's unfortunate that Para USA continues to use critical parts made out of MIM to save money. It would seem like they'd be better off buying steel tool parts and considering it an investment in public relations.  If I were to look to purchase another double stack 1911 then I think I would give the Springfield XD a try on the low end  of the price range and an STI 2011 on the high end and steer clear of the Para, or at worst make absolutely certain I didn't get stuck with a pistol equipped with a PXT extractor.

Finally, on a related note, I think a warning is in order with regards to the Blackhawk Serpa holsters. There have been a disproportional number of negligent discharges with people using these holsters due to the positioning of the trigger finger [to release the retention latch] in relation to the trigger.  I owned several of these and never had a problem, but they have now been banned from several well known firearms training schools and there have been several very public negligent discharges by well-trained individuals in addition to newbies.  Since SurvivalBlog isn't catering only to experts, I think I would shy away from these holsters and instead recommend something like the Safariland ALS. That is what I replaced my Serpas with.  They seem to be of a bit higher quality and use the thumb instead of the index finger to release the retention mechanism.

Michael G. recommended a Peak Oil comic strip: ROME DIDN'T COLLAPSE IN A DAY

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Justice Drags her feet in Ohio: Lakewood woman's lawsuit forces police to return confiscated firearms.

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Regulations Threaten School Tornado Shelters in Alabama. A bureaucratic nightmare! ( A hat tip to Timothy J. for the link.)

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Brett G. sent this: Michigan Hunter Kills 220-Pound Black Bear During Attack

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And, speaking of hunting, J. McC. sent this: Salisbury man banned from hunting worldwide. The North Carolina court's jurisdiction in say, Zambia (or Colorado, for that matter), is questionable. Parenthetically, this reminds me of how some of my old sci-fi convention friends were "Banned from Denny's" after too much hilarity late one night. They were told by an enraged waitress that they were "banned from all Denny's restaurants." This unenforceable ban became so legendary that there was even a filk written about it. (And then there were the spin-off filks, like Banned from Argo. Or did that come first?) But in any case, I wasn't there that night. Honest.

Friday, September 16, 2011

"And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Charity suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up." - 1 Corinthians 13:3-4 (KJV)

Today we present another two entries for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

My wife and I have been hard at work obtaining supplies, developing practical skills, knitting key relationships, and generally preparing for societal disruption for about four years now. Our journey into this endeavor began after some research into the nature of the U.S. dollar (or more appropriately, Federal Reserve Notes) woke us up to the fragility of our world systems.  For this and other reasons, we have taken the message of Proverbs 22:3 to heart: “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.”

Achieving a level of satisfactory preparedness for what life may have in store has been no easy task in Northern Arizona, where we have little water, poor soil, and high property prices. However, we have made great strides toward system independence in large part by consistently finding uncommon uses for commonly available goods.  One often-overlooked item has become almost indispensable to our day-to-day activity, and would surely make even more impact to our well-being in an extended grid-down or TEOTWAWKI type scenario.  I write about it because I see it get very little mention in survival-type forums, and I think others may find it helpful as well.

I’m talking about newspaper.  Newspaper has myriad useful properties of interest to a prepper or homesteader.  Newspaper is many things, including: absorbent, insulative, filling, soft, flammable, easily reducible, compact, lightweight, non-toxic, and perhaps best of all, cheap and highly available.  Let me highlight a few of these properties and show some practical applications of each.

Cheap and Highly Available
Although newspaper publishers have fallen on hard times with more Americans getting their information from television and the Internet, it is not at all hard to come by paper supply. I live in a small town of about 30,000 people and our local Lion’s Club drop-off bins are always jam packed.  While I do not suggest raiding charity bins for your stash, here are a few things that have worked for me:

  • Ask around.  I get all the papers I can use for free.  At one point I simply asked my co-workers for their back issues when they finished reading them and they gladly obliged.  To them it was clutter and something to tote to the curb each Tuesday.  Just ask the paper subscribers in your life for their supply and prepare for a constant stream of material.
  • The trash.  Certain places that sell breakfast often have tables of early morning readers processing their daily dose of information over a cup of coffee.  I’m not personally above gathering them off the tables as patrons leave or picking up a pile left on top of the  garbage sorter at a fast food joint.
  • Curbside recycling bins and drop-off location dumpsters. These are jammed with paper.  While some cities frown on people taking anything out of their containers (they are, after all, a source of profit), it might be worth a call to get permission.  At the least, checking out either will let you know which neighbors to hit up the night before garbage day.
  • Newspaper facilities. If you have one in your area, publishers will willingly sell you the unused portions of their rolls, typically for pocket change.  At my local press a leftover roll will run about two to three bucks.  The upside to this is they are completely free of ink and have been stored indoors.  Teachers will often utilize this for cheap, clean craft project paper for the kids.
  •  Recyclers. If you have a recycling facility nearby, newspaper can be had for mere pennies per pound.  Last I checked, the going rate was $.03 per pound/$6.00 per ton.  You’ll have to pay them a little more than they bought it for, but not by much.


            This is what first got me to asking for old newspapers in the first place. Newspaper, at its core, is very dry wood material in thin form.  It burns fast with when “fluffed” or crumpled to allow air movement, and slower if more compressed.  Here is how I’ve used it in the past:

  • Fire starter.  A few pages of newspaper crumpled into loose balls, topped with kindling, topped with a split dry log is usually all it takes to get a roaring fire built in my indoor fireplace or outdoor fire pit. 
  • Charcoal grilling.  Two balls of newspaper at the base of a charcoal chimney starter, whether the store bought types such as the Weber version, or a homemade one made out of an old can works much better than lighter fluid.  Not only will it light all your coals easier, it’s cleaner and unlikely to blow up in your face.
  • Cooking.  My grandparents used to have a grill that utilized only newspaper to cook on. Quite a while back I even saw these advertised on late night TV. These cookers worked like a charcoal grill, but somehow made use of newspaper balls as the heat source instead.  How it made crumpled paper burn long enough to make raw burger and steak into a family meal is beyond me, but it always worked like a charm on Grandpa’s back patio with very little muss and fuss.  These are somewhat hard to find, but I remember it working well and would certainly pick one up if I happened across one at a yard sale. 
  • Log alternative.  Not only does newspaper make for good fire starter, in a more compacted form it can produce a fair amount of longer-term heat.  In a pinch a section of newspaper rolled into a cylinder and bound with masking tape will burn much like a log.  You will have trouble lighting it outright, but when thrown into an already established fire or placed over a bed of newspaper balls and tinder it can replace firewood to some degree.


Newspaper is made of wood pulp, which can also be said of paper towels, toilet paper, and facial tissue.  As such, in a pinch it can be used as a cheap replacement for these functions, though the ink has a tendency to smear a bit.  One extra benefit to newspaper’s absorbency is that once used you can dry it out for other purposes, such as fire starter or composting. Some other ways I’ve used newspaper over the years:

  • Gardening.  Here in the southwest our soil runs two varieties: hard-packed or dusty fill.  Very few raise crops successfully without full-on soil management efforts.  Newspaper has been key in improving my food production efforts considerably. For one, it serves well as the carbon or “brown matter” base necessary to speed the decomposition of the nitrogen or “green matter” materials in my compost bin.  Worms love to bed in the stuff, increasing my compost breakdown all the more.  Best of all, it serves as a better moisture trap than almost any other common garden materials I have run across, and is certainly the cheapest.  When judiciously added to compost or directly to the soil it decreases my need to water as frequently and allows for better root growth.  That said, one cannot just add bales of paper to compost or soil, or it will suffocate microorganisms and plants.  It took me a while to happen on the best method for breaking it down to manageable bits, but I now use the “bucket method” (described below) extensively. This little bit of effort provides me plenty of loose, carbon-rich, absorbent, and mixable material to work with when planting crops.  I am currently experimenting with its use in applications which require potting soil.
  • Animal bedding.  Confined animals make messes in the same places they eat and sleep.  If these messes aren’t taken care of it makes for an unsanitary situation.  If one is raising animals for food purposes, this can lead to an increased likelihood of food-borne illnesses.  Newspaper is a cheap way to provide your animals soft bedding that can absorb their “downloads” and be thrown out/re-purposed before it becomes a problem.
  • Rags.  Doing laundry would be much more of a hassle during disruptions to modern lifestyles.  As such, it may not be in one’s best interest to use cloth rags or towels for common cleanups.  At the least newspaper can alleviate the burden by taking the initial brunt of the mess.  When I clean my guns I usually do so on a good layer of newspaper to absorb cleaners and grease while simultaneously preventing scratches from my bench.  When my kids or I dirty our hands, I will wipe the bulk of it off with a newspaper before coming in the house to wash up.  Newspapers are amazing window cleaners, and are a constant companion when I’m trying to keep the area clean when working on vehicles and machinery.  In the ongoing debate between the supremacy of disposable or cloth diapers in TEOTWAWKI in SurvivalBlog, it has been noted that one can extend the life of either type of diaper by padding it with newspaper. 
  • Deodorizer.  Not only does newspaper absorb liquids, it does a fairly competent job of absorbing odor.  This is one of the reasons old time butchers would wrap up fish with it.  Balled up paper will alleviate musty areas or the after-effects of a spill in a refrigerator drawer.  This function is also a side benefit to using it in animal cages. 


If you go to a hardware store that sells blown-in or “loose fill” insulation, you basically have two options: fiberglass or cellulose.  The cellulose type is typically composed of 75-85% recycled newsprint.  Some frown on cellulose as an insulator because of two of its other main properties, namely flammability and absorbency (ask anyone who has had a roof leak into an attic with cellulose fill). However, if accounted for, your old newsprint can serve you quite well as an insulator.  Some common usages, outside of raising a building’s r-factor:

  • Plant protection.  My wife and I, and many other gardeners over the decades, have saved several of our food plants from late frost by simply covering them with a good layer of newspaper.  For added effectiveness, we will sometimes then cover this layer with a plastic sheet to prevent moisture from getting through.  When the threat is over, simply remove it all and let your plants get some fresh air.   
  • Airflow barrier.  In the winter when I am no longer making use of our evaporative cooler I will place a layer of newspaper behind the grates to avoid the cold air blowing through.  Rolled up paper placed at the base of doorways reduces drafts from outside.  You get the idea.  I caution you to only use newspaper where moisture intrusions won’t happen or can easily be detected and cleaned up, lest you harbor mold.
  • Avoiding heat damage.  Newspapers are great to have around when one needs to handle slightly hot items (obviously, given its combustibility you don’t want it around things that are flaming hot).  If my wife and I are canning or cooking multiple dishes, we save our countertops by laying down a layer of newspaper to act as big oven pads.  When I’m zeroing in a gun in the wilderness, I will lay newspaper on my car to avoid paint damage before putting the gun down (rolled up, it also makes a decent bench rest in a pinch).  Newspaper spread over metal, such as siding or pipes will help it to avoid getting too hot on a summers day.  If wrapped around a skillet handle or building material it will allow you handle what you’re working with.
  • Food storage. In the days when my grandfather ran a grocery store, ice came packed in an insulative layer of sawdust, which allowed it to be shipped long distances, even through Arizona, without too much loss of product.  Since newspaper is essentially composed of refined sawdust one can utilize this same effect by wrapping cold/frozen items in newspaper, or conversely, hot items.  Not only will this allow you to transport the item and keep it at its preferred temperature longer, it will protect more fragile items such as jars.  When my wife and I travel any distance, we will often wrap our food packages, place it in a cooler, and surround it all with ice bags. 
  • Human bedding.  Go to any major city and in all likelihood a good portion of its homeless population lays on or under newspaper.  Certainly the more sophisticated of us can make use of it, too, for the same purposes.  Newspaper can be shredded and stuffed into sleeping bags and mattresses for an extra layer of warmth. 
  • Sound barrier.  Newsprint is, relative to more common forms of insulation such as fiberglass, much denser.  As such, contractors recommend it to those looking to muffle sound in homes.  If one seeks to lower one’s noise footprint for operational security (OPSEC) purposes, newspaper can be shoved into spaces between windows or sliding doors, crevices through which sound can travel, between wall beams, etc.  On structures which creak where two pieces of building material rub together,  I’ve found that placing a few layers of newspaper between the offending parties, then refastening the joint provides for a better fit and dampens the noise in one shot. 

As effective as newspaper is all by itself, here are three pointers for those intending to make use of it:

  • Newspaper and tape go hand in hand.  The handiest tape for any of its purposes is masking tape. It sticks well enough to the paper itself. Furthermore, when using newspaper there is often a need to adhere it to another surface, whether I’m using it under my kids’ paint pads or as a jar insulator, and masking tape will typically not harm such surfaces or leave residue.  It can also be left with the newspaper through its transitions to other purposes, such as fire starting or composting.  I recommend keeping a few rolls of painter’s masking tape on hand if you’re going to keep a pile of newspaper on hand.
  • Some care must be taken when storing newspaper.  Don’t store it near any source of flame or radiant heat.  Don’t expose it to liquids.  Even in safe, dry places it can become a haven for mice and insects if left in the open.  I recommend using plastic storage bins for indoor storage, and a plastic barrel with removable top works well for outdoor storage.
  • Depending on your use, you may have to break newspaper down into smaller pieces.  For the most part I can perform most tasks simply by tearing it by hand.  When I need to make it into finer strips a “guillotine” paper cutter (the type elementary schools use) works extremely well. In order to break it down into a fine pulp I use the “bucket method”:  I simply fill a standard 5 gallon bucket halfway with paper and the rest of the way with water.  Let this sit for a couple of days until the newspaper is thoroughly saturated and easily torn by hand.  Then get a power drill with mixer (mortar or paint) attachment and blend to a fine pulp.  Do this in an area and with clothes where splatter won’t matter.  You can now use the newspaper in its semi-liquid form for purposes such as gardening or spread it out to dry for purposes that require dry cellulose material, such as some insulation applications. 

Newspaper has literally hundreds of uses around the home.  I have but touched on those  of special interest to the prepper/homesteader community which I can personally attest to.  May you find newspaper to be as helpful to your preparations as it has been to mine.           

JWR Adds: Don't neglect using fire retardant (soaked or spray-on), depending on the application. For example, whenever newspaper will be used as insulation in an application where people might be sleeping or periodically absent, then flame retardant is called for.

As many people who are presently watching local and global events I have a heightened concern with our general social situation on many levels. As part of my preparations I had identified some potential deficiencies with my actual ability to use firearms in a defensive manner if it were to be necessary.  Like many, having the time, funds and opportunity to attend formal instruction in utilizing a rifle in a tactical manner just was not coming together in a timely manner. To my advantage I have actually spent time in the Marine Corps (combat veteran) and Coast Guard (boarding team, special capabilities unit member) and so have had both military and law enforcement type rifle/carbine training. Though even with that I still felt I was lacking something in the real how to do it if or when it is needed in my present environments. With this in mind I began a quest to find some good solid instructional training materials in various media formats. During this adventure (and with all that is out there it is an adventure trying to find quality material) one company and set of DVDs kept appearing on my radar, that is Magpul Dynamics and their The Art of the Tactical Carbine DVD set. So with great hesitation (though from clips I had seen on internet I believed I would be getting a good product) I made the step and spent the approximately $35 and purchased it.

Magpul Dynamics is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Magpul Industries who manufacturer tactical accouterments in the United States. Finding a vacuum in the training available in the US for effective/efficient tactical rifle usage they took their programs and advanced into to video arena. The instructors on the DVD are Chris Costa (former USCG Tactical Law Enforcement Team member and instructor and government security training contractor) and now presently CEO of Magpul Dynamics and Travis Halley (former USMC Force Recon [Marine Special Ops], security contractor, former CEO Magpul Dynamics) and now founder of Halley Strategic Partners ( ) who together bring some serious real world experience to their program.

This is a three DVD set. Discs one and two contain the training specific portions; disk three contains a detailed breakdown of the many drills that are utilized in the training program and also a series of informational clips on weapons, sights, accessories, etc. and an out-take reel. (The latteris actually pretty hilarious). The combined time is over four hours of material. Being a little cost conscious and a comparison shopper that comes to under ten dollars for each hour of material compared to on average other DVDs which provide approximately one hour of training at an average cost of nineteen plus dollars. While I like the bang for buck value of the set, the true determination of true value is what they teach and how. Beginning with a mandatory safety brief they roll into the basics of how to load your rifle. Utilizing their core training doctrine of “Reality, Consistency, and Efficiency” it moves forward from there picking up speed as it moves uphill. From how to properly get into basic positions to correctly sighting in your rifle, to how to move, to how to perform speed and tactical reloads, to the whys of each action. The entire filming is done from a point of that you are almost there on the range in the class with them. Loud and rapid they present a mass of information all the time explaining that why they teach each method and/or technique. They readily acknowledge that sometimes your method will differ because life and other factors will affect your use of techniques and skills in a dynamic situation and that will determine what is most efficient and effective for you. Performing drills the entire time there is so much information provided there is no way to get it all in one viewing.

During the training they constantly push people to their failure point in drills believing (as I have found in my personal experience is very true) that amateurs train till success, professionals train past success till failure (as that shows you where you need to go to further improve your skill sets). After watching the DVDs for the first time all I could say is wow! Though my background may have paid a part in how I viewed their production (I am very use to loud, direct, and effective training) the details and logic of what they teach had me amazed.  At this point I have viewed it over five times and am still pulling nuggets of information each time I see it. Even with my experience the information and techniques they present left me wondering even how much more about utilizing a rifle/carbine I did not know.

Though the DVD is called ‘The Art of the Tactical Carbine’ do not expect tactical type techniques such as house clearing in this presentation. The ‘Tactical’ in the title comes in the form of the description of the weapon; the ‘Art’ is the proper handling and use (firing) of the weapon. I believe as they teach that it is much more important to have a solid base of basic skills before you move upward and this DVD set does that. House/room clearing is an important skill however being able to efficiently use your carbine during such activities is much more critical. Though they do an excellent job on teaching movement to cover and shooting around various obstacles which is the stepping stone to advanced ‘tactical’ type actions and movements. Key information presented in the DVDs which I found extremely useful in my situation includes a wide range of subjects they presented starting with good tactical sling selection, to improving my tactical shooting stance. During the section(s) on firing positions the urban prone stood out as one I needed to acquire the skills for as that the ability to shoot efficiently and accurately under obstacles is one which I could readily identify use of in my present environment. Throughout the DVD the mechanical precision which the instructors move through each step of each technique or skill is amazing but expounds on their key core training philosophy of consistency. By achieving consistency you improve efficiency which means in reality you have a higher chance of coming out alive. They also build on the training throughout, for example: taking the basic administrative type reload and using the steps there to teach how to properly perform an tactical reload to how to perform a combat type reload (yes there are major differences in each) then taking those techniques and integrating them into how you handle weapon malfunctions, all in one package. Nothing in this training seem to be left to chance, everything they seem to show or explain rolls right into another step or procedure. There is very little waste of time in the presentations again with them staying with those core principals they utilize of reality, consistency, and efficiency. Contrary to other training programs I have experienced in my life these boys definitely believe in the old saying of ‘practice what you preach’. However, nothing in their mannerisms or instructional techniques makes it boring and even when they are using humor during their presentations to make a point it flows almost perfectly making watching the DVDs more of an adventure than an ordeal.

Chris Costa’s explanation of some of the weaknesses of using a ‘dump pouch’ to keep your primary weapon magazines in, which is now commonly known as his “1911 mag, Twinkie, Twinkie, cupcake, primary weapon magazine” speech has now become a legend in some shooting circles (and hilarious to see). The training presented does focus on the AR-15/M4 type platforms though they do try to integrate many of the variables of those configurations into the training (and do a reasonable job considering the amount of configurations out there). Unfortunately they don’t really address other types of rifles and utilizing them (though one of the students has an AK47 type platform in the DVD), realistically by the time they finished adding wide range AK47s or 74s, Mini-14s, FN/FALs, SKSes, et cetera. The DVDs would be forty plus hours. However, the ‘basic techniques’ they teach are effective with all platforms and can be easily incorporated into your training by thinking it out and using their core principals of reality, consistency, and efficiency.

Since purchasing and viewing Magpul Dynamics The Art of the Tactical Carbine   I have purchased some other weapon training type DVDs from other name brand instructors/companies and none compare to the information and knowledge presented by Chris, Travis and their team. Recently I have integrated this DVD into the training of my family and associate’s, each having a different level of rifle/carbine experience and from the lowest most basic shooter to the highly experienced everyone has come away learning something. What more can you ask for? Personally, I highly recommend this DVD set for anyone from starting out to those seeking further improvement (as Travis and Chris say) and desire personally raising themselves to the next rung in the ladder of excellence. Looking at their other DVDs now, hmmm, Magpul Art of the Dynamic Shotgun, I hear you calling to me.

Mr. Rawles,
I wanted to send a quick note that one option for a retreat's power/heating needs could be met with a natural gas well on the property.  Here is a link to a map which shows coal bed methane areas in the United States.  If someone was so inclined, a well could produce natural gas for a retreat for as many as 100 years and allow for a completely independent fuel source which can be added to other sources such as wood stoves and the like. 

Best Regards, - Jon H.

I have been a prepper most of my life.  Growing up in a foreign country is a relatively rural area everybody was a prepper by definition.   Limited services, almost no government, many subsistence farmers. I also spent a fair amount of time in the Navy doing bad things to bad people. Enough said.  

When we lost power out here in San Diego County I was almost happy!  Finally I would get to put into use some the plans that many of us have been making. Maybe that sounds bad but after lugging my bug out/bug home bag for years I actually was looking forward to using it.  Initially they said the power would be out for several days and for most areas it turned out to be much shorter.

My government job required me to stay at work long after the outage occurred but eventually I headed home. I live near a small town in the mountains in the eastern part of San Diego County so my plan was a bug in style.  I don’t have a concrete bunker with hidden escape tunnels and a gun at every window, but I do have a secluded house with excellent fields of fire, on four acres of land with an orchard and the start of a garden.   I have a good 870 shotgun, an MP5 9mm and my faithful SIG [9mm pistol].  We have a large pantry with lots of canned food and various freeze dried items.

My journey home went smoothly, I used a non-highway route that avoided heavy population areas and traffic lights, so I never got to pull out my bag (d**n it!), the small handgun sat next to me the whole way home. This small emergency was a good lesson learned and trial run for what may come further down the line.
Lessons from the blackout:
*Maintain your gas tank a half or better. With no electricity, no gas, and no ATM.  I was able to cruise home while many had to sleep in offices and in their cars because they had no gas to get home, and no way to get any.   People with bug out bags were looking very smart at that point.

*The big box stores that had generators were immediately swamped. With people looking for everything, ice, batteries, flashlights, canned food, etc.

*The more rural it got the more I witnessed people willing to help others.   In some areas outside the city, people actually pulled their barbeques into their front yards and turned the blackout in to blackout parties.   Once outside San Diego the tension in the air was almost gone.

*Most people became almost catatonic when their cell phones stopped working. Many had no idea how to leave once their primary route became a parking lot and their Smartphone could give them alternate directions.  Plan those routes now! Don’t wait until after TSHTF.

*Sometimes the bugout bag gets in the way and it ends up in the garage. Don’t make that mistake!  Keep it in your car.  I didn’t use it but knowing that it was there was almost as comforting as the small inexpensive 9mm on the passenger seat.

*Prepare your family well.  Whenever I start talking about prepping, food storage and the like my daughter would usually roll her I eyes and give me an "Oh dad!" comment. However when I did get home my daughter had turned to kitchen table into a command post!  She had candles, multiple flashlights, the crank radio and the Remington shotgun (although she couldn’t tell me what kind of shells she had loaded it with) all doors were locked and both of our large dogs were with her.
Although my preps don’t reach the level of many who read this blog, I continue to improve my condition.  I’m not moving! This is my home! I will defend it and I think that within my means I’ve got a good plan so far and it will improve it as I can.  I will continue to read this site and gleam whatever nuggets are printed.  This blog helped make a potentially long weekend into an event free ride home.

In passing, I'll add that with things under control at home I visited several people in the area to check on them and actually ran into several people on their way to check on my family.  I stopped in the small town below my mountain and our local brewery/pub was doing a great business.  The lights were out but with an abundance of preppers in the area, there were a lot of lights and lamps and the owner was taking IOUs.  This was a good test for me. I found areas that I will improve and met some like minded people.  Spending a couple of hours discussing the cause of the blackout with fellow preppers over a beverage, instead of sitting in a dark car or office proves that this stuff works. - Smokecheck

China to 'liquidate' US Treasuries, not dollars. (Thanks to G.G. for the link.)

This headline was trumpeted over at The Drudge Report: Mortgage default warnings surged in August.

Kweku is in a heap 'o trouble: UBS $2 billion rogue trade suspect held in London. (Also by way of Drudge.)

Gerald Celente: “Things Are Going to Get Much Worse…Society Is Breaking Down”

JDD flagged this: Trump Accepts Gold Instead of Dollars From Tenant

Items from The Economatrix:

US Faces Challenges The Fed Can't Solve

Unemployment Facts We Would Rather Not Face

US Drops In Ranking of Most Competitive of World Economies

Debt Bubble:  A Dangerous New Phase

Stocks Rally On Support Plan For European Banks

Margaret G. mentioned this bit of Philippine barrio ingenuity: Solar Water Bottle "Light Bulbs".

   o o o

Floyd sent this link: Viewpoints: The ultimate fear of 'Contagion' tests trust in health care

   o o o

And just for fun, for any of you who are The Blues Brothers fans: Frostie Dancing To "Shake Your Tail Feathers". (My dear sweet Mom sent me the link.)

   o o o

Does this remind you of a book you've read? Cash-strapped adults hunker down, bunk up

   o o o

A bit more of the truth comes out: White House received emails about Fast and Furious gun-trafficking operation

"There are two dangers in not owning a farm: the belief that heat comes from the furnace and food comes from the supermarket." - Aldo Leopold

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Salutations! And for those of spiritual and religious bent, Blessings, from my wife and I in these troubled time.

