Hunting and Trapping Category

Sunday, August 4, 2013

About seven years ago I met a young lady who would later become my wife, in a college religion class. We fell in love, worked extremely well together and have created an amazing six-member family. This is important because, before her I had never hunted, rarely camped, and had a penchant for electronics and wasting money. Becoming a husband and father has curbed many of those issues and marrying into a family that camped and hunted their whole life was an eye opener.

My first few steps into becoming a (self-proclaimed) Prepper were unobtrusive and hardly noticeable. My father in law invited me to go dove hunting with the family, this was great I thought because I had shot skeet many times before and was relatively proficient at it. Needless to say, I barely hit my limit the first day, but became more proficient from there.

It was shortly after this experience that I was taken to the family's “Squirrel Camp”, this is a big gathering of about 4 to 5 families a year to readjust the local squirrel population. I had never really eaten game meat before but became fairly accustomed to it in the years to come as my father in law was an avid hunter and always put in for the standard Arizona game (i.e. mule deer, elk,  and antelope).
Then I decided that I wanted to try my hand at big game and though I have only been drawn twice for anything larger than a squirrel I have yet to be fortunate enough to get anything (hopefully that will change with being drawn again this year).

But as my palate for non- processed meat  became greater, I started wanting to hunt more and one thing became abundantly clear, not only can hunting be an enjoyable experience but it can easily make your grocery bill much lighter. Because my father in law is single now he always shares his bounty with us, which is a considerable help to a family of 6. As I started to realize how much money we were saving I started to add up the costs associated with hunting.

The first cost is your tool or weapon for taking a particular game.

For me the first weapon had to be a shotgun, in this case I started out with a Weatherby PA-08 which set me back $300, five years ago.
Over those five years we have had 10 dove seasons, 5 quail seasons, and 5 duck/geese seasons.

As for dove we NEVER leave without our limit (10) and we have averaged 20 dove hunts each year. I average 3 shots per dove throughout the season at a cost of $.75 averaged per dove. That is $150 per year for 200 primary sources of protein in a meal. Considering Cornish game hens in Arizona average $5 each, that is a savings of $850 a year

Quail is a bit more sporadic as it requires more work and time to get a limit so we only average 20 a year. Our cost is a bit higher as they flow low and fast and often in between bushes. My shot average is 4 per quail at a cost of $1 each for a total of $20 with a comparative savings of $80

Duck gets much more interesting as we typically average 2 shots at a cost of $2 per duck. I have averaged 10 a year for a total of $20, which in comparison to a whole chicken (only thing we have around here) would cost $150 for 10. That is a savings of $130
Geese have been easy to hit for a couple years here and we average 2 shots on them but typically only get 5 a year. At $2 each that’s $10 a year, with a comparison being against a small turkey which often costs $25 each. That is a savings of $115 for 5 birds.
Weapon: $300
Ammunition: $200
Savings if we were to purchase the alternative: $1175
Savings after Weapon and ammo in a single year: $675 and each subsequent year after has been $975

Now I do not include time into the equation as we choose to do this and it does not interfere with work or family (mostly because the whole family goes). Now consider an average meal from the grocery store will often cost a single person in our household $4 each we save on average about $1 per meal per person or $6 a meal. This is a massive savings at the end of the year, when it’s averaged out. Every cent counts.
So here I am hunting for food at this point, mostly because I enjoy dollar cost averaging and think it’s silly to hunt for any other reason than to eat.

Now, here comes my second weapon:
A real tree camo Remington 597 .22LR with a Bushnell 3-9x40 scope on it. I chose this one, partly because the wife liked it, and partly because my pocketbook liked it. It cost $200 including the scope at a sale from our local Cabela's.
This is used to hunt squirrel and rabbit.
Fortunately I happen to be a decent shot with a .22 and have averaged 2 shots or less per kill. Now mind you these prices are before the unfortunate runs on ammo, and being as cheap as they was I bought 4 boxes of 50 every time I went to the store. So my costs have been and will be likely forever stuck at $.04 per round.
So with an average of 2 shots at $.08 a kill and an average of 10 between both rabbits and squirrel we are at $.80 a year for something (rabbit) that costs $15 for a whole one at the local Asian market. That is a massive savings of $149.20 a year.
Weapon cost: $200
Ammo cost: $.80
Food savings: $149.20
Savings after two years including purchase of firearm $99.60 and each year after being $149.80.

So after two years I have saved a considerable amount of money and have covered the costs of both firearms, now I can speculate on what large game with cost and save but until I know firsthand, I won’t bother.

Here comes the Accidental Prepper part. Having worked in prisons and having family being former military and police I have maintained the prison mantra of “Low trust, high suspicion”.  This has caused me to be a bit obsessive on prices in regards to firearms, ammunition, precious metals, and other commodities. So a few years ago when I first started embracing subsistence hunting I began to dollar cost average ammunition and precious metals mostly and looked at firearms as a hedge against inflation/tyranny. The latter being more prevalent each day.

Now we (as a family) have taken dollar cost averaging to a new level, one way we do this is to avoid buying new items at all costs, with the main exceptions being undergarments and shoes.
One way we do this is by garage sale shopping, we have nearly eliminated back to school clothes costs by paying on average $1 per clothing item. We typically go to more upscale areas and buy what the rich would throw out or donate. We have in turn turned this into a side business for my wife who will buy baby clothes and set up a small portable store on the side of the road. Baby clothes are often extremely cheap at yard sales ($.25 on average) and she cleans them and sells them for $1, which doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that even after laundry costs we double our money at nearly no risk.
I on the other hand look for more manly items, i.e. camo, ammo, guns, and military surplus ("mil-surp") items. The latter of which is where I make most of my spending money and fun money. Mil-surp has huge resale potential as does ammo. I often buy 100s of rounds from little old ladies whose husbands passed and have no idea what to do with the stuff. I will typically buy all they have at a large discount for buying in bulk, then keep what I want and sell the rest.
The most impressive yard sale profit I made was on a small dagger, this dagger was a last minute pick up at a late yard sale. It was not even the reason I stopped as there was a desert camo boonie hat hanging on a rack and behind it was an original Luftwaffe (Nazi) airman’s dagger. While I despise the Nazis for everything they had done, I am not above selling a piece of history. So I ask about the hat and the lady wanted $5, I asked if she would throw in the dagger and she did. Turned out that it was worth a pretty penny and I eventually sold it for $500 to a local collector.

So while being a Prepper has kind of been in my blood from my thrifty parents, it’s not until you find out that if you’re smart you can do it for next to nothing if you get creative.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Most people have been fishing at some point in their life and in the event of TEOTWAWKI many people will include this basic survival skill in their portfolio of hunting and gathering activities.  Since the majority of the world lives along coastlines, fishing for survival might become fairly competitive and with so many lines in the water you'll be better off jumping in and hunting your fish the way God intended.  After all, why else would humans be given the mammalian diving reflex, the set adaptations which occur as soon as your face touches the water that maximize your oxygen efficiency and protect your organs from damage due to water pressure?  So you could spearfish of course.  

Spearfishing (often referred to as free diving) provides a wonderful alternative to fishing with a pole but requires a different skill set.  Spearfishing is often a better approach than using a pole for a number of reasons:   Spearfishing requires little to no fishing line that may be hard to come by and easily lost in the water or damaged.  It does not require bait. Spears are not lost as easily as hooks.  And from an ecological point of view spearfishing damages the environment less because it is more selective and leaves behind no old line to tangle up animals and trash the environment.     

Despite the many positives of spearfishing there are some cons as well.  Spearfishing still requires its own set of supplies that can be hard to come by in a collapse scenario.  Long sharpened steel shafts with the necessary shapes and structures to lock it into the trigger mechanism will be difficult to fabricate much less find.  The heavy rubber tubing required for the spear gun's power bands will also be a difficult item to find and because rubber degrades over time, the chance of finding well maintained rubber that can withstand the tension required for your purpose will be in short supply.  Also, spearfishing is best done in clear water where you can visually identify your prey from a distance in order to have time to aim and fire your spear gun accurately.  Since clear water typically means ocean water and much of the ocean water in North America is quite cold it requires a wetsuit and good swimming ability to accomplish comfortably and safely.   If you are going after large, active fish, you will need a spear gun.  For more approachable fish that tend to be more sedentary a Hawaiian sling may suffice.  A sling is less likely to bring in the big fish but it requires much less equipment.   The standard spear gun is basically a long crossbow.  A steel shaft, sharpened at one end,  sits atop a metal pipe or length of wood and nestles into a groove.  At the back end of the gun is a handle and trigger mechanism.  The trigger mechanism accepts the appropriately shaped spear shaft and holds it in place until the trigger is pulled.  At the front of the gun one or more heavy rubber bands are passed through the body of the gun and connected into a loop by nylon cord.  When the bands are pulled back the nylon strings are set into a small tab on the top of the spear shaft.  The trigger mechanism holds the shaft in place under the tension.  When you're read to fire, you pull the trigger, the spear is loosed and the bands send the shaft down the groove and into your target.  The effective range of a spear gun with a typical two band configuration is roughly 20 feet under water.    

Alternatively, the Hawaiian sling is simply a spear shaft with a rubber loop at the back end and typically three sharp metal wires at the front.  You operate it by placing your index finger and thumb inside of the rubber loop and pulling back on the spear to create tension in the rubber band then release, much the same way that you launch a paperclip with a rubber band.  This version has an effective range of about the length of the spear itself but would be a much easier version to fabricate if you have to go MacGyver.   There are also pneumatic spear guns but I have no experience with these types nor do many people use them from my experience.  

