Retreat Logistics Category

Sunday, March 30, 2014


I am now a senior citizen of 66 with a 56 year old wife. I'm a former Vietnam era infantry platoon leader, infantry OCS at Fort Benning, and Ranger trained.

I had sworn never to again carry a firearm after I left the service. However, recent events in my upscale suburb of Cleveland, Ohio caused me to rethink my promise. We have had two break-ins in the area from gangbangers out of the city seeking goods to trade for drugs. Recently two girl-cashiers were killed during an armed robbery of a gas station four miles away. Also, very recently, our local pharmacy was robbed by armed men from Detroit. Finally, my wife and others were threatened by a drug gang in nearby Elyria, Ohio when they attempted to persuade witnesses to testify against a gang member who had murdered a distant family member of ours. We are now both concealed carry permit holders, with the complete encouragement of the county sheriff's office, I might add.

My point is that the economic disruption that you mentioned would lead to increased violence is already beginning, based on the disasterous and, in my opinion, intentional efforts of this President to destroy us. It is already very real to us in what was, until quite recently, a suburb where no one ever locked their doors. I fully expect conditions to become worse as the Affordable Care Act further degrades our economy and the Fed continues to devalue our currency by printing money. The apocalypse may well be evolutionary, creeping up on us gradually while we wait for an apocalyptic event to occur.

As an Ohioan, with my own business rooted to northeast Ohio, it would be very difficult for me to leave the state and bug out early. There is virtually no bug out location 200-300 miles away from a major city. Ideally, I would love to move to Idaho where my friends live on top of a mountain, very defendable, in Orofino. Also, as an Ohioan, the ability to leave by vehicle in advance of a cataclysm is more limited, since I would need to pass through heavily-populated areas.

Any suggestions for Ohio?

Hugh Replies: You are right in seeing that the population density is the major barrier to survivability in Ohio. However, I have several friends who live in the area, and they have similar plans that involve staying in place unless forced to move. Given that moving isn't a reality, your best bet is to stay “grey” in regards to your preps, but to be involved in the local community and develop relationships with those in your neighborhood. You will not be able to survive as an island on your own. You need defensible space around you, and you need the community. Make sure that you have a plan B so that you don't end up as a refugee.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Belated welcome, sir. I just got finished reading the post and most recent replies regarding heating in an OP/LP, after a fairly lengthy absence. I find I feel the need to remind all and sundry, including my fellow veterans, of the fact that by its very nature and definition, an OP suffers one major distinction from all the other forms of positions spoken of. That is this: An Observation and Listening Post is an outside-the-wire position. It's not a "defensive line" or "fortified perimeter" fighting position. That means a proper OP is not fortified or improved, as described. Ever. The OP is a "very hasty" or "extreme hasty" at most, and is in fact supposed to be temporary as well, for OPSEC reasons; thus, no hole to begin with. In other words, your OP should not stay in one place for too long; it should be set and camouflaged in such a way as to be within concealment, but able to be moved, and/or abandoned without leaving trace behind at a moment's notice, once hostile movement-to-contact has been verified. (I reference your own duck blind analogy, but using local natural materials to conceal it.) These mission requirements do not allow for such improvements as have been mentioned. Further, an OP is subject to all four tactical disciplines to a much higher degree than a main line fighting hole; those being sound, light, motion, and trace. Heat signature, and the smell of both the hot bucket and the burning material or chemicals reacting to produce heat will be dead giveaways to your position. Thus, the short interval for rotating the troops manning it; you don't want them out long enough to get cold enough to need such measures.

When you go putting in a wood floor, logs, or whatnot around the berm so you can mount a roof and so on, you have changed the nature of the position in question from a "sneak and peek" position to a position intended to be defended in place. It becomes an improved fighting position, in other words. I realize SOP and general practices in the field have changed since my days in the Marine Corps, but I am very certain that the intended mission of the OP has not. The only so called OP I have ever seen personally that was modified in any of the ways mentioned was on the "Z", in Korea, and had been there literally since the '53 cease fire. For the record, the position in question, even then, was not referred to as an OP, but as a checkpoint. The heating methods mentioned might be used in more permanent fighting positions on the line but even then should be employed exceedingly sparingly, and only in the nastiest of conditions, such as a full-on whiteout, for example. This subject is one of the reasons that troops are rotated on a watch schedule, so they're not in the holes or on the line for too long, except when absolutely required to defend a set of positions. The rotation for an OP, as it was practiced when I was a young Marine, was about one-third the time of the rest of the perimeter, in such conditions, but that was near thirty years ago. I frankly can't see where that would have changed very much, but it is possible.

I'm afraid the correct answer for heating a properly employed OP is... you don't. Semper Fi - J.H.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

As background, I am a water rights attorney with multiple engineer degrees who formerly worked as a drinking water treatment plant operator.  Given that water is a preppers most precious resource, there is no lack of advice for preppers about water treatment, storage, and procurement.  Despite this, very few people truly understand where their water comes from and the factors that influence the availability of water in rivers, lakes, and streams. However, this information is crucial for planning water supply and retreat locations. Below are some important considerations regarding water sources and delivery. Some of this is information specific to the western U.S., but the rest is universal.


The 100th Meridian, which runs north and south through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, has long been an important reference for western settlers.  This line is considered a dividing line between lands requiring irrigation for the production of crops to the west and lands to the east enjoying sufficient precipitation to support a crop without irrigation.  Much of the United States and the American Redoubt lies to the west of this line.

Because of the arid nature of these lands and the need for water, early settlers (primarily miners) established a unique system for allocating this scare resource.  In the west, this is known as the Prior Appropriations System and is based on the mantra "first in time, first in right."   All states west of the 100th Meridian utilize some form of the Prior Appropriations System.  Under this system, water is allocated based on the timing of its first use.  Thus, the first person to divert from a stream has a superior right to use the water over all people who come later.  The earliest users are referred to as "senior appropriators”.  Senior appropriators are entitled to receive their water before those junior to them.  In the event of a drought, senior appropriators can "call" for water and require upstream junior appropriators to cease diversions until the senior's water right is fulfilled.  As an example, a call during a severe drought may require anyone with water rights obtained after 1895 to cease diversions, but a call during a wetter year may only require rights acquired after 1970 to stop diverting.

The right to use the water is documented by a water right decree, which can be sold separate and apart from land.  Water right decrees limit the amount, place, timing, and purpose for which water may be used.  Water right decrees also assign a priority date, which dictates seniority.  While this description is a gross simplification of how it works, the basics are all that is important for purposes of this article. This description is based on my experience in Colorado, and there are variations among the states.

As the water demands have increased, water users have developed complex methods to ensure that their water right is available even during droughts.  These methods include augmentation plans where senior water is released from an upstream source to compensate for a more junior diversion at another location; or exchanges where junior water is diverted at an upstream location, but senior water is provided somewhere downstream to satisfy a downstream senior call or recharge ponds where surface water is stored in ponds for the sole purpose of recharging the ground water to compensate for delayed groundwater depletions that result from well pumping; or transbasin diversions where water is transferred over mountains from one water basin to another.

As you can imagine, this system can get complicated quickly.  States maintain massive databases documenting water rights and seniority. In Colorado, the Division of Water Resources and the State Engineer are charged with administering the prior appropriations system.

As a result of these ever-evolving water delivery schemes, most rivers and streams west of the 100th meridian have been transformed into nothing more than a complex pipe network with little resemblance to its natural condition.  The same is true in the eastern U.S. as a result of networks of dams.  While most people understand that dams dramatically alter natural flow patterns, the impact of dams often pales in comparison to the effect of the prior appropriation system.  It is absolutely crucial for all preppers to be aware of the system of water use within their state and to have a basic understanding of how it influences the flow of rivers and the levels of lakes and reservoirs.   How a river or stream near your retreat looks today may have little resemblance to what it will look during TEOWAWKI when natural flow conditions are restored.  Below I highlight some of these issues and describe what you can do to prepare for them and evaluate the reliability of your water supply.


Dams are prevalent throughout the United States for flood prevention, navigation, water storage, and even recreation.  While dams are arguably useful for these purposes now, their existence can create significant hazards and uncertainty during a prolonged TEOTWAWKI event.

Most larger dams have outlet works that can be opened and closed to regulate the height of water stored behind them.  Some also have a spillway, which is basically an emergency release mechanism to prevent water from overtopping a dam when the water coming into the reservoir is greater than the water that can be released by the normal outlet works.  The purpose of a spillway is to protect the dam from damage.

If and when SHTF, it is difficult to predict how all of these dams will be left (i.e. outlets opened or closed).  If outlets are left open most reservoirs will eventually drain completely.  If outlets are left closed, reservoirs will likely fill and cause spillway releases or will overtop dams.  The status of the outlet valves will dictate the water level in the reservoir and will influence the flow in the downstream body of water.  The effect will vary dramatically depending on the size of the dam. 

The status of outlets will also dictate downstream safety. Dams without spillways whose outlets are left closed will create a significant downstream flood danger.  As a reservoir fills, the water exerts increasing pressure on the dam. The increase pressure can result in earthern dams becoming saturated which weakens the structure significantly.  Moreover, if a dam is overtopped, the flows can scour the dam which weakens it.  Even dams with spillways may be weakened from repeated spill events.  The breach of a dam can cause massive flooding and damage as it results in a huge release of water.  Here is a link to a report of a large dam failure outside of Estes Park, Colorado:  The bottom line is that you do not want to be downstream when a dam fails, and the likelihood of such a failure will increase during a prolonged TEOTWAWKI event, as maintenance of these structures ceases and they are left in dangerous conditions.

Moreover, spillway releases are nothing more than partially-controlled flooding and can cause serious damage.  Here is a link to a photograph showing a spillway in operation.  The spillway is to the left and the outlet works are on the right.  Thus, even where dams are behaving as designed, they can cause serious downstream carnage.

Being aware of dams near your home or retreat is important for both safety and for water supply purposes.  If the level of the lakes or streams that you plan to rely on when SHTF are influenced by dams, you need to be aware of this to adequately assess water availability and to plan for any changes that may occur when the operation and maintenance of these structures abruptly ends.

Transmountain Diversions

Despite the fact that water is the most important resource for maintaining human life, humans continually chose to settle in locations with inadequate water supplies. As a result, massive water projects have become necessary to carry water from places of abundance to places of need.  These projects can include hundreds of miles of pipelines and require massive pump stations that cannot operate without electricity.  As a result, many population centers receive an artificially-augmented water supply that would not otherwise be available. The instant these projects cease to operate, many places (like Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and many other large metropolitan areas) will experience an immediate water shortage.

These projects not only impact the amount of water that comes out of your faucet, but also impact the flows of water in rivers and streams.  This occurs in two ways.

First, many of these projects do not use pipelines for their full distance.  Rather they discharge into reservoirs, which in turn make releases to rivers thereby transporting the water to its place of use.  In Colorado, there are approximately 24 transmountain diversions which take water from the west side of the continental divide and convey it to the front range population centers.  Without this water, the growth of Colorado's front range would be severely limited.  Denver, in particular, relies on massive transmountain diversions to meet the needs of its inhabitants.  On average more than 500,000 acre feet of water is diverted across the continental divide in Colorado each year. This is equivalent to approximately 163 billion gallons of water.

The situation in California is far worse.  In fact, just three projects in California-- the Central Valley Project, California State Water Project, and the Colorado River Aqueduct-- transport approximately 9 million acre feet of water per year. This is nearly 3 trillion gallons of water that would otherwise exist in a completely different place.  Smaller scale transbasin pipelines also exist in Wyoming, Arizona, and Utah, and others are being planned.

Even where these projects are not being directly diverted into rivers and streams, they eventually end up there.  The wastewater that you create when you wash the dishes or flush the toilet goes to a treatment plant where it is "cleaned up" and then released back into the environment.  Unless this water is discharged into the ocean it goes to a river and other people use this water for drinking, washing, growing crops, et cetera.

As a result of all this water, the natural flow of many rivers is being artificially augmented.  This is incredibly important to understand because, when SHTF and these projects stop operating, the status quo of many rivers will change dramatically.  What was formerly a flourishing river year-round near your retreat or home today may be a dry creek bed eight months out of the year once SHTF.  As a result, it is imperative that preppers do sufficient diligence before committing themselves and their families to a particular water source.  Having all the beans, bullets, and bandages in the world does you no good if the water source you planned on using ceases to exist when SHTF.  I urge you all to do as much research as you can tolerate to ensure that you do not find yourself in this situation.  Whether you're selecting a retreat location or just a home where you plan to bug in, you absolutely must vet your water supply.

Effect Other Water Users

Obviously, water availability and quality are important considerations when selecting a retreat location, or simply selecting your main residence (if you are planning to shelter in place).  People often look for properties with springs, wells, or nearby surface water.  As mentioned above, the fact these water sources appear viable in present day is no guarantee that they will be around to serve your needs come TEOTWAWKI.

First, you must consider water quantity.  The prior appropriation system, at least in Colorado, is carefully administered by the State to ensure that those with senior water rights receive their water first regardless of their physical location on a stream reach.  Once the ball drops, it is highly unlikely that there will be people running around administering water rights and running the highly complicated computer models that keep the system running smoothly.  Instead, anyone capable of diverting water is going to do so, regardless of the priority system.  As a result, downstream users may discover that there is no water left for them to divert, regardless of any water rights they may have.  This is particularly true if your water supply is dependant on transbasin diversions. As a result, it is important to be cognizant of your upstream neighbors and their ability to divert water. If all the water is diverted before it gets to you, then your expensive riverfront property is essentially worthless.

Many wells, mostly alluvial wells, are also influenced by nearby surface waters. Thus, you could find yourself in a situation where the creek through your property is dry because of upstream diverters and has in turn caused the level of your well to drop so significantly that it is no longer viable. You don't want to be that guy. Know what influences the availability of water in your wells, springs, and surface water before your rely on them as a back up water supply. It is also important to have a general idea of how much water your upstream neighbors are capable of diverting.

The second consideration is water quality. As Coloradoans learned in the recent flooding, once wastewater plants stop operating, the river and stream become polluted very quickly.   Wastewater treatment plants are designed to collect sewage, treat it, and then discard the "clean" water to surface waters.  Many are also designed to discharge the sewage directly to the receiving body in emergency situations to protect the collection system.  There will be no waste water treatment in TEOTWAWKI.  Thus, any sewage that is still collected in the system is going to be discharged directly to a surface water.  You do not want to be downstream of this. Even if the collection system is not operational, massive amounts of human waste and trash are going to find their way into our lakes and streams.  As a result, being located upstream from these pollution sources is crucial.  The potential for contamination is massive.

This contamination can affect both surface water and ground water.  Recently in Colorado, many wells and springs were contaminated after being inundated with flood waters containing raw sewage.  Once ground water is contaminated there is little that can be done to remediate the source.  Instead, one must treat that water before use.  By locating yourself above potential contamination sources, you are protecting the long term viability of your water supply.

As described in the recommendations section below, the best way to avoid both water quality and water quantity issues is to locate yourself as high as possible in your water basin.


The issues described above can be avoided and mitigated as described below.

  1. Research

    There are many resources available to people who want to learn about where their water comes from and what factors influence the flow in nearby rivers, lakes, and streams.   A good starting point is U.S. Geologic Survey.  They maintain stream gages across the country.  This information can give you a general idea of the average flows and the severity of droughts and floods.  Sometimes, they can even show you how the flow of a river has changed as a result of a particular water project coming online. 

    The next level of research would be to find out exactly what factors influence your water source.  In Colorado, the Division of Water Resources maintains a massive database of water rights and diversion records.  There are also maps that show the location of various water rights.  You can use the maps and the water rights database to identify major diverters as well as the presence of transbasin diversions.

    It is also helpful to contact a local representative.  In Colorado, the state is divided into water districts.  Each water district has a water commissioner whose job it is to be intimately familiar with the water rights in that area.  If your state uses a different system, you can try talking with your regional water or natural resources office.  Regardless of the exact system in your state, there will be people who can answer your questions.

    Water is a huge issue in most western states, so there is often a large volume of information available simply through a google search.  Information about large water projects can typically be obtained through google.  You may even be able to find information about operating protocols. One word of caution, however, is that many states protect specific information about dams and large water projects because of security concerns.  At different times, I have been required to submit information about my work affiliations and need for information regarding certain dams before being granted access.  I can only assume that this information is being stored somewhere.  Moreover, be smart about the search terms to use when looking for this information so that you don't inadvertently get flagged because it looks like you are doing something nefarious.

    To the extent that you can, I would also recommend contacting a water rights attorney.  This is particularly true if you are planning to spend any significant amount of money on a retreat.  While attorneys aren't the most popular people, water rights attorneys are a rare breed and are extremely knowledgeable about water issues.  Many are also politically conservative and would be happy to help if they can.  Because every state is a little different, you may have to make a few calls before you get to the right person, but you will be glad you did.   The bottom line is that you need to inform yourself.

  2. Seek out Headwaters Areas

    If you are looking to relocate or purchase a retreat take time to look for properties in headwaters areas (i.e. the origins of stream and rivers).  The higher up you are in the basin, the less interference you can expect from other water diverters.  This is important for both water quantity and quality. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to position yourself so that your water security is not dictated by actions of someone upstream of you. There is no doubt that water will be a serious source of conflict during a prolonged TEOTWAWKI situation. You can keep yourself out of these conflicts by strategically locating yourself and by treating this resource with respect to avoid undue attention from downstream users. This may be less important in areas east of the 100th Meridian where there are fewer water scarcity concerns, but fewer upstream diverters also means fewer contamination issues.   

  3. Plan your irrigation practices

    Another important thing to consider is how you will irrigate your fields.  Today, more and more, farmers are trading-in their flood irrigation for pressurized drip irrigation systems and sprinklers. These systems are great in that they conserve water and can reduce labor costs.  However, without a way to pressurize these systems, usually by pumps, they will be of little use when SHTF.  As a result, anyone planning to rely on irrigation to grow crops should construct an irrigation method that relies on gravity, even if they don't plan to use that system pre-TEOTWAWKI.  This can be a massive undertaking requiring serious earth moving and planning in order to maintain the proper gradient.  Consequently, it will be much easier to do this work with earth-moving equipment now than with a shovel once SHTF.  While you may not want to use this method today, you will be glad that you have this setup when you are unable to run your pumps.  Moreover, as we all know pumps make noise and may draw unwarranted attention.

    I do not claim to be an experienced irrigator, but I think this is a very important consideration that may get overlooked.  Many preppers, including myself, have spent considerable time, money, and energy learning to grow and preserve their own food.  These are great skills and can help with setting food away, but in a prolonged event people are going to need to continue producing food.  This can only occur if there is sufficient water.  For land west of the 100th Meridian this requires irrigation, and irrigation requires planning. I urge you to consider how you will irrigate your fields when STHF and electricity is scare or entirely unavailable.

For those who don't have the luxury of a dedicated retreat, rainwater harvesting is a great option. Homeowners can easily set up a system to capture rainwater using their existing gutters and downspouts. The Internet is filled with ideas on this point. It is important to know what, if any, legal restrictions may exist pre-TEOTWAKI. The following link is a good resource for learning about your state's rainwater harvesting rules, if any : Colorado is unique in that rainwater harvesting is largely illegal, except in narrow circumstances that require a permit. As I currently understand it, this rule is largely unenforced. Regardless, folks in Colorado may want to hold off on installing their system until it is needed. Obviously, these rules will go out the window during TEOTWAKI, but you don't want to bring negative attention to yourself in the interim.

As I hope I have conveyed in this article, you need to be very careful about the water source you plan to rely on.  Looks can be deceiving.  Today's roaring stream could be TEOTWAWKI's dry creek bed.  Educate yourself and thrive.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hi James,

I need assistance in design ideas from the community for a 10-man, off-grid, truck-portable, field camp. Researching the Internet has yielded many solutions for solar power-- some for camps, including military field hospitals and command posts. With this overwhelming array of options, I decided to ask the community for design ideas. The camp needs to be portable by Toyota Hilux (or equivalent vehicles), provide housing for 10 men, solar- and generator- powered for office/computerization, and requiring only food and fuel deliveries. All aspects of day-to-day living must be accounted for. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. - O.J.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I’ve been reloading for almost 30 years and have tried many solutions for boxing up all the ammo including bulk in zip lock bags as well as just filling ammo cans and of course hard plastic boxes. If it’s made, I’ve tried it and nothing really worked well nor are they very compact. Until now. I have stumbled on and found their cardstock boxes great. So far I’ve loaded 5.56, 7.62x39, 9mm and .45 ACP. 

What I like is their boxes are made so the quantity will fit most standard magazines…i.e., the 5.56 box holds 30 rounds as does the 7.62x39. The 7.62x51 holds 20...just right to fit your FAL, M1A or PTR91 Their pistol boxes hold 50 rounds.

The only limiting thing is that they only make .223/5.56, 7.62x39, 7.62x51, 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. But when I first started buying them they selection was smaller, so they must be expanding to meet demand.

The best part about these boxes is that they hold the ammo tightly. No loose or sloppy ammo rattling around. And as such they pack tight in the green surplus ammo cans for storage. And these boxes are very sturdy. No cheap materials, so they can be reused many times.

Thanks! - GunrTim

JWR Replies: has been mentioned before in SurvivalBlog. I recommend their products. And BTW, they also sell some handy rubber rifle muzzle covers.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The National Self Reliance Organization (NSRO) sponsors the Self-Reliance Expos. The expo returned this year to Denver, Colorado on October 4-5, 2013. I also toured the prior Denver Self-Reliance Expo on Sep. 16-17, 2011 here and one last year (May 18-19, 2012) in Colorado Springs. Prior expos have been held in Salt Lake City, Utah (October 7-8, 2011), and during 2012 at Dallas, TX (July 27-28), Hickory, North Carolina (September 14-15) and Mesa, Arizona (October 26-27). Upcoming expos in 2014 will be held in Mesquite, Texas and back in Denver, Colorado. The next upcoming expo is featured here.

As usual, several of the vendors at the expo were SurvivalBlog advertisers. d

Multiple Expo Vendors

These expos showcase a diverse assortment of avid and amiable survival, self-reliance and preparedness presenters and vendors. Many of the companies showing their wares and services there are devoted SurvivalBlog advertisers and readers. I enjoyed meeting several new vendors for the first time as well as those who had been at the September 2011 Denver expo or May 2012 Colorado Springs expo or both. The vendors listed in this paragraph have had a presence at this expo as well as the prior two we've reported on. (Note that some of the vendors listed were listed on the web site, but might not have made it to the show.) Chelsea Green Publishing is always adding new titles to their books on sustainable living, such as From the Wood-Fired Oven New and Traditional Techniques for Cooking and Baking with Fire. Backwoods Home Magazine continues to add new issues which build on their  and popular back issue inventory; we appreciate Dave Duffy's welcoming hospitality and enthusiasm at these shows. Other returning vendors included: American Preppers Network (self-reliance education), Daily Bread (food storage, including freeze dried), DoTerra (doTERRA essential oils), EnerHealth Botanicals (cocoa, coconut milk, meal powder, etc.), Life Sprouts (sprouters with a diverse assortment of sprouting seeds), Directive 21/LPC Survival (water filtration, storage and many other survival products), New Millennium Concepts (Berkey water purifiers), Project Appleseed (Revolutionary War Veterans Association, marksmanship clinics), School of Natural Healing (herbalist education, courseware), Shelf Reliance - THRIVE (food storage, racks, emergency kits), Solar Gadgets (solar phone chargers, flashlights), Sun Oven (solar cooking appliances; they introduced a new model of their popular solar oven, which features sun tracking indicators, larger size to handle larger baking pans, thicker glass, a leveling rack that hangs to minimize spills, and a wind-resistant alignment leg with ground stakes), and 4 Everlight- UV Paqlite (reusable glow sticks--these have been mentioned by several SurvivalBlog readers, and reviewed by Pt Cascio.).

Double Expo Vendors

The vendors listed in this section were attendees of the Colorado Springs 2012 expo as well as this most recent Denver 2013 event. In the arena of Alternate Energy, Lighting and Fuel, returning vendors included ARC Solar Systems (compact portable power systems with a flexible PV component that rolls up into a storage cylinder slightly larger than a sleeping bag) and GO Solar (portable solar power systems). Currency and Exchange exhibitors included Ann Haney Ministries (Living In Abundance Couponing and Swiss America (gold, coins). In the Education, books and media category, we saw returning exhibitors American Preppers Network (self-reliance education), Doom And Bloom (medical preparedness; Survival Medicine Handbook), and Sea Cadets (US Navy cadet programs). Food, Food storage, stores, and distributors were represented by Grandma's Country Foods (foods, spices, milk, preparedness, storage containers, kitchen appliances, contract packaging), My Patriot Supply (heirloom seeds/seed vaults, water, fire, food, survival gear, canning, books), Texas Ready (Liberty seed banks), and Tower Garden (aeroponic vertical gardening system). Shelter and Real Estate entries featured Cedar Log Systems (custom designed cedar log homes). In the Weapons and Defense department, there was Snake Blocker (knives, clothing, DVDs).

A few vendors were at both the Denver expos (2011 and 2013) we've reviewed but not the 2012 Colorado Springs expo reviewed here. These include: Tattler Reusable Canning Lids and Ullrich Insurance.

New Vendors

Numerous new vendors to the expo (at least new relative to those we've reported on within prior expo reviews in SurvivalBlog.) They included: A&E Building Systems (energy efficient building products), Angry American, Aircraft (ArtCraft?) Sports, Atlas Survival Shelter, Attack Pak (balanced load distribution packs/kits), Bar-Ricade (door security bars), Bear Claw Sharpening (tool, saw, knife, scissor sharpening), Big Smoke (Primitive Fire Making), Bill of Rights Press, Bridgford (meat and breads), Ceres Greenhouse (greenhouse renovations, controls, monitoring, consultation), Coast 2 Coast Communications, Colorado Aquaponics (sustainable fish/plant permaculture food production systems), Colorado Custom Sheds (serving Denver metro area), Colorado Cylinder Stoves (collapsable pack/tent stoves, accessories), Colorado Log Furniture Company, Colorado Mountain Man (budget survival/emergency preparedness items), Colorado Safe Outlet (gun safes), Colorado Solar Energy (alternative energy solutions), Coyote RV Inc./Phoenix Pop Up (Custom Campers), Doomsday Preppers Casting, Dragon Heaters (low emissions, high efficiency Wood Burning Rocket Stoves and Heaters), Family Shooting Center, Farris Survival (food, medical kits, water filters), Free Water Systems (rain capture equipment), Genesis Communications Network, Grape Solar (portable power, appliances, small off-grid, residential solar), Greg Brophy For GovernorHandy Sharp (pocket sharpener, magnesium fire starter), Hayes Military Outdoor (1911 pistol grips, camping and survival products, canteen and hydration systems), Health Force Nutritionals (superfoods, rejuvenation, longevity, immunity, cleaning, detoxification, education), Hesperian Health Guides (nonprofit health information and health education source), John Pierre (nutrition & fitness consultant), Just Water (Emergency, Disaster, and Survival Water Filters), Legacy Tractor, Life Straw, Lights Out Saga (motion picture), Liteye Systems (high resolution head mounted displays, micro imaging viewfinders, thermal surveillance systems), LS Tractor (compact and utility tractors, attachments, service), Lustre Craft (waterless, lifetime warranty cookware), Manifold Design and Development (certified passive house consultant), Midsouth Gold (gold, silver, platinum), MinuteMan Rx (life saving medical products used in battlefield or first-responder situations), Modern Harvest (canning labels and jar accessories), Peak 10 Publishing LLC (informational guides/videos on Survivalist, DIY Energy, Health and Financial topics), Penguin Publishing, Protec Sales, Provident Metals, Ready Made Water (home water storage), Republic Monetary Exchange (Gold, Silver, Gold IRAs), Rescue Tape, So Delicious Dairy Free (coconut milk), Top Pack Gear (emergency preparedness kits), Right to Thrive (Front Range backyard farms), Rockin Feet (liquid orthotics), Rocky Mountain Miners, Shelter Works (organic wall/building materials: insulated wood chip-cement forms), Silverfire (very efficient, clean-burning stoves), SunReady Power (portable solar power systems in rugged transportable trunks), Thrive Life (food, food rotation, food storage, emergency preparedness), Tony Dardano, US Navy - Sea Cadets, Vitamix (blender/food appliance), Water Pure Technologies (water storage/treatment kits, accessories), Wilderness Medicine Outfitters (classes: first responder, first aid, specialty), Youngevity (nutritional products), and Young Living (essential oils).

Upcoming Expos

The next scheduled Self-Reliance Expos will be at the Mesquite Convention Center, Texas, April 4-5, 2014 and also back again in Denver at the same venue as this year's event at the National Western Complex, Denver Colorado, Nov 7-8, 2014. These are worthy pilgrimages for anyone within driving distance to these events.

Exhibitors for the next expo (April 4-5, 2014 Mesquite Convention Center, TX) include - lots of familiar vendors and a few new ones: American Preppers NetworkDoom and BloomdoTerraEnerHealth BotanicalsHarvestRight (geodesic domes and portable shelters), LPC Survival (Berkey Water Systems, accessories, food storage, heirloom seed banks, books, mills, tools, etc.), MinuteMan RxNew Millennium Concepts (Berkey water purifiers), Project AppleseedSchool of Natural HealingStorm DormsSwiss America (precious metals, numismatics), Vitamix (high end blender/food appliance), and Young Living.

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

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I'd like to discuss my perspective on family preparedness, from the perspective of a architectural design and building contractor. There are four categories to this aspect of preparedness:  Materials, Tools, Knowledge and Usefulness

I read a lot of articles about things to stock up on when TEOTWAWKI situations occur.  One thing I do not hear discussed as much is keeping a well stock material shed at your bug out location.  Now keep in mind this is not a Bug out bag list.  The is a Bug Out Destination or Home list.

Coming from the world of Architectural Design and Contracting I have seen buildings become deplorable shacks in no time.  You would be amazed at how quickly a simple water leak can destroy your compound/home.  Maintenance is always key but sometimes Mother Nature will take over on even the best of us.  A downed tree branch, strong wind gusts or even a deer running into you window (I have seen this happen). 

A well stocked material shed will provide you with not only items for repair and maintenance of your Compound but will provide you with barter items that could be just as valuable as ammo or food. 

Below is a list of items I would recommend to keep in stock at all times.  The best part is a lot of items can be found for little or no costs at all:

2x12’s (these, with a little effort can be made into 2x4’s, 2x6’s or 2x8’s if need be)
Other sizes of 2x framing lumber if your budget allows.
Plywood or OSB
Tyvek or similar Building Wrap (10 mil plastic works as well)
Plexiglas (4x8 sheets to be cut down)
PVC pipe
Roofing Cement
Bailing Wire
Steel pipe and sheets (in any sizes)
Aluminum Flashing
Fiberglass Insulation
Chain Link Fencing
Chicken Wire
Concrete Block
Exterior Grade Paint (color will not matter but neutral brown or green is always best)
Cans of PVC cement (keep in a cool dry place and Sealed tightly)

This is just a small list of items.  You can expand this list to any thoughts you may have and concerns about what you may need.  My personal favorite are Pallets.  I have built many things with these in the past.  Recently I just built my entire material storage shed with them.  12 x 14 foot shed with 8 foot side walls and a 4/12 pitch roof.  A little thinking and planning can go a long way.

Now I mentioned most can be found at little or no cost.  Just tracking down the materials in the right places.  Any hardware store, furniture store, even ATV stores are great for pallets.  [JWR Adds: In lightly-populated regions, machinery companies, fish hatcheries, and trucking firms are a great source for free pallets, usually available just for the asking. But please be sure to not take any pallets that are returnable--typically marked with spray-painted company logos.] Most of the material is scrape to them and costs them money to remove.  They are usually more than happy to just have you take it off there hands.  Even the ones that are not structurally stable will make great firewood.  So grab everything you can get. 

Another place to go are new house construction sites.  You would not believe the material that go into the dumpsters because it’s just too much work for them to salvage.  The best sites are ones when they tear down and old house.  The framing lumber is the best from them.  If you keep an eye out or know anyone doing a building project, ask them ahead of time if you can get into buildings to salvage any items before they are destroyed.  It is also a great idea to contact local construction companies and ask them if they have any projects you can take a look at to salvage from.  Just don’t push it with them either.  They have to be concerned with Liability insurance so if they turn you down its most likely nothing to do with you but insurance reasons.  If they do turn you down ask them for locations where they dump debris and if they can give you a heads up when they dump to see what you can find.

On a recent trip to a construction site I was able to pick up about 6 bundles of shingles they just had taken off a roof, multiple pieces of OSB, some framing lumber and a stack of siding.  Those are the items I kept for myself.  I gathered windows, doors and molding that I took home and posted on craigslist for resale.  Ammo and food storage money! 

Craigslist is the next best place to pick up materials with a little work and searching.  I have come across many postings in the past of people looking to have decks from old pools taken down or concrete blocks from old burn pits.  It is a plethora of free materials that could be a home saver in the future.  Sometimes and if your budget allows you will find contractors liquidating non-used materials from job sites.  You can get these for pennies on the dollar compared to home depot. 

Material Auctions from local auctioneers are good to keep an eye out for as well.  Even the local county gov’t has their auctions that you can find items for dirt cheap. 

Now Materials are great to have but without the next list item they are useless.


Now after you get into a rhythm of finding and storing your material the next step will be to make sure you have all the tools required to work the materials. 

List of items to keep on hand (excluding garden and out door tools like shovels, Etc…):

Min. (2) Construction Style Hand Saws
Camping saw
Screwdriver set
Pipe Wrenches
Utility Knifes and several bulk packs of blades
Multiple Hammers
Multiple size crowbars
Multiple staple guns and boxes of staples
Pry Bar
Sharpening Tool for saws
Tape measure (25’, 100’ and a wooden 3’ collapsible one)
Contractor grade pencils (a box of them)

I would see this list as the bear minimum of items to keep stock.  It would also be a great idea to stock up on extra blades and items to barter.  I have read on here recently the phrase “two is one, and one is none.”  I could not think of a better term to describe my tool build up. 

Now this brings us to our next category.


Now while you have been stocking and storing all these items you should have been building up one item at the top of everyone’s list for any prepping area.  Knowledge.  You must understand how to use your materials and tools and to use them safely at all times.  The last thing you want to do is throw safety to the wind and end up with a missing or broken finger.  Safety is extremely important!

Knowledge is the most important part of this prep.  I have known many people that I walk into there garage and get jealous of the tools and things they have.  The thing is usually though, I am looking at these things after they have called me to come over to help them build something because they do not know how.  Ironic huh?

Research is a great tool but the best tool is sometimes to just go build something for fun.  Build a pallet playhouse for your kids.  Build a barn door to replace one you have.  Simple things that get your brain looking at projects in a different light.  Let me tell you another thing about using recycled materials.  Your brain will work in ways you would never believe to figure out how to make and repair something for free with only what you have available.  Besides, at TEOTWAWKI all you will have is what is available in front of you most of the time. 

Now for those of you who like to read up on things let me tell you about a book I first started with when designing back in school.  It’s called Building Construction Illustrated by Francis D.K. Ching.  It is a very basic but also a very through book about most types of building construction.  This one book alone I still reference even after being in the architectural field for 15 years. 

Everyone has done the research most likely on how to build a chicken coop, or greenhouse.  You can find plenty of plans out there on the internet to figure these things out.  Problem is, how do you do them without paying for any items to build with.  I recently constructed my chicken coop using one of my favorite items again: pallets.  I built and entire frame from the pallets and secured it to my garage.  I used reclaimed pressure treated wood from a fence as clap board siding.  I used reclaimed insulated ceiling tiles for the insulation. Reclaimed metal roofing for the roof.  I spent most likely the same amount of time thinking about how to build it as I did actually building.  But in TEOTWAWKI situation the one thing you will most likely have a little more of is time with that pesky thing called a job out of the way.  It’s all about knowledge in the end.  Thinking outside of the box.

Knowledge again is your best defense and offense.  Your own ingenuity could be a defining point in having shelter or none at all.  You must be able to understand the basic concepts of design and construction to be able to allow you to have the last of my four categories.


Imagine back in the pioneer days.  All people had was their own two hands and trying to figure out how to use an ax to build a home.  We are spoiled today, with our ability to have all these basic, yet great items and so many of us don’t know how to use them.  If you figure this out though you will be useful not only to your family but to the community around you that will eventually rebuild.  This usefulness in your community around you will pay off very big dividends in the end. 

Trading your skills and labor could also be one of the best Barter items you could have to offer.  They are the cheapest things to be able to stock up on but some of the most valuable.  Being useful to those around you will provide you with their trust and in turn you will be able to trust them when you need it.

So in the end having all the basic preps are important.  But always keep in mind the hidden long terms preps mentioned above. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The recent article The Benefits of a Homesteading Approach to Preparedness, by Chaya had much wisdom about moving before a crunch. There will not be time to prepare or get to know your surroundings if you wait.

I have dreamed about moving to the American Redoubt for the last 3-4 years, however there were several things that prohibited me. I had a house payment and small business in Rural Northern Pa, I had a great job and family ties. I did not want to leave my father and small hobby farm. In December of last year my mother received news that her job may be moving to a new location. I half heartily said we should move to the west. This planted a seed that would grow over the next few months. We talked about different states like Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. She had some contacts in Idaho and Montana that she used to work with and began looking for a job. I was still unsure until January when I was told by the company I worked for that they would be consolidating locations and moving some jobs, including mine, offshore. To top that off my father was up for reelection for his township supervisor position.  My sister had lost her full time Job and was working two part time jobs. We had to potential to lose our 3 biggest family incomes. In April my mother received an offer to come look at a job in Montana and interview in person.

Before she was scheduled to fly out we looked at several properties and contacted two separate realtors. One realtor, Mark Twite, who advertises on SurvivalBlog's spin-off and another who works for a large [multi-state] real estate company. When we arrived we knew what type of property we were looking for and Mark cogently knew our intentions. He showed us several interesting properties that all had potential. He walked the properties with us using a GPS unit to show us properties lines. He is an amazing realtor.

The second realtor, however, was a snake. On the first day we met with him he had a paper that he asked my parents to sign “to give him permission to show up properties”, they signed without fully reading every line (a mistake), After they signed I read it quick while they talked to the realtor, mixed in with some of the lingo was a clause that we had to exclusively deal with only him and no one else. If we bought property without him he could sue for some of his costs. At this point we should have left but we didn’t. He showed us several properties but none were exactly what we were looking for.

After we arrived back home we kept in contact with the realtor, He sent us several more places that were not even close to what we were looking for, Some were trailer/doublewides, other had less than 5 acres and some were next to the interstate, certainly not what a prepper would consider a home. A few weeks later we came across a listing on craigslist that looked like a place we could call home. We contacted our exclusive realtor and began the long negotiations.  In June my mother flew out and started her new job. As soon as her feet were on the ground she checked the property out. By this point we had already started packing and selling everything that wasn’t a must have. The realtor in the meanwhile had pressured the seller into a contract as well and we were in jeopardy of the property being lost due to the realtors’ greed in wanting over $30,000 from the seller to just play middleman. We were finally able to come to a deal with the seller after they threatened to contact Montana Realtors Association regarding our exclusive realtor. He shredded both of our contracts so we could work directly. After a few short weeks we made a deal to move into our current home.

In mid-May, I contacted James Rawles for ideas on jobs, and in one of his replies he directed me to his 2011 article on job finding. I was subsequently able to find a job with a major company and get a job offered over the phone to start in July. The rush was now on to sell, pack and move. We were fortunate in that the company my mother got a job at offered a move package that including moving two vehicles and our house.  We had 7 people moving all together plus 4 family dogs. We were instructed by the moving company to not pack anything in the houses as the movers would catalog the material and move it. We had content from three houses and several outbuildings. We decided that we would not be able to bring our small heard of beef cattle so we put them on the market first. This gave us several thousand moving cash. On top of that we had a small business making Maple Syrup so after the season we started advertising all our equipment since we would not be using it in Montana. This again provided us with some extra money for the move.

We went through all our material positions and started filling our garages with yard sale stuff. A lot of things I had were with a prepper mindset but were unrealistic to move (fuel tanks with 300 gallons of fuel, windmill, scrap metal etc) so they all got sold. We advertised a three-day moving sale on a few local sites and started selling. We sold some stuff at value but a lot was sold at bargain prices just to get rid of it. The final day we made piles and sold stuff by the pile. In the end we sold 90% of the things we needed too. We also cleaned during this time and ended up with 5 truckloads of garbage that was either not worth donating or had little value.  We also filled two 30 yard dumpsters with scrap metal[ to sell] (never get rid of anything mindset). We also soldthree3 of our cars leading up to the move. These were older, front wheel drive, minor rust "East Coast" cars, not valuable in Montana and not usable where our new house is.

In addition to the 53’ tractor trailer full of household stuff we rented the largest budget truck and used a 15% discount coupon included in a USPS Mover's pack. In total it was $2,700 for the truck and another $1,400 in fuel to drive from Pennsylvania to Montana. We built 40”x48”x4’ shipping crates out of oak and maple so we could fill them leading up to the move and just load them into the truck. We had 8 crates total and 3 pallets of shop equipment and tractor parts. We also hired a neighbor with a step deck trailer to move three tractors and several farm implements to Montana for us (friends loaded him up a week after we left, with a Bobcat). Our cost for the step deck was $5,300 about the price of one tractor (we used cattle money to pay for this).

The trip to Montana was an experience. In Erie, Pennsylvania we decided to see how close we were on weight limits as we had no way of telling how much was on the truck. At a commercial truck scale we found that our "26,000 pound max" truck weighed in at 34,440 pounds! Knowing the stuff on the truck was not stuff we wanted to leave at home, we pressed on. We only passed one open weigh station on the way and just drove by with heads low. Since my mother and sister had moved out in June there were five of us that made the trip, My wife and I plus our West Highland Terrier dog (Westie) in the Budget truck and my father, my son and my 82 year old uncle along with two more Westies and a Boxer mix in his GMC pulling a trailer with 1 tractor on it. We took I-90 straight across which was not the smartest move in the world, at one point we sat in Chicago in traffic for two hours. We made the trip in five days as planned simply because of the animals and people involved in the trip.

Since moving to Montana we have met a lot of great people. Our new neighbors (all 30 of them in our 6 mile long valley) had a fall get together so we could meet. We have become close friends with several neighbors and have found a great church in Missoula. We used our Maple equipment money to buy a Norwood Lumbermate Sawmill. Since the purchase we have started construction of a new barn that houses some of our equipment this winter, but will house chickens, goats and pigs come spring. Our property is at 4,800-5,000 elevation so we also have plans for a greenhouse using raised beds next spring. We have been able to trade some wood for things we need so the sawmill has been a great investment.  We have also all got 4 wheel drive vehicles to cope with the winter, I have a Older Ford Bronco and older Jeep Cherokee, and other family members have all wheel drive Subarus and SUVs. All have studded winter tires and we have had zero problems so far.

The house we ended up buying is totally offgrid on 40 acres backed up to Forest Land. It had eight 100 watt solar panels when we moved in and a 300 watt windmill. The windmill is a joke but since it’s here we let it spin. The panels are also nowhere big enough so we have added six more 250 watt panels giving us a total of 2,300 watts. Next summer we plan to bump it up over 5,000. We have 16 6 volt batters to make two 48 volt battery banks; we also have a generator when the sun cannot keep up with our loads (in the winter months).  The property has several springs and a small pasture; it is a dream location that we fully believe the Lord led us too. The way jobs have lined up, the church we found, even the move.  The only bad part about the move is leaving our friends behind. However the Lord has even taken care of this with several people from the church filling the void. The job opportunities in Montana are endless but the pay is less than other parts of the country. Anyone looking at moving to the Redoubt region should consider applying for work at DirecTV. They are always hiring here and start new classes every three weeks. The pay is base at $11/hour, health insurance, a free subscription to the service, and bonuses. It would be a great place start then step off into something better and get you into the Redoubt any time of year.

If I was having someone move my household items again there are a few things I would do different. Make sure that you have a safe area of the house that the movers will not pack. We were missing a laptop for several weeks while moving and unpacking. Also cell phone charges should be labeled and in the safe zone. The last two days we ended up eating at neighbors because all our dishes and glasses had been packed away. I am still missing a few small parts for my reloading press that I forgot to take off. I did move all my guns myself by placing them in silicon gun socks then wrapping them in heavy blankets and placing them in a 2’x2’ locker. I hope my move will inspire more to make the move and shed some light on your plans.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dear JWR,
Last spring, with the ammo shortage clearing the shelves everywhere, I found myself in a position to expand my collection.  I decided on a Ruger .44 Magnum Super Blackhawk, with the 7" barrel.  Legal for whitetail in my state, you see.  Having neglected to actually check the retail supply, I assumed that the shortage would be primarily the military calibers (9mm Para, .45 ACP, 5.56mm NATO, .308, and 7.62x39mm) with the civilian calibers being readily available.

Experienced wheelgunners are already laughing.  Took me a month to track down 100 rounds of basic .44 Magnum.  Eventually, diligent checking at Wal-Mart (I work nights, what else is open at 5 AM?) landed me another 200.  Over the rest of the summer.  Usually buying the one remaining box of 50 rounds.

Things started to loosen up a bit here, and I picked up a S&W in .357, as a friend had laid in 500 rounds of reloads a couple years back, and gave me  a box of leftover factory .38 Special.  I find it amusing that a box of 100 .38 Special costs about the same as 50 of .44 Magnum! Also, the local farm supply carries .38 Special and .357 Magnum, but not .44 Magnum or .44 Special.

Through this whole business, I have been impressed by the fact that the much-derided .45 Colt has been readily available at Wal-Mart, including a combination pack of 25 rounds of .45 Colt and 25 of .410.  My congratulations to anyone who had the foresight to buy one of the combination .45/.410 pistols.  That and .40 S&W were the only pistol ammo continuously in stock at Wal-Mart since April 2013, when I started looking.  Many of us originally chose 9mm pistols and 5.56mm or .308 rifles for for long-term ammo availability--ammo in military calibers is supposedly plentiful.  Lately, this has proven false.  Any first-time pistol buyers this year who purchased .45 Colt revolvers showed more foresight than I had. - Ethan A.

[JWR Adds: While .45 Colt (commonly but erroneously called ".45 Long Colt") is a fine cartridge ballistically--with plenty of power for self defense (especially if you handload), I generally recommend .44 Magnum for anyone desiring a large bore handgun. The key problem with .45 Colt is that it has a relatively narrow cartridge rim. So, when shooting swing-out cylinder revolvers with a typical rim extractor "star", you will occasionally get a cartridge rim stuck underneath the extractor, when you make the fired brass ejection stroke. This is a mere annoyance when target shooting, but it could prove deadly if it were to happen in the midst of a serious shooting affray.

The .410 shotshells (with buckshot or slugs) are a poor choice for self defense. So if you own one of the new pistol/shotshell long-cylinder revolvers, my advice is to keep it loaded with .45 Colt jacketed hollow points. Only load it with shotshells when shooting grouse or garden pests.]

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dear Sir,
When stockpiling ammo, should one focus on FMJ and soft nose/hollow points or FMJ only?  FMJ is a better value per bullet, plus it's supposed to be a lot more accurate and reliable than SP/HP, but of course, it sometimes comes at the cost of stopping power.

I'm packing a semi-auto in 308/7.62x51, and to my knowledge, there haven't been many complaints about the stopping power of the 7.62x51 ball cartridge in military circles; many complaints come mainly from the kick and weight.  Add to that the fact that after TEOTWAWKI, shooting through cover and mass fire will become the norm and FMJs look pretty appealing.  Not to mention the fact that most bulk sizes of ammo only come in FMJ.

I've been stocking both so far, but with money getting a bit tight, I'm looking at switching over to just FMJs, so is this a good idea?  Your input is appreciated.

Oh, one more thing: Do you know of any places that offer tracer rounds and which brands are the good ones?  My rifle bolt doesn't lock back when the magazine is empty, so I'm wanting to emulate the fictional Doug Carlton from Patriots.

Sincerely,  - D.S.C.

JWR Replies:

As with all of your other preps, balance is the key. There is no point in buying all premium ammo. Logic dictates that you will need some inexpensive ammo for target practice and some "middling" quality ammo, for barter.

For handguns I current recommend this mix: 80% jacketed hollow points (JHPs), 18% FMJ (aka "ball"), and 2% exotics (tracers, frangible, KTW or Arcane AP, etc.)

For most military caliber rifles I currently recommend this mix: 70% FMJ, 10% spire point soft nose, 10% Match (preferably HPBT), 5% AP, and 5% exotics (such as tracer, incendiary and API.)

For most civilian (hunting) caliber rifles I currently recommend this mix: 90% soft nose, 5% Match (preferably HPBT), and 5% AP handloads, if bullet weights, bullet diameters, and bullet point styles are compatible with pulled military AP bullets. Note, for example, you cannot use pointed bullets in tubular magazine lever action rifles, even if the bore diameter and bullet weight is correct.

Some of my favorite ammo sources are:

Dan's Ammo,
Lucky Gunner,
Sunflower Ammo
Cheaper Than Dirt,
and Keep Shooting.

I also buy some ammo directly from manufacturers, mostly here in the American Redoubt. I recommend:

Black Hills Ammunition
BVAC Ammunition and Components
HSM (aka The Hunting Shack)
Buffalo Bore Ammunition
and Patriot Firearms and Munitions

Oh, and by the way, SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson recently mentioned that one of his favorite sources is (They currently have a good deal on Federal 5.56 ball.)

The Talon brand tracer ammo is decent, but given the uneven burning of the tracing composition, the accuracy of virtually all tracer ammo accuracy will never be quite comparable to military ball. The Lake City arsenal tracer ammo is excellent, but it is hard to find. The last time I checked, Lucky Gunner had some, as did UNAC.

There is a great on-line reference site now available, for comparison pricing: Be sure to check it out!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I frequently read about varying doomsday scenarios.  Everything from a total collapse of the economy, to super-storms, to EMP attacks, and lately even dubious writings about life in a post-antibiotic world.  While the odds are not in favor of one devastating event that ends the world as we know it and plunges us into a repeat of the Dark Ages, there is still the possibility that something like a surprise EMP attack or an unexpected asteroid impact could wipe out most of humanity.  There’s always that “What if…?” 

Before I go any farther, however, let me offer this strong disclaimer: 

I do not advocate stealing.  I don’t advocate criminal activity of any kind.  I believe a man’s sense of honor has no price tag.  That being said, in a “What if…?” scenario where most of mankind is wiped out, it will literally be a survival do-or-die situation for you and your loved ones.  If that is the case, you will not be giving up your sense of honor if there is no chance of ‘recovery’, [massive de-population,] and you actively forage for the things you need to survive [and it there are no lawful heirs for truly abandoned property.]

Still with me?

Then let’s move on.  What I propose is that you begin now to identify resources.  You don’t live in the wilderness where deer and other wild game are abundant?  You don’t live in a place where wild edibles are everywhere, ripe for the picking?  Well, we don’t, either.  We live in a small town in northwest Ohio with a population of about 15,000.  We even live within the city limits, and our backyard is about 70’ wide, and maybe 60’ deep.  That’s where we have our garden and fruit trees.  Not much to survive on…
But – taking a look around our small town, I see many opportunities for foraging. 


First, we’re in an agricultural area of the State.  The farmers around here plant the Big-3 – corn, wheat, and soybeans.  Then they store their harvest in silos until the prices are right for selling.  Even then, the harvest moves to local granaries positioned on rail spurs, where it is stored until it is loaded onto trains for shipment elsewhere.  I do believe these local farmers will be willing to barter for their grains.  So we’ll most likely have access to wheat for bread, corn for meal, and even soybeans if, when treated properly, can be used for animal feed or pressed for oil. 
Not only do we have farmers tilling the fields and growing crops, we also have farmers locally who specialize in hogs, beef cattle, poultry, fruit, even bees.  So the chances are good that we’ll be able to supplement our own food stores with fresh food grown locally. 

Additionally, our area currently has a healthy population of deer, geese, wild turkeys, squirrels, and rabbits.  The local farms actually find the wildlife to be quite a nuisance.  Plus, there are three rivers that come together in our little town, so there is the opportunity for fishing as well.  Now I don’t count on hunting to supply my family with food.  If everyone in our area who owns a gun heads to the woods and starts shooting, our abundant wildlife will soon disappear. 

Notice I haven’t even mentioned the grocery stores.  In our small town, we have no less than three grocery chain stores, as well as a large Wal-Mart, and three ‘dollar’ stores.  All of these stores carry foodstuffs, but in the event of a total collapse, these stores will be emptied out pretty quickly.  Today Black Friday is still a fresh memory – only a few days ago.  In view of the violence and chaos that ruled the Christmas shopping experience then, just imagine what it will be like when it’s the last bit of food left available that’s being fought over!  In my own humble opinion, I think it will be safer to sit this one out – stay home with our pantry and supplies, and plan on bartering with local farmers for fresh food. 
But now to move on to things besides food!
What else will you need?  I venture to say that whatever it is, you can probably find it if you know where to look.  In our town, we still have a little bit of heavy industry.  Having done some research, and talked to people who are employed by these factories, I have found a huge reservoir of vital resources.


Need clean drinking water, but you haven’t had the means to buy a Berkey system?  Well don’t despair – at least not yet.  In many places of work, companies still utilize the old ‘water cooler’ systems.  Remember those?  Where people hung out and shared the latest rumors, talked sports, and speculated about who was getting promoted?  Many companies still use these today.  Not just factories, but offices, too.  I know that in our local factories these are in use, and in fact, they go through so many bottles of water that they’ve built racks to stock the bottles in, so they can deliver them with fork trucks.  The bottom line is this – if the collapse is sudden and/or catastrophic, there just might be a fairly large stock of clean fresh water readily available!
(To a lesser degree, vending companies also service factories and offices.  And while their snack foods and sodas probably aren’t going to do you much good nutritionally, they are after all, a resource.  Don’t overlook anything at a time like this!)
Another source of clean drinking water in our town (or nearby) would be ponds.  My sister – visiting from out of state – was astonished at the number of ponds that people have on their properties.  And I have to admit, it does seem like every other farm or property has a pond.  She was further surprised to learn that people often use their ponds as their main source of drinking water.  And if that’s the case, these people have filtration systems set up for that purpose.  So just like bartering for food, it will be possible to barter for safe drinking water, too.


Many factories use heavy equipment.  The industries here in our town use fork trucks (electric, propane, and gasoline), ‘burden carriers’ (like golf carts – some run on battery power, and some are gasoline powered), JLGs (like the lift baskets you see on the power company trucks - some battery and some gasoline powered), cranes, front end loaders, and dump trucks.  So there are storage tanks for gasoline and diesel fuel.  In addition to all of those things, there are literally hundreds of tanks of oxygen, MAPP gas, and propane.  And to make these gas bottles useable, there also torches, torpedo heaters, and space heaters. 

Plus – and this is probably unique to our area – we have a foundry in our town (you may have a power plant nearby).  This foundry melts down iron and aluminum to pour castings for the automotive industry.  What this means for us is that there is a huge stockpile of coke (refined and purified coal) and ground up coal.  Power plants frequently use coal as well – although the EPA is making that harder and harder to find.  They must still be in use, though.  We have trains loaded with coal passing through our town all the time.  So it’s out there…
And finally, when the gas, diesel, propane, MAPP gas, and coal are all gone, there is wood.  Just about every factory in the world is a user of wooden pallets.  The factories in our town not only use pallets, but they use plywood, too.  Lots and lots of plywood. 

So there are many opportunities for obtaining lumber from construction and fuel for heating, cooking, etc.  You just have to know where to look. [JWR Adds: Beware of pallets made of treated wood, or pallets that have been contaminated by spilled chemicals! Also use great caution when cutting up pallets. Destroying a $20 circular saw blade by hitting a nail while trying to recover the wood in a "free" pallet is false economy.]


The businesses in our town do some pretty heavy work.  As a result, they are stocked with some pretty heavy-duty tools and equipment.  Industrial grade hardware (nuts-n-bolts), heavy tools of every kind, steel (structural and sheet), hoists (electric, pneumatic, and chain falls), (electric and gasoline powered), generators, ladders of all sizes, scaffolding, power tools – in fact, if you name it, they’ve probably got it.  So even if looters have emptied out your local big-box home improvement stores, you still might be able to find useful tools, supplies, and equipment.
You might not have such a rich resource in your area, but there are some other things that many factories use that you might find extremely useful.  For example, many factories use thermal detection cameras (FLIR) for predictive maintenance.  Many factories also use vibration sensors, lasers, photoeyes, and proximity switches.  In the right hands, these things could easily be used to build a perimeter alarm system, or night-time surveillance system.  In fact, surveillance cameras are so common now that you can find them everywhere.  (Our town even has them mounted on all of the traffic lights…)  You might do well to do some research into how these systems work and what it would take to turn them into useful tools for your own protection and defense.
And another resource that might be overlooked is medical supplies.  Most large factories have their own medical facility.  Even if your town doesn’t have such a thing, don’t overlook the local drug stores.  In our town alone, there are eight different shops/stores selling prescription drugs and medical supplies.  And that isn’t counting the actual medical facilities like clinics and hospitals.  None of these possible resources should be overlooked!
And finally – name one thing that every public business has on hand.  Give up?
Fire extinguishers!  Don’t overlook these possible lifesaving items!

You might be tempted to think that if you live in an urban or even suburban area that you will have a really hard time trying to forage for your survival.  I hope I’ve given you some ideas with this writing.  Take a look around, and learn to recognize the resources that are right under your nose.  Take notes.  Plan ahead.  Every town and every situation is different, but I truly believe that every situation offers opportunity for successful foraging in the event of massive depopulation.  Good luck in your own search!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Everyone these days is trying to budget and spend their hard earned money wisely. One place I found that I was able to spend a very limited amount or get items for free is at the local dump. It is a great place to accumulate items you could use in a SHTF situation. This may relate only to individuals living in suburban or city areas. There may be one in your county; it is important to find out if there is. If you have not been to your local recycle center or dump, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Take note that there might be a yearly or daily fee associated with using the dump. If at all possible, research the requirements to use the dump by calling ahead or using the local government web site. The only thing that was required at my local dump was being a resident of the city and to purchase a twenty dollar yearly pass to the recycle center. Dropping off household appliances and tires had extra fees on top of the yearly pass. The pass included free mulch and sometimes top soil.

[JWR Adds: Consult your local laws and landfill rules. Be advised that because of their well-justified fear of liability lawsuits, many municipal dumps and contracted commercial dumps now have "no scavenging" policies.]

There is a social community at the dump and you would never believe it unless you have experienced it. During my time spent as the dump supervisor for my local town, I interacted with many people that were involved with the unique subculture of the recycle center. I would like to give the readers some suggestions what might go a long way in the type of treatment and service you receive. This helps in order to be uninterrupted in gathering items or commodities that will be useful to you. Develop a first name relationship with the attendant or attendants and even patrons. People have developed strong friendships with other individuals and families they have encountered. At your dump there might be a no scavenging policy. I was the type of person to look the other way if I knew you, or you minded your own business. A small act of bringing the recycle center workers a bottle of water or a snack will bring you leniency. The main key is to be discreet and quick. If you see an item that might be useful grab it. Having a hook like tool and small tool box will be something useful to bring with you. That way you can extend your reach into dumpsters and do small disassembles for parts if necessary.

The dump is a great place to find useful items for bartering. I gathered candles, tools, books and anything I figured could be useful in a barter or economic collapse situation. I furnished my first apartment with a lot of things I found. People throw away things still brand new in the box! I once found a $500 coffee machine unopened in the original packaging. Many residents I was friendly with would put in orders with me for items they were looking for and sometimes put up rewards for finding those items. Couples and families would make a routine of showing up and making rounds just to see if they could find anything good or what had value.

Firewood is a sought after commodity by patrons that frequent the local dump. The firewood and yard waste would go into a special area. It either came from residents doing yard work or from the forestry division of the city. It was constantly searched for spring, summer and fall. Residents would brag about how much they saved on their energy bills each month by burning firewood to heat their homes. Gathering firewood for winter was very serious business for many people. I have seen individuals go to such great lengths as to bringing their own chainsaws to make lumber pieces more manageable to carry and load into their vehicles. I often saw people collaborate to help each other. The most common occurrence was residents dropping off wood and another person that wanted the wood would arrange going directly to each other’s home to help each other. In the end both parties received what they wanted while taking less trips to the dump and conserving fuel. I have seen great friendships come about by this practice.

Another thing residents really took advantage of was the recycle center provided mulch. The mulch came from the forestry department composting of trimmings and branches. I have watched families work at least eight hours making trip after trip refilling their buckets with mulch. I was told it works very well for helping growing vegetables in the garden. With your yearly pass you were able to get unlimited amounts of mulch. That is a great deal for someone trying to be frugal with their resources. Besides the two main interest grabbers being the firewood and mulch, there is a lot more things that might be useful in times of uncertainty. There was a section at the dump for dropping off a mixture of rocks, stones, dirt and bricks. A lot of people would pick up rocks and stones and take them home. I could picture someone taking home dirt, stones, and bricks home to set up a nice root cellar. Good dirt would not last long at all at the dump. It would be taken home for a variety of home garden needs. I could also see someone using a mixture of dirt, stones, rocks and bricks to set up defenses around ones property. With these items again, I have seen people communicate interest in what someone is dropping off. They will talk with each other and work out arrangements to cooperate. That is an efficient system for both parties but best for the one picking up the items. That way they don't lose out on anything while they go home to unload to prepare for another run.

There was a special section of dumpsters to recycle lumber. It was great for getting lumber or boards to burn if there was a shortage of firewood. You would be very surprised on the amount of good boards you could find, from hardwoods such as oak or mahogany or softwoods such as pine or cedar. Even treated lumber or press board is easy to find, from 2x4 pieces of lumber to 4x4 pieces. This is a great way to practice and learn woodworking. I knew several people that would use the lumber for all sorts of projects and build different things. One’s imagination is the only limiting factor on what could be built. You might even save up lumber to board up your windows or doors during an emergency situation.

A great thing about the recycle center is the individuals and families. It is a great community to practice on your people interaction skills. This is one of the most important skills you must learn for a SHTF scenario. If you don't know how to interact with all different sorts of individuals, bartering almost seems out of the picture in a severe economic downturn. There were plenty of times where just being friendly and asking politely I received things of value without expecting to give anything in return. I will tell you about a couple examples of my personal experiences but these are just a few instances. A gentleman and I somehow got into a discussion about gardening and he was telling me about all the different types of vegetables he planted for this harvest season. Peppers were a vegetable he mentioned. I asked him if he wouldn't mind bringing some pepper seeds to give to me if he had any extra to spare. He happily obliged and the next trip he made to the dump I was greeted with a friendly smile and a zip lock bag full of pepper seeds. He also gave me a brief explanation of what worked best for him when growing the pepper seeds. There was also plenty of occasions where I would help someone shovel mulch, unload, or just have a pleasant conversation and ask if they wouldn't mind bringing me something to drink next time they came around. Believe it or not I was rarely turned down. Every so often residents even went further, once I was brought muffins and other times different types of snacks. Never be afraid to ask someone a question is one thing I learned. The worst thing someone can say to you after you ask them a question is no. There is an old saying the only stupid question is the one you don't ask. The dump is a great place to meet like minded individuals within your community and practice your communication skills.

After practicing and perfecting your people skills the next thing to work on is bartering. I would often collect lawn mowers and barter them to my supervisor for cash or alcohol. I have found snow blowers and traded them to a friend for cash. A great example of bartering was when I would find coupons and barter them to a friend for scrap metal. Bartering is an everyday occurrence at the recycle center. I have seen people trade different items they have picked often. Maybe one party throws in some dollars or another item to sweeten the deal. Often sometimes it could just be items that one party wants to trade for something that will be more useful to them. There are many more examples of bartering, but you need to get down to our own recycle center and practice. I believe the dump is one of the closest things you can get to a cash limited society.

There are all different types of ways you can practice and learn skills for a survival scenario. One of the best skills to learn and practice is to fix things that are broken. You sometimes will get lucky and find things you can use that are still working and completely functional. Often a small part in something you find useful might be broken. It’s a great skill to practice to take the item home and figure out how it works. Often you can buy replacement parts or even keep your eye out at the dump for another of that same or similar item to find the working part you need. I would often tell people it has a great return policy. Meaning you can take it home hold onto it for awhile and if it doesn't work out the way you wanted and you were unable to repair the item just bring it back to the dump and throw it back out. A huge hit at the recycle center for home repairs were lawn mowers and snow blowers. Handy people would take them home tinker around with them and repair them if possible and sell them.

Another skill worth learning is trying to make money from the items you find at the recycle center. A lot of people I knew would gather enough items of value, fix the ones not working and host a yard sale. Besides gathering items and selling them, there were a lot of people interested in gathering scrap metal. You might get lucky and someone tossed out some copper pipe, old brass faucet, or some Romex wire after doing a remodel. Some people do not know what these materials are worth or they are simply too lazy or don't have enough to make it worth their time. Learn to identify different types of metals and what they are worth. I always carried with me a wire cutter and a magnet to identify different types of metals. A magnet does not stick to copper, brass, or aluminum and those are the three main types of scrap metals you should be interested in. Be careful, it can become an addicting and fun hobby.

Besides all the barter and survival skills you can learn there is another other skill to be learned. The skill that I think everyone should learn is how to be charitable. It’s not a hard thing to learn at the dump when you are looking around. If you see an item say you might not want or could use but you know a friend could use take it and give it to them. I knew a lot of people what would stay on the lookout for items that they could give to their church to help others. I knew a father and son what would look for lightly used mattresses for women that were less fortunate. Those are just some of the instances what I have witnessed. Being charitable is also a great way to help others and reduce what goes into the landfill. Its great seeing people find useful items that find a new purpose with someone instead of being destroyed and never used again.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Describing how teenagers can contribute to and have the right attitude for family prepping. (Written by a teenager for teenagers.)
As a teenage prepper my top priority is making sure my family and I will survive a natural or man-made disaster, and prepping is how I do that. Prepping is a family affair around my house, each of us have our items or category (medical, food, garden, hunting, etc) that we are responsible for prepping and stocking up and we carry-out that responsibility to the fullest. If one of us doesn't do our job, in an TEOTWAWKI situation, it could cost us our lives. So in this article I am going to tell you what this teenager does and give some advice of what my fellow teenagers can do to contribute to your or your family's prepping.

Note: An important phrase I will use often throughout this article is "two is one and one is none". That phrase means that whatever you have, it is best to have two, rather than one, of that item. If you run out of or break one thing, whether it be a fire starter, a baby bottle, a shovel, or a gun, you will have a back up, if you have two. If you only have one of that item and that one item breaks, then it could mean your or your family's safety. So, remember: two is one and one is none.

Though humans can go for weeks without food and still survive, I don't want to think that my family and I might go hungry, so I'll start with how my family and I prep food.

A garden is the best and cheapest thing to have to preserve your own food and though it may be a little more work, it's worth it. My mom loves to can. She would be canning all day everyday if she had the time and food. It's a lot of work for just one person, so that's where I come in. When many people think of themselves canning some may say, "Oh, I could never do something that difficult!" or "Oh, isn't that dangerous?". Everyone knows someone that has had some sort of traumatic experience with a pressure canner. Believe me, we've heard the stories. Actually it isn't all that difficult, just time consuming. And it isn't all that dangerous if you follow instructions or get someone that is experienced in canning to "show you the ropes". Canning is almost as simple as making a stew. Chop your vegetables (or meat, whatever you are canning) and put them in a jar, fill the jar with water, add a little salt, put them in the canner and "cook" them. Now, don't go in there and do exactly what I just said, there are a few more steps than just that, but that's how you do it in a nut shell. Vegetables and meat aren't the only things we can; you can put up meat, fruit, jams and jellies, pasta sauces, soups and chili, and so much more. And, whatever you can/preserve will last a long time. How awesome is that? We love to can soups and chili because that's a complete meal in just one jar. If you have 365 jars of soup then you have got yourself one meal a day for a year! In a disaster situation, one meal will be like gold!

Now if canning still makes you a bit nervous, fear not, for there are others options. Store-bought food. My mom and I are always looking for food sales and when we find them, we rack up on whatever is on sale. Whether it be green beans, juice, chicken noodle soup or ramen noodles, it's all 'prep-able', as I say. Store-bought food is ideal for stocking since it isn't easily damaged, where home-canned food jars can break. We are friends with the owners of our local Butcher's Shop. Normally, when their meat is nearing the expiration date, they will put it straight into the freezer to take home for themselves. He sells us that meat for half price. We go every so often to buy up as much as we can afford then we bring it home to can it.

Did you know you can also stock up on things such as crackers, coconut, cereal, chocolate chips and other dry foods that you might think would go stale or dry out? Yeah! We use a FoodSaver with a mason jar attachment. Just stick the food into a mason jar and put a flat on it, then put the jar sealer attachment on the jar and press down on the machine as if you were vacuum sealing a bag of food, and wa la! The jar sealer vacuums out all the air, making it last a very long time. We have eaten cereal and crackers recently that we sealed a very long time ago and it was all still as crispy and fresh as the day we bought them.

Inventory, Rotating, & Hiding
When prepping, inventory, rotating, and hiding is one of the most important things for our family. Inventory is important because you want to know how much of everything you have and what you need. My mom and I are usually the ones who inventory all our stock, and we do it every few weeks. Any time we buy something new to add or take something out, we make sure to mark it down. We have a couple folders and notebooks designated especially for our prepping inventory. To make the job easier for the next time we do inventory, once we have inventoried something, we use a marker to make a mark on the label or top of the can/box, so the next time we take inventory, if there isn't a highlighter mark, we know we missed that one. We also write the dates on all our food, then rotate them every so often. You always want the oldest food in the front, to use up first, even with your home-canned food. It's my and my brother's job to find hiding places for our stock stuff. It's crazy some of the places that you can find to store your stock. When finding a place to store/hide your home-canned stock food you want to make sure it's a cool dark place. In the basement, in the closet, under the beds, places that don't get too hot or too cold. I know from experience that if your home-canned food gets too hot, it will unseal, if it gets too cold, it will burst. When it comes to storing/hiding non-food items, it's not so difficult. Medical supplies, hygiene items, and clothes don't have to have such care. As long as they are out of the weather and sealed to keep out moth, pretty much any where is a good place. Under the bed, top of the closet, etc. Secret hiding places around your house that only you and your family know of are ideal.

