February 2012 Archives

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Today we present another entry for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

My family is from the former Yugoslavia and it had been a family tradition to go back and visit the homeland of my grandparents. Unfortunately for me, by the time I could go, my father had passed and I found only one cousin willing to do it again. As luck would have it, it was the summer of 2000 and I thought the war had been long over. It was only recently I discovered that the horror continued right up until just before my arrival there.
After a short stopover in Frankfurt, we boarded a smaller plane to Zagreb. The flight was beautiful, the scenery, breathtaking.
I thought about the stories I was told about this place. My family were farmers there, and I was excited to experience the way of life that used to sustain them. I wanted to see the animals, horses, pigs, cows, chickens, the fields of vegetables, and how they did it all. I had heard about how they would slaughter the pigs, then salt and smoke them, and I really wanted to know how. I don't know if you've had them, but Yugoslavians are famous for their cabbage rolls. I wanted to know how to make the sour cabbage, and how they did all this for ages without refrigeration. I was fascinated with the idea of being self sustaining off the grid, and how they managed even after the war.

We rented a van to get to the tiny village of Covac near the larger city of Okucane. I was surprised at the military presence there still, there were checkpoints with armed guards asking to see your passport. Luckily most of them spoke English and didn't actually seem that concerned with us. We must have went through three before getting to our destination.

Arriving in Covac, it was like nothing I had ever seen. One gravel road, off of another gravel road, one small store at the corner. There were maybe 40 houses altogether, surrounded by fields and farther back, forests. At one time this place was beautiful. Now, unreal. Most of the houses had been destroyed and abandoned. Some had walls missing, bullet holes marred the surface of the concrete, trees even growing where the roof once was. The town pavilion that once held meetings, dances and parties was reduced to rubble. We pulled into the gravel driveway of the house we would be staying at. 

Our hosts came out to greet us, a young lady and her elderly mother. The house was small by western standards, a concrete square with a kitchen, bedroom and cold room. The kitchen had a table and chairs, a woodstove and small counter, and a laundry line all lit with a single bulb hanging from the ceiling. The bedroom held two single beds, and a dresser with a television with rabbit ears atop, again all illuminated with a single bulb. The cold room was farthest away from the woodstove, just a concrete room with shelving on all sides which interestingly doubled as the room to bathe in. The outhouse was about 40 feet away, past the open well, unlit of course. My cousin told me a story about using the outhouse while a chicken pecked her from below, I guess that's when they closed it off at the back. Regardless, I still had some anxiety about using the outhouse at night. The well was open, like the ones you see in old fairytales, with a roof and a bucket on a rope. Looking down into the water, I counted four frogs swimming around down there. I hoped they boiled the water before drinking. They didn't. Meals usually consisted of smoked, salted meats, sausage or bacon, eggs, fresh vegetables like tomato and onion, bread and soups.

I remembered my Grandmother telling me about picking beans in the fields, and moving the livestock from the forests to graze, and back to the barn. Looking out at the fields, there was nothing but weeds. The only livestock in the town was some chickens and a cow. I asked what happened, the stories I was told and the place I was in seemed vastly different. When the war came here people fled and later were forced out or had their homes destroyed or taken over. Most of the younger people never returned leaving a town of mostly elderly. There was no one to do the hard work involved in farming here, and no one could afford the start up costs again even if they could. At one time this land was self sufficient, the people were happy and free, now barren, a way of life lost. I wanted to walk in the fields that sustained my family for generations, I was told I was not allowed. Not allowed? Apparently it had not yet been cleared of land mines so it would be an enormous risk. I still can't believe that a tiny village, so far away from a small town had been hit so hard in this conflict. I recall a story from my Grandmother about her family hiding from the Nazis back in the war. That happened here, at least twice people were murdered in war, here, on this tiny strip of houses, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

We went to visit other relatives in nearby Gredjane, I had hoped they fared better, they didn't. My Grandfather's brother and his wife lived in a small brick house, the size of a shed. The four of us couldn't all be inside at once it was so small. It held a single bed, a woodstove, and a table and chairs. Nothing here was refrigerated, they had no electricity, not even a light. The towns people came by to say hello. Once again I was surprised at the age of the people who remained here. It amazed me that the elderly people chose to stay or come back while the youth took to the cities and stayed there. Leaving that place, it would be the last time I would see my relatives again. My Grandfather's brother died two years ago, six months after my Grandfather.

Back in Covac, it was bath day. My gracious hosts had to heat buckets of well water on the woodstove for me. I bathed in the cold room, in a plastic bucket a foot deep, two feet across. It wasn't pretty, but it did the job. I had to get used to brushing my teeth outside, and just spitting on the grass. I had never done laundry by hand, that wasn't so bad. All in all, life there seemed so quiet, peaceful. It was actually hard for me to sleep at night, I wasn't used to it being so dark, and so quiet. There were no streetlights, no traffic sounds, not even the familiar sound of dogs barking.

They did have a small garden close to the house. They grew potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbages, tomatoes and beans. Since the summer was ending we did get to help with some of the harvest. At this time, they didn't pull out all of the root vegetables, just some for the cold room to use, and some for next years' planting. We put the seed potatoes in a hole near the house. It was full of hay, we placed the potatoes and onions inside then covered them with hay and buried it. The cabbage was harvested, washed and placed in large tubs with brine, enough to just cover them.The tubs were stored in the cold room, then covered with fabric, a wood plank, and weighed down with a brick. Unfortunately my stay was not long enough for me to try them once the process was complete. I must say, although delicious when cooked up, the smell of them fermenting was a little harsh.

I did not have the opportunity to see any meat processing but I was told how it was done. Once ready, the meat was salted, and then smoked in smokehouses. This would occur in the fall so the meat was then hung in the attic which vented the woodstove smoke in one end and out the other. This would continue the smoking process thus preserving the meat longer for later use. After my visit, the smell of a wood fire always reminds me of my trip, and the taste of homemade smoked bacon.

Three weeks had gone by so fast, even here where there were no distractions in daily living. On the long ride home I had a lot to think about. I believe the one thing that made the deepest impression was the fact that this village, so remote, and so small was so deeply affected in their own TEOTWAWKI. I had just assumed that in almost any situation fleeing the cities is always plan A, this trip taught me otherwise. I believe we need to be careful in creating a plan for disaster that is sort of one size fits all. In this situation, in this civil war, the resources in the city were better. Those left in the country were completely alone in a horrific time and to this day, many of their stories remain untold.

CentOre’s February 7, 2012 article “Signs of the Times: What are the SHTF Tipping Points?” briefly touched on one point that I would like to expand on: Ebola and Marburg viruses.  I am not a physician--I’m not even in the medical field, but I have had the occasion to learn a little more about these viral hemorrhagic fevers (or VHFs) from a research project while pursuing my Bachelor's degree in Emergency Management. The information available on this subject is constantly changing and involves advanced knowledge in a number of scientific disciplines, so what I can provide is just sort of an Intro to Ebola 101.  I know there are people out there who are better trained and more knowledgeable on this topic than I, but maybe this will get the conversation started.  God forbid that one of these plagues should ever come to our shores, but should that happen, I hope this will help SurvivalBlog readers be a little better prepared for it. 

An Ebola Primer

Most of the viral hemorrhagic fevers in the Ebola family originate in sub-Saharan Africa.  The only exception is variant Ebola Reston, which originates in the Philippines. Ebola Reston causes only asymptomatic infections in humans, but devastatingly lethal infections in other primates.  As we will see, it is important in this discussion because it is the only known variant contractible via airborne transmission.  Ebola viral hemorrhagic fevers all begin with fever, body aches, and chills, but soon progress to vomiting, hematemesis, diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, hemorrhaging, and often, death.

Marburg virus
A cousin of Ebola, this virus is fatal in up to 90% of human infections.  First identified in Marburg, West Germany in 1967, it came to Behring Laboratory in a shipment of African Green Monkeys. Lab workers became infected while using the monkeys and their tissues in polio research. The outbreak spread into Yugoslavia before it was halted.  In 2007, the Egyptian Rousette, a species of African fruit bat, was identified as the reservoir of the Marburg virus (Institut de Recherche, 2007).   It is a wide ranging, migratory species found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the Nile River valley, which brings the primary reservoir into the same area as the major metropolitan areas of Cairo and the Nile River delta (Egyptian Fruit Bat, 2003).  These cities are a mere six hours by air to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, and twelve to New York’s JFK airport. Or as Dr. Robert Swanepoel of the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases stated in 2006, "Los Angeles is as close to Ebola as Kinshasa [Democratic Republic of the Congo] with air travel," (Stoddard, 2006).  Air travel has already brought Ebola to our doorstep. 

Ebola Zaire
Identified in 1976 during an outbreak around Yambuku, Zaire, this variant killed 88% of those infected, making its lethality virtually equal with that of Marburg. The reservoirs of this and all other known variants of Ebola have not been identified, in spite of decades of effort.
Ebola Sudan
Near simultaneously with the above Ebola Zaire outbreak, a second Ebola outbreak occurred in the Nazara and Maridi areas of Sudan in 1976.  The infective agent in this outbreak was also identified as Ebola, but a less aggressive variant, killing only 53% of those infected.

Ebola Bundibugyo
The first outbreak of this variant occurred in the Bundibugyo district of Uganda in December 2007 through January 2008. Ebola Bundibugyo differs significantly from other Ebola variants in that it causes more vomiting and was fatal in only 25% of infections.  Its presentation departed so much from previous expectations that only after laboratory analysis was it identified in August 2008 as a new Ebola strain (Powhall, 2007).

Ebola Tai/Cote D’Ivoire/Ivory Coast
 In November 1994, a Swiss ethologist contracted the fever while performing a necropsy on a chimpanzee found in the Tai National Forest in Ivory Coast. She had used poor barrier protection, and was most likely infected by aerosolized fluids during the necropsy. She was later transported to Switzerland for treatment, and made a full recovery after six weeks. In spite of transportation and treatment without strict isolation, no other human cases occurred (Waterman, 1999).

Ebola Reston
As noted above, Reston causes only asymptomatic infections in humans. Researchers discovered it during a 1989 outbreak at a primate quarantine facility in Reston, Virginia. A second outbreak occurred soon after at another primate quarantine facility in Alice, Texas.  No human illnesses or deaths resulted from the few human infections that occurred.  During the outbreaks, primates housed in different sections from the infected primates soon contracted the virus as well.  Since there was no contact between these groups and the second group had been in quarantine beyond the incubation
period for Ebola, it appears that this variant is communicable through airborne transmission.


Recombinant viruses
Samples of Ebola Zaire obtained from six dead gorillas and a chimpanzee were found to have different genetic sequences.  In other words, Ebola viruses are capable of recombination, a capability seen rarely in RNA viruses and never before seen in filoviruses (Mackenzie, 2007). Remember the “milder” Ebola variants Bundibugyo and Tai, and airborne but asymptomatic Reston?  Should any of them find their way into a common host with one of the fiercely pathogenic Zaire, Sudan, or Marburg variants, recombination could occur and result in a slower burning but just as deadly new variant of Marburg, or a murderous and airborne variant of Zaire. Had that been the case in Reston, Virginia or Alice, Texas, instead of a few dead Macaques, the result could have been much worse, perhaps even TEOTWAWKI. 
Increasing risk to North America
Ebola has long been in intermittent scourge in sub-Saharan Africa, and has extended it reach into Europe once.  It has not been a major concern to North America for a couple of reasons: 1) outbreaks tend to occur deep in the African bush, and 2) the disease is so aggressively pathogenic that it kills its carriers before they can spread the disease further.  As illustrated above, the potential for an emerging, less aggressive variant is an ever-present risk.
Sub-Saharan Africans have been immigrating to Europe in record numbers. Such immigration to France doubled between 1982 and 1990. By 2005, the African immigrant population of metropolitan France was an estimated 3.6 million (ISEE, 2005). This growth has triggered a rapidly growing demand for illegal bush meat, any of which could carry one of the Ebola viruses or some as-of-yet unidentified hemorrhagic virus.  And it isn’t just Europe’s problem. The black market bush meat trade is a growing problem in the United States and Canada (BCTF, 2009). Anyone who handles Ebola-infected bush meat is likely to contract that disease, and likely to transmit it to others as it progresses through vomiting, hemorrhaging, and death.

Carrier states
According to the Special Pathogens Branch of the Centers for Disease Control, Ebola viruses have no carrier state; that is that there can be no “Typhoid Mary” of Ebola—no person who carries an infective form of the virus yet has no symptoms (CDC, 2009).  While it may seem like sophomoric hubris for one to differ with the CDC on the issue of disease, research indicates that their position may not necessarily be accurate.
Research performed during two outbreaks of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in northern Gabon in 1996 discovered that “asymptomatic, replicative Ebola infection can and does occur in human beings” (Leroy et al, 2000, p. 2210). This same research demonstrated that there were no genetic differences between the Ebola strains found in symptomatic and asymptomatic persons, indicating that that the cases were not the result of viral mutation.  This raises the ugly probability of the Ebola version of Typhoid Mary; persons without the disease but still infected and very much infective.  A further complication arises during convalescence after acquiring Ebola, as viable virus has been isolated from the seminal fluid of convalescing Ebola victims two to three months after the disease has resolved (Leroy et al, 2000, p. 2210).  It is therefore only prudent to assume that Ebola is also sexually transmitted.

Another potential carrier of Ebola viruses are dogs.  During the Ebola outbreak in Gabon in 2001-2002, research was conducted on pet dogs in the area of the outbreaks. Blood samples were taken from dogs living in areas where outbreaks had occurred, major cities, and as a control, dogs in France. In short, testing on the dogs showed an increase in seroprevalence of Ebola as a function of their distance from the outbreak areas. Villages in the outbreak area with an animal source, such as a dead primate, also had the highest level of seroprevalence when compared to villages without an animal source, major cities, and the dogs in France (Allela, Bourry, Pouillot, Delicat, Yaba, Kumulugui, 2005). The researchers concluded that the dogs had been infected with the Ebola Zaire virus that circulated in that area, and that the infections had been either extremely mild, or completely asymptomatic. During these asymptomatic infections, dogs “may excrete infectious viral particles in urine, feces, and saliva for a short period before virus clearance” (Allela et al, 2005, p.389). Ebola is a highly infective pathogen requiring exposure to relatively few virus particles to produce symptoms.  An affectionate lick from an asymptomatic dog might be all it takes to contract the disease.

Implications for the Prepper

The sooner you can pick the truth out of the media noise the more time and distance you can put between the generally diseased public and yourself.  Amidst all the media sensationalizing and the government bowdlerizing, listen for a confluence of these reported symptoms. Parenthetical figures are percent of known historical cases reporting each symptom.

  • Fever (90%-100%)
  • Headache (40%-90%)
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain/joint pain (40%-80%)
  • Malaise (75%-85%)
  • Pharyngitis (20%-40%)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting (59%)
  • Vomiting blood (10%-40%)
  • Non-bloody diarrhea (81%)
  • Blood fails to clot (71%-78%)
  • Abdominal pain (60-80%)
  • Dry and sore throat (63%)
  • Chest pain (83% of Ebola Sudan infected patients; uncommon in Ebola Zaire infected patients)
  • Abnormal susceptibility to bleeding—hemorrhagic diathesis (71%-78%)
  • Maculopapular rash—flat, red rash with raised bumps (5%-20%)
  • Hiccups (15 %)      (Waterman, 1999)


 Your first order of business should be to create distance between you and the GDP as you can as quickly as possible. If ever there was justification to withdraw to your retreat, this is it. The CDC and local health departments will be scrambling to isolate and identify this beast, but it could be weeks before they even know what they are dealing with.  If you don’t have your own piece of the American Redoubt, then quarantine yourself and yours from the rest of the population as best you can. Barring some god awful mutation, Ebola is not airborne, so if you can keep people from coughing, sneezing, bleeding, vomiting, secreting, or doing any other kind fluid-slinging on you, you will be safe. 

Since dogs are likely capable of becoming “Typhoid Mutley” and carrying Ebola, keep stray or feral dogs away from your location. Obviously you don’t want anything that is infected spattering or bleeding around your retreat, so if you can passively exclude dogs and any other carnivores and omnivores from your location with fencing or other measures, it might help prevent you having to kill them within your perimeter.  Also, take care to keep your animals away from strays or wild animals, and don’t let them nose around animal carcasses or droppings. I could not find any information regarding Ebola and native North American wildlife, but the possibility of other animals becoming carriers is a real concern.  Keep this in mind as you go about your daily routine.

If Ebola hits home:
With an incubation period of up to three weeks, going into retreat mode and taking Ebola with you is a possibility.  What if, in spite of all your precautions and preparations, somebody in your group develops Ebola?
At the time of this writing, there are no set treatments for acute Ebola, aside from supportive care in managing hydration, electrolytes, oxygen, and blood pressure. Maintaining the comfort of the patient as best as possible is important, as is doing what can be done to improve their chances of survival and recovery. Due to the extreme pathogenicity of Ebola, extraordinary care must be taken to avoid contamination or infection of others.  Below are the bare minimum of what precautions you should take to protect yourself and the rest of your group while there is an active Ebola infection.

  • Isolation
  • Quarantine
  • Barriers
  • Bleach
  • Burning


Isolation of the symptomatic Ebola patient from the rest of the group. Time in the isolation “ward” should be  minimized as much as possible while still maintaining humane and compassionate care.

Quarantine of exposed persons until the maximum incubation period for Ebola has elapsed (21 days). This means any person believed to have had any direct contact with any amount of bodily fluids from the patient.

Barrier protection for any person caring for the patient or handling anything used by the patient.  The bare acceptable minimum of protection is a face shield that covers the eyes, nose, and mouth; mask, gloves, gown, foot covering, and hood.  You don’t have to have a positive pressure biohazard suit (although that would be ideal). The goal is to keep bodily fluid from touching you being inhaled or ingested.

Bleach the soles of the shoes when leaving the ward by walking through a pan of bleach solution. Spray down the barrier protection with bleach solution before removing it.

Burn contaminated clothing, medical waste, and anything else not reusable. This is not the time to try to conserve medical supplies by reusing disposable supplies. Re-use of disposables was a primary vehicle of spreading Ebola in the earlier African outbreaks.

The CDC has a detailed manual covering infection control procedures for Ebola. It is available as a PDF download from its web site, as well as are other resources. It might be a good idea to have that manual saved on your TEOTWAWKI flash drive and a couple of hard copies printed out, just in case. The manual can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/vhfmanual.htm.

Putting familiarization with Ebola and other possible agents of pandemic on your preparation list, and adding some basic barrier and infection control supplies to your stockpile should help you gain an edge over any such outbreaks. With adequate preparation and help from the Almighty, you can make it through an Ebola crisis.


Allela, L., Bourry, O., Pouillot, R., Delicat, A., Yaba, P., & Kumulungui, B. (2005). Ebola virus antibody prevalence in dogs and human risk. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 11, Retrieved April 15, 2008, from http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol11no03/04-0981.htm

Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, (2009).  United States and Canada in “Regions affected.” Retrieved February 18, 2012 from http://www.bushmeat.org/bushmeat_and_wildlife_trade/regions_affected/us_and_canada

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2010, April 9). Ebola hemorrhagic fever information packet. Retrieved February 18, 2012, from CDC Special Pathogens Branch Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/Fact_Sheets/Ebola_Fact_Booklet.pdf

Deadly Ebola virus can mutate, French scientists warn. (2007, November 30). Agence France-Presse. Retrieved February 20, 2012 at http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jVqkLb-RTvPTOkzEkrovrzFYqeJg

Egyptian fruit bat. The centre for the conservation of specialized species. (May, 2003). Retrieved on April 10, 2007 from http://www.conservationcentre.org/scase2.html

Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (2007, September 11). Marburg virus identified in a species of fruit bat. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 17, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070909205527.htm

INSEE, (2005). Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques - France - statistiques. Retrieved April 9, 2008, from Le recensement de la population Web site: http://www.insee.fr/fr/home/home_page.asp

Leroy, E. M., Baize, S., Volchkov, V. E., Fisher-Hoch, S. P., Georges-Courbot, M-C, & Lansoud-Soukate, J. (2000). Human asymptomatic Ebola infection and strong inflammatory response. The Lancet. 355, 2210-2215.

Mackenzie, D. (November 2, 2007). Ebola evolves deadly new tricks. Virgin Media, Retrieved March 26, 2008, from http://www.virginmedia.com/digital/science/ebola-evolves.php

Parker, J. N., Parker, P. M. The official patient’s sourcebook on Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Icon Health Publications, 2003.

Powhall, K. (2007, December 6). Ugandan health workers hit by Ebola, causing panic. The Seattle Times, Retrieved March 28, 2009, from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2004056966_webebola06.html?lid=seattle_times&lpos=day_txt_ap_report

Stoddard, E. (June 19, 2006).  Ebola could follow bush meat trade routes to west. Reuters, Retrieved February 19, 2012, from http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1651716/posts

Waterman, T. (1999). Tara’s Ebola site: Honors thesis Stanford University. Retrieved on February 15, 2012 from http://virus.stanford.edu/filo/filo.html . This site is also a good source of information on Ebola.

World Health Organization, (2007). Ebola haemorrhagic fever. Retrieved April 12, 2008, from WHO Media Center Web site: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/index.html

JWR Adds: One of the surest preventative measures for diseases spread by human contact is isolation. I have long recommended moving to farming or ranching country in the American Redoubt region. (Even before I gave it that name.) Ponder these population statistics (as of 2011):

Idaho: 1,568,000

Wyoming: 563,000

Montana: 989,000

Eastern Oregon: Approximately 300,000

Eastern Washington: Approximately 450,000

Total Population of The American Redoubt: Approximately 3,870,000


Tennessee: 6,403,353

Virginia: 8,096,604

Michigan: 9,876,187

New York (Entire State): 19,465,000

Queens County, New York: 2,230,750

Bronx County, New York:1,385,100

Thus, the combined population of The American Redoubt is about the same as just two boroughs of New York City.

The bottom line: If you want to survive a pandemic spread by casual contact, then your best chances will be in lightly-populated places like the American Redoubt region. Just be sure to stock up on plenty of storage food and fuel, so that you won't have to make any trips to town for the first 18 months of a pandemic.

James K. was the first of several readers to send this piece in the usually Pollyannaish McNewspaper: Three doomsaying experts who foresee economic devastation ahead

G.G. suggested this: Extreme couponers push some retailers to tweak the rules.

Reader C.D.V. sent these four article links:

Credit Card Debt Nears Toxic Levels

George Osborne: UK has run out of money

More bad news: U.S. water bills to triple. (Yet another good reason to move out to the country and build where you can use spring or PV-pumped well water.)

Cue the dark, foreboding Beethoven music: Iran Moves Further to End Petrodollar, Announces Will Accept Payment in Gold Instead of Dollars.

Michael W. mentioned: Eight Home Remedies that Actually Work

   o o o

A surprisingly good article, coming from Canada's notoriously leftward-leading Toronto Star (a.k.a. Toronto Red Star or Toronto Krasnaya Zvezda, by its detractors.): Why Costco is preparing for the end of the world. (Among others, the article quotes JWR.)

   o o o

K.A.F. flagged this: Mystery virus kills thousands of lambs

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Urban farming in Detroit gets the documentary it deserves. (Thanks to Matt L. for the link.)

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Martin sent us this: The World War Three Files.

"The adjective 'public' modifies the noun 'school' the same way it does 'transportation' or 'restroom': serving as a warning that it is filthy and full of junkies and criminals." - Tamara, the editor of the View From The Porch blog

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Today we present another entry for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I am currently working in the Alternative Energy industry after retiring from a 21-year career with the military.  As part of my Vocational rehabilitation, the military allowed me to choose my future career.  As a long time reader of SurvivalBlog and a Bible-believing Christian, I saw the importance of prepping.  This includes living off grid.

Alternative energy seems to be emerging as a buyer beware market.  You can see many manufacturers prey on fear claiming that their systems can run your fridge, furnace, freezer and well pump during any grid down event. This is simply an impossibility, a typical house needs 10 or more Kilowatts of power.  This is impossible to provide with an 80W panel and a 50 amp/h battery with a 250 W inverter, which many of these boastful claims are built around.  Not only will it not run your house, or anything else for more then a few minutes the shocking price demanded for these systems are well over $2,500.

When designing a system we always do a spreadsheet up of the total wattage of the household in question, and many times a typical household can expect to pay $14,000 plus for a system sufficient enough to be off grid. 

It is obvious that companies and consumers are asking the wrong questions when thinking about alternative energy.  The industry is looking to make money.  The consumer is looking to get the best bang for their buck, so in the interest of the little guy who cannot fork over thousands of dollars I have a few suggestions.  Without getting into the nitty gritty of system sizing, wire sizing, fuse sizing everything has be laid out in layman's terms.

1.)  How much do I have to spend?  Let's face it, if you only have $500 then you need to build a system around that costs $500.

2.)  Build a system that in the future can be expanded upon.  There is no point in buying a 6-amp charge controller as part of your upgradeable system when the biggest panel you can add to it is 80W.  For the ease of numbers, an 8-amp charge controller will handle a 135 Watt panel.

3.)  Change your lifestyle.  Most people who are preppers already know that life will change dramatically.  When the grid goes down, you will not be using your electric range your electric dryer, and definitely not your hair dryer or coffee maker.

Addressing the foregoing:  First, a solar system has three components.  Solar panel(s) + Charge controller + Batteries.

So for that $500 you could buy a 50 Watt panel, a 10-amp charge controller (ensure that the model is equipped with a low voltage disconnect.) and a 50 amp hour battery.  With this system, you can add an inverter to enable you to charge batteries for cordless tools, run a laptop or radio.  You can buy pre-packed distribution centers for 12 volt lighting with have 12-volt auto-jacks and 2.1 plug-ins to run lighting.  A 3 Watt LED 12V light bulb has the same lumens as 60 Watt incandescent bulb.  A system this size would give you 25 amp hours of continuous power.  Roughly, a 50 Watt panel will charge a 50 Amp/h battery in a day of continuous sun light. 

Not only could you light your cabin with 3Watt bulbs you can also add a couple of 12 V, 10W motion spotlights for security as well as have capacity for cordless tool batteries and laptop charging.  Your heating choices would have to be kerosene, propane or wood as well as cooking and refrigeration.  There are 12-volt refrigerators and freezers but you would need a substantially larger system to run them.

To expand on your $500 system you can substitute your 50W panel up to a 135 Watt panel keeping your 10-amp charge controller.  You can upgrade your batteries from a 50 Amp/h battery to a 106 Amp/h or even a 165 amp/h battery. 

Currently Fur Harvester Auction Trap line Store in North Bay, Ontario carries pre-packaged cabin systems for off-grid trappers cabins that are manufactured by Glenergy, these can be viewed at www.glenergy.ca  All of these pre-packaged plug and play systems range from  $300 to $1,160 Canadian Dollars.

To upgrade again, you would have to replace the 10-amp charge control to add additional panels.  If you had 2 x 135 Watt panels which could be used in either a 12 or 24-volt system now.  A 20 amp 12-volt charge controller and 2 x 6volt 530 Surrette batteries wired in series has just significantly increased total power output.  You can still run all the lighting requirements, use a larger inverter and now you can add a 12-volt deep well pump, and give you more storage, this means if the sun does not shine for a week, you still have power stored. 

Also when purchasing items, eBay is a valuable resource.  Just ensure that when searching for a panel, most flexible solar panels that are 35 Watt or greater are only 6-volt so you will have to buy 2 and wire these in series these to make 12-volt.

When upgrading from here, you can purchase a smart controller and wire in a generator with an electric start.  The generator would strictly run to charge batteries and not run any 120-volt appliances directly.  This would be beneficial when you have a long period with no sun and over consumption, the generator would run long enough to top up the batteries.  When the system has been set up correctly the generator would not run very often unless your kids are having a PS3 Tournament and leaving all of the lights on.

When buying your batteries only buy solar rated batteries as they are built for rapid charge and a longer discharge.  Deep cycle RV batteries just are not built for this.  Another consideration for batteries is trying to use a Lead Acid Gel battery when designing a portable system, liquid lead acid batteries will spill and vent, and lithium ion batteries are expensive and heat up when charging. Regardless of what type is used, ensure that if they are housed in any kind of container they are vented to the outside for larger systems and if it is a portable system make sure there is some sort of overpressure valve.  Pelican cases have overpressure valves built in already.

When building your system, ensure everything is fused.  Fuse your solar panel, fuse your battery, and fuse your loads.  In the event of a solar flare or an EMP, you can have a second charge controller and spare fuses stored in a Faraday cage such as a military ammo can.  In 30 minutes, you could have your system back up and running.  In this case most charge controllers are plastic, one alternative is Morning Star controllers which are metal and encapsulated which makes them weather proof.  The downside to these controllers are that if the solar is hooked up and the battery fuse blows or is disconnected the controller will get fried.  Most other controllers do not have this problem.  Saying that, I always recommend that the solar is disconnected before the battery is disconnected with any charge controller.

When I build custom systems, they have to be rugged.  Currently I have twenty-one 10 Watt systems in Africa which are in use by missionaries.  These systems charge cell phones and laptops, charge 9-volt lanterns and fans and provide 12 volt localized lighting.  Each missionary kit was provided a 10 Watt security spot light as well.  This shows that with even a system as small as a 10 Watt panel and a 9 amp/h battery can provide most of your requirements, plus these are portable and pretty much maintenance free as tool kits are in short supply as well as the ATC fuses.  In a bleak future of a grid down world, there may be an abundance of abandoned vehicles and ATC fuses will be one of those items not scavenged, except for by of course you who is reading this article. 

This leads to another plus in a grid-down world.  In Africa, there are hardly an land lines, there are large areas with no electricity and yet everyone has a cell phone.  Cell towers are mostly powered by solar.  There have been a few businesses set up Ghana with systems I have built to charge cell phones.  Any soldier who has been to Iraq or Afghanistan has seen the countless call offices where you can pay to use a cell phone.  With a small system you can charge lanterns, cell phones, whether or not cell phones will work and even batteries, this can be a valuable source of barter.

Using ruggedized cases such as a Pelican case is one way of building a portable system that can be taken with you in the case you have to G.O.O.D., something that can be thrown into the back of a pick up.  A system this size can be as small as a 20 Watt panel with a 21amp/hour battery.  This size system again would be enough to charge tool batteries, laptops and run 12 volt lighting.  Something as small a 3Watt 12-volt panel with 50 Watt hour batteries will light a tent, charge cell phones or other handheld devices and costs less than $85.

It is my belief solar will be a much better option then naphtha or kerosene lanterns because you will not need to carry spare fuel bottles.  This is a definite plus if you are traveling, light or the cost or scarcity of these resources makes them unattainable.

I'm a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer who has taken restoration carpentry as my second career.  I've been following you for a couple years now and very much appreciate what you're doing. To those ends, I received a link to this article from Fine Homebuilding and thought it might be interesting and perhaps useful to fellow preppers.  Of particular interest to me was the interactive maps from NREL.  One can point their mouse to a particular point on the U.S. map (or to pre-selected points on the global map) and then load the location data into NREL's PVWatts Calculator.  The calculator then shows the user location-specific data regarding positioning of arrays, available sunlight by month for the location selected, DC to AC inversion de-rates, et cetera.  

It occurs to me that calculating the value of the energy produced by a notional PV array would be useful so long as we remain grid-up as it provides the user the ability to calculate an amortization schedule for the investment.  Going the other way, as I'm currently noodling, it provides the ability to develop an electrical load scheme for a home factoring location, budget, and power requirements.  For example, wiring a completely separate DC bus not tied to the grid with a lead-acid battery backup versus using the standard residential AC bus with DC-AC inverter and grid-tied.  Or, a dozen other permutations to arrive at the best bang for the buck.  

Cheers, - Joe B.

We are a family of survivalists and almost all of us are gluten free, some out of necessity and some by choice.  Here are some thoughts and resources for gluten free food.
Later this year, there is a Gluten Free Expo convention in Sandy, Utah starting October 12.  If you can’t attend, check out the vendors page (there are many) to identify other resources for gluten free food.
Augason Farms has #10 cans of food that are certified gluten free, including oats.   It’s a great company and easy to talk to them on the phone.  If you want to purchase without a credit card, they can help you calculate the total of an order you’d like to place and wait for you to send a check or money order.  Thus far I have tried the Buttermilk pancake mix and the Chocolate Morning Moo.  The pancake mix only requires the addition of water and makes nice, tasty pancakes, but I might add a Tablespoon of coconut or almond flour to next time to add fiber.  The Morning Moo is very tasty, doesn’t have as much calcium as a powdered milk, but makes up thicker like a milkshake. It also requires the addition of just water.  I will be stocking more of these in my pantry.  A family member reported to me that he tried the Gluten Free Chili and that he thought it was good, too.  They carry a French bread mix which I haven’t tried yet.  It requires only water, cider vinegar and yeast to be mixed with it.
Side note on buying the canned products:  One very important consideration when buying any food product, is to compare the serving size on the package to what you think is a serving size when you eat it.  I made the recipe on the Augason Farms Buttermilk Pancakes for my husband and I, and we think two servings is our serving size when making a breakfast of pancakes.  Try the foods you buy, then realistically assess what your storage needs are from your past experience with the food, rather than what the package says.  If it says 47 servings, it might really be about 23 servings per can. Plan accordingly.
There’s a newsletter for gluten free cooking from Mary Frances, who has bread/biscuits/doughnuts recipes and teaches on line how to cook gluten free. She tries to provide alternatives for other food intolerances, like dairy or soy so she may be a great resource for some. (many celiacs also have difficulty with dairy ingredients) Her bread recipes include ingredients such as brown rice flour and sorghum, and those can be stored in whole form and ground into flour later.  She does charge a fee for her lessons, but with what she’s investing in time to make this available, it is well worth it.  Some of her recipes are free and online, including her latest addition, the gluten free doughnut! 
I noted that in the article the author was storing pasta.  Why couldn’t quinoa be stored whole and ground later to make homemade pasta with a hand cranked pasta cutter? You would have longer term storage that way.  Here are links to some quinoa pasta recipes online: One and Two and Three.  It would be important to store the other ingredients like the arrowroot to do this.
For a new resource on gluten free diets, anyone with gluten issues should seriously consider a “paleolithic diet” and there are many new cookbooks on the market.  The Paleolithic diet is naturally gluten free, and based on foods our ancient ancestors ate.  Many of the ingredients are foods you can grow or hunt.  I received one of these books for Christmas, Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking for a Gluten-Free Kitchen by Julie and Charles Mayfield.   The paleolithic diet is having me rethink some of my food storage strategies.  The pumpkin pancakes are amazing with molasses.
This is only a partial list; some product names you can look for in the store or online also include: 
Bob’s Red Mill – many (but not all) are gluten free, bread mix, brownies, cornbread and more
Pamela’s – pancake mixes, cookies, etc
Udi’s- granola (and the best bread I’ve eaten gluten free, comes frozen)
Lundberg – they have a “couscous” made from brown rice;
Hodgson Mill – for pasta
Glutino – pasta, pie crust mix, cookies, many products
Quinoa corporation – pasta under the label Ancient Harvest
Ener-G – for bread crumbs
Amy’s – some of her burritos (frozen) are gluten free
While these foods are prepackaged, it is possible to extend the shelf life with freezing.  We have frozen flours to make them last longer and it worked quite well.  It’s important to rotate your prepackaged foods regardless of this, and know that when the power grid goes down then the clock starts ticking faster on the shelf life.  If you live in a cold climate, you may be able to continue the freezing process during the winter by moving your whole chest freezer to a bear proof outdoor structure like a garage or shed.
The convenience of these prepackaged foods will come in handy as we are busy defending our retreat or just tired to the bone from gardening.  When we run out of these, we will need to cook more from scratch. Fortunately, we do not really need to have these prepackaged foods to live and many of the processed gluten free foods lack fiber.  It is extremely important to find ways to increase the fiber in a gluten free diet.  A company called Coconut Secret makes a canned coconut flour that is 40% dietary fiber and also supplies protein.  Two tablespoons of the coconut flour adds 8 grams of fiber! We add this to many of our recipes, like pancakes and bread to add fiber back in.  Almonds and bean flours also add fiber to your recipe and you may be able to grow one or both of these to grind.   
Rice, corn, teff, buckwheat, nuts, quinoa and potatoes all provide carbohydrates, fiber and nutrients, and cooking from scratch with these in TEOTWAWKI will be a more natural way to stay gluten free.  While processed foods are a treat, leaving them behind will actually be healthier.  But for now, I am going to try the Mary Frances doughnut recipe. - Mrs. R.L.B.

T.S. recommended a video that may be a glimpse of TEOTWAWKI: Syria: the horror of Homs, a city at war

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G.G. flagged this: Toy Guns Becoming A Criminal Offense?

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Several readers sent this: Ice To See You: 30,000-Year-Old Flower Revived. (Perhaps Scrat had the right idea.)

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Fred K. wrote to mention: "Here is the link to the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy which is available for viewing on line for no cost. Obviously when the Internet goes down this will be of no value, but for now, for those who cannot afford the book, the material is still available for free viewing. Also, here is a link to the Merck Manual for Home Health. (Available free, as well.)

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Stephen and Kris mentioned that there are some useful insights the late 1980s BBC television series The Victorian Kitchen Garden

"You have no idea what anything is worth until you need it and can't get it." - An anonymous comment posted at ZeroHedge.

Monday, February 27, 2012

It seems that any time that there is a crime that involves someone who lives outside of city limits and that owns guns or that lives with any degree of self-sufficiency, then they are immediately branded as a "survivalist." This label gets slapped on regardless of whether or not the perpetrator has had any training or inclinations toward survivalism. The outlaw Claude Dallas was a prime example. Dallas was an eccentric 19th Century anachronist rather than a survivalist. But the mainstream media uses the label "survivalist", almost by default any time that a criminal flees into a National Forest, if he ever had so much as weekend Boy Scout training or watched re-runs of Survivor Man.

SurvivalBlog reader Tim J. recently sent me this article: Mystery mountain man to Utah cabin owner: Get off my mountain. Take a few minutes to read that article. This is just the latest example of the media misusing the term "survivalist." By definition, a survivalist is someone who trains and prepares tools and supplies in advance for self-sufficiency to overcome disasters. But backwoods burglars have to steal because they aren't properly prepared and because they lack genuine self-sufficiency skills. They aren't true survivalists. An early example of this media sensationalism was the case of Bill Moreland, the so-called "Wildman" or "Ridge Runner" of the Clearwater National Forest. (Moreland's criminal exploits were detailed in the book Calked Boots and Other Northwest Writings by Bert Russell.) Then of course there was Eric Rudolph, who was also mislabeled as a survivalist. If he had been a real survivalist, then he wouldn't have to be scrounging in grocery store dumpsters--which reportedly is how Rudolph got spotted and arrested. (Although some claim that he was lingering behind a supermarket awaiting a scheduled pick up by one of his supporters.)

Movies like The Survivors, Blast From the Past, and Phase 7 do more than just poke fun at survivalists. They either subtly or overtly make any anyone that prepares for disasters look mentally imbalanced. The latest example is the upcoming film The Divide starring Michael Biehn. Judging from the film's brief trailer, it casts the survivalist (Biehn) to be, like Sarah Connor, a "Grade A Whackamo."

Some people in the preparedness movement now consider the term survivalist so tainted that they have exclusively adopted the term prepper. There are even those that try to distinguish between two camps: the survivalists and the preppers. That is absurd. Anyone that says: "Oh no, don't call me a survivalist, I'm a prepper!" is essentially conceding defeat to the anti-preparedness bias of the media.

I am not ashamed to call myself a survivalist. The statist mass media--in newspapers, magazines, and television--has consistently done their best to castigate and trivialize survivalists, because we don't match their Big City-centric and government dependent world view. They try to make us look like we are living in a fantasy land. But the truth is that it is they that are deluded, thinking that big government is their all-capable savior and that disaster won't affect them personally. They are so deeply submerged in normalcy bias that they see disaster preparedness as paranoia. I pity them.

Don't you just hate it when someone comes up with one of those "gee, why didn't I think of that" inventions? I know I do! And, what is amazing is, the product under review here, the Stronghold Haywire Klamper, is also one of those "wow, is that simple" inventions.
Have you ever had a radiator hose break under the hood of your car? I know I have, on quite a few occasions over my 60+ years on this earth. Or, have you had a hose clamp let loose on you, and in your e-box, you have every size hose clamp - except the one you need? Yeah, me too! I used to do a lot of off-roading - not as much as I used to, as it has cost me a lot of money in repairs - and have a muffler clamp or tail pipe clamp break - leaving your muffler or tail pipe hanging on the ground? Yeah, me too - one time too many - and the baling wire or rope I had in my e-box didn't hold up very long.
I'm sure you've all had some camping equipment break on you, and it always happens at the worse possible time, and you would have given anything to have the right repair kit handy to put the broken parts back together. Sure, I'm a big duct tape fan, and it's excellent for making all manner of repairs, most of the time, the repairs are short-lived or temporary at best. I've used baling wire, military trip wire, electrical wire - whatever I could lay my hands on, to get me and my gear back up and running, until I got back to civilization, and I could make a better repair, or replace the broken gear. I'm betting a few of you, especially hunters, have taken a tumble or rolled a horse with their rifle or shotgun, and broke or cracked the wrist on their long guns, haven't you?
Well, I'm here to tell you, there's a better, and a much easier way, to make repairs, when you need to bind two pieces of "whatever" back together. I received the Stronghold Haywire Klamper - with a short handwritten note, for test and evaluation several weeks ago from Wilson at Pantry Paratus.) I thought for a few minutes "what am I supposed to do with this "haywire" thing - I don't live on a farm or a ranch - I have a tiny homestead, in a rural area of Oregon, so I didn't know what use this device would be to me. Boy, I hate it when I'm wrong.
After wondering what good a "haywire" clamper would be to me, I decided to check out the video on the Pantry Paratus web site. Boy, were my eyes opened to a very, very neat tool, that everyone should have in their rig or pack, or both. What we have with the Stronghold Haywire Klamper is a tool, with some 14-15 gauge wire, that can bind together all manner of gear and equipment, and do it in short order and without much chance of doing it wrong. In the video, you will see a man demonstrating a hammer, with an obviously seriously cracked wooden handle, that has already been repaired with this device. However, he takes the wire repair off the hammer, and shows the viewer just how damaged the wooden handle is, then takes a minute to make a repair with the clamp and wire, and proceeds to pound nails with the hammer. It was impressive.
The Stronghold Haywire Klamper is a simple metal clamp/tensioning device, that comes with some 14-15 gauge wire, and complete instructions for use in a package that only weighs about 4 ounces. You can add more wire to the kit - and I strongly suggest you do - and you can make all manner of repairs in an emergency situation. The only other thing you will also need is, a good Leatherman-type tool. (And if you're serious about survival, you must have some type of multi-tool in your gear. I keep my Leatherman on my belt, and use it practically every day - I'd be lost without it.)
So, how does this neat little device work? Well, the video on the web site will show it much better than I can explain it, so be sure to check it out. I played around with this little invention, and found I could make all manner of repair in short order. It was so easy, I kept asking myself if I was doing something "wrong" - as many things don't work as advertised, or when you buy them and get them home.
I've made duct tape repairs on split radiator hoses before, however, they usually don't last very long. With the Haywire device, you can make a duct tape repair even stronger, by first applying the duct tape over the split hose, then wrapping/clamping the provided wire around the repaired area and tightening it down over the duct tape. Also, if a hose clamp gives way, you can make a clamp using the haywire device in a minute or two, and it will probably be stronger than the original hose clamp was.
How about making an improvised spear with your hunting knife? Easy enough to do, if you have a quality hollow handle survival knife. Supposed all you have is a regular fixed blade hunting knife? Yeah, I've tried making a spear myself, by lashing a knife to a stick or tree branch - it doesn't hold up very well. With the haywire device, you can clamp your fixed blade hunting knife to a stick, pole or tree limb, and have no fear of the knife coming off - until you want it to.
Have you ever tried binding two pieces of wood together, let's say, in the shape of a cross? Yeah, harder to do than said. The haywire device will allow you to easily make a cross out of wood, metal or even two different materials - and it will stay together. I can think of hundreds of repairs that you can make with this device, and I'm sure you will, too. The possibilities seem endless when you start thinking about all the repairs you can make - and make the repairs stronger than just about anything else, and you'll wonder how you ever got along without the Stronghold Haywire Klamper in your car's e-box or your pack.
Now, my problem is, deciding which rig to put my haywire in. Probably put it in my GMC Yukon, until I can get a second one, and put that in my wife's Dodge Durango. I might even pick-up a few more haywire devices, and put 'em in each of our bug out bags - along with a good supply of extra 14 or 15 gauge wire.
The full retail asking price on the Stronghold Haywire Klamper is $24.95. At first, you're gonna think that's a bit steep, for such a simple device. However, the first time you use the haywire for an emergency repair, you're gonna think it's worth a thousand dollars or more. I was totally blown away by how simple this device is - and how well-made it is. (They are made in the U.S.A.) I was also amazed at how many things you can repair with it. I don't normally get overly excited by new products that I test and evaluate. However, with the Stronghold Haywire Klamper - I'm giving it my 100% endorsement - and I rarely endorse products - and I mean rarely! To say you "need" this product is an understatement - this is a must-have piece of gear that every serious survivalist and military servicemember should have in their kit - at all times. Get one!

At the request of a reader via e-mail, we will review the topic of thyroid disease from a survival perspective.  Levothyroxine is the most frequent medication that we are consulted about at Surviving Healthy.  Thyroid supplementation is the one of the most frequent prescription medications currently prescribed here in the US.  There is a huge debate about which supplementation is better, why some fail Synthroid, why some only respond to Armour thyroid, among other debates.  Those are beyond my scope as a Family Practitioner, and this article will not add to the confusion of these issues, but will instead address how to handle a life without thyroid supplementation if you find yourself in that spot and how you may be able to prevent being in that spot at all.

When the SHTF, we all expect that pharmacies will be quickly overrun by mobs and rioting and medications will simply be hoarded by gangsters and criminals or simply burned to dust.  In either case, you will not be able to head down to the corner drug and get a bottle of Synthroid after the crash.   You then run out within 89 days, and if you are anything like the rest of us, you will not have the good luck of filling a 90 day Rx the day before the crash!  Medications will certainly be something that the government is very likely to use as a control mechanism against our freedom, and we strongly recommend that all chronic medications be carefully planned now and that preppers are fully stocked for 3-5 years.  It may be longer than that without pharmacies on the corner, but at least that gives some time to rebuild and let the Patriots win back our country.  Certainly the experts have a much better predictive expertise than we do, and we defer to their books and articles for your education.

The first issue to address is abruptness of hypothyroidism.  If the crash hit when you had one single dose left, you are in trouble.  Acute discontinuation is a bad idea and will make the symptoms worse than a slower stopping of medication.  So, let's say you are the typical non-prepping American, it all goes bad on the 20th day of your 30 day bottle.  You have 10 pills left.  You are still in trouble and thyroid is likely to be the least of your problems!  But, take the doses as you slowly stop over the next 30 days.  One pill on the 21st, then another maybe the 25th, then start with 1/2 pills every other day, then every 3rd day, then every 5th day, etc. until they are gone.  Same general formula applies if you are a good little prepper and you have 80 pills left in a 90 day bottle.  But, you can start to see that 80 pills is not going to really help you much.

This is why we do what we do!  If you have a filter and a 1,000 rounds of ammo, which you hope you do not have to use, why would you not have 1,000 of your thyroid pills?  It just doesn't make sense.  If you are lucky enough to be on Levothyroxine generic, the cost is less than $200 per 1,000 to order 90+% of the time.  Take advantage of our consulting services and get your medication now, before you may not be able to.  We surely do not know the day and time, do you?  We do not mark up the cost of your medications a penny because we are truly trying to provide a service, use it!  There was no intent to start a Survivinghealthy.com commercial when writing this, but please plan ahead.  If you have another way to get your thyroid medication stockpiled, that is great.  Please just do it now.  The great thing about medication and food, you can always start using it and it doesn't go to waste.

What happens to a person when they run out of their thyroid medication?  There are two major physiologic events that occur with lack of thyroid.  One is a general slowing of metabolism.  This will cause fatigue, tiredness, slow speech and thought, cold intolerance, constipation, some weight gain, and slowing of the heart.  Not exactly survival-friendly symptoms.  The second thing that happens is and accumulation of proteins (matrix glycosaminoglycans for you organic chemistry nerds) in the tissues.  This leads to coarse hair and skin, face puffiness, enlarged tongue, and hoarseness.  All of these symptoms are more easily identified in younger patients, as aging itself is blamed for all of the symptoms listed above.  We will now review each organ system in more detail to scare you into action.

The skin has decreased blood flow in hypothyroid patients and is cool and pale.  As the skin dies off on the surface from this lack of blood flow, the skin is rough.  Sweating decreases, skin can yellow, hair is coarse and can fall out, and nails are brittle.  When the hypothyroidism progresses, swelling of the legs can become quite marked due to the buildup of the proteins in the leg tissue compounded with the lack of blood flow.  Joint pains, aches, and even stiffness can occur; but are not common complaints.

The eyes can protrude if the hypothyroid develops with a condition that "burns out" the thyroid called Graves' hyperthyroidism.  This protrusion can continue even after the person then becomes hypothyroid.  (This would occur after TEOTWAWKI, not previously).  The puffiness can develop around the eyes called periorbital edema, which is again caused by the protein buildup.  Staring and eye weakness can also develop, making a hypothyroid person not very helpful as a contributor to your groups' survival efforts.

There can be some increased risk of bleeding and anemia due to changes in the blood.  Pernicious anemia can develop at higher rates in hypothyroid patients also (see Vitamin review for details).  Women that are in their childbearing years are at higher risk for the anemia.

The heart is not able to pump as effectively, due to decreases in both heart rate and muscle effectiveness.  Why the rate slows is still a mystery physiologically.  (Doesn't science know everything now?).  Due to these changes, exercise capacity and shortness or breath are both decreased.  For patients that already have heart disease, usually symptoms worsen when they are then additionally hypothyroid.  Some people can suffer from other cardiovascular abnormalities such as a mild buildup of fluid around the heart, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

The respiratory system is impaired itself, besides the effects of the cardiovascular system.  Exercise capacity decreases, along with fatigue, shortness of breath, and runny nose.  Muscle weakness can eventually affect the respiratory muscles causing hypoventilation.  This then can cause a buildup of CO2 and decreased O2.  Obese folks are at a higher risk for this when also hypothyroid.  Sleep apnea can occur, mostly due to the large tongue that may develop.

The gastrointestinal system can experience gut motility decreases which then causes constipation, which is usually the most common symptom that hypothyroid patients complain of.  This can usually be used by the majority of hypothyroid patients to track the effectiveness of their supplementation, which is very helpful if there is no lab to check their levels.  With this decrease in digestive force, cramping and bloating can also occur.  Taste can decrease, stomach muscle weakness, absorption problems, and sometimes even fluid buildup around the liver.

Reproductive problems in both men and women can result from hypothyroidism.  This is due to hormonal changes that result from the lack of thyroid.  Women have menstrual problems that affect their cycles and therefore fertility.  Men have ED, decreased libido, and sperm abnormalities when hypothyroid.

Neurologically, the most serious symptom that affects survival is the slowing of general thinking abilities with prolonged hypothyroidism.  There are also sensation problems that can occur that affect the hands and feet, due to not only the effect on the nerves but also the decreased blood flow mentioned above.  Carpal tunnel syndrome is common with decreased thyroid.

Metabolically, many different problems can occur when a deficient person goes without thyroid supplementation.  Low sodium, increased creatinine, cholesterol increases, homocysteine increases, and decreased drug clearance all occur.  This decrease in drug clearance can affect the dosing of simple medications, especially any pain medications.  Also affected are epilepsy meds and anticoagulant meds (even aspirin).  The flip side of this is the problem that medications can also be less effective for hypothyroid patients at their standard doses.

Those of you with hypothyroidism are probably scared out of your mind right now, so do something about it.  Get your meds stockpiled now.  You may have gotten that message already, but it deserves repeating.  Also important, if you have someone in your survival family or group, make sure they are supplied so they can continue to effectively contribute to the group.  Remember to taper any doses of thyroid medication available over as long a period of time possible when facing that reality.  Thanks again to our readers and the readers of SurvivalBlog for continuing to request articles like this to make all of us better prepared.


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

Dear James,
I have recently purchased raw land to build my retreat. Soon I will begin building a home, and wish to equip it with windows which can resist small arms fire. I can obtain Lexan in 1/2" thickness, and my question is, will I need two pieces of glazing in each window, or three (or more)? I do not think it likely that I will be shot at with anything larger that .50 caliber. Your thoughts on the matter are most welcome. Thanks, - Zoomer

JWR Replies: To begin, I must warn readers that acrylic Plexiglas and polycarbonate Lexan are significantly different materials. Lexan is flexible, while Plexiglas is quite brittle. Some other flexible transparent polycarbonate plastics include Armormax, Cyrolon, Hygard, Lexgard, Makroclear, Makrolon, and Tuffak. So only use one of these for ballistic protection applications, not Plexiglas!

Your intent to use multiple laminations of 1/2" thick Lexan is not without precedent. But its sounds easier than it really is, in practical application. One sheet (of 1/2" thickness) Lexan will stop single hits from a .22 Long Rifle (LR) rimfire, but not repeated hits if they are well-aimed. Two thicknesses will stop 9mm, but they won't stop any bullets at higher velocity. Unfortunately, it would take more than 3" of just Lexan to stop most rifle bullets, and probably much more than that to stop .30 caliber steel-cored AP bullets from a 7.62mm NATO, .30-06, or 7.62x54r. And I would assume that stopping .50 BMG AP or API would require more than foot of thickness of just Lexan, but I haven't been able to find an unclassified source on this. For comparison: the Springfield .30-06 produces a muzzle energies up to 3,000 foot-pounds, while .50 BMG ball produces up to 15,000 foot-pounds! (An unclassified industry white paper Sierracin/Sylmar Corporation is quite instructive. Detailed ballistic protection specifications for military armored glass developed by the US and UK military are classified.)

The armored glass used in many current lightly-armored vehicles such as the up-armored M1114 HMMWV are up to 3.5" thick (depending on armoring generation), and use proprietary sandwiches of transparent polycarbonate plastics and laminated glass. Lighter-weight armored glass made for limousines are even more exotic (and costly), but are still quite thick and heavy.) One of the very best is Global Security Glazing's Secur-Tem + Poly, which has been tested to NIJ Level IV protection against single .30-06 hits. But even this is still 2.11 inches thick, and it weighs 24.38 pounds per square foot. The cost per square foot for this material is quite high.

The most efficient bullet resistant windows are made by bonding alternating layers of Lexan and laminated glass. Note that if you are making your own, that the inner-most layer should always be Lexan rather than glass, to prevent glass fragment spalling. (Just because a bullet is stopped, doesn't protect you from getting splattered with fragments, as the inner-most layer flexes with a hypersonic shock wave.) It is notable that most modern armored vehicles have a spall liner.

So, say that you want to build a house with ".50 caliber bullet proof windows"? Unfortunately, the cost of even .30 AP protection would probably be prohibitive for constructing any residential windows larger that 12" x 12", and even then their transparency would definitely suffer. With more and more laminations, a window becomes progressively more opaque--that is, translucent rather than transparent.

Lastly, you need to consider that the window frame that you use will have to be wide, very stout, and very firmly attached. Otherwise, your window laminate will pop out with the impact of the first shot, leaving the opening unprotected. Windows with narrow or otherwise unsubstantial frames would also be vulnerable to attack by sledgehammers. A wedge shaped cross-section (achieved by making the outer layers progressively larger surface area sheets, and a tapered window frame, to match) is the most effective way to protect against such attacks.

Reader George S. wrote to add: The Schott Glass/ GEMTRON Vincennes, Inidiana glass production line has been shut down, but their production of laminate glass direct vision panels for the recent-generation Oshkosh military MRAP armored vehicles is still in operation.

Hello James,
Just a short article for the financially stressed who want a battle rifle. Not all of us can shell out $1,500 to $2,500 for the latest battle rifle with $800 to $3,000 worth of optics on it. But there is hope for us. Here in the south, you can usually pick up a good used Norinco (read Chinese) SKS for $150. (But I've heard that they cost more, elsewhere.) I have one that I found that was in excellent condition. These are very reliable weapons with chromed chamber and bore. One with some surface rust may go for $100 if the guy is desperate for cash. A friend bought one like this last month, for$ 100. It was a little rusty and scratched up, but functional. The guy needed beer money, sad. If worst comes to worst, go to a gun show with $200 in your pocket. You should secure an SKS and have money left over for a USA steel 30 rd. or TAPCO 20 round detachable magazine, or two. You can find, at the same show, a black plastic sporter stock, used for about $35, or so. I did, and so can you.

Note: The sporter-stocked SKS doesn't freak out most policeman. But one a folding job with pistol grip, and Picatinny rails all over it probably will. Trust me!

Now, you need better sights. My SKS did not shoot good groups (8-9 inch @ 100 yards.) like my AR-15 does (1.5 inch @ 100 yards.) I'm 68, so did not like the open sights. I replaced them with a $26 Williams peep for some improvement, but the eye is still too far from the peep for a moving target. Went to Tech sights web site and found two styles of rear-mounted peeps for the SKS. I took a chance and risked $45 for the TS-100 model plus $6.00 shipping. The improvement was astounding! I now have over 50% plus more sight radius, from front to rear. Group diameters are cut in half, and this with El-Cheapo Russian ammo. Most aftermarket stocks for the SKS will accept the detachable magazines. If not, then you can carefully file them out so as to accept them. The best for me, was the American made 30 round steel magazine. It feeds flawlessly with any type of ammo. In my experience the Tapco 20 rounders re good too, but will not feed reliably with Brown Bear ammo. I called Tapco, and the man said this was becoming a common complaint. The coating on the Brown Bear sticks to the sides of the plastic mag body if you load it to full capacity. With only 10 or 11, it will do fine. With the cheap stuff, the Tapco magazine works well, but not as perfectly as the steel magazine. YMMV! I also avoid using the TAPCO magazine for the  hollow point ammo. I'm shooting FMJ pointed from now on.

Okay, we've got your SKS, say $150, plus the sporter stock for $35 (at a gun show), two steel 30 round USA mags at $40 (gun show), and the tech sight @ $51 Priority mail from Tech Sight.   Comes to $276. The sights are new, all else may be used, but in nice condition. Well done. One of the best features of the SKS is the cheap ammo. I just ordered another 500 rounds of Tula pointed 7.62x39 from a distributor for $104 plus $22 shipping. I can live with this!

Don't just buy this and throw it in a closet. Work with it, shoot it, clean it, learn to field strip it, and care for it like a newborn child. Use real gun oil on it, never WD-40. BTW, The bolt has to be withdrawn to insert these magazines. If you shoot it dry, the carrier catch should hold the bolt back so you can easily remove the mag. If sill loaded, you must pull the bolt back and hold it back while removing the mag. Takes 3 hands at first, but you will soon learn the easy way to do it. You ARE going to practice doing this, I'm sure. Right? Any rust on it? Get #0000 Stainless Steel wool (the finest), and make a one inch diameter ball of it. Soak this with gun oil and RUB. This will remove most light rust, but will not affect any remaining finish. Rubbing with a copper penny (pre-82) held in small Vice Grips pliers will remove more stubborn rust. Copper won't scratch steel! These served me well in my 10 year stint in gun repair. My apologies for so much of this being out of sequence, but I hope you can acquire your own Battle rifle. Not the best, but acceptable, until you can do better. Remember the old military saying "take care of your rifle, and someday it will take care of you. As we approach the precipice of TEOTWAWKI I wish each of you my best. Make sure Jesus Christ is your Savior, so you won't have to go you know where. God Bless you. ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ. - Mack, in Lower Slobovia

On Thursday, March 1, Matt Bracken's first novel Enemies Foreign and Domestic will be put into Amazon Kindle's free library, for a period of only four or five days. Mark your calendar, and tell your friends. BTW, I highly recommend Matt's novels. His latest novel, Castigo Cay, is another page-turner.

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Diana was the first of several readers to send this news from The American Redoubt: Wyoming House advances doomsday bill. "State representatives on Friday advanced legislation to launch a study into what Wyoming should do in the event of a complete economic or political collapse in the United States." JWR Asks: So.... Which blog have they been reading?

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Of interest to those living near Columbia, South Carolina: A prepper conference is planned Saturday, March  3, 2012 at Christian Life Church, 2700 Bush River Road Columbia, South Carolina. When you go these events, wear your SurvivalBlog or Bennington Flag t-shirt. You never know who you might bump into. For ticket information see this YouTube video.

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The World War Three files: For 30 years the papers have been kept secret. Now, the extraordinary story of how Whitehall drew up terrifyingly detailed plans for nuclear armageddon can finally be revealed. SurvivalBlog readers will find the description of widespread looting and massive refugee outflows from the major cities of particular interest.

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Manny B. sent this: If there was a total meltdown of society, how long would the GPS system continue to work?

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Shrinking Sky! Cloud Tops Dropping Closer to Earth, NASA Satellite Finds. (A hat tip to K.A.F. for the link.)

"If you can't do it with a .30-06, it probably can't be done." - The Late Col. Jeff Cooper

Sunday, February 26, 2012

R.G.'s Cinnamon & Spice Cookies

Here is an old family favorite.  This fits right in with SurvivalBlog as it stores well and travels well.

4 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
5 egg yolks
1 egg white (set additional egg whites aside)
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice
1 cup of honey, warmed

Sift dry ingredients on a board or in a bowl. Add eggs and enough honey to make a medium stiff dough. roll out to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 2-inch rounds (I use a juice glass.) Brush with slightly beaten egg whites. Dip in a mixture sugar, cinnamon and finely chopped nuts. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown, at 350 degrees.

Chef's Notes:

My grandparents came to this country from Austria-Hungary in 1908. This is a recipe that my grandmother brought with her. This is my favorite cookie. These cookies are keep extremely well (they contain no shortening) and are great for mailing to servicemen and women.

For colorful Holiday cookies you can use a cinnamon-sugar mix colored by a couple of drops of food coloring.

Useful Recipe and Cooking Links:

A reader mentioned a very useful blog on Survival cooking, recipes and menu-planning.

John and Abigail Adams sent us the URL for a site on North American Indian Recipes.

Do you have a favorite recipe that you have tested extensively? Then please e-mail it to us for posting. Thanks!

Today we present another two entries for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Much has been written about what particular guns are best for home defense and SHTF, but I haven’t seen much about taking care of these weapons when gunsmiths are not around.  Let’s look at what typically causes firearms to fail. 

As a gunsmith, the main cause of firing malfunctions I see is dirt.  This can be crud built up from dust collecting in oil forming a grease-like substance, or rust, or build-up from burned powder (carbon), or residue from the casings or shells.

The second most encountered problems stem from magazines, or broken or weak springs.  Lost pins or screws, and broken extractors or firing pins tend to be the next [most common] group of failures.

So how do you prepare for these problems?  First, if you don’t have an owner’s manual for your gun, go to the manufacturer’s web site and download one.  It will give you information on proper operation, how to field strip the gun for cleaning, and lubrication instructions.  If it is an older gun, you may be able to find a manual at StevesPages.com.  The next document you should have is an exploded parts list and instructions on disassembly and assembly of the firearm.  Many of these are also available at StevesPages.com. 

The next thing you will need is a good cleaning kit.  Be sure you have lots of patches, and extra bore brushes for your particular caliber.  A chamber brush is also helpful.  There are all types of bore cleaner solvents.  Pick your flavor.  Here is a recipe for a great bore cleaner that you can make up yourself.  It was invented by C.E. ''Ed'' Harris. You can always bottle some of it for barter later.  It is the widely-used “Ed’s Red” (ER).   This cleaner has an action very similar to standard military issue rifle bore cleaner, such as Mil-C-372B. Users report it is more effective than Hoppe's for removing plastic fouling in shotgun bores, or caked carbon fouling in semi-automatic rifles or pistols, or in removing leading in revolvers. It is not as effective as Sweets 7.62, Hoppe's Bench Rest Nine or Shooter's Choice for fast removal of heavy copper fouling in rifle bores. However, because "ER" is more effective in removing caked carbon and abrasive primer residues than other cleaners, metal fouling is greatly reduced when "ER" is used on a continuing basis.  It is inexpensive, effective, provides good corrosion protection and adequate residual lubrication so that routine "oiling" after cleaning is rarely necessary, except for long-term storage of over 1 year, or harsh service environments, such as salt water exposure.

CONTENTS: Ed's Red Bore Cleaner
1 part Dexron II, IIe or III Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF), GM Spec. D-20265 or later.
1 part Kerosene - deodorized, K1
1 part Aliphatic Mineral Spirits, Fed. Spec. TT-T-2981F, CAS #64741-49-9, or may substitute "Stoddard Solvent", CAS #8052-41-3, or equivalent, (aka "Varsol")
1 part Acetone, CAS #67-64-1.
(Optional up to 1 lb. of Lanolin, Anhydrous, USP per gallon. It is okay to substitute Lanolin, Modified, Topical Lubricant, from the drug store)


[JWR Adds This Warning: All of the usual precautions for handling caustic and flammable solvent fluids must be taken, such as wearing goggles and rubber gloves.]

Mix outdoors, in good ventilation. Use a clean 1 gallon metal, chemical resistant, heavy gauge PET or PVC plastic container. NFPA approved plastic gasoline storage containers are also okay. Do NOT use a HDPE container, which is permeable, because the acetone will eventually evaporate. The acetone in ER will also attack HDPE, causing the container to collapse, making a big mess!

Add the ATF first. Use the empty ATF container to measure the other components, so that it is thoroughly mixed. If you incorporate the lanolin into the mixture, melt this carefully in a double boiler, taking precautions against fire. Pour the melted lanolin it into a larger container, rinsing the lanolin container with the bore cleaner mix, and stirring until it is all dissolved. Divert a small quantity, up to 4 ounces per quart of the 50-50 ATF/kerosene mix for optional use as an "ER-compatible" gun oil. This can be done without impairing the effectiveness of the remaining mix.

Label with necessary SAFETY WARNINGS: RIFLE BORE CLEANER, CAUTION: FLAMMABLE MIXTURE, HARMFUL OR FATAL IF SWALLOWED. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.  Flammable mixture! Keep away from heat, sparks or flame. FIRST AID, If swallowed DO NOT induce vomiting, call physician immediately. In case of eye contact immediately flush thoroughly with water and call a physician. For skin contact wash thoroughly.

The lanolin can be found at better pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens.  Ask the pharmacist, they usually have it in the back, not out on the shelves.

Ed’s Red will not dissolve copper fouling, so have some copper remover solution on hand.  Be aware that the ammonia in the copper remover can damage stock finishes, and will dissolve brass bore brushes.  Have some extra brushes on hand, or use a stainless steel brush.

The next item to have on hand is a quality gun oil.  They are all pretty good.  Note above that you can make your own from ATF/kerosene mix.  If you want to improve on this, add a little lanolin.  The lanolin provides longer term protection, since some of the other ingredients will eventually evaporate.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR USING "Ed's Red (ER)" Bore Cleaner:
Open the firearm action and ensure the bore is clear. Cleaning is most effective when done while the barrel is still warm to the touch from firing. Saturate a cotton patch with bore cleaner, wrap or impale on jag and push it through the bore from breech to muzzle. The patch should be a snug fit. Let the first patch fall off and do not pull it back into the bore.
Wet a second patch, and similarly start it into the bore from the breech, this time scrubbing from the throat area forward in 4-5" strokes and gradually advancing until the patch emerges out the muzzle. Waiting approximately 1 minute to let the bore cleaner soak will improve its action.

For pitted, heavily carbon-fouled guns, leaded revolvers or neglected bores a bronze brush wet with bore cleaner may be used to remove stubborn deposits. This is unnecessary for smooth, target-grade barrels in routine use.

Use a final wet patch pushed straight through the bore to flush out loosened residue dissolved by Ed's Red. Let the patch fall off the jag without pulling it back into the bore. If you are finished firing, leaving the bore wet will protect it from rust for 1 year under average conditions.

If the lanolin is incorporated into the mixture, it will protect the firearm from rust for up to two years. For longer term use Lee Liquid Alox as a Cosmoline substitute. "ER" will readily remove hardened Alox or Cosmoline.
Wipe spilled Ed's Red from exterior surfaces before storing the gun. While Ed's Red is harmless to blue and nickel finishes, the acetone it contains is harmful to most wood finishes.
Before firing again, push two dry patches through the bore and dry the chamber, using a patch wrapped around a suitably sized brush or jag. First shot point of impact usually will not be disturbed by Ed's Red if the bore is cleaned as described. It is always good practice to clean your guns twice, two days a apart whenever using corrosively-primed ammunition, just to make sure you get all the corrosive residue out. [JWR Adds: If in doubt about the priming used in any batch of military surplus ammunition or any ammunition of any description that is made in Eastern Europe or China, clean your guns repeatedly!]

