Recently in Land Navigation & GPS Category

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Regarding the post of the guy in California that Google can take a photo from the public street, and see his electric meter and objects in his open windows: the problem is not so much Google as his choice to live so close to a public road that anyone could do this.  I used Street View to "sorta" see my gate, and that is all you can see--just a gate. Google Map's satellite photos show far more detail about the layout of my "spread", though the detail is fairly fuzzy. - Andy G.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dear Editor:
A few years ago I blocked out the views of my house from Google Street View.  However, I recently discovered that the Street View vehicle had taken updated pictures of my street, and my house was again visible, and in much greater detail!  I was actually able to read my electrical meter from Street View and view objects inside of my house by zooming in on windows that were open.  It also appears that the Street View cameras are much higher than the previous vehicle; based on the height of a pedestrian on my street, the cameras look to be at least 8 feet off the ground.  So your 6 foot tall privacy fence may be mooted by the camera being able to peer over your fence.  

I would suggest to fellow readers that they should periodically review Street View and other services, like Spokeo, to ensure that they are not being displayed for all the world to see.

I have noticed that in the last few months there has been an increase in suspicious activity on my street, and I thwarted a break-in attempt a few months ago - oddly enough, after the time the updated street view pictures were taken!! (thank the Lord I had a pistol on my person).  A thief no longer needs to case your house out from the street - Google Street view does it for them!

To remove your home from Street View:

1) Find your address on Google Maps, and then zoom until the map flips from top-down to the 'Street View'
2) Center your house in the street view
3) Find the very hard to read "Report a Problem" text on the lower left corner of the Street View & click
4) A new screen should popup (a new tab for me, you may need to turn off a pop-up blocker).
5) Click "Privacy Concern", and then "My House" and then "I have found a picture of my house and would like it blurred"
6) Fill out the description field - I've cited recent theft attempts
7) Fill in an e-mail address - I would suggest using a fake e-mail address so that you are not telling Google what e-mail address lives at your house.  (Side Note: Make sure your wi-fi is locked down, as they are probably sniffing this at the same time as well).
8) At this point you will see why we centered your house earlier - there is a red box around the center of your house in the image.  Please note that you can adjust the red box from this screen as well, but the view is much smaller.
9) Fill out the word verification, and then hit submit
10) This is the most important step: you need to move the Street view up and down your street, and repeat this process from every part of the road that can see your house.  I had to make 8 separate privacy submissions to fully block my house from Google Street View.  To move the street view, there should be two or more white arrows on the road - click them, and you should see your location change.

- Nate in California

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thank you for creating your wonderful SurvivalBlog site; it is a much-needed voice of sanity in a world of foolishness and denial. We value your site for the shared experiences of your contributors and the working knowledge that many have volunteered. I hope we can also contribute in some small way, but maybe from a different perspective.

My wife and I have been full time live aboard boaters in the northeast for the last 20 years or so. The core tenants of prepping have always been near and dear to us - not just because we have a special interest in prepping, but because long distance sailors and other self-reliant mariners use the same pepper concepts, not just when the SHTF, but as constant concerns of every day life when underway.  Provisioning, access to potable water, communication, navigation, maintenance, weather, sanitation, protection from the elements, first aid, safety and physical security; expertise in all these areas is needed in order to remain self-reliant and maybe even to stay alive when cruising. The names and implementation for preppers and sailors may be different but the basic concepts are the same. For instance a preppers "G.O.O.D." bag is our "Ditch" (boat sinking) bag. Maybe we can share insights between our different prepper/cruiser cultures and learn from each other's experiences.

I'd also like to present a case that if you live near the coast in a congested area, then a well-found sailing vessel can represent an excellent bug out location, and in many ways it may be the only viable option for continued survival if some truly horrific event occurs. But first, let me give you an overview of where we live and some of the problems a typical prepper might face in our area.

The northeast where we reside is very crowded, with much of the population concentrated along the shore. In many ways it is a fragile place. Power is generated locally, but fuel and food have to be shipped in continually and the process can only be interrupted for a short amount of time. As far as I can tell none of the states in the region have any sort of rational, long-term emergency measures in place. Most of the people here, just like everywhere else it seems, do not have even a bare minimum of emergency supplies on hand. If some condition or event were to upset our delicate supply chain, electrical grid or communication system for more than even a few days, the resulting cascading "systems failures" would quickly convert our affluent and well ordered society into a chaotic, lawless place. Many of the cities here have rotting cores filled with thoughtless, brutal people, and these would be the first to take advantage of the situation. Concern would quickly give way to panic and even the typical law abiding citizen might be given to reckless and even irrational acts. The order of events in a severe emergency are not hard to imagine if you consider that most people would be living off of body fat and pond water within a few short weeks.

The fact of the matter is that there are just to many people here. You might be ready to bug out, but to where? The roads are often a congested mess even on a good day, let alone in an evacuation emergency (as an example, the Long Island Express is often affectionately referred to as "the longest parking lot in the world"). Unless you are in the northern parts of these north eastern states, such as upstate New York, your only other option would seem to be to bug in, not always the best option while the world is disintegrating around you.

So what could cause such a catastrophe? Many things, and readers of this blog probably already have a pretty good idea what they are. For me, a coronal mass ejection (CME) or a deliberate electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by a high altitude nuclear device heads the list of my nightmares; these are followed closely by a deliberate ground level nuclear event or a Category 5 hurricane hitting the coast (at high tide). Once the power goes out many of the nuclear reactors in the area, deprived of adequate cooling, would meltdown in the same fashion as Japans Fukushima Daiichi plant. This would poison vast areas of the most densely populated parts of our country. Deadly flu, economic collapse, social upheaval, loss of imported fuel - all seem tame in comparison, but experience has taught many of us never to underestimate the power of "chaos and cascading failures". Especially in power, communication and supply systems created to work as cheaply as possible but with little thought to resilience or redundancy.

Because of these challenges along any crowded coastline. I'd like to suggest that your readers consider a small sailing vessel as your bug out retreat. The greatest advantage is that you could get away in short order and with a minimum of sophisticated technology. The power of the wind can take you anywhere in the world. There are many cheap, capable smaller sailboats out there, but just as one example I'd like to present the sturdy little Pearson Triton. At 28 feet this is just about the smallest boat one can use for long distance cruising. Designed by the venerable Carl Alberg this well built little boat is fully capable of safely crossing an ocean (if not quickly or comfortably), and is small enough that it can even be rowed under dead calm conditions. 750 Tritons were made in the 1950s and 1960s and most are still around. In almost every way these "classic plastic" boats are much better than their contemporary counterparts and much less expensive too. In good condition with useable sails and a fairly new diesel engine the Triton can be had for $8,000 to $10,000 USD and sometimes much less. Maintenance, dockage and haul outs might be another $4,000 a year. This isn't chump change, but it is still much less than a land-based bug out retreat in this area.

So when and how do we use your little bug out boat? Well that depends. If the power is out and is not going to come back on as with a CME or EMP then you would have little choice other than to leave, and the sooner the better. If emergency conditions are less severe, then your choice of whether to leave or not may not be so simple. You can always stay on the boat until things settle out, one way or another. You don't have to leave on an impulse, after all the open ocean can be an uncompromising taskmaster especially to the novice sailor. But at least you can leave when you want. Just as a side issue, a small sailboat like the Triton can be great fun to sail even if the world is not coming to an end.

So how would you prepare your little Triton for TEOTWAWKI and how might the order of events unfold? Lets run through a possible scenario. Imagine that one morning there was an impossibly bright spark in the southern sky and now nothing works. The power is off and the car wont run, even the radio is dead. The neighbors are all scratching their heads in confusion, where you understand what just happened along with the grave implications. You and your family fill your backpacks with essentials and then peddle your bicycles like crazy heading to the marina where the boat is kept. Once there you set your priorities and prepare to bug out.