Make a Food Chart
It's a great idea to make a chart of how much food your family eats in a year. Calculating how many meals of what you want to stock up on. How many seasoning packets, how many packs of crackers, how many jars of cereal, or how many jars of tomatoes you will need. Our family has a list of several of our favorite meals that we want to have in a disaster situation. Just say you are trying to store enough food for one year and you want to have the same meal once a week for that year. Start out by making a list of everything that goes into prepping that meal. Include everything down to the seasonings. Then buy 52 of those items. Our family of four (two adults and two teens) can eat one box of spaghetti with one quart jar of sauce per dinner. That means we vacuum sealed at least 52 quarts of spaghetti noodles and canned at least 52 quarts of sauce. We also have 52 packs of seasoning sauce (Save-a-Lot food store 3/$1.00). So you would do that with each meal you want to have. You get the idea.

"Two-thirds of the human body (by weight) consists of water. Humans need water for circulation, respiration, and converting food to energy. After oxygen, water is the body’s most important nutrient. Quite simply, you need water to live. Your body loses water constantly through sweat, urine, and even breathing. You must replace the water your body loses for your organs to continue to work properly. Dehydration occurs when your body doesn’t have enough water, because you’re losing more water than you’re taking in. In extreme heat, an adult can lose almost half-a-gallon of water through sweat alone. Without water, dehydration can set in within an hour in severe heat. The combination of physical overexertion and extreme heat — without water — can lead to death in as little as several hours. Surprisingly, it’s also easy to become dehydrated in very cold environments. Since cold air cannot hold much moisture, it dehydrates your body with every breath you take. Even if you aren’t sweating, you still need to replenish fluids even in cold weather. So how long can you survive without water? Humans in average shape and perfect conditions (not too hot or cold) can probably live for three to five days without any water if they’re not physically exerting themselves. Healthier people can live a day or so longer, while those who are unhealthy or exposed to particularly hot or cold weather may not survive as long. To stay healthy, you need to continually replenish your fluid supply. Experts recommend drinking approximately two quarts (64 ounces) of water each day. Of course, if you live in an extremely hot or cold area — or if you exercise a lot — you may need to drink a gallon or more of water every day. See: How Much Water Do You Need To Survive?

So as you can see from the excerpt above, we must have water! So let's talking about stocking some water. If you are like my family and don't have access to a working well then you can stock water by buying bottled water or you can even bottle your own. We use milk jugs and 2-liter bottles. Large drums are often used (you can see one in the tv show "Doomsday Castle: Water From a Rock"). A Berkey would be a wise investment if you can afford one. One reason we love the Berkey is that no matter where we have to get our water, we can always have clean and clear water to consume. GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) and water purification tablets are good to have to purify water that you aren't sure is safe to drink. We have both GSE and the tablets, that way if we run out of one we still have the other. Remember: two is one and one is none.

When it's time for our weekly shopping trip, it's a family affair. We all load up and head to town. We each have our list of things we are responsible for prepping so when we go into a store or stop at a yard sale, we scatter to all different directions looking for the items on our list. Some things must be bought brand new, but not all things. What do I mean by that? Things such as clothes, shoes, garden tools, sometimes even guns that have been taken care of, a good EDC bag, and so much more can be bought at places like the thrift store, yard sales or garage sales. Would you buy used guns? Yes, we have before. Most times it's elderly people or ex-military who sale them at garage sales and they have been well taken care of. Most often we can buy them for less than what you would pay for them buying it brand new, but remember: two is one and one is none.

When most people think of prepping they think physical items (i.e. water, food, clothing, guns, ammo, etc), but we have to not only prep those things, we must also prepare ourselves. In an TEOTWAWKI situation we will not have access to things like in normal days. Clothing stores, hospitals, etc. So we must learn how to do these things.

Medical Needs
In disaster days we will most likely not have access to a hospital. If you or a family member were to injure yourself you would need to know how to tend to the wound (as in the book "Patriots" by James Wesley Rawles). You would need to stock up on the material needed to tend to injuries, such as: gauze, bandages, pain medication, suture kit, etc. Sanitary napkins are a great absorbers for blood and would be perfect for serious injuries that need something to stop the blood flow. You don't have to become a nurse or doctor, but if you know someone or have a family member who is in the medical profession if would be a good idea to asked him/her to show you basic first aid, how to suture, perform CPR, how to stop bleeding, etc. My mom's brother is a doctor and we have asked him to show us many things that we would need to know. I am also training to become a midwife, so we know (and are learning) what to do with most injuries and child-birth. Most times you can't just go out and buy pain medications or antibiotics unless you have a prescription for them. So how will you stock the medicine needed? If you have medicine left over from the last time you were sick don't just leave it or throw it away, stock it! Natural medicines such as Essential Oils and Herbs are also wonderful medicines. I know from experience that most times they work just as well if not better than man-made medications. It wouldn't be bad to have both herbs and man made medicines. Remember: two is one and one is none. You can find herbs growing just about anywhere, so study up on your naturals medicines so that you know what to get when you need it.

Know How to Handle a Gun
It is very important, especially for us ladies, to know how to handle a gun. In James Wesley Rawles' novels "Patriots" and "Survivors" all the women knew how to handle a gun and if they didn't, they had to learn. We must be comfortable enough around them and know enough about them to be able to shoot them when we need to. You should learn how to handle, care for, load and shoot a gun. One day your life (or someone else's) may depend on it, whether it be for the use of self-defense, protection for your family or to protect your food. Don't be afraid of the gun, but give it the respect it needs. Once you know how to safely handle and care for a gun, you can show others how to as well.

Physically and Mentally Fit
Yes, we must be prepared with our stock items, but we must also prepare our bodies by getting fit, mentally and physically. You never know when you will have to bug-out and carry a heavy BOB or run for a while. You don't want to be caught or slow others down because you can't keep up. While our bodies must be fit we must also prepare our minds. We must have the Prepper's mind-set. Why do we prepare? Because we know something is going to happen and we want to be ready for it in every way. If the crap hits the fan and we blow our top freaking out like everyone around us, that will just get you lost or killed. You have more of a chance of survival if you keep a cool, calm, and collected head on you. Remember, you knew it was going to happen, so why freak out? When you stay calm, you can keep the others around you calm. There should always be one person who knows what to do, so why not let that person be you?

Soap and Body Care Products
So now that you have your water stocked and you can shower and wash clothes you need soap, right? Of course you can always buy soap to stock but what if that's something you forgot or you run out? So what do you do? You make your own. We absolutely love to make soaps and body-care products. Laundry soap can be made from things around your house such as bar soap, borax and baking soda (see the article in SurvivalBlog by J.D.C. in Mississippi that gives very clear instructions on how to make laundry soap. You can also make your own body soap, conditioner, shampoo, lotion, etc. They are so easy and such fun to make. All these things can be made with one person or many! There are millions of tutorials and recipes all over the internet and YouTube. All you have to do is pick one out and go make it! It can be much cheaper, a lot of fun, and it's healthier for you! We recently made another batch of soap that made 30 bars. It cost us only about $5! I don't know of anywhere you can buy homemade healthy soap at that price. Don't forget to stock up on lye. We buy ours very cheap from an Amish friend ($11/gallon).

Knitting, Crocheting, and Sewing Your Own Clothes
I love to knit, crochet and sew in my spare time. It's so easy and a lot of fun. You can find the materials needed at most any store and often at yard sales, thrift store, and sometimes people even give the stuff away. As long as you know the basic stitches and have the concept of how to do it, you can make most anything. During winter time blankets, hats, mittens, and scarves are a must. You can make all those things, you just have to have the some yarn, a crocheting hook and know how. It can sometimes be much cheaper as well. And it help pass the time away when there is nothing else to do (wink).

(Ladies) Prepping for the Monthly Cycle
I know many of us ladies including myself have, at some point in time, wondered what we will do when that monthly visitor arrives in a disaster situation. So what do you do? You stock some! When you have a little extra cash, buy an extra pack of your preferred item. But what about when you run out? You can make your own. I know what you are thinking, gross, right? Well, when the world is in a chaotic state and you run out, those homemade sanitary napkins are gonna look pretty darn good. They are much more sanitary than one might think. They are reusable and last years so you wouldn't need many. There are so many different styles, patterns, and materials out there all you have to do is pick one. I have made them before and they are very easy to make at home or you can buy them yourselves (the most popular ones you can buy are Luna-Pads). You can try out different ones now so that you will know what will work best for you when the times comes that you need them.

Hard Copy
Last, I want to mention something our family is working on full-time. There are tons of tutorials online in the form of video, pictures, or text. However, when we have no electricity none of it will be accessible. Now is the time to get all the the tutorial, instructions, recipes, etc printed out and neatly organized into a binder. Every time the family gives a "thumbs up" to a new recipe my mom or I try, two copies are printed or written in a binder that moment. No waiting. Remember: two is one and one is none. One important bit of information we have printed and filed is a conversion chart. It has everything from weights and measures to equivalents to substitutions. Although we copied this from a very old cookbook, I'm sure all of this information is online as well. Check out: Cooking Resources: Cooking Measurement Conversion, Ingredient Substitution, and More.
So there you have it, the answer to the question "How Can Teens Contribute?" Prepping can be a lot of fun especially when you get the whole family involved. When you are a prepper and have the mind-set of a prepper it will encourage others around you to get ready for whatever disaster may happen. I hope that you, my fellow teens, have learned something from this and have been encouraged.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hi Jim,
I love SurvivalBlog! I have a question: I would like to store whiskey for bartering in SHTF. I thought of taking empty 187 ML (about 6 oz) wine bottles with screw caps, washing them, refilling with whiskey, placing a short wine cork in top, then screw cap, then wrap in Saran wrap to limit evaporation loss. I would then label bottles with content and date, and store for SHTF. How does this sound to you? Thanks, - Tom R.

JWR Replies: While I don't approve of bartering whiskey, I must concede that many folks do see some utility in it. So, if you feel you must:

In my estimation, saving on the per-unit cost by buying booze in large containers and re-packaging it is false economy. Two of the keys to successful bartering are trustworthiness and readily recognizable products.  You are far better off buying middle-grade American name brand whiskey (such as Jim Beam or Jack Daniels) in the distillery's small, sealed single-serving 50 ML commercial airline vending bottles. These will likely be well-known and hence trusted by your customers.  These filled bottles are available in bulk from distributors, or you can watch for sales at local liquor stores. To extend their shelf life, you can dip the bottle tops in paraffin.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Although I’m sure far wiser people than I have said it before, I certainly subscribe to the notion that prepping is a road, not a destination.  In other words, although the pace may vary, I’m continually prepping and always will be.  Possible exceptions to this rule, to one degree or another, are the folks who have the means to simply take one of the “list of lists” available and write a big check to cover virtually all of their needs, but even that will require some ongoing maintenance.  I am certainly not in that camp and I think it’s clear that most other people are also not in that camp.  So for those of us who have to move in a more incremental fashion, I submit what I call the cycle of prepping.  For people who are just starting their prepping journey, getting started can be a daunting task and I believe this approach helps to chip away at the mountain that prepping is.  I’d imagine others have come up with similar philosophies, I certainly don’t claim to be the first, but this is my take and my approach.

My “road” of prepping is not a straight road where each priority is taken care of completely before moving down the road to the next.  My road is a loop that I go around and around, addressing each of my priorities bit by bit.  I take this approach because I want to have some of everything rather than all of only some things.  In other words, I don’t want to get totally squared away on one priority before even addressing other priorities at all.  This may not be that important if I knew how much time I had before I’ll need my preps, but I have yet to find a reliable crystal ball, so just in case I need my preps tomorrow, I want to make sure I have, at least, the basics of each of my priorities.

I’m using the rather general term “priority” to describe the various types of preps, and although I will use more specific examples of priorities below, your priorities may, and likely will, be different.  It is not the point of this essay to espouse the relative importance of any priority, general or specific, each of us must decide that for ourselves, it is simply a framework for addressing your priorities, whatever they may be.

For this example I will use three tiers of priorities, the first very general, the second more specific and so on.  You can add additional tiers or rearrange these as you like, remember, this is only a framework, use it with your specific situation in mind to come up with the final result.  For this example, tier one priorities are:

  • Shelter
  • Sustenance
  • Security
  • Other

If we apply the cycle paradigm to this list, we would procure some of our Sustenance priorities, then when able, acquire or enhance some of our Shelter-related priorities, then address some of our security priorities and finally some other priorities which will bring us back to Sustenance.

Adding in the second and third tiers of priorities might look something like this:

  • Shelter
    • Primary House
      • Heat/Fire
      • Waste Management
    • Retreat
  • Sustenance
    • Water
      • Backup Well Pump
      • Rain Water Collection
    • Food
      • MREs
      • Freeze-dried Food
      • Bulk Staples (rice, wheat, etc.)
  • Security
    • Firearms
      • Battle Rifle
      • Shotgun
      • Handgun
    • Ammunition
      • Caliber 1 (depending on weapons choices above)
      • Etc.
    • Edged Weapons
      • Combat Knife
      • Utility Knife
  • Other
    • Medical
      • First Aid Kit
      • Reference Books
    • G.O.O.D. Bag
    • Communications
    • Books

It is important to note that your specific version of this list will grow as you iterate through it.  Do not try to make the perfect list before taking action.  You risk paralysis by analysis and other potentially disastrous delays.  Get your top 2-3 tiers roughed out and get moving.  As time goes by, the list will flesh itself out.  Be flexible!  Don’t be afraid to add items to tier levels, for example, you may want your G.O.O.D. Bag(s) to be a tier one priority.  Everyone is different based on many factors such as where you live, how many (if any) dependants you have and what you believe to be the major threats or causes of a collapse.  Some priorities may be hit multiple times such as ammunition.  You may purchase some of the same type for multiple cycles, which is fine, or you may skip something in a cycle which is also fine.  In each cycle, when you arrive at a given priority, you simply have to decide what is most important at that time.

The important thing to remember about this approach is the cycle.  Marshal your resources and keep your iterations tight.  You will see progress and that can be very motivational, keeping you going for more cycles to come.

The information above covers the theory, now I will run through several iterations that are loosely based on my situation.  I’ll stress once again that your situation and priorities will be different, this is done to illustrate how to take the framework and overlay one possible set of specifics on top of it to achieve a result.

I am a mid-40’s single parent of a pre-teen son.  Although, as you will see, I have several other possible dependents, my son and I are absolute so my preps focus one the two of us.

Iteration #1:

  • Shelter - I’ve owned my own home in a rural/suburban area for many years.  It is not the ideal house/location, but I’ve deemed it serviceable (at least with a few upgrades) so that is where my Shelter priorities started.  One of the hard limits I had for my home with regard to it’s post-collapse viability is having it’s own well and septic system and my first priority was making sure I could use both regardless of the situation.  To this end I purchased a hand pump for the well and had it plumbed right into the system allowing my to pressurize my system by hand.  This went a long way to addressing both my water and waste removal priorities.
  • Sustenance – Luckily for me, the well modifications above also helped address my needs for water as it relates to sustenance (drinking and cooking) so for this iteration I usually make a trip to a big box for food or if I have the money, order some freeze-dried storage food.
  • Security – Firearms and ammunition for my son and I are the top priorities for each of these iterations.  For the first iteration, the purchase of one of my chosen battle rifles (with several, but not enough, magazines) was made.
  • Other – Although bugging out is something I hope to never have to do and won’t do unless absolutely every other option has been exhausted, I certainly didn’t want to be unprepared for that possibility so getting our G.O.O.D. bags squared away was at the top of the list.  For my first iteration, I bought ALICE packs for both of us.

It is worth emphasizing again that you can and should be flexible with this framework.  For example, when I bought our packs, I also bought a bunch of first aid-type supplies.  If you’re in a given priority and are not ready to move to the next, don’t.  Get that priority to a point you’re happy with and then move on.  This is especially applicable in early iterations when you need many things.  Later in the process, more and more basic needs will be fulfilled and you will be able to do fine tuning.

Iteration #2:

  • Shelter – I have shelter, the means to relieve myself and water for cooking, drinking and bathing.  Granted, bathing with cold water would suck, but if it came to that, I doubt there would be many complaints.  So now if came to heat.  For this I bought a wood-burning stove with both a cook-top and small oven.  I would’ve settled for just the wood-burner for heat, but was fortunate to be in a position (after selling some collectible I had) to spend the extra money for a stove that provided the extra bonus of being able to contribute to food preparation.  It is worth noting at this point that you can do some things in parallel.  For example, during this time, some friends and I were acquiring firewood (traded for the labor of felling and cutting up the trees in question).
  • Sustenance – Again here I looked at my current stock and compared it to my “sub” priorities under Sustenance and simply acquired this next items on my list.
  • Security – Again I just looked at what I had, what I needed and decided what I thought was the next most important need.  Perhaps the shotgun or the sidearm.  For some it may be additional ammunition or magazines.
  • Other – Early iterations of this priority were focused on our packs and other medical/first aid supplies.

By now you should have the idea as well as an estimation of whether or not this approach will work for you.  Finally, just a word on later iterations; even though I feel I have many basic needs addressed, I have never even come close to feeling done or “ready”.  My current iterations consist of adding to my consumables (food, ammunition, etc.) along with starting to prepare for some of my potential dependents.  My parents are in their 70s and although they are very good at keeping some extra food around, they do not have the means to do what I’d consider serious prepping.  I take this possibility seriously and my current iterations reflect the eventuality of having to care for them post-collapse.

My final point will be to, once again, stress the nature of this approach as a framework.  Apply your specifics to it in order to obtain the desired result.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Your mention of Zus Bielski's birthday and the film Defiance. (and the book upon which it is based) brought to mind an excellent 90-minute documentary by PBS, "Resistance: Untold Stories of Jewish Partisans," produced in 2001. It is available online at Vimeo.  (or from PBS Home Video on DVD)

It includes interviews with many partisans among them Aron Bielski, the youngest of the brothers (still living). After more than half a century since the holocaust, the myth still persists that all of the Jews just walked peacefully to their deaths at the hands of the Nazis.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  More than 20,000 Jews fought the Nazis as partisans. In this group memoir, eleven men and women, now in their 70s and 80s, recount their battle against the Nazis in Poland, Lithuania, and Belorussia from 1941 to 1945. They chronicle their battle for survival, the almost insolvable dilemmas facing Jewish partisans (provisions, weapons, and prejudice) and the emotional aftermath of war. This is among the best documentaries of their story that I have seen. - Dollardog

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I follow you via RSS and have purchases your past archives from Amazon. Following the advice in your blog, I just got done on purchasing some gluten free meal kits. I find it amazing they have these for people with food allergies and yet at rock bottom prices (even with the non-member surcharge.)

I will sleep much better at night for my wife, 17 month old daughter and myself.

God Bless you and thank you for your wealth of resources!

Thanks! - Andy P.

JWR Replies: As I highlighted in the Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course, shopping at Big Box stores like COSTCO is one of the most time-efficient and cost-effective ways to stock up on staple foods. I still highly recommend that. Notably, in recent years, COSTCO has expanded their line to include some specialized long term storage foods in large #10 cans. And, as you mentioned it is great to see that they offer food that are guaranteed to be gluten free. These changes have made a good thing even better

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

As I imagine many of the readers on this site, I once found myself somewhat isolated in my prepping, embarrassed to let on to how I felt, why I prep, et cetera . My family is very close, very involved in each others lives, and I couldn't imagine or want it any different. My entry into this contest will be an explanatory background on myself and my preps, followed by a realistic guideline on how to "save the ones that matter" to you; or at least, my means of doing so.

I am a young, 30 year old father of an angelic two year old girl, with another child on the way (another motivator and complication to my prepping). My background was in the Finance/Insurance arena for years until I decided to open my own business in a different industry. One could say I am living the "American Dream," or at least, what it used to be - the house, two new cars, kids, a savings account, investments, hobbies, etc. It wasn't until about two years ago that a very close uncle got me back into coin collecting that my investment-guided mind started seeing the patterns and benefits of gold and silver and their true role as a store of wealth. With any worthwhile research, one will slowly find the fringe reasoning behind seeking metals as an investment, which I did....and then I continued reading. Quickly I began seeing through some of the fog that has been lowered over our field of view and the implications of where our current financial and economic status indicates we are...and it doesn't look good. I found myself up every night until 2 a.m. reading endlessly over conspiracy theories and radical ideas. Granted, I took everything with a grain of salt but I definitely had come to one conclusion; the system was hanging by a thread that seemed to be about to snap. Being naive and having a biased financial background, I started converting many of my liquid investments to silver and gold.

I was able to conceal this for awhile, or rather - felt I had to, however, eventually, my wife confronted me about the slowly growing clutter in our home safe. So one night, after she got home from work, I sat her down and had a very serious talk with her, something I am usually never the one to initiate or request. The last time I had done this was in 2011 after we had been burglarized and I told her that I needed her to swallow her distaste for firearms because this had been the last straw, and we were both getting sidearms, and a rifle. That was no easy battle and it was only when I had put it in black and white: "What if you had been at home with our infant daughter when they kicked in the door?" that she saw the light. And we did it responsibly, which I knew was important to her. We had my father, an ex-police officer, and highly successful/responsible/moral man, sit down and drill us together (even though I had grown up with his guns and his rules) on how to operate, use and maintain our firearms. We went to the range together many times and enjoyed ourselves finding a new and fun way to compete with one another.

But prepping is so much more than guns and silver. I remember one night reading something that said "you cannot eat your gold". This really stuck with me. I had focused so much of my time on first acquiring ounces and ounces of precious metals, followed by boxes and boxes of ammo. It was if I could see myself in a post apocalyptic world looking like Rambo, AR-15 in one arm, sack full of gold and silver in the other with my wife and child huddled behind me as I kept the roaming MZBs at bay (those are Mutant Zombie Bikers if you haven't read the novel Lights Out by David Crawford). So unrealistic. You cannot do it alone. (That is an idea we will come back to later.) But yet, so common amongst today's preppers. I would bet that most preppers, or rather, people that consider themselves preppers, follow the same misguided purchasing patterns that I did with silver and weapons first. This is the turning point that I consider when I really started to get serious about prepping.

It was also around this time that my wife started asking about some charges to our debit card, some high dollar amounts at Wal-Mart, some Army Navy Surplus store charges, etc. Purchases outside our norm. I did not want to start a fight with my wife, but if I had it my way, I would go out and spend $20-30k on what I would consider necessary preparations; she would go out and hire a divorce attorney. So we sat down and came up with an acceptable budget. I highly suggest that you do the same. But before you do, make visible sacrifices to your spending habits so that your significant-other/family can see your dedication and how important it is to you.

This whole time, my wife was slowly paying attention to my behavior. Rather than going golfing on the weekends, I was going to the target range instead with the husband of her friend. Instead of buying new business clothes or styles, I was purchasing quality boots, outdoor clothing, etc. Then, one day I came home and one of the huge plastic tubs in our garage was in the family room and had been emptied onto the floor. My wife had this look on her face like "What the ---- is wrong with you??" This particular bin had all of our clothing and footwear in it. All sealed in plastic. She was upset. "Why did you buy all of this stuff you haven't even used it" followed by "How much did all of this cost?" So we talked for awhile about it. I explained to her that I have a life insurance policy for the dreaded "what if" contingency. This was life insurance, but the real kind; to keep our life intact. I explained that rather than having all of my life insurance in the highest premium category known as "Whole Life", that we had diversified some of it into "Term Life"...that this was a tradeoff between the investment value of Whole Life and the extremely high premium it requires, all while still maintaining the level of insurance we require with a combination of "Whole Life" and "Term". This made sense to her. So I further explained that I keep these all terrain boots, all weather clothing, rain suits, etc in here for the very same reason. Eventually, she calmed down, and laughed that I had picked the right size for her by going through all of her shoes in the closet and guesstimating her size.

At this point, I had a pretty solid foundation of the essentials. I had food, water, shelter, fuel and security all set and ready to go in our closet and garage. All we had to do in the event of an emergency was throw all of the giant storage bins, our BOBs, 5-Gallon water jugs and fuel cans into the SUV and we could go 1,200 miles in any direction. I had even done a practice drill once while she was out shopping with our princess to see how fast I could do it alone. I even figured out a way to "Tetris" everything as efficiently as possible into the vehicle while not being able to see much from outside the vehicle. I was impressed; I could be loaded and ready to go in 15 minutes - alone. And that was when it hit me: Where am I going and what am I going to do when I get there? That brings me to what I call "Level 2" of preparing.

Ensuring that you can initially survive a disaster is a huge first step. Up to this point, I was positive I could sustain my wife and child for a month comfortably even if we had to drive out into some remote forest and live out of the SUV and tent. That was when I read the novel Patriots. That was when I realized you cannot do it alone no matter how well you prepare, no matter how much money you throw at preps. Every man needs to sleep and who is going to guard my queen and princess while I am sleeping. Where is the cross fields of fire going to come from with one inexperienced man defending his family who is probably wetting his pants in the heat of his first battle? It was time to reach out. So enter Level 3:

The first logical choice was my father. Understand one thing about him; he is the guy everyone in the neighborhood is friends with, the guy everyone calls when they need help, and a "guys guy". Everyone I know respects him. He owns his own company, so he has a lot of spare time and usually spends it helping people. Fixing things. Driving people to doctors appointments. Babysitting my princess when I have to run out for my company. I grew up with him coaching every sports team I was on, shooting, be honest, I couldn't have been luckier. So when the day came and I showed him all of my preps, I wasn't prepared for his reaction which was "Buddy, is all this necessary? Do you really want to live in a world where you have a weekly gunfight just to defend your garden from poachers?" This hit me really hard. All I could think was that my dad thought I was crazy, and worse, that he would be one of the people to just lay down and die. So I kind of dropped it for awhile and didn't mention this to any more family members for months.

Randomly one day, my father asked if I had any good books to read. I mentioned that I had a book on my tablet, "Lights Out," if he wanted to borrow it. So I gave it to him and crossed my fingers. A few days later, my dad called me and had a little spunk in his voice. He loved it. I mentioned that I had another as well, called "Patriots" by none other than JWR. He read it in two days.

On Monday mornings, my father comes to pick up my daughter and it is the one day a week I go out to my accounts and put an eye on site. The Monday following him finishing "Patriots" he knocked on my door like normal at 7:30am to pick up the princess. As I was walking to the front door, I noticed I didn't hear the car running like normal. When I opened it, he greeted me, and walked in. He played with my daughter for awhile but I could tell something was up. Usually he just scooped her so I could get on the road, and my wife, sister, her fiancee and I all meet up for dinner at his house and after we take our daughter home with us. Eventually he says "Hey bud, I know why you gave me those 2 books, I feel like you are trying to tell me something."

I didn't know what to think. So I started by asking him if he would just give up if the SHTF. He laughed. He then went on to explain to me how he had reacted that way months ago because he didn't want me obsessing and worrying about TEOTWAWKI, but at the same time, it has stuck in his head. After reading those 2 books he said he saw how realistic a disaster could be, and how close to a meltdown our country was...and....what was my motivation for making him read those specific two books? So I went on to explain my concerns, my preparations, etc.

It was at this moment that my father blew my mind. Remember, I was in Finance for five years. I wrote every policy, investment, etc that he owned; he trusted me that I knew what I was doing. And on a side note, I did well. He asked if I remembered about that piece of property him and my mother had purchased years ago in the mountains. My eyes almost popped out of my head. I don't know how I hadn't remembered it. It was just property, no structures. He then went on to tell me how it was a dream of his to build a cabin there, and use it as a vacation home in his retirement and to one day leave it to me. My head started racing with ideas, building plans, farming plans, security measures, and so on, it all started flying out of my mouth a mile a minute. He put his hand on my knee and said, "Buddy, we have some work to do, I didn't realize how much this meant to you, why don't we spend today putting a plan into place?"

So we did. I called my partner (my soon to be brother in law and sisters fiancee) and asked if he would mind making the rounds today and that I would see him tonight at dinner. He said no problem. We sat in my family room with a composition book until 5 pm. We hammered it all out. From immediate BOBs for everyone, to a short term "bug in" plan, to our long term disaster plan. We talked about building a cabin on the land, and even splitting the costs. We talked about who else we needed. Our immediate family was a given: myself, my pregnant wife, our daughter, my sister, her fiancee, him, my mother...and then we stopped. W e needed skills, or rather, people with skills . My partner's (my sisters fiancee) sister and husband came to mind. He was ex-military, and is now part of an undercover drug force,  and known to be a little bit of a gun guy. I figured he at the least could assist with security. My father was an ex-police officer but also has serious mechanic skills rebuilding muscle cars. I am an electronic tinkerer. One major gap we had was medical and farming. A very good family friend of  my wife and her husband were immediate choices. He is an ER nurse and she teaches Botany at the state college. The funny part was, he happened to be the only person in the last two years I ever really talked about prepping with, went shooting with, and we saw eye to eye on everything, and they had a daughter that our daughter played with frequently. It was all coming together. We just had to get everyone on board. I suggested to my father that he be the one to present it at dinner as everyone listened to him.

That night, we all met for dinner. About halfway through, my sisters fiancee asked if I was feeling ok. Everyone looked at me as if thinking "what is he talking about???" I started cracking up laughing. Here is where my dad stepped in and discussed with everyone what we had been doing all day.

Amazingly, everyone was on board. Initially my mother and sister thought we were a little crazy, but eventually agreed that this was necessary and a good idea. We even worked out a budget to start building on the land. My parents handled the initial chunk to break ground and my sister and I each contribute monthly. Over the next few days, we approached my partners sister and husband, as well as my wife and I's couple friend. They were all into it as well.

Since then, we have gone on three of what we call "prepper" weekend camping trips. One was for seven nights, and all 10 adults and five children came at once. It was amazing. We had itineraries where each day, each couple was responsible for teaching a "class," and if you didn't have a TEOTWAWKI skill to teach, then they either had to learn one very quickly and thoroughly to teach to the others, or were responsible for cooking all 3 meals that day (which my mother ended up doing anyway). My wife and I's couple friends ended up doing 2; one in treating traumatic injuries and another on basic planting/harvesting skills. My sister, of all people, taught us how to process a squirrel and a fish.

Since then, we all frequently communicate in what we call "The E-Mail Chain". Whenever someone comes across something relevant, we "CC" everyone in our group. Whether it be something in the news, a group supply idea that we will all split (and the resulting debates, ha-ha-ha) or people we are considering inviting. We rotate printing hard copies of valuable handbooks and "how-to" guides that we store with our supplies.

We have gotten a lot accomplished so far and I am proud and impressed at everyone's contributions. And to think, none of this possibly could have come to fruition if I hadn't just spoken about it, and about how important it was to those around me that they understand and get involved. That initial dinner was in August of 2012.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hello Mr. Rawles,
Just a note of thanks to you and your site for leading me to Todd Savage at Survival Retreat Consulting (SRC.)

I read your novel Patriots and that gave me the incentive I needed to pursue a retreat for my family.  I researched the means available to obtain my retreat and that included SRC's ad on your site.  I was impressed with Todd's well thought out process and the advantage that his own experience in making the journey with his own family brought to the process.  With your recommendation as a tail wind, I hired Todd and I can truly say it was one of the best decisions I have made.
Thanks to Todd's diligent efforts, my family now has a retreat in the American Redoubt that is custom-tailored to my family's needs.  But beyond the just the property search itself [which included hours and hours of his videotaping], Todd then introduced me to competent and trustworthy people to assist us with all of our retreat needs [from solar energy providers, electricians, IT specialists, nurseries and pond excavators to name a few.]  His wife met with my wife and was kind enough to answer all of her questions from wood cook stoves to organic gardening and pest control.  To top it off, our families gathered for our first American Redoubt barbecue.
Kudos to Todd Savage at Survival Retreat Consulting and kudos to you, Mr. Rawles, for your selection of an excellent site sponsor. - Tom  X. (Formerly of California)

JWR Replies: I do indeed recommend Todd's services. Readers might be interested in Todd's new affiliated real estate agency:

Friday, September 20, 2013

I couldn’t agree more with the article written by T.Z. regarding prioritized prepping. Many of us lack the needed organization and discipline to distribute our prepping budget evenly between the different survival categories and instead succumb to impulse buys – more ammo, more guns, more dried food, more camping gear. While stocking up on non-perishable supplies that will always have some use may seem like a good idea, what good are 50,000 rounds of ammo if your only water filter just broke, or you ran out of oil for your two-stroke chain saw?

My way of managing these impulse buys is with a plan – a comprehensive list of all gear and supplies needed for various situations, used to ensure every critical survival category is somewhat covered. I document any item me and my family consume on regular basis, as well as needed items for bug-in, bug-out and loss of civilization amenities may require. Following the familiar principals of redundancy I am constantly updating a prioritized list of supplies and equipment that I already acquired and items to be acquired. The lists, or rather “lists” document several things:

Inventory of perishable items – non-long-term food supplies (content of my pantry mostly), toiletries and household items, with expiration dates of items where applicable – this list is also synchronized with my mobile device and serves as a useful shopping list when visiting Wal-Mart/costco and the likes. This is the list hardest to keep updated but an hour a month usually keeps it in decent shape.

Comprehensive gear and equipment list – non-perishable items, every equipment and supply purchase in various categories, covering tools, shelter, water treatment and storage, fire making, portable cooking, communication and many others. This list helps with packing for various scenarios, as well as a reminder of what you already bought (how many emergency candles do I have ? Oh, I forgot I bought a case of 24 100-hour candles on sale last year).

Medical supplies – earned its own list with both non-perishable gear and medication with expiration dates that needs to be updated twice a year to reflect things I used, expired and replenished.

To do list – no explanation needed - various prepping projects.

To buy list – divided to many sections: there’s the affordable stuff to buy next time I am at the store – by store – home depot, Wal-Mart etc. Then there’s a list of big purchases to make when the time is right – yeah, a dirt bike may be a good idea (or a radiation meter, or a chest freezer, or a wood stove) but can’t buy them next time I am at the store. I also have a list of stuff to buy if I feel a TEOTWAWKI event is coming. We may get no warning, but if there was a small window of time to get some things done and buy a few special items I would never buy otherwise – I want to have a list telling me exactly what to do and buy and not start thinking about it for the first time (propane generator? Bio-fuel gear and truck? 6 months’ supply of frozen meats? A greenhouse? That great solar system with a few expensive 6V batteries)

Long-term food supplies – Anything I store that I do not plan to use in the next few years has to be inventoried well. Stocking a 1000 lb of rice with 1 lb of salt is not useful. My long term food store has to be balanced to provide the nutrition needed and fight menu fatigue. Inventory management is crucial and a lot of words were written about it.
And yes, I have my guns and ammo list as well. Have to be able to protect what I have.

My whole prepping activity is centered around these lists. If I read the excellent web site or others, I update my lists with new ideas of what to buy or do. I go over the lists often and look for ways to improve my prepping, looking for weaknesses, lack of redundancies, expiration of items.
There are so many overlooked items that can be great in a SHTF situation, or useful in other cases, that you should absolutely stock up on if you have the room to store them. The hardware store is an endless source of such preps. Nails and fastening devices were mentioned – how about PVC Pipes? PVC pipes are cheap, if stored in the shade last many years, and have so many uses – they can be used to route water from rain catchment or wells, but also for construction – you can build a greenhouse with PVC pipes, duct tape and plastic sheeting. Various means of water storage and filtration are often overlooked and are essential. Dental treatment kits. Disposable and work gloves. Automotive and 2-stroke oil. Various sizes or garbage bags. Lots of batteries and chargers. Pest and insect control (you can’t call the rat catcher any more). Fuel stabilizer !!! (probably one of the most valuable items post-apocalypse). Siphon tools.

To summarize – balance your preps among categories so you don’t end up having to barter at a disadvantage to get essential supplies you neglected to procure in advance. - Regards From H.P.

A few comments on the thought provoking article Prioritized Prepping by Z.T. I did a bunch of research on gas mask filters a few months back after realizing the filters that came with my 'brand new in box' Israeli masks found at a thrift store were woefully expired. Masks in perfect shape, probably sat boxed in someone's attic for 25 years. Filters generally have a shelf life of 10-15 years provided they are sealed and kept free from moisture. A good quality filter is something worth investing in, not saving a few bucks because it "might" work. An expired filter might help, it might not. Make sure your filter is rated for NBC protection, this covers the whole gamut of potential toxins. These filters protect you from all known biological agents in addition to chemicals like sarin and other nerve gases, mustard gas, cyanogen, arsine, phosgene plus many organic and inorganic gases/vapors and inorganic acids.

I spent hours researching the purchase of filters online and let me warn you that the majority of filters sold "brand new" on Amazon are surplus expired or have no date stamped on them. This was repeated over and over in the reviews posted by people who bought them, always read product reviews before you buy! Also, a lot of the sellers aren't shipping what they advertise on Amazon. I went beyond Amazon and really couldn't find a reputable vendor selling new, sealed filters with a clear expiration date or date of manufacture. I gave up for the time being and would love to see some recommended sources posted on SurvivalBlog. Thanks, - Sunshine in New Mexico

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I, like so many people across the country, can't walk out of my local sporting goods store without buying the limit of ammunition. Now, before you judge me, realize that most places limit you to small boxes of ammunition, and usually one two per caliber. Is it being prudent or just being obsessed? While the firearm and ammo situation is very much a media-hyped thing,  I have even talked about things you must buy every time you are out, like my article on Things Commonly Overlooked.  But what about those items that you pick up, look at the price tag, but pass on it saying "maybe next time."

In conversations with my other prepping type friends, it would appear that ammunition and firearms are the centerpiece of all of our preparations. While all of us love to shoot and none of us want to cut a good day of shooting short because it will take us weeks to resupply. the truth of the matter is that we are making firearms and ammunition the priority, both in the money and the peace of mind spent to assure our continuation in a world gone bad. But does it really do either of those?

After a few comments from my better half, I got to thinking about how much money I have sunk into my firearms and ammunition in the last year. I have bought at least a half dozen guns. I also make it to my local Academy at least once per pay period and have never walked out without buying the 2 box limit of 9mm or .45, or the limit in .223/.22. Which means the cheapest possible trip in and out is approximately $45. Commonly I buy an additional box of .38 special or .357, which is at least an additional $25. So, let's say I do that once a pay period or twice a month. That's over $1000 a year in ammunition. Again, that's a very conservative estimate. Truth be told, i don't shoot that much and my stock had grown such that I have...well...more than I need.

It was after the crisis in Syria became front page news that I started thinking: What could I have bought instead of all this ammo. More importantly, what things could I possibly need in a split second that guns and ammo couldn't get me. The first thing that I thought of was the one thing that was all over the news. There were scenes of those killed by gas. There were scenes of those luckily to only be maimed by it, usually losing their eyesight. I don't know about you, but that's one sense I'd rather not do without. What did these people not have  that might have saved them? Gas masks.

All of the ammunition in the world couldn't help those people exposed. There was nowhere to run. Once within that poison cloud, you couldn't simply run or hide from it. You certainly couldn't fight out of it or buy/trade your way to safety. But, had those people had access to gas masks, what then? Chances are, they slip them on and escape to live another day. So, while I was on the treadmill at the gym, watching this horror, I got on Amazon to see what gas masks were selling for. In the back of my mind, I assumed that it was just another piece of equipment that I knew I might one day need, would love to buy it for piece of mind, but just couldn't afford to buy it. I'm like everyone else. I am middle class, and while I do believe in being prepared, the pragmatic part of me sets limitations.

What did I find? Amazon has Russian/Israeli/etc military surplus gas the tune of about $40 shipped to your door.

Now, I didn't forget about the kids. After all, life really isn't worth living if I can't get my whole family. So, still on Amazon, I looked for the same thing in kids sizes. To my surprise, they were also extremely affordable. I was able to buy 3 kids size military surplus masks for under $40 shipped. Not bad, eh?

So, that got me thinking....we spend all this time talking about things we may need, but can't "justify" spending the money on...even though we nickel-and-dime ourselves away prepping on other things. And while I did think of some things.

  • At home water cistern/storage. I had been talking about doing this for a long time, specifically to my dad. See, they live on top of a mountain that's actually above the local water tank. So, there is a booster pump at the bottom of the hill to provide water pressure. It goes out constantly. Well, he has chickens. And dogs. And tons of everything. Not to mention the need for water for himself. He elected to buy an off the shelf version that caught rainwater running off of his shop. I believe it's a 450 gallon unit and it filled up with the first rain. You can get pretty ingenuity with yours and do it fairly cheap (under $150) and go as far as you want to make it work for you. For example, putting it on stilts, adding a 2 way valve to your house water supply, and you can now use your house water system. 
  • Tyvek suits are something that are relatively cheap and very useful to have ready. Will they protect you against many nasty chemical weapons? Will it stop radiation? No. But, it will do an admirable job against most chemical weapons and biological ones. They are water proof. They are easy to find, easy to put on, and cheap. 
  • "Noah's Ark" seed assortments. Tons of places sell heirloom seed assortments. They are around $80-to-$100 and will come with a large variety and assortment of herbs and vegetables. If you are like me and my wife, you normally buy your seeds annually from a catalog. What if instead, you bought one of these a year. And the next year, you planted your old one when you received your new one? This would ensure maximum freshness. While I understand that most people don't have that kind of room and couldn't use a whole set, you can at least use some of them. This way you can save yourself a little money on groceries, but most importantly, get into the practice of growing your own and learning all the little pitfalls.
  • Indoor plant growing station. Even if you live in an apartment you can buy one. Sorry, I couldn't think of a better name for it. The stands and the correct lights (you can't just use standard bulbs) do cost a good amount of money, usually around $100. Maybe that's one of the reasons that I never bought one to begin with. Plus, Alabama has such a temperate climate that starting your own seedlings isn't usually necessary. This year, however, we experienced a deluge of rain that kept me from planting. Plus, a friend was moving out of town and was selling his setup. So, I bought it cheap. With a cheap bag of soil, I was able to easily grow 30 tomato plants in a 48" long tray until they were big enough to separate and grow in their own pots. So, it cost about $125 counting the lights and stand, the soil, cups, and seeds. What would 30 half grown tomato cost you at Lowe's? There you go. 
  • A dirt bike. A used dirt bike can be found easily and cheaply around here. Especially an older one that is carbureted and has a non-electronic ignition. Why would you want such a thing? Well, in the case of an EMP, it would be one of the few rides left around town that ran. You couldn't put a price on being able to ride to and fro when the lights went out. Additionally, if you didn't get out ahead of everyone in another catastrophic event.. For example, let's say that you were in gridlock traffic and you just KNEW something really bad was about to happen. You could unload your little dirt bike off the back of your truck and take off. Paved roads, dirt roads, through the trees, doesn't matter. You could ride almost anywhere. Sure, it would cost you $1,000 up front. But, like we were talking about earlier, I spent that in ammo this year. This is a much more useful tool.

Again, these are but a few things that I thought of in a short thinking session. I hope that I will hear from some of you to point out others. The point is, you simply can't let a once time price stop you from buying semi-affordable things. Especially when you are dedicated to spending the money anyway. There are certainly things that I can't afford. But, I find myself spending money on things I can afford while ignoring things I could afford. So, put things in a price-perspective. Do you need another assault rifle? Another case of MREs? Maybe. Maybe not. But think of all the other things you could do with $1,500 that could buy you precious minutes or hours.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Prepping is never far from my mind. A few months ago I was talking with a friend and the subject of TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We know It) came up.
Tom (not his real name) said that he would like to prepare for upcoming emergencies but didn’t know where to start. The answer was simple; start where you are.
Obviously most people cannot start with a full larder and weapons/ammunition cache. That is of course, unless you really do have all of that, in that case…well, that’s where you are.

I asked Tom what scenarios he wanted to prepare for. “Like what?” he asked. You know… EMPs, natural disasters like the Yellowstone Super Volcano, earthquakes, social breakdowns, pandemics…what?

He said, “Yeah. Those things.”

I guess he’s a lot like me. I really don’t know when or why I’ll need my preps…I just know that sooner or later I will!

The only difference in the end will be the timeline of the disaster. It could be years with a war or catastrophic natural event, or just a few days in duration like a blizzard. I wanna’ live through it all and I want all of mine to live, too!

To help Tom get started we did an inventory of what he had: food, medical supplies, stored water, tools, gardening supplies, clothing and shoes, finances, cash on hand, firearms and ammunition, and skill sets. We also took a long and hard look at his home and property.

We then drew up a plan to go from where he was to where he wanted to be. Since he was on a limited budget we needed to get creative.

As we looked at his discretionary income we discovered that he could squeeze about $75 USD per month from his budget.

“Is there anywhere else we can find some money?” I asked.

“I don’t think so”, he replied. Wow, this could take a really long time. Time we don’t necessarily have.

Since Tom and I are really old friends he allowed me to look at his budget. Right away I saw a few places he could cut down to “find some money”.
The following is a running tally of where we were able to gather some resources:
            He, his wife, and daughter all had cell phones. Eliminate land line, savings about $40 USD per month. Total $40 USD.
            Downgrade his satellite TV to basic package. Found money- $60 USD per month. Total $100 USD.
            Shopped for auto /home insurance (I know this guy…) savings $900 USD per year, equals $75 USD per month, total $175 USD per month.
            Take coffee with him eliminating Starbucks, saving $4 USD per day times 20 days per month equals $80 USD per month, total $255 USD per month.
            Tom eats lunch at a restaurant nearly every day. He spends $8-12 USD per, average $10 USD. If he packs his lunch and works through his lunch hour he can leave early and save $200 USD per month, totaling $455 USD.
            He also usually bought a candy bar and a Coke most afternoons. If he eliminated that he would save the money plus cut several hundred calories a week from his diet. I suggested he take a piece of fruit with him.  This cost him about $2.50 USD x 20 = $50 USD / month, totaling $505 USD per month.
            Tom’s wife works about 5 miles from home and her vehicle gets about 32 mpg. Tom on the other hand commutes 80 miles per day and only gets 17 mpg with his SUV. Let’s do some math:
Tom – 80 miles per day x 5 days per week = 400 miles per week divided by 17 mpg = 23.5 gallons of gasoline.
Mrs. Tom - 10 miles round trip x 5 days per week = 50 miles per week divided by 32 mpg = 1.5 gallons of gasoline.
If they trade vehicles Tom would have 400 miles per week divided by 32 mpg = 12.5 gallons and Mrs. Tom 50 miles per week divided by 17 mpg equaling 3 gallons of gas. The savings would be 12.5 gallons (Tom) minus 3 gallons (Mrs. T) or 9.5 gallons per week multiplied by the price per gallon, which was about $3.50 USD at the time we figured this. The savings was $33.25 USD per week x 4 weeks or $133 USD per month.
This added to the $505 USD savings we already had came to$638 USD plus the $75 USD he started with, brought him to over $700 USD per month to start his preps. This totals $8,400 USD per year. Your mileage may vary.

With figures in hand we decided to start a “Prepping Budget”.  We didn’t want to spend all $700 USD on food or guns or on just any one item. We wanted to spread it around so that if TEOTWAKI hits next month he will at least have a little of everything.

Water storage is probably the least expensive item to complete, and next to air and shelter is the most vital for survival. And so it was easy to get his basic water storage completed.
While normally there are only three members in his household, he also has two grown children; a single son in college and a married daughter who has one child and expecting her second. When TSHTF they also expect to take in Mrs. Tom’s handicapped (wheelchair bound) brother. This brought their total to eight. Realistically they should build in a fudge factor of 50%, or prepare for 12 people.

With this in mind we calculated the minimum amount of water to be stored. At two gallons of water per day per person (authorities recommend one gallon per day per person<remember the Preppers Code: two is one and one is none!>) and fourteen days worth stored equals 24 gallons per day times 14 or 336 gallons.
So off to Pepsi went Tom who bought seven used plastic 55 gallon drums that had been used for soft drink syrup for $10 USD each. (total expense was $70 USD) He brought them home and rinsed them out, drained them, made a solution of 5 gallons hot water with 3 tablespoons of dish detergent and placed it in a drum. We replaced the bung (plug) and rolled the drum between us. After a few minutes we drained the drum through a funnel into the next drum. (We let it drain for several minutes to get it as empty as possible) We continued this system until all drums were washed. We did have to change the water after the fourth drum, as it was pretty skanky! The drums were left upside down overnight so that they might drain well.  The next day we repeated the process, again allowing them to drain overnight. Next about 10 gallons of warm rinse water was placed in each drum, they were rolled again and drained.
The next step was to put about 5 more gallons into each drum with a quarter cup of chlorine bleach. We rolled each drum several times over the next day, after which we emptied the drums.
We removed the drums to his basement storage area, wiped the outsides of the drums and placed them on pressure treated 1x4’s covered with ¼ inch plywood. This was to keep the drums off the concrete floor which could affect the plastic drums.
We then placed about a tablespoon of unscented chlorine bleach into each drum and then filled them through a food grade water hose with tap water.
We date labeled the drums so that they could be used and refilled in a consistent manner.
Total expense for his water storage was about $102 USD plus the actual water from his tap.

Keeping in line with an across the board spending he next purchased a solar battery charger online for around $70 USD. Also in the order he spend around $20 USD on each, “C”, “D”, “9v”, “AA”, and “AAA” rechargeable batteries. Total was ~$170 USD.
The next trip was to the LDS Family Food Storage Center where Tom spent $200 USD on commodities. He placed an online order for plastic pails, Mylar bags, and oxygen absorbers. Cost – around $100 USD, subtotal $300 USD, total $572 USD.
Off to Wal-Mart where he bought a Coleman propane camping stove and a 20 pound propane tank. Total there was $120 USD. Total of all $696 USD.

And so Tom was able to get a good handle on his beginning preps with his water storage well started, as well as batteries and charger, a small stock of essential food storage items, and something to cook it on.

Month 2
After another planning session Tom made his purchases for the second month:
            Another $100 USD in rechargeable batteries.
            An AM/FM/SW/ NOAA radio - $120 USD
            A Big Berkey water filter - $320 USD
            3 Dietz kerosene lanterns, a 5 gallon safety fuel can, and 5 gallons of kerosene - $115 USD.
All of these purchases totaled $655 USD. I suggested that he put his $45 USD away for seed money.
He took me literally and bought a number 10 can of heirloom seeds from Emergency Essentials.

Month 3
This time when I met with Tom his list was already made. After a review I agreed to his plan:
            150 12 gauge 00 (double ought) Buckshot shotgun shells for $99.99 USD (Tom already has a 12 gauge shotgun)
            2 cases of MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) at $60 USD each, $120 USD total - $220 USD.
            2 large and 1 medium “Alice Packs” for total of $95 USD – total $315 USD.
            3 “experienced” USGI sleep systems @ $80 USD each, for $240 USD, total - $555 USD.
            The $145 USD balance was spent on USGI canteens, web gear, and pouches. Total spent $725 USD (Tom went a little over budget).

Month 4
As I write this Tom is purchasing this month’s preps.
As this is canning (bottling) season there are many canning supplies on sale. His goal is several dozen quart jars, extra lids and rings and a pressure canner. I also recommended that he purchase a good reference manual on preserving food.
(Sidebar: Tom did not have a garden this year but plans to purchase some produce at the local farmers’ market and can some vegetables for the experience.)
We estimate this cost at ~$200 USD, although the produce itself will come from his household budget.
Other purchases this month will include:
            4 Family channel radios (2 sets) with headsets and external mic - ~ $120 USD.
            A handheld GPS and USGS maps for each section to the family farm (BOL) ~ $250 USD.
Hiking boots for Mrs. Tom $125 USD.

Tom’s shopping list for the near future include handguns for he and his wife, along with appropriate ammunition, holsters, accessories, CCW class, and CCW. He also plans to purchase three new shotguns, a 12 gauge pump (tactical style) for him, and two 20 gauge pumps for his wife and daughter.
Of course his food storage, gardening tools, medical supplies, solar/generator, tactical clothing, BOV, MBR and ammo, and a myriad of items remain to be prioritized and purchased.

THE MAIN THING IS THAT Tom, et al, has found a way to afford the things they need. If only TIME will allow them to complete the basics they should be all right. If not… well, they’re already better off than they were!
In summary I would like to add a few observations:

  1. No matter your budget there are almost always some extras you can cut and use that “found” money for your preps. (I wish the US Government would follow this advice!)
  2. It is always better to have 30 days of a wide variety of preps, rather than a year’s supply of any one or two things. Plan accordingly.
  3. Have a plan and for the most part stick to it. An exception might be a really good sale or bargain on something you were going to purchase soon anyway.
  4. Never borrow money to buy preps. If you do use your credit card then pay that purchase off before using it for another prep purchase.
  5. Understand that you will never, never, never be ready for TEOTWAWKI. There will always be one more thing you need, one more skill to hone…

Start where you are, examine your lifestyle and yourself, enlist those who mean the most to you and trust in the Lord. All will be well.

JWR Adds: In addition to budget trimming, to generate cash I would recommend developing a small second income stream, such as home-based mailorder business. And if the inventory that you develop for that business is of items that would be good for post-disaster barter, charity, and your own family's use, then it is a "win-win." Excess frippery (such as collectibles) can also be gradually sold off via eBay. Don't make the excuse of just saying "I don't have the money to prepare." The money is there if you just get creative, as Louie suggested.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

SurvivalBlog provides a wealth of prep-related information. Many here cut and paste critical essays to store as Word documents for safekeeping and later access when crisis times call for it. I suggest going one step further. Build a structured notebook of your family's prep information, with each topic index tabbed for easy access and available for all family-tribe members to consult when the need arrives. Let this notebook become your family's SHTF collapse response manual, your SOP for surviving a collapse.

People panic and make fatal errors under crisis when they do not have enough information and do not know what to do. The most critical prep is: having a plan: knowing now what you will do when "it" happens. Prepping may be described as having a structured plan based on an adequate scope and depth of information.  Having a comprehensive plan... in writing... becomes your critical survival tool. That plan needs to be written out on old-fashioned paper and indexed by topic in a notebook that everyone on your team can access. 

If and when TSHTF it will be very helpful for you (and, especially, other family members if you happen to be away from home when TSHTF) to have ready access to that plan.  Your family will need immediate access to your written guide on just what to do to address the list of critical needs. Make this notebook your family-tribe's operations manual for when TSHTF, where members can retrieve critical information on a range of topics... what to do on day one, then how to handle the unfolding crisis on a long-term basis. We have built such a manual for our household and the larger family-tribe living on our country lane.
We are blessed to live on an old extended family farmstead divided among four sibling homesteads, with cousins and nephews also living along our remote country lane. This is a rural side road with no cross roads, one access at each end, making it easily blocked and defended. We are six miles outside a small town of 2500, forty miles from a small city of 20,000, and ninety miles inland from a coastal city of 90,000.  Our neighbors are brothers, sisters, and cousins forming our extended family tribe.
Each homestead ranges from twelve to a hundred acres of land mixed between fields, gardens, mixed forests, and multiple water sources. Each home is a self-sufficient single family household. That strength multiplies when neighboring households unite as a tribe for survival. Our tribe is united in mutual support, preps, politics, ethics, skill sets, and trust. Within the extended family tribe is a wide range of skills from homesteading to agriculture to mechanical trades to health care. Within our family tribe we have discussed plans for mutual aid and defense.
We experienced a real-life rehearsal of our SHTF responses a decade ago when a huge ice storm collapsed the electric grid statewide for more than a week in the cold dead of a dark New England winter. This event suddenly presented our tribe, community, and the entire state a great training and learning experience. We brought to bear all our grid-down preps for heat, food, power, communications, water, and cooperation within the community.  Following that event, everyone in town not already on board with preps were immediately enlightened. Those who were prepped learned their weakness. Since then, our tribe has become more organized, aware, and ready. Our motto, semi-jokingly, is "we will be the last to die."
Perhaps the most valuable prep item added to our household since then is the Notebook: our SOP manual on every aspect of surviving a collapse.  Its pages are index tabbed for chapters on water, food, heat, energy-power, health care, hygiene, home safety, sanitation, communications, defense, agriculture, foraging.  Each chapter details immediate primary actions, longer range plans, and backup contingencies. There are even blank pages to journal unfolding events, experiences, and lessons learned.

Water management, for instance, starts with a detailed list of known sources: current active wells, idle old original settlers' homestead wells, brooks, natural springs, plus instructions on how to retrieve and manage that water. Water usage and recycling protocols are described along a continuum of rationed uses from drinking to cooking to hygiene to laundry to flushing toilets. Toilet protocols present choices and emphasize caution to avoid disease.  Flush toilet rules (yellow versus brown; you know the rhyme) are a starting point, but progress to assembling and using a composting toilet or outhouse setup. 

The notebook declares that the primary use of stored gasoline is to operate portable generators, whose primary role is to power domestic water pumps to fill water storage containers.  We recently added a propane generator as an alternative resource. Redundancy is important. This will be about the only time generators will run, briefly and occasionally to fill water storage containers. If generator use becomes a problem, water can be dipped by bucket from the top of shallow wells and springs. The guide also describes proper concentrations of bleach to clean containers and protect stored water.  Redundancy includes bleach, water purification tablets, iodine purification kits, and filter kits.

Preventing infections and disease is top priority. Hygiene must be emphasized in a now-compromised world, despite a stash of a range of antibiotics. Sanitation, hand-washing, and teeth-brushing become lifesaving rules.  Who wants to die of an abscessed tooth? Who wants the task of ripping out a loved-one's molars?
Food management is a big chapter from short-range management of stored foods, to balanced rationing, to long-range agriculture planning.  Several plans are presented for food management in a grid-down world.  We may have wild game now, but that will quickly disappear once THSTF.  Hunting, trapping, fishing, and gathering will be an immediate but perhaps a shorter term task, coupled with proper preservation of bounty. Agriculture is already established but will need to be seriously expanded when the balloon goes up, to take over long-term where food stores leave off short term.
Situation awareness and information become immediately critical.  If we awaken to no power grid, we must determine if it is a local, statewide, or nationwide event. We will turn to several avenues of communications, since no grid means no phone, Internet, or television.  A quick check of the news on the car's satellite radio may, hopefully, tell us if TS really did HTF. If that source is not working, we may assume something large has occurred.  We then turn to shortwave and HAM radios powered by 12V solar backup power to obtain critical news to determine appropriate response. 

If it looks like a hardcore nationwide grid collapse such as a Carrington flare event or enemy-led total grid takedown, the first order of food preps is to rescue what is in the chest freezer. We keep this packed with extra ice to sustain frozen food for at least 2-3 days during our frequent weather-related power outages. This can be supplemented with an hour per day of generator use, if needed. But if it is confirmed to be long term grid down scenario, meats will be thawed, ground, and cooked-dried into hamburger rocks on day one.  This will add lots of protein to canned or dried foods already in place. 

If communications reveal a long term grid collapse, longer range agriculture plans must be implemented.  Diesel fuel stores will be dedicated primarily to homestead tractors for garden needs and firewood gathering.  Existing gardens may need extensive expansion: digging, plowing, soil enhancement.  Family tribe cooperation will be critical to expand and disperse multiple gardens to assure surviving crop failures, pests, deer invasion (venison!), and even theft defense.  Cooperation will aid in planting, tending, harvesting, storage, nutritional balance, protection, and mutual aid.  Sharing skills, equipment, and workload will be important.
Gasoline was to be dedicated solely to generator use, until we added the propane generator to our preps. This allows us to shift gasoline use to chainsaws to cut up as much firewood as possible to add to existing stores for long term heat in our frigid New England winters. Safety in this work becomes critical to prevent injuries that cannot be treated as effectively as in the "normal" world. The manual reminds family members work safety rules that cannot be compromised.
Health care needs are supported by existing skill sets within the family tribe: EMTs, nurses, physical therapist, and experienced grandmothers. This is supported by stored medical supplies.  Bandages, surgical kits, a range of medications, splints, crutches, braces, TENS units, reference manuals, and medical knowledge all become survival essentials. The notebook lists the stored antibiotics, dosages, what ones for what types of problems, and their precautions. A wide range of leftover, renewed, or otherwise acquired meds becomes a treasure. 
Power, lighting, and heating instructions list a range of choices in each area of concern. Various cooking fuels are available from wood to propane to kerosene to others fuels using a variety of equipment. Again, redundancy rules. Wood is most available long-term, with perishable fossil fuels carefully dedicated to powering chainsaws, tractors, generators, and rototillers. 

Lighting has a similar range of options from 12 volt LEDs to lanterns to candles. Several solar panels with charge controllers and multiple deep cycle batteries will power LED's and recharge batteries for flashlights, lanterns, and walkie-talkies. They also power Ham radios and scanner.  Our manual provides extensive how-to instructions to manage solar panel setups and properly operate their intended devices. All family members need to know how to handle these tools.
Area defense is discussed in the manual. Few in the family tribe have military training, but there is enough to offer basic skills. All have extensive skills in various shooting sports and possess equipment typical of a well-prepped rural lifestyle.  All the adults are trained, experienced, and well-armed at a civilian level.  Tribe members from pre-teens on up will need to be brought up to speed on all weapons available to the group.  The more experienced members will update the less experienced ones with .22 weapons to ease them into heavier firearms. Weapons, ammo, reloading, maintenance, and redundancy are adequate within the tribe.

Decisions will be made on defense based on information gathered from communications on what is going on locally, statewide, and nationally regarding security and rule of law.  The road we all live on is easily defended and access controlled, but structured plans for defense may need to be dedicated if TS has severely HTF. The extended family tribe has enough members to rotate and equip lookouts. The manual contains essays gathered on these topics as they pertain to our AO, for consideration by tribe members.
The final section provides a detailed list of prep stores including foods, medical supplies, energy sources, heat sources, hygiene supplies, weapons and ammo, winter clothing, repair and construction materials, radios, batteries, disposable eating utensils, water preps, camping supplies, soaps, seeds, toilet supplies, paper products, canning and food prep supplies, tools, playing cards and games, kids' treats and diversions, record-keeping materials, maps, reference manuals, good books, copy of US Constitution and Bill of Rights, Bible, as well as trade-barter items.
This is all written out in the notebook to provide information in a readily accessible and organized manner.  Frightened family tribe members can regain comfort, coordination, and direction from consulting the manual.  We supplement this with a small library of additional references such as the Boy Scout Manual, Back-To-Basics, and a variety of other manuals taken from the internet to strengthen the tribe's survival SOP.
The act of writing this manual becomes a prep tactic as family members collaborate, discuss, and decide how things should be done as the manual is built. Everyone in the tribe should be aware of what is in the manual as it is written, reviewed, and updated over time. The manual is an education tool before a collapse and a survival manual after it happens. It is easy to share when new tribe members are brought into the fold.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My sister and I both retired due to disabilities are working as we can trying to prepare for the family. Often, we say did we really do that, like talking to a stranger in our local Wal-Mart and saying we would like some green beans and he happened to have about a bushel in his truck he had not sold so, we got them and yielded 14 quarts of beans we needed. Ask and ye shall receive hit us in the face so hard, Thanks be to God! We are on an extremely small budget but we continue to buy sale items. Then, we do a stupid things and go where it tells you how much you need for x people and kids. It is so disheartening. The adult kids know we are preparing but they do not have the time or seem too understand what can happen even with us talking to them. We pray they come to their senses and help.

Where do you store 500 lbs of flour, and rice, or 200 lbs of oatmeal and 300 lbs of assorted pastas? And do not leave out the 500 lbs of beans of all kinds! It is on the floor, table, corners, under the bed, under anything and everything and stacked to the ceiling here and there. But now where do we live? Then, there are the candles, and wicking, and of course Toilet Paper. I do not want to use corn cobs which I have, or other alternatives! Store toilet paper.

One work in progress is our assortment of "Gimme Bags." They are bags to hand out to people who ask "please gimme something to eat" or to tuck into your backpack! They are snack bags and zip lock bags of a pack of coffee, tea bag, kool aid, hot cocoa mix, and sugar in a bag. Then, in another bag, add protein bar, cup of soup, Raman noodles, pack of tuna or whatever you devise. In another add some dried beans with salt and pepper packets. Make a snack bag with band aids, Q-tips, other first aid items. You can add on and on. Another thing we are adding to some is like a Weight Watchers Protein Drink, 10 gram. Dollar Stores are great, but watch for sales. Packets of salt, pepper, and a bullion cube or two helps too.

Be creative and make a list of possibilities on an index card, pull that card, make up a few, then another card with different things and make a few. Mark the number made. EASY to pull out things already together than trying to go through your stuff if one shows up. Children can design a paper bag with artwork for you to hand to the “visitors“. Always keep your children away from the doors, out of sight, if someone shows up. Have your good ole handy defense weapon on you, not "nearby"! But, in order to be God’s children, help others as you can, but do not forget they want your stuff! I am sure you have things in place to determine when to open the door and not to! Be careful.

Make out menus, extend them to include your family members coming. Oops, I need 2 lbs of beans, instead of a cup, and see how it stacks up to your storage. Do not let it get the best of you. You are starting to get all things together, keep it up. Do not panic, just pull up your big girl drawers and suck it in and go on! Check calories, protein, etc! Have something for the kids too, pudding, or a cookie. We are saying a prayer, “GOD give us a chance to find beans cheap and some dried milk! Seriously, think of the amount a family needs! Rice doubles but even though millions of people eat it, we are used to a different diet and the beans with rice would make each go farther but can get very tiring!
Know how to make noodles, spaghetti, and breads! That includes lots of flour, solid shortening, and yeast! Get your recipes together for all kinds of breads! Corn bread on a fried grill is quick and good but again you will need variety! You must practice making things!

One thing that lays ahead for my sister and me is killing the rabbits with a broomstick and canning them. Yuck! I know we have to but do not look forward to it! YouTube has things on there that are amazing on how to dress rabbits or squirrels to making breads or cheese! Please get your act together and get organized! This is one thing I am doing too!
check for those dratted mice! I thought the mylar bags would deter them but to no avail. I lost some vital dried vegetables, and some other goodies. They do not seem to like cinnamon, so I sprinkle some around, get the cheap kind. Only mylar bag not eaten had some in it! Go figure! Make sure you have traps, etc for those unwanted detestable things. Be careful with handling them due to the disease they can carry!

One note of dehydrating things. One ounce of dried equals about a pound of raw vegetables, so when you see the cans on sale use this like a guide to determine if you can do it for less! IF we get the stuff given to us, it will be cheaper but to buy 10 lbs of green peppers and then uses the electric, etc compared to $14 a #10 can, you determine what best fits into your needs. Check into dried vegetables in minestrone soup or vegetable soup at your local discount stores! Usually, the package is about $1 and it is over an ounce of dried ingredients, so I think it is cheaper to buy!

Remember to get the necessities, like Gorilla Glue, metal tapes, and duct tape and Toilet Paper. Make sure all your tools are in good shape with good handles and clean them up. Get a few yards of extra screening, or muslin for cheese making and tuck it away in that pile, but label it well. You know what specifics you need in your neck of the woods. Of course, you need all the staples and some other necessities like chocolate and coffee! Check on this blog for list and lists. Not many can have everything they think they need but start marking off what you do have. It makes you feel like you have done something! Those hash marks behind the cans of coffee make you feel like I know I can have coffee! Also, try to find natural alternatives! If we can no longer get coffee or chocolate, the world would not end, but sure would make it easier to tolerate tough times with it!

One trick my sister thought was when storing canned jars, take off the rings, place clear plastic on the top of the jars and lids, and put a rubber band around it to keep the moisture out, and it works! She is so smart!

It is almost to the panic zone! Okay, we have the stuff to do an appendectomy but who knows how! Get someone in your group or two or three that have some medical training. Or who knows how to deliver a child? We see on television, it just comes out but really! Run off lots of" how to" situations and add in another binder. Pictures here are helpful. Let’s go from Point A to… Can you sew a cut or cleanse a wound, or bind a broken bone, find out how.

We are solicitors too, but it is legal. We ask people for apples when we see the trees are full, and not being picked, and have made lots of apple butter, apples, etc. We ask people if they do not want the produce may we buy it, usually, they give it to us and we can and can. ASK and ye shall receive, at least doing it in the right way, under the Lord’s guidance, we have been blessed.

My sis and I plug away, we read this blog daily and run it off too. Thank goodness people give me paper.
We will take most anything one gives us and find a way to make it work into our plan. If we do not can it, we bind it, or box it or seal it or sew it!

Please prepare for the children too. Get the crayons, cards, board games, glitter, glue, dice, books (i.e. school), rulers, pencils, (do not how to make pencils) etc. IT will be hard on them living a life so differently than they have for10 years or so. Get some cheap presents to have on their birthdays and for Christmas and tuck them away. A frilly top can work wonders on the girls and a neat shirt for the boys. Cheap! Right now summer sales are on. Get ones in several sizes.

SHOES-Where will I find a size 13 or 3! I can not make them, so how do I have room for all this or the money to get it! I have Please get boots in various sizes for your crew! Please tell the adults to bring boots! Good sturdy, hiking boots or work boots! Even community boots wear out, and you need several pair of working boots, and rain boots, and and and….

Okay, it hit’s the fan and the crew is coming! Have them bring clothes, bedding, and bring all the food they can fit in the car. Make sure they bring food for the animals too! Tell the family to make sure others in the family can pick up the kids from school. Keep trying to talk to those loved ones who do not believe it will happen. Also please talk to them about the value of having extra meds they need on hand! They do not have time to stop and get whatever at the store as it will be gone and your car will be stripped if you try and stop! Listen, have ears, and look, thorough eyes that GOD has given you! Have a plan, a meeting place and pray all will make it.

Being informed will help you in making wise choices. Know how to use that grinder, water purifier, and baking bread from freshly ground flour. IF you wait till something happens that is more burden on you and more stress. Practice some simple things with few ingredients that are great tasting and give you the proper nutrients. That is a job but one you must do, in all your spare time! Many cookbooks with four or five ingredients are great! This article could be 20 pages long and still not share all I feel is needed but certainly hope this may help at least one person.

Remember the Lord, go to HIM in prayer, and hold on to your faith, and beliefs. - The Peas in a Pod Sisters in a Pear Tree (And yes, we do have a pear tree).

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

(This is the conclusion to the article series that began on Friday.)

Appendix A

The following is essentially a "wish" list; however the items that are in bold are relatively important.  The tools and medical areas would be for a complement for 1-10 people.  The sundries area covers a family of six.  The food area is for one person for one year, multiply (or divide) as you see fit.  There is extra food included for charitable impulses.  Coordinate purchases among the group if you plan to congregate.  I live in Georgia, so the clothing and supplies are tailored for that area; make modifications to the list to accommodate your particular AO or preferences.  The weapons list really is a bare minimum.  The anvil included in the lists is a clue that I plan on bugging in, rather than bugging out. (Bugging out, while it may become necessary, is just a fancy way of saying "refugee.")