Remember, after cleaning, you can apply a thin layer of oil to protect from rust.  Blued or parkerized finishes will still rust.  But notice, I say “thin”.  Excess oil will attract dirt, and can freeze an action in very cold weather.

Now, for spare parts.  Replacement spring sets are available for most guns, usually for about $10 to $20.  They are inexpensive, and can be purchased from www.Brownells.com  or www.Midway.com.   The other items I would recommend are replacement pin kits, a spare firing pin, and a spare extractor.  If you have an odd or old gun, you may be able to find parts from Numrich at www.GunPartsCorp.com.  Some guns like an AR-15 have critical spare parts kits available for around $35.  Even if you don’t feel comfortable replacing some of these parts, gunsmiths will be around, and if you have the parts, and diagrams, they can fix it for you.

Recommended tools would include a basic gunsmithing screwdriver set, some pin punches, a plastic faced or rawhide hammer, needle nose pliers, and some sort of vise, with padding for the jaws.  Specialty tools might be a broken shell extractor for your caliber rifle.

Battery powered optical sights are great, but be sure to have spare batteries, and some sort of iron back-up sights in the event they break.  Extra magazines are also essential.

I don’t want to get into specific guns to buy, but I would recommend a “reliable” one.  Cheap or worn-out guns should be replaced now.  You can keep old ones for barter, but don’t rely on them for yourself.  Also, some guns can cycle reliably on any ammo you feed it, while others are very sensitive to different loads and brands.  You may not be able to have the luxury of buying the exact brand that you like in a SHTF situation, so maybe it is time to trade for one that is happy with anything.  Most new guns need at least 500 rounds run through to properly break them in.  Another good reason to practice!

Another good source of information on particular firearms are the gun forums online.  For instance, GlockTalk.com, AK-Builder.com, FALFiles.com, or AR-15.com. You will learn pretty much all that you need to learn from them.  Just remember, as with this and any info you find on the internet, use common sense applying it.

When a SHTF moment happens, preparedness is everything. But it is more than just having a bugout bag and a meeting place for your family. It means being ready, economically, intellectually, and physically.
I’m going to talk about three specific goals, why they are so important, and the techniques you can use to get yourself in the best position possible.
Don’t wait to progress from one to the other – instead, look at each of the three goals and pick an idea from each to focus on, then continue to add and build as you go.

Goal #1 - Economic Readiness
Zero Debt - If you are currently in a position of zero debt, and I include mortgage, car payments, credit cards and student loans in this, congratulations. Now…stay that way! As for the rest of us…get out of debt and avoid all debt if you don’t have any yet.
Why is this so important? Put simply, debt is slavery. Stop worrying about your credit score or whether you have one of those nice new flat screen televisions. Keep in mind that every commercial is a siren call to stay a slave and be in debt. It is a pervasive message, one that urges you to continue to swim upstream and be beholden to the credit card and mortgage companies. They want you to believe that your credit card score will be terrible if you aren’t out there running up the numbers.
Living within your means is excellent training for the complete financial collapse that is almost assuredly coming. It isn’t the time to party until the 11th hour, but to teach you what reality, with all of its bristly parts, is really like.
Accomplishing zero debt takes time – especially if you are an owner of a house with a mortgage or cars in the driveway with a few payments to go. Consider either doubling up on payments and forgoing the annual vacation or if you have a decent amount of equity in the house, selling it and purchasing a smaller, more affordable house that has a zero or minimal mortgage. Then pay it off.
If you are currently looking at buying a car or a house, make it a priority to consider whether it fits your needs. Does the car get excellent gas mileage? Could it be converted to biodiesel? Will it carry all the members of your family and have room for the belongings you will need if you have to Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.)? What can you afford to pay double payments on (thereby reducing your term of slavery by half)?
Don’t depend exclusively on debit cards, have some cash on hand at all times - A credit or debit card in your hand will not buy you groceries when the store is out of power and full of desperate people. Have at least a small amount of cash on your person at all times. Invest in a money belt or other hidden contraption and keep some cash in your vehicle and in a safe location in your home.
A source for good money belts and travel wallets can be found here.
I recommend this article on places to hide cash in your house.
And this web-based vendor carries a variety of hidden safes.
Silver and Gold - Consider storing some ‘junk silver’ coins in a safe place in your home. If the dollar continues to devalue, having a precious metal on hand to barter with may make the difference between being able to eat or not, and having the fuel to Get Out of Dodge.

Goal #2 – Intellectual Readiness
Learn something new every day - I’m not just talking self-sufficiency here. Learn a different language, for example. The United States, the country that I and a vast majority of SurvivalBlog’s readers live in, is a melting pot of diverse cultures. And while English is the primary language, having the ability to converse in another language gives you an advantage. It shows your flexibility and willingness to learn from others. If you learn Spanish, Italian or French, they all share common Latin roots – enabling you to communicate in a limited fashion with speakers of other Latin-based languages. 

Learn survival skills, take a CPR class, learn to cook foods from scratch. (This includes practice replicating mixes such as Bisquick, muffin mixes, bread mixes and more).

Learn to garden, farm animal husbandry, auto maintenance and more. Don’t just write it off as ‘not your specialty’ – instead, become a generalist. Science fiction author Robert Heinlein once wrote, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Play games   - All sorts, but mentally challenging ones are best. Rev up your brain. Engage in challenging games of strategy by playing chess or other mentally stimulating games. Do crosswords or Suduku and word scrambles. The key here is to challenge your brain – to make it struggle a bit, so that it continues to grow.

Engage in ‘what if’ scenarios – What if there is no way to rendezvous back home with your family? Where do you go? What if you are hurt, or they are hurt, are you prepared? What can you do to prepare?
If you aren’t asking yourself these questions and more; if you aren’t thinking of ‘what if’ scenarios, then you are not prepared. Your bugout bag might be sitting at home, twenty miles away and all your plans shot to dust.

Organize yourself – Know where everything is and have a place for everything. You should know exactly how much food you have in your pantry, how much cash (or gold or silver) you have on hand, and where everything you need to survive a SHTF situation. This means keeping the house tidy, evaluating and re-evaluating the need to keep items and where to store them. Do you have a basement jumble of ‘stuff’ that you haven’t touched in years? It is now time to go through it.

Can’t park your car in the garage due to the pile of belongings inside it? Figure out what needs to go and what needs to stay and find appropriate storage solutions.
Streamline your life and possessions as much as possible.

Increase personal productivity – Increase the number of things you do each day. Make it into a challenge to see how much you can get done (and how few steps you can take to do it) on a daily basis. You can start by making a list of goals…and then get started accomplishing them.

All of these steps will help you become ‘mentally fit’. Someone who is used to working out their brain, every day, will be better prepared for the twists and turns of an unknown future. They will also be better able to make a snap decision that may very well save their lives and the lives of those that they love.

Goal #3 – Physical Readiness
Exercise daily – Whether it is walking, running, working out with weights, yoga or Pilates. Ask yourself this – how far can you walk before getting tired? How far can you ride a bicycle before reaching teh point of exhaustion?
You don’t have to be in ‘run a marathon’ physical shape. What you should do is build your endurance each day, challenging yourself to go that extra five minutes, that extra mile, or that extra five pounds of weights.
Think about creating more flexibility as well. Yoga, Pilates, or just simple stretching activities are good for this. Coax yourself off of the couch and onto a treadmill – or better yet, a walk outside. Take in the fresh air, meet your neighbors, and scope out your surroundings near and far.

Learn a martial art – Increase your chances in surviving a personal assault by taking some kind of self-defense class (even consider fencing – it is mentally challenging and requires quick movement, flexibility and spatial awareness). It will help get you into shape, teach you good body awareness, and help if you are ever in a situation where you need to defend yourself against an attacker. This makes good common sense, with or without a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation.

Learn Gun Safety - Learn how to handle a gun. I was quite young when my father taught me gun safety, around nine or ten. At fifteen, I was the only other female and the youngest of our group when I attended a combat firearms course taught by Massad Ayoob in the mid-1980s. A special note to any women who may be reading this, do not depend on someone else for this –learn how to operate and clean a handgun. Your life may depend upon it.

Stockpile Medications - Maintain your health and stockpile any needed medications. Ask your medical provider if they will issue you a second prescription that you can fill at cost. Insurance might only cover one, but a good doctor will issue two if you request it. For those with chronic conditions (high blood pressure, Type I diabetes, and any other medication-dependent conditions) it is imperative you stockpile these medications. Most insurance companies will only pay for 30 day supplies, keeping you dependent on their medical system. That system is all well and good, until it breaks down in a socioeconomic collapse, or even a basic natural disaster. Medical records could be lost, and your store of medications could quickly run out. Stockpile what you can – and if possible, keep additional prescriptions on hand to be filled at a moment’s notice if things start to go bad.

The Side Benefits
All of these goals will prepare you for TEOTWAWKI or a SHTF situation, and give you that added level of preparedness that may well make the difference between living and dying. However, they are also good common sense.

Being economically prepared also means that you are no longer a slave to debt. Instead you are being financially savvy, and that is a huge step up from the neighbor who only buys Abercrombie & Fitch, or can’t live without getting a new car lease every three years. Your life in the here and now may be simpler, but it will be far better in the long run.

When we keep ourselves mentally challenged, we are encouraging our brains to work out hard each day. There has been a great deal of research into the possibilities that keeping our minds mentally fit is just as important as keeping our bodies physically fit – and could even stave off the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

And of course, when we keep ourselves at a healthy weight, exercise and prepare our bodies, we are more flexible in combat situations or able to flee while our neighbors huff and puff along behind us. Having the presence of mind to ensure our health through necessary medications will give us the upper hand when faced with others who have chained themselves to a system that is ripe for failure.

In Summary
I hope that you also now see that ‘being prepared’ is more than just a bugout bag near your front door. It is a lifestyle, it is a frame of mind, and it is also completely achievable. Better yet, it will keep you alive…come what may.

In response to some of the comments on my article:  My point is that is not necessary to carry a lot of "gear" to survive in the wilderness.  I've seen some list of items you would need a van to carry it away.   If we have a major earthquake on the New Madrid Fault (and shut down bridges for hundreds of miles on the Mississippi River and cut off the food supply to half the country), flood, tornado, Yellowstone eruption, meteor impact, economic collapse or whatever, your gas tank will be empty very soon and then what do you do with all of your "gear"?   The longhunters and native Americans went into the wilderness with only a few items on their backs and lived, not just survived, but lived.  It is very difficult to carry more than 10 days of rations if you need to leave in a hurry the rest is "procured" where every you end up.  If you make it to a well-stocked safe retreat well and good, but you may have to walk there and if you do you will need to survive along the way.

I didn't want to get into making fish spears, fishing equipment, brush houses, cordage from plants, wild food harvesting, large caliber versus small caliber, hand gun, long gun, et cetera. My focus was that you will need to take the time to test your gear in extreme conditions and determine what is necessary.

As to the durability of my gear, my pack now has over 4,000 miles in some extreme situations and is still going strong.   My tent has over 3,000 miles and not so much as a drop of water in it.  Last year on a hike we had 6 inches of rain in two days and all my gear was "dry as a bone." 

My gear is all forest green with no bright colors.  Please go to my trail journal web page and look at the photos.   Only 10% of the hikers that attempt to through hike the Appalachian Trail complete the hike.   If the gear was not tough it would not survive. 

Test your gear for an extended period of time in all conditions and you will limit it to just the things that are "necessary."

You have a great blog site with some great information.  Thanks for providing it. - Charles M.

I am writing you about the letter from Charles M. It was an interesting read, and great for the new to long hiking, but had some huge holes in it as far as surviving and G.O.O.D. is concerned. First off he stated that light weight boots had come a long way and that we should stay away from the all leather heavy type. This is false and he proved it himself as he stated that he wore out three pairs on his hike! As a fifth generation Idahoan, I was raised in the woods. Hiking and mountain climbing is a way of life in my family, and I can attest that buying high end boots that will last is a must. I will only buy boots with all leather upper, a stiff shank, Norwegian welt, and a hard semi rockered waffle stomper sole. I have one pair that have climbed many peaks in Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, Ecuador, Germany, and Australia that are 10 years old! Other than the nicks and scrapes they still have half the tread left! Light weight boots with a soft sole have no place in a long term use situation. The other was the premise that you can carry all your food on your back. He was re-supplying every 10 days or so at a store. You can carry some of the food you will need but you must be able to produce some along the way.

I went into the woods of central Idaho in June of 2002 (diving a 1980 AMC Eagle) with 15 lbs of brown rice, 5 lbs of dehydrated vegetable soup mix, 10 lbs of oats, 16 oz jug of honey, and 5 oz of salt and pepper mix (I didn't mix it, after that). I had fly fishing and spin-casting gear, a 1920s single shot .22 rifle (with 500 rounds), a bullpup 9mm (with 150 rounds), 20 gallons of gas, 2 gallons of water capacity in various canteens, a dutch oven, axe, shovel, 5 gallon bucket, high lift jack, and a big dog.

We (the dog and I) lived like kings until the snow pushed us out in late September. I ate fish, rabbits, birds, mushrooms of all types, berries, apples, nettles, wild onions, and so forth.  Take what you have go to your desired “woods” with extra gas so you can come home, and see how long you can last, and see what really stops you in your tracks. (For me, it was two feet of snow at 7,000 feet over night. I thought I was done but the lower I got the lees snow and I was fine.  Could I have lasted the winter?  Maybe, maybe not.) 

is the time to find out if all the things you think you have learned really do work.

Cheers from Idaho, - Wayne P.

Veteran content contributor K.A.F. sent this: Gasoline Prices are Not Rising, the Dollar is Falling. Here is a brief quote: ""Right now, the threat posed by rising gasoline prices is not just to family budgets. An even greater danger is that the government will use escalating oil prices as an excuse to do something stupid."

G.G. flagged this: Chart of the Week: Nearly Half of All Americans Don’t Pay Income Taxes

The Real Hunt Brothers Silver Story Part 1

Projected PIIGS Pillage: 3233.5 Tons of Gold to be Confiscated by Insolvent European Banks

Items from The Economatrix:

Gasoline Gas Spike Has Temporary Offset

Housing Dilemma:  There's Not Enough to Buy

Some Greeks Might Have To Pay For Their Jobs

The Looming Threat to Gas Prices:  Straight of Hormuz Explained

F.B. sent this charming bit: Official: Anonymous May Be Able to Disable Power Grids by Next Year

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Reader R.J.R. recommended this free Kindle e-book: 101 Offline Activities You Can Do With Your Child.

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Ready for grid down? "Z2" sent us this BBC article: MPs warn over nuclear space bombs and solar flares

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To follow up on a previous article link: Felony gun charge dropped against Farmington man: County attorney calls Fleming an 'upstanding member of the community'.

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G.G. suggested this: Gun culture spreads in India: Indians own about 40 million guns, second only to the U.S. Rising incomes, along with crime and fear of terrorist attacks, have fueled firearms purchases.

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And, speaking of guns: Gun owners hope to win the right to carry concealed weapons.

"They all hold swords, [being] expert in war: every man [hath] his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night." - Song of Solomon 3:8 (KJV)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Today we present another two entries for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

So, first a quick rundown on my family circumstances.  I am a lawyer by training.  My spouse, a former teacher, is midway through dental school.  We own a (mortgaged) home in the Virginia suburbs of a large city.  My spouse is from a western state, having grown up around guns, hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, etc.  By contrast, I grew up in a small city, in a house without guns.  I was in the Cub Scouts for a few years, but various other interests took over and I never got to do the majority of the important skill-building that being in the Boy Scouts allows.  I was, however, a varsity athlete in high school and college, as was my spouse, and we still retain some of the drive toward fitness that preparedness requires.  I am a relatively recent convert to the prepping mindset, thanks in large part, surprisingly, to my dad.  Several years ago, he was caught out, overnight, on a major highway because of a bad tractor-trailer accident in horrendous weather.  He had nothing in the car to eat, or to keep warm.  Luckily, he was able to pull onto the shoulder and drive around cars until he reached a nearby exit, where there was a gas station on a back road, which was covered in ice.  He couldn’t drive home, but the gas station allowed him to eat junk food and to keep warm without completely depleting his gas on the road.  He also had his cell phone (no car charger, though), and between us, we coordinated with his neighbors to feed the dog, etc., while he was away.  He was lucky, and he began immediately afterward to stockpile food at the house, keep needed items in the car, and generally to begin preparing for various minimal disaster scenarios.  His experience impacted me, as well, and we began talking about what we might do in the event something serious happened, creating a loose framework of family responses to various emergencies.

My Own Planning
I began to research and came across ww.survivalblog.com, which I consider to be the finest resource available for relevant information on the topic of prepping.  After reading up on the admittedly overwhelming range of considerations that a complete approach to prepping requires, I started planning.  As the literature says to do, I first determined which scenarios I thought were most likely to occur, and decided what we could do on our meager budget (most lawyers these days work in smaller firms or in solo practices and do not make anywhere near what the general public is led to believe) to prepare.  Knowing how my wife thinks, and thinking that it might be counterproductive if I just brought the whole thing up out of nowhere, I began discussing prepping with her slowly.  We had a couple of conversations, and I suggested a few books (S.M. Stirling’s Dies the Fire and William R. Forstchen’s One Second After are two that I mentioned.)  In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been so cautious, as she was actually very receptive to the idea of being prepared for different eventualities.  However, given the demands of her job at the time and her application process to dental school, virtually all of the planning and decision-making fell to me.

We already had one handgun and 100 rounds of ammunition due to a previous situation with a crazy neighbor, but that was all we started with.  We didn’t feel that compelled to increase either the number of guns or the number of rounds we stockpiled because we both worked within a mile of our home, and we decided that our priorities for preparing actually first lay with making sure we had enough to eat.  Over time, we stockpiled several months of food and water at the house, my wife got a cell phone (which she hated at first), and I started planning for both bug-out and bug-in situations.  I began building a bug-out bag for each of us. We bought an all-wheel drive vehicle.  We started thinking about what we would do with our pets if we had to leave the house.  My wife received a prestigious military scholarship that paid for the vast majority of her expensive tuition and provided a small stipend while she is in school.  Everything was coming together, if slowly.

Everything Changes
Then everything changed.  About 18 months ago, I got laid off because of the combination of the sheer number of attorneys in town in my particular practice area and the dwindling number of paying clients. Due to the horrendous job market for attorneys, I had to take a job out of town, about 150 miles away.  My wife stayed behind in our house.  We did this to allow her to complete the dental school program she was in. 
We talked at length before we made this decision, focusing mainly on the risks and benefits of living apart.  Our plan was (and is) that I should have an apartment near my job where I stay during the week, and I come home to our house on the weekends.  The salary at my new job is nearly double what I was making before, and even accounting for the additional expense of gas and of an apartment in another city, we can still afford to make substantial payments toward eliminating our credit card debt.  We have paid off two credit cards, and are moving quickly toward being completely free of credit card debt.  We only have one small car payment, which is the next target after the credit card debt is gone.  Her dental school education is supremely important, not only because it’s what she has dreamed for years of doing, but because being a dentist has a certain value all its own.  Reading any of the survival fiction available, it’s a common (and reasonable) theme that, in a SHTF scenario, in communities where resources are scarce, only those who can contribute will be welcome.  As a stopgap measure, then, her dental skills may become very useful.

But there was an obvious complication.  All of my careful planning and preparing had resulted in plans we could no longer really use.  Everything was different, so I had to go back to the drawing board.

Implementing Changes
We had to re-think everything.  First, we decided that protection was now of primary importance.  Having only one handgun between us was not enough, not if I was going to be living somewhere out of town and driving 150 miles, one way.  Let me say now that my wife is an excellent shot, much better than I am, in fact.  This is to be expected because she has been shooting since she was a young child (the first gun she ever shot was a .357 Magnum – and that is a really funny story that I won’t go into here).  Her father was an excellent teacher.  But we couldn’t very well do much with one handgun between us.  So we bought my wife a Glock pistol, which she loves.  Then, I bought a Kel-Tec PF9, really for concealed carry (I already had my CCW License), because my other handgun was too big to carry (a Taurus Millennium Pro).  I also got a great deal on a Mossberg shotgun to keep at the house.  I also began to stockpile ammunition.  We do not live in a place where a large-caliber rifle is going to do much good, but in the event of a SHTF situation, I do have a slingshot for squirrels and a .22 rifle is next on the purchase list. Those might help for a few critical days if we decide to bug in, and could be good on the road either as protection or for hunting.  The upshot of all of this is that I now am able to carry a gun plus keep a spare in my B.O.B. at all times.  My wife is much better able to defend the house if she needs to because she has her own handgun (for carry) and a shotgun for last-ditch protection at home.  We also now have made a commitment to regular range training and I am looking into additional personal defense training.  In one sense, then, making this drastic life decision forced us to drastically improve our defense capability. Hunting is another story, but our increased budget has allowed us to stockpile more food.

In many other ways, though, we were back at square one.  For example, what do we do if and when telephone service is not available?  Before, when we were living together and working close to our home, this wasn’t a terribly important consideration.  Now, living 150 miles apart most of the week, it’s crucial.  Presently, we rely heavily on cell phones, email and Skype to communicate during the week. If the satellites are down, and the roads are impassable for any reason, how do we coordinate our movements?  The only viable answer to that question is greater planning and practice during our limited time together so that we can trust in the plans we have made. 

But the considerations are myriad. 
Bugging-in is relatively simple, but do we plan on my coming back home first before we bug out together?  If we do, then we will have to allow for a maximum of three weeks before she executes any fail-safe bug out plan.  In the event of road closures, hiking the full 150 miles across two interstates and many other, smaller highways will take at least two weeks, and probably closer to three.  In the meantime, will it be safe at the house?  If not, where do we go?  How do we decide whether or not it’s safe for her to remain at the house?  How does she communicate her decision?  What is the secondary meet-up point if she has to leave?  How long will she stay?

We had to pay closer attention to mapping my route home.  Virginia provides free road maps upon request, both of the major roads and the so-called “scenic” roads, which may be useful in mapping alternative routes along more rural properties.

The purpose and contents of my B.O.B. also had to change.  Rather than 72 hours, I had to plan for several weeks.  A larger bag, a tarp/tent, extra food, means of getting more food, a more robust and capable water filter, etc.  Because of the additional gear, the weight of the bag increased, and so versatility of various items also had to increase.  Her B.O.B. also had to change.  Honestly, we’re still working out how to deal with pets and the additional pet food, etc., but the purpose of her B.O.B. is to sustain her in traveling to our pre-arranged location, where we have cached a number of additional supplies. Ultimately, and tragically, the hard truth is that we may have to leave beloved pets behind.  Also, with my wife obligated in the military when she graduates, we will likely be moving some distance away while she is serving.  Caching, then, is only a temporary solution to a larger problem, and one which we will have to solve at least a couple more times in the near future.

Our new situation presented us with smaller considerations also.  Where I work, I live only several blocks from my office, in a small apartment.  However, I have no garage parking.  I do have a dedicated parking space at work where, if I wanted, I could leave my car 24 hours a day and walk to and from work.  However, the neighborhood near the office is not great, so I normally park at night on the street near my apartment (the few blocks make a big difference).  I still don’t want to leave my B.O.B. (and the loaded gun inside it) in the car overnight, so I generally leave the bag in my apartment unless I know I am driving some distance.  In terms of OPSEC, I have had to make a hard choice, since it cannot have escaped notice that, occasionally, I move a large, obvious hiking/camping bag to and from the car and the apartment without any apparent reason.  I’m still working on how to make that transition less obvious while maintaining the amount of gear I will need in my B.O.B.  However, I have done too much work and spent too much money to have the B.O.B. stolen, and as a responsible gun owner, I cannot in good conscience leave the gun in a car on the street to be so easily stolen by thieves.

Finally, our long-term plans have had to be more fluid.  Previously, we had planned eventually to purchase land and build a home in a rural area in Virginia.  The uncertainty of my wife’s eventual posting, however, has delayed that a bit.  We do know that we would like to come back to Virginia after she is done with the military, but that may also change.  At the same time, the longer we wait, the more risk we take in not having our retreat available. 

Acquiring New Skills
Not being at home during the week, I do have some time to seek to acquire new skills to supplement my formal education, which would be all but useless in a SHTF situation.  I have time to go the gym and am improving my fitness.  Also, I am currently looking for defensive shooting classes in the area, and with the number of hiking trails around, I have the opportunity to spend some time every week hiking with my pack to begin building up endurance in the event that I have to walk home.  I am reading about foraging for edible plants and about the wildlife in the area.  Living in the apartment, I have no room to practice gardening, etc., but I feel I am making the best of my situation.
We also have a trip planned for later this year to the Pacific Northwest, to my wife’s parents’ house, where I will be spending time with her dad in order to learn some of the hunting, tracking and fishing skills I lack.

The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that the major change we were forced to make in our lives has had both benefits and massive complications.  It has made us (and allowed us financially to) make some immediate improvements in our preparations, but in general, it has made us revisit our plans and drastically change them to suit our new circumstances.  On the bright side, knowing that our living situation will change in the future, we now have the experience of revisiting and changing our plans to adapt to our new circumstances.

SurvivalBlog remains a crucial resource for me, and I have spent hours looking through the archives to gain insight into ways to handle our situation.  Thanks to SurvivalBlog’s varied topics of discussion, I feel I have a much better idea of what questions to ask when I am thinking about making or changing plans.  Thank you, Mr. Rawles, for your prescience and insight.  Keep up the good work!

I'll start this by saying I'm a single 33 year old. I've been into preparedness long before I knew there was a word for it.  I don't really know where it came from in the beginning, though my mother was my Cub Scout leader in elementary school. Some of my best memories were sitting on the floor underneath the dining room table tying knots around the table legs. I also remember reading The Hardy Boys Handbook: Seven Stories of Survival in elementary school, which was a mix of survival stories and information. It is worthwhile to find a copy for your kids.

As I graduated high school in Texas, Y2K was looming.  I had always been someone to keep a flashlight and jumper cables in my car, but that seemed just sensible to me.  I bought several magazines on Y2K preparedness but being on a college student budget and living in the dorms there was little I could do besides buy a couple of plastic water storage bags. Then after graduation I moved to Florida.

Florida, it would seem, would be the natural place for someone with a survival mindset. Having never lived in Florida before but being someone that watched the news often, all I knew about the state was: Hurricanes.
My father and extended family had lived in Florida for several years and had been through at least one hurricane and the wildfires of the late 1990s. My father being ex military I was sure they would be accepting of the idea and most certainly were several steps ahead my concept of preparedness. Boy, was I wrong.

When I arrived at my father's house, I couldn't find a functioning flashlight. They had no water storage. They had a grill that was electric. They had a generator that was not only undersized, but had never been taken out of the box. When I inquired to where there fuel storage was, the reply was 'we're going to siphon out of the cars'.  Ok, reasonable idea. Where is the siphon pump? Where are the extension cords for the generator, or do you plan to put it in the middle of the living room?

These questions bothered me greatly, and then Hurricane Floyd came.  I was working for Radio Shack store on Merritt Island at the time, and we had set up a display full of weather radios. I even went as far as to print a picture of the satellite track and tape it onto the stack of boxes. It was mostly ignored. 

Until the final few hours.
I was at the store with a co worker when the wind started to pick up. I made the decision to go home to help the family pack for the evac.  The story that was told to me later was that about  5 minutes after I left, the district manager called to tell him he was free to close the store whenever he felt uncomfortable.  The story goes, that after the district manager hung up, the store was inundated with local people, buying every flashlight, battery pack and weather radio they could get there hands on.  Good day for business, bad day for common sense.

We were lucky enough to have a house in Orlando, so we had some place to go.  I was in the first carload to the house that I had only visited once. The Orlando house had even few preparations than the primary house had.  I fell asleep that night in my clothes with my five year old 4-cell MagLite next to my bed, trying to figure out how to put the skylight back on with duct tape, that I was sure was going to blow off during the night.
As with most Hurricanes that head for the Space Coast, it blew itself out before it barely made landfall.  We didn't even lose power, thus the complacency continued.

One of my windfall moments was a few months later when Hurricane Irene hit.  [By the time it reached us,] it was a tiny storm, barely a Cat 2.  We had put up our opaque lexan window panels by that point. Irene hit late in the morning and I had slept though most of it. Ironically enough, though the winds were pretty minor, we had lost power.  Since my windows were darkened due to the panels, I had problems finding my way out of my own bedroom. I've slept with that 4-cell Maglite under my bed ever since. It's there right now,  11 years, two states, and many cities later.

I lived in that house on the Space Coast for another year, quietly building a first aid kit, some batteries, flashlights and other equipment quietly. I hid a lot of two liter coke bottles re-filled with water under my bed. It got little attention, until we got our latest 'boil water order'.  As my father started to fill pots to put on the stove, I pulled a couple of bottles out from under the bed and passed them out. Not a lot of appreciation, but not a lot of scorn either. I was okay with that.

A year or so later, I was on my way to my student research project on my off college day.  I wasn't much one for the local Orlando radio stations, so it wasn't until I got to work when I found out about what was going on in New York.  It was 9.11.01.   My boss was e- military and we had several active duty military personnel in the research project. I watched the Internet go to a crawl and cell phone service die.  I finally decided to go home and began filling up anything I could find with water, not sure what would happen next.   My brother got home a little while later. He was working at Sea World at the time and for the first time in remembered history, they had closed and emptied the park.

I remember the uncertainty of the following few months. I recall the anthrax attacks, the invasion of Iraq and the D.C. Sniper.  I was in college in Orlando at this point and had a few extra dollars.  I gathered what I could, mostly first aid and water storage as quietly as I could manage.

Many years later I found my way back home to Texas, and to a place of my own.  I didn't have to answer anyone about preps and though Y2K had long passed and the overall sense of dread of domestic terrorism was starting to subside, I still wanted to continue prepping.  I had been a member of an online survival forum for a while at this point and it was gaining momentum. As I tried to talk to friends and family about prepping, I had mixed results. When you talk about prepping, people's minds often go to the extreme.  While there certainly are people sitting in cabins in the woods, surrounded by MREs, I'd put them in the extreme minority. 
I try to talk about balance and threat analysis.  I currently live in Central Texas, which has a stable climate, stable power grid,  no major targets for attack, and is seismically stable.  We did have some radical flooding a few years ago but other than that, we've been pretty lucky. I've mentioned that about the most extreme plausible thing I can think of is a freak ice storm.

Then Hurricane Katrina happened.
I was working for another Radio Shack store at the time, and it began with strange phone calls from other stores.  Locations were selling out of weather radios and flashlights as fast as we could get them in.  I hadn't been paying attention to the news lately so I was caught unaware of the situation.   I remember going home that night and reviewing my preps. I was pretty solid at that point, but decided to venture out for some last minute items.
You couldn't find a pack of batteries in Austin if you tried. You couldn't find a bottle of water if you had $1,000 to spend on it.

I remember going to an Academy Sports store to look for items. There were several very confused and frightened looking people in the camping aisle, staring at the wall of water filters with glazed over eyes.  I reached for the last 5 gallon water jug a half second before another man did. I had 3 at home, so I let him have it.  He turned and started to look at the MSR Miniworks water filters and I made a quiet comment about what to look for. I glanced up to see 8 pairs of eyes, fixated on me, eager for information.  I answered what I could and made my way home. Seeing that the parking lot at my local grocery store looked like Wal-Mart on the day after Thanksgiving, I found a new respect for Walgreens. They had everything I needed, with reasonable (if not slightly higher) prices.  Keep an eye out for a Walgreens or CVS pharmacy if you're in an emergency situation.

I watched the news that night and attempted to keep my stress level down. I'm a marginally high strung person and I though I've been into prepping for  a while, I had yet to actually be in an emergency situation. I packed my freezer with as many bags of ice as I could make and filled everything I could find with water. I moved a mattress into my closet and even made plans to block the windows.  You see, in those final few hours, there were news reports that estimated that Katrina was supposed to go right up the middle of Texas, through Houston and up and through Austin and onward.  Bastrop (a South East Suburb of Austin) had evacuation orders was another rumor.

The next day was a mix of emotions. Texas barely got anything, while the insanity of New Orleans took hold.  My own personal temper was fanned by my employment situation. You see, when no disaster came to pass in Texas, virtually every pack of batteries, weather radio, flashlight or pocket television was returned. I wanted to scream at every customer, standing there holding there receipt. It was less about my deflated bonus check about the frustration that was so similar to what I felt in Florida.  It wasn't like we were selling generators or gas masks. It wasn't like the items were thousands or even hundred of dollars. I couldn't understand why someone would return a $5 flashlight 'because nothing happened, so now I don't need it.'

I've stopped trying to beat people over the head with prepping. I've found that you catch my flies with honey than you do with vinegar. When I talk to people about prepping, I focus on realistic threats and low cost solutions.  People think that prepping is expensive. It doesn't have to be. I tell people that if they stop to think about it,  probably 80% of the things they need they already have, and another 15% of things, they should have. Does every house need a flashlight, a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher?  Have you ever gone camping? You probably have a stove, blankets and sleeping bags. Water storage is as cheap as a 2 liter soda bottle, or  a $12 Aquatainer. It's not about guns and gas masks, though I don't discount those either. It's not about zombies or EMPs, though I don't discount those either.

If you stop and look around your town or city, you can probably come up with a few plausible, reasonable situations that could happen with little to no warning.  Are you prone to snow, ice, flooding or extreme heat?  Do you live near a rail line? (overturned chemical car anyone?). If you live near a nuclear power plant or military base, do you know several ways to get out of town?

Mostly, focus on the little things. I still feel strongly that most of the situations that you're going to come across you won't be home for. Do you carry a flashlight, tool kit, jumper cables and a flash light in your car? You don't even want to know how many of each of those are in mine. I don't feel normal if I leave the house without a knife in my pocket and a flashlight on my key ring. Why?  These are things that I use every day of my life. People reading this would say that will probably think that is too basic a thing to even mention, but look around you. How many of you have friends or family that don't own flashlights.  How many of your friends don't have jumper cables in their car?

I've slowly got friends and family into prepping. It was a hard road. Being subtle helps. Christmas and birthdays provide opportunities.  I wouldn't suggest buying a relative a gas mask if they aren't already on board.  Start easy, like a wind up weather radio or lantern. Something they will likely use even not in a disaster situation. Even cheesy disaster movies like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow (one of my favorites) provide opportunities. Anything that will give you the chance for a discussion is of benefit, just keep it light. Let them come to you for more information when they are ready. Let them know that you love them and you're trying to help save their life, but don't beat them over the head with it if they aren't ready.

Most importantly, keep a good attitude. At the end of the day, unless you're Bill Gates, you can't prepare for every single situation. Pick your battles and your primary threats. Do what you can when the finances allow.  By reading this and going to the store, you're already ahead of 95% of the population.  Regardless of what the voice over on Doomsday prepper says about the odds of a disaster happening, remember:  It's not about the odds, it's about the stakes.

I am also gluten intolerant and I found out much in the same way and the previous writer.  In addition the information provided I would like to point out potatoes.  They can be bought in 50 pounds bags and stored in a root cellar for most of the winter.

We buy two 50 pound bags in the fall that last us until late spring.  We also grow 18 different varieties of potatoes and save and grow them from seed each spring.  That way we have the knowledge and ability to ramp up our own potato production in case we couldn't buy them from the farm down the road.

As for bulk oats they should be avoided by people with celiac disease unless they are certified gluten free.  Growing a field of oats without wheat contamination is a difficult and costly process.  Ordinary bulk oats are contaminated with wheat.  After three days of one bowl of bulk oats a day, my intensities let me know that there is gluten in there.  Store what you eat, eat what you store. - Dan in Upstate New York


This posting has come at an opportune time for me. My daughter-in-law has celiac. That combined with the fact that she is a vegetarian has left me with few options for stocking foods that she can eat.  She has to be wheat free and gluten free. You and poster are correct about separate grinders etc. When they come to visit, she must use a different stick of butter since even the touching the our bread can trigger a reaction.  We always have to read the label because wheat is used as a filler and thickener in many products, pasta sauce, candy and even in toothpaste. She does eat eggs and cheese. So fortunately our little flock can feed her and I am planning to get a milk goat. 
Thank you for a great blog and a “gathering place” for like-minded individuals. - Linda U.


James Wesley:
As a thirty-year survivalist I had a couple years of food storage when I married my wife a few years ago who has celiac disease.  While we do not maintain a gluten-free kitchen as I enjoy the occasional 'normal' pizza, cookie, or sandwich, I made the decision to convert my food storage to all gluten-free because the galley in the retreat is much smaller and we cannot assure contamination will not occur there like we can at home. I drove my truck to the food cooperative in a neighboring state and purchased 800 additional pounds of corn, buckwheat, quinoa, and amaranth which I processed in 5 gallon buckets according to your directions in How To Survive the End of the World as We Know It.  I also ordered a Country Living Grain Mill because they will test it with rice at the factory instead of wheat to prevent contamination and the optional bean auger is perfectly suited for popcorn which I can get inexpensively in 25# bags at the local warehouse club. I have started storing and using xanthan gum which attempts to hold baked goods together the way the gluten does in baked goods containing wheat.

After sorting out and setting aside my wheat and other glutenous provisions, I contacted some local preppers and survivalists and sold my entire stock of these items for the bargain price of $5 per #10 can.  My wife is very good about making me gluten-full foods I enjoy.  For example, this evening we both had biscuits and gravy, but mine were 'normal' while hers were made with alternative flour.  Grocery stores are keeping more gluten-free products and a plethora of recipes are available all over the Internet for those who cook everything from scratch.  I find that every year I develop more and more taste for gluten-free products.  I compare it to going from whole milk to 1%.  One might start by transitioning to 2% before moving to 1% or skim. 

The two biggest problems I have encounters thus far are that I can no longer store TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) which is also known as soy meat because they list wheat as one of the ingredients and it will be difficult to share meals with those in our retreat group because their food storage and meal planning is highly dependent upon wheat products.  Prudent planning has overcome these obstacles and I feel I am no less prepared now than I was before I purged gluten from my food storage. - Allen C.    


I enjoyed the article by Geoff in Kentucky. Having a daughter recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease I can sympathize with him. The simple act of grocery shopping took three time longer when we first started. We're back to normal now and prepare both gluten containing and gluten free meals and storage. One helpful tip I'd like to pass along is an iPhone/iPad app called "Is that gluten free?" by Midlife Crisis Apps. I don't recall what it cost us but the fee was reasonable and has more than paid for itself in time and frustration. You can search by brand or ingredient. It even covers many local brands.

All the best! - South Florida Gal

I just read the comment  by one of the readers on the Crosscut Saw Company (in Letters - Traditional Tools for TEOTWAWKI, by Bill H.).
I am on my second crosscut saw I purchased form the Crosscut Saw Company. (The first one that I owned was stolen). I also purchased their saw maintenance manual, and some sharpening tools. I purchased the saws manufactured by them (They also have some of the commercial made saws). Their saws are of excellent quality and workmanship, and definitely worth the money.
If you do decide to purchase one of these saws, purchasing a manual on how to sharpen the saw, and a good file are a must. The difference between a sharp saw, and a improperly sharpened saw is, that one zips through the wood, whereas the "mutilated" saw will quickly wear out the user without cutting much wood.
Crosscut saws come with two type of tooth configurations, depending on their primary use. I have always used the Perforated Lance Tooth design, and it has worked for me. They are available as either one man saws, designed to be used by one person, or two man saws to be used by two persons. With two man saws, the saw is always pulled through the cut, never pushed. Depending on the saw, the handles may have to be purchased separately.
I spent many years on a farm, cutting wood, and felling trees with crosscut saws. (We had a chainsaw, but my uncle always insisted on us using the crosscut saw for the first trees, so that "I would learn something useful" I also got to cut the firewood with the smaller one man saw. Well he was right. I had indeed learned something useful).
A well-maintained Crosscut saw is a must have as a backup to a chainsaw, and is also a lot quieter. - The Consultant.


James Wesley,
I appreciate you posting my article, and those who responded.
First off, the suggestion of the shaving horse immediately drew my attention. Constructing one will be my next project. I will most likely follow the plans from this link. There also appears to be some other excellent information on this site.
As for the purchase of a crosscut saw, the vendor appears to have quality products. I personally would have a hard time convincing "she who tracks the bank account" feeling good about spending that much for a hand saw. If a person is patient there is a fair chance a reasonably priced saw will be available on craigslist, at an estate sale or at a swap meet. I was recently able to acquire a broad axe head (small) for $3, a steel splitting wedge for $1, a cast iron 3 qt dutch oven for $10, and a hand crank meat grinder for $6 at estate sales. All of these items are high quality, made in the U.S. items. I spent $20 for items that would cost well over $100 new if I could even find them. I am still looking for a froe, but am not sure I would use it much. That possibility drives the price down for me.
With all of that being said, an important part of the article is not just owning these items. The important concept is to use the items you do own. I use my drawknife at least once a week, and usually more. That is why I will be making the shaving horse. It would be much easier to use a shaving horse than to use my bar clamps, as I currently am, to fashion a handle for the broad axe. Necessity drives invention (or motivation). I just want to have some practice doing these things before my life depends on it.
Best regards and thanks again, - Bill H.

I've looked into getting an AR-10 to supplement my AR-15 and considered the SI Defense and CMMG options that accept the widely available and very inexpensive Heckler und Koch G3 20 round magazines.  The former requires minor modification of each G3 magazine, the latter requires modification to an upper receiver, and unfortunately those lower receivers are no longer produced. 

I know you've mentioned your plan to convert to SI Defense receiver AR-10 rifles, but I did not see a mention of the required magazine modification.  The instructions to modify the magazines can be found here.  The modification involves removing a bit of material from the feed lips, evenly from both sides.  I have not yet taken the plunge on this rifle, so I do not know how difficult this modification is or how it affects the use of modified G3 magazines in G3 rifles.  I would be interested to see if any of the Survival Blog readers has experience with either of these rifles/conversions. - Andy J.

An astounding piece from Nanny State Canada: Man arrested for daughter's picture of him with gun. My advice for my readers in Ontario: Relocate, while you still can! You will find the western provinces are more gun friendly. Vote with your feet! (Thanks to B.B. for sending the link.)

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John R. sent this headline from Nanny State Britannia: Widow faces jail for possession of late husband's illegal pistol after it was stolen during burglary. JWR's Comment: Don't miss this quote at the end: "To find a gun is quite bad enough, but to find ammunition is a serious aggravation." I can only imagine their reaction if they walked into Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR), and saw the entire wall of ammo cans. They would surely have apoplectic spasms.

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A good summary: The History and Future of Pandemics

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New Hampshire man arrested for firing gun into ground while catching suspected burglar. (So much for "Live Free or Die." FWIW, in many western states and in much of the South, he probably would have received a commendation, instead.)

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A new free e-book: The Proverbs 31 Woman Guide to Starting Seeds

"The U.S. economic and systemic-solvency crises of the last five years continue to deteriorate. Yet they remain just the precursors to the coming Great Collapse: a hyperinflationary great depression. The unfolding circumstance will encompass a complete loss in the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar; a collapse in the normal stream of U.S. commercial and economic activity; a collapse in the U.S. financial system, as we know it; and a likely realignment of the U.S. political environment." - John Williams of Shadowstats

Friday, February 24, 2012

Today we present another two entries for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

To say we have had a mild winter here in Iowa is an understatement to say the least. That was until recently. It would be safe to say that with temperatures in the 50 degree range I have gotten a little complacent this winter. Like many who read SurvivalBlog I spend time watching the news and trying to keep an eye on the big picture. At least in this case it came at the expense of some of the details. Like everything in life I would like to remind myself as well as all my Brothers and Sisters out there that might read this that like all things in life we need to take a balanced approach.
We did have a snow storm and nature reminded us that it was still winter. I guess this would be one of those situations that Attitude made the difference in the whole day. That was something else that I think I may have forgotten. At my house we don’t prep just to survive. If all I was interested in was surviving I would not put so much time and effort into what we have done. Personally I want to survive with a life worth living.  I personally am not someone that is going to wonder through the woods with a backpack eating bugs having lost everyone and everything I love. If they are going to get to the people and pets that I love and care for then they are going to have to go through me to get there. So if those things are gone they would have had to take me out to get there. So while I’m here I might as well enjoy the life that I have.
Instead of taking the doom and gloom look at what all went wrong let’s take a positive outlook on the day and see what I was able to learn from our experience. Life is a choice. Where you are in life is a sum of the decisions you have made so you are exactly where you have chosen to be. Look at it this way: If you are now willing to make changes to your lifestyle such as giving up cable or eating out then you have made a conscious choice. You have chosen to keep things exactly the way they are. Since you are not willing to do anything different you must be happy with the way things are in your life. So let’s take a look at where the choices I have made took me for the day.
Waking up to about 4 inches of snow meant that my first duty of the morning was to get out and get rid of the snow off the driveway and sidewalks. Not a big deal. My Cub Cadet has a two stage snow blower on it and I race my neighbor to see who can do the others sidewalk first.

The first thing I notice is this has got to be the heaviest and wettest snow I can remember in a long time. As soon as you step down on the snow it instantly turns to ice on the sidewalk under your feet. This is the first time I can ever remember my machine struggling to throw the snow out of the way. I’m usually having to angle the shoot down so the snow does not go too far and end up where I don’t want it. I happily spend an hour or so removing the snow from our property and a couple of my elderly neighbors. Rats, Rick has already gotten the sidewalk. Score one for him. I’ll get him next time.

I pull the tractor back into the garage and notice that it is unusually dark inside. I thought I had turned on the lights in the garage when I went in but must not have. Well no big deal there is plenty of light coming in from the open garage door. I put the tractor away and pull my truck back in and prepare to go back into the house. Like most people I go to walk out the door and hit the automatic garage door switch and nothing happens. Click, Click, Click? I looked over and I had turned on the lights but they were not on? I guess all this heavy wet snow has taken down some of the trees in the area.

A power failure is not a huge deal. I pull the release cord on the door to disconnect it from the drive and close the door manually. Here is where our first learning experience comes into play. Don’t you just hate those? With the door being connected to an automatic garage door opener there are no operating locks on it. Being an accountant by trade I’m not the most mechanical person on the planet so I have to subscribe to the K.I.S.S. principle.  So believing in this instead of trying to do something elaborate I just grab a set of vice grips and clamp them on the rail to secure the garage. It would have been no big deal if the door had been closed when the power went out but since the side was all the way back there was no way to secure the door. A nice set of Vice-Grips on the rail worked quite well in my opinion.

At this point my vicious guard dogs decide to wake up and come downstairs and see how much of my breakfast they can talk me out of. This is where I would really suggest one of those LED head lamps if you don’t already have one. The kitchen is on the North side of the house so does not have a great deal of outside light this time of year. Having both hands free makes tasks much easier than trying to hold a light with one hand and do everything with the other. Of course there is always the hold it in your mouth and slobber all over yourself method. Personally I prefer the head lamp. Slobber all down the front of your shirt first thing in the morning seems to bring a lot of pesky questions. Or at least it does at my house.

At this point the power has been out from probably an hour and a half at my estimation. With Winter having shown up with the snow the temperature outside was far from what we had gotten used to. No big deal “I HAVE PREPS”. Quite proud of myself for having thought ahead I have a backup heat source. I have a kerosene heater out in the garage that I keep around for just such an occasion. So closely watched by my ever vigilant guard dogs we go out to the garage to get the heater and bring it into the house.

I do have to interject here that I was quite proud of myself at this point. I have read here on SurvivalBlog quite a few times that you can never have too many flashlights and the read many praises on the new LED flashlights. Having done so a while back when I was at Home Depot I saw bulk packs of them on sale and picked up several. She Who Must Be Obeyed and I then went around the house and put at least one flashlight in every room of the house. Several rooms we put a couple. Luckily for me the flashlight was right where I expected it to be and worked great.

The Dogs and I then went out and brought in the heater and wiped off the dust and checked it over for proper operation before I tried to light it. I used to use it regularly to heat the garage before having a heating system put in. Since then it has sat patiently on the shelf waiting. This is when I noticed that last time I used it I had forgotten to refill it. Not a big deal. I was prepared. I knew I had extra kerosene in the garage. I had several unopened cans that I had purchased for just such an occasion. So the dogs and I trekked back out to the garage to get some kerosene to top it off before we put it into operation. I knew the cans were unopened and therefore full. I checked on them by looking over at them to make sure they had not been damaged several times a year but had never physically touched them since I had put them off in the corner against the wall. I know they were full because I had purchased them and put them over there.
This was when I realized that Murphy's Law had not been repealed. The cans were strangely light when I went to pick them up. Almost as if they were empty. I look at the top and the seal is still in place right there where it is supposed to be. They simply can’t be empty could they? They were new when I put them there and the seal is still on top right where it was supposed to be. I shake the can and there is no slosh like there should be. No one ever told me that if you put a steel can on a cement floor that the bottom of the can will rust out. It must have happened over a long period because I never remember smelling kerosene in the garage but the bottom of the can was rusted and the cans were empty.

Well we must keep our beautiful wife warm so we go back into the house and strategically place the heater in the kitchen on the bottom floor of the house and light it. I did this because heat will radiate up. So by putting it at the bottom of the house farthest away from the stairs the heat will radiate through the bottom floor and eventually upstairs. The sun has finally come out so I open up the curtains on the south side of the house to let in as much sunlight as possible. I was surprised that within a half hour I had to go back downstairs and turn the heater off. It was starting to get way too warm upstairs.

Not knowing how long my existing kerosene still in the tank was going to last I went to plan “B”. Being a believer in "two is one and one is none", I had recently purchased a backup heat source to my backup heat source. Truthfully I had picked it up for the 5th wheel we have recently purchased and placed out our bug out location. On another trip to Home Depot I had purchased a Mr. Heater tank top heater. I had plenty of propane. All of my back up cooking is based on propane if the gas were ever to go out I had stocked up with the normal grill tanks with the adapter to fill the small tanks our camping stove uses and had a supply of tanks for our grill as well as three different 100 lb tanks to take down to the 5th wheel. We are still in the process of setting up the camper so they have not been moved down there yet. All were fully charged for just such an occasion.  With no better time to test our new heater than the present I assembled our new heater and attached it to the tank. I was amazed at the heat this thing put out and had to quickly turn it back off. I was confident that we were going to be nice and warm for as long as we would be without power.

So that gave me a few minutes to sit down and go through my checklist to see what needed to be done:

  • Shelter is in place and safe? Check
  • Water? Plenty stored and water still running check
  • Food? Well stocked for both 2 pawed and 4 pawed family members so Check
  • Everyone Safe and warm? Check
  • Light? Plenty of candles, flash lights with back well over 100 back up batteries (Sale at Bass Pro shops on back Friday), Oil Lamps with extra wicks and oil, all in place so check  

Not being the type that would be willing to leave a heater on and unattended this gave me some time to sit by the window and go over our situation and evaluate what still needed to be done and see where I had missed things. As I sat there in the a comfortable chair looking out the sliding glass door watching it start to snow again I noticed a few things. Please let me share them with you.
As I sat there in front of the window I had a sense of calm and peace flow over me. It had started to snow again fairly aggressively. I could see several neighbors loading up their cars forced to trek out into the storm looking for a warm place to go. Meanwhile I was sitting there in my chair warm and comfortable. Knowing my family was safe and warm. I didn’t have to care what the roads were like. I didn’t have to care how much it snowed. I didn’t have to care when the power came back on. For the first time in several years the house was quit. I could almost hear the house talking to me. Those subtle noises that a house makes that are always there but are hidden behind the background noise of all the gadgets of our modern life create. I had a calmness and peace that I had not felt in quite a while. The simple things in life were all taken care of because we had the foresight to prep not just for the big disaster but also for the little things.
I realized the mistakes I had made. I had gotten complacent in knowing my preps were there and had not taken the time to periodically check and make sure they were still in operational condition. Luckily I had subscribed to the "Two is one, and one is none" theory and that had saved us.
My pointed out an area I had thought of once and had completely forgotten about. As unromantic as it sounds at this point feeling so good about how well things had gone overall we forgot about the toilet. Where we live we have a high water table so the sewer system cannot be buried very deep. Because of this we have what is called a grind pit in our back yard. All the waste from the house drains down into this pit and a device in the bottom grinds up all the solids and then pumps them “UP” to the sewer system. With no power there is no pumping action and the pump would become full rather quickly if we did not monitor how much water went down the drain. Of course this is when Murphy decided to make his presence known again. I had not really worried about it too much because I had a nice Kohler generator. Well as you might guess we don’t currently have our generator. It is over being worked on by the small engine person of our Mutual Assistance Group. We are experimenting with retrofitting the generators of our group with automobile mufflers in an attempt to quite them down considerably so they will be safer to use at our bug out location in a SHTF situation. The loud roar of several generators will carry for quite a ways in that type of situation and we are attempting to lower our decibel output as much as possible. Because of this my generator is not currently available.  Not a severe problem I can always grab one from work and bring it home once the storm passes if necessary but defiantly something that I need to work on.
At this point there is only one thing left on the list to do. So I go upstairs and see my beautiful wife and my vicious guard dogs all curled up on a pile of pillows on the bed. This is a scene that would make the cat proud. My wife is comfortably reading a book basking in the sunlight coming in from the window. My lab is comfortably curled up on my pillows and my Shepherd is sprawled out across what is left of the bed.
I update my wonderful wife on our situation and my conclusions. Then I inform her the only thing we have left to do to insure our survival is work on shared bodily warmth and comfort. That this is a critical part of our survival plan. The fate of the world could depend on it.
My loving wife then looks up from her book. She looks at me with those beautiful hazel eyes. Her long beautiful hair cascading down across her shoulders and pillows. The absolute picture of loveliness. A gentle smile crosses her face only to be replaced by her tongue sticking out followed quickly by a raspberry thrown in my direction. Dejected and rejected I was banished to the couch where I had to spend the afternoon taking nap lessons from the cat.

As an avid reader of SurvivalBlog, I have read a countless number of articles on communications, food storage, tactics, weaponry, and a long list of almost every topic involving survival during a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation.  One major area that directly effects all of the aforementioned topics is physical fitness.  As a certified Health and Physical educator that is working on receiving a Certified Personal Trainer certification I take physical activity very seriously. One term that is used frequently in my field is GPP or General Physical Preparedness. GPP is the base level of fitness that a person must have before they begin a training regiment. As the infamous power lifter Louie Simmons states, “You have to be in shape to train, not train to get in shape.” Relating this to a survival situation, a person can be mentally and emotionally prepared for any situation that comes their way-economic disaster, nuclear fallout, EMP, etc.- but if you are not physically prepared to meet the demands of living in a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation you are doomed to fail or at the minimum will have an extremely arduous physical adaptation period. One thing that many people take for granted is the belief that you will just fall into a routine that will help you adapt quickly and efficiently to different activities that must be completed on a day-to-day basis. Though there is some truth to this, the adaptation will not be pleasant by any means and in some situations will be painful. Walking long distances with a heavy load is a perfect example. Your body will be sore from your pinky toe all the way up to your neck. I know from experience what the effects of a lack of GPP can get you. When I was younger I spent a summer working in a fishing camp in the Alaskan wilderness. One week I was carrying 4 foot sections of logs a half a mile back to our base camp through the undergrowth the next week I was digging six foot deep latrine holes, the week after that I was carrying 15 gallon gas cans 100 feet to fill our boats up, and the list goes on for the 10 weeks I was there. Not only did it take me several days to adapt to the climate, my body was forced to go through physical adaptations week after week which are daunting to say the least. Overall, general physical preparedness is something that people need to seriously consider when preparing for any situation.

As previously discussed in several different articles, everyday life will change drastically after an event. To name a few physical activities that will become commonplace:

  • Chopping firewood
  • Carrying firewood varying distances
  • Carrying water (5 gallon buckets weigh 40 lbs.)
  • Carrying food pails of varying weights
  • Lifting 50 or 80 pound bags of foodstuffs or livestock feed
  • Shoveling materials into sandbags
  • Moving sandbags for defensive positions (typically 25 lbs. or more)
  • Digging caches
  • Driving stakes for fortified positions or fence posts
  • Mending fences
  • Moving car batteries for charging electronics
  • Bug-out situations carrying different weights and hiking varying distances over various terrain

The list is never ending. Each person’s situation will be different. If you have a dedicated retreat your physical responsibilities may also require moving hay bails for feeding livestock. If you are in a suburban area you may need to push cars off the road to travel to bug-out location or in come instances push them into place to help set-up a defensive position. In an urban area your physical responsibilities will be even more drastically different then the rural and suburban environment preppers. Also, as the event that has occurred pushes into a longer time period such as in Mr. Rawles’ book Patriots and the financial collapse, physical responsibilities will be even more drastic for everybody no matter where you live.

Many people are prepared to stockpile food, buy weapons and ammunition, and educate themselves on a range of survival skills that will help them in any scenario imaginable. Though, people will not take time out of their schedules to physically prepare themselves to use those stockpiles, weapons, and information  they spent countless hours studying, practicing and preparing. Personally, I would not want to be the person that is as welled armed as Fort Knox, is as prepared medically as Mount Sinai hospital, has enough food to feed 100 people but can’t manage to walk miles in a bug-out situation to get to my retreat or abandon my retreat if it ever came to that.

I am frequently asked by friends how to lose weight and get into shape. I tell people that they must start slow (especially if having not done any physical activity for more then several months.) I would recommend the same thing for preppers who want to get into shape. What I would prescribe requires no special equipment, only items that would be found in any preppers already created stockpile. Developing a proper level of physical preparedness does not require any high-tech equipment or “one machine fits all” gimmick that are being marketed today.

One simple place to start is going for long walks. Not only does the walking help prepare your legs for an environment that does not have any other means of transportation but it will also help you slim down (in conjunction with eating healthier which is key.) Something I recommend is filling up your CamelBak and walk with it. A three liter (100 ounce) CamelBak weighs about 6.5 pounds. The additional 6.5 pounds will come as a surprise to those who are not used to carrying any extra weight on a day to day basis. This is also a great precursor to carrying heavier weights on hikes. You can add more and more weight as your body adapts.
The next place to start is doing various calisthenics. Pushups, pullups, sit-ups, doing bodyweight squats (squatting with not additional weight,) lunges, walking lunges, and a countless number of other exercises that help the body get into shape.

  • If you are unable to do 20 pushups in a normal fashion on the ground begin by doing incline pushups against a wall or table depending on your physical ability.
  • For pullups, you can begin by doing negatives: jumping up so your chin is above the bar and slowly lowering yourself down fighting your bodyweight. Eventually your body will get stronger allowing you to do pullups. Another useful exercise is lying underneath a sturdy table, grabbing the edge and pulling your chest to the table edge while your feet remain on the ground. These are called bodyweight rows, which strengthen your back and help with various pulling motions.
  • When performing bodyweight squats, make sure you squat down to parallel. An easy way to understand when your body reaches parallel is using a bucket, table or chair that allows you to sit down with your legs at 90 degree angle when sitting. If you sit down then stand back up you are performing a proper squat. Work your way into not using the object after you become strong enough and can physically reach the parallel level of the squat.
  • Lunges and sit-ups are fairly well known and are tried and true methods of developing strength.

There is a much longer list of calisthenics/bodyweight movements that can be performed that can be researched by those interested in developing strength and endurance.
The next method of getting into shape involves two empty five gallon buckets. Fill the buckets almost up to the brim with water, squat down and pick them up, then walk various distances with them. That will be approximately 80 pounds of weight being carried. The task of carrying water or other objects in buckets (especially stored food) will become commonplace after the SHTF.

You can also pick up different objects and carry them. Logs, rocks, sandbags, loads of firewood, and anything else that you will use at your retreat or other location. Not only does this help develop your overall strength and endurance, it also prepares you for the tasks that you will be performing in the future. Also, a wheelbarrow filled with sand, dirt, rocks, firewood, etc. can be pushed different distances.
Finally, one of the most physically demanding and overall physically active things that someone can do is chop firewood. One of the newest crazes to hit the world of training is sledgehammer training. People are buying sledgehammers and old tires and striking the tire over and over again to develop physical strength and endurance. Why waste your time striking a tire with a sledgehammer when you can chop firewood that you will use to cook, and heat your home.

Although I did not list any activities that are “scientifically advanced” or mind boggling to those who think physical activity is simply moving your preps from you car to your storage area every few weeks, they are effective and will help you when the SHTF. I encourage everyone to challenge their bodies not just their minds when preparing for any situation.

Hi Jim,
 Reading your article brought back many memories of the period in our land during the 1970s. We lived on the Eastern border and were regularly attacked at night and even during the day and the culprits ran back across the border into Mozambique. We attended many funerals of fellow farmers and their families.

One point of interest that you do not mention is that groups of farmers (neighbouring) hired Militia groups of experienced soldiers. Normally about 10 people plus a leader who in some cases was a white man. They patrolled the farm area at night and set up ambushes. Our group was successful in “kills” [of terrorists]  which became a major deterrent. None of our group’s homes were attacked. Farmers that were isolated had big problems and they took huge risks and eventually had to move away. We had part of our house roof sand bagged against possible mortar or rocket attack. Many farmers  built solid rock walls outside, near the bed room wing of a house, in order to prevent being shot at from outside. My son at the time was only three years old and had never seen the twinkling of the stars!  On an occasion after a security meeting which took longer than it ought to have done, we were caught at the neighbours, where the meeting had been held and as it was now dusk ~ in those days a very dangerous time to be out and about, we were always in the house before dark, the person who’s home the meeting had been held at, invited the group of farmers who attended the meeting to stay for “pot luck” ~ supper!  My wife and 2 children were with me and when we left to go home at about 10 that night (a much safer time to travel than, as I said, dusk.)  That was when we discovered that our little boy had never seen the stars because, when going out to our land mine/ambush protected vehicle, he asked: “Daddy, what are all those little lights?”  referring to the stars!  
After Mugabe came to power we were happy to be able to continue farming. Each year we were putting huge amounts of capital back into the land, as all good farmers do. Little did we realize that we were going to lose it all. We lost our farm, our pension for our retirement, and much more. Life goes on so we have put it all behind us, turned the page, shut the book and are getting on with enjoying life. Both our children live close by plus our three delightful grandchildren. What more could we ask for?
God has blessed us richly! - Mike Z.


I enjoyed your article "Could America's Farmers and Ranchers Face a Rhodesian Future?", thank you. If things get like that in the U.S. or other developed nations (and they already are to some extent in some US southwest border areas) I fear that the local farmers and residents won't have the support of big.gov and will be left to hang out to dry. Things were really bad in Africa, but there the government heavily subsidized or just paid for things like the Agric-Alert system, security fencing, "Bright Lights" security personnel, training, ammunition, etc.

I would rather rely on something like a Fireforce parachute or Helo operation or have a BSAP "blackboot" Support Unit show up to help defeat a terrorist attack or small unit operation than one officer in a Crown Vic patrol car with little relevant training and a healthy fear of being sued who will likely "observe, document and establish a perimeter" than intervene with any useful direct action.

Preconceived notions and unreasonable expectations have really never been adequately addressed in either Apocalyptic fiction, or non-fiction survival books. I think reality for many people trying to hold out, even if prepared and working with their neighbors would be more like the defenders of Stalingrad than the Rhodesian situation. We have to keep in mind that many of the commercial farmers in Rhodesia had their younger children in boarding schools outside the operational areas, and many got to go "on holiday" occasionally to de-stress. While sanctions made purchasing things difficult, Rhodesians (having a well-functioning government and private sector) stepped up to the plate and produced many embargoed products themselves. In the Apocalyptic or collapse scenarios many envision, there will be no benevolent government or rich neighboring government (like South Africa) to provide fuel, ammunition, armaments, technical and medical support, and so forth to a beleaguered ally.

I'd like to see some discussion on this predicament. - Henry W.

I was a young woman living in Rhodesia in the 1970s. At the time that we lived in Rhodesia the war had just moved to the Eastern Border area where our farm was located. (Our farm was 30 miles from the Mozambique border.) In 1974 one of our neighbors was shot at Skyline Junction. He survived the attack but that was the beginning of the end for farm life as we knew it in the Melsetter - Chipinge area. The terrs came in from Mozambique up the Lusiti valley into Zimbabwe. (Our farm was between Melsetter and Chipinge.)

1974 was the year when every farmer in our area started to put fences around their houses and began closing up their windows. We got Agric Alert 2-way radios. Ours was installed in an inner passage. That was the safest place in a house as there was no windows, and was the safest place to lie down in case of an terrorist attack.

After the attack on our neighbor, the farm attacks became more frequent and that is when roadblocks were implemented as well as escort convoys. Farmer's installed thick plates under their cars and pickups to help save their lives when going over a landmine. They also had shotguns mounted on the sides of the pickups which could be lowered and fired remotely.

The one other thing I should mention is that you never went anywhere after dark. If there were social outings in the evening, you always slept over. At night, gates were locked and windows were closed. There were also interior locking gates installed in passages to isolate sleeping areas, as a last line of defense. - E.M.

Thanks, Jim,
Just thinking about Rhodesia gets me choked up and almost teary-eyed. That was so long ago, and involved too many of my friends.

I like to say: "Rhodesia's not dead, She's just asleep and having a nightmare called Zimbabwe." - J.G.

For best use with most woodworking other than large beams, a draw knife requires a shaving horse. A draw knife very useful for barking logs as they last much longer with the bark removed.

You will also need a broad axe and adze to shape beams.

A froe to rive boards and shingles is good too.

Good books to get are the Foxfire series, as are the primitive series by John McPherson. Also see McPherson's web page at PrairieWolf.net.     

Keep up the good work, - Ted. J


Having just read the most recent article Traditional Tools for TEOTWAWKI, by Bill H., I came across this company while trying to do background research: CrosscutSaw.com/
I was wondering if you or Bill H. (the author of Traditional Tools for TEOTWAWKI) could comment on/ recommend them?
Regards, and Semper Fidelis, - J. McC.

JWR Replies: Although I haven't personally done business with them, the folks at Crosscut Saw have a good reputation. It is noteworthy that most of their products are American made.

And speaking of using traditional hand tools, I'd like to re-post a link suggested by reader Ron S. back in 2009, a YouTube video: From Cherry Log to Country Chair, showing a gent making furniture with hand tools. Every self-sufficient carpenter should own a shingle froe, a hardwood mallet ("maul"), a shaving horse, an adze, and a draw knife.

P.G. sent this: How to Use the Internet in Stealth Mode

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Rick B. sent another link to good piece at The How Do Gardener: Crop Rotation in the Home Garden

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Jeff G. suggested this: Introduction to the Constitution (a free lecture series featuring Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College)

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Some more observations from Ol' Remus: Guns.

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J.M.C. sent us this: More Indiana Women Carrying Guns

"In reading The History of Nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities, their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first." - Charles MacKay, from the preface to his classic book "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Today we present another entry for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I think I'm the the position of many out in the real world. I'm strapped for cash. Feeling the time crunch that I must do something soon or be caught up with the unprepared masses and get overrun. I'm also feeling the responsibility for my immediate and extended family whether they are preparing or not. It's a huge burden to bear when you have been raised to be the "man" of any situation that might affect you and your family.

That being said, I'm also a logical, common sense person. I approach things like this:

1. Look at the situation
2. Determine the problem
3. Find the solution
4. Implement the solution

I think this fits most of my generation who were raised by parents born before, during, or shortly after the Great Depression. A "can do" type of attitude that never finds a way to quit or give up.

I also have a fairly typical family makeup of people ranging from one year old to mid seventies with the majority being thirty to sixty and most being in good to excellent physical condition.

So let's look at the problem most of us are stuck in, the "imperfect retreat."

I think we can all agree that the generally accepted ideas of being hidden from view, off the main road, 100+ miles from heavily populated cities, etc, all are the best case scenarios but not something that many, if not most, of us can or will be able to attain.

First let's look at the situation: We own or are renting a home. Can we change our situation or not? If so, how drastically can we change it with what we have available to us right now. Most of us will find ourselves in one of two or three different situations. We can stay where we are, we can move a short distance to another place, or maybe combine with other family members at one of their homes, hopefully in a better situation than our own. Let's take each of those individually.

I won't go into all of the preparation requirements since those have been and are covered in greater detail that I could cover here. I mainly want to concentrate on the decision making processes and how to hopefully arrive at a suitable solution. So here we go.

First, staying where we are. In most cases, this is probably the worst and most difficult situation to make work. I personally could easily be caught in this situation and I don't look forward to trying to make it work but let's assume that is our only option. I know this is the case for many so let's make it work.