First and foremost, the greatest overriding concern for all small cruisers (and preppers in general) is availability of potable water. Your little ship only carries 20 gallons of fresh water in an internal tank, supplies for a few days at best. On deck you lash an other half a dozen or so 5 gallon plastic jerry jugs, this is the tried and true method used by all small boat cruisers. Still not enough water, every drop counts. The wife sends the kids up to raid the trash for any other bottles, cans or buckets, anything that can hold water including ziploc bags and trash bags. You'll sterilize everything later with bleach once you are underway. Finally fill the cockpit, bilge and galley sinks; even fill your old sea boots with fresh water. Better a pair of wet feet than a dry mouth. The scuppers (deck drains) have already been rigged to collect rainwater, but you can't count on a rainy day to save your life.

At the beginning of the season you squirreled away dozens of cans of food in the bilge, but what exactly is down there now is a bit of a mystery, as the water and high humidity have freed up and dissolved away all the labels. No matter, the calories are still in there, even if you are not really sure what is what. You'll have some interesting meals ahead, and not just because of the anonymous cans in the hold. There is almost always something to eat in and around the sea, especially in the biologically rich northern waters. Most people only think in terms of game fish like striped bass or bluefish, but for every large fish there are a hundred smaller ones. We are also surrounded by dozens of types of "unconventional" protein. Crabs, shrimp, clams, snails and other mollusks, as well as sea grass and seaweeds are all edible - palatability is another matter. Just remember, hunger is the best sauce. How about Minnows with rice and seaweed anyone?  A seining net and simple hook and line fishing gear are cheap and essential.

Food and water - check, now for security. Instead of buying something like a single AR-15 you spent your gun budget on three AR-7s. This is the survival rife that you first read about as a kid. The barrel, receiver and even two 8 round magazines all stow within the stock, and most of the parts are even Teflon coated, a great plus on a small boat in a salty ocean. When you first picked them up you thought that maybe the gun dealer was playing a trick on you. Each gun weights only two and a half pounds and is a little over 19 inches long when the parts are stored in the stock. The AR-7 looks a bit like a toy but it will kill just like any other .22 rimfire gun. Chambered in .22 LR, you can hold a thousand boxed up rounds in the palm of your hand and those thousand rounds are easy to stow in a watertight container. (Now just where did you put that spare ammo?). The philosophy here is that three small semi auto weapons firing at close range will trump a single weapon of higher caliber. Longer-range weapons would also be much less of an advantage while pitching and rolling about in the open ocean. Frankly, anything beats fending off desperate pirates with a boat hook and harsh language. [JWR Adds: Another advantage of the AR-7 is that it is is one of the few guns that float if it is dropped in the water.]

Suitable clothing and foul weather gear are already stored aboard and the meds kit is ready including a good selection of fish antibiotics and a minor surgery kit. You are ready to go (a relative term), but go where? Your first thought is to head toward Bermuda. At 700 nautical miles away it is relatively close. But on second thought, perhaps not. An EMP powerful enough to take out the eastern seaboard would probably get Bermuda as well. Maybe you could head north. The Canadian Maritimes are far enough away that the power is probably still on. There is only one problem, if the nuclear reactors along the eastern seaboard begin to meltdown, then he prevailing winds will carry this nuclear material to the northeast. You would be sailing into clouds of radioactive smoke and dust. The wife consults the Pilot chart for the north Atlantic and places her finger on a tiny dot that is two thirds of the to the way to Europe. "The Azores? That's over 2,000 nautical miles away!" You give her a sick grin. The GPS is properly packed away in a shielded box, but if it didn't make it you'll have to find your way using the sextant (and luck). Many of the GPS satellites have probably been destroyed in any case. "How is your celestial [navigation]?" you ask. "About as good as yours," the wife replies, with the same sick grin. Celestial navigation is not one of our competencies and we don't even have a working timepiece in any case. "Well, you always wanted to have a sailing adventure" the wife continues.  True, but this isn't exactly want you had in mind.

Monday, March 12, 2012

James Wesley:
I would like to let everyone know about an application called Cabela's Recon Hunt. It has a very low cost, gives access to every map that is offered to the public. Lots of maps can be stored off line (depending on the memory capacity of your device) and one of the best features is that you can make notes that say where you saw game at certain GPS coordinates. (Or perhaps where there is a cache of supplies stashed. Though I wouldn't label it as such.) But on a hand-held device enclosed in a Faraday cage this could be very a very useful way to plan several routes to several potential bug-out spots. I know reliance on electronic items is a liability (needing a way to provide power and such) but this liability can be overcome with any variety of hand crank, solar, or even wood heat USB chargers available. Further, it provides the ability to store large number of [PDF] manuals, guides and references. It can also provide a much-overlooked commodity touched upon in the movie The Book of Eli: music. Music is an excellent way to avoid being overtaken by a foul situation. But I digress.

Cabela's Recon Hunt, its available for less than $12 USD. Simple and compact, access to a large amount of maps, but the real use would be to store what you need because if the grid goes down you probably won't be able to access anything you don't already have stored, so make your choices and key considerations wisely.

I hope I haven't sounded too much like an advertisement. (I don't have any financial interest in this product or in Cabela's.) Be well, - Albertus

JWR Adds: I would call this software "Redoubt Friendly." It has pre-loaded public land boundaries and big-game hunt unit maps for 11 western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. (Yes, that includes all of the American Redoubt states. Tres cool.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I'm sending you a link to some detailed maps of the world based on detailed data: several basic variables such as average precipitation, temperature variables, population, earth lights (and change in earth lights over time), biomass maps (vegetation) and more. Some linked pages contain data that can be used in virtual globes such as NASA World Wind.

If you explore the various links, you can find a wealth of high quality data that could be used in a long term grid down/other scenario where this basic world information could be very useful for travel, and more. This can also be used to "homeschool" children and adults in some basic high quality facts about how this planet operates.

Here are some examples:

Google Earth KMZ file for the whole earth colored topo in detail.

Highly detailed climate data that can be imported into a GIS program.

Explore with web searches for more.

Other data is out there, such as the TRMM detailed rainfall data from NASA.

Their references to "millions of years ago" are unscientific, but the data is very helpful.

Sincerely, - Calvin R.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The following are my observations based upon my experience with the care and processing of small livestock, living in a hot and humid climate on the Gulf of Mexico


Chicks of all species need warmth for their first few weeks, but on the Gulf Coast, and anywhere else with a hot climate, it's easy to overheat them. If you're keeping the birds outside, and it's anything over 80F or so, they probably do not need additional heat from a heat lamp or other source. Generally, I would take away a heat lamp and use a regular incandescent bulb if the temperatures were regularly over 65ish. If it is cool enough to still require external heating, keep the lamp off to one side of the enclosure. Be very careful to "round out" any corners the enclosure may have, particularly when the chicks are very young. Chicks pile up on top of each other and suffocation is a common cause of death in the early days. Ensuring there is enough room for all of the chicks also helps decrease the chance of suffocation.

[JWR Adds: In our experience, an oval galvanized steel livestock water tank works quite well for raising chicks. Add a screen of chicken wire across the top to keep out curious cats and to restrain hopping chicks. By placing a 200 watt heat lamp at one end of the tank, allowing the chicks to choose a place with a comfortable temperature.]

The food and water should not be under the lamp, to help minimize fouling or tipping of either. It also encourages chicks to move out from the heat. If the chicks are very young, and aren't a waterfowl species, marbles can be placed in the waterer (or bowl) so the chicks do not trip and drown. On account of their absolutely tiny size, quail chicks are particularly susceptible to falling into water sources, even despite marbles, if there is anything much more than a finger's gap between the marbles, as are guinea fowl chicks. Keep quail chicks in wire cloth enclosures for a very long time – some of the species are so small at adulthood, they can still easily slip out of standard chicken wire.