The spear gun. method of spearfishing usually requires a set of additional gear which includes a float (basically the orange flotation devices that lifeguards carry) that is towed behind the diver by a length of rope, typically a length longer than the deepest the diver would expect to dive (anywhere from 30 to 100 feet.  The float often holds a dive flag which is required by law in many areas where boat traffic could present a hazard.  The float also serves as a place to tie up dispatched fish while the diver hunts for more.  It also keeps the dead, bloody fish away from the diver in the event a fish shows up for a free meal, especially the kind that can make a meal of the diver himself.  The gun is clipped on to the end of the float line to secure it in case the diver has to drop the gun.  Some very large fish can be taken with a spear gun and the diver wants the option of dropping the gun and letting the fish wear itself out against the float.  Divers have lost their lives struggling to bring large fish to the surface.   

A diver also wants to bring gloves to handle the spiny fish and a knife to finish off any that weren't dispatched from the initial shot.  Wetsuits are a must in cold water but even in warm water become necessary as many spearfishing expeditions can last several hours, long enough to dangerously chill a diver even in the tropics.  Fins are essential as they make swimming much easier, make for much deeper dives, and allow the diver to expend less energy, leading to a lower heart rate, less air consumption, and more time underwater where the fish are.     A high quality mask is a must and in my opinion the most important thing to pay a high price for.  There's nothing worse than dealing with a leaky, poor fitting mask while your in the water.  You don't want to even think about the mask.  Get one that has a wide field of view but a low volume of space between your face and the lens as this space will require air from you lungs to equalize as you descend.  The bigger the mask, the less air you'll get to keep in your lungs.  Freediving-specific masks are always "low-volume" masks for the reason mentioned above but they aren't always the most comfortable and don't always offer large field of views by way of their low volume.  I find the single frame masks with a single lens as opposed to two or more separate lenses offer the highest field of view and most comfort.  The Oceanic Shadow is my mask of choice.    

A snorkel is highly recommended because it allows you to be on the surface keep your vision focused underwater on the prey or any lurking predators.  Face down is also the lowest energy position for rest on the surface for recovering between dives.  If the waves begin to pick up it really helps to have a tube to breathe through so you are not fighting the waves for air. A weight belt will absolutely be needed if you are using a wetsuit and also help to lower the energy required to get down on the bottom and also allow you to rest on the bottom and be still while you wait to ambush fish.  Ankle weights can help to flatten out any extra buoyancy you might have on the legs.  Make sure that your weight belt has a quick-release and that you know how to disconnect it in case you need to make an emergency dash for the surface.   In a collapse scenario this gear can be reduced down to a mask and Hawaiian sling or even just the sling.    

So now that you've got your gear, the next question is; can you swim?  If the answer is no, then it's time to start learning.  Are you comfortable enough in the water to not need solid support for hours at a time?  Are you comfortable holding your breath?  Are you comfortable not breathing through you nose or getting water inside of your mask?  Obviously swimming ability is vitally important to this survival skill as is your comfort level in the water because the idea with spearfishing is not to get a workout but to maintain the lowest heart rate you can, you want to be comfortable enough to fall asleep in the water… but don't fall asleep.  If you lack the comfort or swimming ability, then get in a pool and swim.  Hold your breath and sit on the bottom, work your way up to a minute underwater, first in the shallow end where you can stand up if you have to breathe and then move to the deep end.   In order to hold you breath for as long as possible and thereby give yourself a higher chance of success there are a few techniques that you should utilize.   First, you want to lower your heart rate and oxygenate your blood as much as possible.  To do this, completely relax your body and breathe through your snorkel with slow, deep breaths - completely filling and emptying your lungs each time.  Just having your face in the water will induce bradycardia (part of the mammalian diving reflex) and help lower your heart rate.  Use this time to enter a zen state, focus on lowering the heart rate, relaxing, whatever meditation method helps you. 

One technique I've found useful is to spend ten seconds exhaling slowly, push all the air out of your lungs and then hold yourself emptied of air for two seconds.  Then breathe in and completely fill your lungs over five seconds.  Hold at the top for two seconds and repeat the process three or so times. Do not rapidly hyperventilate.  Now take in one final deep breath and bend at the waist 90 degrees so the top of your head is pointing straight down towards the bottom and then kick your legs up straight above your body and you should sink down into the water enough for your feet to submerge and begin kicking.  You may feel somewhat lightheaded at first from the high oxygen level in your brain and even have the urge to breathe again right away, but if you give it a moment you will normalize and see that you have a lot of time before you'll need a breath.  Kick in long slow motions from the hip, keeping your knees more or less straight.  You will need to equalize your air spaces every few feet… do not wait until you feel discomfort.  Exhale a little air into your mask from your nose so that the mask does not begin to squeeze against your face and plug your nose with your fingers and exhale gently to equalize your ears.  Continue to do this throughout your descent.    

Depending on your body fat level, added weight on your belt, and wetsuit thickness, you will become neutrally buoyant at a depth corresponding to these factors and even negatively buoyant at deeper depths.  This is a good thing because you will not have to use extra energy keeping yourself underwater and you will also be able to remain on the bottom and blend in with the substrate to stealthily ambush your prey.  Focus on remaining as absolutely relaxed as possible and keeping loose any muscle that you don't need to use.  Even when you begin to feel that you need a breath, you still have a long time before you actually need to breathe or loose consciousness.  One concern however is that of shallow water blackout, where on your return to the surface your body does not recognize the need for oxygen because of pre-dive hyperventilation.  This can be deadly and is a major reason to always dive with a partner.  Your buddy should remain on the surface and continue to watch you throughout your dive, ready to pull you to the surface and hold your head above the water until you return to consciousness.    

Now it's time to get your fish.  Some divers use bait or flashy objects to attract fish in close enough for a kill.  Without some sort of bait you will need to wait for an unwary fish to come in close enough for a shot or slowly approach your quarry without frightening it and sending it off into the blue.  Fish are much smarter than you might expect, especially fish that are commonly prey to spear fishers.  I have seen many parrot fish that will remain relatively uninterested and relaxed in my presence when I am snorkeling but will then quickly turn tail and dash off when they see me with a spear in hand.  Some divers use masks that have reflective lenses that hide their gaze from the fish.  If you are not using this type of mask, try to not focus your gaze too hard on your intended target.  Fish know when they are being watched and will get uncomfortable if you show too much interest.  Just relax and wait for your shot.  When the fish approaches move your gun slowly and smoothly out in front of your face with both arms extended, aim down the shaft, and pull the trigger.  A fish can have amazing reflexes and dodge even a well aimed shot.  If you live in the tropics, the coral substrate will provide innumerable hiding places for fish, so take the time to peak into all the nooks and crannies.  In Hawaii, enormous ulua are often found hiding in small caverns that one would not expect to hold such a large, powerful fish.  Some fish, like the goatfish and squirrelfish in Hawaii, are very easy to approach and you can practically reach out and poke them with your spear before you pull the trigger.   If free diving sounds like too much then take a stab at it (pun) with a simple Hawaiian sling.  With a good eye you can catch plenty of octopus, lobsters, and sedentary fish in fairly shallow water.    With some practice you should be returning to shore with a float full of fish ready for the frying pan.  If you dive in the ocean, soak all of your gear in fresh water to prevent salt damage.  Take the time to learn how to replace and repair parts of your gun, stock up on extra power bands, and maintain your equipment well for the day when the lights go out and don't come back on. 

JWR Adds: The best way to store natural rubber items is in a cool dark place, with a coating of talcum powder.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hello Jim,
You have had a couple of good articles about having dogs for retreat/home protection recently. I couldn't agree more that dogs are a wonderful resource in many ways. I have two German Shepherds who keep my farm and home safe from humans and predators.  There are a couple points I would like to add.

First of all, not all dogs will fight to protect their pack. I had a German Shepherd several years ago who would try to hide behind me if there was danger. He was a complete coward, in spite of his attack training. When picking a protective dog, a person should size up the personalities of both parents, if possible. If the parents are rather laid back and unprotective, the puppies will probably grow up with a similar temperament. I have noticed that two dogs seem to be four times as good for protection, but they are also more difficult to control.

And once you have a protective dog, it is important to recognize that the dog doesn't always know when not to bite. A dog bite can be a death sentence without antibiotics, as infection is almost a guarantee. If your dog accidentally perceives someone to be a threat and bites him, there are numerous bad things that can happen to the you, dog, and the victim. My dogs are very protective and aggressive. I have to "protect" them from being in situations where they could get themselves in trouble. Although they are definitely my buddies, I have to handle them more like weapons than pets.

And lastly, dogs are not bullet proof. If there are desperate people who want to raid your retreat, do not believe they will hesitate to shoot your dog. In this situation, the dog will need to be protected too.  - Hobby Farmer

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Should you shelter-in-place or move to a retreat?  Lots of pros and cons about this, and most of it depends upon strength in numbers.  Obviously, the more remote and inaccessible your castle is, the harder it will be for intruders to discover or invade.  But I’m 65, and I don’t own any remote property.  My house sits on a very defendable cul-de-sac, essentially surrounded on three sides by water – my “moat.”  I could pull stakes and move to a national park or wildlife preserve, but it would be a simple campsite with tent and no walls, and I would need several families to go with me for security.
When our civilization collapses, which seems inevitable with our current insane government, I plan to do all the right things to ensure my home and area are secure.  There will be perimeter alarms and felled trees for roadblocks, trip wires and night vision.  But one thing that people overlook may be the very best alarm system ever known to man.  A dog.  But, better yet, two dogs.