I'll take my situation as an example. I live on a main street in a small town of 2,500-3,500 population. What are my challenges? To me, first and foremost is security. The reason I put that first is that if I can't protect what I do, build, stash, grow, or otherwise prepare, then I've wasted my resources and time. So the first step is to honestly assess your situation based on what you expect to happen in a worst case scenario. Where are the threats most likely going to come from? What direction and in what form? Can you slow them down and/or stop them? What can you do to aid yourself in being able to accomplish these things? Fences? Gates? Window and door bars? Think through the situation based on your individual situation and resources.

You have to form some sort of defensive plan and come to some understanding of how successful you feel you can be, based on the number of people you will have helping defend the site. I would include some thoughts about quickly deploying traps, tanglefoot wire, or anything else to make you place not worth the effort in hopes that they will just move on to easier targets. By doing that you cause them to expend precious and sometimes irreplaceable energy, on someone other than you. By the time they finally return to you you might be even better prepared and they will be most likely less prepared and easier to deal with.

So in this situation, I feel defense will be extremely crucial. This will of course include multiple weapons and a large amount of ammunition to last through a siege type situation. You can take these thought and translate them on out to the logical end with the other supplies you will need to survive, such as food and water since you will most likely be very confined and unable to scrounge and forage safely for some period of time.

This situation will be extremely hard to survive with only a couple of people so you must work towards having as many as possible to help rotate the duties of keeping watch, preparing meals, sanitation, etc. My speculation would be that you would need to look at a 30-60 day siege until you will be able to begin to move somewhat freely and to get outside for other activities such as gardening or tending animals unless you can have those things attached to your main house through some protected passageway.

Obviously, this is a huge hill to climb to make this work in any populated area even in the suburbs. Can it work? Yes, I believe it can but you will have to be brutally honest with yourself and also prepared mentally and physically to do what will be necessary when the time comes. Remember, I'm a logical, common sense, realist.

Now let's look at the other two situations together since they are basically the same. I'm assuming that if you move to another family member's home then it would be at least farther from a populated area than the situation I've just described. Otherwise. it's then just a matter of which city home is the most defendable and then building on that together.

So assuming that the location you can move to on your own or to another family member's home is outside of a populated area to some degree, let's say 10-15 miles out into the country. So let's talk about the differences of the situations.

With the city situation I said security needs to be job one. With the semi-rural situation security is still job one but in very different ways. In the city, the house becomes your "fortress" and you build on that. In the semi-rural to rural situation the area around you becomes much more important to your security than in the city. This is because you have much more area to control the access to your home and therefore your supplies. Concentrate more on your avenues of approach. Where will the threats most likely come from? Are there main roads nearby? Are there any natural barriers that you can use like ridges, lake,s rivers, etc?

Again, I'll use my situation as an example. My choice has been to use my parents home as the gathering place for our family. It is approximately 15 miles from a population area of 30,000 people. It sits back off the road a short ways with good view from the house to the road and some wooded area and a pond 75 yards behind the house.

Again, in a defensive sense, this is not an extremely easy to defend area. However, there are many more things that you can do in this situation than in the city because you have room to maneuver. The downside of that is that you also have more area to watch and control.

In that situation you have to make the terrain and surrounding situation work for you by constructing traps, digging ant-vehicular ditches, digging concealed fighting positions in various places to allow as much movement between them as concealed as possible, etc. There are many good available information sources on the Internet for accomplishing these things. Be inventive and read, read, read.

Have a good stock of sandbags and the sand needed to fill them on hand. Many of these final preparations will be done once everyone has assembled. Everyone will be anxious and will need something to keep them busy so put that energy to work. But have the plan laid out in advance and ready to implement. This is absolutely critical. If you don't have it laid out you will be flailing around and losing the confidence of all the others that are depending on you to lead them.

Again, approach things in a realistic and honest manner. The people that you will most likely be having to deal with will not be trained in the arts of stealth and [militarily precise] attack, so just put yourself in the average person's shoes that will be trying to rob you. Doing that makes it pretty easy to understand where you will most need to protect and focus your attention.

Being removed by a few miles from a populated area will most likely buy you some time unless you are on a major thoroughfare between two populated areas where people might be traveling from one city to another. If you are in a direction not directly toward another city that will buy you a little additional time before you have to confront the hordes leaving the city. Maybe a couple of extra days which could be extremely significant in your final preparations. Take advantage of that delay, as it very well could save countless lives.

Now that I've got you thinking through some possibilities, then let's look at some of the other issues that I an many others will have to deal with.

We see the term OPSEC used all over the place these days. Basically what that means is keeping quiet and staying as hidden as possible. In the city that's almost impossible. Hordes will be going from house to house looking for the easy targets. (So, as we discussed we're going to make it hard for them.)

Let's take a generator for example. How do we run a generator when everyone else has no power without saying very loudly "COME TO MY HOUSE!" This is something that will have to be thought out and planned for in advance. My plans are to bury my generator in a root cellar of sorts with a well-muffled [but fully externally-vented] exhaust pipe. This could be done in or out of the city to hide what you have. The area could also serve many other uses to include as a root cellar and storage for all types of things. [JWR Adds: A Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector is a must!] If done in the right way it could possibly even be hidden enough to avoid being found by all but the most observant looter. You can apply this concept to many other things too.

I try to use items that can be easily hidden and/or moved if needed to another location. A good example of that is portable solar panels for charging batteries. It will cost you a bit more up front but they are also easier to hide and, if necessary, to move. Further, if you have to bug out you can grab one or two to take with you. Nothing is permanent.

This does require some planning but again the cost is mostly in labor as far as the preparation goes. That is my mindset, spend as little money as possible but get as prepared as possible.

All of the aforementioned thought processes can be and should be applied to the entire gamut of preparing. It does not matter what area it is, the process is still the same, observe the problem, identify the problem, weight the alternatives, find a solution to the problem, and apply the solution.

One final note that I think is probably the most important of any of this. This is all about one thing in the end, SURVIVAL--continuing to exist on the planet. Hopefully with some semblance of our existing comforts--at least with the basics.

That being said, once you have whatever preparations you have in place at you perfect or imperfect retreat, what's left?

What's left is the assurance of your continued survival. You absolutely must have a plan B, C, D, and so on, to keep you and your family surviving. I'm in the process of doing all that I have mentioned above. Are my preparations complete? Absolutely not. But one thing that is very high on my priority list is the ability implement those contingency plans.

My additional planning goes something like this. I figure [that in a worst case] at some point I will be forced from my retreat. What then? Well, if you haven't planned for that eventuality then you become one of the dispossessed horde. So what should you do to avoid this?

First, you should never, ever store all of your supplies at your central retreat location. Depending on the situation, store enough to get through the initial siege. More in the city and less in the rural area. Establish caches, preferably buried or at some reasonably secure, hidden location. Notice that "caches" is plural. Don't place one cache with any certainty that it won't be found. Also, when you do place them be sure not to follow any recognizable pattern. Also be sure that numerous trustworthy people in your family are aware of the locations in case something happens to you. You could also, as time and situation permit, dig some larger "foxholes" for temporary shelter and cover to move to and avoid being caught by the hordes. It gives you a place for a hasty retreat and also a place to fight from if that is necessary or just a place to hide until things blow over and you can return to your retreat.

Next, think about what you will need to store in the caches. When you are initially forced to leave your retreat you will mainly need water, guns, ammunition, fire starting equipment and possibly shelter related items. Some non-cook foods would be helpful too. This cache needs to be reasonably close by and easy to get to to resupply you with what you had to leave behind at the retreat.

The remaining caches can be more fully stocked in the hopes that you will find another shelter to move into until such time as you can eventually return and retake your retreat.

Even in the city you can find somewhere to bury a small cache of items like this to keep you equipped and on the move to the next cache, then the next cache, etc. It takes a little planning but not a huge outlay of resources. But again there some outlay in the form of labor. If nothing ever happens you dig them up and use the items for daily use. Nothing lost but lots gained if they are ever needed in extremis.

As I said at the start, this was not meant to be all-inclusive. My intent was to get you thinking, and to possibly help those in situations like mine--where I realize that I cannot put my family in the "perfect retreat" situation. What I can do though is give them the chance, with some luck and God's help, to survive.

In mid-2010 I began to suffer from some relatively severe digestive problems. After several months of discomfort, and many rounds of expensive medical tests, I finally received a confirmed diagnosis. I had Celiac Disease.

Celiac Disease is a digestive disorder that is greatly misunderstood. It is not a food allergy. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system produces antibodies to a specific protein, gluten, that is found in the ordinary grains of wheat, rye, and barley. This protein adheres to the microscopic villi (fingerlike projections) in the small intestine. As the body’s immune system attacks the protein the intestinal wall is also attacked. This results in severe tissue damage, vitamin and iron deficiencies, and several forms of severe gastric distress.

Celiac Disease primarily affects people of northern European ancestry. It can present at any age. Young children with the disease often present with malnutrition and wasting. Later onset of the disease (as in my case) does not follow any particular pattern. Individuals may be under or overweight and demonstrate a vast array of possible symptoms. One receives a confirmed diagnosis only through a positive blood test (anti-TTG antibody) and a positive intestinal biopsy. Left untreated, this disease can lead to certain cancers and even complete destruction of the small intestine.

There is no drug to treat this disease, but the damage and symptoms are reversible. The simple treatment for the disease is to avoid all foods containing gluten. This eliminates every product containing any form of wheat, rye, or barley from the diet. Obviously, the gluten-free diet requires a radical change from the normal North American diet. It eliminates all ordinary bread and bakery products, as well as many other products that contain “hidden” sources of gluten. It also eliminates any foods that have come into contact with gluten products. Since only a microscopic amount of gluten can trigger an immune reaction, contamination can be a significant problem. [JWR Adds: Be careful! Even the small amount of gluten left over in a grain grinder when you switch to grinding a gluten-free grain can trigger a celiac response.]

If you suspect that you or one of your family members may suffer from Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity or enteropathy, I highly recommend that you seek a good gastroenterologist and eliminate or confirm a diagnosis. Statistics vary from one study to another, and there is much debate in scientific circles, but many estimate that at least two million people in the United States suffer from some form of gluten intolerance. Some even suggest that as much as 15-20% of the population lack [full] tolerance for gluten.

I have been prepping and storing food for approximately three years. My initial reaction to the diagnosis was, “Great! So much for all of those wheat berries and pasta that I have in storage!” But after the initial shock I realized that the gluten free lifestyle and my intestinal health would not only affect my regular, daily diet. It would also have a dramatic impact upon my preps and survival food supply. Indeed, my wife and I had to make several careful, specific changes to our food storage approach.

Reflecting upon our changes over the past year, I recommend these steps for anyone who might choose to live a gluten free lifestyle.

1. Decide whether your home and preps will be partially or completely gluten free.

Some people with Celiac Disease convert their kitchens to completely gluten free facilities, and, thereby, include their families in the gluten free lifestyle.

I did not think that such an approach would be fair to my family, so ours is a partially/modified gluten free home. My wife and daughters (who have all been tested and are negative for the disease) continue to enjoy a relatively normal diet. I am the lone gluten free family member. Personally, I have no problem with that. It does, however, pose some difficulties. For instance, I must have my own tub of butter in the refrigerator (I cannot risk bread crumb contamination.) I also have my own toaster for gluten-free bread. On pasta nights we have gluten free for me and regular for everyone else. My family understands that utensils must be kept separate at meal times to avoid contaminating my food.

My wife has taken steps to make our daily meals (with the exception of breads/sandwiches) gluten free. For instance, she substitutes gluten free bread in various recipes that require bread crumbs. She makes batters and gravies with corn starch instead of flour. She avoids all “cream of” soups (all contain wheat flour) in any recipes. My daughters now spend extra time online locating adventurous gluten free recipes for the family. They’ve been terrific supporters throughout my dietary adjustments.

Gluten-free cooking is a “pain” sometimes, but it works for us.

My wife and I have discussed how we will approach our diet in the event that we come to depend upon our food preps. We agree that we will continue our modified/partial gluten free household. Difficult times are not times for fundamental cooking and diet changes. Indeed, we believe this fits well within the wisdom of “prep what you eat, eat what you prep.”

However, every household with a Celiac must make this fundamental decision … completely gluten free, or just partially gluten free?

2. Pay careful attention to all labels and ingredients.

Gluten is everywhere. You will be shocked to discover how many items contain gluten additives or contamination. Many times the culprit is wheat or wheat flour, but more and more I am finding that barley malt is a significant gluten additive.

Upon receiving my diagnosis, my first step was to go through all of my food stores and mark any items that contained gluten. These will still be useful food supplies for my family members, but strictly “hands-off” for me.

Again, you will be shocked at what you discover. Obviously, your wheat stores and pasta are gluten sources. Virtually all soups or dry soup mixes contain gluten additives, particularly the common “cream of” soups, which are typically thickened with wheat flour. Gluten is found in many, if not most, dry cereals. It is in some baked bean products. Most soy sauce is made from wheat, and is a major contaminant in many food items (i.e. sauces). Candy products are often contaminated. Gluten is even in some brands of chicken bullion!

The only way that you can avoid it is by reading and re-reading all labels. Obviously, careful examination of labels should become a focus of all of your future preps purchases. If you are in doubt about any product, check the company’s web site or contact the manufacturer. Most are happy to answer your questions about ingredients.

If you choose, as we did, to have a partially gluten free home, I recommend that you store the common gluten staples for your family (wheat, flour, pasta, etc…), but attempt to insure that all other side dishes and mixes are gluten free. This will cut down dramatically on cross-contamination and complications in preparation during difficult times.

3. Store copious amounts of gluten free staples.

Thank goodness that rice is still on the menu! Store it in great quantities. I have shifted my storage focus away from wheat and placed more emphasis upon rice, popcorn, oats, and gluten free pasta (made from corn).

Rice is already a key staple in our normal diet, and will continue to be so if and when we rely upon our food stores for survival. Popcorn is wonderful for grinding and making deep south, country corn bread. (More about that in a moment).

There has been much debate about oats in the literature and among “experts” on Celiac disease. Some claim that oats are usually contaminated with gluten at processing plants, and they recommend that Celiacs avoid it. Personally, I have never had a negative reaction to any oat products … even the cheap store brands. I usually eat oatmeal every other day or so. They are also excellent fillers and a great replacement for bread crumbs in meat recipes that call for crumbs (i.e. meat balls or meat loaf).

I purchase my gluten free pasta at a nearby mega-store. Thus far, I have only found it at one location. I typically clean out their shelves each time I visit the store (they tend to carry a limited amount). I simply store the pasta in five-gallon buckets with Gamma-Seal lids, and help myself whenever I need some. Like all gluten-free products, the cost is more than double typical wheat pasta. However, the taste and texture are great, and it is well worth the investment. Indeed, this is one area of your preps that you could, potentially, convert to fully gluten free. Everyone in your family will be satisfied with a gluten free pasta dish.

4. Grow your own gluten free food and preserve it.

There is no better way to insure the safety of your food supply than to grow your own products and preserve them. My family now has a small orchard right in our yard. We grow and can all of our own fruit products, including cherries, apples, pears, and blackberries. Our latest additions to the orchard are peach trees, plum trees, and blueberry bushes. We are still waiting for them to begin producing. In addition, we have a garden that gets a little bigger each year.

We can copious amounts of fresh fruits and jams/jellies/preserves every year. We also can our own fresh, organic juices. This year alone we preserved about fifty quarts of pear and apple cider (from one pear tree and one apple tree!). We also preserve many types of relishes, salsas, and ketchups. These home-canned goods are awesome food storage items, and make wonderful gifts for family members and friends.

5. Purchase a good grain grinder, and use it!

This past year I found a reconditioned and fully restored table mount grain grinder from the mid-1800’s on CraigsList and made a great deal. I’ve been using it faithfully ever since.

Since ordinary bread is officially off of my menu, I am forced to seek alternatives. One of my primary breads is good, old-fashioned southern corn bread. However, once again, you must be very careful about how you make corn bread. All corn meal mixes contain flour (that’s the “mix” part). You must have pure, gluten free corn meal. I have had much difficulty locating pure corn meal that I can trust. So now I just grind my own.

I have found that popping corn makes the sweetest, tastiest corn bread. I simply grind it and sift out the hulls. If I want a finer blend, I run the coarse ground through a smaller grinder. The finished product is perfect corn meal. I have discovered that plain yellow dent corn works just as well. I have a close friend who is an organic farmer. He has a corn crib full of yellow dent and gives me all I want. It’s not as tasty as the popcorn, but it works just as well.

The grinder is also useful in making home-mixed hot cereals. My organic farmer friend grows sorghum cane and cooks sorghum molasses every year. He gives me all of the sorghum seed that I want. Sorghum seed makes a fine flour replacement. It also makes a tasty whole grain addition to my home ground breakfast cereal mix. I make a mixture of one part ground sorghum, one part ground corn (or grits) and two parts ground rice to make an awesome gluten free breakfast mix. I just cook it up on the stovetop and mix whatever I want with it: brown sugar, maple syrup, fresh fruit, nuts, raisins, etc… It’s yummy!

If you do have wheat in storage and plan to use it for your other family members, you need to make sure you have a second grinder to use exclusively for wheat. You must not use your gluten free grinder to process wheat. I picked up an extra one while I was traveling in South America last year for a mere twenty dollars. It’s a good, heavy duty, daily use grinder. I just have it boxed up and stored for future wheat flour grinding.

Wrapping Up

If you’re like me, you will eventually grow tired of people asking you, “Can you eat this?” … or … “Can you eat that?” Especially when the item in question is obviously a non-gluten product. Most people have some difficulty understanding the etymology of the disease and the common sources of gluten. But with a little patience and education, the gluten free lifestyle eventually becomes “normal,” both for you and the loved ones who share your home.

Fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables are always gluten free and definitely on the menu! Also, fresh, frozen, and canned meats are still in play. The area where you must be careful is grain-based carbohydrates, baked goods, and food additives.

Obviously, I have only brushed the surface of what is involved in the gluten free lifestyle and gluten free prepping. It is a significant challenge. However, with a little planning and careful attention, anyone with gluten sensitivity can still prepare and store critical food supplies for an uncertain future.

James Wesley:
That was a fine article by Charles M., but there are some important differences between hiking the Appalachian Trail and Getting Out of Dodge. G.O.O.D. When hiking the Trail, you are able to resupply frequently, so food is not a major concern.  You don't need to carry very much with you, and you can easily buy more when you run out. 

When G.O.O.D., you will need to carry as much food as possible, and the means of collecting more food. 

Predators, both four-legged and two-legged, will also be a much greater concern in most G.O.O.D. scenarios, so that must be accounted for as well. 

Thanks, - A.T.M.


The article by Charles M. on hiking is excellent. I would like to add, having done long marches as a Civil War reenactor, I learned the single most important part of a rifle is the carry strap. I know they get in the way and caught on things, but when walking for hours on end, not only will you use the strap, but you will use it in many positions. I recommend anyone planning long hikes (or Bug-Out) with a rifle always have a good strap installed, and be familiar with the different "route march" carrying positions. You can make cord or rope into an acceptable strap, but it will take time and be more prone to issues than one designed for the purpose. - J.D.D.

I really enjoyed the article, and thought he had a lot of sage advice.  The three things that hit home the most were the importance of thoroughly testing ALL your gear (over the course of days, and in all weather), training to be physically fit and mentally tough, and the importance of keeping your pack light (carry only true necessities).

While I hate to be a downer, I see two flaws with the article (specifically the title).  Through-hiking with access to store-bought food once a week is very much different than Getting Out Of Dodge.  Hunting, trapping, fishing, etc for your own food rarely brings in as many calories you will need on a daily basis to survive.  There is a reason the first American settlers (and many thereafter) settled down to farm.  Additionally, lightweight backpacking gear often comes in bright colors and may not be tough enough for "military-level" abuse (e.g. staying off trails away from prying eyes).  Other than those two considerations, the article was awesome. Thanks for the great blog site! - Kevin V.

Diana sent this: Silver Price Could Double by Year End.

G.G. suggested this New York Times article: Citing Losses, Postal Service Seeks Higher Stamp Prices

Also from G.G.: Jobless disability claims soar to record $200 Billion as of January

Chuck recommend a piece that was posted over at Zero Hedge last year: Art Cashin On The Most Important History Lesson Of The Last Century

Items from The Economatrix:

Eric Sprott:  Silver Will Be A Currency Again

NY U.S. Bankruptcy Court Rules MERS's Business Model Is Illegal. Here is a quote: "United States Bankruptcy Judge Robert Grossman has ruled that MERS's business practices are unlawful. He explicitly acknowledged that this ruling sets a precedent that has far-reaching implications for half of the mortgages in this country. MERS is dead. The banks are in big trouble. And all foreclosures should be stopped immediately while the legislative branch comes up with a solution."

The Price Of Gasoline Is Outrageous -- And It's Going To Go Even Higher

Inflation Everywhere But MSM Says Not

Several readers sent this news item: Missouri 4.0 Quake Felt in 13 States. Take note that it was: "...about 150 miles (240 km) south of St. Louis, near the New Madrid fault line."

   o o o

The new semi-auto RPD belt-feds from DS Arms are getting some attention. I just talked with D.S. himself and he mentioned that they are making a carbine variant (three pounds lighter), and even one chambered in 6.8 SPC. If you are one of those folks that bought a spare 6.8 SPC upper for your AR-15 and that have stacked up 6.8 SPC ammunition in depth, then this might be a gun to consider for a fixed-locale retreat.

   o o o

Red tape prevents installation of storm shelters. (Thanks to Timothy J. for the link.)

   o o o

I heard that the surplus dealer CJL Enterprize is continuing their "crazy price" deal on used original U.S. Army issue ALICE packs complete with frames--two complete packs for $50, with free FedEx shipping to CONUS. You get you choice of medium or large LC-2 packs They also have used Medium ALICE packs with straps but without frames available for just $20, shipping paid.

   o o o

Zany Swiss man installs wood-burning stove in car. (Thanks to F.J. for the links.)

"There is never a better measure of what a person is than what he does when he's absolutely free to choose." - William M. Bulger

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Today we present another two entries for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Like many men, I like tools. I spent 23 years in the military, and when you move a lot, weight becomes an issue. It makes you think about the tools you own, and the things that you want to carry around with you. Just like a traveling businessman, you tend to pack light and only take what you will use. Now that I have retired and settled down, my tool collection has grown, but still remains relatively small. Just so you know I live in the suburbs, not a country retreat.

I mention this background, to make a point about the tools you may own, and contrast them with the tools that you actually use. A person should acquire tools that are useful, not just own every tool known to man. I will borrow a tool if I need it, but if I need to borrow a tool more than once or twice, I should probably own it.

To me, this is a form of self-reliance. A person should own the things they need. I am all about community and working together, but self-reliance is important for a community. If a neighbor needs a ride to the store, I am happy to help them out. If a neighbor needs a ride to the store every day for a month, they are obviously not self-reliant, they are dependent. A community with a majority of self-reliant people is much stronger than a community with a majority of dependent people. We all have a responsibility to keep from being overly dependent.

It is my strong opinion that knowing how to use hand tools is vital. This is especially important in the event of a long term societal disruption. I leave it up to you to decide what this may be, based on your own situation and environment. From the standpoint of the information presented here, I will assume this to be a grid down, no outside assistance event where shelter, food stores, and water are available.
With this situation in mind, I am discounting the use of power tools. I like power tools as much as the next guy, but they are not reasonable in a situation like this. Battery powered tools are also not viable in my opinion. Their long term use is limited and the power to recharge them (solar) could be better used elsewhere. I like power tools, but I also have, and know how to use hand tools. If I can work, hand tools will work.

The main focus for The End of the World as We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) tools is to have tools on hand that cannot be readily made. For the purpose of brevity, I will cover some basic essential tools mainly dealing with wood. I do this for the simple reason that wood will be readily available in almost any TEOTWAWKI situation. Wood can be gathered from fences, trees in your yard or park, or even demolished or abandoned buildings. (Don’t loot. Get permission to scrounge, or barter.) Wood is not only available, but also versatile, durable and reasonably easy to work with.

The first tool I recommend is a single man crosscut saw. I am not talking the kind you find in a hardware store for cutting a two by four. I am talking an early to mid-1900s saw from 30” to 48” inches in length with large teeth from ½” to 1” long. They have a traditional “C” handle on one end, with another upright handle that can be moved to the opposite end if desired. They can be used by either 1 or 2 people and can cut logs up to about 2 feet in diameter.

You may ask, “Why do I need that?” The reason is that your chainsaw will only work as long as you have gasoline. Chainsaws are loud and tell everyone you have gasoline (probably not very much for very long). What happens when your gas runs out? Gathering twigs and breaking wood to build a fire will only work for so long. Sooner or later you will need larger amounts of wood to cook, purify water, and keep warm.

Another invaluable tool is an axe. An axe is useful for splitting wood, kindling, and limbing trees. I use it with non-metallic felling wedges to split small diameter wood for creating long tool handles. It can also be used as a weapon in a desperate situation. I prefer a single bit axe with a hickory handle. The wood handle is easier to replace than fiberglass or other material.

The next tool I recommend is a good set of files. Be sure to have round, half round, and bastard files of various sizes. With files you can keep your saw and axe sharp. They are also extremely useful for creating other tools from metal. If you do not have any files, it will be extremely difficult (nearly impossible) to make them yourself.

Every household needs to have a shovel, rake and hoe. These are the basic essential tools for gardening. There is not much to explain here. A shovel is useful for sanitation purposes. There will be no garbage man and your toilet will eventually stop working even if you are able to collect water to flush it manually. You can also make a fire pit, for those without a fireplace.

An often overlooked item is a bucket. Actually you should have several EMPTY buckets. You don’t want to dump out your wheat so you can go collect some water. The 5 gallon plastic ones are durable and nest together for easy storage. Make sure they have the handles and get lids for several of them. If you have to haul water, put the lid on. There is no sense spilling water on the trip back from a pond. Buckets are good for transporting items you forage, hauling dirt, rocks, fertilizer or whatever. They make a good collector for scraps to add to your compost pile.

My next recommendation is a drawknife. A drawknife is very useful in shaping wood. I use mine a lot when making handles for tools. It is efficient, and with a little practice wood shaping goes very quickly. You can shape wood with a knife, but it takes a lot more time with poorer results. Drawknife shavings make excellent tinder.

Another uncommon tool these days is a brace drill with bits. This is also a tool that will be nearly impossible to make. It is important to have the square shank bits designed for the low speed application of a brace drill. The modern round bits will slip in the brace drill. Being able to drill holes in wood will be important for any wood based construction once the nails run out. Drill a hole. Carve a peg. Join some wood.

The follow up to the brace drill is a hand drill. These come in various sizes, but I typically only use the smaller ones for smaller precision holes. They can be held steadier, and thus not break the smaller drill bits. This is good for starting a pilot hole in the ends of boards to prevent splitting when driving a peg, nail or screw. Sometimes you just need a small hole for a rawhide loop in a handle. It may take time, but you could also drill a hole in metal using modern drill bits designed for metal.

Next is a set of bar clamps. Working with wood can be a challenge if it is moving all over the place. With a decent set of 3 or 4 clamps, (I like the quick clamps, but any bar type clamp will do), you can clamp your work to any table, bench, chair, or even a tree. This will help to keep it stable as you saw, drill or use the drawknife. Clamps reduce the manpower needed for a task, freeing someone to perform other vital tasks in a survival situation.

The final four tools on the list are not absolutely needed. They start the trip down the unending path of “nice to have” tools. It is almost certain that every person who reads this can and will expand on the list. We all have tools we feel are indispensable. By all means include those tools in your kit or preposition them so you can travel light to your bug out location.

A coping saw and extra blades is the first addition. This may seem like a luxury, and it may be in most situations, but what happens if the handle on the crosscut saw breaks? You could possibly carve a crude handle, but chances are it would not be very effective. A coping saw will allow you to cut shapes in minutes that would take hours to carve. If you take into account how small and lightweight the saw is, and the value that small package brings, I believe it is worth it.

Next is a hammer/mallet and chisels. I like a mallet, but a hammer would do just as well. You could substitute a hatchet for more multipurpose functionality, but it is unwieldy to use with chisels. Chisels can make certain work much easier. They are mostly used in more precise furniture making, but they have other applications. It would be much easier to fashion a wooden bowl with a chisel than with any tool previously mentioned.

My next tool is a sawbuck. If you are not familiar, a sawbuck is essentially two or three large X’s joined together with some cross braces. It is used to hold small to moderate logs enabling a person to work at waist level or higher. Just look up “sawbuck” on Wikipedia if you still do not understand. I use mine a lot. I clamp wood in it while using the drawknife or to drill, and I saw wood in it constantly. It will save your back, even with a chainsaw.

The final tool I like to have is a standard hand saw. A hand saw is easier to use than the crosscut saw, and virtually anyone can utilize it. They cut clean and reasonably straight and they are much better to use with lumber. You can cut small branches with them if you need to.

Four of these tools will not usually be found at your local hardware store. The crosscut saw, the drawknife, the brace drill and bits, and the hand drill. If they are at a typical hardware store, be wary before buying them. You will not be happy with the "Made in China" quality any modern look alike will typically bring you. Search your local flea markets and low end antique stores. Estate sales and Craigslist are also good places to look. Do not buy without physically looking at and inspecting these items.

I was able to purchase a drawknife at a low end antique shop for $30. It was a model from the early 1900’s and had a slight rust patina, but the edge was sharp. The cutting edge is the most important aspect. Look for no nicks or signs of improper or excessive sharpening. I cleaned mine with some 800 grit emery cloth and WD-40. You can find these new at some reputable woodworking stores, but they can be very expensive ($100 and up).

I picked up my crosscut saw through craigslist for $25 paired with a couple of other saws. It was rusty, had one broken handle and the other handle was a crude replacement, but it had all the hardware. I made new handles and restored the blade by sanding with 150 grit sandpaper, then 220 grit emery cloth with WD-40. Surface rust is okay, but saws with large flaking rust spots or excessive pitting should be avoided. The blade could break under stress. A fully restored saw could cost upwards of $100 or more. Do a little research and be picky.

I purchased a brace drill and hand drill for $2 each at an estate sale. Make sure they rotate freely without excessive noise. Be sure the chuck loosens and tightens freely (many don’t). The drill bits can be hard to come by used. Most have some surface rust which is okay, but they should only have surface rust (no deep pitting) and be reasonably sharp. In my area bits can range from $.50 to $5 each depending on length, size and condition. You can find bits new with reasonable quality on the Internet. [JWR Adds: They are best purchased in sets, to get a good price.]

Once you acquire your tools, start using them. Start with a couple of easy projects. One of the first projects I completed was a mallet. I used a piece of oak firewood for the head and a walnut branch for the handle. I shaped them with the drawknife, until I was reasonably pleased with the result. The first thing I learned was that it was a lot harder to do than I thought it would be. I also learned how to use the drawknife more efficiently. It is very cool to use a tool you make by hand. I really liked the price also, free. Linseed oil is great for a finish and preservation.

In selecting the tools listed above, I examined the needs of early settlers. What did they need to survive? What did they need to carve out an existence without electricity? I did not include farming, blacksmithing, mechanic or other specialty tools. Those tools certainly have a place in a self-sufficient household, but start with the basics. The tools I selected reflect the needs of an early homestead. The tools you pick could decide your fate. Always acquire quality tools. Cheap tools will fail, and if that happens, then so do you.

One survival item that I rarely see listed in any blogs or survival articles is salt. I know that many survival web sites and forums concentrate on the immediate survival needs of individuals and families, but what would a person do if there really was a long term necessity for survival? How would a father feed his family over an extended period of time? MRE's last forever, but let's face it, they are expensive and eventually will all be consumed. How will a mother feed her children when all of the canned goods and stores are finished? When you plant those seeds you stored and produce an amazing garden, how do you preserve the fruits of your labor? In assuming the worst, how do you keep your fresh vegetables edible without refrigeration or freezing? How will you feed your families in the winter when game is scarce and can mean using costly energy to try and hunt in the snow? Even if you are fortunate enough to have a secluded farm where you can raise livestock, how do you preserve the meat before it goes to waste?  My solution is salt.

I am an executive chef at a fine dining establishment in the Northwest. Though I enjoy applying the finer techniques to food, my real hobby and passion is trying to cook like people did 100 to even 200 years ago.  My family and friends consist of a lot of avid hunters and fisherman and I have had a lot of experience breaking down deer and elk.  Part of what I enjoy is taking the tougher parts of the animals and making sausage or slow cooked roasts out of them.  This simple enjoyment led me to start researching and experimenting how our ancestors treated game and even livestock to help them get through the winter.  Not only have I tried everything that I will talk about later in the article, I have even served most of them in my restaurant.  In fact I am constantly putting elk and buffalo on the menu whenever possible.  If you start the learning process on preserving your foods, you will see that they are some of the most delicious things you will ever put in your mouth.  Even in a survival situation, you will not help yourself from taking a bite, sitting back, and taking a moment to thank God for His goodness.  I encourage you all to start trying to make the things that I'll explain below, because they might need some practice for a beginner.  Many of the things you all have probably made before (like sausage), but I'm fairly confident there are other techniques you probably haven't. 

The key to survival back before refrigeration was being able to preserve your foods and store them for the winter.  In today's society we see the scions of preservation techniques that were widely used on a daily basis.  Think pickles, olives, cheese, wine and beer (even spirits), bacon and sausage, and anything else you can think of that you can simply pick up at a grocery store.  Most of these require salt.  Salt is key for preservation because it creates an inhabitable environment for bacteria.  The basic rules for preservation are simple: Use salt when possible, high acid content (think vinegar and citrus), and  low to no oxygen.  If you can always remember these three things when you go to preserve your foods, you will be ahead of the game.  There are other important factors to consider, like using sterilized equipment, but in a survival situation the three rules I stated above are the most important.  If you are lucky enough to have the materials needed and the facility to be able to sterilize your equipment, then by all means please do so.  Just remember, that in survival situations, things we take for granted now will be extreme luxuries. 

Before I go on about preserving foods, I need to take a minute to talk about nitrates and nitrites.  There is a lot of bad information out in the media about how sodium nitrates and nitrites can cause cancer.  This is plain false.  Studies done by the AMA and also the Journal of Food Protection have shown that there is no correlation to these salts causing cancer.  Where the bad information came from was a study done in the 1970's that said when nitrates were cooked at extreme high temperatures, they turn into carcinogens.  The problem with this study is that we don't cook our food at these high temps, and if we did, nitrates turn extremely bitter when they get burnt.  Therefore, we would not eat these foods anyhow since they would then be inedible!  Also, for you vegetarians out there, most vegetables (especially root vegetables) have more nitrates in them naturally, than bacon cured with pink salts.  If you don't believe me, look at so called nitrate-free bacon sold at places like Trader Joe's, and you will see that they cure it with celery powder and celery juice.  In fact, according to the Journal of Food Protection, 93% of nitrates that we intake in our diets come from "normal metabolic sources, if nitrite caused cancers or was a reproductive toxicant, it would imply that humans have a major design flaw."  So if you have a diet rich in vegetables, especially things like celery, spinach, carrots, turnips, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, any leafy vegetable, (I could go on and on and on!) then you would have died years ago of cancer if nitrates (and nitrites) were truly bad for you.

The nitrate discussion is important because in preserving food, we absolutely need nitrates.  They usually come in the form of pink salts, colored so that we won't mistakenly use them as regular salt (consumed in high quantities, nitrates can make you sick).  Nitrates prevent the development of the botulism toxin in foods.  Cooking at high temperatures will kill the toxin but not the spores, so when you can your vegetables, if there is still a spore, it will contaminate that jar.  If you eat this, you could potentially die.  By incorporating nitrates ( a little goes a long way!), the spores are not allowed to form the bacteria and the toxin.  Basically the spore stays dormant.  The botulism toxin is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, so you will not know if the food is contaminated or not.  At this point in your survival, why risk death of you or your family by not properly using nitrates?   Pink salts are found at food supply stores or on the internet, and they are super cheap and go a long way.  For $4, you can get enough pink salt to cure 100 pounds of meat. 

So, now onto the preservation techniques.  I'm going to list what I think will be useful techniques that I think will be beneficial and relevant in a SHTF world.  I will give a brief explanation of what they are and some resources that will help you become proficient at these skills.  Again, I have personally done all of these techniques and I stand behind them 100%.  Let's start with the simple ones, sausage making and basic curing.
If you have meat and salt, you can cure.  In today's world, with a huge diversity of ingredients, the cures are filled with all kinds of spices and herbs.  I personally like to use things like ground cloves, turbinado sugar,  fresh thyme and rosemary, garlic, orange peel, and pepper corns in many of my cures.  Honestly, though, all you need is salt (and pink salt!).  Curing is the simplest form of preserving meat.  Think bacon.  Bacon is simply cured, and then smoked, pork belly.  (Smoking is another great preservation technique, one I use all the time, but since I am writing about salt we'll stick with that.  Also, smoking is a great way to add additional safety to your foods, but is not as effective as salt)  Curing works because it pulls the water out of the meat and it infuses the cells with sodium.  Bacteria prefers moist areas with a balanced PH.  Curing creates an environment that is low in moisture and unlivable for most bacteria, thus making your food safe. 

When you cure, it all depends on how thick the cut of meat is.  You can tell it is completely cured when the meat becomes dense.  Before you add your cure, push against the meat with your finger.  The meat should be fairly soft and should bounce back instantly when you lift your finger back.  As the cure pulls the moisture out of the meat, and basically changes the cellular structure of the meat, the meat will become less soft and more dense.  One important note, after the meat has cured for roughly half the time needed, you need to flip it over.  This is a very important step, and will ensure your meat will properly cure.  Once the meat is properly dense, it should feel firm and will not bounce back fairly quickly.  This means that it has been cured!  Rinse the excess salt off of the meat and pat dry completely.  That's it, you are done with the curing process and can then add additional steps to ensure proper preservation.  If this is all you plan on doing to your meat, then do your best to store in a cool oxygen free atmosphere.  If you have a cellar, store it there in a airtight container. 

Sausage making is similar to curing except that you are adding fat.  Sausage will not last as long as cured meat unless you add an additional step like cooking it once it is done or smoking it after you've mixed it all together.  Sausage is basically an emulsion.  An emulsion is when a fat is mixed with another medium.  Think a vinaigrette salad dressing.  The oil won't naturally mix with the vinegar, so you have to either blend it, or shake it, or whisk it carefully to combine the two ingredients.  This is called an emulsion.  Sausage is an emulsion of fat and meat.  One note to mention, is that if you can, raise pigs.  Pigs naturally have the correct ratio of fat to meat in most of its body.  You want to have a fat content of around 25% - 30%.  The pork shoulder naturally has this ratio, so all you have to do is literally grind the shoulder and you're done.  If you will raise beef, sheep, or hunt game, it will be good to have pork fat to add to these.  Pork fat is a very neutral fat and won't change the flavor of the meat.  I know we are talking about survival and the flavor preference might not be too important, but a pig will generally have excess fat that you can use for the making of sausage from other animals. 

I highly encourage you to find a way to have pigs at your safe house location.  In the mean time you can learn how to butcher, process, and store the animal and have the best tasting pork you will ever have.  It's a win-win situation.  If you don't have casings, don't worry about it, sausage is, in my opinion, best when formed into a patty and then stored.  Just don't over handle the ground meat and you will be ok.  Another item that I think is necessary for a safe house would be to have a meat grinder.  Without one, you will have to chop all the meat with a knife, which will take a ton of time and severely dull your knives.  In a survival situation, time is always going to be short and you will always need your tools at their best.  A meat grinder will help the job of making sausage a quick task. 

Another form of curing is air curing.   This method is fairly easy to do, but takes time and practice.  You will still need salt to do so, but the air (and time) does the job of sucking out moisture from the meat.  Prosciutto is an air-cured ham from Italy.  Most countries that have a heavy supply of pig have a version of an air-cured ham.  Basically, you salt it pretty heavily for about three weeks.  After three weeks time, you then rinse the excess salt off and pat dry completely.  Then you want to wrap it in whatever you have available to protect it from flies and bugs.  If you have cheese cloth, use it.  Burlap sack, great.  You then hang it outside for about a year.  I've seen people create a box using a wood skeleton and surround the skeleton (with the ham inside) with a very fine mesh wire screen.  This ensures that flies and mosquitoes cannot lay eggs in the meat, and also keep critters like squirrels and birds from getting to the ham.  If you live in a hot climate, store it in your cellar, if you live in a fairly temperate climate with all four seasons, (and the summers don't get too hot), you can hang it from a tree limb or a post outside(just make sure it gets a ton of shade). 

As it sits out all year, the water in the meat will evaporate and leave a nice salty meat.  This is a product that I would encourage to use as a meat seasoning.  Add it  to soups or stews to flavor the product (save your salt for preserving, not daily cooking).  One final note on the air-cured ham, as it ages it will start to grow white mold.  This is OK!  White mold is what you want.  It will cover the ham and help protect it.  Simply cut the mold off when you are ready to store or consume the meat and you will be fine.  In fact, some of the other products you store may get white mold sometimes.  Don't worry, you will be fine as long as you cut off the part that has mold on it.  What you don't want is green mold.  If your preserved meats ever have green mold, throw it away!  Don't even bother trying to save it, you will get sick and you may even die.  It is not worth it! 

One final preservation technique that I would like to elaborate on is the confit method.  This method is probably one of the best for preserving meats, because it does three things to the meat to preserve it.  It cures it, it cooks it, and it seals it from oxygen.  And, it is the best tasting way to cook anything, period.  Pork belly confit makes bacon taste like cardboard.  Basically a confit is a meat that is cured, and then slow cooked until it is fall apart tender in its own fat.  Now in a survival situation, you may have to use pork fat in all instances, but if you have enough chicken or duck fat saved up you can use that too.  Basically, whatever the meat is, you cure it like mentioned above.  Typical time frame is about 2-3 days for poultry and ducks (or geese), and about a week for pork belly.  If it's thicker than 2-3 inches, you may need to cure it for 10 days to 2 weeks, but you get the point.  After it is finished curing, you will roast the meat at about 250 degrees submerged in its own fat for about 6-8 hours.  Then you simply pull the container out of the oven (or whatever you used to cook the confit in) and let cool.  If you only have one roasting pan, then move all of the meat and fat to another container making sure the meat is completely submerged.  Let cool.  As the fat cools, it will seal up the container locking out oxygen.  As long as the seal doesn't break, the confit will last for months if stored in a cool dark place. 

A couple of things to mention about confit, is that it takes a lot of fat (another reason to raise pigs).  If you plan on raising chickens or hunt duck or geese, every time you butcher one, save the fat and slowly cook it until it becomes liquid.  Let it cool and solidify and then store in an airtight container.  This will help the fat last longer.  Note, the fat in this state won't last for months, so if you plan on making a confit, try and gather enough fat as soon as possible.  If you raise pigs and have excess back fat or jowl fat (after making your sausage) this will be easier to accomplish.  In a survival mentality, fat is a good thing.  I know we are raised on not being obese and eating low fat foods, but in a survival situation fat is a good thing.  You WILL need the calories and stores that fat provides.  Many vitamins our bodies need are fat soluble and store in our fat.  This is very important to remember in a survival situation.  The confit method is fairly simple and is probably one of the best ways to preserve your meat.  I highly encourage you to try this at home a few time and become proficient at it.  It may save your family's lives some day. 

There are many books that talk about curing meats and sausage making  and the like, but the one that I think is the best, that has great ratios of salt to meat, and is very easy to understand is Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.  They have great recipes in there and they are tried and true recipes and methods.  They also have many more types of preservation techniques listed that might be something you want to take a look at. 

For your vegetables, if you are able to can your vegetables, I highly encourage you to do that.  If you can't in a survival situation, then here are some guidelines that I recommend.  These steps might seem like overkill, but it will ensure your safety.  First off, I would recommend everybody to pickle their vegetables they are planning on preserving.  Now don't think like "pickle" pickling, you know the dill pickles at the store.  Pickling refers to vinegar and salt.  Basically, if you find a ratio you like of vinegar, sugar, and salt, just boil these ingredients together, let cool and use this for your pickling liquid. Take your jars if you have them, fill them up with the vegetables you are planning on pickling, and fill up the rest of the way with the liquid.  Put a tiny pinch of pink salt in each jar, to make sure you won't get sick  from botulism.    If you can fill the jar all the way up so there is little to no air in the jar when you seal it, the better.  Again, if you can and know how, boil these to properly seal the lid.  Vinegar may be hard to come by, but if you have access to things like apple trees and pear trees, you can juice them and make vinegar (that process is for another article).  The thing to remember is to have the acid content and salt to inhibit bacterial growth. I've pickled all kinds of vegetable from garlic, onions, beets and celery, to cucumbers, peppers (of all kinds), and eggplants.  They will last for weeks if not months just sitting in the liquid without any precautions to oxygen.  They will last years if you do the necessary work to create an oxygen free environment.  And they taste great too. 

Vinegar and salt are useful to feed your family when you don't want to risk having to cook.  If you think having a fire and smoke will attract people to your location (in the short term) soaking your fish, or other types of meat in a salt-vinegar solution will make it edible and safe to eat.  It will still have a raw texture, but will be safe to eat.  The acid will literally "cook" the meat without heat.  Think steak tartar and ceviche, or Italian crudo.

Having salt available to use to preserve your meats and produce will go a long way to helping you and your family to survive in the long run.  You will also be able to use salt to make cheese (if you have milk producing livestock) and breads.  If you have decided that salt is a necessity, I would go with the Kosher salts.  They have a bigger size than table salt, and it goes further as well.  Kosher salt is fairly cheap, about $2 for three pounds.  If you have a safe location that you plan on going to in the need for survival, I would recommend stocking up as much salt that you can store.  It will never go bad, and if used correctly will keep your family fed and alive for years.  Survival is not just a chain of decisions to make when the time comes, but a lifestyle choice.  If you are truly concerned about you and your family's survival, then take the time now to prepare.  Learn how to farm from local small farmers.  They are always looking for volunteers and the knowledge you gain from them will be valuable.  Take the time to learn what medicines you can glean from nature and how to preserve food stuffs from nature as well.  Surviving will be much more than a bug out bag to safety.  That will be the first of many challenges to overcome when the SHTF.   Think long term and prepare and you will be further ahead than most of the people in today's society. 

I happened to notice that in a recent posting you'd mentioned transitioning at your ranch from a FAL platform to a Stoner-designed AR-10. I imagine that a number of your readers would be interested in how this decision came about. I'll I bet a number of other readers would be interested to hear why. - P. Z. in Arizona

JWR Replies: The decision to switch to AR-10s was based upon the following factors:

1.) Training compatibility. Since my kids all did their transitional training to high power shooting using M4geries, and some of them might end up serving in the U.S. military.

2.) Parts shortages and expense. The supply of L1A1 (and FAL) parts is definitely drying up.  So there is the question of long term sustainability for our firearms battery. A nice British L1A1 parts set (sans receiver) now sells for $500 or more. As of 2005, military rifle parts sets could no longer be imported with barrels because of a BATF dictate. Meanwhile, AR-10 parts are getting more and more common, and falling in price, since there are now more than 15 AR-10 makers in the States

3.) Magazine commonality with HK91s. Since we have a couple of HK91 clones here at the ranch, it will be nice to be able to share magazines.

4.) Weight. AR-10s weigh more than a pound less than a FAL, L1A1, BM-59, HK91, or M1A. So for the same weight as an iron-sighted L1A1, we can carry an AR-10 with an Trijicon ACOG scope.

5.) Magazine availability. I'm the sort that likes to have a dozen or more spare magazines on hand for each rifle. L1A1 magazines are now selling for more than $30 each, new in the wrapper. Metric FAL magazines cost just a bit less. But because a huge quantity of magazines was released by the German government scrap metal prices HK G3 alloy magazines now sell for less than $6 each in new or like-new condition, and can often be found for under $3 each, used. Steel ones are just a couple dollars more. The U.S. is now awash in G3 magazines, since the German government apparently sold off even their large war reserve of magazines. The folks at KeepShooting.com even have some that are still brand new in the German Ordnance 5-packs, even though they were made in the 1960s.

For anyone who is considering buying an AR-10, I strongly recommend buying one that is made by CMMG or SI Defense. Both of these companies offer AR-10 variants that use the inexpensive HK G3 magazines. (Be sure to specify the "G3 magazine compatible" lower receiver when look for a rifle) And do yourself a favor: Buy 50 spare HK magazines per rifle. That will insure a multi-generational supply of magazines for your family. I expect several other AR-10 makers to soon begin producing rifles that can accept the ubiquitous G3 magazine. Someday, you grandchildren will thank you for your foresight.

If you do a web search for "hidden entrances" or "secret room" you'll see some photos and video of various novelties like bookcases on hinges and stairways that open up to reveal hidden rooms behind/under them. While these can be a lot of fun before SHTF, especially for kids, I just wanted to put out a warning that these types of entrances aren't really concealed at all in a TEOTWAWKI situation. For starters, if you found these solutions on the Internet, then bad guys can find them too.

Even if they didn't do their online research beforehand, you can bet that looters going through nice neighborhoods are going to figure out very quickly that some of them have safe rooms, and bookcases are the most common type of hidden entrance. Trapdoors under area rugs and safes behind picture frames on the wall are pretty easy to find, too.

You also need to factor in what your house is going to look like after a fire. If your hidden entrance is made of wood, i.e. a bookshelf, it's not going to be there after a fire, and looters are going to see the metal door behind it and wonder what's in there. You're not planning for a fire, you say? But you are planning for TEOTWAWKI, right?

There's no reason to rely on ineffective entrance concealment, because for little or no additional expense, you can create a hidden entrance that nobody's going to find. I will briefly describe one type of hidden entrance that's a vast improvement on the bookshelf door, make a general suggestion about hidden entrances, and then hint at what I'm putting into the house I'm building without giving the bad guys any details they could use.

Turning a basement entrance into a closet with a trapdoor in the floor is a solution that has been described before, but I would like to suggest a few measures to make it truly concealed:
1. Build the closet walls, ceiling and floor out of durable, fire-retardant materials, like concrete. You can retrofit an existing home this way, but the closet won't stick out after a fire if the whole house is built out of said materials. 
2. Make the entire closet floor into a trapdoor, so that nobody can make out the outline of the door. This requires some precise construction, as the edges of the door need to be flush with the walls of the closet. Watch out for scratch/rub marks left on the walls when you open the door. Durable, fire-retardant carpet can be used to fudge the edges a little, and having walls made of a durable material can help. Think long and hard about what two materials you want to be rubbing up against each other when you open the trapdoor.
3. Whatever material you use for the floor of the closet, make sure it matches the flooring of the hallway immediately outside the door. You can be sure that a looter standing on a tile floor in your hallway and looking at a plywood floor in your closet is going to investigate further.
4. Make sure your trap door is every bit as solid as the floor in the hallway. If someone steps inside, there should be no give in the floor or unusual creaks. This part is tough because it works against another consideration, that you need to be able to open the door. Ideally, if you have a floor that's 8-inch-thick concrete, then you want a trapdoor that's also 8 inches of concrete, poured into a steel frame. The only problem with this type of door is that most people won't be able to lift it.
5. Don't have any visible handles on your trapdoor. This can be accomplished either by designing it so that a handle is not necessary, or using some sort of temporary handle that you can bring with you into the basement, so that it's no longer usable for people outside.
6. If your trapdoor is going to be on hinges, then make sure that the hinges are concealed by the door when it's in the closed position. Seeing hinges on the far wall when the closet door is opened is going to be a dead giveaway.
7. Finally, you should seriously consider a non-traditional trapdoor design that doesn't lift to open. Instead, have a heavy concrete floor poured into a steel frame that is mounted on wheels that run on sturdy tracks underneath. Think garage door, only much sturdier and a single piece, not reticulated. When your basement is not in use, the door just rests in place, and doesn't open when people step on it, because it's too heavy to move easily. But when you need to open it, you just get inside the closet, plant your feet on the floor (use sneakers or bare feet for traction) and push your hands in the opposite direction against the doorframe. The floor then slowly slides back, revealing the staircase underneath. Once you and your loved ones are safely inside, you lock the door in the closed position from the inside in such a way that it's held tight and doesn't slide or rattle. One advantage of this design is that you can leave shoes or other items on the floor toward the front of the closet, as long as you don't open it completely, and they'll still be there when you close it.
8. For realism, go ahead and keep some shelves or a dresser in the closet. But bolt them to the wall so that they stay in place when you slide the floor, and make sure they're not so wide that they block you from entering.

If you build an effective trapdoor entrance that resembles a closet floor in every possible way even to a determined investigator, then it's extremely unlikely that a bad guy will find it. Or more precisely, if the bad guys find your basement, they will find it in some other way, for example finding out from your neighbors (you didn't tell them, did you?), or by spotting your ventilation pipes.

The closet trapdoor entrance to the basement described above is what I'm building into my next house, but the basement is for friends/extended family. For the living quarters for myself and my immediate family, I'm going a whole order of magnitude better on the concealment front. I'm not going to describe the actual design of the entrance because I don't want bad guys to read about it, but I will throw out a few general ideas to help fellow readers of SurvivalBlog.com think about their own designs.

1. The entrance to the secret bunker is from inside my safe room. This means that after entering the safe room, I have time to consider options, monitor the situation through video cameras, and make decisions. The bad guys won't be able to get into the safe room for at least five minutes, probably much longer, so I can calm down and think about whether I want to call the police, surrender the house to the bad guys and retreat to the bunker, or even come out and fight. Another advantage is that bad guys are likely to stop looking for secret rooms once they get into my safe room. The general recommendation here is to give the bad guys a decoy, something to let them think they've figured it out. Yet another advantage is that I can tell trusted friends about the safe room and tell them that's where I'm sleeping without letting them know about the existence of the bunker. I can also access the bunker at any time without anyone having a chance to see me doing so, if I keep the safe room locked.
2. My safe room has a semi-secret emergency exit separate from the entrance to the bunker. If the bad guys manage to use a cutting torch to get into the safe room, they will find the emergency exit quickly, and note that it's open. That's where they think I went. If I didn't have an emergency exit, they would wonder where I am, and keep looking.
3. My bunker is outside the outline of my house. A bad guy can look at any house and think, "is there a basement under there or just a crawlspace?" Once they find a basement that matches the dimensions of the first floor, then they're likely to stop looking.
4. The entrance to my bunker is concealed in such a way that bad guys would have to destroy some very durable materials to even be able to see that it's there. However, I do not have to destroy anything to be able to open it.
5. I'm having contractors build the basic structure, but I'm building the hidden entrance and some other architectural elements myself, after they leave.

To sum up:
1. Use decoys. Give smart bad guys something that makes them think they've found everything. 
2. Don't use hidden entrance designs that you've read about on the Internet. Come up with your own.
3. Don't make a choice between concealment and ability to resist a brute force attack. Use both.
4. Better concealment is not necessarily more expensive. "Secret" doors that a kid can find can be more expensive than a truly secret door.

There's a lot more that I could add, but I'm going to stop there for OPSEC reasons. I hope this is a useful starting point for readers to think of their own designs. Remember: if you invent, design and build the secret entrance yourself, then it can remain a secret. If you rely on commonly available templates or employ others to build it, then by definition it's not a true secret. - With Regards, - Dale T.

JRH Enterprises is celebrating their 20th year in business with a big sale on Third Generation Pinnacle Autogated night vision devices. New true mil-spec AN/PVS-14 monocular/weapon sights with a 5-year warranty available as low as $2,695, and upgraded Gen 3+ versions available as low as $2,995. JRH also has the AN/PVS-7B Goggle sets new and available in third generation Pinnacle autogated on sale for $3,095. The sale ends soon, so don't dawdle.

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My recent interviews on The Alex Jones Show have now been archived. I was the guest in the second hour on Wednesday, February 15th, and I was also interviewed at length in their News Hour on Friday, February 17th.

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My friend Rex in the Redoubt lamented that S&W has enthusiastically jumped on the Taurus Bandwagon of Shotgun Wheelgun Absurdity and introduced The .410 Governor. The next step up in the arms race came from Taurus, in a prototype 28 gauge revolver that they dubbed the "Raging Judge XXVIII". (I'm not making this up, folks!) So Rex jokingly suggested that S&W "...ought to introduce what he proposed calling "The Governator": A 12 gauge NFA revolver: guaranteed to put the bad guy down, and to put your wrist in a plaster cast.

   o o o

Some great news from Canada: Conservatives and enthusiasts cheer the end of the long-gun registry. (A hat tip to Paulette W. for the link.)

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Long before the Clone Wars will come Drone Wars. (Thanks to G.G. for the link.) And speaking of drones, Kevin S. recommended this piece over at Global Guerillas: Build yourself a Drone NOW (before they become illegal)

"We're on the threshold of disaster. We need to increase food production by 50 to 70 percent on less land with less resources, less water and, frankly, not enough technology."- Dr. Nancy Irlbec, Associate Dean of academic affairs for Colorado State University's College of Agricultural Sciences, describing global food production and the demographics of the 21st Century.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Today we present another two entries for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

In 2000 my wife and I decided we would do a through hike of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  The distance traveled would be 2,168.5 miles of foot trails through the wildernesses of the eastern United States.   We climbed more than 250 mountains.  Our elevation change was equal to climbing Mount Everest from sea level to the summit and back nineteen (19) times. The trail is very challenging and can be dangerous (two people died on the trail the year we hiked).  The trail follows the crest of the Appalachian Mountain through fourteen states.  Although this was a long “backpacking trip” it required us to have everything we needed to survive the outdoors for an extended time while living and walking through all weather conditions.  Rain, sleet, snow, hail storms, 100 degree weather, in it all we walked an average of 14.7 miles a day, seven days a week for months.  The lessons learned are very valuable when it comes to surviving extended periods of having to “make it” on your own.  I’ve read many books, articles and heard many conversations about what is needed to survive natural disasters, terrorist attacks or bad economic times, but until you’ve spent weeks and weeks in the wilderness with just what you can carry, that information at times is valuable but very often overstated and dangerous.

Our adventure began on the 3rd day of March 2002 and ended September 26th 2002.  The first night out it was 0 degrees with a 15 below zero wind chill.  The first two weeks on the trail were not much better with most days not getting above freezing.  We had to hike with our water bottles next to our bodies to keep them from freezing.   When it became uncomfortable during the day we could put them in our packs in an outside pocket but turned them upside down so the freezing would occur in the bottom (now the top) and we could remove the bottle and turn it upright and remove the lid and drink.  At night we would put our water bottles and water filter inside our sleeping bags at the foot of the bag to keep them from freezing.  In the mornings we would turn our tent wrong side out and shake the frozen moisture out of the tent.  The amount of water given off by the body’s respiration and perspiration during sleep is amazing and a problem when it is 20 degrees in your tent.  During the summer months there was a record drought for most of the eastern U.S.  We had days in access of 100 degrees and very little water.  At times we collected water from ditches, cattle ponds and once from a deep tire track in the forest service road we crossed. In the White Mountains it took 2 hours to collect just 2 liters of water.   We found a rock crevice that had a small trickle of water.  We would collect it in our spoon and put it in our bottles.  By the end of the trail we had walked from winter in the Georgia mountains to summer in Pennsylvania to winter on Mount Katahdin in Maine.

What allowed two people over the age of 50 to complete this hike was preparation and knowledge of personnel abilities and skills and equipment. By the time we started our hike we had our pack base weight down to 12 lbs plus food and water.  We could hike for 10 days and not have our packs weigh over 45 lbs. and have over 4,000 calories per day in our meals.  We only carried what we used and every item had multiple uses.  If we didn’t use it at least once a week we didn’t take it.  We saw early on that carrying things for “just-in-case” created more problems than the advantage of having it “just-in-case.”   We realized that carrying too much, too fast and too many miles, people got hurt too soon and went home too soon.

Planning is one of the most important factors in accomplishing such a daunting task of surviving in the outdoors for an extended time. It appears to be difficult for a lot of people to understand the importance of preparation when it comes to difficult task.  We like most people read as much material as possible on long distance hiking and specifically the Appalachian Trail.   We read every journal we could find on the Internet and garnered as much information as possible.   We took notes, studied maps, made list of materials, explored where we could get food supplies and the more we knew the more confidence we had in completing the task.  The benefit of all our planning became evident very quickly on our trip.  As we made our approach to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail on Springer Mountain in Georgia we met several other hikers starting their “through hike.”   The first thing we noticed were the large packs.  One young man was carrying a 108lb pack and when I asked him what he had in it he said, “only the necessities.”   Another hiker had a pack that he had weighted at the ranger station that was 78lbs.  Of the eight people we met that first day on the trail only one finished the hike and actually climbed Mt. Katahdin (the northern terminus) the same day we did.  Then there were the Boy Scout troops with their 50 lb packs and the scout leaders with their 75lb packs full of “necessities.”.  They would look at our packs and ask the question, “how long are you out for?”  When we said "six months" they had a very puzzled look on their face and would ask the next question, “why are your packs so small?”  When we answered we just carry what is “necessary” they would give us a curious look and walk on by.

Some of the things we did to check out our equipment was just common sense.  Every time it would rain or snow we would put on our gear and head out on an all day hike through our neighborhood.  I expected the white van from Bellview Sanitarium to show up any minute with the jackets to carry us away. We live in the historical district of our hometown and the area is very hilly, so, it was a good starting point to practice. We got some strange looks from our neighbors. A lady one morning asked if we were going mountain climbing?! We said "Yes, 250 of them". She smiled and went back into her house and probably dialed the phone.  

At other times we would pitch our tent in a downpour in our backyard and spent the night cooking and eating our meals in the rain (you cannot eat in your tent because of animals, from bears to mice will invade your sleeping quarters) and it paid off, we never slept in wet bags or tent in six months.  When it was below freezing we hiked and learned how to layer our clothes.  We learned what to take off and when to take it off.  We knew we would be alone, sometime days from the nearest town or road and we had to get it right the first time.  In the first month alone on our hike over 25% of the hikers we knew quit because of poor preparedness for the drastic changes in weather.   The struggles became very depressing and they stated, “this is no fun.”  Preparation made it fun and rewarding.  I’ll never forget the beauty of the ice storm we had in the Great Smoky Mountains and we were 35 miles from the nearest road.  I’m glad we took it seriously, during our hike a fellow hiker we knew died of hypothermia in the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  Not only were we prepared with the right clothes and equipment we were prepared physically.   By the time we were at the half way mark in Pennsylvania, over 75% of the hikers had left the trail.  A considerable number had left because of physical problems the majority of which were either feet or knee issues.  Walking in pain is part of the hike. We lost all of our toenails and had some sore knees and foot problems but “no blisters.”   Two thousand feet downhill walks with a heavy pack are a killer on knees and feet.  “Toe bang” is what they call it when your shoes are not large enough and your toes hit the end of your boot.  In a day or two you have black toes with a lot of pain.  Preparation avoided this and all of the other issues that we faced.

By the end of the first week on the trail we came to an outfitter in Georgia that sits on the trail.  (Literally, the Appalachian Trail goes through the building.  It is a little of the trivia on the Appalachian Trail).  The outfitter was going through individual packs and sending “stuff” home.  He said on an average day at the peak of the starting days (end of March through April) he ships out over 500 lbs of gear he has taken out of hiker packs.  The conversation around campsites each night covered only a few things; food, miles, next water source and pack weight. With over 1,000 miles of hiking experience before our hike, we were still tweaking the contents of our pack the entire hike.  The only thing we added to our packs on the entire hike was Thermarest micro pads (we shipped the closed cell pads home in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia).  They were awesome!  Sleeping on the ground for six months got a lot better when we swapped  12 oz pads for 1 lb., 2 oz pads.  I carried three Band-Aids for 2,168.5 miles.   I don’t carry band-aids now.   If I need one, I’ll use a piece of duct tape with Toilet Paper and triple ointment over the wound.  Everything must have multi-use abilities or you don’t need it.

You will never know what will happen around the next ridge or over the next mountain but you can develop the skills and habits that will enable you to deal with what ever happens; good or bad.  It will take more than a few weekend trips.  Weekend trips will not give you enough situations to correct your gear nor will it give you the fatigue you will encounter on 100 to 200 mile hikes.  You can run, jog, ride bikes and do 10k runs but 100 miles in the woods carry a pack will indicate very loudly what is wrong with your set up.  And trust me it will show up… you will end up cutting the labels out of your shirts and the unused pockets out of your pants.   You will get rid of the “stuff” you just couldn’t do with out.  You will need to spend extended periods in what ever the predicted situation may be.   Weeks of consistent “practice” will hone your skills and purge your equipment into a workable tool set. 

Basic gear list:

First, what you carry depends on how far you’re going, where, and when. Camping and backpacking magazines may make it seem as if you’re doomed unless you have the latest gear. But, new equipment for even an overnight hike can easily run $1,000 to $2,000 or more. Don’t worry. You can plan a hike on the Appalachian Trail without bankrupting yourself in the backpacking store.  Most of our gear we collected over years and less than 25% came from a name brand or a known outfitter (i.e., REI).  
What should I carry?

Packing for a day-hike is relatively simple:

    * Map and a good small compass (learn to use them first!)
    * Water (at least 1 quart, and 2–3 on longer hikes in hot weather)
    * Warm clothing and rain gear and hat
    * Food (including extra high-energy snacks)
    * Tent peg (used as a pick to dig a “cat hole” to bury human waste)
    * First-aid kit, with duct tape for blister treatments
    * Whistle (three blasts is the international signal for help)
    * Garbage bag (to carry out trash you find on the trail, some people are slobs!)
    * Sunglasses and sunscreen (especially when leaf cover is gone)
    * Blaze-orange vest or hat (in hunting season)
    * Toilet paper (take out the paper center and flatten your half roll and put it in a Ziploc bag)

On longer hikes, especially in remote or rugged terrain, add:

    * Small LED head lamp
    * Heavy-duty garbage bag pack liner (water proofs gear, an emergency tarp or to insulate a hypothermia victim)
    * Sharp small pocket knife (In 50 years in the backwoods hunting everything from bear to wild boar or hiking wilderness areas in high desert in Utah I’ve never needed a Rambo survival knife.)  I have field dress probably a 100 large game animals with nothing but a three inch bladed folding knife.
    * Fire starter (a few birthday candles, for instance) and waterproof matches or butane lighter (I have carried real flint and a small piece of file steel, but I have to admit I do it just to impress the younger hikers!)

Overnight and extended trips:

If you’re planning to spend weeks out in the wild, I suggest you go to the Internet and read the trail journals of thru-hikers (Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail) and use their “knowledge by fire.”  After 2,000 miles you pretty much know what works and what don’t.  Most Appalachian Trail backpackers carry the following items, in addition to the day-hike checklist and some method of treating water. Some items can be shared with a partner to lighten the load:

    * Shelter (a tent or tarp) 3 lbs or under.
    * One lightweight pot, one medium size spoon (Lexan works great)
    * Stove (a small ultra lite backpacking model [about 6 to 10 oz], with fuel) we use a tuna can with denatured alcohol.  In an emergency you can build a small fire.
    * Medium-sized backpack (big “expedition–size” packs are usually overkill and are heavy)  Try to get a pack that weighs under 4 lbs.
    * A pack cover or plastic bag for rainy weather
    * Sleeping pad (to insulate you from the cold ground)
    * Sleeping bag of appropriate warmth for the season (usually 2.5 lbs or under, depends on how cold you sleep)
    * Food and clothing
    * Rope or cord (to hang your food at night and many other uses in camp) (1/4 in or smaller braided nylon)
    * Water filter or another method of treating water (I now use drops of household bleach when out alone)
    * Ultra light stuff-sacks for sorting packing clothes, food (sack is used with cord to hang at night to keep it away from varmints, I’ve had raccoons to chew holes in tent to get to a pack of chewing gum!), and other items.
    * Zip-Loc bags (put everything in them, they are awesome and can serve as water carriers)

Remember that renting gear or buying used equipment are low-cost options when you’re first starting out.   Test and try out expensive equipment before you buy.  Make sure it fits and you are comfortable.

Do I have the right clothing?

Hope for the best weather; pack for the worst. Clothing to protect you from cold and rain is a must—even in midsummer and especially at higher elevations. Avoid cotton clothes, particularly in chilly, rainy weather, which can strike the mountains at any time of year. Wet cotton can be worse than nothing and can contribute to hypothermia, a potentially fatal threat.  A hiker slogan you should remember and adhere to,  “Cotton Kills.”  Synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene and various acrylic blends will help protect you against the dangers of hypothermia.  Layer your clothes—a “polypro” shirt, synthetic fleece, and a coated nylon or “breathable” light weight waterproof outer shell will keep you both warmer and drier than a single heavy overcoat in cold, damp weather.

Remember, hiking will make you sweat, no matter the weather.  We’ve hiked in 20 degree weather in shorts and one long-sleeved poly shirt.   Shedding thin layers enables you to regulate your body temperature more effectively than choosing between keeping a heavy jacket on or taking it off.

Is my footwear adequate?