Some sources recommend treating the water with tetracycline and electrolyte additives – I personally had mixed success with that course of action. Some breeds and species seem to fail to thrive without it, and some fail to thrive with it. My best advice is to – if you choose to purchase and use the powdered additives – do so sparingly and not for long periods of time. And if you turn the water a bright yellow from how much you added – dilute it!

Chick starter, which is a higher-protein chicken feed with very small granules, can be used for most chicks with a fairly high rate of success. Some of the smaller quail species are actually too small for even that – cornmeal can be used for these, if you discover they are having issues, or grind some of the chick starter more finely.

While I have, at times, raised regular poultry and waterfowl chicks together, ducklings and goslings are very, very messy, and will make all the other chicks rather dirty, smelly, and sickly on account of how wet they'll get. The best course of action is to generally keep them separated, particularly since ducklings and goslings are happiest when they have a tiny "pond" to swim in from the get go. While very young, a pie pan will suffice for a pond (glass is better, as it is usually too heavy to tip over). The only real concern is "can they climb into it and climb out of it." If you do not keep a small swimming area for them in their enclosure, a kiddie pond is plenty acceptable, provided they have supervision (aka, "rescuers" for when they've tired themselves out). Stopped up bathtubs or sinks work, too, but as waterfowl defecate while swimming, you may want to pass on that option.

Should non-waterfowl chicks get wet, getting them warm and dry again is a priority if at all possible, as even in warm temperatures, they will catch cold and basically freeze to death. If you have a lot of chicks to dry, a heat lamp and a hair dryer (on low, held at a distance) works, but a dry towel and rubbing is better for the chicks (just be gentle!).

I have generally had poor success when grouping chicks of too disparate ages together – two weeks makes a huge difference in size for most birds. The older chicks will suffocate the younger ones, simply by being large enough the younger chicks can get underneath them and then get trapped.

Most chicks will begin to get their first real feathers (along their wings) within a week – unless it is unseasonably cold, or these are winter chicks – it is generally safe to remove a heat lamp (and sometimes even a regular lamp) once the chicks are about half feathered over their bodies. Naturally, common sense should be employed when deciding whether chicks still need their heat source or not.

Depending on the purpose and breed/species of the chicks, the methods of feeding and care after this point vary in detail, but not in the basics. All birds should have enough feed to "free feed" (unless range – these may or may not need supplementation, depending on your situation) and access to plenty of clean water. For chickens and turkeys, meat breeds can be grown at a quick rate by regulating their daily light exposure and feeding a high protein selection with added corn gluten (for that bright yellow color). Long periods of light and artificially cold temperatures are how the best "market" birds are produced. If you don't particularly care that it'll take twelve weeks instead of eight weeks for a similar size, I suggest skipping building an insulated and air conditioned enclosure. The birds turn out healthier, anyhow.

For waterfowl, if you don't provide them with a place to go for a swim, they will find one – usually another pen's waterer, based on my experience. Their food and drinking water should be kept fairly close together, as they generally need to water to help them eat standard crumble-based feed.

Once the birds are older than a month to six weeks, the care is basically the same. Adult birds should have access to grit – which is also a calcium supplementation for the laying hens. If you have guinea fowl (be careful about purchasing/acquiring these, as because of their volume and constant racket, they are generally banned in urban areas, even the urban farming friendly ones), be sure to keep them penned until they're about six months old, so they know where "home" is. The moment you let them range, if you intend to, they will spend time flying about and generally being a nuisance. On the other hand, they do tend to keep the hawks from dining on too many of your birds, as well as alert you that running outside with a weapon to scare off whichever predator was a-hunting maybe a good idea at that point.

If laying hens are your intent, be sure to build a coop with easy access for egg collecting. Our first coop had two wire doors that allowed for human entry (basically crawling into the coop) near both ends, on the same long side, the better to catch birds with. It later was modified, when we built a chicken wire enclosure with a wire roof (because of hawks), to include a chicken-sized exit in the middle of the long side without human-sized openings. The laying boxes were built into the ends of the coop, so that it was easy to reach in to collect the eggs. The coop had a solid floor, as did the nest boxes, and was raised a couple of feet off the ground to help discourage the rats. (This did not always work.) The coop was effective, but had its limitations. If you are unfortunate enough to have a cock that grows up to be violent and frequently attacks, having to crawl face-first into a coop is rather daunting. (As an aside, if any of your birds become human-aggressive, regardless of their age and quality, I strongly suggest culling the bird. An old rooster, even if past the point of being edible for your pot, makes good dog and/or pig food.)

Nest boxes should be large enough that the largest of your hens can sit comfortably in them with a couple of inches to spare. Because of this, if you intend to keep turkey hens for layers, I suggest the smaller breeds such as the Cannonball, although the Bronzes will also work.

Raising chicks from eggs laid by your own birds can be rewarding – and heartbreaking. It is a combination of equipment, practice, and luck. Research the topic thoroughly before attempting – and you may just want to let a broody hen (who will valiantly guard a nest of eggs from being taken) go through the trouble.

Chicken manure will burn plants if added straight to a garden. Let it "age" before considering adding it to a garden. I recommend adding it to the compost pile, first, so it cools down enough to not burn the plants.

A note on pigeons and squab: while squab is a fairly tasty meat, attempting to raise the chicks yourself is not something that should be undertaken. Purchase adult birds, and let them hatch and raise chicks. Squab should be "harvested" before the chick can fly, and the size will depend on the breed. The nest boxes should be placed a few feet above ground, and can probably be a little bit smaller than a chicken hen's nest box. If penned, they will need standard poultry fare. If allowed to range after they've learned where "home" is, they will pretty much take care of themselves.


Rabbits are small, relatively easy to keep livestock. The meat is lean, if that is a concern for your family, and the hides can be tanned for either fur or just skin. There are many breeds of rabbits. I do not suggest the long haired breeds for at least the Gulf Coast unless you intend to keep the animal as a pet or in an air conditioned facility. Californians (white rabbits with dark colored ears, nose, and feet) and New Zealands (mostly found in solid white, but sometimes red or black as well) are the two most popular "commercial" breeds. They mature fast and are fairly prolific. The does I kept often had litters of eight kits or more. I also raised Satins, which are so named for the satin sheen to their fur – very beautiful creatures, and lovely soft furs. We tried Palominos (colored much like palomino horses), which are supposed to have excellent growth rates for their fryers (butcher sized rabbits) but had issues with their feet being torn up in cages that the New Zealands had no issues with. However, don't overlook a doe and/or buck of totally unknown pedigree. Our first doe, Attack Rabbit, and the one who produced the largest kits, although often not the largest litters, was bought at a feed store who had gotten her from someone-or-another. She was a great producer for early Spring cash – she mostly threw spotted babies, regardless of the buck, and spotted baby bunnies sell very well as Easter bunnies and pets in general.

Rabbits are best kept in multi-cage hutches, with one adult rabbit per cage (except for breeding, which is not a long-term activity for a rabbit). Commercial rabbit food is certainly sufficient – it is a mostly alfalfa pellet with some additives. Roughage, such as grass, corn stalks, lettuce, alfalfa cubes, hay, or the like, should also be provided. Chewable items, like blocks of wood, should be readily available, as rabbits have to chew on things to keep their teeth from growing too long. Salt licks (small round discs of salt) should also be made readily available. There are plain salt licks (usually just white), and mineral salt licks (usually brown in color). My rabbits always seemed to prefer the mineral blocks to the plain. Rabbit feeders can be metal containers that fit into and through the side of the cage or crocks (heavy based bowls) sitting on the floor of the cage.

Like any other living creature, water should be readily and easily available. Rabbit waterers are bottle-fed gravity metal tubes with a ball-bearing that prevents too much water from coming out until the rabbit licks it to get water. These are generally attached to the outside of the cage. There are similar "nipples" for water lines, for larger rabbitries. Some breeders prefer to offer both food and water in crocks – I personally had issues with the water crocks being knocked over more times than not, particularly once a litter of bunnies was bouncing around in the cage along with the doe.