Shovel, round point (2)                                     Shovel, square point                                   
spade                                                                                      Hoe (2)
Entrenching tool                                                            Machete                                                
Pick                                                                                    Mattock           
Post hole digger                                                           

Axe, double bit                                                            Axe, single bit
Hatchet, framing                                                            Chainsaw,
16" bar                                                                   Chainsaw blades
Hard hat/face shield/ear muffs                        Peavey           
Log dogs (4)                                                            Froe
Steel wedges (6)                                                            Splitting maul                                               
Block and Tackle (2)                                                 Crowbar, large
Crowbar, small                                                            Pry bar, small                                   
pinch bar                                                                        Pulleys, large (6)                                   
Pulleys, medium (6)                                                Pulleys, small (6)                                   
Chain hoist                                                                        Chain, 30'                                   
12 lb sledge hammer                                                8 lb sledge hammer                                   
4 lb engineers hammer                                    4 lb cross peen hammer                       
40 oz ball peen hammer                                                40 oz straight peen hammer                       
40 oz ball peen hammer                                                32 oz cross peen hammer
24 oz framing hammer (2)                                    20 oz bricklayers hammer                       
16 oz nail hammer (4)                                                14 oz Mallet                                   
16 oz ball peen hammer                                    12 oz Warrington hammer                       
Tack hammer                                               

24" Jointing plane                                                            12" Jack plane                                               
9" Smoothing plane                                                4" block plane                                               
Compass plane                                                            Rabbet Plane                               
Radius plane                                                            Chamfer plane
Adze, large                                                                        Adze, small                                               
Broad axe                                                                        Draw knife                                               
#80 Scraper holder                                                Spoke shave (2)                                               
Scrapers (3)                                                            Wood chisels, 2"-1/4"                                   
Corner chisel, 1/2"                                                Corner chisel, 1/4"                                   
Framing Chisel, 1"                                                Framing Chisel, 2"                                   
Socket Slick, 2"                                   

10 tooth crosscut saw (2)                                    8 tooth crosscut saw                                   
5 tooth rip saw                                                            Hack saw (2)
Mini-hacksaw                                                            Dovetail saw                                               
Compass saw                                                            Keyhole saw                                               
Coping saw                                                                        Coping saw blades (50)                                   
Back saw                                                                        1-man timber saw                                   
12" Bow/hack saw                                                12" blades (20)                                                
30" bow saw (3)                                                            30" blades (20)                                               
Bow saw                                                                        Bow saw blades, Asst.
Frame saw            

Brace, large                                                             Brace, med                                               
Brace, corner                                                            Bits, 2"-1/4"                                               
Twist drill (2)                                                            Twist drills,  (2 sets)                                   
Brad point drills                                                            Screw starter bits                                   
Pencils, carpenter (40)                                    Pencils, regular (40)                                   
Chalk line            (2)                                                            Chalk, 1 gal                                               
Marking chisel                                               

Combination square                                                Compass                                               
Dividers                                                                        Framing square                                   
Speed square                                                            Plumb bob, brass (2)                       
25' tape (3)                                                            100' tape                                               
Folding rule                                                             4' level                                               
2' level                                                                        Torpedo level                                               
Line level (2)                                                            Water level                                               
Pipe clamps, 6' (8)                                                C-clamps, Asst. sizes (20)                       
Wood vise, 12" (3)                                                Hold downs (7)
Work bench                                                            Shaving Horse                                   

cat's claw                                                                        nail belt, leather
nail belt, cloth (4)                                                            Wood glue (3 gal)                                   
Wood glue, small bottle                                                glue brushes, 18
Nail sets, 4                                                                        Mason's trowel                                               
Putty knife (3)                                                            Sandpaper                                               
Sanding block                                                            Peg sizer                                               
Box knife (3)                                                            Straight blades (100)                                   
Hook blades (20)                                                            Saw set                                                           
Bicycle tire pump                                                Traps (Asst.)
Plumbing fittings, valves, pipes, etc           
20d nails (100 lbs)                                                16d nails (100 lbs)                                   
8d nails, box (100 lbs)                                                Wood screws (50 lbs)
Fence staples (50 lbs)                                                1-3/4" Roofing nails (50 lbs)                       
8d finish nails (40 lbs)                                                1 3/4" lead head roofing nails (30 lbs)           
4d finish nails (20 lbs)                                                Concrete cut nails (20 lbs)           
16d double headed nails (10 lbs)                        Wire brads (3 lb)                                   
Tool box, mechanical                                                1/2" drive socket set                                   
3/8" drive socket                                                1/4" drive socket set                                   
Screwdriver set                                                            Asst. bits for 1/4" drive handle                       
Extra #2 Phillips                                                            Extra 5/16" flat screwdriver                       
3/16"-2" box end wrench set (2)                        4mm-23mm box end wrench set                                   
Pliers, side cutting (3)                                                Pliers, slip joint                                    
Pliers, linesman                                                            Pliers, needle nose (2)
Pliers, electrical                                                            Vise grips, Asst. (6)                                   
Crescent wrench set (3)                                    Water pump pliers (3)                                   
Fence pliers (2)                                                            Scissors (2)                                               
Staple gun                                                                        T-50 staples (3000)                                   
Glass cutter (2)                                                            Sharpening stones, Asst. (6)                       
India ink (1 pt)                                   
Anvil                                                                                    Forge
Stump vise                                                                        Manual powered blower           
12V DC blower                                                            Hardies/mandrels
Mechanics vise, 8"                                                Wire brush (3)                                   
Leather work gloves                                                Leather apron
Coal, 700 lbs                                                            Files, Asst. (20)           
Solder irons (2)                                                            solder, 5 lb
Tongs (7)                                                                        Pipe wrench (2), 14"
Tin snips (3)                                                            Sheet metal flattener
Swage block                                                            Oil, 2 gal                                               
Shears                                                                        Tap and die set
Punches, chisels                                                            Grinding wheel
Hacksaw blades (50)                                                Oxy-acetylene rig
Propane torch                                                            Propane bottles (50)    


Clorox                                                                        Disposable lighters
Soap                                                                                    Salt
Pepper                                                                        Candles
Nails, 16d,                                                                        Needles/thread
Fish hooks                                                                        Coffee

WEAPONS, Long guns (minimum)


Centerfire bolt-action rifle (w/ scope)            12 or 20 Ga. pump shotgun, full stock            
.22 rifle                                                                         .177 Pellet rifle

WEAPONS, Handguns (minimum)

.357/.38 - 4" bbl                                                           



.Centerfire ammo (200)                                                12 or 20 Ga rifled slugs (50)           
12 or 20 Ga #0 buck (100)                                    12 or 20 Ga #4 (100)                                   
12 or 20 Ga #7-1/2 (100)                                    .22 LR HP high-vel (1,500)
.177 pellets (1,000)                                                .357/.38 HP (200)                                   

Other Weapons
8" knife                                                                         Survival knife (1)                                   
Swiss Army Knives (2)                                                Power pliers (1)                                               
Single recurve bow w/ arrows                        Cleaning kit, base                                   
Cleaning kit, field (2)                                                Solvent, 2 pints                                   
Oil, 4 pint                                                                        Grease, 4 med tubes
Eye goggles (2)                                                            Ear protection (5)
Bow strings (2)                                                            Holster                       
Extra magazines (where required)                        Spare parts, springs, sears, pins, etc.
Spare scope           


5' spinning outfit, med action (2)                        Tackle box, med spinning gear           
Net                                                                                    Trot line hooks, 200                                   


Cast iron Dutch Oven (2)                                    Cast iron frying pan (3)                       
Pots (4)                                                                        Cast iron griddle                                   
Bread pans (7)                                                            Coffee pot                                               
Meat grinder                                                            Grain grinder (2)                                   
Metal grate for outside oven                        Copper pads                                               
Kitchen knives (7)                                                Asst. utensils                                               
P-38 can openers (7)                                                Asst. dishes                                               
Hand water pump                                                Tripod
Bell                                                                                    20 yds Cotton cloth
Canning Supplies (300 jars w/ lids)            Wool blankets (12)                                   
4" foam pad, 84" x 60" (6)                                    Pillow ticking                                   
Pillow (6)                                                                        Sleeping bag (6)                                   
Pup tent (2)                                                            Cabin tent                                               
ALICE pack w/ frame (2)                                    Day pack (4)                                   
Large pack w/ frame                                                Compass (4)                                               
Area map (6)                                                            Binoculars (2)                                   
BIC lighters (24)                                                            Ball bearings, 50                                   
Stick matches, 30 boxes                                               
Survival Kits (6)                                   
            Swiss Army pocketknife                                   
            razor blade
            bic lighter
            magnesium starter
            button compass
            space blanket
            Water purification tabs (100)

LC-2 belt (2)                                                            LC-H suspenders (2)                       
Canteen w/ cup w/ holder (4)                                    Shotgun pouch (4)                       
LC-2 first aid kit (6)                                                LC-2 butt pack (2)                       
Compass pouch (2)                                                G-3 mag pouch (2)                       
BAJA waterproof bags (6)                                    LBE rubber bands (20)                                   
Trioxane bars (100)                                                Survival cards (2)                                   
Light sticks (48)                                                            Signal mirror (6)                                               
Sewing kit
            needles, Asst., 100
            thread, Asst., 50 spools
            buttons, Asst., 100
            pins, 500

Watch                                                                        Zip-lock bags
Kerosene Lamps (7)                                                Kerosene lantern, (3)
Funnels (3)                                                            Gas lantern
Propane lanterns (2)                                                Propane stove, 2 burner
Propane stove, 1 burner                                    Propane tanks, 5 gal, 3
Adapter kit for lantern/stove                        LP 2 Propane adapter
Candles (70)                                                            Extra wicks/globes/mantles                                                            
LED flashlight (3)                                                Red lenses (3)                                   
D cells, Ni-Cd (12)                                                AA cells, Ni-Cd (21)
12 volt battery, Storage (2)                                    Solar charger(s)                                   
Extra bulbs (6)                                                            Radio, shortwave w/ antenna
Radio, AM/FM                                                            Scanner
CB base station SSB                                                CB handhelds, 3, SSB           
Sound powered phones, 6                                    IR Detectors, 3
Phone cable, 700 ft.                                                Phone jacks
Asst. coaxial adapters                                                Hand powered DC generator
Gas powered DC generator, 12V                         12/3 Copper Romex wire  (500 ft)
Twist connectors (700)                                                16 Ga stranded wire (700 ft)
Jumper cables (3)                                                            Butane operated soldering iron
Butane canisters (7)
General purpose electronic repair items
            Switches, GP
            CB crystals
            solder wick

Soap bars (300)                                                            Soap, liquid, 3 gals                                   
Toothpaste, tubes (12)                                    Tooth brushes (12)                                   
Floss, dental (20)                                                Towels, hand (7)                                   
Towels, bath (12)                                                TP (300 rolls)           
Boots, hiking (2 pr ea)                                                Boots, Shoe-pacs w/ felt liner (1 pr ea)           
Shoes (2 pr ea)                                                            Socks (20 pr ea)                                               
Poncho w/ liner (1 ea)                                    leather gloves (3 pr ea)                       
Work gloves, (12 pr ea)                                    Mittens (1 pr ea)                                   
Underwear (12 pr ea)                                                Pants,  (4 pr ea)                                   
Shirts, (4 ea)                                                            T-shirt, (6 ea)                                   
T-shirt, (6 ea)                                                            Shorts, (4 ea)                                   
Parka            (1 ea)                                                Jacket            (1 ea)                                               
Travel vest                                                                        Hat, floppy                                               
Belts (2 ea)                                               
Paper, 8.5 x 11 (3,000 sheets)                                    Area Maps                       
Manila folders (50)                                                pencils/pens (4 ea) w/ refills                       
Gum erasers                                                            3X5 cards, 200                                               
Books (many)                                                            Bibles (10)                                   
Coffee cups (6)                                                            Guitar                                                           
Strings (3 sets)                                                            case                                                           

Wood burning Stove                                                 Leather sewing needles                                   
Tarp, 12'x16' (1)                                                            Tarps, 12'x10' (2)                                   
40 gal tub (2)                                                            Washboard                                               
Broom (2)                                                                        Mop (2)                                                                       
Bucket, metal (7)                                                Bucket, plastic (7)           
Gold pan                                                                        Figure-8 breaker bar

K1 Kerosene, 25  gal                                                Unleaded gas, 55 gal
White gas, 5 gal                                                             Gasoline can, 5 gal (10)
Water cans, 5 gal (3)                                                Sta-Bil gas stabilizer (for 55 gals)
55 gal drums, 4                                                            Gasoline pump, manual
Wire mesh                                                                         Baling wire, 1000'
Fencing, 100'x 5', 6 rolls                                    Chicken wire, 100'x 3', 6 rolls           
Hardware cloth, 1/4" (20')                                    Hardware cloth, 1/2" (100')                       
Rope, 3/4" braided nylon (200')                        Rope, 1/2" braided nylon (400')
Rope, sisal, 1/4" (1000')                                    Rope, Parachute cord (700')                       
Mason's twine (700')                                                Heavy-duty Mason's twine (700')           
Twine (2000')                                                            Waxed lacing (1000')
2" Nylon strap, 20'                                                Cement, fire clay, (100 lbs)           
Portland Cement, (2100 lbs)                                    Tin roofing, 1000 sq ft
3/4" Plywood, 3 sheets                                                1" plastic pipe, 100 ft
Solid drain pipe                                                            Diverter valve for pipe  ???
Burlap bags (100)                                                hose clamps, 25           
Stove pipe, 25'                                                            Stove pipe elbows, caps, terminations,
Sheet metal, 4'x4' (7 pcs)                                    Asst. nuts, bolts and hardware
Spray bottles, 3                                                            Hydraulic bottle jack, 12T (2)
PVC, 3/4 X 16', 24 pcs                                                PVC crossovers, 12           
PVC T's, 12                                                                        3/4" copper pipe, 100'
1" copper pipe, 20'                                                Misc copper fittings, 30
30 wt tar paper (10 rolls)                                    Plastic sheet, 10 mil, 3 rolls                       
Screen wire (100 ft roll)                                                Glass panes, 1' x 1', 20 pcs                       
Glazing putty, 2 1 pt cans                                    Cheese cloth, 1 roll

Clorox, 30 gal                                                            Ammonia, 1 gal
Lye, 3 gal                                                                        Iodine, 21 oz
Silicon sealant                                                            RIT dye, earth colors (4 pkgs)
Axle grease (3 lb)                                                            Bar oil for chain saw, 5 gal           
10W-40 Motor oil, 24 qt                                                30W Non-detergent Motor oil, 24 qt
Dextron II Automatic Tran fluid, 4 qt            Mineral spirits, 4 qt
Acetone, 4 qt                                                            Oil to mix w/ gas for saw, 2 qt           
WD-40, 2 gal                                                            Locktite
PVC glue, 3 bottles                                                Boric acid, 2 qt           
Sevin dust (100 lbs)                                                Linseed oil (3 gal)           
Turpentine (3 gal)                                                Electrical tape (12 rolls)           
Duct tape (30 rolls)                                                Dichotomous earth, 50 lbs



Hard Red Wheat, 100 lbs                                    Dent Corn, 100 lbs
Rice, 100 lbs                                                            Spelt, 30 lbs
Barley, 30 lbs                                                            Pinto beans, 60 lbs
Kidney beans, 10 lbs                                                Millet, 10, lbs
Lentils, 10 lbs                                                            Great Northern beans, 10 lbs
Pasta, 70 lbs                                                            Cheese powder, 10 lbs
Cheese, 10 lbs                                                            Flour, 10 lbs
Dried Potatoes, 5 lbs                                                Dried Onions, 10 qts
Dried fruit, 20 qts                                                Dried vegetables, 30 qts

Coffee, 20 lbs                                                            Oil/Crisco, 7 gal
Powdered milk, 30 lbs                                                Beef stock, 7 lbs
Salt, 20 lbs                                                                        Pepper, 2 lbs
Soup, 70 pkgs                                                            Canned tomatoes, 70 cans
Peanut butter, 10 lbs                                                Sugar, 20 lbs
Kool-Aid, 30 pkgs                                                Honey, 3 gal
Corn syrup, 1 gal                                                            Powdered butter, 3 lbs
Cocoa, 3 lbs                                                            Yeast, 3 lb
Baking powder, 3 cans                                    Baking soda, 7 boxes
Vinegar, 1 gal                                                            Chili powder, 3 cans
Garlic powder, 3 cans                                                Soy sauce, 1 bottles
Italian seasoning, 1 cans                                    Vanilla extract, 3 bottles
Maple Syrup, 3 bottles                                                Lemon juice, 1 gal
Ascorbic acid, 2 lbs                                                Molasses, 1 bottle

Additional canned gods can be substituted for grains above

5 gal plastic food buckets, 25                        5 gal lids, 25
1 gal metal food cans, 30           

Seed, non-hybrid
            et al

Vitamins (300)                                                            Coffee filters, 100
Rennet                                                                        Whiskey, 3 gal
MREs, 30    



Bag, main                                                            Bag, surplus
Ace bandages (7)                                                Large bandages (21)
Burn dressings, (4)                                                Butterfly sutures (40)                                   
Triangular bandage                                                Band-aids, Asst. sizes, 300                       
Wooden cotton swabs, 100                                    Adhesive tape, 1" and 2" (10 rolls)           
Alcohol wipes, 100                                                2x2 gauze pads, 200                                   
4x4 gauze pads, 100                                                Cotton balls                                               
BP cuff                                                                        Stethoscope
Otiscope                                                                        Teaspoon
Thermometers, 3                                                Flashlight, AA x 2                                    
Chemical ice pack                                                Measuring cup                                               
Snake bite kit                                                            Rubber gloves (24 pr)                                   
Soap, 3 bars                                                            prescription glasses, 2 pr           
Hypodermics (3)                                                100 proof Grain alcohol (3 qts)                       
Needles                                                                        Lidocaine                                               
Hemostats (7)                                                            Needle holders (2)                                   
Scissors (3)                                                            Scalpels (3)
Lancets                                                                        Wire cutters
Pliers                                                                        Tooth extraction pliers
Dental mirror                                                            Dental pick
Hacksaw blade                                                            Suture materials, Asst. (20 sets)           
Surgical tubing, 20 feet                                    IV sets
Catheters                                                                        Plaster of Paris
Space Blankets (3)                                                Suction device
Urine Test Kits (2)                                                Pregnancy test kits (3)
Magnifier/30X microscope                                    AA Batteries (4)
Magnet                                                                        eye patches (3)
Cotton bats, 7 boxes                                                Safety pins, pkg 100                                   
Tweezers (5)                                                            Toenail clippers                                   
Zinc oxide                                                                        Alcohol, 2 qt                                               
Iodine, 7 oz                                                            Betadine, 4 qt
Liniment, 1 qt                                                            1% hydrocortisone, 3 tubes                       
Hydrogen peroxide, 2 qt                                    Tylenol, 250                                               
Aspirin, 700                                                            Nyquil, 1 bottle                                   
Baking soda, 7 box                                                Salt, 1 box                                               
Calamine lotion, 1 bottle                                    Activated charcoal, 24 oz                       
Decongestant, 3 bottles                                    Imodium AD, 12 pkg           
Oil of cloves, 7 bottles                                                Benadryl, 3 bottles           
Benadryl cream, 1 tube                                    Alka-seltzer, 300 pkgs                                   
Pepcid AC, 100                                                            Vaseline, 1 sm jar           
Oral-jel, 3 tubes                                                            Dental filling material, 2 tubes
Lice Rx (Permethrin)                                                Rehydrating solution
Ammonia inhalant, 7                                                Epidrine pens, 3
Codeine or Demerol, 100 tabs                        Anti-biotic ointment, 21 tubes           
Anti-biotic, oral, 300 tabs                                    Anti-fungal cream, 3 tubes                       
Moisturizing cream, 3 tube                                               

Bag, personal size (2)
            Ace Bandage                       
            Band-Aids, 12
            Anti-biotic ointment, 1
            Large Bandage, 1
            Butterfly Bandage, 3
            2X2 gauze, 7
            Aspirin, 12
            Whiskey, 1/2 pt           

Saturday, August 31, 2013

(Continued from Part 1)

Level I Scenario

In these paragraphs, we will look at the areas of primary and secondary importance as they can be managed in a Level I scenario.


A person needs around two gallons per day for cooking and rudimentary cleaning.  For short term emergencies it may be possible to store up two weeks or more water, that much should be stored up anyway.  When you store water, treat it with iodine or Clorox or boil (iodine is better, boiling is best) and rotate water stores every six months, see level II instructions for disinfecting ratios.  Water can be recovered in the house from plumbing pipes, the back tank of the toilets, the hot water heater, and can be stored in water beds if the conditioner has never been used (treat and rotate).  Reserve the water bed, toilet tank and tub water for non-potable uses or distill before use.  Milk jugs don't make good long term storage devices, 2 liter coke bottles do.  Also, if you expect water shortages, clean the tubs thoroughly and fill them up.  Water has also been used from swimming pools.  If the water is shut off temporarily, you can flush the toilet by pouring a bucket of water directly into the bowl, use creek water or bath tub water.  Conserve water at every opportunity.


Keep two months worth of canned goods in your pantry.  Canned goods will last for at least a year, longer if you turn them over every couple months.  Rotate them on a last in, first out basis to keep the stash current.  Beware of canned goods that are bulging, smell bad or make a whooshing noise when you open them, if there is any doubt, feed them to the cat.  Just kidding, cat lovers  (the cat may be needed for extra protein)  Don't forget the can opener (non-electric, of course)  Have some way to cook: an outdoor grill with plenty of fuel, Sterno cans, fireplace, camp stoves with plenty of fuel; all the above; an outdoor campfire might work. 


A disaster may hit in the winter so have some way to heat your house if the power goes out for a while.  A fireplace, although grossly inefficient, will help, a kerosene heater costs about 150 dollars, or less, wood stoves are a good bet.  Never burn a charcoal fire inside.  Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning, use adequate ventilation, and don't catch the house on fire.  Make sure you have a couple of fire extinguishers rated for ABC type fires, keep the matches away from the kids.  Block off only the room you are trying to heat with blankets over openings not already covered with a door.   If you are depending on firewood, or whatever source of fuel, stock up well before the winter; firewood takes several months to dry out.  Have plenty of blankets or sleeping bags handy.  It would be advisable to install battery powered Carbon-monoxide monitors and extra smoke detectors, if you are heating or cooking indoors with open flame.

Physical Protection

Keep the doors secured at night; don't leave tools and firewood lying about in the open.  Avoid the cities if there is unrest; heighten driving awareness, lock the car doors and drive around crowds of people.

Spiritual Needs

Never miss an opportunity to get closer to God.  Pray for guidance before making decisions.  Try not to worry;  Matthew 6:34 

" not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Also, 1 Peter 5:9 

            "Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."

Medical/Dental Needs

Keep current on medical issues.  Stock up on any medications you may require in case of any spot shortages in that area.  Build up a first aid kit, there is a fairly extensive one listed in Appendix A, of course speaking of appendix, with the kit listed below you could probably take one out.  Modify the kit downwards if you like to fit a Scenario I environment.  Don't forget a spare pair of glasses if you need them.  Wash your hands frequently to avoid sickness, purify your water religiously.

Financial/Legal Concerns

Make copies of all bank statements, insurance policies, retirement policies, IRAs, 401(k)s, anyplace you have money in an electronic format.  Keep a copy of your estimated Social Security benefits; this shows the amount of retirement benefits you are entitled to when you retire.  Talk to a financial advisor.  The stock market may take a dive but will probably recover.  It might be a wise move to have 3 or 4 weeks’ worth of cash at home, don't advertise, keep it in a well concealed fire-safe. 


Power, lighting, water, gas, and sewage.  In a Scenario I environment there might be random power outages lasting for a relatively short time, maybe a day or two, think of a good ice storm or tornado.  A generator might be in order, make sure you connect it to the system safely and isolate your house from the outside system to avoid cooking utility repairmen.  Talk to an electrician; there are several options on how to hook up a generator to your house, there's the correct way and there's the way everybody does it.  Store enough fuel for the noisy, hungry beast and use only those appliances that are necessary.  An alternative to electric lights are Kerosene lamps, use #1 or #2 Kerosene, three lamps burning 5 hours a night will go through about  2 -1/2 gallons of Kerosene in a month.  Calculate your fuel requirements accordingly.
Have some trash bags on hand in case there are temporary interruptions in trash pickup.  Water and sewage disposal were covered in the water section above.


It is nice to keep informed, as a bare minimum have an AM/FM radio with plenty of batteries.


Keep the gas tanks on your vehicles above half full at all times, (you and everybody will be lining up at the pumps so don't do it on the way to a party you’re already late for).

Level II Scenario

At this level, serious self-sufficiency plans have to be implemented.  The normal level of division of labor breaks down and purchasing everything you need at Kroger's, Home Depot and Wal-Mart might not be an option; therefore, you have to have supplies stockpiled ahead of time or have the ability to generate them yourself through home production or barter.  Nobody knows how bad it can get or how long such a situation could drag on, but it might be wise to plan for a slightly worst-case scenario and act accordingly.  A level II plan would preclude burning all your bridges, but would require some outlay of thought, money and time to prepare.  An extensive list of tools and supplies are laid out in Appendix A, more of a dream list than what one will be able to acquire, sort of like going through the Sears catalog saying "I want that... I want that..." , but it might give you some ideas.


Water is critical, of course.  Level I instructions apply in this scenario.  You can purify water by boiling it for one minute.  Also, by treating it with pure Clorox at the ratio of 8 drops per gallon if the water is clear or 16 drops per gallon if the water is cloudy, shake it up and let it sit for 30 minutes to allow time for the Clorox to kill all the microorganisms.  A 55 gallon drum would require about 1/5 cup of Clorox to purify for 6 months.  You can also purify water with 2% tincture of iodine in liquid form; add 20 drops per gallon of clear water, 40 drops per gallon for cloudy water, shake it up and let it sit for 30 minutes.  Don't accidentally drink any of the iodine straight, for example from the lip of the container, as it is a deadly poison; also, the iodine is suspended in alcohol, so if the alcohol evaporates, adjust the number of drops accordingly.  Don't use Betadine solution to purify water.  Probably the best way to purify water is to distill it using manufactured heat or solar power.  One easy way to construct a solar still is to build a 3' x 3' x (12" on one end, 18" on the other) waterproof box, paint the inside black with a non-toxic waterproof paint, or line with black plastic, and construct a roof of clear Plexiglas sloping to a trough or even a multi-faceted cover sloping to one point.  The box should be totally enclosed with no ventilation.  Pour dirty water into the box and let the sun work, collect the distilled water as it evaporates and runs down the Plexiglas cover; this method will yield about one quart per day so build accordingly.  Clean the box out occasionally.  Filters are an option, they are expensive and require filter element changes.  Filters might be manufactured from earth and/or sand products. 

Rainwater catchment systems seem promising.  The rain from the roof is diverted into a cistern or barrels.  The literature I've seen says metal or plastic roofs are OK for potable water systems, but not roofs with asphalt shingles; however, if the water is just used for flushing toilets or watering cats, go with the asphalt shingles.  If you do need to build a potable catchment system under an asphalt roof, it might be ok if you use a filter made out of sand to filter out trash, I believe the problem is in tar products from the shingles and possibly fiberglass.  You can cheaply construct a washer system by letting the raw water from the roof run into a five-gallon bucket with a large overflow outlet near the top of the bucket and a smaller (1/4") outlet at the bottom of the bucket.  When it rains, the water rushing off the roof fills the bucket before overflowing into the cistern thereby washing the roof of pollution and dirt before going into the cistern; the smaller tube at the bottom allows the water to drain out of the bucket before the next rain.  All in all, quite an elegant low-tech solution.  The system might be as simple as cutting off a gutter downspout and directing it into a 55-gallon drum.  A cistern can be built out of chicken wire wrapped around circle of re-bar stakes, then plastered over with a 3:1 sand: Portland cement mixture.  There's a little more than that to it but you can research it if you’re interested in that technology (i.e. I'm not sure what all is involved, I've just seen them in use in South America).

A well would be a nice thing to have, they are somewhat expensive and most pumps require electricity to operate, plan accordingly.  Solar powered, wind powered or hand powered pumps are a viable option.  Water conservation would be necessary.  Save water used for cleaning to strain and re-use.   Water used to cook vegetables or meat can be added to soups for extra nutrition and liquids.


Picture a grocery store when the weatherman gets done talking about an ice picture the same store where not only the bread, milk and eggs are gone, but everything is stripped down to include even the canned artichokes and Brussels sprouts; well maybe the Brussels sprouts will still be there.  The average grocery store only holds enough food supplies for three days; they depend on a steady stream of trucks re-stocking the shelves on a regular basis.  In addition to the two months supply of canned goods stored for a level I situation and the food in your 72 hour kit, store whole grains, pasta, rice (white not brown), beans, powdered milk, oil, spices, salt, and other items you may care for.  There is a more extensive list in Appendix A.  Whole grains store infinitely better than flour and preserve their nutrients much longer, the problem with grains is that they have to be converted to flour to make bread, this means a grinder; a good grinder can be purchased for around $250, or possibly they can be found at flea markets for $30 -$60, look for a grist mill.  The larger the grinding wheel, the faster they work, the smaller ones with a 1 1/2" wheel take a long time to make flour.  You can grind flour between two rocks or pound them with a heavy iron bar in a sturdy metal can if you have to.  Grains can also be soaked and boiled, roasted, sprouted or just gnawed on for as long as your teeth last.  The optimum lo-tech way to cook is with an old-fashioned wood fired cook stove, not really an economically viable option for most of us, so figure out what is needed to cook over a fireplace, build a wood fired grill/oven out of rocks and mud, and learn to cook over a campfire.  A Dutch oven is a great way to bake bread if it is the type that has a raised lip around the lid to hold coals on top and provide an oven like area inside the pot.  It probably wouldn't be a good idea to set up your outside kitchen out front by the street unless you have plenty to share. 

Foraging for wild game and plants might be an option, but it is better not to depend on it for your main source of food for several reasons: 1.) everybody will be doing it.  2.) When you are hunting, nobody is looking after the farm  3.) Game will become scarce(r).  4.) if you kill something, you have to get it back to the house carrying the unfortunate deceased critter with one hand whilst fending off poachers with the other.  5.) Wild game does not have enough fat on it to make a straight deer/rabbit diet feasible.  On the other hand, if a deer wanders across your yard early one morning and you are ready for it...venison for supper.  Also, you can have a box trap, or two, working for you all night while you are sleeping and have roast Raccoon for lunch the next day.  Leg holds, snares and Connibears also work.  Pay attention to wild plants for food also, get a field guide.  A pellet gun can harvest rabbits and squirrels around the house and is quiet and cheap to shoot, as well as being good practice.

Canning supplies will be a good thing to have in a survival environment, jars, lots-o-lids, pots big enough to sterilize jars in.  Food can be dehydrated, pickled in salt, or smoked in a homemade smokehouse.  The enemies of stored food are heat, oxygen and bugs.  To store grains and beans, get five gallon plastic buckets with new lids, put 1-2 inches of grain in the bottom of the bucket, put in a chunk of dry ice as big as your (4-6 oz.) hand then fill the rest of the way to the top of the bucket.  Set the lid on loosely and wait for 4-5 hours until the lid stops 'burping'.  As the dry ice evaporates, it displaces the oxygen, which cause food oxidation, and also kills the bug’s larvae by starving them of their oxygen.  The CO2 is heavier than the O2 and stays in the bucket.  Next seal the lid and store in a cool place, don't put it in an attic or hot garage, this will shorten the storage life.  Grains will store for 20+ years, beans for 8+ years, dried food for 6 months, solid Crisco stores longer than liquid oils (about 6 months for the liquid), Brown rice 6 months, flour for 6 months, pasta 2 years and powdered milk 18 months.

Just about any food storage plan is a temporary stop gap measure until food production can resume, this means seeds, non-hybrid so that the seeds can be used from year to year (if it goes on that long).   Garden tools will be required.  If livestock farming is envisioned, envision a fox in your chicken house if you don't have some chicken wire stashed back.  Fencing can keep a deer out of your garden if it is about 10 feet tall (maybe higher if the deer is a good jumper).  Seeds can be picked up cheaply after the end of the summer and would also make an excellent barter item.


More of the same as level I, Have a way to heat it.  If you envision a more serious situation, such as a level II disaster, plan on having a wood fired heater, even a homemade one fabricated from a 55-gallon drum.  Have a way to cut firewood; the best option is a chainsaw, with a spare or at least a bucksaw as a backup.  Keep an extra bar, 2 chains, spark plugs, points, file, plenty of gas and bar oil.  If you don't have oil to mix with the gas for a 2-cycle engine, 30-weight non-detergent oil can be substituted.  Also, 90-wt gear oil can be used as a bar oil; bar oil will be used just about as fast as the gasoline mixture, so get plenty.  Eye and ear protection is also a good thing to have.  Don't forget the splitting wedge.  Plastic sheeting will be handy to further insulate windows, stop leaks or build a small greenhouse. 

Most likely your shelter will be your present home, so figure on what you could do that would make it habitable without any outside utilities coming in.  Don't put all your eggs in one basket; bury (cache) a large portion of your supplies underground to avoid a massive loss due to fire or other calamity.  Research ways to protect goods buried underground with regards to waterproofing, location, security and availability. 

Physical Protection

Here's where it starts to get somewhat confusing.  As a Christian, I have rules to follow that are not of this world; but I have a family to protect also.  I don't believe that God would have me not protect them with every tool possible.  I can only pray for guidance on this issue and hope I do the right thing as God would will it.  A gun is a tool that can be used for good or evil.  Wars have been fought with weapons that resulted in ultimate good; WWII is the most striking example.  If Hitler had not been stopped, by American's carrying guns, he would have done much more damage than he did.  On the other hand, firearms in the hands of criminals have taken untold numbers of innocent lives.  Another analogy might be that Solomon was able to build the Temple in Jerusalem because his father, David, had secured peace in the Middle East through the might of his armies.  Yet, David had wanted to build the Temple himself but was stopped by God because his hands had been bloodied in war.  Most perplexing.

If you do decide to get a gun or guns, start with a pump shotgun in 12 or 20 gauge, a .22 rifle, a center-fire bolt action scoped rifle and maybe a center-fire pistol, in that order.  Get plenty of ammunition, especially .22 ammo, it's cheap.  With the grace of God, you'll only have to use them to harvest wild game.

A dog is an effective early warning system (cats are worthless).  Also, tin cans filled with pebbles strung up on wire.  If there is civil unrest in the area, get together with several families in order to provide for mutual protection, watches, garden help and spiritual support.  Pay attention to the area and the people moving through; try to establish a buffer zone around your house, like a fence.  Don't tell people what is your exact situation.  Don't appear obviously better fed or provisioned than the people around you.  In spite of all this direness, help people to the best of your ability, without compromising the safety of your family.

Spiritual Needs

Hold regular church services, "pray without ceasing" as the Apostle Paul would say, set up Bible study classes, organize Christian counseling in stress relief areas, set up a food bank and widows and orphans ministry.  James 1:27

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress..."

Observe the Sacraments.  The Methodist church observes three sacraments, the Communion, Baptism and the covered dish supper.  :-)

God's will is for you to help your neighbor.  When Jesus comes back, Matthew 25:37-40 says:

"Then the righteous will answer Him "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"  The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.""

Jesus is coming back someday, or we will go to Him, and we will then have to give an account of our actions on earth.  We are not saved by good works, but do have to account for our works, good and bad.

God loves you and wants only what is best for you, as it says in the book of Romans (8:28):

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those that love Him."

If a collapse goes down this heavy, it will be somewhat scary, way out of our normal comfort zones, but if we put our hope in the Lord, we will never be disappointed.  He will take care of us to the ends of time.  Look at Psalms 118:5-6:

"In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free.  The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid."

At some point when you trust in the Lord for your well-being, you cease to be afraid because you know that no matter what happens, He will be with you to comfort and protect you.  Therefore, why be fearful.  I think it is OK to prepare for things such as famine, Joseph did, but don't put your faith in your own human preparations.  Look at Matthew 6:19-21:
            "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also."

Maybe you think you don't need the Lord or He couldn't love somebody like you, well, you're wrong.  You do and He can.  Trust Him.  Listen to this, think about what it means to you.  Matthew 7:24-26:

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."

Build on the rock, not on the sand.  Jesus Christ is the rock; the things of the world are the sand.  Nobody is perfect; everybody has a past where he or she didn't live according to God's laws.  When you accept Jesus as your Savior, you may still be accountable to the world but as far as God is concerned, the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ covers all your sins and in His eyes you are pure and sinless.   Psalm 103:1-22

"Praise the Lord, O my soul; in all my inmost being, Praise His Holy name.  Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits.

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases; He redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion.

He satisfies my desires with good things, so that my youth is renewed like the eagle's.  The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.             
He has made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel.  The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower in the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with his children's children- with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.
The Lord has established His kingdom in heaven and His kingdom rules over all.  Praise the Lord, you His angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His word.  Praise the Lord, all His heavenly hosts, you His servants who do His will.  Praise the Lord, all His works everywhere in His dominion.             

Praise the Lord, O my soul.

The fear of the Lord is not the terror inspired by a tyrant, but the respect and awe a child holds for a beloved father, a father who has always been there, even when the child strayed and sinned, a father who has always loved the child; a child that will always love the father.

Psalm 91:2
"I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.""

Medical and Dental Concerns

The best thing you can do right now is to get physically fit by exercise and correct eating habits; this is a failing of mine.  Preventative medicine and proper hygiene will be important.  In a sustenance type environment, it is hard to stay clean, especially if water is in short supply.  You must however, purify drinking water and wash your hands to keep from getting sick.  Get two spare sets of glasses, if you need them.  As discussed earlier put together a first aid/medical kit sufficient to handle serious emergencies, 911 might not be working or paramedics might be overloaded.  Learn how to perform rudimentary medicine and gather medical, drug and nursing books now. 

Most drugs are still good after the expiration date (not Tetracycline- toss it when it expires, it cause kidney damage when old; also, aspirin when it smells like ascetic acid (sour, vinegary, smell like blue RTV sealant) is poisonous.  If a drug is far past the expiration date, you might have to up the dosage.  Understand, do not use this information in lieu of a real doctor, I'm not one and I don't play one on TV, this information is for emergency use only with no medical help available, I believe it to be correct.  Stock up on medication in advance, Aspirin, Tylenol, anti-biotic, painkillers (or alcohol), anti-diarrheal, etc etc.  See the list below. 

Financial and Legal Concerns 

Pretty much the same as Scenario I.  Perhaps more cash set aside and maybe some investments in gold and junk silver; junk silver is non-numismatic grade, pre-1964 solid silver coinage, useful for barter.  Junk silver is in small enough denominations to be reasonable when trading and also easily recognizable as what it is, a silver coin.  Keep a real low profile with the exact specifics of your preparations.  It won't be a secret from the criminal elements of our society that people are stockpiling cash and supplies.  There are those that are stockpiling only guns and ammunition.

With regards to barter, some things are easily tradable and typically in short supply during a crisis.  Clean water, coffee, batteries, candles, kerosene and lamps, lighters, candles, toilet paper, soap, stuff like that.  Keep some for trading purposes.   If somebody needs something you have set aside for trading purposes, but does not have anything to trade, give it to them anyway, don’t be a dweeb profiteer.  Don’t use societal collapse as an excuse to get rich; use barter goods to re-supply or obtain items you have not anticipated needing. 

To be continued…

Dear Sir:
I have been reading your blog for several years but have not been able to convince my dear husband to stop laughing at me until very recently. We are very busy people with full time+on call sort of jobs, three busy kids and I'm also a full time student as well. We consider our time as important as our money. I know there are others reading that haven't started yet due to lack of 'spare time'.

I have begun utilizing the 'Subscribe and Save' feature on This feature allows me to pick out items we need to add to our storage, schedule when and how much I want delivered directly to my home. As an item nears the quantity goal we have set, I simply deactivate that item and select something else from our master list. With this tool I get to add to our storage when I have time. It also allows me to track our inventory with ease. I also stay on budget because I know ahead of time exactly how much I'm spending.

Could I find it cheaper elsewhere? Maybe. But this feature also offers buyers a 15% discount on all items purchased each month over 5. And frankly, I'd rather spend what little time I do have learning with, or teaching, my kids new skills or honing the ones we already have.

Should I worry about tracking? First, do I care if how many rolls of toilet paper I'm buying is being watched by some faceless entity somewhere? Not really. In this day and age, unless I'm buying goods off the back of a truck in a dark alley with cash, it can be tracked.

Our main concern is that our time has value. We are doing more and more with our spare time to meet our goals. The truth is, there are only so many hours in a day. If others out there are putting off stocking up because they don't have the time to clip coupons or search the web for the best deals, this little tool might be the difference between getting started and waiting for schedules to lighten and getting caught in a tight spot unprepared at all.

Thank you for the excellent blog. - Mary in Nebraska

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wakeup Call
 It was 2 o’clock in the morning when our two year old toddler woke me with a terrifying scream. She was just across the hallway, but I was disoriented for a moment and couldn’t figure out why I was blind.  As I realized the power was out, I looked for the battery-powered lantern I keep beside the bed only to find it missing.  The three year old had probably been playing with it again.  I felt my way around the house and hoped the lantern would still have power.  It clicked on and what a blessed sight that light was.  After a few minutes of rocking and lullabies, the baby was soundly sleeping, but I was wide awake.  I found the extra flash light and left it turned on in the older children’s room so they wouldn’t be scared if they woke in the pitch-dark.  I went to the deck and saw the entire subdivision blacked-out.  Across the fields and interstate the city was aglow, but our tiny part of the world was eerily quiet.  All the white noise of technology was gone and only the frogs and bugs by the irrigation ditch were chirping away.  I lay awake long into the night, on high alert for the sound of little ones crying, pondering the long list of things I did not have prepared. 

Prior to that night I had 72-hour kits, winter-weather packs for the cars, and some bulk foods on hand for rainy days.  I grew up in the country where we kept a flashlight by the back door to check animals in the middle of the night.  My mother was and still is a wonderful advocate of food storage and small animal self-reliance.  Our family enjoys watching shows like “Doomsday Preppers” and “Mega-Disasters.”   My lack of preparation wasn’t because I hadn’t heard the message, but rather the notion that there would be time later.  My goal in writing this article is to provide an outline for individuals new to the prepping world. The first item of discussion is disasters, but which disaster? The second item is creating the LIST, in other words, what stuff is needed to survive said disaster.  The third portion addresses how to keep it all organized once you start making lists.  And I’ll mention a few tips on organizing for the smallest of disasters, Category I’s or 72 Hour Evacuations. 

Item 1: Disaster, Which Disaster?
Survival and Emergency Preparation information is available in many places and it can take days and weeks to sort through.  Our church hosted an Emergency Preparedness Fair with workshops covering many topics such as Heirloom Seeds, Getting Water without Electricity, 72-Hour Packs, Planning, Canning, and Non-canning food storage.  Each participant received a binder entitled “Provident Living” for organizing information and setting goals for future needs.  I dusted that binder off and began reading with new eyes. 

There are as many disaster scenarios as there are “preppers”, so how the heck do you know what to plan for? (Check out “Different Prepping Approaches” by Marlene M. posted July 20, 2013 in the Survival Mindset Category,  Using one presenter’s advice1 to create lists for different scenarios, I summarized his information on disasters into four categories.  It just made sense to start with disasters of shortest duration and build up to The End of the World as We Know (TEOTWAWKI)-level disaster.

Table 1. What types of Disaster do I Plan for?


Category I

Category II

Category III
Provident Living

Category IV


Natural or Man-made requiring evacuation

Natural or Man-made

Rainy Days & Hard Times

Long-Term Calamity TEOTWAWKI


Forced out of home, no utilities or supplies except what you take with you

In home or have access to it, but there are no utilities

In home with possible utilities, insufficient funds to purchase supplies

May or may not be in your home, nothing available anywhere at any price


72 hours to 2 weeks

Short term- up to 2 months

A few weeks to  a year or more

Long Term- Unknown



  • Natural Disasters
  • Weather related
  • Chemical Spills
  • Wildfires
  • Terrorism

<-    All of these, plus

  • Riots
  • Civil Unrest
  • Disrupted Utilities

Economic Crisis:

  • Unemployment
  • Death
  • Medical Problems
  • Hospital Stay
  • Extended family needs

Widespread Catastrophes:

  • War
  • Drought
  • Devastating Storms
  • Terrorism, etc.

Special Emphasis

All essentials in a portable container
Small, compact, lightweight

Emergency Supplies
Emergency Skills

Pantry Principles: Practical

Long-term storage, self-reliance skills of mending, repairing, providing, bartering, medical care, etc.

Item 2: List, What List?
My vague wish list for long-term storage items was not enough.  I began to sort through what I had and figure out what would be needed for possible disasters.  I needed a master plan to get organized and felt that the Lord would guide me.  A Sunday lesson had taught how the Creation was a pattern for gaining self-reliance.  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1:1). Following this example, I created a plan for my little “Homestead” taking into mind food storage, water, gardening, small livestock, and so on.  I made the following Table and listed some basic supplies for each section to give you an idea. For exhaustive lists search the “List of Lists” on 
Table 2. Creation-Based Planning



Category I

Category II

Category III

Category IV


Time Frame

72 Hour Minimum*

3 Month Supply

1 Year Supply


Genesis 1:3-4

Light & Heat


- Oil/Kerosene
-More Matches
-More Candles

-Wood Stove
-Wood for heat
-Cooking Briquettes
-Propane for BBQ

-Log Splitter
-Rechargeable Batteries

Genesis 1:9-10


-72 hour supply
-Portable jugs

-2 week supply
-Purification method tablets, filters

-Private Well
-Hand Pump for Well
-Large Storage Tanks

-Portable Filter
-Knowledge of local water and geography

Genesis 1:12,29

Plant Based Foods

-fruit leather, raisins
-Fruit cups
-Peanut butter

- Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, fats & oils, nuts, seeds, sugars and peanut butter

-Seasonal Gardening
-Composting, Natural Pest Control
- Canning & dehydrating skills

-Heirloom Seeds & preserving skills
- Farming Tools

Genesis 1:21,25

Animal Based Foods

-Protein shakes
-Powdered Milk

- meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, honey bees (powdered items for back-up)

-Dairy Goat/Cow
- Other livestock
-Hunting Weapons & Ammo

-Fishing supplies
-More Animals
-Gun Smith tools
-More Ammo

Genesis 1:27

Human Necessities &

-Toiletry Kit
-First Aide Items
-Sturdy, warm clothing
-Sanitation Items

-All Toiletry Items
-Socks, Underwear
- Medical Supplies
-Cleaning Supplies

-Sewing Machine
-Extra Shoes/Boots
-More Toiletries

-Outhouse or other Sanitation solution
 -Travel Trailer
-Bartering Goods


Rest from your work and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with being prepared.  Remember to honor the Sabbath day even in times of hardship.  Those in your company will be in need of Spiritual nourishment as much as physical nourishment.  Ex 31:17 “he rested, and was refreshed.”

Genesis 2:15

Put All into Practice

Set a time every year to rotate items

Store food that your family will eat, and rotate through it

Garden, Raise Livestock, and Live as if your life depended on it NOW

Learn Self-Reliance, Practice It and then spread the word in your community

*72 Hours is the minimum amount of time to plan for.  As recent natural disasters have shown, it may take longer for you to return home and have full use of utilities.

Item 3: How to Organize

So now you have all these areas of your life that need preparation and the list in your head is getting longer by the minute.  Ahhhh! It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the details, but don’t stop now!  Take a deep breath and remember that you only have to start with ONE item this week, and next week you can do another, and so on.  Look at different lists until you find a style that resonates.  A simple spreadsheet design on is titled “List of Lists”.  They offer detailed lists from an expert on every necessary area.   

All you need is a 1 or 2 inch ring diameter binder and some dividers to start.  The binder system allows you to easily add information along the way.  Start with a section entitled Homestead which will include: Communications, Evacuation Plans, and Tools.  Continue to make a section for each set of items from Table 2: Light & Heat, Water, Plant Based Foods, Animal Based Foods, Human Necessities & Comforts, and Spiritual Needs.  Some additional sections may include Financial Preparations, Safety, Security, and Maps.  Again, the work has already been done in “List of Lists” referenced above and they are free to use.  I just put each list under the best-fitting section and make personal modifications as needed.

Item 4: Category I- Short Term Evacuation

So let’s get into the short term evacuation scenario.  You need to leave your home quickly with enough supplies to carry you through … fill in whatever type of disaster you wish. I started organizing for Category I with “72 hour kits”.  Other names for this type of kit are the B.O.B. “Bug-Out-Bag” or the G.O.O.D. “Get Out Of Dodge” bag. You may have seen the term I.N.C.H. bag as in “I’m Never Coming Home.”  As this last name implies, it would be a kit that is kept for Category IV scenarios with more emphasis on rebuilding tools and long-term survival away from home.  Some helpful hints for beginners: designate an area for these items, make water portable, have a backpack for each person, and post a list in a visible spot. 

72 Hour Emergency Station- Create one spot or “station2” where all things needed for the 72 hour level of emergency are kept together. We now have a closet in our laundry room that is designated for that purpose.  This ensures that any person at home could load the evacuation supplies and meet up at a Rally Point with other family members. To help young children prepare, practice drills where each family member is assigned certain items to carry for an evacuation.  Use a stopwatch and make it a game for them. 

- The general rule of emergency preparedness is 1 gallon of water per person or pet per day. There are 5 people in our family x 3 days= 15 gallons.  Because my small children can’t carry the weight of three gallons, I have 2 liters in each pack with the additional water in a combination of 5 gallon jugs and cases of bottled water.  Since this is the bare minimum, it’s also a good idea to have water purification methods in each of the kits. 

- There is one backpack or small rolling suitcase for each person and pet in the home.  These hold everything from important documents in waterproof covers, flashlights, food, clothes, and first aid kits to books and tiny toys for the kids.  This is where list making is needed.  After studying several suggested lists, compile an individualized list based on what type of disasters are common in your region and specific needs of the person such as extra prescription drugs, glasses, or diapers. 

Evacuation List- Make a printed list that hangs in the station listing evacuation items in order of importance.  You decide and make sure everyone else knows that the list is law.  Take time to think it through now so when the SHTF evacuation will go smoothly and safely.  Put the “Extras” at the bottom of the list.

Extras- “Extras” are the items that would be nice to have if there was time and space to take them, but not essential to your survival for three days.  It could be a duffle bag or other portable container.  Mine is a blue Rubbermaid tote that is easy to move, water proof, and doubles as a child’s bath or wash tub.  Inside the tote is an inventory of items so that all family members will quickly know what resources are on hand.  I also added a copy of driving directions and a map of alternate routes to our evacuation spot. 

Item 5: Line Upon Line

Following the example of organizing for Category I, continue to develop your plans for the next category, and then the next, and then the next.  It’s a situation where the principle of “line upon line, precept upon precept3” applies because after you have planned for and acquired supplies for 3 days, 2 weeks will seem do-able.  After you have two weeks’ worth of supplies, three months won’t seem like too big of a burden, and all of a sudden you will have a year’s worth of supplies and be living like a veteran “prepper.” 
The last section titled Put it all into Practice happens when “prepping” becomes a way of life.  “Line upon line” you will gain knowledge of self-reliance, including but not limited to: gathering resources, building a personal library, networking with people, gardening, raising livestock, physical fitness, self-defense, hands-on training, and tools of a trade. 

Gathering Resources-
The internet is a wonderful tool for gathering information on every topic imaginable., Mother Earth News and are just a few of the sites I like to search. As I find a specific topic that I want to learn more about I send for free catalogues to look at supplies. My preparedness binder has a growing section of articles I’ve printed from professional and amateur blog sites. 

Personal Library
- When the grid goes down, having a collection of books on a wide range of topics will be invaluable.  I want the peace of mind knowing that I can refer to tried-and-true information in times of need.  Take the time to read reviews on books before purchasing them.  Many times I was saved from buying a book because the other readers pointed out it lacked the critical information I would need for real-life scenarios.  I also subscribe to GRIT that offers information on all kinds of homesteading topics.

Networking with People
- The talents and experience of neighbors, extended family, and community members is a wealth of knowledge that is only useful if we know where to go.  The Preparedness Fair at church gave me insight into the resources of our congregation.  We moved into a new subdivision and as we get to know the neighbors, I’ve found that one is a Jack-of-all trades that can build anything from houses to engines while another on is an avid bow hunter and camper.  Ask these people for advice and help when you come across new and unfamiliar prepping topics.  Being new to this blog, I find it exciting to know there are countless people out there with similar interests and a wealth of knowledge.
If you are a veteran prepper that has been doing this for years and can think of someone you know who hasn’t caught the fire to prep, maybe they don’t know where to start.  Don't give up; continue to be the great examples you are and someday it will reach someone like me.

- Grow what you can, even if it’s a few pots on the patio.  Learn about local soil, how to fertilize, controlling pests and climate restrictions.  Living in a dry area with short growing seasons means that my ability to preserve a large harvest is crucial.  Up here we plant mid-May and harvest by late September, so in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, I would be eating canned or dried produce 9-10 months of the year. 
Look to your local county extension office for help.  Each state has this program under their county government listing. They offer scientific based help for agriculture, livestock pastures, family and consumer sciences (cooking and preserving methods), and horticulture.  One example of courses offered by Yellowstone County helps develop horticulture skills in a Master Gardener Course. 

Raising Livestock
- Start small and build your herds and flocks with the same principle of “line upon line.”  I grew up in the rural 4-H setting, so I dabbled in everything from pigs to dairy goats to horses.  If you have children from ages 6-19, find a local 4-H club to join.  The kids get to enjoy the responsibility of caring for animals and parents have an automatic network of experienced project leaders that volunteer hundreds of hours to the program.  Their programs extend beyond animals to include a wide range of topics with everything from Aerospace and Astronomy to Wind Energy and Woodworking.  Check out page 16 of the Project Material Order Form4 for a full list of the 115 projects available.

Physical Fitness- After reading several articles5 I realized my kids will be depending on me to keep them safe, sheltered, and fed when SHTF.  I’m 35 pounds overweight and I feel stiff and tired many mornings.  That comes after a good eight hours of sleep in a very comfortable bed with plenty to eat and a hot shower each day.  Imagine being on the run, sleeping on the ground with limited calories and an immense load of stress.  This was another important area that I needed to start making changes in now, and not wait. So thanks to a great neighbor, I’ve started cardio and weight lifting, alternating days and resting on Sundays.  When I get tired, I envision having to put up a shelter in subzero temperatures or bug out with all our gear.  That’s what motivates me to push harder.

- I cannot add any personal experience in this area of preparation yet.  If you are like me, unfamiliar and intimidated by handling firearms, the best advice I can offer is to seek out opportunities to learn these skills.  This summer I will be attending a three day camp, just for women, that focuses on outdoor skills.  (An idea is already forming for my next article, Women and Firearms: 101).  This fall I want to take a two-part basic pistol class offered by a local shooting range. My goal is to increase my confidence through these experiences and become knowledgeable enough to purchase my own firearms. 

Hands-on Training
- So how do I become self-reliant?  If I wait to learn by trial-and-error, I may not last the first week or the first growing season.  Start by asking family members to share things they know about.  My father-in-law is a Vietnam Vet and was really helpful when I told him I had started “prepping.”  Search out camps and retreats that offer classes by experts.  I found affordable and local classes put on by the Wildlife, Fish and Parks Department in Montana.  They offer classes on things like packing horses in the mountains, GPS and Compass reading, Rifle, Archery, Outdoor cooking, and Wilderness Survival.  Locally the police department put on a free woman’s self-defense class.  Even if your funds are limited, be resourceful and find ways to learn the skills you want.  Organize classes through local churches or volunteer to be a 4-H project leader.

Tools of the Trade/Craft
- If the grid crashed today and there was no FedEx or would you have the tools and supplies needed to perform or produce something of value?  For example, my extended family raises dairy goats.  Each spring the children choose newborn kids for 4-H project animals and the extra milk is used by our families.  There are many valuable products besides milk such as cheeses, soaps, meats, hides and pack animals.  While these aspects of the goat herd aren’t being utilized right now, having the necessary equipment on hand such as molds, lye, presses, cheese cloth, Rennet tablets, etc. will be crucial for us to have a means of bartering goods and providing basics for survival. 

Just Do It
Just do it!  If you made it this far, I know you have been “awakened”! You are now aware that there are various types of disasters to plan for and that each can have a different list of supplies. Use a system to keep it all organized so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.  Remember to seek the council of the Lord.  Start with the smallest disaster and build steadily toward TEOTWAWKI. Make self-reliance a way of life and may God bless you in all worthy endeavors.


Friday, August 9, 2013

I am a Vice President o a very successful company in the western side of the Midwest.  I am in my early 60s, and after 30 plus years with the company - I will retire in next year or so with no debt, a good retirement plan, stable lifestyle – no worries, right?  So, why do some of those around me think I'm crazy (even me sometimes)?  Here's my story.
I grew up a farm boy working the family farm with my grandma and grandpa, old school Swede - German homesteaders - milking cows, slopping hogs, baling hay, walking beans, driving tractors, gathering eggs, and yes, shoveling S#%*.  Small rural town, 40 kids in my graduating high school class in late 1960s, sports, 4-H, Boy Scouts (be prepared), etc.  Dad and  Mom were both Marines in WWII. Brother was Marine in Vietnam (I missed the mandatory draft by 30 days in 1972 - otherwise I would also be a Marine.) My darling wife, an Asian pre-teen immigrant in mid-60's, has similar old time conservative culture values from her early years of primitive, survival type sustenance in post-war Korea, which was not a pretty picture or an easy life in the 50's - 60's.  As kids growing up, on opposite sides of the ocean, we weren't rich, but we never went hungry either.
Flash forward over next 40 years - college (didn't have enough money to farm), college professor, corporate job, worked hard, moved around, promotions, and the good times rolled.  In 2005 we purchased a small farm in an un-named western midwest state, as an investment, and was finally able to renew my farming roots ("Green Acres is the place to be...").  Bought some cows, chickens, and a donkey, and hooked up with a neighbor farmer to help manage-operate, and viola, I am again a farmer boy.  Not much of a cash flow farm, but a neat place with wooded rolling hills and pastures, lower quality crop ground, well fenced, two ponds stocked with fish, two wells, a couple of buildings, and a rocky bottomed creek that runs year round, plus an artesian water tube that also runs pure and clear most of the time.
2008 hit us hard - stock market crash and global financial collapse fears, Enron fiasco (yes, I too had, and still do have, way to much money tied back into 'the' company). This, coupled with my growing concerns with the changing ways of our society and culture, both domestically and globally, all led to a growing sense of concern of the future. In 2010, I cashed in a chunk of my retirement and paid off the farm, the cars and truck, and the McMansion house in town.  Debt Free!!!
But during this time I also started to think even more about about 'preparing' (Boy Scout).  Prepare for what - I do not know, other than my growing sense that our society is not sustainable the way things are going (Agenda 21?).  I stumbled on SurvivalBlog and got interested.  Since then, I have read many of the 'survival' books and blogs - yours and others - and I envision a day in the future that things won't be the same as they have been for 'us' over the past 50 - 75 years.

Even though I myself am spooked, now five years later in 2013, (stock market 15,000), I have to admit that I probably won't live to see a SHTF world. But, I do believe fully that my children or grandchildren likely will.  So, my prep activities are focused primarily for them.  Okay, now here's what I am doing and planning.
Hunker Down:  Refer to farm described above.  Very isolated. 10+ miles from nearest small town (<2000).  60+ miles from nearest small city (100,000).   75+ miles from nearest Interstate highway.   200+ miles from 3 larger mid-size cities (250,000+).  ~700+ miles from nearest mega city (CHI), 75 miles from nearest Interstate highway, 150+ miles from nearest 'strategic' military base.  Sits on secluded, low-travel gravel road, 2 miles from nearest county paved road.  County population is <19/sq. mile.  Few neighbors (<20 in 5 mile diameter).  Closest neighbor (1/4 mile) is a like-minded, well prepped and avid hunter and trapper.  I see this as Wyoming-like, in a Midwestern state, and I call it Redoubt-East.
Currently we are building a 'retirement house' on the farm - off-grid and self-sufficient capable with redundant solar, propane, diesel, electric, and wood power-heat systems, deep water well along with alternate artesian water source.  Constructed with solid concrete basement and concrete upper walls, small high, burglar-bar  windows, steel external doors, and video/sensor security system.  Also has concrete root cellar under basement and underground 'escape tunnel' out of basement.  Sized to hold our 3 families (if we crunch up).  Will be finished in early 2014.  Should be sustainable and secure for localized rogues or small scale insurgents, but probably would not withstand an army-like assault (if they can find us) - like I read about in some of the Armageddon books.  Also, we are keeping eye out for roving Obama drones!  Oh well.
Practice - not so much on shooting, but in the last couple of years, more so on gardening and more primitive food preserving skills.  My Korean wife remembers lessons from her grandma (watching) in food gathering and preserving.  Turnips, yams, kimchi, other basic staples - to take the bounty of the current year and preserve it to get through the winter (non-growing seasons).  In our practicing, we have 'discovered' a really neat way to naturally sun-dry some of the veggies and fruits we are growing (or buying at the farmers market).  We use two spare window screens (from the McMansion), thinly slice the veggies - fruit, and place between the 2 screens, clamp the edges, and set out in the sun to dry.  It takes about three days of good sunshine to fully dry.  No bugs, no muss, no fuss.  When dry, put in Zip-los bags (modern, yes, I know) and store in a cool dry place (root cellar is best).  This makes excellent, naturally preserved veggies and fruit (fancy food preservation machines not needed), that will provide flavorful and nutritious basic staples (scurvy) through the winter and beyond, if stored properly.  

Food - currently have at least 1+ year supply of easy living basics, even if electric-fuel grids go kaput.  Working at two year supply of very basics.  After 1 year adrift, we will go big time to gardening (have heirloom and hybrid seeds, tools, water & land), home-raised livestock (cattle & chickens) and abundant wild game (deer, turkey, fish), as needed.  Assuming Mother Nature and OPSEC security provides, should be sufficient to survive and lead to the 'rebuilding' process.
Security - we have decent assortment - rifles (varmint & long guns), assault guns, shotguns, handguns, knives and 'special' tools, accumulated over the years by the direct family members (and like minded neighbors).  We are not optimal in large stocks of ammo though, as we only got serious on this in last year or so, just when the ammo supplies went south, but we are able to self-load though.  Rather than blow brains out in current ammo craze (serious money), I will be patient and stock up further as retail stocks reappear. (Hopefully in near future).
Barter - we have been accumulating stuff (things), like booze, cigarettes, meds, households, ammo, gold-silver-coins, gadgets, etc.  No idea what will be useful or needed for a future SHTF scenario.  If it does happens, then 'stuff' should come in handy.  If not, then grand kids can all get together some day and go through it all, and laugh about their crazy old grandpa.
Survival Tip - Mr. Rawles advises that articles on practical 'how to' survival skills have an advantage in the judging.  So, those of you old enough to remember the movie ‘The Graduate’ remember the ‘one word’ success tip whispered to Dustin Hoffman: "Plastics."  So here is my 'one word' survival tip - Donkeys.  Yes, I said 'donkeys'.  Here's what a 'multi-propose 'survival' donkey' can do:

* Anti-predator - keeps roving coyotes, cougars, wild dogs (wolves?) away from cows/calves or sheep.  Really amazing to see! 
* Intruder Alert - donkey 'brays' at strangers coming up the lane (if you've never heard before, it definitely gets your attention).  Also, watching the donkeys laser-like ears and eyes is dead-on if you want to know where a lurking intruder is located.  Her (jenny) ears, eyes, and nose are much better than ours.
* Halter Breaking calves - another story in itself.
* Pack-bearing - can haul couple hundred pounds of gear/supplies.
* Cart Pulling - can pull cart (or person) with gear/supplies.
* SHTF transport - can ride - for when doctor (son) must make 'SHTF calls' around the township/county for house calls or emergency (good enough for Jesus).
* Family-Friend-Companion – it’s amazing what an apple a day can do.
So, am I crazy?  No question about it.  I could be planning an easy, fun-filled retirement with golfing, a beach home, and world travel vacations.  NOT - been there, done that!  Yes, I am crazy, but we are also HAPPY and EXCITED.  My wife and I are looking forward to the next 15+ years of a 'back to the farm' lifestyle, growing old together, rediscovering our rural roots and old fashioned passions, enjoying weekend visits and summer farm vacations with our kids and grand kids along with new found friends and good times with our rural neighbors.  And oh yeah, if the S does HTF, we will be ready, I hope.  Crazy as Fox.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Several readers wrote to suggest some more American makers to add to my recently-posted lists:

Alvord-Polk Tool - Aircraft quality reamers. 

Brubaker Tool, Division of Dauphin Precision Tool, LLC  - Mills, taps and drills.

Ames Corporation is the parent company for several brand names that make all American-made tools. These include:

Miller Electric (a sister company to Hobart Brothers.) - Engine Drive welder/generators. Made in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Quincy Compressors - Air compressors. Made in Quincy, Illinois.

Hypertherm - Plasma cutters.

Torchmate - CNC plasma cutting machines. (Part of Lincoln Electric Cutting Systems.)
Ventamatic - MAXX brand fans. Made in Mineral Wells, Texas.

Liberty water pumps - Electric transfer pumps (for use with garden hoses), sump pumps, macerator pumps, etc.

Bark River Knife and Tool - Mostly hunting, utility and filleting knives. Made in Michigan's U.P.

William Henry - Top quality pocket knives. Made in McMinnville, Oregon. (While they are a bit "spendy", they source all of their parts from suppliers in the States. For instance, their high end Damascus steel is forged in Alabama.)

Queen Cutlery/Shatt & Morgan - Quality and made pocket, hunting and other knives. Made in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

Rada Cutlery - Utilitarian knives at very reasonable prices. (Making it easy to stock up).  They make kitchen knives and utensils, as well as stone bakeware.  Made in Iowa.

Reader E.M. wrote to lament that a lot of fishing tackle is now made in China, but that one American company he does recommend is X Factor Tackle.

And Reader J.K. wrote this pitiful news: "As a former employee of Stanley Black and Decker in Towson, Maryland, I'm sorry to say that a vast majority of DeWalt (and other SB&D brands) tools currently produced by the company are actually made in China. While the current generation on the market are wonderful and durable tools, they are not made here any more. The only American assembled tools I handled there as a test technician were engineering prototypes. About the only thing SB&D does in America now for its various branded power tools is production lot sample testing for life limits and safety regulation compliance. Unfortunately, as I understand it all manufacturing will probably end up in China as a part of their 'Design to Value' campaign."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Following up on my recently-posted list of field gear makers that have all American-made products, I've compiled a comparable list of American tool makers.

The Sell-Outs

Some companies that have long been thought of as "American" companies now produce most or all of their tools overseas. For example, Craftsman (the Sears house brand) now produces many of their tools in Asia. Others include: Cooper, Disston, Eastwood, Greenlee, Lufkin, Milwaukee, Peerless, Porter Cable, Shurlite, Snap-On, Thorsen, Vise-Grip, Vermont American, Weller, Williams, and Winchester. The many, many others are almost too numerous to list.

Some of the "good guy" companies that I will list here sell a few imported tools, but to qualify for inclusion, they must sell mostly American-made tools (and component parts.) Also, beware even "All American" tool companies source their plastic storage boxes, their belt pouches, and their tool bags overseas.

What to Buy?

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, I would simply look at my father's collection of tools to get an idea of the good brands to buy. My kids can't safely do that today. Quite sadly, the majority of those tool companies have now moved their production offshore.

Do your homework before you buy! With the exception of high speed cutting tools, the vast majority of American tool manufacturing has moved offshore to mainland China. (The home of laogai "Reform Through Labor" prison factories.) Rather than just be depressed about this situation, I have resolved to do something to counter this trend. I urge all of my readers to do the following:

1.) Don't just blithely purchase merchandise without first checking on its country of origin. Take the time to LOOK at labels! When buying from mailorder catalogs or online, take a minute to call and ask, before you order if the country of origin is uncertain.

2.) If a product listing says "imported", then the odds are now better than 80% that it is made in mainland China. So skip it.

3.) Be sure to thank the management of these companies for keeping their production in the States, and tell them that they earned your business because of it.

Companies that proudly still offer "Made in USA" tools:

Measurement, Squaring, and Leveling Tools

  • Chappell Universal Square and Rule - Framing squares and other carpentry measuring/layout tools. Made in Maine.
  • Crick Tool - Traditional wood frame spirit levels. (Made in Ben Wheeler, Texas.)
  • Fischer Machine - Edge Finders, Vee Blocks and Clamps, and PeeDee thread measuring wires.
  • Port Austin Level and Tool - Wood and aluminum spirit levels. (Made in Michigan.)
  • Kraft Tool Company - Spirit levels as well as concrete and masonry tools.
  • L.S. Starrett Co. - Calipers, levels, tape measures, micrometers, dial indicators, and gage blocks. Most are still made in USA at their plants in Ohio, Massachusetts, Minnesota and North Carolina. (Some imported products, so see their catalog or web site, to be sure.)
  • U.S. Tape Company - The only domestic tape measure manufacturing company that makes a full line of tapes.

Wrenches, Socket Bits, and Socket Sets

  • Armstrong Tools - A wide variety of tools, all made in USA. (Now owned by Danaher Corporation.)
  • Bondhus - Various hex tools, including ball head. (Made in Minnesota.)
  • Bristol Wrench - The originators of the Bristol Spline Drive System.
  • Channellock - A wide variety of of pliers and other hand tools, including, of course, their patented slip-joint pliers. (Made in Pennsylvania.)
  • Eklind Tool Co. - Hex (Allen head) and Torx head tools, including folding, L-keys, and T-keys.
  • Klein Tools - This company was mention by nearly a dozen SurvivalBlog readers. They make a wide variety of hand tools at nine factories in Illinois. (A few of their products are imported, but those are noted in their catalog and on their web page.) Klein tools are widely available at hardware and Big Box stores.
  • Lisle Tools - Torx head and specialty automotive tools.
  • Loggerhead Tools - Adjustable wrenches, including the "Bionic" wrench.
  • Montana Brand Tools - Drive sets, drills, and more. (Made in Ronan, Montana.)
  • OTC - Wheel bearing wrenches and gear pullers. (Note that many other OTC products are imported.)
  • Precision Instruments - Click torque wrenches. Unlike other torque wrenches, these don't need to be "turned down" after use.
  • S-K Handtool - Socket wrenches, sockets, impact sockets, adjustable wrenches, screwdrivers, punches, chisels, hammers, and more.
  • Snap-on Tools - A huge variety of tools. They have four factories, all in the U.S. (In Elkmont, Alabama; Algona, Iowa; Elizabethton, Tennessee; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.) Most Snap-on products are US-made, but they also catalog some others tools that are imported. (So be sure to check.)
  • Superb Wrench - Filter wrenches.