Hiking boots are optional for day-hikes but recommended for overnight and long distance hikes over rough terrain. Old-style heavyweight mountain boots are usually unnecessary now that good-quality lightweight boots are widely available. The most important thing is that boots or shoes fit well and are well broken-in before you hit the Trail: Nothing ends a hike quicker than blistered feet, and even minor blisters can become infected and cause serious trouble. Backpackers can expect their feet to swell; long-distance hikers should buy boots half a size to a full size larger, to allow room for this.  My feet grew a full size in six months on the Appalachian Trail.   After trying on your boots or shoes, bang your toe on the floor behind you.  If you toe touches the end of the shoe then they are too small.  You will get black toe real fast on the downhills.  Boots do not last forever.  I wore out three pairs of very good boots and was on my fourth pair when we finished our through hike.

Buy good equipment.

My backpack is 15 years old and has over 4,000 miles on it and still going.  Our water filters will last about 500 gallons before replacing the cartridge and weighs less than a 16 oz.  Our two-man tent has over 300 nights in the mountains and is still as good as new and weighs only 3.5 lbs.   

Being prepared.

My wife and I keep our backpacks packed and ready to go.  If we need to bug out quick I just sling them over my shoulder and grab my .22 rifle and I’m ready for at least 10 days without concern for anything.  If a longer time “out” is required I can procure what is needed for food and fuel.  We lived in the woods for 6 months with lightweight packs and had everything we needed and were very well prepared for everything the weather and terrain had to offer.  All you need you can carry on your back.

“Only to the white man was nature a ‘wilderness’, to us it was tame”, Chief Luther Standing Bear.

You can follow our preparation and hike by reading our journals and seeing our photos at: TrailJournals.com/papasmurf.

I have been a “gun nut” for some time now and I think that everyone should own a firearm of some sort whether it for personal carry or just home protection.  With everything that has been going on in today’s world, I can see no better time to own a firearm. There comes a big responsibility with owning a weapon of any kind and you must make sure that you are up to taking on that task.

I believe that good shooting skills are going to be needed very soon to come.  We are set in the front seat to possibly see a major change in life, as we know it.  When the less fortunate have nowhere to go they are going to come for you. Buy a firearm and learn to use it.  You can already see this happening every day, from people with handguns robbing convenience stores to home invasions. Buy a firearm and learn to use it.    There are approximately 14 million people (at least that is the number that the Government is putting out) out work in the US.  Desperate people will do desperate things in times of need especially when there is a family involved, Buy a firearm and learn to use it.  I think I said that earlier somewhere?  Here is where I step in and hopefully help you learn for use it.

I would like to start something here at SurvivalBlog that I hope everyone will find helpful in their firearms training.  I would like to pass on my training and experience to everyone in this community.  I would like to start making a post at the first of every month with firearms training exercises for beginner, intermediate and advanced shooters. I know that I will/should be under scrutiny from Mr. Cascio, since he teaches firearms training.  I would expect nothing but the best for the people here!  It will start off slow because I don’t know any of the ability levels of any of the readers here.  I DO NOT want anyone getting hurt trying to push too hard to fast.  Hang in there.  By posting every two weeks, it will give people ample time to work on the exercises with whatever time they have set aside for weapons training (hoping that everyone has this time set aside on a regular basis.)

Of course, I cannot tailor the training exercises to everyone’s specific weapon but the core fundamentals are still the same – proper breathing, trigger squeeze, trigger control, barrel action, sights (fixed/iron or optics), etc.  Most of the exercises that I will post will be more focused around iron sights.  Optics makes things easier but what if there was an EMP or your batteries die and your EO-Tech won’t turn on?  Do you have the same confidence to make that shot with iron sights?

I could think of no better time to begin than right now to start! 

Here are some basic fundamentals to remember when shooting:

Take your time and work the fundamentals so that you do not start making bad habits that are going to be hard to break later on.  Repetition is your best friend when shooting and can be your worst enemy.  This is why it is key to work on the proper ways to do things.  I recommend dry firing your firearm on a daily basis (check with your manufacturer to see if it will harm your firearm first.) For the most part, centerfire weapons are okay to dry fire.  The most affected by dry firing are .22 rimfire guns.  The reason or that is the firing pin will actually hit the back of the chamber, which will flatten the tip of the firing pin or in some cases, even break it. [JWR Adds: See the many safety warnings about the clearing procedures, ammunition separation discipline, and use of a safe backstop for dry practice! Limited dry practice with a rimfire can be accomplished without damaging the gun if you insert a piece of fired brass in the chamber. But generally, you should do your dry practice only with centerfire guns.]

  • Holding a pistol is like shaking someone’s hand.  If you squeeze too hard then you will harm what you are trying to accomplish.  The hand that you are holding the grip with (considered your strong hand) should be light and your supporting hand should do most of the squeezing (strong hand ~30/40% and your supporting hand ~60/70%).  Be sure not to over squeeze because you will hurt your result. See: Travis Haley on Proper Grip Technique.
  • Trigger control or Resetting the trigger is key to being able to place multiple rounds on target with better speed.  What is resetting the trigger? When you fire a round keep the trigger back.  Slowly let up on the trigger (after the slide has cycled) until you hear it “click”.  At this point your trigger is reset and ready to fire again. (If you are dry firing you will have to rack the slide for the trigger to reset).  If you are firing rounds downrange, concentrate on your front sight and keep it on target while you are resetting the trigger.  Your next squeeze will be shorter than the first one.  For dry firing, rack the slide and put you sight back on target and start resetting your trigger.  Every shot should be made in this way! See: Resetting The Trigger.
  • You have to have a good strong base to manage the recoil and get back on target for multiple shots.  A good stance will also help your steadiness when aiming.  Your feet should be approximately shoulder-width apart, with the right foot (lets assume everyone is right handed) slightly back.  The ball of your right foot should be should be lined up somewhere in between the arch and the back of your left heel.  Your right foot should be pointed slight out. (Lefties: your stance will be the exact opposite).  You should have a slight bend in the knees and slightly at the waist. You want to have your weight over the balls of your feet.  This will give you the ability to move in all directions quickly and be able to maintain sight picture.  Your chest should be squared up to the target so that you maintain a “modified” triangle with your arms and the point being the pistol.  Your elbows should be slightly bent outwards, not downward and your shoulders rolled forward.   When you shoot the weapon will be pushed more straight back than up.
  • When you present your pistol to the target make sure that you are pushing it straight out and you are not raising it up with your arms locked out.  When you draw your pistol from its holster make sure that you keep it tight to your body keeping your wrist and forearm inline until you get to your chest and then you pick up your supporting hand and press straight out.  While you are pressing out slowly take out the trigger slack so that when you are at full presentation your next squeeze goes bang! See: Draw from holster and present Pistol
  • Breathing is another key to accurate shooting.  You have to control your breathing if you want to make accurate shots on target.  It doesn’t matter what position you are in, if you are winded then your sight is moving up and down as you inhale and exhale.  The best time to make an accurate shot is at the bottom of your exhale.  There have been people that have argued with me on this point saying that they shot better at the top of their inhale.  Try it out for yourself.  I have been taught to shoot at the bottom of your exhale and here is what I was told:  When you inhale your body naturally tightens up, your chest moves and can slightly raise your arms up pushing your weapon up or push against your butt stock, all causing you sights to move.  When you exhale, there is a natural pause before you inhale.  At that very point your body is at its most relaxed position where there is no movement. 

There are a couple of things that, in my opinion, everyone should have to help assist in his or her shooting with any weapon:

  • A good sling.  If you are going to have a sling on your weapon then why not make it a multi purpose tool?  I currently have Viking Tactics slings on all if my rifles.  Knights Armament makes small blocks that mount on a Picatinny rail system that has a swivel and a push button quick release loop to detach the sling (Push-Button Swivel & MWS Forend Rail Mount). See: V-TAC Sling Instruction & Part 2
  • Good Optics.  There is a plethora of different optics to choose from.  You should find one that is comfortable and you shoot well with it.  Most are expensive but if your life depended on it would yours to fog up or not work?  For my battle rifles I have went with EO-Tech since they are AR-15s.  An M4/AR-15 is really only a 200 meter gun (I will cover later because I know that this comment kicks a hornets nest).  An EO-Tech is made so that if it is mounted (without a detachable mount) directly to a flat top and the center of the sight window will be inline with your Iron sights.  So if your batteries die, you can still have a clear line of sight to use your iron sights.  I can use my EO-Tech just fine at 200 meters but not as effectively at 300 meters.
  • Setting your sights.  For pistols I like to zero them at 25 yards.  Depending on what you are shooting you might hit slightly higher at 5 yards but it is not even enough to worry about.  For an battle rifle (lets look at the M4/AR-15) I like to set my zero for the event that might occur.  I bounce between a 50m and 100m zero.  I always use a 62gr. round with a penetrating core, so I know how may clicks to move my sights to get to each setting.

Side Note: With an M4/AR-15 if you set your zero at 25m your POA (Point of Aim) and POI are the same (minus wind of course) as 300m.  Zero at 50m and your POA and POI is again the same at 200m (with a 5.56mm 62gr. Bullet).  In a combat situation would I take a 200 to 300m shot with an M4 if there were no sniper around. YES, only if the situation called for the shot(s) to be taken.  In a collapse/grid down of the US would I take that same shot? NO!  Why is there a difference you might ask?  In a collapse/grid down situation, I would want to remain as hidden as possible even if I had my sniper rifle.  I would want to stay as hidden as possible not to bring attention my way unless I could not help it.

  • A timer of some sort.  I recommend a digital one from Competition Electronics.  They are pricey at $129.95 USD but they are well worth it to improve your shooting.  The way they work is when you push the start button there is a buzzer that sounds at random intervals so you don’t know when it will go off.  Once the buzzer is sounded, the timer will record the times of your shots.  That way you can see how long it takes you from shot to shot.  You can learn so much from these timers.  I know that many people will/can not buy one of these timers so as long as you can use a stop watch or something to time your draw to last shot.

Lets keep it simple to start off.
Exercise #1

  • Beginners
    • Pistol: Dry fire for at least one hour every day and work on the fundamentals of breathing, front sight post on target, your grip and trigger control.  When your setting there on your porch aim at something 5 yards away or why your watching television or whatever, aim at a stationary spot and practice good habits.  It doesn’t matter whether you are sitting and standing.  If you can practice more then that is better.
    • Pistol and Battle Rifle: At the range, work only from the 5 yard line.  Work on the same fundamentals as dry firing but with live rounds.  TAKE YOUR TIME!  Make accurate shots!  Run your gun dry.  Learn to know what it feels and sounds like when your firearm is empty (more for the battle rifle because you can’t immediately see if the bolt locks back).  Practice your reload without taking your eyes off of your target or be looking at your next. Watch as Travis Haley demonstrates just what I am talking about.
    • Work on getting tight groups.  Don’t worry about speed--it will come.  Stick with the fundamentals.  Muscle memory is what you are working on right now.
  • Intermediate
    • Pistol: Dry fire at least one hour every day.
      • Set up 2 bullseye targets roughly two feet apart.  At 5 yards from the ready, draw your weapon and fire 3 rounds at each target.  Complete within 6 seconds with all rounds inside the 8-ring.
      • If you do not have silhouette targets just used bullseye targets.  Place 4 targets (2 targets one on top of the other and same for the other 2.  Preferably 2 different sizes with the lower one the bigger) two feet apart.  At 5 yards from the ready, Failure Drill: 2 rounds to the chest (bottom target) and 1 to the head (top target).  Complete within 7 seconds with all rounds in the 7-ring.
      • Run each drill each drill at least 5 times so that you have to at least reload during shooting.
    • Battle Rifle
      • With your current zero, shoot from 5, 15, and 25 yards to get a point of aim (POA) and point of impact (POI).  Write it down for later review.  Write down all of your POA and POI for future review to be put in the memory bank.
      • Same as above drills at 5 yards and then from 15 yards.  Using iron sights, account for the POA and POI and place all rounds inside the 8-ring.  Complete within 5 seconds from 5 yards and 8 seconds from 15 yards.
      • If you do not have silhouette targets just used bullseye targets.  Place 4 targets (2 targets one on top of the other and same for the other 2.  Preferably 2 different sizes with the lower one the bigger) three to four feet apart.  At 5 yards from the ready, “Z” Drill: 3 rounds center mass/lower target, right to left and then place a single round in the head/top target of each target starting with the right.  Keep all rounds in the 8-ring for time.
      • Run each drill each drill at least 5 times so that you have to at least reload during shooting.
  • Advanced
    • Pistol: Dry fire at least 30 minutes everyday.
      • Set up 2 bullseye targets roughly two feet apart.  At 5 yards with your back to the target, turn and draw your weapon and fire 3 rounds at each target.  Complete within 6 seconds with all rounds inside the 8-ring.
      • Set up 2 bullseye targets roughly three feet apart.  Load 8 rounds in 2 magazines.  At 15 yards, start walking to the targets.  Fire 5 rounds at one target, take a knee, reload and fire 5 rounds at the other target.  Shoot for time.
    • Battle Rifle
      • Same as above pistol drills.
      • Set up 5 bullseye targets roughly 3 feet apart.  At 15 yards from the ready, fire 3 rounds per target while moving laterally from both, right to left and left to right.  Keep all rounds in the 8-ring for time.

Happy shooting, everyone!

I'm writing to follow up on the recent SurvivalBlog article ".22 Handguns and Other Options For Self Defense". Another consideration to keep in mind when discussing the .22 rimfire: In a TEOTWAWKI situation the need for stealth will be paramount. The .22 LR cartridge lends itself to silencing better than any other caliber. [JWR Adds: Most of the "Target"-designated .22 LR loads are subsonic.] I think the legal purchase of a suppressor in the U.S. ("All NFA rules apply") should be very high on the “to do” list of every “prepper”. The ability to silently eliminate pests, and to take game (in extremis) could go a long way in keeping you under the radar.
I’ve heard the old argument about being put on a Government “list” by buying a $200 transfer tax NFA item (suppressor, full auto weapon, short barreled rifle or shotgun) but the truth is that if you have bought any type of firearm, been on Internet sites such as this, or bought any number of items with a credit card or over the Internet you are already on one or more likely many “lists”. - Regards, - R.A.S.

Don’t Just Survive, Thrive. (In a recent podcast, Lew Rockwell talks with Tess Pennington about how to make the most of your survival resources.)

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Rick B. sent the link to this very useful set of charts, over at The How Do Gardener: Freeze and Frost Dates

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Russ S. sent this: Lehmann Aviation's LFPV UAV . (Apparently the cool Landrover 109 is not included.)

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Commentary from JohnGaltFla: I am a Patrioterrorist

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Keith K. mentioned some lessons from a Mexican vehicle ambush: A Standard Feature Is Proving Deadly On Armored SUVs

The entire TSA paradigm is flawed. It requires an impossibility for it to succeed. For the TSA model to work, every single possible means of causing danger to an aircraft or its passengers must be eliminated. This is an impossibility. While passengers are being frisked and digitally strip-searched a few dozen yards away [inside the ostensibly 'secure' area], cooks and dish washers at the local concourse “Chili’s” [restaurant] are using and cleaning butcher knives." - Former FBI Agent Steve Moore, writing in his G-Man's Cafe blog

Monday, February 20, 2012

My #1 Daughter has launched The M16 Rock 'n Roll Store at Cafe Press, to raise money for her "college and ammo fund." Her T-shirts, mouse pads, mugs, phone covers, iPad covers, and other products all include the slogan: "Long Live Rock n' Roll" and a photo of an M16 / M4 lower receiver with the customized selector switch markings: "Silence", "Classical", and "Rock n' Roll". This design was inspired by a description in my novel "Patriots".

I envision one possible future for America that is fairly bleak, at least in the short term. If the economy deteriorates the way that I anticipate, and if the power grids ever collapse, then it could trigger that dreaded "worst case" situation. Such a socioeconomic collapse could precipitate a large population die-off in metropolitan regions, a bit less in the suburbs, and even less in the countryside. But an extended period of lawlessness would still cause considerable loss of life and property in rural areas. There will surely be a lot of refugees from urban areas, and some of them will turn to looting, in order to survive. The new paradigm for American farmers and ranchers might resemble the security situation faced by farmers during Rhodesian Bush War of the 1970s.

Life for farmers in Rhodesia in the 1970s was nerve-wracking. Starting in the late 1960s, communist guerillas, trained and armed by Cuban and Chinese "advisors", had been slipping into the country to wreak havoc and terror on the civilian populace. While most of their victims were black, the communist terrorists (or "terrs" as they were called in Rhodesian slang) began attacking isolated farms owned by whites. Early on in the war, they were literally able to catch the farmers sleeping. Later, as defenses were raised, the terrs adopted the tactic of burying pressure-activated land mines on farm roads.

Since phone lines could be cut, a radio network was established in Rhodesia, called the Agric-Alert system. With it, there would be a chance to call for help if a farm came under attack.

Rhodesian farmers had to be constantly armed, and constantly vigilant. To carry just a pistol was considered foolhardy. Intrusion detection systems in those days were rudimentary. They were limited to trip wire-activated and a few photocell-activated bells or buzzers. (These days, of course there are more sophisticated infrared (IR) sensor systems, like Dakota Alerts.)

There was substantial reliance on dogs to give a warning if strangers approached a farm house. The Rhodesian Ridgeback proved to be a breed well-suited to this task. A few farmers also raised Guinea Fowl, specifically for their "watchdog" nature.

"Protective Works" became the norm at Rhodesian farms. Grilles to stop hand grenades were fitted outside of house windows. Floodlights were set up that could be used to daze attackers. Elaborate perimeter fences topped with barbed wire became de rigueur. Often these were constructed in depth, with two fences (or more) around a house, sometimes with tanglefoot wire in between. Traditional cow bells were sought after, for attaching to trip wires. At least one fence--typically the inner-most fence--would be constructed of chain link material, to pre-detonate rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

Farmers resorted to constructing lethal electrified fences. Most of these were left on all night and were full current 220 volts, AC! They also set up remotely-fired shotguns and command-detonated directional mines. These were essentially ersatz Claymore mines. The farmer's Claymore-like mines were positioned to cover the most likely crossing points for fences, and at other choke points that could be seen from a farm house. Assuming that terrs might climb up fence posts, some remotely-fired shotguns were buried and fired upward, parallel to fence posts. (Ouch.) Late in the war, some of the terrorist's own contact land mines that had been recovered by demolitions specialists were re-purposed into command detonated perimeter security mines. There was also quite a cottage industry in mine-proofing vehicles.

Infrared and light amplification night vision equipment was very scarce and expensive in the 1970s, so it was out of reach for all but a handful of Rhodesian farmers. And light amplification gear (such as Starlight scopes) was--and still is--export restricted by western nations, as a military equipment, under the ITAR treaties. Furthermore, Rhodesia was explicitly under an arms embargo, so there was just a trickle of gear coming in from any nations other than South Africa, Mozambique, and Israel. Furthermore, of that gear, civilian farmers were "Third in line", behind the Rhodesian Army, and the British South African Police (BSAP.) By the way, the BSAP didn't change its name after Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration on Independence (UDI) in November of 1965.

The Watchful Daily Grind

Life on Rhodesian farms was largely routine, but farmers did their best to not fall into predictable patterns or lapse into inattentiveness. Each morning, farmers carefully examined their dirt roads, looking for signs that land mines had been planted. They kept in close contact with their resident farm workers, neighbors, and people living at nearby native kraals, to check on reports of any suspicious activities or any sightings of roaming terrorists. (By the standards of Rhodesian farmers, anyone living within five miles was a "neighbor.")

All through the daily tasks of tending crops and caring for livestock, every adult and most older children went everywhere, armed. Many farm tractors were fitted with gun racks, to keep a rifle close at hand, at all times. A surprising number of the guns owned by the farmers were fully automatic. The selective fire Belgian FN-FAL battle rifle was widely used, and almost reverently cherished. Some HK G3 rifles (by way of Mozambique) were used in smaller numbers. Many folks, especially the ladies, carried Uzi submachineguns, or the Commando LDP (in later years the Sanna 77 variant) submachineguns. The latter were locally produced in Rhodesia and South Africa. Some farmers were also able to acquire hand grenades and rifle grenades.

At dusk, unless under the urgency of harvest season, farms "buttoned up" for the night by SOP, and no one ventured outside of the farm house's perimeter fence unless there were exceptional circumstances. Dairy farmers felt particularly apprehensive, since at least one of their twice-daily milking sessions would be during hours of darkness, at least in winter months. So some security precautions were also set up outside of the outer doors of milking parlors.

Here is a quote from the book The Farmer At War by Trevor Grundy and Bernard Miller (Salisbury, 1979):

"In many of the sensitive commercial farming areas — and these now cover the majority of farms — homesteads have taken on the appearance of fortresses containing their own arsenal of arms that would not discredit military establishments elsewhere in the world. The chain-link security fences are usually wired to alarms designed to indicate exactly what sector of the fence has been interfered with or breached. In addition some are fitted with highly sensitive microphones to identify and pinpoint potentially hostile sounds from long distances — footsteps on gravel, movement through grass — and monitor these through a receiver installed near the farmer's bed. Alerted, the farmer can at the press of a button, switch on blinding searchlights or phosphorus flares strategically placed in the garden, and fire sets of grenades usually concealed in the bush outside his security fence. Again instant and massive retaliation has beaten off many attacks."

The Aftermath: Hyperinflation and Ruin

What was once Rhodesia is sadly now Zimbabwe, a nation that has been thoroughly pillaged by Comrade Mugabe and his cronies. This former breadbasket of Africa now has frequent starvation, is thoroughly bankrupt, its currency was destroyed by hyperinflation, and it has a crumbling infrastructure. The country is nearly in ruins. The grid power is on only sporadically. The water systems have been fouled, hunger is constant, and the life expectancy has dropped precipitously--although some of that is attributable to the advent of HIV-AIDS. Ironically, after UDI, Rhodesia had been snubbed by the international community in an effort to get them to institute universal suffrage. But now, following the predicted "one man, one vote, once" (installing a "President for life"), the former terrorists that took over instituted a quasi-dictatorship government so vile and corrupt that now it too is under severe diplomatic sanctions and military sanctions by the west. (The sanctions were imposed because of flagrant "electoral fraud and human rights abuses".) In fact, a dozen people in the key leadership of Zimbabwe's perpetual ZANU-PF government including Robert Mugabe are still banned from travel to most First World nations.

Following the war, the farmers have not fared well. Many were forced to surrender their guns, leaving them vulnerable to attack. Nearly all of them have lost their life savings, due to the combined effects of currency export controls and the hyperinflation. And many of those that continued to own and operate farms under Mugabe's government were forcibly evicted, and a few were raped, tortured, or killed.

I recommend that SurvivalBlog readers take the time to study low level insurgencies in general, and the Rhodesian Bush War, in particular. History doesn't repeat, but it often rhymes.

Some good insights on the Rhodesian experience can be found in these books:

For further reading, I recommend the reference web page titled Rhodesian Farmers Defensive Arrangements at the Small Wars Journal web site, and the book The Farmer At War, now available online.

Remember Rhodesia!

I've been a huge fan of the FN/FAL style of battle rifle for many years. I first carried one when I was in Rhodesia, back in 1976. I've owned a few FAL-style rifles over the years, and I reviewed the Springfield Armory version on SurvivalBlog last year. Too bad, Springfield Armory doesn't make their version any longer, it was an outstanding rifle in all respects.
About 10 tears ago, I purchased a used Century Arms (L1A1-model "inch pattern" FAL style rifle from a gun shop in Boise, Idaho - it was an outstanding shooter. However in a moment of weakness, I later sold it - one of those decisions I regretted the moment I did it. Last I heard, the gun had passed hands several times.
Yes, I know the reputation that Century Arms has when it comes to assembling some of their rifles from parts kits, onto new receivers and new barrels. However, I've been extremely lucky in this respect, and I've had outstanding luck with most guns from Century Arms - their CETME being the exception - I've owned several and they were junk. There is lots of chatter on the 'net about how poorly the Century Arms AK-47s are made. I've owned at least half a dozen, or more, versions of Century's AKs and loved them all. Some people say it's a crap shoot to purchase any Century Arms products,but I have to disagree.
My local gun shop knows my fondness for anything AK, AR, FAL and other similar types of rifles. At a gun show in Portland, Oregon they traded into a Century Arms R1A1, and they knew they had it sold to me as soon as I walked in the door following the gun show. The FALs that Century Arms manufactures are what a lot of folks call "FrankenFALs" because they are assembled using both metric and inch parts from various guns. I won't go into all the details of the differences between an inch and a metric FAL (and, "FAL" is a generic term for the purpose of this article.) However, many parts interchange between the guns - not all parts, but many do. My Century Arms R1A1 is a combination of inch and metric parts on a brand-new metric receiver and new American-made barrel.---
Quite frankly, the folks at Century Arms did an outstanding job on this particular rifle, as it is fitted nicely and the finish is great - a nice, gray Parkerizing over all the metal parts. The lower receiver is inch pattern, and near as I can determine in my research, the lower is from an Australian-made L1A1 rifle (inch pattern). The stock, pistol grip, gas piston and forearm are all US made, in order to meet the stupid FedGov regulations pertaining to the number of foreign made parts, versus US made parts in these types of firearms. The bolt and bolt carrier in the upper receiver are inch pattern - you can interchange inch and metric bolts and bolt carriers. The lower fire-control group is a mixed bag of original Australian, British and US made parts.(The latter are for Section 922(r) compliance. The left-side mounted charging handle is the folding type - inch pattern - which I prefer. The sights are inch pattern as well.
Now, one would be led to believe, that such a mixed bag of original military inch versus original military metric versus US-made commercial parts simply wouldn't work properly. Well, the folks at Century Arms did an outstanding job on this particular sample, and I well-pleased for the most part. Everything works as it should.
The rear sight is a peep-style, and it can be adjusted between 200 yards all the way up to 600 yards, but the .308 Winchester caliber can shoot accurately beyond 600 yards. The gun also shoots 7.62x51 NATO round, and be advised that these cartridges are not the same specification as .308 Winchester. The commercial .308 Winchester round is a bit hotter than the NATO round. And, the NATO rounds usually have harder primers. I've fired both through this gun without any problems.
The trigger pull on my R1A1 is outstanding for a military-style rifle and breaks at an even five pounds, with just a little take-up. The R1A1 weighs in at 9.5 ponds, not the lightest, nor the heaviest of the 7.62mm NATO battle rifle breed. There is a 21" US-made brand-new barrel on the gun, with a muzzle brake/flash suppressor on the end of it - it really helps tame recoil, too.
One thing I really appreciate about FAL style of rifles is the adjustable gas regulator. There are various adjustments on the regulator, so you can adjust it to fit the ammo you are using. You can close the gas regulator down, if you need more gas, to make the gun operate properly, or open the gas regulator up as well. You can even shut the gas regulator completely off for firing grenade launching blanks. There is such a wide variety of 7.62 NATO and .308 Win. ammo out there, that the idea of being able to tailor the gun to function at it's best with whatever ammo you're shooting is a real plus in my book - especially in a survival situation. Some folks, who aren't familiar with the FAL type of guns, and don't know about the gas regulator, foolishly sell or trade their guns when they don't operate properly. It's a very simply matter and only takes a minute to adjust the gas regulator in order for the gun to properly function with whatever ammo you might lay your hands on. You can find instructions for this all over the Internet, so I won't go into it here.
I have fired my R1A1 with a variety of different ammo, from Russian-made Brown Bear, to Radway from Great Britain, to include Pakistani-made 7.62 NATO to all manner of ammo, and haven't had any problems. For the most part, my particular Century Arms R1A1 sample operates best with military-grade ammo when the gas regulator is in the #3 - #4 position. And, with commercially-made .308 Winchester ammo, it works best in the #4 - #5 positions. Some folks simply aren't aware that there is an adjustable gas system on the FAL style of rifles, and when they change ammo, and the gun starts to malfunction, and not kick out the empty brass, or feed the next round - they get rid of their guns. And, many gun shop owners aren't aware of the adjustable gas system on FALs - sad to say. This is an outstanding gas system, that allows you to use hot, medium and mild ammo through it, and it only takes a minute or two to adjust the gun to function with whatever ammo you might be using or run across.
The FAL, at one time, was adopted for military service by approximately 90-countries. That says a lot in my book. The FAL is well-known throughout much of Africa, and was the dominate battle rifle at one time on that continent. It has since be replaced by the AK-47 in many African countries. However, if you watched the uprising in Libya last year, you surely noticed more than a few of the rebels were carrying and using the FAL. Many countries still rely on the FAL as their main battle rifle, and for good reason, the gun works and works very well.
After playing around with my Century Arms R1A1 for a week, and blasting away with all manner of .308 Winchester and 7.62 NATO ammo, I decided to get serious and see just what kind of accuracy I could get out of this hummer. As usual, I turn to Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition for some of the absolute best shooting .308 Winchester ammo. From Buffalo Bore, I got their 175 grain Sniper Load, and from Black Hills, I requested their 168 grain Match Load. I had 100 rounds of .308 Winchester ammo from each maker, and really had a ball dialing in my R1A1 for optimum accuracy.
The Buffalo Bore and Black Hills Ammunition ammo kicked differently than standard 147 grain ball. . Now, out to 600-yards, it might be a big difference. Black Hills Ammunition also makes a 175 grain match a little bit more than the military surplus 7.62 mm NATO ammo did for a couple of reason. First of all, I was firing heavier grain bullets in the Buffalo Bore and Black Hills Ammunition ammo compared to the lighter 147-to-150 grain bullets in the military surplus and Brown Bear ammo. Even with the gas system adjusted properly, I could still feel a bit more kick - nothing to complain about, as I believe the .308 Winchester is a fairly easy round to shoot.
At 100-yards, and with iron sights , I was getting groups of 2" - 2.5" with both the Buffalo Bore and the Black Hills Ammunition. It was a virtual tie when it came to accuracy between these two loads. The Black Hills Ammunition 168 grain load shot an itty-bit lower than the Buffalo Bore 175 grain load - which was to be expected, but honestly, the difference wasn't anything worth load, too. I didn't do all my accuracy testing in one session, it was spread out over several days.
One shooting session would find the Buffalo Bore load beating out the Black Hills Ammunition load. The next session would find the Black Hills Ammunition beating out the Buffalo Bore load. Like I said, both are outstanding loads, and they are capable of better accuracy than what I was getting out of my R1A1. I believe I can consistently get 2" groups or better out of this gun - and that's mighty good shooting for a military-style, run-of-the-mill battle rifle. I've gotten sub-inch groups out of the Buffalo Bore and the Black Hills Ammunition ammo in other rifles, so I know it's great shooting ammo, and capable of better accuracy than I can wring out of it these days.
My shooting for accuracy with the Buffalo Bore and the Black Hills Ammunition loads was done over the hood of my car, using a rest. I think if I were to go prone, and used a sling to steady the gun, I could got more accuracy out of the gun. The Brown Bear .308 Winchester ammo I used - it was getting about 3" - 3.5" groups. Again, I think the gun is capable of better accuracy.

The Black Hills Ammunition .308 Winchester load is being used by our military snipers, as well as high-powered rifle competitors and they are taking down bad guys and winning matches with this load. The Buffalo Bore load is being used by high-powered rifle competitors as well, and they are winning matches with it. If anyone is making a more accurate .308 Winchester load than Buffalo Bore and Black Hills, I'd like to know who it is. Yeah, I know, the so-called "Gold" Standard in .308 Winchester has been the Federal Match load - I've shot it, and the Buffalo Bore and the Black Hills Ammunition shoot more accurately in my humble opinion.
A note on magazines, the Century Arms upper receiver will accept either the inch or the more plentiful metric magazines. I ordered some brand-new South Korean-made FAL metric mags - they wouldn't function! The locking tab on the back of the magazines were all a tad too long, and when locked into the mag well, it caused the rear of the magazine to be higher than the front - rounds stripped from the magazine all nose-dived and wouldn't feed. I ordered a good supply of military surplus FAL magazines from J&G Sales for $19.95 each. They were all like brand-new - they had Israeli markings on them. Every mag worked without a hitch. I had read that a lot of folks were having problems with the brand-new South Korean-made FAL mags, but I thought I'd take a chance, seeing as how they were only $14.99 each, but they didn't work. I probably could have gotten out the ol' Dremel Tool and ground down the rear locking tab a bit, but I found it easier to just return them and go with genuine military surplus FAL mags for a few bucks more. [JWR Adds: I concur about avoiding the South Korean-made FAL magazines. From all reports, the only after-market FAL box magazines that work as well as the original military contract mags made on Belgian or UK Commonwealth tooling are those made by DS Arms. They invested a lot of engineering hours into making magazines that feed flawlessly. DS Arms nows make 20, 25, and 30 round magazines. DSA will also be making SCAR "Heavy" .308 Caliber 25 round magazines.]
Now for the bad news. Century Arms doesn't make the R1A1 all the time. It's time consuming assembling this particular type of rifle and the availability of parts kits is spotty, so Century doesn't always have this rifle available. When they do, you need to snap one up, ASAP. I've surfed the web, and GunBroker.com and GunsAmerica.com, as well as some Cabela's stores have the Century Arms R1A1 available. Prices vary quite a bit from $699 upwards to $1,000. I paid $640 for my sample at my local gun shop, but I wouldn't part with it for $1,000 if someone offered me cash money for it today. I like it "that" much.
When you really want to reach out there and touch someone, or if forced to shoot through heavy cover, it's hard to beat the good ol' .308 Winchester caliber. I will be buying a spare firing pin and spare extractor - just to have on hand. Other than that, this baby is ready for combat or survival purposes. I've got mine, and if you are in the market for a great shooting FAL clone, then take a close look at the Century Arms R1A1. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

JWR Adds: I'm also a big believer in L1A1 clone rifles. We have four of them here at the Rawles Ranch. They are all inch pattern, and all were built before the import ban or were rebuilt using pre-ban receivers. (FWIW, I explained my preference for the inch pattern rifles in a 2007 SurvivalBlog post.) Although I'm planning to gradually switch to AR-10 rifles (built on the SI Defense receivers that can accept very inexpensive HK G3 magazines), the L1A1 is still the primary "battle rifle" for our family.

An excellent resource for both FAL beginners and experts is The FAL Files. I've been a member for more than a decade. (I'm member #133, and there are now more than 55,000 members.)

This article was requested by a reader from SurvivalBlog and therefore is published here before it even appears on my own web site next week.  In reviewing the snake-related material in the history, no review of snakebites was found.  There was some reference to people that have been bitten by rattlers, and the July 2006 run in that the fine editor of this blog had with a 3-footer, but no review of risk and advise for treatment.  We will change all that in one swoop here, and the review will be as thorough as my capabilities allow, but hopefully will also generate many responses that will also help fill in some of the gaps or correct some of the information.  Sometimes more can be learned reading the comments that come after some of the articles than the article itself, as savvy readers are already very aware.  So, my advice is hopefully helpful, but keep checking back over the next 10 days while JWR sorts through the comments from other readers and posts some of their knowledge in the coming days.

Snakebites kill 125,000 people worldwide every year.  Here in the US deaths are much less common as our snakes are relatively lame in the deadly venom category, and something does need to be said here about risk.  Roughly 8000 people on average are bitten by venomous snakes each year in the US and about 5-10 per year die, making the risk >0.1% after being bitten!  That number would surely be higher with no treatment, but even being 100 times higher post-collapse would still put your risk of dying at >10%.  For comparison, bee stings kill an average of 120 people a year and lightning kills 150 per year.  That doesn't really help our mental health when tromping around in the grassland though on a sunny Fall day.  Similar to the idea of shark attacks, the risk is not the same as our fear when floating in the Gulf 30 feet out.  Hopefully these stats will help put things in perspective for the serious prepper, as having Benadryl and Epipens for bee stings is better prepping than snake worries.  But, even more important from a risk category:  get inside if it's storming out!

Anyone in snake country knows that snake risk is also regionally very different.  And even within that region the snakes are usually fairly predictable about where they hang out at.  Risk along Montana riversides is about one billion times higher than a northern Minnesota open field (mostly because there are no venomous snakes in northern Minnesota).  We saw more Prairie Rattlesnakes in Montana than any other type of snake there.  One of my tough-as-nails Vietnam Veteran friends had many hunting trips ruined blasting birdshot into rattlesnakes, sending him home early with shaky hands as he was deathly afraid of snakes.  He once got struck by a bigger rattler on the ankle of his boot, didn't get bit, but related that it felt like Pujols took a full swing and landed the bat on his ankle.  After unloading and then reloading, 12 shells of dove-killing birdshot rendered the snake unrecognizable (he really doesn't like snakes).

With venomous snakes here in America the general rule for worry is this: Person size relative to snake size predicts risk of death.  In other words, big dude vs small snake:  very little risk of death; big snake vs small child:  trouble.  Snake size does not mean relative to the person, it means relative to the type of snake it is.  However, the problem with that general rule is that bigger snakes are usually smarter about not wasting their venom and will often give you a "dry bite" warning first and then inject you with the venom if you don't get the message they are trying to send.  Younger, smaller snakes often will inject more venom because they are not veteran biters, so they may inject more venom the first time than the older, bigger snake.

But, snakes often do weird things too.  In our area here in Missouri, the most common venomous snake is the Copperhead.  Time and time again, little kids will pick one up and carry it into their house or put it in a bucket, and the snake is cool with it.  How does that work?  Does the snake know that the kids are just stupid and give them a break?  Patients/friends of mine have a posse of hillbilly children that gathered up a couple buckets of about 40 snakes this year by pulling up rocks and grabbing them (a two-child operation).  In the buckets [among the other snakes] were two Copperheads!  They did take a teaching moment and tried the "this is a no-touchy snake" lecture, but no one really believes they won't do it again next year.  One of the kids was a 3 year old, certainly at high risk for trouble if he had been bitten by even a middle-sized Copperhead.  Life in the Ozarks, gotta love it!

The other major problem in patient risk assessment is misidentifying the perpetrating snake and therefore the venom risk.  Here in Missouri, if someone is bitten by what they think is a small timber rattler and is a normal 200 pound guy, we watch him and away he goes with little in the way of symptoms and very little risk of death.  But, if he was wrong and it was a Eastern Massasauga rattler instead, which has very toxic venom, we watch him get very sick and his risk of death is certainly real.  So, in your retreat area, know your snakes.  Again, in the Ozarks, the Copperhead is by far and away the most common venomous snake that we see.  The good news for us:  there has never been a recorded death from a Copperhead bite in Missouri.  This would very likely change without medical support, but the risk of death is still very low from a Copperhead bite in our area, which is good peace of mind when your 3 year old is flipping rocks for fun.

Great, Dr. Bob, most snake fears are out of proportion to risk so we should all just walk around barefoot in Texas rock piles, eh?  Don't do that please.  The first plan for snakes, no matter which area you live in is:  

.  Imaging a doctor saying that; shocker.  Know your area, know your snakes, know your risk and then protect yourself.  Personally, the "1/2 Mile Rule" is one that we followed in Montana when we lived there.  ["Kill any rattlesnake within 1/2 mile of your habitation."] It is generally a good one in my book.  As many previous readers have mentioned, have the correct firearms and ammo for snake-blasting when working fences or other high-risk areas for snake contact.  A .410 shotgun works well, but the weapon choice is personal and there are better articles available on this blog and others.  Boots.  End of story.  Type, style, etc., can be found here and the choice is yours.  Wear them though, and wear gloves when certain high-risk activities are necessary.  Rocks and woodpiles are dangerous snake areas, wear heavy gloves when reaching into these areas to reduce risk of bites.  We rolled hay bales down in a stack and knocked a section of wood over before pulling each bale or piece out to put in the wheelbarrows.  Knocking them over would scare or crush any potential snakes away was our thought, and it seemed to work as we didn't see any close to us during that time.  Figure out your own plan and practice consistently so you build the good habit now.

Also needing mention is animals.  Horses in Montana often got their noses bitten, which can be life-threatening for a horse as they can't breath out of their mouths.  When Docswife ran a boarding stable for a year, we had more than a couple horses that stayed for stable observation after a Rattlesnake bite.  We also had some neighboring ranchers that actually lost a horse to multiple rattler bites after collapsing a den while dust rolling.  Freak accident, but still, a loss of a valuable horse that may have been able to be prevented if that den had been identified and could have been fenced off.  A couple patients had been bitten by snakes when in Montana, but the only family member bitten in our Montana years was Aine, my wife's border collie.  The poor dog still has a spot on that elbow where the hair won't grow.  She laid around panting for a day before we found the bite, and then laid around sleeping a lot for another day while we worried--but she recovered just fine.  We assume it was a Rattler, not too big from the fang separation, but only she knows.  If we had lost her, my wife would have been devastated and we would have probably gone on a snake roundup for revenge and then one of us would surely have been bitten.  Moral of this story, animals are at much higher risk of contact and therefore illness and death due to snakebites.  Cats, dogs, and horses all were killed by Rattlesnake venom in our Montana neighborhood, while we did not know of any humans bitten during that same time period within the same area.

So let's talk a bit about what you actually can do if bitten to reduce your risk of death or tissue loss.  You will not be able to count on any medical support necessarily, and without the support of your local ER after TEOTWAWKI, it might be worthwhile to know a little bit about treatment options.  The first and foremost thing about snakebite management is field management done correctly.  The following should be done for a snakebite victim:

• Remove yourself and patient from the snake's territory, or the snake from the territory (via hot lead injection from of safe distance)
• Try to immobilize the area bitten below the level of the heart
• Clean the wound as well as you are able in the field
• Do not allow the patient to drink alcohol or take medication that may cause sedation
• Transport the patient to any available medical facility (will there be one?)
So, one of your members gets tagged "it" by a local venomous villain, now what.  Let's say it was an "oops" moment reaching into a storage area and a snake had holed up there unexpectedly.  Remove that snake safely, in 12 gauge fashion to prevent return.   The back of the bitten hand is painful, swollen, and there are 2 little holes present.  Calm the person!  Lay them down and keep that hand below the cot, bed, or litter the "patient" is now on.  Wash it with clean, soapy water and if not available use peroxide.  If neither is available, alcohol is the last resort; either medical or social.  Don't let the patient have any of the social type, and move them to your main housing area (it is assumed that is the available medical facility).  For the first 12 hours, the person needs to be encouraged to drink fluids and stay still and calm.  That hand needs to stay below the heart if possible the entire time.  Elevate the patient with blankets or cushions and leave the arm lower, but try not to "hang" it below as that can sometimes cut off circulation at the armpit and cause nerve damage, especially if the patient is unconscious.

Antibiotics are not necessary unless the wound is heavily contaminated.  In a study of 53 snakebites here in the US, none developed infection following the bite.  If the wound is contaminated, then use generic Augmentin (amoxicillin/clavulanate) if available, and generic Omnicef (Cefdinir) as a second choice.  On the other hand, Tetanus contamination of a snakebite can occur, and keeping up to date on your Tdap vaccination is essential prevention while the grid is up.  If the patient is conscious and becomes nauseous, use any anti-nausea medication that you may have to help the person keep fluids down.  Fluids are vitally important to help the body "thin" down the toxicity of the venom over the next 24 hours after being bitten.  So, you have the person calmly resting with the bitten area below the heart, the wound was cleaned, fluids are flowing, now what?  Pray and wait.  We will discuss severe symptoms and signs of trouble later in the article.  The large majority of the time the person may feel a little ill and nauseated, with sweats and a rapid heartbeat, but will stay conscious and recover with a nasty scar.

What should you NOT do?  Well, that is where the heated debate comes in.  Using the latest medical information available, these are the things that are largely believed out there that DO NOT have any proven medical benefit:
• Incision
• Oral suction
• Suction devices
• Freezing
• Electric shocking
• Tourniquets

A large study using mock venom showed that suction of venom reduced the toxin in the system by 2%, meaning 98% of the venom still made it into the tissues.  Not enough to make a difference in life or death, and certainly not worth the risk of increased infection from some of the methods used (like putting your nasty, bacteria-filled mouth on an open wound).  Tourniquets can damage nerves, tendons, blood vessels and cause infections themselves.  Therefore, they are medically not recommended.  This is constantly a topic of debate, as well as all of these recommendations above, because people just want to be able to do something.  Medically speaking, from the research available and the results from that research, these things will not help and will likely cause more harm than good.

Now, snakes are generally good survival eating, so it would be best to kill the snake and get some extra protein for a meal if possible.  An amazing fact: dead snakes can still bite!  Snakes are muscle and reflex, that's about it.  Even a dead one can reflexively latch on to the unsuspecting doofus' arm and even inject venom.  Amazing but true, so watch out.  Most snake-savvy folks cut the head right off and then the problem is solved. [JWR Adds: Reader Dan J. notes: "A decapitated snake head can skill inject venom. The head must be buried, put in a bucket with a lid, or otherwise made safe and not available to dogs, cats, curious children or foolish adults for a long time."

US snakes we really need to worry about are in the subfamily of Crotalinae.  This includes rattlesnakes, water moccasins, copperheads.  99% of all US venomous snakebites are from these snakes.  The only other snake outside that family that causes significant risk is the Elapidae family which includes the coral snake.  Coral snake bites are rare due to the limited distribution and are primarily found in Texas and Florida.  The most venomous snake from a venom potency standpoint aside from the Coral snake is the Mojave Rattler.  This nasty crawler's venom can cause neuromuscular weakness and respiratory depression and should be taken as a serious risk if it is in your area; which includes the south western United States in southern California, southern Nevada, extreme south western Utah, most of Arizona, southern New Mexico and western Texas.  From the risk standpoint though, even this deadly enemy is no match to the more populous snakes that we encounter more often.  The following is stolen directly from www.snakesandspiders.com:

With this in mind, the two snakes that jump out at me are the Western Diamondback the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes. The Mojave Rattlesnake would likely be right there with these two if it were a bit more common, and more widespread. They are found in a pretty focused area that is often not inhabited by human beings. This leads to fewer bites, and therefore precludes their being included as one of the deadliest.

The Western Diamondback has no such qualms. They are around plenty of humans and do plenty of biting when compared to the majority of venomous snakes. Their venom is powerful, and they deliver the bite with large fangs that can give a large dose of that deadly venom. Many consider the Western Diamondback to be the deadliest snake in the United States.

For my money, the Eastern Diamondback is about as deadly as they come. This is not only the deadliest snake in America in my opinion, it is also the largest venomous snake as well. They grown big, fat, and can have a nasty disposition when they are bothered. The venom glands are huge on the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, and they are not shy about injecting that venom.

Of all the snakes in America, I call the Eastern Diamondback the deadliest overall. The Western diamondback is a close second, with the Mojave close behind them.

Unfortunately for us, the Western Diamondback is commonly encountered by those in its territory, which ranges from California to Arkansas.  These powerful, dangerous snakes can reach 7 feet long.  As noted above, the Eastern Diamondback is even nastier and can be bigger, reaching 8 feet long.  The recent popular email of a 15 foot Eastern Diamondback in Florida was a camera trick and the snake was actually 7 feet 3 inches, which was still a monster and did weigh over thirty pounds.  Their range is from North Carolina to Louisiana and all points south.  95% of all deaths from snakebites are from Diamondbacks, so they are to be feared if you live where they do.  Children, small females, and pets are at the highest risk for death due to the size ratio mentioned earlier.  Usually, these snakes do lie in wait and are not aggressive hunters, so avoiding them and sealing up your housing and storage areas is the best protection from their wrath.

Now, for some of the more technical medical information for those that would be in charge of the medical aspects of their group, it is recommended that the non-medical folks proceed with caution as there is lots of bad news in the following paragraphs.  Again, keep in mind that most snakebites are not severe and that 25% of all venomous snakebites have no envenomation.  For those 75%, there are two types of venom problems medically:  hemotoxic and neurotoxic.  Hemotoxic symptoms are far more common as the neurotoxic snakes are the Mojave Rattlesnake and the Coral snake, along with any exotics that may escape and survive as short time.  Hemotoxic and neurotoxic symptoms:

Hemotoxic symptoms Neurotoxic symptoms
Intense pain Minimal pain
Edema Ptosis
Weakness Weakness
Swelling Paresthesia (often numb at bite site)
Rapid pulse Numbness or tingling
Ecchymoses Diplopia
Muscle fasciculation Dysphagia
Paresthesia (oral) Sweating
Unusual metallic taste Salivation
Vomiting Diaphoresis
Confusion Hyporeflexia
Bleeding disorders Respiratory depression

The usual Rattlers can cause death with severe envenomation by profound hemotoxic effects, mostly through clotting problems.  The unusual snakes that cause neurotoxic symptoms cause death much more often by percentage, due to respiratory depression and paralysis of breathing muscles.  If there is any doubt as to the type of envenomation, this chart can help sort it out as the patient deteriorates, not that it will be of much consolation.  The risk of death is also increased by the distance to the heart.  A chest or back bite by a decent sized Rattler is very likely to be fatal.  The meaty part of the thigh, shoulder or buttocks is also risky due to the blood flow present and closeness to the heart.  Any bite to the face is nearly always fatal due to airway swelling and plentiful blood flow.  Use this information to allocate resources and effort, as it may save others that suffer a survivable bite in the future.

Tissue damage is very common with Rattler bites.  Sometimes dramatic and impressive, it is rarely infected and not usually life-threatening.  Some pictures of dramatic cases are found here [Warning: Graphic!]

Many more dramatic and impressive examples can be found with a simple web search if you need more grossing out.  This tissue damage can be extremely painful, and medication available will be used to help bring down swelling and control pain.  Caution will have to be used with NSAIDs as the risk of bleeding from the venom will have to be considered against the benefit of the medication, especially in the first 12 hours.  For someone without tachycardia and systemic symptoms on a distal hand or ankle bite, it will likely be fine to start NSAID therapy and then discontinue if there are any signs of bleeding that develop. 

There are five degrees of envenomation that are predictive of death in a TEOTWAWKI situation:

Degree of Envenomation
0. None Punctures or abrasions; some pain or tenderness at the bit Local wound care
I. Mild Pain, tenderness, edema at the bite; perioral paresthesias may be present. Aggressive hydration, Benadryl, NSAIDS
II. Moderate
Pain, tenderness, erythema, edema beyond the area adjacent to the bite; often, systemic manifestations and mild coagulopathy
Aggressive hydration, Benadryl, caution with NSAIDS, consider IV fluids if available, death possible but unlikely if the patient continues to be conscious and able to take po fluids
III. Severe
Intense pain and swelling of entire extremity, often with severe systemic signs and symptoms; Coagulopathy
IV fluids, Benadryl, consider Epipen use if available, avoid NSAIDS due to bleeding risk, death will be very likely
IV. Life-threatening Marked abnormal signs and symptoms; severe coagulopathy Death even with all efforts, are up to God

This will not be a happy time to be in charge of the medical care for your group if you are tasked with caring for a patient with grades III and IV envenomation.  Again, information may help allocate resources in the future if you live in an area where snakebites will be likely within your group in the future.  Notice that these gradings are done on an extremity, as the trunk, chest and face wounds will almost always be grade IV.  The photos at my web site all show bites that are grades I and II, although the third photo may have been grade III at its peak.  In caring for the more severe snakebite patient, urine output is a helpful sign of stability.  If urine output falls, kidney failure is likely and death will likely result.  Bleeding can occur, and intercranial hemorrhages can even occur with severe cases.  Monitoring the gums, eyelids, and fingernails can indicate hemorrhage.  Unfortunately, if coagulopathy does occur, it can only be corrected by antivenom, which in TEOTWAWKI will surely not be available.

Most severe cases of envenomation will show signs within 6 hours, but with neurotoxic venoms there can be a delay.  Be sure to monitor any patient suspected to have the possibility of neurotoxic venom for a minimum of 24 hours, even if they show no symptoms.  For hemotoxic envenomation, the 24 hour mark is critical for those cases of grades II and above.  All grade II patients showing improvement at 24 hours will very likely recover completely, and even those that are touchy but conscious will also likely recover.  Grade III patients showing improvement or at least stability at 24 hours have a good hope of survival, and efforts towards recovery will usually not be in vain for grade III patients that are improving.  Grade IV patients will very rarely survive to a 24 hour assessment.  Without antivenom available, these patients will not survive outside Divine intervention at TEOTWAWKI.

For those of you that are still with me after almost 4,000 words and a lot of information, hopefully this was a helpful review and will perhaps save lives someday.  It needs to be repeated that the best possible treatment for poisonous snakebites is prevention.  Please feel free to comment to me directly at survivinghealthy@hotmail.com and updates will be made to this article on my site as information that is helpful or useful becomes available.  Stay strong and wear your boots! 


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

Hello James,
To follow up on the recent letter about running gasoline engines on "drip": I have never used drip gas, but an old friend of mine who lived and worked in Texas told me it was often necessary to remove the sulfur from drip gas. I would suspect your nose would tell you if sulfur was present [in high concentration] by the rotten egg smell of hydrogen sulfide. The trick used back then was to let the drip gas sit in a container full of copper wool.  Obviously copper wire will work, but over a longer time period, as the copper wool has more surface area. The sulfur in the drip gas reacts with the copper to form a very black flake that then falls off the wire, leaving a black sediment in the container.  

The reason this is important is that the sulfur can also react with the copper in bearings of your engine, leading to a major failure. Burned sulfur in fuel, now sulfur dioxide gas, after passing through a catalytic converter is converted to sulfuric acid, leading to a rust out of your exhaust system. All of this can be eliminated and tested for by soaking with shiny copper wire, wool, or even pennies.  

Watching a sulfide containing liquid, such as Ortho Dormant Disease Lime Sulfur spray, to remove all the copper off of a post-1982 penny is an interesting experiment. It leaves the pure zinc penny naked of it's copper shell. Now imagine it is pulling the copper off your engine's bearings. Best to you, - Dave B.

Mr. Rawles,
After reading the article entitled "Living Through the Real Estate Crash and Bankruptcy" by Brad C., I was absolutely livid. I am not an economics major but I firmly believe that our country is in the shape that it is due in large part to people like Brad C. who leveraged everything that they could to live "the American dream" and then screwed all of his creditors by simply deciding that he was not going to pay. Even going so far as to max out his credit cards knowing he was not going to be paying the bill because after all who wouldn't want "free money". It must be nice to take vacations with the family while not paying your bills. Then he has the nerve to reference thanking Jesus when he still has a job. He then justifies his actions by saying "...it's just business." Just because something is legal does not make it morally right. Like many people, I owe more on my modest home than it is worth. Yes, I could walk away and say "screw the greedy bank that was nice enough to loan me money so that my family has a roof over their heads". After all, it's just business. I signed on the line and made an agreement. I am not going to back out of it because it is no longer convenient for me. There was once a time when a man's word meant something. I pray that Brad C. has truly learned his lesson. - Jason J.

Mr. Rawles,
I read your blog every day and appreciate all the knowledge you provide my family and I with. I am 28 years old and own a small company with 10 employees, in San Diego, California. I work hard and try to live a just and Christian life honoring my family's name and values. 

I can honestly say that I have never disagreed with a single thing written on your blog until today. The article "Living Through the Real Estate Crash and Bankruptcy, by Brad C." was very informative, but ultimately disheartening. I was sad and annoyed that a person as pathetic and weak as Brad C, would have the honor of being posted on your wonderful blog. I appreciate your note at the bottom regarding theft, but I must say that it can be misinterpreted to mean that Brad C did nothing wrong. Brad C is a common thief. Nothing more. As you, Mr. Rawles, have stated and shown us on many occasions, just because the government says something is okay, it doesn't mean that it is. Bankruptcy is a perfect example of this. I actually liked the posting until Brad C got to his self justification of theft with, " Do I feel bad?  Yes, but keep in mind this is just business." Brad obviously doesn't feel bad. I mean heck...he got a Lincoln Navigator, right?

As a business owner I have dealt with people like Brad C., who feel that debt failure is "just business" as he pathetically stated. I would love for Brad C. to let me know how I am supposed to explain this "just business" attitude to my employees? When people of Brad C's character don't pay me or go BK then buy a '98 Lincoln Navigator the next week am I supposed to just pretend that's OK and not feel ripped off? Brad seems to feel like this whole "real estate" thing popped out of nowhere and he was an innocent bystander? Like he took a business risk and he failed and it isn't his fault? He has no remorse for the bank or the companies that lent him credit to which he defaulted. This is wrong. He continually notes that he rented to "low income" housing regions. Why did he think these areas yield higher rental profits? Higher profits are justified by higher risk! Brad took a higher risk to make more money and failed. 

I am so tired of people justifying that walking away from obligations is acceptable because it is not convenient for them to stand by decisions. I was raised to stand by my decisions and live with them. It is people like Brad who have wrecked the country that I fought for and made it what it is today, not because Brad went bankrupt, but because Brad justified in his head that going BK wasn't his fault, is acceptable behavior, and is "just business". I compare Brad to people who are shocked their 401K went down 30%? Do they not understand what an investment is?

Brad is the type of person who lives by the motto "if you can't beat 'em, might as well join em". Good Christians and honest Americans like myself live by the motto "If I can't beat 'em then they are going to kill me trying to beat 'em".

Also please don't make us get out the scratchy violin for your poor "older RV" and '98 Lincoln Navigator, Brad C. That would be a heck of an upgrade from some of the rest of our situations and we all pay our bills. 

Regards and God bless, - Jimbo

I read the article entitled “Living Through the Real Estate Crash and Bankruptcy”, by Brad C. As I read the article I became increasingly disgusted and angry. I have long believed that the “get rich quick at the expense of all else” mentality is what is wrong with this country. Brad's article reinforces this belief. People like Brad, who bought up huge amounts of real estate back in the early 2000s are the ones who caused the real estate bubble. They queued up in front of development offices, months before construction even began, and they bought homes and immediately flipped them to make a quick buck with no intention of ever living in the homes. Meanwhile, folks like myself who just wanted to buy a home to live in had to pay inflated prices or move into smaller, more affordable places. I did the latter, and I am currently one of the unlucky homeowners who is underwater, thanks to the actions of folks like Brad C. But unlike Brad, I continue to make payments on my house – I am a man of my word and I live up to my obligations. So many these days do not.

I have heard a lot on the news lately about predatory lenders, but folks like Brad are just as guilty, if not more so, for the housing crisis. I call them predatory borrowers, and the article that Brad wrote makes me think (just for a split second) that it might be a good idea to bring back debtors prisons. I was shocked when he said that as he’s going through bankruptcy he advocated continuing to spend on credit cards and rack up debt. When he said he had recently bought an RV, I literally shouted at my computer screen. I was heartened to hear that no credit card company had issued a new card to Brad, despite his attempts to get one. I hope he never gets one again.

I see Brad as a selfish person, and he is exactly the kind of person I expect will behave quite poorly in a TEOTWAWKI situation – the kind that will attempt to take from others what he has not earned for himself. He of course will justify it much as he did his bankruptcy situation in the article – “trying to make the best of a bad situation” or “doing what you can to provide for your family”. He seems to have no problem rationalizing away these actions, which I (and probably many others) see as abhorrent. I fear that there are many others out there like Brad, and the size and the scope of the housing crisis reinforces this fear since there were so many others doing the exact same thing.

Thanks for your blog, I continue to read and learn. - Ian

Mr. Rawles,
Brad C. seems to be a real piece of work. I have a real estate sales license and used to be an appraiser. We have a name for guys like this and it's "Slumlord". Reading this letter made my blood boil and to be honest I couldn't even finish it. If the housing authorities told his section 8 tenants they could leave without notice it's because he failed ( I'm assuming after numerous notices ) to maintain his properties at a minimal standard. Then he talks about his "clean and sober" houses ( we call them "halfway houses" ) and how he can put ten beds in a house. First of all whoever thought it was a good idea to put up to ten parolees together in a house should have his head examined. I'm sure he didn't live in the neighborhoods where these houses were and I'm sure the neighbors were none too happy about it. Secondly, these parolees are not clean and sober. I live in a nice middle-class suburb ( I'm planning my escape but it takes time ). That is except for the "clean and sober" house down the street ( by the way, these properties are usually run down and poorly maintained ). These guys are always in the yard smoking grass and drinking. Calling the police is fruitless because the response times in our area are so slow. Drug testing these guys is a joke. There are numerous products to beat drug tests and I'm sure these guys are experts on the subject.

To read this guy's letter crying about his misfortunes and quoting scripture like he's some kind of pillar of the community was really more than I could take.
Thanks, - D.W.

Dear Mr. Rawles:
I was so stunned and upset by the recent posting by Brad C. I am writing to you for the very first time. This man doesn't understand the first thing about being a Christian and the fact that he included a verse at the end of his disgusting display of greed and sloth is just the icing on the cake. 

With all due respect, your total lack of moral regard for those that were living in your rental units is startling. You regarded them as being unworthy to know what was going on even though your poor planning placed them within 20 days of homelessness.  Did you ever stop to consider how many of these individuals would find shelter if suddenly one day the Sheriff’s Department showed up to force their eviction because of your personal recklessness?  Your own words convince me that you didn’t give a flying fig about anyone but yourself and your material possessions.  The fact that after though such financial difficulties your priorities are focused around your own extravagant creature comforts (You need that RV for what, exactly???) convinces me that you have learned absolutely nothing and will end up getting yourself back into the exact same situation as soon as you possibly can. Your own statement that you are already applying for credit cards again is proof of your continued ignorance. PAY YOUR DEBTS – LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS!
When I combined this with your apparent lack of sense of responsibility to pay your credit cards I sir am amazed.  Your determination that the credit card companies whose money you spent wasn’t really lost is ridiculous. You took their money and refused to return it. That is theft.  I cannot think of many posters on this site that have displayed less ethics.  The fact that you ended your post with a Biblical verse, Luke 12:15: "Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth." is laughable at best.  You obviously have no true understanding of Christian charity.  I hope your current landlord doesn’t regard you with as much disdain as you showed your tenants. Although I’m sure most that read your post would agree that you would deserve it. Perhaps then you’ll get it!

I will pray for your family that you will wise up and realize how foolish you really are before you end up homeless and hungry. Sincerely, - M.M.

JWR Replies: As I was first reading Brad C.'s lengthy article, I kept expecting to see a transition to genuine repentance and restitution. But there was none! I realized that there would be lots of righteous anger in rebuttal letters. (I chose the best five from among the nine that came in.) Despite my initial reservations, I'm glad that I decided to go ahead and run the article as a pointed example of how not to live. Hopefully his poor example will encourage SurvivalBlog readers live within their means and not fall into into the same debt trap. I also hope that you can see the peril of equivocating and convincing yourself that "it is just business" to cheat your creditors. Theft is theft. Calling it something else doesn't change it, or it's consequences. There is a Supreme Judge of the universe, and ultimately we will all answer for our unrepentant sins. Perhaps not in this life, but surely, beyond.

As my mother is fond of saying: "Time wounds all heels."

Recipe of the Week

D.T.C. in Maryland's Favorites

Hot Milk Cake:

1/2 c. milk
1 Tbsp. butter
3/4 c. Sugar
1c Flour
1 tsp - Baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 325 deg.
1) Put milk and butter in saucepan on low heat. Melt butter into milk. Do not let milk boil, but it should "steam".
2) Mix eggs and vanilla together until "airy" then add, slowly, the sugar to the egg/vanilla mix until dissolved.
3) In a separate bowl, add the remaining dry ingredients and blend well.
4) Slowly add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture until it is the consistency of cookie dough.
5) Add the hot milk to the mix and blend gently until thoroughly blended and "thin".
6) Coat a 8"x8" square or 10" round baking pan with Pam, margarine or butter and flour.
7) Place in oven quickly... The purpose of adding the milk/butter already heated to the mix is that it starts the action of the baking powder so the cake begins "cooking" before it gets to the oven.
8) Bake for 25 minutes or until a knife pushed into the center of the cake comes out clean...

Whole Wheat Bread:

This recipe gives loaves with a thin, crisp crust and a soft, but not grainy, center.. I made 1 loaf in a loaf pan and 1 braided loaf. Enjoy!

Step 1- grind enough wheat for 3 cups of whole wheat flour...

1/2 cup of water
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup warm water
1 package dry yeast 
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups white flour (approximately)

Bring 1/2 cup water to boil. Add to it the milk , sugar and salt in a large bowl. Let cool to luke-warm. In a separate container add the yeast to a 1/2 cup of warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes... Add the dissolved yeast, whole wheat flour and 2 cups of the white flour to the first mixture. beat thoroughly then turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough and add more white flour as needed so it becomes easy to handle. Let dough rest for 10 minutes. resume kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size. Punch dough down and cut into two loaves, place in greased loaf pan (or form into loaves) and let rise again. Once the dough has risen, put into a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 minutes. Check bread and remove from oven when it makes a hollow sound when you thump your finger on it. Allow to cool on racks. Enjoy.


Four Baby Food Recipes

Here are a few baby food recipes...

Rice Cereal using "powder" 
1/4 c. rice powder (brown rice ground in blender or food processor)
1 cup water
1. Bring liquid to boil in saucepan. Add the rice powder while stirring constantly.
2. Simmer for 10 minutes, whisking constantly, mix in formula or breast milk and fruits if desired
3. Serve warm.

Rice Cereal with whole rice 
1/2 c. rice (brown rice, basmati or jasmine)
1 cup water
1. Bring liquid to boil in saucepan. Add the rice and stir.
2. Simmer for 20 minutes or according to package directions; stir 1/2 way through cooking time.
3. When rice is finished and a bit cool, add it in 1/2 cup measurements with liquid of your choice (breast milk, formula, water etc.) and puree as needed. Keep a watch as you puree so that the rice does not turn into paste!
4. Serve warm mixed with fruits, veggies and liquid of your choice. 

Oatmeal Cereal 
1/4 cup of ground oats (do not use the Instant or Quick Cook varieties), ground in blender or food processor
3/4 cup - 1 cup water
1. Bring liquid to boil in saucepan. Add the oatmeal powder while stirring constantly.
3. Simmer for 10 minutes, whisking constantly, mix in formula or breast milk and fruits if desired
3. Serve warm.

Barley Cereal 
1/4 cup ground barley (barley ground in blender or food processor)
1 cup water
1. Bring liquid to a boil. Add the barley and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking constantly
2. Mix in fruit juice or add fruits if desired
3. Serve warm

Chef's Notes:

These recipes came with permisssion from the site, Maryland Preparedness Forums.

Useful Recipe and Cooking Links:

K.A.F. recommended a site with a lot of recipes for storage food: EverydayFoodStorage.net.

Susan C. in Texas sent a link to a web site that has all sorts of mixes you can make yourself to save money. Susan notes: "Many of these mixes are healthier than store bought ones. OBTW, I find that these recipes call for too much salt."

Do you have a favorite recipe that you have tested extensively? Then please e-mail it to us for posting. Thanks!

F.J. pointed me to the latest over at Instructables: Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle.

   o o o

Two months without food: Swedish man survives for months in snowed-in car. (Thanks to Wally for the link.)

   o o o

Oh, but here in the States we have our own self-selecting candidates for snowy suicide: Couple survives three days stuck in snow on Girl Scout cookies, peanuts. Here is a key quote, that sounds all too familiar: "Searchers say it was difficult to find the couple because they were searching in the wrong area. The couple did not tell friends or family where they were going."

   o o o

Guide to Veterinary Drugs for Human Consumption, Post-SHTF

   o o o

A new free iBook for the iPad: Food Inflation: Gardening Just Makes Cents

"Had the Japanese [army's territorial conquest in Asia] got as far as India, Gandhi's theories of "passive resistance" would have floated down the Ganges River with his bayoneted, beheaded carcass." - Mike Vanderboegh.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Today we present another entry for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

My experience with a tax audit, real estate crash, rental house woes, foreclosures, layoff and bankruptcy:  

In a nutshell, we went from a 4,000 square foot home, worth more than $1 million, a vacation home, new RV, Mercedes convertible, Jeep, $50,000 SUV, 20 rental properties, a property management company and a great full time job...   To living in a modest rental house in the middle of nowhere.


I am a computer guy, have been since 1991. I bounced around a few companies gaining positions and knowledge.  Eventually I rode the dot com wave as a security and infrastructure consultant.

In 2000-2001 I had been working for a dot-com company, and at one point had enough stock options to retire at 35 years old, just needed to have the stock vest.  But, just before my stock vested, the bubble burst and I went from looking at retiring to looking for a job.  I had put all my extra cash into the stock of the company I worked for.  So, in addition to losing my job, my stock options, my retirement and my savings,  I also lost my drive for working hard at the “company” and going whole hog as an employee/leader.  I was very discouraged.

After finding another job, I decided that I had to try my own way to build a future for my family.

I started buying rental houses in 2002

The first one was very easy.  I found a house for $70,000 in a Tacoma, Washington hill top area.  I put $2,000 into the house, carpet, paint, flooring, bath fixtures, and a cheap fridge and oven.  I was able to refinance it for $100,000 and rent it our for $300 more than the payment.  This netted me $27,000 in a little over eight weeks with a $300 per month positive cash flow. I did this same thing about 10 times over the next two years, while still working full time as a computer guy.