Despite the ease of growing and raising them, rabbits have a few "issues." Rabbit urine is highly acidic and corrosive. It will, eventually, damage cages to the point of requiring repair. Rabbit feces are rather "hot," and cannot be placed directly on a garden – the exception here being blueberry bushes, which love them. Worms, however, are often grown immediately under a rabbit hutch, as they break down the waste rapidly, and thrive on it. Allow rabbit waste to "sit" under the worms' tender care for a bit before attempting to add it to a compost pile or garden directly. Adding it to compost to finish cooling down is a better option than adding it straight to the garden.

Domesticated rabbits are descendants of the European cottontails, and thus, are not terribly heat tolerant, and, in the Gulf Coast's climate, are prone to heat exhaustion and heat stroke during summer. They are also not very productive during the summer months, because of this heat intolerance.

Despite their heat intolerance, rabbits can be successfully kept in the high temperature and high humidity climate of the Gulf Coast, with a few caveats. When selecting an area for the hutches, pick an area with decent air flow and shade to help keep them cool. The hutches should not be 100% solid sided, but be at least half hardware cloth, as well as having wire bottoms. Do NOT use chicken wire as the primary material – some rabbits like chewing on it. It can be used to wrap around any wooden posts (double wrap it and secure with U-nails; it's a pain to do, but works better). A piece of wood or sheetrock should be provided as a place to sit that isn't the wire bottom. Failure to do so can cause sores on the rabbits' feet. The nest boxes should also be constructed with wire bottoms, with an ability to mostly enclose them for winter litters. The hutches should also be located in a relatively quiet area – constant loud noises will stress the rabbits and increase the chances that the does will reabsorb their litters before birth, or even eat the kits after birth.

If you build the hutch, each enclosure within the hutch should be at least two feet square plus a reasonable height – it may look like a lot of space, but a nest box should be at least 12" wide by 18" long and 12" tall. Also make sure to construct the openings large enough to easily get the nest box into the pen.

After selecting a shady area with good airflow, the next caveat is this: if you intend to breed rabbits during the summer, for late summer or early fall litters, the buck will need, at minimum, a large bottle of ice to rest beside to maintain his fertility. Bucks lose their fertility when the temperatures get into the upper 90s F. I recommend two liter bottles mostly filled with water and then frozen solid for the purpose. You should probably have at least two bottles per buck – the first bottle will probably have thawed completely out by the end of the day, and he'll need cooling even overnight often. A fan in addition to the bottle of ice certainly would not hurt the buck, nor any doe in the area. One of the more serious show rabbitries I interacted with had an entire barn for their rabbits, somewhat insulated and could be enclosed during the worst of the summer heat for air conditioning, and in all but the coldest of winter, large livestock style fans ran from every roof-corner in the barn. The reason for this was that it ensured the rabbits' fur was not thinned out in reaction to the temperatures. As I was not involved in showing rabbits, and the furs and hides were kept for home use only, we usually made due with ice bottles and fans for our bucks – or forwent litters from June to September.

Breeding is done by placing a doe in with a buck for a short period of time. We generally kept ours separated unless breeding, because neither of our bucks were very bright (we only kept two bucks at a time). I had to occasionally move the buck to the correct end of the doe. Unless it is midsummer, if a doe does not produce kits after a couple of breedings (approximately 3 months), it is probably time to cull her from the colony.

The gestation period of a rabbit is approximately 30 days, with the resulting litters being 4 to 12 kits. Place a clean nest box in her cage a couple of weeks after breeding. The doe will start nesting a few days to a week before the kits are due, and she'll do this by pulling tufts of fur from her belly to make a nest with. Fill the nest box with a mid-quality hay (not too scratchy) for her, and she'll take care of the rest. Try to ensure her toenails have been trimmed, so she doesn't hurt the babies when they're born. When the kits are born, the doe will eat the afterbirth.  Occasionally, a doe may accidentally "eat" part of one of her babies – remove the corpse as soon as possible. An over-stressed doe may eat, or partially eat, an entire litter. Some … very few … seem to acquire a taste for doing so. If two litters are destroyed in such a fashion, cull the doe immediately. I have only had two does, in all the rabbits I've raised, acquire this "habit" – they both were violent rabbits to begin with. One was named Rabies, the other Rabies II. Rabies II left claw marks on my arm that took the better part of five years to fade. Does are likely to attack as they get close to birthing up until the kits have been weaned (4-6 weeks). In my experience, the ones to keep an eye on are the ones who attack without kits in the cage.

The kits are born furless and blind, but start putting on fur nigh immediately. Their eyes open between 8-12 days, and they start getting into trouble shortly thereafter. They can be safely removed from their mother's cage by eight weeks of age, and butchered from eight weeks to four months without any influence on the flavor – size and how long you want to feed them are the real factors here.

If you are attempting to grow your colony, select the best doe and/or buck from the litter. "Best" can be the largest, the most docile, the most wildly spotted, the most interestingly colored one, or what have you. If none of them meet your fancy, cull the whole litter. Sexing rabbits is an acquired skill, and not easily described with words alone. The pictures here are pretty good. Does are more useful than bucks, but raising an extra buck isn't always a bad thing. My personal preference, however, is to usually bring in a buck from another breeder, to keep from causing problems for the later generations. If you do keep any of the babies for breeding stock, make sure to keep a breeding book to track them, so you don't breed a doe to her grandfather-and-daddy – that's pushing it. Skip a generation at that point. Two unrelated bucks would be a minimum for raising breeding stock does. (If you want to get really complicated, you can also tattoo the ears of rabbits, to better track them. This is particularly useful for single-breed rabbitries which may not be able to distinguish animals by sight alone.)

Does can be bred at 6 months of age, and bucks at 7 months of age, but all the experienced breeders and books I read on the subject strongly suggested waiting until a doe was a minimum of 10 months old prior to breeding her. While a doe can theoretically be bred back to a buck the day her litter is removed from her pen, it is generally suggested to give her a short break between litters, for her own health.


I was introduced to the "art" of butchering chickens at the age for 12 or 13, when I raised my first set of market chickens for 4-H. It was messy, I cried, and hated it. I wasn't a stranger to death (one of the dogs had slaughtered, rather methodically, all but the birds that had been penned up as "the best" for show, two days before), I just wasn't comfortable with me being involved in it. Not to mention, there's something terribly savage and horrifying about seeing something's head cut off with an axe blade in real life, regardless of how many horror movies you've seen growing up as a kid.

By the time I was fourteen, and for the next twelve years, I performed almost all of the butchering. My father assisted with the larger animals (goats and pigs). He slaughtered and butchered one cow, while I assisted – I was too short to do that one primarily. When I visit now, I still lend a hand with the task if needed.

My father quickly established that I severely lacked the hand-eye coordination to use the axe to butcher chickens, and that I also lacked the upper body strength (and distance) to use the "standard" pull the neck method of breaking a chicken's neck. We cast about for a better option for a short girl in the 6th grade. We settled on tree branch clippers, the sort with handles about 2 feet long, and a short, curved blade, with a scissors like motion. It was my idea – the leverage gave me enough mechanical strength to make a clean kill, and the blades were long enough to pin a bird (and later rabbits) for the duration. My experience has been that clippers can be used successfully on birds below the size of geese and turkeys, and on rabbits as well. If the blade is sharp, the animal may be almost entirely decapitated, which allows for it to bleed immediately. I do suggest that, for rabbits, it be a two person job, to hold the rabbit's ears out of the way – their ears are extremely sensitive, and the commotion is enough to scare them a bit anyhow, no need to taint the meat. For geese and turkeys, I strongly suggest that the bird's wings be restrained (we did so by cutting a turkey-head sized hole into the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket, and having the body of the bird be inside the bucket) and a .22 bullet be used. It's fast, it's still cheap, and by pinning the bird's wings, the post-death twitching/flapping/etc. cannot break the wings.