I’ve been a veterinarian for over 30 years, and I’ve owned, seen and worked with a lot of dogs, including military working dogs and police dogs.  Recently I accompanied an incredible Labrador retriever, “Buster,” in search of World War II Missing In Action (MIA) Marines and soldiers.  Buster can sniff out bones that have been buried up to 100 years ago, detecting the miniscule amounts of aromatic organic compounds still leaching up through the soil from what’s left of the body.  Incredible, but just an example of “superhuman” abilities of dogs’ senses that include hearing, sight, and, perhaps, a sixth sense or even seventh and eighth senses.
We’ve just adopted two 5-month-old female German shepherd littermates into our household.  Or, as they would see it, our “pack.”  Although people try to treat pets as human members of their families, the dog will always consider the family a pack, with an alpha male leader, and alpha female head of the female members of the pack, and a definite peck-order of all. 
Detect fear, evil, danger, “something wrong”
The stories about military working dogs (MWD) and other extraordinary dog-related events are endless.  Dogs have been used by military units since Roman times and before.  Soldiers and Marines who served in canine units during World War I and II, Vietnam, and more recent conflicts tell about being alerted of the enemy long before approaching an ambush.  Some tell about doubting the dog, that the handler couldn’t see or detect anything wrong, but the dog was always right.   The handlers learned that no matter what, you always trust the dog’s judgment.  If not an ambush, then it was a trip wire, mine, dead enemy soldier, or something wrong. Nothing yet has been invented that can do a better job.
Regarding a sixth sense, I’ve heard stories about cat owners who have a group of people over to their homes, and if there is one person in the group who doesn’t like cats, the cat will find that person and focus on them!  Unexplainable.  Then I’ve heard mothers say their child brought home some friends from school and the dog growled at one of the kids when introduced.  I’d trust the dog, that there’s something to be cautious of about that one child.  Always trust the dog.
On Alert 24/7
In a home or retreat, it would be ideal to have a “dog door” so that the dog(s) can come and go as they feel the need.  We have a fenced yard and our dogs can go in and out of our heated garage, where they stay when we aren’t home.  I prefer that they be with us always, but I do have to go to work.  This brings up another issue:  separation anxiety.
Dogs are pack animals, and now you and your human family are the pack.  With just one dog, when you leave them alone to go to work, some dogs become stressed.  “Where are you?  Are you coming back?  Why did you leave me?  I’ve got to find you!  I’ve got to find you NOW!”  You come home to the door frame chewed up, with scratches all over the door (the one you left by).  Or there is other destruction due to frustration and anxiety; general freaking out.
I don’t think animals other than man have a concept of time.  They truly live for the moment, and don’t understand, “I’ll be back in an hour.”  Alpha (the pack leader) must be kept track of in case he/she needs me.  “Where’s Alpha?”  “I’ve got to find him/her!”  There have been medications to help with separation anxiety, but who wants to have their pet on meds all the time?  I usually advise obedience school and another dog for companionship (part of the pack is still here), or at least a cat friend.  Dogs aren’t fooled by leaving the television on, even if you run “Lassie” on it.  Sometimes this is more of a puppy thing than with an adult dog, but all dogs (and cats) seem to have a “fuller life,” and are more content with another dog to relate to.  I say, “Cats speak French and dogs speak German, so the same species is always better.”
Since dogs don’t understand time, they are “on guard” 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  They probably don’t know what day it is, either.  They learn the sound of your car coming down the street and are at the door to greet you.  Common sounds, scents, and sights are recorded as “normal,” and everything else becomes suspect and in need of investigation.
Don’t need to be attack trained/naturally protective

Attack training would be a plus, but I’m a firm believer that all dogs need to go through at least level one obedience training.  That includes learning to, “Heal” (on and off leash), and unhesitatingly respond to the commands, “Sit,” “Stay,” “Come,” and “Down.”  Remember, these are COMMANDS, not requests.  If you have to repeat the command more than once, the dog needs more training (generally that means more assertiveness or “alpha-ness” from you).  In a bad situation, this may mean the dog’s life or yours if they do not respond immediately.  I’m always impressed by a dog with good manners.
Try to find a dog training club near you.  We have a local volunteer organization that offers basic and advanced courses at reasonable prices ($90 for 8 weeks/8 one-hour sessions).  Be involved in the training yourself, don’t give your dog to someone to train for you.  The dog will learn to obey the trainer very well, but who are you?  The trainer should be teaching you how to train the dog, not doing it for you.
Dogs are naturally protective of the pack, and will fight to the death to protect any and all pack members.  That doesn’t need to be taught.  Dogs seem to have the ability to detect evil/danger/threat, either through a sixth sense or from pheromones given off by the subject.  Pheromones are invisible clues that most animals live by.  A dog can walk out to the patio, sniff the air a couple times, and know that there are three dogs upwind; one a female (estrogen/progesterone), one a male (testosterone), and one “not right” (neutered).  Like the story of the male moth that can find the female moth on a tree miles upwind, they pick up on the ever-expanding “plume” of scent from the source.  By staying within that plume and moving toward increasing strength, the animal or insect can locate their quarry.
On patrol or translocating
When traveling, dogs tend to enjoy the trailblazing part; they like to run on ahead.  They are your “point” when patrolling or moving out.  Again, two dogs afford twice the sensory strength and can scan better than one.  Dogs can be trained to “alert” by lying down or freezing on point.  Down would be better, if you have to fire over them.  More training beyond the level one obedience will give you better control and more options.  In any situation, dogs are tremendous “force multipliers,” extending your eyes and ears well beyond human capacities.  Most sensible people also fear big dogs, and some ethnicities abhor them.  Because of this, dogs are sometimes shot first.  You don’t want this to happen, but it will put you on maximum alert and make you more than willing for payback.

Long before there were pet foods in bags and boxes on the grocer’s shelves, pets ate what we ate, or the scraps.  In general, if there is a balanced meal for us, the dogs can eat the same foods.  Commercial dog foods contain enough fat to go rancid if not kept in oxygen-low or vacuum storage.  Preservatives help delay spoilage, but all foods eventually degrade.  Certainly the dog will hunt on its own and eat wild game, as well as vegetation.  Eating a whole rabbit provides meat protein, some fat, calcium from the bones, and vitamins from the liver and organs.  But they are also eating everything the rabbit ate in the previous 24 hours, providing other vitamins and some roughage.
There are numerous dog food recipes online today to make your own balanced diet, but realize that all the ingredients may not be available in a future situation.  Share your vitamins and what you are eating, and the group will probably survive.  I won’t mention eating your dog in a survival situation!

Keep your dog’s vaccinations current.  Nine-way “distemper” shots are good for a year or more.  Rabies vaccine is good for one year the first time given, then should be boosted every three years thereafter.  Some states don’t recognize a 3-year rabies shot, but that doesn’t mean it won’t last that long.  Lyme disease (Borrellia) vaccine is also available, as is kennel cough (tracheobronchitis - Bordetella).  The nine-way shot includes canine distemper, hepatitis/adenovirus-2, parvovirus, parainfluenza, coronavirus, and four types of Leptospirosis vaccine. 
Post-collapse it will be hard enough to find human vaccines, let alone veterinary ones, so keeping your dogs away from other stray dogs will be important, too.  Some of these diseases are more deadly for puppies under a year old than adult dogs, such as parvo and kennel cough.  Mature dogs that have had several annual vaccinations should be well protected for years beyond their due dates, but anything is possible.
Flea/tick/heartworm/intestinal worm control

Many of the preventive products for dogs have very long shelf lives, and some have no expiration date.  In general, medicines and preventive products are good for at least five years beyond their expiry dates.  Mosquitoes carry heart worms, so basically all dogs are susceptible to infection.  The infection takes about three years to debilitate and kill a dog, but it is easily prevented with monthly heartworm medicine that you can stock up on and rotate annually.  Many heartworm preventives also contain intestinal worm medicine to kill roundworms and hookworms as well every month. 
Flea control is necessary to keep your abode from getting polluted with fleas, and monthly liquid applicators do a great job of keeping these bugs down.  Be sure to get high quality (98+% control) flea products from your vet, rather than over-the-counter look-alikes that are about 50% effective.  Some flea products also control ticks, but there are some very effective tick collars available that do an even better job.
Not From Pet Stores
I’ve been battling the puppy mill-pet store connection for more than two decades.  I didn’t know what puppy mills were when I graduated from vet school, but learned about them when I worked for a humane organization.  Pet stores (and now enterprising individuals who set up a puppy sale web site) buy puppies directly from the puppy mill breeder, or through a “broker,” who cleans up the puppy, vaccinates, de-worms them, and creates a “pedigree” of sorts.  The broker generally has the puppy for two or three days, then they are shipped out to the pet store.  The pet store pays $25 to $50 for the puppy (some breeds are more), then adds a zero or two to the price and has them on sale the next day.  People who say they, “rescued the puppy from the pet store,” are simply perpetuating this industry and creating an open pet store cage for a replacement puppy to take their place.
Not all puppy mill puppies turn out to be “lemons,” but quite a few have problems from inbreeding and neglect.  Realize that puppy mills (intense breeding facilities, dogs kept in “rabbit hutch” confinement, no vet care, minimal overhead investment) are the only consistent source of puppies for pet stores.  No matter what the pet store owner or staff tell you, the puppies are coming from mills.  One pet store chain was proud to proclaim, “We do not buy from puppy mills.”  That was a legally true statement, because they bought from a broker, not directly from the puppy mill. 
Puppy mill dogs are more likely to have genetic problems due to inbreeding.  When a mother dog is no longer producing sizeable litters, a female puppy is often kept to replace her.  When she comes into heat, she’s bred back to (guess who?) her father dog.  The pedigree is fudged, and business continues.  Congenital defects include bad hips, trick knees (patellar luxation), eye problems, epilepsy, and other issues not immediately detectable.  Ear mites, Demodectic mange, intestinal parasites, eye infections, lack of socialization, and exposure to distemper and parvo viruses are also common.  If the puppy is exposed to a virus, then vaccinated the same day, it’s virtually a race to see which wins.  Incubation time for the virus and the time it takes for a puppy to develop immunity against it are about the same, so it’s a gamble.  Also, if you take into account that many of the mother dogs are unvaccinated or behind in their vaccination schedule (overhead, remember), then the puppy lacks adequate maternal immunities.
Today you can find hundreds of online web sites that sell puppies, but the situation is the same; they buy from brokers or directly from mills, and only have the puppies for a few days to weeks before they are sold.  It’s all smoke and mirrors on the web site.
Here are some red flags to help prevent a puppy mill purchase:
1.    The mother dog is not on the premises (don’t believe, “She’s at a show” or some other excuse).
2.    There are a bunch of different breeds for sale by the same person.
3.    They’ll “meet you halfway” to complete the transaction (that’s because they don’t want you to see their facility or lack of one - all a sham).
4.    If registered, it is not through the American Kennel Club (AKC).  There are many “registration” companies out there that provide phony “papers.”
5.    The comment that “She was rescued from a puppy mill.”  That usually means she was bought at an auction or directly from the mill owner.  The source is the same.
People are making six-figure incomes by selling puppy mill puppies.  That’s why they do it, not for love of dogs.  Some will offer a lower price for cash, because they don’t claim the cash to the Internal Revenue Service.  So you are picking up some of their tax burden as well.  You are generally better off adopting a dog from a humane shelter or dog pound than buying one from a pet store or web site. 