A few weeks back, after my assistant's grandson returned to his school year, he brought home a “bug” as the kiddies often do. My assistant naturally fell ill, and a week later, sure enough I found myself on my couch with my wife good-naturedly giving me some grief (and chicken soup…) With some time on my hands, and not much energy to actually do anything, my mind started turning as I laid there and watched an earthquake hit D.C. and a hurricane beginning its topsy turvy track towards some portion of the East coast a week later.

Thankfully, all of my friends and family out East were safe in both events (my first concern, as the wife and I live in the suburbs of Chicago.) After sending my assistant an email asking her to check on our customers and business contacts (it turns out the bug was strep throat, and after calling immediate family and best friends, I really did not want to physically speak any more,) I began contemplating the status of our preps.

All the books I have read or perused written on our lifestyle (I use that word very deliberately) seem aimed at those who know nothing about prepping/survival and are starting from square one, – giving the reader a course of recommended actions to take, to ensure their long term viability. There are several philosophies in the range of books and manuals, some are urban survival guides, some advocate a move to secure locations (the better half and I have a long term plan to follow Captain Rawles to the American Redoubt area, but that is 2-4 years away from being executed) some are of the hunting in the wilderness variety, and others are shall we say, more militant.

Not a single book I have read really addresses where we are in life currently. I can only assume as the popularity of survival/prepping has increased exponentially over the past few years, that others are now in the boat that the wife and I find ourselves within. Namely, having our basic preps complete, a plan for the future, but the feeling that we can do more today, and not quite knowing what it is. What follows, as I am in no position to write a full book, are just a few thoughts I had while laid up on the couch for half a week watching our economy continue its slow collapse, a shocking geologic event hit the East coast, and a hurricane heading towards heavily populated areas.

Jack Spirko over at The Survival Podcast has many times mentioned his idea that what he provides is a “framework” from which to operate. As a sometimes business consultant and coach, this idea resonates with me – give folks a flexible system to adapt and adopt to their particular custom circumstances. There may be 99% overlap between my checklist and yours, but that final 1% is mine or yours – not both of ours. That said, on the couch, I realized we (the lady and I) had not rebuilt a framework in a looooong time. Something like a eighteen years of prepping – well before the word was coined and it was just survivalists – multiple checklists, plans to be executed in binders, financial acumen and execution, food storage, BOBs, armament, BOLs, continuing education, new skills, laughter, failure, success, etc. We had gotten older, our plans somewhat evolved, but I no longer know what I am doing day to day, why, and in what priority; to embrace the future with a sense of excitement and hope that we shall prevail.

The business metaphor I might use, is that of an established successful small business that has some contingency plans in place, but plods along executing the activity of its business every day – with absolutely no innovation program to address the future. We are merely relying on an old business plan. Rather ironic as my business consulting revolves around innovation topics. The shoemakers son goes shoeless!

This is primarily a mindset issue – we need to move from prepping caused by fear (healthy to begin the journey and get us off our rear ends,) to a sense of accomplishment at what we have done so far, and then further into a sense of comfort in doing what needs to be done going forward. We need to move from our checklist which we keep searching for holes as we move from beginner to intermediate middle of the road, to a martial arts type flexibility of “flowing” with the energy of life as we tweak, improve, and search for new arenas and opportunities. We need to expand our focus from the immediate concentric circles that may never be 1oo%; to the next adjacencies where we are not really playing actively (business metaphor – I own the market in my town, lets look at the same business in the next town as we expand, which we had not considered doing previously.) Further business metaphor, we own this town, and the next, we better look at additional products or service lines to provide to our customers who already love us.

So how does this shifting in mindset, translate into direct actions (if you are still reading my ramblings, I assume you do feel like you are to some extent sharing my disquietude,) we can take in our current lives?

Well, I am sure of one thing, that is the fact that I do not have all the answers, but here are some further thoughts I had on my sick-couch, as I began this mental exercise (and yes, now that I am well, I am taking action on thought.)

First, let’s re-examine the question of why we prep? I can’t remember the last time I actually formally created a threat analysis matrix! All action comes from the, “Why.” It is long past time to revisit the old business plan!

I am an idiot. Everything I do is based on a document (the long lost threat matrix) from another era (remember the days of plaid flannel shirts, grunge rock like Nirvana, Waco, and Clinton coming into office) Really? The last time I thought holistically about threats was in 1993? Somebody please grab a crowbar and remove my palm from my forehead where I just smacked myself silly! My mindset and planning is entirely out of date, or maybe not, but I need to know and not assume.

Years ago, I created a matrix that listed all the various threats I was going to plan for, and from there took action to mitigate. As the years passed, and a new threat was discovered, I just tweaked purchases and plans accordingly. It is high time I start again (on paper at least) from scratch to ensure my actions and investments are aligned with multiple scenarios of what might be.  Who knows, perhaps not much is different, but considering how the world has changed, I am confident I will be finding many holes and fallacies in my thinking. The end result of what preps are in place may well be the same – but I need to examine the foundation for cracks, and I certainly need to shock myself out of an 18 year mental rut.

Second, I need to look at the CARVER matrix for each specific threat I identify  within my mission planning. Yes, I am a business guy, but I freely take the best planning tools and frameworks from other arenas (in this case, the military.) Again, my plans may or may not change according to this holistic re-examination of our planning and SOPs. I do know however, that I will feel much better updating everything to today’s (and tomorrow’s) environment with a fresh look at it – as opposed to plans that have been updated and tweaked on an ad-hoc basis over the years.

Third, one concrete task I stink at will be given a weekend and just plain knocked off the to-do list. Namely, examination of all food expiry dates and rotations to ensure the system is operating properly. I also intend on traveling to our caches and performing maintenance on all items stashed away (unpacking, checking of expiry, re-lubing, updating as necessary according to our inventory lists.)

Fourth, I will focus on (business metaphor again) human resources over the coming year. This is perhaps one of the most important, difficult, costly, and painful tasks in business and likewise in prepping. What do I mean by this? Two things.

First, for the family “on board” with the lifestyle, I will re-examine our planning, communications, and joint training to ensure it is operating smoothly.

Second, I wish to expand: Easier said, than done.

How does one expand? In business, you write a job description, post it somewhere soliciting interest, interview, background and reference check, psyche test, try to take into account variables such as cultural fit, personality type, alignment of goals,  (illegal in business but not in prepping – religious views,) dither over the decision, and then jump - hoping it is a pillow at the bottom, and not rocks.

Human resources management is an art, not a science. I have the pleasure and honor of collaborating from the innovation side with some of the worlds leading experts in HR/workforce topics/and academic theorists, there is no one right answer. You play, sometimes you pay (and hopefully, sometimes you get paid.)

On an ad hoc basis over the years I have met like minded preppers at national gatherings, I have hosted events locally hoping to identify others in my community and participate(d) in numerous internet forums. Again, there is no right answer. I am however, definitely changing my mentality from one of laissez faire.

This years project is to do the hard work of building, once the re-examined plan is in place.

I will keep talking to people. I will keep making new contacts. However this time, I will be taking notes on which of these contacts I will deliberately continue with in private discussion to better ascertain suitability for placement in an extended secure network and community. However, it brings me back to the foundation document I am holistically re-building. I am now creating a “job description.” The military has their various “slots,” business has its “roles;” why do I not have a listing of the skills, personality types, attitude, etc. I am looking to identify with contacts? Operating with no framework is only marginally worse than operating from an 18 year old framework that hasn’t [been] updated.

Years ago, we were all individual survival types, as we went from wacky to not quite mainstream, we have flipped the problem to not identifying our own (other preppers,) to rather, there are so many choices, who do I want to associate with and trust? Yes, the racist militia survivalist the media portrays, shares some preps with me, but is diametrically in opposition to my values. (Also, in my experience, those guys lack a sense of humor, and tend to dislike educated Jewish-background preppers… )

The fifth and last thought I had on the couch that I wish to share in this rambling article, is that of why (there it is again, I believe in answering, why?) I am looking to add folks to my network?  The why, of course informs the who, and the what. I am not lonely, nor overly narcissistic in needing the affirmation of others, so why do I feel the need to expand in terms of human resources, instead of just adding prep supplies?

I should add, that I am not looking to build a retreat per se for TEOTWAWKI in "Patriots" style. That may be the best solution, but for any number of reasons, impractical for me today. My focus is more of a loose mutual aid network, or borrowing from defense thinking, a cellular structure. Today, the network provides expertise and occasional meetings to share skills, knowledge, and good times. Tomorrow, it may be logistics support mid-bugout.  In TEOTWAWKI the network may be the immediate surrounding neighbors and community wherever we can make it, if as in the case of some characters in Patriots, we haven’t yet bugged out.

So, several reasons for the “why” of network and community come to mind.  Perhaps as I continue my examination and organization over the coming months, I will submit a follow on with my findings for my personal what and who…

Practical Why?
I am maturing (read that as getting old(er) and creaky(ier.) With maturity comes the conviction that I can not do it alone, and what's more, I like to outsource [or delegate] tasks that I dislike or that can be more efficiently accomplished by giving them to others better suited for them (or, in a business sense, more economically pay others to do, freeing one to create more value by focusing on other higher worth activities.)

Reality Why?
I am, as of many years past, disabused of the lone wolf mentality endemic in some militant survival books, and on a more pop culture basis fostered by some action movies that focus on a hero. Captain Rawles certainly seems to agree with this on a macro level in his novel "Patriots" where much of the book focused on the group and it roles – as opposed to one dude in the forest fighting a guerilla war and surviving on grubs and hunted meat.

Social Why?
I know my personality type, that is one of gregarious sociability. I enjoy the company of others. I can also make a case of the total being greater than the sum of its parts. If you are an introvert, well, instead of community, your focus in prepping may be better directed at fortress building for your homestead. Bison over at Bison Survival seems to take that approach. Great for him, not so much for my family.

Redoubt Why?
For me, the American Redoubt move a few years out, is not meant to take us just to an area of lower population, but a move to an area where what population exists is of a similar mindset.

If you will, I want to go home.

Home Why?
Home is where we find comfort and solace, not to mention support. I can find this in suburban Chicago, but I also want the lower population, economics, and politics of the Redoubt. Hence, a number of factors in confluence, as I search for a communal home to get old in.  Yes, the geography is important, but a completely barren landscape of isolation is not where I see us in the future; small community is where we will flourish. After all, what is prepping and survival but the desire to grow old gracefully and pleasantly, sharing joy, while watching the future generation flourish?

I end this article as a direct wish from the far better half and I, that this article perhaps be of some assistance to you in the words that resonate (go ahead, ignore those that do not.) We also wish: That you find success, and ways to improve yourself and your community. That you find peace of mind in the midst of turmoil. That our once great nation innovates and rebuilds itself. That you maintain your sense of humor. That your health improves. That your children make you proud. That our dogs have fleas that are easily banished, and that the skunk spray easily rinses off (my dog-ownership week has been a bit extreme.) That our appropriately dirty children (come on, more playground, less Play Station, you know its better for them) come home with, and transmit nothing worse to us, than strep throat. That whatever your personal spiritual or religious affiliation, you extend and receive good karma, blessings and tidings – as we extend to you.

May God bless us and the United States of America.

Letter Re: Making Cow Pie Fertilizer "Tea"

I'm writing to describe how to make cow pie fertilizer "Tea."

This mild natural liquid fertilizer solution is for use on continuous production vegetable plants and ornamental's.
Use it just like you would when watering. It does not burn plants, the nutrient value is about 1-1-1.
-We use a 325 gallon metal caged water tank (this tank will never again be used for potable water), sitting on a small portable trailer that can be pulled with a riding mower, tractor, or ATV, you can also use a non-toxic 55 gal. drum or even smaller containers, like 5 gallon buckets if you only have a few plants.
- For one 55 gallon drum, use two old clean panty hose legs, placed one inside the other (for added strength when you retrieve them for refilling and reuse) multiply this hose requirement if using larger than 55 gallon containers.
- some 1/8 inch poly rope, 2 feet longer than your container
- dried cow pies (barter with a cattle rancher for a few bucketfuls if you don't have any of your own.)

Note: Wear rubber gloves when handling any animal dung. [JWR Adds: And of course show special care in washing produce from your garden with warm soapy water.]

Place the barrel or stationary container for easy filling access and to watering the garden plants!
Fill container with water. Fill an old unused panty hose leg with several dried cow pies, tie it off and then tie the rope to the tied off hose and put it in the water. Leave the rope tied off to the lid of your container, so you can retrieve and reuse the hose again later. It is now brewing just like tea, and when the water turns a medium deep brown, it’s ready to use.
As the water level lowers, just keep adding more water.
When the color of the tea lightens just pull up the rope, untie the hose and add more cow pies. Don't forget to retie that rope.
If you decide to totally refresh your cow tea and remove your panty hose to start again, hang your hose up under a tree to drip dry first, and then untie the opening, dump any used dung fiber in the compost heap, and refill the hose and reuse with a fresh full water tank. Plants being hardened off for transplanting, if shallowly submerged in this liquid in a tray overnight, will root easier, stand firmer, grow stronger,and have to be watered less in the new soil. - Regards, - K.A.F.


Alt-Market's Safe Haven State Project has selected Montana as their prime destination. And not coincidentally, Brandon Smith (the founder of Alt-Market) recently relocated to northwestern Montana. Congrats! If you aren't familiar with it, Alt-Market is an information and community web site that has an emphasis on sound money, preparedness, and barter networks. Check it out.

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Argentina: Surviving without money. (Thanks to Pierre M. for the link.)

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Steve M. sent this: Gun store owner had misgivings about ATF sting. This whole fiasco has a rotten stench...

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Tamara (of the always entertaining View From the Porch blog) reviewed Mike Williamson's new sci-fi novel. ("Rogue".)

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Karl W. sent this disturbing news article about "justice" being meted out in Kentucky: Amish men jailed for not displaying buggy safety signs. Now the judge can sleep soundly, knowing that these evil-doers are safely behind bars--where they will be sleeping along with thieves, murderers, and rapists. We need less government!

"It is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men, at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights; when the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defence of those very rights; the principal of which, as is before observed, are Life, Liberty, and Property. If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave." - Samuel Adams, 1772

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I believe in having all the “big” things, to prepare for the possible breakdown of civil society.   I have a large home outside of a small mid-west town, and expect 12 people to arrive to hunker down, if things do fall apart.  I need to be able to feed and supply of them, perhaps for years.

So I have 1,200 gallons of Kerosene.  This is intended for heating the home for 3 winters, and I have 3 Kerosene heaters to do the job.  The Kerosene is stored in in 3 large 330 gallon plastic totes, half buried in my back yard, hidden by a wood pile, as well as four 55 gallon drums buried under my deck. I have a hand-crank pump to get fuel from either type of container.  I have treated it all with PRI-D, and I expect it to last for decades.  I have stored more PRI-D just in case.

I have 12,000+ pounds of food on site.  Along with lots of canned goods and dried meals, I have barrels of white rice, rye, Triticale, 5,000 pounds of hard red wheat, pinto beans, and 250 pounds of popcorn.  I have another 4,000 pounds of wheat in a barrels in a second location.

I bought the rice, beans and popcorn at Restaurant Depot in 50# bags, and the rest as “seed” from a local grain dealer, for around $14 per 60# bushel.  It's mostly stored in 55 gallon drums, with liners, and dry ice to drive out the oxygen.  Some is also in 6 gallon buckets. 

I have 300 gallons of water.  100 gallons of this is instantly drinkable, in 1/2-liter bottles.  I also have 100 gallons in two water heaters, and 110 gallons in two 55 gallon drums in my basement.  I could filter and/or disinfect this water if I needed to drink it, but it's intended for washing and toilet flushing.  I also have 1,000 coffee filters, and various-sized of commercial filters, to handle drinking water for the foreseeable future.  I have a 165 gallon tank collecting rain water from my downspouts as well, for gardening.  I bought that for $20 off Craig's List.

I have 36,000 rounds of ammo and eight guns.  I try to double up on calibers, so I have two rifles that use .223, two hand guns that use .40 S&W, and a .22 rifle and .22 pistol.  Much of the ammo is stored in sealed 4-gallon buckets with desiccants, but I always keep about 500 rounds in magazines ready to go.

I have bags of silver, mostly in junk pre-1965 coins, as well as gold in 1 oz coins.  I don't know if this will be needed for actual spending during a breakdown, but it should transport a chuck of wealth thru a hyperinflation.  Once there is a new currency, I can exchange the silver a little at a time to buy items I need. 

I also have Canadian dollars, which I think will do better than US currency at holding it's value.  And I have it in a Canadian bank, and I renewed my passport, in case I need to bug out for real.  I'm just a few hours from the border.

But I don't just want to survive if TSHTF.  I want to thrive.  So over the past few years I have gathered lots of other items that I don't want to be without, when there is no store to run to.  Once you have the big things, be sure to look for these “little things”, to make life easier. 

I have way too many of most of these items for our own use, unless things stay broken down forever, but I like them for trade items as well.  Barter may become very important.

I bought small 400 bars of soap.  These are individually wrapped hotel-size bars.  I paid $17 on eBay, or 4 cents each.  I want to be clean post-apocalypse, and these should trade well.  To help conserve water, I also bought a bucket of 500 Clorox disinfecting wipes.  Then I added 40 tooth brushes, at 5 for $1.  Dental hygiene will be important, and they should be trade well too.

I worry about lighting, especially in the winter, so I bought 3 gross (432) votive candles from, for 30 cents each.  They burn 15 hours.  I also bought sixå of the 120 hour Nu-wick candles on eBay for about $10 each.  They cost more per hour of light than the votive candles, but you can put 3 wicks in them, and cook over them if needed.  So combined, I have about 7,200 hours of candle light.  I think the small 15 hour candles will be good trading items as well.

I bought 200 Fish hooks for $1 at a flea market.  Others will need them.

I bought 12 rolls of Vietnam-era trip wire, 160 feet each, on eBay, and 1,000 feet of 6# fishing line.  I want to have lots of trip wires and booby traps to protect the homestead.  I also bought 50 old-fashioned mouse traps, 25 cents each, to use with the trip wires.  (You can attach the trip wire to the “cheese spot” and rig a shotgun shell primer under the spring arm, and make a nifty trap or alarm. I put aside 100 shotgun shell primers for this too.)

I bought 100 tubes of Super Glue on eBay, for about $20.  Good for trading, good for quick small repairs, and also good for treating minor cuts.  In a pinch you can glue the cut shut.  Nice pocket size item for trading.

I bought 4 gallons of Barricade Fire Blocking Gel for about $250.  You can but buy it on eBay.  That's a lot of money, but my house backs up to a woods.  If that woods starts on fire, I can quickly coat my roof and deck with this stuff, and it simply will not burn down.  Very important if there's no fire department available because TSHTF.

I bought three Water dispensing Fire Extinguishers via eBay, from a guy who salvages old buildings.  Just $15 each.  They hold 2.5 gallons of water, and you pump them up with a bike pump for pressure.  You wouldn't believe how far they throw a powerful stream of water!  They are like water cannons.   I could use them with a mixture of Barricade Gel to coat my roof will standing on the ground, if needed.  Otherwise, I have handy fire extinguishers that I can refill with water again and again.

I bought 1,200 doses of Antibiotics, from various Pet Med places on line, and Amazon.  I'm convinced they are the same as people meds.  I did my research, and settled on 200 doses of Cephalexin, 200 doses of Ciprofloxacin, 100 Metronidazole, 200 Doxycycline, 300 Amoxicillin, and 200 Ampicillin. 

I have them in the refrigerator until TSHTF, where they should stay near full potency for a decade.  After the electricity fails, they should still last for many years, and only slowly loose their punch.  After a decade, I may need to take double the dosage for the same effect, so I have stocked a good supply.  I hope to have a doctor to diagnose any problems, but in an emergency, I have some medical books, and may have to roll the dice in the face of a serious infection.

To help prevent illness, I also bought 100 of the N95 masks, and 200 pairs of rubber gloves.  (Don't ask me why, but I also bought 300 unopened, empty insulin syringes, on Craig's List for $20.)  I also bought four boxes of 100 count butterfly bandages, as well as many boxes of band aids, and 30 rolls of wrapping bandages. A primitive lifestyle can lead to lots of cuts and bumps, and I want to be prepared. 

I have all the standard over-the-counter stuff, purchased as Sam's Club.  This included many bottles of Imodium, Benadryl, Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol and Robitussin.  I also bought a gallon of Chlorhexidine for washing wounds, and Silver Sulfadiazine and Ichthammol, based on articles I've read on treating injuries.  I also tucked away 4 quarts of Hydrogen Peroxide and 4 quarts of rubbing alcohol.

I've also stocked up on bottles of vitamins.  If TSHTF, nutrition will suffer.  So I have 50 big bottles of Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Acidophilus, and a good multiple vitamin.  This should handle my crew for years, and also allow some trading of bottles.

Having fire will always be important, so I bought 4,600 Strike Anywhere matches, in 32-match boxes.  These individual boxes should make great trading items, so I bought a gross of them.  I also bought more than 50 lighters, and spare fluid.

I am about to have installed a solar panel system and windmill to power the whole retreat, but I did buy 100 NiMH AA and AAA Batteries, and a small solar recharger.  All my little flashlights and tools use these, so I wanted a bunch.  There may even be a business opportunity, where you recharge batteries for people, and swap them charged ones for dead ones, as needed.

I hate bugs, so I bought 200 bottles of Mosquito spray!  Just 17 cents each from a guy who had overstocked.  Not aerosol cans, but the pump kinds, so they'll never go flat.  I did the research, and the active ingredients seem to have a long shelf life.  Farming would be unpleasant without bug spray, as would summer nighttime patrolling, and the bottles should also command a great deal in trade.  And when they finally ban DEET, I'll be all set.

I should get more, but I do have 10 bottles of sunscreen.

I'm obsessed with home security, so I bought 600 feet of razor wire (20 rolls of 30 ft each) and 10,000 feet of barbed wire.  (Remember to get the special gloves for handling the razor wire!)  I know wire won't keep people out if it's undefended, but we plan on it slowing the bad guys down long enough to shoot 'em.  Or just discourage them, so they move on to easier targets.  There are some good free PDFs on the net describing how to layout a good Soviet-style tangle foot obstacle.  Print one out and save it.

I may want to fortify defensive posts, and observations posts, so I have 500 sandbags.  Get the clear plastic self-sealing bags, from Home Depot, for about 35 cents each in boxes of 50.   They store/stack well, and self-sealing plastic bags have lots of uses besides home defense. (Such as human waste disposal.)

I expect we'll need to build stuff after TSHTF.  The lumberyard is unlikely to be open if things really fall apart.  So I bought about 10,000 nails and screws.  I bought dozens of trays of them at an area flea market, for about $50.  

The attic above my garage was not floored when I bought my home.  I put in a pull-down stairway, and “floored” the attic with loose 8-foot 2X4s.  I put about 100+ of them up there, not nailed down. [JWR Adds: That approach is not recommended in earthquake country.] So now it's a great place for me to store stuff like my barbed wire spools.  If and when I do need the wood for building, I can slowly un-floor my garage attic and have 100+ 2X4s for construction.  Until then, they make a fine, inexpensive floor.

I have 720 packets of various vegetable seeds.  I found a seed company distributor online, and ordered one of their vegetable variety display racks, at around 10 cent per packet.  These are the packs that sell for 59 cents. 

They are hybrid seeds, so the next-generation seeds collected from their veggies won't always reproduce true.  But I look at it this way – they are bred to produce bountiful first generation crops, unlike heirloom seeds, so my early crops after TSHTF will be reliable and big.  And I have so many packs, I won't need to save more seeds for decades.  Like all seeds, they should store well in my cool, dry basement, and the $70 they cost me wouldn't have bought me all that many heirloom seeds.  I expect the packets will make great trading items too.

I have 50 red laser pointers with white LED lights included.  I buy these on eBay for under $1 each, batteries and shipping included.    I think the little white lights are handy for in your pocket or hanging on a nail.  And we will use the red laser lights, in the hands of some of the women-folk, to make any raiders think we have even more guns aimed at them than we do.  (I also want to rig up a sort of hand-held “laser light gun” with dozens of lasers, which can be used to blind siege folks.  People are very afraid of looking into one of those lasers, and being blinded, so they should be intimidating!)

I worry about a large group rushing the retreat, in greater numbers than we can shoot quickly.  Or at night or as a surprise attack using a distraction.  If a group crashes through multiple doors and windows at once, we could be screwed.  So I bought a 150 ft long heavy fishing net, 12 ft wide, on eBay, for $100.

I cut the big net into various sizes for hanging over all the doors and ground-floor windows.  These individual nets can be hung quickly with the hooks I have, and should secure all the entries long enough for us to defend them.  Even if you shoot my front door of its hinges, it's just going to hang there in place, held up by the heavy netting inside.  Then I'm going to shoot you through it.

I bought 7 pounds of calcium hypochlorite (pool shock) for less than $20 from  Each pound will make enough chlorine bleach to disinfect 12,000 gallons of water.  I intend to make bottles of bleach in my 1/2-liter water bottles, and sell them as a business when TSHTF.  Each little bottle will itself disinfect 12 gallons of water for someone.  I'll make some money, and save some lives at the same time.