When selecting a site for processing, I recommend access to clean water, buckets for offal, and fresh air. A flat surface is necessary for poultry; a place to hang the carcass is necessary (or at least vastly more convenient) for most mammals. A sharp knife or two is important; my preferred for butchering is a skinning blade with a gut hook.

From this point, there are three methods for finishing poultry: dry plucking, wet plucking, and skinning. Frankly, in my opinion, none of them are particularly easy to do, but wet plucking takes my number one most-hated spot.

Dry plucking involves pretty much exactly like it sounds. I strongly recommend this method for quail, squab, and young broilers. Remove the head and neck of the bird, as well as the lower scaly part of the leg. Generally I remove the first wing joint, as well, because it is far more hassle than it is worth to do otherwise. You may need a pair of pliers to remove the primary feathers on older chickens, turkeys of any age, ducks, and geese. Grab a handful of feathers (starting on the breast of the bird is easiest), pull against the "grain" of the feathers. On smaller or younger birds, such as quail or broilers, the skin is very tender and can be torn very easily, even when plucking. Start off with a lighter hand than you might think you need, and work up in force from there. Continue to do this until the carcass is as completely de-feathered as you can get it. You may prefer to leave the tail feathers on, and remove the tail during the next step.

Wet plucking involves a large pot of very hot water. If you are going to wet pluck waterfowl, a few drops of dish soap is recommended, to break the oil barrier on the feathers, so it is possible to do so. Prior to removing the head/neck, lower legs, and wing tips, dip the carcass into the pot of very hot water for 15-30 seconds, using the lower legs as "handles." Bring the bird out of the water, and give an experimental tug on the feathers. If they pull out fairly easily, continue plucking the bird. You may have to re-dip it if it is a large bird, or it cools off too much. Be careful to not over dip the bird, as when this occurs, the skin scalds and starts peeling. You will notice that wet feathers are very clingy, and like to stick to everything – you, the table, the bird, the pot, the post one landed on when you tried to get some off your hands. Wet feathers also don't smell particularly wonderful, which is why I rather intensely dislike this method. Once again, remove all the feathers. After this, remove the head/wing tips/lower legs.

Skinning is pretty much like how it sounds. It is trickier on poultry than it is on a mammal, however, as the skin attaches in odd seeming places. On chickens, it attaches rather firmly around the leg-thigh joint, the chest bone, along the back, and very firmly attaches at the base of the tail. The skin also tears easily, so instead of larger chunks, you generally end up having nearly strips. It can be a bit frustrating, and does remove some cooking options later. Remove the head/wing tips/lower legs before commencing; it makes the task easier.

Once the bird is plucked or skinned, very carefully cut across the abdominal cavity, effectively thigh to thigh, and then approximately down the middle (there is often a sort of ''seam" here, it may just tear a bit under tension). Only use enough pressure with the blade to cut the skin, not any more than you have to use. Scoop the offal out, being careful to not touch more of the exterior of the bird than necessary. At this point, you can try to either remove the tail entirely, so as not to risk fecal contamination, or, once you have some practice, you can detach the anus from the tail with minimal problems. Rinse the bird out and off with fresh water (as well as yourself), and get the bird into refrigerated conditions as soon as possible, preferably before you start on the next bird.


Mammals are more or less the same process, regardless of size. The tools necessary may differ – I don't have the strength to crack the hip bones on a cow or pig, or most goats, and need at least a hacksaw to do that job, but I can do so with a rabbit or other small mammal with my bare hands. Rabbits make for good practice animals for larger animals later, and the process is effectively the same for anything smaller.

Hang the rabbit from your chosen point. I either used bailing wire wraps around the hock of the back legs, or twine from hay bales tied into slip knots, tightened around the hock. Either way, the hock is a good place for an anchor point.  The rabbit's head should now be pointing at the ground, and all directions from this point are referencing the current up-down direction.

Run your knife in a circle just below the anchor point, all the way around the leg. Pull the skin taut with one hand, and gently run the blade down the middle inside of the thigh to the pelvic area. Repeat on the other leg. Very carefully cut across below the vent area, making the two cuts meet. Peel the skin down the legs, and work a finger under the skin, just below the tail, until you can get the knife through to cut the skin. Leave the tail on the carcass; it'll be a useful handle later. At this point, you should be able to peel the skin down the body slowly. Don't peel it down completely yet.

Finish removing the head from the carcass; there is usually a good bit of blood at this point. In a method similar to the hock area, cut the skin at the forefoot area, and then break the bone at that point. Use the knife to cut through the ligaments, and discard the forefoot into the offal bucket. Repeat with the other front foot. It's now possible to continue peeling the hide off of the rabbit without impediments. If it sticks at any point, very carefully cut through the offending tissue, as you don't want to pull the hide out of shape (if you intend on keeping it). If you don't care, just remove it as necessary. If this were a larger animal, you would have sliced the hide all the way down the belly of it, and pulled the hide off that way. You can do that with a rabbit, but it's just as easy to split the hide after it's off as when it is on. If you intend to keep the hide for other uses, feel free to take a moment to lay it out on a wooden board, flesh side up, and sprinkle it with salt to start the initial curing process.

To break the hips easily, grasp one thigh in each hand, and bend them backwards. You will hear a crack, and possibly even see the pelvic bone fracture through the muscle, which is very thin. This should be more or less directly below the vent. At this point, very, very carefully cut around the vent area to open it, and down across the fracture. Using the gut hook, if you have it, or a very delicate touch with a straight blade if you must, cut the abdominal muscles all the way down to the ribcage. Cut through the tail bone, and use it as a handle to pull the intestinal tract down/away from the body of the rabbit, to prevent contamination. Then carefully remove the lower organs. You can remove the heart and lungs without cutting through the ribcage, but as rabbit is generally cut up instead of served whole, there is rarely reason to avoid doing so. Cut through the ribs and scoop out what remains. Rinse the rabbit, your hands, and knife (or knives) thoroughly. Then, gripping the thigh and foot of one leg, break the leg as close to the anchor point as you can. Repeat with the other leg. Hold on to the carcass, and cut through the remaining tendons and ligaments on one leg and then the other to bring it down from hanging.

Place the carcass into a refrigerated area as soon as possible. The meat can be aged for a day or so, if you prefer, frozen immediately, or even made that night.

Again, this is roughly the same procedure for almost any mammal. I've even used it on raccoons that managed to get caught in the traps set up to stop chickens from being stolen. (On a side note, to get rid of the really gamey taste, cook raccoon with onion, sliced apples and potatoes. The apples and potatoes won't be human edible afterwards, but the raccoon will turn out tasting rather like beef. Just be sure to cook it very well done.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I’ve been seriously prepping for a decade and consider myself a prepared and competent guy.   Y2K got me started, but the events of the past few years have kicked my preps into higher gear.   I’m confidant with my guns and food storage.  I have alternate power and heat sources established at both our home and retreat location.  I have a co-worker who includes me in his prepper group’s  meetings.  My family (immediate and some extended) is on board with our plans for TEOTWAWKI.   Although I’m not where I want to be, I’m know I’m better off than 98% of the sheeple out there.
After my travel experience today, I’m not so sure I’m as “practically” prepared as I should be.
Today was a beautiful day.  52 degrees in Nebraska… January!?!?    What a great day for a road trip.  My daily driver is a late 1990s Subaru.  It still gets great mileage and is all wheel drive which is nice in this climate.  My wife drives a newer minivan and we have a low mileage 2001 Dodge Durango for our spare/bug out vehicle.   My car’s odometer read 168,508 when I filled the tank this morning.  It was getting close to ½ empty so of course, as a prepared guy, it was time to fill up. 
I finished a sales call just after noon in a small town about 30 miles North of the City where we live. I decided to take the scenic route on the way back to the office.     I chose to travel a paved road that ran west from the main highway.  From this road I took a number of  gravel roads headed mostly southbound .   Besides the fact that I enjoy the windshield time, I’d like to buy a piece of rural property and these road trips are an easy way to look for them.  It was on one of these roads that my car’s timing belt failed.  In a disabled car on a quiet country road is not a place you want to be on most January days in the Midwest.  I was very thankful for the mild weather today.   I had no clue how much I would learn from this slight diversion from the highway.  
My first thought was…”Where am I?” Situational Awareness is something I’ve read about on Survival Blog dozens of times.  But, I didn’t have a clue what road I was on.  What was the intersecting road had I crossed a mile or so back? How far off the highway was I?  I could see a small town about 2 miles to my south west.  What town is that?  It was too far to read the writing on the water tower.                     