Cutting Tools & Saws

  • American Carbide - Carbide end mills, burrs, and router bits.
  • Atlas Cutting Tools - Carbide, high speed steel and cobalt cutting tools made with domestic (USA) carbide.
  • Blu-Mol - (An American division of Disston.) Drill bits and power saw blades. Note: Disston's domestic operation is in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. But some of their tools are made in China.
  • Cenco Grinding - Drill blanks, Core Pins, Go/No-Go Gages, Plug Gages, Punches, Guide Pins, and Stainless Pins
  • Diamond Saw Works - Makers of Sterling brand saw blades. Blades for band saws, reciprocating saws, jig saws, hack saws, and more.
  • Eagle America - Router bits and jigs. More than 900 patterns of router bits. (Made in Ohio.)
  • Forrest's Blades - Excellent circular saw blades.
  • Hanson Tools - (a division of Irwin Tools) Taps and dies
  • Hart Steel - Hand-made straight razors. (Useful for more than just shaving.)
  • Imperial Blades - Oscillating blades.
  • Katie Jig - Dovetail cutting jigs.
  • King Tool - Hobby and craft tools. (Their knife sets are a lot like the old standby X-Acto brand--which sadly went offshore.)
  • Kodiak Cutting Tools - End mills, taps, twist drills, thread mills, burs, carbide drills and reamers
  • Lakeshore Carbide - Carbide end mills, center drills, and countersinks, made with American carbide.
  • Lie-Nielsen Toolworks - Woodworking block planes, bench planes, and chisels. (Made in Maine.)
  • Mastercut Tool Corp. - High Speed Steel Drills and Taps.
  • Mayhew - Punches, chisels, pry bars, etc.
  • Midwest Tool & Cutlery (aka Midwest Snips) - Forged blade hand tools, including metal cutting snips and other edged hand tools. Made in Minnesota.
  • MK Diamond - Masonry and Lapidary Cutting Saws.
  • Montana Brand Tools - Drills and drive sets, including titanium drill bits, magnetic screw guides, and more. Their "4-in1" self-countersinking bit/drivers are brilliant. (Made in Ronan, Montana.)
  • Niagara Cutter - Carbide and diamond-coated carbide cutting tools. (Headquartered in Amherst, but their tools are made in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.)
  • Norseman Drill and Tool - JWR's favorite brand of drill bits.
  • RedLine Tools - Machine tools (carbide end mills, drills, thread mills, tool holders, and cutting lubricants)
  • Scientific Cutting Tools (SCT) - Carbide and carbide-coated tools.
  • Severance Tool Industries - High-speed steel and carbide cutting tools
  • SGS Tool Company - Solid carbide rotary cutting tools: Burrs, drills, end mills, and router bits. (Made in Ohio.)
  • Silvey - Electric chainsaw sharpeners. (Unlike the cheap imported chain grinders, these cut a precision square notch.)
  • Southeast Tool - Router Bits and Drill Bits
  • Titan USA - Carbide, high speed steel,and cobalt cutting tools.
  • Toolco Industrial Corp. - Various cutting tools including Solid Carbide End Mills, Taps & Dies, Drills, HSS & Cobalt End Mills, Micro Tools, Threadmills, Carbide Burrs, Countersinks, Slotters, Door Bits, and Reamers
  • Triumph Twist Drill - Twist drills, tile drills, and taps & die,
  • Viking Drill - Various rotary cutting tools including drill bits, tap & dies, and annular cutters
  • Vortex Tool Company - Router and insert cutting tools.
  • Wenzloff & Sons - Awesome hand saws. Presently very limited production. (So it is best to buy them on the secondary market.)
  • Whiteside Machine Co. - Solid carbide and carbide-tipped router bits, form tools, spirals, and slotting cutters/arbors. Also a good assortment of chucks.
  • World's Best Saw Blades - Circular saw blades, dubbed: "Flattest, Truest, Smoothest, Best Made Blades... Anywhere"
  • Xuron Corporation - Shears, pliers and forming tools. (Made in Saco, Maine.)

Knives and Multi-Tools:

Hand Tools (Various)

  • ABC Hammers - Brass and bronze hammers.
  • Armstrong Tools - A wide variety of tools, all made in USA. (Now owned by Danaher Corporation.)
  • Arrow Fastener - Staple guns of all sorts. Note that some Arrow tools are imported, so be sure to check before you order.
  • Barco Tools - A wide variety of had tools including hammers, axes, pry bars, digging bars, trowels, etc.
  • Barr Specialty Tools - Excellent hand-forged woodworking tools such as adzes, chisels, draw knives, gouges, knives, mallets, and slicks. (Made in McCall, Idaho.)
  • Bicycle Tool - Specialty bike tools. They also make a fantastic 1/4-inch offset driver.
  • Blue Spruce Toolworks - Nice woodworking chisels, marking knives, scratch awls and mallets. (Made in Oregon.)
  • Bridge City Tool Works - Gorgeous (brass and rosewood!) woodworking tools including chisels, squares, Japanese saws, and planes. Pre-sold, in limited run batches. (Made in Oregon.)
  • Bully Tools - Shovels, hoes, planters, and trowels.
  • Chapman Mfg. Tools - Ratchets, drivers, and adaptors for Allen, Bristol, Phillips, and Torx head fasteners.
  • Council Tool - Reportedly, the only axe maker in the country that still forges its own axes. (Made in Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina)
  • Crosscut Saw Company - Logging hand saws and accessories. (Made in Seneca Falls, New York.)
  • Estwing Tools - Hammers, bars, small axes, and mineralogist picks
  • Hardcore Hammers - Framing hammers. (Made in Kansas.)
  • INCRA Precision Tools - Dovetail and precision miter fences for table saws and router tables. (Made in Texas. )
  • Kahn Tools - Retailers of exclusively American-made products from more than 50 companies.
  • Klein Tools - This great company was mentioned by nearly a dozen SurvivalBlog readers. They make a wide variety of hand tools at nine factories in Illinois. (A few of their products are imported, but those are noted in their catalog and on their web page.) Klein tools are widely available at hardware and Big Box stores.
  • Logrite - Logging hand tools.
  • Lumberjack Tools - Tenon Cutters.
  • Moody Tools - Excellent miniature tools, such as jeweler's screwdrivers.
  • Park Tool - Bicycle maintenance and repair tools, made in Minnesota. (But their multi-tools are imported.)
  • Peavey Manufacturing - Axes, post hole diggers and off course Peaveys. (Made in Eddington Maine.)
  • Pratt-Read (now owned by Ideal) - Screwdrivers and nut drivers.
  • Pro-Tools - Tubing benders.
  • Proto (aka Stanley-Proto--a division of Stanley.) Most Proto tools are made in USA.
  • Ridgid Tools - Pipe wrenches, pipe threaders, and tubing cutters. Note that some Ridgid tools are imported, so be sure to check before you order.
  • Snyder Manufacturing - Ratcheting and non-ratchet screwdrivers. (Made in Salamanca, New York.)
  • St. Croix Forge Family - Horse shoeing tools, nails and other farrier equipment
  • Stiletto Tool Co. - Titanium and stainless steel hammers. (Made in Winton, California.)
  • Vaughan Mfg. (aka Vaughan-Grayvik) - Hammers, pry bars, hatchets, axes, drywall hatchets, etc. Note that some Vaughan tools are imported, so be sure to check before you order.
  • Wilde Tool - A great range of hand tools, including pliers, screwdrivers, scrapers, wrenches and more. (Spoken "Wild-ee.")
  • Woodman's Pal - A trail machete/hatchet/pruner.
  • Wright Tool - Wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, pliers, and hammers,
  • Xuron Corporation - Shears, pliers and forming tools. (Made in Saco, Maine.)

Sewing and Leatherworking Tools:

Gunsmithing, Reloading, and Bullet Casting Tools:

  • Brownell's - America's largest gunsmithing tools supplier. They sell a mix of US-made and imported tools, so be sure to check the country of origin for each item before ordering.
  • Chapman Mfg. Tools - Ratchets, drivers, and adaptors for standard slotted (gunsmithing style), Allen, Bristol, Phillips, and Torx head.
  • Dillon Precision - Reloading tools. Oh, and a great Minigun. ;-)
  • Grace USA - Excellent hollow-ground gunsmithing screwdrivers, as well as hammers and pin pinches.
  • Infinite Products - Stainless Steel Solvent Trap 1/2x28 to Oil Filter (3/4x16) Thread Adapters
  • Lee Precision - Reloading and bullet casting tools.
  • Lone Wolf Distributors - Glock armorer tools.
  • Lyman Products - Reloading and bullet casting tools.
  • RCBS - Reloading tools.
  • Squirrel Daddy - AR15 / M16 Lower Receiver Magazine Vise Block. (These are handy to just hold your AR for cleaning, too.)
  • Tapco - The best AR-15 armorer's wrench. Many of their other products are imported, so check before your order.
  • UTG - AR-15 Sight adjusting tools, and many products. (Check for country of origin.)

Welding Tools:

Clamps and Vises:

  • Anvil - (aka Wolff Industries) Their fly-tying (miniature) vise is American-made. (Made in Indiana.)
  • Armstrong Tools - Some clamps made in USA.
  • Badger Clamp - A variety of clamps. (Made in Michigan.)
  • Bench Crafted - "Build It Yourself" woodworking table vise kits and plans, including a great split-top Roubo bench. They also make great magnetic knife and tool holders.
  • Bench Dog Tools - Clamping assembly squares and hole clamps.
  • Dyna King - Their fly-tying (miniature) vises are American-made. (Made in Cloverdale, California.)
  • Griffin Enterprises - Fly-tying (miniature) vises, all American-made. (Made in Kalispell, Montana.)
  • Pony Clamps - Most of their clamps are made in the USA.
  • Wilton - Only some of their vises are still American-made, so check carefully before ordering.
  • Yost Vises - U.S. and imported vises. (Only the vises shown on their "Made in USA" web page are American-made.)

Handheld Electric Power Tools:

Except for Dremel, there are now precious few US-made hand-held AC (power cord) or DC (battery) power tools. We now must look for used tools that are marked "Made in USA." Even Milwaukee and Porter Cable have shifted their manufacturing to China! I personally use Dewalt tools, which are now mostly made in Mexico. (I refuse to buy tools made in China, unless I have no other choice.) Ironically, I've read that Makita (a Japanese conglomerate) now makes more tools in the U.S. than does Dewalt! BTW, I also own some Dremel brand tools, but they now only claim "Made in North America" (rather than "Made in USA") for their product line. Many of their tools are also now made in Mexico.

Floor and Bench Mount Power Tools:

Note: Pitifully, there are no more mid-size (home shop weight) milling machines made in the USA. The only one that comes close is is the Industrial Hobbies (Charter Oak Automation) brand mill, but the big castings that they start with fro those are imported from Taiwan. It is generally best to look for used American-made machines from quality makers, locally, via Craigslist. (Such as Apex, Jet, Atlas, or Bridgeport.) Ditto for bench grinders, disc sanders, scroll saws, and many other tools. Here are a few American floor and bench mount power tool makers that are still hanging in there:

  • Buffalo Machines, Inc. - Perhaps the last American maker of home workshop drill presses. Both their machines and their documentation still look "Old School", too! (Made in Lockport, New York.)
  • Clausing - Only their few "Insourced" machines are American-made.
  • Dremel - Makes a Rotary Tool Work Station that turns your Dremel tool into a miniature drill press.
  • Ellis Mfg. - Band saws, band saw blades, floor mount belt grinders, and a CNC drill press.
  • Powermatic - Table saws. (In October of 1999 Powermatic was purchased by WMH, who already owned Jet Tools, and Performax Products.)
  • Ridgid Tools - Best known for their pipe tools, they also make bench-mount (or cart-mount) miter saws, table saws, and abrasive cut-offs
  • Sherline - Miniature lathes and milling machines.
  • Shopsmith - Multipurpose woodworking machines (functions include lathe, table saw, disc sander, boring and routing) for home woodworking. (Some argue that in attempting to all of these tasks, that they do none of them particularly well. I only recommend Shopsmiths if you have very limited floor space in your wood shop.)
  • TAIG Tools - Bench top mini milling machines and lathes. Now with CNC control!

3D Printers

Here is a new technology where America presently has the lead! American companies control more than 90% of the market:

Pneumatic Power Tools:

  • Bondhus - Various hex (Allen and Torx head) tools, including ball head. (Made in Minnesota.)
  • Campbell Hausfeld - Cast Iron Air Compressors.
  • Proto (aka Stanley-Proto--a division of Stanley.) Most Proto tools are made in USA.
  • Snap-on Tools - A huge variety of tools. They have four factories, all in the U.S. (In Elkmont, Alabama; Algona, Iowa; Elizabethton, Tennessee; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.) Most Snap-on products are US-made, but they also catalog some others tools that are imported. (So be sure to check.)
  • Texas Pneumatic Tools - Compressors, impact wrenches, grinders, et cetera.
  • St. Louis Pneumatic - Impact wrenches, grinders, drills, and power chisels.

Masonry Tools:

Log Splitters:

  • DR - Gas engine and electric splitters. Unlike a typical gas engine splitter, their electric splitters cannot be heard from more than a short distance away.
  • Ramsplitter - As electric splitters go, these are fast and powerful.

Pouches and Tool Bags:

Work Benches, Tool Chests, Cabinets, Tool Carts, Router Tables, and Saw Horses:

  • Akro-Mils - Very handy plastic hardware storage bins and metal racks, to hold them.
  • American Workbench - Excellent wooden workbenches, shipped unassembled. (Made in Charlestown South Carolina.)
  • Bench Crafted - "Build It Yourself" woodworking table vise kits and plans, including a nice split-top Roubo bench.
  • Bench Dog Tools - Cast iron router tables.
  • Black & Decker - Workmate Portable Workbenches. (Note that most Black & Decker tools are imported.)
  • Edsal - Steel work benches, shelves, pallet racks, and tool carts. Their is a real bargain, and quite versatile.
  • Gerstner - Some of the nicest wooden tool chests made. (Steel tool chests are more practical for most of us.)
  • Hideahorse - Strong, stable folding sawhorses
  • Kennedy Manufacturing - Rolling tool chests, bench top chests, hand-carry chests, modular cabinets, and benches with drawers.
  • Moduline - Aluminum tool cabinets
  • Noden Furniture Design - Makers of the Adjust-A-Bench
  • Task Horse Brackets - Sturdy sawhorses, using standard 2x4 dimensional lumber.
  • U.J. Ramelson Co. - Scribes, carving tools, and checkering tools.
  • Woodpeckers - Router tables, router mounting plates, router fences, measuring tools, layout tools and clamping accessories. Note that they also sell some imported products (under other brand names), so be sure to check the country of origin before ordering. (Their products under their brand name are made in Ohio.)

A Few Odd Ducks

Here are a few others American tool companies with products that are not in the aforementioned categories:

  • MacCoupler - A clever adapter that allows you to re-fill one-pound propane cylinders from 20 to 40 pound tanks.
  • MagEyes - Magnifying lenses with a headband for hands-free detail work. (Made in Texas.)

Closing Notes: Special thanks to Harry J. Epstein Company, a tool retailer that still cares about the country of origin off the tools that they sell.

When you do buy an American-made product, again, please send an e-mail to the maker, with a note of encouragement to let them know that you appreciate their integrity in keeping their production on-shore.

Please let me know via e-mail which companies I've missed in the preceding lists, and I will add them before I move this piece to a permanent reference page.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Last week I returned home, after being away for a few days, to find a good portion of my preps under 30 inches of scuzzy water due to a flash flood that hit my neighborhood.  They were stored in my unfinished basement that also housed a permanent sump pump installed in one corner which was supposed to prevent such flooding.

When I started down the stairs to the basement I was met with a really strong musty smell.  I couldn't get down the last 3 steps due to the high water.  I noticed a couple of my #2.5 cans of freeze dried food floating nearby and fished them out of the water.  The cans were slimy and smelly but the labels were still somewhat intact.  I sat down on the step and used a powerful flashlight to illuminate the room. 
Floating in the water were a lot of my canning supplies, #2.5 & #10 cans of freeze dried food, vacuum sealed bags of food, pieces of cardboard boxes and some trash bags that stored other prepper type items.  A good number of boxes & Tupperware containers at the back of the room had tipped over with the contents now in a huge wet, mushy amorphous pile of gunk.  It looked like the wooden shelves they were originally on were broken or had become unhinged.  The heating unit for the house was 3/4 of the way under water.  Good thing its July and not January.
Tears of despair started to well up in me but I quickly started doing some deep breathing and was able to push them back down.  I knew immediately I wouldn't be able to afford to replace the items let alone a new heating unit.  I was laid off a few years ago from corporate America and had not been able to find a full time job yet.  I had gone from making $40 an hour to $10 an hour part time with no benefits.  My 83 year-old mom had been sending me some money to help me keep the bills paid and food on the table.  There was no extra anything.  I had bought the food and preps years ago while I was gainfully employed and they had given me some sense of security these last few years. 

I made myself get up and start working the problem.  I went to the shed and grabbed a couple of small submersible pumps but only had garden hoses to put on them.  I then started moving some furniture out of the way so I could run the hoses up the stairs and out the back door.  I laid down towels to protect the antique oak wood floors and started pumping.  I only got 6 inches pumped out before I had to pull the pumps and hoses in order to shut the back door for the night.  24 inches to go.

Next morning I set everything back up but noticed that the water level was back up to 28 inches.  I went and talked to a good, like-minded neighbor and he came over to look at it.  He gave me a quick education on water table levels and sump pumps, specifically the difference between pedestal (which the old one was) and submersible ones.  He told me the 2 smaller submersible pumps I was using could handle a much bigger hose than the 5/8 garden hoses.  A trip to Home Depot and quick installation of bigger flexible hoses allowed me to start pumping larger amounts of water out. 

After a day of pumping I got the water level down to 6 inches and could see that the old pedestal style sump pump had come up out of the barrel sunk into the floor of the basement and was sitting on the floor.  Which, of course, meant the motor was trashed and a new one was needed.  I shut everything down for the night and took another 1200 mg. of Tylenol.  My back was seriously hurting from moving the furniture and lifting sump pumps with long hoses attached in and out. 

Next morning started out with me walking around fairly bent over from back spasms so I switched to Advil and headed to Home Depot for a new submersible pump with a float.  Back at home the water level had risen over night to 19 inches so I put the two small pumps back to work.  I almost took a header into the water while trying to wrestle the old pump out which was to the left of the staircase.  I was standing on the stairs bent sideways trying to get the old pump out so I could put the new one in the barrel.  Lost my balance, whacked my head on a floor joist (which kept me from doing a face plant in the water) and did a wicked twist to my ribs but I got it out.  Installed the new pump and started to really move some water out.

Did I mention I am a small frame woman and sump pumps with big hoses attached are heavy and awkward?  I was sitting in a lawn chair watching the water pump out into the irrigation ditch, nursing a wicked headache and spasms in my ribs, neck, back and shoulders when another good, like-minded neighbor I had told about the "event" came by.  He walked up and handed me a hamburger, root beer and a big bottle of Aleve.  A hamburger never tasted so good and I am now totally sold on Aleve.
The next day, with the new pump working and the water level down, I put a couple of big box fans in the basement to start drying things out and shut the door to the basement.  I landed on the couch for the rest of the day with my new friend, Aleve, and gave my aches and pains a break.  The following day I had recuperated enough to go down and start hauling stuff out.  More heavy smelly stuff up the stairs and out into the yard.

Some good news, some not so good.  The Mountain House #10 cans had already started to rust so they went into a separate pile to research later.  The AlpineAire, Rainy Day Food from Walton Feed and the Gourmet Reserve #2.5 & #10 cans did not rust and still had their labels attached.  The Yoder's canned meats did not rust but the labels had come off so they went into the pile with the Mountain House cans.  Nothing like a can of mystery meat to look forward to.  Canning jars, lids, and pots were dirty, smelly and slime encrusted.
All would need to be washed and disinfected but I don't want to start that process until I research the best way to disinfect stuff.  My initial thoughts are one bucket of hot soapy water, then a bucket of Lysol and water, then a bucket of Clorox and water.  I don't know if the Clorox will fade the writing on the labels and I know I probably only have one chance at this since the labels would all be getting wet again.  I don't want more mystery food to contend with. 
I had broken up other items such as rice, oatmeal, noodles, beans, etc. into smaller serving size bags using a food savers vacuum sealer.  I had written expiration dates and general instruction on each bag.  Did I mention that writing with permanent markers is not so permanent when submerged in water for days?  A lot of the writing is now a very light purple.  Thankfully, I have a full inventory with expiration dates and should be able to piece the puzzle back together.  Most of these bags faired fairly well, other than the handwritten notes on the outside, but would have to be thoroughly cleaned.  A number of them had been poked by something and water got in.  Those went into the trash.

The pressure cookers and food dehydrator had been under water for days and I put them in the pile to do more research on.  Then I got to the pile that had been in the Tupperware containers.  Took more Aleve and started to dig in.  Some of the contents had come completely out of the containers and others were just drowned in the Tupperware.  Items such as Ace bandages, slings, Israeli bandages, bandanas, cloth flour bags, parachute cord, bungees, and ropes went into a pile to be washed and hopefully salvaged.  Other items such as books, paper products, feminine hygiene products and band-aids had turned to mush and went into the trash.

In the Tupperware containers I had put a good number of the items in Zip loc bags or vacuum-sealed bags.  I found some had been poked with something that put a hole in the bag and scuzzy water had got into them.  I got to looking at the contents and think I found the culprit.  The bottom of tubes such as toothpaste, antibiotic ointment, sunscreen and various other first aid ointments have very sharp edges to them.  I think these sharp corners poked holes in other nearby items.  I made a mental note to self to duct tape the bottom of tubes in the future to hopefully prevent this.  I also think some of the loose items such as screwdrivers, utensils, tent stakes and various other tools had done their fair share of hole poking.  Another mental note to self to look for small Tupperware type containers such as those used for food storage to use for housing sharp items in the future.  I found the vacuum-sealed bags can have really sharp corners to them when they are fully filled.

Items in bottles and jars such as vitamins, over the counter medications, creams, spices and the like had label problems.  I opened a couple of them and found that the safety tab under the lid had kept the contents dry.  The cotton at the top of the containers of vitamins and medications was dry and did not smell.  I think they are okay....just have label problems.  I never really liked all those safety tabs in the past and thought they were a pain in the butt.  Now I'm thinking I like them. 

Construction items such as tools, wood, nails, screws, saws, nuts & bolts, hinges and the like had water damage and had started to rust and bow.  I put them in a pile by themselves to be gone through later.  All the cardboard boxes that the nails, screws, nuts and bolts were mushy and had pretty much disintegrated.  I know you can get rust off tools and I think it is steel wool you use.  Added rust elimination to my list of items to research.  I know some of these items were responsible for hole poking and would need a different type of container in the future.

Items such as first aid, fire starters, survival type stuff, etc. were a mixed lot.  Some were mush that went into the overflowing trash, others went into a pile of possible salvageable and another pile of OK but needs cleaning and disinfecting.  With items such as gauze, bandages and the like, it would depend upon whether the item was packaged in plastic with a paper label slapped on.  Also depended upon whether they had gotten holes poked in the packaging.  Did I mention that there are all kinds of sharp stuff that can poke holes in things if they get all shifted around?  Cloth type items went into a pile of their own to be run through the washing machine numerous times. 

I discovered items such as dish soap that has a pull top opening don't always stay closed.  Items such as shampoo and lotion that have the lid where you push down on one part of the lid to get the other side to pop open also doesn't just magically stay closed if they are shifted and tossed about.  They leaked out onto items and created their own kind of mess.  Fortunately, the guns, ammunition, scopes, cleaning kits, and other expensive vital items I had stored in a spare bedroom and were spared.  Yea!!

My neighbors are awesome.  A good number of them dropped by in the days of hauling, sorting, throwing out and brought homemade baked goods, quick meals, soda, words of encouragement and hope.  I had set up the yard in the back of the house for laying things out to dry, for sorting and for making piles of stuff to figure out.  OPSEC was definitely blown but the good, like-minded neighbors were the only ones allowed into that area.  The nosy neighbors were headed off at the front of the yard.  Some of the good neighbors noticed my trash cans were full to overflowing and I had begun putting stuff in large black contractor bags.  They offered to take the trash in the contractor bags and put in their trash cans.  Did I mention I have some awesome neighbors?

All the old Christmas decorations had been submerged and needed to be pulled out to be dried.  I found this to be kinda depressing because it reminded me of better times when life was good.  Back then I was making plenty of money and a high electric bill in December wasn't a problem.  I used to go all out and decorated both the inside and outside of the house with festive lights and decorations.  I had stopped celebrating the season after I got laid off and just couldn't find the spirit to decorate anymore.... not even a tree.  I wound up throwing the majority of the lights and decorations in the trash.  The small indoor nativity scene got me though.  My mom had given it to me years ago and it was trashed.  I saved the wise men, sheep, a camel and the star that went over the scene. 

The last Tupperware container to go through was one I had been avoiding because it contained all the Christmas tree decorations...some which held sentimental value to me.  The container had been knocked over and rattled a lot when I brought it up out of the basement.  I opened the lid and my heart sunk.  Scuzzy water had gotten in and most of the items were trashed.  The ornaments were crushed and broken.  I sifted through the mess and found a couple of special ornaments that had not been broken but had crusted scum on them.  Tears started pouring down my face and I tried to suck it up but I couldn't stop the flow.  I just sat there crying silently thinking of times past.

I picked up a few things and added them to the small pile of items I had put on my desk.  The pile now contained a canning jar full of rusty nails and screws, some bailing wire, a can of Yoder's mystery meat, a bottle of Aleve, a tube of Neosporin, 2 wise men, a scuzzy Christmas ornament, and a camel.   As I sat there trying to stuff my emotions back inside I found I had taken one of the bigger nails and a smaller one out and was turning them over and over.  I grabbed the bailing wire and fixed the smaller nail 1/3 of the way down the bigger nail.  I then attached a bailing wire loop at the top and put the rusty nail cross around the camel's neck.  I don't know why I did it, I just did.  There was something appropriate about my rusty nail cross-held together by bailing wire. 
I wish I had something poetic or profound to say at this point but my thoughts and emotions are like the jumbled piles of stuff sitting out in the yard.  I feel like I am sitting in the transition zone between the good times of the past, the current challenges and the possible future SHTF scenario.  The 10 years working at Outward Bound gave me knowledge, skill, courage, toughness and strength.  The 12 years at corporate America challenged me intellectually, gave me financial security and showed me how cold the world can be.  Now I am financially poor but happy.  A little down but not out.  I recovered my true spirit that had led me to work and teach people about nature and the outdoors.  Some things were gained and some things were lost.  Along the way, much was learned and much is still to be learned.  Even though I am human and my emotions come out occasionally I do have the ability to suck it up and continue on.  The sun does come up each day and life does go on.  I don't know what it all means yet but I think I will be keeping my cross made of rusty nails and bailing wire with me for some time to come. 
Keep your socks and powder dry (and out of unfinished basements).  Take care and may you be surrounded by good, like-minded friends, family and neighbors.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Having been brought up under unique circumstances I hope that I can bring yet another perspective to the world of survival.  My mother as a single mom, a real taboo in the day, chose to go to Mexico chasing after a life that was difficult and unrealistic; however for me it was the beginning of survivalism to say the least.  I have learned that no matter what life tosses your way it should always be kept as a learning moment.  If it is a bad experience you will learn what not to do and hopefully overcome, and if it is a good experience you will learn what works. 

Because I did go hungry as a kid I quickly vowed that this would never happen to my children, and I have succeeded in that department.  No matter how poor I have been I always managed to have at least a couple of week’s worth of food in the house.  It’s amazing what vows you will make when hard times hit.  So now that I am older and hopefully a little wiser I can share my now working plan for those with very limited income.

I have a small space at an antiques store; I sell a bit on eBay and purchase items for myself and for prepping mostly through yard, garage, and estate sales.  Obviously most of you are probably already aware of the value of these sales.  I do mine with a friend, we trade driving days and the one not driving will be the co-pilot so as to have the shortest route possible and to reduce gas usage.  It is much easier to have a partner in this endeavor because it will become so tedious you will quickly get discouraged. 

Yard and garage sales are abundant in my city, you have to go to a lot of them to find just a few items, estate sales on the other hand are the best, one location and a houseful of stuff. 
Estate sales are usually done because some dear soul has passed on or needs to go to a nursing home.  They like the rest of us like having a lot of stuff, some are hoarders, others have specific hobbies, and yet others are preppers themselves.  Just imagine walking into someone’s home and all that you see is for sale, admittedly some are better than others in my city many a good deal can be had.  I have my own system of items that I need to concentrate on in order to turn some kind of a profit and be able to get a good portion of my preps for free.  In order to know what these items are is of course life experience but no matter how much life you have had there is always much to learn.  SurvivalBlog is the perfect place to do this learning, not only with what they publish but also the links that go with it.  I have read some of his books and of course all that I can on the blog.  One item that he published was the barter list, and his tips on nickel investing, boy I thought this is right up my alley.   

There is so much to be had for so little you just have to view it in a different light in order to find it, you will have to overcome that felling of horror when  there is a huge mess to look through for the purpose of finding a treasure, so don’t forget your hand wipes.
So here we go, I will use a nice round number of one hundred dollars per week, you of course work with what you have.
Go to the bank, I prefer the drive up window, less people to see what you are getting.  Ask for your one hundred dollars and at the same time request that ten dollars be in nickel rolls, I have done this long enough that the teller once asked me if I wanted nickels because she had them in her drawer.   Note; my husband has not really been on board with prepping, however I devised a way to show him materially that it is not a loss, for example the nickels.  I explained to him they will be devalued due to the impending change of the material they are made of and that they are now worth more than their value.  I also told him that if worse comes to worse and they are not devalued they are still worth a nickel and he could consider it a very small savings account and can still be spent when needed, sometimes those that do not see the light need to be aimed toward it. 
Proceed to your planned sales, by planned I mean that they have been previously researched through the throw away papers like Nickel Nick, the Exchange and so forth.  Don’t forget the regular ads in your local newspaper and of course the mother lode, Craig’s List.  This one really needs research because so many will state the basic items that they are selling.  For example if you are not in the market for baby items then of course you would not attend, unless of course you are in that market, that is the place to go, yard and garage sales can be a crap shoot, some are stellar and others are duds.  This research will also help decide distance to save your gas.
Don’t forget to start your mileage counter prior to leaving your house; (should you ever need to produce some kind of a record) also keep some kind of record of how much you are spending just in case you need it in the future.
What to get, remember I told you I have a small space at an antique store and sell a bit on eBay?  This is how I can get some preps for free. 
At every sale I try to get items for my space that I feel reasonably sure will sell and for how much, this of course makes a profit that will go directly to preps. 

At an estate sale there is that house full of items, the kitchen and basement are the favored spots that equal food and preps.  Apparently old ladies feel it is their duty to feed an army, they always buy more than they need, and I am one of them.  Always check the dates on the products; a ton is new and unopened and is always the first to go.  Don’t forget that there will be a lot of pouch items, seasoning, flavoring, cocoa, coffee and so forth.  The basement will of course also hold all those canning supply items, I have seen people running up the stairs with a box full of canning jars as if they had just found a long lost treasure, that very same person will have a partner standing by the rest in order to hold them prior to transport.  It used to be that you couldn’t give away canning jars, now you can’t find them.  This is not only good for your needs but also great for the barter area.  The list is too long to describe how much I have gotten through this method.  The bathroom, for your medical tub, here I have gotten bandages, supports, (ankle, knee, wrist etc), pain killers, supplements, toothbrushes and paste.  I am talking about new and never opened; also in this list are all those hotel sized samples of soaps, shampoos, rinse, lotions name it.  Naturally if this is a man’s house, you will also find tools and equipment for their favorite hobbies, like hunting and fishing.  I have acquired a nice lot of hooks lines and accessories for my barter list.  At most estate sales there will be jewelry, most is vintage costume and is what I will be after for resale.  So here is how I see it.  I buy a few pieces of jewelry and collectibles for the shop plus all the items I consider for prepping, let’s say the bill you pay is $25, the items for resale should sell for a minimum of three or more times the total you spent, (don’t forget rent fees), your preps are now free.  At any sale always do your best to have an item for resale to cover your initial cost.

At the end of the weekend, you will probably have money left over from your $100, save the small denominations under $20.  This small stuff will accumulate and become $100 at that point I use a seal a meal bag and seal it, now you have another savings account ready for that day when only cash will do and in small denominations.   I like to call myself penny Annie, yes I save small amounts but discipline and consistency can really make it add up.

Yard and garage sales can be better at getting those items for your re-sales because usually someone is cleaning out a bunch of their stuff and a lot can be a good for re-sale  the quantity is smaller and easy to look through.  However, they will also have unusual items, like I have purchased or have gotten for free half melted candles, if they have a lot of them, I simply collect the ugliest ones and then ask how much?  Usually the pile looks so bad I can get it for free or almost free.  I use these for re-melting and dipping pine cones for fire starters in my wood burner; I really hate wadding up paper for that purpose.  You can also fill small jars, use the wick of some of those candles and you now have emergency candle light.    They may also have pouches of coffee and cocoa that came in some mug gift.  If you are very lucky you can find jewelry that may be good for re-sale but better yet may contain some silver or gold.  Now I have in the past looked at someone’s jewelry pile and examined it, hopefully there will be a piece or two for the shop, and some silver pieces, I will make an offer for the entire pile, it should not exceed what you can sell the shop pieces for.  I save the silver and gold ones and when silver and gold is up I take it to my coin dealer and trade for silver coin. 

Note:  I prefer not to sell silver or gold jewelry in my shop space, It is not worth having someone smash a $200 case so they can take a $10 piece of jewelry.  Speaking of coin dealers, when you are in the market of finding one, go to your local shops, talk to them and buy something small, like a few dimes.  Their attitude should tip you off if you should do business with them in the future.  I did this and found that many seem rather snobbish especially with a novice like myself.  I found one that was patient and instructive and always treated me fair.  When I closed a small retirement account, (operative word is small), I purchased my silver with him and made sure he knew my reasoning for choosing him first.    Unless he drops dead, I will not give my business to anyone else. 

My entire system seems to be "trading this for that" so I can then get the other.  Study as much as you can, everybody does not know everything about every subject so get a good collection of how to books, many from you guessed it, yard and estate sales.  Also, there are some things you will have to simply have to suck up and buy new, like a really good canner, water filter and so forth, but of course it should be on sale. This is not to say that you won’t find it at a yard sale, like when I saw a woman buy a seemingly new Berkey water filter for $20, I almost choked. 

Always be on the lookout for a pile, just yesterday, with permission, at an open and undeveloped area owned by a cemetery, the workers had done some grave site cleaning, they hauled all the flowers, plants and do dads that are left by family members and tossed them in a pile that would later be hauled to the dump.  Because I walk my dogs there upon arriving to this pile I instantly notified my neighbor and we got to work with the dig.  We got at least three pickup truck loads of plants that had much life left and would all go in our yards for color and landscaping fillers, it also went to her daughters yard and to an aunt and a friend that had recently lost his job but loved planting flowers, in total they went to five separate yards, included in the haul were vases and those flower holders people use at a grave site, (my neighbor visits one regularly).  All for free, which reminds me don’t forget those free piles in Craig’s list you might find a good resale or personal item and don’t forget your gloves.
So, you spend your limit of set aside monies, purchase items for sale to make a profit which in turn helps you buy your preps that you purchase at the same sales.  It’s also a good way to get equipment.   At the end of the month after all has been paid for including my rents and fees, I will have made a profit which can then be turned in to pay bills or of course purchase those higher end prep items.  I don’t just break even, I always make a profit.
*-Always carry hand wipes.
*-Have gloves handy, it can get dirty.
*-Use a large Costco-size shopping bag to carry items around at estate sales.
*-On that same bag, have some 3”-4” masking tape strips stuck on the outside with your initials and the word “SOLD” you can drape it on a larger item that you can pay for and then have someone help you carry it.
*-A small magnifying glass can be handy, just don’t make any issue of it when looking at jewelry, you won’t get a deal that way.
*-eBay right now is a buyers market, so if you really know your product line then listing it.
*-I carry a laundry basket or two, or boxes to put stuff in the car for easy unloading when I get home, include wrapping paper or some pieces of bubble wrap for those fragile items.
*-A small box or paper bag for your jewelry is easier to hide.      
*-Have fun with it.

Friday, June 7, 2013

It has been said that the most important thing about prepping and survival is having the appropriate mindset. A strong spiritual mindset will get you through many hardships.  The mindset that your survival is up to you, that the government will not be there to help you is also necessary.  Having a scavenging mindset is also important. Scavenging will be an important skill post SHTF.  A scavenging mindset means that you aren’t embarrassed by scavenging people’s trash piles, and that you see value in items that others deem as trash.

Scavenging is not the same as picking in my view.  Pickers, as made popular by several television shows, look to make a profit by finding valuable items and reselling them.  Scavenging is more about finding useful items to recycle or repurpose.  Many low-income people already have this mindset.  There is a man who makes the rounds of the neighborhoods early on bulk trash day.  This is the day that the city picks up large items from the curb. Those items that do not fit into your trash can on the regular collection day.  I also see people with this mindset at the local metal recycling facility.  They survive by having a scavenger mindset.

The scavenging mindset is important because if you are too embarrassed to be seen digging through someone’s curbside trash piles or peeking into dumpsters, then you will not be a successful scavenger. This all may change depending upon how hungry you get, but by then, you will not have the skills needed to compete.  I admit that I do not do a lot of scavenging on my residential street where others know me, but if there is a great find, I will claim it from the curb.  I get curious looks when I stop to inspect a trash pile on the curb, but the great finds from these piles has long since helped me get over any embarrassment. Another part of the scavenger mindset is seeing the value of items that most people would send to the landfill.  I’ve picked up broken pieces of PVC pipe for the elbow or T fittings on them.  Garden benches that were nothing more than the metal ends with a piece or two of the original wood seat still connecting them can be restored into a beautiful item for the porch or garden with a little elbow grease, paint, and some treated lumber – also scavenged.  My grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression,  could find a use for almost anything.  Everything was used until it was “used up.”  Sadly, society lacks that attitude today, but it is an attitude that will prove valuable in a TEOTWAWKI situation.

I scavenge in places that most pickers would never look.  Most of my finds are not valuable antiques or collectibles, but items that can be recycled, reused, or repaired. Apartment dumpsters and curbs are my main hunting grounds and have proven to be lucrative places.  I live in a community with a large university student population. These students are notoriously wasteful.  Students tend to move at the end of each semester.  Many of them are lazy, leaving furniture and boxes on the premises for their landlord to set out on the curb or place at the dumpster.  While [in my jurisdiction] dumpster diving at apartments is illegal, checking the dumpsters on the university campus at the end of the semester is not (at least there are not signs indicating that it is illegal.). The dumpster behind the engineering and architecture buildings or dorms are particularly rich in finds.  Architecture  and construction science students build large projects each semester so the students can learn design and construction skills.  Most of them have no way to transport the project home so the projects are disposed of by their instructors at the end of the semester.  These projects contain a wealth of raw materials such as lumber (plywood prices are out of this world), large nuts and bolts, new hinges, casters, PVC pipe and fittings, and many other types of hardware.  I collect and deconstruct these projects, saving the materials or using them for my own renovation projects.  My neighbors know that I’m a scavenger and will often ask if I have an extra hinge or a PVC T-fitting.  I direct them to the appropriate container and let them “shop” at will. 

Dormitory dumpsters are also a great place to shop at the end of the school year.  Students leave furniture, storage containers, and an assortment of building materials like cinder blocks either in or beside these dumpsters.  Hitting these receptacles on the last day for students to move out can yield a trove of items that can be resold in garage sales, at flea markets, or donated to second-hand stores.
Apartment dumpsters yield mostly  household items.  Large pieces of furniture are not placed in the dumpsters, but are set beside them.  Rescued pieces of furniture are either sold or donated to various charities for the tax write-off.  I have found expensive bicycles sticking out of a dumpster.  Most of the time, they only need minor repairs. 

Rental houses and duplexes produce a greater volume and variety of items.  I regularly find water hoses, extension cords, furniture, recyclable metals, patio benches, containers of various sizes, vacuum cleaners, and bicycles.  Sometimes I have to replace an end on a hose or extension cord, but often, they are completely fine (I haven’t bought a hose or extension cord in 15 years).  I once found a vacuum that a dog had chewed the cord into two pieces – replacing the cord made it as good as new. The owner didn’t know how to replace a simple power cord so they threw it away. I sold it for $40.  Patio benches can be restored for $25-30 or less in materials and a little labor. These patio benches sell for $120 or more at the big box stores. These are usually given to friends or family.  My commercial-sized wheeled barrow came off a curb.  A $10 wheel made it good as new.  My father-in-law’s neighbor left almost two rooms of furniture on the curb when he moved. e made over $300 on these items in a garage sale.

Most of the stones that I use to edge the flower beds and garden came from new home sites.  The odd-shaped pieces of stone and castoffs that the masons can’t use are piled at the curb to be hauled off. I’ve never been denied permission to sort through the rubble pile for usable stone.  Other items that I’ve found include:

  • Patio tables and chairs
  • Gas cans
  • Containers of all sizes and shapes (container gardening, storage, rainwater collection)
  • Cordage of various sorts
  • Copper and brass fittings from appliances (usually recycled for cash)
  • Electrical conduit (fence posts, plant supports)
  • Dishes and cookware
  • Golf clubs (usually sold at garage sales)
  • Flower pots in sizes up to 30 gallons (good for protecting plants from frost)
  • Plastic buckets (thousands of uses)

But, my best find were two gold coins! I had spied an Adirondack chair on a curb and pulled over to investigate.  The chair was irreparable so I began checking out some of the boxes stacked beside it.  One box was filled with old board games.  I loaded that box up and took it home. As I went through the box later that evening, I discovered a small change box in the bottom.  The top tray contained about $8 in small change (no pre-1965 coins though),  a great find in itself!  But, in the bottom of the change box was a very small coin purse.  Inside the purse was a 1/10 ounce gold Liberty coin and a 1926 Quarter Eagle gold coin! That is my most valuable find to date.  Now, I never pass up boxes on the curbside!  And, my wife finds it hard to grumble when I make a sudden stop to inspect some boxes.
Scavenging means that I don’t have to buy a lot of new things and can spend those savings on other prepping needs.  Some items can be repaired and sold for additional income. I’ve been able to barter some items for things on my prep list. In addition, I learn skills that will be useful post-TEOTWAWKI.  I know how to rewire many appliances, refinish and rebuild furniture, repair bicycles, and repurpose most anything.  I learned all of these skills by trial and error (or with the help of YouTube) on the items that I’ve found.

In post-TEOTWAWKI times, new items will no longer be available unless people develop the old skills to make things by hand.  Until that time, we will have to learn to salvage useable items and materials and learn to repair them. As Jim and other contributors emphasize, knowledge and mindset will be the keys to your survival. Your “stuff” will only get you so far. By developing the scavenging mindset now and learning the skills to repair and repurpose items, you will have the advantage over most people. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I have discovered an ongoing source of mostly organic, quality food that requires only my commitment, labor and time as payment. Because it often arrives at my house in amounts greater than can be consumed immediately, most of it is being preserved to add to my long-term storage of foods in preparation for the days ahead when obtaining such food will be difficult.

A new food shelf opened in my town a bit more than a year ago. This particular food shelf works with a major chain of well-known grocery stores. The food shelf accepts the fresh produce and flowers that cannot be sold because of bruising, spoilage, etc., other types of food near their expiration date, and day-old bread.

The food shelf has employees and volunteers who pick up the donations from the grocery stores three times or more per week. The food is placed in refrigerators and freezers as needed or arranged on a row of tables so that clients can see what is available and choose what they want to take with them. The food shelf is open three times weekly for distribution to clients. There are no monetary restrictions on who can get food; the only limitation is that clients can take food just twice each month. (The exception to this twice-per-month limit is bananas and bread; because they are given to the food shelf in abundance, there is usually enough of both that anyone can take these at any time, dependent only on availability.) The limitation of twice-per-month per client household is set to allow more clients to be served.

When the food shelf first opened, I thought of the food that could not be distributed to clients. I understand about “seconds” from a grocery store; some stores sell these seconds at a reduced price; some seconds are not worth buying. I realized that the food shelf would likely have at least some produce that the clients would not want, and knew the food shelf would have to find a way of disposing of it, the most likely option being it would be thrown into a garbage bin, with the food shelf paying to have it hauled away. I approached the food shelf director to see if I could have those items for my family's consumption, or my compost bin. I knew that I could handle large amounts of “green” compost as I live near a forest and have easy access to as much “brown” as I need to mix with it to make great compost.

The food shelf director was pleased to have a way to dispose of the unwanted produce that did not require paying the garbage man to haul it away.

What I discovered when I brought the rejected produce home was that there was a lot of produce that was still edible, if only someone would take the time to rescue it instead of throwing it away.

My mother and father grew up through the Great Depression years, and had both been raised by parents who had lived through starvation times. One grandmother wrote of her father buying, cheaply, fish that was going bad, then pickling it to disguise the rot before feeding it to his children, who were grateful for any food whatsoever. Though she never went to that extreme, my mother was great at rescuing food. She would shop at a local produce store, often buying crates of fruit or vegetables that were starting to go bad. She taught us how to sort, clean, and recover the good food that was disguised by the bad food. To this day it makes me feel sad to see good food – food that could be feeding people – thrown away.

I have for over a full year gone to the food shelf at least two times per week after the weekly distributions. I haul home any produce that is left after the clients have taken what they want, food that won’t be edible by the next distribution day. By taking responsibility for this rejected produce, I have filled my compost bin with a variety of wonderful rotten fruits, vegetables and flowers, and have been able to eat and preserve hundreds of pounds of food that otherwise would have been thrown away.

Let me make this clear: I do not take food from the clients. The food shelf gets the food from the grocery store. The clients choose what they want to take on distribution days; volunteers are also allowed to take home what they can use. I only go to the food shelf when the distribution is done, and take only what they have left if it will not keep until the next distribution time.

I have no way of predicting what or how much of something I will get to take home; there are too many variables to project that. The grocery store gives different items in different amounts, depending on the season and what they have not sold. The food shelf clients have different desires and tastes, so they may choose to take a lot of one thing but only a little (or none) of another. Whatever it is and in whatever amounts, I get the leftovers.

Some weeks I bring home enough food to be recovered that I work many hours getting it prepared and preserved. Some days I bring home nearly nothing – perhaps just a few pieces of rotten fruit for the compost bin.

There have been times when the reason the food was sent home with me was not because it was bad, but because the food shelf got it in such a large amount that there was not the clientele to take it all. Such was the case when I brought home 60 dozen packages of basil. Yes, that’s 720 of those cute little plastic containers of basil. It took a long time to open all those packages, and to sort the bad from the good. I used and gave away some of the basil, froze some, and dehydrated the most of it. A similar situation allowed me to take home 200 pounds of bananas on one day.

I have been able to process all this food using only the kitchen equipment I had in my household: my stove, pots and pans, colanders, dehydrator, knives and cutting boards. Because of this endeavor, I have upgraded my collection of bowls to include some very large ones, and have gotten a larger colander, too. I purchased a gizmo that allows me to fill baggies hands-free. I will continue to upgrade my equipment as bargains are discovered, but could have reasonably continued with just what I had at the start, regular items found in most any kitchen.

The week I wrote this article, my first visit to the food shelf yielded a small bucket of very rotten fruit and vegetables that went directly into the compost bin. In addition, I carried in three large boxes of recoverable food including 13 1-lb packages of strawberries, seven 8-oz packages of edamame, seven 10-oz packages of shredded cabbage, approximately 16 pounds of apples (mixed types), about six pounds of bananas, 12 bags of Swiss chard, and one pomegranate.

When I visited the second time a few days later, all that was left was small quantities of a variety of items – not enough to preserve, but just right for my husband and I to eat up: two packages of mostly-good strawberries, three small yellow summer squash, three small tangerines, one eggplant, one small purple potato, one very ripe avocado, one bag of romaine lettuce leaves, one bag of spinach leaves, and one bag with a head of red and a head of green oak lettuce. I also had a half-bucket contribution for the compost bin of rotten food which included bananas, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, and more.

From the produce I brought home on Monday, I found that the Swiss chard, when opened, was too far gone to be used, as was the pomegranate, so they went to the compost bin (the plastic bags from the chard were thrown into the garbage.) I parboiled the edamame and the cabbage (separately, of course), drained it well, and dehydrated it for future use. Aside from a few individual beans and a few shreds of cabbage, the rest was in perfect condition, but would not have held, even refrigerated, until the next distribution day. The cardboard overwrap and the plastic containers from the edamame went into the recycle bin.

The strawberries were a mix of near-perfect and rotten. I separated out the truly bad ones to put in the bucket for the compost, and sliced the rest, trimming off the bruised parts. I save some out for immediate eating, and was able to freeze eight quarts for upcoming treats. Again the plastic containers were recycled.

A few of the bananas were too ripe even for banana bread or were split open (possibly allowing fruit flies or other vermin to enter), so they went into the compost bucket. The rest I sliced to dehydrate. In the past I have frozen some very ripe bananas, but as we are anticipating a move in the not-too-distant future, I am trying to eat down the food from the freezer and prefer to dehydrate. Because bananas are a fruit I frequently bring home, and sometimes in large amounts, I have given away many to friends and family members. Overly ripe bananas are like kittens: You can give away only so many before everyone you know has reached their limit. Personally I use the frozen bananas for baking, and to make banana shakes (a bit of milk added to the frozen bananas, run through the blender, makes an ice-cream-like treat that is healthful and tasty.)

Some of the apples, also, were too rotten to salvage; I have found that if a bruise causes an apple to rot to the core, even if it’s a small area, it taints the entire apple to make it unpalatable. Rotten apples do not go to waste, though. I put them out for the deer and squirrels to enjoy. The rest of the apples I chose to slice or to dice for dehydrating. In the past I have frozen some, and have made up many jars of applesauce. Peelings, of course, are added to the compost bin.

At the food shelf I am known as The Compost Lady. Friends call me The Queen of Dehydrating. Though I have used a dehydrator for many years, it is only through my ongoing relationship with the food shelf that I have greatly broadened my knowledge of dehydrating.  I have discovered that nearly any herb, fruit or vegetable can be dehydrated. Note the “nearly” in that last sentence. I have found no way to dehydrate artichokes (though I discovered they can freeze well with very little preparation). I also cannot dehydrate avocados as they have too much oil; I have yet to find a good way to preserve them, which is disappointing as I love them, but simply cannot eat 16 of them at a time. (I did learn, though, that very ripe avocado makes a lovely spread on un-buttered toast.)

I have not been successful in dehydrating citrus fruit, so I stick to juicing those and freezing the juice. Same with pomegranates. I tried dehydrating watermelon, having read it makes a wonderful flavoring for punch and as an addition to frosting. However, I was not able to keep it dehydrated; no matter how I packaged the dried watermelon, it always soaked moisture from the air and re-hydrated, but not in a way that made it useable.

Over the past year I have used several methods of preservation: freezing; making jams, jellies and other preserves; making sauces (mostly apple and pear); canning; and dehydrating. Because dehydrating is easy and relatively fast (compared to some of the more complicated ways listed), and because dehydrated food keeps well for long periods of time, it has become my favorite method of preservation. I own several books about dehydrating, but the two that I use most are Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook, and The Dehydrator Bible by Jennifer MacKenzie, Jay Nutt and Don Mercer. Both of these books teach not only how to dehydrate food, but also how to use the food after it has been dehydrated.

From these books and personal experience I have found that if I usually eat the food raw (such as with most fruits and many vegetables), I will dehydrate the food without cooking it. If I normally eat the food cooked (such as potatoes), I will parboil the food before dehydrating it.

By taking the unwanted food from the food shelf, I have gotten to try many types of fruits and vegetables I would not likely have tried if I had to pay for them. Fruits and vegetables that were new to me that I have now eaten and preserved include edamame, figs (both black and green), ginger, kale, many kinds of lettuces and other leafy vegetables, mangoes, and papayas.

I have preserved hundreds of pounds of more common fruits and vegetables, too, including apples, bananas, blueberries, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, corn, cranberries, eggplant, several types of herbs, kiwis, kohlrabi, melons. mushrooms, strawberries, peaches,  pears, peppers (sweet and hot), plums, potatoes, pumpkin, string beans, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and various winter squashes (often bagged pre-diced, meaning all I need to do is parboil and dehydrate).

I have learned that the drier the food is when it comes off the dehydrator, the better it keeps for me. When I first started hauling home great quantities of food, I was in a hurry to get it all preserved, and sometimes took the food off the dehydrator earlier than I should have. As I’ve gone back to check on that food after some months, I’ve found that the moisture left in it made it rot, and I had to throw it out. Thankfully I put most of my dehydrated food in zip-type baggies, usually in the quart-size bags, thinking it would be easier to use the contents of a quart bag for cooking before the contents re-absorbed water from the air. So, when I checked those early efforts of dehydrating and found the rotten food, I had to throw out only small portions rather than large amounts. (Of course rotten fruits and vegetables, even if dehydrated first, make good fill for the compost bin.)

Once a baggie has been filled with dehydrated food, I remove as much air as possible, either by squeezing it out (rolling it, as in the case of shredded cabbage) or by sucking the air through a straw. The filled baggies are then placed in tins. I tried putting my dehydrated food in glass jars and “oven canning” them to seal them, but have not had great success with that. Instead I opt for the tins – cookie tins, popcorn tins and such that I buy from thrift stores or get from others; my family and friends know that I seek these tins out, in various sizes. I store my baggies of dehydrated food, by type, in a tin which is the right size for whatever amount I need to store long-term. I use address labels as stickers for labeling the contents. Because we have a number of plastic coolers (the type used for picnics) that are usually stored empty, my husband got the idea to put the tins into the coolers, adding yet another level of protection from moisture and vermin.

I am grateful for the food I’ve been given. I would like to be able to give it back – preserved – to the food shelf clients, but that is not allowed because I do not have a certified kitchen. I’m not sure what I’ll do with all the preserved food. I figure, though, that God knows what he is doing in trusting me with it. It will feed my family and anyone else under my roof when we hit TEOTWAWKI. It will make good bartering material, too. (How many of you have enough basil stored up? I’ll trade you some for what you do have!)

The system that has developed – the store donating to the food shelf, the food shelf allowing clients to take food, then giving me what does not keep – has produced a string of benefits to all. The store gets a tax deduction for donating the food to the food shelf. The food shelf is able to provide free food to the clients. The food shelf does not have to dispose of rotten or excess food in the garbage bin. I get a fabulous mix of rotten food to put in my compost bins, and an equally fabulous mix to eat or preserve. My long-term-storage food supply has grown tremendously in this way.

I know that as long as I am able and desire to do so, I will be allowed to collect the food that cannot be distributed by the food shelf.  When we move, I will have to stop; I am hoping someone else will be able to benefit in my stead. I will look for another source of free food near my new home. I know that there are often trees, bushes or gardens that go unharvested, perhaps, for example, owned by elderly people who can no longer use the crabapples from their tree, or by people uninterested in preserving the berries that are growing in their yards. There are farms that allow food to rot in the field because it can’t be sold; there are other grocery stores and food shelves that have produce that is thrown away. I trust that with a little ingenuity and by asking a few questions, I will be able to find other sources of free food, and that you can, too. Unspoiled people food should go to people, to eat now or later. Compost heaps should only get what can no longer safely be used by people. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

On the morning of August 29th, 2005 we came face to face with TEOTWAWKI in the form of Hurricane Katrina.  An estimated 92% of our community in Pascagoula, Mississippi was inundated with a storm surge of 20-30 feet and 30-55 feet sea waves.  The surge waters traveled well inland, between 6-12 miles and combined with freshwater flooding from our numerous creeks, rivers, and the runoff from the Mobile, Alabama reservoir that opened its flood gates to relieve stress on the dam.  This basically cut Jackson County in half.  Fortunately the worst of the storm hit in the morning just as it was becoming daylight or our losses of 12 souls would have been much higher had it made landfall in the dark of night.  Even though, it took almost two weeks before they found and were able to claim one of the fallen, a young child, because she was under an enormous  20-30 foot high by at least 100 feet in diameter debris pile a block up from the beach.  The devastation completely destroyed all of our basic services: electricity, communications, water, natural gas, and sewage and covered most of the town with debris piled 8 feet or higher.  The storm’s impact was such that the entire state was declared a disaster zone and it knocked out the power to over 98% of the state and damaged 100% of the states power plants.

When we were finally able to walk around and assess the situation after most of the waters receded, we counted ourselves as lucky because most of the houses in the neighborhood where we rode out the storm appeared structurally sound and there weren’t that many trees down.  Even though everyone knew things were going to be tough for a while, we didn’t count on it taking at least two weeks to restore water, another 1-2 weeks after that to restore some semblance of power and telephone services to our temporary abode.  This appeared to be the norm for most parts of town that sustained “minimal” damage.  As it was, it took over three months before it was restored in our neighborhood, not that it mattered as it was uninhabitable and eventually had to be bulldozed down but that as they say is a tale for another day.

Like most storm veterans living on the Gulf Coast, we had planned and prepared but Mother Nature has an inane way of pointing out the futility of all of mankind’s best laid plans.  Yes, we might have possibly been able to evacuate but deemed it in our best interest to hunker down with some friends and ride it out.  After all, we were staying in a well built home on some of the highest ground in town and at least a mile from the beach.  Besides, reports from other family and friends were that the roads were so congested (1-2 million evacuees from 4 states will do that don’t you know) that it was taking over 12 hours just to get as far north as Hattiesburg, a mere 95 miles north and that there wasn’t any hotel rooms available all the way up to Tennessee and even if you could find one, what would we do with our combined 10 pets?  Besides, how safe would it have been to ride out the storm on some desolate stretch of highway in a vehicle, especially with all of the tornados that Katrina spun off, 51 in total in at least 5 states with 11 of those in Mississippi alone?

So, the hatches were battened down and our storm plan was initiated.  First, was securing and inventorying our combined vital medicines, foodstuffs, pet food, drinking water, batteries, candles, grill and camp stove fuels, cleaning supplies, bleach, anti-bacterial gel, clothing, important papers and computer hard drives, tools, firearms, and cash.  Previously, all of the vehicles were gassed up along with all of the gas cans and the generator was prepped and stored high.  The ice chests, freezers and fridge were stuffed with ice and the most perishable foodstuffs were ready for immediate consumption in the event of a prolonged power outage.  The television and storm radio were tuned to the appropriate channels and the bathtubs were filled to capacity to provide general use water for cleaning and flushing.  The attic access was opened and some basic essentials like: food, water, axe, rope, flashlights, etc.  Just in case.  The outdoor surroundings were checked and a few boats in the neighborhood were identified that could potentially be used in a pinch.  All told, we had enough foodstuffs to last 6 adults and 10 animals for 2-3 weeks and at least a weeks worth of fresh drinking and cooking water as long as we were frugal.  Ah, hindsight is truly bliss now isn’t it.

During the height of the storm, when it became apparent that we would be receiving flood water into the house, everyone rushed throughout the house to empty out the lower cabinets and drawers and closet floors, placing everything as high as possible and even opening up the attic and placing more essential supplies and tools up there in case we had to seek higher ground.  Once, the homeowner and I braved the elements to go outside and unlash the next door neighbor’s small boat (they smartly evacuated early on) from its trailer and re-tied it off to keep it from sinking or floating away.  While doing this, we were obliged to add another soul to our motley crew by rescuing a man from drowning out in the street.  He was delirious and starting to suffer from hypothermia so we wrapped him up into a wool blanket and laid him up on a long dresser in the foyer.  Later, it was learned that he woke up when his head bumped against the ceiling of his bedroom and that he had to dive down and swim out of his bedroom window to safety!  He had the clothes on his back, no socks or shoes and a small empty suitcase.

We tried unsuccessfully to get a passing fire truck loaded down with EMT and rescuers to take him, in case he needed additional medical care but they said we appeared to have things under control.  Besides they were headed south into the teeth of the storm to rescue people clinging to roofs along with an apparent heart attack victim.  Later, two guys in a “commandeered” boat came by headed south but, on their return, the boat was overloaded with people they had rescued.  All total, they passed by 6 or 7 times, and each time the boat was filled to the gills with rescued souls.  Later, we learned that they had rescued over 100 people before the receding waters necessitated docking the boat in their front yard.  I’m pretty sure that that tidbit of knowledge didn’t make the media airwaves.  Of the untold hundreds of similar acts of heroism conducted during and immediately after this catastrophic event by our local emergency personnel and citizenry, I felt compelled to add it because in the end, we all need to have a little hope and faith in our fellow man.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, it became quite apparent that we needed to re-assess our predicament and adjust accordingly.  My wife and I knew that our house that sat at a much lower elevation closer to the beach would be untenable so we gladly took our friends offer to stay with them until we could assess it later.  They were extremely fortunate in that their home, where we rode the storm out, only had 2-3 feet of water go through it and that the structure was virtually unscathed from the ravages of felled trees and flying debris which meant that at least temporarily we would have a roof over our heads and a somewhat habitable place to stay providing everyone pitched in and acted quickly to mitigate the flood damage.  This consisted of removing all floor coverings down to the slab, all of the upholstered furniture, wall sheetrock from the floor to six inches above the visible flood line, and anything else that cannot be scrubbed and taking it to the side of the road.  Next was scrapping up as much of the storm water sludge off of the floors and all heavily coated horizontal and vertical surfaces possible and depositing it at the roadside too.  Some of our precious potable water stored in large 5 gallon containers with copious amounts of bleach and general purpose disinfectant soap was used to wipe down and clean one of the bathrooms, the kitchen and dining room, and a couple of bedrooms.  It took a full 2-3 days of steady cleaning by all hands to get the house sanitized for habitability.  The surge destroyed our large reserves of fresh water in the bathtubs due to the force of the flood waters backing up through the sewage system drains.

It is vital that you sanitize every surface that could have even remotely come in contact with the flood waters because they not only contain sea water and sewage, they are also full of chemicals from industrial waste and numerous other biological and toxic substances.  In our case, there was the addition of some of the foulest smelling primordial ooze from the nearby savannahs not to mention an old medical dumpsite from a former leper colony on one of the barrier islands and numerous chemical and gas refineries.  This mire coated everything in town with inches of nasty, foul smelling and toxic ooze turning the whole city into a gigantic Petri dish rife with disease and bacteria.  It was three days before I could make the first journey out of the neighborhood to inspect our property and in those 3 days, our house was filled with every color and shape of mold that you can imagine.  It literally covered the inside of the entire house from floor to ceiling so, I cannot stress enough that the first priority in such an event is to sanitize everything.

This is also a good time to remove any large appliance that was submerged along with any other furniture and belongings that will not be repaired or restored.  Just make sure to take photos and inventory all items being tossed to the road for insurance purposes and be prepared to fight the appraisers in the event the city is able to quickly remove those items.  One of our biggest fears after the storm was that of fire because the entire city looked like one giant maze with debris piles 10-20 feet high lining every street for months after the storm.  It seems as though we went at least two months before it rained again which meant we constantly had to battle the potentially deadly dust and the oppressive sweltering heat, this is South Mississippi after all!

Fortunately, we were able to salvage the mattresses on the beds because they floated on top of the box springs, all of which was set out to thoroughly dry in the sunlight the day after the storm after being wiped down with bleach water.  Everything gets washed or wiped down with bleach water and sun dried so eventually, all of your clothes become severely faded and thread bare after time.

Temporary power and transportation was next on the agenda and even though the generator was submerged after tipping over off of the raised supports that we set it on, we were able to salvage it and get a couple of box fans and table lamps going as well as powering a couple of fans and lights for one of the next door neighbors.  If we ever have to do this again, I think suspending it from rafter eyebolts on rope or cables may be in order.  In the beginning, we only ran the generator at night because of the fuel shortage.  Because fuel was basically non-existent for the first month or so, we augmented our diminishing supply by removing the gas tanks off of the three new vehicles that “died” during the storm and filtering out the water from the gas by emptying them into a large 55 gallon drum and letting the water settle to the bottom before dipping out the gas to fill our jugs.  Make sure to place this drum outside away from the living and cooking areas but still close enough to guard against looters.  We were fortunate that my venerable 1984 Ford Bronco and 1989 Ford F-150 started right up and didn’t have any water in the oil or gas tanks.  The trannys had water in them but as our friend worked for the local Ford dealership and their main repair shop was spared from the flooding and had adequate generator backup, he was able to replace the fluids within a few days so we had transportation until we were able to replace them about six months later.  We were lucky during that time because unlike so many others, neither of these vehicles burst into flames from corroded or shorted wiring.  This was probably due to the fact that they were raised higher than normal and their cabins weren’t submerged in the flood waters.  It wasn’t until months later that I discovered that the flood water had gotten into the rear ends through a rubber vent hole, needless to say, I wound up replacing the rear end on the pickup to extends it life until we could replace it so, make sure to drain, flush, and replace with new, the fluids in the rear ends and 4x4 lockers.

An important note here about transportation is to make sure you have plenty of tire repair supplies as we must have repaired at least 20 flats that first month alone and even had to acquire another tire after we found the cast aluminum head of an old fashioned meat tenderizer imbedded in the side wall after one of our forays across town seeking supplies.

Another note on “salvaging” your vehicles is the electrical system.  A lot of folks spent enormous effort and time in drying out their cars and trucks and getting them to run to no avail as many of these same vehicles later caught fire as the electrical systems shorted out.  So, if you have to resort to this please add a fire extinguisher or two to your survival kits for such emergencies.  I had to stop two cars coming down the road within the first few months because they were on fire underneath the vehicle and the occupants didn’t know it!

The mechanic had to go back to work within a few days because his services were in high demand at the dealership as it became the main repair facility for all of the emergency vehicles.  He was their only front end specialist and in high demand because the poor road conditions were reeking havoc on those vehicles.  At any given time, there were 20 -30 vehicles with license plates from all over the country there seeking maintenance or repair of some sort for months on end.  That basically left it up to me make the twice daily trips to the county fair grounds for food, water, and ice to distribute to the folks of our old neighborhood as well as our “new” neighborhood.  I cannot stress enough the fact that you never turn anything down because whether or not you need it, someone else in the neighborhood will!  Additionally, knowing the locations of facilities rendering assistance by way of beds and hopefully hot food is vital as this will aid you immensely when you come across people wondering around aimlessly due to the trauma they experienced.  One notable experience I had was with a family of four, including two small elementary age children.  I had observed them walking around for a day or two before it dawned on me that they were still carrying the same bundles of stuff.  After stopping them, their story was one of complete despair as they had been walking the streets for the better part of a week because they didn’t have anywhere to go.  A passing National Guard truck loaded with MREs gave me the location of one such center so, I loaded them all up and of to that wonderful church made famous by Ray Steven’s squirrel song we went!  A few days later while dropping off a few more unfortunates,  I was told that one of the many charity groups was helping to relocate the family.

In the beginning, water and ice are vital to your survival and as such, must be stretched to its fullest potential.  Our wives came up with a great simple process for extending the usefulness of ice.  They set up a simple linear process using the four 100 quart Igloo ice chests that we had as the basic line with two smaller Igloo ice chest to hold any excess ice we happened to acquire.  The first chest was raised up on a sturdy chair and contained all of our foodstuffs and medicine that needed to be cooled, packed in loose ice (some ice is also placed into sealed containers to thaw as a means to augment drinking and cooking water).  To the right, sitting on the ground so that the drain plug of the first chest could drain directly into it with little effort was the second chest.  This chest served as our bathing and dish washing water.  It was sanitized with bleach because an inadvertent germ or two could be in the drained water from our hands accessing the items in the first chest.  You bathed by dipping wash clothes into the bleach water and wiping yourself clean.  Bathing was augmented by squirting GermEx with Aloe Vera directly onto a damp wash cloth and wiping oneself off.  While crude, it kept you clean, provided a refreshing tingle from the alcohol in the GermEx and aided in disinfecting any minor sores or scratches you have.  After the dishes were washed, the water from the 2nd chest was transferred to the third chest sitting to its right and then the 2nd chest was sanitized with clean bleach water making it ready for the next use.  The 3rd chest was used to our wash clothes and the 4th chest sitting to its right was used to rinse the clothes prior to hanging out on makeshift clothes lines.  The water in the 4th chest was clear water that came from sundry sources, e.g. excess ice runoff from the extra storage chests, suspect bottled water that was overheated in the sun, and later on pond water from the local park once we were informed it was safe for non-food use.  Because it was suspect, it was always adequately bleached.  After the clothes were washed, the water from the 3rd chest was used for mopping the floors and wiping off non-food areas.  The water from the 4th chest was used to rinse off everything that was washed with water from the 4th chest.  All excess water from the chests was either used to refill the bathtubs for toilet flushing water or kept in buckets in case of fire and later sprinkled throughout the yard and driveway to cut down on the dust.

Our close encounter with the Post-Apocalyptic TEOTWAWKI event named Hurricane Katrina has not only left an indelible mark upon us but has made us stronger because we survived it and has taught us a few things about ourselves and mankind in general that everyone can learn from.  Here are the 10 biggest that readily come to mind:

First and foremost, in the event you are forewarned with an approaching disaster like Hurricane Katrina, do not hesitate. Evacuate.

Second, no amount of planning can cover every contingency so be prepared to improvise.

Third, 3-7 days of supplies are completely inadequate because it can take up to 2-3 weeks before regular and consistent support from outside sources becomes available.

Fourth, everyone impacted that survives is just that, a survivor so you had better be ready to get over stupid prejudices because you either survive together or perish individually.

Fifth, you are going to have to work hard so, accept your fate and “hitch up your drawers” and get at it.  The first responders are going to need your assistance so that they can provide the aid you need.  Everything that you can do initially be that clearing roadways, sharing resources, making signs to identify streets or people in dire need, assisting neighbors, scrounging, and safeguarding will only improve your lot in the aftermath.

Sixth, maintain your vital inoculations for Tetanus, hepatitis, etc.  Get your booster shots.  Thankfully for us, the nurse in our family went over and above to seek us out and administer all of those vital inoculations.

Seventh, get your pets looked at ASAP if they are subjected to flood waters, we almost lost two of ours.  Fortunately, a dear friend that worked as a Vet tech was able to bring and administer the needed antibiotics to save their lives.

Eighth, more people die or are seriously injured after the storm than during it due to accidents while cleaning up, stress, heat exposure, microscopic critters in the surge water, disease, improperly stored or cooked food, poisonous insects and snakes, exposure to the elements, etc.  If you do not have any experience with the art of using a chainsaw to fell trees or cut them off of your house then please, seek the assistance of someone who has this knowledge!  Observe each other and don’t hesitate to seek medical assistance for even the most basic of wounds, especially if you haven’t kept up on your inoculations.

Ninth, an openly well armed citizenry tends to keep the wolves and looters at bay as they are mainly cowards seeking to prey on easy targets.  Down here after a storm, everyone just assumes that everyone is “packing” so, everyone just generally seems to be much more calm and cooperative.