I have stored 72 gallons of treated gasoline in twelve 6-gallon cans.  I empty one into my car each month, and refill it, to keep the stock of gas fresh.  I use the mid-grade without ethanol, in case I want to use it in small engines. 

I also bought 1 gallon of PRI-G, to rejuvenate 2,000 gallons in the future.  A few years after TSHTF, there will likely be lots of old “worthless” gasoline, that can be completely reconstituted if you have PRI-G set aside.  It costs about $85 a gallon on line, but I think it's worth it--from  Five years after a collapse, I still want to have a chainsaw!  (I bought several extra chains for the saw as well.  And 2 back-up chain saws, tucked away.)

Because I worry about bullets flying in through my walls, and I also worry about inflation, I have slowly accumulated 1 million pennies (400 boxes, $25 each).  Each box already has about $40 in copper (pre-1981 pennies make up about 30% of each box), so I'm ahead $15 the day I “buy” them.  I don't sort out the good pennies. 

I have the unopened boxes stacked along the outside walls of the upstairs bedrooms.  I guarantee no rifle bullet is getting through the siding, the wall boards, and the boxes of pennies.  If we never collapse, I have a great inflation hedge in the pre-1981 copper pennies.  If we have deflation, my coins will increase in buying power.  And in a hyperinflation, if we get a new currency, the coins may be accepted as part of the new money, and avoid the inflation entirely.

Since they don't make Sears catalogs any more, I have stocked up 200+ rolls of toilet paper.  I keep adding to the stash.  It takes up some space, but I don't want to think about the end of the world without toilet paper.  Not with 14 people living in my home if things fall apart!  I also bought one of those handy 5-gallon bucket toilet seat tops, just in case.

I don't expect your average thugs to have tear gas, but some left-over police state types may have some.  So I bought 10 Israeli M15 Gas Masks and 20 spare 40mm filters on eBay.  I can also use them if the woods behind my house is on fire, and I'm busy spraying Barricade Gel on my roof while the smoke surrounds me.

I also bought five canisters of Clear Out tear gas from one of your sponsors,  $17 each.  (Remember to use the SurvivalBlog discount code "sb"!)  I figure I can roll a can down the stairs from my second floor if intruders do get in, and our gas masks will protect us from the effects, and allow us to fight while the tear gas gives us the edge.

I also bought a roll of 1,000 feet of 550 paracord for $36, from another of your sponsors  That stuff is good for so many things.  I added an 4-wheel block & tackle, so with the paracord I can lift some very heavy items.  I've practiced with it, and it's fun to lift 100 pounds with one hand.  Don't forget a few hundred cable ties as well.  Very handy.

Speaking of lifting things by hand, buy gloves when you find them inexpensively.  I also bought the expensive studded gloves for handling razor wire, and some “welding glove” for high heat, and some rubber coated gloves, but mostly you want a box full of more modest gloves.  Simple cloth hand-covers,  for doing regular outdoor tasks, will really save on the wear and tear, as well as precious water for hand-scrubbing.  At flea markets, I often see them for $1 a pair, so I have stocked up.  They should trade well too.  (If you find a couple nicer, leather gloves, stash those away as well.)

I continue to read survival blogs every day, and I am always looking for new items that will be both handy, and good for trading.  I usually buy them on eBay.  I also find the big outdoor flea markets offer a large variety of useful items.  And I watch Craig's List for things I haven't thought of.  I also love the Deal of the Day sites.  Each day, I stop by, for a summary of all the deal site offers, and I often find bargains on stuff I think I can use.

Start a list of things you'd like to have on the shelf.  Add to it every time you read something interesting on the web.  Don't rush out and buy them all at once, but check the items off as you come across them at a bargain price.  In a surprisingly short time, you will find you have stocked a lot of handy items for use, and for trading.  Good luck.

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I too went and saw "Contagion" with my wife.  It has been interesting to read the various posts about this film, but again I have a different take.  The photography was good, the cast excellent, the script okay, the pro-government and big pharma propaganda was outstanding!  What we came away with was the understanding that the CDC can solve anything (except AIDS of course) and the big pharma can then come to rescue at any time.
Yes the movie did a good job portraying would probably happen during this type of event in terms of clearing out the stores, etc., and they did a good job of reinforcing the idea that perhaps going to the store to get supplies with all your friendly sick neighbors, was not the best idea.
I did hear a couple comment and say that they are just trying to scare us and that “they” (basically FEMA or some other government agency) would provide.  Personally, I thought they got a vaccine way too fast and the situation would actually be a lot worse than was portrayed. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.  - Energized

Greetings Mr. Rawles,
I am e-mailing you today because I disagree with the Tuesday (9/13) reviews of the movie "Contagion".  I saw the movie and felt that it was a utter disappointment to anyone who thought they could use this movie to ether glean inspiration from, Learn from, or be used as a tool to warn others to prepare.  This movie failed on all three counts.  Indeed after the surprisingly utility of the movie, "The Road" I was hopeful that Hollywood had started to cater to our ilk. 

To counter the points made by the letters that spurred me to action, I will address the mistakes made by those in favor of the movie.  The first is Bill L.'s points on the witnessed events by the first character pointed out.  At each of these events there are real life examples on you tube that are far more accurate, and far less child friendly as the movie portrayed.  Indeed the perception given from this movie is that while looting is going on, you can calmly  walk into a grocery store, take what ever you want, and leave.  After all a simple shout is good enough to scare away the looters trying to steal your SUV parked around back.  

Bill later pointed out about Operational Security and the ransacking of the head of the CDC's home.  Let me point out that in the movie these, "desperate people" did not hurt the wife, did not trash the place, and did nothing more than scare her while dirtying the place with scattered bits of paper and such.  Indeed this is another case of Hollywood trying to portray us as kooks by pointing out that should a pandemic happen, "Things won't be that bad"

While Mama J. May have enjoyed the loose plot, multitude of characters, the constant reminders to wash your hands both verbally and pictorially with the constant pauses on places where people touch, and through a female character nagging male characters to stop touching their face and wash their hands.

I am not trying to be rude to Bill & Mama J, but this movie does more harm with no good, and should be avoided at all costs.

Kindly, - Braden A.

Blackouts ahead? Texas' power provider closing units over EPA rule. A tip of the hat to Marilyn R. for the link.)

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F.J. pointed me to this: Tiny Houses and Indoor Air Quality Part 1

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Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large) sent this : Wichita Police Score New Guns.

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Double-Murder Charges Dismissed Under Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ Self-Defense Law. (Thanks to Steven in Texas for the link.)

 "Our whole monetary system borrows prosperity from the future so that we can spend it today. When we do a bailout, we're borrowing more prosperity out of the future just to prop up these zombie companies and zombie banks, and what that does is that all that prosperity is owed back just like our entire currency supply of the planet is all owed back plus interest. That means our prosperity is owed back plus interest." - Mike Maloney

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

In 2003 I lived in what can only be described as "The Hood" when Hurricane Isabel arrived. Today I find myself in a middle class neighborhood for Irene. The difference between the two and how my neighbors are handling these semi-SHTF scenarios gives a very instructive view of operational security (OPSEC) and its effects.  These two hurricanes came ashore about the same place and the same strength, but its two different worlds I have seen the aftermaths effects on.

During Isabel I lived in one of the worst sections of Virginia Beach, the sort of place that other people who claimed they were from tough parts of town gave you a wide berth. I am talking deep Hood rat territory. In one year alone half of all murders in Virginia Beach happened within walking distance of my house. I used to tell people my mortgage was cheap, but I lost the savings in ammo costs.  I lived there for ten years and integrated with the local population to some extent and frankly, there are some things to learn from the Hood for all preppers.  The number one thing is that the Hood is one of the last places in America were the residents routinely live in a condition yellow environment.

This is the neighborhood where I first learned OPSEC without knowing what it was called. A good example of this was going to get some range time in. I knew intuitively that if I let it be known that I had a collection of guns in my home I would quickly become a target to every wannabe gang member on the street. So when range time came the guns went to the trunk of the car, not in nice hard cases or rifle socks, but in laundry bags and baskets. Few people had washing machines in this neighborhood. So the sight of people carrying laundry to their car to head to the laundromat was common. If I had something nice coming into the house, new DVD player, new television, etc, it came in the same way. You never left a product box whole and put it prominently in the trash, and never put a box out to the curb. You had to keep what you had hidden or someone would get the idea to take it.

This is our first big difference between Irene and Isabel.  If I wanted to I could go and brand shop a generator for my house right this minute. I just need to drive down any of my current neighborhood streets and look at the boxes at the curb. I could compare wattages and outputs. I can see the generator running right there in the driveway with a full can of gas right next to it all shiny and new.  The moment the power went out I knew who had a generator and who did not in less than 15 minutes. They are loud, out front, and proudly displayed.  Even better, there are no street lights and I can see all these people in their houses right now with the lights shining full blast, clearly marking which rooms are occupied and which are not. In suburbia what good is living in comfort if no one can see you living in comfort? During Isabel I did not hear a single generator in the six days that my neighborhood had no power.  To run one would have been bordering on suicide.

During Isabel no one showed off what they had. Maybe someone would bring a small cooler with a couple drinks outside, but that was all you saw. In my Irene neighborhood everyone has been out front on their grills all day cooking away and drinking their beer. A neighbor down the street has been having an after party of sorts. They have several large screen televisions setup in their garage and are watching the game while their generator runs and they cook out. They have several very large coolers filled with drinks they are dipping into. In my Isabel neighborhood you would have been overrun with a mini version of the golden horde as the neighborhood came around looking for a handout, and not taking kindly to you not sharing. 

This leads us to a second difference between Isabel and Irene. When the lights went out during Isabel, and the storm was past, the neighbors all went outside and formed groups.  These groups usually represented 5 or 6 houses worth of people gathering together.  In the strictest terms you could almost call these groups gangs, but in reality they were neighborhood watches. I was lucky that my next door neighbor was a lady by the name of Miss Wanda who had several teenage kids. Miss Wanda had been shot several times and grown up in the projects so I used her as a sort of mentor and a connector to the neighborhood grapevine.  We pulled several lawn chairs and benches into the yard between our homes and this became sort of a command center for our courts neighborhood watch. Once again I want to stress nothing here was planned; this was pure instinct of people who were used to dicey situations and knew that you had to keep an eye out. These were people, who would take every dime they could from the government, but did not trust their government and fully expected to be the last to receive any form of help. People talked and visited with each other, drank, and played music but you better believe every single person who traveled those streets was verified as needing to be there and was vouched for by someone else.  The neighborhood as a whole knew who should be there and people were strongly vetted.  

Have you ever been in a bad neighborhood and been frustrated by the groups of people walking slowly in the middle of the street who won’t seem to get out of your way? Thought they were just being disrespectful didn’t you. That’s not what was going on at all. You were being vetted. Your victim status was being evaluated, your profile was being noted, and your business was being judged. Only after all of these calculations are done will the group get out of your way, or rob you, or harass you. Once you have lived on a street for a while those groups won’t even slow you down, as you approach them at speed a gap will form and you can pass by, usually with a wave and a hello. New girlfriends would always complain about this at first when they came to visit. I would always tell them to give it a few weeks and these groups would learn they were supposed to be here and they would have no more problems. This is what happened every time and they would always comment on how right I was.  I should also mention here that you should never ask for directions. There is a reason that all the street signs are either spun 180 degrees or missing. If you don’t know that "X" Lane is the second street after the apartments then you probably don’t belong there. No one gave directions by street name, it was pointless, all directions where in the form of when to turn.

The teenage children worked as a system of runners between these groups. Again no one was designated as a runner, or overtly sent on this task. Simply information was passed as the natural flow of teenagers going to visit other teenagers happened. They would stop by and questions would be asked about other parts of the neighborhood, who was home, who had what, all very casual and noted. I found out things like Meatball's sister with her three stomachs was mad because all the ice cream was melted ( I laughed so hard at this description at the time that I literally went down to one knee), who had hot water still and who didn’t, who had ice, etc. This news service was far more informative than the radio and television with their shrill hysteria. It was immediate and direct and concerned my local area. I even found out regional events on a very timely basis, like were the local FEMA depots were and what they were giving out, that there would be extra welfare checks for people who lost food because of the storm at this time and place, All of this beating the local news by several hours at the minimum.

Contrasting this with the aftermath of Irene and I get some disturbing changes. My neighbors throughout the day have been forming there little local cliques and then breaking up again, but are definitely not inclusive. Most disturbing is what I saw this night. No one is outside. Everyone is inside their homes, with the light they have plugged into their generators blasting out. They are running window unit air conditioners and have the windows closed. Meanwhile their generators are making such a racket outside I could literally run a tank platoon down my street and they would have no idea. If my Isabel neighbors decided to launch a raid to get supplies my Irene neighbors would be wiped out completely one house at a time. No one is talking, no one is coordinating. My neighbors have been kind, they have offered me lights, seeing my house is not lit up like a Christmas tree, and I can feel their pity because I do not have a generator. What they do not seem to realize is that I am doing these things by choice. My efforts at education have been rebuffed as to hard.  

If I had a chance these are the tips I would share with them, so I give them to you fellow preppers. 

  1. When a storm is coming you need to protect your windows. If you have a window break not only will you have glass flying but the structural integrity of your building is now compromised. The water getting in is the least of your worries. The wind having access below the roof can create a suction effect that will lift it off. You have to keep the wind going over your home, not into it, so it pushes down on the roof; it is very easy to create a lift effect not unlike a plane’s wing if you lose too many windows. At the minimum you should do is tape your windows. There is a lot of argument pro and con on this, but having lived through a lot of hurricanes I urge you to tape. Tape is not going to stop your neighbor’s garden gnome coming through the window at 100 MPH but what it does is give the glass more tensile strength against the windows pressure of the wind blowing on it. Also if you have double pane glass then for goodness sake tape both sides!
  2. Cover your windows if you can. The best is storm shutters, but these are actually hard to come by at this point. The next best thing is plywood. ½ inch will give you strength, but something as thin as veneer sheets will get the job done. All you want is a standoff between the windows and the windblown objects.  We are trying to avoid breakage. If you use plywood the urge to cut it into neat little sections should be avoided. At most, if you can, cut sheets in half for smaller windows. The reason for this is that after the storm large sheets can be used for repairs.  Only if the half sheets are going to offer too much edge to the wind and are not flush to the house should they be trimmed to fit.
  3. Make sure you pull all objects in your yard into a garage or they are tied down. This includes garbage cans and furniture. A storm can throw just about anything around. The time to move this stuff is not in 50 mile an hour winds. I was treated to the very amusing sight of my neighbors in the middle of the storm chasing their garbage cans down the street and all the empty beer cans spilling out of them. Bring it in or tie it down is the name of the game.
  4. Only use as much light as you need. During Irene I developed and tested a new system for lighting I like a lot. I bought some fake tea lights before the storm. These are the kind restaurants are using in place of candles these days.  They last for 60 hours off one battery and are about a dollar each. I placed these in each room I needed to navigate and they gave off enough light to find the fridge or the potty, which is all you really need, but gave almost zero light out the windows.  Next to each tea light I also set a flashlight or something similar. If I needed more light it was at hand, but most of the time I did not. The only thing I did not have that I have had before and missed has a light on a headband. In a lights out situation these are wonderful. It like having all the lights on because everywhere you look, magically it is lit up. They are excellent to read with.
  5. Prioritize using resources. You should make a list of what to use first. For this hurricane I had lots of neat gadgets designed to bug out with I never touched. I had a propane cylinder lamp and stove for example that are still in their boxes. The reason for this is I had charcoal and my tea lamps. I could not move the charcoal if I had to leave, so I used that first. I did not need the lamps light, so again it is still in reserve. My cases of MREs are still sealed because I was still going through my fridge when the power came on. Eat the items that will go bad first as the fridge heats up.
  6. Plan for long term usage of built in resources.  When wife and I heard the hurricane was coming we started making ice. We filled plastic coffee cans half full with water and froze them, we kept making ice cubes and putting them in bags until the freezer was full of ice. Then, when the power went out, we transferred some over to the refrigerator side.  I am happy to say that after two days my fridge was still at the same temperature it was when the power went out and I still had cold drinks.  The same thought went into my water heater.  I installed an 80 gallon tank in my house for this situation. During Isabel I had at least luke warm water for 6 days off of a 40 gallon heater, this time I had hot water for the duration of the outage. If I had gotten a message that tap water was contaminated I could have shutoff the valve to the heater and had 80 gallons on tap as needed. This storage capacity is the number one reason I will never have a tankless water heater in my home. I also had the ice for water and I filled all tubs with water before the storm to make sure I had plenty of clean water on hand in addition to my emergency stores bladders I had bought for SHTF scenarios.
  7. Your car is a generator and a cold room. After a hurricane it gets very humid and hot. You will be doing physical exercise clearing debris in uncomfortable temperatures and heat related illness is possible. Start your car and run the AC and cool off while you have no power. It is quick and not obvious. Make sure if you do, you maximize the gas usage by charging all your battery-operated devices. An inverter is great for this. I have one that plugs into my cigarette lighter. [JWR Adds: As I've mentioned before in SurvivalBlog, direct DC-to-DC battery chargers (available from RV accessory vendors such as Camping World) are much more efficient that using a DC-to-AC Inverter to in turn operate an AC-to DC battery charger!] Make sure the tank is full before the storm and this method can last for a long time. 

Finally I want to mention the only item I did not have I wished I did. I wanted a kayak or something similar as a final backup. We had record flooding for Irene.  At one point I could have literally launched a kayak off my front porch and not stopped paddling until I reached England. Some form of ultra-stable boating device would have given me that extra sliver of peace of mind that if the flooding got too bad, I could still leave. I would have also liked some solar panel recharging devices and these have now moved up rather sharply on my too buy list.    
With the steps I outlined for you I could have held on in my home for at least a week comfortably. After a week I might have started to dip into my long term stores.  With my on hand emergency supplies I could have gone months more, but I like the fact that with a just a little operational security and forethought I built a buffer to keep me from consuming my emergency supplies. Rings of security are a great thing, if you keep quiet about them and don’t advertise them with a blatant display of consumption.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to hold out the welfare queens, whores, and drug dealers I used to rub elbows with as examples to be emulated. I do think though that when everyone is suddenly thrust to the edges of society, it is a good idea to steal a page or two from the people who have always been there.  Wherever you are today Miss Wanda I hope you are happy and doing fine because I am. Your Stickman learned his lessons well.

Mr. Rawles,
I'd like to offer a different review of "Contagion" from the one posted by Matt H. First off, I don't believe it would be wise to look for serious survival information in any [Hollywood] movie. We are talking about Hollyweird after all. Nevertheless there were parts of the film that examined what would happen in such a widespread crisis. One character alone witnessed a home invasion, looted businesses, sealed state borders and a local food riot. Another character, a health care professional, was kidnapped and held for a ransom of vaccine. A woman was trampled by stampeding people turned away in a pharmacy line. Then there was the CDC doctor's wife who was attacked in her own home. The desperate home invaders did some homework and found out where the medical insider lived and assumed he had vaccine. In others words, a personal OPSEC failure. Aren't these relevant issues we as preppers discuss on a regular basis?

Beyond that I also disagree with the statement that the film drones on and on. Far from it in my opinion. I found it quite tense as the characters scrambled against time, conflicting national interests, criminals and even a self-centered conspiracy blogger in the desperate  battle against a previously unknown virus. People are dying by the millions and there is no end in sight through most of the movie. I personally found it more frightening than any horror flick simply because the story is so plausible. In short I wholly recommend "Contagion" as a good way to spend a couple hours. Just don't forget your hand sanitizer. Sincerely, - Bill L.


Dear Mr. Rawles,
I rarely  disagree with anything posted on your blog, but I must disagree with Matt H. and his review of the movie "Contagion". My husband and I have been serious preppers for over 10 years and thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The filming was fantastic. The actors wonderful. We enjoyed the plot and the multiple characters were not hard for us to follow at all. We found the scientific research and the process of tracking a deadly virus to be interesting. My husband reached out for my hand and gave me a wink as we sat in the theatre and were reassured that we would be sufficiently prepared for a year long social distancing scenario. I thought it was odd that the cell phones and [grid] electricity were still operational. But, hey, it's a movie. And wouldn't it be nice to have communication and power if you are required to spend an extended amount of time with cranky kids? - Mama J.

The Bed Bunker gun vaults that you just reviewed can exceed the structural capabilities of most standard wood frame houses. By the time you combine the weights of a king or queen size safe, two adults, the mattress, the bed frame, the linens, and the contents of the safe, you could very quickly exceed one ton of weight or ~60 pounds per square foot for a queen bed (add another 10 to 14 pounds per square foot for the structure of the building). Most wood frame construction is designed for 40 pounds per square foot and allows for 25 to 30 pounds per square foot of room contents. The size, spacing, and unsupported length of the floor joists have a major impact on the strength of the structure. The Bed Bunker assembly could be 175%+ of the design limits - this could be extremely dangerous to install on second floors (where most bedrooms are located), especially in areas where earthquakes are a concern, unless the structure has been reinforced. - Dr. Richard

JWR Replies: As reader Jim in Montana e-mailed me to mention, Bed Bunker vaults actually put far less stress on a floor than a traditional upright gun vault. With a traditional safe, the "footprint" is only 1/3 the size, so the load per square foot is three times as great. He also said that he was told by the company's management that the Bed Bunker puts less of a load on a floor per square foot than a water bed or a full-size refrigerator. And, as reader Steve C. wrote me to point out, the Bed Bunker gun vaults do not rest on the bed frame but sit on the floor. The bed frame fits around the vault not on the bed. And if you put the vault directly on the floor without the screw-in legs, then the weight is very evenly distributed. Granted, even that might be too much for under-engineered (not up to code) floors, especially if you fill one of these vaults with ammunition. So if you have any doubts about shoddy house construction, then please consult a structural engineer before buying any type of gun safe, from any maker. But the bottom line is that a horizontal safe such as a Bed Bunker puts the least stress on a floor, and has the least likelihood of exceeding a home's structural capabilities.

The excellent five-minute ultralight flight "Patriots" locales video that I mentioned debuted last week has already had more than 3,600 views. It is available free, via YouTube. As I mentioned before, this gent's well-edited footage really captures the look and feel of some of the key locales in my novel. And in it you can see how pretty the Palouse Hills region is at harvest time. It is a High Definition (HD) video, so be sure to watch it at "full screen" size. Dan Fong lives!

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A reader in Gallup, New Mexico wrote to ask what type of knife sharpener I use. The answer is simple: In the field (for hunting and everyday ranch work) I carry an America Stone. In the kitchen, I use a fine grit (red) DMT diamond block that is molded in the shape of a 6" whetstone. In my experience, together those two types of sharpeners cover nearly all of my knife sharpening needs. BTW, I plan to get a few more America Stones, so that we'll have them handy in each of of our G.O.O.D kits and vehicle glove boxes.

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Cheryl sent this: New Swine Flu Virus Now Reported In Two U.S. States

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C.D.V. alerted us to this insanity: EPA declares hay a pollutant.

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J.J.H. sent a news story that shows the typical Eastern U.S. mentality: U.S. Court Rejects Challenge to State's Concealed Gun Law. The court's rationale was mind-boggling: "Quoting Marin, Judge Seibel said, 'The underlying activity of possessing or transporting an accessible and loaded weapon is itself dangerous and undesirable, regardless of the intent of the bearer since it may lead to the endangerment of public safety.' Marin also held that transporting a loaded weapon on a public street 'creates a volatile situation vulnerable to spontaneous lethal aggression in the event of road rage or any other disagreement or dispute.'" Spontaneous? Reallllly??? My gun will just leap out of its holster, all on its own? We don't seem to have that problem in my county, where nearly everyone carries at least one gun in their vehicle.

"Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." - Benjamin Franklin

Monday, September 12, 2011

One of my consulting clients recently bought several Bed Bunker gun vaults and I had the chance to examine them. This product is an unusual horizontal home gun vault design that replaces your bed's box springs. These vaults have two major advantages: 1.) They don't take up any more floor space than your current furniture, and 2.) They will probably be overlooked by most burglars that are in a hurry. (And statistics show that most burglars are in a hurry. Typically, they are in a house for less than five minutes. The bad guys can't attack a safe if they don't know that it is there.)

I was pleased to hear that these vaults are manufactured in Spokane, Washington. That minimizes the shipping costs for those who live in any of the American Redoubt States, and you can feel good that you'll "Buy American". In this case, you'll even "Buy Redoubt".

Bed Bunkers are built with welded 10 gauge steel in the body and a 1/4-inch thick inset steel door that weighs 140 pounds just by itself. The hinge side is backed by a very heavy flange that protects the vault against attacks where the hinges might be cut away. Because of the flange, that would be a huge waste of time for burglars. The basic unit (twin bed size) weighs about 650 pounds. The vault's pair of cylinder locks are a robust "bump proof" and relatively pick-proof lock variety with cylinders and keys that are made in Israel. These vaults have a two-hour house fire protection rating. At around $2,000, they are relatively expensive per cubic foot, compared to traditional upright gun safes. So I would mostly recommend them to families where space is at a premium. One of the vaults that I examined was a double vault where the two Bed Bunkers are bolted to a welded spacer, providing a platform for a king-size bed. The combined empty weight is 1,450 pounds, so it would be exceedingly difficult for burglars to tote that vault away.