Lesson #1:  Pay attention!  Know where I am all the time. 

Lesson #1.5: Get a GPS for this car.
There were two houses in view, one was about a mile behind me and one was about three quarters of mile ahead.   It was time for a hike.  Note:  Rockport semi-casual dress shoes are fine for sales calls. They are not however, intended for walking on gravel.  Same goes for dress socks or dress pants.  Good news:  I keep wool socks and my Vibram boots in my “Get Home” bag.   I love those boots!  I picked them up at a local Army Surplus store for about $25.   Too bad that my “Get Home” bag wasn’t in the trunk.   I took it in the house to update it last night!  I did not put it back in the car this morning.                                       

Lesson #2: It’s called a “Get Home” bag…not a “leave it at home” bag for a reason.
Not knowing If I’d be coming back to the car or not, I grabbed my laptop in its backpack, my cell phone and my keys (I double checked that I had the keys) and locked the car.  As I walked down the road I was pleased to see I had great cell reception.   I called my wife to tell her what was going on.   She offered to come get me, but she is directionally challenged and doesn’t  trust the GPS . Besides, I couldn’t tell her where I was anyway.   I was in the process of telling her that I would figure out where I was and then call her back when my cell phone battery died.  This just gets better all the time. 

My plan was to walk down the road to the next house or intersection to determine where I was.  I could see the cross road about two miles ahead was a paved road with quite a bit of traffic.  I guessed at what highway it was, but still couldn’t think of the name of that little town.   The farmhouse ahead was set back from the road with a long driveway. I did not want to approach the house.  It seemed a little to ‘cliché: traveling salesman with a broke down car down the road….  No, there had to be another way to figure out where I was.   Their mailbox was on a post along the road but there were no numbers on it. The mailbox door was ajar and I could see that there was mail inside.   I hope I didn’t break and postal laws, but I pulled out a piece of mail and wrote down the address then returned the mail to the box.  At least I had pen and paper with me. 
As I walked back to my car, I plugged my Goal Zero Guide 10 into my cell phone. This is a great little AA (4) battery charger/power supply. It has three different power input ports, a USB output port and a built in LED light.  I keep this and necessary cords in my computer backpack.   I plug it once a week to insure it is charged.  I have set up a reminder on my outlook calendar to remind me to do this.  See, I wasn’t as unprepared as I had thought.    After my phone re-booted, which seemed to take forever, I called my anxious wife and told her not to worry and that I’d just call AAA roadside assistance.   The walk back to the car was colder due to the wind in my face.  52 with wind chill is still nippy.  I had no gloves, no hat, and was only wearing a light jacket.  My “Get Home Bag” has gloves and stocking cap…. oh yeah, I left it at home.                                                                                                                                                             

Lesson #3: It’s fine to wear the light jacket on a nice day, but bring the warmer one, too.  This is Nebraska in January for crying out loud.
Once I reached the car again I called AAA.   This AAA membership is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.   I understand that my auto insurance company offers roadside assistance at no cost too, but I’ve neglected to sign up for it.  I’ll do that tomorrow….really, I will.   The agent on the phone was very nice but had a hard time finding the address I’d pulled from the nearby mailbox.  It took about 10 minutes to get the tow order set up.  She said the tow truck driver would arrive in about 30 minutes and that He would call in route.  The agent also said they would call again to check on me.
I powered up my laptop (plugged onto the car 12 v), I plugged the cell phone into the laptop USB and used my Air card to get on the Internet. I pulled up MapQuest and determined exactly where I was, the name of the nearby town and settled in for the wait. The net is great but, what if I had not been able to get on it?                                                                                                                                                           

Lesson #4:  I own a good State Road/ Topographical map.  Put it in the car.  
AAA called back and told me that the tow truck driver was going to be more like an hour away.  Good grief!  I gave them a much better description of my location and told her I was content to wait.  The driver called me about 15 minutes later and I also gave him better directions as he had not received the updated information. 
I’d only seen one car go by on the road and that had been right after the mine had died.  That driver didn’t even slow down.  Two utility trucks drove by without stopping before a farmer finally stopped.  I told him I was fine and waiting for a tow.  The next vehicle made me very nervous.  This beater pickup approached from the highway,  slowed as he went by then turned around and came back. There were two guys in this truck and they pulled over dangerously close to my window. The “less than professional looking” passenger leaned out and asked if I needed help. I replied that I was fine and waiting on a tow.  He asked how long I’d been waiting.  I (lied and) answered that the tow truck would be there in just a few minutes.  He asked what I thought was wrong and if I was a salesman.  I remained friendly and answered.    He said “Well I didn’t think you were a farmer, you got them ‘out of county” plates.”  I thanked them for stopping then thanked the Lord when they drove away.     I’m happy to say that I have a concealed carry permit.  I even had it with me… the permit that is.  I did not have my handgun.   I did not have my knife.  I did not have my “truck tire thumper.”  I had nothing for personal protection – on me or in the car. I’ve not felt that vulnerable (or stupid) in a really long time.                                     

Lesson #5: A Concealed Carry Permit does you no good if you don’t carry. 
I now know that I was 24 miles from home.  If I had walked, I estimate the walk on this nice day would have taken me close to six hours (at four miles per hour).  That pace would have gotten me home about 9 p.m. when the temperature would have been in the low 30s and it would have been dark for four hours.  The only thing of any use in the car was a wool blanket which I probably would have improvised into a poncho for the walk.  Obviously, I had communication capability so I would not have walked the entire distance.  But, that was this time.  What if this had been an EMP?  What if the weather today had not been so nice?
The tow truck arrived when expected. Technically, I got myself home ‘all by myself’ and it all turned out fine, except for the upcoming car repair bill.     My “Get Home” bag is restocked, updated and at the front door ready to put in the Durango in the morning.    Lessons learned!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Good Morning Mr. Rawles!
 I had to share this link with you: Maryland Hiker Uses iPhone App For New Year’s Eve Rescue. In brief: a man out hiking on New Year's Eve Day got lost in the wilderness.  He used his cell phone to call rescuers, and then used his "flashlight" app on the cell phone to shine a light so that the rescuers could be lowered down to him on the trail and lead him out.
My sons, who are both experienced scouters and back country hikers who teach wilderness survival watched this news story in disbelief  last night.  (They were honestly chastising the television so much, I had to turn it off.  They were upset beyond words by the man's thoughtlessness that could have endangered people out searching for him.)
"He didn't have food and water with him?"
"No jacket?"
"NO MAP!!!!???"
"No flashlight?"
"He didn't tell anyone where he was going?"
He was fortunate to be rescued quickly and not to have suffered any permanent damage. 
But, the article is a reminder that we should ALWAYS be prepared: with a map, a flashlight, extra food and water, and a jacket....
.... just in case.....
Happy New Year to you and your family! - B.L.W.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I design and operate databases for a living.  The newest of these are assembled on analytic platforms structured to “draw conclusions” for clients in a wide (and formerly random) variety of scenarios.  One of my developers is an analytic tools assembly expert who also works for some “security, emergency, and enforcement” government agencies in Washington, DC – all formerly separate agencies, and because of advancements in the technologies -- now “interoperating”.  I am also a prepper with a Bug Out locale that fulfills my “survival vision” and inherently has most of the natural survival essentials on site, but one which needs some structural work that would be visible to aerial mapping when implemented.  Another prepper colleague of mine who is part of our group has skills that I will generally classify as “ravine and bluff engineering”.  Together we have tried to develop plans to address the visibility problem, and in doing so have hit a “snag” and have come to a conclusion that might be useful to many readers.  So, it is with some expertise and some insight that I pose some thoughts for you today, with the hope that, if you are already knowledgeable on this subject, you might use these to simply update your information, or if you are not, that I might help to guide some of your decision making as I understand that your survival is at stake.