Tenth, thank all those “outsiders” that show up to assist with the cleanup and rebuilding because 99% of them are there to genuinely help.  Especially show your appreciation to all of those folks manning the stationary kitchens and food trucks.  Some of the best hot meals I ever had came from the church group around the corner running a kitchen and the Red Cross and Salvation Army food trucks.

Lastly, keep the faith as it will see you through to the bitter end.  Even though it’s been almost 8 years now since that fateful day, we are still recovering from Katrina, at least economically but hey, material objects are just that, stuff, easily replaced when you get the resources should you desire to do so.  Remember, not everyone will be made financially whole after such an event but hopefully you’ll still have your health not to mention the most important asset of all, your truly good friends and family.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Waking up to the sudden realization that my safe, comfortable world as I have always known it to be was not the result of watching any “end of the world” movies or documentaries, or from reading something about it or from a friend convincing me.  I feel it was a gift, a freebie wake-up call from the heavenly powers that be.   I can’t help but think that I am supposed to be a survivor… least long enough to keep my children alive and healthy until they are grown and can then survive without my assistance.  My husband on the other hand, has been given no such gift.  He is in denial of anything going askew with the easy way of life he’s always known.  I have tried in vain to convince him of a very dire economic future.  Having information from very reputable sources placed in front of him does no good as he ignores it or explains how it’s all wrong.  I feel though, that on some level he is aware but is afraid to acknowledge the reality of it.  I fully understand that a highly unpredictable future can be too much for some people to stomach - but it’s a future, I feel in my bones is going to be encountered.  Nonetheless, it’s a difficult situation for a marriage to be in whether the one who has awakened is the husband or the wife.  But, I would bet my home-made rain barrels that it’s definitely tougher to be the wife, or female significant other who is the enlightened one.  Men for centuries have usually had the final “say-so” in most situations and our society still predominantly leans that way.  As strong and independent a person as I think I am, I still find it hard to go against my husband’s wishes.  When he comes home from work and sees the box or two of preps that have been delivered and sitting on the kitchen floor, or knows that I’ve made another run to the Thrift Store and scored more wool sweaters and blankets for the girls, I acutely feel pain when he winces or shakes his head in an “I give up!” manner.    Our marriage is still a good one, but because of my prepping it has a few dings, dents and rust spots that I wish were not there.  And let me state it clearly right now, that although my husband is still asleep as far as the reasons for prepping go, he has been one of my best life supporters, and has done more for me than anyone else could.  He has always been there for me when I was going through (and currently am) some of the worst life decisions a person has to make.  For all of those reasons and more, I will forever be loyal to him and will not allow myself to wallow in self-pity for more than a couple of minutes just because he and I are not on the same page about prepping.  My hope in writing this piece is that I can bring to light some areas of prepping that are not often thought about, plus show my empathy and understanding for those preppers who don’t have the support of their significant other.
My "awakening" just happened, out of the blue.  One day I was blissfully unaware of any potential economic, political, environmental or other such trouble, just happily skipping through life and the very next day I was aware.  Boom!  Just like that.  My day of “catastrophic awakening” was in early December, 2009.  Now in early 2013, I feel I am far better prepared than most in my middle class neighborhood, but still not where I need to be to feel really good about it.  I am coming to the conclusion that that place of comfort is unattainable.  It’s been quite an adventure, and a process from which I get little rest.  If I’m not actively doing some sort of prepping activity I’m thinking about prepping.  I closely watch the economy to see if I need to hurry my prepping up or can I wait until the credit card flips before using it again.  Though I still very much enjoy life, and participate in non-prepping activities with my friends and family, I can’t help but miss the days of blissful ignorance when I was totally unaware of impending DOOM.    I must continually read, study, buy, make, plan, think, save, and use my  imagination in anticipation of various disastrous scenarios  and prepare for them for all of us…….alone.  My husband’s only contribution is paying for most of it.  He complains frequently and loudly and I ache frequently and strongly.  Buying extra food and all the hundreds of necessary items on a tight budget is a work of art in itself.  I think only a woman can truly understand the logistics of it all.  If it were just he and I, I might not even try to prep.  But I have kids…… and that changes everything.

Another heavenly gift I was given was the desire to never become pregnant.  That didn’t mean I never wanted children, I most certainly did.  I simply never felt the need to have my genetic code replicate itself in the form of human that was half me, and half somebody else.  Even back when I could still get pregnant I felt an inkling of a looming, foreboding future. My environmental courses while attending the college didn’t help me culture a positive attitude about our world.  Why should I bring more people into an already “overly-burdened with humans and their endless problems” planet?  Adoption was the answer for me.  I won’t bring any more people in but I will be more than happy to raise those already here.  So after completing grueling reams of paperwork, background checks, intrusive home studies, and a “wait and hold-your-breath” for acceptance from a certified adoption agency, we were finally off to China to adopt the most precious two baby girls in the world!  I am determined that these two kids will not only survive life, but will have the best chance at the best life that I, and the “heavenly-gifter” (God), is willing, to provide.   I’m sure I share this deep, primitive instinctual drive with many mothers across the globe to protect their offspring even to the point of death.   Fathers, no doubt, are also deeply driven to protect their children, but my experience is from a mother’s perspective.   I’ve read many blogs about the perfect prepping relationship and living situation.  Sometimes when I start reading one of those blogs and realizing it’s another “preppers heaven” situation, I stop reading and look for something else that I can use.  I sometimes find myself having fleeting feelings of jealously mixed with a tad of resentment towards those “blessed” preppers who have it so good.  But in the final analysis, I’m really happy for them and can only imagine what it’s like to have someone to readily discuss world events, prepping needs, scenarios, to practice skills with and to have the same desires and needs concerning getting ready for an eminent catastrophe of some sort.  I don’t have that.  And, I’m probably never going to get that.  But what I have is enough…..I was given the gift of waking up and the means to prepare for the future and that is all I can ask for.  I am very grateful.  We are all exactly where we are supposed to be though I sometimes have to remind myself of that.  I’m here where God wants me to be and here is where I’m staying until God says it’s time to move.

So here’s our family situation.  The four of us are suburbanites living in a two story brick house with an unfinished basement.  And it’s the basement that may be our sanctuary.  It’s dimly lit, cold, cluttered, and just plain dirty but I pretty much enjoy being there.  It’s where I feel my prepping call the strongest, and where I can readily see the fruits of my prepping labor.  I feel a little bit closer to my Higher Power when I’m in the basement.  I receive more spiritual encouragement being there than anyplace else.  And I need that encouragement since I find it nowhere else except on my favorite survival web sites (Survival Blog my most favorite) and other blogs from my fellow internet preppers and friends.    I look around the basement and notice the windows and French doors and see all the work I still have to do to make them as secure as possible from break-ins.  I study various ways of protection but all are more than I can afford.  So, I must think, ponder, mull over and dream about effective ways of providing very inexpensive home security.  I feel that sometimes I’ve been guided to the right places at the right times.  I was at Lowe’s when they were selling “imperfect” lumber at 90% off and loaded my husband’s pick-up truck with it, and unloaded it alone when I got it home.  It took me two trips to get it all.   So now I have plenty of lumber of various lengths and sizes.  I bought four (4), metal zinc 6 and 3/8” bar holder brackets and have bolted them to the wall studs ,two on each side of the French doors and rammed two (2), 2x4’s through them directly across the doors.  I realize that all one needs to do to easily enter the basement via the French doors is to break the one of the many glass panes, slide the board out of the brackets and proceed to kick the door in or bump the dead bolt.  To prevent this I have screwed two (2), 2 and ½” screws deeply into the exposed wall studs next to the end of each 2x4 board.  I can pull outwards on the end of the boards to release them over the heads of the screws to slide them out of the brackets, but I can only do this if I’m already in the basement at the inside of the doors.  I was surprised at how well this worked!  Someone on the outside would have a hard time trying to slide the boards out of the brackets due to the stud screws stopping them.  I know I can’t keep them out, but I sure can slow them down some.   Hopefully long enough for me to grab my shotgun!

All sorts of projects are in the works and a few have been completed.  My rain barrel project was at first very intimidating but I persevered and now have three (3) of the plastic blue 55 gallon water barrels daisy-chained together and collecting off of one downspout.  And they are nicely hidden behind the huge cedar tree I took as a seedling from my grandmother’s yard several years ago.  I had read many different plans by many different people on how to make rain barrels but none of them really made clear sense to me.  So I ended up taking a little from this plan, and a little from that plan and created my own plan along the way.  The jigsaw I bought my husband for his birthday several years ago finally got used to saw the tops off of each barrel.  And I had to make a lot of trips to the hardware store and think and ponder as I stood in the PVC section playing with all the different parts and connections trying to figure out something that would work.  (The guys working at the hardware store got used to seeing me drop by nearly every day and are still interested in all of my various projects.) Then I had to decide on the best hose to use (radiator hose) to connect my barrels together, and solve a dozen or more other small but very important details.  I had some minor leaks of course at first.  After taking the barrels apart and trying rubber vs. metal washers, and with a little swearing they finally held water-tight and have been for water-tight about three years now.  They even survived a couple of hard freezes with thick ice on the top. 

Water is so extremely important.  It’s the most important thing to have, in my opinion, after shelter.  I should build more rain barrels, and I will, but only after some other things are done first.   I must admit that I’m very proud of myself for building these all by myself.  It was kind of a hard chore but a necessary one.  Hubby was surprised I did it but I wasn’t!  When I’m in the basement I also see the many 2 liter water bottles that I’ve spent hours washing and filling up with tap water just in case of a water shortage.  I used some of the lumber I got at Lowe's to make separate shelves for my canned food and home-bottled water.  I have to keep as much on the cheap as possible so I bought  masonry concrete blocks for a little over one dollar each  and made shelves using some of that lumber.  I’m tall, 5’10”, and the top shelf is at head level.  Canned food and bottled water weigh a lot so these shelves have to be strong.   They are great to see what I have in order to keep them off the floor and to rotate in and out. 

Still, so many other skills needed to be mastered… still seems overwhelming at times.   I often find myself thinking back to the days when I was a young girl and staying with my grandmother out in the country.   She was a real country woman who could have taught me a lot of self-survival skills.  I watched her work in her huge garden, then canning the vegetables she grew.  She even made her own soap from wood ash and lard out in the yard.  I just took it all for granted…….but at least I still have the memories.   My grandmother would be proud of me now.  I’ve learned to pressure can, garden, dehydrate veggies and fruit, sew, (build rain barrels!), make soap (but not yet out of wood ash and lard) and am still working my way up the learning curve.  I need to learn how to quilt, make pottery, hunt (dread that but will if I have too), fish for real – not pleasure fishing, and a ton of other skills.  I also think about skills I need to have in case we need to find a new community to live in.  I want to be found useful enough for us to be allowed into a safe situation.  I’m a music teacher by trade, and even have a Reiki II level training in healing.  I’m always trying to improve myself to become more useful by way of skills.    Women are naturally useful in many ways but those who only have training in artificial human-made vocations such as law and economics may be in for an extra hard time if they don’t get practical training in everyday life skills.   Same of course, goes for men.

Though I speak of possible future community acceptance, right now bugging out is not a viable option for us.   Being a woman, I see things perhaps, somewhat differently from most men.  Instead of focusing on BOLs, BOVs, guns, and ammo to a great extent, I prepare for life right here, where we are in our suburban neighborhood.  All of our lives are here, everyone we know and love is nearby.  To “bugout” is not realistic for us, at least at this point in time, so I am preparing for life right here.   I’ve read many pros and cons about bugging out, and feel leaving would definitely not be in our best interest.  If we had a place to go to maybe we would bug out.  But for us to hit the road when all hell breaks loose with nowhere to go would do us no particular good.  My plan is, as a woman who is doing this without any input or advice from her husband, is to stay put for as long as we can.  Danger lurks greater out there for women and children than for men.  I think about situations that probably few men think about.  Most of them probably aren’t overly worried about getting raped, though it may cross their minds concerning the women in their family.  I especially fear something bad happening to my girls such as getting raped, or murdered or both.  Women have deep fears rarely expressed, even to each other.   By far most of our fears relate to our children’s welfare and all the dangers involved.  And all of these fears can happen right at home too.  I feel my ability to protect is far superior from behind walls with a loaded shotgun than walking out in the open with my kids at my side and all I can carry on my back.  Such exposure I cannot tolerate.  Also, I have to have faith in something greater than myself that we will be alright.  If I do the footwork (prepping) I can leave the results of my prepping to God.  I didn’t wake up suddenly with a desire to prep for no good reason.  Nor did anyone else who is preparing for disaster whether it be small, great, or somewhere in between.  Those of us who have awoken have done so for reasons that may exist far beyond our immediate ability to grasp them.  Who knows what the Universe has in store for us, but hopefully very wonderful things!  If preppers are fortunate to be living with others of like mind, then their jobs are much easier and much more enjoyable. However, not all of us live in such a good situation and have to carefully balance prepping duties and marriage duties ever so carefully.  Some of us face outright hostility, and others, like me, endure mostly silent scorn.  And this hostility, whether overt or covert, can cause some irrational feelings to be felt.  On rare occasion, I have found myself actually wishing the economy would suddenly crash, or that a CME would race towards earth causing destruction of our electrical grid, or even a pandemic to occur just to prove to my husband that I was right!   But that kind of thinking is crazy, and I know it’s just my ego.  At least I realize it when it happens and can see it for what it’s worth.  I’m only human……we’re all only human and so I don’t berate myself about having such thoughts.  I guess if God, or whatever our personal Higher Power is, wanted everyone to have help from our spouses or significant others, then we all would have their help.   This is definitely my solo learning journey. 

Prepping is now a way of life for me.  It’s something that I have come to enjoy for the most part, despite having to do a lot of it in secret.  It’s futile to discuss world economic or political situations, or anything that might lead to reasons why I prep.   He and I just aren’t on the same page and attempts to discuss differing points of view always lead to bad feelings in the both of us.  Also, I can’t share even little things like my great news about all the wonderful clothes I bought for next to nothing at my favorite thrift store, in larger and larger sizes for the girls as they grow. Or about the nearly brand new Timberland boots I scored for only 4 dollars at Goodwill!  I bring home my items in secret and store them away in secret without telling anyone.  I check all my favorite web sites everyday for bargains on the things I feel are necessary.  The headlamps, two for the price of one, the large spools of dirt cheap sewing thread, the solar battery chargers and rechargeable batteries, the manual floor sweepers, the survival books, the oil lamps, ceramic water filters, the heirloom vegetable seeds and more – all ordered off the internet in secret.  The other items such as soap, OTC medicines, antibiotics, toothpaste, toothbrushes, boxes of salt, lamp oil, wicks, propane tanks, candles galore, ammo, slingshots and replacement bands, bicycle tires and tubes, toilet paper, tools, etc…. are all secretly stashed away in the bowels of the basement.  Some special items that I have purchased I feel are very important and would like to list them here.  These are spring-loaded rat traps, fly strips, essential oils, flea control, colloidal silver generator, distilled water, canning jar lids, self-clumping kitty litter by the 40 lb. buckets (the empty plastic buckets can be used for other purposes), fire extinguishers, several rolls of 12 ml. window film and tubes of clear latex caulk.  I feel these items are especially important.  Flies and rodents will be a BIG problem if garbage is allowed to accumulate and ugh, I hate to say it, but if dead bodies are inside and outside of houses the flies will be super thick.  Flea outbreaks will also be a bad problem if SHTF and will be carriers of disease.  I want to keep my pets as flea-free as possible for as long as possible so I buy extra of those small tubes of flea control that you squirt on their backs.  Also, in the last month I was able to purchase a rocket stove and thermal cooker which should save a lot on fuel.  I am very concerned about hygiene if the grid goes down and I plan on using the kitty litter in makeshift 5 gallon toilet buckets, if we can’t flush toilets or there is no water.  Having plenty of pre-packaged adult washcloths, gallons of hand sanitizer gel and other cleaning supplies is extremely important.  If you manage to survive the first round of SHTF trials and tribulations, you certainly do not want to succumb to any diseases afterwards due to unsanitary hygiene.  I bought a lot of these items from Sam’s Club and many others I ordered from

I have placed the window film on all the lower level windows and all the basement windows (finally finished that since I started writing this piece!) and carefully caulked the edges with clear latex caulk to give them added strength for resistance to break-ins.  Security is always first and foremost in my mind.  I even tried out my home-made water purifying system on myself to make sure it worked.  I took some really nasty rainwater out of one of my barrels and ran it through my ceramic filtering system (I leak tested it first), then added a little bleach, stirred and let it sit for a while.  I poured myself a tall glassful of the filtered water and chug-a-lugged it down.  I got sort of scared for a moment, but the deed had been done and now I just had to wait and see if I got sick or not.  I am happy to report that I did not have any problems whatsoever!
Another thing I have done to try and protect my two girls is to buy larger sized boys clothing at the thrift stores.  I have even gone so far as to buy boys underwear to complete the desired look.  I plan on turning my girls into “boys”….at least temporarily.  If the situation gets bad enough, I will cut their hair short, and dress them as boys.  Boys get sexually attacked too, but not as often as girls.  I will even turn myself temporarily into a man.  I guess my husband will just have to deal with it for a while. (LOL.)  At least he’s aware of that possibility so it won’t come as a total shock should it happen.  If women don’t look like easy targets, then they won’t be as prone to attack.  And temporarily looking like a man is a small price to pay for safety.  At least that’s how I see it.  I also practice with my 12 gauge shot gun.  I don’t get to shoot it as much as I would like, but I try to keep reinforcing muscle memory by using the fake metal shells I bought from the gun store.  Quick loading and racking practice…..over and over. 

As well as acquiring the physical preps to keep us healthy and happy for the duration, I have also been buying rolls of mercury dimes when I could afford too.  I don’t have many, but even with all the careful planning and scenario predicting, I will not think of everything.  I’ll need some way to buy those items I overlooked, if they can still be bought.  Barter is always possible, but I don’t spend any money on items to use for barter.  I know some people do, but I simply can’t spare it and really hope to not have to barter, at least not much.   Luckily I bought a boat load of .22 caliber rounds some months back so if that becomes currency I good to go.

And lest I forget, I want to tell you about some signs I have downloaded from the internet, printed out and laminated for future use, if necessary.   You can easily find, “BEWARE OF DOG”, the Gadsden flag symbol, and various bright orange and black infectious diseases warning labels all free and downloadable from the internet.  Of course you can create your own signs as you see fit.  I have made several “LOOTERS WILL BE SHOT” signs in various sizes and have all these signs nicely laminated and stored in a folder to pull out and attach to the doors and windows as needed.  I even made extra signs for the neighbors to use.  This is another step towards home security to warn and hopefully thwart off anyone who may be having thoughts of annoying me and my family in any way.  Also, having the signs in Spanish might not be a bad idea either.   Get these made now in case there is no electricity later to use your computer and printer.

Since I have been continuously prepping since late 2009, I have accomplished a lot bit by bit over the months and years.  I feel mostly alright about the preps, but I will always worry about security.  I think about what will happen to my neighbors who show no indications of any knowledge of what catastrophe(s) is/are coming down their pike in the near future.  Will they be prepared or will I have to make those hard decisions about sharing my preps and endure all the heart-ache involved in that?  Should I try to approach my neighbors and talk about disaster preparedness and get an idea on where they stand without divulging too much information about my situation?   Opsec is so critical to me.  I want too talk with them very badly and will most likely do so but I must be very careful with my words.....this is an area that will take much prayer and guidance before any discussions with my neighbors occur.  Having neighbors on board however, is a prep item that is better than anything else.  I am dreading the approach, but as calamity gets closer and closer I really must talk with them.  And if they feel nothing is bad is ever going to happen, then at least I will know better how to deal with them later should they come knocking on my door asking for some of my preps.

For women who especially are having a difficult time doing what they know is the right thing to do, while keeping the waters calm at home is in the very least, a challenge for which a gold medal should be awarded.  Ending a relationship that otherwise is very good, is a terrible loss.  In the initial months of my prepping I was concerned that our marriage might end, but after nearly 4 years I suppose we’re still solid.  I know that God put me and my husband together for very good reasons.   I have absolutely no doubt about that.   And my husband was born and raised in the country and knows a lot about hunting, fishing and those skills of which I am at a loss, so he most definitely will be very helpful when the time comes.  He will shine as a protector and warrior, as that will be his heavenly gift from God. 

I hope I have helped someone by writing all of this.  I am forever grateful for all the wisdom and good advice I have been freely given by those who contribute to this site and to the many other sites I have read and enjoyed.  I just wanted to try and give back as best I could.  God bless everyone and thank-you!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

(Why I prep, and how I do so in a family that thinks I’m crazy.)

In the summer of 1977 my mother dragged me to see my older brother’s Cub Scouts meeting.  I was closing in on my sixth birthday and she informed me in no uncertain terms that I would be joining.  My mother was one of the multitudes of single mom’s in my part of Brooklyn.  A neighborhood where at the time crime was high, money was tight, and involved dads were few.   The only place for many boys to find any kind of positive male role model was in Scouting.  So off to the basement of the local savings bank I went, passing along the way many other kids whose parents weren’t making them go off somewhere that required stuffy uniforms on humid July evenings. 

Shortly after arriving, “Signs Up” was called and the scouts were ordered into their Dens so the meeting could open with The Pledge of Allegiance.  When that was done and all outstanding business concluded I watched in absolute amazement as the older boys (the Webelos) proceeded to learn how to treat shock and minor wounds on one side of the large room while the younger boys (Cubs) were learning how to lash branches together to build a tripod for use as a camp table complete with seats.  Those relatively simple things spoke to me on a level I still can’t comprehend.  I was “all-in” right then and there.

From that night until I turned six I was at every meeting.  I became a mascot of sorts, treated as a member of the team but not quite in the game.  It was a big deal for me when I was finally able to wear the uniform.  At the time (I believe it has changed now) the neckerchief had a picture of a bear cub and the logo: “Be Prepared”.  Words that still echo in my mind and a philosophy that continues to permeate everything I do.

The Modern World:

So here I am: A full grown man, husband and father both, having grown up hearing some variation of “Be Prepared” on a regular basis…  “Make sure you have a dime for the pay-phone”, “Make sure you have extra pencils for your test”, and “Make sure you check your engine fluids before you drive that far”.  The list of recommendations of how and why to be prepared just keeps going and going. 

In a modern world a fully charged cell phone has replaced the dime for the pay phone, but otherwise little has changed with regards to what we tell our children on a daily basis.  So you can imagine my surprise when upon building an emergency kit some year’s back, my wife looked at me with “that look”. 

You know the one you get… it sort of says: “Poor fool just doesn’t know any better”, the visual equivalent of a condescending pat on the head.  I guess I just didn’t realize that being prepared was somehow strange.  So my wife and I proceeded to have a conversation where on one side was the feeling that you can’t ever be too careful (especially in light of how many times we lose power in Upstate N.Y.), and on the other the assertion that I’m paranoid; backed up with the ever so logical “what will the neighbors think?”  I was astonished.

Having grown up about five cents below the poverty line and being raised with Scouting at my side, I had learned to always hedge my proverbial bets.  To find out that according to the people who loved me preparedness was considered crazy…  that most people truly believe the government can and will take care of them in a crisis… just confounds me. 

Had these people not been watching the same news I had?  Do they not remember any of the natural disasters over the last ten years?  Katrina, Irene or Sandy anyone?  Were all of my tidbits of wisdom thrown out like the mornings coffee grinds?

After several discussions about the topic of preparedness I realized I was alone.  I would not receive any assistance in gathering, organizing, storing or in any other way getting my stuff together for an emergency of any kind let alone for TEOTWAWKI.

I had no choice but to become: “The Secret Prepper.” (Cue ominous music.)

Logistics of a dual identity:

Deciding on where to begin is kind of like being an eight-year-old with a $100 bill in a candy store: Overwhelming in its possibilities.  So in looking at the logistics of fulfilling the requirements of my shadow-self, I decided to create 3 basic (but in retrospect woefully inadequate) categories to manage the tasks:

  1. How to pay for it?
  2. What to get and where to get it?
  3. How and where to store it?

The most difficult of these three options, for me, was how to pay for it.  Having a stay at home parent raising a child, in my humble opinion, far outweighs the negative financial effect resulting from only one income.  The problem I came across is that my wife wears so many hats.  I make the money, take care of the yard, kill the bugs and protect us from things that go bump in the night while she does pretty much everything else.  This includes balancing the checkbook.  (Remember, she’s not on-board because I’m nuts.)

How was “The Secret Prepper” to accomplish any of his preparedness goals while not tipping his hand to the one-woman oversight committee that thinks he’s insane?  Not to mention maintaining Operational Security (I will make references to where I adhered strictly to OPSEC.)  Over time it became a game to me.

Getting ready for the Schumer on the cheap:

Finances came from good old-fashioned sacrifice.  I’ve found that when money is tight you have an obligation to stick to what you feel in your gut is important.  As such, sacrifice is an imperative.  At that time, when all was said and done I could allot myself $25 each Friday for the following week.  This money was to pay for my lunch, coffee or anything else I wanted while I was at work. 

I realize this doesn’t sound like a significant amount of money, but once you learn how to squeeze blood from a stone you’d be surprised how much those suckers can bleed.  So I thought back to my childhood and how my mother managed to feed us and came up with some practical solutions as well as some that were foreign to me.

Two things that I did were start a vegetable garden and learn how to jar/can.  This was a completely foreign world to me.  Growing up in an apartment building, the only reason I wanted a good-sized property hours from the city was to get away from people.  I didn’t realize what could be done until I bought a homesteading book.  The amount of money I now save on produce is astonishing.  This has served to help my entire household and not just “The Secret Prepper”.

Otherwise, I spent the first few weeks stocking surplus goods in my locker at work.  Nothing too big mind you, just the basics for the purposes of masking my future purchases.  Ferreting away an excess item from home here and there and bringing it to work, I managed to stash several days lunch in my locker and needed less money the following week.  My surplus cash went into an envelope there as well.  I made it a point to only use cash so as not to create any kind of a paper trail (OPSEC).  It was good practice for my later and larger purchases.

I soon had a sizeable bankroll and a grocery store in my locker with none the wiser.  Some of this food was moved to buckets in the basement and some was consumed for lunch but all of it served to free up $100 a month in cash.  This process took several weeks but once I had it down to a science there was no stopping it.

Saving about $100 a month, I was able to start prioritizing the next objective: What to get and where to get it?

I decided on what my most immediate need would be in the event of the most likely emergency in my area: Nature’s fury and her prolonged power outages.  So with that particular goal in mind, and the knowledge that needs are similar in many emergencies, I proceeded to spend my hard saved money.  Candles, matches, water purification tablets/canteens, solar blankets, first-aid kit, tent and sleeping bags, walkie-talkie’s, batteries, MREs. Thus, all of the basics.

My cup runneth over:

Pretty soon my work locker, my car and my super-secret-hidey-hole were near to bursting at the seams.  It was time to consider task three: How and where to store it?  The problem was, I was still working on what to get.  It became clear to me that a two-pronged approach was in order.

I went to a “mom-and-pop” hardware store in the next town and bought two footlockers, paying in cash (OPSEC), making sure that they could fit into the trunk of my car in case I had to bug out rather than in.  One I labeled camping gear and proceeded to fill it with pretty much anything that fit the bill, storing it where I keep all of the other things my family has no interest in. The other one I left unlabeled and filled with surplus goods.  I added to them some large desiccant packs that I got for free at a piano store and hid the unlabeled one in a dark corner among the spiders.

With room at my outside locations freed up, I went back to my list of necessities.  After buying and waylaying various supplies, I started looking into the next phase of purchase and storage: Mylar.

Nowadays there are a lot of good videos on YouTube about the use of Mylar bags.  Not so just a few years back.  I’ll tell you what I believe to be the most important piece of information I learned about Mylar bags after I had started using them.  I have decided (once again my humble opinion) that I prefer to fill smaller bags.  I can then use these bags to create a variety of items in a single storage bucket.  If I had to grab just a few buckets and bug due to an emergency I won’t have to think about which ones to grab.  Each has a little of everything.  But I’m getting way ahead of myself…

I bought some 5-Gallon 5mil Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers through a dummy persona from an Internet retailer that accepted money orders (OPSEC).  Then, to save money I went to a bunch of grocery stores out-of-town (OPSEC) and basically trash-picked or asked for some food-grade buckets.  When I had a good bucket to Mylar ratio I proceeded to fill my dried stores.

Filling Mylar bags is a simple thing to do.  It’s pretty much a 3-step process:

1. Put bag in bucket and fill with dry goods.
2. Add Oxygen Absorbers.  I use 300 to 500cc absorbers per pound depending on how much “dead air” is left in the bag. For instance ziti leaves more air than rice.
3. Fold the bag over, squeezing all of the air out and run a hot iron across the open end to create a seal.  I usually iron the outermost part of the bag, near the opening, and an extra two inches to create a bigger seal.  By leaving a lot of the bag below the seal you can re-use it.

My dried stores consisted of what you’d expect: Beans, rice, pasta and various grains totaling a paltry five buckets-worth.  To supplement them I proceeded to add cans of various meats like tuna, sardines and the like.  Anything with a shelf life extending out for a few years that I could and would eat over time was collected and stored away.  After a while my secret stash, which was in plain sight, was becoming noticeable (definitely not OPSEC).

It was about then that I read on a blog about how a couple in Manhattan with a considerable shortage of space managed their preparedness needs. 
While I couldn’t follow their example strictly I did learn a lot from it.  Here are three examples of what I did with this wisdom:

  1. I made a workbench using stacked buckets for the legs and camouflaged it on three sides with storage shelves. (They had made a kitchen table camouflaged with a table cloth,)
  2. I stored food in Mylar bags under (my side) of the bed in those under-the-bed storage containers, surrounding them with out-of-season clothes.
  3. Started using 1-gallon Mylar bags to fit a greater variety of items per bucket.

Now it bears note that following number three is a less efficient use of food-space. When you seal the items this way and put them into a bucket there is a lot of dead space between the bags.  What I do with those spaces now is add things like: ammo, toilet paper, water filters/tablets, basic first aid supplies and pretty much anything else I can cram in there.  [JWR Adds: Never include anything on a food container that might exude toxic vapors such as lubricants, paint, Sterno, cans of lighter fluid, hexamine tabs, or Trioxane fuel bars.] So long as I can lift and carry them without straining myself I fill the buckets as much as I can.

Now, instead of having to open a 5-gallon bucket of rice and risk spoilage, I can open smaller amounts as needed and preserve freshness to greater quantities of supplies.  Plus, I have the added benefit of knowing that a single bucket is roughly equal to a full month of a majority of my supplies.  I’ll delve into this momentarily as I know it sounds like a ridiculous estimate.  Just bear with me.

Hiding in plain sight:

Over time my stores grew and my available space was shrinking.  I needed to find a new way to hide my stores in plain sight.  One of the way’s I’ve done this is to put storage buckets next to the items they resemble.  What I mean by this is that I have a bucket with a re-used label stating “Activated Carbon” next to my house’s water filter.  I have a bucket with a manufacturer painted fertilizer label on it among my garden supplies. The variety of things that now require buckets for “organization” in my house is amazing.

All of my buckets have been cleaned and sterilized, and the use of Mylar goes further to ensure the supplies are safe.  Plus, the buckets are among the items they are pretending to be.  This adds a level of camouflage that I otherwise wouldn’t have achieved (OPSEC).  If you think about it, you can find many different ways to not-camouflage your hidden stuff.

Like pulling a rabbit out of a hat:

So now that I have some experience in this, what do I fit in my magical, invisible buckets?  I’m glad you asked.  It takes some creative packing but here’s a typical inventory:

-8 Lbs Rice                                               
-5 Lbs Beans
-5 Lbs Pasta                                               
-5 Lbs TVP (taco, beef or chicken chunk)
-1 cup Sugar                                               
-1 cup Salt
-1 cup Italian Seasoning                       
-100 rounds .22 Long (for small game or ballistic wampum)
-4 Bottles of Water Purification Tablets in a wide mouth quart jug (totals 50 quarts)
-25 each of Chicken and Beef Bullion Cubes (also in the quart jug)
-1 roll of compressed/vacuum sealed toilet paper (cardboard removed)
-50 (ish) compressed/vacuum sealed napkins (can double as kindling after use)
-200 strike anywhere matches in a sealed plastic tube
-2 solar accent lights removed from their stakes
-Whatever first-aid supplies I can get in

Coupled with my jarred stores, garden and chickens (see below), these supplemental items should do just fine.  And if something should go wrong what buckets I may need to bring should I have to evacuate/bug out will still have a solid variety of supplies.

Subterranean Supermarket

I will touch briefly on canned goods.  We can all agree on the fact that they last a long while and offer up a variety of ways to supplement protein and calories as well as ways to avoid Food Fatigue

Food Fatigue is basically getting so sick and tired of eating the same things repeatedly over a long period of time that you slowly starve yourself because you choose not to eat them anymore.  Please feel free to look up a literal definition.

Setting up a rotational stock system should be high on your list.  Canned goods must be stored in such a way that they can be rotated with every purchase.  Optimally you can set up a shelf that lets you put new stuff directly in back and allows you to easily take from the front.

Just imagine that the Schumer has hit the Fan.  You’ve used everything in your refrigerator first and now are going to your stores.  You open up a can of tuna and it just doesn’t smell right.  So you open another… same thing.  As the fear sets in you realize your mistake.  The best way to avoid this is to rotate your stock and stay on top of it. 

Rule of thumb: One in, one out. [Quickly replace everything you use, and use your oldest stocks first.]

Other things you need to keep along with your canned/jarred stores are:

  1. Bleach: You can’t beat it for keeping things sanitary, especially if you have a designated area for butchering game.  It can also be used for treating water, but I’m not entirely comfy with that.
  2. Vinegar: It’s a great non-chemical cleaner that can be used where food is prepared/consumed.  You’ll also need it for jarring foods, post-SHTF.  Store different types of vinegar.  White for cleaning/jarring, apple cider for poultices or treatment for conditions like Gout.
  3. Alcohol:  The drinking kind.  I do not partake often, but if there is any kind of prolonged crisis you may need it for tincturing medicines.  It’s also a great barter item.  Make sure you have vodka and high proof rum.

An old dog learns new tricks:

So to address the obvious shortcomings in my monthly supply estimate, I did after all say it was a rough estimate, I had to learn a few new skills.  Under the guise of boredom (OPSEC) I decided that I wanted to enter the magical world of keeping chickens.  I had to think long and hard about this one.  There are a lot of reasons not to do this.  Among them are:

  1. Chicken coops require maintenance.  If you can’t keep up on things you have no place having them, especially when it comes to living creatures.  They may only be chickens, but their still Gods creatures.
  2. Space is a factor.  If you have a rooster and your neighbors are as little as an acre away, you won’t be friends for long.
  3. Town ordinances.
  4. My limited experience with animals of any nature.

If you look on YouTube there are a lot of instructional videos dealing with coop construction.  I strongly recommend watching them.  Also, though my acreage is small I’m surrounded on three sides by state land.  As for town ordinance, the clerk told me that, though illegal, if there were no noise complaints from my nearest neighbor then there weren't any chickens in existence on my property. 

After about six months, I decided that all was well on the chicken keeping front.  The next thing I had to learn was how to jar and can the produce from my ever-expanding garden. 

I firmly believe that it is my duty not just as a Christian, but also as a human being, to give charitably whenever possible.  I have found that a garden can go long ways towards helping others when needs are great.  As unemployment in my area exceeds 15% at the time of typing this, I am finding more and more people within five miles of my home who are in need of food assistance than I ever though I would see.  Having gone to bed hungry many times as a child I find this to be an affront to my very existence.

As such I keep producing as much as possible.  Along with this, I have found that it has become a simple matter to jar foods like pickles, salsa, tomato sauce, chutney and bean salad.  I give my surplus to the food pantry run by my church versus direct giving (OPSEC) and I’ve managed to streamline my process and make better quality stores for myself.  I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve always believed that you learn best by doing.

The best offense is a good defense:

I’ve now spent the last couple of years secretly creating my cache of supplies.  While doing so I’ve come across a like-minded individual who brought me to my current phase of preparedness: Security and Defense.

I had come to realize that there is a giant hole in all of my preparation.  I did not have the ability to defend it.  I have a fairly decent ability to fight hand-to-hand and with knives.  I honed this ability growing up in a rough neighborhood.  My biggest problem was that I didn’t want to end up being the fool who died because he brought a knife to a gunfight.

To that end I sought to get my pistol permit.  During my journey to permit-hood I met a firearms instructor who, as it turns out, lives not too far from my home.  My gut told me we were kindred.  After my class we got to talking and our belief systems seemed to be in sync.  So I decided to break operational security and divulge my preparedness.  I have not had a single regret about it yet.

My newly discovered partner-in-preparedness is a retired SWAT-experienced police officer.   He has helped several people on the road to “Emergency Security” and has decided to not only teach this to me, but to train with me.  I have been introduced to the world of the “three gun” philosophy and am currently taking steps to hone my skills along with others like me.

A man’s home is his castle:

When it comes to home defense, it’s not enough to just know how to shoot.  I had heard numerous times about “Hardening your home”.  Hardening, in general, is a very simple concept: Don’t make it easy for the bad guys to get in and win.  Use things like thorny plants below but not overgrowing your windows, security system, motion lights etc.  But what about when the Schumer hits the fan?

These basic precautions would likely not be enough to fend of a few hungry people let alone stand up to a full-on assault by looters.  With that in mind I spent a good amount of time walking the perimeter of my property looking for places where my property, as well as my home, could be compromised or used against me.

My property, which borders hundreds of acres of state land, is heavily wooded.  I don’t expect to be set-upon by a fast moving vehicle based force from any of the sides facing forest.  Any approach on foot from these directions would have plenty of cover, but only after traversing 12 acres of swamp on one side, and hundreds of densely forested acres on the others.  I have made good use of a chainsaw and thinned out the woods for a hundred feet in each direction past my property line.  This wood will do a lot of good in my fireplace.

Additionally, I have taken the liberty of re-populating the now thinned areas with low growing vines for ground cover.  These will serve to entangle all but the most dexterous foot thus slowing any approach, and even offering up targets should they get stuck on approach.

With three of four areas of approach taken care of I then needed to contend with my homes three weakest points.

  1. My proximity to the road.
  2. The gaping hole in my home created by my glass deck doors.
  3. The gaping hole in my home created by the Bay Window facing the road.

There isn’t much I can do about how close to the road my home is.  Here are a few solutions I have applied or am in the process of at the time of typing:

  1. The digging of a “Water Run-off” ditch along my road frontage will do considerable damage to smaller vehicles.
  2. A six-foot privacy fence, using concrete in the pillars running the length of my property.  On the “Yard Side” of the fence, concrete “Planters” with decorative brick facing have been added at intervals that will make it impossible for anything to drive between (should my fence be rammed).  Plus they look nice and are the future home for my medicinal herb garden.
  3. My glass doors will be removed when SHTF.  To take their place I have constructed a ballistic and fire resistant blockade that I refer to as “The Portcullis”, though it doesn’t really look like one.


Building The Portcullis

2x8 pressure treated lumber was used to frame out the door opening.  The framing was done in such a way as to allow for the installation of a steel fire door in the center.  The outside of the structure will be closed around the door by screwing plywood to the framing and allowing it to overlap the house by one foot in all directions. 

This plywood is then covered with sheet metal, which when needed for actual use will be coated in barbecue paint.  The whole effect, with the steel fire door installed, is to create a standard door opening that offers protection from nasty things like Molotov cocktails and bullets. 

The additional ballistic protection comes from gravel.   Once the outside of The Portcullis is installed, the inside will go up in sections.  The bottom four feet will be covered with plywood.  At which time gravel, cleverly disguised as additional parking on the side of my driveway (OPSEC), will be used to fill in the space between the outer and inner plywood. 

When I reach the top of the first section, three additional feet will be added in the same manner.  The final foot will be filled this way but with a bit more difficulty as there is little room remaining for the shovels of gravel to be manipulated.

The final product results in excellent ballistic and flame protection.  The same process will be used for the Bay Window with the addition of two gun ports.

The beauty of this assembly is that all of the parts can be stored unassumingly in my basement, shed or anywhere else such things seem ordinary (OPSEC).

It all comes full circle:

As I type this I am still living this secret life.  I have learned how to raise chickens, grow crops, jar and can, purify drinking water, store food, use multiple weapons and harden my home.  I am surveying my land for an area suitable for fuel storage and I have even signed up to take “classes” on battlefield medicine.  But I have yet to re-visit the topic of preparedness with my family.

To an extent I am a coward.  I know how I will react in an emergency.  We’ve had multiple hurricanes and nor’easters. We’ve had a “gas crunch” which saw people fighting on long lines.  I have stared-down armed assailants and fought violently to clear a path through harm’s way. And worse, I have performed CPR on my dying child, and failed, while others either panicked or froze in fear. I know exactly who I am.

I’m just still trying to find out how to be him.  Until then I am shrouded in Operational Security in my own home.  I am “The Secret Prepper”.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Just as I warned SurvivalBlog readers, it appears that the BHO Administration is taking executive action on firearms importation. Take a few minutes to read this: After Senate setback, Obama quietly moving forward with gun regulation. Here is the key portion of the article:

"The Importation of Defense Articles and Defense Services -- U.S. Munitions Import List references executive orders, amends ATF regulations and clarifies Attorney General authority “to designate defense articles and defense services as part of the statutory USML for purposes of permanent import controls,” among other clauses specified in heavy legalese requiring commensurate analysis to identify just what the administration’s intentions are. Among the speculations of what this could enable are concerns that importing and International Traffic in Arms Regulations [ITAR] may go forward to reflect key elements within the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty." [Emphasis added.]

Depending on how it is implemented, the implications of this change could be huge. With the stroke of a pen and without the consent of Congress, ATF bureaucrats could make ANY gun part or accessory (including magazines) or ammunition that were originally manufactured or perhaps even those designed for military use no longer legal for importation for civilian use. That might mean no more milsurp parts sets. No more milsurp magazines. No more milsurp ammo. No more milsurp optics. Perhaps not even spare firing pins. This could be ugly.

I strongly recommend that you stock up on magazines, ammunition and spare parts for any of your imported military pattern guns, as soon as possible! Once an import ban is implemented, prices will skyrocket. Importation of Chinese military guns and ammunition was banned during the Clinton Administration, but importers quickly worked around that, by tapping other sources. But imagine if all of the channels for military surplus are cut off. That mean no more spam cans of any of the Russian calibers, no more battle packs of .223 or .308, and no more affordable AK, HK, FAL, Galil, or SIG magazines.

This may be just the first of several executive actions/orders. There is also the possibility of a blanket ban on the importation of any civilian magazines (Glock, SIG, Beretta, etc.) of more than 10 round capacity, by declaring them "non-sporting." There is a precedent for that, as well, set in 1989. That ban could be grossly widened. And don't look for too much support from American gun makers on this issue. They actually benefit from import bans. They benefited in 1968, when import of most of the milsurp rifles stopped. And they benefited again with the 1989 Import Ban.

Don't dawdle. Be proactive! If you wait until after the door slams shut, then you will be paying two or three times the price. If there is a gun show near you this weekend, then you should be there, with a wad of cash. - J.W.R.

Friday, April 12, 2013

You may be reading this and have not made the decision to get started.  You may be facing some of the same challenges I had or you may have your own.  I want to encourage you to find ways to overcome your obstacles.  Getting started is the biggest step. 

My family and I have always led a very frugal life.  My wife and I both work, and I have a second job as well.  The grocery bill stays under $30 per week through couponing and eating-in.  Money has gone into savings in case of emergency and we finally have a few months saved up.  Any extra at the end of the month is put towards a quickly dwindling mortgage.  The only expense we do not continually try to find new ways to lower is the tithe.

This was our lifestyle before I started ‘hearing’ the news last summer.  I had been reading and listening to the news, but I had not been hearing it (my ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ reference).  I quickly realized I needed more information.  With a Google search I found SurvivalBlog and started reading the main page… then the archives… then looked for other resources.  I promptly realized I needed to stop reading and get started.  I also realized I had two major hurdles before I could even start.

Hurdle number one was my wife’s fears.  Like most people, we were sheeple, making our way through life in the blessed assurance that the security blanket we had been given would always be there to keep us safe and warm.  Fortunately, we communicate about everything (we don’t always see eye to eye, but we do talk).  At first, the news scared her.  She could only handle a few minutes of my questions at a time a couple of days a week.  I just had to slowly feed her information.  I asked questions when making meal plans like, “What would we do if the food we needed for the week was not available at the stores?”  It is 10 months later and I am still asking questions.  She is involved now, but not as much as I would like her to be, or as much as she really needs to be if something happens.   It is an ongoing process, but isn’t everything about getting prepared?

At some point she conceded we had to do something, and trusted me to start.  She was okay with being prepared, but she is still not interested in imagining her life after TSHTF.  She helps by buying more at the store than we need when there are deals on goods with a long shelf life.  She also created storage options under the beds and set up a system to track the expiration dates on these purchases. 

In opposition to some of the advice we see, we do not always buy food we will eat if we still have it in two years from now.  We understand much of it will need to be donated and replaced at that time.  I have asked her to start with an easy goal of accumulating three months worth of food and water at the most economical price possible.   Sometimes this means purchasing things we have coupons for that we would not normally buy.  If TSHTF and I am hungry, am I really going to care that the food available consists of chopped tomatoes instead of Campbell’s soup, or am I just going to be thankful to have something to eat?  After we have three months stocked, I will explain the need for six months to her… or more likely, introduce the idea that we may need to have enough food for any loved ones who are not stocking up as well.

On a slightly out of context note: An unlucky squirrel blew a transformer in the middle of town here a few months ago, causing power to go out throughout the area in the middle of the day.  I attempted to buy from the local Wal-Mart, Publix and Kroger.  None of them would sell me anything because their computers were down.  They had the doors locked.  The stores are dependant on the barcodes to get prices for the products, and their inventory systems communicate with their corporate offices to reorder items.  In addition, they won’t be taking any credit or debit cards without their machines to approve the sales.  I often hear we should get to the grocery stores with our cash as soon as we see there is an issue, but if the power is out due to an EMP or natural disaster, it is probably be too late, even with cash.  Waiting to buy food at the first sign of trouble is not a viable option.

The second hurdle was finances.  As I mentioned, we are both conscious of our money and live a thrifty lifestyle.  Where was the additional money going to come from to buy supplies and additional groceries?  How would I start buying some silver coins?  For me, the answer was in something I had already been doing every week… yard sales.

I had been spending every Saturday morning in search of yard sale stuff already.  All of a sudden my list got longer.  I found two military issued backpacks just back from Afghanistan for less than $10 total.  I bought fishing gear, boots, warm clothing, storage containers, cabinets, five gallon gas cans, propane tanks, knives, two multi-tools, ropes, tarps, a canteen, and a second first aid kit.  Silver jewelry bought for dollars often finds a home in my new safe (also bought at a yard sale).  In addition, is a virtual 24 hour yard sale.  I have picked up all sorts of useful things, from 55 gallon drums to a new firearm, on there.

I also started looking at the stuff at yard sales as a way to make more money I could use to buy other things I needed.  This takes some research and I had to choose a few things I would specialize in.  The pair of silver plated candelabra’s bought for $5 sold at the local coin shop for $35.  A practically new 8-man Tent bought for $10 was sold for $50 on Craigslist.  I have learned to avoid certain things like watches which I can’t authenticate, vinyl albums which I do not know enough about to make money, and old cameras which are a pain to sell.  Selling the items is the hard part and it is work.  It may sound like buying something for $1 and selling it for $5 is a 500% profit, but with the cost of gas I use driving around and the time I need to put into selling things, I typically shoot for larger profits.

A cell phone is an invaluable tool while at a sale.  Want to know how much an item is worth?  Check it out at before buying it.  Ebay is the ultimate source to find out what an item is worth since it tells you the true value people are willing to pay.  Remember to look at the Sold listings.  Just because an item is actively listed for $50 does not mean it has sold in the past for more than $25.

This work resulted in enough money to start buying the things I could not find locally.  The essentials, such as a solar powered battery charger, a hand-cranked emergency radio and water purifying equipment I still had to get from Amazon.  Ammo still had to come from the store.  A small silver coin collection is financed from the yard sale profits and continues to be added to.  Watch sites such as for discounts on everything from flashlights to pistols.

You literally never know what you are going to find for sale.  One of my most surprising finds was ten AR-15 thirty round magazines for $1 each.  My advice if you want to give this a try is to get started early, and plan your route.  Craigslist and your local newspaper are good places to look for upcoming sales in your area.  I like to get a list of the ones starting at 7:00 AM or earlier and head that direction first.  I recommend getting there 30 minutes early (unless they specifically request that you do not in their ad).  Most people are setting up and do not mind you looking.  After those, choose a route going by as many populated areas as possible.  You have to get out early because by about 8:00 AM all of the valuable items, such as jewelry and collectibles, are gone.  There are lots of yard sale pickers out there searching for these.

Be prepared when you arrive.  Do you know how to tell gold and silver jewelry from the costume jewelry?  Have you written a list of the main items you are looking for?  If your spouse is not with you, bring a list of items he or she are looking for.  Be prepared to ask for a discount, even if the price being asked for an item is reasonable.  People expect to bargain at yard sales and every dollar saved helps.  More than half of the time they will discount their price for you.

Lastly, ask for anything specific you are looking for, even if you do not see it.  Sometimes people have things in the house or garage they did not consider selling at first, but are willing to part with.  I picked up a five gallon gas can last week just by asking.

I still have a lot more to search for, but I have the essentials and each week I become more prepared than the week before.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Building up a skill set can easily be argued the most critical survival ability available. One skill set often overlooked is bartering. Trading a good or service for another. Looking at tangible items, one recent item everyone has noticed is the new price for ammo and certain rifles. The adage “buy low sell high” still applies if you can do so and still maintain your own needed stock.

About four and a half years ago AR-15s were roughly the same inflated cost as today (after BHO was elected), there was a massive panic and parts were scarce. It took four months to get a muzzle brake that I ordered two month prior to the election! At the time I had what I wanted, but no extras. I stayed out of the buying panic and saved. Fast forward six months later, and AR lowers and uppers had dropped to $60 per piece. I bought two of each at that price. Barrels with gas tubes and blocks were around $125, stocks and Lower parts kits around $60. Two complete bolt carrier groups were bought at a local gun show for $110 each. Gradually I built two complete AR-15s as I could afford to. Over the next three year, 5.56mm ammo could be found for $4-$5 per 20 round box at Cabela's and other stores. Again I bought when I had a few extra dollars, not going into debt but taking a bargain when I find it. I filled up my ammo locker plus ammo cans over those plentiful years. Not hoarding, no one else was buying at that time I was just stocking up when it was inexpensive.

Spent on building each AR:

$60 lower
$50 upper
$125 barrel, gas block, handguard and accessories.
$60 Lower Parts Kit
$50 stock
$110 bolt carrier
$10 charging handle

Today history repeats and those two AR-15s I built for $500-$600 dollars sold for $1,100-$1,300. People were glad to find them at that price and I had many potential buyers. Ammo sold for $20 a box and again I had to turn people away. This allowed me to buy a .50 BMG rifle and 100 rounds of ammo plus solar panels and equipment. I do not view this as taking advantage of anyone, they may find that the rifles are worth double in a year or less. Personally I use a gun forum for selling firearms. If you plan to as well please post that you will follow all applicable  laws on your classified ad and if you want to reduce questionable or shady buyers mention transfer at an FFL. I had many cash offers who backed out when I mentioned meeting at a FFL. For the sale met there but we used a local electronic form with checked Licenses/background checks.

The "no background check" media slant is a total fallacy in my state. We pay the $100 license, classes and background checks prior to even getting a license much less a purchase. At the time of purchase the Electronic form is also checked immediately (when it works). Yet the media still proclaims we have no background checks for private sales.

Another interesting point building and selling these AR-15s. I had three for sale, two low-end  ARs built from generic parts and one higher end with better manufactures, better parts, more bells and whistles. The lower end ARs sold, the better built AR has still not sold. It cost $1,000 to build but for not sell for $400 more. The $500-600 ar sold for over twice what I paid. Lesson learned, buy decent quantity cheap and have multiples rather than one or two higher end rifles. One buyer of the cheaper AR-15s stated he was going to replace all the hardware with Magpul items. They would not pay more for parts they were going to replace anyway. They wanted a basic AR now.

Scopes can cost as much or more then the rifles in many cases. It is hard to justify $400-$1,500 on a quality trusted brand scope without personally testing each option. Should I buy a holographic unmagnified or magnified? Backup sights? Carry handle? Fixed sights? What magnification? Too many options not enough money. Just to test out options I pick up various clones on eBay for 1/10th the price. Some are well made, some are junk. But I can then find out what I like and the pros and cons of each prior to investing in a good scope. Plus when I sell a rifle I will throw a cheap scope in clearly advertised as a clone.

If the gun market crashes again in the near future I will again take part in a group buy on my gun forum for AR parts and restock. For ammo I will also refill my cabinet, again these are tangibles which reduce the effects on everyone of panic buying. Both have done much better then my 401(k) and my property value. If it was a true emergency or SHTF event I can only imagine what they would be worth. Another buy low option in my toolbox has been group buys. I ran one for my gun forum, I saved 10% on my upper and helped out many like minded individuals. Karma was returned as another member helped me buy bulk ammo. To repeat, I have never hoarded during a panic I had my larder of ammo and sold off some to reduce to panic not increase it.

Also on a buy low, sell high note: Craigslist has many free listings in the fall for summer items. Pools, lawn tractors, gardening equipment, summer items. Same for winter items such as a snowblower, snow shovel in the spring. Take these items if you get a chance and have space. you have 3-6 months to repair these and then resell in when they are in season. Buy low (better yet obtain free) and sell high. Plus you gain repair skills, worst case you scrap it for money to buy.... tangibles!

I have used Craigslist three ways each with its benefits and drawbacks.

  1. Search Free stuff listings. Free stuff has a list for multiple items and it displays everything even if it is misspelled (e.g. snow blower versus nsow blower) Disadvantage: You have to catch it quick and be nearby. Many people list at and put it out or give it to the first person to respond. If it is a distance away there is a decent chance it is not worth the time or gas to respond.
  2. Search for what you want. Advantage: You find only what you are looking for and narrow the list down easily. Disadvantage: Many items are long gone and if anything in someone’s listing does not match your search it will not hit. This can be a misspelling or different description. Think fuel can vs gas can vs fuel storage container vs... an infinite number. If you do see what you want ask about it, sometimes people are looking to make space and not have to pay for disposal.
  3. Post an add (preferably multiple ads) for what you are looking for. Advantage: Better chance of finding exactly what you want. Disadvantage: Dealing with many emails from every person with computer access. People will flag your listing for no reason other then they want the same thing.  You can work around this with multiple ads using different wording, get creative. The person flagging your ad will likely not find all your other ads. You will receive many,many emails from people who do not read all the details in your add or are tire kickers.


On a related "buy low" note: BUY SOLAR PANELS NOW! China flooded the market and undercut the prices driving everyone else out of the business. Then China bought all the US and European equipment in the past three years. China did this with the rare earths and then raised the prices from $4-5 per pound to $150-200 per pound. If history repeats (which is always does) with PV solar as it has with many other areas we are due for a massive price increase soon. The former solar manufacturers are protesting but we have already been “informed” by the MSM that the proposed import taxes only hurt the solar installation companies in those countries. Which is a two faced truth, it does now that China has shut down local production.

“Local production” in Germany and the US were factories in massive aircraft hangers with high volume setups, state of the art setups and robotics very efficient and well planned out. These were not a local machine shop or Mom and Pop shop getting squeezed out.

I visited one such factory in Germany during training for a  machine transfer to the US for use outside of solar. I went out to lunch with one of the scientists and and engineers who were about to be laid off. Sad to say they saw no reason for anyone to own a gun even with their own country’s history. I almost mentioned my 85 year old German Aunt, who is Jewish, her family fled the Nazis when they came for her dad. Her dad was a German Judge at the time, fortunately her mom told the young officer to come back at a respectable hour and he left. They fled that night, if her mother had not talked the officer out of the arrest they would have had no way to stop them. What kept me from going that route was their talk of the greatness of BHO and how we was fixing all our problems. This while talking to educated individuals who were being laid off en masse because of the same politics and spending. I knew a lost cause when I saw one. Sad it is a beautiful country with excellent beer, wine and very nice people. Too much Kool aid drinking though.

The USA can only survive for so long as a retailer, not manufacturing much of anything even food is imported from China. Many lathes, tools and mills can be found cheaply now with factories still shutting down. Get the tools and develop the skills, they will be needed. Most AR/AK/FAL gun replacement parts can be made and heat-treated with basic machine shop knowledge. Do your homework for what is legal to make and what is not prior to any projects. Getting these machines is rarely free, if you have extra from selling an AR and or ammo it helps.If you can barter now for a used machine and learn on it. You gain multiple skills and tangible goods for trade. The clock is ticking... Make it count.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It was quite a shocker when I couldn’t get my husband’s heart medication prescriptions filled in January.  After numerous phone calls to our pharmaceutical insurer, I finally found someone who assessed and fixed the problem, but it took over 6 weeks to get his prescriptions filled.  (Fortunately, I had stocked up last year, so he wasn’t completely out of his medications.  Stocking up was not intentional.  The insurer accidentally sent twice the amount requested and when I called to let them know, they said not to worry about it and they would stop the auto-refill feature).  As to why my husband’s prescriptions could not be filled, the customer care representative said something about a “glitch” in the system.  At least, that is how it was explained to me.  How one customer care representative described it – “…all Medicare eligible persons are being switched over to a Medicare type plan and your husband’s record did not make it into the new database”.  The net effect was that it appeared he didn’t have any drug insurance coverage.  The problem was “fixed”, but the costs skyrocketed.  

Hey, wait a minute, we have private drug insurance through my husband’s previous employer – he is now retired.  We didn’t sign up for Medicare Part D because we didn’t need it.  We already had good insurance.  How can they switch you over like that without your knowledge or permission?  ObamaCare, that’s how.  The out of pocket costs for his prescriptions is now more than 10 times what they were the last year (i.e., $10 co-pay versus a $100 co-pay per prescription + a deductible that quadrupled and an out of pocket cap that doubled).  And this happened with no warning.  Our budget is fairly tight each month, so it was a budget shocker too.  I scrambled to rob Peter to pay Paul to get the medications he needed, but I was angry.  I thought of all the seniors who are less fortunate than ourselves.  How would they pay for their medications?  And how in the world can anyone stock up on medications for TEOTWAWKI?

This article provided some information about skyrocketing drug costs and the changes being made in Medicare right now under ObamaCare.  (Listen up people, the sequester and the Republicans have nothing to do with this, as Mr. O declares.  These changes are a direct result of ObamaCare.)  The title, Medicare drug costs to fall in 2014, but donut hole widens, is a bit misleading.  Costs are up for 2013, so don’t believe they are going down in 2014.  Here’s a quote from the article:

“Seniors fall into the "donut hole" when spending on drugs (the combination of what the individual and the insurance company spend) reaches a predetermined threshold.  This year, the number is $2,970; after that point, the senior pays 50 percent (a new change this year from the Affordable Care Act) of brand-name drug costs, until individual spending exceeds $4,750...

But for 2014, the CMS has proposed that beneficiaries enter the hole when combined spending reaches $2,850 - $120 less than in 2013.  That means seniors would start paying more out-of-pocket at a lower level of spending.  That will surprise seniors, since one of the key touted benefits of President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law is the gradual closing of the donut hole entirely between now and 2020.”

Can you make it until 2020 for things to improve?  There’s a lot of double talk put out by the federal government on how costs are going to be lowered for seniors.  I’m not seeing it.  Neither are my friends and family.  Our cost spike was a result of being forced from a private plan into a Medicare plan.  However, my parents have both Medicare and a private plan and experienced huge increases when they went to refill their prescriptions in January this year.  Something’s fishy, right?
I shared my story with a few friends, and they had also experienced the “sticker shock” and this includes people who are not Medicare eligible.  I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m not going to put up with it.  I have choice (ah, so American of me, right?).  I started my quest to find an alternative source for medications.  Something I had never thought of before.  I recall my sister mentioning to me that her doctor at a major medical university had prescribed her a drug that was not FDA approved and gave her the link to a Canadian pharmacy.  I researched Canadian pharmacies and there appears to be a lot of confusion about them.  Is it legal for a US citizen to purchase medications from a Canadian pharmacy?  Some say yes, some say no.  I went to the source, the FDA, and read their policies.  It appears that for personal use and in small quantities (30-90 days), the FDA may “look the other way” when US citizens “import” Canadian pharmaceuticals.  The trick is finding a legitimate online pharmacy and protecting yourself against identity theft by purchasing from an legitimate source.  There exists policy only and I have not found a federal law on the books that prohibits US citizens from purchasing pharmaceuticals for personal use from Canada.  (Maybe that will be made a law as the vast ObamaCare bill is slowly morphing into legislation.)

Just a quick note:  If you travel overseas and are able to purchase your drugs there, make sure you dump the pills into existing pill containers (that you have taken with you) that are labeled by a US pharmacy; trash your receipts and new pill bottles prior to traveling home, just in case a customs agent decides to hassle you upon re-entry.  You never know how far the federal government will go in forcing people into paying into the ObamaCare system.  Without your dollars, the system will fail and they know that.

There is an organization,, which is fighting to retain the right to purchase prescription drugs from overseas.  God bless them.  They wrote an article that described the FDA’s new campaign to warn citizens away from purchasing drugs from outside the United States.  The FDA’s web site for the campaign (BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy) can be found here. Key points from the FDA: Know the Risks, Know the Signs, and Know your Online Pharmacy.  (The very fact that the FDA is counseling citizens about safely buying outside the US, is permission enough for me.)  However, depicts the FDA’s campaign as being misleading by scaring people away from online pharmacies. stated that “…a recent Consumer Reports survey indicated that nearly half of those under age 65 without prescription drug coverage neglected to fill a prescription due to cost in 2012.  As Americans struggling to survive in this economy seek ways to save money, scare tactics are not what they need”.  And yes, there are many rogue Internet pharmacies out there, so BE CAREFUL, but don’t be deterred.  I am going to use the pharmacy that my sister’s doctor recommended.  

We have a close relationship with our family doctor.  Something I didn’t really care about a few years ago, but major health changes in our family forced us into regular doctor visits.  Now, I see this relationship as critical as we all work our way through what ObamaCare has done to destroy healthcare in America.  Our family doctor also practices what I call “Chinese medicine” in addition to traditional medicine, which is an indication to me that she is open minded.  She also listens and she cares.  When my husband’s insurance changed to Medicare primary, she continued to see him.  Many doctors are stating that they are “not taking new patients”, but that’s a response you will most likely get after you answer the question, “What is your insurance?”  It’s the first question asked, when you call to make an appointment now.  My next step is to call her for a new prescription and I will ask her for a couple of copies and explain that I am going to “shop pharmacies” due to the increase in drug costs.  I don’t think she will complain, but we’ll see.  This where your relationship with your doctor counts.  

I called my sister and she explained that getting her drugs from the Canadian pharmacy was fairly straightforward.  First, she had to call them.  Secondly, she had to fax her prescriptions to them.  Once she paid (they take Visa and Mastercard), her medications were shipped to her with no problems.  I have high confidence that her recent positive experience will be the same for us.  We are forced in this direction because the Affordable HealthCare Act is not affordable and the government takeover of private insurance plans is an outrage.  Once accomplished, I am hoping to be able use several online reputable pharmacies for stocking up purposes.  Expensive as it may be, I can still refill his prescriptions through our insurer, (and oh by the way – your insurer has become Big Brother too.  If you don’t refill your prescriptions in a timely manner, they not only will send you a letter or call you on the phone, they will alert your doctor as well.  Maybe they instituted that practice under the guise of “we care”, but I think more likely it’s about “we want your money”.)  My plan is to use the insurer despite the cost, and also use the online pharmacies for stocking up.  I can do this because I can.  If you can’t, get what you need any way you can.

2013 started out with increased taxes, higher healthcare premiums, higher food prices, higher gas prices, higher utility bills, and a huge increase in drug costs.  Inflation is here as forecasted.  Family budgets were slaughtered.  Not a good start.  I hope this helps others in finding a reputable online pharmacy, understanding the process, and understanding the risks in preparing for TEOTWAWKI.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Everyone has their own unique story why they became a prepper. Mine began five years ago when my husband started ranting about the worsening economic situation in the country. I was only listening with half an ear. Sure, I noticed that food prices were creeping up with every shopping trip, and that it was getting more expensive to fill up my car every week, but didn’t that happen every year due to inflation? Why was my husband so upset about this?
Although, we started discussing world events and politics more often, I still did not understand why he was so worried. It almost felt like panic, which was a bit worrisome. Talking to me was obviously not the best way to wake me up. He began forwarding me some of the articles that influenced his thinking. They illustrated what was going wrong with the U.S. economy, the government, and the world in general. The latest White House policies only seemed to make the current situation worse. There was a lot of talk and little action. It is needless to say that I was shocked.

It was a rude awakening. The future was not as safe and secure as our leaders had made us to believe. Now, I was in a state of panic, and the only way I could alleviate some of the stress was by becoming more informed, and working feverishly on organizing food reserves.  
I have learned a lot since. Going through every beginner’s growing pains taught me to be persistent. I kept reminding myself that Rome was not built in a day either. My biggest challenge was to keep my head leveled and avoid panic attacks every time the government made another bad decision. Not all my apprehension was political. I worried about another drought, the discouraging news of the world’s dwindling food reserves, as well as the threat of war. Did you know that solar flares from the massive sunspot identified as AR1654 are closing in on earth? Scientists say that if Earth gets a direct hit from a major solar flare, the damage could be enormous. Our country’s electric grid could be damaged severely, and it could take years to recover. Those are not the only things I was worried about. There is more, such as the following:

  • The UN warns us of a looming worldwide food crisis in 2013.
  • The global grain reserves have hit critically low levels.
  • Unreliable weather patterns around the world caused many crops to fail for several years in a row.
  • Harvests in the U.S., Ukraine, and other countries around the world have eroded due to record heat waves and droughts.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the combined inventories of wheat, corn, soybeans, and rice will drop 1.8 percent to a four-year low in 2013.
  • Corn is being used for ethanol production, driving the price up for livestock producers, food manufacturers, and consumers.
  • Our farmland is depleted – chemicals do not offer the nutrition the land needs to produce healthy, tasty foods.
  • We produce less than what we are consuming.

The ominous global food crisis and the rising prices threaten to cause a lot of unrest. They were a great incentive for me to stock up far more than the recommended three-week survival reserve everyone was talking about. I also found that buying now would save me more money than putting it in a savings account. I do not need statistics – which are often tweaked to look better – to tell me that my dollar has been shrinking over the years. That can of beans I bought on sale for 50 cents two years ago now costs twice as much. Where is this going to end?
The Why
There are times when I wonder when all these preparations will be useful. Many possible scenarios go through my head. We are most certainly going to face an economic meltdown, and if the droughts continue, people will starve. Even if, by miracle, this does not happen, it is still necessary to prepare because we are nearing retirement age. Will we still be able to achieve those “Golden Years” we had hoped for?  I have my doubts. In case you are wondering about some of the other reasons why I became a prepper, here are some examples:

  • Diminishing Social Security funds - Although we, the people, will never be told the whole truth, there are enough rumors going around that we can figure out that the country’s social security account is depleted. It is not likely that there will be money left by the time we, the Baby Boomers, retire. In fact, will we ever be able to hang up our hat? The official retirement age will continue to rise, despite all our young people feverishly looking for work. Due to fiscal mismanagement by local governments, property taxes will skyrocket, and it is doubtful that we can keep the home we worked for our entire life. Without supplementing our pension – if we’ll get one – we may need to go live in tent city.
  • Natural Disasters - Have you noticed that the weather patterns are changing? They have become unpredictable, causing a tremendous amount of natural disasters. Where are FEMA, the Red Cross, and other aid organizations during disastrous catastrophes? Their relief efforts are probably focused on Africa or some other poor country far away. I have the impression that foreign aid is more important to them than what happens under our country’s own roof? Do not count on your government for help. I am not making this up. Just ask all those devastated Sandy storm victims who had to wait because New York’s authorities took their sweet time deciding how to spend relief aid funds. There was no need to hurry, as they were not the ones without food, water, shelter, and electricity. Do you want to take your chances? I don’t.
  • Hyperinflation – The American dollar is soon going to be useless. Printing money as if there is no tomorrow makes it much tougher for the U.S. to import the necessities we need to keep our citizens content. Fuel and food prices have nearly doubled in the last two years. That trend is not likely to end soon. We are still able to buy most of what we need at the store to live comfortably, but be honest, how much longer is that going to last? Add all the recent and upcoming tax increases and high health care costs forced upon us by Obama Care, and it is not difficult to predict the future.
  • Agenda 21 - The dangers do not only lurk at home. Be aware of fanatical outside influences. They are steadily closing in. According to Wikipedia, Agenda 21 is a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development. Take a closer look, and you will realize that this plan is actually a blueprint for depopulation. It gives total control to the world authorities, all under the slogan of saving the environment. I do not think I will ever be ready to be enslaved, no matter how many Agendas they come up with. FYI, there is more than one.
  • The possibility of war – Countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Israel, and Egypt are constantly in the news. China is getting more powerful and ready to become the world’s leader. They are up to something, otherwise why are they buying food and other essentials when they have plenty? I grew up in Europe and heard many war stories from my parents and grandparents. Is history going to repeat itself just on a different continent?