As a result this developed into the following activity.
1. Started to sell real estate part time as an agent.
2. Started my own property management company.
3. I "biggered" everything (house, cars, trucks, boats, vacation home, you name it..)
4. Started to slack on my job, did not take opportunities that were offered to me.
5. Started counting the days until I could retire.... again.

By 2006 I was in deep debt, but had a $1 million plus in equity in the homes we owned.  It was around this time that real estate sales started to drop off in Washington which was late to the crash.  I figured what a great deal everyone else is missing out on.  I can surely refinance and pull out more cash like I have been doing for several years.  So I purchased three more homes in the beginning of this year.  They were not cheap, I was paying $150,000 for a home that was $100,000 just three or four years before.
Another huge thing that happened to us was an IRS tax audit.  They found a $500 dollar expense that was supposed to be a loss.  This was not a big deal but they opened both 2004 and 2005 taxes to audit.  As a result, a $500 dollar mistake turned into a $120,000 fine and back taxes owed.

We battled it out for several months but eventually I had to hire an attorney and we settled for about $57,000 cash.  

And yet another thing that happened in 2006 is the re-opening of a  low income housing to Section Eight ("Sec8") recipients.  this category, mostly for single moms, Sec8 was the bread and butter of rent in Tacoma.  They paid high rent and 70% of the rent was paid by the local Housing Authority.

The HA did not get enough interest in clients renting out the new HA homes so, in order to push Sec8 renters into the new homes, the HA started failing my houses on the safety inspection.  Which costs me thousands of dollars per house to fix.  Then after paying for the repairs, they told the tenant they can move into the new HA homes without any up front expense and would provide new furniture for them, and that they had no requirement to give notice to the current land lord.  I had 4 families move out without notice.  They left the homes trashed. I decided to get out of real-estate.

We sold about three of the homes and was surprised at the outcome.  My tax hit was a bit more, my fees were a bit more and as a result I felt as though I gave the house away.  It was not a good feeling after putting in so many hours to fix them up.  I certainly did not get any money in my pocket by selling them.  
At some point, I learned about renting houses out in the “Clean and Sober” model. I started a clean and sober housing company and rented beds rather than the house.  My main client was the Department of Corrections.  They provided tenants recently released and on probation for drug convictions.  This required me to cover all utilities and furnish the houses.  I also had to put coin op laundry machines in all the houses.  In return I received $315 dollars per month per tenant.  A five bedroom house could house ten tenants if at full capacity.  However, this never happened, they were always about 60% full.

I was still cash poor.  In 2007 I refinanced most of the rental home in order to pay off the IRS, repair damages to many of the houses, buy coin op laundry for all the houses, pay for the expenses of the new company until the homes were furnished and occupied by new "clean and sober" tenants.


At this point, house values have fallen so much that selling these homes was impossible.  I had refinanced them and did not have the equity to sell and pay the fees and taxes.
The clean and sober renting scheme never quite paid for the payments of the homes.  If I had not refinanced them in the “third” place, the payment would not have been as high.
I was running out of cash very fast.  The only income I truly had at this point was my job, but just my monthly take home pay would not even cover the house payment and utilities of my primary residence.  I still had two car payments, RV payment, vacation home expenses and food.  But above these, the expenses for 18 investment properties that were not performing.

I decided to take out a second mortgage on one of my rental houses.
With the new cash, I was good for another year and tried my hand at flipping houses.  Which turned out to be a horrible mess.  I had done a few in 2003 and 2004, and they had made me some quick cash. But this next one destroyed me.  The details are another story in just itself, but to sum it up.  I paid way too much for a home.  It had huge issues that I was not aware of, and I signed away my rights to find out this information.  The worst part is, that I used a business partner who had become a friend of mine.  I ended up taking out a second mortgage on each of my four best houses.

The flip house got red tagged while working on a foundation repair.  While going through the violations and getting a permit, they decided that since I was adding over 50% more value to the current zero value of the structure I must bring everything up to code. For a 1920s home, this means wiring, windows, plumbing and worst of all septic.  The septic was over $30,000 alone.

Midway through 2008 I was out of cash again and mo more capacity for more loans on the rentals.
Then the mother of all problems happened.  A contractor who had been developing a small tract of homes in the Tacoma area was not able to sell them or rent them.  So, he went to my clean and sober homes and invited them to move into his new clean house.  No rules, no drug screening and half the rent payment.  So most of them took him up on it.  I had four houses empty of all but one tenant in the same day.   This is a direct violation of their probation, so all of them ended up back in jail within 48 hours, however this ruined my cash flow and buried me again.
I was really in deep now.

My last ditch effort was to refinance my primary home. I used a different money guy because I was so embarrassed of the mess I was in and I was afraid that my flip partner would want all the cash out of the re-fi to get back some of what he had put in. My intention was to complete the flip, sell it and fix the mess.

At the last minute signing the re-fi, again had a poison pill.  The truth in lending (TIL) report, showed that my payment went up a little from what the loan man had told me, but the interest rate was up much higher.  They tried to hide it by not including the taxes and insurance.  (My property taxes were over $1,000 per month.)  Also, the fees were bigger. And it went from a five year ARM to a three year term. I thought I would get $30,000 back but only got $26,000.  I didn’t want this deal, it was pure bait and switch predatory lending. But, I had no choice, I needed the money now, So I signed the deal.

At this point, my fate was sealed.
There was not enough money to complete the flip house and it was later condemned.  The county not only condemned it, but forced my partner to pay for the removal of the home.  He ended up with a worthless un-buildable vacant lot that he paid more than $200,000 for.  I do and always will feel horrible about this.
We were at the point where we had to stop paying on something.  We decided to consider which homes we would keep and which homes we would let go.
The rental houses and apartments would not work, they were all in Tacoma in areas.  The only one that would work is our vacation home.  Which was 100 miles to the east and only accessible by snowmobile 4-5 months out of the year, but the payment was manageable and the home still had some equity left.  Also, we would not have to face the people we knew who would watch my life go from riches to rags.  So, we decided to move to the cabin.

We didn’t know anything about foreclosures or time frame of what happens so we planed to move ASAP.  We made one house payment on the new re-fi.  That was all.  

We moved

My commute went from 45 minutes to 90 minutes, but I was okay with that.  We loved the cabin.  With working 2-3 jobs since 2002, we rarely went on vacation or took time to do anything as a family.  When we purchased the cabin as a vacation home in 2005 we started to become a close family. So we looked at this as another adventure.  We started to prepare for the events that were about to happen.

As we moved we had the primary house up for sale.  After a few weeks I called the bank and found they would not talk with me unless I was 90 days late.
Once that 90 days hit, they started calling me.  The person on the other end of the phone was not a knowledgeable person, yet they said they were the decision maker on my loan restructure.  I realized they were just pumping me for information.  I thought it was strange that I must fill out all this stuff, when I had already gave them when I got the loan in the first place.

Through all this, I had no one to talk with.  Apparently I was the first person in my circle to go through this.  I felt about 3f tall and went rather recluse and sad all the time.  
Moving was a chore.  Saying good by to neighbors was hard and embarrassing.  Lots of unspoken questions.  How could a young guy go from being on top of the world, to nothing in just a few months.  At first we did not tell anyone what was going on, but after a few awkward conversions, I started to tell the whole story, or at least what the story has been up to that time.

Lessons Learned:
 We went from a 4 car garage, 4,000 sq. ft. home to 2,000 sq. ft., no garage.  We had so much stuff it was crazy.  We did not have a garage sale because we were embarrassed about our situation.  I ended up giving away stainless steel appliances, riding lawn mowers, patio furniture and lots of house hold furnishings.  We just wanted the house empty. We certainly should have had a garage sale, we gave away thousands of dollars worth of stuff.

We also had to figure out how to manage living in a snow country a home in winter.  We would be snowed in 4 to 5 months every year.  We needed to stock up on food and supplies or end up making multiple trips up and down the steep one mile road on a snowmobile loaded with groceries.  After having the home as a vacation cabin for a few years prior, we knew what was coming and decided to stock up and be ready,  We also had to add a wood stove, a propane stove and cut several chords of wood.  We also wired in a generator and a way to store extra gas for it.  We basically took care of our family needs first and would figure the bank stuff later.
As it turned out it was an adventure.

After moving and living there for five months, the winter set in and we were snowed in. Then, I received a layoff notice.  The last few years of playing real-estate mogul had caught up to me.  When they looked at the entire group, I had gone from a leader, to a loser.  I was now the weakest person. I did not tell anyone what was going on us now. Sure, I was a big mouth when times were good, bragging about retiring early, telling them I live in a house next door to the vice president of the company (which I really did).  “Pride cometh before a fall” and it was a big fall.  I had just eight weeks before I would be canned.

Lessons Learned:
 Now up till this point we were still running our rental homes. With hind sight, we should have stopped paying the rental house payments when we stopped paying the primary house payments.

Enter the lawyers

I already knew that we were going to lose our McMansion to foreclosure, and now I was going to lose the 18 rentals to foreclosure as well.  I also knew I would have a few months of “free” money while I was waiting for the foreclosures to take place. I figured I would still collect the rent and not make the rental house payments. Since I was going to get canned at work I had to be sure that I made this one time free cash go to good use.  I also made an appointment with a bankruptcy attorney.

Lessons Learned:
Be careful how much you tell your attorney up front.  They write everything down and never forget what you tell them, so you really need to ask them questions and not have them ask you.  As a result, I would have liked to use the first attorney I talked with, but felt that I had to have time to “prepare” for bankruptcy.  I needed answers, not the kick off to starting the process.

 All of this is my experience, from my view point, check the laws and rules in your area for the facts.  Also, keep in mind that I have not lied or tried to “get away” with anything, I simply needed to know the rules so I can stay within the rules.  Some say I take advantage of the situation, and I must say I have.  Only a fool would not try to make the best out of a bad thing.

Lessons Learned:
I have found that the attorney will just tell you what you need to know and not much more, after all they get paid by the hour and they can’t read your mind.  They are the professional in the room and you are not, and up until a year or two ago, most of their clients were plain idiots.  The best thing that worked for me was to study the heck out of my situation then ask the attorney if what I understand was correct.

Initial questions

1. Can I collect rent even though I am not paying the mortgage?  YES.  The house was still mine, I was just not up to date with the payments.
2. Do I need to tell the tenants what is going on? NO. They are renting from you on a month to month basis, either party has only a 20 day notice to terminate the agreement.  If it’s a lease, the lease is null and void when the house changes ownership.

Lessons Learned: 
The attorney didn’t understand these questions.  They think that you would not receive any money from rent and if you did get any money you would pay what bills you can.  Understand the goal of the bankruptcy laws.  The goal is to have you pay off as much as you can.  Only if it’s near impossible do they let you off the hook.

3. When can I declare bankruptcy?  After your rental houses are foreclosed on, you cant keep any investment real estate.
4. Can I keep my house?  YES, maybe...

Lessons Learned:
  Again, most people are down to the nub with no income.  So, some of these questions are new for the attorney.
YES, but do you want to? if its underwater, it will not come back for 10+ years.  If you have more than 30,000 in equity, no you can’t keep it.  If the payment is significantly higher than the going average housing expense for your area, then no you can’t keep it.

5. can I keep my cars? YES/NO  you may keep two, the value must be under $3,000 each.  However if you are going chapter 11, you can keep a more expensive car if you have no equity in it and the payments are low.  
Lessons Learned:   The task is to have you pay off as much as you can, if its better in the long run (5 years) to have you keep the car you have, and make the payments rather than save up for another $3,000 car, then OK.

6. Wedding rings, furniture, TV, stereos ,and stuff?  There is a dollar amount you are allowed to keep. if you have valuables, extra cars, boats, rvs, motorcycles..  you need to get rid of them ASAP.  

7. What is the time frame of looking at my finances?  The court will want six months worth, but your attorney wants six months worth from when you start talking with them. So in our case, it was over a years worth of history. This is why you need time to clean up your history.  This is why we needed to understand the rules.

Lessons Learned: 
 The attorney is putting their job on the line when they represent you.  So they will not lie or even allow anything that may be slightly under the table.  They will need all the information and they will not hide anything from the judge.  I know we hear attorney/client privilege on TV, and yes, that does exist, but they will rather just quit and not represent you.  You are just another client, you are no O.J. Simpson.  Also keep in mind, you are going to the courts on your initiative, nobody has asked you to show up and go bankrupt, you are asking the court for bankruptcy protection from your creditors.

8. Can I give stuff to my family to hold until I am through BR? NO, this is fraud.  You need to sell the items and use the money for the good of your situation. (Costco, shoes,
gasoline, car repairs, tires, cash to spend because all of the above no longer takes your checks.)

9. Should I pay a little on each bill? NO, if you are planning on having that debt dismissed, pay nothing at all.

10. Can I pay my grandpa back the $10,000 he gave me to learn how to weave baskets? NO, that is called favoritism, if you do this, it’s big trouble.  They can go after grandpa and that may be worse. Pay grandpa back by showing him you have learned your lesson.

11. My stuff (wedding ring, gun, silverware, etc) has been handed down to me from my Mom.  I simply cant let it go?  NO, give it back to Mom and get yourself a little ring with a diamond chip in it from the pawn shop.  Or, keep it, list it as your property, and keep it within the limits set. You are allowed to keep a certain dollar amount of your stuff, use it wisely.

12. When should I stop paying credit cards.?  When you are done using them.  Most people have them maxed out for a year before they go bankrupt.  So use them, evenly and at some point they will all be full, then stop using them.  Some people live off the credit cards when there is no alternative, this is common. [JWR Adds: Continuing to borrow when you have no intention of paying the money back is theft, plain and simple. Resist the urge to do so, just because you can get away with it.]

13. What happens to a second Mortgage on my houses?  They will not foreclose on you.  They will continue to go after you like a credit card, and when your house sells, they will get any little bit that is left over after the first and taxes are paid off.

14. I am supposed to give my attorney a list of everything I have bought and sold for the last two years? YES, you need to make a list of everything you bought and sold that is over $100 for the last two years.  Everyone's name and contact information, the amount of the transactions and detail description of what it is.

Lessons Learned:
 This is why you need time to sort all this out.  Don’t worry about the bill collectors, they will keep, just string them along.  I recall I sold a couple of things on Craigslist, didn’t get the detail info on who they were.  I recall I went to the casino and blew a few hundred bucks.  It’s not illegal to be stupid, just stupid.

15. When my house is foreclosed on, can they come after me for the difference?  Not usually.   In a foreclosure the contract spells out that if you default, they take the house.  This is on the first loan typically.  If you have a second, that gets detached and follows you around just like a credit card.  The only way for the banks to come after you for the balance of a first mortgage is to execute a judicial foreclosure.  This is rarely done because it requires significantly more time in the court systems and more complex than the robo signers can handle.  So to get around this, the banks offers to split up your debt, this helping them and screwing you. Many people got screwed with a “fix” to their loan problem by taking what they owed and splitting it into two parts.  Little did they know that it just increases the liability on the owner and lessens the liability on the banks.  All done under the disguise of “helping the owner”.

16. What about taxes? If you owe taxes already, that's it, you owe it.  But if you file for BR before you owe the taxes you may be able to declare insolvency.  With so many houses going back to the bank, they each sent me a 1098 form.  This form tells the IRS that the bank has forgiven you the difference of what you owe and what they consider the home worth.  So that can mean huge reported income.  However, if you can prove insolvency, the debt goes away.

Lessons Learned:
You also need a tax attorney, the bankruptcy attorney will not touch taxes.

Questions about owning a rental house.
(and this also includes any house)

1. Should I short sell?  or Foreclose? Foreclose!  A short sale you have the sign up, everyone knows your business, everyone knows your on hard times, you will not get anything for your efforts. You will need to leave the place perfect and clean up after the fact.  You will still be liable for anything you did not disclose.  Most of the short sales fail now because the banks are getting a full bailout for the total debt plus expenses.  Then they get to keep the house in the shadow inventory off market so the surrounding homes do not go down in price.

2. How long till they take the house?  1 year or more, they will say an auction will take place at ...this or that date...   but usually it gets canceled, and if you want to make it longer you can.  but even after the foreclosure you will have several days/weeks to move out.

3. What do I do when the bank posts a notice on the door of the rental house and the tenants freak out? Tell them you are restructuring your finances and they will be fine.  Tell them to just throw away any notices, you already receive them in the mail.

4. What about insurance and taxes? The bank will pay it to protect the house, and after the house is taken, you should call the insurance company and get a refund.  yes, they paid the insurance, but they charged you for it and took your house, it’s your left over money.  

5.  Its been four months, the tenants are getting notices every week and they are starting to get upset. Okay, I talked with mine, said “look, sorry, stay in the house and I’ll give you $100 off rent.  This takes time and the bank is being a jerk.”

Thank you Jesus!
My work situation changed,  two days before my date with the executioner, they reinstated me.  I have worked from home ever since.  I have been very appreciative of a good job.  This still did not fix our situation, but at least we would be able to cover basic expenses.

Repo cars, trucks and
We stopped making the payments on the RV. Before we let it go, we took a few road trips that we had been meaning to do.  Vehicles get Repo’d in just a few weeks.  If you miss two payments, its gone.

Then my wife's car had to go, it was a new Chrysler Aspen.  Very nice plush car, but about $10,000 underwater.  So with the cash we have been saving by not paying the rental house payments, I bough a 1998 Lincoln navigator.

Lessons learned:
You need to do this changing of cars early, there needs to be some maturing of this transaction.  “Yes I paid $5,000 for this car, but I got shafted, it’s only worth $2,500 book value and even less auction value. “

Waiting for the banks.

Still waiting for the foreclosures to take place.  With the cash we were able to save by not making any payments (except the cabin) we put new tires on all the vehicles as well as a set of studded snow tires.  All the little things that may have gone wrong were address and replaced.
We used this “quiet time” to buy and do things that were needed and may not have the money in the future.  Snow gear for the family, shoes, clothes, new mattresses.  Extra oil and filters for the cars, extra gas cans, extra gas, extra food, shelves to put the food on. Crowns on my teeth that had been put off.  Chiropractor visits that I would have never done.  A couple of family trips to Front Sight in Las Vegas to teach the family about guns.

Keep in mind that at this point all I have done is “learned” about bankruptcy and stopped paying on 20 homes.  I figured we were about three months before the foreclosure of the first house.  The phones were ringing with collection agencies. Then they would make offers.  “We can remove your 10,000 debt if you pay us 7,000 right now.”  It got to a point where they were offering 20 cents to the dollar.  

Lessons Learned:
Beware, if you take part in this, you are showing that you have a stock pile of cash and are playing debt games.  This is OK if you do not plan to file for bankruptcy.  But if you are planning to go bankrupt, stay away from making these deals.

Foreclosures finally

It took 11 months for the bank to foreclose on our McMansion.  However, the rental houses have at least another four or five months.
We had several tenants move out and trash the houses again.  Rather than fix them I just locked them up.  Eventually the bank will drop by and see the house is abandoned and they will board up the house.  If there are still renters in there, they will just keep posting notices.

Lessons Learned:
 Tenants think you are a millionaire, they wont understand the situation.  The further you are removed from them the better.  Don’t tell them anything. If you feel compassion for them, help them anonymously.   Also, collect the rent until the last day. FYI: All leases are terminated when the home changes owners, at least in Washington state.


The last foreclosure, finally our plate was clean.  No more tenant calls, ad running, credit screening, evictions, clean up, police reports, health department violations, housing authority inspections.  My rental house empire was gone.  

Lawyer up again.

Now with all the homes gone, the cars in place, and all the consumables stocked and placed, we were ready to talk to another attorney.  We went over everything from start to finish.  I recall one thing that we went over just about every two weeks was a check list of stuff in my house.  He always started with fur coats, which made me laugh every time.  I told him if I had any I would wear it to our next meeting.  Even though we went over the list a couple of times a month, he wanted to go over it again to be sure I was not changing my story.  Again, he is placing himself on the line as well as you. So give him what he needs.  Confidence and the truth about your situation.  He is building a story of you in the document.

Lessons Learned
: 401k’s are exempt from this. You get to keep what you have in there, so don’t dip into it until after you are complete.  If you touch it, it can be taken. Wait till everything is over before you dip into this and then maybe wait another six months.  Be sure to disclose all the detail about it to your attorney.

Our Day in Court

We had listed all the debt with all the contacts. All had been notified and we waited for them to come back with any questions or contested debts.  Our court date was set and we drove that morning to the court in Yakima.

Our attorney took us aside.  Said, “I didn’t tell you this because I didn’t want you to worry.” (Recall, they think all of us chapter 7s are idiots) “the judge will ask you questions, I have no idea what the questions will be, and you can refer to the document he is looking at.  He wants a clear picture of your financial life.  So be ready with your story.  In two minutes, be able to tell him what happed to you, how you ended up here today.”
We went into the court room.  There were about 25 people in the room, and only 3 men in suits.  The way courts run, the judge will usually take the attorney with fewest clients first.  Judges and Lawyers are the same type of guys.  So they  respect one another, they were very cordial and polite to one another.  So, since my attorney had just us, we went first.

We were sworn in after recording our ID, asked us a few questions.  He had me give my two minute speech.  Asked if anyone owed me money. Asked if I was planning to get any big money ($1,000 or more) in the future.  After saying no, he looked over the document again and then we were dismissed.
In the lobby, my attorney thanked us for the business, said hopefully we never have to talk again.

What now?

He said in a week or so we should get notification that we passed or failed.  If we failed we start over.  If we passed it was almost over.  He warned us, not to do anything for six months.  Don’t sell your cabin, don’t win the lottery don’t receive an inheritance, because the file will be on the auditors desk for up to six months, and they will review it. If they open it back up and find you are better off financially, they will rescind the discharge and have us start all over again.

Six Months later:

We put the cabin up for sale.
Three months after that we sold the cabin.  Moved a mile closer to town off of the hill and are now renting a house.  We were able to get a little cash out of the cabin, but not enough to change our lives.

We have since purchased a boat and an RV, all with cash we save up after the discharge.  They are old and have problems, but they are paid off.  (Yes, we are storing food and survival stuff as well.)

We live without credit cards.  We save for things we need and use a calendar to mark what gets paid and when.  We have checked out buying better cars, but just cant justify a payment.

Here are some details I have found that may be helpful.

  •  After two years from bankruptcy you can buy a house via FHA.
  • After three years from foreclosure you can buy a house via FHA
  • In King County, Washington, the max loan amount via FHA is $525,000 (40 miles away)
  • In Kittitas County Washington, the max loan amount via FHA is 271,000 (where I am)
  • There are tests to verify if you can go Chapter 7. These are: 1.) More than 50% of the debt you have is due to a failed business (not consumer debt)    -or 2.) The total amount you owe after liquidation is divided by 60 payments.  If you cannot pay even just 20% of that monthly payment you will fail the means test an can go Chapter 7.
  •  If your wife is out of work, have her hold off getting a job until this mess is done, its a good time to read up and gain some education.

You are not dishonest, you are in business, the business of doing what is best for your family.
I had to get my brain around this.  I made an agreement to pay for this debt, and these houses.  But must now do something else.  Do I feel bad?  Yes, but keep in mind this is just business.

Let's say you didn’t own the house, lets say you owned a business that employs 20 people.  Your business builds picnic tables for the parks department.  You have been doing this for five years.  But one day, the budget for the parks department gets cut, and as a result they can’t buy anymore tables from you. As a result not only do you have to layoff your employees, you have close down the business.  Feel bad?  Yes.  But it happens all the time.  Could you have stopped this from happening?  Sure, should not have built a business on the expectation of selling tables.  But you did, and you ended up making some money and employing 20 people.  Are you going to keep the shop and tools and machines and people there to do nothing?  No.  So everyone is canned, they go to the unemployment line.  You hock the tools and equipment for what you can, you break the lease and give back the shop.  Do you pay everyone the little cash you gleaned out of the business?  No, because you are a business person.

Why is this any different?

When you buy the house, sign for the credit card, buy the car, you sign a contract. The contract says exactly what each party must do.  The bank agrees to loan you the money and hold the house as collateral, you agree to pay the payments and use the house.  If you do not pay, the agreement spells out that they take the house.  That's it.  Simple.  No blame, no bad words, just action and reaction.  

Lets talk about the credit cards.

Here, they loan you money to buy stuff.  You agree to pay monthly and they give you more and more credit.  If you stop paying, they will try to get you to pay and in the end they will try to garnish your wages.  Keep in mind, they are not losing money.  They may not get all that they want but you have already paid them many times over and over in the years you have had this credit.  This is their risk, not yours.  They charge high rates for money they loan you specifically because it is unsecured.  They made the plan, not you.
One thing you should know.  These credit card companies will try to get money from you for a little while.  But eventually they give up on you.  They take this debt you owe and sell in to another company very cheap.  So if you owe $3,000 dollars, they will sell it to “ABC Recovery” for $200.  That's how much they don’t care about you or your debt.  They have already made their money and are just trying to glean as much as they can as fast and as easy as possible.

ABC Recovery then goes after you for the full $3,000 plus the $200 they paid for the contract.  Eventually they may sell it to another collection company for $200 dollars. Eventually one of these companies will try to garnish your wages if they can find where you work. Which brings us back to the beginning of this deal.  When you start getting calls from the creditors, they are not going to give you a “deal” they are not going to change your loan, or help you out.  They are trying to get you to give them all the information they can get on you.  This way, when they sell your loan to a recover/collection company, the more information, they have on you, the more they sell your debt for.
Also keep in mind, the collection companies are now using Facebook and Twitter to locate you and your income.

One last thing to think about:

When renting a car you get insurance for it.  If the car gets damaged, you have insurance, that is why you paid for the insurance, it’s no longer your risk of damage it is now the insurance companies. What if you did not damage the car? are they going to give you back the cost of the insurance, no, that is the risk you agree to.
Same with credit cards and all loans.  The risk on both sides are spelled out, don’t let anyone guilt you into not doing what you legally can do to provide for your family.  I don’t see the banks apologizing for the massive bailouts they got, in fact they act as though it never happened.

Life moves on

I am doing very well at my job and am no longer fearful that I will get canned The kids are doing great and my wife loves not having to snowmobile every day up and down the big hills in the winter.
We still can’t get a credit card, we have tried a few times.  And we have to educate the landlord when he was trying to screen our credit.  Again, people don’t get it, that you can have a great job and still go bankrupt and foreclosure.
This was a long process, but at this point we can just play the hand of cards that we have. I hope this story helps encourage others that find themselves in the same sort of boat we were in.

God Bless and remember Luke 12:15: "Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth."

JWR Adds: Again, a pending bankruptcy should not be used as a excuse for excess. Never, ever borrow money with the knowledge that you have no intention of paying it back. That is simply theft. Thou shalt not steal.

Dear Mr. Rawles:
Although the personal account of shingles yesterday served to communicate the degree of discomfort and event disability the disease can inflict, the writer was in error when he communicated that the vaccine for chicken pox (varicella) will provide immunity against shingles also. To the contrary, it appears that vaccination against chickenpox actually increases the rate of shingles in a population by about 40%. When one contracts chickenpox, the virus remains in a dormant form in spinal nerve roots; when an immunological weakness permits, it may reemerge as a shingles outbreak. (This is very similar to what happens with cold sores and genital herpes, both being from related viruses that also respond to acyclovir, etc.) Occasional
exposure to chickenpox acts as an immune booster that helps keep the dormant virus immunologically locked up in the nerve roots, thereby decreasing the probability of a shingles outbreak. The so-called shingles vaccine is attempting to replace this natural exposure with another series of occasional injections, the utility of which is unknown. It also is quite probable that the immunization of children will not confer a life-long immunity to chickenpox itself. This could lead to an increased rate of chickenpox in adults, for whom it is much more debilitating and dangerous. About 3/4 of chickenpox deaths are in adults, despite the vast number of cases being in children.

Essentially, we've taken a common childhood illness, chickenpox, and created a larger problem by immunizing against it. In healthy children, chickenpox is self-limiting, generally mild, and poses a very low risk of hospitalization or death. We're not talking about measles, rubella, diphtheria, mumps, or other real scourges here.

Another reason to consider not having one's children vaccinated against chickenpox is that the vaccine is prepared from a cell line (MRC-5) obtained through abortion of a 14-week old healthy boy. Although the abortion occurred years ago, there's no reason to make such reprehensible production methods financially rewarding to Merck and other pharmaceutical manufacturers, especially when the vaccine is not necessary. Vaccines can be produced through ethical means (non-human cell lines, human cell lines not obtained through abortion, chicken eggs, and so on) and it is our responsibility to require manufacturers to do so without exception.

Vaccines, like other medications, can be a blessing to mankind for which we should be thankful. Due to medical and moral concerns, they should not be prescribed or recommended indiscriminately. Best Wishes, - William T., M.D.

R.F.D. is spot on with the write-up, on .22 LR and to take this a step further,  everyone should do their own "field tests". Most people (My estimation) can not or will not spend enough range time to be proactive in having the hands on experience to get not only the right weapon but equally important the right caliber for them and/also the first hand knowledge of what they can do to both living tissue or objects.  I have over my learning period of 50 plus years and hundreds of thousands of rounds shot, understood that I wanted several calibers and types of guns for my use. For distances under 50 yards, maybe a hyper-velocity .22,  under a 100 a .223, up to 200 yards a .30-06, over 200 yards  my caliber of choice is a .375 H&H magnum.  Again my choices. 
I differ in my opinion about the .22 rimfire round, be it a Short, Long, Long Rifle, or the hyper-velocity Long Rifle hollow point.   In first hand experience at a shooting range in Kansas City, Kansas years ago I saw first hand an accidental shooting where one shot to the chest with a standard 22 LR bullet that entered and exited a man's chest killing him on the spot.  My years of outdoor shooting and hunting with most calibers and types of firearms allowed me to to make my own choices on what I determined worked for me.   As everybody has an opinion, the old adage "Do not believe anything you hear and half of what you see"  has worked for me.  As an example take a unopened Number 10 can of any type of food that has gone bad and use it for a target, lets say 20 to 30 yards,  using a .22 pistol or rifle (several barrel lengths in the same caliber would give you a hands on demo of velocity loss in short barrels)  and using a .22 LR CCI Stingers (which is considered to be a hyper-velocity hollow point)  watch what happens to the can when hit.  Its going to enter the front of the can with a pencil size hole but on the backside it will either split the can by exploding the contents or at the very least exit with a slightly larger hole (due to expansion of the hollow point bullet) with a bulging of the can due to energy transfer and a not so nice effect on the contents of the can.  Also try one-gallon plastic jugs filled with water, etc and you will get a  impressive result also.
In tests I have used .25 caliber, thru 9mm and .38, on junk yard autos in comparison to hyper-velocity 22LR ammo. Most automobiles are like tanks on the first round hits sometimes it will penetrate sometimes it will not.  I have been amazed that a standard 9mm and .38 Special round may not even penetrate the glass on the first round, though subsequent rounds may.  On metal and even plastic they can be even more limited.  But taking the same vehicle, and given it a hose down with CCI Stingers will be impressive.  I used to ask people if you had a situation where two combatants where only armed with pistols or were at a 100 yard distance shooting at each other one shooting a .22LR with Stingers versus the other armed with a 9mm or .38 Special, then who do you think is going to come out the winner?  My vote is for the person with the .22 LR every time. 
I have in my past poached deer at night for food, using a .22 LR hyper-velocity hollow point ammo. A double tap to the head at no more than 20 yards and I never had a deer that survived.  A body shot to the torso, might take one down, but as a hunter the only method is to humanely harvest the animal [with head shots].  In a worst case situation, I am not worried about being humane, just putting the threat down or out of action.   So my advice is make your determination through actual field testing in order to get it right for you. Bottom line, any gun that shoots is better than no gun. Furthermore, shot placement is also a big factor, with several rounds to ensure the outcome is on your side. 
Happy Trails, - John in Arizona

John Stossel: We are on the road to bankruptcy

As The World Revolving Door Turns: Former Obama official’s revolving door leads to hedge-fund defense project

Reader Tracy A. suggested this commentary from Mish Shedlock: Obama Wants Cheaper Pennies and Nickels; Why Not Do Away With Both [JWR's Comment: My solution would be to 1.) Balance the Federal budget and 2.) Revalue the U.S. Dollar, knocking off two zeros, and 3.) Begin minting real silver coinage again. But sadly, that probably won't happen in my lifetime.]

How Could Silver Short Sellers Cover Their Positions? (Thanks to Diana for the link.)

Tyler Durden asks: Why Were The Trillions In Fake Bonds Held In Chicago Fed Crates?

Items from The Economatrix:

Utah Panel Endorses Gold, Silver Commerce

Mortgage Settlement Not Only Thing Plunging Prices

Recovery Ending Event:  Big Oil Insider Warns of $5 Gas This Year

China Reduces Holdings Of US Treasuries To Lowest Levels Since June 2010

M.E.W. sent us this: Police 'Tank' Purchase Riles New Hampshire Town

   o o o

Reader Steven S. wrote to mention that there is a new link to the free PDF of John Pugsley's now classic book, The Alpha Strategy. And while you are at, put a copy of Nuclear War Survival Skills on the same thumb drive. (Thanks to Rocco for the latter link.)

   o o o

Sheriff Paul Babeu: Fast and Furious scandal is far from over

   o o o

The streets of Syria are starting to look... Libyan.

   o o o

KAF sent a link to some great analysis of economics and Montana's gubernatorial and legislative politics: Gently Crushing Glass Toes.

"But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
Therefore let us not sleep, as [do] others; but let us watch and be sober.
For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." - 1Thessalonians 5:1-10 (KJV)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Today we present another entry for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

No one, myself included, would recommend a .22 caliber handgun as the ideal defensive weapon. For that matter, I wouldn’t recommend any handgun at all as the ideal defensive weapon. We carry handguns because most of us find it a tad inconvenient to carry a tactical shotgun, or main battle rifle as we go about our daily lives, and most folks tend to get a little upset when you get on the bus with one. If I knew a fight was coming my way, my preference would be a crew-served weapon, preferably with the ‘crew’ in tow. So, a handgun, any handgun is at best a compromise. But then, we’ve all been around long enough to understand that life is a never ending series of tradeoffs. 

I will not debate the .22 vs. 'whatever' for self defense. If, by choice or circumstance, your only viable option should happen to be the .22 rimfire, so be it. I have no problem with my students who choose the .22 for self defense, regardless of the reasons. They all know that I advocate using the largest round you can handle easily, afford to practice with, and shoot well. But, we do not live in a perfect world. 

Rule #1 of gun fighting, is to bring a gun, and any gun will always beat no gun. I will spare you all the inane arguments, wives' tales, urban legends, and witticisms. Suffice it to say, the little .22 rimfire has been a heart breaker, and a life taker for more than 150 years. 

Shot placement will trump caliber, every single time. Since no one in their right mind wants to get shot with anything, fast, accurate, multiple hits with any bullet, including the .22 (which is the easiest round for anyone to shoot quickly and accurately in a close quarter engagement), will take the fight out of anyone. The most common stop is psychological, not physical. Most miscreants will cease their aggressive behavior after taking a well placed hit, or two, or three. With a lighter caliber, such as the .22, the heaviest, fastest bullet will usually produce the best results. The short barrels of most handguns employed in this role will not generate the velocity necessary for reliable expansion of most hollow points, since these cartridges are primarily designed for use in rifles. Penetration then, must be the primary goal, combined with rapid, multiple, well placed hits.

A 40 grain bullet making around 880 to 900 feet per second (FPS), or more from a 2" barrel (and there are several excellent choices available) will consistently produce penetration depths of twelve to fourteen+ inches in tissue after passing through 4 layers of denim. Most heavier .22 bullets will begin to tumble in the medium they’ve entered following impact, creating a larger wound channel. It matters little whether the round is a solid, or hollow point, since as noted in many previous articles, the velocity is insufficient to cause reliable expansion. 

Function trumps form. Choose a heavy for caliber (40 grain) round that functions flawlessly in your gun. .22 firearms are notoriously finicky about the ammunition you feed them. Bullet design is secondary. A perfectly mushroomed round which penetrated five to seven inches will rarely be as effective as a round that didn't expand, but penetrated to two, or three times that depth. Very fast and light bullets are impressive on small game and in gelatin tests, but the lack of penetration limits their usefulness in a defensive role. Therefore, I would not recommend any of the hyper velocity, or super fast light bullets that are so popular for small game, since they tend to disintegrate before they can penetrate to a depth of any consequence, and don't provide the weight/mass to penetrate as deeply if they hold together. They were designed and intended for use in rifle length barrels, and will probably not meet your expectations from a short handgun barrel. 

According to the FBI Ballistic Test Protocol, the performance standards are simple. A handgun bullet must consistently penetrate a minimum of 12 inches of tissue in order to reliably penetrate/strike/damage vital organs within a human target, regardless of the angle of impact or intervening obstacles such as arms, clothing, etc. More than twelve inches is even better, and multiple wound channels will always beat a single wound channel.

Let's put it all in perspective: A triple tap to center mass with a proper (40 grain) .22 caliber bullet would be the equivalent of being run through to the hilt 3 times in rapid succession with a 14 inch screwdriver, or taking three quick bolts from a powerful crossbow. Think about that for a minute. These are, at the very least, debilitating, and often, life ending injuries. That's three chances to pierce the heart and/or lungs, or to nick or pierce a major artery, or to strike the spine. All of these hits have proven to be fight stoppers. 

A fast, controlled triple tap with three 40 grain .22s will result in putting 120 grains of lead, and about 220 collective foot pounds of energy on the target virtually simultaneously, with 3 separate wound channels and penetration sufficient to damage/destroy vital organs, and/or the central nervous system (CNS)--in the case of the spine. Were they not sufficient, a second string in the face of your attacker, where the bone is thin and fragile, could result in central nervous system strikes, and bring an immediate end to the altercation, or at the very least, cause him to reassess his rapidly dwindling options. We tend to worry, and argue ad infinitum about knockdown power and one shot stops, but the truth of the matter is, people just don’t like getting shot, especially more than once. The secret to increasing the effectiveness of any bullet in multiples of 100% is as simple as firing another one. So unless you’re facing Sasquatch, even the diminutive .22 can, and does, get the job done quite well, as long as you do your part.

Learning, and practicing to shoot strings of triple taps quickly and accurately at 7 yards or less with a .22 and the correct ammunition is very easy to do, and will provide a great deal of comfort to those who, for a myriad of reasons, have chosen, or been limited to the .22 for self defense. [JWR Adds: While I'm definitely in the "use enough gun: camp and tend toward .45 Automatics, I've had two consulting clients with wrist problems that precluded them from shooting anything more powerful than a 5.7 x 28 or a .380 ACP. My advice: If you are thus limited, then make up for it with the very best training that you can afford (be willing to travel to do so) and and practice very frequently, to achieve masterful speed and accuracy.]

Almost every maker of firearms has one or more .22 caliber semiautomatics, or revolvers in their line, and for good reason. This little cartridge has been going strong for 154 years. .22 rimfire handguns are for the most part, relatively inexpensive, lighter in weight, smaller in the hand, and easier to manage than their centerfire counterparts. Most reputable dealers sell their firearms for twenty, to twenty-five percent less than the MSRP, and well-cared for used guns are abundant and fairly priced. Although many .22 semiautomatics are usually less expensive than revolvers, users may not have the strength to manually cycle the slide to chamber a round, or clear a malfunction on a semiautomatic due to physical limitations, or disabilities, which is the reason they’ve gone to a .22 in the first place. The elderly may have weak hands from arthritis or other conditions, and these folks are generally the ones who are most likely to need a dependable, low recoiling, easy to operate defensive weapon. Human predators, like all predators, target those whom they perceive to be weak and easy, and therefore the weak are more likely to suffer at their hands. For these people, the double action revolver is usually the better choice. Modern .22 double action revolvers chamber from 6 to 9 rounds depending on the size and manufacturer. Generally speaking, the higher quality the revolver, the lighter, and easier to use the double action trigger will be, although rimfire revolvers usually have heavier trigger pulls than center-fires due to the need for a heavier hammer drop for reliable ignition. The lightest and smoothest double action trigger I’ve found to date, is on the new Ruger LCR-22. Your mileage may vary. Revolvers have no slide to cycle, no magazine to break or lose, no manual safeties, levers, or buttons to operate, save the cylinder release latch. They can sit unattended in a drawer for 20 years, and will perform as needed when called upon by simply acquiring the target, and pressing the trigger. 

There are two options available in the semiautomatic format that provide an end run around the problem of having to cycle the slide in order to chamber a round. The Taurus PT-22 (double action only, available with both alloy and polymer frames), and the Beretta 21A (double action/single action), both employ tip-up barrels, and allow the loading of the chamber without having to cycle the slide. However, should a failure to fire, failure to feed, failure to eject, or double feed occur, the slide will have to be cycled to clear that weapon, and therein lies the rub. If you should own one of these two, and it runs flawlessly with the proper ammunition, it may be a viable alternative to the revolver. Magazines can occasionally be the cause of malfunctions. Always have at least two spare magazines on hand for any semiautomatic. Having more magazines than that is better.

Never put a semiautomatic handgun into service in a self defense role without first having broken it in, and/or checked it out, with 200 to 300 rounds, regardless of the caliber. No one should ever bet their life on an unproven gun. If problems develop during the break-in period, and do not rectify themselves before it ends, the prudent choice would be to repair, or replace that gun.

We must balance power, weight, size, and recoil before deciding upon the ideal, or at the very least, an acceptable handgun. A handgun must always be within reach, it must be easy for the owner to operate, and it must be comfortable and easy to shoot well.  A .22 in the hands of a skilled and practiced operator is far more deadly than a .357 Magnum being wielded by someone who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with it. For the price of 100 rounds of centerfire, you can put 500 rounds of rimfire downrange in training. That familiarization and training is a priceless asset when your response must be instinctive and immediate.

Bear in mind, .22s are dirty rounds and it is imperative that you always keep your gun clean and lightly lubricated. A dirty, or over lubricated gun may fail you when you need it most.

Cheap practice ammunition .22 rimfire is notoriously unreliable. If your life is going to depend on the gun going bang every time your press the trigger, I would urge you to purchase the highest quality, most dependable ammunition you can find that will run flawlessly in your gun. You may have to try a number of different brands before you find the one your particular gun loves. When you do, stick with it. In my experience, CCI Velocitors and Mini-Mags are manufactured to a very high standard and have never failed me. Aquila Interceptor rounds are Eley primed, are even faster, and have proven to be equally dependable. There are a number of other excellent rounds as well. Do not be concerned with 25+ yard accuracy. These rounds are for self defense, and that means an engagement at 7 yards or less, usually much less. Keep your gun clean, start slowly, and practice, practice, practice until you are able to place those strings of 40 grain triple taps into a 6 inch circle at 5 to 7 yards very quickly. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Start at the beginning, and in time you will become a force to be reckoned with.

The .22 Magnum cartridge is a more powerful, and therefore more effective choice (generally, a heavier, faster bullet) if you have the option of choosing. The difference in operation between the two on any given platform is for all intent and purpose, identical. The number of semiautomatic handguns chambered for this round is limited. The Keltec PMR-30 with its 30 round magazine is worthy of your attention. There are quite a few excellent revolvers available. The S&W 351PD is a gem, albeit very expensive. The difference in perceived recoil is negligible. The cost of the ammunition is higher, but it is, on average, manufactured to a higher standard, more powerful, and offers a higher reliability factor. Collectively, three excellent attributes. In longer, rifle length barrels the difference between the Long Rifle and Magnum can be dramatic, in short, handgun length barrels, not quite so dramatic. The major difference is the fact that several companies offer .22 Magnum rounds specifically designed to be used in short handgun barrels (Hornady Critical Defense comes to mind, and would be my first choice). These jacketed hollow point rounds are designed to both penetrate and expand at the velocities provided by short-barreled handguns, and are therefore a superior choice in a self defense encounter. On average, they are putting more foot pounds of energy on the target than a .22 Long Rifle from a short barrel, without the attendant recoil of a centerfire.

If you already have a .22 rifle in the loop (and you should), then moving to another caliber may not make financial sense to you if your have a substantial inventory of ammunition on hand (and once again, you should). You must however, resist the urge to use inexpensive, bulk pack ammunition in a self defense scenario. The higher quality ammunition recommended will function fine in your rifle, and will offer you the maximum chance of prevailing in an encounter with a handgun.

Both the .22 Long Rifle and .22 Magnum will serve you well as long as you understand their limitations, and learn to do your part without hesitation.

Above all, do not be discouraged by the armchair commandos decrying the virtues of the .22 as a defensive round. Most of them will probably pass away in their Lazy Boy with a beer in one hand and the television remote control in the other. They know not of what they speak. If, due to finances, disabilities, age, ailments, recoil sensitivity, or other circumstances, you find yourself limited to a .22 handgun as your only viable option to defend your life, and the lives of those you love, then learn to use it quickly and well. Maintain that weapon as if your life depended on it, because it does. Sleep soundly in the knowledge that you have done what you can to provide the means to preserve and defend innocent life as God intended.

Always remember, your gun is not the weapon. Your mind is the weapon. Your body and your gun are simply the tools your mind uses to bring your acquired skills into the fight. It will never be the gun... It will always be the gunner.

Practice equals competence. Competence equals confidence. Confidence equals winning. Make 'em count.

A Viable Centerfire Solution

Should you, or a loved one already own a centerfire revolver that can no longer be used due to recoil issues, that gun can be brought back online with ultra-light recoiling ammunition. I would urge you to consider the .32 Long wadcutter for all those old .32’s that have been sitting around forever in drawers, boxes, and attics. Several companies offer this light, mild shooting, and effective loading. These 98 to 100 grain wadcutter bullets can be fired from any five, six, or seven shot revolver chambered for the .327 magnum, .32 H&R magnum, or .32 Long. The recoil of this mild target load is about on a par with the .22 magnum in a steel framed gun. The bullet is on average, twice the weight of a .22 magnum with a 30% larger diameter, and at least the equivalent foot pounds of energy on the target when leaving the barrel around 700 to 750 FPS, and they will penetrate to at least the depth of the best .22’s. These advantages combined with the reliability of a centerfire cartridge, provide a viable option for individuals who cannot deal with standard, or high velocity loads, and already own a revolver chambered in .32.

If you already own a .38 revolver, but cannot handle even the lightest reduced recoil loads, Mastercast in Pennsylvania produces a 100 grain .38 Special wadcutter load that is the exact ballistic equivalent of the .32 Long wadcutter referenced above (100 grains at 750 FPS from a 2 inch barrel). The recoil of this round in a steel framed .38 revolver is virtually nonexistent. 

If you know someone who foolishly purchased an ultra-light, or air-weight alloy frame centerfire revolver without ever firing one because it was just so darn light, but then found that they couldn’t hold onto it, or control it when firing, even with reduced recoil rounds, the cartridges being discussed here might be the answer for getting that gun back in the loop as well. These rounds offer no expansion capability. They are designed to punch clean, caliber sized holes in whatever they hit, and they do it perfectly every time. These bullets cut instead of pushing a wound channel, and that’s a good thing. Their saving grace is penetration, which runs far out of proportion to what one would expect given the velocity at which they’re running. Prior to the advent of the hollow point design, those in the know replaced their round nose cartridges with wadcutters for social work. They knew even then, that the design just plain works for self defense.

Although these rounds would not be my first choice for the centerfire calibers being discussed in a self defense encounter, they offer us the opportunity to bring a gun that may already be owned, but cannot be used, back online. Any day you can convert a paperweight into an effective self defense tool, is a good day. When recoil is above all else, the determining factor in what is, and is not acceptable, then we must embrace the compromises that allow us to adapt the gun in question into a manageable, and viable alternative. A firearm suitable for self defense by someone who otherwise would have to remain unarmed, unprotected, and afraid. 

Are the huns that I've described the perfect solution? No, but, few things in life are. The line between suitable, and perfect is very narrow indeed, when lives may be saved, or the quality of a life may be improved exponentially by adding a means of self protection, and a little peace of mind, for those souls who previously had neither.

There are few of us without elderly, or infirm family members, or friends in our lives who cannot be helped with these options. The confidence and peace of mind that comes with self reliance is something to which we are all entitled, and if that gift of empowerment is within our capacity to give, we must exercise that responsibility whenever, and wherever we can. 

Should you take umbrage with my observations, opinions, or conclusions, then I would urge you to re-read Rule One.

Be well and stay safe.

My new Nissan 4WD Frontier is pretty well equipped…and conspicuous. Maybe it’s the 102” steel CB radio antenna whip that tipped the balance. Yeah, they make smaller ones, but for my first foray into CB, I wanted the best money could buy…my money anyway. And it turns out that you spend more money to go smaller and the reduction in size can challenge the optimized reception with respect to the wavelength of the transmission signal(i.e. in many respects, bigger is still better). Were it not for that tall waving wand in the sky, perhaps the addition of the two sets of off-road lights, contractor tool boxes, bull bar, roof rack, and headache rack might have gone largely unnoticed in my suburban enclave. I was actually able to conceal the Public Address (PA) speakers (front and rear) fairly well. In my first drafting of this article, I actually left them off of the rundown. They were hidden even from my recollection. I do have a winch mount on order, but my plan is to have that dismountable and store the body of the winch in one of the toolboxes to protect it from the elements or potential theft. Although a GPS is no replacement for superbly honed map skills, I once read that in the wake of tornados or hurricanes when all street signs have been obliterated, it might be helpful to have some knowledgeable, turn-by-turn guidance. So I got one. There is a map of my immediate area in the rear seat pouch, and I know I should ideally have more than one map. “Haphazard”, remember? It took the loss of cell phone service following the east coast earthquake of 2011 to encourage me to enlist other modes of communication. CB radio seemed to be the next most ubiquitous which did not require any special licensing. Each of these acquisitions was spurred out of some sudden realization of a latent ‘need’ which was more likely just a ‘want’ which I could justify in the name of preparedness. I will admit, the excitement of opening and installing the contents of each of those parcels over the past few months made what is often portrayed as a doom and gloom exercise into almost a hobby of sorts which I immensely enjoyed.

The concept of preparedness started for me just two years ago. While shopping in Barnes & Noble, I happened upon a copy of The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, a satirical, how-to guide for surviving the onslaught of the undead. It was a fairly entertaining read, made all the more enjoyable by the infusion of very practical considerations applicable to nearly any challenging situation. One piece of advice was to review existing survival and wilderness guides for general guidelines, as tactics specifically employed for the “killing” (if you can kill something that is neither living or dead is possible) or otherwise dispatching zombies would be the primary focus of this text. So I did. I picked up two more guides. Fast forward to last year’s "Snowmageddon" which was the ill-fated evening where a fast-moving and productive snowstorm enveloped the DC metro area just at the start of rush hour and gridlocked and stranded thousands of motorists. I was one of them in my trusty 4-door Honda Civic. On uncongested, snow covered roads, it responded rather nimbly in snow and I generally could count on enough room to maneuver should I get into trouble. But generally the idea was to always be a body in perpetual motion. This was simply not possible in stop-and-go traffic. I got stuck and with no provisions in the vehicle, was fortunate to get a quick push in the direction of a nearby shopping mall where hundreds of us wayward travelers had managed to scamper to and take up refuge in the food court.  I had always wanted a 4 wheel drive truck. This encounter solidified the need in my mind.

Fast forward again to this region’s significant earthquake in 2011. I was not the least bit fazed by the occurrence in and of itself. It felt like little more than the weekly trash collection in my office building where occasionally a new driver to the route roughly handles the receptacles down in the loading dock. What was more troubling is what I encountered when trying to contact my wife just to ensure that the house had survived in tact. Phones were down. I’m not sure about land lines. We do not maintain one at home. Cell phones were most assuredly down for about 10-15 minutes. Again, not an excessive lapse of service, but one which few of us anticipated. The cell phone is regarded by many of us “Sheeple” (I was one and still exhibit tendencies at times)  to borrow the phrase, as the be all end all of emergency preparedness and communication. We are lulled into complacency by believing that any service or need can be fulfilled by a timely call placed to the appropriate party or entity. So now, without any sort of coherent plan, I’ve got all these words of wisdom swirling in my head. And both the Civic, and the old beater truck (rear wheel drive only) are at just about the end of their useful service lives. I traded them in and began the journey of outfitting a new vehicle.

But first there was my own personality and ego which had to be overcome. I maintain a significant physical regimen and regard myself as possessing impressive intellect and ingenuity. So my approach to life was “Well, I’ll know how to respond if something happens and will have the physical conditioning to do whatever is necessary to endure any hardship.” And maybe  that can be justified for a single person, but now I’m a husband and will likely someday be a father. To pass on that legacy and demonstrate such dereliction of duty as the head of a household is entirely inexcusable.

So for me, the transitions have been from “nonchalant”, to “haphazard”, to hopefully “better planning” and orchestrations with my preparations than I exhibited on this fitout. My truck now is kind of funny (though survival is no laughing matter). I’ve made it into a kind of Swiss Army Knife of bug out vehicles (BOVs), including a chain saw in the back. Quick story on that is that my job told us prior to Hurricane Irene making landfall that we might be requested to come to the aid of some of our project sites. I work in construction management. I wasn’t worried about high winds (I’ve made this girl pretty heavy now) or high water; it was fallen trees that concerned me. I couldn’t very well drive over them, not without larger profile tires and a lift kit perhaps. But that will never be practical for me because I still make my living as a part time office-worker and office garages in the city do not afford that sort of roof clearance. Sigh. Getting back to my point, I figured I might need to cut any fallen trees up to clear a roadway. My ego liked that. “I could be a rush hour hero...” And now I could justify buying a chain saw. There has to be a practical limit at some point to curtail this form of vehicular hoarding that I was engaged in. As I went along, I did try to balance some of the tradeoffs in terms of weight, fuel economy, etc. I’ve also experienced some missed opportunities in terms of the locations of where some components I’ve mounted which were more cosmetic than utilitarian now occupying the ideal mounting locations of more practical additions. I’m now retroactively trying to improve my fabrication skills with a welder (another survival inspired purchase not specifically outfitted for the truck…yet)  to accommodate a front trailer hitch and the bull bar which is presently installed that I cannot exactly afford to simply throw away. Practicality will ultimately win out, but it is a tough pill to swallow at this juncture.

I’ve started focusing on some of the less sexy aspects of preparedness as they pertain to travel as well. It seems everyone focuses on food and ammo. One article on this blog dealt with the very real issue of water. I was embarrassed that I had three separate vessels for transporting and storing fuel and not even a Dasani water bottle in the truck. Terrible. That’s been corrected. I’ve got a 7 gallon jug now from Bass Pro Shops. I wanted bigger, but I reminded myself of the consideration that  each gallon is 8 pounds of cargo, and with a 50 lb pack and weapons, I’m personally well over100 lbs of carrying weight if I have to go over land. So I’m continuing to read and research in an effort to smooth out the ebbs and flows in my preparedness tide. I’d likely sacrifice the large portable in a fight-or-flight scenario in favor of the Nalgenes I’ve tucked into BOBs for my wife and me. I’ll have to become familiar with water bodies along our escape route such that we can employ the portable water purifier on the go. This brings me to my next point.

What I’m ultimately coming to terms with is that this vehicle (as sexy as it looks), with all that I’ve invested into it, is meant to be a means to an end. I’m merely supposed to travel from one destination to another. It should not represent my entire lifeline or the culmination of my preparation efforts. Should it become disabled, or no other passable routes exist, my very survival might dictate that I abandon it after salvaging whatever resources I can reasonably transport on foot. My efforts of late are actually aimed at reducing my dependence on the vehicle altogether. Communication was the biggest hurdle, as I set up the truck with the PA amplifier and CB radio as my communication hub. It was easy enough in response to this realization to acquire a hand-held CB. I still need to test out the comparative range. (Anecdotally, I read that it is less range, but some range is better than no means of remote communication).  The biggest practical drawback for me is that it is not a diesel engine. All of the posts tout diesel for its versatility of fuel options and that one could even endeavor to generate their own bio-diesel. Yes, I missed that on the dealer invoice. On the same token though, articles that advocate that our ideal bug out vehicle should be a pre-1980 Diesel Ford 4x4 miss the mark (in my humble opinion) in the sense that when the time to bug out comes, we might very well be at a dinner party, or commuting to work or in some other respect sharply jolted out of our daily lives and need to respond. And if this truly is the end of civilization for the foreseeable future, it’s not like I’ll have a regular need to travel down the road to the shopping mall even if I had extensive fuel stores. I’d likely be looking to power a generator or would have hopefully succeeded in setting up my BOL to be self-sustaining off of the grid. I just need this rig to get me there on whatever fuel I have on hand when it’s time to roll out.

Many of the articles talk about how the signs and the advance warning will be apparent leading up to a societal meltdown or destabilization. I may need to depart from the masses in the prep community in that regard. A rather insightful article I found here actually warns against being the lone, bunker dweller who alienates all friends and loved ones with eerie doomsday proclamations. That type of prepper is not beneficial to the cause according to the author. Their stance is that our mindset and practical considerations, when conveyed by a competent person who is an authority or subject matter expert may serve to encourage other loved ones to make their own personal preparations in advance of what is perhaps a more likely occurrence of a natural disaster or prolonged service outage of some sort which challenges conventional modern day life. So it might not be the end of the world as we know it, but more like the ‘end of my typical Tuesday’ which may evoke the need to enact some of the principles and strategies for which this community is renowned. The prospect has become a lot more palatable for my wife as I’ve framed some of these acquisitions in the context of us being able to embark on camping trips and enjoy the outdoors more together. I am not leading her under false pretenses. I am very up front with what my primary inclination and motivation is derived from. But in the end if ‘The End’ never happens, I wouldn’t want to have spent the sums of money and time and not ever had a use for my portable water purification system.

My parting advice is that I recommend self-performing any such improvements on your vehicle. I think the owner should be well acquainted with the intricacies of the outfit such that they are aware of any vulnerabilities and the various service points afforded to the user to ensure continued operation. I also found, in working through and planning the installations (this is the one area where I did employ planning), I considered pathways and approaches which afforded me the best chance of transferability or reusability of components. My CB radio could be hardwired directly to the battery. I instead opted to power it from a cigarette lighter so I could transfer it for use in another vehicle or just quickly extract it and salvage it for parts to be able to service the handheld CB radio I picked up. All in all, any effort that moves one from a state of dependency to self-sufficiency is effort well spent, even if the progression was a bit haphazard. I’ve definitely learned a lot through the various successes and missteps.

I noticed your description of "drip" as an alternative fuel in your novel "Survivors". Many years ago I was on a task force in Farmington, New Mexico to catch and convict "drip thieves". I was then a Special Texas Ranger and worked along with New Mexico Highway Patrol, local law enforcement officials and the then Tenneco Oil Company Security investigators. Theft of drip was very big then, as probably now due to the high cost of gasoline. I will share with you some of what we learned from the experts, the actual thieves we caught.

First of all it is not called "drip oil", but only "drip" in thieves term. It is actually what the oil industry calls "condensate" and as you correctly stated is a by product of natural gas production. It is the condensate liquid that forms from natural gas as it is produced from the wells. Some wells are "wetter" than others and produce more condensate. Those are the wells drip users look for. Wells produce through a well head valve system and flow through pipes to the collection system. Each well has a flow meter, usually a Barton type, that measures the volume of gas produced. Several wells may feed their condensate into what is usually a "210" barrel collection tank, also low points in the pipelines collect the condensate and are routed to the storage tanks. These tanks are the targets of drip users, which will fuel vehicles.

Drip users, which is illegal but common in areas where it exists, like the high gravity clean type, and different wells produce different types. One thief explained the tests he used to test drip, the spit test and the burn test. He would get drip from the valves on the lower part of the storage tanks, the 210 barrel type. He would first get a sample through the top of the tank by climbing the catwalk to the upper hatch, oddly enough called the "thief hatch", he would lower a small can into the hatch and obtain a sample of the condensate, either a coffee can or similar. Once he had several inches of drip, he would first spit into the drip and see how fast it sank, the faster the better the drip. If it lingered on top or was slow to sink, it was not what he wanted. If it sank and passed that test, he would light the fluid and watch the flame, if it was blue, it was great, if it was yellow or orange and let off smoke, it was too high in sulfur and not too good. Once he identified a good well, he always remembered where it was located.

One thief drove a van and had 55 gallon drums in the back that he would fill. The 210 designation tanks were 20' tall and gravity would usually fill the drums. He would also fill his own gas tank in the van. But, a good thief would always install a drain cock in his tank in case he got bad drip and had to dump it. Many thieves would use drip for mainly private consumption, however we caught some selling it to regular gas stations who would just mix it with their regular gas and sell it blended, no one knew.

Some thieves told us they needed to advance or retard their distributors a bit to get drip to run the best, but that was in a day before all this electronic fuel injection stuff.

I hope I did not go into too much detail, but now you have a basic idea of drip usage in vehicles and how it is stolen. If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to ask.

Regards, - C.R., Retired in Colorado

G.G. sent us this: The Upside of Government Default

Reader G.P. sent this from The Slog: A timetable for Greek Default?

Courtesy of Michael W.: Dollar Gets No Respect Despite Economic Gains. JWR's Comment: Genuine money is made of silver or gold. And honest paper money substitutes are redeemable on demand for silver or gold coinage. Anything else is trash. Thus, all of the world's fiat paper currencies are trash. Some of them are just trashier than others. I would characterize the U.S. Federal Reserve Note as like an aging, gap-toothed syphilitic harlot that is dressed in shabby green dress that has been trailing the tatters of a silver lining for five decades. But then perhaps I'm being too kind.

Items from The Economatrix:

Moody's Warns May Downgrade 17 Global Banks

Oil Rises To Three-Week High

Greece Stumbles Defiantly Toward Default. [JWR's Comment: Folks, are your ready for the potential cascade of events if there is indeed a Greek default on March 23, 2012? Be ready for currency devaluations, bank runs, stock market collapses, hedge fund failures, and more.]

A Warning Sign For The World

This company near Denver, Colorado might be of interest: RainyDayRootCellars.com. They make pre-cast concrete shelters that are multipurpose: root cellars, storm shelters, nuclear blast/fallout shelters, and storage vaults. OBTW, if you are wondering how to make a detached underground shelter disappear... just pile part of your supply of firewood over the hatch.

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Please note that my novel "Survivors" is not just available from Amazon.com. It is also available from Barnes & Noble, and several other Internet vendors. There is also a network of local independent bookstores, coordinated by IndieBound.com. Give the other guys some business, too!

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AmEx (American Expat) sent this news story from Champagne, France: Champagne house finds $1 million in gold U.S. coins in rafters. And, coincidentally, in Germany: Handyman finds secret gold stash in kitchen. (Thanks to Diana for the latter link.)

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How awkward! Michelle Obama surprises visitors on White House tour... and shakes hands with man in Ron Paul T-shirt

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Tim J. was the first of several readers to send us this: Mystery mountain man to Utah cabin owner: Get off my mountain. [JWR's Comment: Here is yet another example of the mainstream media misusing the term "survivalist." By definition, a survivalist is someone who trains and prepares in advance for self-sufficiency to overcome disasters. Backwoods burglars have to steal because they haven't prepared in advance and because they lack self-sufficiency skills. Ditto for Eric Rudolph, who was also mislabeled as a survivalist. If he had been a real survivalist, he wouldn't have to be scrounging in grocery store dumpsters--which is how he got spotted and arrested.]

"A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps." - Proverbs 16:9 (KJV)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Today we present another two entries for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

The migration of SurvivalBlog's web server to Sweden is complete. The new dedicated server is now humming along nicely with 5 Terabytes of available bandwidth, utilizing very fast dual-quad core processors. The kinks have nearly all been worked out. Now that the DNS propagation has been completed, SurvivalBlog is also back to a #1 ranking when you search "Survival Blog" in the major search engines like Bing, Yahoo, and Google.

We are now down to just one sticky issue with McAfee anti-virus software displaying a false malware warning when SurvivalBlog is visited. This is because our server's IP address falls in the numeric range of our new web hosting company, IT-Staden AB (aka "Server Connect") in Hudiksvall, Gävleborg, Sweden. (They are located about 170 miles north of Stockholm.) It seems that there had been some past indiscretions by some Swedish or Russian hackers that had been customers of the same web hosting company. Rather than pinpointing the particular IP addresses of the "bad boys", McAfee's software takes the sledgehammer approach and displays the warning flag for anyone using servers in large blocks of IP address numbers. I will be contacting McAfee about getting this rectified. For now, you can just ignore McAfee's malware warning message, but only when you visit SurvivalBlog.com.

Several readers have asked: "Why did you get a server in Sweden?"

In a nutshell, these were our reasons:

  1. First, and foremost, we needed to find web hosting in a country with a stable, neutral government that is not "Beholden to Holder." (Yes, SOPA/PIPA/ACTA--or something like it--is still a concern.)
  2. We needed a reliable server with high uptime. (Sweden has very reliable hydroelectric power, ane Hudiksvall is well removed from major European pupulation centers.)
  3. Lower cost for monthly bandwidth.

OBTW, for the sake of the integrity of our web statistics, please use our server IPv4 address ( only as a contingency access method, not as your primary bookmark. That should still be "SurvivalBlog.com". Thanks!

Some of my long-time friends can’t believe me now.  I was definitely a “city girl,” but now I’m a “wannabe homesteader.”  We’re living in the country now and I’m having fun learning to do a lot of “new” things.  Some of these things are just ordinary, every-day chores for people who grew up on farms, but for me, it’s a whole new way of life.  I’ve really enjoyed making butter and yogurt from the fresh milk we buy from the local Amish.  The first day I bought a gallon of milk from them, I told them I’d never had fresh milk before and the look on the young man’s face was priceless!  He couldn’t believe it.  Making laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent is saving us money, too – and it’s fun for me.  Something else that’s saving us a ton of money is heating with firewood.  Cutting firewood is something my husband and I do together several times a week and we really feel like a team, working our land together.  Working out in the timber, I feel so blessed that God gave us all those resources to help us.

My husband and I spent our honeymoon in the Ozarks and fell in love with the area.  A friend had found a very nice, reasonable mobile home near a big lake to use as a cabin.  We told him if he heard of another good deal to let us know and it wasn’t too long and we had our own “lake cabin.”   We lived in a major city in the Midwest and had high pressure jobs, so it was really good to get away as often as we could.  We enjoyed our lake cabin for a few years, but we both knew eventually we’d want to have an acreage with lots of trees and some kind of water like a pond or creek.  I was always watching the real estate ads and found an interesting acreage listed.  We called the realtor to get directions to view the property.  She was very nice and offered to meet us there, but we said no, we just wanted to take a look.  The directions were from the south end of town and we started from the north end, so the mileage was off and we had trouble finding it.  We stopped at a farmhouse to ask directions and after visiting awhile, discovered the man’s grandfather and my husband’s grandfather were brothers!  We really hadn’t thought of it, but my father-in-law was born in the area and moved away while in his teens and then his father moved the rest of the family later.  We didn’t even think about possibly having relatives in the area.

My husband started having health problems in 2008 and was in the hospital five times in three months.  In 2009 I had surgery for melanoma and had a second surgery in 2010 which turned out to be benign. (Praise God!).  We decided it was time to make the move, so as soon as we could get our house sold, we were heading down!  Our house was an old farmhouse I bought before we were married.  My dad helped me do a lot of repair when I bought it (because it was a dump!)  He was a contractor for over 50 years, so his help was greatly appreciated.  Later on we did more improvements, like aluminum siding, building an additional shed, an additional driveway, etc., but I wished we’d kept on doing little improvements and updating through the years.  When we were getting it ready to go on the market, we had so much work to do, it was overwhelming.  Our retired friend Jim, who had worked in construction for many years, offered to help us and I don’t know what we would’ve done without him!  The house was finally listed August 1, 2010 and we made a deal with prospective buyers on August 30th.  The deal fell through, but with much negotiation, had another deal with the same people towards the end of September and we closed on November 2.  Our last day at work was October 28.  We signed the paperwork at the title company ahead of time, so we were already enjoying a little time in Missouri, to celebrate.

It was several months before we actually felt like we actually lived at the acreage, instead of vacationing.  Part of that was due to several little trips we took within that first year.  I’ve told several people that feeling like you’re always on vacation, is not a bad problem to have!  My husband says retirement is a good job, if you can get it.  The only way our life could be any better, is if we had more money.

In the late winter and early spring, I started some seeds for the first time and boy, did I have fun!  My plan was for container gardening since the soil is very rocky and has a high clay content.  Unfortunately, there was a terrible hail storm while my plants were sitting out on the deck hardening off and they were hit hard – literally!  A neighbor down the road received $19,000 in hail damage and the people across the road from him had $25,000 damage.  We are ¾ mile from them and we had our roof checked out and the roofer said he only saw three dings!  Later our neighbor said he thought he saw damage on our roof, just while standing on our driveway, so we had another roofer check it out.  He said he saw a couple places where it’d be good to pound down a couple nails and caulk, but that was all.