Two ideas:  Presume for the moment that databases have already classified you as a threat or even a likely insurgent. Presume that your resources and assets are already known and well-catalogued, and that access, use, seizure, and in a worst case scenario, potential counter-insurgency plans are in the “system” that can be implemented against you -- precisely directed at what you have been “certain” all along are the excellent and generally secret attributes of your plans in rural and remote areas. 

Most readers might agree somewhat with the first proposition, as previous military experience, FOID cards, post office signatures for receipt of gun parts and ammo, on-line purchases of water treatment, first aid gear, food storage etc. might be among a thousand other data points on-file somewhere with some kind of classification about you suitable to draw this conclusion.   Fair enough.  However, most preppers I have talked to argue that the second of these presumptions defies logic because they are so invested in how they see their retreat and in their belief that their “survival vision” is correct – a vision which can be generalized to be dependent on remote, defensible, small, self-sufficient, off the grid, and stealthy living.   On the surface such strategic plans seem great.  These might be the product of years of thinking, investing, and hard labor.  The location is likely to be vast and rugged or heavily forested.  It’s far from town.  Nobody’s around.  The prepper just wants to be left alone, poses no outward threat, and although he or she can and will defend themselves, they mean no harm to anyone.  These plans are defensive and to be successful, they rely on distance, infrequent communications, and private activities.  “Hard to find and not worth the effort” to take your stuff when TSHTF is the basic assumption.  This is the snag we have run into.   This may be a very false conclusion as I will detail below.

The facts are that local, county, regional, state, and federal database engineers, their supervising bureaucrats, and the analytic tools that they use every day have things sorted out quite differently.  On the basis of regulations and new standards for inter-operability, the whole system may operate on the basis that your “resources” are “not yours” and, when associated with other large scale “emergency planning” scenarios, that your resources may be classified as public resources that can be and are likely to be acquired and controlled. 

At the local level, this assumption is embodied in a concept now well developed into legal reality that the bureaucrats call “custodial responsibility” of your land.  Because in times of crisis some natural resources may become scarce and thus more valuable (you did choose your retreat well), and because they have granted you a “permit” to occupy and use the land, and because you do, then you are more vulnerable to an “intervention” than you may have thought.  And, worse, because this land information data is “integrated” and now “shared” and, in some instances, already merged with other personal data (perhaps your “threat” status?), when TSHTF, emergency management measures may go into effect that allow, and may even direct, emergency access to and use of your land.  Like opening river floodgates with the knowledge that whole communities will be inundated and destroyed, geographic information system (GIS) data often drives decision making and therefore, regardless of property rights, the gates will open and the torrent will roll out across the countryside.  The analogy is apt.  Rural and remote geographies may deliberately be used in emergency management situations to absorb some of the impact of civil disaster, to provide material resources, to disperse the energy of the unrest, and to reduce as much stress as quickly as possible on more densely inhabited areas and infrastructure.

This is a tough scenario for preppers, as it runs counter to much of our planning, and therefore this idea of public access and use may be dismissed by those who are betting that they are safely out of the way and that the riots and mayhem will be contained in urban areas.  But it is one which can be more easily understood and perhaps accepted after a cordial and scheduled visit by you to your county zoning office (or web site).  More on this in a moment.  First, some additional and quite prepper-sympathetic context.

Many of us have our remote retreats ready or almost ready.  Most of the money has been spent.  We have completed our “lists of lists” with some degree of satisfaction (there’s always more to do).  And now we are increasingly confident that we were “right” and that our efforts make sense.  Economic, political, and violent events are reaching crisis status worldwide and many of these now occur much closer to home.  We find ourselves in a departure mode, just trying (before we leave) to encourage previously skeptical relatives and friends to understand the inevitable outcome of these events; to join us, and to answer the call to perpetuate and perhaps defend our God-given freedoms.  We have come to a “final” acceptance that the world is going to cataclysmically change and that TEOTWAWKI is upon us. 

However, we may be quite mistaken about this.  TEOTWAWKI has already occurred!  And not in a way that we might have expected with the lights going out and cities on fire.   It happened in a small office in a rural or remote American county when the final little corner of a gridded digital foundation layer within an ArcGIS® and ArcView® database was scanned in and added after 30 years of data development – one that finally incorporates (perhaps) your own remote parcel of land.

Unaware (perhaps “untroubled” says it better) of the long-term “land planning” effort to complete of ubiquitous federal, regional, state, or county “mapping initiatives”, preppers have worked to gather their resources.  We may have even used GIS tools in order to acquire our land, set up our survival plan, and implement our survival vision.  And now, because all the indicators of genuine conflict are imminent, preppers feel that it is finally time to finally occupy and use their land – to retreat from people and events – to fortify and guard those second homes, retreats, and redoubts.  Thus, operational or tactical (rather than strategic) conversations about high ground, fields of fire, virtual and physical moats, sensors, buried propane tanks, sentry duty, and keeping marauders at bay more frequently occur. 

Our final preparation discussions may go further (now that most resources are in place) about how to care for other family members and trusted friends who may be ill or disabled, and how to provide assistance to elderly parents.  Yet, because some tiny bit of data was added to a database (even as far back as 1980 in some counties), the implementation of some of our own acquisition, defensive, and operational plans may be too late, and even unnecessary for reasons outlined below.  Building and burying concrete bunkers may not actually be a good idea… and setting up “tank traps” and defensive barriers may be a waste of time and resources and best put aside while we turn to more collaborative strategies and address more immediate needs such as tending woodlots, raising chickens, planting square foot gardens, networking with like-minded neighbors, and perhaps learning to do dentistry in case there are no dentists (Yikes!  Unlikely, but you gotta have some sense of humor in all this.)

The facts are that there are present in county offices in many small towns “experts with plans” that may surprise and even shock many preppers.   When you meet them on a friendly and professional basis, you will conclude that they are generally well-meaning and think their work for various government agencies is vitally important for the common good (think of rapid responses to 911 calls or management of hazardous waste disasters).  But, after all the good will, legal argument, and fuzzy feelings are expressed, they will tell you and may even show you what they have been doing and what they can actually do under the common rules for zoning: referred to in some states as Land Information Planning (LIP). 

LIP can be summarized as integrating and sharing data in “layers” of GIS data about the precisely-located Bug Out Place you think is your own – all of which is designed to fulfill and support the afore-mentioned custodial responsibilities by authorities.  The GIS digital system works by assembling “foundational” and common data elements, by establishing inter-agency government agency training, communications, and education programs, and by facilitating “technical assistance” for all kinds of authorities at the local, state, and federal level.

The simple truth is that they know where you are.  They know who you are.  They know what you have.  They may already know what you are doing or may be capable of doing (think of all the county departments that have your records digitized -- Deeds, Tax Rolls, Land Records, Surveyor, Planning, Zoning, Sheriff, Emergency Management, Agriculture, Forestry, and IT just to name a few).