Choice of Breed
If you want a particular breed, check with local kennel clubs about reputable breeders in your area.  You may have to drive a few hours to visit a breeder, but it will be due diligence.  Don’t be in a hurry to get a puppy.  Sometimes the breeder won’t have any puppies available just then, but have a litter or two on the way and you can put a down payment on one or get first choice.  It will be worth the wait to get a sound dog from a reliable breeder.
Breed rescue organizations should not be overlooked.  We’ve adopted three Dobermans from a rescue source that places adult dogs from various situations.  One of ours came from a home where the young son developed extreme allergies to the dog.  He turned out to be the best one ever.  Google “rescue” and the breed you’re looking for, and you might find a great match in your area.
Recommended breeds (personal choices): German Shepherd/German shepherd crosses, Belgian Malinois, Akita, Border Collie, and Doberman
Now, I know some of you are going to say they had a Jack Russell that was incredible, or a Staffordshire terrier that could hear a leaf turn over in the yard, but there are reasons why the military and police forces choose certain breeds.  Size is intimidating, and with size comes strength.  Herding breeds are more conscious of their surroundings and are always scanning the horizon and listening for clues.  Some breeds seem to be easier to teach than others (Irish setters come to mind at the slower end of that scale).  There are always exceptions to the rule, such as an occasional Lab that makes the cut, or beagles for airport sniffing, but the best overall dog, in my opinion, would be a shepherd or shepherd cross.  The smartest/sharpest/most alert dog I ever owned was a 65-pound German shepherd cross (3/4 shepherd by appearance).  She was $20 at a farm home with a hand-lettered sign out front. 
No reason to reinvent the wheel here.  Pick a breed that’s now being used for security work.  I’ve had several shepherd crosses over the years, three Akitas, and four Doberman pinschers.  Also a collie and a couple dachshunds.  Never owned a malinois or border collie, but I’ve worked on quite a few, and I totally respect the malinois.  The border collies are just high-energy, super-alert dogs that are anxious to work and anxious to please you.  I take care of a family of champion Rhodesian Ridgebacks, which are sight hounds, and they are very alert, fast, and powerful, but they’re going to cost you more.  Remember, you should get two.

Friday, December 21, 2012

With an endless and ever-growing supply of preparedness items and gadgets for TEOTWAWKI, it is easy to forget where we all came from.  Each and every one of us alive on this planet today is in large part due to the sheer will, strength, and survival ability of our ancestors.  We are all, literally, direct descendants of the toughest and smartest humans the world has ever seen.  Our ancestors were the ones who survived plagues and diseases of all types, hunted the largest of beasts, survived harsher conditions than most of us can imagine, always procured food, and still managed to procreate, eventually passing on that genetic material to each and every one of us.  In each one of us, is them, and we contain hundreds if not thousands of generations of genetics that survived.  We are the culmination of all those who have endured before us.  Sure, luck and the grace of God has much to do with this and I do not discount that fact.  Frankly, I thank God everyday for my life and the lives of those I love.  The reason I decided to write this article is because I feel that too little emphasis is placed on these necessary skills by both survivalists and preppers alike.  Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% in favor of being fully stocked with everything necessary for any “what if” type scenario.  I fully believe in the necessity of being well prepared whether stationary at a retreat location, mobile in a vehicle, or loaded like a beast of burden on foot.  But I don’t like to be dependent upon store bought items.  For me, preparedness is a mindset and a lifestyle.  So, my point is, what happens when we lose those items, they break, are stolen, or our supplies run out?  Don’t think it can’t happen to you.  We’re all preparing because it provides a sort of insurance against the countless what ifs.  Think of primitive survival skills as your reinsurance or back up to your back up plan.  The purpose of this article is to provoke thought and discussion to the subject of primitive survival and to serve as a brief introduction on “how to.”  When I say bare bones survival I mean just that.  No knives, saws, axes, cordage, rope, water filters, bottles, bladders, portable shelters, lighters, flints, matches, stoves, fuel, or food.  I think you get the point.  The one exception is the clothing on your back since practicing primitive skills nude in the woods would probably be a one way ticket to the insane asylum.

Most primitive survival situations, pre or post TEOTWAWKI, will require shelter.  It’s probable that this will also be your most pressing need, one to be fulfilled first.  Shelter keeps you warm, dry, and concealed. It gives you the ability to escape the elements as you plan your next step.  Six of our seven continents are inhabited and have been for millennia.  What this translates into is that almost anywhere on earth the natural materials already exist to provide you with a sufficient shelter.  From igloos to adobe settlements, all these materials are free for the taking if you know how to use them.  These are just examples, so I’m not suggesting you build an igloo or sun bake bricks because of the time and energy required to do so.  What I am suggesting is that you familiarize yourself with the natural materials present in your neck of the woods in order to build an efficient and expedient shelter.  Be it sand, snow, dirt, grass, rocks, sticks, moss or leaves, they all can keep you relatively warm, dry and alive.  After that, you must practice repeatedly.  Otherwise you’re simply an armchair survivalist, and we all know what happens to them. 

I live in an area with plenty of deciduous forest and mild winters (mid-Atlantic state), which is probably one of the easiest places to construct a survival shelter.  The shelter I build most is often referred to as a debris hut and I do so because it’s simple, efficient, and the materials required for doing so are abundant in my area.  I typically make a pile of leaves two feet deep and two feet longer than I am tall against the trunk of a fallen tree.  I then lay sticks perpendicular to the trunk over the entire length of the pile angled from the ground to the top of the trunk and tight enough together to not let leaves fall through.  A few more feet of leaves are piled on top of what should by now resemble one half of a ribcage with the trunk being the spine and the angled sticks being the ribs.  A few feet of leaves will shed absolute downpours leaving the interior dry.  I leave a small opening so that I can enter feet first and keep another pile of leaves at the entrance to plug it when I’m in.  For colder temperatures it’s necessary to keep the interior barely larger than yourself to minimize heat loss.  In windy conditions you may need some sticks on top of the shelter to keep the leaves in place.  Before constructing, be sure to look up and around you for any dead or dying trees or branches that could be brought down on top of you during a storm.  If possible face your shelter opening to the east to take advantage of the rising suns warmth.  If you cannot tell direction without a compass, learn to do so.  

There are countless primitive shelters one could build, and they all have advantages and disadvantages based upon where one resides.  This article is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all those shelters and how to build them, but rather an attempt to get you thinking along the lines of what you would do without a permanent or portable roof over your head.  Most of these structures can be constructed within a few hours and really do not require hand tools or supplies of any kind.  Do your research and see which type of primitive shelter best fits your locale.

Under normal survival circumstances, such as being lost or caught in an unexpected storm, one would usually choose a shelter site with plenty of natural material nearby as to minimize having to carry debris any distance and thereby conserving energy.  Ordinary survival situations also assume that someone wants to be found.  In TEOTWAWKI type scenarios we probably do not want to be found, therefore minimizing our “sign” left behind as we construct our shelter is paramount.  Leaving bare spots on the forest floor as we rake up every last leaf to use as insulation may be noticed by others and further investigated by them.  The point is to do your best at leaving as few clues behind as possible.  Using the existing landscape to your advantage will help in this regard.  Caves, crevices, overhangs, thickets, hollow logs, boulders, etc may provide the basis for an adequate shelter with minimal caloric expenditure as well as provide added insulation, wind proofing, and concealment.  By taking advantage of natural structures, your shelter will blend in to your environment much better than otherwise.  When you’re finished you should be able to step back from your shelter, looking from different angles, and not even recognize it as such.  If possible, construct shelter near a water source, just be sure you’re above the high water mark, which should be obvious.  Locating shelter near a water source isn’t always possible, just try to if feasible.  But don’t force it, shelter is typically priority number one unless you’re already approaching dehydration, starvation, are being pursued, or it’s warm and dry enough to forego it.  If you’re not familiar with basic primitive shelters I suggest that you research it.  You may even want to construct one near your retreat or on the way to it as added insurance.  Once you have established a sufficient shelter that will keep you warm, dry, and well concealed, you can move on to priority number two, which is hydration. 