The How
It is amazing all the things you learn when paying attention to the news. Instead of turning the radio to my favorite music station, I started to listen to talk radio. I did not care for every topic that was discussed, but at least I got the news that was conveniently missed or spun by the mainstream media. Survival blog sites were also quite helpful. They pointed out things I should focus on besides amassing food for us and our animals. Here are some of the things that every new female prepper or survivalist, in my opinion, should do:

  • Start a garden
  • Learn how to manage without electricity
  • Explore alternative cooking methods
  • Learn new trade skills, such as sewing
  • Turn hobbies into practical applications
  • Raise chickens, ducks, goats, and rabbits
  • Grow supplementary food, like fodder, for the animals
  • Experiment with dehydrated and freeze dried foods
  • Reduce your debt
  • Take self-defense  and First Aid classes
  • Buy a gun and learn how to use it
  • Start paying with cash
  • Purchase precious metals
  • Learn barter techniques
  • Keep a diary of your failures and accomplishments
  • Buy books or print survival guidelines now in case electronics stop working
  • Practice what you preach

I insisted on having a wood stove installed in the house as a back-up heat and cooking source. My husband built a hoop house to prolong our growing season. We began raising chickens, ducks, and rabbits. It was time for me to improve my skills before the SHTF. Working out all the kinks now would make life more sustainable when it really matters.
The Details
I am an average woman with a simple life and ordinary skills. I had never pictured myself as a prepper or survivalist. All I ever wanted was a peacefully, enjoyable life. I had many wonderful, carefree years, and that keeps me going. At least I had them, which is something many young men and women will not be able to say when they reach my age. Many thoughts go through my head every day, whether it is consciously or subconsciously. They include some of the following:

  • How to pay the mortgage down as fast as I can
  • The need to learn basic medical skills and buying more supplies
  • Ordering more dehydrated and free-dried foods
  • How to implement these specialty foods in my cooking
  • Learn more food preservation methods
  • Bring variety in a simple diet when food supplies get scarce
  • Improve my gardening skills and collect my own seeds
  • Expand our livestock
  • Buying essentials, like salt and soap, that can be used for bartering
  • Learning more survival skills and practice them
  • Switching to leisure activities that do not involve electronics
  • Eating better to live healthier and improve strength
  • Implementing alternate energy sources
  • Getting more familiar with my gun
  • Improving my shooting skills
  • Always read between the lines during newscasts
  • Develop a support network with like-minded people
  • Always keep an open mind

I work on these goals every day. By doing so, my husband and I are cultivating a self-sustainable lifestyle. We are a team. He has his responsibilities and I have mine. Regardless what the authorities say about gender equality; there are limits. Yes, I am all for equal pay when doing the same job, but nobody can ever change the fact that, in general, women have a uterus, are destined to bear children, and have the urge to nurture.
Be persistent if you want to convince your wife or girlfriend to jump on the survival bandwagon. Do not talk about situations that are difficult to relate to; EMP blasts, revolutions, gun and food confiscation by the government, or any other unimaginable disaster situation. Confrontation is not the way to convince a female, at least not when it comes to such serious matters. Keep it simple by pointing out natural disasters that have been in the news lately. Ask her how she believes she would survive if a hurricane, tsunami, tornado, or ice storm would hit her neighborhood. How would she be able to care for her children when the stores are empty and the banks closed? What would she do if there was no power for two weeks or more?
Talking alone about the looming crisis is not going to do the trick. Confront her with proof, and ask her to participate in a simple training exercise. Turn of the electricity for an entire day, or ask her not to go grocery shopping for a week. She will soon realize that surviving without modern conveniences can be extremely tough. Point out facts, but do not go overboard. Pushing too hard can have an adverse reaction.
I was never really a girly-girl. For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in world politics, science, and how to improve myself. I am glad that I am aware of what goes on around me. However, I also envy those women booking appointments at the beauty parlor or spending hours at the mall to find that perfect dress or pair of pumps. It is probably not true that they have no care in the world, but that is how it seems to me. Would I want to trade? Absolutely not, because I will at least have a chance to survive if or when disaster strikes.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I’m older than you are. I’m female. Wanted to get that out of the way early, so you can decide whether to keep reading or not.
I assume you’re new to being prepared. Long-time survivalists wouldn’t want to read an article titled “start.” But you do. You’re interested in the subject of preparation, but you’re also a little overwhelmed by what you’re seeing on survival sites. You don’t think you can do all that stuff.

The fact is, you probably can’t. You’re a bank teller, not a former Marine. You’re alone, not affiliated with 30 like-minded survivalists. I’ve read all the warnings that I “can’t do it alone.” Maybe I can’t, but my situation today is if I don’t do it alone I might as well go rock in that chair. I am doing it alone, but with the idea that if any of my family or elderly neighbors need a place to go, I’ll be ready for them.

Of all the people I know personally, none are preparers. Since you want to be one, you’re already prepared more than most. You didn’t realize that any experience you’ve had with “hard” living (homelessness, unemployment, any abuse situation) would one day be useful to you. You’re already a survivor. You can do this.

It’s probably a good idea up front to tell you “one day at a time.” That means starting with today and what you can do with it and letting God show you what to do tomorrow. The most productive time you will ever spend will be while investigating the fact that Jesus Christ is the only reason we’re all here. A good start would be reading John in the New Testament. The John that comes after Luke.

Two more useful slogans for beginning preparers and alcoholics are “first things first” and “keep it simple.”

First get notebook paper and a good pen then simply stare into space while you think of what you really wished you had the day the power went out, the gas station closed, and the grocery store was just an empty building. I’m laughing here. I used to smoke. I’d have wanted a cigarette.

Write down what first came into your mind. Let the thoughts continue to flow from your mind, down your arm, through the pen. Nothing you write down is stupid. Your list will tell you who you are. Keep writing. When your words trail off, you can stop. Put the list down and pet the kitty. Look out the window. If you’re at work, put the list away until you get home. Once home, put the list down, pet the kitty and look out the window.

On my list I first wrote toilet paper, coffee, water. My priorities were a little skewed, but that’s what I wrote. Gather clean paper and begin a neater list from your free-form list. Pay special attention to what interests you most. This will probably turn into your area of study and expertise. Make this list neat, but be aware that you’ll make many more and much neater lists as time goes on. I finally have my needs and desires for preparation neatly hand-lettered on 3 x 5 cards.  When I acquire something on my list, I color it with a yellow marker. That’s how I do it. You do not have to do that. Develop the list that works for you.  If you can keep track of it all in little columns in your head, wow, go for it.

After I reworked my free-form list, I put the water first, then the toilet paper, then the coffee. About that time I decided I needed separate categories. I now have cards marked Medicinal, Paper/Cloth Goods, Metal Goods, Tools, Lights/Fire, and Food/Water. I see I need one labeled Play. I’ll do that this afternoon.

Let’s take Metal Goods and work through some of what is on my list. My weapons are there. I inherited the 16 gauge, 12 gauge, .22 pump and WWII bayonet. I bought the .32 revolver because I fell in love with it. A great challenge these days is locating and affording ammunition. Not a problem with the bayonet, but I really don’t want people with evil intent that close to me. If talk of arming yourself is alarming, you are allowed to put off thinking about it. We’re prioritizing. Your priority is not self-defense. Your strength lies somewhere else.

Maybe you’re an inventive cook. If everything goes kersplat, survivors will eventually wish for inventive cooks. Your skill could be in high demand. You could trade grub-worm gumbo for personal security.

Now think about the Medicinal list. If you take a prescribed medicine, stocking some extra is a first-level priority. Maybe explain to your doctor that you’re building a “blackout” supply. Except for the ones caused by alcohol and pill consumption or medical issues, we don’t have blackouts down here in the lower south. We’d tell the doctor the extra prescription was for a hurricane “power outage.”

Time to talk about keeping one’s mouth shut. This is a required quality in serious survivalists. In a long-term worse-case situation, being an amateur, and thus a blabbermouth, can get you and yours dead. Practice keeping secrets. Don’t write that down.

Since, except for the metal roofing, I built a house once, I have carpentry experience.  For fun I build sheds and animal pens   To save myself personal aggravation and what little hearing I have left, I only work with hand tools. In what looks like a hardship, I have the advantage. When the power goes out, I won’t grieve over the loss of my tools or have to build up a different set of muscles.
My most-used tools are a Stanley 15-inch small-tooth saw, a WorkForce hammer, and a Stanley hammer. Didn’t cost much, but I’ve used them for years. If you take time to choose tools that fit you and please you, you’ll use them for years, too. If you don’t own any, I suggest you first purchase a handsaw, a hammer, pliers, and wire-cutters. Over time you’ll learn what else you need.
For you to get a handle on all the “I can’t do its” pouring into your mind right now, calmly think about yourself and your skills. What do you do now that could translate into back-to-the-land style living? Do you have a knack with indoor and patio plants? You’ll make a fine gardener. Do you visit or help care for your handicapped or elderly relatives? You’ll make a fine counselor and emergency nurse. Do you volunteer at the animal shelter? You’ll make a fine shepherd.
When you were in Scouts, did you learn to make a Dakota Hole for cooking and heating? … No? … A Dakota Hole is a hole dug in the ground with a vent dug off one end. Complete directions abound on the internet, but the gist is once you’ve dug a 2 x 2-foot-or-so hole, you lie on your stomach and dig a “cave” (I use a spoon) at and parallel to the bottom of the hole as far as you can reach. Then you get up and find where you think the cave (aka vent) ended underneath you and dig down to meet it, all the while pulling dirt out like a terrier.
Build a fire down in the pit. Use a grate over the hole for steaks, pots and pans. Or lower a covered Dutch oven onto and down into the coals, cover the oven with foil, then bury the whole shebang with dirt. You can fill the hole entirely if you’re so inclined. If you’re cold, pull your sleeping bag over the mound and take a nap. If you need a third reason to spend time digging a large hole, consider that the only enemies who might see the flames of your fire will be flying overhead.

In a worse-case scene with armed nuts shooting at everything, you do not want to give away your location. Liberal use of flashlights is for the early minutes after the crisis when you and your children are getting accustomed to the dark. And by the way, if you’ve hunkered down near the python-riddled Everglades, I suggest you use the lights to find a way out of there.

My store of matches, lighters, LED palm-size flashlights and solar flashlights is not large enough yet for my feelings, but week-by-week I work at it. One valuable find is a 7-inch solar-with-battery-backup flashlight. You can charge the solar part right there under the lamp you’re writing your list under. If you want one, see or go get one for about $13 at Wal-Mart.

The Paper/Cloth category is of course where I list toilet paper. I intend to store enough for trading. Also in that soft-goods group are cheesecloth, bed coverings, tents, clothes/coats/rain gear, shoes, boots, socks, towels, tarps, and drop-cloths.  I go overboard on socks. If you do as I do and lay in more toilet paper and socks than you can use in a lifetime, after the apocalypse you will be a wealthy person.

Food/Water is a first-rate category card. I left it for last so it wouldn’t get lost in the crowd. I don’t think I have to explain why. This is the category where I spend the most time thinking, planning, and doing.  I can’t afford a case of MREs, but after dining on several after Hurricane Katrina, I surely would like to.

Dehydrating foodstuffs is easy, cheap and fun.  Carrots, onions, peppers, and yellow squash are good practice produce and put all together can make a nice soup.

My dehydrating technique is low tech. If it wasn’t so humid here, I’d use the even lower-tech sun. As it is, I turn my gas oven on as low as it will go, put the chopped carrots (I cook mine a little) on a cookie sheet and into the oven, prop the door open with a spoon, turn on the inside light and go away for several hours. When I remember, I go stir the carrots. They’re ready when they rattle when I shake the cookie sheet. Three pounds of raw carrots make about a half cup of dried ones.

By reading this far, I imagine you’ve picked up on the state of my budget. Knowing a fixed-income person is building a store for harder times should be the best kind of news for you. If I can do it, you certainly can.

If you aren’t preparing now, but are encouraged to begin, here are starter suggestions I wrote for my grown son (who will make a weird face and ignore them).

Every payday, buy a small silver coin. Save it. (Pawn shops usually have them.)

Every payday buy an extra can of food you like. Save it.

Every payday buy an extra of something you need often or wouldn’t want to do without. Save it.

If you don’t cheat, in one year (with twice-a-month paydays) you will have 72 survival items stashed in the armoire you bought for storing your survival goods.

If you live on the 16th floor of an apartment building, you might want to store most of your things in the trunk of your always-half-full-of-gas vehicle or with your beloved non-snoopy country grandmother.  If you don’t have a car or a nice grandmother, consider renting an out-in-the-boonies storage unit.

The best-case apocalyptic scene for a car-less city-dweller will be that a day before things fall apart forever, you rent a vehicle with a trailer attached, drive to your rental unit, load your supplies and head where, very, very early on, you planned to go.

One caution here:  survival preparation can become an obsession. Obsessions make you blind. Obsessions remove people from your life. Obsessions make you talk too much.

So go at preparation gently. You have time.

Monday, February 25, 2013

While perusing the Costco web site, I noted that Costco is now stocking "Preparedness Storage Non-GMO Garden Seeds" -- and they're non-hybridized, which makes them good for saving seed in a true survival situation. The bucket contains 24 varieties of seeds, including the "usual suspects" like corn, peas, tomatoes, and carrots as well as some more unusual plants like eggplant, swiss chard, cabbage and kohlrabi.

Just finding it interesting that it seems like prepping has gone totally mainstream, and that Costco is leading the charge!

Best, - S.J.

JWR Replies: In my Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course, I describe in detail how Big Box stores like COSTCO and Sam's Club can be used to stock up at the 11th hour. It is good to hear that they have recently stocking heirloom seeds. Up until now, they've been a specialty item.

Monday, February 18, 2013

I just noticed while in COSTCO today that they have 6 gallon buckets of freeze dried food on offer. For $99, you get a one-month supply of 2100 calories a day, enough for one adult. I wonder how many people caught in the megastorm that hammered the East Coast recently had any food stored in, and how difficult it was for most folks to get provisions before the stores were stripped bare?  Just another reason to keep something one hand. For more variety, though, folks should really consider storing other stuff, as taught in your Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course. - S.J.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

This blog has endless resources for researching the needs and goals of a person preparing for an anticipated event.  Whether that event is unemployment, extended backpacking, or a SHTF scenario, you are likely to develop a “to-do list” for that event.   These lists might be compiled on loose paper, on a computer, or lodged in your brain.  Most of us make lists in one form or another since they are invaluable for organization.   While a “to-do list” is convenient for simple events such as going to the grocery store, they tend to be detrimental to a project such as “prepping”.  The purpose of this article is to show you how to begin thinking differently about your lists, organization, and prioritizing.

I am a Civil Engineer by training and occupation.  Engineering jokes aside, one of the practical strengths I bring to everyday life is project management and of course, “to-do lists”.  Oh boy, there are lists… I have lists for my vehicle maintenance, hobbies, vacations, and of course for preparedness.   Over time, I tried shortening and compiling these lists into one master list.  Bad move.  This massive list became overwhelming and I found myself scratching my head as where to prioritize.  I even found myself wondering how some items got on my list. 

The problem with a typical “to-do list” is the list itself!  How do you prioritize lists?  How do you ensure that you really should do the activities, or buy the items on the list?  Where do you begin working, and where do you allocate your valuable resources, whether that be time, money or labor?  As personal resources tighten, a methodical approach to prioritizing your lists becomes more important, and allocation strategies are likely to change.  For example, someone that works long hours is unlikely to have a surplus of time as a resource.  A single parent may not have extra time or a surplus of money.  For efficiency and practicality, priorities and a game plan must somehow be assigned.

Instead of developing endless lists that have no definite priorities, purpose, or urgencies associated with them, a better idea is to incorporate a strategy called Value Engineering.  Value Engineering (VE) is defined as “an organized effort directed at analyzing the function of goods and services for the purpose of achieving basic functions at the lowest overall cost, consistent with achieving essential characteristics”.   To simplify, you must think of your list items in terms of function, not simply items on a list. 

VE is a professional engineering focus that would require textbooks and coursework to completely cover, so in the space of this article I will condense basic VE lessons that will assist us in prioritizing our lists.  By the end of this article, you will have a new creative skill set you can apply to any project.  The 5 general steps in an organized VE approach are as follows, and explained below:

  • Step 1 - Information Phase
  • Step 2 - Function Identification and Analysis Phase (FAST Diagram)
  • Step 3 - Creativity Phase
  • Step 4 - Evaluation Phase
  • Step 5 - Development Phase

Step 1 - Information Phase
The general idea behind an Information Phase is to understand the “scope of study” for the item for which you are trying to create solutions.   To begin, consider what this “list” is that you have been periodically assembling.  What is the overall goal of the list?  What is the general type of project?  For those of us reading this blog, we likely share a blanket scope of study of “prepping”.  Therefore, let’s make our scope of study in this article to also be “prepping”.

The Information Phase is the key to the success of any study or project.   During the Information Phase of the VE process, you are not yet formalizing a list, approach, or plan; that comes later.  During this phase, you try to obtain as much background as possible about your scope of study.  For example, if your study is to secure food for your family, you must know how much they eat in a day.  This is the type of background information that is put together in the Information Phase.  If you have already been doing some prepping, your previous studying and list-making likely provides a good understanding that you need to consider shelter, food, water, and operational security, etc.  You may have also developed a reasonable concept of how to complete many of those tasks even if portions of them are unfeasible at this time.  Additionally, you may have developed a wealth of supporting data for the Information Phase, making this task easier.  This will be invaluable as you move to the next steps.

Since you will use your background data for the remainder of the VE study, careful attention to your information “team” should take place.  If you are not an expert in all areas of your scope of study, you will need a support team.  This team may only involve your direct family, but you still need their input as they are likely to have a better understanding of certain subjects than you.  Meeting and learning from people that know more than you about a particular subject is an often overlooked part of this phase.  For example, if you don’t know the first thing about farming, you should consider bringing in someone to help you obtain that information.  Start that learning process early versus later.  Bounce ideas off people with more experience or knowledge than you in order to verify your understanding as you begin planning your projects. 

For most people reading this blog, the Information Phase has likely gone on for some time, possibly decades.  The concern is that many of us (myself included) tend to stall out in the Information Phase.  We may have been slowly moving forward over the years without good organization, priorities, or direction.  You may have a list of firearms, food, books, and other miscellaneous items you feel you “need”.  But that is sometimes all you end up with, the dreaded list and a garage full of random prepping supplies.  You may also feel overwhelmed, intimidated, and discouraged during the Information Phase, and a long list of expensive items can make you feel hopeless.  This is the problem with our previous style of list making and prepping.

You must move out of the Information Phase and add sophistication to your approach.  Do not misunderstand me; continue to study and learn and identify things to add to your “list”.  But it is now time to prioritize and create an action plan!  It is time for the next step in the VE process.  Let’s get to work in Function Analysis.

Step 2 - Function Identification and Analysis Phase (FAST Diagram)
In the VE methodology, this is the most critical piece of the process.  We must stop thinking in terms of items on a list.  We need to back up at this step and trying to really get down to the brass tacks of what we are trying to accomplish.  This is where we start thinking about and identifying the basic functions of our list items.  This step may be frustrating to some as it feels like you are putting on the brakes or maybe taking a step backward.  As you will soon see, that could not be further from the truth.

We will now begin assembling a Function Analysis Systems Technique (FAST) diagram.  This diagram is made up entirely of functions only.  Why are we backing up and making this diagram?  The FAST diagram is going to allow us to brainstorm creative solutions for use in the next VE step.  By thinking conceptually of items on your list as functions, we can truly understand what we are trying to accomplish.  As you work through this step, try to think only in terms of function.  Do not think at the item or task level you previously used as it will sabotage the remainder of the VE process.  Your functions will now be written as VERB – NOUN combinations.

The easiest way to begin creating the diagram is with post-it notes.  Start by writing a two word (VERB - NOUN) function on each post-it note.  For example, a function might read “Survive Famine”.  Another might read “Secure Home”.  Write the VERB-NOUN functions out as you think of them and stick them to your workspace (typically a wall or table).

Both “Survive Famine” and “Secure Home” are likely to be the higher order functions and are likely the main problem you are trying to solve.  Stick these functions on the far left of your workspace.  The lower order functions will now go to the right.  The result will be a flow-chart of sorts that reads “how” from left, and “why” from right.  How do you “Survive Famine”?  The next function might read “Collect Food”.   See below for the “how”, “why” nature of the FAST diagram:

A simplified example of “how” direction flow for a FAST diagram is listed below:

Survive Famine (how?) – Assemble Supplies (how?) – Collect Food (how?) – Generate Grocery List (how?) – Inventory Pantry

The same simplified example written in the “why” (reverse order) direction is listed below:

Inventory Pantry (why?) – Generate Grocery List (why?) – Collect Food (why?) – Assemble Supplies (why?) – Survive Famine

Note that your FAST diagram should “test” as you read it in both directions.  As you are sticking your VERB-NOUN post-it notes to your workspace, continually test them by reading them aloud in both directions.  Why do you inventory your pantry?  To Generate Grocery List.  Why do you Generate Grocery List?  To Collect Food.  Why do you Collect Food?  To Assemble Supplies.  Why do you assemble supplies?  To Survive Famine.

Along this diagram, you will also have parallel functions that do not necessarily line up with the “how” “why” lineal nature of the other functions.   These functions would happen at the same time but would be a slightly different subject matter.  The example above was “Secure Home”, versus “Survive Famine”.  Both subjects are important and seem related, but will be placed on their own “how”, “why” alignment in the same FAST diagram.  This will allow us to completely understand the functions behind them. 

As you can see, this is a difficult diagram to explain verbally so I encourage readers to do an online search for “Function Analysis System Technique – (FAST Diagrams)” and learn more about them.   They can be used to begin creatively solving any problem.  This diagram is so effective that many inventors use this method on a daily basis to streamline processes or create new products.  The bottom line here is that instead of immediately brainstorming on solutions (the next step), you are slowing down and really trying to analyze the individual functions of your study.  Once you have your FAST diagram with the big picture identified, the Creativity Phase is next and you will use these individual functions to brainstorm for solutions.

Step 3 - Creativity Phase
The purpose of the creativity phase is to generate new ideas related to ways of performing the functions found above in the FAST diagram.  Now that the FAST diagram is complete, there will be several functions on which to start individual brainstorming.  In a prepping study, some of your functions might look like these VERB-NOUN examples:

  • Collect Food
  • Secure Home
  • Shelter Family
  • Establish Support
  • Transport Supplies

The Creativity Phase is used to determine new ways to solve problems that you haven’t previously considered.  Let’s use the “Collect Food” function as a short example.  Sit down with a pencil and paper (or better yet a spreadsheet) and brainstorm ALL the different ways you would be able to Collect Food.  Ask yourself questions:  Do you have a garden?  Do you have space for a future garden?  Do you work at a restaurant?  Do you like to dumpster dive?  Is your mother-in-law an extreme couponer?  Remember, that EVERY idea counts in brainstorming.  Do not criticize any ideas during brainstorming because silly ideas help you become more creative.  Make it fun, and go ahead and list every idea.  Children often have fresh ideas that adults are too intellectualized to notice. 

Once you brainstorm completely through the “Collect Food” function, go on to the next function, “Secure Home”, and keep working until you have individually brainstormed through every function.  This process should not be rushed.   Individually document all the generated ideas under each individual function for which you have brainstormed.

This Creativity Phase is best completed with the assistance of several people.  In your case, this could be your immediate family or your crew that you anticipate “doubling up” with.  Two heads are better than one in the Creativity Phase.  It is common for ideas that were hidden in plain view to now become apparent.  For example, you might find that unbeknownst to you, someone you are prepping with has a family member in the grocery business with special discounts!  VE professionals learned long ago that very often the best solution is so obvious, nobody thinks of it! 

As you can see, the FAST diagram step was essential in order to truly study the basic functions of the project that you are trying to complete.  The only way to effectively brainstorm and create new solutions is to better understand the true nature of the individual function.  This approach is much different than simply making a list of items to buy.  You have now started a list based on functions, not on things.

Step 4 - Evaluation Phase
The Creativity Phase has been completed.  You now have dozens of ways drafted to complete the functions developed in the Function Identification and Analysis phase.   The next step is to eliminate silly ideas or unfeasible ideas.  Simply scratch out or delete the ideas you do not want to continue to evaluate.  If, in your brainstorm session you listed a .50 caliber machine gun to satisfy the “Secure Home” function, it is likely that this sort of idea listing will now be deleted.  After this you will have a shorter list of ideas to evaluate. 

The next step is to evaluate these individual ideas with a methodical approach.  Aside from the FAST diagram, this is where the magic really starts to happen.  As I mentioned in the introduction to this article, a primary goal is to determine a way to prioritize your lists.  The Evaluation Phase is where this begins.

Qualifiers must now be established in order to evaluate the ideas.  The qualifiers will depend primarily on the scope of study you have begun and the types of functions on which you have brainstormed.  Studying a better mousetrap will have different qualifiers than your prepping VE study.  If you have a hectic schedule, a big qualifier might be your Time.  If you have an extremely fixed income, Cost might be a big qualifier.  The attributes used to qualify evaluations are different for everybody, and may be completely up to the individual’s constraints or current conditions.  Continuing to use your prepping project as an example, the following qualifiers might be compiled in order to evaluate listings generated through the brainstorming sessions:

  • Cost
  • Labor required
  • Added security to household
  • Improved health to family

These qualifiers beg the next question; which one is most important?  A rapid way to determine this is to complete a “paired comparison”.  Initially, you may have compared cost to the labor required.  Which one is more critical to selection?  Perhaps cost wins.  Put a mark alongside cost.  Now compare cost to added security.  Perhaps security wins.  Put another mark alongside security.  Now compare cost to improved health.  Perhaps health wins.  Put a mark alongside health.  After cost has been compared to all, move to the next qualifier (labor required).  Compare labor required to the remaining two qualifiers.  Continue moving down this list until all have been compared against each other once.  After the qualifiers are all compared, you will have a ranking which will help determine which qualifiers are most important.

The paired comparison often brings surprises as you realize certain qualifiers may be more important to you than you previously believed.  Using this example, the following rankings could have been developed:

  • Added security to household – 3 points
  • Improved health to family – 2 points
  • Cost - 1 point.
  • Labor required  - 0 points

This paired comparison of qualifiers allows you to now rank each brainstormed idea carried through from the Creativity Phase.  The next question is how much weight to apply to the qualifiers?  Clearly, “added security” is more important in this study than “labor required”.  Since your rankings show that the amount of labor for you to complete a project is not more important to you, this qualifier should not be critical in your rating of brainstormed ideas.  Typical weights of 1 to 10 are now applied to each qualifier.  For example, you may assign 10 points to security, 7 points to health, 4 points to cost and 1 point to labor.   

You can then determine a system for scoring all the brainstormed ideas with the above demonstrated weighted rankings.  Many people will score each brainstormed idea using each qualifier from a range of 1 to 5, and then multiply by that the qualifiers weighted ranking.  There is no right or wrong way to do this scoring as long as it makes sense to you.  The actual method or math is not important as ensuring that your qualifiers are influencing the scoring systematically.  The scoring is most easily completed in a spreadsheet.

The scoring may illustrate that ideas you previously thought were ideal, may not actually be the best choices for your personal situation.  Using the above example, simply buying cheaply discounted foods may not be a great benefit if the foods are not healthy for your family.   The scoring may produce many surprises.  During the Evaluation Phase, you may also discover that your newly brainstormed ideas scored surprisingly well under the scrutiny of your personal qualifiers.  This is the beauty of the previous brainstorming sessions.

One thing that will become apparent during the evaluation phase is that many of the same solutions belong to different functions.   For example, during the FAST phase you determined a function of “Shelter Family”.  You also had a function of “Transport Supplies” and “Establish Support”.  Then during the scoring, the solution of owning a quality vehicle consistently scored highest in fulfilling those vastly different functions.  The bottom line is that your good ideas or critical elements will keep popping up, further streamlining the Development Phase, which is the next step.

Step 5 - Development Phase
By now you should have brainstormed and scored dozens, or perhaps hundreds of ideas.  Many of them scored low and were eliminated.  Many of them scored well and will be carried forward to the Development Phase.    Some of them, such as the “owning a quality vehicle” example above have kept popping up under several functions.  This is a clue that your Development Phase should focus on that idea.   It is now time to combine and further develop these ideas in the Development Phase.  The goal of the Development Phase is creating a detailed plan that is prioritized, organized and based on functions versus “things”.

In the Creativity and Evaluation phases, you developed unique ideas that had not been previously considered.  For example, in the Creativity Phase an idea of wind generated power may have been listed.  Then in the Evaluation Phase, the consistent wind at your property scored that idea as a better long term option than purchasing a generator.  Or perhaps your Evaluation Phase determined that given your climate, you would be better off to learn to garden versus stockpile food.  You were able to completely change some pre-existing notions of your prepping, and have essentially thrown out those “lists” that you were scratching together the last few years.  Now you have some realistic, workable goals to further develop.

The Development Phase is when the individual ideas are combined into an action plan.  This is the time your team will come up with a game plan and likely a newly updated “list”.  Given our wind power example, you might need to temporarily go back to the information phase and start learning about wind power.  You can then re-asses the wind power project and implement as appropriate.  If you are prepping with a team, this is the time to delegate, break, and plan on reconvening at a specified time to discuss progress.

The Development Phase end result will be a list much different in appearance than you previously completed.  It will be organized by function, not random item after item.  You will clearly understand your priorities and have developed a plan accordingly.  You will find that many items you felt you previously needed have been permanently removed, as you now have cost effective creative solutions to complete that function.  You will also find that many of your solutions now serve to complete multiple functions.   Your list will have become a streamlined game plan that has a purpose based on your prioritized needs.  Your list has been transformed into a sophisticated master plan.

Simplification and Summary
As discussed earlier, the VE process is a little difficult to describe verbally.  You might have read this and thought, “Come on now, I would never work through that entire process!”   I strongly urge you to work through a simple VE scope of study before deciding that it’s not for you.  To make getting started easier, I have a Reader’s Digest version for you, so keep reading. 

You can take pieces of the VE process to improve your lists or goals.  Let’s say you clearly understand the prepping solutions available to you, but your Information phase has produced endless understandings and you have this massive list that is bogging you down.   You are having a hard time prioritizing your list and it’s not clear where to start.  What you need to do is determine a way to prioritize your massive list.  Let’s go back and steal some ideas from the Evaluation Phase.

Begin with a paired comparison in a spreadsheet.   Let’s assume you have a long list of food and cooking type supplies which you would like to purchase.  Take the first item on your list and compare it against all that are below it.  Continue the paired comparison as described previously until you have compared all the items in your list against each other.  You will quickly see that several of the items on the list get a tally much larger than other items.   This should demonstrate to you which items are needs versus wants.   These rankings may shock you.  Unfortunately, this also means that maybe that third rifle you want just doesn’t make the first round (pun intended).  Be prepared for some letdowns!

Another slightly more complex yet helpful way to complete these paired comparisons is to determine a short list of qualifiers as previously described.  Some qualifiers might be time, money, longevity, storability or overall utility value.  This time, just keep them in mind as you are completing your paired comparison.   Think in terms of qualifiers, not your emotional “wants” such as that third rifle!  Neglecting the previously described sophisticated scoring methods, these qualifiers will still influence your decision process as you work through your list.

The take-away here is to be deliberate in your list making and dreaming.  Think in terms of functions, not items on a list.  Ask yourself the following types of questions:

  • What is the true function behind the items on our lists?
  • Is there a better way to complete that function?  
  • Is there a cheaper way? 
  • Is that function so important that you should actually spend more money than you had previously planned?  
  • Is there a way to complete that function that also serves to complete several other functions? 
  • Should you hold off completing that function in order to complete other functions faster or cheaper?

In summary, think in functions, not in simple lists.  This is the type of strategic thinking that will serve you well whenever you need to think on your feet and be creative.  Using the Value Engineering methodology to study your projects will save you money, effort, time and labor, as well as enable you to complete more goals.  But best of all, you will save your sanity!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What is MYDS? It’s not prepping, it’s not hoarding, it’s not a disease or even a mental condition and it certainly isn’t unpatriotic or terrorism.  What is it about, then? It is about being provident. Actually, MYDS stands for Make it Your Darn Self!  That is my Philosophy and Motto for 2013!

Provident means to prepare for the future.  Why?  Why take the time, the effort, or the expense to be provident?  Look around us.  Look at the world we live in.  Look at the economic and political climate.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to anything.  Everything from the top down – From our God to the sand beneath our feet – Everything is being questioned and demonized.  Right is wrong and wrong is right.  The freedom that we once knew as children of playing and frolicking on the streets in our community only to worry about making it home before dark or when we were hungry has given way to the fear of our children playing in front of our homes.  Progressives, Agenda 21, Socialism, Communism, Failing Schools, and having to sign up on a registry to know where sex offenders and predators live just to be able to keep our kids safe.  I wonder how to keep my kids safe in these times – both physically, spiritually and educationally.  My goodness, these are scary times on our doorstep.  The moral decay of this country is an entire topic all on its’ own and one in which I won’t get into here.
The real question should be why not?  Why not take the time to make sure you and your family has a little extra.  Why not have the knowledge and resources on hand to make it through a possible job loss, a natural or manmade disaster, a terrorist attack, the collapse of our financial system.  Why not have practical skills and knowledge to endure the “what-if” scenario that weighs heavily on your mind. To every question you have there are multiple solutions.  And, as I have found, every solution leads to another question and yet another discovery.  The most basic answer I can give is to be as provident as you can possibly be and that will ONLY come through knowledge and experience.  You must find within yourself the desire to learn and to never stop asking questions.  You should learn to ask how does that work, how would I do that if I could not run down to the local big box store, how can I make this if I didn’t have a box of prepackaged food.  You don’t have to have a property that resembles Fred Sanford's home from Sanford and Son (a sit-com from my earlier days) or a pantry that would make your local big box store envious.  Instead think of what you do and what you use every day and remember the 5 W’s from elementary school.  Who, What, Why, Where, When and I’ll go ahead and add How.  How is it made, why is it done that way, where can I get it from if it’s not available commercially, who can I learn from, from when and where will I start getting my knowledge and experience base?

That is the premise behind my 2013 motto “MYDS” and being provident is a never ending process that plays directly into my motto.  The world is always changing and as the saying goes “without change there is no growth.”  I am learning to be more provident.  I read all of the prepping web sites and have spent a massive amount of time researching and more money than I care to admit on buying this book and list or that book and list to see what I can do to be more provident.  As you will learn in your journey, not everything is contained on those lists.  Don’t get me wrong, they are all very good resources and they were well worth the investments even if I only learn one thing new from it.  Being provident (most people would say prepping), has, for the most part, been a man’s specialty area.  Their department.  Beans Bullets and Band-Aids type thing.  And, most would agree that is it rightly so.  Men are our protector’s, our muscle our anchors our braun.  We love them, we cherish them and we look to them as our rock in time of need.  However, I find the majority of publications on the market, web sites and blogs today are lacking on the subject of being provident from a woman’s point of view.  Women, just as men, have a role in preparing the future needs of a family.  After many hours of research, I am often left wondering how I am going to clean my house if I can’t go to the store or can’t afford to get what I need.  How am I going to do the laundry without laundry soap if the price is too high or it’s not available?  How are my children and family going to stay clean if we can’t get our hands on what we need?  Let’s face it.  Work isn’t picking up.  People are losing jobs.  Our dollar doesn’t get us as far as it used to.  Taxes are going through the roof from all levels of government.  The price of gas, food, household cleaners, and the cost to put our children through school are going through the roof.  Honestly, it’s getting pretty darn expensive just to be able to exist these days.  How are we as wives and mothers going to continue to manage our household without breaking the bank or the ability to just run down the corner market when we run out of something?  How are we going to take care of our families in tight or hard times?
That is the key to my article and the story behind my new motto/philosophy and I want to share with you some tidbits of knowledge from a wife and mothers perspective on being a provident housekeeper. 

For starters, you have to learn how to make your own household products.  It’s simple, it’s easy, it will save you money and is something you can start doing right away with little to no investment.  Money that you could use to start stocking up on food supplies or paying down debt.  A bottle of laundry soap is expensive, but what if I told you that you could make 10 gallons for less than what you pay for one bottle of commercial laundry soap?  Even cheaper than the generic brands!  I am here to tell you that it is possible.  You don’t need special or expensive equipment.  All you need is the desire to obtain knowledge and skills that will see your family through.  Save the space in your supply area for more meaningful supplies such as seeds for growing a garden or food preservation supplies, food, first aid and all of those other items you read about.  With ingredients that you have, or can get really inexpensively, you can clean every aspect of your home.  Adding a few more ingredients to your arsenal will allow you to make personal hygiene items such as deodorant, hair cleaners and conditioners, and bath soap.

For example, Borax, Washing Soda (not baking soda), and Castile Soap in bar form will make laundry soap.  From 1 bar of grated soap, 1 cup of washing soda and a ¼ cup of borax, and water, you can make 10 gallons of laundry soap using just a pot for melting the soap on your stovetop.  You will also need two five gallon buckets.  To show you real numbers, let’s break down the cost.  In my area, a bar of Fels-Naptha castile soap costs $.97, A 76 oz. box of Borax is $3.38 and a 55 oz. box of Washing Soda is $3.24.  Keep in mind that you are only using a few ounces of each box, not the entire box to make your liquid laundry soap.  For a mere, $1.62 you can make ten gallons of laundry soap.  WOW! That is a Savings you can’t argue with.  To eliminate those expensive dryer sheets try adding ¼ cup (or less) of vinegar to your rinse cycle and in place of dryer sheets use a ball of aluminum foil.  Yes, this does really work.  The laundry soap is safe to use for the smallest of family members.  Don’t fret; you will be able to use the borax and washing soda in making many other cleaning products for around your home. 

Let’s expand on those items to include the following items: Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Baking Soda, Liquid Castile Soap, Essential Oils (not fragrance oils), Ammonia, Bleach, Cornstarch, Olive Oil (or other neutral oils) and you will have the perfect combination to make everything you need to make a smooth running household without almost never having to rely on commercial products again.  That’s right - YOU will be able to clean your floors, windows, toilets, walls and so much more.  YOU will be able to make deodorant, hair care products and bathing products.  No more spending countless hours’ couponing to get those ridiculously great deals.  I coupon too and love the thrill of getting those free to cheap deals.  With my new knowledge to make my own products, my perspective and scope of couponing has changed to buying things that I cannot make myself – razors, toothbrushes, dental floss and of course beans (unfortunately there are no coupons for bullets) and Band-Aids! Do some research and you’ll be delighted at the amount of information available to make your homemade household products.  A word to the wise, there are items above that should NEVER be mixed together.  Ammonia and bleach is just one example – The mixture is toxic and potentially deadly.  Please air on the side of caution.  Read labels, research what can be mixed and what cannot!  Do not put yourself in harm’s way over saving money.  You and your families’ safety should always come first!

Second on the list is to learn how to manage your kitchen.  By taking the time to do some research on these topics - making your own mixes and how to make meals in a jar – you will be pleased at how simple and fun it is to learn about the multitude of options for short and long term food storage.  The concept surrounding making your own mix is to make a master mix and from there you can make almost anything.  Pancakes, cake mixes, breads and so on.  Additionally, there are recipes to making your own “cream of soup” as well as gravies, drink mixes and spices, to name a few.  I found a lady on the internet that takes separate complete meals and puts them in quart sized mason jars for a total of 52 meals in a jar, or more if you desire.  It’s a provident housekeeper’s version of fast food.  Take this idea and expand with your own recipes or scour the internet for more meals in jar recipes.  While hers are made from freeze dried (and dehydrated) food, there is a plethora of web sites and forums dedicated to canning meals in a jar.  My advice here is to start off small.  Try a loaf of bread or try starting off with sampling each recipe.  What tastes good to one person may not to another.  The absolute last thing is to get into a situation where you have stocked up on x,y, & z and not like it when you could practice, practice and practice some more to find the ones you really are going to like and use!  Get crafty and try adding your own twists to the recipes.  The possibilities are limitless.
Another aspect of kitchen management you should consider is the use of paper towels and cleaning utensils (sponges, miracle erasers, etc..).  What are you going to do when you run out of paper towels or that sponge is on its’ last cleaning leg and has to go to the trash?  Invest in cloth ones!  Rags, kitchen towels and wash cloths.  I know, I know, you like your cleaning wipes.  I do too!  Except, I make my own cleaning solution with the products listed above, soak my rags in the all-purpose cleaning solution, store them in a container with a lid and voila – I have my own homemade cleaning wipes! They are dirt cheap and ready when I need them.  When I’m done, I just pop them in the washer, dry and reuse (of course, the paper towel version goes into the trash!).  This year I am going to grow what is called a loufa gourd.  From my research, you use it the same way you do any other loufa.  The plan is to initially use it for bathing purposes and when it is outlived its’ purpose for bathing it will be relegating to cleaning tasks.  When it’s done with cleaning, it goes into a compost pile after being thoroughly cleaned.
What about feminine needs?  Are you going to stock shelves upon shelves of these products?  This is another item that is growing to be very expensive, and, if I dare, a luxury item.  I believe it is time to discuss alternate means to commercial pads and tampons.  One solution is to make your own feminine pads and another solution I found is called a Diva Cup.  It is an alternate solution to tampons.  They are washable and reusable.  A concept that our use and throwaway society would probably not take to instantly even though the rest of the world has been using for some time now.  To have them as a back-up in your arsenal is what I consider to be an invaluable asset!  There are plenty of tutorials and patterns on the internet on how to make your own feminine pads.  It’s almost the same concept as cloth diapering for babies.

While on the topic of feminine needs, let’s address a rarely discussed topic and probably one of the most embarrassing and hardest to plan for and that is “The Bathroom.”  What are you going to do in a situation where there may not be power or access to toilet paper?  This has plagued me for quite some time.  There are composting toilets, outhouses and ones that incinerate your waste.  Another solution I’ve discovered is a bidet.  They are used in other countries.  In a grid down situation or an off grid situation, I don’t see why you would not be able to use them.  Especially if you are on well and septic.  You can find portable ones and ones you can attach directly to your existing toilet for about $150.  These are supposed to attach to any two-piece toilet system without any special plumbing other than attaching to your water valve.  That would eliminate the need to stock up on toilet paper.  Of course, as my husband pointed out, it may not clean everything and you’ll be left wet.  The solution here is to make washable toileting cloths.  Scour the internet for free tutorials and patterns.  Again, think about cloth diapering of babies.  It is the same concept, just used on adults instead of babies.

You should also consider showering and not only taking a shower in general, but taking a warm shower.  How are you going to get warm water?  There are many people who would disagree with me and consider this a luxury and not a priority.  In my household, I don’t agree with them! I always tell my husband that no matter what, he has to make sure we have some way of us getting a warm shower.  It is one of the best feelings at the end of a long day of hard work.  Just to be clean makes you feel normal, it improves moral and helps you get a good night’s rest, too.  Try researching solar heaters and solar showers and other forms of heating water without relying on electricity.  You’ll be amazed at the options available as well as the interesting DIY videos.

Gardening and food are two very key provident factors.  My research has led me to a few animals of choice.  In considering my animals, I wanted those which serve many purposes.  Chickens – I can get meat, eggs and manure for my compost piles.  Goats – I can get milk and milk products like cheese, goats’ meat, and goats’ milk soap.  Rabbits – Meat, fur and manure for my compost bins.  And, a donkey for my heartstrings (yes, I’m absolutely in love with donkeys, especially miniatures).  On the practical side, they are great for protecting your livestock and you can train them to pull a cart for carrying farm and other supplies.  Children will love taking rides in the buggy too. 

Aquaponics is a relatively new concept as it takes aquaculture (fish farming) and mingles it with hydroponics (growing plants in soilless media).  This is a fascinating concept as you are able to grow fish which are a great source of protein as well as grow fruits and vegetables from the byproduct of the fish and increase your food diversity. [JWR Adds: Because modern aquaponics require circulating pumps, I recommend them only for families who have large, long-term alternative power systems--typically either a PV power system with at least 20 panels or a micro-hydro power system that runs year-round.]

Some gardening techniques you may want to consider are square foot gardening, container gardening, growing dwarf varieties of fruit trees as well as the Back to Eden gardening concept.  Search your local free classified ads.  Many people do not want to harvest their fruit and nut trees and will typically offer the bounty for free or really cheap if you come and pick it from the tree.  There are always ads of people selling off “extra” for less than what you can get at the market and grocery store.  If you do not have the ability or space to garden at your present location, why not take an add out to see if there is a local farm or land owner that will lease you a small amount of space to start growing your own food?  Even if you do not have a lot of money, try bartering some of your harvest or offer your time around their farm in exchange.  Farmers always need help and you’re more likely to walk away with a ton of useful knowledge.  You are in a win-win situation!

My final piece of advice is to research essential oils and growing your own herbs.  As a mom, I worry about the access to medical care – good quality medical care.  I have been doing some in depth research in to natural healing with herbs.  Way back when my dad had to walk 5 miles to school barefooted in the snow uphill both ways, families like his mostly relied on herbs and plants to maintain their health and to help heal them.  Mother Nature has a pharmacy all her own and many of her miracles contained within are no longer practiced and almost all but lost.  Very few herbs have side effects and actually the most common complaint comes from the user not using enough to make them effective.  Let’s take lavender for example.  Lavender can be used for its antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, and antiseptic properties as well as for its’ calming effect and it is successful in repelling fleas!  From this one herb you get all of that for cleaning, medicinal healing and for your pets too!  I love multifunction solutions such as this one!  See the trend here?  I took it from corporate America.  It’s the ol’ Do More With Less philosophy!
In closing, I hope that you will take the time to analyze what you do and use every day and then start learning about how to replicate those practices in a less than ideal situation.  As the founder of The Provident Housekeeper, it is my goal to research, develop and teach seminars that intertwine the ways of the past with the ways of today.  With just a little knowledge and a desire to DO, you can achieve anything.  Educate, Inspire, Lead and always, be Provident!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Doing “Double Duty” is a concept that I was first introduced to during my first enlistment in the US Army.   It is a term that simply implies that an item or material (or person) could be utilized to fulfill an additional purpose besides the one that it was specifically designed or trained for.  As a young soldier in an infantry company, I quickly learned the value of being able to “get creative” with my equipment and supplies in order to increase their versatility and make them go farther. 

Chances are that this idea is not new to you.  With our economy in the US getting further and further out of control, many Americans have already changed their buying habits and now consider the versatility of a product to be an important buying point.  It just makes good practical sense.  During normal circumstances, planning for double duty is relatively easy to do.  Matter of fact, you’re probably already doing it.   But planning for double duty in preparation for unusual or emergency situations is considerably more difficult. 

In this article, we will discuss why planning for double duty is a good idea, how to plan for double duty both at home and in preparation for a “bug out” scenario, and finally some common items that can perform double duty; at home and on the trail.

Probably the best answer to why is, “to make better use of your resources”.  Most of us have limited income, limited space, and limited time to spend on preparedness.  Therefore, we need to make the most out of what we have and make it go as far as we can.  Double Duty Planning is a tool that can not only help us to be better prepared in the event of a disaster or emergency, but can also serve to make our daily lives more efficient and simple.

Limited Income                 
In order for your income to be of any benefit to your survival, you need to invest in those things that will be of most use to you and your family.  And it has to be done before you need them.  During a disaster, TEOTWAWKI, or other calamitous event, it’s a good chance that your money will be worth far less than it is now. 

When making purchases, we have all been conditioned by mainstream media to look for and identify what marketers call the “USP” or “Unique Selling Point”.  The USP is that one quality or characteristic that supposedly makes the product “the best” at doing one specific thing.  Chances are that our cabinets are full of products that specialize in one specific thing.  Bleach for example is a product which meets a specific need; to keep whites white.  No other product on the market enjoys bleach’s popularity in the market for this one purpose.  But what about the other uses for bleach?  Most people would be hard pressed to name any other uses.  But that is exactly where double duty planning or dual purposing comes in!  Bleach does much more than just whiten whites.
If I could show you how you could save hundreds of dollars a year on groceries and other household goods; would you be interested?  Well, even though it may sound like a sales hook and too good to be true, planning for double duty can potentially save you hundreds of dollars per year.   The way that this is accomplished is by eliminating those products that we purchase that only serve one specific purpose and replacing them with products that have multiple uses.  If you look in your cleaning cabinet or closet, how many different cleaning products do you have?  Do you have two, three, four, or more?  Or do you use a multi-purpose cleaner?  How much money would you save if instead of buying glass cleaner, floor cleaner, stove and countertop cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, shower, tub and tile cleaner, pot and pan cleaner, etc; you could buy one product that did it all?  Better yet, what if the product or products that you replaced all of these with had other uses as well?  You could save a lot of money in cleaning supplies alone.

Limited Space
The issue of limited space is often resolved by our attempts at saving money.  This is natural in that as we consolidate the various kinds of products that we purchase, we need less room to store the replacements.   As we replace single duty products with double duty products, we will not need as much space to store them.  This is space that could be better used for storing additional food and medical supplies; or ammo.

Space becomes a lot more crucial when considering a bug out situation.  We will be limited to what we can carry with us or cache along the way.  The size, shape, and weight of survival gear become chief concerns when a bug out scenario becomes likely.  But, as within the home, dual purposing our gear can save us a lot of space.  I’ll use my own personal experiences in the Army as an example.  In the movie Platoon, the new soldiers were preparing to go out on their first patrol when their platoon sergeant went through and battle stripped them; leaving them with only what they needed to survive.  I went through a similar event before going out on my first patrol.  My rucksack was whittled down from a hefty 65 pounds to about 40 pounds.  I had packed many tools and items that were unnecessary because I had other items that could do multiple jobs.  Not to mention that I now had the space to carry more crucial supplies like water, food and ammunition.  It took an experienced platoon sergeant to teach me the value of versatility.  Years later, I became a platoon sergeant and made it a point of teaching my soldiers how to pack with double duty in mind.
One of the purposes of a cache is to serve as a resupply point.  Many people’s philosophy on caching is, “more is better”, but this is not always true.  The larger that you make a cache, the harder it is to hide.  Cache size is also limited by the geography of an area or route.  Space in a cache can be limited as well and could therefore benefit from the optimization that double duty items can provide.  During egress, BOBs and caches kind of go hand in hand; the more stuff that you can cache along your egress route, the more space you have for other items in your BOB. 

Limited Time
Time is a variable resource in that we will have more of it during one situation than we will during another.  When at home during normal life, time may be easy to manage.  But during the beginning of a TEOTWAWKI sort of event, time will be in short supply.   The more we prepare now, the less we struggle later.  So, how can planning for double duty save us time?  Ultimately it boils down to choices.  When you go to the grocery store and are confronted with buying dog food.  How do you decide which one to buy; price, your dog’s favorite, nice packaging?  You only have twelve different brands, seven flavors, three sizes, and twenty prices to choose from.  We can save a lot of time if we know beforehand what we’re going to buy.  Go there, get it, and leave!  The more choices that we have to make, the more time it takes.  Make your choices while time is plentiful. 

Another Reason                 
Have you ever been in line in the grocery store behind someone who was into Extreme Couponing?  It’s amazing to watch as they unload buggy after buggy at the checkout.  You can literally feel their excitement and dread building as the total rises ever higher.  As their coupons are tallied, we experience the suspense and danger of failure that this great adventure offers!  Then we get to see the glorious sense of jubilation that the shopper feels when their once high total is reduced to mere pennies!  All of the long hours spent searching, cutting, and planning have culminated in one flawless victory! Marvelous!  This is what makes the adventure worthwhile!  If it were simply about saving money, it would not have been worth the cost.  It’s about the victory!

Planning for double duty is a similar endeavor; it’s not only about saving money and stretching resources.  It’s about the victory!  It’s about being able to use what you have planned for in a pinch when it is needed most!

To find out how requires the most growth on our parts.  This is the step that requires us to do our homework.  The process that I am going to layout in this article is what I view as being the most simple and is the process that I use.

At Home
First of all, I created an inventory of what I had on hand.  Then, out beside of each item, I noted its use or uses.  If the item only had one specific use, then I placed a star beside that item signifying that it needed closer review.  My next pass on the list, I’m looking specifically at those items that have more than one use and whether they can take on the additional duty of those items that I marked with a star.  If they can, I put a mark through the item with the star that can be eliminated.  Next, I investigate to find out if there is a product which I don’t currently have that would assume multiple uses on my list.  Finally, I look over my list again to determine if those items have other uses.  I have included my cleaning supplies list for reference.

Cleaning Item List   Uses
Windex Window Cleaner     Glass
Comet Abrasive Cleanser   Sinks, tubs, toilet, showers, pots, pans, tile
Pinesol Surfaces, sinks, tubs, toilet, floors
Orange Degreaser       Surfaces
Carpet Fresh        Carpets/rugs
409 Multipurpose         Surfaces
Ammonia      Surfaces, floors

At this point, I have identified how other items on my list can perform the same duties as those that can only perform one.  The next step is to investigate to see if there is a product out there to replace those items still on my list. 

                  Baking Soda – can directly replace Comet Cleanser and Carpet Fresh.
                  White Vinegar – can directly replace the 409 Multipurpose cleaner, Pinesol, and the Ammonia.

Here is what my truncated cleaning supplies list looks like now.

Cleaning Item List   Uses
White Vinegar       Glass, surfaces, floors
Baking Soda  Sinks, tubs, toilets, showers, tile, carpet, rugs, pots, pans

Baking soda and vinegar both have additional uses in food preparation and in medicine. And both tend to be relatively inexpensive and environmentally safe compared to many other name brand cleaners.  Baking soda and vinegar mixed together also make a nifty science project for kids and is great for cleaning drains.   
I’m not telling you to go through your cleaning supplies and throw out everything and replace it with vinegar and baking soda.  I’m just saying that you could if you chose to.  Or, if by necessity, you had to.  This same process will work for other areas of home and survival preparedness as well.  The main question that you want to ask yourself is, “how many different ways can I use _______?” 

On The Trail
For those of us that hike and camp recreationally; and I mean survivalist type camping without a camper or grill, packing light is always a priority.  If I can consolidate the items that I need to take with me from 30 down to 8, that’s a big advantage for me so long as I know how to utilize what I brought for more than one purpose.  Let’s look at tools.  When I go camping, I know that there are certain tasks that I may need to perform.  I will need to cut brush and vines, chop down small trees, construct shelter, cut/chop food, defend myself from animals/people, and maybe skin and or butcher game.  So, is there one tool that I can take that will allow me to do all of these tasks?  If I inventory my tools the same way that I inventoried my cleaning supplies, the process will work the same.

Camping/Survival Tool List  Uses
Hatchet  Chopping wood
Machete     Clearing brush & vines, chopping food, Butchering, chopping wood, protection
Mallet   Driving tent stakes, hammering
Utility Knife Chopping food, skinning, butchering, general use, protection
Shovel/Spade    Digging
Saw   Sawing tree limbs, roots

Naturally, we can’t carry all of this stuff with us on a hike, so it’s in our best interest to consolidate.  The machete can accomplish everything that the hatchet can.  The addition of a military E-tool would eliminate the need for the shovel, the saw, and the mallet.  Taking an idea from the Russian Spetsnaz (Russian Special Forces), I could sharpen one edge of my E-tool to a knife’s edge and could use it as a bladed weapon and to skin animals.  As a result, my new list may look like this.

Camping/Survival Tool List Uses
Machete   Clearing brush & vines, chopping wood, chopping food, butchering, protection
Military E-tool  Digging, sawing, driving tent stakes, hammering, protection, skinning
Utility Knife       Chopping food, skinning, butchering, general use, protection

Notice that there is still some overlapping of duties.  It is important to remember here that consolidation of supplies and tools can be taken too far.  You can reach a point where you end up compromising your preparedness.  Some ascribe to the “Rule of Three”; as in that you need to have at least three ways of fulfilling a need or completing a task.  Although you can take it to extremes and purchase three of everything, the point of the rule is to stress the importance of having a back-up plan.  In the above refined list, if I lost or broke any one of my tools, I could probably make due with what I had left.  They may not fit the bill perfectly, but they’ll get the job done.                 

Double Duty Items & Supplies
The following list is simply a starting point.  But there are plenty of good web sites where you can increase your knowledge.  Matter of fact, there are probably many more that you know about that I don’t.  If so, please write an article so that we can all learn from your experiences. 
Rather than create a list for “At Home” items and then also for “Survival/Bug Out” items, I’ll leave it up to you to decide how these best fit your needs.

Item Use/Purpose
Baking Soda  Cleaner, deodorizer, cooking, toothpaste, medical
White Vinegar  Surface cleaner, clothes whitener, food, medicine, preservative
Bleach  (Plain, Calcium Hypochlorite)       Clothes whitener, water treatment, surface cleaner
Hydrogen Peroxide     Disinfectant, water treatment
Salt     Preservative, food prep, antiseptic
Pure Vanilla             Antiseptic, mild local anesthetic, flavoring
Olive Oil Cooking, skin moisturizer, lubricant, lamp oil, burn treatment
Chap-stick       Soothes chapped lips, zipper lubricant, seam waterproofing
Multi-tool (Gerber, Leatherman, etc.)  Knife, screwdrivers, saw, file, bottle opener, scissors, pliers
Entrenching Tool, Folding ("E-Tool") Shovel, saw, mallet, weapon, food preparation
Machete   Clearing brush, chopping wood, food prep, weapon
Tomahawk              Chopping wood, food prep, mallet, weapon
Rope/Cord/String      Climbing, tying, binding, pulling, trapping, fishing

I will not go into dual purpose firearms in this article mainly because that is a subject that has already been covered exhaustively by others far more knowledgeable than me. 

Let your imagination be your guide.  But I would also advise you to not take my word for it because what works for me may not work for you.  Take the information in this article and customize it to your specific needs.  Then put your strategy to the test.  I recommend that everyone take a voluntary “bug out” to test yourself and your preps.  It will undoubtedly show you where your weaknesses are.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I’ve always been a “glass is half full…when life hands you lemons you make lemonade…” kind of person.  So despite a divided nation after this recent election, geopolitical unrest, and our nation on the brink of financial collapse, I still see the silver lining. 

My husband and I purchased a small 900 square foot home, because it was all we could afford.  It was near the height of the housing bubble so we bought high.  We then spent the next four years, remodeling the one bathroom the tiny kitchen and living room to suit our needs.  After investing tens of thousands of dollars of our hard earned money, blood, sweat and tears we were feeling good about our sweat equity.  Then the market crashed and I got pregnant.  Deciding not to pour any more money into the pit, and deciding to take control of the financial situation we decided to sell our home and purchase a new one.  By that time the real estate market seemed to have no bottom and loans were nigh on impossible to secure from lending institutions.  We staged the little house perfectly and lived in that staged house for several months, evacuating every time a potential buyer came by, because an extra body in the house made it feel so much smaller.  Fortunately we were able to find a larger home that was more suitable for our expanding family and were able to purchase it at a 30% discount, however we finally sold our first home at a significant loss.  Investment guidelines for the early 2000s had become: “Buy high and sell LOW.”  But not paying two mortgages was nearly “priceless.”

The Tale of Two Mortgages

It was the tale of two mortgages that was the spark that initiated this whole journey.  My husband and I carefully assessed our financial situation and eliminated all “non-essential” expenses.  Those things included:
-Some expensive vitamins that were being shipped automatically and payments were automatically being submitted to our credit card. This was something we weren’t paying attention to until then.
-A wine club gift that we had gifted to our neighbors. We didn’t read the fine print that after the $60 intro offer, you’d be billed quarterly for $200.
-No non-essential food items. Only buy what’s on the list and only if we really need it.
-The Cable Television – Gasp. horror! What will you do without television?  This is the key to us developing our survival plan.

Life Without Television

We did keep Internet, as this was our means for paying bills, e-mail communication, web surfing and phone connectivity.  We began to read, a lot.  In fact, we can’t wait to crawl in to bed, early, once the kids are sleeping and read the news.  The mass media has become such a biased and agenda-driven source of misrepresentation, it is no longer reliable.  It has become a vehicle for propaganda.  The children absolutely did not miss television.  Though we’re not purists, we do have Netflix and Amazon video, so the young one loves the educational shows and the older one loves Mythbusters.  But as a parent I now have total control over what they watch and this includes, not exposing them to the early sexualization of children, the “new normal” of a “modern family” the extols the virtues of a non- mother, father, and God-centered family.

My Favorite Web Sites

I truly admire those talented individuals who are able to organize and centralize great information into a user friendly web site.  I wish I could do it because I occasionally get some good ideas, but I don’t have the time.  My "go to" favorites include:
-The Drudge Report, of course… “Wake the flock up” one of my favorite new quotes!!!  (my ultimate gossip go to site for pure entertainment) (because after watching Forks over Knives I freaked out and went plant based for six weeks)

My Eyes Open

When you begin to piece together the unprecedented power grabbing, freedom-reducing moves our own government is doing and put it in the frame of reference of what is happening geopolitically; it’s enough to lose lots of sleep.  The Middle East is destabilizing and essentially is one misunderstanding or missile away from full out war.  There has been an increasing frequency of climate change that has unleashed massive power outages, gas rationing, and Martial law – as evidenced by Hurricane Katrina, Fukushima, Haiti, Irene, Sandy, and the recent Nor’easter.

So We Became SLOW Preppers
I believe that these patterns are an excellent opportunity to learn “real time” about how people and governments react in times of duress.  We’ve all seen how the grocery shelves are wiped out within 48 hours of the weather channel predicting a storm. 

When we lost power with Irene then the Nor’easter, we decided the first order of business was to install a generator.  That project was eight months in undertaking.  There were no generators to be had, as a freak windstorm affected the western half of the US knocking out power to 3 million people in the southwest.  Once we got the generator, there were no transfer switches to be had.  The demand was high.  We finally got the transfer switch.  It took another three months to get a propane tank and service, again because of the backlog, but we stuck to our guns and finally got it all put in.  This time around, Hurricane Sandy left us without communication by phone but we had power thanks to the generator.

2nd Amendment

Speaking of guns.  Living in the Northeast makes obtaining a firearm difficult.  It took about 8 months.  First to find a class, then get signed up – another backlog there.  Then permits at the police station, state processing, temporary permit, and official permit, followed by my favorite part, shopping.  We started slow, read a lot and made one purchase at a time.  Now whenever we go to Wal-Mart we buy essentials and a box of ammo.  Say it with me now: milk, bread, eggs, toilet paper and ammo.  Try it again, diapers, wipes, and ammo.  See how easy it is?

The Mormons are on to something. I like their idea of food storage and rotation.  We should get into the practice of that.  I’m still working on it.  Christmas = family gift of a case of MREs.  When Mountain House backpacking pouch freeze dried food goes on sale at Wally world I pick up a bag or two.  It doesn’t have to be in bulk, but building it slowly is cheaper and you incorporate it into your lifestyle.  The kids love the camping section of the stores.  Then once in a while we pretend to camp in the basement and “sample” the food stores that are about to expire and rotate fresh stuff in.

Bug Out Tins

There are so many good Bug Out ideas on the web.  I came across “survival in an Altoid tin.”  It’s good to keep a few bucks in the car, some analgesics, band-aids, floss, matches a mini mag lite etc.  It’s always a good idea to carry a case of water in the car, you never know.  Making the tins was a fun weekend afternoon activity for the kids and we may turn this into a Christmas gift idea.


Our new home has a little more land and I grew up with chickens as pets.  My husband loved the idea as we often romanticize “living off the grid.”  Easter came around and we bought three chicks and the kids loved playing with them and caring for them.  My husband is pretty crafty and good with tools.  We purchased a scuffed up Rubbermaid tool shed from the local home improvement store. He cut some windows and a trap door out.  He installed a 2x4 beam for the roosting bar and because of the shape of the interior, was able to put two nesting boxes in there.  My husband thought that pets that give back in the form of food were so cool.  We eat beautiful omelets with tasty eggs that truly are antibiotic-free and hormone-free.  I reduce my garbage by putting kitchen scraps into a bucket and the chickens are so happy to get stale bread, pancakes, and bok choy stems.  The chickens think left-over spaghetti = worms and go nuts!  When we can’t keep up the 15-20 eggs per week, we again make good neighbors by giving away farm fresh eggs.


My parents always made it look easy.  Let me tell you, if you can grow a successful tomato plant from seed, you are waaay ahead of the game.  Gardening is a major skill.  Start by trying to grow anything.  I love perennials.  I have peonies, lilies and some other flowering bushes that come back every year.  Collards and Kale are almost year round depending on how harsh the weather is.  Herbs like rosemary, lavender, thyme, chives, mint, come back every year and are low maintenance.  I just put in some asparagus; we’ll see how it does.  I also am trialing cranberries as a ground cover and purchased a really great book on edible weeds, so I can increase my foraging knowledge.  This really makes you think twice about using poisons in your yard when you free range the chickens and want to forage weeds.


It takes time to build up your stores.  I think you should store things you like to eat because then you use it up and aren’t throwing away expired “survival rations.”  Pick up new skills, whether that’s gardening, weed identification, how to camp or build a fire, start small, make it a hobby.  When a disaster hits your area, open your eyes and perform your own mini SWOT analysis: S – Strengths, W-weaknesses, O- opportunities, T- Threats. 

This is a very individualized thing.  But I can tell you when gas cans become available again at the local store, I’ll be stocking up on a few.  While it’s nice to have a stockpile of gold and silver coins, it can be expensive.  Buy an extra roll of aluminum foil or duct tape the next time you are out shopping.  When you’ve been sitting in a dark cold house for a week, it can be demoralizing; you’d love some hot cocoa with a splash of brandy.  Stock up on cocoa, liquor, comfort foods and items.  Some of these have a very long shelf life and will probably be easier to trade or barter than a precious metal that has precious few calories.  Good luck with your slow and systematic prepping!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How do you manage the extra expense of prepping when you are already cash strapped? After all, it is like buying for two households. When you are cost conscious you are able to purchase more. I am going to share my experience with you.

I am a single Mom of three and started prepping about a year ago. I would clip coupons and pick up extra cans of veggies a couple of times a month. When I started looking a sites on the internet that listed all the items to have on hand, I became concerned that my cans of veggies were not going to last all that long. Not to mention my kids are picky eaters and feeding them peas and corn every day was a recipe for disaster.

I made lists of food items that added variety, fruit snacks, raisins, cookies, cheese and cracker packs. Individual juice boxes, tuna, Spam (of course.) Soups, canned and dehydrated, beef stew, tortillas, and lots of peanut butter. Individual serving size apple sauce and fruit cups are healthy and convenient. I buy jars of nuts when they are on sale because I have found nuts can fill you up really quickly. We have cereal bars and small boxes of cereal. I have been buying cans of evaporated milk and recently discovered a boxed milk (non soy) because I know powdered milk won’t get drank, not even by me! I felt comfortable when we had about a six month supply on hand. Most stores have their own brand instead of name brand items that can be purchased less expensively and when you are prepping every dime counts.

I have always been a bargain shopper. I love to snoop in second hand shops and garage sales. I made a separate list for tents, camp stoves, canning equipment, hand tools, etc. Every weekend I planned my garage sale route with the items that were listed in the paper. I have recently noticed a number of “man sales” and even though I was the only woman there I found items to stash just in case. Lanterns, radios, flash lights. When I buy these items I try to keep all with the same battery size. Saws, even a brand new packaged solar shower. I found an old cooking device that uses newspaper. Now granted I’m not putting steak on this unit but to use it to heat a can of soup on, this just might be the ticket. I found storage tubs to keep the mice out of the sugar and snacks. I found shelf units and always came home smiling at my good luck, crossing out my items from the list. It’s like God was personally delivering to me what written on my lists.

Wal-Mart is always a place to hunt for bargains, but use a list. The store is designed to make you buy and get distracted by all the latest and greatest. This is where I buy my small bottles of propane much cheaper than I have found at other stores. Also medical supplies we might need. Triple antibiotic, hydrogen peroxide, ibuprofen. Check out the end caps and clearance areas, sometimes you get lucky.  I have gotten used to buying on the internet and found I don’t like paying tax, I also search for free shipping or combined shipping with the same seller. Ebay is one of my favorite sites. Recently I noticed some of the sellers are just getting plain greedy though. For example I had a bottle of 50 water purifying tablets on my watch list, when I put them on my list they were $ 8.99 with free shipping. Yesterday as I was going through my watch list they are now listed for $58.10! Really? That listing got deleted and I found another seller for $8.99 and bought right away, lesson learned. I purchased non GMO seeds last spring on Ebay for much less than the seed sites are selling for. They are also listed under the category of heirloom seeds. Left in the freezer, they are good for ten years. I can also collect the seeds from the veggies I grow. Last year was the first year I attempted growing vegetables by seed. I found a small but sturdy green house on closeout at my local hardware store. Our spring in Northern Minnesota was really wet so we set the green house up inside on the three season porch and used a grow light until the seeds were established enough to be put in the ground. A lot died, but this coming spring I intend to direct sow and put the green house over the garden plot. We had an okay harvest and this gave me the opportunity to use the canning equipment I found at an abandoned storage unit sale. I also found a security system on Ebay for like thirty bucks with free shipping. The cameras face the front and back of the property and we watch from a small black and white monitor.

 I know all the horror stories about Craigslist, but I have found numerous items there. I always bring someone with me (and my trustee stun gun). A month ago I bought a chest freezer for $100.00 and even found a farmer selling beef. My son and I recently took a road trip and stocked the freezer with a ½ beef. Last week I purchased a generator found on this site. Another item crossed off the list. The free listings are an excellent source of possible supplies.

 Harbor Freight has some good bargains as does Fleet Farm a favorite of mine for batteries and pet supplies. I also like to look in Cabela's bargain cave. Then of course I compare prices on other sites just to make sure I am getting the best price. Don’t rule out Goodwill or The Salvation Army stores, they can be a treasure trove. Dollar stores are filled with items that might be helpful, like toothbrushes, razors, plastic silverware, disposable cups, etc.

I also buy the vitamins and herbs we need from a site called Swanson's, they have a great selection and flat rate shipping is $4.99. I am a firm believer in all natural healing. Also use the email sign up on sites for extra savings.

My kids all work so I have delegated some of these items to them. My daughter is in charge of pet supplies. My son went through a catalog and bought ammo and guns, knives, swords, small shovels and solar blankets from Cheaper Than Dirt, online and catalog available. The things I would not think of because I haven’t been a boy scout.

I’ve been able to find some excellent books on living in the wild. Just in case we have to leave the safety of our property.

At some point you have to feel secure with what you’ve accumulated. When I began, I wondered how much is enough? I am finding over time that voice had quieted down and I’m not going about this with a fearful attitude. I feel more empowered. I have not found everything, I am still working down my list. I know I have to start filling gas cans for the generator, not found a decent size tent or two way radios. But I know we have enough food and water to get us through. I still fill empty milk jugs, because my kids keep drinking them!

I have also been known to check out construction sites. It is a great place to get wood scraps for fires or even plywood to cover windows and securing doors. Many of these items are tossed aside.

As you buy consider the items might be used in barter situations. Coins, ammo, seeds, water, food, tobacco, just about anything. I know that I would not turn away from others who need help. I would not actively seek them out, but if they show up cold and hungry I will help. We still have to be human and live by the Golden Rule.

Watching the news the last few days has me in awe of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. So many people expect help in these situations and complain that it does not arrive instantly. All of us can be our own rescuer. We heard the warning. We have to make time to prepare for any emergency. Plan ahead! Being prepared not just for storms or the end of the world scenarios, but because food prices are on the verge of sky rocketing.
Lastly I would like to put in my two cents. I thought I lived on the greatest nation on Earth. I am angry that I have to plan for the end of the world scenario. That  preppers are considered dangerous people. That we are considered terrorists. How did it get to this point?  I am upset that this is my childrens’ reality. That they can not be as carefree as they should be. That America used to be the nation all others strived to be. But secretly there has been a plot against us. That the powers that be (are) want us wiped off the planet. That is the part I have a hard time with. This is just plain wrong, and I know the strong shall survive, being prepared makes you strong. So quietly go about preparing. We have an obligation to survive and take care of our loved ones, no matter what may come.