The legs on these vaults have threaded attachments, with a very long adjustable length of travel. They can be screwed all the way in so that the vault nearly touches the floor. Or they can be completely removed, allowing you to bolt the vault to the floor, with lag bolts. For the greatest security, I recommend bolting your safe down. By attaching a long dust ruffle, you can make a Bed Bunker disappear from view. (Use a 14-inch dust ruffle if you don't use the vault legs.)

As with any other home security purchase, be sure to keep quiet about it. Do not mention to friends or relatives that you've bought a vault, and swear your kids to secrecy. Just remind them that if they blab about it, then a possible consequence is that burglars will steal a portion of their eventual inheritance. When burglars learn of a lucrative yet hard target, they'll probably come equipped with a cutting torch that can defeat even the best gun vault. So remember: Loose lips sink ships!

Lastly, be careful about where you leave your vault keys. Don't just put a vault key on your key ring. It is best to establish a well-hidden yet quickly-accessible place to store your vault keys. A fake electrical outlet box is one well-proven ruse. (Unless you live off grid, every room in your house probably has several outlets, so an extra one won't be noticed by all but the most sophisticated burglars.) Another good hiding place is a fake can of shave cream in the bathroom drawer.

Disclaimer (Per FTC File No. P034520): is not a SurvivalBlog advertiser. They have not solicited me or paid me to write any reviews or endorsements, nor have they provided me any free or reduced-price merchandise in exchange for any reviews or endorsements. I am not a stock holder in any company.

For those looking to relocate to the American Redoubt, I just got word of some job opportunities at a family-owned and operated woodstove company in Troy, Montana:

Are you looking for a way out of city life but can't find a well paying job in a remote area?
Montana based Obadiah's Woodstoves has openings for secretary, bookkeeper, web site design, SEO maintenance and possibly inside sales.
We are also looking for a future manager to oversee operations.
If your looking to live and work near beautiful Glacier National Park in Northwestern Montana, for a honest rapidly growing company focused on serving others, then send us your resume:
We will help you find proper land, or housing based on your needs. Temporary quarters are available during 30 day trial/probation period.
Must love the great outdoors and not mind extreme cold temperatures (-50, rarely), deep snow, bears, wolves and mountain lions, in exchange for, no crime, police or sales tax and a few friendly, like-minded neighbors.
If you're not tough, survival minded, you will never make it here, so the faint of heart and dreamers, need not apply.
Chemically Sensitive? Our office is a non smoking, fragrance/chemical free environment, no perfumes, or chemicals allowed, just pure fresh mountain air. (Leave your "Tide" at home please!)

Jim and SurvivalBloggers:
If you are looking for some hard hitting survival techniques skip the recently-released movie Contagion. There are no real disasters is this disaster movie. The real message here is wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands, and they drone on and on how the virus spreads. A good half of the movie is finding the source. I found myself envying the test monkeys because they were dropping dead and no longer had to watch this stinker. The power, water, Internet and cell all stayed on throughout the story, why they even had a dance. They brought in far too many characters into the plot, and jumped all over the globe, so you couldn't follow any one person.

If you liked the trailer, then you saw the best bits of this film. It is typical of Hollywood to treat moviegoers like small children and force a wash your hands message until we are sick of it. Pass it along maybe the real contagion is to not to see it. - Matt H .

Dear Mr. Rawles,
 I have just one brief addition to Dr. Bob’s excellent synopsis of the dangers of anthrax regarding treatment/prevention with antibiotics. First, I must commend Dr. Bob on all of his important advice, and for his courage to offer a much needed service (the prescribing of antibiotics in advance of need) in this highly litigious society.
Understanding that in TEOTWAWKI our current risk:benefit analysis will be drastically changed, and short-course antibiotic therapy may be all that is available to us, I felt compelled to mention the current CDC recommendations regarding duration of therapy. Antibiotic use in inhaled anthrax is slightly different in prophylaxis (prevention of the disease in those who have been exposed, but are yet to display symptoms) and in treatment (those who have already begun the flu-like symptoms described by Dr. Bob).
The adult prophylactic regimen recommended consists of oral ciprofloxacin 500mg twice daily or oral doxycycline 100mg twice daily taken for 60 days.  For treatment of anthrax, either of the two above agents should be started via intravenous administration (cipro dose is 400mg twice daily, doxy dose is the same as oral) in combination with another intravenous agent, such as clindamycin 900mg every 8 hours. As the patient’s condition improves, the oral route of administration may be substituted, and it may be possible to discontinue the additional antibiotic (in this example, clindamycin). Again, the total therapy should be continued for 60 days. Other antibiotic combinations are recommended as alternatives, but these are the most commonly cited and are available generically, that is, they are affordable.
Obviously, intravenous administration will be impossible for most folks if the Schumer hits the fan, so we may have to do the best we can with oral administration – which should stand a decent chance of success if the patient is well enough to swallow and has a functional gut, as most of these drugs are well-absorbed from the GI tract. The uncommonly long duration of therapy is a function of the life cycle of Bacillus anthracis, the causative organism of anthrax. The inhaled spores typically germinate into the toxin-producing bacterium within 7 days; however, some take longer. I am not an infectious disease specialist, nor a medical microbiologist, but I suspect that the 60 day antibiotic recommendation is a bit on the safe side. If the emergency need arises and organized health care is not available, any duration of antibiotic therapy beyond 7 days would certainly be better than nothing. The committed prepper should, however, be aware of the possible need for considerably more antibiotics than the typical 7-10 day course of therapy would call for.
Again, many thanks to Dr. Bob for his frequent contributions to SurvivalBlog! - S.H. in Georgia

A reader in New Hampshire wrote to ask for my near-term economic predictions. Here they are, in a nutshell: Major turmoil in global credit markets will continue. Greece will require a huge, painful bailout.The credit pool is presently near collapse, and desperate attempts will be made to re-liquify the system. This means Trillions of new dollars, again created out of thin air, by Ben Bernanke's legerdemain. The job and real estate markets will continue to deteriorate. Taxes and "fees" will be squeezed out of us turnips, by clever new artifices. Currency inflation will become an all to obvious (and popular) alternative form of taxation, in all of the developed countries. The cost of living will become painful. There will be some spectacular defaults, including some municipal bonds. Several large hedge funds are likely to go under, as derivative counter-party risk skyrockets. There will be some brokerage house problems as well, possibly requiring yet another expensive bailout. Precious metals will continue in bull market trends, but will become even more volatile, with $300 daily swings in gold becoming commonplace. There will be some huge scares in the metals markets, when margin requirements are raised to absurd levels on futures contracts. But the lights will stay on and the supermarkets shelves will still stay stocked. Probably.

Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large) sent the link to a fascinating web site: Priced In Gold. Mike quotes an e-mail from a friend about the site: "Good charts, and pretty interesting. For example, when the Federal minimum wage was introduced in 1938, at $0.25/hr, it was 222mgAu/hr. Now, despite being $7.25/hr, the minimum wage is only 127mgAu/hr. Or, in terms of what the Feds think is a minimum wage, they're admitting that they've inflated the currency by a factor of more than 50, relative to gold." And Mike pointedly provides another way of looking at this: "They've depreciated our buying power by almost 50%."

K.A.F. sent this alarming news of potential chaos from Greece: Country in a state of emergency.

Marc Faber Says Gold Is “Dirt Cheap” & The Price Could Reach $10,000 Per Ounce

Items from The Economatrix:

Consumer Borrowing Up for 10th Straight Month

WikiLeaks Discloses the Reason(s) Behind China's Shadow Gold-Buying Spree

False Comparison to 2008

When the China Bubble Bursts

K.A.F. flagged this: Antique Apples Getting a New Life.

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For those living in or near Denver, there is a Self Reliance Expo scheduled for September 16th and 17th. They will have a lot of great exhibitors. SurvivalBlog will have a staffer there walking the show floor, to do a write-up. One of the exhibitors at the expo will be a new company called Pantry Paratus. Their web store will soon be launched. They have a great line of preparedness products, with an emphasis on do-it-yourself food processing and storage. Their broad line of products includes a great selection of self-sufficiency books, Berkey water filters, Wondermills (both hand and electric), Excalibur Dehydrators, All-American Pressure Canners, and Tattler re-useable canning lids. Be sure to drop by their booth. Oh, and speaking of Tattler, they will also be an exhibitor there. Another SurvivalBlog advertiser there will be: Shelf Reliance.

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Tactical Intelligence rates the Top 10 Most Influential Survival and Preparedness Blogs.

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K.A.F. flagged some more Nanny State insanity: Disarming the Toy Gun Menace.

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A friend in Japan wrote to give the gist of the narration in a March 11, 2011: Japanese tsunami video that I linked to last week. He explained: "In this video, the driver was very lucky. His car was knocked into a kind of storage facility, and he got out and managed to get to the top of the building along with the other workers there. The car was obviously abandoned, but the camera was retrieved after the water had retreated. So he was in the car while this was filming."

"Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons." - General Douglas MacArthur

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Today marks 10th anniversary of 9-11-2001. We have not forgotten the nearly 3,000 lives that were taken by Islamic terrorists. Please remember the families of the victims in your prayers..

Soon after 9/11/01 our nation launched what some have dubbed the Global War On a Noun. We can never win a war against a tactic. We need to have a defined enemy. Unfortunately, too few in Washington D.C. have the requisite fortitude to close our borders to radical Islamists and to expel those of them who are already here. Sadly, I believe that won't happen until after a couple of terrorists nukes or dirty bombs are detonated in American cities, most likely on the same day. That will be our reward for playing by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules and trying to be "The Nice Guys."


Today we present another entry for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Unfortunately, mass casualty incidents have become more and more frequent both worldwide and here in the U.S.  A mass casualty incident takes on several names with suicide bombing, active shooter, and multi-prong attacks being the most common.  The primary goal of all of these incidents is the same: kill and maim as many people as possible while maximizing fear and chaos.

Before I go in to the details of this article, I need to provide a precursor.  I will be providing details on how you can respond as well as awareness to avoid and/or prevent being a victim of such an incident.  I learned these things through being involved in law enforcement for the past several years and being exposed to some top-notch training opportunities.  However, I am not revealing any kind secret or sensitive information.  Anything I am providing in this article is available through a variety of open sources, especially the Internet.  I am just putting it all in one convenient place.

Situational Awareness is the First Step
Situational awareness needs to become second nature for all of us.  When I walk into a place, especially someplace new, I look for three specific things:

  • Escape Routes
  • Improvised Weapons
  • Cover

Escape routes are first and foremost as the Nike Defense [running away] may be your best defense.  Even if you have your CCW permit and are carrying a weapon, it may be in your best interest to evacuate immediately, especially if your family is with you.  To quickly disseminate escape routes, look for exit signs, stairwells and the evacuation route signs that are commonly posted near the primary entrance/exit of most businesses and/or individual rooms in a building.

Unfortunately, even if you are a law-abiding citizen with a CCW permit, there are many places that you cannot legally carry a gun.  The other unfortunate outcome of not being allowed to be legally armed in a certain area is that attackers view these areas as “target-rich environments.”  One thing you can do is to always be on the lookout for improvised weapons.  One of my favorite improvised weapons to find when I go into a room or building is a fire extinguisher.  My motto is “spray ‘em with the white stuff and hit ‘em with the red thing.”  Also, be on the lookout for any kind of impact weapon or one that you can stab and slash with.

Non-improvised weapons that can commonly be carried where guns are not allowed are pepper spray, flashlights, especially the small metal ones that have the serrated edges on the end, and/or some kind of impact weapon such as a telescoping baton.  Another great impact weapon that has a tendency to “fly under the radar” is the travel wrench that was invented by Martial Arts expert Kelly Worden.  Edged weapons are also an option and one only needs to look at the clips that readily visible on the outside of pants pockets no matter where you go to know that there are a plethora of knives being carried every day.

Now, if you feel that you must and/or are forced to counter-attack the attacker(s), there are three things that you can do to maximize your potential for success.  First, always seek a position of advantage.  Being able to ambush your attacker from the side or behind is almost always the best approach.  Second, attack him when he is most vulnerable.  This is usually when he is reloading, trying to fix a weapon malfunction or focused on other targets away from you.  Third, there really is strength in numbers.  If there are 2 or 3 of you, have a plan ahead of time and decide what each person is going to do.  Several years ago, a man was shooting at the White House while walking down the roadway.  Two citizens who did not know each other quickly formulated a plan that one would hit the shooter high and the other one would hit him low.  When the shooter stopped to reload, they took him to the ground without being injured themselves.

The third part of situational awareness is recognizing and understanding cover.  You need to know what you can hide behind that will stop bullets and/or shrapnel.  One of the first things that many people think of as cover is doors.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  I know of several cases where law enforcement officers and civilians have been shot through doors, even the heavier doors that are on the front of houses and apartments.  Instead of just relying on a single thing, such as a door, think of layering.  You put multiple thick, heavy barriers between you and the threat.

Another advantage that cover gives you is a better platform in which you can effectively return fire if you have a gun and choose to do so.  A great place to use for cover is the corner of a hallway, a recessed doorway and/or a door frame.  Think about how these three areas in particular are constructed: usually heavy wood, steel, concrete and/or cement blocks.

Using proper techniques in the use of cover will help you to maximize the cover available in these areas.   The techniques that I am specifically talking about are slicing the pie and using dropouts.  An actual description of how these techniques are performed is beyond the scope of this article and there are multiple ways to do them.  I encourage each of you to seek quality training if you choose to carry a firearm and find one that teaches these techniques as well. 

Dealing with Suicide Bombers
Another method of attack that is common in mass casualty incidents is the suicide bomber.  These attacks are common in several parts of the world and the 9/11 attacks were a form of suicide bombing.  There was also an attack that was thwarted by the NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit in 1996.  If you want to learn more about this planned attack you can do a web search on the phrase “Jihad in Brooklyn”.

The reason I bring up suicide bombers is to try to provide each of you an awareness of some things to look for.  A few of the common traits are as follows:

  • Clothing that does not match the weather; specifically heavy coats or clothing in warm weather
  • Backpacks, satchels or other bag that seems heavy/overloaded, especially if you hear the sounds of metal clanking
  • Someone walking around in a zombie-like stare and is oblivious to what’s going on around him.  This person seems very focused, almost as if on a mission
  • A person who’s in that zombie-like state previously mentioned and they are now talking to them self in a low tone.  It’s possible that this person is building up their courage to follow through and/or repeating set prayers just before the attack
  • Someone who’s pale, sweaty or stuttering, as if they are extremely nervous
  • Someone who has covered themselves with massive amounts of cologne.  Many suicide bombers spend the night before their mission repeatedly bathing and applying cologne to prepare themselves to meet their virgins in paradise

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of traits and I encourage each of you to research this subject more.  Also, just because you see one or two of these traits in a single person, it doesn’t mean that this person is an immediate threat.  However, if I see several of these indicators in a person, I am getting my family and myself out of the area immediately.  Then I am calling 911 with a specific description of the person and his location.

When dealing with the possibility of suicide bomber attacks, you need to keep in mind that even a small backpack bomb or suicide vest can be lethal out to several hundred feet.  Knowing escape routes and how to recognize/use effective cover is a must. 

Also, remember the "Plus-1" rule when dealing with attackers in a mass casualty incident.  Where there is one, always expect there to be at least one more.  This applies to avenues of escape as well as where the primary attack occurs.  It’s not uncommon for there to be secondary attackers and/or bombs that are meant to kill and maim first responders and those who survived the initial attack.  If my family and I are in an area where an incident like this occurs, once we escape the primary area then we are getting clear of the area immediately around it, especially parking lots, as quickly as possible.  We can come back later to get our vehicle or any purchases.

The End Result
Please don’t think that I am encouraging any of you to actively respond to an attacker during such an incident.  There is a lot that could go wrong for you if you choose to do so with being shot by responding police officers if you have a gun out as the primary thing that could go bad for you quickly.  Have a plan ahead of time of what you would do and reasons that you would choose to respond during such an incident.  This includes how best to deal with law enforcement once they arrive.  Quality firearms and CCW classes should address this issue specifically.

I am, however, encouraging each of you to take an active role in your situational awareness and in preparing yourself and your family to deal with such an incident.

I pray for God’s Blessing on each and every one of you!

Dear JWR:
Fearing confiscations of the more "controversial" VZ-58 clones that have hit the Canadian market, I recently sold one and am actively trying to sell another.  Not wanting to sell the thousands of rounds of 7.62x39 Czech surplus ammunition I have for them, I have been giving very serious consideration to procuring one (or several) SKSs as a replacement.

To be clear, I don't think the SKS is the best choice for a primary rifle.  For me personally, that honour belongs to the AR-15 in .223 (even if, as required by Canadian law, mags must be pinned to 5 and a permit is needed to transport it, and even then only to a designated shooting range) for tactical purposes, and the Marlin XL7 in .308 for sporting purposes.  That said, I believe the SKS is an excellent well rounded choice, especially within the Canadian market given the sticky situation with Canadian laws.

Unfortunately, under Canada's draconian gun laws, the specter of gun confiscations is always present.  In lieu of massive confiscations in the 1990s, the growing trend in government gun confiscations has been to confiscate and strictly reclassify guns with the few owners, as there are fewer dissenting voices to protest the blatant government thievery.  At recently as last year, approximately 30 owners of Norinco Type 97 bullpup carbines had their guns confiscated by the government at the behest of the national police.
Marstar Canada, a prominent name in the Canadian firearms industry, recently imported and started distributing a huge shipment of military surplus, Norinco Type 56 SKS carbines (believed to be in the thousands of rifles).  Various makes and models of the SKS have been on the Canadian market for years and the price point has seen to it that it is commonly owned among those with a firearms license.  The newly imported shipment by Marstar has caused a lot of dealers to offer very good deals for them.
Being classified as a Non-Restricted firearm, the SKS has the fewest regulations associated with ownership, transport, storage, and operation.  This coming fall, it is a near certainty the ruling Conservative Party will succeed to abolish the hated long gun registry, meaning there is a very good chance (although not a certainty) that the SKS will no longer be required to be registered with the national police.
The going price for an SKS in Canada ranges from CAD$150 to CAD$300, making it a very good value that is probably the most secure choice against government confiscation.  I highly encourage your Canadian readers to consider procuring one, or perhaps ten.  

Personally, I think these rifles will be a very good hedge on inflation and if TSHTF, they will have enormous bartering potential. - Mr. X

Hi Jim,

Just bought a bunch of these 'underwater' solar floodlights, from Northern Tool:

Sunforce Solar Powered Underwater LED Floodlight, Item# 121178

They are very bright for a single LED and they will stay on until dawn if they get a full day's charge. The light is more of a spot light and is better than most flashlights being able to light up over 60 feet away fairly well.

These are great for low maintenance perimeter lighting and [unlike typical solar pathway lights,] are waterproof. Their batteries are NiMH AA cells and are replaceable. The lights plug into the panel with a standard DC barrel connector. They have both stake and screw mounts for all sorts of mounting options.

They are currently on clearance for $19 and won't last long. They are a great deal at this price. - SBReader

For those who look for scriptural foreshadowing of modern events, Matt B. sent a link to a PDF over at Steve Quayle's site: The Watchmen, 911 and the Harbingers

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Authorities Confirm Gun Found in Arizona Is Third at U.S. Crime Scene Tied to ATF's 'Fast and Furious'. And in related news: Gunwalker Explodes into the Heartland. (A hat tip to K.A.F. for the links.)

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Spare me the Political Correctness, just give me the facts: Pearl Harbor's New ‘Vision’.

   o o o (that also does business as is giving a $15 discount towards any antenna order to all newly-licensed ham radio operators that earn their call sign between July 1st and the end of 2011. This offer ends on January 31st, 2012.

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And just for giggles: Boxercising Earthquake. (Thanks to Keeley for the link.)

"Cursed [be] he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person. And all the people shall say, Amen." - Deuteronomy 27:2. (KJV)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

We don’t have a lot of money, however with everything that is happening in the world today and all of the signs yelling in my face that I better get ready or face not being able to feed my family of 6, I started prepping.  I have taken a class at our local community college on the subject and learned a lot of very useful information.  However I didn’t stop there.  I sought out and purchased numerous books that are on the book list here at Survival Blog and did some extensive research on the subject.  Just recently I decided to write my story to share with others because I noticed that most people are purchasing their food storage items from different food storage companies and while we don’t have the money to be able to do that, I have still been able to help get my family better prepared for WTSHTF.

The first thing that I did was invest in two pigs, one of which we've already butchered, which was quite a learning experience.  I purchased what I was told was eight hens, and ended up with six hens and two roosters.  Which is fine because without roosters you can’t get more chickens unless you purchase them and WTSHTF we will not have that as an option.  I also purchased 8 goats of different breeds, six of which have died for undetermined reasons. This left me with just one male and one female.  While the death of most of my goats was a great inconvenience, I would much rather it happens now while I am able to easily replace them.  The pig that I still have is currently pregnant and is due to give birth the 1st week of October, and I have made the arrangements with a local farmer to trade one of her babies straight across for one of his males that have not been altered for breeding purposes.  With us taking these steps now, we have been able to practice butchering the animals and will have a consistent supply of fresh meat therefore taking that out of the list of things that we will need.  One thing to keep in mind when it comes to any type of livestock is that you do not need to stock up on commercial wormers and things of that nature.  Do your research and you will find out what you can use as a natural means to take care of these issues.  An example is that cantaloupe is a natural wormer for goats and pigs.  I just cut one up and feed it to them and they love it.  Also after you are done with your garden at the end of the year, don’t just leave what is left to rot or till into the ground.  You can chop up most of the stocks and use it as food for your animals.  The corn stocks are good for chickens and pig, and the list goes on and on.  Once you are done with that, just let the goats lose in your garden and they will do the rest of the cleanup for you while also fertilize the ground for next year.

Most of what we have in our food storage is done at home by me.  I can, dehydrate, and preserve almost all of the food in our storage.  There are numerous things that you can do yourself that will save you money instead of purchasing it from a food storage company, not only that you will know what is in it and can alter the ingredients to suit your family.  Today for example, I have way too many eggs in my fridge and instead of letting them go bad, I am making egg powder with the extra’s and adding it to my food storage.  To make homemade egg powder, you put the eggs in a mixing bowl, do not add milk or grease to your frying pan, and then fry them up in your frying pan, just like making scrambled eggs, but without the grease.  Once this step is complete, you put the eggs on a cookie sheet in a single layer and then put them in the oven at 135 degrees for about 10 hours.  I prefer to use the food dehydrator to do this since it takes less electricity and does not heat my house while it is getting done.  Once your eggs are completely dry and brittle, place them in a blender and blend them into a fine powder.  To store them, I use an old jelly jar that I cleaned when it was empty and then pour the egg powder into that and then place an oxygen absorber on top, seal the lid and then label it with the date and what it is and the reconstituting information.  To reconstitute powder eggs is simple, 2 T. is the same as 1 egg, mix the 2 T. with 4 T. of water and then use as you would a fresh egg. 

|The wheat that we buy for our food storage is purchased from the feed store that we currently get our animal food from.  I took the label off of a bag of wheat and called the company and asked them what the difference was between what they sell and what I can get at the store.  The guy that I spoke to explained to me that farmer’s do not decided what field they plant is going to be for human’s and what is going to be for animal’s and the only difference is that what is bought at the store goes through another [screening] cleaning step that can be done at home.  What I do is, I have an old window screen, take the wheat out of the bag and then shake it around on the screen on a breezy day. I would not suggest doing this on a windy day as it will blow away a big portion of the wheat, but on a breezy day, it is just enough to help blow away the extra dirt or left over shells that were not completely removed.  Once I am done with this, I store it in a food grade bucket that I get for free from a local fast food owner. 

The point that I am trying to get across is that you do not have to buy everything that you will need for food storage from a company, there are many things that you can do at home and then you will also be able to do it without everyone and their brother knowing what you are doing.  I can’t express enough to do your research before you begin and do not listen to everything that you hear.  I was once told that there is no way of preserving cantaloupe and I didn’t listen, did my research and found a great recipe for cantaloupe preserves that my family loves.

When it comes to water storage, we buy all of our soda and juices in the plastic containers and then when they are empty, I wash them out, sanitize them, and then refill the containers with water.  Do not do this with milk type containers as the jugs are now made to naturally decompose and when you need to use the water that you stored, you do not want to find out a minute to late that the containers have started decomposing and all of your water is now on the ground.  I go out every six months and dump the water in the garden area and refill the containers with fresh water so that I know that it has not gone bad.  When you store your water you want to keep it in a dark area, what I did for this was, I got an upright freezer that no longer works and store my water in that, it stays dark all the time except when I am adding more jugs or changing the water in the jugs.  People will give you these old none working freezers and fridges for free, you just have to look for them.  I also like using this method because I don’t have to worry about stray animals getting into them and doing their business on my containers.  Also WTSHTF and they start to get empty from using the water these containers will be used as containers for gardening, this will allow me to plant more crops without the worry of small animals getting them before we have a chance to eat what is grown.  It also is a way to grow more without others not in our group knowing what is in there, from afar it will just look like an old appliance.

With the money that we save on our food storage, I go to the local thrift stores and seek out other items that we will need.  I have purchased wheat grinders, meat grinders, and none electric items that would be useful and some that will be just nice to have.  One of the items that I purchased was a hand crack ice-cream maker.  Now if there is no electricity then you are wondering how I have going to use it, well when we hit freezing temperatures outside I can make ice that way and it will be a nice treat to the kids.  The one thing with kids is that they don’t care how cold it is outside, they just know that they like ice-cream.  I have saved so much money by going to the thrift stores and buying the items that people don’t want because they can get the new and improved version that takes less work.  These are the items that I want and use.  I have gotten 2 dehydrators from the thrift store and am able to dry twice as much in one shot.  Always remember that someone else’s trash can be your new treasure and can make life so much easier WTSHTF.