Where I reside, water is abundant and very easy to find.  I have no experience in more arid regions of the US so I’ll leave that to others to discuss.  First, let’s dispel some myths regarding water.  Clear, fast moving water is not always safe to drink.  Springs are not always safe.  Dogs do drink disease laden water.  And the liquid in some plants can kill you, or at minimum make you ill.  Frankly, I treat all water as potentially disease causing until I’ve purified it in some manner.  Notice I said purify, not filter.  All too often I see people touting their homemade water filter consisting of leaves, moss, sand, charred wood, etc as a viable means to filter pathogens from water.  Simply put, this is incorrect and should only be used for filtering sediment from water and not pathogens.  Charred wood is not the activated charcoal commonly used in water filtration. 

Just a side note, activated wood charcoal is vastly inferior to activated coconut carbon in terms of the porosity needed for high level water filtration.  We’re talking about macropores vs micropores so keep your coconut hulls or stock up (they’re inexpensive, in bulk) if you make your own activated carbon for these purposes.  When searching for water keep a few things in mind.  First, water flows downhill which means that you’re generally more likely to find it at lower elevations than at higher ones.  There are exceptions to this, but I’m speaking in general terms.  Specific vegetation is an excellent indicator of water or at least wet ground.  Certain trees, shrubs, vines, and herbaceous plants will only grow in or very close to water or damp earth.  At higher elevations, look for threads of more dense or more varied vegetation tracking downhill.  The same principle applies to lowland areas as the vegetation will usually change and be denser near water or damp soil.  Learn the plants in your geographic locale that need wet earth and memorize them.  Learn to recognize them year round.  Knowing your trees in the dead of winter without leaves present is a critical skill to have.  The same thing applies to the dead dry stalks of certain herbaceous plants.  Also, having the ability to recognize these plant species from a distance can save you time and energy on your search.  Once you’ve located damp earth, try to figure out the drainage in that particular area and start your dig in low points located along the drain path.  If enough water is present it will seep into your hole.  If you don’t want to wait, somehow mark or remember this spot so you can return as you seek other sources.  Once again, minimize your signs left behind.  I like to thoroughly scatter any dirt I excavate and fill the hole lightly with leaves to conceal my efforts.  Where you decide to dig is critical.  I’ve dug two feet down in a dry streambed and did not get any water but moving ten feet in another direction with the same size hole yielded a quart every hour.  For dry stream beds, usually stick to the outsides of any curves.  Only practice and experience can make you better at this.  You can use a broken stick, rocks, and your bare hands to excavate.   

Animals, including birds, can also tell you where to look.  Many animals, but not all, must drink water to survive.  Therefore, following animal trails, especially when these trails converge and widen more and more, can be a reliable indicator.  Birds, with the exception of flesh eaters, are fairly reliable indicators of the presence of water.  The overall flight pattern of birds in a particular area at dusk and dawn is a great clue.  Also, bugs and insects can be telltale signs.  Bees, small black ants, flies, mosquitoes, and others are rarely too far from water.  Although in the case of some of these insects it could only be a few ounces of water in the crotch or rotted section of a tree.   Another great and often overlooked source of water is dew or condensation.  Given that you do have clothes on your back, use some article of clothing to “mop” it up.  From dusk to dawn is the best time for dew formation and gathering.  Sometimes in shaded areas you can still gather dew hours after the sun has risen.  If you’ve experienced a rainfall recently, keep in mind that rotted wood and moss will hold water long after everything else has dried.  Simply squeeze the water out.  The last source of water I would like to mention is tree sap.  It’s my favorite since it doesn’t require boiling. I’ve consumed box elder, red, black, and sugar maple, black birch, black and white walnut, shagbark and shellbark hickory, and sycamore sap as my sole source of liquid for days.  I’ve also drank large quantities of sap from many other tree species. 

Some refer to the sugar content as a possible source of dehydration.  I haven’t experienced this to be true but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t.  As an added benefit, most tree sap has an abundance of vitamins and minerals.  Not all tree sap is potable.  Check out the Plants For A Future Database and look under the heading “plant uses” and scroll down to “sap” to see which trees grow in your area.  Just a side note, many of the trees with potable sap also have edible inner bark, which was extensively used by Native Americans.  Once you have positively 100 percent identified that species, sample a small amount first.  Then progress to larger amounts of consumption.  You should do the same with anything your body has never consumed before.  We all may potentially have food allergies were not yet aware of.  The downside to using sap for hydration is that it doesn’t flow year round and not all trees flow at the same time or for the same length of time.  Maple sap, for instance, will flow best when nights are below freezing and days are above freezing and it’s sunny or partly sunny (high pressure).  With maples in my location, sap flow begins after the trees have gone dormant in the fall.  This usually occurs after a few hard frosts and will continue through winter and into spring as long as the tree isn’t frozen and the aforementioned criteria are met.  These principles do not apply to all tree species. 

An example is birch, which averages 3-5 weeks of sap flow in early to mid spring depending on the weather.  Once the leaves have emerged the sap of most tree species loses its clarity and palatability as the chemical components change.  Shortly thereafter, sap flow will cease and does not begin again until the weather warms after a sufficient dormancy period.  Given that all trees do not leaf out all at once in the spring but rather in a slow progression this can be a source of water for many months if you have the knowledge.  In my area, by utilizing all tree species with potable sap, I can drink for nearly six months out of the year as long as the trees are not frozen.  Maples are among the first to leaf out in the spring therefore they flow first.  In my area, this is followed by birches, walnuts, hickories, etc.  Tree sap is highly perishable and must be used quickly.  One of my favorite methods for preserving it in early spring is to pile the melting snow around and onto the container to keep it cold.  Be sure to cover the container opening with wood or a rock to keep the snow out.  Using this method sap will keep for days. 

Harvesting tree sap without tools is more difficult but not impossible given that it were Native Americans who taught Europeans how to do this and did so without steel implements.  Maple and birch syrup producers rely on drills, buckets, taps, tubing, etc to procure their liquid.  Primitive survival does not afford these luxuries.  Gouge a v shape incision into the tree on a side that faces the sun using a sharp rock (research flint knapping to provide you with an adequate knife).  Then insert a thin twig into the base of this v and slope it downward so that the sap can drip down it.  Better yet, break the end off of a lower branch that is pointing in a downward direction or hang deadfall on it to make it point downward.  You can also bore a small hole into the trunk with a rock and insert a hollow stem of a non poisonous plant to act as a tap.  Just match the diameter of your tap very closely to the diameter of your bored hole creating as tight of a fit as possible.  You can speed up the flow by sucking as through a straw.  While testing certain trees pre-SHTF to see if they are flowing I suggest breaking off the very tip of a twig instead of gouging a hole into the trunk unnecessarily.  This is just a good conservation practice in my opinion. 

Grape vines are also a good source of liquid during certain times of the year.  When grape vines are flowing I like to break one off low to the ground, wrap it up, and bring it with me.  When I’m ready to use it, I’ll cut or break this vine into many equal sections and bundle them together allowing the liquid to drip into a container.  As with trees, grape vines have a prime flow period which closely coincides with trees.  Other times of the year sap doesn’t flow or isn’t palatable.  Although these are just a few of the plants I like to use for water, there are many others available as well.  As a general rule for herbaceous plants, if the entire plant is edible so to is the liquid within it.  By now you should be asking, “okay, well I found water, but what do I put it in and how do I purify it?”  The answer is found in fire.


Making fire with sticks is referred to as friction fire.  The concept is to rub or spin two pieces of wood together producing a fine dust that will ignite into a glowing ember or coal at around eight hundred degrees Fahrenheit.  This coal is then transferred into a tinder bundle and blown into flames.  The flaming tinder bundle is placed underneath a pre constructed arrangement of small twigs and progressively larger pieces of wood.  I like to arrange my sticks in a tepee fashion with one side open to insert the flaming tinder bundle.  There are countless methods invented throughout history but the two I like the most are the bow drill and hand drill methods, with the latter being my preference.  An experienced person could easily write a 50 page article on all the nuances of friction fire.  Instead of giving an in depth “how to” I think it’s better that you start by watching internet videos on this subject as it’s much easier to understand when you see it.  It can be rather verbose to explain.  Do searches for both the “hand drill fire” and “bow drill fire” and watch many different videos to gather more information as no one video or source of information is the best. 

The bow drill is the best place to start for beginners as it’s usually the easiest.  This video shows the basics of the bow drill by Ray Mears.  Although he does use a knife, machete, and nylon cordage, a sharp rock and natural cordage can achieve the same results with slightly more time invested.  Developing an understanding of sound basics and technique on the bow drill will make the hand drill that much easier.  Outside of proper technique and form, the next most important factor for success is the right selection of wood or plant material.  Not all wood can be spun together to make fire and dead but not rotted wood is almost always best.  If you can dent it with a finger nail with moderate pressure that is likely an appropriate hardness.  Softer woods are easier to create fire with than harder woods.  Avoid most oaks, most maples, hickories, walnuts, persimmon, beech, birch and any other wood than is generally considered hard and durable.  This is not to say that it can’t be done with these woods, it’s just much harder than with woods such as buckeyes, basswood, elms, willows, sycamore and some members of the pine family.  If you’re using the bow drill method you’ll need to make some sort of natural cordage. 

My favorite sources of natural fibers are stinging nettle, milkweed, dogbane, and basswood, although there are literally hundreds of other trees and herbaceous plants that can provide adequate fibers.  Do a search for making natural cordage to see this first hand and to see which of these species grow in your area.  Also, pencil thick roots from some members of the pine family make excellent bow drill cordage.  When you’re first learning the bow drill use paracord or an old shoe lace as you’ll quickly get frustrated when your natural cordage wears thin and breaks.  My favorite tinder is cedar bark shredded and balled up like a birds nest but many other materials will work as well.  For firewood, especially in wet or rainy weather, it’s imperative to gather wood that is off the ground.  Dead twigs and branches still attached or hung up in the tree are an excellent choice.  Fatwood, which is the heartwood of certain pine trees usually located in decaying stumps, is probably the best kindling there is.  Its high resin content makes it rot resistant and will easily catch fire.  Friction fire can be physically demanding and to have your tinder bundle fail to ignite wet wood is not a good thing.  As far as wood selection goes, the easiest to produce fire using a bow drill in my locale are buckeye, basswood, elm, willow, and eastern white pine.  There are many others that work well, but these are simply my preferences. 