Monday, November 12, 2012

As of today, many families are still suffering from the effects of Superstorm Sandy.  Are you prepared, should such a disaster strike your area?
The following is offered as an outline for medical prepping, should you someday find yourself without access to professional medical care.  (Part 1 of this series covered weeks 1 through 6.)
Please note the following abbreviations:
ORG = organizational concerns
OTC = over-the-counter products
Rx = prescription products
ED = education and skills
The supplies listed under OTC can all be purchased without a prescription, though some are only available online.  For prescription items, assess what your group has and what each member is likely to be able to acquire. 
The three-month period is divided into 13 weekly tasks, divided according to topic, making the project more readily manageable.  The outline could also be divided into months, rather than weeks, to cover a year instead.
For more detailed information on medical prepping, please visit

Week 7



Assess your progress to date and establish a plan for securing your medical supplies

Identify individual(s) to establish security to protect both patients and caregivers
Identify and acquire secure storage arrangements for your medical supplies



Constipation:  Metamucil, Dulcolax, Surfak, or generics
Diarrhea:  Imodium, Pepto-Bismol, or generics
Nausea and vomiting: meclizine, Dramamine
Heartburn, gastritis, or ulcers:  Pepcid, Zantac, Axid, Tagamet, Prilosec, Prevacid, Tums, Maalox
Solar oven to warm/disinfect water/heat food without electricity or fire



Request a supply of prednisone or a Medrol Dosepak from your physician for emergency use, such as an asthma attack, acute bronchitis, acute gout, bee sting allergy, hives, seasonal allergies, or acute flares of chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or sciatica
Consider requesting a similar supply from your veterinarian for pet (or human) use



Discuss potential sources of injury and infection with your group, including necessary but potentially dangerous activities
Educate yourself regarding isolation and quarantine, and make appropriate plans for your location
Educate yourself regarding spread of serious illness, in particular droplet-borne infections
Procure appropriate clothing to protect against sunburn, heatstroke, frostbite and hypothermia, mosquito and other insect bites, stinging insects, chiggers, poison ivy, foot blisters
Educate yourself regarding avoiding acquisition of scabies, lice, impetigo, fungal disease

Week 8



Begin assembling easily transportable bug-out medical kits for identified group members (more than 1)

Assess your group for short-term needs (3–7 days, or longer if desired)
Assemble a bug-out medical kit for each group member



AZO for temporary relief of urinary burning or pain
Cranberry pills or juice
Multistix 10-SG or other urine dipstick
Saw palmetto for middle-aged men with prostatic enlargement
Urinary catheters for anyone with obstruction or potential obstruction; catheter lubricant



Request a prescription for an oxygen concentrator if anyone in your group suffers from heart or lung disease, or may be exposed to carbon monoxide, fumes, extreme altitude, or other cardio-respiratory threat
Consider purchasing oxygen or an oxygen concentrator without a prescription (available online)
For anyone who has ever used nitroglycerin (current or prior angina, history of heart attack, stent, or heart by-pass), request additional nitroglycerin from your physician in small bottles of 25 tablets, which will remain potent long-term if unopened and stored under conditions printed on the bottle



Educate yourself regarding nutrients essential to human health
Educate yourself regarding edible wild plants available in your area, and locate potential sources
Assess your food supply for inclusion of sufficient fluids, calories, protein, essential fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals
Assess your seed supply to assure an adequate supply of “colored” vegetables – yellow, green, red
Assess your supply of medicinal plants and seeds
Assess your group for the possible development of scurvy (lack of vitamin C), dementia (lack of vitamin B12 in the elderly), and rickets (lack of vitamin D and calcium, in children)

Week 9



Begin assembling one or more base-stations for your supplies

Assemble and organize secure storage areas as identified on Week 7



Condoms and/or other birth control
Pregnancy tests
Pregnancy calculator
Gyne-Lotrimin for yeast infections
Pads and/or tampons
Vitamins with folate for pregnant women



Request a prescription for Ambien (zolpidem) from your physician for occasional (or future) use
Other prescription alternatives include any sedating medication, such as low-dose amitriptyline, a benzodiazepine (Xanax, Ativan, Valium), muscle relaxers (such as Flexeril, Norflex, or Soma)
If unavailable, procure sedating antihistamine (Benadryl, Zyrtec, Nyquil) or nausea drug (meclizine)



Have group members share personal health needs (such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, or chronic pain) with other group members for improved understanding and chance of individual and group survival
Make sure at least one other group member has the knowledge to help some with any chronic problem

Week 10



Make a wish list of items you cannot acquire at this time

Identify and acquire items to barter for medical goods
Identify and acquire health care items to barter for other goods (pain meds, dressings, vitamins, inexpensive reading glasses, etc.)



Bacitracin for mild bacterial infection
Lotrimin or Lamisil or other topical antifungal for fungal and yeast infections 
1% hydrocortisone cream (and plastic wrap to cover it with to enhance its strength) for itchy rashes
Bleach to dilute 1:1000  for bathing for recurrent skin infections, eczema, possibly ringworm
#11 scalpel for abscess incision and drainage
Rid and/or Nix for head lice; nit comb; Vaseline to smother lice; hot hair dryer to kill head lice
Wart freeze or salicylic acid for treating warts, or Duct tape to cover for 2 weeks
Warm clothing for preventing frostbite
Long sleeves and long pants for preventing insect bites, stings, chiggers, mites, tick bites
Good shoes to prevent blister and callus formation



Request a prescription for an inexpensive, strong steroid cream for non-facial use, such as betamethasone, which is very useful for itchy skin problems such as poison ivy, eczema, and contact dermatitis



Assess group and community need for current or future pregnancy and childbirth
Acquire midwifery or obstetric books and/or videos for use by your group or possibly others
Consider having group watch videos of childbirth
Locate and become acquainted with midwife or physician in your area


Week 11



Identify others you may need and who may need you
Make tentative arrangements for contact and/or access should the need arise



Spiritual preparation; Bible, hymnbook, inspirational reading
Acoustic musical instruments and/or DVD/MP3 player and power source
Books, both fiction and non-fiction, including how-to books
Games and other forms of entertainment
Arrange group bonding activities to build trust before disaster strikes
Make sure everyone has a meaningful purpose and contribution to your group
Identify spiritual and/or emotional leader of your group
Purchase St. John’s Wort for potential depression
Nyquil or Benadryl for sleep
Caffeine or pseudoephedrine for needed wakefulness/alertness
Meclizine for potential anxiety



Request a prescription for Bactroban (mupirocin) topical cream or ointment for superficial skin infections, mildly infected lacerations or abrasions, or small areas of impetigo



Spend time bonding with your group, focusing on hope, purpose, and faith
Assess each member for prior and expected reactions under stress
Discuss how your group will respond if confronted with suicidal, panicky, or psychotic patient

Week 12



Obtain additional supplies a doctor or nurse could use, even if you can’t use them yourself

Suturing supplies
Plaster splinting and casting supplies
IV supplies



Hydrogen peroxide
Medical alcohol
Distilled vinegar
Johnson’s Baby Shampoo
Sterile saline
Baby formula
IV fluids
Nutraceutical thyroid preparation
Potassium iodide



Anxiety is a common problem now, and will likely worsen if disaster strikes

Discuss nerve medication with your physician and request a (small) supply of fast-acting medication for occasional use.   Possibilities include benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Ativan – which are controlled substances, and so your doctor may not agree), and Vistaril (a sedating, prescription antihistamine)
Consider requesting a slow-acting medication for chronic use, such as Buspar (a non-addicting medicine, but takes days to weeks for relief), or an SSRI (Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, Paxil) (equally slow to act)



Determine the proximity of nearest nuclear reactor and typical wind patterns
Decide on radiation detection (dosimeter, Geiger counter) and consider procuring
Purchase KI (potassium iodide) for each member of your group (have multiple doses for children)
Decide which (if any) bioterrorist threats you plan to prepare for (anthrax, plague, botulism, others)
Educate yourself on how to protect yourself against specific bioterrorist threats

Week 13



Group meeting to assess any additional needs and to affirm success of preparations

Review each group member’s medical history and needs, especially for important life changes, such as pregnancy, childbirth, and any new health problems
Review each group member’s medical responsibilities, should disaster strike
Affirm each member’s contributions and success



Make written inventory of supplies you have acquired, location, and purpose
Review weeks 1 through 12 to assess for additional needs and/or shortages
If budget allows, procure additional stock of items most essential for your group
Check dates on items with short shelf-life (insulin, liquids) and re-stock as necessary
Be thankful that so many items are available over-the-counter to help your group and others



Make written inventory of prescription medications you have been able to acquire, location, and purpose
Make written list of supplies you would still like to procure
Have various group members make appointments with their physicians, who may have changed their position on personal preparedness, and may be more willing to prescribe



Review what you have learned, and organize material into notebook(s)
Make sure all group members have access to needed information and know location of notebook(s)
Assess group members for progress, gaps in knowledge, and intentions for future learning
Encourage and thank all for their efforts and cooperation


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Many years ago, my two childhood friends and I began to prep for TEOTWAWKI.  At first, we just began buying whatever was recommended by certain web sites, throwing our equipment into a box and then telling the others about what we have.  Doing this allowed us to collect many things, however we were not sure what was really practical since we never used the items.  We decided to change this about five years ago when we got serious about what we are doing and decided to take a camping trip.  The camping trip would include about a one mile hike and the only things we would bring would be the equipment that would be used in a “bug-out” scenario.   My group consists of seven main members who live in four different states, so the gear testing trips take place in two different states twice a year.  The members of my group currently live in four different states: Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and California with the majority of the group living on the Ohio/Indiana border.  Obviously, the friend in California is not a viable option for retreat, but the Ohio and Tennessee locations are both large farms and “close enough” for the remaining group members to gather together.  So, we practice bugging out to each location from our respective homes.  The first test trip was quite a learning experience!  The oldest member of our group had equipment that weighed a total of about fifteen pounds.  We younger folk whispered among ourselves that this surely wouldn’t be enough.  While I will not disclose the pack weight of the rest of the group, I will say that we were having trouble going very far without having to take a break; and imagine our surprise when we found ourselves asking to borrow some of the older man’s equipment!  Needless to say, we decided to take a few tips from the older man and have changed the way we pack for these trips!

We travel to each location twice a year, Tennessee in early April and late July, and Ohio in early October and late December.  The reason for this is so we can camp in different temperature extremes.  The difference of Tennessee in July and Ohio in December are huge and require different gear, so this allows us to practice using everything.  Prior to our first travel, we sat down together with topographical maps of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.  We mapped the best routes for foot and vehicle travel.  We had to know if we could get to southwest Ohio from east Tennessee without hitting a major city while avoiding the interstate…and vice versa.  The members from Ohio and Indiana and their families meet en route to Tennessee and take a different route each year.  Throughout the trip, they stop to photograph certain areas they believe would be a good resting spot and mark the coordinates on the map.  When my family and I make the trip north (I am the good southerner in this group) I retrace their steps north with photos and coordinates in hand seeing if I agree or disagree with their selected stops.  I also take photos and coordinates of my own if I see something I think is better.  Once we get together, we discuss the trip and compare notes.  As of this writing, we have two preferred routes with several stops marked.   If I am headed north or they are headed south I will know which direction to expect them if we cannot contact each other.   Also, if we know a member is en route and never shows, we have a good idea where to look.


As a group, we agreed with the guns and calibers we would collect.  We went with a Glock 22 in 40 S&W, 12 gauge shotguns, Ruger 10/22 rifle, Savage .308 bolt action rifle, Walther P22 pistol, and an AR-15 in 5.56.  The oldest member of our group (and smartest) carries a Kel-Tec PLR-16 on a pivot harness and carries the Ruger Charger in a holster attached to his pack.  After a long day of hiking uphill, the PLR-16 looked a whole lot better than my AR.  Once again, if you buy it- practice with it.  If you are carrying a gun, don’t just shoot it- carry it! Practice with in every way.  If an AR is your bug-out gun, find out how far you can travel with it comfortably. These are the reasons we decided to start our excursions.  Also, carrying four guns is not practical for long distances.  My group may have 5 or 6 guns, but I do not carry all of them.  On our hikes they are spread between my three sons and wife.  Each one is given a gun and taught not just how to shoot it, but how to carry it and how much ammo they can carry without losing to much comfort or speed.  We also have stored .50 caliber muzzleloaders, bows, crossbows and various hunting, fishing, and camping supplies while they were on clearance during the off-seasons.   

We also coordinated our bug-out bags to be similar, so we know where everyone keeps supplies in their bag.  We follow the first in last out method of organizing our gear. (I would not recommend sharing this information with a group unless these are close friends.  I feel comfortable doing this with my group since we have been close for thirty plus years. ) We use the typical 3 day bag for our trips.  When going out with my sons, I have switched the Eberlestock X1A1 pack, giving my oldest boy my three day pack.  I find this pack is great for carrying my rifle long distances, but you lose the tactical advantage of having the rifle readily available.  Once again, this becomes an issue of practice.  I have decided in a TEOTWAWKI scenario I would probably have two rifles- one in the pack and one slung for carry.   Also, during our trips we all discovered the joy of sleeping in a hammock. Previously, we had carried sleeping bags and slept on the ground. The hammock was much lighter to carry and far more comfortable than sleeping on the ground.  While we all carry a small two or one-man tent, the hammock is the preferred sleeping choice; especially as we are getting older!


Keep in mind while reading this that while we are prepping together, we are also prepping separately.  We each have large families and friends that we expect to arrive at our house if a worst case scenario happens even though we attempt to treat our prepping habit like the first two rules of Fight Club.  Unfortunately, the rules we keep don’t always apply to our wives who will mention our guns and food storage during a conversation with those they are friendly with but not friends.  With that in mind I will briefly describe each bug-out location.

- In Ohio, my friend lives on a 40 acre farm surrounded by other farms to the north, west, and east. There is a large wooded area to the south of his property.  He has a large cache of food stored there and at home he owns in the nearby village.  On his farm, he is currently raising meat rabbits, chickens, goats and horses.  He has a large area set-up for a “survival” garden and two barns.  One barn is arranged with a tack room and can be set-up for temporary housing if necessary.  The rear barn is where the livestock is kept along with their supplies.  His house is large enough to house four families comfortably.  The Ohio farm is also close enough for my cohort in Indiana to travel to without touching an Interstate or city.  If the situation would dictate they need to leave Ohio and head to Tennessee, they would use the farm as a staging area to prepare for the possible dangerous trip to Tennessee.

–In Tennessee the farm is on 200 acres that is mostly wooded.  The area is set-up with several small shooting houses (each equipped with a propane heater, but no air) that are made for hunting, but could be used for a lookout post or temporary housing for a few people.  We have a small garden and recently started orchard, which is in the process of growing to a large orchard with many different types of fruit and nuts.  We have very few farm animals, but are surrounded by a few like-minded neighbors with horses, cows, chickens, and goats.  Our house is also large enough to house four families comfortably.  We also have two barns that could be easily converted to living areas; one barn is currently holding the supplies to complete that task.  My wife has a large extended family in east Tennessee and I would not be surprised if most landed on my door step.  I have discussed this event with a few of her uncles, all of which have a trade skill in farming or mechanical.  My immediate family is storing food for 50 people for one year.  We have split this up between several households that are all within thirty minutes of each other, the plan being that they load up and head to the farm.  I truly believe that the majority of my wife’s family would not make the trip to Ohio if we needed to evacuate our farm.  They are proud people who often discuss fighting to the last man.  While that is great in theory, I plan on protecting my wife and children to the best of my ability.  If that means retreat, I retreat; I plan on living to fight another day.  If they stay and fight, they will cover our exit as we head north.  

If both locations fall or fail we do have a handful of other locations to fall back to.  Only one or two have potential to become long term, but they would give us time to regroup, assess and plan.

In most TEOTWAWKI scenarios communication is impossible.  I am hoping for difficult and improbable, but not impossible.  Best case is we use cell phones to communicate and coordinate our efforts.  We would also discuss on whether to hunker down or travel.  It may be in everyone best interest that they stay north and I stay south.  If cell phones are down we have a ham radio at each farm.  If those go down the back-up plan is signals.  We have made a list of signs we would leave at the farm if we had to abandon them, so the others would know where we are headed.  We also have a small cache of food and ammo for them to resupply with.  Also, we place a few signs on the mapped routes to the farms, in case we both bugged out and did not cross paths.  We each carry a laminated copy of address (coordinates attached) in Tennessee and Ohio that are our fall-back positions.  This list was one of the last things I put together, but will have a great use if we ever have to use it.

End Result

I know prepping with a group will lead to the best possible outcome and I chose to do that with my three closest friends and their families.  When we began prepping and discussing logistics this is the best course of action we could come up with, but the bottom line is if we did not train we would not know.  I can imagine us trying to take I-75 N and having to pass through Knoxville, Richmond, Lexington, and Cincinnati to make it to the Ohio retreat or my friends and the small convoy they have passing through those cities in a worst case scenario and I know it would be madness.  I can imagine the results if we had never discussed ammo or weapons and all showed up with different calibers and little ammo.   How would we fare if we never stored food for a large group and just for our immediate family?  What would we do? How would we handle it if we showed up to one of the farms and it was empty? How well does each member shoot? Does one of us exceed at different roles such as planning, chef, and sharp shooter (growing up together we pretty much already knew where we would fall, but not our wives and children.  My middle child will most likely end up as our sharp shooter)? We would not be as far along in our prepping if we did not start using our gear and training.  Training requires planning, planning requires a vision, and with no vision the people perish.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

As a single mother of two I know and live the word budget all to well. My income is limited and I have wasted a lot of time and money because I was too focused on getting ‘only the best.’ I quickly realized that the path I was on was getting me nowhere. I began to look at past purchases and realized that a lot of my purchases were unnecessary and quite frankly irresponsible. If I wanted to better guarantee the safety and sanity of myself and my young children, I needed to take a different path to self-sufficiency and quickly. In addition, this may all be common sense ideas but I know all too well that in the beginning it is extremely overwhelming and sometimes you may get caught up in all the fancy gadgets and lose sight of what truly matters.

Let’s face it not everyone can afford a retreat, with the nice solar panels’ and armored windows. However, everyone can afford a library book that will increase their skill set making them more valuable to those that can afford a retreat. If you put the effort forth there is tons of literature on tool making, canning, operating ham radios, farming, first aid, animal husbandry, firearms repair, and reloading. Pay close attention to animal husbandry, farming, and try your hand at blacksmithing (start with wrought iron then move to steel). It is critical to know what crop to plant in a certain part of the year along with knowing how to do it. You will also need to look at how you will harvest your crops without a tractor. If you do not have the money to invest in horses and the simple machines that would allow you to plant and harvest your crops via original horse power than you will need to purchase and know how to effectively use the simple hand tools. Buy a scythe to harvest cereal and practice with it. Also, invest in a few spades, pitchforks, garden forks, and some hoes. Owning simple tools and having the know how to use them will make you a great asset. In addition to your non formal training do your best to obtain certified skills, First Responder courses and to become a EMT do not take too long to complete. Even a basic Wilderness First Responder course can save someone’s life, I know because my training saved my three month old. Can’t find a group that is right for you? Plan B: Find others that are in your situation and group purchase land. Some advise against that but I have seen it work. If neither of these are options pre-position several caches in several locations as temporary retreats. Place them on land far from major cities and densely populated areas. Again it doesn’t have to be fancy. It is there to give you additional time and safety for the time being. There are bound to be retreat groups that realize that their six group members are not capable of handling the larger gangs and that they lack certain specialties. At that point if you can offer a valuable skill set and provide additional food that you pre cached away they will be more willing to accept you into their retreat group. However, you can never be too sure so the caches should be set up to enable you to set up a retreat once there is no land surveyor to come a knocking. Remember this is not the time to be picky, that apartment or home you have in the city will not suffice in a WROL situation.

When you’re prepping to bug out and/ or funding is lacking your best friend is going to be caches.  Clearly you cannot fit all the gear you need in a backpack. However, you can have a years’ worth of food and additional ammo if you take the time to bury caches. If you have joined a group that is even better. The caches should be on several different routes to the retreat location and you have the option of pre-positioning gear at the retreat. In addition, remember when I said you can cache items to build upon later? I wasn’t kidding. It may sound absurd but let’s take a minute and discuss this. Lets’ say before the collapse you made valid efforts to secure four acres of land but did not have the funding to build yet nor could you finically afford to move to the middle of nowhere. But you did take the time to cache tools, nails, food, piping to outfit a gravity fed water system and generator (watch Yukon Men -- it is possible) among various other items. (Even better if you were able to secure a shed [at very low cost or free] from CraigsList. Now your family has a temporary shelter you can build upon instead of remaining out in the weather.) Once you arrive at your retreat location you can begin the feverish task of building up a retreat. It is not the ideal scenario to begin building after things have SHTF but again it is playing the hand you have been dealt. The retreat won’t be fancy, but it could sustain you & yours more comfortably with the items you cached.  Now let’s say you buried caches but you did not bury to rebuild you just buried to sustain. You are left trying to figure out how to chop down lumber for a shelter without an axe because the survival axe in your bug out bag quickly failed you, and no nails to build (safe to say you probably didn‘t cache a book on how to build a log cabin primitive style either). Now you are stuck carrying five gallon buckets up from the stream several times a day not only for the family but for the garden that you had to dig up with sticks because you didn’t cache garden tools.  See where I’m going with this? The minor preps can make all the difference and these preps do not have to break the bank. Nor does your retreat have to mimic a five star hotel to ensure your survival (in fact that would probably get you killed).

Network, network, network. Did I mention to network? The prepping community is a library in itself. Meet, talk, sit down and strategize. Not only are you learning you are establishing a relationship that could pay off in the future.

Can’t afford a AR-15 or AK? Well great neither can I. Instead I put money into ammo, and lots of it. I know you’re going to say, “Save that money that you spend on ammo and put it towards that AR-15.” Well guess what time is running out and what I can afford at this time is one to two boxes of ammo a month.

Which leads me to, “Keeping up with the Joneses.” You are not prepping to impress the Joneses. You are prepping for you and yours. The needs and income of your family are different from the next. So who gives a rats butt if the prepper over there disagrees with your purchase? He/She is not the one paying for it! Instead of trying to keep up with the latest gadgets and freeze dried storage of Joe Schmo next door focus your attention on what you can do and become efficient at it. So yea you could spend that $200 on that cool knife your bud has or you could save it and put it towards a reliable firearm or crossbow. So get rid of the notion that because the next guy over has better gear that he is better equipped. Remember knowledge is your biggest asset in a survival situation. While you are out hunting and gathering he will be fumbling to open his latest gadget and scratching his head over the instructions.

You’re stuck on new. Folks that are so fixed on having the pretty aspect they forget that getting certain items second hand saves you a lot of money. Doing so you just might be able to afford that AR-15. Again when you’re in the field you will be kicking yourself in the hind end for only having that .22 because that is what you could afford at a retail price. Network; find an individual that knows guns. See if they are willing to look at a few used firearms in return for a service you specialize in. In certain disasters old is worth more than new.  That Bugatti Veyron Super Sport is as good as scrap in an EMP situation. Garage selling is a great way to find preps for cheap. For example, I recently purchased a camo waterproof bib and jacket set for ten dollars at a garage sale, an insulated bib for five bucks, and camo pants for a dollar. With that said there are some items that deserve more of an investment.

Name brands….yes some items are worth their investment. For example if you are prepping to bug out an adequate sleeping bag is a must (if you live in a large populated area such as Denver let’s face it you have to leave). There is a huge difference in a Wiggy'sbrand sleeping bag versus a Wally World sleeping bag. Another area that should not be skimped on is boots. You will be doing a lot of walking/ running and the last thing you need is to be trying to do so barefoot. Trust me…those Wally World “waterproof” boots are only waterproof for the first few uses. However, do you really need that fancy $300 flashlight? Probably not. Buy two headlamps and put the rest aside for an adequate sleeping bag. When it comes down to it don’t get stuck on the latest fanciest gadgets with that expensive price tag due to the name. When deciding on a product you need to look at longevity and reliability and ask yourself can I get the same quality if I buy an off brand?

Priorities. You need to sit down with your partner (or a pen and piece of paper if you’re like me) and discuss what follows: water purification, shelter, food, and self-defense. Clearly you will have to set priorities within those categories’ to.  A priority should not be fancy shelving if you are on a budget. “Sorry baby boy we can’t eat next month because I wanted my prepping closet to look nice.” That money you spend on those shelves could buy your family an additional month of food or even a firearm in some cases. Call the bakeries and ask for buckets, buy five dollar totes are even better go out on trash days…you will find a ton! People throw away the most useful and expensive items. I once went to the dumpster and found several books that retail well over $15 a piece and name brand clothing such as Under Armour with the tags still on! 

She’d cook a dish and we’d go ‘Mama, w’ats this here, hanh?’ And she’d say, Children, that’s a mus-go. It mus’ go down yo’ throat.” - Justin Wilson

Adjust your skeptical eaters’ view of food now! My family began that at an early age.
Half of the time I did not know what type of meat I was eating…and for that fact if I’m eating at my fathers these days I still don‘t. If it was brown it was beef, if it was white it was chicken or turkey flavored differently. We raised rabbits and I never knew until I was older that I was eating my ‘pet’ rabbit. Dad would simply make sure that he replaced it with the same color rabbit which explains why I was only allowed to have one specific color….

Statistics show that you may have to offer a child the same food fifteen to sixteen times before they will accept it. So offer your local game now. Get a cookbook and learn how to work with it. If you have an infant and have the ability to breast feed, do so. Formula is expensive, it is easier to put aside some to supplement your child’s diet than to store one years’ worth. Can’t afford to stock up on freeze dried food items? For me that wasn’t a big deal. Down here it’s, “What would you like with your rice tonight?” You can pretty much guarantee that either rice or beans (or both) is in a dish from jambalaya to gumbo, to red beans and rice, all the way to black eyed peas & rice. And it is soooo good! These can be some of the simplest dishes to the most complex, figure out how you like them now.

Before you begin purchasing preps do a inventory of the items you have. Since my son has a skin disorder I already had a pretty decent stash of medical supplies. Far from enough but more than most. However, it will expire or run out no matter the amount I store. Knowing this I’m trying to find alternative ways to treat his skin with what nature provides.  Doing this I have taken one step closer to the realization that the supply chain may not be reestablished before my stockpile has run out.  Your preps should reflect that chance also. In each category you need to address the what if scenario of the grid being down for a decade or two. Yes you may have food and supplies to last for a few years but do you have the knowledge to live off the land once it runs out? Realize material items are just that…items. Knowledge and know how will outlast any material object.

Just a few additional tips to make your money go further. If I receive change I ask for it in nickels. Since nickels are 25% nickel and 75% cooper they are worth more than their face value yet you pay no more for it. It is real easy to get lost in the beans, bullets, and band aids prep list; however, there are plenty of other preps that are needed. Go to garage sales and pick up clothing for your children in every size you can. It is better to spend ten bucks on twenty outfits for the future now than having to barter precious ammo later. Also, tents, lighting, and shoes are a great addition to your preparations and are usually found cheaply at garage sales. I check CraigsList a lot and I can always find free firewood and pallets. Even if you just have land it would be wise to stockpile fire wood there. The McCormick brand seasoning packets are relatively cheap and are a great way to add flavor and calories to bland dishes. Even now my children and I enjoy rice and a beef burger smothered in brown gravy. In addition, I was unaware until I read a article that individuals on food stamps could purchase plants and seeds as long as they produce food. My local Wal-Mart sells a small variety of heirloom seeds and Whole Foods sales bulk wheat along with various other bulk items. Obviously, if you are on food stamps your budget is tight but try to set aside a few dollars in your budget to purchase some fruits for the future. Always look for multipurpose items to get more for your money. The WhisperLite International by MSR burns white gas, kerosene, unleaded gasoline and IsoPro Butane. It would make a great addition to your Bug Out Bag or even your retreat. With the bountiful of vehicles that will line the roads you could have fuel for a while. In addition, there are a few other common places that allow for cheaper purchases. Sam’s has great deals on long term food storage especially on wheat if you cannot get into a LDS cannery soon (ours has a nine to ten month waiting list). No the wheat is not organic and non-GMO but you won’t starve to death. Visit your local dollar stores. I purchased over twenty seed packets for under three dollars because it was the end of the season. Also, eBay is a great place to pick up items. For your bug out bag you can obtain a large Alice pack and frame for under thirty dollars, it is cheap and has proven its’ keep. There are great deals on everything from wool socks to boots to the military poncho and poncho liner.

It takes work, time, sweat, blood, and some tears occasionally. And a lot of prayer. But if you are willing to work overtime, pick up a second job, get up early and hit the flea market and garage sales. It is possible on a low income. Bartering, second hand, and education is going to be your Emancipation Proclamation or Thirteenth Amendment, whichever you see fit. What it boils down to is having the motivation to work towards becoming a asset without having a hefty wallet. An the willingness to look at alternative ways to prep without allowing others view to dictate your path to self sufficiency.

On a deeper note, I would love to keep my children’s lives normal after the SHTF but after realizing the harsh reality of my budget and knowing how the majority of the population will act I realized that I couldn’t. The reality was hard to swallow as much as I wanted to save for all the luxuries that a retreat offers. My fears of the chaos that will ensue after SHTF is justified, the nation witnessed that during and after Hurricane Katrina. So I regrouped, re-strategized and began thinking logically on how I could best keep food in my babies’ mouths and keep them safe, the best I could. No it is not glamorous nor will it be as comfortable as it would be if we had a retreat set up but at least I’m doing my best to prevent them from starving. So please don’t put off prepping because you can’t afford the best or you feel you just don’t have the money. Spend a few extra dollars and do your best to get your beans, bullets, and band aids in place prior to the coming collapse. Because in the end eating rice and beans is better than watching your children starve to death.

Lastly, I have a question. BriteLyt lanterns advertises the ability to burn a variety of fuels including kerosene, diesel, gasoline, white gas, biodiesel, paint thinner (not to sure how I feel about that one), mineral spirits, charcoal lighter fluid, lamp oils, Coleman fuel, and JP fuels. However, due to the price I have not had the ability to try one. My question to SurvivalBlog readers is, have you tried one and if so are they worth their investment (for me the price tag is a couple months of my prepping budget)?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

We have all heard the old idiom: "One man's trash is another man's treasure." This basically means that something that one person considers worthless may be considered valuable by someone else. This could not be further from the truth in the mind of any survivor. You could branch out into every aspect and area of survival with this mindset at your core. Water, food, fire, shelter, and security can all be obtained with this in mind.
I believe that in a survival situation and in everyday life that everything around you is valuable and has multiple uses. I also believe that everyday life is survival. From the moment of your birth until right now, you are in a survival situation. If this weren't the case you would not be here. It is just that in an actual "survival situation" that the stakes become higher. It is how you perceive things around you, and how you choose to use them that will give you the edge in a "survival situation".
Preparing and being prepared for any and all situations is something that I highly recommend. However, this may not always be conceivable, or you may not have certain items with you at the time of need or when disaster strikes. In certain survival situations you may not be resupplied for a great length of time or not at all. It is imperative in those moments that you and I think outside of the box. Virtually everything around you and I has multiple uses and purposes, but it is up to you and I to use our most important survival weapon and tool to discover those other uses for those items. This weapon and tool is our minds.

For years I have slowly integrated all parts of a "survivor’s mindset" into my wife and kids, but I always try and reinforce keys aspects to them, and one of those main aspects is the mental ability to "improvise"! For a long while I had shown my son that there are multiple uses for any single item or thing he comes across. I have also shown him many survival techniques over the years. To drive this point home to my 12 year old son I took him to a picnic campsite up in the mountains. The point of the trip was to show him that he could survive even if he lacked certain items. He didn't know what we were taking the drive for until we got there.  After arriving at the campsite I told him, “Pretend right now that you were in a survival situation or that you got lost up here in the woods. What would you do?"

To my amazement he just gave me a grin, stopped and sat down. He then thought about what I had just said for a moment. Next he pulled everything that he had out of his pockets and took inventory which consisted of the following:
A survival whistle which had a compass, magnifying glass, and thermometer.
And a stick of bubble gum
He then looks at me and says, "It's not much is it?" I told him, "Nope it sure isn't" He then said, “Well, I suppose I can do what you taught me to do." "And what's that?” I asked.
"I can forage around and see what I find.” he said.

He first walked around the campsite and found a plastic bag, 3 metal bottle caps, a lighter with no fuel but flint still sparked, a used 3 foot piece of multi-strand white rope, a torn piece of paper, and a large coffee can. He then walked along the nearby creek with me in pursuit. Along this creek he gathered up an empty plastic water bottle, a glass bottle, a tangled wad of fishing line which had 2 hooks attached, a small bait container with cotton and 2 weights inside.  On the way back to the campsite he found a broken piece of a vehicle side
mirror on the road.

Then my son took inventory of what he had again. I then asked him, "What can you use that stuff for?” How will all this stuff help your situation?"
"For food I could try using the hooks and weights to catch fish with bugs as bait, or at worst I could try making lures with the hooks and metal bottle caps," he said
"I know I'll need water and I could collect it from that creek using the plastic or glass bottles. Maybe after I got a fire going or I found some charcoal around the campsite I could make a water filter. I'd have to use the plastic water bottle for that. The coffee can would be for boiling the water and cooking food.
"For fire I think I could try putting some sparks on that cotton as long as it's dry and hopefully it will turn into a flame." I also have this piece of paper to help me along with the magnifying glass on my survival whistle.
"Shelter would have to be made using the rope or rope strands and maybe tying branches together to make a simple shelter." He kept on glancing up at me as if to see if I approved, but I kept quiet. I wanted to hear what he would come up with. I was thinking in my mind as he talked,” Not bad, not bad at all kid!"
He continued:
I guess the fire would give me some sort of safety and security. I could use the broken piece of mirror for signaling or use my whistle to try and get someone's attention.
For the rest of the afternoon I watched as he put his plan for each aspect of survival into action. He succeeded in every one of them by himself. (Keep in mind all local and state laws were kept during this exercise.)
At the end of the day he said, "The plastic bag is pretty much useless.” "What are you going to carry all this stuff around in?” I asked. "You're right dad. I guess there is no such thing as trash!” he said. We both laughed as he enlightened us with that final comment. Not only did my son gain additional confidence that day but we also picked up what most others would consider trash or litter and we cleaned up that area.

My son was absolutely right in saying “there is no such thing as trash”, and in a survival situation there isn’t! Everything becomes useful. In our day to day lives we throw things away in the garbage all the time. Have you ever stopped to think what other uses those items might have? It is absolutely mind blowing all the ideas that will flood to your mind if you asked yourself this question every time you open the trash can to throw something away! You could save yourself hundreds if not thousands of dollars in thinking like this. I'm not telling you to be a messy, disorganized hoarder, of course not. What I am saying is to stop and readjust your way of thinking about everything around you and their potential uses. In a  TEOTWAWKI scenario you will be glad that you started thinking this way. There is no such thing as trash! It's all treasure in some form or another. It's just up to you how you use and apply those items into your situation. By all means start preparing. Educate yourself and your family about survival, prepare your survival kits and bug out bags, and store up emergency supplies and food but remember this simple yet effective core idea that there basically is no such thing as trash. You can recycle and reintegrate almost anything back into your inventory and situation to help you. You can combine what others consider junk items together and make useful things to help you and those around you. For example if you needed an alternative source of power you could make a simple generator using a motor, an alternator, electrical wires, a V belt, a cast iron pulley, and some mounting brackets.  However keep in mind that you may have to obtain these items from different places and different items. The motor could be obtained from a lawnmower, the alternator from an old car, the pulley from a beaten down belt driven air conditioner, etc. What others have considered to be their trash could now become your treasure! In its simplest form this would be a DC charging system but with the addition of a DC to AC power inverter it also becomes an AC generator system with battery back up. In simpler survival ideas using this mindset you could make a simple water filter using a plastic water bottle, sand, and charcoal, a thrown away soda pop can could be used to start you a fire by polishing the bottom and using it like a reversed magnifying glass with the sun. There are endless ideas, tools, weapons, and survival supplies that can be made or obtained with items around you.

In a  TEOTWAWKI scenario the average person who is not prepared and survival minded is limited by their supplies. Society has too many people accustomed to turning on the faucet and expecting water, going to the nearest store when their pantries and refrigerators supplies run low, going to a restaurant when they get hungry, and filling up their vehicles with gas when needed. These people sadly will not be ready for a TEOTWAWKI situation. The ease of society I believe has weakened and blinded the average person into thinking that the comforts and convenience of everyday life will always be there when needed. It’s not impossible for the average person to pull together and survive this type of situation but it will be that much harder for them since they are so accustomed to the ease of societal living. It’s not a matter of if something of this scale will occur but just a matter of when. For the survival minded person, survivalist, or prepper at least you will be that much more prepared than the average person. However, please keep in mind that if the economy collapses, or there is a nuclear catastrophe, a world wide viral outbreak, etc, etc, that known commerce will come to a halt. Supplies as we know it will come to a halt. At least those who have prepared will have a greater chance versus those who have not. Never deceive yourselves into thinking that you have prepared supply wise for everything, and indefinitely. At some point you will have to resupply something. You will either have to barter and trade, or forage for what items you need. Keep in mind that God gave us all our most important piece of survival gear and it sits right above our necks. Our brains and our minds are an awesome tool if we are willing to see through the right lens. Most of the world has been explored by man. Man by nature leaves things behind either by throwing them away or seeing things as junk and abandoning that stuff for others. How you see that stuff and what you do with it can help you greatly.

Over the years I have used the term survival extensively but I don’t want you and I to just hang by a thread surviving. I don’t want you and I to just survive. I want you and I to THRIVE.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of survive is:

  1. to remain alive or in existence: live on
  2. to continue to function or prosper

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of thrive is:

  1. to grow vigorously : flourish
  2. to gain in wealth and possessions: prosper
  3. to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances

These two words sound the same but quite surprisingly they are different. I would rather thrive than just survive. I don’t just want to exist or continue on but rather I want to flourish and prosper despite my circumstances. My friends we need to think outside the box. We need to improvise when necessary. I believe the key to thriving rather than just relying on supplies and surviving is the ability to improvise. These two sayings go hand in hand and they are:
Necessity is The Mother of Invention and One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure. Both require you and I to think outside the box and realize that if you really need something that you will find a way to do it or acquire it. The items you need could be right in front of you and you may not yet realize it. Some uses for things may be obvious but they may require a little elbow grease to get them working. For example a few weeks ago on my way to the city dump I noticed a wheelbarrow on the side of one of the large dumpsters that was going to be thrown away. Upon inspecting the wheelbarrow all it needed was a new tire and handles and maybe a new paint job. After asking permission I immediately took it with me and fixed it up. The cost was about $5 for a can of spray paint since I already had a tire for it. It looked and functioned like new. I just saved myself at least $145-$150 for this particular brand of wheelbarrow. See not only can you apply this concept in a survival situation but in your day to day life. The money you save in day to day living using this way of thinking could be used for additional supplies and gear, bills or a vacation.

In summary when something thrusts us into a major survival situation you and I will already be thinking this way and you and I will go from just surviving to thriving. This article could go on describing hundreds of thousands of things around you in a survival situation that may help you but it is up to you and your ingenious and inventive mind to figure those things out based on your particular needs. Remember if my 12 year old son can put this mindset into action then so can you and I. It’s not the one with the most toys and ready supplies who wins in the end but the one who can use his or her mind and faith that will endure to the end. Thank You for taking the time to read this article and as always, “Take Care, Be Prepared and May God Lead and Guide You in every situation that you face!”

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My husband and I are new to the concept of prepping and self-sufficient living, having just begun the process in the last 30 to 60 days. Our journey when world events began to heat up in the Middle East and we started asking “what if” questions. Our ignorance means that we have a lot of learning, practicing and catching up to do. I am fairly confident that we are not the only ones to slowly become aware of the necessity of preparing. I thought that I would share what we have done to get started in the hopes that this information will be helpful to anyone else that is new to prepping. So, how should one start if they have done absolutely nothing thus far?

God Prepares A Way

Even though I titled this “Starting from Nothing”, that is not an entirely accurate phrase. God prepares a way for us, even when we are not fully aware of the long-term ramifications of His design. Our journey has been a gradual one, without us even realizing it. A few years ago I read a book titled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which raised our awareness about where our food comes from. Then we watched the video Food, Inc.. and that really scared us! I began to cook from scratch as much as possible, buying what I could from butchers and farmers’ markets. Unfortunately, we lived in a large city with a tiny lot. Gardening was not an option and I felt limited in our choices. But, for some reason that I cannot really explain, I purchased two books: Back to Basics and The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It.

In June 2011, God opened a way for our family to move to a small community of less than 2,000 residents in northern Wisconsin. We were able to negotiate a 12-year fixed [interest rate] land contract for a good sized house on a larger than average city lot. It was too late to plant a garden, but I was able to negotiate for some fresh produce from neighbors, members of our church and the local Amish community. I learned how to can and borrowed a dehydrator and learned how to dehydrate our food. Granted, it was not enough to feed our family through the winter, but it was a start.

I feel that God was preparing us with this house! Not only is the house a good, sturdy home built in the 1920s, but we found a buried outhouse pit, a buried sand point well, and learned that the house originally had a rainwater cistern and root cellar in the basement. While we are not planning on constructing an outhouse anytime soon (we did dig it up once already and collected over 200 antique bottles) or repair the rainwater cistern (illegal in our state), it is reassuring to know that the house was once self-sustaining. In the meantime, I am working to get the well permitted so that we can install a hand pump, as well as researching ways to collect rainwater and build a root cellar.

During the cold winter months, I had begun reading various blogs on homesteading, mostly to learn more about canning and dehydrating. I came across a recommendation for a video on gardening titled Back to Eden. This video taught us how to garden without rototilling, irrigating, fertilizing and minimizing weeding. My husband and I were intrigued, especially since it emphasizes how to garden in a Biblical fashion. In 2012, we planted our first garden ever. For novice gardeners, God truly blessed our efforts. We also learned a lot! While we enjoyed some of the fruits of our labors fresh, I made an effort to can as much as possible. I was able to preserve almost 400 half-pints, pints and quarts of fresh produce, mostly harvested from our garden. And I learned that we need a much bigger garden to store enough food to feed our family through one winter!

It was while researching and reviewing this Biblical gardening method that I first began to come across various sites, blogs and videos that were written by other preparing families. At first, I admit to thinking it was just another method of hoarding, albeit one that was more politically correct! Once again, God began to work on me and show me in verse after verse how preparing is important. I purchased the one book that everyone seemed to refer to – the LDS Preparedness Manual. I started with the free downloadable version, but soon realized that I needed a printed version in order to share it with my husband. It was while reading the printed version that I first learned about SurvivalBlog. We are now learning and preparing in leaps and bounds.

You Are a Talented Individual

We must also recognize that God has given us some talents naturally. We all have hobbies or activities that we enjoy doing. These same activities, depending on what they are, may stand you in good stead while preparing. For as long as I can remember I have been an avid reader. Until my mid-thirties, I read anything and everything regardless of content. Today I am a much more discriminating reader, but I still read a lot. I love books and absolutely hate returning them to the library or selling them. Because of this tendency, my husband likes to joke that we have our own personal library! This love of reading will be beneficial should we ever be in a grid down situation. I will have a plethora of entertainment and resources that I can turn to as needed. Since we are now focusing on preparing and self-sufficient living, the bookshelf will keep me supplied in new reading materials for at least a few months. (I confess I have already ordered seven of them!) I read three of Mr. Rawles’ books over the course of a few days and am anxiously waiting for the fourth to arrive. (As a side note, I highly recommend that any new preparer read them!)

I am also a crafty kind of person – I love to work with my hands to create things. I love to sew, crochet, cross-stitch and quilt. Some of these skills can be used to help keep my family clothed and warm; it can also be used to fill long, cold winter evenings. I currently have three traditional sewing machines, but I am looking for a good treadle machine. While I can sew by hand and like to hand quilt, I confess that sewing or mending clothes by hand is not my favorite activity! I would much rather use a sewing machine. In addition to keeping me busy now, these activities are also bringing us a small amount of income that can be dedicated to helping us prepare.

I love to cook and for years have been a very good customer of Pampered Chef! I just have to play with different tools and gadgets that help make cooking fun. Fortunately, most of the tools that I have purchased over the years do not require electricity to work and will also be helpful long into the future. I also enjoy trying out new recipes, modifying them so that I can make them from scratch as much as possible. Coupled with my love of books, this means that I have a lot of cookbooks. As we begin to build our food storage, I will be reviewing my cookbooks thoroughly to find those meals that would adapt to wood stove or campfire cooking using cast iron skillets and pots. Now, I am much more aware and selective in the tools that I buy for my kitchen and am slowly converting everything to cast iron cookware.

Do Your Homework

While some preparations fall along the lines of common sense, it is still important that to research before doing anything else. In our case, I watched a few videos on food storage, solar systems, end time prophecies, etc. Instantly, I realized that we are woefully unprepared should anything happen tomorrow. We needed to start making some changes right away. While the resources I discovered were very helpful, they all had one thing in common – lists of necessities – and some significant capital requirements.

It’s really easy to feel overwhelmed, especially when there are a lot of lists. SurvivalBlog’s list of lists is great because each list is broken out into different categories. While scanning each list, I was able to make notes on what things we already had and to start having discussions about what we needed with my husband. My husband and I tend to complement one another very well – I tend to think more of the day-to-day, as in, what tools would I need to do this task today if there was no electricity; my husband, on the other hand, is more big picture – what do we  need to do to protect ourselves from nuclear fallout. By having the lists as a discussion point, we are able to prioritize based on our needs and concerns instead of scratching our head and trying to think of the “what ifs” and “what do we need” questions.

Where Will the Money Come From?

Very few things in this life are free, and unfortunately, everything is going up in price as the value of our dollar drops. Our family is larger than average – we have six children – and so our budget is fairly tight to begin with. With just enough funds to “make ends meet”, our first challenge was raising money to start purchasing things we would need. While the List of Lists is a great resource, I think we can all agree that it still requires some funding!

I began to systematically go through all of the boxes, cupboards, closets and storage to identify those items that would be good for future bartering (clothes, shoes, coats, snow pants, baby gear, furniture, etc.) and those that would require electricity to work or were not even being used. I think that it is safe to say that everyone has things hiding away that they only use rarely or that, in the event of a power grid outage, would never use again. Do we really need to keep these modern “conveniences”?

For example, my husband and I cleaned out the “storage” area in our basement. We temporarily boxed all the clothing items until we could obtain some plastic containers. Eventually, I sorted the clothes by gender and size and generated an inventory prior to relocating the bins to long-term storage in the garage.

We also identified the unused baby furniture and other “able to be traded” items and placed them into long-term storage in the garage. While we currently do not need these items, we felt it was best to save them for two reasons: (1) just in case we were blessed with another little one (which is entirely possible since our youngest just turned a year old) or (2) in the event we needed to barter in the future for something we do need.

We also assembled in a separate pile unneeded but potentially useful items such as crutches and canes. We do not have any first aid kits assembled yet, but we do have a wide range of mixed medical items all throughout the house. We are consolidating what we do have so that we can organize it into one area of the house and make wise choices in purchasing what we need – opposed to purchasing what we think we need and ending up with too much of something and not enough of another.

Finally, we put all the electric items, such as a countertop cookware and electric skillets in one pile and the items that we no longer use, such as a bill organizer and gold embossed stemware into a second pile. All of these items were cleaned; inspected for flaws; tested for condition; and photographed for sale placement.

Depending on the time of year, those items that are set aside to be sold can be managed in a variety of ways, whichever suits your particular family and timing. Because we did not start our prepping until early fall, when rummage sales are at a seasonal low, I opted to post many of our items on EBay for quick auction or sale. I took the time to research a little bit about each item that we were selling, looking at comparables already on the site. This helped me to price the “buy it now” slightly lower than our competitors. It is important to note here that timing is critical – we need to start preparing now and so I was not very concerned about “profit”. Remember, most of this stuff has simply been collecting dust in a cupboard, closet or other storage area so a quick infusion of cash was more important than getting the most profit. With that being said, I am not selling us short either. Researching the competition helps ensure the most “bang for your buck” is achieved.

As items were purchased, the funds became available in our PayPal account. I have opted to not transfer this money to our personal account just yet. Instead, I am using the funds to purchase things that we need, such as kerosene lamps and cast iron cookware, from eBay.

A word of caution when purchasing online – make sure you know what the going rate is for certain items so that you do not pay more than you would elsewhere and always keep shipping costs in mind as they can add up quickly! Resist the temptation to “buy it now” just to get the item quickly – you will most likely be able to get the item for less if you are patient and participate in the auction. For example, I got one cast iron pan for $6.38 plus shipping of $9.36. Had I opted to “buy it now” I would have paid $19.99 plus the shipping. This allowed me to have an additional $13.61 to purchase something else we needed.

Any items that did not sell the first time around were relisted. After a few attempts, if they still have not sold, I put a price sticker on it and set it aside for sale in the spring during the community wide rummage sale.

The lack of funds gave me a feeling of being overwhelmed. There was so much that we needed and the lists seemed to go on and on. By being proactive and conscientious, I have been able to start making the necessary purchases a little at a time. This helped me to feel a little less overwhelmed and to feel like we were at least making some progress.

Shop Once Per Month

I do our grocery shopping once each month, with only occasional trips for extra milk, bread and eggs. I have been shopping this way for almost three years and we usually have plenty of food when it is time for me to shop again each month. This enables me to feel confident that I have at least enough food to feed my family for about six weeks. Throw in all the food that I have canned and I could probably go two or three months longer, although I admit creativity would be required for meal planning. As I started preparing for my family this habit really helped me. I continue to shop once per month, but buy more than my standard maintained quantity. For example, I like to have at least 50 pounds of sugar on hand, especially during canning season. I will gradually increase that to 100 pounds by buying a bag or two extra each month.

For the long-term planning, I am keeping an eye out for an antique ice box to replace my refrigerator with. Unfortunately, the space is tiny for storage, so I am looking at ways to preserve my food while minimizing my dependency on freezer and refrigerator space. We are also researching how to construct a root cellar and have purchased the book Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables. Our home had one at some point in the past, but a previous resident filled it in and cemented it over. We are also looking at doubling the size of our pantry (originally the fruit cellar of the home) so that I have more space to store my canned goods. Finally, I am going to start preparing five gallon food buckets with preplanned meals and recipes for long-term storage by taking advantage of bulk purchases from the local Amish.

Review Your Assets with a SHTF Eye

Every living thing has core needs: shelter, food, water and clothing. As a new preparer, everything we look at and evaluate has to fall into one of these categories. Some are easier than others. Initially, we are preparing within our current residence. We don’t necessarily have time or money to buy a retreat elsewhere, so the first step is evaluating what we currently have and determining the best way to make it work for us. For example, shelter. Check. We live in a house that we are purchasing. But how livable would the house be if we did not have utilities? Here is a list of things that we are reviewing right now with this in mind:

  • Carpeting – Yuck without a vacuum. Fortunately, under all of our carpeting is hardwood flooring. We are immediately working to refinish and restore the floors. These will be easier to sweep and mop without utilities then carpeting.
  • Water – We are on the city system even though we have a well in our yard (that a previous resident buried). While we are working to get a permit and to have a hand pump installed, we are purchasing a pump just in case. We are assuming that if TSHTF, permits will not be an issue. We are also adding four rain barrels to the gutters.
  • Heat – Living in northern Wisconsin means cold, cold winters. We are not called the frozen tundra for nothing. We are starting to research a good wood stove that we can use for cooking and heating. Unfortunately, a stove tends to be very expensive and we have heard from others, cheaper is not better when it comes to stoves. We are watching for estate sales and auctions in the local Amish community. But a wood stove means we need cast iron cookware, too. The cookware is something that I can easily purchase on EBay in the short term and at auctions and estate sales over the summer.
  • Laundry – I am a traditional American in love with the washer and dryer. But, I also am a bit nostalgic when it comes to seeing clothes blowing in a summer breeze. In other words, we do have a clothesline and pins, but not much else. We are looking at hand wringers, plungers, washboards and galvanized tubs for laundry.
  • Lighting – Right now, no one really thinks about lighting. A flick of the switch and we have light. One of the first purchases that I made was for kerosene lamps. I chose a mix of metal and glass ones. Our logic is that the metal ones will sit on tables and counters where children will be more likely to use them and glass ones to put up on higher surfaces or in wall mounts, where the children will not be able to reach them. While I would have preferred to purchase only metal ones, there simply were not enough of them available for sale and at reasonable prices. My goal was to have at least six lamps quickly. Once the initial six were purchased, I could be more selective and get exactly what I want. Should we lose power tomorrow, we will be able to have some light (at least, until I run out of kerosene, that is).

The above are only a few examples. But how do you determine what you need and in what priority? For me, the best way to determine this has been fairly easy because I make lists of things that would not work as they are currently set up should TSHTF. As I do my daily chores, I am very conscientious of what would have to change for us to be more self-sufficient. For example, doing dishes made me aware that I need more large pots to heat water and a way to make homemade dish soap. I have discovered that once you start to have a mindset of preparing, God will open your eyes to what you are dependent on for “convenience”.

Finally, I just want to advise you to keep your chin up and take one day at a time. Try to do something that will help your preparedness level every day – no matter how small or insignificant it appears. Keep a small, portable notebook close by so that you can jot down any ideas or concerns right away. Pray and ask for guidance on which direction you should focus on next. You may just be surprised at the direction God will take you – I know I was!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

If you’re just now catching on to the need to prep, it’s not too late, but to be done effectively, it will cost you some money up front.
There are plenty of suggestions and web sites galore for the budget-challenged to prep ranging from buying a little extra each week---see the LDS shopping list for newlyweds---to hunting, fishing and foraging on state land. At the other extreme are those who can afford survivalist-consultants to build and stock extensive underground bunkers, which require the employ of a staff including farmers and Blackwater-type security. But, since no one else is, I’m going to focus on the needs of someone who needs to get up to speed fast and has enough money to cover it.  And getting up-to-speed has recently been sped up to two years of preps from six months.
Let’s get going.

Time’s Running Out

There are already sporadic shortages of various consumer products and, depending on how bad things get, there may come a time when some items aren’t available at all, especially things that come from far away. A few years ago when surveying the wreckage after the 2008 crash, a consumer-products analyst was worried about what choice the consumer would be left with as the Great Recession deepened. Yes, I know, choice will be the least of our concerns going forward, but you should stock up on what’s important to your family now while it’s still possible.
The take-away here is not that the needs of what’s left of the middle class are different from anyone else’s. The point, again, and unfortunately, is that it will take that kind of income or enough room left on credit cards to catch up to storing two years of necessities. And preferably, this should be accomplished before the November elections in the US. Our long-time friend, FerFAL, has a few insights about what to expect from mid-November (scroll down to What will Happen in the USA after the Elections.)

Everybody’s got to Eat

The shopping list below will cover bulk purchases and storage of food, water and minimal toiletries in quantities sufficient to get by for two years. You can still buy the dips when favourite items go on sale; however, I don’t think there’s enough time left to use the Mormon’s weekly shopping list that is spread out over a year.

Whether or not you buy into TEOTWAWKI mentality or not, at the very least, storms and other natural disasters can keep you running your generator for a week or a lot longer. This happened in the Northeast during last October’s freak snowstorm and happens repeatedly in other parts of the country. Oh, wait a sec; you do have a generator, don’t you? It’s at the top of 100 Things that Disappear First. You gotta have a generator. You also gotta have fuel for it, which you gotta store. If it’s gasoline, you’ll need a gasoline additive like Sta-Bil. Get the original formula for the [gasoline] generator and lawn tractor, Sta-Bil marine for your boat if you have one and Sta-Bil diesel for your Mercedes.

Talking about Mercedes, when the drought reached crisis stage in Somalia more than year ago, many Somalis---but not all---had to walk for days, weeks and sometimes a month to get to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. One woman who didn’t have to walk was approached by reporters as she got out of a car with her kids. Her car was a Mercedes, but she didn’t have food and had to go to the refugee, camp. And why didn’t she have food; why didn’t she barter her car, cell phone or expensive wristwatch for food? Because there wasn’t any. There wasn’t any food at any price. Can it happen here? The US had a drought this year after a lousy growing season last year. The effects of these things are cumulative. So’s radiation poisoning, BTW, but we’ll get to that some other time.

Many items will end up in short supply or not be available at all. Note the Iranian diplomatic staff stocking up on consumer products (at dollar stores, mind you; times must be tough over there) while in New York to attend UN meetings. You’d think they’d have a few bucks, so I guess the items they bought were no longer available in Iran. Their currency plunging 20-30% over a day or two didn’t help either. I hope no one still thinks it can’t happen here.

Rule of Thumb

The rule of thumb has been to store six months of food, cash and anything else you need. Some think two years are safer and I do too. While you may have to increase your food budget 100-fold short term, keep in mind that this is a no-lose proposition. Anything you buy today will be more expensive tomorrow. So, as you effectively pull consumption forward, you will be average-costing down your household expenses. Even if prepping in anticipation of scarcity doesn’t grab you, blunting the effect of inflation, or a potential jobless stretch, should. I don’t see much of a downside here. Preps not used can be donated to a local food pantry for a tax deduction. If you have the extra funds, that would be a nice idea anyway.

Two Years’ Worth...

Drinking Water: This is considered the most important prep. The plastic containers water is sold in leach so you should store drinking water in glass containers. I bought gallon glass jars from: 

The Mayo Clinic recommends [a minimum of] 72 oz/day for women and 104oz/day for men [for a sedentary lifestyle]. Together, that’s about a gallon a day with enough left over to fill your cat or dog’s bowl. FreshWaterSystem’s price break for gallon jars is $4.24 for 24+. Here’s where the bucks come in. If you want to safely store drinking water for six months for two adults and a cat, that would be about 180 [one gallon] jars for $339.20; one year $678.40; and two years $1,356.80. The plastic jugs that you buy milk in are now formulated to biodegrade, but can be used to store water for bathroom use should it not be forthcoming from the faucet.

Tip: You can fine tune water purity by filtering it through a Big Berkey or other countertop water filter. If you’re looking at second homes, with prices coming down, look for something with a well. If you can dig a well where you are now, do so and install a solar pump.

Adequate Nutrition: The recommended daily calories for women* are 2,400—1,600/day depending on age and 3,000—2,000/day for men.** The easiest way to get sufficient calories and

Tip: Rice, beans and maybe a few other veggies can be made quite palatable with teriyaki or soy sauce. I bought a lifetime’s supply of Kikkoman Teriyaki Sauce at $39 a 36-bottle case, which was a bargain over grocery-store prices.
Sautéing veggies and meats in olive oil improves the taste and adds nutrients. Oil lasts several years in unopened glass bottles or metal cans; just make sure you get it in glass bottles or cans.

*A woman aged 19 to 30 years needs between 2,000 and 2,400 calories daily; 31 to 50 years 1,800 to 2,200 calories daily; those over age 51 need 1,600 to 2,200 calories daily.

Males** ages 19 to 30 need 2,400 to 3,000 calories a day, those 31 to 50 need 2,200 to 3,000, depending on level of activity. Males over age 51 need 2,000 to 2,800 calories a day.

Coffee and Tea: I don’t think it’s asking too much to include coffee and tea in a survivalist diet. carries several brands and sizes of coffee and tea including non-dairy creamer, which probably has a shelf life of infinity. Honey will last indefinitely too. Ground coffee in an unopened can will last two years or longer. Tea in bags in their unopened box or transferred to a lidded glass jar will last at least two years.

Spices and Condiments: Among common household items that store indefinitely are salt, sugar (preferably stored in glass or metal cans), honey and mayonnaise (unopened in a glass jar).
Those that last two years or more include dried or powdered garlic (2 years), dried or powdered onion (2-3 years); ground pepper (2-3 years); peppercorns (3-4 years). Here’s a good site to lookup shelf life:

Dollar-Store Spices: Prices are so much better at dollar stores that, for these items, I suggest actually shopping in a store. If you don’t want to spend the time, but are okay with spending the extra money, there are online sources. You can also buy cases of spices from the dollar store.

Pet Food: From a vet: “Generally speaking, if you buy the more expensive all-natural foods, the natural preservatives such as vitamin E used do not work as long as the preservatives used in cheaper foods. They break down. This is reflected in the best-used-by-date posted clearly on the higher-end pet foods. Dry pet foods with natural preservatives may be kept under 85 degrees sealed in a container in the original bag for about 4 months, while foods with other preservatives may be kept as much as three years if kept properly sealed up cool and dry. Just kept in the bag, I would not keep dry pet food past three months."

Dog Food:
Nutritional requirements for a dog aren’t that much different than for a human. They can be fed people food and do fine.

Cat Food:
This isn’t so for cats, however. There is a good article on the subject from Cornell’s Vet School.  In a SHTF scenario, kitty may have to make due with certain people foods. Low acid foods have a greater shelf life than those with higher acids in them. Fish and meat are low acid foods, hence, can be stored for a long time. Canned fish and meat can be stored unopened for about 2-5 years. Ask your vet about vitamin supplements.

Preppers are obsessed with toilet paper. I don’t know why, but I bow to their greater experience. Since it’s bulky, it’s a lot easier to have delivered than to buy it at the store. Here’s where I bought Ultra-Soft Charmin (the price break is at 40 rolls) at  Conservatively, budget 1.5 rolls per person, per week. That’s 78 rolls per year/one adult or 156 rolls for two adults. For two years/two people you’ll need 312 rolls or about 8 cartons @ $38.94/carton for a total of $311.52.

Tip: Toilet paper is considered to be a high-value barter item amongst the prepper cognoscenti. It also makes a nice hostess gift or Christmas stocking stuffer. Think of all those omelet brunches you’ll be invited to by backyard chicken farmers when they know you’ll show up with a roll. Not having gone through the above formula before I placed my order, I now have plenty to barter with.

Wrapping Up

If you place orders for the above items---all of which can be done online---you and your companion pets will have two years of adequate nutrition and safe hydration plus toilet paper. I’ll go into other food and toiletry items that will help maintain well being in subsequent articles.

JWR Adds: I realize that in many jurisdictions inside city limits with civic water supplies it is illegal to drill a well. But if you live in a region with a high water table and it is legal to do so, then go ahead and drill!

Regardless, you should convert your roof downspouts to fill water barrels. That water is fine as-is for gardening or toilet flushing. If you have a composition roof or a roof with treated wood shakes, you should plan to re-roof with a metal roof. Not only will it give you better fire protection, but it will also eliminate most contaminants from captured rainwater. If used for drinking, captured rainwater should be run through a good quality high volume ceramic filter such as a Big Berkey. (Available from several SurvivalBlog advertisers.)

Not all plastics leach toxins. Food grade HDPE is perfectly safe for water storage. Glass jars are not advised in earthquake country, but they are fine anywhere else. However, the cost per-gallon cost of storing water in jars is dramatically higher than using HDPE barrels, tanks, or tank totes. That is the only affordable way for most folks to set aside a large supply for dry seasons.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dear JWR;
When visiting relatives in Ohio Amish country, we always stop by two or three Amish "bent & dent" stores.  These stores purchase truckloads of goods that have just expired, are about to expire or are in some other way slightly flawed at very, very, very low prices, and sell them at very, very low prices.  Some examples:  Starbucks coffee in sealed, non-expired bags for $2.50 (used to be 75 cents, the owners have been raising the prices over time), normally $12.50 at the grocer.  Swiss Toblerone chocolate bars, normally $4 for 50 cents.  Feminine hygiene products at 20% of the normal price, presumably no expiration date.  Claritin allergy pills at 10 cents on the dollar, among other non-prescription items.  Indian cooking sauce (Patak's), normally $4.50 a bottle for less than 50 cents per bottle, must not be very popular out in the country.  

There are lots of food items. We once found real San Marzano tomatoes, normally $5/can, for 75 cents per can.  Spices tend to be about 15 to 20 cents on the dollar compared to retail.  Very wide variety of other canned goods and cereals, including expensive yuppie food such as Kashi cereals at about 10 cents on the dollar.  Usually lots of olive oil & canned sauces.  Once in a while one of the cans is bad, the nose knows.  Great deals for those on a budget.  

Also:  We found canning jars (quart, pint & jam) at Big Lots this weekend for about $7 - $8 per dozen, with lids at $1.20 per dozen.  We got an additional 20% off due to a "frequent buyers" discount. - John M.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I just discovered something today that I wanted to share.  I have zero time in life to spend stocking up. has a “subscribe and save” feature that provides additional savings on over 24,000 items under the grocery category.  You can choose to subscribe (meaning set up regular deliveries) when adding to the Amazon shopping cart, or just make a one time purchase.  I did some comparison shopping and found the subscribe price for coffee (whole bean or ground) to be even better than Wal-Mart or any of the big box stores in my area.  Go to and in the search bar type in “subscribe and save”.  If you type in “subscribe and save in grocery”, a list of categories within groceries will appear on the left hand side of the screen, which allows for easier searching.  I assume that for all categories a sidebar menu will appear. 
Using this method to stock up is certainly not private (you can’t use cash and Amazon keeps a record of all your purchases).  However, potentially one might set up an anonymous email account, and use a prepaid Visa to make purchases.  I have not tried an anonymous purchasing method with Amazon.  It is normal for the UPS truck to show up at my door to make deliveries, so I might as well take advantage of the UPS visits by purchasing supplies through Amazon.  This will save me time and money. - Marcia W.

JWR Adds: I would appreciate it if SurvivalBlog readers would "click through" from SurvivalBlog's Amazon Store page, whenever they make any purchase. This way we get a little "piece of the action" (a sales commission), to help support the blog's bandwidth costs. Thanks!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Preppers get painted is crazy doomsday people, sitting around waiting for the world to end, disappointed when it doesn't.  I think National Geographic has done a disservice to prepping with their show.  The people on the show explain "what" they are preparing for.  To many, their reasons are crazy.  To me, some of the reasons are crazy.  I think it's important to make it clear that it's not about a specific event or cause.  It's about planning for the future and protecting yourself.  Does it really matter if an EMP, financial collapse, or natural disaster disrupts your basic necessities?  What it comes down to is that you need to provide for your own essentials and survival.

Being a prepper is planning for your future, just like investing. When you invest for your retirement, you know you need to diversify your portfolio. You buy stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and gold. You do this because you need to spread your risk. You buy some things that are risky, that you hope will rise in value (stocks), and you buy things with certain intrinsic value that will not decrease (gold). Prepping should be added to your retirement portfolio too.

If you look at the big picture of the economy and the world, you invest your money in the stock market and retirement funds hoping they gain value, and now, hoping they will still be there when you retire. I think it is safe to say there is no guarantee that these assets will be there in the future. With the state of our entitlement programs and Social Security, they will run out of money. What then? Could the government take private assets such as investments? I think there is a chance. It would be easy for the government to say, "We are confiscating everyone's investments and savings to fund Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In doing this, everyone will now be eligible for these benefits." The things that you have based your future security and comfort on, have just been taken. Now you are waiting in lines to get your rations because you didn't prepare.  Like any investment you need to evaluate it based on your situation and beliefs.  Maybe you are an optimist and only want to store enough for a short term emergency and wait until the government is able to come in to help.  This would be like a Hurricane Katrina situation.  Just enough to survive the rough period, then get help from the government.

Now there is some risk that if it gets that bad, the government could say, "You are only allowed to have 1 month of food and 20 gallons of water saved. Give me your extra 3 months of food and 100 gallons of water." But this is much more difficult than just confiscating your money. So look at prepping as part of your retirement portfolio, and start investing in it.
Just as you would set aside a certain percentage of your income for retirement, choose an amount to set aside for prepping.  It doesn't have to be a lot, just prioritize your spending. Food and water first, then purchase the items appropriate for you.  But also think about what others might want; such as alcohol and tobacco.  Maybe you have moral objections to either, but there are many who don't, and many who will want those items.  Think about the Great Depression and Prohibition.  Those with alcohol did pretty well.

The physical items you buy to be prepared can also be handed down from generation to generation.  Now, I know that not everything will last.  But if that can of green beans has been in your basement for 25 years, are you going to throw it away?  Probably not.  You will keep it and eat it when the times comes.  It may not taste the best, but it probably won't kill you.  Your guns, tools, certain foods, bags, tents, etc. can be handed down from too.  There is the potential for them to greatly increase in value as well.  What if the sale of certain guns becomes prohibited?  What could your gun be worth then?  It can be left to your kids, like your investments could, but it would be tax free and provide for their future better than money.  It is also important to teach your kids the importance of prepping.  If they don't value it and invest their own time in it, what you leave to them could be wasted.

Just like your finances and investments, your preps need to be protected.  Where do you keep your supplies?  Are they where guests can see them?  What would happen if your house was lost?  The FDIC insures your assets at a bank up to $250,000, so you shouldn't keep more money in one bank than that limit, or it could be lost.  The same is true for your supplies.  This is where your network could be a great advantage.  Try to diversify your supplies and don't put all your eggs in one basket.

I'm a 30-something civil engineer.  Like many, I've never needed to survive "on my own."  I'm not a survivalist.  I don't go out into the woods for weeks and live alone and practice.  I have a family; I don't have time for those things.  So my prepping portfolio is different than someone in a different situation.
Once your start prepping, it becomes its own portfolio. You have:

  • Physical assets/supplies.  These are the things you buy at the store and save.  Food, medicine, water, equipment, guns, ammunition.
  • Skills.  Skills are particular abilities you have.  You can have skills without knowledge, and knowledge without skills.  As an engineer, I can design a weld to meet a required shear stress.  That doesn't mean that I could actually complete the weld myself.  People with a skill and no knowledge compensate by "over-designing."  Look at medieval buildings.  They didn't understand the math behind what they built, they just built the hell out of it, and things are still standing today.
  • Knowledge.  See above.  You compensate for your lack of skills by doing things "the hard way."  You don't know the "tricks of the trade."
  • Resources.  These are the people, skills, and knowledge that you will have at your disposal.  If things get really bad, we will have to work in small communities.  There's no way around it.  You can not possess every skill and resource you need to survive.  You may come close, but there will always be something you are lacking.  You need to know people and have a network.

Take a look at your prepping portfolio and evaluate it.  Could you buy more supplies to compensate for a lack of skills?  Could you study and read more to invest more in your knowledge?  