Among the GIS layers (some scanned-in and digitized decades ago) are “new” and very sophisticated GPS-controlled geographic reference frameworks developed for parcel mapping, parcel administration, public access (including back roads and even footpaths if well used via Regional Road Directory (RRD), soils mapping, wetlands mapping, land use mapping. (Got a garden?  Hobby farm?  Spring?  Pond?  Shoreline? Serious acreage?, then “natural resources”, infrastructure and facilities mapping may already have you mapped. (Think in terms of electric grid, phone and computer services, gas and oil pipelines, water, septic, sewage, pumping stations, dams, bridges, etc.) There is also something called Forestry Reconnaissance, and “institutional arrangements and integration” (think police and emergency access).  Much of this foundational data across the USA has been completely compiled -- and nearly all of it is now updated by aerial observation on a semi-annual or more frequent basis.  You can’t hide what you are doing.  And, if you can’t easily do it now, you may not be able to do what you want to do later when TSHTF without a lot of help, time, and energy.

Want a visit from an “inspector”?  Then dig a hole.  Clear a field.  Add a roof.  Cut a fence line. Plant. Irrigate.  Mound dirt from an underground excavation.  Drive across dusty open land.  These visual and sometimes thermal “changes” on base layer information clearly appear on the GIS updates.  They are computer-compared and professionally observed.  They are automatically evaluated then flagged.  The flagging may prompt “interventions” at any time (think EPA) and may prompt other more unexpected activities once TSHTF (and possibly much more importantly and nasty) once these GIS databases are hacked and the core information is distributed to “unfriendlies” who are smart enough to want it and get it.    

This observation on our technological vulnerability suggests that building our “castles and moats” and spending our energy and money in hopes to hide out, get off the grid, and live peacefully in small tribes is not nearly as rational as we might wish, and that a secondary strategy should be adopted which recognizes that they can easily “see us”, that well-established, redundant, and hardened technology is our enemy, that TEOTWAWKI has already occurred, and that for some very good reasons we better rethink about what our “survival vision” really should be. 

Since our assets are easily observed and already ranked and prioritized by “value”, our survival preparation may more effectively depend on revealing and then linking these resources among ourselves, and by establishing new networks and creating closer relationships with others in our geographies with whom we can communicate, get to quickly, and achieve the advantage of mass in either defensive or offensive actions.  An understanding (maybe acquisition and use?) of GIS technologies and mapping can enable preppers to make more flexible plans and be much more “mobile” and responsive to threats.  With LIP as a controlling factor, using the information and technology may be more valuable than barbed wire and bullets to stem the tide.  More like-minded people must easily be gathered when authorities may be overwhelmed or when those authorities bring their own action against us as we are flagged as perceived or real threats. 

Summary and Conclusions
:  We may reluctantly concede that as individuals we may already be digitally classified as threats and therefore potential insurgents.  The bigger issue is that we may also have to agree that our hide-out survival vision may be incorrect and need substantial modification.  It is a fundamental mistake to think we are not “visible” in our retreats in the mountains or the woods.  Knowing that even small local governments have generally completed LIP initiatives, that the data is transferable and shared with  other databases, that authorities have assumed or have been legally granted “custodial responsibilities” for our property and our resources, we must contemplate modifying our vision from one where success is no longer entirely based on distance, infrequent communications, and on trying to create and carry out “invisible” private activities to one where closer proximity, more frequent communications, common use of data tools and technology, and more open and direct action can hold back the tide when TSHTF.

A personal note and an excellent example:  Throughout history there are countless examples of successful survival strategies and tactics, but one family story comes to mind that is worth telling as it relates to the use of geography and local resources, and to the development of a perception and a reality for an enemy that a fight they wanted was not worth making – where the battlefield was well understood by the defenders, where communications and mobility were key factors, and where the outcome was a great conflict successfully avoided and everyone survived. 

The setting was Cincinnati in 1862.  Confederate General Kirby Smith had arrived on the scene with a formidable, well trained and well equipped army, capturing Lexington Kentucky.  Smith ordered his junior officer, General Henry Heth to cross the Ohio River and capture Cincinnati.  With a real battle looming, Ohio was in an uproar.  Defensive resources were slim.  The Governor and Union Officers called for volunteers.  Riders went out to the surrounding counties and armed men responded to their call.  Nearly 16,000 civilians would come into town carrying “antiquated” weapons, and this body was properly and proudly referred to as the Squirrel Hunters.  These men had no military training, but “they could shoot the eye out of a squirrel at 100 yards”.  My own great-grandfather was among them.  The name and size of the group said it all, and within a few days, the Confederate forces withdrew and left the area.  Crossing the river under the fire of back country sharpshooters was not an option.  Well-understood geography, quick communications, and responsive people saved the day.

Citations, Locales, and Sourcing
: [Deleted by the Editor, for OPSEC.]

Friday, November 18, 2011

Letter Re: Planning Alternate Routes

Thank you for your blog, your service to our country, and the info you provide. I recently moved away from the Denver metro area to a more “rural” area in northern Colorado.  There are still lots of people, but we are not surrounded.  I have done my share of preparing and believe my “tribe” could survive for possibly a year or more during a breakdown in society.  After a year I would have to change direction in my quest to remain above ground.   A nuclear attack would be a different story for us. 

We travel a good deal between Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska with an occasional trip to Idaho.  This said, the reason I am writing is to challenge your readers to always find alternate routes to “home”, “bug out destination”, “safe spots”, etc.  I carry my day pack and BOB everywhere I go.  On any given day I am from 7 to 125 miles from home.  Rarely do I use the same route to get to my destination or return trip.  There is an abundance of paved roads in this area and well maintained gravel roads.  I know my local grid well.  Even at a distance of 125-250 miles away I am able to use several different routes to get to my destination and most are not highways.  The highways I try to use are two-lane and minimal travel (too slow for most people).  Luckily, I have lived in this three state area since the early 1960’s.   I kinda know my way around these parts!!!  I have been blessed (or cursed) with a somewhat photographic memory.  This blessing has diminished somewhat as I have aged but my recall is still very sharp and I practice my recall to keep it as useful as possible.

As I drive alternate routes I watch for landmarks for navigation and other “specific things” of interest.  Any landmark will be useful for travel especially at night.  I watch for towers, bluffs, silos, water tanks, tree rows, electrical substations, unique structures (including farm houses)—anything that can be spotted at a distance.  Looking for and finding sources of water along your “routes” is a must!  Creeks, ponds, stock tanks, windmills, drainage ditches, oil wells (watershed), abandoned farms--all are potential sources for water.  On the plains many houses and buildings had tanks and troughs under the roof line to collect water from rains and snow melt off.  Almost all these farmsteads had cisterns.  In your search for water you will likely come across wild game as they are driven to water also.  Truly abandoned farms can provide water, shelter, and food if the need arises.  I keep track of the miles between water sources just in case I may have to walk to the next source.  Remember, your next source may be frozen in winter so you have to be able to thaw it.  I am assuming you have ways to start a fire in your day pack or BOB.  Sorry...  I always carry food and water for four people to hopefully survive for 72 hours.  If we are not at our destination in 72 hours my plan B is to hunker down where we are and revise our direction of attack.  The plan may require finding food or water, finding fuel, and finding a different direction home.  I have two GPS systems, but I prefer to use a compass.  As long as I can spot one of my landmarks I can figure out which direction I need to go to reach my destination.  This may require waiting until daylight or waiting out a storm to find my bearings.  Thank the LORD I have never been lost on the plains or in the mountains.  I have been lost in a mall and a skyscraper, so I avoid them as much as possible.

A side note:  As I travel I find routes to avoid “major” intersections—especially on highways.  Even on paved roads and gravel or dirt roads I look for other ways to go around these major intersections, “T’s” in the road and dead ends.  In times of collapse these would be places of roadblocks and getting ambushed. So, being able to avoid them (especially at night) will greatly enhance your chances of getting home.  HOME: no matter what it may look like, or be, is where you want to be when things turn ugly.

Keep your vehicle stocked, your mind sharp, your thoughts positive, and your Bible handy.  Your destination can only be reached through the journey! Peace, - S.F.H.

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