You also do not need to purchase heirloom seeds from a manufacturing company, I get mine from an organic farmer that has a roadside stand that only grows and sells heirloom varieties.  I purchase my produce from them and then preserve what I buy and then save the seeds for storage.  It is cheaper this way because I am cutting out the third party.  Just make sure that the farmer that you are getting these from is a reputable farmer and is not just saying that they are heirloom when they are not.  Again, do your research. 

Soap is one of my favorites.  I e-mail the company that sells Fels-Naptha and Borax and they will send you coupons in the mail, I then take these coupons to Wal-Mart and purchase these items as well as Arm and Hammer super washing soda.  Do not get the regular baking soda as it does not work the same, you need super washing soda.  I make our laundry soap and this soap is also good for washing dishes.  I have stocked up on enough ingredients to make two years worth of soap for laundry and dishes for under $10.  To make the soap you need, 1 bar of fels-naptha, 1 cup Arm and Hammer super washing soda, and ½ cup borax.  In a large pot boil 4 cups of water and grate the fels-naptha soap into it.  Mix it until the fels-naptha is completely dissolved.  Then place this mixture into a 5 gallon bucket and add the remaining ingredients.  Stir until everything is mixed together and then fill the bucket the rest of the way with hot tap water.  Let sit overnight and the soap will gel.  When you need to use it, stir the soap in the bucket and dilute half soap and half tap water in an old laundry container.  Shake to mix prior to every use.

I also save money when it comes to personal hygiene items.  Do not overlook the fact that you will need soap, shampoo, toothpaste and brushes, and so on.  I get most of these items for free or for fewer than 50 cents apiece.  I am able to do this because I jumped on the coupon bandwagon and do my research prior to going to the store.  There are many web sites that have already done the research for you if you do not have the time to do it yourself.  An example of one that I use is  When I purchase toilet paper for the house I get the bigger package and then take a few rolls out and repackage them in old plastic bags from the store and then put them up.  It is cheaper to get the bigger package and put some away for storage then it is to get the package for your house and then another for storage.  The plastic grocery bags will be used in other areas such as trash bags WTSHTF.  Always look at prices of things and try to think outside of the box when it comes to storage.  Everything has a use, don’t overlook this and think that you need to throw away things because there is nothing that they are good for.  Look around and you can probably think of something.  WTSHTF, we will need trash bags, but I am not going to stock up on them when I save the grocery bags that I get at the store for free package other items in them now and then have them with I need them.

We have four children and WTSHTF, I feel that they will be affected more than us adults will be.  What I am doing to help them during this time, is, I buy small cheap toys, coloring books, and reading books for them that are a part of our storage.  The toys that I buy are ones that do not take batteries that have been clearance out during the year and at the big clearance sales after Christmas.  I plan on using these items as birthday and Christmas presents for my kids.  This will better enable them to adapt to the new way of life as we will know it without then having to give up on everything as they know it.  They will still have these special times of the year to look forward to and will also give them a sense of normalcy in a time that will not be normal to our current way of life.

As a final thought, I would like to say, that while there are easier ways of preparing, don’t let not having the money stop you from getting ready for a time that I believe is fast approaching and is inevitable.  Think outside the box and make use of the Internet for some of your research.  Just remember that if you research things on the internet, you write down the steps of how to do whatever it is that you are looking at.  Don’t rely on your memory since WTSHTF, we will all be living life much different than we do now and it is better to have a written copy of something then try to remember something when life is already going to stressful enough.  Good Luck to everyone.

Anthrax is a good, scary topic that deserves a brief review.  There are three ways you can get anthrax:  cutaneous, inhalation, and alimentary.  Cutaneous anthrax is by far the most common type, often associated with farming and ranching.  The spores get into the skin through cuts or scrapes and then multiply locally.  The disease begins with a very small pimple that quickly enlarges and often blisters.  It the erodes and leaves and painless necrotic ulcer with a black covering.  The surrounding tissue swells up due to the toxin released by the bacteria and lymph node swelling and pain can occur.  Symptoms of fever, malaise, and headache can occur.  Fatality from cutaneous anthrax is very rare with antibiotic treatment and is quoted at less than 1 percent.  Without treatment though, mortality can be as high as 1/5 infections.  Treatment will be described below after reviewing the other types of anthrax infection.

Inhalation of anthrax can cause a much more serious infection, which is obvious.  Animal products contaminated with anthrax can aerosolize and then be inhaled.  Also, terrorist or government attacks with anthrax will do the same thing on a much grander scale.  The first symptoms of inhalation anthrax mimic influenza, and can be tough to diagnose without a clue as to the possible source.  After the initial symptoms, rapid multiplication of bacteria and the subsequent release of toxin occurs.  This can cause necrotic pneumonia and death.  The key is treating anthrax early in the initial stage, rather than later when it is likely to do no good.  Most inhalation anthrax is fatal, without a known exposure and high suspicion to treat, the rate is over 90%.

Lastly, you can actually ingest anthrax from undercooked, infected meat.  Why you would eat uncooked, infected meat is beyond comprehension.  It happens though.  The spores can then infect any of the tissues from “tip to tail” as commonly said.  GI infection is more common than mouth and throat infection, and the symptoms range from gastroenteritis-like illness to full blown liver failure and low blood pressures.  Mortality is higher with oral infection, even with treatment it can be up to 60 percent.  GI infection mortality is as low as 4% with treatment.  Higher without, obviously.  All forms can end up causing anthrax meningitis and the survival from brain involvement is about 6 percent.

Diagnosis of anthrax now is hard…WTSHTF it will be impossible.  There will be no cultures and lab confirmations.  Suspicion will be the best you can go on.  Obviously, when working around animals it is best to wear a dust mask or bandana to prevent inhalation.  Cook your meat and of course don’t eat diseased animals.  Cutaneous anthrax is the most likely cause now and will be even  more so when there are more people going “back to the land”, especially those unfamiliar with animals and farming.  Classic anthrax skin lesions are found here and here for your oogling.  On suspicion of an anthrax infection, treatment needs to be aggressive and early.

Treatment for anthrax infection is pretty simple:  antibiotics that will likely kill it.  These include ciprofloxacin, Doxycycline, tetracycline, clindamycin, clarithromycin, rifampin, vancomycin, imipenem, and chloramphenicol.  Most of the recommendations include testing for sensitivity, again, not available at TEOTWAWKI.  Best recommendations are ciprofloxacin 500 mg twice daily or Doxycycline 100 mg twice daily; both for at least 7 days if not 10 days.  Luckily, Doxycycline and ciprofloxacin are currently readily available and very affordable with a prescription.

So, that is my brief anthrax review for you.  Questions and suggestions are always welcome. We regularly edit our posts with smart reader information and are grateful to have it.  Always feel free to e-mail us at with suggestions for future topics, as well.  Stay strong.

JWR Adds:
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:

Dear Jim

Yesterday at about 4:00 p.m. there was a massive power outage in the southwest. All of San Diego County And other parts of Southern California were without power for almost 12 hours some still are.

I learned a few very good lessons from this experience. I do consider myself a prepper but am limited to how much I can store because I live in an apartment. I had concentrated on food, water, and defense measures for the long run, but had completely ignored some more immediate short term supplies.

First and foremost, I overlooked cash. I have been buying silver but bartering wasn't necessary yet because this crisis didn't last that long. I know some people think ATM's have a "magic" power source but they don't. Every single one I went to was not working, and convenience stores were cash only. They did have great deals on ice cream 2 for 1.

I forgot to mention this power outage was in the middle of a heat wave. Southern California as you know is a desert with all of its water coming from other places. This outage happened because of one worker who removed a safety device in Arizona. That is what the news is saying, anyway. Another key element I missed was lighting and batteries. We had some candles but I don't like using them because I have a four year old who thinks that they would be fun to play with. I couldn't buy batteries because I had no cash. A friend gave us some batteries and we were able to listen to the news. We have some several media devices in our home that became very expensive paperweights last night. We did still have water but they had issued "boil water" orders for several cities. Remember that this whole deal lasted only several hours. Imagine if this outage had lasted for several more days.

One piece of technology we did have was a Verizon mi/fi wireless card, which was great until it ran out of power. We were able to surf the net and find out news, and go on Amazon to complete our emergency kit. A lot of people who like to run their cars all the way to empty found themselves sleeping at a gas station and some almost spent the night on the freeway. Keep your tanks full or at least enough to sit in traffic for a few hours. Headlamps were another thing we ordered they make life a lot easier than having to tote around a big flash light. We ordered a new radio that can be solar charged.

I don't believe there was any sort massive criminal activity just some people stealing liquor. San Diego is a very conservative city and with one of the cities with the largest veteran populations per capita. Civil unrest would be a bad idea. Our local nuclear power plant went offline because of what happened in Arizona. Our grid is very fragile and one person in another state was responsible for millions losing power, and it was an accident. Imagine what could happen if there was an intentional attack.

I learned that your frozen foods will be alright in the freezer if it is full [and kept closed]. Luckily we had just gone shopping and didn't have to throw anything away. Yesterday most of us in San Diego County were taken back to [the technological level of] the 1930s with the exception of a few Blackberries and other media devices. Had this lasted any longer those devices would have died.

In conclusion don't forget that not all scenarios are TEOTWAWKI situations and don't overlook the small stuff you keep putting off buying. It was the cheapest and easiest to get comforts that would have all the difference in the world. - C.R.


You called it. I can’t find the post at the moment, but I believe that you raised this issue recently. I was on the University of California San Diego (UCSD) campus when we lost power yesterday along with the rest of San Diego County. The electric eye-activated toilets and urinals in the new buildings were all nonfunctional, whereas the older models (with actual handles) in place in the older buildings worked fine. Exclusively installing toilets that don’t function without electricity in new buildings just seems like a bad idea. Thanks, - Robert B.


James Wesley:
Well, I finished my preps at the mountain retreat about a month ago (I fine-tune little things, but the bulk is done.)  And with the roller-coaster ride of the stock market, the Fed debasing our currency, one natural disaster after another, and everything else, I find myself resigned to the fact that something big is coming.  So I am growing slightly impatient.  I mean, this slow grind down is killing me.  I wish things would either get dramatically better, or just collapse already. 

Then something interesting happened at 3:38 PM on September 8, 2011.  My wife, our tenant and I were about to walk out the door to get a late-lunch / early dinner.  All the sudden all the lights went out (We live in Southern California.).  I immediately looked down at my cell phone.  It was still on.  I looked out the window and cars were still going by.  Okay, no EMP.  I assumed it was just a neighborhood blackout.  The little lady walked to the next property over to check on the preschool we run.  As she was making sure they were okay (they were), I hoped in my truck to run an errand or two.  The radio began to announce all the areas that were experiencing power outages.  In less than 5 minutes I was able to determine this outage was huge. 

I walked next door to the preschool.  All was well there.  The wife had set up a radio, and had had the same realization as I.  Since the facility closes at 6 PM, and it was now 4 PM, we only had about 10-to-12 kids left to go home. 

One note of interest was the fact that we had radio information, as did the entire county.  This made a big difference in how we (and the county as a whole) handled this situation.

I said to my wife that I wanted to go ahead and travel to the retreat after all of the children and staff were off property.  My lovely bride said, “I don’t want to leave the school.  It’s all I have.  You can go to the cabin if you want.” (She has owned and operated our main facility for 33 years.)  I explained to her that I meant after the children and staff had safely departed. 

Her statement put me in an awkward position.  Do I stay behind and pass on a great opportunity to do a dry run?  I really would like to see how well the battery-backed solar at the cabin worked with the grid down.  Not to mention the fact that while things seem reasonably calm at the moment, what if things spiraled and got worse? 

Or do I go ahead and go alone and be a jerk that leaves his wife behind? 

I went out back to freshen the chicken’s water, while thinking about what to do.  Fortunately when I returned, she had reconsidered. 

So once the children were gone, the last staff member informed me that she was a little worried.  She had enough gas to get home under normal circumstances.  But if she got caught in traffic, she was afraid she might run out on the road (most gas stations were down because no power equals no pumps).  Because my wife and I both had 75% full tanks in each of our vehicles (we fill up at 50%), I was able to give her two gallons of the ten gallons spare I had on the property.      

My tribe engineer had been in touch during this.  He decided to head up to the retreat as a dry run, as well. 

As I was casually packing the wife’s suburban for travel, my neighbor and favorite employee called me.  She informed me that the grocery store that was still open was getting cleared out (they had a back-up generator).  She was a little spooked, and said if I was going “up the hill”, I might want to do that sooner rather than later. 

So we hustled and got the dogs and the G.O.O.D bags in the car. 

I called my engineer (My back-up electrician was on assignment in Houston.  So had this been a real event…?) and said we were leaving.  He asked if any gas stations were open.  He was on empty.  Arrrrrrrr.  So I headed 6 miles in the opposite direction and took him a five gallon can of gas.  Traffic was light.  Many people were noted just walking around, walking dogs, that sort of thing.  I think the fact that information was readily available helped keep everyone calm.   

About ten miles into the journey, I realized I didn’t have one of the pistols I keep in the safe for just such an occasion with me.  Dang, I never in a million years would have guessed I’d forget something so basic.  I have a printed list of things to grab, but didn’t look at it.  Lesson learned on that one. 

I also realized later that I didn’t even think to grab the thousand dollars in cash I had.  That might have been actually useful.  Fortunately I didn’t need it.  But if I had, boy would I have felt dumb. 

Our 40 mile journey goes through a smallish rural town about 10 miles into it.  Traffic was very light.  Signals were out and we did brief stops at every intersection.  My engineer reported difficulty getting through that town two hours later.  A head-on collision had snarled things up.

The rest of the journey is a two-lane mountain road.  I was very relieved to see that almost no traffic was on the road.  This kind of makes sense, as nobody really lives out there.  But I wasn’t sure how that would pan out. 

Once at my cabin, I reached to my belt-loop for the retreat keys.  No Keys!  I forgot the keys to my retreat!  This really brings home the point that when the pressure is on, the mind can really go south on you.  Fortunately, thanks to the JWR philosophy of redundancy, I had a spare front door key hidden on property.  Once inside, I had a spare set of the rest of the keys. 

Our solar system was working like a charm.  Dinner was cooked, fans were running.  A neighbor below and one far above he generators going and their houses were ablaze with light.  The rest of the valley was dark, other than a candle or lantern here or there.  I kept our light signature low, just for practice.  I wanted to give my wife enough light to cook by, but not much more.  The five solar lanterns I picked up from Harbor Freight work very, very well.  I have let their batteries run down in the past, just because it is good to do once in a while.  They will run non-stop on a full charge all night, every time.  They did the same on this night. 

The tribe engineer arrived a few hours later.  It ended up being a late night, but we were all very pleased.

Power was restored during the night, and we returned home a little before dawn to resume our normal duties. 

After-action reports showed crime to have been almost non-existent during this blackout.  I attribute a lot of that to readily available communication.  Also, for the most part, San Diego County is still a fairly peaceful place.  I monitored all my Facebook friends’ comments about the event.  They all reported that neighbors got together, barbequed, drank a little wine around improvised camp fires, that sort of thing. 

All-in-all, aside from losing a little sleep, it was a great experience. 

I would highly recommend other tribes do a dry run just to see where your weaknesses are.  You’d be surprised. - L.B.


The type of flexible bandages [that were recently mentioned in a follow-up letter to "An Early Baby Boomer's Bug Out Bag"] can be ordered through Schneider’s Tack Company for about $.99 apiece, in boxes of 18.  I use these all the time and they are great for all sorts of emergency fixes as well as wound care.  The rolls available at the drug stores can run $3.00 or more. Just order Vet Flex bandages, item # 30955, for a case. 

SurvivalBlog is the best web site ever. - Kate in Colorado

Cue the the Gianini Requiem: Reports: Bank of America to shutter 600 branches

Another Sob Story: Saab to appeal creditor protection rejection. Who would have ever thought that Saab would be bailed out by China?

John R. suggested this over at Zero Hedge: ECBCTRL+P: The Next Steps In The European Implosion. The piece begins: "Wondering what is next for Europe? Don't be. With Jurgen Stark, aka the last real hawk at the ECB, gone, here comes 'the printing.'"

Items from The Economatrix:

Fed Says 12 Regions Grew Modestly this Summer

The Worst is Yet to Come

Only Precious Metals Can Prepare You for the Banking Crisis

European Banks Face Collapse Under Debts

Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large) sent word of some science fiction becoming science fact: Where Kevlar Fails, a Liquid Succeeds

   o o o

K.A.F. also sent this: Military, CIA shun 9/11 panel on covert operations. [JWR's Comment: Yes, but look who has been tapped to be the new DCI. They times, they are a-changin', at Langley.]

   o o o

A useful piece, over at Daily Finance: How Much Cash Would You Need After a Terrorist Attack?

   o o o

While the rest of the States continue to make progress, the California legislature tries a step backward: California Senate votes on open carry handguns [ban] bill. Note that they're trying to ban the carry of unloaded guns! And meanwhile in Nanny State New York: No Cause, No Gun, Judge Tells Gun Lovers. (A hat tip to Mike F. for the latter link.)

   o o o

A new post from Tess Pennington: 30 Most Popular Herbs for Natural Medicine. (Thanks to Jeff H. for the link.)

"Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.
From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock [that] is higher than I.
For thou hast been a shelter for me, [and] a strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.
For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given [me] the heritage of those that fear thy name.
Thou wilt prolong the king's life: [and] his years as many generations.
He shall abide before God for ever: O prepare mercy and truth, [which] may preserve him.
So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows." - Psalm 61 (KJV)

Friday, September 9, 2011

A fan of my novel "Patriots" just produced an amazing five-minute ultralight flying video that is available free, via YouTube. Kudos! This gent shot some great footage that really captures the look and feel of some of the key locales in my novel. And in it you can see how pretty the Palouse Hills region is at harvest time. It is a High Definition (HD) video, so be sure to watch it at "full screen" size.

I suppose that with the publicity of my blog, my books, this video and Radio Free Redoubt, the web traffic to will increase. Subsequently, the population figures shown in the ultralight flying video might soon bump up a bit. I'm hopeful that some good folks will be encouraged to move to the American Redoubt. (Which, of course, includes the Palouse.)


Today we present another entry for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

In this day and age of being able to go to a store and get practically anything you would ever need or want, the concept of preparing for a disaster escapes some individuals.  The time of “Victory Gardens” and canning your surplus vegetables and fruits have fallen by the way side in our current culture.  Our society sees people storing vast amounts of food and supplies as paranoid because they are simply not accustomed with the practice, nor do they see the need.  Most people cannot conceive the idea that they can be left without food or water, or that they may need to leave their homes in an emergency for a prolonged time.  The need for preparations extends to living day to day so you will be prepared for any situation that may arise.  Below I will share two separate instances during my childhood where my family being prepared either saved our lives or made life a lot easier to live.

When I was a teenager, myself, my parents, and two of my three brothers lived in rural Oklahoma.  One summer we had a massive barn fire which not only destroyed the majority of our cherished belongings but also burned our well pump house to the ground.  With the well pump buried under charred wood and sheet metal we were effectively cut off from our fresh water supply.  Luckily we are an avid outdoors family and had several water containers for fresh water, and a camp toilet.  We were able to simply go to the nearest State Park to get free drinking water for whatever we needed it for.  Seeing that we were stuck waiting for the insurance company to provide a settlement to replace the well pump for several weeks, we saved quite a bit of money not having to buy water to survive.  Since the barn was so far away from our house this was not a life or death situation but being prepared definitely made life a lot easier for the time being.   

Several years later we had a massive ice storm.  Several inches of ice covered completely everything, effectively causing the power lines to break under the weight of the ice knocking out power to a large portion of the state.  The roads were so iced over that when they sent out a repair truck it promptly got stuck in our hilly region.  For approximately one week our region was out of power.  Seeing that we only had two wheel drive vehicles and no snow chains we were effectively stranded from the outside world.

Luckily my parents loved to buy things that in my adolescence I thought were simply not needed, such as a wood burning stove.  Not only did it lower our heating cost but it had a substantial cooking surface.  We also spent several summers at our grandparents’ ranch clearing trees and picking pecans to sell for extra money (being a kid I thought that those pecan trees were like a gold mine).  We either hauled the trees to saw mills so we could use the wood to build our own furniture or we chopped them up for firewood (our wood pile would have made Paul Bunyan proud).

Furthermore since I was a child we always kept some form of livestock (mainly pigs or cattle) which we raised and butchered.  I learned how to care for the livestock and was responsible for their feeding and upkeep (as well as their far too often escapes from their pastures or pens).  We also always kept a large garden.  Being a teenager you can imagine how much a teenager loved to spend his afternoon picking vegetables, followed by a green bean snapping session.  The majority of teenage summertime bliss was spent pulling weeds, tilling, watering, and fertilizing the garden.  More than half of these vegetables were then canned and put away for whenever we needed them.  Over the years we accumulated quite a bit of surplus canned items and frozen beef and pork.  I also learned the extremely valuable art of canning.

During that ice storm we were able to put that woodstove to work and not only survived on our stored food, but we thrived.  Due to not having electricity we turned our wood box into our new freezer, keeping all of our frozen food frozen.  Turns out that all of those summers chopping wood and keeping up the garden paid off and being prepared saved us.  Also we saw the writing on the walls for the electricity going out and used our water containers to store more than enough water before the power went out.  The living room where the woodstove was located became everyone’s bedroom.  Since we were prepared, even though at the time we didn’t really see ourselves as “preppers”, it wasn’t a horrible experience.  Cooking on the woodstove and spending a lot of time reading and listening to my parents stories of their life experiences and the experiences of my grandparents living through the dust bowl, it was actually kind of fun, living like our ancestors without electricity for a week. 
In those real life experiences I learned very valuable lessons, which are always be prepared for whatever may come your way and learn everything you can to prepare yourself.  Luckily I always listened and learned from my parents. 

No one knows what will happen or when, take for example of the current wildfires in Texas (Summer of 2011) or the all too often hurricanes or tornados that devastate towns or entire states.  You never know when a natural or manmade disaster might displace you from your home, take out your utilities until god knows when, or strand you from the rest of the world.  Also it is possible that you might need to utilize your preparations for smaller emergencies.  In a time in which our nation’s unemployment rate seems to grow by the minute having the knowledge to grow your own food and having your previously stored home grown food can get you out of a hopefully temporary loss of wages. 

Nothing says that you have to go out and spend a small fortune on freeze dried foods or MREs.  I am sure that there are some people that say that they don’t want to prepare because of the price of the food, but canning is a good alternative.  You also don’t need a garden to can food.  Some grocery stores and a lot of farmers markets sell un-snapped green beans for a reasonable price, which cuts out the growing and picking aspect.  Although your canned food will not last as long as freeze dried food you will just have to rotate it more often meaning you will need to eat it and nothing tastes better than food you produced with your own two hands.  Keeping a garden not only reduces your grocery bill but if a disaster occurs in which the food supply is disrupted or non-existent you will already have the knowledge on growing your own food and the experience of knowing what grows best in your region.  Also using heirloom seeds you can learn to harvest seeds from your current crop to use the next year.  Another option is the use of five or six gallon buckets in conjunction with heat-sealed mylar bags and oxygen absorbers can enable you to store grains and beans for an extended amount of time (over 20 years for white rice, dried beans, and wheat).  Pinto beans may not sound great to some to eat for an extended amount of time but they are high in protein and will keep you alive in an extended time line emergency.  Keeping long term storage food in buckets also gives you the ability to be mobile if the need arises.  There may come a time in which your home may become compromised and you have to leave, or bug out to a safer location.  If you have your items in buckets they will be easier to transport to your secondary location.

Keeping drinking water grade containers around the house also helps a lot.  Most people that don’t prepare just flock to the store when a massive storm is heading their way and clean out the shelves of bottled water and canned goods.  Due to the current stocking practices at major retailers (what is on the shelves is what they have, they only order more when that particular item is bought), if you wait little or no supplies will be left.  But if you have containers handy you only have to go as far as your kitchen sink to fill your containers.

The preparations I have talked about should only be your first stepping stones to a well rounded plan.  The need for medical supplies, self-defense equipment, communications equipment, etc. and the know how to use all the items is still needed. 

I make frequent trips to our local Atwood's Farm and Home Store, where they carry everything you will need for canning at great prices.  The last time I went I was able to obtain a case of quart jars with lids and rings for approximately $8. (One of their frequent sales).  Canning requires a canning pot, a jar rack, a jar funnel, and a jar lifter all of which Lehman's carries for a decent price and they even have a starter kit including a canning book. There are multiple books available to learn how to garden and can food but unless you get out and do it and use trial and error when there is not an emergency you will not know what works the way you want it to and what just simply doesn’t work at all. 

Hi Jim, and Readers,
I read the piece about using a CONEX as a Faraday cage,  I made some RF measurements using a 2-meter handheld, and a small portable Sangean ATS-909 receiver quite a while back with that very subject in mind.

I have an S-250 RATT Rig shelter also.  I don't think you can really beat the S-250 shelter, with any other readily available equipment.  But in a pinch even the CONEX will work relatively well for EMI, EMP, and TEMPEST. The reduction of signals even with the wooden floor is  enough to help even with no EMI gasketing on the doors,. It is much better than a metal building like a shop or garage. Now, there are available metal equipment shipping containers available at most military surplus houses around the country many with EMI gasketing installed.  They are also often available at a lot of Ham swaps for reasonable prices. The main thing is to check the gasketing, If they just have rubber gaskets, they can be replace with conductive gaskets, Just searching "EMI Gaskets" on line will bring up lots of resources.