The hand drill consists of only a spindle, fireboard, and tinder bundle.  It has the advantage of not needing cordage or as much preparation time but is less technically forgiving.  Here is another clip of the same guy performing the hand drill.  Although he is performing this in the desert, all the materials needed to do so are easily found anywhere south of the tundra.  My favorites for this type of friction fire are basswood, buckeye, willow, elm, and yucca for the fireboard and mullein, cattail, evening primrose, and goldenrod for the spindle. After you learn the basics, it is persistence and a desire to succeed that makes all the difference in success.  Because this method most often utilizes the dead stalks of herbaceous plants it’s imperative to be able to recognize them at this stage.  Many people can recognize plants when they’re flowering but cannot do so when it’s a dead dry stalk in mid-winter.  As with any skill truly worth learning, it takes practice and dedication over an extended period of time.  I constantly read how these methods are impossible or worthless.  Well, I’m here to tell you that if you’re willing to put in the effort you can start a fire with these methods at will anytime you please.  I do it all the time.  The last primitive method for fire starting I feel worth mentioning is flint rock.

Most of us are familiar with the flint and steel method of fire starting as well as the more modern ferro rod.  But given that we’re talking about primitive skills this would predate the invention of steel.  Flint rock has a decent distribution across the US and that’s why I mention it.  Before steel, many native cultures simply scraped flint against an iron ore containing rock.  Quite a few different rocks will work but the most commonly used was marcasite or pyrite.  It produces small sparks and is tedious but can be a viable alternative to friction fire if your local geology has plenty of these rocks available.  This is another good research topic specific to your locale.  Here’s an excellent link showing how.   And one more for a different look  Once you have fire it’s now time to purify your water. 

You’ll need to fashion a container by using coals from the fire to burn out the center of a piece of wood.  You can make bowls and cups capable of holding large quantities of water with this method.  Find an appropriate piece of wood and place some hot coals onto it.  You can speed up the process by blowing on the coals.  Every so often remove the coals and gouge out the charred material of your cup and repeat the process until you have something capable of holding your desired amount of liquid.  I recommend sticking to something quart sized for mobility.  If stationary, burn a large depression into a fallen tree capable of holding gallons of water.  Birch bark containers, animal stomachs and hides work very well for transport.  You can use pine sap to seal up any leaking areas of the bark.  Once you have a container you need to heat up rocks in the fire and using two sticks in a chopstick manner transfer them into your wooden container to boil the water.  Your rocks should be gathered from a very dry area that doesn’t sit in water.  The reason being is that trapped moisture will cause the rocks to crack when heated and sometimes these sharp sections are flung outward.  Basalt is the rock of choice as it rarely cracks and if it does it doesn’t go flying outward towards your face.  Rocks gathered from stream beds or any other wet areas are poor choices as they almost always invariably crack.  If you must use these types of rock, cover your eyes when placing them into the water and keep back while it’s boiling.  Continue to transfer more rocks into the water until you’ve boiled it for the desired period of time.  Placing a large leaf, flat piece of wood or rock over your boiling container will increase efficiency and negate any flying hot stones.  Burn out multiple containers to gather tree sap and place them under your taps.  Or if you live in an area with bamboo you already have a container.  Check out this kid to see what I mean.  Instead of cutting the bamboo into sections as he does, I like to keep the bamboo stalk intact and gouge a hole at the top of each section and lay the entire bamboo stalk into a water source to fill up.  This way all the sections will fill with water and can easily be transported to the fire location.  You can then keep the stalk upright and take off one section at a time for boiling.  Fire is sort of a double edged sword, you may need it to keep warm, cook food, and purify water but its presence may give away your location.  My favorite low profile method for fire is the Dakota fire hole.  Research it.  It consumes far less wood, doesn’t smoke as much, and doesn’t cast as much light.  Also, to keep your fire “near smokeless,” use the driest wood possible and keep the flames going.  A fire smokes the most as the flames are dying down. Now that you have shelter from the elements, water to quench your thirst, and the all important fire, it’s time to eat.

In a short term survival situation food is the least important.  However, in a long term scenario food is paramount.  To date, I’ve consumed and or used approximately two thousand different edible and medicinal plant species and I can recognize them at all stages of their growth.  I do not use this number to boast but rather use it to illustrate what our Creator has given to us that is free for the taking.  Even in the dead of winter an abundance is still available if you have the knowledge.  Domestic produce pales in comparison to wild food in taste and nutrition, although certainly not all edible plants taste great.  I always feel my best when consuming wild plants and animals and I try to consume something from nature daily.  Many people feel that one cannot entirely survive off wild food indefinitely.  They claim that too many of the Native American staples have been greatly diminished due to loss of habitat.  This is true to an extent and I’m deeply concerned with loss of biodiversity.  However, with this loss has come a substantial influx of Old World plants and animals to fill the fields and meadow that were once forested.  Many years ago I set a goal for myself which was to see if it was possible to still “live off the land.”  Honestly, I doubted that one could only consume wild food and make it.  But the more I continued to learn the more I realized that I was wrong.  Simply put, it is my firm conviction that one can not only survive but absolutely thrive consuming only wild species when armed with the right knowledge and skill set.   

As I mentioned in my introduction, almost everywhere on earth has been inhabited by natives that did just that.  The downside to this is that it takes years of learning to develop this skill and knowledge and a TEOTWAWKI type scenario will make it much more difficult to live this lifestyle.  Procuring wild food by far has the longest learning curve of all primitive survival skills.  It involves plant identification, harvest, and preparation.  It involves hunting, fishing, tracking, trapping, stalking, snaring, processing, as well as other skills.  These are things that take time to learn.  I don’t say this to discourage you but rather to be realistic.  Shelter, specific to your locale, can be learned in a day.  You can become really proficient in finding water in a slightly longer period of time.  It takes a few months to become good at fire, practicing twenty minutes a day three to four days a week.  And it can be nearly mastered in a year to the point where you can do it almost anywhere anytime.  But to learn food, you really have to be dedicated.  It’s probably best to start learning all the poisonous plants in your location to rule out what cannot be eaten.  These will be a huge minority of the overall number of species in any given area.  In fact, in most geographic locales it’s extremely difficult to locate more than a handful of species that can kill you.  Besides, with very few exceptions, poisonous plants taste so terrible that it would be difficult to ever consume enough quantity to kill you.  We have taste buds for a reason, don’t ignore them!  To really learn plants you’re going to need books and some basic botanical knowledge.  You can also learn a tremendous amount on the Internet.  Just like survival authors, some wild food authors are better than others.  I consider only a few to be authorities, as I find mistakes in almost all wild food literature.  Fortunately, these aren’t mistakes that could kill us.  Many authors, I think, just copy others’ work.  The authors I find to be most reliable and accurate are Samuel Thayer, Thomas Elpel, Linda Runyon, Steve Brill, and John Kallas.  There are many others so do your research, read reviews and make an informed decision.  Outside of books specific to edible plants you’ll need field guides for your region that cover all plants not just those that are edible.  A taxonomic guide for your locale is indispensable. 

Once you have positive identification, research that plant for its edibility.  Basic rules for foraging are: 1) never eat anything unless you’re one hundred percent sure it’s not poisonous.  2) know at which stage of growth and what part of the plant you can consume since some are edible young but become poisonous later or may have one edible part and other poisonous parts.  3) know if any special preparations such as boiling are required for that plant species.  4) when consuming any plant for the first time, only sample a small amount to be certain you’re not allergic and then increase your consumption.  5) use at minimum three references to ensure a plants edibility.  6) use latin names including genus and species for identification purposes.  Start learning plants now since it takes time to become proficient.  Don’t assume you’ll be able to head to your retreat with a few field manuals and then start learning these necessary skills.  I say this because plants are mainly identified by dissecting and/or counting their flower parts and the edible parts may precede or succeed flowering, which would leave you out of luck.  So, just because you’ve identified an edible plant it doesn’t mean it’s at the appropriate stage for consumption.  It can be, but not always.  If you haven’t learned edible plants in advance then at least memorize the universal edibility test to leave you some options.  Type in into a search engine to learn it.  I chose not to go into detail on which plants are edible simply because it would be specific to my locale and would only be good info for some.  I would rather conclude with you knowing that there are tens of thousands of edible plants within the United States and if you apply yourself you and your family will never be without food.  I love to gather seeds of edible plants and scatter them near where I live, as well as my family’s garden, to add to my local abundance.  I may succumb to disease, I may be shot or die in an accident, I may live to a ripe old age and simply die of natural causes, but I can assure you I will never starve to death. 

I’ve chosen not to cover hunting, trapping, snaring, and fishing in a primitive manner simply because it’s illegal in most areas.  Most places require steel snares and traps that conform to state laws as well as fishing with a rod and reel and hunting only with certain weapons.  However, it’s certainly not illegal for you to research these topics and I strongly suggest doing just that.  Snares and traps work round the clock in as many locations as you place them.  They will consistently outperform a hunter for this reason as he or she can only be in one location at one time and only for a limited amount of time.  I personally prefer snaring over trapping because of all the supplies needed to trap.  Trapping is heavy and bulky and I can carry many more snares than I can traps.  Trapping can be great when you’re stationary but if you’re on foot, I wouldn’t even consider it in my opinion.