I had a big container garden to try out a lot of different plants to see what I’d prefer.  According to many long-time gardeners, I picked the wrong summer to try gardening for the first time!  People that had gardened for 50 years were not very successful that year, so it’s no wonder my gardening efforts were pretty much a flop.  With the extensive heat wave and the “varmints,” I didn’t have much to show for my efforts.  I learned a lot. One of the lessons was to do a better job of fertilizing!

I was looking forward to canning bushels of produce from my garden, but that was not to be.  Even without a successful garden, a friend was church taught me how to can and I’ve canned peaches, apples, apple butter, loose meat hamburger, meatloaf, chicken, chicken soup, ham, bacon, navy beans and beans with bacon.  I’ve also had fun “vacuum canning” dry goods like pasta, rice, beans, sugar, salt, etc.

I had hoped to invest in solar power, but we just didn’t have the money for it.  We have a Hardy brand outdoor wood burning stove to heat the house and the water.  We love it!  Since we have a double wide mobile home, we weren’t able to “plan” any of the construction details, like insulation, windows, etc., so we try our best to be frugal and conserve energy.  I’m extremely frugal anyway, so it’s kind of a challenge to see how little electricity we can use during the month.  I keep track of the actual usage – not counting the connectivity fee or tax.  The lowest we’ve used is $29 for the month.  We’ve had a couple $29 months and a $30 month.  It was harder when we had the heat wave last summer.  I think the highest was $77, so after the fee and tax it was almost $95.  That month some friends had a bill of over $300, but they have a two story stick-built home.

In past years, there have been some serious winter storms with some areas being without power for more than two weeks.  After experiencing a terrible storm several years back and being without power for a few days, we wanted to do the planning and prep work to be able to sustain power for our home during an emergency power outage.  We have two generators – a small one and a new larger one.  We had a licensed electrician come and figure the best way to avoid trouble.  Now if there’s an outage, we’ll throw a power transfer switch and plug in the generators and we should be okay.  The smaller generator will service the water pump and larger one will be for the house.  We still have to go through and identify the primary circuits we want to power during an outage.  It feels good to prepare as well as we can to avoid trouble.  We have built up a reserve of gasoline and have treated it with stabilizer to keep it good.

I believe that everyone needs to prepare as much as possible for other types of emergencies as well.  Last year we installed a storm shelter and I’ve been putting supplies in the shelter.  It’s pretty small, so I’m being selective about what to put in there.  The devastation of the Joplin tornado gives cause for reflection and inspiration to stock our shelter well.

An economic emergency is something else I think people should consider.  The state of our government is a big cause for worry for many people – including me.  It wouldn’t take much to disrupt our normal distribution system, which could mean that the grocery stores would be empty within a few days or maybe even a few hours.  I believe it is very, very important to keep that in mind.  Too many people only have enough food and other supplies for a few days or weeks.  A friend of mine told me her son and daughter-in-law in New York shop for their groceries daily.  Their apartment is so small that they don’t stock any groceries.  Apparently, that’s common in New York – yet another reason why I prefer to live in the Midwest.  In case of any kind of disaster, there would be a whole lot of hungry people in that big city!  Imagine the unethical people thinking they’d just take what they need from others.  I think everyone should be building up their supply reserve – even if it’s just a little at a time.  When you’re grocery shopping, try to prioritize so that you can buy a little extra of the basics that will store long term.  Space is an issue for many people, but what I’ve found is, the more you look around and the more you organize, the more space you can find.  It also inspires me to get rid of excess “stuff” and ours goes to a thrift store that benefits the Humane Society--one of my passions!  The more you prepare, the more peace and security you will have – regardless of what’s going on in the news.

Thinking of the evil people who were too lazy to prepare and thought they’d just take what they want reminded me of something I heard a few weeks ago.  We’ve been attending some readiness meetings put on by a discount grocery business that specializes in helping people prepare for emergencies.  A man in attendance said he has a bumper sticker on his truck that says “Don’t tread on me.”  A young guy at a gas station asked him where he got it and he told him.  The man was suggesting that he start preparing for difficult times.  That young guy said he didn’t have to prepare – that he and his ex-military buddies would just take whatever they wanted from others.  He said they could go into anyone’s place and just take what they want.  That was right here in our little (ostensible "safe") town!  One year in the 1990s our town was voted the safest city (per capita) in the nation.  Something else that some of my long-time friends probably would be shocked at, is one of the ways we chose to prepare.  Both my husband and I decided it was wisdom to get our concealed carry permits.  The world is changing – and not for the good!  I truly believe we have to be prepared for all kinds of trouble.

I don’t know your religious beliefs, but I believe that my husband and I were being led to prepare.  Our preparing isn’t like some people, with bomb shelters or the like.  That could be due to financial lack, but I like to think it’s more the path of our leading.  I felt that we were being led to “prepare for difficult times.”  I believe that God has been leading many more of His people to also "prepare for difficult times."  Part of His plan may be to have certain people strategically placed so that they can help others.  I’ve known for several years that part of my calling is to help others – this may be one of the ways.  The friend at church who taught me to pressure can foods at home also feels that she may be called upon to share her reserves with her church family.  That’s why she and I both have been packaging some of our long-term storage into smaller containers – in case we need to share a quart or two of beans and rice or whatever with our friends and neighbors.  If everyone will prepare with the thought of sharing with friends, relatives and other people in need, then those difficult times may be a little easier! 

I want to encourage people – everyone – to prepare.  A little at a time, can by can, jar by jar – week by week, and month by month. Before long you could stand back and admire your “investment” in peace and security.  If an ignorant “city girl” like me can learn how to make butter and yogurt, to can all kinds of food, to make her laundry and dish soap, to help cut firewood almost daily – and to actually enjoy it, then anyone can learn the skills necessary to start on the road to self-sufficiency!

A recent conversation prompted this article. It seems that friends in urban and suburban homes feel that there may be little hope for them in case of disaster, since they have no “retreat” set up in a rural area as a destination. This article points out similarities in all disaster preparedness, as well as possible differences in strategies and tactics to make surviving in urban and suburban locations more likely. None of these are new ideas, just slanted toward those who are urban/ suburban dwellers and that do not have a rural retreat location.

While not detailed in scope, below are several points to assist in preparedness for survival in urban/ suburban locations for those who cannot or will not choose to relocate to a rural existence.

  1. Attitude is Critical. As in rural retreating, or any other kind of survival situation, urban and suburban dwellers must adopt the attitude that surviving the bad time is an achievable goal, and whatever can be done to ensure survivability will be done. It may not involve acres of tilled soil or forests of trees, but in all except situations of total annihilation, people can survive in urban/ suburban spaces if properly prepared.
  2. Air. Three minutes without breathe-able air is a problem. Urban/suburban dwellers may find the air more polluted than the rural tribes from fallout, burning buildings, any number of hazards. Gas masks and adequate replacement filters can go a long way for personal protection, but also consider the sealing of your living space (the infamous “tape and plastic” that FEMA so indelicately told us to stock) as well as a filter and fan for incoming air to pressurize and provide air changes in a living space. Coarse filters (like bandanas or sheets) stretched over HEPA filters (second stage) with carbon absorption (third stage) can be found and assembled/ stocked now, so make a plan (actually, make 3 redundant plans) to make this happen. Think of the filter that the Apollo 13 astronauts put together to save themselves. It can be done. Even radioactive fallout will dissipate to livable levels within a couple of weeks, so if you are out of a blast zone (a typical nuclear device has a blast zone of maybe a couple miles in diameter… call that a worst case), this is not a permanent situation.
  3. Shelter. Three hours without shelter in some environments is a problem. Figure out where it would be best to shelter in place, whether that is your home (preferable, because all our preps will likely be there if we do not have a rural location already set-up), apartment, or someplace else (where we can stage and cache supplies). Urban and suburban environments place high value on “space”, so our homes and apartments will likely be our “space”. I have a friend in a major city that took the unused space in a hallway above the door frames, dropped in thick plywood attached to substantial cleats on the walls (attached to studs), and now has an “attic space” right there in her apartment. Do not become a refugee while searching for a better place, but have at least two other options for an alternative space if they become necessary. Don’t plan to live in a tent or “take to the mountains to live off the forest”. Bad idea. Apartment buildings that are 4 stories or more, and not tall enough to stick out or become outposts are good. Stay above the third floor for security (but get in shape, because that is a lot of steps, since elevators will not work). Do not become a refugee in any circumstance. Be somewhere familiar and set up a base. Clothes are included in shelter, so have some work clothes and boots that can last in a pinch, get gloves and backups, and cold/ rain gear for all. You probably already have most of the outerwear for your area.
  4. Water. Three days without water is a problem. Tarps for rainwater collection are your friend, but keep them as subdued as possible. Rainwater from roofs coming down gutters can be diverted to barrels or buckets. Keep Clorox Liquid Bleach in the laundry basket, and a couple under the sink. One gallon of bleach will treat thousands of gallons of water, making it usable. Add two drops per liter and let it sit for 30 minutes. Add more bleach if the water is cloudy. Liquid Bleach has a shelf life, but it is at least 6 months in an unopened bottle, so buy 3 or 4 bottles and be covered. One bottle of bleach may be the best dollar you ever spent. Powdered calcium hypochlorite is fine also, just takes extra steps to use it properly and will lose potency if not carefully sealed. Water needs to be located and buckets stored to transport it, or in suburbs, you can drill a “landscape watering well” with a removable manual pump-head. Urbanites, check roof drain locations and tap into them when needed. You cannot store enough water in a small apartment to last a year… for four people, that would be about 1500 gallons minimum. That is four pallets of water (40”x48”x48” tall) in those pallet-sized tanks, and it would need to be rotated if you kept it onsite. Put another way, it would take about 19 of those 80 gallon hot water tanks to hold this much water. The weight of 1,500 gallons of water weighs more than 10,400 pounds excluding the containers. Keep enough water on hand in 2 liter bottles discreetly hidden under the sink or in closets to use until you can tap into a water source. Locating water is a big deal, so start looking around now. Newer apartment buildings have fire water standpipes, some have tanks on the top floors. Figure out how to tap into those if needed. Take a plumbing class if you can’t figure out how to do a tap and run a hose and open/ close valves, but don’t actually tap it until the time is right..
  5. Food. Three weeks without food is a problem. Basic food storage for four people will take up a surprisingly small space. I do not mean the freeze-dried canned materials, nor am I talking MREs but you can certainly do both of those. I mean basic food, such as suggested in Ragnar Benson’s book, Urban Survival
    1. “5x50 pound sacks of sugar,
    2. 6x50 pound sacks of flour (or wheat to be ground into flour),
    3. 10x25 pound sacks of cleaned lentils,
    4. 10x25 pound sacks of split peas,
    5. 10x25 pound sacks of dried beans,
    6. 2x3 gallon jugs Vegetable Oil,
    7. 100 pounds of dried milk. “

All of this adds up to a pallet (40”x 48”) that is about six to seven layers tall… a total of maybe 5 feet tall, and a lot less money than you think if bought in bulk. Think of a big closet for storage, or the “apartment attic” described before. Even small apartments have closets and under beds or inside couches to place the materials. Rotate it out, of course. Now, this list of basics will allow survival with basic nutrition, but you want to do more than survive, you want to thrive, so… Many more things can be stored for long periods of time. Every trip to the store, add a couple of items and you will be amazed how quickly it accumulates. Add bagged rice, boxed pasta, all varieties of canned stuff (condensed soup, canned meat, canned tuna, canned salmon, canned butter, canned pasta sauce, canned veggies), spices, tabasco to give it all some kick. If you are hungry, the pallet of nutrition will get you and 3 other people through a year while you grow things in any available dirt, whether that is a container, on the roof, on the fire escape, in a window box, or in the flower bed. Also, urban living will support pigeon roosts on a roof or an attic or a shack out back (15 pigeons will give 2 squab per week indefinitely), maybe rabbit hutches out back or on a roof (3 does and a buck will give a 2 rabbits per week indefinitely). Traps for other assorted protein. Ponds and waterways in the city surely support at least snapping turtles which are not half bad… cut off the head, pop open the bottom shell, clean them like any animal, season the water with some spices of your choice, boil them up… tastes like chicken.. Canada geese are a poo-dropping pest now, but can be had easily in nearly every city and suburb in America with rocks or a bolo (three lengths of paracord and three weights on the ends). Learn to butcher animals quickly and efficiently, don’t be squeamish. Take a class, learn the basics. Survival and Preparedness Stores are popping up like mushrooms and offer classes in many different skills..

  1. Fuel. To cook food or to keep warm, we need long-storing fuel. Suburbanites can drop a 1000 gallon propane tank (where regulations allow), hide it, and be set for a year of cooking and house-heating using those little infrared propane heaters that do not need permanent vents or electricity.  Space is a little more difficult for apartment dwellers, but the little 25 pound propane tanks can go almost anywhere. Get a fill valve to fill the smaller tanks, and attach the infrared heaters on top and cook/ heat from them. Electricity can be provided by solar PV generators, or if you want to use precious fuel to make electricity, diesel or propane-converted generators can be pretty small anymore. Noise from these is a concern, but can be muffled or directed upwards to make them less rackety. Find the plans for the mufflers, and learn to weld at the same time. Those ubiquitous suburban golf carts make dandy electrical storage devices. Wire your genny or PV panels to them to charge, and you have deep-cycle 12 volt power to feed an inverter to get 120 VAC. You will lose some efficiency, but you can get the power that you need. Take a class, learn electricity at the same time. This is not even including wood stoves that can burn everything from newspapers to phone books to broken furniture to coal from a seam in a road-cut, asphalt from roads, 2x4’s from collapsed buildings, even wood from real trees! Venting is important, some of these things make acrid smoke, but heat is heat. If you have a rock/ brick fire ring outside for cooking, get a Dutch Oven on feet. It can make anything from bread/ biscuits to soup beans to roasts to serving as a water-bath canner. Get a bunch of matches, butane lighters, and fire-steels (they backup each other) to get the fuel burning.
  2. Medical. Same as rural retreat planning. Get yourself trained, get family trained, and get the supplies organized in multi-level a kits. Wound Care Kit, Upper Respiratory Care Kit, and Bowel Care Kit. Take that Emergency First Aid course from the Red Cross or the Survival Store. Your needs and mileage will vary, but is the same as for a rural retreat.
  3. Sanitation. Learn to process your own wastes, whether that is an outhouse privy with a bag of lime to keep it civil, or a cat-hole. I would keep as much ground clear as possible for growing things. Do not slight the way that wastes are processed. Disease springs from untreated wastes. Take care of it, get it buried if there is ground suitable for that, or burned if you want to use precious fuel.
  4. Security. You will need the same weapons in an urban/ suburban situation as well as a rural situation. These can be as simple as a .22 rifle and pistol for taking anything from the size of a rat up to the size of a bad-guy. Keep it simple, and keep a couple thousand rounds of .22 ammunition in the same place. It will only take up a space 4”x4”x4” for over 500 rounds of .22 Long Rifle, so do the math. Do not doubt the lethality of a .22 round at short distances, but have multiple backups in necessarily larger calibers if you can afford it. Consider any of the common Battle rifles (5.56/ .223 or .308) and 12 gauge shotguns (with ammunition and magazines) for as many as you can afford. Knives, we gotta have them, so get some with backups. Get a radio that runs off rechargeables, a walkie-talkie for every member (and backups). Secure the lower ladder on the fire escape for apartment dwellers. If things get bad, I doubt that the Fire departments are going to be issuing tickets for non-dropping lower ladders on our fire escapes. We don’t want visitors coming up that way.
  5. Planning Every excursion out of the shelter should be planned and staffed, with full knowledge of security, and be sure that the mission is worth the risk. Keep quiet, and keep light discipline by closing curtains and maintaining low profile. Cooking odors go a long way, keep lids on when cooking, and doors closed if possible. Keep flashlights, rechargeables and batteries, and backups. You can never have enough flashlights. Finally, find like-minded folks in your area. Visit a Survival/ Prep store and talk to the folks there, buy supplies there, and take classes there. You’ll get a lot of information and be able to cultivate friendships before trouble starts, so you can help each other when things go bad. We cannot go it alone. Strength in numbers, security in numbers.

Yes, it will be tough to survive in an urban or suburban environment, definitely harder than being 20 miles from a town in a hardened structure, well-watered, raising your own food on 40 acres with a mule, munching on your five years of stored food, and taking shifts in strategically placed LP/OPs, but it is do-able. Don’t be overwhelmed, just eat the elephant in small bites. Take classes from community colleges, Survival/ Prep Stores, Red Cross or CERT organizations.  Nearly all events are survivable, with the right mindset, training, and preparations.

Thanks again for doing everything you do.  It is with great pleasure I write to you again to contribute some of my knowledge. I mean no offense to Caspar d'Gonzo, but after reading his article I have the notion that he has not yet actually constructed a gasifier based on the FEMA instructions.  Though his article was very good about covering the theory and basics.

I was first fascinated with gasification when I saw them make a gasifier on The Colony.  I read about it and planned to build one.  Not long after I almost wrecked my Jeep while driving through northern Pennsylvania when I saw someone using a home-made gasifier on a car.  I pulled over and chatted with them and now I really had a passion instilled in me for an alternative energy vehicle.

Fall of 2010 I had a college course called Alternative Energy, and the final project was constructing something relevant to the class.  Some classmates and myself tackled the FEMA wood gasifier.  Other groups built solar food dehydrators, small hydro-electric generators, waste oil burners, etc.  The FEMA gasifier instructions are a good starting point, but far from all you need.  Ingenuity and creativity will get you from the FEMA instructions to a working model.

I sized my gasifier to run the 134 cubic inch, 72 horespower engine in my 1963 Jeep CJ5.  At the beginning of my project, I wanted to run that CJ5 with the gasifier.  Now, I see that this will wear out an engine faster than normal fuels, so I will be building a dedicated gasifier powered vehicle in the future.  Also, the gasifier ended up being very large overall, and requires a pickup truck or trailer.  It would not fit in the back of my CJ5.

I was fortunate enough to have full access to a local salvage yard that was sympathetic to college students.  I could go out and pick through acres of scrap, and I still could not find some of the items that FEMA called for.  The instructions are outdated.  Be prepared to deviate and get creative.

Some things I learned...

Harbor freight has the cheapest ball valves for the carburetor unit.

Garages have 125 lb grease drums/gear oil drums that make good filter housings.  They usually throw them away or use them for garbage cans.  I got one with a re-usable lid just for asking.

Home Depot sells a fireplace sealer in white tubs that worked well on the inside to protect the metal from heat cycle fatigue and seal welds and gaps. But be sure to put it on thin or it will never cure.

I used two 55 gallon drums from the scrap yard instead of garbage cans.  They're thicker and usually found for free, but make sure they didn't have anything in them that could poise a health risk when you have a fire inside.

For the shaker bowl in the bottom of the gasifier, I found a stainless steel colander (bowl with lots of holes) large enough at a restaurant equipment supply store.  They had lot's of sizes and very economically priced.

I used flexible steel exhaust hoses to connect the gasifier to the filter and the filter to the carburetor unit.  They were kind of pricey at my local auto parts store but I was having trouble locating heat resistance flexible pipe.

I used a 4" Attwood Turbo 12v inline blower to draw a vacuum at the carburetor unit and get the gasifier going.  This fan worked really well and I found PVC pipe fittings at Lowe's to connect it to the exhaust pipe. These fans are built for pulling fumes out of boat hulls, so they're typically advertised as spark-less, and the best price I found was online at walmart of all places.  This fan was really useful, because by flipping the wires I could run the fan backwards and blow air into the gasifier to fan the flames on start-up.  Switch the wires back and pull the gas through.

The only free fuel I could get my hands on at college were green pine wood chips made for mulch use.  I would not recommend that less than ideal fuel, but it did still produce flammable gas.  I had tar and filthy water pouring out of my filter.  The FEMA design for a filter was really ineffective.  When I get back into the gasifier project I will be researching what other people are using because a can full of wood chips will not keep your engine running for long.  Lot's of tar and moisture were bypassing it.  Obviously, I did not have enough temperature drop for condensation and particulate filtration going on.  The fuel definitely needs to be a good wood, not pine, that is dried.  Dried goat manure was used with success on the PA Apocalypse TV show.

The only testing I did was on a 6 HP Briggs & Stratton small engine and it ran fine on the gas I was producing, but when I took the head off after test running there was a lot of tar inside.  I was always able to light the gas coming out of the gasifier outlet for entertainment value and have a nice pink or orange flame to verify it was producing gas.  Also, I only used my gasifier while stationary, not mobile on a vehicle, so I was frequently shaking the bowl in the bottom to pass ashes through it and pushing the fuel in the top into the fire tube.  Mobility is a must with this design so that shakes and bumps going down the road keep things running, but other designs exist that are intended to be stationary.

Right now I'm playing with burning waste motor oil and vegetable oil in a 1967 military surplus M35A2 ("Deuce and a half") I purchased with great success.  For now, my gasifier will sit and wait until I have more time to experiment with filtration and quality fuel.  I hope to find an older 4-cylinder truck, like a cheap Chevy S10 to mount the gasifier on.

Good Luck with Gasification, - Josh in Pennsylvania


James Wesley:
The recent article by Caspar d'Gonzo in SurvivalBlog left out the advances by the open source group gekgasifier.com

They have taken the WWII design into the modern era, with a much more efficient design, as well as a design that is easier to start and produces much less tar than the FEMA design. Best Regards, - Bill M.

Ian R. sent this one: How Weather Impacts the Dinner Table

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AmEx (American Expat) sent this: Decision time for researchers of deadly bird flu

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Also from AmEx: Special Report: Towns go dark with post office closings. This is of particular concern for those of us who live way out in the hinterboonies.

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Some sage advice from Ol' Remus: Preps.

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Bryan E. sent a link to this not-so-new "Russian Inwention": The AK-12. The latest incarnation of the reliable Kalashnikov action, quite predictably now wearing a Picatinny Rail.

"By many indicators, Greece is devolving into something unprecedented in modern Western experience. A quarter of all Greek companies have gone out of business since 2009, and half of all small businesses in the country say they are unable to meet payroll. The suicide rate increased by 40 percent in the first half of 2011. A barter economy has sprung up, as people try to work around a broken financial system. Nearly half the population under 25 is unemployed. Last September, organizers of a government-sponsored seminar on emigrating to Australia, an event that drew 42 people a year earlier, were overwhelmed when 12,000 people signed up. Greek bankers told me that people had taken about one-third of their money out of their accounts; many, it seems, were keeping what savings they had under their beds or buried in their backyards. One banker, part of whose job these days is persuading people to keep their money in the bank, said to me, 'Who would trust a Greek bank?'" - Russell Shorto, from his February 19, 2012 New York Times article titled The Way Greeks Live Now.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Today we present a short guest article and another two entries for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

The last few years have seen the development of an interesting legal mechanism called the gun trust. Gun trusts use estate planning law to deal with, and in some cases legally circumvent, arcane and restrictive federal laws that regulate the use and possession of certain types of firearms. These federal statutes make up the National Firearms Act (NFA), a series of laws that require registration of guns such as machine guns, short barreled rifles and shotguns, and sound suppressors (aka silencers). They are often referred to as Title 2 weapons because they are regulated under Title 2 of the 1968 Gun Control Act. Many people mistakenly call them Class 3 weapons, but Class 3 refers to the dealers of these weapons, not the weapons themselves.

History of the National Firearms Act

The NFA was passed in 1934 in response to the gang violence of that time. It imposed a tax on certain firearms thought to contribute to the growing "gangster" crime problem, including machine guns, short barreled rifles and shotguns, and silencers. In an effort to discourage possession of these types of weapons, individuals were required to register them with the federal government and pay a tax stamp fee of $200. The NFA was amended in 1968 and again in 1986, but its basic provisions remain unchanged: national registration of certain weapons and payment of a $200 tax per weapon, or $5 for devices classified as Any Other Weapon. ("AOWs").

The NFA has strict requirements and carries stiff penalties for violations. Essentially, only a registered owner of an NFA weapon may be in possession of that weapon. Illegal possession of an NFA firearm carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $250,000. Be forewarned, “possession” can be a relative and arbitrary term in the eyes of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

ATF Requirements

Title 2 weapons must be registered with the ATF through an extensive and lengthy application process. Whether you are purchasing a weapon from a Class 3 dealer or building your own (many people will make their own short barreled rifle out of an existing non-NFA weapon such as an AR-15-style rifle), you must first go through ATF to have it transferred to you. ATF requires that you fill out the appropriate form, affix a two-by-two inch photograph of yourself along with fingerprints, and have the application signed by your local chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) [this is the police chief inside of city limits or the county sheriff if you live outside of city limits.] The $200 must be included, and that is for each weapon. Once the application is approved you will receive notice and the weapon may then be transferred to you. The approval time may take anywhere from three to six months.

The Gun Trust

NFA gun trusts have become popular in recent years as an alternative to individual registration. The central idea behind a gun trust is that the trust itself is the registered owner for NFA purposes, and anyone listed in it as trustee may legally possess the NFA weapons as trust property. There are basically three types of individuals in a gun trust: grantor/settlor, trustee, and beneficiary.

The grantor, or settlor, is the person who sets up the trust. This is usually the individual who wants to register and own Title 2 weapons but also wants other people to be able to use and possess those weapons. The grantor will submit the application to ATF but instead of registering the weapon in their name, he or she will list the trust as the owner. Trustees are individuals who, along with the grantor, will hold the trust property for the beneficiary. Trustees may legally possess NFA weapons in the trust even though they are not listed on the application. Trustees must be at least 18 years old (federal law prohibits anyone under 18 from possessing NFA weapons, and anyone under 21 from purchasing NFA weapons from a Class 3 dealer) and not be otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms. Finally, the beneficiary is the individual who receives the trust property upon the death of the grantor. The grantor can list as many beneficiaries as he or she likes, and there is no age requirement under federal law to be a beneficiary. Thus minor children can be named beneficiaries, and should the grantor die before the beneficiary is of age to take possession a trustee can be designated to hold onto the trust property.

Advantages of a Gun Trust

Gun trusts can be set up to be very flexible. Most are established as a revocable trust, which means it can be changed by the grantor during his or her life. When the grantor dies the trust becomes irrevocable, and changes can no longer be made. With a revocable trust, the grantor may add or subtract individuals or weapons to and from the trust as necessary.

Another advantage is that a trust allows the grantor to legally bypass many ATF application requirements. Fingerprints, photographs, and CLEO signature are not required. Not only can this speed up the process, but it’s nice to be able to tell the government, “No, I don’t have to give you that information.”

Sometimes people will ask about setting up a corporation as the registered owner, but I think trusts are better. Trusts are generally private and do not require public filing (this may not be the case in every state so you should check with a local attorney on this). Corporations are public, do require filing, and also require annual maintenance fees and taxes. For these reasons, trusts are a better way to go.

Should I go the gun trust route?

It depends on your situation, but generally I recommend yes. The trust will be in effect for your life and longer, and with the strict laws that govern NFA weapons it is reassuring to know that you can plan for the distribution of the trust property. For instance, gun trusts are usually good for families. A husband can name his wife, and perhaps other close relatives, as trustees, and his children as beneficiaries. It really just depends on your situation and your long-term goals.

It also depends on where you live, and here I must include the obligatory disclaimer: NFA weapons are not legal in every state. If you are considering getting into the world of Title 2 guns, then please check your state laws. All the information I have given you in this article is based on federal law, but state law applies too and that may differ. I suggest contacting a gun trust attorney in your state to discuss your options.

Patrick Stegall is a Memphis, Tennessee lawyer. Part of his practice is concentrated on drafting NFA gun trusts for individuals and families in Tennessee. For more information please visit him online at Tennessee Gun Trust Lawyer, or e-mail him at pstegall@stegall-law.com.

The chicken pox vaccine was not licensed for use in the US until 1995, which means a lot of adults today may have had chicken pox. That also means that a lot of us are susceptible to developing shingles, a painful potential recurrence of the same virus that infected us with chicken pox. I remember when my great grandmother had shingles in the early 1960s. She experienced great pain and disability for at least a couple of months, and was left much less ‘able’ than before the disease.  Medicine has come a long way since then.

This contribution is to share my experience with shingles and how I now am prepared for a recurrence in TEOTWAWKI. I am not a physician but a survivor of a recent case of shingles, sharing what worked for me and what did not.  If you had the chicken pox vaccine and never actually got the pox, then you don’t need to read this unless you have loved ones who were not so fortunate.  If, as I have experienced, your healthcare won’t cover the Shingles Zoster  vaccine until you are 60 and you don’t plan to pay the $300 for the vaccine with a prescription, here’s my plan to treat a recurrence if I’m on my own in stressful times.

Herpes Zoster is the virus that brings chicken pox. Once you have the virus in your body, it’s your for life. Like many members of the Herpes family, it survives in nerve tissue and lies dormant until conditions are right.   Again, as with most recurring herpes virus, H. Zoster stays in check unless your immune system is stressed.  In adults, H. Zoster can recur as ‘shingles,’ a much more painful version of the active or acute viral infection.   In my recent case, it was a stressful period at work, in winter and after I had slacked off on my regular exercise program. TEOTWAWKI will undoubtedly be more stressful than most work environments, so I choose to plan for the potential until I reach 60 and can get the vaccine.  I probably will keep the preps after that as well.

I was 55 and tired. Work had been a bear, late nights and multiple deadlines.  I had recently been moved to a building that made my allergies kick up, so that wasn’t helping.  I was also preparing for a business trip, getting all the arrangements in order.  On Tuesday, I just didn’t feel right. By Thursday I was at my doctor's office because I was having disturbing abdominal pain – in the area near my appendix.  Everything she suspected was ruled out.  I wasn’t crazy about leaving town on Sunday, but at least I didn’t have a hot appendix.  I did notice a strange almost painful sensation on my skin on the same side of my hip and abdomen as the interior abdominal pain, but it seemed insignificant compared to the internal pain. I probably didn’t mention it to the 'doctor for fear she’d think I was a total hypochondriac.  What I didn’t know then was this phase is called the ‘prodrome’ and is when the virus is starting its recurrence in your body.  It occurs for usually for 5 to 7 days before the first bumps. The skin tenderness is one of the classic prodrome symptom list that includes flu-like symptoms and some localized internal pain.

Saturday morning I was dressing and found the first cluster of bumps, about an inch in diameter, on my lower back.  That was a big clue, but I still didn’t believe it.  I was 55 for heaven’s sake and Shingles is an old person’s disease – Gramma was almost 90 when she had it!  After a quick Google search for shingles, I raced to urgent care, where I had to educate the doctor.  Though skeptical, he gave me a prescription for acyclovir which I started taking immediately.  I also bought some spray-on Solarcaine, which helped with the surface pain.  The acyclovir is an anti-viral that helped slow the outbreak, but wasn’t the best choice of drugs. I let my boss know that I wouldn’t be traveling on Sunday.
Sunday was a blur of Solarcaine, pills every 4 hours,  and trying to find some type of clothing that minimized the discomfort.  Finding a comfortable position was also a challenge. Bed rest is a tall order when just the weight of the sheet hurts. Imagine if you were bugging out on foot, with a plan to wear most of you spare clothing and trying to carry a pack when a large swath of your skin feels like it’s on fire and is covered in blisters. If that’s your plan, it might help to be prepared for this little gem!

Monday, I saw my doctor.   The rash was halfway around my abdomen, with some isolated spots starting below my naval.  The breakout was slowed but not stopped because the acyclovir just wasn’t strong enough. She changed the anti-viral meds to Valacyclovir (Valtrex), a much better drug that could be taken less frequently.  She also prescribed Percocet for pain, a week at home (some people in my office had never had chicken pox) and a return visit in a week. The Solarcaine and Percocet allowed me to rest much more comfortably.  I suspect a non-narcotic pain killer would also have made a big difference in the pain, but my doctor decided not to experiment and went for the sure thing.
The new anti-viral allowed an almost complete bypass of the nastiest phase of the disease: blisters progressing to open sores and then scabs – shortening the course of the illness by at least two and possibly four weeks.  Also, it reduced the potential for infecting others and for the secondary infections possible with any open sores.  Instead, the rash transitioned to thin, hard skin spots until the crusts washed off in the shower after a couple of weeks.  Sorry if this sounds disgusting, but it is the reality of the disease when modern medicine is not available.

On the return visit, my doctor changed the medications. Gabapentin replaced Percocet, with a primary purpose to help prevent post-herpetic neuralgia – a painful complication that can leave one suffering from pain long after the lesions have healed.  She also prescribed Lidoderm patches to place over areas with healed lesions to reduce the pain. Even with these meds, I still could not tolerate conventional clothing, so I spent another two weeks at home, but was able to telecommute part time.  One discovery I made was that the Lidoderm patches could be cut in half and used essentially as a nerve block by placing just above the top of the band of lesions and along my spine. (Good lesson -- I now keep Lidoderm patches in my G.O.O.D. kit and my emergency med bag for non-narcotic emergency pain relief.)  Before that I was uncomfortable plastered with up to 3 patches a day.

So what are my other TEOTWAWKI lessons?  Beyond getting and staying in good shape, and keeping Lidoderm patches handy, I’ll get the Zoster vaccine as soon as I can.  Chaos and stressful surroundings will not be conducive to best self-care.  Many of us will be candidates for shingles with the disabling pain and secondary infection potential if we don’t have the specific meds to manage the disease.

Second is that with or without the vaccine, I’ll keep a shingles kit in my med supplies. I don’t know how long the Zoster vaccine works, or if it can be overcome by the virus in conditions that will be far from the current ‘normal’ life of clean water, climate control and reasonable rest and nutrition.  Otherwise, coping with shingles may not be realistic in a bad or worst-case scenario.  Worst case, my spouse may need it, or someone will need the ‘kit’ and will be willing to trade goods, services or goodwill for it.

My current shingles kit is small but powerful. It  includes the meds above in sufficient quantities to reproduce my experience – 7 days of high doses of Valacyclovir in one pill bottle and in another pill bottle , 7 x 5mg Percocet (half-tablet twice a day for the first week after bumps start) and 30 x 100 mg Gabapentin (1 to 2 per day as long as they last).  These are taped together at the bottoms so they form along tube with the open ends out for easy access, and stored with a bottle of Solarcaine gel and 5 Lidoderm patches (1/3 patch per day for 12 hours) in a plastic zipper bag in the med kit.  Wish I could travel back in time and give Gramma just those few things to have helped her pain!

As I said, I’m not a physician, so what I've just related was hard-won personal wisdom.  There are probably better Shingles kits that can be assembled.

World War II has always fascinated me. I spend a great deal of time reading and researching a wide array of books, articles and Internet sites about this period. To the conquered peoples of Europe and Asia, it must certainly must have seemed like the end of the world as they knew it.  

One of the most fascinating aspects of my studies is discovering how individuals and groups in Axis-held countries survived behind enemy lines.  Valuable lessons can be gleaned by looking at the tactics and techniques of underground and partisan groups in France, the Philippines, Yugoslavia, China, Norway, Belgium and many other invaded lands.

Recently, I read a book written by Lt. Colonel Will Irwin, US Army, retired. His book The Jedburghs: The Secret History of the Allied Special Forces, France 1944.  Irwin’s research is excellent; it is a riveting chronicle of secret teams that were dropped deep into Nazi occupied France. Working with local partisans known as “maquis”, the teams conducted a roaming guerrilla war against German forces.  

The book revealed that French resistance forces had little or no access to gasoline during this period. The Germans needed every gallon for their own military needs, so many French improvised a technology that -- in today’s übermodern high-tech society -- has long overlooked.  This technology, gasogene-powered internal combustion engines, became a popular method of fueling cars, trucks, and even buses during late World War II.

Simply defined, standard gasoline-fueled vehicle engines were converted with a wood- or charcoal-burning unit.  The unit did not generate steam for power, but instead it created a combustible gas to run the engine.  Such knowledge had been around since the late 1800s.

The gasogene device is known as a wood gas generator or gasifier by engineers.  This gasification process has all but disappeared in vehicle propulsion in the 21st Century. Gasogene devices create a mixture of nitrogen, hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide and other, combustible gases. When these are cooled and filtered they can be introduced into an internal combustion engine as an efficient fuel.

In a TEOTWAWKI environment, one quickly realizes that wood, charcoal and other natural items (even coconut husks) would be plentiful and easily acquired.  Having a gasogene powered car, tractor or generator would be a huge advantage in surviving a post-apocalyptic world.

In a FEMA document on powering vehicles through gasification it was noted that “a catastrophic event could disrupt the supply of petroleum in this country so severely that this wood gas generation might be critical in meeting the energy needs of some essential economic activities, such as the production and distribution of food. In occupied Denmark during World War II, 95% of all mobile farm machinery, tractors, trucks, stationary engines, and fishing and ferry boats were powered by wood gas generator units. Even in neutral Sweden, 40% of all motor traffic operated on gas derived from wood or charcoal. All over Europe, Asia, and Australia, millions of gas generators were in operation between 1940 and 1946.”


Internal combustion engines use gasoline. What many do not realize is that the liquid that we know as gasoline is turned into a vapor and burned as a gas. The technology under the hood converts the liquid form into the gas form.  The vapor is injected into the engine and is explosively burned (combustion).  The same is true for wood gas.  Burning wood in a controlled gasifier creates a combustible vapor that will fire in the engine.

The gasogene creates a chemical process where the superheated vapors evolve into gases that the engine then burns. This is also known as a stratified, downdraft gasifier as the vapors go through four zones within the device and into the engine.  

The first zone is at the highest point of the machine.  Because the vapors are drawn down and into the second zone (the downdraft), the first zone is a 20 to 30 gallon metal container positioned atop the second zone, a smaller 10 to 15 gallon container.

The first container might be a small metal trash can or other type of metal box than can hold wood fuel.  This upper container draws in air to aid in the combustion of the wood.  A fire box connects the upper container with the lower metal container.  The fire box is surrounded by open air in the lower container and a metal grate or screen is at the bottom of the fire box.  Burnt wood char and ash fall from this grate into the bottom of the second container.  This container has to be cleaned of all spent ash to keep the process efficient.  This first container stacked above the second container (zones one and two) are the gasification segment.

From the second container a pipe runs to a third container, known as the filter unit. This enclosed container is filled with clean wood chips that act as filter medium to draw off particulates that are moving with the hot vapors in the smoke.  The wood chips draw off these contaminates and a clean stream of hot vapors moves through to the final process.  A blower is located above the third container to maintain air flow.

From the filter unit a longer pipe takes the vapors downstream to the engine manifold.  An air intake valve pulls additional cooler outdoor air to “sweeten” the combustible gases just before entering the engine.  A modifier connection attaches the gasifier pipe to the engine.  A throttle valve is also mounted just before the pipe enters the engine so the flow of fuel can be controlled and help regulate vehicle speed.

Described by a layman, imagine a small metal garbage can mounted above a metal canister about the size of a five-gallon paint bucket. A short pipe connects to a third canister (also the size of a five-gallon bucket. A longer pipe, with throttle and air valve, connects to the engine manifold.

Hundreds of thousands of gasogene engines built during World War II demonstrated that innovation in use of cans, buckets and piping had little or no effect on performance. Clever mechanics used all types of scavenged and jury-rigged components.

Three things are critical to overall success and performance of the gasogene:

A. The most critical element is that the fire tube’s (running into the manifold) inside diameter and length must be carefully matched to the rated horsepower of the engine.

B. The gas generator units and all piping must be totally airtight at all times.

C. Friction must be eliminated in all air and gas passages. This is done by avoiding
sharp bends in the pipe and by employing pipe sizes which are not too small.


One primary skill will be creating metal connections.  Cutting metal using snips is important.  Bending and brazing pipe is about the most difficult of the work.  It is much a combination of plumbing skills and metalworking -- but it is well within the skill set of most people who are moderately familiar with tools.

Having someone with plumbing skills assist makes construction of the device much easier, but not essential.  Many in World War II constructed these fuel generators with basic hand tools, components found in junk yards and assembled in extreme conditions.


The Gasogene unit burns wood and this means that frequent cleaning of the wood container and fire box.  Ash and char will fill the lower container under the fire box very quickly.  Starting the wood fuel will take some practice.  Depending upon the engine itself, most units will be able to power an average sized automobile about 15 to 20 miles at regular road speeds.  Shutting down the unit requires a cooling down period.  

There are safety considerations that require attention.  The gases produced from the unit are toxic and attention must be paid to ventilation.  Enclosed cars, garages and such must be adequately vented to prevent dangerous build up of toxic gases.  However, the same could be said for traditional gas fueled engines.

Having a container filled with burning wood on a moving vehicle is always a major consideration.  Under normal operating conditions, this is not much of an issue.  But, in the event of an accident it is very important to remember that fire risks are increased.


If gasogene is of interest to your future plans for self-sufficiency, it is important to be proactive now.  The good news is there are plenty of resources to give you the exact plans and specifications needed to create an efficient operating gasogene engine.  Kits are available to accelerate the build, but are absolutely unnecessary.


for Fueling Internal Combustion Engines in a Petroleum Emergency
FEMA Document
The absolute best reference was published by FEMA.  It not only covers all of the conceptual aspects of a gasogene-powered engine as well as a complete set of technical plans with parts list.  It is a single-source document that is free and available online as a PDF document.  This should be a part of any document package being assembled for future times.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FAO Forestry Paper 72
This UN document contains 139 pages of technical charts and graphs, scientific analysis and economic data on the potential and reality of wood gas fuels.  It is free as an online PDF.  Interesting for those seeking greater rationale on why wood gas can be an efficient alternative to petroleum in an emergency.

'Coast to Coast on Homemade Fuel,' Mother Earth News (#73) pp, 178-179. Jan/Feb 1982.
'Wood Gas Update,' Mother Earth News (#71) pp. 164-165. Sep/Oct 1981.
Mother's Woodburning Truck,' Mother Earth News (#69) pp. 126-129. May/Jun 1981

Some Useful Web Sites



Mother Earth News Wood Gas Generator Plans ($15.00)

Hi Mr. R.:
I worked in a bike shop for five years up until two years ago and my better half continues to work in a bike shop to this day.

I have to say having a road (or "racing") bike for when the SHTF is a really bad idea. Road bikes are kind of like the sports cars of the bicycling world. They are not meant to beat upon, you run over or hit the wrong thing on the road or whatever--even gravel--and you could be walking. They eat tires and tubes. I have changed hundreds, maybe a thousand or two road bike tubes, usually  because of a small piece of steel belt from a car tire, or thorns, were embedded in the tire. Kevlar liners help a little. Also, most road bike tires run between 80 to 130 PSI. Pumping them to that pressure can be a chore for the weak or small statured person [, especially when using a small clip-on touring pump].

The most replaced parts on a bike are going to be the tubes, then the tires. From there parts breakage begins to vary widely, I would say the best bike for when the SHTF would have to be a hard tail mountain bike. Skip the road bikes and comfort bikes. In essence: You can ride a Mountain bike anywhere a road bike or comfort bike can go, but not vise versa. Also, as much as I love downhill and free ride bicycles , stay away from these beasts for SHTF, since you most likely will not break one, and if you do you will be broken too (trust me). They are on the opposite end of the spectrum from a road bike. Full suspension is awesome,I love mine, but if I were in a grid down mess, and toasted a pivot bearing, I would then be SOL. There can be lots of pivots and bearings, air shocks, although much much better now than the past can be a a problem.

Bike shop brands are going to be the best bet, but not essential. Up until left the industry a couple of years ago, the majority of big name frames were made by Giant, and then Fuji. So as far as weld quality, they are going to be close. Also, as awesome as Carbon frames and parts are, stay away from them, that carbon framed bike is super strong with riding forces, but lay that bad boy down and pinch the top tube or down tube and you bay get a really big surprise that could cost you a grand or two, and in the SHTF, it will be a total loss (unless you have vacuum  bags and a high heat high pressure autoclave.) Also carbon fiber frames can fail in quite a dramatic fashion, leaving little shards of carbon in you to pick out.

You really do get what you pay for up to a point as far as strength and quality. There is a point you start paying for weight and technology, and that means next to nothing in a grid down situation. I can expand on this in great detail if you would like, this is just the tip of the iceberg, i really do think that in a SHTF situation, bicycles will be essential. - J., Esse Quam Videri

AmEx (American Expat) sent this: Report: Russia Nuclear Disaster Narrowly Averted In Submarine Fire

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Over at Alt-Market: Going Off Grid - Montana Style!

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South Carolina bill would make home invasion a specific crime. (Thanks to Sue C. for the link.)

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Alan H. pointed me to a portable, easy to build 8'x12' greenhouse for under $150. JWR's Comment: Ah yes, hog panels, 101 uses...

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My wife Avalanche Lily alerted me to to an object lesson that went viral: The Dad Who Shot Up His Daughter's Laptop Computer.

"A wild boar stood under a tree, and rubbed his tusks against the trunk. A fox passing by asked him why he thus sharpened his teeth when there was no danger threatening from either huntsman or hound. He replied, 'I do it advisedly; for it would never do to have to sharpen my weapons just at the time I ought to be using them.' To be well prepared for war is the best guarantee of peace."  - The Fables of Aesop

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Today we present another entry for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Our society today--the society that I grew up in--no longer has a need and in many cases no longer has the desire to be self-sufficient. As the recent turmoil expanding across these United States and across the globe is proving every day, most people would rather have some central authority provide everything for them. There are a few who adhere closely to and act upon the belief that their well-being is only granted through their own hard work, knowledge and preparation, and they are known adequately as "Preppers". The Prepper mindset revolves around the idea of self-reliance or self-sufficiency, recognizing that one day there will not be a relief force coming to help in a disaster and that one day there will not be any law and order.

I have never needed to be self-reliant or self-sufficient; everything I have ever needed since I was born was no farther away than the nearest superstore or a few clicks of the mouse. However, I was raised in a family who recognized and taught the importance of Do-It-Yourself maintenance, a father who built most of our family furniture when I was growing up, and a grandfather who has built nine houses from the ground up. I may not have ever needed to be self-reliant but the attitude and mindset has been developed in me through my family, my experiences in martial arts and Boy Scouts, both of which encourage an attitude of preparation regardless of situation. So while I watch so many Americans demanding for the "Government" to act and provide for them, I have taken the opposite approach by being as self-sufficient and self-reliant as possible, going so far as to begin making some of my own equipment.

This essay is about the idea of making one's own equipment as part of the self-sufficient or self-reliant lifestyle and will cover a short history of self-reliance to better understand the importance of the mentality and the need to learn to make as many things yourself as possible. It will also cover the benefits that an individual or family or group can obtain from making their own equipment and tools. Last I will include a list of items that I have experimented in making, the methods of making them, and some additional information to read if making your own equipment is one prep idea that appeals to you.

It wasn't all that long ago that humankind had a need to be self-sufficient. I have spoken with my grandfather and grandmother extensively, both of whom grew up in deep eastern Texas in the Big Thicket area. My grandmother's family was relatively large, because they owned and worked a farm for their livelihood, both to make money and to put food on their table. My grandfather and his family also provided most of their own food through the raising of livestock and tending a garden for their fresh vegetables. My grandfather has always kept a garden and provided our family Sunday dinners with fresh tomatoes, green beans, okra, or collard greens. My grandfather remembers people from his early years, that bought nothing more than sugar, coffee, and flour, and were able to survive comfortably by raising and growing everything else that they ate. They wore second-hand clothes most of the time, repaired their clothing repeatedly, and when it couldn't be worn any longer, the clothing became rags, or parts of quilts and blankets. Everything was recycled or reused. People like my grandfather and grandmother remember what is to be self-sufficient not by choice, but by necessity.

Going even farther back into the 19th Century, and we will find a similar picture but on a much larger scale, with self-sufficiency reigning supreme for those that emigrated west. The frontiersmen and women were extremely self-reliant people, and had to be if they were to survive. Those who chosen to move to the frontier came from various backgrounds and ethnicities, but the common trait they all shared was the will to survive and build a better life. This same trait of self-reliance is what spurred a great number of people to leave the cities in the East for the vast amounts of land in the West. Along the way they faced a number of difficulties which they would have to face on their own, they knew there would not always be food, water, a doctor, a police force or a military to protect them. They knew that they would have to build their own shelters, maintain those shelters, and provide a living for themselves, and that their lives would be led without the comforts of a city to rely on. They had to take care of their own sicknesses and illnesses, their own births, dentistry, even when living close enough to a town to conduct business not every town had such necessities as a doctor or an apothecary.

Even during before this country became its own nation, the frontiersmen that settled the Eastern shores and the area of the Appalachian Mountains were self-reliant people. They knew that they would not have a great number of people to rely on, they did not know at first how the native people that they encountered would receive them, they had no way of knowing when shipments of tools, supplies, food, and other goods would arrive from England, France or Spain. Such an existence demanded that people become more self-reliant and self-sufficient if they were going to survive. They relied on a small number of tools and equipment, they manufactured a great deal of their own equipment, and every person had multiple skill sets that were necessary for their survival. They repaired all of their clothing, bed linens, and blankets. They often made their own materials such as wool and thread, derived from their livestock and crops. These were people whose greatest tool was knowledge and the will to survive in a harsh country. I suppose the quote that best serves to describe these people comes from the movie depiction of "The Last of the Mohicans" where Cora says, "They do not live their lives by your leave! They hack it out of the wilderness with their own two hands, burying their children along the way." These were hard people living in a hard place, and by necessity they learned to rely only on themselves.

Of course in reviewing all of this it is important to remember that the community often played a role in the survival of individuals, and may play an important role in survival in a post-Schumer situation. In the past community members never lived very close to one another, they liked to have a little elbow and leg room, some distance from other people. My grandfather and grandmother had many neighbors growing up, but more often than not there were miles of road between them. Similarly, earlier periods saw close communities where everyone knew everyone else, and one could usually count on help from the community in certain times. I recall a story my grandfather shared with me recently about how several times a year all the men in his community would get together with their dogs and chase down some of the feral and wild pigs. They would tag the piglets ears for later reference, and then they would pull out any of the large sows that they had tagged before. This endeavor really required a community effort as wild pigs and hogs can be very dangerous, and because the entire community would usually benefit, with each person getting a share of the project to take home.

Today our lifestyles do not demand such behavior as self-reliance or preparation, but there may come a day in the future when those who remember the frontier life and choose to act, and prepare themselves and their families will be ready for a life when there is no doctor, blacksmith, dentist, or grocery store. Part of preparing for those lifestyles is to begin learning the skills that will be necessary, learning to work and care for a garden, learning to preserve meats, fruits and vegetables by canning, dehydrating and preserving. All of these are necessary skills, as is learning to work with wood, electrical, plumping, because there may come a time when you have to take on all of those positions. Should the Schumer hit the fan it will be important to be a jack of all trades rather than a specialist. That also means building your own equipment from the ground up, doing so will provide you with a number of benefits that store bought equipment does not provide.

Most importantly the process of building your own equipment allows you to further embrace the Preparedness mindset. While most of the time we embrace it and eventually begin to feel burnt out because we often never see our preparations paying off, by building your own equipment, each time you do it, you will have something physical to look at and see that you have accomplished something toward your preparation goals. Additionally, making your own equipment will begin teaching you crucial skills that may be needed in the future, skills that could allow you a means of making an income through barter or trading your homemade goods, or simply providing new equipment for additional or unexpected members of the family or group such as children. Finally by working on building your own equipment you will find that your equipment is of better quality, and to the exact custom specifications that you want in a way that store bought materials and equipment never could be.

I will begin with a perfect example, a simply Ranger Stove, while not exactly a Ranger Stove it serves the same purpose, is relatively inexpensive to make, is extremely light-weight,  and will boil water rapidly, using an entirely renewable energy source found nearly anywhere.  In order to make your Ranger Stove, you will need an empty vegetable can, I have found that the three pound pinto bean cans work really well, as does the pumpkin cans (and with Thanksgiving and Christmas upon us, there should be plenty of these cans lying around for your use). You will also need a wire coat hanger, a metal file, a church key, a drill with a _ size bit, a pair of tin snips, broad nose pliers (I find Lineman's pliers work best--often referred to as Kleins), a soda can, and some JB Weld. You can make this stove to use either a solid tablet style fuel, a liquid fuel (like alcohol), or a free solid fuel like small twigs.

Begin your Ranger Stove by cutting five to six triangular air vents around the base of your chosen can using your beer opener. For the solid fuel ranger stove there is no need to JB Weld the soda can to the bottom of the bean can. If you prefer to have a liquid fuel stove, you will need to cut the soda can in half and file down the top edge. Then JB Weld the soda can to the bottom of the stove, this soda can will contain the alcohol. Once you have installed the soda can, or if you skipped that step, drill four holes about one-half to two-thirds of the way up the side of the stove can. Then using your tin snips cut two lengths from the wire coat hanger and thread them through the holes. This will be used to rest your pot or cup on while it comes to a boil. Using your pliers bend the ends of the wire coat hanger down to stabilize them. Finally, cut a small hole approximately one and one-half to two inches in diameter. This hole will be used to add fuel to your fire to keep it running as long as needed, and is only needed for the solid fuel stove. The final step is to test the product and ensure that it performs as specified. After testing, alterations can be made such as installing a door flap to cover the feeder hole (use the bottom or top of another can, file the edges smooth, curve to match the side of the stove can, and install using a basic hinge and latch).

This particular project is very easy to get started with because it does not require specialized or expensive tools or materials to make. Simply save your vegetable cans and soda cans and wire coat hangers from the dry cleaners and the tools you can either purchase (recommended as they will come in handy on other projects) or borrow them from a neighbor or family member. Furthermore this project lends itself easily to alteration and customization allowing the builder to use a number of different sized cans and configurations of air vents, grates, feeder holes, etc.

The next project that is relatively inexpensive and fairly easy to make are waterproof containers using Schedule 40 PVC piping. The maker will only need sections of PVC pipe to the desired length, push on caps for one end, and screw on caps for the other end, PVC glue, a hack saw or a PVC pipe cutter, sand paper, and a can of flat spray paint in the desired color. The PVC pipe cutter will cut nice even straight cuts, but a hack saw will suffice. Simply purchase the desired diameter PVC pipe, three-quarter inch pipe makes greater containers for matches, cotton swabs to soak in alcohol for starting fires, larger diameters could be used to store fishing poles, bedrolls, hammocks, maps, any number of useful tools or items. Purchase the corresponding connectors in the right diameter, a can of PVC glue. Cut the PVC to your desired lengths. Apply glue to one end of the PVC and push the cap into place. Apply glue to the other side of the PVC and quickly apply the screw on cap. Let the container sit until the glue has finished drying, then sand off the excess glue, and then spray paint the container the desired color.

This project is not expensive, but does require the maker to purchase a few things. However, this project too, is infinitely customizable and adjustable to suit the maker's needs. I find that a short five inch container will fit six cotton swabs that I have designated as fire starting material and fits easily in my fire kit. I have made some of these for each of my family members to keep on them.

There are a number of other projects that can be made from home, that I have yet to try but will be working on in the coming months. Tents, bedrolls or sleeping bags, and hammocks are all things that can easily be made at home and by making them at home you can cut down on the cost, the weight you will have to carry and you of course benefit from learning a skill that will come in handy in a Deep Schumer situation. You will also know exactly how to repair or replace a great deal of your equipment and materials should it ever break or fail. You will be able to apply these same procedures to other areas such as in the making or mending clothes, bed linens or blankets. Furthermore, making your own equipment and materials at home puts you in the mindset of self-sufficiency, an attitude that will come in handy in any Schumeresque event, be it a natural disaster in the form of a hurricane, flooding or earthquake, or a more serious and long-lasting disaster.

Dear Mr. Rawles:
n reference to the recent SurvivalBlog article "Surviving The Cold", by The Other D.B.: It is never repeated enough: wet cold kills.   The advice to test your rain gear with a garden hose is priceless.

A piece of kit that I have found invaluable exercising or working in the cold is the Neck Warmer / Head Wrap. This is a simple tube of stretch polypropylene or polyester fleece or wool.  Critical to better protect the vascular area where you lose the most heat--our head and neck.

You can see some examples at these three vendor sites:

Using a Wrap as a base layer allows you to apply the layering effect for your head and neck, fine tuning your head and neck insulation to your level of exercise and heat buildup.  If you only have one thick layer on your head, you have to choose between a hot, sweaty head with your hat on, vs. chilling off too fast going bare.

These Wraps are so light you can keep extras in pockets, so you can swap out to a dry wrap if you do get sweaty.   In the cold I like to use two at a time - one as a neck and lower face wrap, and one as a base layer on the head, under helmet or cap.   I keep two in my car, two in my pack, and two in the pocket of a jacket.

Another great feature is that they dry out very fast attached to the outside of your pack.

Beyond being a neck warmer or head warmer the Wrap can also be a balaclava, helmet liner, dust mask, facial camo, goggle cover, sun protection, etc., etc.:


Another somewhat obscure article of clothing with similar benefits is the "neck dickie".

These are available in a Coolmax sweat wicking Military Brown at Vendio and heavier fleece.

This is literally a  polo neck that has been cut off to just cover the neck and upper chest and back.  The huge advantage here is that you can add a layer without adding more bulk on the shoulder socket/arms, and it can be quickly and easily pulled off to adjust your layering (without the hassle of taking off a jacket or pack, or webbing).

Important proviso - as with almost all synthetic materials they are lighter than wool - but are vulnerable to melting in a fire, causing more severe injury than a natural fabric burning.  Don't wear synthetics in high fire hazard areas!  (Note - there are synthetics made out of Nomex that are fire-retardant - but they are very pricey.)

Full disclosure: We sell head wraps as accessories to our tactical goggles, but - we specialize in Body Armor, not clothing, and are really not looking to sell small, individual clothing items, so our bias here is quite minimal!

Yours Truly, - Nick at BulletProofME.com

Captain Rawles,
I wanted to add my two cents to the award-winning December, 2011 SurvivalBlog post How to Make Homemade Dog Food. This post was great to educate people on the fact that it wasn't that long ago that dog food wasn't purchased at the store and that the store bought "dog food" really isn't that great for "man's best friend". I learned this after getting my third dog. The other two did great on store bought dog food, and in fact, my Lab lived for almost 15 years on the cheapest dog food from Wally World.

When I bought my current dog I did the research on the breed and everything said that Great Danes, had digestive problems. Starting out, everything went great. Purchasing the middle to upper expensive dog foods did the trick, until she grew to full size. That's when it went south, and by south I mean she had uncontrollable diarrhea. Upping the ante I went for the most expensive food I could. Even with the lamb and rice formulas designed for sensitive stomachs, nothing worked. After about two months I was ready to give up. Back to the research phase. What I came up with was that the commercial dog food is full of grains and "filler" that, even though most dogs are able to adapt to this diet, isn't a natural food source. So now what?

If you notice what a dog's teeth look like, they are nothing like a cow or even like a humans. They do not have the teeth to grind up grains and grasses. They have teeth that cut their food. That is why our sharpest teeth are called canines! They may be able to eat both meat and some veggies like D.M.D. stated but since they are descendents from wolves, think of what a wolf eats. The only veggies/grains/grasses that wolves eat come from the stomachs of the latest kill.

I began feeding my beast raw chicken, eggs, and any other meat I could get my hands on for cheap. I have never seen such a turn around from a dog that didn't tolerate "dog food". She gained about 20 lbs within a couple months and was very healthy. The diet I started, and am still doing to this day four years later, is mainly chicken quarters. Raw and whole, with the bone and everything. I add eggs, raw, shell and all. Elk when there is scraps from the hunt, deer, fish, pork, really anything she will eat, which is almost any meat I have tried. The main ingredient for me though is ten pound bags of chicken quarters from Wal-Mart. When I started this diet, three years ago it was about $0.49/lb, now (no such thing as inflation right?) it is still about $0.67/lb which, when compared to any dog food from the store, it is very competitive.

I do not cook the meat and I do not take out the bone. From a young age everyone is told, "don't give dogs chicken because the bones will splinter and isn't good for them" well when chicken isn't cooked the bones are very soft and spongy, not dry. They don't splinter when they aren't cooked and aren't dried out. They go down with the rest and actually milk the anal gland when coming out the other end (a lot of pups have to have this done manually when they go to the vet/groomer, or they do it themselves by dragging their behinds on the ground). Again, think of what a wolf eats in the wild. They don't strip the meat of bones and cook it do they? Wolves and dogs have a higher acid level in there stomachs that take care of the bacteria that make humans spend the day in the bathroom.

Until that post I didn't know there was a debate about whether dogs were carnivores or omnivores. I do believe that dogs have adapted to their surroundings and can survive eating both, but, I do believe and have proved with my current dogs that they not only can eat an almost strictly meat diet but actually thrive on it. Try it yourself. Get your dog a raw piece of chicken and some rice with green beans and carrots. You'll see that your pooch, while able to handle all of it, has carnivorous tendencies.

SHTF scenario, Cujo will do just fine if he is eating the scraps from your table. Be it all meat or meat with veggies. I would guess that they could revert to their ancestral state easier than most would think. I think there are post's on feral dogs on here so you can educate yourself on that some other time. Keep your powder dry. - C.A.

Kevin S. suggested this: What Most Gun Nuts Get Wrong

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File under "Emerging Threats": Medieval Weapon at Center of Beating Case. This adds new meaning to the expression "Getting medieval" on someone.

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SurvivalBlog's Pat Cascio flagged this: Pentagon May Oust Troops Involuntarily to Meet Reductions in Budget Plan.

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Reader E.B. sent this news from Canada: Mandatory gun sentence struck down by Ontario judge

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For those of you that are trapped in cubicles and reading SurvivalBlog on your lunch hour, this video clip is guaranteed to make your day: Automatic Glock with incendiary rounds. (Warning: There is one brief bit of foul language.)

“Future prosperity will not be based or sustained…by building big financial sectors. It is an economy based on real resources: On energy, ocean, natural resources, as well as the capabilities of people." - Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, addressing Alaskan statesmen, February 13, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Today we present another two entries for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Home food preservation is an important part of my food storage program.  I decided that if it can be sold in a can in the store, then I should be able to put it up myself, in jars.  I buy dry goods such as rice, pasta, potato flakes and dry beans and use a canner to store them in large #10 cans, as well as vacuum sealing with the “FoodSaver” jar lid port.  I’ve also hit a few sales after the holidays to buy a supply of candy to vacuum seal in jars for a time when a little comfort food will go a long way.  Perhaps the most important instrument in my families food storage program is my pressure cooker/canner.  I found one on sale a few years ago at Wal-Mart after the canning season and bought one for my daughter and one for myself.  I had been canning jelly for many years in a boiling water bath, but had not tried to use the pressure cooker/canner until last year.  I had a friend who has been canning for years to teach me to put up meat in canning jars.  Since then, I will usually check the mark down meats at the local market and will sometimes catch the chicken or hamburger marked down 50% because it is nearing it’s expiration date.  I buy all the skinless, boneless chicken they have, and I bring it home and can it for later. This also works well with putting up ground beef.

Years ago, when I was a young teen, my grandmother would get me up at 5:00 am to go out and help her pick the garden.  We live in the south where there is never a time it isn’t humid and sticky, but especially during the late spring and summer months of the year.  She would have me wear one of her long sleeve cotton shirts, long baggy pants, sock, sneaker or boots, gloves and a wide brim hat.  We were quite a site, but there wasn’t anyone to see us that early in the morning.  We would pick squash, cucumbers, corn, peas, and butter beans.  It wasn’t so bad having to pick the squash, we would just wash them and eat them…mostly fried, but sometimes stewed with onions.  But the cucumbers had to be put up as pickles, the corn had to be shucked, blanched and scraped for cream corn, and those peas and butter beans had to be shelled.  All day we would sit and shell those peas, and then that evening she would have me help her ‘put them up’ as she called canning. During the summer we would also have to ’go down the road’ and pick some berries.  Now grandma would give me a bucket that was about as big as I was, and tell me to fill it up, usually with black berries.  When I’d get home several hours later, we would wash those berries, boil them and then mash them and make jelly out of the berry juice. I tell you all this so you can see that I have been around canning most of my life, but until last year, I didn’t know you could can meat.  My grandma never did can meat.  Meat was always hung in the smoke house out back.  But not anymore. Now, it goes in a jar on one of my many shelves of canned protein. I didn’t like it that my two younger sisters never had to help with this grueling process, but today I am the only grandchild (out of 32) who knows how and enjoys canning fruit, vegetables, and meat.  I am glad I learned this art from my grandmother and can still enjoy the ‘fruits’ of our labors, even though she’s been gone for more than 20 years.  Several years ago, I found an old jar of jelly that my grandma had put up the year before she died.  I don’t know why I had saved it, but I decided to share it with my family.  I baked a simple cake, and used the jelly as icing on the cake.  At Christmas, I announced to my family that 

I hope that I can teach my daughters and my nieces how to preserve food the way my grandmother did.  I think this is a skill that will be very useful to us all in the future. 

I know that we can not live by bread alone, but the men in my house think they have to have meat and potatoes at least once a day.  And I am happy to try to oblige them whenever possible.  Besides meat, I also put up salsa, home made chili, and boiled peanuts. These are also an excellent source of protein. Here in the south, we love our boiled peanuts.  I started putting them in jars last year, also.  Now I can hardly keep them on the shelf!  My husband and my son open a jar almost every night to eat while watching their favorite television shows.  During the hard times I am afraid is coming, I have come up with some ways to utilize the boiled peanuts to the fullest.  After opening the jar, we drain off the salty water and used it to flavor a can of mixed vegetables to make it into soup.  You can also use the salty water to gargle for a sore throat.  Boiled peanuts are a great snack because, unlike many salty snacks, they do not turn into sugar like some carbohydrates.

I have been trying to incorporate using my canned meat, chicken and hamburger, into some of our meals now, so that it will not be so strange when we do hit hard times and do not have the option of using fresh meat, unless we have just come back from hunting.  But I figure that everyone will be out trying to hunt and fish and being in the woods with a bunch of strangers carrying guns is not my idea of a viable option.  Some of the dishes I have tried using the canned chicken are home made chicken salad for sandwiches.  We have had it with Chicken Helper chicken alfredo and southwest chicken.  I have used the chicken to make chicken noodle soup,  chicken pot pie, and chicken and rice.  I will usually add a can of Cream of Chicken soup to the chicken noodle soup to make it creamier. 

The hamburger is put up cooked, with a bullion cube and water, as loose ground beef.  We use the hamburger meat to make tacos, Sloppy Joes, spaghetti, and again with Cheeseburger Macaroni Hamburger Helper.   It works great with any of the Hamburger Helpers, but the cheeseburger macaroni is our family favorite.

You can find the instructions for canning meat and canning chicken in the instruction booklet that comes with your pressure canner/cooker.  The recipe is also in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.  My friend has shown me how to put up deer sausage, so I plan to do that this year.  It looks like sausage links in the jar, but when you pour out the water, the sausage casing disintegrates and leaves you with loose sausage, which is great for sausage and rice or mixed with eggs for a breakfast casserole.  Happy Canning!

I am writing this to encourage you to do with gardening and food preparation what we are encouraged to do with all of our prepping, practice, practice practice, your life depends on knowing that your plan will work!  I don't know if this will even qualify as a survival article but if nothing else maybe it will help some, like me, who need that little kick in the pants to start practicing our survival plans.  Maybe some of our mistakes, outlined in this article, will help you avoid them and experience a more successful first year of gardening than we experienced. 

My husband and I have spent the past three years researching information on seeds and gardening and we agreed that this would be my area to plan and oversee with his help.  We understood that our choice of seeds and the success of our gardening could mean the difference between surviving or not.  We chose heirloom seeds so we could save seeds for future gardens.   We considered our options for placement, we have a very big challenge, we have limited space for a garden due to our location.  We opted for raised beds, this is to help maximize space and yield. 

Last year we purchased our seeds as part of our Christmas, which was centered on preparation and survival equipment.  In February, I began my first year of survival gardening.  I had planned what to plant and knew what needed to be started indoors before spring.  I put the grow lights in the basement fixtures where we were setting up our little green house and meticulously spent a day planting my seeds with a lot of optimism and prayer.  It was very exciting to see the little seedlings start to grow and gave me a real sense of accomplishment.  In the spring I moved them up to our sun porch, to start hardening them off.  We got our raised beds built.  We then prepped the ground we were placing them on, tilling and removing grass etc.  We then filled our raised beds and I made my map of where everything was to be planted based on my assessment of the sun, the space and trying companion planting to help control pests.  The raised beds were also awesome for controlling weeds, grass etc and helped with watering and prevented wasting water.  We used lumber from pallets that we were able to get for free.  The down side is that they will have to be replaced, something we are working on with a more permanent solution,  it is that or stock up on pallets for replacement down the road.