I have elected to make absolutely sure that when I have even the slightest doubt to use large ammo cans, or electronics equipment shipping containers to place my specialized electronics into. Then I place them in my CONEX or my G.O.O.D. trailer. In my shop, I keep handhelds, including light test equipment in shipping containers.

Even in the S-250 shelter, It is important to secure the connector caps for the RF entrance and power entrance connectors, being sure to also ground the unit with the usually-supplied grounding strap and ground rod.
If you want EMP and CME insurance then take all of the precautions possible to protect what important electronics you have.

I have elected to not only protect quite a bit of my ham  gear including several QRP (low power home built radios), but also GMRS, CBs, and test equipment.
I have also placed the business ends of some sound projection equipment in containers too. The reason for this is that I remember in the novel One Second After,  they wished they had some way to make public addresses easier.

It is important too that generators, and solar equipment be protected. I know most solar cells are diode protected, but what I don't know is what the peak inverse voltage is  or the clamping voltage is on those diodes. Meaning how much protection will that actually provide, not knowing the actual estimated energy of a threat, my personal choice is to keep my expensive panels secured until well after an event so I don't have to be concerned weather they will take the punch-thru or not of some unknown current  hitting them.

I mentioned CBs  I got a good deal several years ago with the manager of the Radio Shack, he let me have for five dollars each all of the returned CB sets, I got about 25 units, out of which I was able to repair more than half. I set them all up with Anderson Power Poles and have power cables made up.  Finding cheap antennas around at yard sales for mobiles, and making some basic dipole antennas will provide a neighborhood with fair communications in a pinch. Car batteries will provide plenty of talk and monitor time.

I am not yet fully prepared, and I don't think anyone can think of everything. I do have some old computers that are on my list of needing to be checked out and loaded with some ham radio communications programs, then secured in equipment containers too. that includes the whole computer, keyboards, mouse' mice's little rats, what ever you know where I'm headed, the whole thing.

I might mention the Earth has been hit just in the past two weeks with two moderate CMEs,  And I get a lot of lightning storms around here this time of year,  Now if I leave home for any length of time, I have made it a habit of shutting down and unplugging any equipment I consider important enough to protect. including disconnecting antenna systems.

Something to keep in mind even if your antenna gets hit by lightning and it is disconnected from your equipment. The coaxial cable can get arcing punch through for quite a length down the coax from the antenna, and again at the terminating end. Therefore prepared replacement coaxial cable should be considered as part of your preparations.  I once had to repair part of a very large antenna system and by the time we were done fixing the system it cost many thousands of dollars before it was made right.

So have some type of test equipment to check out your antenna array before reconnecting it to your critical radio equipment. Then when you bring up your transmitter, bring the power up incrementally ,continuously keeping an eye on the VSWR (SWR)  on your antenna. Blessings - Dave in Oregon

Dear Sir,
I've been a fan ever since I read your novel "Patriots" a couple of years ago.  I'd like to point out that with regard to the "Making Your Range Time Real Time – Train as You'll Fight!" post, the ability to shoot and move and to shoot while moving should be included in your training.  Furthermore, the use of cover versus concealment should be included.
I bring this up because for years in federal law enforcement we qualified every three months, we did use silhouette targets, but all the shooting was done from a static position at varying distances.  I only recently got involved in IDPA shooting and while my target scores are very good, my times stink to high heaven, and it is not all due to age.  The sad fact is that for over 20 years, my shooting was always stationary shooting, adding movement to it throws all sorts of new wrinkles into it which makes me wonder about the practical use of the training I did have.
Keep up the good work. - Signcutter

Here's one of those "clash of cultures" articles, datelined Ogden, Utah: Police called after man butchers cow in his driveway. What does the 9-11 caller want their kids to think? That beef comes from the store in neat little plastic packages, with a foam tray underneath? Momma cows don't give birth to packaged beef. To quote a marketing slogan: Beef: Its what's for dinner. But somebody has to gut the critter first.

   o o o

On the lighter side. Jeff H. liked this one: Bear Goes Joyriding in Family's Prius. This might have happened because the Toyota Prius has an oh-so-high-tech "Start" button rather than a traditional key that must be turned with some dexterity. Someday, a three year old is is going to find the same button... and the car maker is going to have one deuce of a lawsuit on their hands. (BTW, they are already facing lawsuits over unexpected acceleration incidents.)

   o o o

Gangwalker? Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large) sent this: Exclusive Report: Documents indicate ATF, FBI allowed Indiana ‘crime gun’ sales. Soon after, K.A.F. sent me this: Holder Denies Prior Knowledge of 'Fast and Furious'. K.A.F.'s comments: "They should call him Revlon man, [for] cover and conceal." Meanwhile, we read some other news that is a bit closer to the truth: A White House 'Gunrunner'? Something tells me that this illegal fiasco was sanctioned by the President himself, or that he was at least briefed..

   o o o

F.J. pointed to article that highlights the mainstreaming of the Bug Out Bag (BOB) concept: Preparing for an Emergency

“If that (extensive printing of money) doesn’t weaken a currency, I don’t know what will. Extensive printing of money — get it from me, I have got experience in that so if there is something that I can teach the world as free advice to the US and those countries that are relying on the printing press is — Don’t do it!" - Dr. Gideon Gono, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. (As quoted July 21, 2011, at the Independent Dialogue sponsored by the Zimbabwe Independent in Harare, while responding to questions about when the country was likely to return to the Zimbabwean dollar.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Today (September 8, 2011), is the last day of Safecastle's 25% sale on Mountain House freeze-dried long term storage foods in cans (and pouches, too). Place your order before the sale ends!


Today we present another entry for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

When you go to the range, whether it is in your or a friends backyard, at a local indoor or outdoor range how do you practice?  What do you practice?  Do you just put lead downrange as fast as you can in hopes that it hits the target because people are around and you want to sound like you know what you are doing (this is way more common than you might think)?  There are some things that I would like to put out to everyone that I hope can help you out in your range training.

There are many people out there that can tell you how you need to shoot.  I am not one of those people.  I just want to give you some very basic things that may help you out and make the best out of your range time.

  • Safety!
  • Know Your Weapon!
  • Target Identification!
  • Know Yourself!

I am not going to hammer hard on safety but just touch on a few key points because everyone that has a weapon/firearm should know the basic rules of safety.

  • Muzzle Control!  Know where you weapon is pointed at all times!
  • “Red is Dead” That is still the same as it always has been that I can remember.  Meaning that if you see a red ring on your safety, your weapon is “Hot”!
  • Never point any weapon at anything that you are not willing to destroy (loaded or unloaded).  Enough said!
  • Do not rely on a mechanical safety … Keep your finger off of the trigger until you are drawing down on your target!

Know Your Weapon
Whatever your weapon might be, you must know it to the smallest detail.  If there is a problem with your weapon you need to know what it is and how to fix it.  That might mean that you have all night or you might have to fix it right now.  It could be the difference between life and death!

  • Run Malfunction Drills. I cannot harp on this enough.  If you have never experienced a miss-feed, a stovepipe or an over stuffed magazine how are you going to fix it?
    • Buy “dummy” rounds.  Dummy rounds are made in nearly all calibers.  They do not have powder or a primer in them but they look and are weighted just like a real round (the older ones actually had a real slug instead of the colored slug).  I recommend getting some and putting them into your allotted range rounds.  Close your eyes when you load your magazines.  There is such a great value added to your training time by using just a few of these mixed in.  There are so many things that you can learn from trying to shoot one of these rounds.
      • First and foremost – You know that there “might “ be one (depending on how many you have mixed in) in your magazine(s).  This psychological aspect alone will disrupt your mindset!
      • With dummy rounds there is the “Oh Schumer” moment that you may have not had when the round doesn’t fire.  This will show you many things.  The main one being that you push the muzzle down “anticipating” the weapon going off.
      • If the round doesn’t go off what do you do?  Maintain Situational Awareness (SA) and stay calm.  Know how to remove that round from your weapon and be able to stay in the fight.  If you train this it will become second nature.
    • Run Reload Drills.  This falls into routine and malfunction training.  There are many aspects of each that you should train on.
      • Let a “member” load your magazines and place them in your kit and you do the same for another member (with dummy rounds included maybe?).  Don’t load full magazines.  Maybe one magazine you load (weapon dependent) 10 rounds and the next you load 3 and next 8, etc.  You have to think on your toes!  More of that whole psychological thing going on.
      • Know what it feels like when the bolt locks back.  A matter of seconds could mean life or death!
      • Learn to count your rounds fired (work on it all the time).
    • Know the ballistics of your weapon.  If you live in a neighborhood where houses are feet apart it is probably not a good option to shoot a high-powered rifle at an intruder coming into your house.  Houses are made very cheap these days.
    • Be able to reload your weapon without taking your eyes off of your target.

Target Identification
Know your target!  Simple as it may sound there are many problems with this in the heat of the moment.  There are many factors that play into this:

  • Know beyond your target (know your weapon).  If you are shooting a rifle at a target 10m away and there is “someone” 10m behind the target, you are going to shot that someone behind the target.  That someone might just be a friendly?
  • Use plywood silhouettes (4x - 3/4inch think) with targets behind them to get a sense of what your weapon will do at different ranges.
  • Use paper targets that look like real people.  Get away from running drills on “bullseye” targets.  Zero your weapon on bullseye targets.  Why you might ask … more of that whole psychological thing.  You are now pulling the trigger on what looks to be a living, breathing person.  I don’t see people running around with bulls eye’s painted on it for you.  It is a time and again proven thing that certain people hesitate to pull the trigger in the heat of the moment, which can be catastrophic to the rest of the “members” because they can not over come the fact that they are going to shoot a person.

Know Yourself
This is the final milestone that you must cross.  With all the above stated and trained to total perfection and the hand that you might be dealt and your faith in God will you have a second thought?
There are many companies out there that you can locate to get firearms training from but I would suggest using the Internet to your advantage!  YouTube is a great one for firearms training and drills.  Not only can see what is being done you can watch it as many times as you want and even download the videos with YouTube Downloader.  I would suggest looking at the Viking Tactics (VTAC) videos that are available via YouTube.  I have had the privilege to taking a class from retired SGM Kyle Lamb.  His classes are fast passed but very informative!  It would be a great thing to get your group to go through.  He also has instructional videos that can be purchased.

JWR Adds: At least one member of each retreat group should shell out the big bucks to take a professionally-run course from an organization like Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, or Front Sight. That individual can then go home and cross train their fellow group members. (All of the best schools are run in a "train the trainer" format, these days.) And once you are at home, practice, practice, practice. Shooting skills are perishable, so regular practice is essential. Continuously increase your knowledge. Instructional videos (such as Magpul's Art of Tactical Carbine series and Art of the Dynamic Handgun series) are well-worth adding to your library.

Mr. Rawles,  I am a long time reader and prepper, first time letter writer, Army Nurse Corps veteran.  Your ministry has personally blessed my family of six in numerous way. I thank you, your sons and daughters, your late wife (The Memsahib) and you new wife Avalanche Lily for mentoring all of us.  As a registered nurse, I read this latest article with great interest and wanted to add some information regarding the bandages and dressings that were recommended in this letter.  Jen L. wrote "Whenever you go to physical therapy or to donate blood, they give you those bright colored stretch things.  Pack those.  They will make a useful tourniquet."  Those bright colored stretch things are self adhesive elastic bandages and are quite useful for the fragile skin of older adults because they do not adhere to the skin.  They are also useful for veterinary purposes because they do not stick to animal fur or hair.  They also do not require cutting and can be easily torn to the proper length. 

Jen provided several examples of make do dressings and illustrates how the variety of field expedient tourniquets, bandages and dressings are only limited by one's imagination.  Sterile is preferred, clean is acceptable but sometimes you do not even have that option.  Even paracord can be used as a dressing.   A free operational medicine reference is available via distance learning.  These reference materials give “how-to-do-it” guidance in providing medical care in austere conditions. I hope you and your readers find this information helpful.  Blessings,  - Angel of Mercy

Mr. Rawles,
I was running a detail earlier today when I noticed that we were loading items into an all-steel QUADCON. As we were, I remembered the letter from the other da, asking about the possibility of using a CONEX as a Faraday cage. The dimensions aren't as big as the 40' CONEX are, but four of them put together equal the space of a 20' MILVAN container. The downside to this container is the two openings, one on each end. However, a good solid weld on one side could do the trick. The RF gaskets that you mentioned could work on the door. However, in my experience, more gaps and possible openings make it that much easier for unwanted things to gain entry. Another good thing about the size is that it would be easier to manage moisture in the smaller space. Just a thought.
Thanks for all you do, - Z.R.

Hello Mr. Rawles,
I just wanted to add something about using a CONEX container as a Faraday cage. Unlike most CONEXes, which have wooden floors, the insulated refrigerated containers almost always are a solid aluminum box (with a full metal floor). Only the gasketing and bonding of the doors [and plating or screening over the refrigeration ducting apertures] would have to be addressed. To make it 100% safe, a second interior wall and door (all metal and bonded gasketed) would need to be put in place, and then only one door should be opened at a time. (This is similar to dark room doors.)

I would also suggest looking at these web pages at the Future Science web site to get a better idea of what can happen in an EMP or solar storm , and their similarities and differences:

Thanks, - Solar Guy

K.A.F. liked this piece over at Coffee With a Hermit: Woman crashes into police building with carjacking suspect on her hood

   o o o

File under Bureaucratic Nincompoops: Feds to assume control of Bastrop County fire; volunteer firemen turned away

   o o o

IDF general: Likelihood of regional war growing. (Thanks to K.A.F. for the link.)

   o o o

The folks at Camping Survival have announced a Paracord Giveaway. Describe your favorite paracord project, or list some of your favorite uses for paracord and how you execute them, and you can win a 1,000 foot roll of top quality paracord. This contest will run through the end of September.

   o o o

A reminder that SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson will be autographing his books at Uncle Hugo's in Minneapolis on Saturday, September 10th, 1:00-2:00 p.m.

"This is the darkest hour before dawn and we should never underestimate monetary authorities' ability to deal with the adversity." - Dr. Gideon Gono, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. (As quoted in 2008, as he orchestrated massive hyperinflation that inevitably brought the value of the Zimbabwean Dollar to zero.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Don't miss out on Safecastle's 25% sale on Mountain House freeze-dried long term storage foods in cans (and pouches, too). Place your order before the sale ends!


Today we present another entry for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Creating hiding places for items can be a challenge without handyman skills, a large budget and the need to hide stores in sight. Fortunately, there are some options that are easy to implement without a lot of cost without looking odd to anyone passing through your home.

Many Uses for Chest Freezers

Chest freezers have the benefits of being common, heavy, cheap to get used and not a big deal to own. How does this help when you want to store things or hide them?

  • Chest freezers are commonly locked to keep young children from climbing in and becoming trapped. A lock on a chest freezer, even if not plugged in, does not arouse suspicion. This increases the security of items stored inside.
  • Chest freezers can be kept in a corner of a laundry room, a storage shed, sun room or detached garage. Owning several is not strange.
  • Chest freezers are large and heavy. Even in the unlikely case that someone wanted to steal it, the large size and weight of many units deters this.
  • If a thief enters your garage or storage space, he’ll steal items of value or immediate use. Frozen food rarely fits either of these categories. The result is that a freezer chest will be ignored in most cases.
  • Unplugging a unit and letting it sit in a corner does not garner attention.  If asked, just state it was unplugged to save on electricity. If asked why it’s locked, simply state that is done for “safety reasons”.


What can you do with several unplugged chest freezers?

  • A large stash of freeze dried food stored inside of one is less obvious than a set of cans in the pantry.
  • Guns and tools kept in a locked chest freezer are safer than those left on a work bench while blending into the background. And foot prints and signs of handling do not indicate a stash there, since no one will think it is strange that the freezer is opened and closed periodically.
  • Canned goods kept in a chest freezer outside are protected from the elements, in a secure location.
  • Store bug out bags or valuable supplies in the chest freezer without a lock for quick and easy access. Lay a stack of towels or dirty rags on top to make. it look like the appliance has been turned into a work surface. 
  • Unplugged chest freezers can be used to hide bottled water stashes that might otherwise garner attention.

[JWR Adds: "Dead" chest freezers are often available free for the hauling. Just be sure that the freezer comes with at least one key for its lock before driving to pick it up. BTW, be sure that the owner has a "clear path" available for you to wheel it out on your furniture dolly. (As an aside, I once spent at least two extra hours helping a friend extricate a "free" chest freezer out of the back of a very crowded garage. That was a bit of a nightmare.) Also, keep in mind that upright freezers take up less floor space, per cubic foot of volume. Those lock, too. Older freezers should be washed out and scrubbed thoroughly, using a strong baking soda solution. Be sure to let them dry and air out well, before filling them.]

Where Will the Water Go?

Water is a bulky item to store if building up a long term supply. If you do not live near a lake or stream and lack working well, the space to store a long term water supply can be difficult to find. Hiding it is even harder. What can you do in the interim?

  • The water stored in a hot water heater can be consumed if filtered of sediment. However, a hot water heater in good condition can store up to eighty gallons.  Buy a used hot water heater fro someone that is installing a tankless hot water heater or [that is replacing] a hot water heater with burned-out elements. Then flush it out thoroughly and set it up in a closet, corner of the garage or even next to your main hot water heater. It stores the water in an accessible manner, since the water is available once you drain the unit. And this manner of water storage doesn’t garner attention the way a closet full of one gallon water bottles would.
  • Purchase a water cooler and accompanying large water bottles. Set the entire stack in a section of a garage or shed. While a large selection of soda bottles with water may seem odd, several water bottles with a cooler are not seen as such. One of the benefits of business closures is that these items can be purchased cheaply during going out of business sales.  If asked, simply state you got it cheap on sale or a discount for buying several at once. When water does become scarce, set up the dispenser with water coolers to use in the home. The size of the water bottles deters theft. Rotate stock by donating water cooler bottles to churches or charities that use them.
  • If you are installing a rain catchment system, install a separate back up tank for water storage. If installing a sprinkler system, bury a water storage tank at the same time.
  • Do you have a tub in a bathroom with a separate shower? Fill up a “WaterBOB” or similar water storage system and leave it in the tub. Then place a fitted lid over the tub or padded wood. The tub then appears as a converted seat, hiding the water storage inside. 
  • Do you have a decommissioned hot tub? “WaterBOBs” and related water storage devices fit there, too.


Where to Store Toiletries and Valuables

Household supplies are on many lists to stock up on. But where do you place them for easy reach and minimal inconvenience?

  • Clear out beauty supplies. Shed a lot of beauty appliances. Use the space under your sink then to store toiletries like bar soap, shampoo, razors and Kleenex. If someone looks in that space, the storage there makes perfect sense. They simply won’t know or think of the similar stocks in the other bathrooms under those sinks.
  • The cabinets above the toilet are frequently used for storing towels. Review how many towels you actually use and where they may be better placed (on racks, a stack on top of the toilet, etc.). Then use this space to store toiletries.
  • A side benefit of the discovery of a wall of toiletries is that few people will dig beyond them. Valuables can be hidden behind them.
  • Laundry hampers are rarely considered anything but holding bins for dirty clothes. Consider placing a plastic laundry hamper in a corner of a bedroom closet. Then store items like handguns, coins and heavier items wrapped in a towel at the bottom. Stack sheets and towels on top. If anyone picks it up, the weight is explained by the contents. But be careful not to accidentally dump this hamper’s contents into the washer!  
  • Remember that decorative items can serve as hiding places. Money clipped behind picture frames is well known. What about hiding cash inside decorative vases and jars in the corner of the bathroom? Keeping a spare cell phone and batteries also works. Place a wreath of fake flowers on the top of the vase so that a casual viewer doesn’t see what is inside.
  • Thieves often check under the master bedroom bed for hidden money and guns. They don’t check under the stack of towels in the master bathroom as often. For even better concealment, leave a copy or two of magazines pushed in among towels to appear as if that is what is hidden in that stack of towels. 

Storage Boxes

Using stacks of nondescript cardboard boxes and plastic bins to hide items in plain sight has been thoroughly discussed on SurvivalBlog. Large boxes labeled “Christmas decorations” can contain that or contain a layer of Christmas items and hide a small generator underneath. Boxes labeled “receipts” or “recipes”. What else can be done?

  • Label the boxes “genealogy papers” or better yet, label the box “VHS tapes”. No one will think of touching it.  
  • Actually store old encyclopedias and other books you won’t mind burning in cardboard storage boxes. This is a back up solution in case of a fuel shortage. Elderly British pensioners have actually resorted to buying old books by the pound to keep their homes warm since carbon taxes drove up the cost of heating oil and firewood alike.
  • Boxes labeled “cooking stuff” can as easily hold freeze dried food as it can recipe cards. However, be careful not to store items that will emit odors of food (like spices).
  • A foot locker or box labeled “duffel bags” can hold just that. Underneath can be bug out bags or camping gear. However, it is wise to avoid storing important items in luggage that looks like standard Samsonite, since each bag is easily mixed up with another and holds value if sold. However, you should never label a box “camping supplies”, since this could easily become a target for desperate thieves. “Boy Scout stuff” might be a compromise in identifying camping items without looking tempting.

Data Storage

USB drives provide a mobile and easy to use method of backing up files. Hiding them is easy. Hiding them where you can quickly find them is more challenging. Fortunately, the market has already come up with many solutions to make it easy to find your USB drives.

  • Buy a USB drive holder that looks like an industry logo toy. The Linux penguin and a Microsoft type memento come to mind. You can also buy industry logo toys and carve out space to store the USB drive. Set on a shelf near the computer and place it as if it were a decorative item.
  • There are thumb drives built into toys for the sake of novelty. If you are a fan of a toy line or could get away with the item sitting on your shelf while blending into the environment, buy a standard such thumb drive holder. Just be certain to place it where curious children won’t get it to play with.
  • Use a large, solid plastic case used to hold obsolete floppy disks and store USB drives in them instead.   

Dear Sir,

First, before I get started, my thanks to you for this blog and your books.

I've invested in metals: Gold, silver, check; "Real" copper pennies, nickels, check; Lead...what? lead? Yes, lead. To me, as a reloader and bullet caster for more than four decades cheap lead in the form of Linotype and wheel weights was taken for granted. But now, with the new regulatory push from the EPA, lead will soon no longer be used as the balance weights on our wheels. This will dry up the last major source of inexpensive used lead [that is in chunks that are a convenient size for melting pots].
My suggestion to all "preppers" even if you do not reload and cast your own bullets is to save your brass and keep an eye out for lead in any form (except lead/acid batteries)
because a reloader/caster such as myself would turn your empties into like new practice or hunting ammo. Some restrictions apply. I am talking about using cast lead in pistol
calibers, buckshot and slugs and some lower velocity rifle cartridges. Your MBR and  AR's require jacketed bullets but you still need to save the brass it has value and  you could barter "components" for ammo. Reloading is a skill everyone should be aware of and a "group" should be able to perform. 

One last thing: Stock up on .22 Long Rifle (LR) ammunition. 10-to-20 thousand rounds would be a good start. It makes a great barter item. I believe there are more .22 LR firearms in US than all others combined and  .22 LR and the other rimfire cartridges cannot easily be reloaded.

Keep your powder dry. - Capt. Mike

T.E.M. suggested: 10 ways to save money: How the old-fashioned barter system is making a comeback

"Benny Flag" liked this piece by Dr. Gary North: Sovereign Debt, Sovereign Bank Runs

Reader Grace H. wrote to mention: "In 1999 in preparation for Y2K, I purchased a number of DAK brand canned hams for $1.00 a piece.  These 16 oz. cans were readily available everywhere.  The other day my dimpled darling suggested that we needed some of those "little canned hams" in our prepping supplies.  I obediently went on the search thinking that it would be easy.  Nope!  Few stores around me still carry them.  So, I tried Amazon - they are out of stock.  Dollar Store only had 5 oz. (!) cans as did everyone else who was charging more than a dollar.  Finally, found that only one Wal-Mart in my area sells them for $3.58 per can.  I have seen them other places for as high as $6.00 per can.  Now, that's inflation!"

My old friend Conor forwarded this fascinating piece: Gold May Top $6,000, Silver $600: Asset Manager. I concur that the silver to gold ratio is likely revert to around 15-to-1. But I won't stick my neck out and try to "call the top" for silver and gold! Given the concerted market manipulation on the COMEX and the shifting sands of monetary policy, that would be impossible to predict. But it is safe to say that the metals will be a lot higher in terms of fiat paper currencies in a couple of years. I also stand by my prediction that base metals, including nickel will gain substantially. It is also quite clear that the composition of American pocket change will soon be "overhauled". (Read: More debasement!) Stock up on nickels before that change takes place, while you still buy almost unlimited quantities at face value!

Items from The Economatrix:

For those that like CraigsList, Matt M. mentioned a tool called Search Tempest that automagically searches all of the Craigslist sites at once, using definable radius of your location. I use it to quickly find unusual items that are within a four hour drive.

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England's descent into national suicidal oblivion begins in its courtrooms: 'Squatters aren't criminals and can be GOOD for society': Judge orders council to publish list of empty homes in its area.

   o o o is sponsoring a Preparedness Expo this coming this Friday and Saturday (September 9th and 10th) in Springfield, Missouri. They will have many exhibitors, more than 50 free seminars, and nationally-known guest speakers including author and lecturer Bill Federer of "The American Minute".