Think back to when you teachers or parents said "everyone has something they are good at."  Find that thing, and make it an asset.  You may not think it's important, but I guarantee someone will find it important.  For an example, I've designed water treatment systems.  I can determine alum dosing, settlement time, and contact time for disinfection.  I've designed septic systems.  I've designed dams.  That knowledge may seem trivial when everything is fine, but when TSHTF, they could be pretty valuable.  So I would rate the knowledge section of my portfolio pretty high.  But I'm lacking in some of the skills.  I've never had to build those things.  I've never been in a survival situation.  I don't know how to farm.  Objectively evaluate your portfolio.
I've read a lot of disparaging comments about "armchair preppers."  "They just go online, buy some dehydrated food, and say they are preppers."  So what?  Maybe that's all they can do.  I think that should be encouraged.  Those people, "armchair preppers," have many more supplies in their portfolio.  Someone who has skills, but limited money, should include this armchair prepper in their network of resources.  There are factors which will affect your ability to prepare:

  • Where you live.  If you live in an apartment in the city, how many 55-gallon barrels of water will you be able to store?  Are you allowed to own a handgun?  An AR-15?  If you live in a rural area, how many houses are near you?  Five within a 50-mile radius?  Where is the doctor? veterinarian? store?  You might be limited to only getting supplies over the Internet if you live in a remote area.
  • Physical abilities.  You could be limited by your age, illness, or handicap.
  • Finances.  Maybe you are a great craftsman, but you don't have much money to buy supplies.

Get creative.  Look at canning food, for instance.  You don't have to have a garden to can food.  One weekend, prepare a lot of frozen green beans.  Then can them.  It may seem a little pointless, but you've just learned how to can your own food.  A hobby like home beer brewing is a great example.  Many do it and the skills could be very useful.
The point is don't underestimate yourself.  Look at your talents and knowledge differently. Don't get discouraged by an elitist prepper who rants on a web site about "armchair preppers."  They could be the MacGyver of prepping, but they won't have all the skills, supplies, and knowledge needed to accomplish all that is necessary.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared at the Georgia Preppers blog site.

Friday, August 10, 2012

As a U.S. Army Battalion Logistics Officer, it became very evident to me that at some point my stockpile of parts, petroleum products, uniforms, etc. would eventually run out, and I needed a way to replenish those stockpiles during steady-state operations.  A total collapse situation would unfold in much the same way as a deployment of a military unit would in regard to an interrupted supply chain.  Initially, you have no logistics network and you need to rely entirely upon your stockpiles brought with you or kept in your secure location.  I learned this the hard way at the National Training Center (NTC) [at Fort Irwin, California] when I decided not to bring enough turboshaft jet engine oil to last our battalion through a month-long field exercise in the desert.  As I walk through this experience as a vignette, I will also translate the bigger issues from the organizational level down to the household level in respect to preparedness.  Additionally, I will go through how logistics and supply lines are severely interrupted during a disaster or collapse scenario and then how they are reestablished after things calm down somewhat and find their equilibrium. 

Bad Assumption #1-  The logistics network is already established, so when I become a part of it there will be an easy transition.
When we deployed from our home base to the NTC, I made the faulty assumption, that since I was moving into an existing logistics network, that it would be easy to obtain supplies, because everything on the receiving end was already established and working like a well-oiled machine.  I should have known better from my first deployment to Iraq, when our shipping address was set up to a warehouse in Texas, so everything the battalion ordered did not go to Mosul, Iraq but sat in a huge pile doing us no good thousands of miles away.  Fortunately, I wasn’t responsible for that fiasco, but my soldiers and I ended up paying for it by cannibalizing our own vehicles to keep up maintenance, not having any sundry items replenished, and being without hot food for two months while this SNAFU was sorted out.  Whether you are bugging-in or bugging-out, in a total collapse scenario, the supply networks are going to be totally screwed up.  The grocery store shelves will be bare after about four days provided there isn’t a panic, and if they receive any shipments, it will likely be random items which may or may not be of use to anyone.  At a minimum, you need to have about six months of everything to operate your household set aside.  Primarily this buys you some time.  When hyperinflation hits and no one wants to accept paper money, there will be a time when it is a free-for-all before either folks locally decide what is acceptable as a medium of exchange or the government reissues new fiat currency at some kind of crushing exchange rate with the old currency. 

Bad Assumption #2- Storing tons of supplies takes too much space and is a pain to transport, so I will just stock up on the basics.

Back to my example, I thought that shipping a couple of 30’ containers of petroleum products would be a huge pain (which it would have been due to hazardous materials shipping requirements) but it was even more painful having to go to the Forward Support Battalion Executive Officer and sheepishly ask for case upon case of turboshaft oil for my tanks.  I had brought a minimal amount of petroleum products with us which would last for about a week, but with us entering a new logistics network, it took much longer than I had anticipated for those requisitions to be filled.    And when they were filled, the supply depot didn’t just jump on the phone and give us a call to come pick up our order.  Typically, supplies could sit for days if you didn’t have an intrepid NCO checking in the morning and evening every day.  In our world, yes, your basement might be chuck full of food, water barrels, ammunition, medical supplies, clothing, and everything else, but if you haven’t gone through all of your possessions and thrown out anything you haven’t used in the last two years, you would be surprised the amount of space you can gain.  Maximize your wall space too.  Utilize shelving wherever practical in order to organize items more effectively and to give better access to what you need.  If you have a mountain of boxes in the basement and the toilet paper is in the very back of the room, you might have an emergency before you can get to it!  Treat your stockpile like a mini-warehouse.  Sort everything by either the military classes of supply or your own system as long as it’s organized.  Even a classification system as rudimentary as food, clothing, survival supplies, fuel, and water would work fine.  As long as you and your cohorts know where everything is, you will be leagues ahead when you have to find that one tiny specific item you need.  As an adjunct, I’ve referenced the Army classes of supply below for your use:

Classes of Supply

Class I - Food, rations, and water
Class II - Clothing
Class III - Petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL)
Class IV - Fortification and barrier materials (Barbed wire, pickets, sandbags, etc.)
Class V - Ammunition
Class VI - Personal Items (Hygiene, alcohol, tobacco, etc.)
Class VII - Major End Items (Vehicles, radios, tanks, weapons, night vision, etc.)
Class VIII - Medical supplies
Class IX - Repair Parts
Class X - Miscellaneous supplies

Bad Assumption #3- I’ll just order some more later when I get close to running out.

Believe it or not, there are situations where I have bartered as an Army officer for things I needed for the battalion.  I had a pallets and pallets of MREs but I needed more bottled water, so I traded for it!  You need to have the figurative printing press in the basement to create your own barter items.  You should be able to produce something that can be used as a barter item if there is no way you can just go order some more.  Whether you practice reloading, canning, candle making, beekeeping, or any other craft, there should be a few items that your household or group are able to produce which would be an appealing medium of exchange.  In the past, cigarettes, alcohol, ammunition, chewing gun, and even toys have been used for barter items.  Think of something you would miss having.  My soldiers and I traded books & magazines that we brought to Iraq, since we would read them from cover to cover as our only entertainment.  Last night, watching the movie The Book of Eli, I was struck at how clever it was for Eli to trade Kentucky Fried Chicken wet naps with the Engineer in the town, so that he could get a new charge on his battery.  This scenario is not really that outlandish, considering how difficult it is to keep good hygiene when there is no running water available.  During our deployment to Iraq when our unit shipping address was wrong, baby wipes became worth their weight in gold, since you could do all of your daily hygiene with three of them if you were careful.  If you can’t produce the item you need yourself, you had better have something in hand that people are willing to trade for it. 

Bad Assumption #4- So we’re good, right…?     

When I took about a dozen cases of turboshaft oil from the support battalion, the XO grudgingly gave it to me with the understanding that I would order replacements for everything I had taken (along with my regular needs for continuing operations)  and pay him back.  He was pretty irked that I had taken his whole reserves in one blow and did not have any turboshaft oil to give the rest of the brigade.  I made the argument that we have the lion’s share of tanks, but he still grumbled about it.  The point being, I put myself in a position where I was indebted to him.  I don’t have a problem with owing someone a favor, but sometimes that person might ask for something you cannot deliver.  In a survival situation, if you had to borrow weeks’ worth of food from someone, they are either going to want that back or they will make you pay for it in some other way which may hinder you from meeting your immediate objectives of protecting and providing for yourself & your cohorts.  You’ll effectively be an indentured servant to whomever you are indebted or you could lose your shorts!  King Solomon had it right in Proverbs 22, when he said, “Be not one of those who gives pledges, who put up security for debts.  If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you?”  If you read the Biblical account of Joseph handling the preparations for the seven years of famine in Egypt, you see how Pharaoh ended up with all the physical wealth of the entire kingdom, because once the people sold their possessions, their animals, and their land, they had nothing to offer except themselves as slaves.  Don’t put yourself in that kind of a situation!   In a total collapse, the best AND worst qualities of people will surface, and you don’t want to end up owing your soul to the company store.

Bad Assumption #5- I’ll get everything I ordered.

During that aforementioned training exercise, I ordered about 450 quarts of turboshaft oil in order to account for the 300 quarts I had borrowed and another 150 quarts for the tanks to use for ongoing maintenance, which was only about six quarts a tank and left me nothing in reserve.  (A tank with a bad turbine engine burning oil can go through that easily on ONE patrol!)  That’s roughly two 55 gallon drums of turboshaft oil.  I received something like 200 quarts in reality, because I totally cleaned out the supply depot with that large of an order.  I never ended up paying back the support battalion XO entirely, and if it had been an extended deployment, that would have created a strain on our relationship and my ability to procure special items or receive priority in the future.    If you end up doing something like that in a collapse situation, you have just used up all of your capital with that person, and if you need something in the future, you are entirely on your own.  Worse than that, you have to fix the mess you created initially, mend the relationship, and probably do them a favor in return, so that you are on par again with each other.
A water shortage might have people dipping into streams and lakes nearby, and when potable water finally shows up in a truck, there might be a two-hour line to fill your containers.  While we were in Kuwait waiting to head north into Iraq, my driver spent an hour and a half waiting in line to buy a case of bottled tea, since there was only one store for the whole camp for thousands of soldiers.  When the logistics network is reestablished, it does not have the capacity to make up for weeks of disruption.  The supplies will start to trickle in and become more steady as the situation stabilizes.  Initially though, there will be a mad-dash for those resources that do trickle in, so don’t expect to get much from the first few supply drops.  If you have ever seen footage of the Peace Corps bringing in wheat to a starving African village, it’s usually gone within minutes.  That’s what it looks like when desperate people are competing over a very limited amount of critical supplies. 

Bad Assumption #6- I need to keep up the same stockpile as I had before the collapse.

We talk a lot about storing up everything you need for a collapse situation, but we do not usually talk about what those stores should look like when you are months or even years into TEOTWAWKI.  You still need some padding against the unknown, but you will likely not need years’ worth of supplies stashed away as long as you have a way to replenish some of your diminishing supplies.  I would recommend maintaining roughly six months of stores available in the middle of a collapse situation for those times when the logistics network is disrupted again or in case of other contingencies.  Think of this smaller stockpile as self-insurance against the unknown. 
You might have a month’s worth of drinking water stored in your garage, but what will you do once you use it all?  You need to be able to filter your own water if you have a reliable source nearby or potentially dig a well if you don’t.  You might have months’ worth of food squirreled away, but do you have a garden, fish pond, and a hunting rifle?  The first step is to have that emergency cache but as you are able to build up those stores, it is wise to think about how you will replenish those supplies over time.  Perhaps you don’t have the land to grow a large garden, but you have everything you need to reload ammunition.  If you are part of a prepper group, you might not need to have every possible contingency covered as long as you are providing something of value for exchange.  Maybe you do all the reloading and Joan is seriously into canning, and you can barter for what you both need. 

Start Small & Prioritize

Even as a Battalion S-4, I had a budget.  I couldn’t just magically wave my money wand and have all of my supply shortages filled and have a huge mountain of consumable supplies for every contingency conceivable.  So how do you get started?  Most of us are unfortunately living paycheck to paycheck these days, and I won’t get into how debt is robbing you of your ability to prepare, because you likely already know that if you are reading this.  Let’s just assume that you have nothing set aside at all, and you need to start building your supplies from scratch.  Where do you start?  There is both the time factor and quantity factor involved in supply caching.  How many people do you need to prepare for?  How long do you need to supply those people?  Just as a start, save some old milk cartons and fill them with water to create a water cache. Make a goal to put aside a week’s worth of canned food for each person in your household.  Go to a dollar store and find First Aid supplies and sundry items on sale.  Get the bandages, tape, and gauze first and then worry about sutures, antibiotics, and syringes later.  Take a balanced approach and then continue to build on it. 
Every month, I look at my stores and I set aside a couple hundred dollars to improve on a few areas.  This money is available not from a great excess in my paycheck, but from small sacrifices like dropping our satellite television service and eating out less often.  Last month, our priority was to fill some gaps in our pioneering toolbox.  This month it will be candle making, soap making, and canning supplies.  Make a plan for several months out and check your progress each month to see how you are incrementally accomplishing your goals.  It feels good to be able to track your progress toward your final goals, but if you don’t make goals, you aren’t going to achieve them.  We all need a concerted plan that focuses us, so that we don’t end up just picking up a pallet of toilet paper that’s on sale even when we have no need for it.  Having a few cartons of MREs, one barrel of water, a few magazines of ammo for your weapon, and a couple bottles of fish antibiotics is much better than having three months of food supplies when you end up getting an infection and die from lack of medicine.  Keep the end-state in mind.  You should have an inventory of what 100% stocked looks like.  There are some things that you probably can’t have enough of, and I would argue that medical supplies and ammunition are in that category, not because you will end up using every last bit of your stores, but because they have great barter value. 

Know the Real Expiration Date

There is a difference between the “best before” date and an expiration date.  I rediscovered this recently from a box of granola I have in my office.  I finally opened it up for a snack and noticed that it was dated “best before” March 2011, and it tasted like I had just bought it even though it was almost a year and a half out of date.  Your expiration dates on semi-perishable commodities will drive your supply rotation schedule, but you need to know when to toss it and when to keep it.  This is particularly useful in regard to antibiotics and medications.  There are some medications which are expected to work 100% of the time, and once they expire, it’s not worth taking the risk.  Insulin is the best example of this.  If your life depends on an insulin shot, you don’t want to risk it with something expired.  But then again, if you need insulin during a collapse situation, you likely have bigger problems.  The US Army Medical Department did a study on how long antibiotics actually last beyond the expiration date and discovered some surprising data.  The multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry is in the business to make tons of money selling you medications you typically don’t need and even more medications to mask the side effects , so they have a conflict of interest by telling you the expiration date on their own drugs!  Some antibiotics can last 7-14 years after the expiration date on the bottle.  Do some research on the actual shelf life of these drugs.  There’s no point in throwing out food or medicine prematurely when it could last you much longer.


Keep in mind that the flow of supplies is like a steady stream or river.  When the flow is interrupted, you need to have adequate reserves to cope until the stream is reestablished.  In a collapse situation, you might need to take some drastic measures to reestablish that supply chain.  When you can’t replenish your supplies from a big-box store, you will need to resort to bartering and the black market, which would likely be the only operating commerce in a collapse situation.  Your replenishment should be about equal to your distribution, so that you can maintain your stockpile for those rainy days.  When you need to dip into your stockpile, be sure that you make efforts to replenish it.  The important thing is to not let those people on the receiving end of the supply chain pay for the hiccups in the supply flow.  Dipping into your stockpile when the flow stops is the way you consistently deliver supplies to your family and cohorts without them having to feel the effects of the supply network failing.  The mightiest fighting forces in human history have been stopped by lack of supplies.  Consider the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 when the Germans had very limited fuel supplies and could only maintain a sustained attack for a couple days before their superior heavy tanks became sitting ducks.  Take measures now to build your stockpile and create methods for replenishment and when you need it, your supply chain will support your overarching goal of safeguarding you those you care about.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Part of preparing for any emergency, including TEOTWAWKI, is making plans for those who cannot take care of themselves. Yet, there is very information out there about what to do about Grandma and Grandpa in a crisis situation, or those who just may not be the “fittest.”   Having elders who have been struggling with dementia or who are in cancer treatment, having seen so many of our soldiers come home with PTSD, having loved ones who are chronically ill or permanently disabled, I think about prepping in perhaps a different way than others. After seeking out the information I needed myself from doctors, mental health professionals and fellow preppers, I am now sharing some of the practical advice I’ve found for helping those we love who do not appear to be the best candidates for survival. Why?

For some, caring and preparing for those with less than optimal survival chances may seem like a foolish, even dangerous, goal. Certainly, some soul-searching is required when thinking about who you are willing to “carry” (figuratively and perhaps literally), and just how far you are willing to put yourself and other members of your group in jeopardy to care for someone who may not make it in even a best-case scenario.  You will have to make your own decisions about who to help and who to abandon. But I could not leave my parents, in-laws and grandparents any more than I could leave my children to weather the chaos on their own. I also cannot justify leaving other relatives or friends where they could be victimized by those who prey on the weak. The Biblical commandment to “honor thy father and mother” means not just that I honor them, but that I must also care for them in a crisis. I cannot bear the consequences of writing them off, or leaving them to the unkindness of strangers or the bureaucracy of FEMA. The same goes for all of those I am responsible for, by virtue of my being able, even if they are not.

In the case of illness or dementia, even if it meant that moving them might hasten their deaths, I would choose to care for my own family and friends. Perhaps it is my own rationalization, but I would prefer that if they do indeed die, they do so in the company of people who love them and who will treat them with dignity, not at the hands of mobs or criminals.

If my loved ones were currently in a hospital, nursing home or assisted living situation, I would know the facility’s emergency plan and contingency plans. In case of an emergency, would my people be evacuated, by what means, by whom, and to where? (And I would make my own plans to take custody of them instead).  I would try to be as low-key as possible to avoid alarming the powers that be about any specific disaster or emergency, but I would get the information that could protect them, and make it possible for me to intercept them as quickly as possible in a crisis.

For those who require daily prescription medications, such as cardiac patients, diabetics, epileptics and other chronic illness patients (including those recovering from cancer treatment), some logistical planning now will save anxiety and life-threatening repercussions later.

You will need to know (and have written down) all medications, what they’re for, dosing schedules, and danger signs to watch for. At first, the problem will be in stockpiling enough medication when most insurance covers only minimal monthly quantities. Many times though, a sympathetic physician can prescribe a twice-daily med instead of a once-daily, for example. Explain you’d like to keep a back-up supply for the patient in case of loss, misplacing or forgetting when traveling.

As your supply grows, be especially diligent about rotating meds, using the oldest for current needs and storing the newest in a cool, non-humid environment, and including desiccant packets whenever possible.  (Ask your pharmacy, as they throw these out by the hundreds). 

One of my doctor friends tells me that more than 80% of his geriatric patients are on mood-altering drugs. A similarly large percentage of handicapped and cancer patients are routinely put on these drugs as well. For those who are on antidepressants, antipsychotics or anti-anxiety meds, benzodiazepines or steroids, special cautions apply. These drugs can cause terrible effects if stopped suddenly, and most require a very gradual weaning off the drug if one wishes or is forced to discontinue use. Check with your patient’s physician, and do your own research on ALL of the drugs your patient is taking ( is an excellent resource), and plan accordingly.

While health can vary widely among seniors, there are specific concerns that are common to most. Circulation issues such as edema, bruising and bleeding, dehydration, and constipation can all be more serious in the aged, no matter what the fitness level. Falls and resulting injuries should always be avoided and prevented, as the consequences for elders can be much more serious than normal.
Simple observation and precaution about everyday conditions is necessary. We lose the ability to adapt rapidly to temperature variations as we age—most elderly people feel “cold” faster than younger companions and are at special risk of hypothermia. Your preparations will have to include supplies that ensure more warmth, such as extra clothes, hats, socks & gloves, and you will have to be vigilant in caring for elders who get wet or chilled.

Response to heat or exercise can also be a problem. Fluid intake of seniors must be monitored closely at all times. Dehydration during exertion or other stress may occur rapidly and without warning, causing diarrhea, vomiting, delirium and ultimately, death.

Many seniors will have dietary deficits, due to waning appetite, poor digestion, or self-sacrifice for others’ needs. Without adequate fiber-rich foods (or supplements) and liquids, constipation can become a life-threatening situation for an elder, not merely a painful inconvenience. Stool softener and laxatives should have a starring place in your senior’s medical kit. Lack of vital nutrients may also affect sight, hearing and balance. Keep an eye on their diets and make sure they get the nutrition they need.

Seniors are subject to painful and dramatic bruising when injured, especially if they have been on blood-thinning medications, commonly prescribed to prevent arterial plaques and stroke. Excessive bleeding and inability to clot are also effects of these drugs. Avoid injury first, and if unsuccessful, treat bruises and bleeding quickly to forestall further complication. Every cut or abrasion is also a potential site for infection, which can overwhelm one who is already weak, so be particularly aware of your charges’ skin condition.
Swelling of the extremities due to poor vascular circulation can incapacitate your older loved one. Compression socks, or in a pinch, elastic bandages, are a good addition to the clothing or first aid kit.

Preparation for your loved ones begins with talking to them. You may be surprised to find out that oldsters are more prepared than you thought. After all, many have lived through tough economic depressions and wartime shortages, and they know a thing or two about living well with less convenience. Someone whose breathing depends on oxygen may have already prepared for a power failure or disruption of supply. If not, you can help that person get prepared.  Someone who is overweight or in poor physical condition can benefit from a daily walk or strength training, even without the threat of an emergency. You might be the motivator or the companion to help improve the quality of that person’s life, now and in case of future crises.
Approach with a sincere offer of help, but be sure to ask what general and specific help they would need from you in case of an emergency. You do not know what the unique needs are until you ask.
For those that still don’t accept the idea that all sorts of manmade disaster and mayhem can happen here, and can happen at any time, the conversation can take place in the context of preparing for a natural calamity, such as a tornado, earthquake or fire.

Be aware that some of the sick, disabled and elderly may need to be convinced that their survival is possible, even probable, if they prepare themselves mentally and physically. You may hear this type of defeatism in statements such as “Don’t worry about me, I wouldn’t want to live in that world anyway…” Your people need to know that that a can-do, positive attitude combined with practical planning and preparation can up their chances. They need to know you’ll be there to help them. Most importantly, they need to know that their survival is of paramount importance to you.

You should not assume that because your parent is sick, your grandparent is old, your friend is diabetic, your relative is obese, or your neighbor is blind, that these people are helpless or even less than capable of survival.  Emotional strength, mental tenacity, technical skill sets or ethical leadership can quickly trump any physical challenges, depending on the situation. Lack of emotional resiliency or deteriorating mental stability can quickly turn a strong athlete into a greater liability to the group than Granny who needs a cane.
For example, I have a physically-fit friend who stocks an “earthquake kit,” a 72-hour stopgap to see her through a brief disruption of water and food supplies “until help arrives.” She refuses to consider anything more than that, because it would mean that she would be on her own for longer than she is willing to be. She refuses to own a firearm, because that would mean that she might have to use it. This head-in-the-sand attitude is not preparedness, in spite of her pride in running 10Ks on the weekends, having a few gallons of water and a three-day supply of food in the garage.
On the other hand, my 85-year old mother bought a retreat back in the 1970s, stocked it with supplies and learned to shoot. She has a stay-put plan, several bug-out escape routes, keeps her stock rotated, tests her equipment regularly and maintains situational awareness, even when she’s just going to the bank or grocery store. She has a mental toughness that belies the physical weaknesses of a woman her age.

All of the people you care about have combinations of physical and mental challenges. What we all have in common is our need to be useful, no matter what our abilities or lack of abilities. A person without functioning legs can still wield a weapon or man a security cam. Someone who is blind can still direct audio comms. Everyone has skills and talents that the family and community need, and the survival of the whole group dictates finding appropriate jobs for everyone.
Those who are critically ill or in the advanced stages of dementia may need to have round-the-clock caregivers, which could put a strain on community labor resources. The whole group would ideally have the same reverence and respect for all the members’ quality of life, even the infirm and ill.

Much of the information about surviving natural disasters or man-made insanities assumes that we will prepare not only our environment, but ourselves as well. In order to deal with a crisis, realize that while we are teaching ourselves new skills, setting aside food stores, preparing security and energy options and planning for those who are weaker than ourselves, we must diligently prep our own minds and bodies to withstand the multiple demands that will be required.

Knowing that stresses of panic, physical exertion, mental exhaustion, and lack of sleep will pile up and collapse you if you are not ready, is not enough. Add in caring for others who are young, old, chronically ill, obese, disabled or just darn difficult, and your preparedness becomes even more critical.
Part of the process requires that we must be physically fit ourselves before we can take care of others. So put down that list and go exercise, at least some part of every day! Do not allow yourself to become out of shape, while you’re stockpiling supplies and securing your environment. There are people depending on you. Make sure you are the fittest you can be, physically and mentally. Then you can expend energy on building a community that includes everyone you care about, even the unfit.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

We are never completely prepared, we either are unprepared, or prepared to some degree. So I want to review the past year and see what or how far I’ve come. For those new to the game, they can find it a bit overwhelming, and do little to nothing to prepare. Then there are those that are part time preppers and those that are full time preppers. I fall into the former, but a meeting with some friends 8 months ago re-ignited the drive it takes to prepare. So my one-year odyssey in review.

First order of business is get your family onboard, and perhaps those you want to include in a group, but foremost your family, and don’t just say tings are bad, show them some of the articles you have found on the dollar collapse, EMP, etc, the real reasons you feel the need to prepare, if they are with you it just got a lot easier.

Second get organized, what do you already have? This will save you a lot of money in the long run, as you are less likely to duplicate items.

Next is your plan to bug out, or stay in place. If you are bugging out do you have a location that you can cache some of your gear and foodstuffs, or are you going with what you can haul?  If that is the case, figure out what you can haul in one trip. There is no sense in buying 50 cases of MREs if you only car is a Geo Metro it won’t fit. If you do not have a specific location to bug-out to, I’d strongly urge to plan to stay in place and make the best of it.

Next if you are new to this, start small, plan for 3 days, then 10 days, then 30 days, then 3 months and so forth.
For me my retreat is where I live, I’m not in the American Redoubt, but in the Midwest. My property is in the country, and I’m about 15 miles from the nearest city, (population about 14,000) would I like a retreat further out? Yes, but it is not going to happen I simply can’t afford to move.

I’m an avid shooter, and already have arms, ammo, a lot of ammo, and all the gear that goes with it. I was a bit light in the Battle Rifle category so I sold a few handguns to purchase an M1 Garand (I already had about 2,000 rounds of .30-06 ammo, so it made sense) and an FN-FAL, I had planned on two PTR91s (HK91 clones) but the FAL came along at a price I couldn’t ignore, the seller wanted $650, and admitted the gun wouldn’t cycle. So when I inspected it I found the gas plug installed upside down, I offered $600 and he took it I went home and reinstalled the plug properly and it cycles fine. I also managed a trade of a 1911 for a used PTR91. HK magazines are currently selling at unbelievably low prices.

If you are new to this I’d suggest a 12 gauge pump shotgun to start, and there are a lot of affordable guns out there, even a .22 rifle, and a lot of ammo should be considered. I’ve studied criminal behavior and the majority will be looking for soft targets, and when the SHTF there will be plenty, usually no one stands around and asks what caliber is that?, when you drop the hammer.

Yes there is a lot of cool accessories out there, but paying more attention to the more mundane things in life will go a lot further in insuring your survival. Watch those big box stores for seasonal closeouts, do a lot of shopping, (not buying) keep notes and get the biggest bang for your buck you can. Of further note the biggest of the “Big Box” stores is now selling AR-15s in a lot of locations, at much lower prices than you’ll find at a regular gun shop. I have seen SIG-Sauer, Bushmaster, and Colt.
Remember that it is not the gun that wins the fight it is your training and willingness that win the fight.

 I have a propane fired generator, in the 10-Kw range, and a 500 gallon propane tank I put it in 5 years ago, after a two day outage and a the loss of a lot of food. You might see these advertised as “whole house” generators but that is really stretching it, you need to get around at least a 17Kw for an average size house. Of course any generator is likely only going to be good for a short period, for once the fuel is gone that’s it.

I am a self employed firearms instructor, so for me most weeks I have no idea what my income will be until class starts. Some weeks I make $125 before expenses, and some I can much more, so in 2011, I earned the princely sum of less than $10,000 before taxes. So my income is   less than half of the other individuals in my group.

If you have a known income, even small you can prep, I so often hear people saying they would like to, but can’t afford to, and that in a word is denial, and if you live in denial it will cost you when the time comes.

My last effort at full scale prepping had been in 1999 with the dire warnings of Y2K, which did not materialize. So after a meeting a year ago, I started my prepping with research, planning and organizing. The gathering begins after the first 3 steps are met, but not completed

Now once you organize things you already have, you start research, and this is vital, you can run helter-skelter and buy a bunch of stuff, but you may have more wants than needs when you are done. Focus on want you need, and if you have less you need to have intensified focus

 I first read Patriots, by James Rawles, then dug out my copy of the “How to Survive the End of the World as we Know it” by the same writer. I also went to the internet and checked a lot of the prepping web sites, making notes to links of free information. It ranged from Military manuals, the LDS Preparedness Manual to articles on how to milk goats.

I also referred to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Think on this one. Have you thought this one through? Are you prepared in each category?
First Aid

While the research continues every day, I began planning...

I started making lists, and I began to shop, note I did not say buy, but shop I have a limited quirky income so I can’t afford to just throw money at things. In the planning stage you have to think things through, and play what if in your planning.

For instance water, 18 years ago my shallow well pump died, and for need of water I found a small pump I could attach to a cordless drill, attach a hose to each end of the pump and I could draw water, so if the grid is down how do I keep the drill charged?, which lead to a power pack and a small solar charger being added to the list.
The lists will grow every day; make at least a mental note of what you use every day, from toilet paper to food, and think how much of this will I need to get through uncertain times of unknown length? In the planning stage do not focus on any single category above; you have to address each category as you go. If you focus on food, and not security someone can take your food, and if you focus on security you can starve behind a well fortified wall.

The preparations have to be a multi-prong effort, and you need to give yourself some leeway if you are on a budget, that while in the pursuit of certain items, you run across a deal on something else you get it instead.  I’ve seen here on the internet some preppers that focus on one subject at a time, then move on to another chapter, this could lead to imbalance. I know one lady who has been solely focused on medical and first aid, and has spend a lot of her resources on items to fill those needs, I explained to her this is stuff you might need, but no matter what happens you will be hungry, If she had spent half of her money on food supplies she would still have enough to outfit an EMS team. Not real sure how good band aids taste, although she may be able to barter.
Also pay close attention to the mundane items like socks and Q-Tips. Yeah I know night vision and body armor is a lot more cool, but feeling like you have a bug in your ear and suffering foot rot is more likely to really happen. How about laundry? Check out some of the low cost items RVers use. Take a close look at what you consume and try to make sure those needs are met
Also for the budget minded think used instead of new

Bugging in or bugging out?  My plan is for staying put, and here is where the group will gather, so in that regard those coming here are bringing supplies here, so space is a problem, and I continue to work on getting more space to store buckets, bullets and Band-Aids
I’ve made a considerable investment in adjustable wire mesh shelving units, I did wait till they were on sale, and bought them as need arose but in the past 12 months bought  19 sets at $40 bucks a set. But it allows me access to items without un-stacking stuff to get the container on the bottom.
Also it pays to keep inventory of what you have, and not just what you want, it is easy to use excel  and simply update as you add items, once a month I print them out, and review them  looking for what I need to balance things out.
In all keeping organized with proper planning and research will help you stay focused on what you need to get done, rather than an aimless quest unsure of your destination.

So in a nutshell with less than $10,000 income, and cashing a useless IRA of less than $8,000 where am I, 12 months later? I have enough stored food to feed 8 for a year, (a mix of store bought, dehydrated, #10 cans and bulk) I have 200 feet of garden fencing the mix of garden tools rain barrels and heirloom seeds to start a garden, started a small raised bed garden with hybrid seeds, and will save the heirlooms, for later.

I have several rolls of barbed wire for security, a few hundred sandbags, and a truckload of sand I have some solar around 200 watts worth plus connections wiring controllers several 2 way radios, four Swedish field phones, a solar powered base station and a couple of emergency radios, I also have four portable power packs that I can plug into,
3 kerosene heaters and around 90 gallons of kerosene, a camping oven stove combo, and 2 camp stoves, 60 cans of propane.100 lbs of charcoal, Pressure canner and jars etc, a food saver and a dehydrator, cast iron cookware, meat grinder, grain mill about 200 lbs of medical supplies, and the training to use it all.
1000 batteries from AAA to D cell, half dozen sleeping bags, rope bungee straps, come-alongs axes 3 chainsaws one gas powered and 2 cordless Black and Decker, for a cordless tool by the time the batteries run down so do I and they are pretty quiet, and log chains, crow bars, bolt cutters, nails, boots to blades, packs, webbing, magazine pouches etc.

I even acquired about 80 ounces of silver, in pre-1965 coins, there was no sense in just leaving the money in the IRA, and stocking up on Nickels
I also invested in a small trailer; it made it a lot easier to haul a lot of the bulky items
It came in handy when I hauled in over a ton of compost, peat moss, and lumber for the raised bed gardening, also several hundred cement blocks, to build defensive fighting positions  

I’m planting evergreens and hedges to help hide the property; although with the recent drought we have had they will need to be replanted.  I’m 1,000 feet from the nearest road, and prefer to be hidden and just let those that use the road pass by, it does reduce are fields of fire somewhat, but will also lower the chances of having to use those fields of fire, which is better all the way around.
I think the key to getting what I needed was I spent a lot of time planning and looking and little time buying; I worked hard at finding the best deal for my money. So if you don’t have money, spend time.
I’m not as prepared as those in the novel "Patriots", but I’m way ahead of those in "Survivors."

I’m writing this article to encourage you, if you’re in a similar situation as I am.  I may be writing it also, to encourage myself.  I want to say that it is possible to prepare for emergencies to some extent, even if you aren’t exactly doing it as a team.  I will share some of my story in order to give you some ideas.

I am a happily-married woman living with a wonderful husband and my four children in a Midwestern state, in a town of less than 5000.  I have been increasingly concerned about an economic collapse, and have been educating myself about preparedness in the last 2 years.  My husband is not happy with the way the country is going, but also isn’t willing to “over-react”, or get “paranoid”.  As a christian woman, I believe that it is my responsibility to submit to my husband with a good attitude, but also my responsibility to see to the needs of my household.  How do I balance that all out?
First, I trust in God.  He has never failed us.  As we have honored Him, and given Him the first fruits of our income, He has always taken care of us.  For example, 3 ½ years ago, we became convinced that God’s will was for us to try to become debt free.  We prayed that somehow God would provide a way for us to become debt-free.  Little did we know that within 6 months, my husband’s job in a large metropolitan area would end and we would sell our house for $30,000 less than we had into it, but still pay off our mortgage.  He would end up, not in his profession, but rather working 5 part-time jobs, and we would buy a foreclosed house in a rural area that needed some work.  After all of the difficulty we’ve had, we are now debt-free in a nice house, in rural America.  God’s ways are definitely not ours!

Secondly, don’t discount the assets you have or want, as something your spouse would automatically reject.  We have a lot of great camping gear that my husband loves.  I suggested a few additions that he has enthusiastically embraced, such as a Dutch oven.  This summer, we used it for every meal on our camping trip in order to really get the hang of it, and I made sure to include meals he likes.  A few of the other  things I’ve  gotten are a couple of flashlights that can work on a hand-crank charge (almost free after a Menard's rebate),  a solar heated hanging “shower” for camping ($1 at a rummage sale),  a lantern that works on a hand crank, and a charcoal starter.  The addition I’m most excited about is our sand-point well. It turns out that this little town has very high sewer rates, thanks to a large new sewage treatment plant which was built recently, anticipating a housing boom that didn’t happen. The sewer charge is calculated off our water use.  It’s nothing to get a $400 quarterly water/sewer bill, so my husband was willing to put in a backyard well so we could wash the vehicle, and water the garden without city water.  It cost about $400 or $500 including the permits, equipment, and 1 afternoon rental of a jackhammer.  Although it runs on electricity now, he was agreeable to spend $40 to get the hand pump attachment and store it for an emergency.

If your husband has any interests that line up with preparedness skills, then encourage him.  My husband is a hunter, and fisherman, so I am very supportive.  We usually discuss purchases together, and if he brings up an interest in purchasing any “hunting equipment”, fishing tackle, etc., I say, “Go for it”.  When we have the money for a conceal carry class, I’ll support his interest.  When he expressed an interest in my pickling his fish, I did it, even though I dislike pickled fish.  He was willing to build me the square food garden boxes I asked for, so I will be willing to can all the tomatoes and salsa he wants.  I don’t complain about all of the venison we eat.  Although my husband isn’t willing for me to tear up any more of our small lawn for a larger garden, he IS willing to tear up some lawn in order to put in a raspberry patch.  I’ll take what I can get. 

I have been keeping an eye out for preparedness books at rummage sales, GoodWill,  and library sales.  So far, I’ve spent less than $20 to get:  “The PDR Pocket Guide to Prescription Drugs “ (includes dosages), Where There Is No Doctor edited by Dr. David Werner, Making the Best of Basics - Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens, “12 Month Harvest”,  “Home Canning”, and a 20 volume set called “The Creative Workshop”.  I also used my Christmas money from my mother-in-law to get "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It",  “The Urban Homestead”, “Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs”, and “The Prepper’s Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do To Ready Your Home For a Disaster”.  (I definitely didn’t tell my mother-in-law which books I bought with her gift.  She would think I had cracked up.)

Other rummage sale finds include a vacuum-sealer, and a box of canning jars.  I picked up a set of solar pathway lights for half-price last week, and have gotten several used food-grade buckets from the bakery dept. of our grocery store.  That is how their frosting is delivered, so I got them for $.50 each just for asking, and just had to wash them out.

One piece of advice; for what it’s worth.  Don’t go for everything you want all at once.  Two years ago, I talked him into buying a six month supply of dehydrated food from Augason Farms.  This was a very big purchase for us.  We tucked it away.  This winter, I approached my husband asking for a one -month supply of more accessible, “normal” food such as canned goods, and he was fine with that. I had been concerned that the one of our children with multiple serious food allergies would not have any protein that he could safely have from that 6 month supply we had purchased.  Soy, beans/peas, and nuts were out of the question, so I needed canned meat/seafood.   If there was a dire need, that child could eat protein from the new stuff for 6 months, and the other 5 of us could eat the other proteins.  Because of our finances, it has taken 6 months to gradually buy enough additional food to feed 6 people for a month.  I just finished this week, and it feels great! The next step is to get a rotation system in place for those foods.  I keep the food stored out of sight, (out of mind) so that my husband isn’t constantly reminded of how much money we’ve spent. J Also, the kids aren’t as likely to blab about it if they don’t see it.

My plan now is to focus on learning skills.  I got a pressure canner for Christmas, and have started teaching myself how to use it comfortably.  I also plan to learn to make bread without my breadmaker.  Perhaps I’ll try sourdough bread, or yogurt.   Other goals are to organize car emergency kits, research and plan for updating first-aid kits, and to make a wish list of things to keep an eye out for at end-of-season sales, or rummage sales.

As an aside, don’t forget that you may already have more food available than you think in your cupboards, and freezer.  I tend to forget to count the food that’s on our shelves, and in our freezer, but of course that would be the first food we would use up. 

Finally, there may be some preparations that you would like to make, that your husband doesn’t agree to.  In my case, it’s a woodstove.  My thought is, “It would keep us from freezing.” His thought is, “No, because it would aggravate two kids’ asthma, and also aggravate a dry- eye condition I have.”  What I have decided to do is forget about it.  If it came down to it, my husband, with God’s help, would figure something out.  God’s Word clearly tells me not to worry, so I choose to let it go.  I’m at peace, even though there’s a big question mark in the area of heat.

Anyway, my point is, don’t get discouraged.  No matter how much you can do, it’s more than the average citizen is doing, and your family will be better off for it.  Just trust God.  He knows your husband, and gave him to you.  If you are honest and have the right attitude and motives, your husband will be able to trust you.  He may not always agree with you, but it’s better to be partially prepared to struggle through TEOTWAWKI while happily married to your best friend, than to be fully prepared to survive TEOTWAWKI in a miserable, resentful marriage.  Our children learn how to honor and respect their future spouses, by watching how we honor and respect their Dad.  It is a legacy to pass on that will be a blessing to them all of their lives.

Friday, July 27, 2012

I just thought I'd pass the word on some shopping options people might not think about too often. My wife is originally from Vietnam and we often go to an asian market for food supplies. I assume the following is true for other non-western stores, but you might want to check out what is within driving distance. These places are a preppers oasis.

There are a few major advantages to shop at these stores. Please note I am talking about small stores, not a place like the asian mega-marts in California.

First is money. Not just that they are usually less expensive, but more important they are less dependent on a cash register working. I'd expect if there are issues, wally-mart wouldn't be able to sell anything without a cash register working. In these places, that would not be much of an issue.

In addition, cash is king here. Bring cash, buy in bulk, and talk to the owner. You might be surprised to find that you can get 10-20% discount just by asking, or by getting 10 instead of the 2 you planned for. Try haggling over a price at the local supermarket and see what success you have. But in these small, mom and pop stores, it is not only allowed, it's almost expected.

Second, foods tend to focus on non-refrigeration items. (Asian market focus)

25-50 lbs sacks of rice - it's common to see from 50 to 80 sacks of rice at the front of the store. Note that brown rice is usually in smaller sizes due to a cultural tendency to serve that to the elderly, and not for general consumption.

Store bought vacuum packed brown, white rice - long/short/medium grain.

Dried everything. Squid, beef, fish, mushrooms.. everything. Not sure what it is? ask.

Pickled everything. Vegetables , fruits, meat.

More dried noodle options than I ever knew existed.

Candy and treats designed for long term storage - i.e. hard candies, hard cookies, etc.

Spices for everything and in large quantities. In countries where meat might not be of the best quality, there tends to be a focus on cooking with enough spices to cover the flavor of the meet. In TEOTWAWKI, you might just need to make that days hunt taste a little better.

Third, electricity independent food preparation tools.

Remember, many of these countries do not have a stable electric grid, so non-electric cooking tools are very common in these stores. Butane cooking stoves are very common, and you won't have the price markups that you will see in a camping store.

Fourth, experience

Remember, many of these stores are owned by first generation Americans. They know what keeps best when there is no power, or unstable power. What rice keeps longer, what tool works better. They know it first hand. Don't be shy to ask.

Yes, sometimes you might have to put up with a different cultures approach to standing in a line (or lack there of), and you might have to have a little patience with a language barrier, but for me it's well worth it.

Remember, these stores stay alive by having personable relationships with their customers. If you go out of your way to be friendly, you just might find that if Stuff hits the Fan, they will sell items to you (store open or not), where other places will be boarded up.

As always, thanks for your blog. For me, its one of the most valuable web sites on the Internet. - Robert B. in North Carolina

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I have some thoughts on the article regarding the disposal of trash.  It was interesting and thought provoking, however I think in a situation where services were not going to come back you would find that that amount of rubbish you generate would be quite small.

You would not be bringing more “stuff” into the house as you would not be shopping and anything you did already have you would recycle as there would be no chance of getting those storage jars etc any longer.  So all those tins, jars containers etc would eventually be used in one way or another.

If you haven’t already, you should already be moving away from a disposable life, for starters it is cheaper than continually buying disposable products.  Paper plates are not a way of life here except for picnics so if you use paper plates on an every day basis I think a change is in order.  Disposable nappies are expensive and cloth nappies are not much work at all (and healthier for your baby’s bottom), washable menstrual pads just as easy (and more comfortable in my opinion).

Kitchen scraps should always be given to the chooks or the garden, you would be cooking from scratch and there would be very little on-going trash from any packaging.  Change now and purchase as little packaging as possible, if there is packaging try and recycle it, paper and cardboard in to the garden, glass jars for preserving and storage etc, if you do buy packaging make sure you can recycle it.
Repurpose items that are no longer used for the original purpose, learn to sew and fix or change the clothes you no longer want, reuse items for another reason, or just don’t buy too much in the first place, just the things you need. 

Have two uses for items you bring into the house and think about it before you buy: what is the life span of this item, can it be used for more than one purpose and can it be recycled on the property?  Don’t create rubbish to start with.

So basically, don’t buy disposable products, and make sure the packaging is recyclable, long term your rubbish would be minimal and mostly recyclable.  In a TEOTWAWKI situation there would be no more items randomly bought on impulse and anything you already had would be saved like our grandparents did.

Regards To You, - Kathryn in Australia

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An introduction of personal circumstances always seems necessary, so I’ll get that out of the way first.  My husband and I, along with our three children, moved from a moderate sized Texas town of 200,000 to a small spread out community of about 1.500.  That population of 1,500 lives in an area of about 40 square miles.  Our location, of which Mr. Rawles would not approve, is hot and dry. We are learning new ways in all areas of our lives to make this living situation work.  We and our 3 teen-aged children love our community and the new freedom that we have found here.

My husband is a man of many, many skills. A natural problem solver, he can look at most situations and fabricate some kind of solution.  Whether it is plumbing, construction, economics or world politics, he sees the situation in mechanical terms. While he can find or fabricate solutions for most construction, plumbing and solar converter problems, he can’t fix the problems that we see in the political and economic world.  So we do the next best thing.  We prepare.

I, on the other hand, am not particularly mechanically inclined.  Until I married my husband, I was a city apartment dweller with my mother and my brother.  If there was a problem, we called the apartment manager.  I’ve also always known the convenience of the city. Until this last move, I’ve never lived in a city or town without a university.  I’ve never lived without the convenience of grocery shopping at a moment’s notice. Until I met my husband, I did not garden and I’m still not that good at it.  Based on my mother’s experiences, canning was to be avoided at all costs.  Growing up, my mom and I were not in the category of the worst consumers, but we did consume our share of convenience. Compared to our friends at the time, we were down-right frugal.  Compared to what I know now, we had a long way to go before we could be called frugal.   Of all the things that I have “given up” to live where we live, convenience is what I miss most.  But, I’m not willing to move back to a town or city of any size to regain “convenience”.  My husband and I are blessed that we are of one mind about the need to prepare. We don’t take that blessing for granted, either. GOD put us in this new community for a reason and we will be here until He moves us.

While I miss conveniences like “in the mood” grocery shopping, the consistent, orderly removal of trash is a mark of civilized life that I miss very much.  Now, I realize that much of rural America still burns trash. Many have sloughs, or ditches that need filling and are filled with trash that cannot be burned, but I’ve never had any experience with this.  I’ve never separated my trash except for a few forays into recycling.   Before my husband and I moved to our current home, I could clean out the refrigerator, pick up around the yard, put the usual refuse of daily life into the trash and it was gone.  I could, twice a year like clockwork, clean out my children’s closets and make piles. One pile was trash and one was given to an organization such as Goodwill and another might be given to friends.  But wherever it went, it was out of my house and out of my life with immediacy that I never gave much thought.  And yes, we did recycle to a degree.  For whatever reason, our former town seemed to make recycling harder, not easier, so I did some, but not as much as I could have.
We arrived in our new community in December of 2010. We brought a burn barrel with us and we burned our trash and recycled what we could locally for about 3 months.  We were living in a 34 foot long trailer at the time, and we had no running water, so we used paper plates and picnic type utensils and cups.  We used a lot of water bottles. By March, our area had been a full year and a half without any measurable rain and some areas were suffering from fires, so our county instituted a burn ban.  If you are familiar with burn bans, you know that sometimes they don’t include every type of possible fire. Sometimes it is a charcoal fire burn ban, or just fireworks, or no open-pit burning. This burn ban was all inclusive. It included welding and any type of fire whether it was grilling on a gas grill or burning trash in a barrel.  So now what??  At first, I was pretty naïve about what a problem trash can be. We had no idea how long we’d be in the ban, so we started with Band-Aid solutions.  My husband used the Kubota tractor to dig/push dirt and rock into a berm and we piled our bags up against that berm. By this time, we were dry camping in our shipping container house.  Let me tell you, trash really piles up for 5 people in this situation. We had limited water by now, none running in the house, but hoses from a well outside.  I moved us away from disposable plates, etc. to dishware and cutlery as soon as I could, but we still made a lot of trash.  We quickly outgrew the berm idea and when we found our first rattlesnake with a mouse bulge, we knew that we needed a better solution.  We built an enclosure out of t-posts, cattle panel and plywood for the top and moved the trash pile.  What this gave us was an enclosure to contain the trash so that it wouldn’t spread out.  We could throw the bags in at the top and not get too close to the pile.  That was a year and half ago and I still have remnants of that pile that need to be burned.  At its largest, the current trash pit was 8 x 8 x 5.  It still has that basic outline, but it is no longer bulging at the seams. 

Another problem that we encountered in our situation was recycling.  In our area of the country, we have about 8 months of glorious weather. We can be hot during the day, but the nights cool down significantly.  We have 4 months during the summer when the heat is constant and a real challenge.   So most people live here during the 8 winter months and leave for the 4 summer months.  We don’t have many of our services, like recycling, during the summer.  And if we store recyclables during the summer and hit the recycling trailer with it when it reopens in the fall, it is too much for them to handle all at once.  Our closest town is 80 miles away and they have recycling services.  We do bag our recyclables, which at the moment, is mostly aluminum cans and metal food cans.  We have bags of them, but in order to get them to town, we’d have to take the diesel pickup rather than the more fuel efficient sedan.  So we haven’t done this yet. But, at some point, we’ll have to.  It isn’t a good solution to the problem, but we’ll do what we have to do.

A third problem that I have found is finding a home for things that I no longer use or things that no longer work and are not considered trash.   What do you do with the laptop power cord that will no longer charge the computer?  What do you do with the items that you thought would be useful in your new home, but are not? Thrift stores: We have a couple, but they really are overrun with stuff.  They consistently ask residents not to drop off any more things until they can clear out merchandise.  Garage Sale/Flea Market: also an option, but most people are looking to get rid of stuff, not buy it.  Also the organized flea market is only available in the winter months. Free cycle: Our nearest town is 80 miles away and most people won’t drive this far to get it, but it could happen.  Recycle/Re-purpose: seeing an item’s potential outside of its normal use is not one of my gifts. I rarely think outside of the box, so this is a skill that I need to develop and if you have stuff like I do, you need to develop it too.  Store items for Barter: Yes, but storage is a very big issue. We downsized our home considerably and I gave away about 2/3 of what we owned before we made the move.  But what I didn’t count on was how much room prep stores and food stores actually take.  We had only just gotten started with our preparations before we decided to move.  So before I store something that someone else may need someday, I’d like to get my own stuff organized and stored properly.  Beyond re-purposing and storing for barter, the only solution that I can think of for items like this is to bury them.  The solution before burying it is not to buy it in the first place.  I wish I’d seen that one coming.

The initial strict burn ban lasted a full year and we are still under a partial burn ban that prohibits some types of trash burning.  At the moment, we can burn trash in a barrel if it is enclosed. We put our burn barrel in our first outdoor shower that we had constructed out of cut-out shipping container walls.  In our small community, one business built a metal structure out of roofing tin.  On the roof he installed two whirligigs for exhaust.  We don’t know what he used for air intakes, but it couldn’t be that hard to figure out.  We are saving that idea for future use.  Anyway, with our small enclosure and our burn barrel, we can burn our current trash and we are making some in-roads into the stored trash. 

As I read survival articles and literature, I don’t find much space given to the disposal of trash.  I’ve shared our experiences, now I’d like to share some insights.  Not so much solutions because there is only one solution that I see.  I’d rather let you see some of the issues and then tailor your own solutions.  As I’ve hinted above, the three options for dealing with trash are: burn it, bury it, or recycle/re-purpose it.  But, the ultimate solution to the trash problem for those of us who prepare for more desperate times is to plan for it.   In a grid down or TEOTWAWKI situation where security is paramount, what are you going to do with your trash?  Just so we are clear, I am not talking about a natural disaster where you can see that normal services will resume sometime in the future.  I am talking about a grid down situation where you are completely on your own.  In this situation, your decisions might need to include OPSEC, medical concerns, hygiene, and environmental pollution.  Critter control, future sewage needs, and the logistics of being out and about around your retreat need to be addressed.  In order to plan for this, you’ve got to look at what preparations you’ve got in place.  You need to look at your location.  What food/pantry store do you have in place?  What are your security needs?  What are your sewage plans?  Identify your biggest trash challenge.   Is it diapers or paper plates?  Is it tin cans or plastic water bottles?  You can deal with it as long as you’ve identified the challenge and the solution ahead of time and then planned for it.

I think most people consider burning trash to be the best alternative in most situations.  So does your location support that decision?  Do you live in a rural area? I can imagine scenarios where you could burn trash in a city, but that means things are pretty bad.  In a rural area, you may not want anyone to know that you are still in place.  Smoke can be dealt with to a degree, but you’d be hard pressed to burn trash on a regular basis and cover up the smoke smell.  As for environmental concerns, there are not that many.  You just don’t want to burn toxic stuff that will foul your air.  For example, we have blue foam boards that we’ve used in construction.  I don’t burn these.  I believe we do need to make some accommodation for the environment.  We won’t have the EPA breathing down our necks, but we should take care of the land and air that will take care of us.  Some things don’t burn.  You will have to deal with ashes and charred debris.  Have you got somewhere to dispose of that?  You can’t burn aerosol cans or batteries, so you will have to have some alternative plans for them. 

You can bury your trash. We live in an area where the landscape will not recover from this type of intrusion.  You’d see our pit, the tracks from the Kubota tractor, our car tire tracks, whatever, for 100 years.  That is more of an environmental impact than we’d like to make right now and it isn’t very secure, but it remains an option for us long term.   For one thing, we have enough land to do it and we have earth moving equipment. I’ve read articles that recommend you have shovels or hand tools to bury your trash. I’m telling you, from experience, a shovel will not be much help long term when confronted with mounds of bagged trash.  You are going to be digging a very large hole.  If you have the equipment to dig a large hole, do you have the parts and experience to maintain and repair the equipment? You may have ditches or sloughs that run through your property.  If you dump your trash in these and then plant native grasses in and around the refuse, this could help with erosion problems.  My in-laws do this and have corrected some erosion issues on their farm land.  But, my mother-in-law is very diligent about moving grass clumps into the dump area.  Again, this is not an option for us, but you need to evaluate your own landscape.  You also have to consider the environmental impact of burying as well.  Again, we may not need to be as obsessive as the EPA has become, but we don’t want our rivers to burn either.  Consider rain runoff before you choose a spot to dig.  Consider where your well is located; consider winds, critters and future land use before you dig.

You can recycle your trash. I’m not talking about municipal recycling programs because in this scenario, there would be no municipal recycling programs. I’m talking about home-grown, common sense recycling. What can I do with the water bottles or water jugs that I’ve stored and that are now empty?  What can I do with all of the #10 cans as they are used? I’ve seen a chicken shed roof that was “shingled” with tin can lids and the walls reinforced with flattened cans.  Walls can be built with cans and filled with dirt; bottles cans be used for windows, etc., but that is only if you still need structures around your retreat.  Some items from your pantry might be done away with entirely. I found a washable “paper” towel pattern online, and let’s face it ladies, washable pads from Naturally Cozy just makes sense, doesn’t it?  While there are few op/sec or medical/hygiene issues with recycling, there are logistical issues.  Where are you going to store used items like used tin food cans or the #10 cans that we all love so much? Have you got storage for used items?  There comes a point where you just cannot use another #10 can to store nuts/bolts/thread/yarn/seed packs/ etc.  Then what?  Think about diversifying your food and pantry storage as you rotate.  I used some of my dehydrated vegetables to make soup mixes. I repackaged them in Mylar bags which store flat and can be reused until they are too small and at that point, they aren’t much trash.  I also put some mixes into gallon glass jars.  I don’t recommend this if you are not rotating your storage.  There are literally thousands of recycle ideas on the internet. You just have to look for them.  Look at your storage, see what you have the most of and then go hunt up some ideas.  Plan ahead for what you’ll need and what may be used as barter (think glass jars—you cannot have too many!)

There is no one size fits all solution to trash in a grid down TEOTWAWKI scenario except to plan, plan, and plan.  There are as many solutions to the trash problem as there are retreat solutions. Don’t put this off, however.  You may visit your retreat often. You may practice bugging out.  But, if after the weekend is over, you haul your trash to the Dumpster in town, or burn it at your retreat without thought or worry, then you haven’t done all of your homework.  Trash will be a big problem for you if you don’t plan for its disposal ahead of time.  For most of us, trash disposal is one of those things that we regularly take for granted.  Don’t.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hi James,
I too have chosen DeWalt, but went out of my way recently to purchase a 12 volt cordless drill.  My reason being that the rechargeable batteries will eventually degrade.  18 volts is hard to come by without stacking small cells together in series.  But 12 volt batteries are ubiquitous in all kinds of shapes, sizes and capacities, and can be pressed into service easily with a few feet of wire. - Ray K.

Dear James.
I just want you to know that we appreciate what you do ,the information you provide is priceless,and don`t start my day without touching base at I use my battery operated tools daily, as a contractor -handyman. I have also found Dewalt to make  great tools. My batteries started to go on my drill, impact driver set, so I went to the Big Box store. I found the price for one spare battery was $80 dollars. Yikes! So I started looking around for options. What I found might save you and your readers some money, and give them some inexpensive backup--since "two is one." I found a combo kit with a DeWalt drill, two batteries, charger and flashlight on sale for for $159. This, mind you, was at the same store that sells a single battery for $80. Hope this helps, - HookNshoot

Regarding Dewalt cordless tools, I agree that they have good quality and lifespan. In my case, I switched over to Bosch Cordless tools seven years ago. I ordered the full set of tools including the jig saw and the car charger and a free canvas carry bag plus an 18v hand plainer from the factory outlet at a good savings with new factory warranty.

The initial Bosch warranty is better and check out the six foot drop test online. Your results may vary and according to Bosch their 12 volt product line has performance close to the 18 volt product line, with less weight.

My change jar is being saved to purchase for their 18 volt impact driver.

As for the batteries after seven years of sporadic use including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina I had two of my three 18v batteries [eventually develop] dead cells. New replacements
seemed expensive so I called the local battery place and asked how much to rebuild. I had three batteries rebuilt, with same day service. The cost was $150 versus $240 for buying factory new replacements. Plus the batteries were at full charge when I got home. That's my two copper-washed zinc cents worth.

Remember that most rechargeable battery packs can be rebuilt for about 2/3 the cost of new and as a plus you are "saving the Earth."

Disclaimer: I am not in anyway compensated or have a financial interest in either company. I like them both but just prefer Bosch.

Cheers, - JHB

Here are a couple of do-it-yourself "corded battery pack" conversions, like you mentioned:

Convert a perfectly good cordless drill to a corded one.

How To Make a Cordless Tool Corded

Regards, - Zac


Hello James,
As you noted in your overview of cordless tools, the weak link is in the batteries. When they fail (and they will [eventually] fail) an otherwise useful tool becomes useless.
As an option, you recommend using a high amperage 18 volt DC power source. But unfortunately, 18 volt power sources are not common.

Perhaps another option would be to own 12 volt DC power tools. When their batteries fail, the tool could be powered by any high amperage 12 volt DC power source, like a car battery.
Although these tools may lack the torque of their 18 volt brethren, the quality is still there. 12 volt lead-acid batteries are readily available. Additionally, in a grid-down situation, a number of other tools, appliances and communication gear could be powered by that same 12 volt battery. And, as you pointed out, be sure to use appropriate fuses. Best Regards, - David S.


For extented hours of use on cordless power tool use, check this Y-T video out on what I'd call "semi-cordless": Ultimate Battery Power. Oh, and here is a link to that company's web site: Kudos on having the biggest and very best prepping site in the blogosphere. The others are just pale imitators! - Charles J.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
In our family I’m responsible for the obtaining and tracking of the beans, seeds, band aid , and child-schooling portion of our preparation. My husband is responsible for obtaining the bullets, fuel, agriculture and security supplies and all other aspects of our preparedness and training everyone how to use them, however I’m responsible for inventorying and usage tracking all of these supplies also. As a former analytical CPA and auditor-before I became a wife and mother, I fully believe that accurate regular inventory of your supplies is the life and death of your survival, just as it is for businesses. If you don’t know what you have on hand and what you still need to obtain or replenish then I don’t understand how you can be adequately prepared. Over the years I saw many business fail-not because of lack knowledge but because of lack of supplies to put that knowledge to work.
In the process of our preparedness journey, I stumbled upon a free web site that is run by two mothers, They adhere to the Mormon plan of having a full years’ worth of food stored.  They provide you with a complete checklist called “Baby Steps Checklist” that walks you through complete food storage purchases for your family spread out over a full year. If you follow their steps the preparedness is broken down to a financially manageable task, which I know for many families is the largest stumbling block.
The web site includes, which I feel is the most important part, a spreadsheet calculator that allows  you to calculate how much food/supplies you need based on the number of family members, age of your children, and how much you want stored, i.e. 3, 6, 12 months or more. I tracked all our other household supplies usage (cleaning supplies, hygiene products, etc) for a year and added a padding of 6 months usage. I then used this spreadsheet to create another for all other household “stuff” you need to live. My husband took the spreadsheet and also modified it to show all the “stuff” that falls under his department of bullets, fuel, replacement parts, agriculture supplies, etc we need to  have stored for a societal breakdown.
The spreadsheet is so simple to use that even our 8 and 10 year olds can follow it as they take our monthly food inventory. It takes them about 2-3 hours. The 10 year old is even able to take the corrected hard copy and sit at the computer and change quantities on hand in the spreadsheet and then printout a new three new hard copies for me, it is that user friendly. (Note: I do a complete inventory myself once a quarter to ensure the children are staying on top of their chore and that all quantities are correct.)
We keep multiple copies of each inventory on simple clipboards, which I highly recommend. One at the storage location of each category to note any withdrawals from our stores, one in our property’s “mechanical shop” and in our Master Supply Binder that stays in the home office. I also keep a copy of the food spreadsheet in a kitchen drawer for easy access. The spreadsheets allow us to have on one simple clipboard and instant access to what I have on hand-what we need to pick-up on our next runs to the hardware, survival, Costco or Sam's Club, the regular grocery store- all of which are an hour away on a beautiful sunny summer day, longer on icy, snow packed, mountain, roads, and also what I need to can/freeze/preserve this current growing season.
With these spreadsheets I am able to do a full inventory of everything we have quarterly in approximately 12-15 hours of time every quarter. My husband and I can then sit down and in one evening easily go over our usage to make sure we are not being wasteful and plan any large resupply purchases that need to be made.
Thank you, - A Conservative, Prepared Catholic in the Rocky Mountains

Sunday, July 1, 2012

When we think about preparing ourselves, families, communities, businesses, and country we are really at the core of the issue preparing for any disruptions to our supply chain.

When we hear the phrase supply chain management, most of us are thinking about raw goods and materials as they relate to the manufacturing process and how/when those goods are delivered.  But not just delivered from the supplier, but how they make it into the production process and as a result are turned into a usable finished product to be consumed.  On occasion, we’ll relate the supply chain phrase to the grocery stores as we have the preparedness mindset and we’ll talk about the fact that most stores only carry three days worth of goods.  But I’d like to broaden the scope of supply chain management a little.

While it is true with the computer age came the age of Just-In-Time inventory and this allowed companies to reduce the amount of cash that in times past was tied up in inventory that often turned obsolete, it also created tension all along the supply route.  Since everything seems to be geared to arrive for sale at about the exact time you walk in the door to purchase it, the slack in the rope has been removed.  This can be seen pretty quickly during weather related storms and the grocery stores.  Let a storm hit two days after the last shipment and the shelves are bare.  Let the weatherman call for a huge storm and all of a sudden the distribution centers are racing around the clock trying to get goods delivered to the outlets.  They would be working around the clock, not to reduce the impact of the disaster, but instead, simply because those in charge know without a doubt, the product will get sold…and rather quickly too.

As you begin to think about emergency planning and disaster preparedness, things will almost always get back to providing those things in our lives we consider basic necessities.  Let’s again think outside of the box and not get caught up in the grocery store example.  Let’s take it a step farther.  Let’s think hard about the supply chains in our own lives, those things that at this particular moment in time we feel like we could do without but wouldn’t want to.

As you woke up this morning and made your way to the bathroom, you probably hit the light switch and when finished, flushed the toilet.  Then maybe you padded over to the sink to brush your teeth and then off to the coffee pot.  Somewhere along the way you turned on the television or fired up the computer to get the latest in news and weather.  Your routine is off to its normal start and continues with you getting dressed, breakfast, and maybe heading out the door.  Maybe you threw a load of clothes in the washing machine or dryer; maybe you set the security alarm, closed the garage door, or took the trash down to the end of the drive, etc. before jumping in the car and heading off to earn that days wages.

You make your way through several intersections and stop lights all the while never really being aware of what is going on around you.  You assume that the car coming towards you will stay on his or her side of the yellow line and since it is that way 99.99% of the time, no need to worry.  You show up for work to a job that is largely provided and created by lots of additional people.  You may be the cashier at that grocery store, but you depend on thousands of people to make things possible for you to earn your wages.  Maybe you are in Sales; you depend on product development, marketing, manufacturing, etc. to create something you can sell.  In each and every one of these steps and processes, there lies a “supply chain” that is created or supported by someone other than you.

Back to the house.  When you headed to the bathroom, the electricity came from somewhere.  When you flushed the toilet it was made possible by others, more than likely, with the waste disappearing somewhere.  The first point I am trying to make although it seems like a feeble effort on my part is to get you to think about the things we do and how it is made possible.  If you can wrap your mind around that as you go through several days, you’d get the picture.  I understand that one of the first steps in financial counseling is to have the client list every penny they spend in a thirty day period.  This isn’t to inform or educate the counselor, but is there to bring to light where the potential problems might be. 

Let’s take the most simple of disasters, the winter storm.  It often comes with several days of advance warning and plenty of media coverage.  You can track it as it moves across the country and into your immediate area.  Most have plenty of time to prepare if they wanted to.  So in our supply chain model, things that are likely to become an issue if provisions are not provided for are heat, electricity, water, entertainment, medical supplies or assistance, travel, etc.  To what degree one is prepared is a simple function of how many of these “supply chains” that have substitute systems in place.  For heat, maybe it is a kerosene heater, for electricity it could be a generator, entertainment is now board games and books.  Water could have been stored, travel suspended, and medial issues addressed before the storm every showed its ugly face.  I was recently at a medical supply business and we were talking about oxygen tanks.  I asked them if there was any type of seasonal “thing” with demand and they said only when they are calling for very bad weather…then they can’t keep enough tanks on hand.

Most winter storms give enough advance notice that the family can prudentially put into place a secondary set of supply chains to take the place of what seems normal.  One those things are in place, they will still watch the news but the stress level is not there and if your house is like mine, there is a certain air of excitement.  No school, sit around all day and eat and play.  You get the picture.  It is much more relaxed because alternative supply chains were put in place.  We probably would have never called it as such, but that is what we have done.

If you were to make a list of events that are more likely to happen than others, the winter storm might make the list.  Earthquakes, floods, forest fires, and hurricanes might make the list.  All of these could be grouped together and an action item list developed to provide for your second supply chain as they are similar in the types of services you might lose.
But to your list of disasters that you might face could (and should) include the lose of your current income.  You could add house fire, economic collapse, identity theft and other such events.  Why worry about an asteroid impact when you have made no provisions for being laid off.

Imagine what someone’s “supply chain” might look like if they lost their current job.  The secondary supply chain might include things like a working spouse with skills or a second set of skill sets that are outside of your current one.  Being networked within your field with others that might help you locate that next job.  It could and should include an emergency reserve of cash to pay the bills.  If you are in high-tech and technology goes away, you’ll need to replace those skills with something more manual, don’t get forget to think about the tools that might be required to do that job.  The time to think about what other areas of interest you’d have in earning a living is not in the midst of the disaster but before it happens.  This again reduces stress as you will have the chance to put things in place beforehand.  As part of my automobile insurance policy I carry the uninsured motorist policy.  I don’t fret not one single car I pass wondering if they are driving without insurance, because I have taken that risk out of the equation by buying my own.  Why trust everyone to carry insurance when I can pay a little extra and know without a doubt, I have it covered.

These are just a couple of examples that we can all relate to and in most cases lived them in real time.  I’d like to encourage you to expand this “secondary supply chain” principle to as many aspects of your life as you can think of.  I have a friend that day trades stocks.  One of the biggest things he has done to insure the supply chain of information and his ability to trade stocks is that he has three different ways to access the internet.  He has his standard high speed DSL from his local service provider but also has a secondary, although slower, connection from another provider that’s infrastructure is not in the area.  When I asked him about the slower connection, he explained why pay for fast access when probably all he’d be doing is cashing out.  Stable was what he was after not fast.  And if that wasn’t enough redundancy in his supply chain of access and information, he had a laptop with a wireless modem tied into yet another service provider even farther away.  This is so that if he ever has to scramble out of the office, he can still take care of his livelihood.

As we think about all of the simple “supply chains” in our individual lives, your list might look something like this…food, water, electricity, waste disposal, communication/information, medical assistance, security and safety, shelter, travel, entertainment, income, heat/cooling, and cooking.  I might have left something off, but if there is a way to insure that I can partake out of convenience all of these goods and services from the “principal supply chain” but also have at least a start on the substitutes that make up the “secondary supply chain”, the stress of anything pending would be less.  And if you could get solidly through the substitutes and then create a third set of options, you’d be light years ahead of almost all of the general public.

We have all heard and used the saying “two is one and one is none”, but have we given much time and thought about how to replace those things.  You might have a barbeque grill with a spare propane tank and be thinking “two is one”.  But what happens when the grill gets stolen, the burners crap out on you, or the second tank now runs empty.  You look to Dutch ovens, cooking over the grate you’ve taken out of the grill (if it wasn’t stolen), cook with a solar cooker that doesn’t require you to stand there and feed it wood, or you eat the meals you have on hand that doesn’t require cooking.

Your supply chain for water might look something like this.  The primary supply chain might look like the tap either from city water or your well.  The secondary supply chain might be stored water; your third supply chain might be a rain barrel catchment system with a supplemented water filter.  Your forth supply chain system might be five-gallon buckets to haul water from the nearest pond or river with a large pot to boil the water to purify.

By now I hope you are getting picture.  The Supply Chain model that is used in essentially every single business I can think of applies to those preparing for the uncertainties of life.  In fact, I think that they have a much more meaningful impact on us as the health and well being of our families, friends, and communities depend on us being able to replace as quickly as possible that very first or primary supply chain.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Nearly two-thirds of all the furnishings and prep items in my home were used when I got them.  As the economy has continued to crumble, any stigma attached to shopping on the cheap has given way to pride at getting a good deal.  Forget designer shoes or imported coffee - I get absolutely giddy when I come home with a great “find”!

But can you rely on bargain shopping to get all the things you need to help your family be prepared for whatever comes your way?  Is there a way to really make “treasure hunting” both fun and successful?
Yes!  All it takes is some planning together with a positive attitude and a pre-determined budget.  Even if you aren’t pinching pennies, why waste your money when you can find