As the days warmed we began planting and moving our plants outdoors.  We also chose to utilize Square Foot gardening in our beds, to maximize space.  We used string to mark off the beds in square foot planting grids.  This worked well for us and we will continue to use this method.  I knew early on that my tomato's were not doing as well as I hoped.  I gave it several weeks and decided to replace them, so I went to a local nursery and bought replacement non hybrid variety's and replanted.  Not an option TEOTWAWKI.  We also had several other failures from our attempt to start our seedlings indoors.  In fact almost everything we started inside failed and had to be replaced or we simply did not grow this year.  I know what some of my mistakes were and will try again this year making adjustments.  The size and type of containers as well as waiting to long to move them up to the sun porch was part of the problem as well as the soil mixture we chose.  So this year I will practice once again and hope that I have learned enough on this front to be on the road to  success. 

We had mixed results with the seeds planted directly into the soil, our beans, squash, peas and cucumber did well but were planted too late.  Our yield was very low.  I also lost my squash's and cucumbers to a pest that rotted the main stem.  We tried using diatomaceous earth for pest control with limited success, you have to reapply every time it rains and it can also kill the critters you want in you garden.  Next lesson learned, Sevin Dust  is going into our survival supplies, at least until I master organic gardening.  A little Seven on the garden is more desirable than a loss of life sustaining food.  The next problem I encountered was my layout failed.  I planted in such a way that my tomato's overshadowed my peppers and we did not get enough sun and they grew like vines and never yielded anything.  They could not get enough sun.  I learned this year what parts of my garden layout worked to best utilize the sun exposure and where it failed.  I also did not allow enough room and need to plant more beans.  The weather was also a challenge, we live in the Midwest and our summers can be very dry and hot.  Our tomato's grew and grew but were not setting fruit or did not ripen until the weather moderated closer to fall.  Earlier planting would have yielded us an early crop to enhance the later crop close to fall, having to replant cost us valuable time in the early season.  We had some great salads using our large variety of lettuces and I learned how to pick the lettuce and a variety of greens to keep them producing.   I was able to can about 19 pints of tomatoes, 9 pints of pickles from the cucumbers before the pests got them and 16 pints of green tomato salsa.  I also gathered a pint of mixed dried beans, navy, kidney, wrens egg and black eyed peas, I will also use some of these for replanting along with seeds left over to see if gathering these worked and if they will propagate, the rest will go into a pot of bean soup this winter.  It was rewarding to put up what little we got out of our garden and deepened my determination to do better next year. 

I learned what I need to plant more of and less of.  For example, I would rather have beans on the shelf than to try and creatively use more radishes than we could eat.  Some of the foods we grow can be canned, frozen, dried or stored in a root cellar but some need to be used fresh from the garden.  I also need to work on spacing my plantings over weeks to extend the yield as well as planting fall crops to extend the the growing season. 

Overall our first attempt at survival gardening was a huge failure, I am so thankful that we were not depending on it this year in a survival situation.  I am also thankful that I dug in and applied my plan and put in the work to learn these lessons and hope that this next year will yield success built on those lessons.  I have learned that the life sustaining skill of gardening needs to be practiced and  lessons learned while we can still feed our families without depending on the food we can grow. I planned very carefully and believed I had it all worked out,  I am so glad I had the opportunity to put my plan into practice before it becomes critical to my families survival and to learn that, I had a lot to learn. 

There were also many things we were prompted to think about and to work out in advance.  We will be working on how to best turn our little sun porch into a green house so that we do not have to rely on grow lights.  Grow lights are a  fine alternative now but may not be feasible TEOTWAWKI.  We are also going to build some cold frames to cover our new seedlings and to give us an opportunity to plant earlier.  These will provide some protection from the chilly spring nights and help hold in the warmth from the day as well as protection from insects until the plants are stronger.  This was something else we learned that we really needed, to help prolong our growing season and give our seedlings a better start.  In working the garden this year we were also motivated to think about water when TEOTWAWKI  hits.   So, we worked out a way that we can have water on hand near our garden during the times we need to water.  We  bought large food grade barrels to place under the down spouts on our garage to collect rainwater with a spigot attached near the bottom.   This enables us to attach a hose so we can water when we need to supplement mother nature.  Our garage is detached from our home and the garden is right next to it, so this works out well.  This won't help during a prolonged drought but most of the time, in our area,  it will provide a really good supplement to mother nature under normal weather patterns.  So much of what we are doing, such as gardening, in prep for whatever may come, is not rocket science but there can be many details that need our attention, before our lives depend on it, things we won't think of until we are using our preparations.  Practicing helps us to find what we have missed.  In some cases we will be able to adjust as we go but things like watering a garden could be the difference between security and success and a devastating failure. 

I don't want to discourage anyone by sharing this.  In spite of my failures, I felt empowered by my effort and the knowledge that I am building and learning skills that could make a difference when faced with TEOTWAWKI.  I learned the importance of not only practicing my gardening but also the need to practice with many other aspects of our survival plan and preparations.   I urge everyone who has not practiced their gardening to start next spring and not wait until your family is dependent on that part of your preparedness plan.  By drawing out and putting my garden plan to paper I have also made it easier to evaluate and rework my plan, now that I put it to practice and learned what worked and what did not.  I hope you have a better outcome with your first efforts.  The important thing is to begin the effort now, before your life depends on it! All the plans, preparation and supplies in the world will not help us if we do not learn to use them, learn what works and learn what does not work.  The bottom, bottom line is that I am thankful for the opportunity to practice my garden at a time that the hungry eyes of my kids and grand kids were not looking at me for success.  Hopefully when that time comes I will have learned all my lessons and will have a very successful survival garden.  In the meantime, we need to practice as though our lives depend on it. 

A key to survival will be having a handy way to start seedlings any time of the year, or perhaps to even have a micro-greenhouse for Winter vegetables.  A cold frame is great for this and you can make one for yourself very easily  My wife and I have been starting a lot of seeds recently and I thought I would pass on a simple homemade cold frame idea I had.  This cold frame requires no tools and only about an hour to assemble.  If you buy the materials, you can purchase everything for about $100.
I started with an old set of poly garage shelving that I had stored in the garage.  The set I have is a sturdy set made by Continental (I have no affiliation with this company) which sells for $81 or more, though you can find other brands for less.  The shelves are ventilated and the entire set is made of poly with no metal parts, so outdoor s it won’t deteriorate due to rust, and when not in use, they store disassembled in a very small space.  Amazon doesn’t have it in stock at the moment, but this is the one I use.  I like these because they are very sturdy and can handle the weight.  The second item needed is a 15” roll of mover’s stretch plastic wrap.  This wrap adheres to itself and is used by movers to protect furniture, and may be purchased online or at your local U-Haul (again, no affiliation) for about $17.  You may also want to purchase some clear packing tape to keep your creation from unraveling in the breeze.
Step 1: Assemble Shelf
To assemble your cold frame, first assemble the shelving unit.  The unit consists of four shelves, with a total of 12 round legs to support the shelves.  As an option, you can combine multiple units to add additional shelves, but beware of the tipping hazard and secure your unit when finished.  The shelves assemble by simply slipping the legs into the four corners of each shelf, requiring no fasteners. 

Step 2: Wrap bottom, sides, and top
Use the stretch plastic to wrap the shelf unit on the bottom, sides, and top first, leaving a bit of overlap on the sides in the front and back, making sure you overlap layers for adhesion, and stretch it to fit snugly. 

Step 3: Wrap front and back, leave a gap
Next, wrap the left and right sides of the shelf unit leaving a 12” gap in the center of the front and back, again overlapping with the sides.  Wrap these in the direction of the back, away from you, starting at the top and ending at the top.  It’s best to use a continuous loop all the way around.

Step 4: Repeat Steps 2 and 3
Repeat these two wrapping steps (steps 2 and 3) to create an overlapping second layer of plastic.

Step 5: Wrap the “Door”
Finally, wrap the 12” inch center section in the opposite direction, but this time, start at the bottom, go up the back, and over the top, ending at the bottom of the shelf unit at your feet.  Leave about two or three feet of extra plastic wrap at this point wrapped around a dowel or old broom handle.  This will allow you access to the cold frame by opening this last section, with a handy place to roll up the plastic.  Wrapping the “door” in the opposite direction will help to prevent unwrapping the rest of the plastic when you open it.  You can open the “door” partially and weight down the roller to allow ventilation, or roll it up and put it on top of the unit as needed.  When closed, tuck the broom handle next to the bottom shelf and hold in place with a log or rocks.   This unit is very light and may be moved indoors if needed due to extreme cold, or moved to different places on your property if the amount of sunlight needed varies.  Place your seedlings and starter trays inside and begin planning your harvest!
Options you can add include baling wire for extra security holding the unit together before the wrapping process (though you may have to deal with rust later), and if you are setting it up in a windy area, you might want to anchor it to the ground or a wall.  If you need to use the top shelf inside the frame, you can extend the wrap higher using a light spacer such as a couple of milk cartons on each end of the top shelf before wrapping it up.  If you do this, add a board between them to suspend the plastic wrap “roof.”
Best Regards, - Ron in Florida

I am trying to facilitate my move to the American Redoubt area and am planning some income sources. I make knives, holsters, and pouches for other accessories but I am looking to expand what I can offer to help support my family when we move. My question is for you as well as anyone else you know in that area. I am an avid reloader and was wondering what the ammo options are like in the American Redoubt region. I'm curious about local places that offer a decent selection at a good price. From a few years of experience in construction in Montana (when I wasn't paying attention to ammo suppliers), goods and services tend to be more expensive than what I am used to where I currently am. I suspect due to higher cost of transport and lower availability. This has led me to guess that local ammo suppliers may be more expensive and have less supply than more populated areas. I am also curious about suppliers that also accept barter for other goods and services.

Any information you could pass along on the availability of local ammo dealers and where they may be lacking would greatly be appreciated. Thanks and God bless! - G.A.

JWR Replies: The best way to buy or barter for ammunition is directly from manufacturers. There are a surprising number of small ammo and reloading component makers in the American Redoubt, and more moving in each year. Western Montana seems to be the current hot spot for ammo makers.

The prices from these makers are very competitive. The higher cost of shipping components is more than offset by the business friendly, gun friendly, and hunting friendly environment. Overall, there is a very low cost of doing business in the Redoubt states. (These advantages include inexpensive manufacturing and warehouse space, very inexpensive electricity from hydroelectric power (as low as 4 cents per kilowatt hour, commercially), low labor costs, and low taxes. The only downsides are slightly higher heating costs, and typically a one day delay to get anything to or from anywhere via UPS.

In Idaho:

Let's of course start with the big one: CCI, in Lewiston, Idaho

And consider that Idaho's state government is actively courting ammunition and gun manufacturers.

And here is just a sampling of makers:

PNW Arms (Potlach)

Steele Components (Lewiston)

Xtreme Ammo And Brass (Caldwell)

Garnet Ammunition (Coeur d'Alene)

In Montana:

The ammo business is hopping!


The Hunting Shack

Mark X Presses

Montana Gold Bullet

Buffalo Bore. (Oft-mentioned in SurvivalBlog.)

Montana Bullet Works

And there is a detailed listing at the Montana Shooting Sports Association web site.

In Eastern Oregon:

Nosler Bullets

Rimrock Ammunition

Laser Cast

In Eastern Washington:

Cowboy Bullets

In Wyoming:

Fine Ammo (The makers of Extremmuntion)


Mount Baldy Bullets

There are also MANY Redoubt-based small companies listed at the Corbin web site. (Just search on the Redoubt telephone area codes: 208,509, 406, 307, 541, and 458.)

In my experience, the gun and ammo makers in the Inland Northwest have a very loyal fraternal spirit. They do their best to give each other business. There is a very active gun show circuit in the Redoubt and the dealers do a great job of helping each other out. Even out-of-state vendors like Miwall get into the act, and attend a large number of shows in the Redoubt.

Since ammo vendors typically "go out heavy and come back light" when selling at gun shows, it is a natural for local manufacturers to drop off wholesale ammunition orders to the vendors directly at gun shows. This of course saves money on transportation costs.

M.P. mentioned that the last free version of Ham Radio Deluxe, used for communicating with various digital modes, is available here.

   o o o

California's mobile hospitals are losing funding and time. (Thanks to Sean B. for sending the link.)

   o o o

Security Slackers Risk Internet Blackout on March 8.

   o o o

Joe M. sent this one: Daylong traffic jam on Interstate 10 leads to motorist horror stories. [JWR's Comment: If just fixing some potholes caused this, then what will the major freeways look like when the Schumer hits the fan?]

   o o o

Mysterious illness kills thousands in Central America. It sounds like dehydration was a contributing factor in many of the deaths. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! (Thanks to R.C. for the link.)

"Freedom is not a place to visit, or a thing to be achieved. Freedom is a commitment, a way of life that will endure only as long as men love it for themselves and their children, more than their weariness, or their fear, or vain comforts."  - Michael Case

Monday, February 13, 2012

I'm not a fan of "mouse calibers" for self-defense! However, I'm a firm believer in having some sort of back-up piece to my main gun. I still remember when I saw my first North American Arms (NAA) Mini .22 LR revolver. I want to say it was in the mid 1970s, and I was at my favorite gun shop in a southwestern suburb of Chicago. I was good friends with the fellow who worked there, and he always wore a baseball cap. He took his baseball cap off, and revealed he was carrying, in a pocket, sewn into the brim of the hat: a North American Arms mini-revolver in .22 LR. I was really taken with the itty-bitty gun because of the compactness of it, and how easily it could be concealed.
Needless to say, I purchased a NAA mini-revolver on-the-spot that day. I took it to the indoor range at the gun shop and had a blast shooting the little gun. I did find out though, that the gun was ammo sensitive, and there were some misfires with certain brands of .22 LR ammo. I carried that little gun in my jacket pocket, as a back-up to a .357 Magnum Colt snubby revolver that I carried in my duties as a Private Investigator. I also worked another gig as a plainclothes store detective, and one of my duties was taking the weekend cash receipts (sometimes as much as $50,000) to the bank at the far end of the mall parking lot. I carried the bank bag stuffed inside of a store bag, so it looked like I had just purchased something from the store. I also kept my hand in my jacket pocket, on the little NAA mini-revolver. There never was a problem going to the bank.
I don't recall what I did with that little NAA mini-revolver - probably traded it for something else. It was just recently that I received a new NAA mini-revolver for testing. These little guns only weigh 4.5 oz, so you hardly even know you're carrying one. I also requested an inside the pocket holster for my sample. Neat holster, in which, you could also carry 5 spare rounds of .22 LR ammo. Now, make no mistake, you can not speed reload the NAA .22 LR if you fire all 5 shots. However, the extra ammo is there should you have an opportunity to get behind cover and reload the gun. Loading takes time, you have to remove the cylinder pin and cylinder from the revolver in order to load it, and it takes longer to reload, as you have to punch out the empty brass.
The NAA mini-revolver is made out of stainless steel, and that's a good thing for a gun you are gonna carry in a pocket. You can also get a holster to carry it on your belt. However, I think pocket carry is the way to go. They also make a grip that looks to all the world like you're carrying a folding knife in your pocket - all you see is the clip on the outside of you pants pocket. Neat! [JWR Adds: Consult your local and state law, of course.] With a 1-1/8" barrel you're not gonna get a lot of velocity out of this gun, nor are we looking at any sort of long-range accuracy, either. This gun is meant as a last-ditch back-up to whatever else you might be carrying in my humble opinion. The NAA .22 LR fires single-action only, which means you have to cock the hammer for each shot. The sights - well for me, forget about it--they are too small. Then again, this little revolver is for up-close and personal use: sort of "stick it in their face or ear" and fire it.
I only fired the mini-revolver at 10 feet, as I believe this is a realistic distance for a back-up gun of this size and caliber. I wasn't getting itty-bitty groups - not gonna lie about that. However, I was able to put 5-shots into a head-sized target, and that's good enough for making someone wish they had picked on another victim.
NAA makes a variety of mini-revolvers, from .22 Short through .22 Magnum, and there are all manner of barrel lengths as well as methods in which to carry these guns. They even make a belt buckle holster, if you care to carry the gun in the open - few would be the wiser looking at the belt buckle with the gun on it.
In the earlier NAA mini-revolvers, it was only safe to carry 4 rounds in the 5 round chamber, for fear of dropping the gun and it landing on the hammer and firing the live round under the hammer. On the new guns, you can safely load all 5 chambers and then put the hammer on half-cock, and there's no fear of the gun firing if you drop it. I have a friend who is a gun writer, and he routinely carries a NAA mini-revolver in his front shirt pocket - as a back-up to a .357 Mag revolver in his right front pants pocket. I'd like to see NAA devise some kind of "holster" carry for carrying this little gun in a baseball cap. Sure, you can devise a little pouch and sew it into a baseball cap yourself. But I'd like to see a professionally done "holster" for this type of carry. The last place anyone would look for a gun on your person, would be inside a baseball cap.
I literally had a blast testing the little mini-revolver. I fired a couple hundred rounds through it. This was not all in one session, as loading and reloading are slow. I fired four different types of .22 LR ammo and had zero failures to fire. The trigger pull is a bit stout, then again, this isn't any sort of target gun, it's meant for close-up, last ditch, self-defense us--as well, as just shooting fun. Full retain is only $199 on this little gun, it's worth checking one out if you are looking for a last line of defense. It's better than a sharp stick or better than throwing rocks. Sure, the .22 LR isn't any sort of man stopper, but it would sure make a bad guy wish he that were some place else when the chips are down and you are unloading on him.

The Guardian .32 Autopistol

The second sample I received from NAA is their Guardian .32 - this is their .32 ACP semiauto pistol. I had previously tested the NAA Guardian in .32 NAA caliber and .380 ACP, and really liked both of 'em. I did an article for American Handgunner on those two samples, and they were great performers. I was especially taken with the .32 NAA  a proprietary round, but it had lots of power behind it. So, I was anxious to test the Guardian in 32 ACP. The .32 ACP is on the smaller frame - the size of a .25 auto - we're talking a very small automatic pistol, with 6+1 rounds of .32 ACP ready to go. Again, I personally wouldn't carry this as my main gun, instead, it would be a back-up to whatever my main gun might be. Yes, I consider the .32 ACP in the "mouse gun caliber" category. However, with the right load, the .32 ACP can get the job done for you. In my case, I requested some Buffalo Bore Ammunition .32 ACP hard cast +P 75 grain ammo for testing in this little gun. Tim Sundles, who owns Buffalo Bore ammo, believes that this is the way to go if you're carrying a .32 ACP, as his Flat Nose +P round will really penetrate and break bones. I'm not about to argue with him. He knows his stuff.
I requested the base-line Guardian .32, nothing fancy - just as basic as you can get. You can also order one with various types of sights on it - and take a close look at the NAA web site to see what's available. The basic sights on the base-line Guardian .32 are really small, in fact too small for my aged eyes to see, especially if doing any rapid-fire. However, I consider the Guardian .32 as another close-up, last ditch weapon. My shooting was done at five yards, and I think that's a fair distance for this little gun. I could get 3-to-4 inch groups (point shooting) at that distance, under rapid-fire conditions. I will say though, that the Buffalo Bore +P loads let you know you have something in your hand - the little 13.5 oz gun really bucked. The 10 pound trigger pull was a hindrance - at first. However, after firing the gun a few times, I didn't notice the heavy pull. Again, this isn't a target gun, you can't stage the trigger - it's aim and fire. Don't try to stage the trigger or you'll pull the sights off-target.
The Guardian .32 is a double-action only pistol, and the trigger pull is long and heavy. It's nothing you can't learn to shoot in short order, though. The 2.49" barrel isn't going to take advantage of all the velocity offered by the Buffalo Bore ammo +P load, but you are still getting +P power out an itty-bitty semiauto pistol, that will surely get someone's attention if they are hit with this round. NAA was also kind enough to send me a spare magazine and an inside-the-pants shark skin pocket holster. The Guardian .32 comes with one magazine, that has an extended base on it - and it was enough to get 1-1/2 fingers on the gun for a grip. With the spare magazine with the flat base on it, I could only get my thumb and one finger around the gun. The extended base magazine is definitely the way to go.
Like the 22 LR, the Guardian .32 is made out of stainless steel, and the grips are some sort of hard plastic. You can also get all manner of grips as an option from NAA. And I'd look at getting a pair of wood grips, that are a tad thicker, for a better grip. NAA also offers all sorts of holsters for the Guardian .32 as well. They have a great selection of accessories for all their guns - and they make about 70 different models and variations of guns.
The magazine release was a bit stiff on my Guardian .32 sample, then again, this gun isn't made for speed-reloading. It took a sure press on the magazine release button to drop the magazine.
What I really liked about the NAA Guardian .32 is the fact that it is very well-made. It's not like some cheap $50 .25 ACP handgun. This gun will last you a lifetime, and, should you have any problems, NAA has a lifetime limited warranty and they'll take care of it for you. Full retail is $402 on this little gun. Yeah, a little bit steep, but you are getting a high-quality pistol - not some cheap piece of junk. And, the Guardian .32 is fully capable of handling +P loads.
As for accuracy, I was getting 3-to-4 inch groups, rapid-fire, at 5 yards. That's good enough to put 'em all inside of a person's head, or into the vitals on the upper torso, too. I liked this gun - a lot! It's a great little gun to drop into your pocket, when you are walking out to get the mail or answering the front door.
Yep, no doubt about it, the .22 LR and .32 ACP are mouse calibers in my humble opinion. But no one ever said there isn't a place in the grand scheme of things of this smaller calibers. If you're looking for a last ditch back-up gun or two, take a look at the NAA .22 LR or the Guardian .32 - they are both well-made, high quality pieces, that do have a place in the self-defense line-up.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), is a difficult and tricky topic to cover.  First, let’s get some of the politics out of the way and then some pretty interesting facts about IBS to start with, then we will move on to some helpful management tips.  The actual definition of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is this:  a gastrointestinal syndrome characterized by chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel habits in the absence of any organic cause.  Obviously, if there is no way to actually test for a disease, then there is a wide interpretation of who has it and why they do; therefore, the politics.  There are some folks that believe that IBS should be labeled as a psychiatric disorder.  Often IBS is treated (sometimes successfully) with anti-depressant medications or even psychiatric medications.  Therefore, there are many out there that just toss IBS on the pile of “made up” diseases and close their minds to other options.  There are others that think IBS will be discovered to be a specific autoimmune disorder as time and research progresses.  Again, some medications that help problems like RA (rheumatoid arthritis) help some of the patients that suffer from IBS symptoms.  Others feel that IBS is a mechanical problem and if treated with the right diet and bowel regularity can be cured.  Still others feel that most IBS is misdiagnosed and if the proper workup were completed, these patient would find many alternate diagnoses instead of IBS.
The facts are interesting though about IBS:
• Prevalence varies widely among countries and is usually higher in developed countries
• Younger patients and women are more likely to be diagnosed with IBS
• Females to males with IBS is 2:1
• Costs estimate to be up to $30,000,000,000 dollars for IBS health care impact [, including missed days of work]
• 2nd most common cause of work absenteeism after the common cold!
• 25 to 50% of all GI (gastroenterologist) referrals
• Emotional stress often worsens the pain
The great thing about IBS is that almost all of us could really be diagnosed with it based on the criteria.  You can have diarrhea, or you can have constipation.  Usually, the pain is accompanied by a change in your bowel habits, but not always.  It can be relieved by a bowel movement, but not necessarily.  The official criteria, call Rome III Criteria, are as follows:
• recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort
• at least 3 days per month for at least 3 months
• associated with 2 of the 3
? improves after defecation
? start of symptoms is with change in bowel frequency (increase or decrease)
? start of symptoms is with change in stool appearance
Now, not to get too personal here, but if we eat enough Thai food or Mexican in my family it’s IBS for everyone!  This is what makes IBS tough for people to live with when they have a bad clinical case of it.  Most of the people around them think:  “big deal, you have stomach cramps and bowel problems, who doesn’t get that?”  The problem, from this Family Practitioner docs view, is how much do the symptoms have a life impact.  Lots of people meet the criteria for IBS and it doesn’t really affect their day to day living.  In fact, estimates are that only 15% of people with IBS criteria actually go to the doctor to do something about it.  There are others though that are basically disabled by IBS.  They have severe pain with bad diarrhea and are suffering every day.  This is why lots of different medications end up being “tried out” on IBS patients with severe disease.  Doctors just want to find something that helps the patient.
All patients will IBS should have already tried to eliminate all lactose from their diets to see if their symptoms improve.  That should be the case now rather than later.  Some patients will notice specific foods that worsen their IBS symptoms, and all IBS patients should keep a food diary for 2-3 months and note all foods and all symptoms in that diary.  The trends can be reviewed and those foods that worsen symptoms be avoided.  Again, this should be done now rather than when there is limited choice in foods.  Food allergies can often be a cause of or exacerbate IBS symptoms, and if you have IBS get your lab panel done now to see if food allergies are one of the causes of your symptoms.  Be sure the panel includes gluten, which is another source of IBS symptoms for some patients.  Some other foods that are thought to worsen some IBS patients include:  fructans, galactans, fructose, sobitol, xylitol, mannitol, and even fiber.  The diary should help to clue a patient in if these worsen or cause their symptoms.

Physical activity does help many, but not all patients with IBS.  Moderate physical activity is recommended for patients with IBS symptoms, and in a study those that did exercise improved and worsened less than the patients that were inactive.  Psychosocial therapies can help some patients, but the politics really kick in when you recommend hypnosis, biofeedback, and psychotherapy to a patient with stomach problems.  These treatments will obviously not be available WTSHTF.
Medications really are a last resort for the management of IBS, and any medicine is only to be used with the lifestyle and diet recommendations already reviewed above.  Any medication would have to be life-long and there is a lack of any convincing evidence of therapeutic benefit.  That being said, there are many IBS patients out there that take medications that truly improve their quality of life.  Again, any management of IBS should be done now as trials of medications and adjustment of doses will not be possible at TEOTWAWKI.
So, what can a person do to plan for the future without a grid if they have moderate to severe IBS.  The plain answer is:  make sure you have completed all the steps to modify and control your IBS symptoms, then continue more of the same.  If you have IBS now and manage it with diet, stress reduction, and fluids; you will need to continue those things WTSHTF.  If you take a medication, either over the counter or prescription, and it helps manage your IBS. You should probably have stockpile quantities of those meds for when the grid is no more.  The message is pretty clear:  get moving on management of your IBS when the grid is up and you will be a lot better off if it does go down.  Like most prepping issues, planning ahead pays off ten-fold compared to the “what do we do now” approach.  Stay strong, - Dr. Bob

JWR Adds: A family member with chronic IBS reported that Peppermint, Anise, and Fennel teas allproved to be a tremendous relief. The great news is that you can grow your own peppermint, anise, and fennel in many climate zones. I recommend that you start growing a patch of each now, so you can help any IBS sufferers in your community. Just be careful not to let the anise spread--it can become a pernicious weed.


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

Dear SurvivalBloggers:
There are a number of ways to encrypt or read encrypted email.  This one is about the easiest to get installed and running on your Macintosh computer, that I've run across. It uses the native Apple Mail program, and adds a OpenPGP Encryption and Signature option.

All you have to do is install the program from the dmg file, and enter a password.  There's a GUI key interface for importing existing keys into it.

Of course not all emails need encryption, but that OPSEC sensitive email you need to send to loved ones or group members is a perfect example of when to use it.  Once installed, you choose what gets encrypted. 

Application: GPGTools (Developed by the GnuPG group.)
Download: https://github.com/downloads/GPGTools/GPGTools/GPGTools-20111224.dmg
Main Web site: http://www.gpgtools.org

Include in the install program are the following (from their web site):
 Compatible with OS X Lion.
 All applications are 64-bit compatible.
 Integrated GPGMail (OS X 10.5 to 10.7, Universal).
 Integrated GPG Keychain Access (OS X 10.5 to 10.7, Universal).
 Integrated GPGServices (OS X 10.6 to 10.7).
 Integrated GPGToolsPreferences (OS X 10.6 to 10.7).
 Integrated MacGPG 2 (OS X 10.5 to 10.7, Intel).
 Integrated MacGPG 1 (OS X 10.5 to 10.7, Universal).
 Integrated Enigmail (Thunderbird 3 to 8).

There's even a screen-cast of the install, encrypting email, and using the Apple 'Services' feature for text edit encryption,  if you want to watch it before installing: http://www.gpgtools.org/screencast.html though I'll warn you: it goes by so fast you should be ready to hit the pause and rewind buttons when you start it.

Steps [with Apple Mail closed]:

1. Download the GPG dmg file.
2. Have a password in mind
3. Open the dmg by double clicking the file in your web browsers Downloads window
4. Double Click the GPGtools.mpkg file and select an install location
5. When asked enter your email address, and name.
6. When asked, enter a password, then re-enter it when asked.

When completed, you can close the GPG Keychain Access application and start your Apple Mail.
When you select a 'new' email, you will see an OpenPGP section under the "from" drop-down list. Also you can get to the encryption/decryption options under "Messages -> OpenPGP" in your menu bar. This will allow you to sign and encrypt  and decrypt your email.

In addition, this bundle of GPGTools works with Apple's Services, allowing for encryption of 'Services' aware applications.
If you open your System Preferences -> Keyboard you can click on Keyboard Shortcuts -> services and click the OpenPGP items under "Files and Folders" along with "Text" allowing you to encrypt any text file you open with textedit.
When you open textedit the next time you will see "Textedit->Services->Open PGP"  in the menu bar.

The toolkit also comes with a command line interface for encrypting just about any type of file you want, but that's a little out of scope here.
For more information on the CLI, using public key servers, and general GPG information, check out this set of How-Tos.

Hope this helps, - Robert X.

I would like to begin this story by telling you why I felt it was needed. I was reading the blog and saw the post from R.H. "When the lights went out in the southwest" and how they had a very hard time getting in contact with his nephew. And also a recent post on CME and nuclear power plant failures and grid down type situations. And it got me thinking about how little some people know about how the traditional communications grid in this country works.
To qualify my position on this subject I will tell you that I'm a network technician for a very major telephone company (Telco) that serves all of Jim's American Redoubt states and many others. I have 11 years here and love my job and I have been everything from an installer/repair tech to the guy that splices the cable and installs high speed data lines. 
So where to start? I would like to tell you all there is to know about how this stuff works, but I don't want to bore you all to tears so I'm going to leave most of the technical terms and stuff like that out. I'll start with R.H. and his trouble getting in touch with his nephew. 

In his story he talks about getting texts and some calls on his cell. So we can assume that he had a signal from a cell tower and his cell phone was in good working order. But there was a problem with one town not getting or sending cell calls and texts. This was possibly a tower that served that area had lost grid power and had no battery or generator back-up. Or it was over loaded with call volume. See in a typical cell site there are pretty much three major components that make the whole thing work.
 1. The tower, This guy sends out and receives radio like signals to and from your cell phone.
 2. The switching equipment in the building on the ground. This takes the signal and turns it into a call or SMS message and routes them out to the world. 
 3. The tower's connection to the world. This is typically a couple T-1s or a fiber optic connection. 
 Sometimes part #2 or #3 will become over loaded with volume and that's why you'll get that message "sorry but all circuits are busy" when you try to make a call. The switch may not have enough spots free to connect you out but the tower can make a connection to your phone. Or the T-1 or fiber connection to the world doesn't have enough bandwidth to handle all the calls if its being overloaded with calls. This is why sometimes you can send a SMS message but not make a call. Because the message needs less bandwidth to send compared to a voice call. 

Visualize bandwidth like a pipe. If its big enough to handle the traffic on a normal day but all of a sudden you start cramming more stuff in it it just can't fit sometimes. Like trying to use a garden hose to fight a house fire, its just not big enough sometimes. Now land lines are a little bit different, and have some advantages for preppers over the cell phones. Don't get me wrong they both have good and bad sides. If you have a land line great but if you don't I'll let you know why you might want to consider getting one.
First off the whole problem of signals and battery power on your end are almost nil. If you have a hard wired or "corded phone" it will use the electric signal that's on the line from the Telco's own equipment. Assuming everything is working correctly at the central office, or some of the more rural areas are served thru what we call "pair gain" or a R.T. (short for Remote Terminal) more on this set-up later as there is a difference between Central Office (CO) based and R.T./pair gain based services. 

Second, the whole bandwidth issue is not as bad because the CO for your area is where most cell towers get their fiber/T-1's from. Now CO switches can also become bogged down buy call volume also but most of the time they have extra capacity built into them because of this. And if you are making a call to another line that is from the same office the switch will make the connection in the same office. A long distance call or one that has to be sent to another office is more susceptible to volume problems due to the trunk lines used to connect the CO's to each other becoming overloaded.  
Third, The COs have a big generator that kicks in when the office loses grid power. The offices I work out of have either a 72 hour supply of diesel fuel or run on utility-piped natural gas. But the diesel is most common as you can see the disadvantage to the gas option, I only know of one that is like that. Additionally, hey also have a 8 hour back-up battery bank. 
This is where the difference between CO-based service and R.T.s kicks in. First off the R.T. is usually connected to the CO by a dedicated group of T-1s that have one time slot per line in the R.T. so you don't have the problem of "all circuits are busy" or a fiber optic connection that is for our sake the same. The trouble kicks in when these guys lose grid power, They typically have a 8-to-24 hour battery back-up in them and that's it. We have to go out with our trucks and charge them back up with the gensets on our trucks. You can see where that could get tricky. Most newer DSL service is provided by a R.T. and some of them don't even have a battery back-up as the companies are not required to have it on them by most regulations. My own line is like this, the dial tone is provided straight from the CO but my DSL comes from an R.T. So when my part of town loses grid power the phone still works but my DSL doesn't. This is something you might consider if you are using a VOIP type system. 
The next thing you might think about is 911 service, your land line is tied to your address so if you call 911 from your land line the dispatcher on the other end knows where the call is coming from as soon as it's received. This is why a 911 hang-up still brings the cops to your house. The cell phones are getting better about knowing where you are with GPS and other things being used to tell where you made the call from. 

I'm not to well-versed on how reverse 911 works with the cell's but I do know it works well with the land lines. This could be a double edged sword for preppers as the cell or land line could give up your location if you want to be all secret squirrel, but I have personally installed lines to addresses that are something like: "County Road 21 pole 5 second gate on the left." We don't care where the house is, just where the N.I. (short for Network Interface) is. I have seen these little gray boxes on fence posts and we take it to there and the customer takes it past that point. There are other ways around this but it usually requires you to use VOIP to get a fake area code and number. I know of guys that use this type of stuff but that's for another post.

This is just some info on why, during a short term SHTF you have problems using traditional communications. Be it a hurricane or another 9-11-01 type situation you'll be better prepared for them. In a TEOTWAWKI type of scenario your pretty much doing the YOYO thing but I hope this helps for the minor emergencies you run into in you lives. 
And you can always stop one of us out on the road and ask questions to find out info on your setup. I would have to say that maybe 50% of the guys I work with are preppers and even more are ex-military so we would not think it strange at all if you wanted to know how it works! Hope this helps, - The Phone Guy

Ken E.'s Chicken and Stuffing
1/2 lb of Chicken or 2 Chicken Breasts.
1 can of Cream of Mushroom soup.
1 box of instant stuffing.
3 sticks of celery.
1 cup of water.
In a crock pot, or Dutch oven place the raw chicken and chopped celery and can of cream of mushroom soup set on low heat. cook for 3 hours or until chicken is just past pink. In a separate container add the stuffing mix and 1 cup of water and mix well. Add the stuffing to the chicken and soup mixture. Serve. This makes a meal for two healthy adults, or two kids and two adults when adding a side dish.

Chef's Notes:

Our family of four likes to double the recipe. This amount of food gives me the ability to bring it for work the next day. The left-overs can be eaten hot or cold I have done both.
In the recipe I stated that the pot needs to be set at a low heat. I know that if you're out in the sticks, without electricity and you are cooking with a fire. It might be a good idea to cook the chicken first then add the other ingredients after the chicken is done. Cooking the ingredients with the chicken allows the flavors to intermingle.

Jenn in Arizona Added This Suggestion:

"I have made this dish in my crock pot several times. I would like to suggest to those who do not like Cream of Mushroom soup to try using either Cream of Chicken or Cream of Celery soup. You can also use the same amount of chicken broth in place of water. This usually tastes better. Also, one other thing I like to do as the recipe I have calls for is to add a little butter in pieces to the top of the stuffing mix. I also did a search not too long ago and someone suggested you can prepare turkey this way, as well."

Note From JWR: Translating Old-Fashioned Measurements -- Small Increments:

The following are rough estimations of some small increments often found in old recipes:

Tad: 1/4 Teaspoon
Dash: 1/8th Teaspoon
Pinch: 1/16th Teaspoon
Smidgen: 1/32nd Teaspoon

(Of course, you mileage may vary, since these were not standardized measurements, and the terminology might vary significantly!)

Useful Recipe and Cooking Links:

Reader Bob. B. suggested to taking a look at the oft-cited The Provident Living (LDS) Food Storage and Emergency Preparedness web page. He suggested; "Especially look at the 'Dry Pack Handouts' label in the right-hand list. Great recipes for basic foods."

My old friend Fred the Valmet-meister sent me a link for a web site devoted to cowboy dutch oven cooking and sourdough "start" as well as some sourdough recipes.

Do you have a favorite recipe that you have tested extensively? Then please e-mail it to us for posting. Thanks!

Yishai sent this from Oleg Volk: Survival Lasers 300mW red kit — Tool or Toy?

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By way of Tam's View From The Porch Blog: George Lucas: Han Never Shot First

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Our SurvivalRealty spin-off site has hit critical mass, with 87 listings, including its first in Hawaii. Extended page advertisements there cost just $30 per month, and no sales commissions are charged. Congrats to my #1Son for building the Internet's most popular web site dedicated to survival retreat properties.

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F.J. sent this: Build a Secret Closet Door for $200 or Less

"Perceive and believe. Don't engage in denial. And stay calm. Don't panic. If you're going to die, you're going to die. Suck it up. In a truly dire situation…, you have to let go of thoughts of your own death and simply do what needs to be done: Act deliberately and in the right direction."  - Lawrence Gonzales

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Today we present another entry for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Transportation is so easy today, its laughable.  I can take a flight from Seattle, Washington to Hong Kong and arrive 13 hours later.  Before oil was processed to produce fuel, a trip from Seattle to Hong Kong took several months on a boat in cramped conditions and meager rations.  Millions, if not billions, of people take our current methods and modes of transportation for granted.  What if these modes of transportation were suddenly not available because of (insert scenario here)?  If you can't think of a scenario, I'll list a few:  Peak Oil, World War III, End of the Petro dollar, and/or a societal breakdown.  If cheap gasoline were no longer available, how would you get around?  This article will attempt to address concerns of what could happen and what a survivalist/prepper can do to become more prepared to get around in a post-disaster world. 

I want to first consider one of the most efficient methods of transportation: the bicycle.  The technology in making bicycles has changed very little over the past hundred years.  This is because the main concept is so simple and so efficient.  The main advances in technology for the bicycle have been the materials.  Expensive bicycles in today’s world are made out of light-weight, durable metals and plastics.  You can find cheaper bicycles, but they tend to be made from cheaper materials, which tend to be heavier and less durable.  As far as the type of bicycle I would go with, it depends on the terrain around you.  If speed and lightness is your requirement, a road bike may be for you; however, if there is rugged terrain around you, or if you want to go off-road a mountain bike would be best.  If you don't have much cash, a cheap bike can be found at almost any department store for around a hundred bucks.  I would, however, pony up a little more dough for a lighter, heavier-duty one at a bike store.  Be sure you know how to repair your bike.  Talk it over with your bike mechanic and purchase the tools you will need in order to fix your bike.  The most common things are brake pads, tires, inner tubes, chains, and cables (for the shifters and brakes).  Be sure to have a few spare wheels, tires, inner tubes, and as mentioned before, chains.  As always, there are pros and cons to using a bicycle for transportation.  The upside is the light weight, effort to energy ratio, speed, low cost and ease of maintenance.  The downside is low cargo capacity, the need for roads or a trail, and they are also easy to steal.  One thing to consider is in a TEOTWAWKI situation, in almost every garage around the United States there is a bicycle, and sometimes spare parts.    So if you're short of cash, you can skimp in the spare parts area and focus on something more important.

The Horse
People I've spoken to often praise horses as a main mode of transportation come TEOTWAWKI.  This is most likely due to the prevalence of the horse in books and movies of the old west.  While they do provide fast transportation, horses need a high level of care.  Horses often weigh around a thousand pounds and require a high input of feed to maintain energy levels.  Horses need plenty of grazing land and a fence or corral in order to be kept.  They also need to be fed during the winter, and the availability of hay or alfalfa will probably be almost nonexistent, depending upon where you live.  Unless you plan to ride bareback they also require a saddle and bridle which require maintenance.  Something else to consider is how others will see you.  Not many people will be riding around on a horse, and if people see you riding one, they perceive you as being wealthy.  You may then immediately become a target for theft or worse. 

If you do intend on living off of the land and traveling often, a horse may be the right mode of transportation for you, for the horse can graze constantly when you're not traveling.  If you have a group with you, a buggy or wagon can be beneficial.  The issue is obtaining one post-disaster.  Be sure to know where you're going and the land around you for horses need to be watered just as you do. 

Our Own Two Feet
People have been walking from place to place since...well, as long as we've existed.  Our own two feet are wonderful machines of transportation.  The only problem is they need to be covered, unless you've lived your life barefoot and don't intend to walk on random sharp objects.  What you can do now is purchase several pairs of well-fitted hiking boots and other footwear you will need.  Tennis shoes wear out quickly, but you can run faster in a pair of tennis shoes than in boots.  The important thing is to purchase what you think you will need, and to be on the safe side, buy a few extra pairs and store them away.  If you have a bug out bag, it might be wise to throw in one of these extra pairs of shoes. 

Socks are often overlooked when prepping.  If you can afford it, buy several dozen pairs of socks that are suited to your environment.  The colder the environment, the thicker the sock you want.  Consider wool versus cotton as well.  Some people prefer one over the other, you will have to make your own choice.  The ability to wick water away from your foot is a definite must.  When walking long distances, or hiking, moisture is the enemy; water-wicking socks help remove moisture away from your skin, keeping your feet dry.  In your first-aid kit, also be sure to have some mole-skin; the best cure for blisters.  Mole-skin can be found in any first-aid section of most pharmacies.  Another addition to consider for your first aid kit is a spray or lotion for combating foot fungus.  If your toenails are yellow or unusually thick, then they are infected with fungus and need to be treated.

Waterproof boots are a must-have if you live in or near a wet environment.  If a flood happens and you don't have a pair, you'll regret not purchasing them.  They also work great in the mud.  If you happen to live in a snowy environment, you will want to purchase a good pair of snowshoes, and skis for cross-country skiing.  The ideal way to transport goods in a snowy or icy environment would be a sled and a team of sled-dogs, but they require a lot of upkeep and training.  A simpler way to transport goods would be a travois, which I will cover next. 

A travois is easy to build out of natural materials, and can be used to transport a load of goods, or even a person.  It is built by crossing two long poles or straight pieces of wood.  These two pieces of wood are bound together at one end; strips of leather, 550 cord, or rope will do, while a net or piece of canvas can be secured along the length of both poles, forming a triangle.  The narrow end of the triangle then leads to a person or draft animal to drag the travois after you've loaded it with goods.  Native American Indians used travois extensively, carting around goods, and even their tepee homes.  They also made smaller travois to be used by their children as well as dogs.  If a harness is made, it can actually be easier on your back if you use a travois instead of a large backpack.  You can also transport an injured person on a travois stretcher. 

Two-Wheel Carts
Hand cart have been used for centuries, and they are more efficient that a travois. They also don't leave a rutted trail like a travois. They are relatively stable and can carry surprisingly large loads. Modern carts include garden carts and deer carriers. Modern carts use bicycle type tires, so you will have to plan for patching tires, just like with a bike. And like a bike, the tires can be treated with Slime, internally, for self-sealing of minor punctures. There are also "airless" foam-filled tire available,m although these have greater weight and rolling resistance than air-filled tires..

Water Transportation
Water transportation used to be the main method for transporting large amounts of goods before the invention of gasoline and diesel.  It is still the main method of transportation, but by use of large oceangoing barges carrying thousands of tons of materials, commodities and products.  What do these barges rely on?  Fuel. 

If you live by a body of water, or the ocean you definitely want to consider using water transportation.  Canoes, kayaks, floats, tubes, and row boats in general are excellent ways of traveling on the water.  They also provide a platform to fish from in deeper waters.  Live near a lake?  You most likely already have a kayak, canoe or small waterborne vessel.  If you don't, put that on your priority list.  If you're thinking about a kayak, there are several varieties.  Recreational kayaks tend to be shorter and wider, offering more stability.  They are, however, much slower than the racing kayaks, which tend to be slimmer and lighter.  There are lighter recreational kayaks, but will cost more money due to the materials used.  If you're into SUP (Stand Up Paddling), that's okay, but a SUP board is more for recreational use than practical use.  The only practical use I can see for a SUP board is for spear or bow fishing, and even then it's not very practical.

Another thing to keep in mind is storing supplies in your boat, kayak or canoe.  Keep a few gallons of water, dried food and fishing supplies in the storage compartments, because you never know when that may come in handy down the line.  You can even think of it as your bug-out-boat.

Others Animals
Some may think using a cow or a donkey for transportation isn't very logical.  At first, I would agree, but it depends.  As a last resort, a light rider can ride a cow or donkey but it isn't going to go very fast.  Cows of course also provide more than just a mount.  A dairy cow can provide milk, providing that it hasn't dried off.  A cow can also be used for meat as we very well know, so don't begrudge the cow as a mode of transportation.  Cows as well as goats can also be used as pack animals.  Be sure the load is evenly distributed along the animal's back, making the animal more comfortable and less likely to give you trouble during the trek.  Goats also give milk as well as cows as well as offering meat.  Sheep don't make very good pack animals. Horses aren't widely known for their milk, yet there are people, mostly in Mongolia, that are known for drinking horse milk.  Unless you have previous knowledge of milking a horse, do not attempt to milk a horse!  Attempting to do so can endanger your life.  I once had trouble milking one of our goats (it did not want to be milked), I can't imagine the amount of trouble a horse can give you. 

Oxen or other large draft animals can be used to pull a wagon for group transportation or carrying large amounts of supplies.  Needless to say these animals will need to be taken care of, and the wagon will need to be maintained and fixed.  This includes spare parts, tools and a knowledge of carpentry.  These animals can also be used on a farm, for plowing, if you have the land available, and cleared land with good soil for growing crops. 

Man's best friend can help you in a number of various ways.  They may not be able to carry much, but they can be given some food stuffs or other gear to carry, provided you have saddlebags that fit the animal.  Dogs, if trained, can be hunting companions as well.  They can aid in defense, and also be a wonderful companion.  They don't take much to feed and generally take care of themselves very well.  If you also have several other animals, or a farm/ranch, dogs can also be trained to help protect your herd of animals.  Be sure your dog is trained, for domesticated dogs have been known to kill chickens, goats and other livestock simply because it is in their nature as a predatory animal. 

Hopefully this article points you in a direction you want to take for post-disaster transportation.  Once you have an idea, investigate your method further, and ask more questions of a subject matter expert.  The best thing is to adapt to your environment, now and in the future.  None of us have all of the answers, but if we adapt, and work together we will survive anything that comes our way.

Something I have noticed among the “prepper/survivalist” community is a growing distrust of local law enforcement accompanied by the stigma of an “us versus them” mentality. I decided this would be a good place to start, and will provide some background on myself. I too am a survivalist. I am also a certified police officer in the state of Arizona. I am a double degree major in Criminal Justice, Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism.  From my experience, most in law enforcement are like me: they get into this line of work for a desire to help those in need. I graduated from the police academy in 2006 with a 4.0 GPA and was proud and determined to do well as a police officer and felt strongly about helping others in need. I knew I was not going to become rich by any means from this job, but that was ok. I had a strong desire to look back at my life and feel I’d made a difference for the better. I had always had strong feelings about protecting those in need, and regardless of the dangers involved, helping those in my community was a reward money could never replace. Handing an abused child a teddy bear after responding to a domestic violence call and being there to help them in their time of need is an experience in itself that can never be measured in financial terms. This is why we do this job, and it begins to define who we are as individuals. If there was ever a quote that defined the ambition of a police officer, for me it’sThe only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. -Edmund Burke. The first time I heard this quote I was inspired. Once it’s in your blood, you are never the same. Just like the athlete has an internal driving force to exercise and compete, the officer has that internal force that pushes them to want to help. If there is a cry for help in the middle of the night, we want to be there.
Because I feel most in law enforcement share such a passion, it should be understood by the “survivalist/prepper” that we are not robots, or mindless minions that do the bidding of a government body. The vast majorities of police officers are family oriented, conservative, and hold the oath to uphold the Constitution on behalf of the people of the United States very seriously.

The police officer and the prepper share more in common then they may realize. In fact, many police officers themselves are “survivalist/preppers.” Like the “prepper”, police officers prepare for the worst case scenario as well. Police live in a state of “worst case scenario” every time they go to work. Just like any given situation can turn bad requiring the preparedness of the officer to respond and survive, so too can the stability of our fragile society, requiring the prepper to respond as well in order to survive. In a sense, the police officer and the prepper share a common bond, they both want to be prepared to safely and effectively deal with any SHTF scenario that may come their way, and not become a victim of complacency.

Many have asked….will the police become enforcers? This question gets asked a lot. While I cannot speak for every officer, my answer is pretty simple. I am a family man first and an officer second. If a crisis scenario was to take place and my family was vulnerable, they take top priority. While police will attempt to do their best to keep order, you are your best defense. Never rely on the police as your sole source of defense. When things get bad and civil unrest reaches a point of violence and looting, people become vulnerable. It’s not that police won’t want to help, it’s the fact they simply may not be able to do so. Most police with families will retreat to their homes and place their family above all else when it comes to priorities. They are human like anyone one else, and will not leave their families exposed to the elements or outside threats.

Officer Safety Tips for the Survivalist

In the case of a massive crisis, or “the end of the world as we know it” scenario, people will be stressed, distrusting, and scared. Most people want to avoid conflict; however there will always be those that will try to prey on the weak and vulnerable, and at times, will try to pose as friendly people you can trust. By utilizing the techniques used by police for officer safety, the survivalist can sharpen their ability to negotiate and interact with strangers during times of crisis, and limit their vulnerability and loved ones to that of predators. Here are some aspects of our training that you might find useful:

Police officers are trained in a unique way. While those in the military are trained to be aggressive and engage threats at a distance, police officers are trained in the opposite. Police officers must deal with potential hostile people face to face, and most times within reaching distances. An officer never knows if the person they are dealing with is armed and ready to kill them at any moment, or if they are friendly. Because of this, police go through training to read body language, get close, and deescalate a hostile situation with lethal force being a last option, but not the least of options. In the event that someone poses a threat, officers are trained to neutralize this threat as soon as possible. The amount of stress and danger that officers go through in a dark alley with a strange man or men is very real. Now imagine having to do this with no training in a scary world changing environment. Because both scenarios are very similar in how a person must deal with unknown threats, officer safety tips can be of great value to the survivalist. If things get bad, you must be able to interact with those around you without escalating tensions in people who are already stressed out to overreact with hostility.

As Rawles states in one of his books, “Show restraint, but always save recourse to lethal force.” (Rawles, 2009).

He also wrote: “My father often told me, It is better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.' I urge readers to use less than lethal means when safe and practicable, but at times there is not a satisfactory substitute for well-aimed lead going down range at high velocity.. (Rawles, 2009)

By using Officer Safety tactics, you can interact with people while maintaining a safe and strong position.  The following areas I will share with you are things to consider when the world as we know it ends.

Known as “verbal judo,” refrain from making threats or being outright hostile. Don’t use harsh language or aggressive tones. This will cause people to immediately go on the defensive. In return, their immediate response of defense could cause you to misconceive their intentions toward you. The same holds true for you and their perception as well. This will cause immediate distrust between parties, causing tensions to quickly rise and possibly lead to unnecessary violence and loss of control. Remember to remain calm and to speak clearly, calmly, and respectfully. If you do all three of these when engaging in dialogue, it will give you the advantage and persona of taking control, but not in a hostile way. This will also help you understand the other parties’ intentions more clearly. If you are cool, calm, and collected, but the other party is strung out, edgy, and overbearing, it creates a clear picture of their true state of mind and possible intentions toward you. It also rules out the fact they are simply reacting to any aggressive language on your part, and may have ulterior motives.

Body Language:
Often referred to as your “X-ray vision,” body language can be very telling. When interacting with a stranger, pay close attention to what they are not telling you with their mouth but are telling you with their body. When people anticipate confrontation, subtle behavior will begin to present itself. They may begin to pivot frequently, even if standing in one place. If they are wearing a hat, they may take it off, this is often a sign of preemption, reason being that a hat gets in the way and lowers a person’s situational awareness. People will often remove a hat even though they are not cognitively aware why they are doing it. Watch for the balling of fist, or clenching of their jaw. Their eyes may dart in many directions even though they are speaking to you. If it looks as if their trying to scan their surroundings, that’s because they are! These are all signals that one is preparing for confrontation, and may become aggressive.

Always Keep Your Strong Hand Free:
Always make sure you keep your strong hand free. If you are right handed and have a holstered sidearm, always be sure that you use your left hand to hold objects, such as a flashlight. You never want to have your strong hand occupied if you need to draw your weapon in defense. The time it takes to drop the object in your strong hand can mean the difference between life and death. If it is dark and you need to hold a flashlight, always hold it in your weak hand.

Watch the Hands:
When interacting with someone new, watch their hands! The hands are the instruments used to kill, and this is where the threat will come from. When speaking with unknown people, politely request that they keep their hands out of their pockets. Just because you cannot see a weapon, you must never let down your guard. Remember, a razor blade can do tremendous damage and is easily concealed in the hair, a hat, or even one’s mouth.

Are They Concealing a Weapon?
When dealing with an unknown person, it is reasonable to be concerned if they are armed. The following are tips that are useful when it comes to determining if a person is armed:

  1. Determine a person’s strong side, and Pay attention. This can be done by observing their behavior. A right handed person may lead with their right hand while speaking. They will use it for subtle actions, i.e. scratching their face or holding an object. Another clue that can be observed is a wrist watch. Typically, a person wearing a watch will do so by wearing it on their weak arm. If you still have trouble figuring out what hand is dominant, you can count on the fact that the majority of people,( approximately 75%) are right handed.
  2. The two most common places someone will conceal a sidearm is by tucking in the front right, between the belly button and hip, or the small of the back. Unless the person has carried often concealed, and has a good holster to secure the weapon, most people will have an unsecured weapon tucked in a waistband. This can cause a weapon to move around and puts the carriers in a mental state of constantly having to reassure themselves that the weapon is still present by touching it through their clothes. They may even unconsciously touch it periodically for assurance, giving away the fact they are carrying. This is bad for them, but very good for you! Even as a trained officer, I have found myself doing this from time to time with a holstered weapon that is concealed. There seems to be an unconscious sense of security that needs to be confirmed at times by verifying the presence of your first line of defense, your side arm. A person may walk with a shorter stride on the side a weapon is located. If they take longer strides with one foot while shortening the other, especially the side of their strong arm, this may be a good indication they are carrying a weapon concealed.
  3. Are they wearing baggy clothing or does it fit the season? If they are wearing a jacket during a warmer part of the year, this could be a sign of an attempt of concealment. If you suspect a person may be carrying concealed, observe the clothing and look for any odd bulges or disruptions in the way a shirts falls against the body. While it may look normal for the most part, weapons often give subtle disruption to curves that say “here I am.”

Contact and Cover: When approaching a person or group of people, it is important to be friendly but stern in your presence. Standing upright and squared does much for those sizing you up for the first time. If you find yourself having to get close, always have someone there to cover you as a backup. In a crisis scenario, people may try to take advantage of perceived weakness.  Havening someone there as a lethal force alternative is paramount for safely interacting with individuals with unknown intentions. Remember….before you ever allow anyone to enter into your home, camp, etc. always check for weapons. In a crisis scenario, people become desperate and will do radical things in order to survive. Just like an officer must check for weapons before putting someone in a patrol car, the same principle applies here.

The proper way to do this is by having a cover person with you. Make sure your cover is at least half to the size of the group you are speaking with if possible. Remember. …if they approach you with a request, it’s your safety. If they refuse to submit to a pat down, send them on their way. There is no need to put you or your loved ones at unnecessary risk at such times. While searching an individual, have any others with them sit on the ground facing away from you. While being covered, and only searching one person at a time, have the person to be searched face away from you, and interlock their fingers on top of their head. Put your left foot forward between their legs and your right leg back. Wrap your hand over their interlocked knuckles and squeeze. Use your right hand to sweep their body on the right side and search for weapons. To sweep the left side, repeat the steps by reversing your locking hand and foot. Never go to your knees or kneel down. You must bend down to sweep legs, but never compromise your feet in how they are anchored or your locking hand while sweeping someone for weapons.

Protect Yourself When Conducting a Search:
Don’t go fishing in pockets unnecessarily. If gloves are unavailable, use great care when sweeping an individual for weapons. Needles and razor blades pose a serious threat, and fishing without proper gloves could result in disaster. The gloves I recommend are Turtle Skin Severe Gear or Turtle Skin Police Search Gloves, they will protect from edged weapons and most importantly, they will protect you from needles!
Remember, your main concern is concealed firearms, but do not discount the threat of a knife either. Knives are devastatingly dangerous in the hands of a skilled person.

Body Armor:
Body armor is paramount in its ability to save lives and becomes a force multiplier. While police are very familiar with the use of body armor, many civilians may not be. Kevlar body amour is legal to own and purchase by anyone in most jurisdictions. However, like any tool, it must be used correctly for the right purpose. Not all body armor is created equal. Kevlar body armor comes in many ratings, and it’s these ratings that indicate the level of threat they can deter. When it comes to soft body armor, the two common threat levels are level II and level IIIA. Soft body armor will NOT stop a rifle round. This requires hard plates, either steel or ceramic, and is rated from level III to IV.

NIJ Level Ratings

Type II
(9 mm;.357 Magnum)

New armor protects against 8 g (124 gr) 9 mm FMJ RN bullets at a velocity of 398 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1305 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 10.2 g (158 gr) .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point bullets at a velocity of 436 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1430 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). Conditioned armor protects against 8 g (124 gr) 9 mm FMJ RN bullets at a velocity of 379 m/s ±9.1 m/s (1245 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 10.2 g (158 gr) .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point bullets at a velocity of 408 m/s ±9.1 m/s (1340 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in [Types I and IIA].

(.357 SIG.44 Magnum)

New armor protects against 8.1 g (125 gr) .357 SIG FMJ Flat Nose (FN) bullets at a velocity of 448 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1470 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 15.6 g (240 gr) .44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP) bullets at a velocity of 436 m/s (1430 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). Conditioned armor protects against 8.1 g (125 gr) .357 SIG FMJ Flat Nose (FN) bullets at a velocity of 430 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1410 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 15.6 g (240 gr) .44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP) bullets at a velocity of 408 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1340 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides protection against most handgun threats, as well as the threats mentioned in [Types I, IIA, and II].


Type III

Conditioned armor protects against 9.6 g (148 gr) 7.62x51mm NATO M80 ball bullets at a velocity of 847 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (2780 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in [Types I, IIA, II, and IIIA].


Type IV
(Armor Piercing Rifle)

Conditioned armor protects against 10.8 g (166 gr) .30-06 Springfield M2 armor-piercing (AP) bullets at a velocity of 878 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (2880 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides at least single hit protection against the threats mentioned in [Types I, IIA, II, IIIA, and III].

(National Insitute of Justice, 2012)
In conclusion, the police are everyday people. They do not look at survivalists as the “enemy.” They are family people like anyone else and would rather be there to protect and help you in the event of a crisis. In a crisis a law enforcement officer would be someone with a valuable skill set to have around, as they can provide training to those around them to become proficient in security and personal safety. If you are fortunate to know a law enforcement officer, ask them to teach you such valuable skill sets, more often than not, they will be more than accommodating in doing so. For those that don’t have such an option, my hope is that this article will provide others with some food for thought and arm them with the knowledge needed to help protect themselves and loved ones in the event of a “the end of the world as we know it”, or any other crisis.  


National Insitute of Justice. (2012, January 23).
Rawles, James W. (2009). "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It". New York: Penguin Group.

J.S. did a pretty good review of multi caliber weapons ("Introduction to Multi-Caliber Guns by J.S.") but he forgot the time honored Thompson-Center (T-C) Encore and Contender, now owned by Smith and Wesson single-shot firearms.  
The Encore and Contender firearm lines not only allow changing barrels but to convert from pistol to rifle and back again by not only switching barrels but stocks, forearms and grips.  Encores are the larger frame and can handle almost any cartridge that you can.  You can buy barrels from 12 gauge to sub-caliber Hornet based wildcats and with either an offset barrel or a modified firing pin assembly even .22 LR, Long or Short.  There are also muzzleloading barrels in several calibers made for them.  
The Contender now being sold in the G2 version is a smaller frame than the Encore that switches between rim and centerfire cartridges with the flip of a lever on the hammer.  Earlier Contenders are not as strong as the G2 version and need to be checked for stretched frames if bought used.  The contender is a 20 gauge and smaller firearm with many common rifle and pistol rounds chambered in the many barrels that have been made for it.  Barrels are interchangeable between Contender and G2 Contender frames but not between the Contender and the Encore frames.   
T-C has just introduced a new multi cartridge rifle that is a magazine-fed bolt action repeater with a three-round magazine called the Dimension that has interchangeable barrels, magazines and bolts from .204 Ruger to .300 Winchester Magnum.  It is an interesting firearm that fills some needs. - Lowell K.

Captain Rawles,
I just wanted to add to the very well thought out and well-written article, Introduction to Multi-Caliber Guns by J.S. 

He mentions that the .454 Casull can also handle .45 Colt, the new Smith and Wesson .460 S&W Magnum revolver will fire .460 S&W Magnum as well as the .454 Casull and .45 Colt cartridges.   That gives you three options if you were considering a large bore revolver.
Keep up the good fight. Thank you - Brad M.

I've warned readers about the OPSEC perils of going on camera for documentary television shows. Apparently this gent put a target on his back: Doomsday Prepper Declared Mental Defective…. Government confiscates his Guns. Please pray for Mr. Sardi.

   o o o

Video of some ncredibly short takeoffs and landings: Doyle, Cuzoom Win Annual Valdez STOL Competition. (Thanks to RBS for the link.)

   o o o

Kevin S. suggested this WRSA blog piece: Shoot Until The Target Changes Shape Or Catches Fire

   o o o

Troy H. sent a link to a military vehicle dealer in England, "For the prepper that has (almost) everything": TanksForSale.co.uk

"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where [is] thy sting? O grave, where [is] thy victory?

The sting of death [is] sin; and the strength of sin [is] the law.

But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." - 1Corinthians 15:50-58 (KJV)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

We've just about finished our migration to SurvivalBlog's dedicated server in Sweden. All the DNS links should be fully propagated within 24 hours. You will also notice that my very talented #2 Son's recent work solved some chronic problems that had plagued our old server's database configuration, in Utah. For example, all searches of the archives (using the Search box) now work the first time. Also, the Permalinks now work with both dashes and underscores.

There is no need to update your links or bookmarks. "SurvivalBlog.com" still works fine, but the server is now in Sweden. Hopefully this will make us less vulnerable to DNS attacks. Please note that we still highly recommend NetFronts for web hosting. They have exceptionally good customer service and uptime. We simply felt to the need to "Get Out of Dodge", with SOPA or Son-of-SOPA looming on the horizon.

Be sure to bookmark our IPV4 address:

I should also mention that since Google and the other search engines depend on IP address based back-links, our search engine ranking took a big hit, temporarily. So I'd greatly appreciate it if readers would establish links to SurvivalBlog from their web sites, blogs, and e-mail footers. A text link works just as well as a graphic link. Many thanks!


Today we present another entry for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Most of us take for granted the fact that if were cold we can find someplace warm to retreat to. In the event of a catastrophe that luxury is going to be one of the first things that goes by the wayside. Animals adapt to their environment or they perish, survival of the fittest. I’ve talked to a few folks that have a couple tons of food and ammo stashed that have never even thought about the clothes situation.  So, What can we do as smart animals to prepare for that day?

Unfortunately a lot of people have no clue at all how to dress themselves for cold and inclement weather. Usually we put on what we have that we think is the warmest and hope for the best. That is not going to work when there is no warm house to run to and warm up in! Get rained on and your sol. Yeah that nice brown popular work gear is great but at most it’s used 12 hours and then you have a chance to dry it and you out. Try spending a few days in it without drying it out and see how comfy you are!

The best way  to stay dry, warm, and comfortable is layers, and they have to be layers of the correct material. Cotton is pretty much useless for  staying warm. It holds moisture, does not breath well, and is not a very good insulator. Cotton is good for warm days and summer time, It’s cheap and easy to obtain. So don’t plan on getting any usable service out of any of your cotton clothes in the winter.

The fundamental key of staying warm is to simply stay dry. Wet clothing dissipates body heat at a phenomenal rate. The saying  “If your wet your dead” in the winter is pretty self explanatory.  So in order to stay dry we need to fist keep the moisture and sweat our bodies produce away from our skin.  We do this by our base layer. It is clothing that is designed to allow moisture to pass through it without absorbing it. One of the early forms of this is silk. Yes, that luxurious cloth does have some functional value! Silk is expensive, and is not very stretchy or conforming. Silk blends however are very conducive to  functional base layers! I’ve found silk base layers to be functional and comfortable but they don’t seem to be as durable as I’d like.   Just as effective and more affordably priced, and more durable, are base layers made from polypropylene and the like. There are a variety of manufactures out there that each have their own magic blend so shop around. Just keep in mind the intended function of the base layer is to keep you dry, not to keep you warm.  As a side note there is “base layer “ underwear available from a variety of manufactures. This extends the wear time of your pants and tops base layers by letting you change your skivvies once a day or so… One key to look for on your base layers are pants and tops that are large enough to cover your lower back with no gaps. And they need to do this in all positions so bend over twist lift your legs up do some PT and make sure they don’t work their way down or up. FYI, women’s bottoms seem to ride a bit higher than men’s on the backside. Your base layer needs to fit like a second skin, skin tight is what you want. This prevents it from working and moving around and bunching up in places.

So now that we have a good moisture wicking base layer on lets talk about the insulation layers. Again, anything cotton is useless so don’t bother, even a cotton T-shirt can cause you problems. The old standby for insulation is good old wool. It’s plentiful, and has some insulation value even when wet. The cons are it’s itchy, and tends to be heavy. Luckily technology has provided us with a cheap and extremely effective material called fleece. Fleece is a form of spun plastic, often times made from recycled plastic bottles. It’s extremely lightweight, durable, available in varying densities and thickness, and is just plain comfortable. It dries quickly and does not hold water well so it even maintains some insulation value when it’s wet! About the only negative I can think of is the fact it tends to melt quickly around fire so br extremely careful if you try drying it out over an open camp fire! Again the key is layers so throw on a couple layers of it depending on how cold it is outside and your activity level. You can also mix it up with a layer of fleece and then a wool sweater. Other options include fleece jackets and vests. These are handy as they usually have some pockets. Jackets and vests are good calls when it’s cold on sunny days when there is no wind or precipitation. Layer up, you can always take some off if your hot, or throw an extra layer in the pack and add it if your cold.

The last layer you should put on is your first layer of defense against the elements, and yes, you need to think of this as war against mother nature and all that she can bring because that is exactly what it is. If she wins you die, simple fact. This outer layer is your coat and bibs. Now I know you all think that you have plenty of coats and pants for winter so let me offer you a test. Put on your best coat and bibs /pants and stand outside and let someone hose you down with the garden hose for ten minutes ( obviously not spraying you directly in the face but pretty much everywhere else). Take your stuff off and see how dry you are. If your not completely dry then your gear is junk. Sorry but that $500 you spent on that hunting coat was more for the name and the funky camo pattern on it!