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Get ready for a wild ride: March 11, 2011: Japanese tsunami from the point of view of a car interior.

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The rumored 2011 release date for the re-make of Red Dawn has come and gone. Even though the movie cost $75 million to produce and is fully ready for release (following a change of villains, in post-production), I wouldn't be surprised to see that the movie is never released. Permanently spiking the film would kowtow to assuage the production company's new (ahem) "overseas financiers". Yes, it might go down in history as the biggest film ever made that was never released.

"The first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden." - From the treatise "Unrestricted Warfare" by Col. Qiao Liang and Col. Wang Xiangsui, People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Today is the "Book Bomb" day for the new sci-fi novel Rogue, written by SurvivalBlog's Editor At Large, Michael Z. Williamson. "Rogue"is the sequel to Mike's novel The Weapon. While it is a sequel, it does stand alone.  Readers do not have to have read "The Weapon" for it to be enjoyed as a complete story by itself. Be forewarned that it has: "Some violence, some harsh language, and very few sexual references." You can read some advance chapters here. When I last checked, the book was ranked around #8,000 on Amazon, overall (out of their four million titles.) Let's lift Mike's new book into Amazon's Top 20!


Today we present another entry for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I'd like to address the requirements for a Early Baby Boomer’s bug out bag.  The word “emergency” has a completely different meaning for those of us who are over 60 and can’t move fast, can’t climb stairs and can’t get up once we get down on the ground!  Needless to say, we can’t pack 100 pounds on our back, nor can we lift 50 pounds from the rear of the car.  But survival is still important.   My three sisters and I were born during the Korean War era, were raised on what I call a post-WWII and Great Depression farm in the Midwest in rather poor conditions.  We "did without" a lot back then and we know we can do it again if needed.  As you read through this, you may think that it would take you a fortune to outfit yourself.  But we have found almost all of these items at thrift stores and garage sales.  It takes time, but it can be done.

Pick a backpack that has thick padding on the shoulder straps and a padded waist.  When you try it on, make sure no metal touches your body.  You will want a bag with at least 2 outside pockets.  Why?  Because you can easily reach/find the things you may need most.  Pack safety pins in 3 sizes in the event the zippers break.

Front compartment is for medications.  You need to pack a 3-month supply.  Take them out of the containers and put them in small zip-lock bags.  Most hobby stores sell jewelry-sized bags that are 3x5” or 4x6”.  Use a product called Un-du to remove the prescription label from the bottle.  Allow it to completely dry, then glue or tape it to the zip-lock bag.  Your meds will stay dry, take up less space and pack more easily.  Tailor the size of the bag to the quantity of pills you have. 

Purchase an over-the-counter inhaler such as Primatene mist just in case you have an allergic reaction to something and become unable to breathe.  Pack a 4oz (or larger) baggie of corn starch.  This will dry moisture that may accumulate in the groin area and help keep skin from becoming raw from rubbing or irritation. 

My youngest sister used to be a highway flagger in a remote mountain area with no port-a-potties.  She literally sewed a flexible funnel into her jeans, used duct tape to attach flexible tubing that ran down the side of her leg and had a portable restroom whenever she needed it.  I swear this is a true story.  I keep telling her she needs to manufacture a line of jeans, but she thinks they wouldn’t sell.  In the meantime, you could rig your own. 

Pack baking soda in a zip baggie as it can be used as toothpaste when mixed with water. This same paste can be used to relieve mosquito bites, poison ivy, bee stings and hemorrhoids.  Adding 1 tablespoon in water and drinking can help with bladder infection and sore throats.   Glucose tabs are a quick method to raise blood sugars when you cannot eat on a proper schedule.  You can find them behind the counter at most pharmacies. Do not forget to pack stool softeners.  No eating, limited water and over 55 create a whole new set of problems.

Many older individuals need to pack Depends. Even if you do not need them now, lifting and carrying a heavy load may cause a weakened bladder to present problems in the future.   If you don’t use them, depends can be cut up and used as washing pads, first aid pads, and even stacked together and used as a pillow.  Hemorrhoid medicine can also be used to reduce swelling of acne breakout, treat cold sores near your mouth (not on or in your mouth), My second sister puts Vicks VapoRub just below her nose and ties an old farmer’s handkerchief up over her nose when we go out on the ATV on dusty roads.  She also does this at night to sleep.  She swears it keeps her allergies down by keeping the pollens out of her nose.  But Vicks can also be used on jock itch or other fungal rashes on the body such as nail fungus. 

A personal family favorite that we all use is a product called Quadriderm.  You can’t buy it in the US, but it’s available online.  We first picked it up on vacation in Mexico.  It’s an anti-itch cream that works perfect for any number of issues that older people incur due to drying skin, itchy feet, okay, any are of the body.  Just rub a small amount on and in about 5 minutes, the itch is gone.  It is much more effective than any over-the-counter or prescription corticosteroid available in the US.

Butterfly bandages are best for the elderly.  You skin is looser and you can easily pinch it together and put the bandage across the top.  Go to your local pet store and buy a jar of Kwik-Stop.  It is a yellow powder that can safely be used on humans and stops the bleeding – for external use only on minor cuts.  (Mom was a RN and used on us kids when we were growing up in the 1950s.)   Whenever you go to physical therapy or to donate blood, they give you those bright colored stretch things.  Pack those.  They will make a useful tourniquet. I like screw-lock carabiners to attach a variety of bags to my backpack.  I backpacked across Europe when I was 55 and trust me, you can get a ton of stuff into clip on bags.  My preference is the Eagle Creek Pack-It Wallaby. That holds enough toiletries to last two months.

When selecting a tent, make sure the center is at least 42” as you will need to be able to dress inside (we are the modest generation after all).  Make sure that when you put your backpack next to the tent wall that water doesn’t leak through.  You will also want screened windows on at least 2 sides of the tent in order to get a breeze on a hot night.  You are probably going to want something to help you get up. Telescoping walking poles are great as you can shorten them to assist with getting up, lengthen them for walking. 

Because aging slows down the body’s blood flow, we tend to get colder than most, so pick a sleeping bag the will keep you warm to -20 degrees. A Therm-a-Rest pad will keep the cold off the ground away from you and it only adds a couple of pounds to your pack weight.  It will self-inflate to a certain point, but you can also blow it up a bit more if needed. Most of us at this age have back problems. Therm-a-rest also makes a nice chair that is extremely lightweight.  No need for the inserts, but they can double as pillows at night.
Thermacare heat wraps would be another necessity.  They last up to 8 house and can provide great relief for arthritis victims. 

When we were kids, we didn’t have much in the way of clothing.  Easy to do again with the right stuff.  You need two pairs of pants, one lightweight, and one heavy duty.  The more pockets the better. Add a pair of waterproof over pants.  Pack two long sleeved shirts – I like Columbia’s insect blocker shirts.  They also have a line of sun protection clothes.  Pack three T-shirts.   Years ago, my sisters and I decided that the whole underwear thing was a marketing conspiracy and useless.  But at our age, a good sports bra is necessary.  The rest is “commando” – which certainly makes space for other essentials in our packs.  Compression stuff sacks will give you even more room and keep your clothes dry.

SmartWool socks are great as they are much thinner than the old wool socks, but will keep your feet just as warm.  Use silk liners if you want a smoother feel and less chance of blisters.  Take care of your feet.  Pack moleskin (3” x 4” sheets). It can be cut to any size and used to pad areas of your shoes/boots that cause friction against your feet.  Take an ace bandage to wrap sore knees, elbows, wrists or ankles. 

Food.  Well, if you are like me, you love to eat.  But food equals weight and since we can’t pack that much weight, just think back to when you were a kid.  Things that are light weight but fill you up.  Pasta.  Chicken noodle soup – Lipton makes dry packages.  Instant macaroni and cheese (just add water).  Pack iodine tablets to purify your water.  A kettle to boil water in and make your soup.  Jerky will give you protein and is lightweight.  Packages of tuna, Powerbars, small cans of chicken, individual packages of dry mashed potatoes.  Anything that turns into food when water is added.  One pan, one spoon, and a non-freezing canteen. (Yes, the CamelBaks are great, but plastic can break.) To me, the most important thing is going to be water.  So a backpacking filtration system and a collapsible water bag are first to go into my backpack.  My grandmother lived on fried dandelion greens during the war, but she had access to lard on the farm.  I’ve packed powdered butter that will turn to “grease” when water is added.

Contrary to other advice, I would pick a Swiss Army knife that is easy to open and has a screwdriver, can opener, lots of tools, and a really good knife.  Also pack small tools that might work to repair eyeglasses, etc.   Pack hard cases for readers, glasses, hearing aids.  Because my eyes are failing, I need a good light.  I found the OttLite mini flip lite is great.  If you have room, add a solar charger, as this requires three AAA batteries. [JWR Adds: An elastic strap can be used to turn an OttLite into a headlamp. But in my experience, a purpose-built headlamp such as a Petzl works better.]

I’ve packed a flask of vodka – multiple purposes!  Consider duct tape and flex trash bags.  You can make anything waterproof!  And if traveling with a group, you can also fashion a private “restroom” or place to change your clothes.  You can use a flex bag to cover your backpack and keep it dry.  You can pack clothes and other items inside tyvek bags (just use priority mail envelopes from the post office.)  Store food inside these bags, seal them shut – nothing will get to the food.

One of the best tools I ever had was a clever rotary awl made by my grandfather.  He drilled a hole in a rectangular block of wood then glued the end of a drill bit down into it.  Then he ground the tip of the drill bit into a razor sharp point.  Works as a hand drill and awl and as light as can be.  He would tell me to pack leather needles, and leather lacing.  You can sew anything.  Pack a good pair of leather gloves.  Look for leather welding gloves that are good to 400 degrees.  100’ of parachute cord could come in handy for any number of situations.

I found a belt that has a zipper on the inside of the back of it to hide money.  I thought that was great.   Pacsafe makes a variety of fanny packs that can’t be slashed into and can be locked to almost anything.  The slashsafe will hold my passport, driver's license, inhaler and medications as well as jewelry when I travel.

Follow the normal guides for everything else including hunting, fishing, cooking, etc. such as lightweight camp stove, waterproof matches. What I’ve written here are additional considerations for those of us who are baby boomers.  Don’t pack more than you can carry comfortably.  If you hurt your back, you won’t be going anywhere.  Food, water, warm clothes and then add to that. 

I know that I can’t run as fast as I used to run, I can’t hike as far as I once did, I can’t carry as much weight as I did just five years ago.  But that doesn’t need to stop me from being prepared for the future.  It doesn’t mean that I have to give up.  Life has been a grand adventure and I don’t plan to stop just yet!

A recent news headline caught my attention: Representative Maxine Waters Calls For A Trillion-Dollar Jobs Program.

After reading that I feel obliged to make a few sarcastic comments. (A privilege that I don't abuse through over-use, as the editor of

Well, gosh, Maxine, if your "spending money that we don't have creating wonderful economic prosperity" concept is so iron-clad, then why not go whole hog by pouring even bigger buckets of slop into the public trough? Why not spend $20 trillion to create zero unemployment? There would be jobs for everyone.

We could develop whole new categories of jobs! For example, people who only like to watch television could be given "television monitor" jobs, at say, $100,000 per year. And people who only like to shop at the local mall could be given "economic stimulator" jobs, at say, $200,000 per year. And what about people that don't like working at all, but who love to eat? We could make them "American Tourism Ambassadors", and pay them $400,000 per year to take cruise ship tours all around the world, for 50 weeks of each year.

We shouldn't look at this $20 trillion in "stimulus" as increasing the National Debt. After all, we'll just "Owe it to ourselves", right? The money will just cycle back through the system, creating even greater wealth. And with all that magically-created prosperity, we can just "Buy more gum balls"! (Note: "Quantitative Easing refills are sold separately.")

Oh, and Maxine, just think of it: Your constituents will love you for this, and they'll want to elect you over and over again! (Yes, you can have a 12th term in congress. You might even get to stay in office for your whole life!)

Captain Rawles,
 As most of your readers would say, we thank you for your ministry.  My question is weather a 40' Continental Express (CONEX) shipping containers would work as a huge Faraday cage, and thus we would be able to store most of our sensitive electronics, such as communications gear, battery chargers, e cetera.
Thank you again, - R.L.S.

JWR Replies: There are a few problems with that concept:

1.) The vast majority of CONEXes have wooden floors. Wood is fairly transparent to radio frequency (RF) waves, including electromagnetic pulse (EMP). A metal Faraday enclosure needs to be an integral box. (Polygonal or spherical.) No windows, and no wooden floors!

2.) Creating a good "gasketed" RF seal at the doorway would be difficult. But RF gaskets might do the trick.

3.) CONEXes tend to "sweat." In a full Faraday enclosure, there would be no ventilation available, so the moisture buildup would likely be excessive. (Depending on your local climate.)

For those in the vicinity of Boulder, Colorado, Jonathan E. wrote to mention that he noticed some tanks, totes, and barrels advertised on Craigslist. (Similar drums and barrels are available on other Craigslist pages for other cities.)

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For those who might dismissively reject community building projects (like my American Redoubt concept), I recommend this piece by Brandon Smith: The Strategic Advantages Of Community Building.

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M.B. spotted this Makezine piece: DIY Bookbinding.

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There have been some great posts recently over at the Paratus Familia blog. For example, scroll down to the piece on Weck canning jars. (FWIW, we are recent converts to Tattler canning lids.)

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Hal N. suggested this audio and slide show piece about the overbearing Nanny State in California's high desert: L.A. County's War on Desert Rats

"The right to be left alone is indeed the beginning of all freedoms." - U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

Monday, September 5, 2011

My apologies if my SurvivalBlog posts are fairly sparse or terse for the next six days. This is "crunch week" to complete the second sequel novel manuscript that I've contracted with Simon & Schuster. My wife ("Avalanche Lily") has been helping me fine tune the last few passages. That book should be released in October or November of 2012. In the meantime, the "Book Bomb" day for for the first sequel to "Patriots" ("Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse) is October 4th, 2011. Thank you for waiting until that day to order your copy! By waiting, we hope to drive the book into Amazon's Top 20 for sales, overall. Thanks!

In my head it sounds like the start to a Schoolhouse Rock song...."innnn flu enza!  It's contagious, it's outrageous...influenza a virus that ..."  Anyway, enough reminiscing about my childhood and on to the topic.  First things first:  "flu" is one of the most overused and improperly used terms in all of medicine--arguable the king of misused medical words.  Influenza is a respiratory virus.  It is not what most people call "flu" or "stomach flu".  It is not a little cold that you have that people call into work for because they just feel sniffly.  Influenza is an enveloped RNA virus classified by its core protein subtype A, B, C.  To make it even more confusing, each virus is further categorized by its hemagglutinin and neuraminidase surface proteins.  For example, the Influenza A H1N1 virus is adorably named "swine flu" by the media and generally people are familiar with it due to the massive hype it received a few years ago.  Avian flu comes in many different types too, most notably Influenza A H5N1 among bird populations in Eurasia.  Big deal, some nerds somewhere get to figure out numbers to subtype influenza and not impress chicks, what does the normal person need to know? Classic influenza symptoms are:  fever, cough, body aches, headache (usually from the cough), sometimes sore throat (again from the cough), shakes, chills.  What influenza is not is congestion, productive cough, sinus symptoms, and gastrointestinal symptoms.  To be fair, this H1N1 "swine flu" run we had a while back did give some kids GI symptoms with their usual influenza symptoms, making it a little harder to diagnose and a little confusing for people.  Let's just ignore that for the sake of planning for TEOTWAWKI.  

Fever and cough within 48 hours of symptoms is the best predictor of influenza.  That means a real cough and real fever.  Feeling "warm" is not a fever.  Nor is a temperature of 100.1 a fever.  Don't care if you usually run "low".  And the cough is a real cough, not just a tickle and not every hour.  (It's the real deal wish you had a lung brush to scrub out your bronchus cough.)  And the joy of influenza is that it is easily spread from one person to another at your local Megalomart, school, or Thanksgiving dinner table. So, in terms or preppers, what can we do.  First, the nastiest, deadliest flus need lots of transmission and cross infection to take off and kill like the flu of WWI.  That is unlikely in TEOTWAWKI long as you are avoiding the government tent cities people will be dependent on if they screw up and don't take care of themselves.  That's not you, so you can relax a little bit there.  But, complete isolation is usually a bad thing (sorry, JWR) for most of us, and there will always be a chance of influenza infection with population mixing in any form.  Complications of influenza usually are only dangerous to older folks, pregnant women, kids under 2 years old, serious complicating illnesses, immunosuppression, Indians and Eskimos, and morbidly obese people.  Healthy adults, even without treatment, will usually be moderately to severely ill with an influenza outbreak; but then pop back up like a dandelion in Spring.  That usually is not enough for most worried survivalists, so we can talk about treatment. Treatment for influenza is done with antiviral medications that are effective against the Influenza A and B ideally.  The most effective and easiest to use is oseltamivir (Tamiflu).  It comes in liquid for kiddies, it does not have to be inhaled like another choice zanamivir (or Relenza) which cannot be used for people with pulmonary issues like asthma or COPD.  Tamiflu is unfortunately heavily controlled and monitored by the government, making stockpiling tricky.  It is also very expensive to get, usually over $100 per person per treatment.  Adds up quick.  And Relenza is even more expensive than the Tamiflu usually.  There are two other choices that are a little less expensive: rimantadine and amantadine which are both generic.  The CDC usually recommends against their use due to resistance.  Unfortunately, many of the influenza infections from 2008 and 2009 were also resistant to Tamiflu, making solid recommendations for preppers difficult at best and therefore a tough call on proper use of dollars for sense. One thing all grannies can tell you about take care of people the old fashioned way and they tend to get better.  Soup, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and fluids does help.  Cough medicines are usually a waste of time and money with influenza.  

IMPORTANT NOTE:  children should NEVER be given aspirin with any viral illness that has a chance of being influenza!  Kids can develop a serious problem called acute toxic-metabolic encephalopathy, or Reye Syndrome.  The last thing any of us would want to do to our kids is to make their brains and livers fail due to our stupidity.  Follow the basic rule of kids and aspirin don't mix and you will be fine.  There is always acetaminophen and ibuprofen for kids and there has not been any link found to Reye Syndrome with these medications. Final question all preppers are still asking themselves:  should there be a stockpile of Tamiflu on the shelves with my food and ammo?  Depends on your underlying medical conditions, your ability to avoid mixing with the infected population, and isolating those suspected to have influenza quickly.  Most of the Tamiflu taken now is to help people get back to work quicker and feel better faster. WTSHTF it is doubtful that we are going to care too much about that.  But, if your entire security force is laid up for a week sicker than dogs and your place is overrun by healthy pirates, then you will wish you had some.  Cost/benefit analysis on this one is really mentioned so many times in the past you will have to be the judge and trust yourself on this call.  Stay strong.

JWR Adds: 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:

Para Ordnance started the trend with hi-capacity 1911-style handguns back in the 1980s. People said it couldn't be done - putting more than 7 or 8 big ol' .45ACP rounds in a 1911 frame, and still have a gun you could wrap your fingers around. Para Ord proved everyone wrong! Para didn't start out with a complete 1911, instead, they manufactured a frame only. And, people could simply fit the slide, barrel and other upper parts onto the Para frame. I still remember the first Para frame I saw - it wasn't nicely finished, and it was a little bit bulky. Still, it fit the hand fairly well.

Para Ord was started in Canada, and several years ago, they made the move (wisely) to the USA. They also changed their name from Para Ordnance, to Para USA - to indicate where all new Para firearms are being made. I've owned several Para handguns over the years, all have been the smaller models - I never owned the full-sized P14, which really started it all. I contacted long-time buddy, Kerby Smith, who handles the marketing for Para and requested a sample. Smith asked me to hold on for a bit, as Para was re-introducing their P14, and the wait was worth it, too.

What we have in the P14, is a full-sized "Government" model 1911, that holds 14 rounds in the magazine. The gun weighs in at 41 ounces, just a tad heavier than a standard 5" Government Model 1911. The new P14 is all black, coated with Para's proprietary Para Kote -- a tough stuff synthetic finish. The rear sight has 2 white dots, and the front sight is a red plastic Hi-Viz style "pipe" that gathers light and makes for one outstanding sight picture. The pistol also has a beavertail grip safety and single side thumb safety that is of the extended "combat" style - easy to reach to snick on and off.

Trigger pull on my P14 sample is dead-on at 5 pounds, and super crisp. I thought about lightening the trigger pull a bit, but after firing the P14, I decided to leave well enough alone. The gun is a tack-driver, plain and simple. The sample I got is serial number 2 --the second gun off the production line. I'm sure Para kept serial number 1 in their collection. The P14 also comes with two Mec-Gar made 14-round magazines - some of the best mags made, plain and simple. In the past, Para Ordnance of Canada made their own magazines, and the springs were stout - making it difficult to get the last round or two loaded in the magazine without busting your thumb or using a magazine loader. The Mec-Gar magazines loaded all 14 rounds easily, without aid of a loader. [JWR Adds: The earlier magazines can be distinguished by their "Made in Canada" markings. This distinction should be of interest to those living in New York state, where post-1994 manufactured magazines that can hold more than 10 round magazines are banned. Yes, you can still find pre-ban Para Ord magazines, of up to 15 round capacity!]

Para has gently "melted" the original P14 dimensions in all the right places, including the grip area of the frame - it is only slightly larger in circumference (and I mean every slightly) than a standard 1911 frame. The front strap of the grip also has serrations to aid in gripping the P14. Interesting that Para didn't include their Power Extractor [seen on earlier Canadian-production Para Ords] on the newly re-introduced P14. Instead, it has the standard 1911 extractor. I've read reports on the Internet (and you have to take most things with a grain of salt that you read on the 'net) that people had lots of problems with the Power Extractor breaking. I've had several Para handguns with the Power Extractor and didn't have any problems at all. Nor did I have any problems with extraction during my testing of the P14 sample, with the standard 1911-profile extractor.

The P14 comes with a match-grade 5" stainless barrel that is throated and polished. My sample fed everything I put through it and never once stuttered or stammered - with the two Mec-Gar magazines that came with the gun. I purchased some Para-made P14 magazines to add to the two that came with the gun. These mags were the older ones - they were made by Para Ord in Canada. The springs were super-stout, and on several of the magazines, I couldn't get the last couple of rounds loaded into them - even with the aid of a magazine loader. Not to fear, Para's warranty covers magazines as well as their guns. I returned the 7 extra mags I purchased to Para, with a note explaining how difficult they were to load. Two weeks later, I received a package with 7 nickel plated 14-round mags, and they all worked perfectly. Para USA has an outstanding warranty and their customer service is great, too.

My P14 sample is one of the most accurate 1911s that I've ever fired, period! Now, keep in mind that, this is a factory gun, not some custom 1911. It seemed as if Para might have built-in some kind of "radar" into the P14, that allows the gun to get on-target and place all the rounds where you want them to go. I fired over 500 rounds of various ammo through my P14, and as I mentioned, I didn't have any malfunctions of any kind. I had Buffalo Bore 185 grain JHP +P, 230 grain JHP +P and their several other of their .45ACP loadings. Now, you've got to remember, these .45ACP rounds are all stout +P from Buffalo Bore - and the P14 had no problems at all with the heavier recoil. One thing I like about the P14 is that, with the slightly "chunkier" grip, it helps spread out the recoil impulse.

I also had some Black Hills Ammunition on-hand for testing. I had the usual assortment of .45ACP, including their 185 grain JHP, 185 grain JHP +P, their 230 grain FMJ and 230 grain JHP loads. Additionally, I had their 230 grain JHP +P load and their newest 185 grain JHP Barnes X-Tac load - which is an all copper JHP load, that reportedly will penetrate about 24% deeper and the bullet stays together - it expands nicely, but stays together as their is no lead core - the bullet is formed entirely of copper. I also fired Winchester's "USA" white box 230 grain FMJ rounds through the Para P14, and this is a great target load and economical as well.

I honestly wish I could say there was a "worse" load when it came to accuracy in the P14, but this gun shot all loads just about equally well. The Para P14 sample I had just kept putting all the rounds into one ragged hole at 25-yards, with me shooting the gun over a rest, over the hood of my car. I actually was getting bored with the P14, it just kept putting all my rounds where I wanted them to go. I mean, what's not to like here? If pressed, I'd have to give a nod to the Black Hills 230 grain JHP as the most accurate load I tested, but it only beat out all the other loads ever-so-slightly.

I did do some additional testing on the side with the new Black Hills 185 grain JHP Barnes X-Tac load, firing into water-filled gallon milk jugs. As advertised, the bullets held together and fully expanded, and they did, in fact, penetrate deeper than other JHP rounds. I'll be covering this in another article in a few weeks. However, if you have the opportunity to check out some of these new loads from Black Hills, you'll be surprised at how deep the hollow point cavity is.

If I did my part, I could easily keep 5-rds inside of an inch and a half (at 25-yards) - with some groups a tiny bit bigger, and some a little bit smaller. I did manage several groups of 1 inch - that's match grade accuracy - from a factory gun. Again, what's not to like here? And, if there's one thing we all need to keep in mind, especially when looking at a full-sized gun for survival purposes, and that's how many rounds they hold and how accurate and reliable are the guns. I think it's a good idea to have more rounds for a gun, and what better place than to carry those extra rounds in the gun itself - the on-board magazine! It's hard to find fault with a 1911 that holds 14+1 rounds on-board. That's enough to put an end to most fights, and you also have a second mag that comes with the P14. And, if you aren't carrying at least one reload for your handgun, shame on you!