This concludes Bare Bones Survival.  I hope I’ve sparked your interest in some of the things within our past that make our present possible.  God is simply magnificent, and as we all scramble to make sure we purchase everything on our “list of lists” before the SHTF, it’s easy to forget that He has already given us everything we need in nature.  Slow down a little and get back to nature and you’ll find peace that doesn’t exist within the rat race of American culture.  When you start learning and practicing these skills, by all means use anything that will make success more of a probability.  If something doesn’t work for you, don’t assume it doesn’t work altogether.  You may just need to adjust something in some way.  Be persistent.  Don’t run out into the wilderness without gear and expect to be able to do these things overnight.  Start small and work your way up.  Take a trip with a fully stocked backpack and work on these skills over an extended period of time.  The first time you make shelter, bring your tent, bag, and pad as a backup.  Bring your water and filter when you work on finding water.  Bring your flint and knife when practicing friction fire.  And bring food when working on edible plants.  Learn to hunt, fish, and snare using legal methods as you will learn many things that are transferable to doing the same in a primitive manner.  If you’re willing to put in the time necessary to learn these things, you’ll be rewarded by always being at home in the wilderness, never to hunger or thirst or to be left out in the cold.  Good Luck and God Bless you all!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

SurvivalBlog articles have thoroughly covered just about every conceivable angle to the concepts and theories to preparing for TEOTWAWKI situations, from theory to specific skills covering everything from farming to firearms procurement, security, food preparation and storage, water sanitation, just to name a few.  I spent some time contemplating whether or not I personally had anything of value to add, and came across a few articles from the perspective of women who were doing their best to prepare despite numerous setbacks.  They might be divorcees, raising children by themselves, with limited financial means, for example. Or perhaps they had very limited experience with firearms but were determined to learn how to shoot, to acquire a conceal carry permit, and take every step possible to give their family every chance to survive.  I was encouraged to note that many women had taken great strides and were not wilting daisies waiting for some man to help them—a valuable attitude that is true to the spirit of our American "settler stock".

But I had to acknowledge that many people, and especially some women, are clearly at a disadvantage.  It is a sad but true fact that many girls were not taught to shoot and hunt as children, even while their male siblings were encouraged to do so by their fathers.  And statistics today prove that the numbers of hunters is dwindling, so we are potentially losing a valuable skill set.  Sadly, many families have no one who hunts to pass down the skills.

And it is quite clear that in a TEOTWAWKI situation, hunting skills could make the difference between life and death.  I was one of those people whose parents hunted but they never taught me to hunt, so I had to learn on my own.  I then taught a friend to hunt, and he became so fascinated he volunteered with a local division of wildlife outreach program to teach women and youths to hunt.  Soon, I too was volunteering and working alongside other extremely experienced and talented hunters, which was a fantastic opportunity for me to help share what I had learned while also learning from more skilled hunters.
I therefore wanted to share some information to encourage individuals who would like to learn to hunt, but don’t know where to start.  Really, there are very few obstacles to getting started, as I will explain.

First, it is incredibly important to clarify that merely owning a rifle and being able to hit a target at a range is simply not enough to become a successful hunter when the need arises.  There is a reason it is called "hunting" and not "killing"! No matter how much every hunter wishes it was otherwise, God's creatures do not simply wander out and make themselves easy targets.  They have evolved over millions of years to avoid being an easy meal, and any experience hunter will attest to this fact and will have dozens of stories to share about failed hunts.  Target shooting is a prerequisite starting point for anyone wishing to learn to hunt, but after that, there are many skills to be acquired, and it should be done in a safe and educational manner. 
Fortunately, there is a growing number of places to turn.  This will of course vary from state to state, so each interested party should research opportunities in his own state.

Colorado Division of Wildlife
: The state of Colorado is a national leader in hunting outreach and the state Division of Parks and Wildlife has developed a hunter outreach program for women and youths that is one of the most amazing programs you'll ever see.  To start with, a prospective hunter in Colorado must have his or her hunter safety certification.  This can be done very cheaply (generally $10 per participant, and at times, for free) by attending Division of Wildlife (DOW) programs.  Colorado provides courses quite frequently around the state, and the schedules are easy to find on the DOW web site.

Once the hunter has a hunter safety card, a parent can enroll a youth in Big Game (elk, deer, pronghorn antelope), Upland Game (pheasant, grouse, chukar) or Waterfowl  hunts.  The DOW then provides expert Hunt Master guides to organize the hunt.  A parent must attend, and this provides a perfect opportunity for inexperienced parents to get an education right alongside the youths.

They also provide Outreach specific to women as well, under the same conditions.  I would like to assure you that the men I saw on the outreach programs were all gentlemen, well behaved, clean spoken, and very respectable. 

Now, in anticipation for those readers who will groan and say “Sounds great, but I’m not a Colorado resident”, do not despair.  Other states may also have analogous programs.  Here are a few links. [You can find many others with web searches.]

Texas BOW program
: Texas, for example, has a Woman’s hunting clinic they call “Becoming an Outdoors-woman” (BOW).

Pheasants Forever
: Additionally, there are non-profit organizations nation-wide that also provide instruction.  One of the best is Pheasants Forever.  Don’t let the name confuse you; while Pheasants Forever does teach how to hunt pheasants, they don’t limit themselves to these hunts.  They teach various hunting and fishing skills, archery, and even canoeing.  I participated on a couple of Pheasants Forever outreach hunts for women and youths and they are top-notch, very supportive and encouraging, and they can even supply a shotgun if the prospective hunter does not yet own one but would like to try the sport before investing in expensive equipment.  What’s more, depending on the program, they can also provide training shooting clays at a trap range before heading afield.

The National Wild Turkey Foundation
is another organization that provides hunter outreach to youths, and they also have “Women in the Outdoors” programs.
As one would expect, the NRA also has programs to introduce women to shooting sports and hunting.  They also provide training to become an NRA certified instructor, a survival skill that could be very useful.  For youths, they provide the “Youth Hunter Education Championship”, which they describe as a “graduate studies” program for outdoor skills and safety training for young hunters.

Now that you are aware that there are lots of opportunities out there, I hope you feel empowered to find an outreach program in your area or within traveling distance.  Hunting skills are not only important in the SHTF situation, but are also a great way to spend quality time with the family away from computer games, television, and all the other electronic accoutrements that distract us from what is really important: quality family time and acquiring new, and useful skills.

Good luck, and safe hunting! - Patriot Refusenik

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hello Captain,
I just read “A Poor Man’s Guide to Prepping and Food Storage," by T.P. He mentions getting free meat by way of road kill and says “It helps to be able to tell how long an animal has been dead.”
I can help. Having been a bricklayer in the Southwest and the Northwest for 35 years, I have worked with and become friends with many native Americans. Years ago one of my pals told me that he ate road kill all the time. When I asked how he knew if it was fresh or not he replied:
“That’s easy. When I’m on my way home from work I look for dead animals on the road. Whenever I see one I stop and draw a circle around it. [Most of us in construction carry lumber crayons] Then, when I go to the store to buy a pack of beer, I stop and pick up the ones that don’t have a circle!”
Happy Hunting, - Maddog

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Everyone writes about what you need to survive the end; but no one writes about what you need to know before the end happens. Protection, Water purification, hunting, trapping, cleaning an animal, sewing, soap making, and herbal knowledge are just a few examples of what I consider to be incredibly important to know. Now, I know what you all are thinking, males got this down for the most part, right? Well what about your women. What happens to them if god forbid they get separated? Can they take care of themselves. A lot of women couldn’t.

Protection is pretty straightforward, you think you have it covered with a gun right? What happens when you run out of cartridges? Do you know how to make gun powder? Do you know how to reload fired brass? If not then you might consider learning a primitive skill, bow and arrow making. It’s amazing just how many things you can use to make bows, and even more impressive is the amount of things you can make an arrow out of.  A simple bow and knowing how to make it and what to make it out of may be primitive but it could save your life, or at the very least keep you fed.  If your on the go you may want to consider the bundle bow; it’s a bow made out of normally three somewhat straight sticks, can’t find a stick, then thin PVC pipe or old fiberglass fishing rods will work too. Just keep in mind that it what ever you use needs to have some give to it and needs to be strong. [JWR Adds: Using old fishing rod sections might prove dangerous, if they fail, under strain. You do not want your forearm impaled with shredded fiberglass.] One of the sticks need to be about half the size of the larger one, the second needs to be a little bit longer at about three quarters of the length of the large one. Bind them together in several places with some string. Now you should have something that is quite strong that tapers to one stick at the ends.  Wrap some extra string on the ends of the bundle for the nocks. Now you have a bow, but how do you string it. That’s an easy answer; you want a string that is quite strong but not to stretchy remember you want it to bend the bow so you can have power behind the arrow. Once you have decided on the cordage, you want to tie it to the bow your looking for a gap between the bow and the string that is roughly the distance between your thumb and the bottom of your fist when your giving a thumbs up sign. There now you have a bow, Now for the ammunition. Arrows can be made from river cane or straight sticks, they can even be made out of PVC pipe, so long as it is good and stiff and has a small diameter, it can be made into an arrow. But seriously keep in mind that you cannot make a very good arrow out of a toothpick. Once you’ve picked your arrows you can either attach things to make a blade or if your like me, just sharpen the ends. You can also add feathers to the back end but I have also shot arrows without the fletching. Spears are another primitive weapon to consider. They can be made from simple house hold objects, such as broom handles. They may not be as effective as a good bow but hey they will work in a pinch.