Your coat and pants/bibs needs to do two things, one it needs to let moisture out, and two it needs to keep any moisture on the outside on the outside. Lucky for us humans we’ve invented just such a material, Gore-Tex is the most popular, been time tested and proven, and is what I prefer. Not to say that there are not other materials out there that can’t do the same job. I just prefer to stick with what has worked in the past. The next technical feature you need to look for are taped and sealed seams on the jacket and pants. It will look similar to a good tent that is taped and sealed only it will be a much better job usually. This is an important feature as it actually makes the coat waterproof. No leaky seams that can leak water or air. You would be surprised at how much air can permeate the holes made by a sewing machine when it’s a 40 MPH wind! Another feature is a built-in hood, usually made from the same materiel as the coat. These typically roll up and stow in the collar of the jacket when not in use. The hood is a huge component to keeping you dry when it’s raining or snowing as it’s your “roof” to keep it out of your neck! It also provides a complete barrier from the top of your head to the bottom of the coat against wind, blowing snow and rain. Another must have feature is under arm zipper vents. These allow you to ‘vent’ heat during physical activity, even when it’s raining! So when you find yourself heating up you open the vents up. If you have a fleece jacket with under arm vents as well then the next step is to open them up. This allows you to quickly cool down without removing any insulation layers. If it’s not enough then you will need to shed the fleece jacket or a layer underneath it.  A good coat will also have a powder skirt, this is an elastic flap inside the coat that you snap together around your stomach before you zip up the coat. This is the sealing mechanism between your coat and bibs to keep out blowing wind and snow. Seems like a minor trivial thing, but it is very important. It keeps all the cold air from getting inside your jacket from the bottom and wasting your body heat. The cuffs will also have velcro sealing bands that allow you to seal the ends of the sleeves to the same end. The zipper should also have a full length closure flap / gusset for sealing off the zipper against wind and rain.  A good coat will also have a number of handy pockets here and there to stash your gloves and hats and what not. Do not get in the habit of using this space as stuff space for all the things you think you might be needing. Use these primarily for your jacket accessories, hats, gloves, glasses, face protectors and the like. You need to start thinking of the coat as an important survival tool, and the tool needs to be filled with all the things you need with it so when you grab it in a hurry and run your not forgetting anything. The best coat and bibs in the world are going to be useless if you forget your hat and gloves. Most coats have a couple inside pockets for a small sidearm or radio, but much of that needs to be on your pack or utility harness, not on or in your coat.

Snow pants or bibs, this is the question.
Snow pants are nice if your never going to bend over or fall down on your backside. Even if your sitting they tend to leave a gap at the back, and that is not good! So from my experience pants are pretty useless in long term winter exposure. Bibs are the way to go, they fit higher up around your back and chest, and have suspenders to keep them in place. You may not be the suspender type of person so let me explain why it’s so important. Suspenders allow you to adjust your bibs to the point that they are not bunching up in the crotch and choking you to death. This allows you to move your legs and your body in all positions very freely without stretching your bibs all out of proportion or even ripping them open. And no matter what position you find yourself in that spot on your lower back is always covered! The height of them also bridges over the seams between your top and bottom layers under it so all your seams are not in one place making things a lot more comfortable. The freedom of movement that bibs give you in normal circumstances is critical when you need to do things like run and jump a long distance or scale a rock face or jump off a vehicle quickly.

Another feature of bibs is they usually have zippers along the outside legs, this lets you vent excess heat like your coat does. There are fleece pants that also have zippers on the side as well for more ventilation options. The cuffs are also specially designed with an internal  cuff to seal out air and snow like the one inside the jacket. Cuffs should have adjustable velcro closures to allow different boot sizes as you may be wearing packs for snowshoes one day and the next you may have on cross country ski boots. Even if your home or in camp and have on work boots or something it’s important to have the option to seal them up to keep the draft out.  The zippers should also have closures over them like the coat.  Now most of us are accustomed to cargo pants pockets and may think that you need these in the snow pants. I’ve found plain no pocket snow pants is the way to go as they shed snow and rain much better. The other factor is that if your on snow shoes or cross country  skis the last thing you want is a bunch of stuff chaffing your legs back and forth every time you take a step. Stick it in your pack. Again, make sure the bibs are constructed of a breathable fabric such as Gore-tex.

The Hands:
Treat your hands the same way as your body, layers. Everyone seems to think that they need gloves as well. Sad truth of the matter is if it’s cold out there are no gloves that are going to keep your fingers warm and toasty very long. If you want them to stay warm and dry then use mittens for your outer layer. Now were not talking the knitted red ones grandma used to make, were talking full on technical gore-tex with leather or abrasion resistant palms and thumbs. They should also have nice long gauntlets with shock cord closures on the cuffs to seal them up over your coat. Your also hook those cords to your coat sleeves so you don’t loose your mitts when you pop them off to do something. What works best is a good wicking base layer glove, these are really thin, and offer little or insulation value. On top of that you can place a fleece glove for insulation. Best to have a selection of different weight fleece gloves for different activity levels and conditions. Fleece gloves with leather palms and reinforcing are nice as you can shed your mitts quick and then have the dexterity to use your fingers. The leather give some protection against them getting wet when you grab things. For those really cold days a thick pair of fleece mittens that fit inside the liners will be warranted, and much appreciated by your fingers. Now the top layer mitts are not going to fit tight, probably even when you have the thick fleece mitts on, this is no reason for concern as they were intended to work that way! Ice Climbing and mountaineering are by far the best type of gloves to get. If your going to go cheap on something don’t let it be hand protection….

Now for the head. We all know that our heads radiate and disperse heat more than any other part of our body, so it’s critical that we insulate it to prevent all our precious body heat from escaping. Again, same principal, layers. Nice long “balaclava” wicking head liner to start the layer, then some fleece, maybe a fleece neck gaiter, nice fleece or wool hat to top it all off. Helmets - ski or snowboarding are also very nice in some situations. Just make sure you can close all the gaps between your torso and the head, the neck is a very annoying place to have a draft! Your hood on the coat completes the outer layer in time of moisture or precipitation. Make sure you have enough layers to cover and insulate your face right up to your eyes. If it’s really cold nasty and windy out your going to want everything covered… and I mean everything. Frostbite can happen in a few minutes if conditions are right, and the tip of the nose is where it’s going to occur, and you not going to know about it till it’s too late. Have extra so you can rotate them out if they ice up from heavy breathing. Goggles are a must, have at the minimum two pair of each ( Daytime and nighttime ) so you can rotate them when they ice over or fog up bad. If they are fogging up you need to vent your head a bit more to prevent it. Have some clear goggles for when it gets dark, and a couple shades for the daytime is nice as well. Yellow/orange tinted ones provide greater clarity in the snow during the day, but can sometimes not provide enough shading to protect your eyes. If it’s nice out sunglasses work just fine, goggles are for inclement weather and let you seal your face up completely against it. Gently clean iced up goggles off and place inside your coat to dry them off. Remove and let cool before you put them back on.

 If your going to be out in the sun a long time and it’s nothing but snow cover you should really have glasses with protection on the sides. Mountaineering “glacier” sun glasses have these or you can quickly fashion something from a scrap of cloth or leather. This prevents the reflection of the sun off the snow getting into your eyes. What happens if your on a snow pack on a sunny day without glasses, or with poor ones, is that you basically “sprain” your eye. This feels like someone took a 3” long needle and jabbed it into each eye. The treatment, drugs to dilate your pupil and staying out of the light, rather lengthy recovery as well. Get a few pair of good cheap polarized sunglasses  for everyday beating around in, and have a good pair of glacier glasses or two to use on those really sunny days on the snow!

The Feet. Treat your feet with the same layering technique we’ve been talking about all along. The exception is that fleece socks don’t seem to be that great of an idea! Get some good thin wicking liners and then some nice insulated socks. Most of us seem to have a pretty good handle on this so I’m not going to go into detail. Just make sure you have plenty of socks, and boots, to keep your feet dry and warm! Pack type boots are a favorite of mine and have proven themselves time and again. 

Your layers should depend on your activity level, dress for the least active you plan to be and then shed layers as you or the day heats up. Look for options like vests and fleece jackets that have zippers under the arms for vents. Try to keep from sweating as much as possible by shedding layers and venting. Antiperspirant on the feet is also a neat trick to keep them from sweating quite so much if it’s available. Try to stay away from “fashionable” Brand names and stick with time proven companies that have been outfitting climbers and mountaineers for a few decades. North Face, Marmot, and Patagonia are names I trust.  If you want warm fleece the Patagonia stuff is the bomb in my opinion, paddlers in 33 degree water do seem to know how to dress for it! About the only ‘house’ brand stuff that I’ve found and trust is REI's stuff. They make some pretty decent items that are reasonably priced. Make an opportunity present itself to test your gear, see how long you can last on a single digit day and you’ll either impress yourself at your ability or scare yourself from the fact of how ill-prepared you are for cold weather survival. Stay warm!

I'd like to share my experience in moving to the American Redoubt area.   This is our true, and inspiring story of how we came to move to Idaho. 
 I must confess.  I have no real prepper skills other than the ability to really connect with people on a personal level, being a nice guy, and I’ve mastered the skill of knowing I don’t know anything.  I couldn’t give anyone survival lessons on any topic.  The fact is, most of you would probably consider me a horrible prepper.  My family and I have no carpentry skills, mechanical ability, construction aptitude, electronic communications know-how, medical training, or military or law enforcement experience.  We really are a couple average people, but we are trying to prepare ourselves for an uncertain future.  I think perhaps there are more people like us out there than most realize.  Hopefully our story of relocating to the redoubt will inspire others like us and you can take courage from some of our experience.  Since I have no other real skills, our relocation was the only information I could relay with any credibility.  I probably won’t win any contests, but that’s ok.  I just want to share our story.

A  Little Background
 Since 1984 I had lived in Western Oregon.  I was six years old when my parents moved the family there.  My wife was from the central valley area of California.  After meeting during our college years we moved back to the Willamette Valley in Oregon where I grew up.  Our family currently is comprised of me, my wife, a chocolate Labrador Retriever, and a Beagle.  We are both approaching our mid-30’s and have been married over 11 years.   

Our Situation

I desperately wanted to move away from Oregon for many reasons.  Mainly, I grew weary of moral decay and an almost absolute guaranteed defeat at the ballot box of candidates I thought would be most truthful, honest and fight for less government.  I tired of Marijuana Awareness Week, pride festivals, cross-dressing mayors,  and big government in general.  I’m trying to keep this a-political, but for me, it was a huge reason why we left.  We also had family in Idaho.  That was also a huge draw. 
If you are thinking about moving to a redoubt state, you may have some feelings of self disappointment or self defeat.  You may think (like me) that by leaving, all you do is make things worse by leaving your city with one less solid American family.  You may ask yourself, “How can I make a difference and change hearts and minds, and make America better if I  abandon my station and cut ties?”  Believe me, I struggled with those same thoughts too.  In these situations, be on your knees and find out what the Lord  wants you to do, then do it.  If you never feel any answer either way, then make the decision, and then make it right.  We did, and our story follows.

Career Situation
From 2004 to 2008 I was selling real estate in Oregon before the bubble burst.  We were living high on the hog then with a brand new home, two late model SUVs, a boat, and lots of credit to make those purchases.  In 2008 we relocated further South along the I-5 corridor to take a new job as a pharmaceutical representative—which was a breath of fresh air after the start of the housing collapse—with a good salary, medical & dental benefits, and a company car.  Well, that job wasn’t nearly what it seemed to be on the outside.  It was a great way to provide, but spawned complete professional unhappiness inside me.   I was miserable.   I applied and took the Border Patrol tests, but in the end, my wife wasn’t on board with it.  Living on the Southern Boarder in the middle of nowhere and the perceived constant danger and perils of the job were too much for her.   So, I interviewed with the FBI for almost eight months, only to be turned down at the final stage of interviews.  It was a discouraging time.  About then, the pharma company I was working for another set of layoffs.   Many in the industry called these years  ”Pharma-geddon” .  The interesting part was that they offered sales reps a chance to volunteer to be laid off, so that those who really bought into the company line could stay and they’d have a more loyal sales force.  Offered by the company was a minimum severance pay that equated to five or six months of pay and continued health benefits for a few months time also.  I knew in my head and heart that I wanted to take the voluntary layoff.  I discussed it with my wife.  We also prayed about the decision.  In this particular instance, we never really felt divine intervention in getting an answer to prayer.  However, we did feel that perhaps this time, the Lord was just letting us make a decision on our own, based on our own sincere heart-felt desires.  He would make it right, whatever we chose.  To us, it was our ticket to ride away into the sunset.  A new dawn, in which we’d have about five months of income from the severance to secure other employment.  We also prepared ourselves mentally that this could be a horrible decision in the short term and could lead to a lot of financial pain. 

The Decision to Relocate
We made the decision to request the voluntary layoff.  I did, and it was granted.   Family members and friends thought we were insane, making a decision like that.  They saw my well paying job, benefits, and current 9.7% national unemployment as all the reason a person should stay put given such circumstances.   To a large extent, I agreed.   Logic and reasoning said don’t do it.  This is something  that many will have to face on the road to relocation…possible doubters, and self doubt.   We don’t all come from families or have friends who see things exactly as we do.  And even in this community of preppers, there are various degrees of readiness and enthusiasm for how far you take your preparations

Our plan since my wife was working  was for me to travel to Idaho and stay at my in-laws home for a few weeks at a time while my wife stayed back and tried to sell the home.  That way we wouldn’t have to give up her income stream at the gift store where she was working.  This would enable me to get my feet on the street at the desired location in Idaho where we wanted to live.  I would stay a week or two and start turning up stones, making contacts, and applying for jobs.  I believed that if I encountered something positive in the job market, it would look better for me if I were already “living” in the area of the job, versus having an employer looking at my resume and assuming I lived in Oregon, still had a house to sell, and therefore “probably not a great candidate” to consider, yada yada yada.  If necessary I was willing to take a near minimum wage job if I had to in a worst case scenario.

Our Housing Situation
“What about our house situation?” you might ask.  Like several other million persons around the country, we were also upside down in our home.  We purchased at $275,000, and we now had our poor home on the market for $249,900 just two years later.  Our down payment was completely obliterated and then some.  We would literally be penniless after the move and a possible sale on the home.   Surprisingly we got on offer on the home within 7 days, even before I left to seek work in Idaho.  However, coming to agreement with the buyers would mean bringing to the table at closing almost every penny we had in the bank.  We would essentially be moving with no reserve funds at all.  However, we considered ourselves extremely lucky to have even received an offer at all, yet alone in the first week.  As you can see, my wife and I were really motivated to see this through.  Again, some would say we were off our rockers.  To us though, things seemed to be falling right in place, as if it were a confirmation from the Lord that we were making the right choice.  A few days later I was in Idaho looking for employment and trying to follow up on any leads.  I had been there 3 or 4 days when I got a response call from a sales position I had applied for online.  It offered a pretty good salary, especially for the cost of living in this area.  I interviewed for the job, nailed it, negotiated up a few thousand dollars in the compensation and was hired and working in the Eastern Idaho territory during the first week of July, 2010. So you can understand the timeline here, formal notification of being laid off in Oregon was on June 15th.  So, in just over two week’s time, our house had an accepted offer, I had interviewed for and accepted a new position, and we had relocated to Idaho.  I had begun work the first week in July after Independence Day.  And I still had over 4 months of remaining pay coming to me from the previous job.   Truly we had made the correct decision and we were being blessed.

The little miracles were too much to overlook.  This was at a time when the average time on the market for homes was many months—if you sold at all—and those who were unemployed were now getting benefits for 99 weeks and the nation was setting records for average time spent unemployed by the jobless. 

Was there Pain?

Yes, there was pain involved.  We left my widowed mother behind.  Sometimes I felt as though I was abandoning my responsibility as a son to always care for her and be near enough to support her in her life.   She’s only in her 50’s and works full time, but it was still an issue we had to wrestle with.  It was difficult to do.  Many considering relocation have to ask themselves if you can leave those loved ones behind, either because they have no desire to come, or are not otherwise in a position to follow.  If you ask me, the last thing you should do is try convincing them to come by saying the world is coming to an end and they need to join your retreat group.  That is, unless they think exactly the same way you do.  Another small little miracle with the above pain I describe is that my brother and his family have since moved nearby also.  Not only that, but I am proud to say that my aforementioned mother has a job interview out here in Idaho this coming Monday. 

A big dose of painful medicine is that our house deal ended up falling apart after three months of trying to make things work out with the buyer.  Basically there were circumstances outside our control in the lending world because of the huge financial crisis.  This prevented the buyers from buying our home in the end, even though there wasn’t anything wrong with their credit worthiness.   We had been in Idaho nearly three months now.  It was a crushing blow.  Miraculously we were able to purchase a new home before our home in Oregon ended up slipping into foreclosure.   Thirty-five thousand dollars upside down in the home, no prospects of selling, and a decreasing job market actually led to a strategic default.  We weighed all options including renting it out.  The going rent rates wouldn’t have come close to making the monthly mortgage payment.   I’m not proud of it, but we followed the course many others had paved.  We tried doing it the right way and were willing to come to closing with our entire savings, but after that sale fell apart, we lost all motivation to continue the fight.  I am truly sorry for contributing to the housing/foreclosure problem across the country.  I am also in no way advocating this course of action to anyone.  Some states even have laws on the books and they can come after you for deficiency judgments.  This was just a tough decision we had to make. 

It’s been several months since the bank auctioned off the old house.   I have checked my credit about 3 or 4 months ago, and just as recently as early this month to see what the damage has done.  Before, our credit was in the 800s.  Three or 4 months ago it was up to 695, and this month it’s already up to 737 according to the credit report subscription online I signed up for to monitor our credit.  We really have bounced back, even from that huge black eye.  Our current mortgage, car payment, and student loans that we continued paying on brought our score back up rapidly.  We were taken by surprise by this.

Some may say that we carried out this entire move on an assumption that we could sell the home, and that we used the quick sale as partial confirmation from God that we were doing the right thing.  They may say that perhaps you made a mistake, because in fact, the house didn’t sell.  So this must not have been such an answer to prayer after all right?  To us, however it’s just the opposite.  The quick sale was an extra boost of confidence to get us out the door to Idaho.  As I said before, we were prepared for possible pain our decisions could bring that were unexpected.   That leads me to life in the redoubt since arriving.

Life in the Redoubt
We’ve been living in Idaho for 19 months now.   We don’t have a ranch entrenched on a well positioned hill with 50 acres that’s off the beaten path.  I only own four guns thusfar and not enough ammunition.  I’m not off the grid.  I could go on.   Like I said, you’d probably say I was a horrible prepper.  However, we do own a home on an acre in a smaller city of about 5,000.  We live in a subdivision of 1 acre properties.  Life over here is so much different in many ways in the general thought process of the public and your neighbors.  I’ll never forget going into a newly opened gun shop in town. (I bought a Remington 870 tactical.)  When I told the owner where I had moved from, he said “Welcome to the free world!”  In fact, I went in to get my concealed carry permit and all I had to do was sign a piece of paper and pay $60 at the local sheriff’s office.  It came in the mail about 3-4 weeks later.  It really did feel like I had entered the free world.   There was no requirement to take a class or anything.  Honestly, I don’t carry yet.  I’m waiting to take my defensive pistol class later this year before I tote a firearm.  Remember what I said about knowing that I don’t know anything?  I know my limitations, which is why I am going to take a class before carrying.

There is a much different feeling over here as to being self sufficient, relying on each other and being prepared.  It certainly feels like a more traditional American values part of the country.  Sure you can find misfits, stoners, and criminals everywhere, but here, it’s much less.  Neighbors seem generally eager to help one another in projects and being involved in a sense of community.  For fundraising, the Boy Scouts of America come out on every major patriotic holiday and post American Flags out front on your property.  Being in an agricultural area, there is also an abundance of people who have real skills from growing up on the farm, operating and fixing machinery, or operating their small business as some sort of contractor.  Lots of trucks and cars around here with the name of the owners business painted on the side.   Outdoorsmanship which you’ll find very common in the redoubt states also provides another great source of knowledge, skills, and resources to learn from.  I’ve taken up hunting since moving to Idaho.  I’ve shot, gutted, and eaten my first grouse.  It’s also very common to see big gardens over here in our 1 acre subdivision.   It is quite a big hobby around these parts.  They say when you move out here, you have to become a part time farmer. 

We planted a pretty good garden ourselves this year for the first time. We even attended a regular gardening meeting where we’d swap ideas, know-how, and visit the gardens of those who attended the meetings to learn different techniques and strategies for better yields, storage ideas, and ground prep ideas etc.   Boy was it a learning curve that first year.  We managed however to yield several bags of food for freezer storage.  We felt really good about that.  There is something extremely gratifying about putting a seed in the ground, harvesting and then eating what you have cultivated. 
The rest is just details really.  We’ve beefed up food storage through the LDS dry pack cannery locally, and we have many of the basic essentials of heat, clothing, shelter, and food.  We also put together our G.O.O.D. bags last year. 

Would we do it all again?
Absolutely.  We’ve never looked back.  One thing I didn’t tell you earlier is that back in Oregon, after I left  5 out of 7 sales reps ended up getting laid off in my territory.  So, statistically, the odds turned out heavily against me that I would keep my job anyway.   Plus, we took charge of our own destiny before someone could tell us what our destiny would be.  That was empowering.

Thanks for listening to me as I’ve told our story of relocating to the American Redoubt.  I know you must have read much of what I said and realized I’m somewhat of a convert to this growing movement.  Hopefully you’re not ashamed of my ignorance and lack of real prepping talent.   I believe however that my wife and I represent the crowd you are trying to attract and educate.  We are people of like mind, varying skills, a strong belief in God, salvation and serving our fellow men.  Thank you for letting us be a part of your Survivalblog.com community.  My only hope is that something I have written above will inspire or enlighten someone else in a similar situation.  Godspeed.

I ran across the info on your sight about the Kel-Tec SU16. I wanted to share my knowledge of the rifle with you. First of all, let me state that I have AR-15s and I enjoy them so I am not telling anyone to ditch their AR.

I have the SU16A model with a Trijicon Accupoint 2-10 power 56mm scope on it. The rifle cost me $570 including tax. When you take the rifle apart you realize it's a hybrid between an AR-15 and an AK-47. The first thing I did was replace the extractor with a heavy duty DPMS extractor for an AR-15 as some of the parts are interchangeable with the AR-15. The trigger configuration is all AK, which means you could drop the thing out a tenth story window in to a vat of pig swill and it will still work. I use cheap ammo, Wolf 55gr FMJ. I have put about 2000 rounds through this thing and not one misfire, mis-feed, jam or any other problem. I haven't had any problem with any AR mags I have used in it.

For the accuracy I find it to be excellent. At 50 yards I can put the bullet in almost the same hole sometimes, and I am not exaggerating with that statement. At 100 yards center-mass is a breeze. I have a competition AR from Bushmaster that I used to use constantly, I now use the Kel-Tec all the time, it is my go to rifle. I can't attest to the other models' durability but the A model is extremely durable, you could easily use it for butt stocking, but it may not work that well due to the lightness of the gun as it only weighs about 4.5 pounds unloaded, so you definitely will not become fatigued from carrying it around.

I love ARs, but a good one is upwards of $1,500 to $2,000. With the price of this rifle and it's reliability and accuracy I would urge people to add it to their bag of tricks. Also there is no recoil, a little bit of muzzle flip but nothing horrible, I would suggest a JP Recoil Eliminator on the end and the darn thing won't even move. The "C" and "CA" models come with a threaded barrel so install is really easy with some [green] Loc-Tite.

I just wanted to share this with you and your readers since I have a lot of range time with this weapon and definitely trust it. I would add though that these rifles are getting really hard to get. - Jon G.

Washington Footing the $1.6 Billion Cell Phone Bill for Millions of Low Income Americans

Chris Martenson: Why Our Currency Will Fail

If The Euro Breaks Up -- Scenarios For Greece, PIIGS And Total Collapse. (Thanks to F.B. for the link.)

Reader Andrew M. mentioned the latest edition of KGS Night Watch newsletter that discusses possible economic collapse in Iran

Items from The Economatrix:

G.G. flagged an interesting article from the blogosphere that originated in Switzerland: On Banknotes.

B.B. sent this: Food Prices Rose Most in 11 Months, May Climb in February

Bernanke: Recovery Depends On Consumer Spending

10 Things Every American Should Know About The Federal Reserve

I mentioned this gizmo once before--back when it was in development--but this stove now appears to be ready for production: The ultimate in low tech meets? The wood stove USB device charger. (Thanks to Geoff S. for the link.)

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Bloomberg Reloads Against Guns. JWR's Comment: These Big City Nannystaters don't know when to quit. Haven't they noticed that the crime rates in the U.S. are declining across the board, even as private gun ownership has reached a new high, and while restrictions on firearms carry--both openly and concealed--are gradually being rolled back? Guns in the hands of the citizenry aren't a crime problem. They're the solution. It is time for Mayor Bloomberg and his statist cronies to retire to Cuba. (That is, at least those that haven't already been forced to resign or convicted and sent to prison. The number of members of Bloomberg's "crime fighting" group that have been convicted of felonies is alarming. And BTW, since convicted felons permanently forfeit their right to own guns (per Federal law , they've at least been successful at disarming themselves.)

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Some great commentary from Bill Whittle: Why We Suck.

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Just for fun: Sheep-Herding Swedish Bunny Becomes Online Hit.

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I heard that Ready Made Resources now stocks RADTriage Radiation Detector cards. These fit in a wallet, or clip on to a badge holder.

"Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." - Amos 3:7 (KJV)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Today we present another two entries for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

You may have already seen this article that ran in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, February 8, 2012: The American Redoubt, where survivalists plan to survive
When society collapses, they intend to be armed and well fed in the high country of the Northwest. James Wesley Rawles is their guru on the subject
. First, I must mention that this news story was run almost immediately before and with a link to a piece about a racist would-be parade bomber (the classic "guilt by association" editorial approach, but in this case, just guilt by geographical coincidence and a two-way hypertext link, to provide none-too-subtle nexus.)

In all, the article was better than most of the hatchet jobs that seem to prevail whenever the topic of survivalism is discussed. At least the reporter got her facts straight about the geography of The American Redoubt. One quibble is the semantics of a photo caption, that read: "Chuck Baldwin, speaking in Reno in 2011, is a conservative preacher and radio host who has bought into the survivalist message of James Wesley Rawles." The phrase "bought in" has some negative connotations, in modern usage. It is noteworthy that photo captions are often used by agenda-driven editors for shading, after reporters have turned in an otherwise objective article.

My other gripe is a misquote. I was inaccurately quoted as calling myself "non-racist". I actually said, in full: "I am non-racist and in fact an anti-racist", which is much more direct and forthright. For the record: I despise racism!

It is of extreme importance in any TEOTWAWKI situation that precautions be taken to prevent contracting or spreading infectious disease. If infectious disease is contracted, it is important to be able to recognize and manage it. This article will present some infectious diseases to be aware of, how they are contracted, what measures to take to minimize the risk of infection, and what to do if you have been exposed. 

Infectious or Communicable? 
Infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites that invade the body. Commonly confused with communicable diseases, infectious diseases, not surprisingly, cause illness through exposure to an infectious agent, even if it cannot be spread from one person to another. Comparatively, a communicable disease is an infectious disease that can be spread from person to person. 

For example, while the common cold can be transmitted between people with little to no contact, an infectious disease such as malaria can only be transferred to a person from a vector - in this case, a mosquito. Malaria cannot, however, be transmitted from person to person and is therefore not communicable. 
Illness caused by an infectious disease pathogen can range from a minor cold, to life threatening hepatitis. The virulence of the microorganism and one’s general health typically determine the severity of the infection. Other sensitivities, such as autoimmune suppression, or pediatric or geriatric status, can be a factor in susceptibility to infection as well as the ability to overcome disease.
Infectious Diseases
The infectious diseases that pose important risks during a TEOTWAWKI situation pose serious threats not only to you and your loved one but to the community. While local circumstances and conditions can raise different risks, some infectious diseases to be aware of and prepared for include:

Influenza is a virus that causes upper respiratory infection. Spread quickly and contracted easily, the cold can knock you down for several days. With emerging mutations of the flu appearing every year, and with the expected emergence of a disastrously virulent strain, you must make an effort to prevent contagion. Prevent infection by maintaining good hand hygiene and avoiding touching your face, including rubbing your eyes.

Norovirus, [often and erroneously] called "the stomach flu,” causes severe gastrointestinal distress and, thus, results in dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea. Influenza is caused by the influenza virus and is correctly referred to as the "flu". The flu is a serious illness can can lead to complications and death in many people with risk factors associated with certain chronic diseases or conditions. The common cold is caused by completely different viruses. Contaminated food, water and surfaces spread the virus, which are the leading cause of food poisoning.

While norovirus is typically not serious for otherwise healthy adults, in a TEOTWAWKI situation, the dehydration it causes can lead to death. Even in normal times, Norovirus can be a severe illness among those who are elderly, very young or have certain chronic conditions. Deaths have occurred because of complications that resulted from pre-existing conditions. To prevent contracting it, make sure all surfaces and hands used for food preparation are clean. Wash your hands correctly before every meal. Always. Never touch bathroom doorknobs with your bare hands. While you cannot ensure that others will do the same, limit your exposure by reducing the number of times you eat food prepared by others. If you do become infected, rehydrate soon and often. Restore electrolyte imbalance by consuming cell salts or another source of electrolytes. Provide team support to the beneficial flora in your gut by taking a supplement such as HMF powder.

Cholera is caused by a bacteria that affects the small intestine and results in severe diarrhea. Found in contaminated water and food, it typically occurs in regions under heavy distress. Ensuring clean water and sanitation are essential for preventing cholera and other water-borne diseases, such a giardia in the event of a failure of municipal water systems. In any TEOTWAWKI situation, you must be prepared and vigilant about the safety of all water you consume or use for food preparation. Learn about and be supplied for performing water purification on your own.

Staph exists on the skin of a large percentage of the population but does not necessarily pose a risk until it enters the body through a break in the skin surface. An fairly recent emergence of Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureas (MRSA) poses a life-threatening risk from the bacteria that comprise the staph group. Any staph-related infection is serious and should be avoided and quickly treated.

Hepatitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the liver. Not only can infected persons not have any signs or symptoms for years, but the pathogen can survive outside the body for days. Hepatitis A is transmitted via the fecal-oral route. Hepatitis B and C are blood-borne and both are very hearty viruses that can survive outside of the body and remain viable for quite a while. Hep A and B both can be prevented by vaccinations. Hep B and C can both be treated depending on the type of Hep B or C. (This is a simple explanation for a complex viral disease) Hep B and C is commonly transmitted through IV drug use, tattoos, and possibly sexually.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial respiratory infection spread by a patient’s sneezing or coughing. If an outbreak occurs in your area, take precautions to avoid infected persons and locations and used recommended protection for filtering respiration. In some parts of the world, the disease has mutated to resist every single antibiotic formerly used to treat it.

Salmonella can be contracted from contaminated chicken and eggs as well as from the handling of reptiles. Thoroughly wash all chicken meat and eggs before use and  safely contain all remnants and packaging. Follow the handling of chicken products and reptiles with thorough decontamination of the hands. 

Rabies is caused by a virus that can be contracted through the saliva of infected animals through a bite or scratch. Rabies has a 99.9% fatality rate. Avoid all contact with wild animals whenever possible, particularly if they are behaving oddly. If you do receive an injury from such an animal, immediately seek medical care.

Tetanus is caused by a toxin produced by Clostridium tetani. It can be contracted from a sharp surface contaminated with the tetanus bacteria that lives in the soil. While it is a common misconception that mere metal, such as a nail, is a habitat for the bacterium, reality is that the metal (or other object) must be contaminated from contact with the soil or other carrier. The average nail in your shed is not likely to pose a tetanus risk. Stepping on a nail in your garden does. Keep your tetanus vaccination current to prevent contracting this disease.

HIV is present in blood, semen and other body fluids of those infected and can be transmitted sexually (regardless of a person's sexual orientation) as well. The virus can also be transmitted from mother to child, IV drug use, or through blood transfusions. HIV can result in acquired immune deficiency syndrome, commonly known as AIDS. However, a person may not know he or she is infected and may not exhibit signs or symptoms for years. 

Routes of Entry
There are four major routes of entry for infectious disease pathogens to enter the body, including inhalation, ingestion, injection, and absorption.
Inhalation occurs with exposure to airborne pathogens, usually by coughing and sneezing. Aerosolized droplets containing pathogens can be breathed in, even if you are some distance away from the carrier.
Ingestion can happen when infected body fluids splash into your mouth. A person who is bleeding, coughing or sneezing can project pathogens this way. Eating food contaminated with salmonella or eating from contaminated surfaces or with contaminated hands can also put you at risk of infection. Don’t self-infect!
Injection can occur when the skin is punctured or cut by contaminated sharp objects. Jagged debris, nails or working with a patient’s needle equipment, such as a diabetic’s glucometer kit or  an Epi-pen used to treat anaphylaxis, can put you at risk for infection. Similarly, tetanus can be contracted through puncture by a contaminated sharp object, and rabies, lyme disease and other infectious diseases can be contracted through puncture or the breaking of the skin from an animal bite or scratch.
Absorption occurs when tissues such as the nose and eyes come in contact with a pathogen, usually through rubbing them without proper hand washing. 
Typically, communicable disease pathogens are either airborne or blood-borne. Other infectious diseases, such as tetanus and salmonella, are generally contracted without any person-to-person contact.

Airborne pathogens, quite obviously, spread through the air. Blood-borne pathogens are transmitted through contact with infected blood or other body fluids containing blood. Bloody saliva or vomit, used dressings and dry wounds can all be sources of blood-borne pathogens. Other potentially infectious materials, known as OPIM, include fluids found throughout the body, such as nasal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, and fluid in the joints, abdomen and chest cavity. To maximize your safety, however, you must treat all body fluids as if they are infectious.

Exposure occurs through either direct contact transmission or indirect contact transmission. Direct contact transmission occurs when a person transmits a pathogen directly to another person. For example, getting infected blood in a cut on your skin can allow pathogens to infect you. Indirect contact transmission occurs from coming into contact with contaminated surfaces or objects then transferring pathogens into your body by, for example, rubbing your eyes.
Minimizing Risk
To minimize your risk of exposure to pathogens, you must take affirmative action to protect yourself. Not only should you avoid any obviously contagion-transmitting situations whenever possible, but, if you must assist in any kind of health or safety emergency, you should take precautions by practicing good hand hygiene, wearing protective equipment and treating all body fluids as if they are infectious.
Hand Hygiene
Contaminated hands are a leading cause of the contraction of infectious diseases. Hand washing and antisepsis recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should become common practice every day - don’t wait for a TEOTWAWKI scenario.
For visibly contaminated hands, wash with either plain or antimicrobial soap.
Wet your hands, then apply the amount of product recommended by the manufacturer. Vigorously rub your hands together for at least fifteen to twenty seconds, covering all surfaces. Rinse , then dry thoroughly with a disposable towel. 
Use the towel to turn the faucet off and throw the towel away.

Use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly soiled in order to reduce the population of pathogens on your hands. For optimum effectiveness, the sanitizer must contain at least sixty-percent alcohol. Use the amount recommended by the manufacturer, covering all surfaces, then rub your hands together until dry. For additional protection, make sure to get the product under any rings, and under and around the fingernails.

Standard Precautions
The term “standard precautions” refers to infection control practices designed to provide protection from infectious body fluids. You should employ these precautions when assisting anyone with a medical emergency or suspected infectious disease whether or not he or she appears infectious. While it is typical in emergency medial response to use gloves, gowns, masks and protective eyewear during patient care, you should, at the very minimum, use gloves.

Gloves are highly effective in preventing contamination. However, because small, undetected holes can result in exposure, you should cover any broken skin and apply alcohol rub before putting gloves on. Careless removal can also result in exposure. To correctly remove them, grip the cuff of one glove and pull it inside out and off. Slip your un-gloved thumb or a finger under the cuff of the other glove. Pull the glove inside out and off  so it contains the first glove inside it. Dispose of the gloves after one use so you don’t put anyone else at risk, then decontaminate with an alcohol rub. 

To protect your face form contamination, wear wrap-around goggles. For full protection for the eyes, nose or mouth, full-face shields may be worn. Surgical masks can also help protect the face, have the added benefit of limiting inhalation of aerosolized particles and can also be placed on a sick patient. A HEPA or N95 respirator mask have a high level of filtering protection. Remember to throw away all disposable equipment after one use.  You should also avoid eating, drinking, smoking or touching your face or eyes in any situation that poses an infection risk.

In addition, disinfect all surfaces and reusable equipment after working in the vicinity of a person who may have an infectious disease. Take each of these precautions seriously and get in the habit of using gloves, masks and goggles when working with dust or contaminants of any kind. This will help you familiarize yourself with the equipment and practiced in putting it on and removing it correctly and safely. The maintenance of an adequate immunization schedule can be an additional line of defense against many common diseases to consider.
If an Exposure Occurs
Make every effort to avoid exposure to infectious disease. If you become ill, you not only put your safety and survival at risk, you risk those in your family and community. The most powerful defense you have against contracting infectious disease is yourself. 

Nevertheless, exposures can still occur, even when you have employed vigilant efforts to prevent it. If you do become exposed, you should immediately take mitigating steps. If your clothing has become contaminated, remove it as soon as possible. Wash all contaminated skin surfaces, especially your hands, and use a disinfecting product to further minimize risk. If your mouth, nose or eyes have been contaminated, flush them with water or saline. They optimal flushing period for the eyes is twenty minutes. In the case of exposure to serious infectious diseases, you should immediately seek medical care. For example, while you can provide self care from assisting a person infected with the common cold, any possibility that you have contracted rabies, tetanus, hepatitis, tuberculosis and other serious diseases requires immediate medical attention.

Because infectious diseases can spread so quickly from person to person and through communities, you should expect any TEOTWAWKI situation to pose a threat of infectious disease. While the risks of contracting diseases such a rabies may be of minor significance, your risk of contracting infectious disease spread from person to person is much more likely. You must be extremely cautious when providing emergency care for any injured or sick person. The same can be said for travel through any location frequented by others. Public transportation, buildings with air circulation systems and public service buildings such as grocery stores and schools are ripe grounds for transmission. Minimize your time in them and be aware of the extremely high risk that other people pose, particularly in emergency situations where resources are limited. You must be self sufficient and prepared to assume responsibility for your own health as well as being willing to prevent any illness you do contract from spreading to others.

Take self-care seriously and invest the energy of prevention into your protocols for survival and the protection of others. You will usually not be able to tell whether someone is carrying an infectious disease or even what specific risks they pose.  But being knowledgeable and prepared are the best line of defense and management when faced with the risks of life-threatening disease.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

There have been dozens of articles on survival firearms on SurvivalBlog, and many of them focus on the “bare minimum” and/or doing the most with the fewest firearms.  None of us wants to fall into the trap of over-emphasizing firearms at the expense of food, water, arable land, and other supplies for balanced preparation.  We all know of “that guy” with 100 guns and a case of MREs who considers himself prepared for anything.  This is especially important when you’re looking to bug out WTSHTF; it’s very difficult to reconcile leaving firearms behind and, say, 50 long guns + 50 handguns + ammo & accessories can easily fill a truck all by themselves.

I wanted to focus on firearms that can either fire multiple calibers without modification or with fairly minor modification --- no unscrewing of barrels with special spanner wrenches, etc.  There are two purposes behind multi-caliber guns (or MCGs) for the prepper:  to increase the flexibility of the firearm to use found or bartered ammo, and to increase the utility of the firearm (reduced recoil, hunting a larger variety of animals, etc).  The big reason behind most of these for the non-prepper is cost of shooting, which is related to the prepper concern of cost of stockpiling.

I am splitting MCGs into two categories, those that require no modification and those that do.  Some of these are basic knowledge to old hat gun nuts, but talk to any gun store employee and they will tell you there is no such thing as “common knowledge” when it comes to guns.

If I get anything wrong please let me know!  I’ve shot plenty of these but far from all, a lot of this is research.  If in doubt, read the manual that comes with the gun, manufacturers are getting quite savvy at covering their butts with warnings against cartridges that will chamber but aren’t meant for the gun.

MCGs not requiring modification:

Most MCGs that don’t require modification to shoot multiple calibers typically just fire cartridges of the same bore diameter but differing power.  Less powerful cartridges are often cheaper and put far less stress on the weapon (increased longevity).  I list the longest cartridge first.

.22 Long Rifle (LR) / .22 Long / .22 Short:  Nearly all revolvers and tube-fed, non semi-auto (bolt, level, pump) rifles that fire .22 Long Rifle will fire their older, weaker .22 Long and .22 Short cartridges just fine.  Semi autos designed for the .22 LR won’t cycle these weaker cartridges but can be used as a single shot.  The utility is questionable as .22 Long and .22 Short are much, much less common than .22 LR.  .22 Short is fine for pest control in built-up areas but in a true grid-down SHTF scenario I think subsonic .22 LR will be much, much more useful.  Also, the shorter cased .22 Long and .22 Short can build up lead in the chamber (making shooting .22 LR difficult until cleaned) and worse, with continued use can fire-cut the chamber directly in front of the case and ruin it for .22 LR shooting.

***I am not aware of a single firearm that can safely and accurately shoot .22 LR and .22 Magnum (also called .22 WMR) without modification due to the wider case of the .22 Magnum.  .22 Magnum won’t chamber in a .22 LR gun, and while .22 LR will slip just fine into a .22 Magnum chamber, it will cause split cases, jammed cylinders, and other problems.  There are a number of revolvers that can shoot both with a cylinder change that I’ll dig into later in the article.

.357 Magnum / .38 Special:  Probably the most common MCG combination.  Any .357 Magnum revolver and lever / pump action rifle will fire .38 Special.  Both are extremely common.  From a prepper standpoint, I believe one should always get a .357 Magnum versus a .38 Special gun, it’s going to be built much stronger, fires both rounds, and will be just a fraction heavier / larger.  Most .357 Magnum semi autos will not cycle with .38 Specials.  The newer Coonan Arms .357 Magnum pistols are built to use .38 Specials with a special weaker recoil spring.

The most unique variant of the .357 Magnum MCG is definitely the Phillips & Rodgers Model 47 Medusa revolver.  These were low-production in the late 1990s and are exceedingly hard to find and expensive when you do run across one.  They were designed to fire just about any non-bottlenecked pistol bullet (rimmed or not) in the .355-.357 bullet diameter range.  This is 25+ cartridges and includes the .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .380, 9x19mm, .38 Super, etc.  They are still in use by the Navy SEALs as they can be fired underwater.  I consider this the ultimate long-term SHTF centerfire handgun, although parts are hard to stock up and a single gun might run you $1500 or more.

.44 Magnum / .44 Special:  Pretty much the same dynamic as the .357 Magnum / .38 Special, although .44 Special isn’t very common and not a discount from “Wal-Mart” .44 Magnum for the shooter/stockpiler.  .44 Special is much more tolerable and easy to shoot than full-bore .44 Magnum loads if you’re considering how to arm your less gun-savvy or smaller-statured friends WTSHTF.  The only .44 Magnum semi-auto pistol I’m aware of, the Desert Eagle, won’t cycle .44 Special.

.327 Magnum / .32 H&R Magnum / .32 S&W Long revolvers:  The new .327 Magnum will fire all three while the .32 H&R Magnum can also fire the .32 S&W Long.  None are very common, the main selling point of the .327 Magnum is that the guns typically hold 6 cartridges versus a snub nose .38 Special or .357 Magnum that holds 5.  Not much SHTF utility here.

.410 bore / .454 Casull / .45 Colt:  There has been a recent crop of .45 Colt revolvers that can also fire .410 bore shotgun shells (Taurus / Rossi Judge series, S&W Governor, etc).  I’ve had the pleasure of shooting an early Judge and think it’s a great pest control gun but fail to see the utility in it WTSHTF.  Perhaps more useful are .454 Casull / .45 Colt revolvers as the .454 can be used on medium to large game along with predator protection while the .45 Colt is a better fit for self defense against two legged varmints.  If you’re convinced you need a shotgun revolver, get a S&W Governor as it will fire .45 ACP as well, kind of a poor man’s Medusa in .45.  The Taurus Raging Judge will fire .410, .454, and .45 Colt but is a big handgun and weighs more than 4 pounds, empty!

While any .454 Casull will fire .45 Colt, don’t try .454 Casull or .45 Colt in any .410 bore shotgun unless it explicitly calls for it.  A good rule is any smoothbore .410 shotgun is only designed for .410 shotgun shells; you’re not going to hit anything smaller than a bus with a .45 Colt out of a smoothbore, and a .454 Casull round just might blow your gun/face up. (It has five times the maximum pressure of a .410 shotgun shell).

MCGs requiring modification:

The sky is the limit with MCGs that require some modification to shoot additional calibers.  New cylinders, barrels, upper receivers, etc turn one firearm into two or more.

.22 Long Rifle conversion kits for semi-auto pistols and rifles:  This is such a great concept that nearly every popular centerfire pistol and rifle has a conversion kit.  Originally popular with military forces for cheap target practice, this has bled over into the civilian shooting community that likes cheap practice too.  For the prepper, this allows one to use one gun for defense / big game hunting and quickly convert to hunt small game.  Also, one can easily and inexpensively stockpile tens of thousands of .22 LR, in a long term SHTF scenario you can keep your guns running longer.  I’d sure rather have a Model 1911 in .22LR versus a butcher knife spear for example.  Below I have listed some common guns that have kits available.

ARs chambered for 5.56x45mm / .223
Mini-14s chambered for 5.56x45mm / .223
AKs chambered for 7.62x39mm
FAL and clones
G3/HK91 and clones
HK93/33 and clones
Beretta/Taurus 92-style pistols
Browning Hi-Power
SIG-Sauer P series
CZ-75 series

.22 Long Rifle / .22 Magnum switch-cylinder revolvers:  These are revolvers that will shoot both calibers with a simple spare cylinder.  The most common is the well-made Ruger Single Six Convertible.  Harrington & Richardson makes a cheaper knockoff that lacks the transfer bar safety and polish of the Ruger.  Great utility to use two very common cartridges.

.357 Magnum or .38 Special / 9x19mm switch-cylinder revolvers:  Perhaps less well known are the switch cylinder .357 Magnums to fire 9x19mm (although more common in Europe).  Ruger makes a convertible Blackhawk single action.

.45 Colt / .45 ACP switch-cylinder revolvers:  Ruger also makes a Blackhawk convertible for these two calibers.

Rossi Wizard Series:  A couple of years ago Rossi came out with a line of single shot long guns that, with a barrel change, could convert to a large selection of rimfire, centerfire, muzzleloader, and shotgun cartridges.  Now one rifle could be an inexpensive .22 LR, a deer-slaying .30-06, a muzzleloader for that hunting season, and a 12g shotgun for birds --- or anything in between.  Of course, the drawback is it’s a single shot, but the utility is hard to ignore, especially the youth models.  Find out what the most popular calibers are in your area and get a Wizard with those barrels just in case.

7.62x25mm Tokarev / 9x19mm switch-barrel conversions:  Although they can be tough to find, most pistols in 7.62x25mm like the CZ-52 and Tokarev clones have had 9x19mm barrels made for them.  Great way to make these handguns more useful in a SHTF scenario as 7.62x25mm isn’t all that common.

.40 S&W / .357 SIG switch-barrel conversions:  Most popular pistols in either caliber have a barrel available for the other.  If you have one, get the barrel for the other caliber.

I am aware of switch barrels to convert Glocks and SIGs in .40 S&W or .357 SIG to 9x19mm, not sure if there is another pistol this conversion is available for.

10mm / 9x25mm Dillon switch-barrel conversions:  There are 9x25mmD barrels available for 1911s and Glock 20 pistols (perhaps others but I’m not aware of them).  9x25mmD was designed for competition shooting and produces enormous flash and noise.  It does not have much SHTF utility, in my view.

In addition to 9x25mm Dillon, there are switch barrels for the 10mm Glock 20 for .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and even special order .38 Super (these are NOT the same as the stock Glock barrels for their respective models but are special fit for the Glock 20).  The Glock 20 is a pretty amazing gun that can fire 5 calibers with a barrel change and has a .22 LR conversion kit too.  And, since it shares the same frame as the .45 ACP Glock 21, you could get a complete .45 ACP slide & barrel for your Glock 20 to make it a Glock 21 (and then, naturally, get a .400 Cor-Bon barrel for it, see below).  Or go the other way and start with a Glock 21 and get all the Glock 20 stuff.  Great pistols, not a huge surprise they are so popular.  Apologize if anyone went cross-eyed trying to follow this explanation!

.45 ACP / .400 Cor-Bon switch-barrel conversions:  Many pistols chambered for .45 ACP have .400 Cor-Bon barrels available.  Most of the time these don’t require a new recoil spring.  The .400 Cor-Bon is a poor man’s 10mm and is simply a .45 ACP necked down to a .400/10mm bullet.  .400 Cor-Bon never gained much popularity, but there are some that convert their .45 ACP to a 6” barrel .400 Cor-Bon for hunting and predator defense.  For preppers, not sure it’s truly worth the money unless you want one handgun for human and predator defense.

SIG P250 Pistols:  The P250 is a pistol from SIG that can change calibers (.22 LR, 9x19mm, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, .45 ACP) by changing the slide and barrel assembly (and magazines) much like an AR upper.  More expensive than, say, a Glock 22 with a .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and 9x19 barrels but throw in the .45 ACP which a .40 S&W Glock can’t do.  With all of the kits you have a handgun that covers almost every common pistol caliber.  I’d still rather have a Glock 20/21 will all the accessories as described above.

The less common EAA Witness full sized pistols can switch between .22 LR, 9x19mm, .38 Super, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, 10mm, and .45 ACP by changing the slide assembly and magazine.  Each kit is about $200.

AR Upper Receivers:  I saved the best for last, this is where most of the MCG action has been in the last 10+ years.  An entire new family of cartridges has been created around the constraint of the AR-15 magazine well width and AR-10 cartridges like the .243 Winchester have gained popularity as well.  Buying an upper is almost always going to be less expensive than a complete rifle, and if you put a lot of money into a lower with an aftermarket trigger, high-end stock, and grip why not stretch that out to several platforms?  Of course, the big drawback is one lower, one shooter --- bad if you need to defend your retreat and none of your buddies bring a rifle.  Some may come to the conclusion that 2-3 complete ARs are better than one lower and 5 uppers.  If you’re going to make the leap, I am of the opinion that a 5.56x45mm base rifle + pistol caliber matching your sidearm + 6.5 Grendel long barrel with scope + .22 LR conversion kit would be the most effective and efficient setup.  Note that, even pinching pennies with lower end upper assemblies, this will be almost $3,000 before optics.  For $2,500 you could buy a basic AR, an inexpensive pistol carbine like a Hi-Point or Kel-Tec SUB2000, a budget long range .308 bolt action rifle, and a .22 LR kit for your AR (or basic Ruger 10/22 rifle) and have 3-4 complete guns.  It’s not for everyone and your mileage may vary.  I honestly don’t see much utility in multiple uppers for AR-10s as, beyond .308 and .243, the cartridges are just not all that common. 

Now, the newly announced Colt CM-901, with its lower receiver that can adapt to both AR-15 and AR-10 size uppers, will be a great SHTF platform if it works as advertised.  You could have a CQB 5.56mm carbine and a long range .308 in one platform.

Upper calibers for AR-15 type guns (available non-custom):
5.56x45mm / .223 (of course)
.22 Long Rifle (although the conversion kits are going to be cheaper by a long shot)
5.45x39mm (super cheap surplus ammo but filthy and often corrosively primed!)
6.5 Grendel (great long range cartridge)
6.8x43mm SPC
.300 AAC Blackout (great for suppressed rifles)
9x19mm (also great for suppressed rifles)
.45 ACP
.40 S&W
.50 Beowulf
.450 Bushmaster
.458 SOCOM
.30 Remington AR
.243 WSSM (Olympic Arms)
.25 WSSM (Olympic Arms)
.300 OSSM (Olympic Arms)
.204 Ruger
.50 BMG single shot (not sure how great these are, but they’re available)
And more…

Upper calibers for AR-10 type guns (not all are current production):
7.62x51mm / .308 Winchester (of course)
.243 Winchester
.260 Remington
6.5 Creedmoor
.338 Federal
.284 Winchester
.450 Marlin
.358 Winchester
.257 Roberts
Entire WSM family
Entire SAUM family

I hope this detailed look into multi-caliber guns gives good food for thought, especially if you’re looking to build a small battery of flexible SHTF firearms that’s highly portable versus a huge, difficult to move stockpile at your permanent live-in retreat.

Hi Jim,
I noticed that at Cheaper Than Dirt that they have back in stock a GI Gore-Tex bivy sack that is worth much more than the $40 price, especially to wet-climate Pacific Northwest dwellers. (These have a forest pattern camouflage top cover). This is real USGI surplus, made in USA. They are almost-comparable at the 3-letter co-op is well over $200.

I've ordered four of these bivy bags, and all were in new or like-new condition. At my slightly chubby 214 pounds and 5'-10", there is plenty of room. I'd say that anyone under 6'-0" and 210 pounds should fit inside with a 4 pound sleeping bag just fine. The shell covers bag and head completely adds almost a whole season to the temp range of the sleeping bag you are using, protects you and your bag from the wet, even sleeping directly on wet ground or vegetation. - Karl in Portland

More Quantitative Easing monetization, in England: BoE Injects $79.3 Billion More to Support Recovery

Yes, debasement is coming for nickels: U.S. Mint exploring alternative metal options. Stockpile some nickels at face value now, before the composition change! (If you wait, then you will have to laboriously sort coins.)

An eye-opening YouTube video on the housing crash: Folsom California On The Brink

Jim Rickards: “Chaos” To Dollar Endgame “Most Likely”

Items from The Economatrix:

Greek Talks Falter / Sprott Offering Memorandum / Jobs Report Analysis

Bernanke:  Job Market Remains Weak Despite Gains

Consumer Borrowing Rose $19.3 Billion in December

Dow Approaches 13,000, and Maybe a Record to Come

Definitely worth reading: Truth, Lies and Afghanistan. (Thanks to Pierre M. for the link.)

   o o o

Dimitri sent this example of horribly biased reporting from NBC by anti-gunner Jeff Rossen (who was featured in Michael Moore's propaganda film, Bowling For Columbine): Rossen Reports: Anyone can buy guns, no questions asked. The article is replete with hyperbole and even a laughable reference to buying "..a 50-caliber weapon so powerful it could take down a helicopter." If Rossen truly wants to protect helicopters from being downed, then he should campaign against aboveground power lines and telephone lines. (Since wire strikes kill several helicopter pilots each year, but there hasn't ever been a single recorded instance of a helicopter shot down with a .50 BMG rifle in the United States.) Rossen needs to learn that technical feasibility does not equate with volition. My SUV is so powerful that it could go 90 miles per hour and mow down hundreds of school children in a March Of Dimes parade. But will I ever use it to do so? The same gasoline that I use to fuel my SUV could be used to make Molotov cocktails so powerful that they could be used to immolate dozens of caged kittens or fur seals with a single throw. But will I ever use it to do so? No. Get a life, Mr. Rossen.

   o o o

C.D.V. suggested an article on an alternative "tepee" method for stacking firewood piles.

   o o o

Tom from Camping Survival wrote to mention that they've re-stocked with Yoder's canned cooked bacon. Their price is competitive and their shipping rates are often below cost.  The price is going up starting with their next shipment. You can use coupon code "survivalblog" for a 5% discount:Here is a link to a video that shows how the cooked bacon is packed in cans.

   o o o

How National Geographic misrepresented the foxhole atheist ‘Doomsday Prepper’, Megan Hurwitt. Here is a quote: "And something that Nat Geo didn’t mention? The producer offered me $1,000 to shoot my cat on camera."

"We may be hunted like animals, but we will not become animals. We have all chosen this - to live free, like human beings, for as long as we can. Every day of freedom is an act of faith; and if we die trying to live then at least we will die like human beings.”  - Daniel Craig as Tuvia Bielski in the movie Defiance. (Screenplay by Clayton Frohman and Edward Zwick.) The movie was based on the book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans, by Nechama Tec

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Today we present another two entries for Round 39 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) 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 C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $275 value), and E.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol. It is a $439 value courtesy of Next Level Training. B.) A FloJak F-50 hand well pump (a $349 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) 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, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, and E.) two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 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, C.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and D.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 39 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Southern California, September 8, 2011, 3:45 p.m.: Crud, my computer just shut down. It had been an uneventful day at the ranch studio to this point. I was finishing the day’s work on a project and looking forward to riding my horse before it got dark; now my computer flat-lines. Great…, what next?

Hit the television power switch on the remote, nothing... Power light on the plotter is off too, Huh? Went to the main breaker to see if the circuit to the studio had tripped. Nope, the wheel-of-debt inside the meter was not turning so the solution was not going to be “just the flip of a breaker away”. The problem just ratcheted up a notch.
Called San Diego Gas and Electric (SDGE) but could not get through, circuits were overloaded. Living in a rural area it is not unusual for the power to go out from time to time and take it in stride. We also have those raging Santa Ana wildfires  every year, but a quick scan of eastern mountains showed no hint of smoke and living near the airport where the tankers stage, I didn't hear or see any tanker or helicopter activity.

Walked out to my truck and turned on the radio but no information about any power outage. Strange, must be a local power outage, or maybe just the transformer to my place.
Using my iPhone, I called a couple of neighbors. One not home, the other had no power either. The ratchet turns another notch.

Ok, so this is starting to look a little more serious than a tripped breaker.
Called my wife, who works in a corporate office downtown, and their power is out too. With no backup power, everyone was told to go home. A few minutes later, she calls back to say the security gates to the underground parking garage have no backup power so all the cars are trapped inside with no way out. Great...this situation is escalating from mere inconvenience to a "what next" event.

Cell phone rings, wife says a few of her co-workers with cars trapped in the garage had decided to stay in the building (being a biotech company they have good security), overnight if necessary, until someone could get the security gates open to the underground garage (or I come to pick her up). I reminded her that she had her Get Home Bag (GHB), just in case. Whenever we travel beyond our rural community each vehicle has a pack loaded with gear so we can hike back home (dreaded EMP event) and hers was in her truck. That meant she had MREs, water, first aid, hiking boots, sleeping bag, change of clothes, etc.

Now I am hearing sirens in town (a mile away). Even though I do not let my diesel tank get below the half way mark, I thought I would run into town to see what was going on and top off my tank anyway. What a shocker when I got to Main Street, to see the stoplights not working and lines already spilling out of the service stations into the street. There are only six stoplights in town and with none of them working the main street (small town and we really do have a Main Street) was a complete parking lot with stopped cars.

The parking lots for the two grocery stores in town were filling up too. I later heard that transactions could only be made in cash as the computers were out and they only had battery back-up lights. My ‘alert flag’ colors are starting to change.

Having been through the wildfire drill quite a few times, but well along in the Beans, Bullets, Band-Aids (BBB) departments I was comfortable as I drove back to my ranch watching others scramble to get in line at the few gas stations and two markets. The gas station lines were particularly futile since the pumps had no power anyway. Waiting in line was for the desperate people that were so low on fuel they had no choice but to park and wait.

Wife calls before I get back to the ranch to say someone managed to get the security gates open but now she is stuck in the gridlock of everyone trying to get home and every single stop light was out. What normally is a 40-minute commute turned into over a four-hour stop and go nightmare.
I now hear on my truck radio that the power outage extends beyond my small town and into other areas of San Diego, as well as east and north of the downtown area. However, no news on where or how it started the extent of coverage or estimate of when it will be back on. Fog-of-war starts to set in.

The radio newscaster talks in general terms about the power outage, but again no specific or useful information, just as it always is during the wildfires. During those, I did not evacuate and stayed to protect my property (yes, we did have looters). During those fires, one of the most frustrating things was the useless news coverage. Then, while watching the television news coverage (when the television had power), the smoke outside was sometimes so thick I could not see ten feet let alone down to my horse corals. I needed specific information (street names would have been nice) on where the fire was in real time to make go-no go decisions. Instead, the news broadcasters spoke of the fire only in general terms. Kind of like tornado news coverage on Fox News about a tornado in Oklahoma. Nice to know about as you casually watch television, however, a bit lacking if you are living the event and need information to make critical decisions, fast. Local news needs to do a better job at this.

After the last two Santa Ana fire experiences, I realized that Beans, Bullets, and Band-Aids did not address what I consider another critical category- Communications (comms). Consequently, I went down the ham radio road to fix that deficiency. I have my General license, which gives me access to High Frequency (HF) bands not available to a Technician license, a two band handheld radio, plus a HF mobile rig that will really reach out and touch somebody on HF bands. My son has the exact same license and gear and we routinely communicate with our dipole antennas (aimed at each other) from southern California to where he lives north of Los Angeles, without the use of repeaters, or computers. This met our comms goal of not having to rely on anyone to “help” us with our comms. All we need is our gear and a 12 volt DC battery.

Now it is getting closer to sunset. Check on horses to be sure they have water and feed. Filled extra water barrels for horses since during the last big Santa Ana fire the local water department generators stopped working. Set out flashlights throughout the house and studio. Also, set out candles and several kerosene lanterns just in case.
It is a warm evening so decided to set up comm center outside on the deck where I had a view of the surrounding area. Lit the kerosene lantern. Grabbed my handheld ham radio, car top magnetic antenna and a cookie bake sheet. The magnetic antenna centered on the bake sheet acts like the roof of the vehicle, which provides much better reception than the standard rubber-duck antenna. This way I can set up my UHF/VHF station remote from my vehicle. Added a writing tablet and pens, several flashlights, snacks, comfortable director’s chair and switched on the radio to see what was really going on.

As it gets darker, the reality of the situation starts to set in. Being a rural area, when it gets dark, it is not like being in the city, it is a lot darker. We also have dark-sky restrictions for outdoor lighting because of our proximity to the Mount Palomar Observatory, and with the power out everywhere, tonight, dark has become pitch black; the occasional vehicle on the road is the only light I see. I hear a few generators running and now see a few dim lights in the distance.
Scanning my programmed repeater frequencies, I find that someone has set up an unofficial network ("Net") where, finally, some useful information is being provided. I quickly learn that the power outage extends beyond the San Diego area, into Mexico, east to Arizona, and up to the southern part of Los Angeles. The cause is still under investigation. Time to get the grid back up, unknown. Not good. Wife is still in traffic so using the “Find My iPhone” app, I monitor her progress in real time on the map display of my iPhone.

Listening to my handheld, I check FaceBook on my iPhone and see many postings about the outage, mostly questions and speculative assumptions being posted compared to the verified info I hear on my FT-60 radio.

The fellow acting as Net Control is doing a good job of fielding questions and passing information. Requests are coming in for ham operators to help out at a hospital; someone needs a prescription delivered to their house; is the local CVS pharmacy still open for prescriptions, can anyone stop by such and such an address to check on an elderly couple; water is needed for the volunteers directing traffic at the stop light locations.

A local emergency assistance group (ham operators) break out their generators and lights and set them up at the stop light intersections so those directing traffic are more visible.

The Net traffic is increasing and one of the owners of the repeater keys up her mike to say she is monitoring this frequency and eventually steps in as the Net control to give the first fellow a well-deserved break. A question is asked about the backup generator for the repeater and she tells everyone that it would run for at least a week with no problem. Later, things ratchet up another notch as she is replaced by a fellow who takes over as Net control and announces that this frequency will be restricted to essential communications only. At this point, we are very close to the repeater being commandeered for official emergency communications only.

As new information is transmitted, there was the recurring questions of “where did you hear this?” What is your source? Can you confirm, etc. Because it is the nature of ham radio operators to be precise in relaying accurate communications the information being passed was specific and useful, not at all like the local news. So having been monitoring Face Book while listening to the ham, I started posting information I thought useful to Face Book. Before I know it, I have quite a few Facebook friends posting that I am their source for useful and reliable information.

My wife finally drives up and describes the traffic nightmare she just went through. She sits and listens to the ham radio traffic for a short while then goes to bed. It has been a long commute home for her.

I stayed up monitoring the radio until after midnight. By then the radio traffic had slowed and there was still no information on the cause of the outage or when the grid would be back up. Nothing left to do but get some rest and see what a new day brings.
As we all know the power started being restored in the early morning and everything pretty much returned to normal by the end of the next day.

After Action notes for this short-term event:

  • Keep the fuel in your vehicle over half full at all times. Spare fuel cans are a plus.
  • Work on your BBB supplies. You can never have enough.
  • Have a Get Home Bag (GHB) in your vehicle. You never know when you will need it to get home. My wife is the only person at her workplace that had all the gear she needed to either stay at the workplace or make the trek home if it came to that.
  • Get a ham license, some basic gear and familiarize yourself with how this valuable asset works.

While this did not turn into a BBB event, having those preps adequately covered made this much less stressful.
I later heard that the grocery stores sold out of water and ice faster than anything else did but other shelves were starting to look bare as the night wore on.
On another note, a friend of a friend who owns a precision gun store in another city (AR and high-end sniper rifles) had to call the police because of attempted break-in attempts during this grid down episode. Were just these opportunistic thieves or more desperate types looking longer-term at the situation and opportunity?

This event was just a hiccup. It lasted less than 12 hours. It took everyone completely by surprise and happened as people were getting off work. Those that were prepared were able to focus on important tasks, those that were not prepared stood in line. Having BBB is fine. Having comms provided invaluable real time information about the situation.
There are three stages humans go through to make decisions in stressful situations: Denial, Deliberation, and Decision (DDD). How long a person lingers in the (Denial) “this can’t be happening to me” stages depends on many factors. Spending too much time in this stage can lead to bad consequences. Once they realize it is really happening to them, people will naturally Deliberate on how serious, long term, threatening their situation is. Timely and accurate information is critical at this stage. Do not let the ‘Paralysis of Analysis’ tendency creep in at this point. Get reliable information since it is important to get to stage three quick. Like stage one, Denial, the faster you get though the Deliberation stage, the faster you get to the most important stage. Now it is time to make a Decision. Good or bad, this is where the rubber meets the road; go-no go, bug-in, bug-out. Not having real time, accurate information can lead to wasting too much time going through the first two of the DDD stages or worse yet, not making any, or making the wrong Decision based on completely inaccurate, or out of date, information.

If you are reading this, someone thinks you have some interest and understanding of the need to be prepared. Regardless of where you are in your journey, have your basic BBBs covered. Consider though, how important it is to also have comms so you go through the DDD process faster, and make the correct Decision in phase 3. We all know knowledge is power. Good comms could be that knowledge that saves you or your loved ones life. Just ask any leadership military person about command and control.
Consider budgeting some time and money and get your ham license and some gear. I see more and more articles appearing in the blogs about ham radio. There are good reasons for this. I have never regretted going down that road and having the fourth leg of my prepping table supported by good comms. A four-legged table is a lot sturdier to stand on than a three-legged stool (Beans, Bullets, Band-Aids, + comms). Hope for the best, but plan for the worst!

We live in an obese society driven by processed fast food and have drinking liters of soda a day and barely any water if at all. I have seen hundreds of people “preparing” for some sort of catastrophic event that can barely walk and some cannot even see the bottom of their shoes they are so obese. I am not trying to be harsh because I am by no means perfect I am just trying to point out something I see wrong with the prepping community today. We also rely on certain stimulants to get us through the day whether it is coffee, soda or any other form of caffeine. If something bad is to happen that would drive us from our normal lifestyle we need to not be so reliant on those things to get us through the day.

Those preparing for a disaster whether it is man-made or a natural disaster should find time somewhere in their schedule to exercise at least thirty minutes a day. As a prepper I find myself thinking when I look at my Get out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) bag wondering how far I could really get with it if there was an EMP or some other disaster that left me and my loved ones walking. It weighs around thirty pounds and I am in decent shape (trying to get in better) but, I honestly do not know how far I could get with it. That is why the group of people I am preparing with we have started exercising with are bags on anytime we can. Granted it would come off a little strange being at the gym with an ALICE pack on however, everyone should practice it once in a while to get a feel for it and know what they would be carrying. Below I will lest the exercises that everyone in my group has to be able to maintain and we practice once a month to be sure we are still in shape and we can keep each other in check. (Keep in mind this without gear.)

  • Dynamic warm ups and stretching
  • A mile jog in under nine minutes (I know this is not fast but not everyone in our group is young we just want everyone to be in decent cardiovascular shape.)
  • Fireman carry’s with a partner
  • Pushups: 50
  • Sit ups: 50
  • Finally squats with a partner

This is just a basic workout to make sure everyone in the group is doing their part and we can work as a team. Everyone in the group is required to stay physically fit because it is not fair for some people to be busting their tails to stay in decent shape then have one out of shape person slowing the team down and possibly putting them in danger. Do not misunderstand me we are a team and we will always work to encourage each other when we are working out and strive to better ourselves. Every person in preparation community needs to take every measure to be in great (not good) physical shape in case there is ever a SHTF situation. If there is such a disaster there will not be a doctor or anyone to help you with your heart problems or give you the blood pressure medicine you need. Some people astound me because they are willing to put away thousands of dollars in supplies but, they are not willing to take the time to secure their lively hood and chance of survival by staying in shape. Another way to prepare physical for this type of situation is to do they type of labor you see yourself doing in whatever scenario you foresee. Gardening, working on your house or various chores could also provide the muscle memory your body may need.

I am not an expert in kinesiology or exercise and no one in my group is and we do not claim to have the perfect workout routine but we are at least trying to hold each other accountable in the actions we take. Since we only meet once a month to exercise we make sure at our preparedness meetings that