I have a lot of 1911 holsters laying around, and the P14 fit all of them. Now, you've got to remember, the P14 weighs slightly more than a standard 1911 (unloaded). However, when you insert a full magazine with 14-rounds in it, the gun weighs quite a bit more than a 1911 that only holds 7 or 8 rounds. You need a good holster and a strong, wide gun belt, to support this full-sized gun with a fully loaded magazine. I like the Blackhawk Products Serpa belt holster - it holds the gun tight and close to the body, and it also has the "Serpa" retention device, that keeps the gun locked in the holster until you draw it - then you simply press in on the retaining tab on the holster (as in a natural draw) and the gun is released for a draw. I also used a small belt slide holster from Safariland to carry the P14 - this is about as minimal of a holster as you can get, and it really held the gun close to my body, however, it was a bit uncomfortable when seated in my SUV for some reason.

If ever confronted with a TEOTWAWKI situation, I'd probably strap on the Blackhawk Serpa tactical thigh holster - one of my favorite carry rigs, for serious tactical work. You can also attach two spare mag pouches on this Serpa holster - that gives you 43 rounds of fight-stopping .45 ACP power on-hand. I also tested a Blackhawk leather belt holster, with a thumb snap, and the P14 nestled in there perfectly, as well as carrying the gun a bit higher on the waist, making it more concealable.

My test and evaluation of the Para USA P14 was uneventful for the most part - the gun just perked along without any malfunctions, and it sent all the rounds downrange where I wanted them to go. The P14 will fit in just about any holster made for 1911s, and that's a good thing. There is a limited lifetime warranty from Para USA on their guns, and they have outstanding customer service, too. The P14 retails for around $950. That is not cheap, but not too spendy, either - it's right in the ballpark for a high-quality 1911, that will do all your ask of it for self-defense or survival purposes. Now my only problem is, as usual, trying to find a way to come up with the funds to purchase my sample - it's not going back to Para USA!

Dear Mr. Rawles,
Here is my review of the book Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick. This a book with great insights for preppers and survivalists, especially in the famine food area.  As you are aware, North Korea suffered a disastrous ten-year famine in which possibly as many as 20% of the population died of starvation and most of the rest were severely malnourished.  This book is about several families and how they did and didn't make it through those years.  Particularly striking to me were instances where they were eating and, more-or-less, surviving on sawdust, corncobs, grasses, weeds and all manner of other things that even hard-core survivalists disdain. The daily 'meal' at a college was turnip leaf soup with salt.  I had the impression that the turnip leaves were somewhat sparse as well.  Sometimes a spoonful of cornmeal that had been cooked for hours to plump it up was added as a treat.  In latter years, one woman was getting up before dawn to pick whatever weeds had sprouted during the night before others found them.  Both her husband and son starved to death.

Some ability to grow some sort of vegetables was a real key to surviving.  A well-off family made it through on seaweed, rice and shreds of carrots and cucumbers.  They were eating better than everyone except the very elite government leaders.

Also, notable was how informal markets and bartering arose, even under massive government oppression,  and was a survival mechanism for many.  Those who suffered most were those who didn't have and couldn't find any barter-able skill.  The skills that were valuable would be of interest to many preppers.  The ability to make things and cook things were especially useful.

I think that you and your readers will find the book of interest. - Nancy S.

I've asked Avalanche Lily to put this at the top of my Christmas list: FLIR Scout PS24. I never thought I'd see a good quality compact thermal imaging monocular below $2,500. What a pleasant surprise. Note to our overseas readers: Sorry, but these are Federally export-restricted.

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For just three days, September 6th through the 8th, Safecastle will offer a 25% discount on Mountain House cans (and pouches, too)!

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Bob S. sent this: Minnesota landowners livid over mineral contracts.

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John Jacob Schmidt, the host of Radio Free Redoubt has announced that he is organizing a volunteer network of ham radio operators, for disaster contingencies. If you are a ham living in American Redoubt region or in an adjoining state, then please e-mail John if you'd like to be involved.

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The latest absurdity from Nanny State Britannia: London Refuses Kids Tickets to Gun-Related Olympic Events. Well, based on their idiotic convoluted logic, they shouldn't let kids see the Olympic javelin throwing competition, either--because it might "glorify" javelins! (Thanks to D.B. in Seattle for the link.)

"The vice of capitalism is it's unequal sharing of blessings. The Virtue of Socialism is it's equal sharing of misery." - Winston Churchill

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Today we present another entry for Round 36 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 Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $300 value.) C.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from (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 (a $180 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, and C.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 36 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I've only been in the survival community for one to two years; I still need quite a bit of work to do before I'd dare say I'm prepared enough to survive a severe blizzard let alone some life changing and significantly prolonged event. I get a little overwhelmed by all the work I still have to do and frustrated by how precious little resources I have to work with. I'm a 21 year old unemployed college student still living at home in an apartment complex 20 minutes from a city, as you can see my options are limited. Limited not eliminated; my situation is not a hopeless one, neither is any reader out there who finds themselves in the same boat as me (be it limited resources or inexperience). There are still many things we can do to build a solid foundation  onto which the rest of our survivalist futures will rest upon. Here are just a few things I've learned to do, I hope it helps others out there just starting off in their preparedness planning.

I live in an area of the country famous for temperamental weather patterns, the only constant expected here is snow and lots of it in the winter time. My first step is to deal with the most likely threat first and work my way up from there. did a fantastic piece on this called the "Survival Pyramid" the pyramid (from top down) is formed by how much supplies equipment and resources are needed depending on the situation. For example the top tier is the most common of events, small weather events (like the blizzards I mentioned) power outages and anything run of the mill that requires the bare minimum of preparedness is in this segment.

I know when I started reading the survival web sites I flipped out realizing how many things could disrupt my life and require me to survive on my own for an indefinite period of time. I began thinking It could happen any day now. I need a kit for this and something in my car for that. I need to make more money and start storing food, NOW! Frankly it was a miserable feeling, I was always anxious and always felt defeated. I had created an idol, I wasn't sticking with the faith knowing God would provide for me if events beyond my control and beyond my capacity to prepare for happened. Also I wasn't feeling like a real survivalist, prepping should give a certain amount of confidence and peace of mind because you have a plan.

That peace of mind only came for me when my priorities were set (aka put God first) straight and when I set up a realistic goal for starting out. That realistic goal can only be achieved (adequately and efficiently) by sitting down and planning before the crisis is happening. Right now while the world is sane and your mind is calm and focused write down what you would need to make it through a survival situation. You won't have this luxury while the event is hours away or happening right this very second and you're in a crowded half empty supermarket trying to find bread and soup for the next few days. This also helps you realize the important stuff that you over looked trying to get all the essentials taken care of. The other important items? Toilet paper, feminine products, tooth paste etc. All the little stuff you know will bite you in the nose the minute you're out of it and you have no way to get it.

Finally set up a timetable so that you can eventually extend your small term plan into a long term plan in a realistic but efficient manner. For example I'm writing this in August, my starter two week winter survival plan's deadline is December 1st. The deadline is placed far enough in advance for me so that I can ensure to meet it. Realistic deadlines will give you the proper motivation needed to get the job done at a steady pace (this idea was taken from Southernprepper1, a very great survivalist and fantastic teacher on YouTube, I highly recommend everyone check him out). And once you've met that deadline you'll see that this isn't so bad, it can be done, and done right. Next you'll stretch your supplies from two weeks to a month, then a year supply with a planted garden for perpetual food supplies. Before you know it you'll be Bugging Out with the best of them.



Turns out survival skills require quite a bit of knowledge and a varied skill set.

In this day and age we're surrounded by information, it won't be too hard for you to learn more about all things preparedness.

For starters there's the machine you're sitting at right now. The internet gives everyone access to the largest storage center for information and idea sharing ever created in human history. To make this search for knowledge on the vastness of the web more fruitful and dare I say fun I recommend a Stumble Upon account. is a more entertaining and less tedious version of Google-like searching. Create the account and put in what your hobbies and interests are, (yes survivalist is an option) then hit the "stumble" button. The next thing you know web sites you've never even heard of on a standard Google search will be popping up at random ready to display valuable information to you.

But of course the old fashion book still has a place in this digital world (after all when the Schumer hits the fan we'll need something to reference to) in my college library I was able to find a survival resource book that is no longer in print. I happily spent free time in the library between classes reading it and taking notes. The library is free people, and I'm sure you pass at least one on your various travels. You can even search the selves from the internet these days making finding books that much easier.

Of course there's not just skills but equipment that you must learn about too. Product reviews on shopping web sites aren't always the most reliable source of information since they can contain one or two people who didn't know how to properly handle the product (it happens frequently with electronics, an almost 100% five star rating ruined by a select few that can't program the television or sound system the right way). More often than not though they can help give you a better idea of the quality of a product. Professional reviews of products on web sites devoted to survivalism are the best since these people know how to handle the equipment and can give you an accurate reading on how well it truly performs. However, personally, the best book I've read on gear selection (for a beginner that is) has to be Camping for Dummies by Michael Hodgson. It gives a great overview of what to look for in backpacks, boots, and sleeping bags to get the most for your money.

Of course not all things can be learned from merely reading. Once you have the money and ability I strongly recommend taking courses in first aid and basic wilderness survival. There's something about being instructed and physically doing the actions that instills a sense of confidence that is vital in chaotic and stressful situations that require a sound, focused, and prepared mind to deal with them.

Preparing YOU

One part of survivalism that is finally receiving attention is the need for us to stay in the best physical shape possible so that we can meet the possible demands of a Schumer hit the fan situation. Thankfully, if you're creative and do a bit of research on strength and conditioning, you'll find out that it's not that difficult or expensive to start your own custom workout regimen. I've been blessed with a best friend that is also an aspiring personal trainer (he also won a strong man bench-press competition last year, hey I have to brag) he has given me a great amount of advice and has developed a training system to meet military and martial artist standards of fitness. The workout schedule goes as follows (just to give an example):

Monday: Strength Training 8 reps 3 sets 1 minute rests between sets
Tuesday: Cardio a series of movements executed on the punching bag. Rest as needed
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Endurance Training 15 reps 2 sets 2 minute rests between sets
Friday: Quick Cardio a series of simpler movements executed on the punching bag (only  more of them) rest as needed.

The workouts only take me about 30 minutes a day and afterwards I don't feel so exhausted that I can't move. I feel great actually and the results are worth it.

Another part of survivalism that has finally taken root in the community is having the proper mind set to deal with the tough decisions and events of a Schumer hit the fan situation. Again has done a brilliant piece on the emotional and mental toll of taking another person's life in the name of self-defense. Southernprepper1 does a series of videos that act as if a WROL (Without Rule of Law) situation is actually occurring.

It's best to realize now, in the foundational stages that is, that survivalism is not meant to be treated like an evening out with the guys. It's not a perpetual camping trip and it isn't an excuse to get all your cool guns together and play Rambo. It's a serious business that requires a mature and prepared mind to handle the stress and uncertainty of this new reality that you've been thrown into.

Reach Out

We can't survive alone, in your planning stages as well as your execution of the survival plans you are going to need help. I made the mistake of trying to do it all on my own at first, then I read a article on talking with your family about being prepared. I started including my mother (whom I live with) in the conversation on the matter, turns out she had some ideas I never would've thought of and she was more than willing to help contribute to the effort. I can tell you it feels good having someone around to help shoulder the burden and it looks like the plans will be moving faster because of our collaboration.

Especially when you're just starting out you're going to need help, you're going to need the experience and knowledge of others to get off on the right path. Never be afraid to ask for help from the survival community, if there's one important and fantastic thing I've learned from joining the various survival web sites it's how friendly and helpful even the most experienced veteran survivalist is. They know what's out there, what can rock worlds and change life as we know it in an instant, they preparing for it and they're more than happy to help you prepare for it too in any way they can. It kind of reminds me of the old days before there was this useless Nanny State system, when neighbors hit a financial rough spot they helped each other out. They made dinners and brought it over to the affected family, they offered help in fixing whatever was broken free of charge, and even left $500 in an unmarked envelope addressed to a needy family (something which happened to my mother at church once).

In the past month I've been blessed many times by my church family covering my six because of such tough times (I write this article on a very nice laptop that was given to me as a birthday present, among other things, to help me get through college and reach for a better future).

"Woe to the man who falls and lacks a brother to help him up" says Ecclesiastes 4:10. It is a fatal error to believe you can survive all by yourself. You can do a lot to make yourself less dependent on the government for protection, and make yourself less dependent on modern infrastructure like the power grid and supermarkets. But the bottom line is at some point and time you'll need someone to "cover your six" because you need the safety of numbers, because you don't know how to do something but a friend of yours does, or simply because you need someone around for moral support.

Don't let the prideful "I can do it myself" mentality dig in early in your preparedness plans, it will most certainly be your Achilles Heel when stuff really starts falling apart. We became a strong, stable and prosperous society by benefiting from the trades of talents and knowledge from each other. The same strength, stability, and prosperity can only be achieved in survival situations if we benefit from each other.

With much love and hope that everyone stays safe and secure in all their plans, - ChristianRebel

There have been several recent articles on UPS systems and inverters. Most of the current inverters use MOSFETs or similar sensitive solid state switching devices. These are the hardest stressed components of the inverter. Spares should be a consideration. In addition many modern inverters use custom chips that may not even be available now, so not at all after TEOTWAWKI. Consider this, inverters have been around for quite along time. The best design that I have worked with and designed circuitry for is the McMurray-Bedford inverter. It is a simple design that originally used thyratron tubes and later, SCRs. This inverter can be built very simple, yes you will need to hand wind the commutation coils which are air core and you will need some oil capacitors, wind or find a suitable output transformer, many options here, harmonic filters if you want the best sine wave output,
but not always required, depending what your loads require. The industry common DC buss voltages are 135 VDC, 270 VDC and 405 VDC. But you can design around most anything as long as you realize as the DC buss voltage goes down, the DC current will go up and so does the size of the power components. As far as the control electronics and oscillator are concerned you can build it with common op-amp technology, transistor technology or vacuum tubes if you want to. Since this is technology that has been around for quite some time much information can be found in older electronics and electrical engineering books and even on the Internet. If you want to prepare using this technology collect some large power SCRs and oil capacitors, look at some other people’s designs too. Some complete schematics of early Emerson Electric, through the mid 1980s are some very excellent and robust designs. That product started to suffer when microprocessors were phased in their designs. If you can get your hands on them--and I have seen them in surplus stores--any of the small 20 KVA or 40 KVA 120/208 VAC in and out inverters that use the 135V DC buss, you will have a nice UPS that will be rugged, sine wave output as they all had harmonic filtering. (Think 10 car or deep cycle batteries in series, or better yet larger single cell UPS batteries). That, along with a collection of spare SCRs, fuses and a few other components and you will be set. They are not the most efficient inverters around but they are very reliable. Hospitals and others have used them for years.

They can easily be made to run on single phase 240V AC input, built in battery charger, and you have the advantage of 3 phase output. Emerson at that time also made some very rugged variable frequency drives that run on single phase and have a 3 phase output that have standard TO-3 transistors as the output devices. Very rugged and reparable, I have fixed several I found surplus to run various machine tools that were 3 phase for people to have in their garages, i.e. Bridgeport mills, lathes etc. Once I fixed one
it never needed fixing again. Usually the surplus ones just have a blown transistor or two. I regret not obtaining some of the smaller UPS systems as they came to the surplus market a few years ago. Now that my eyes have been opened by JWR and his fantastic blog, if the price is right I may get one or later I will build a smaller, say 5-10 KVA one. I have always liked and designed things that are as simple and reliable as possible, the K.I.S.S. principle.

Around the US large amounts of electricity are transmitted by high voltage DC. The Sylmar inverter in Southern California is the closest high voltage VDC, (500,000 VDC) inverter to me connected to the Pacific Intertie originally used mercury arc rectifiers, as a kid you could look through the fence and see it and hear it. The new station now uses thyristors instead of tubes. I think Edison and Tesla are smiling and have become fast friends in Heaven today, as both AC and DC are equally important in power transmission.

I hope some day our family is blessed to move to the American Redoubt and I will gladly help anybody that is interested build and maintain rugged and reliable survival electronics. I would love to teach others especially children what I can. Sparking an interest in a child's mind makes me so happy it's exciting for me too. I know because that's what started me out in electronics.

Thank you James for all you do and God Bless all. - Jimmy in California

This experience was thought-provoking, and many of D.M.L.’s ideas were interesting.  But there were two ideas that have not been tested or proven, so at this point they are only ideas.  First, J-B Weldwill not repair a cracked Briggs & Stratton two piece fuel tank.  They are made of black HDPE, and there is no proper glue for that.  I have personal experience with this.  HDPE is heat welded when two pieces must be joined.  You have to determine your Briggs & Stratton model number and order a replacement gas tank from  I got mine for my Briggs & Stratton 6.0 hp Quantum engine for about $31 and it came in only three days. [JWR Adds: This underscores the importance of regular maintenance and starting up you backup generator under load, monthly. That is the only sure way to be 99% sure that your genset will start on the first pull and run smoothly, when disaster strikes.]

Second, the pump on an old Coleman white gas stove usually has a leather gasket in it that dries out so it won’t seal.  Use a pliers to pry off the C-ring and disassemble the pump.  Massage some vegetable oil into the leather gasket to fluff up the leather and put it back together.  Be careful and don’t put the leather gasket in up side down.  Usually the pump will work unless it was so bad it was cracked.  Don’t use motor oil on leather; it will deteriorate.  Like D.M.L., I used to rely on my Coleman stove and lanterns for emergencies, but I got tired of rehabilitating those leather gaskets.  I found a [Chinese] propane canister stove at 99 Ranch Market for $15 with 8 oz propane canisters for $1. I picked up ten of the canisters.  Your local Asian market should carry them.  This setup is very highly reviewed on, which also stocks them. 

I love your blog.  I’d like to contribute when I can. - R.E.R. in San Diego

Thanks to the information presented in your book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" we were able to “weather” Hurricane Irene without much difficulty. It was amazing to the pandemonium at the super markets; people were waiting for water to be brought out from the stockroom and wondering whether they would “die of thirst”. If they had only looked over their shoulder they would have seen a pallet filled with cases of soda (on sale: four cases for eleven dollars). The same goes for D-cell batteries; people were lamenting that they didn’t have batteries for their flashlights; if they were only to look up they would have seen plenty of flashlights that took AA batteries and a plentiful supply of batteries to go with them.

There were of course long lines at the gasoline stations; I had been keeping the tank in my car at least 3/4 full (thanks advice from the “Fong-man”character in "Patriots" if I’m not mistaken).
Everyone in my neighborhood was extremely calm and we checked on each other. One of my neighbors had just returned from the mountains so we were able to give her some of water and supplies I stockpiled. We were only without power for 14 hours and the [public utility] gas and water were still functioning.
One thing I did after a few days was to conduct a “post mortem” on my contingency plan. For example, I took your weekend challenge but was unaware that our hot water heater, which runs on gas also requires electricity [for ignition.]  Some of my supplies and gear could have purchased for much less; especially one of the pre-packed go-bags I purchased.
I live with an older parent. I was okay with the devotional candles and the flashlights but I was worried about my elderly mother stumbling around with a hand held light source.
Thanks again for publishing this information; I’m sure you’ve made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. - Greg T.

[JWR Replies: Thanks for your encouraging feedback. In my experience a headlamp (such as a Petzl) is ideal for keeping your hands free for other tasks. They can even be used by elderly folks with walkers.

My message to J.B. is: don’t give up after just one season. I’ve been gardening since I was very little. Having a green thumb has little to do with luck or heredity but much to do with experiential knowledge of what plants like/don’t like and require to thrive. We moved to our current residence about 13 months ago. I started my new garden from scratch over existing sod- starting last June when we moved our pony to the property, even before the house was completed. I love to experiment whether it is by building a homemade incubator and trying to hatch my own chicks or trying different ways of amending the soil. I’m also a cheapskate. For this reason I decided to try creating my raised beds out of recycled newspapers(which I traded for my free range eggs) covered with the used stall bedding from our pony, used chicken bedding and the fall leaves and kitchen scraps that usually make up my compost pile. I planned to till all the organic matter together in the spring, rake it smooth and add a 2-3 inch layer of topsoil over the top for the seedbed as the organic matter wouldn’t be decomposed by spring. I knew this would probably work reasonably well from past experience growing green peppers in a small layer of potting soil on top of my compost bins. I knew I wanted a large garden but probably couldn’t get enough raw materials in the first year to fill the entire 14x70 ft space I had available, to the desired 12 inches deep. I used easy-up corners and 2x8 8-foot cedar lumber for the sides. The corners are extremely easy to use and only a hammer is needed to put the beds together. I used 4-6 layers of newspaper on the bottom to kill out the existing grass. Did I mention I’m also a lazy gardener?

The resource I used to learn about this method is the Lazy Gardener’s Guide to Gardening which I read several years ago. The method is called "Lasagna gardening." No tilling or sod lifting required. I got the first 20 feet or so filled in the fall to a depth of about 18 inches using leaves and mixing in the stall bedding. By spring I was nowhere near to having the 70 ft length filled. I continued to add manure mixed with bedding through spring. I’ve read that one should stop adding manure 1 month prior to planting. I used this as a suggestion, not a hard and fast rule. After tilling the first 25 feet  this April, I added topsoil from a pile left by previous owners from when the pool was dug. A key addition at this time was a few handfuls of super phosphate sprinkled on the topsoil before I raked it smooth. Phosphate is the P in the N-P-K formulation of fertilizers. I figured I had plenty of Nitrogen from the manures and P is essential for the formation of strong roots and plentiful flowers and therefore fruits/vegetables.

I planted 75 strawberry plants, onions, spinach, 2 types of lettuce and peas into this area. The next area of the garden had no fall leaves and only stall and chicken bedding (added during winter) covered with the same 2-3 inch layer of topsoil. I planted 36 store bought broccoli plants, about 30 tomato plants I grew in the basement, and 5 rows of short season sweet corn with squash between the rows to discourage raccoons. The broccoli is still producing in early September in zone 5. The tomatoes did well after a rough start. I lost several to frost as I pushed the planting date a little too early. I did this knowing I had about 50 spare plants in waiting. The varieties were Roma, Early Girl and  Beefsteak. Rabbits ate my plants well into spring despite plastic fencing around the perimeter (totally inadequate, hoping to get the chain link installed by next spring.) Tomatoes are now producing and I am getting a few into jars for the winter.

The sweet corn was ready by the 4th of July in a year where no one else had corn that early. The key was early planting and generous nitrogen available which speeds maturity. The corn was small but delicious and I even had enough extra to freeze several bags. The next area of the garden was a mixture of sand and topsoil, courtesy of my neighbor and his tractor. It was a 50/50 mix. I used this for my potatoes as I didn’t feel good about growing root crops in fresh manure. Again I sprinkled Super P  before planting. I have been digging potatoes since 4th of July and they seem to have liked the sand mix. I was now into mid May for planting and still didn’t have the full 70 feet of space filled. I continued to dump bedding from the horse, chickens and now the guinea pigs into the empty space, on top of my newspapers and cover the whole thing with a thin layer of soil and a sprinkle of super P. I managed two bean plantings, two weeks apart before I got burned out hauling soil by the wheel barrowful across the yard. I didn’t quite reach the end of my 70 ft garden this growing season (about 10 ft left). Rabbits really took a toll on the beans early on. Most recovered and I am currently canning green beans every 3 days and hoping for a 3rd flush before the end of the season.

I  owe much of my success to prior knowledge. I have worked in the seed corn and soybean industry  and also the green house industry in the past. If I had to sum up the knowledge that helped me be successful in my first year, this is how I would do it:

1. It is not necessary to dig existing sod if one uses Lasagna gardening method
2. A fine seed bed is necessary for good germination (ergo the layer of fine topsoil)
3.  Phosphorus is necessary for roots and blooms and most soils can benefit from its addition (if you are not getting any blooms, this is the first thing I’d recommend adding)
4. Sweet corn is a heavy feeder (of course, because it is in the grass family)- the fresh manure didn’t burn it a bit. Plus it needs to be planted in a block or next to a field of field corn to pollinate well (if you are not growing heirloom varieties/ plan to save seed)
5. Beans planted in too high a nitrogen situation will not set pods, but will instead grow lush vegetation and few pods.
6. taking advantage of companion plantings (squash with corn and the greens planted between the young strawberries) yields more in a smaller space.
7. many plants will recover from a light frost and/or rodent defoliation given time and proper care.
8. squash family members are also heavy feeders



  1. The fresh manure didn’t burn the plants like I’ve been told it would. Maybe because of the layer of soil? Or the combination of the wood based bedding to tie up some of the nitrogen?
  2. Picking each and every day for beans, and every third day for broccoli has kept the plants producing over an extended period- all spring and summer for the broccoli and since early July for the beans. The key is to not let the plants develop any mature seed or in case of broccoli, flowers.
  3. Providing support to the peas and tomatoes greatly increased their yields
  4.  The strawberry plants which were not heavily shaded by other plants  (volunteer pumpkin vines) put out many more leaves and runners in their first year
  5.  Chickens love the squash vine bugs that eventually killed my vines, one at a time, the tomato horn worms and the bean leaf beetles. Little ones (chicks) work best as they don’t trample the veggies or reach as high to eat the tomatoes

It’s what you don’t know that will get you! Good luck and happy gardening. - E.G. in Indiana