Water purification is something that everyone should know about. You can make even the worse looking and smelling water drinkable if you can follow a few simple steps. Now some of you are wondering why not just drink from the running stream. Well, I don’t know about you but I figure that animals use that water which means that the ground around it or even the water itself is their bathroom. I don’t feel like drinking potty water; it’s not so appealing now is it? So, to purify your water you will want to bring it to nearly a boil for at least a minute. I suggest a minute but to be honest by the time it reaches the boiling point, most things have already been killed; and by the time it cools from the boil all things have been killed. If you have the time and you have enough sand you can also make a sand filter. If you have a container you will want to put a few holes in the bottom. Now you have to find a way to keep the sand from getting out so you could use a few inches of pebbles, grass mesh is also possible so long as you are sure it isn’t a poisonous grass, or if you have it some type of cotton material will work great. Next you will want a layer of gravel this is mostly just to strengthen your bottom filter layer. Next, fill the container with sand. Now go collect some of that water, pour it into your filter and catch at the bottom, if it isn’t clear run it again. Just to be on the safe side though even after filtering the water I would boil it just so I can be sure that everything that is possible was removed.

Hunting, Trapping, and cleaning an animal is something else everyone should know how to do. I’m sure everyone here has been hunting but has your spouse? Can she take the life of an animal? Animals are difficult to hunt even for the experienced hunter, sometimes, so you can  imagine just how difficult it would be for someone who has never hunted a day in their life. Hunting is straight forward, point and shoot and hope you made your mark. But trapping is a bit different. You need to make sure that you are on an animal’s path, it’s pointless to put a trap up if you haven’t seen animal tracks. There are lots of traps to chose from, some use large rocks or logs, some use holes. Most of the time these traps take too much time and well by the time your done with one you don’t want to make another; and if your using traps the more you use the better the chance you will get an animal for your dinner. A dozen is normally the smallest amount you want to put out, anything less and the chances of you getting an animal are close to nothing. The Snare trap is easy and reliable so long as you do it right. With the right snare trap you can get anything from a rat to a pig. You can make a snare from wire, string, cord or vines.  Vines aren’t the best material to use but if you have nothing else then trust in mother nature to provide. Wire is the best material but string works just as well. There are two common designs of snare traps; one will keep your prey at ground level and may or may not strangle them. The second  will flip the animal into the air and hold it off the ground, the likely hood of this trap strangling the prey is almost always a guarantee. To make either you need to make a loop in the material; this loops needs to be able to tighten and hold the animal, the loop should be free moving; the free movement allows the loop to tighten when the animal struggles or as it walks forward into the trap. In the second design the movement of the material will trigger the trap and fling the animal up into the air, here the animals own body weight works against it, as it is this weight that will cause the material to tighten. Always remember to set the loop in the diameter of the animal you are hoping to catch; want a pig, make the loop bigger, want a rabbit, smaller. Make sure that the end of the snare trap (opposite the loop) is secure in a bush, or staked. You may want to make a funnel of debris to force the animal into the snare.  In the first design as the animal goes through the snare tightens any fighting makes it tighter. In the second design once the animal is in the snare it will pull the material far enough that the trap will trigger and the animal will be flipped into the air and strangled. In this design you will want a flexible limb or bush, the snare itself, a trigger and a something to hold the trigger. This snare isn’t good in cold weather because you run the risk of the flexible parts freezing. For the trigger you are going to want something with a lip, the same for the part that is holding the trigger. Wrap the material for the snare around the trigger (at the top) a few times and make sure it isn’t coming off. Tie the other end of the snare to the flexible part of the trap. Set the trigger into the lip of the trigger holder and you have your trigger snare trap. Then it becomes a waiting game. It is recommended that you check the traps before going to sleep and as soon as you wake. It has been proven that an animal will chew through it’s own leg to get out of a trap if trapped by it’s leg. The point of the snares is to proved food not to torture the animal. Well you have your animal, so now what. It’s time to get it ready for cooking. You will want to make a small hole in the skin but be careful you do not want to punch a hole in the guts of the animal as that would taint the meat. Once you have the hole you will want to split the skin as if unzipping a coat; once that is done you can remove the skin like a sock, just be careful not to pull to hard. Now that is done you can make another small hole in the abdomen and pull the guts out. It is recommended to wash the animal in some form of water just to be sure that nothing undesirable is inside. Now it’s time to cook it.

Sewing and soap making are something every person in the free world should know how to do. This way you can make your own clothes and you can always make sure your clean. Sewing is simple you just put to pieces of cloth together and hold them together with a piece of string. Most people have enough knowledge to do rough sewing. It will get better over time. As far as soap making, well all that fat off the animals can be boiled down to form tallow which is really the base of the soap. Ash can be boiled in water and that will make the lye water. To know you have the perfect solution of lye water, take an egg if it sinks you need to boil the ash longer, if the whole egg floats you will want to add more water as your lye is too strong when the egg floats with roughly the size of a quarter above the water, then your lye water is perfect and ready for use. You will want at least a pound of fat to every six ounces of lye water. Add the water to the fat and stir. Once you can see the lines of your stirring, often referred to as trace, you can pour your soap into well in this case what ever you have that will allow the lye to set. Let it sit for at least a week before you even consider using it. Typically, soap needs to cure for a month but there is no guarantee that you will have that long to wait. But please wait for at least a week. In pinch you can rub water and ash together to get a form soap.

Herbal knowledge covers everything from what grows wild that is good to eat, to medicines that can be made from what great mother nature has to offer. An example of this is, did you know you could take pine needles and boil them in water and you will have a drink full of vitamin C. Herbal knowledge is not something you can learn from trail and error. You must take the time to learn this ahead of time. If you don’t something you think is just fine could turn out to be deadly. I personally recommend The Master Book of Herbalism by Paul Beyerl, while he does bring in religion to it, the illustrations and the information contained with in it are priceless.  As far as wild edibles you might like the book The Illustrated Guide to Edible Wild Plants it’s published by the Department of the Army. This book covers everything from what is safe to eat to what can be used as medicine. This book also has color photographs throughout.

By now your most likely saying well, I’ve stocked food, I’ve got plenty of ammo for my guns, I know how to clean an animal, soap can be stocked, and I’ve got a medical bag, I’m covered. Well, what happens when your stockpiles run out? What happens if your partner gets separated, or if one of your kids gets lost? Do they have the knowledge the would need to survive? Are you sure? Because every good survivalist knows and lives by this one rule: nothing lasts forever.

James Wesley:
In reference to CentOre's recent article, "Subsistence Fishing After TEOTWAWKI", one method not mentioned which works very well (speaking from experience) is to kill a non-edible animal like a prairie dog and hang it over a bank.

After a couple of days maggots begin to fall off of the decaying carcass and the fish learn to come to that bank to get a free meal.

Then using yo-yo fishing lines you bait whatever hooks you use with scraps and pretty much I've never gone without a pan full of fish a day to eat.

The other method is to use 12 volt DC current.  This is the same trick that the fish and wildlife guys use to do fish counts.  Place a couple of copper rods several feet apart in the water -- driven into the ground.  Hook up your jumper cables from your vehicle and let it run for a bit.  The 12 volt DC current acts as a fish magnet and you can pick and choose which ones you want to eat. - Hugh D.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Introductory Disclaimer: Many ideas expressed within this article may not be legal in all jurisdictions.  Items covered and methods discussed are strictly theoretical in nature unless otherwise stated.

Many people have a love of fishing.  Take a pole, and maybe a youngster, down to the shore, or a dock, baiting up, casting out, and waiting for a bite.  It’s a great time to just sit, talk, and enjoy nature.  Right?
Not after TEOTWAWKI!  There will not be many ‘restful’ days, or nights for that matter.  Our group has a saying that: “Sportsman-ship goes out the window when Survival-ship comes in the door.”  Catching as many fish as you can properly make use of with a minimum of effort will become the rule.  It is wasteful to catch more of any game than you can make use of.  If you can dry and/or smoke ten pounds of fish per day don’t go out and catch a hundred pounds unless you have the means to keep the unprocessed fish from spoiling.
Looking back at the Native Americans and their ways is a good place to start. In the Columbia River Drainage they fished with both nets and spears.  They still do, where the white man hasn’t messed up the stream flow.
Let’s discuss several methods of catching many fish.  Gigging, Netting, Bow Fishing and Trot Lining.


Gigging involves using a device that resembles a spear with two or more points.  A quick search online for “fishing gigs” will show the full range of styles that have been used and are in use today.
Using a fishing gig generally requires being able to see the fish you are hunting, getting close enough to reach it with the gig, and doing all that in a stealthy enough manner that you do not spook the target.  Another method involves finding a spot that fish are known to pass, setting up and waiting for the fish to come to you.  Again, you must be ready to strike at the proper moment.  You may miss the first few times.  There is a trick of optics called ‘parallax’ that we will discuss in depth a little later on.  A fish is not where it seems to be and the gigger must learn about and adjust for this before many fish are gigged.


The net has been used down through the centuries and has evolved into very sophisticated ‘fishing systems’ used on all modern fishing vessels.  In this paper we are talking about a simple net you weave yourself and use up close and personal.  Go online and do a search for fishing net making.  You will find the size and shapes of the shuttles that are used, and the one very basic knot that creates all good nets.  Generally you need to decide where you are going to use the net before you begin to build it.  If it is a stream situation, then determine the width and maximum depth at the place you will be fishing.  If I were to make one, I would generally make a net that is one and a half times the width of the water and twice as deep as the water.  The size of the net openings is determined by the size of the fish you wish to catch.  For instance, if you are going out to catch all the fish you can regardless of size, then a net made with a mesh opening of 1 inch would probably be good.  If, however, you only want to catch large fish [say, for splitting and smoking] then a net mesh size that will allow the smaller fish to escape and keep only the larger fish then you want to make a mesh size commensurate with the fish size.

EXAMPLE: We have a large annual run of German Browns every fall in a small creek off a large reservoir. The larger fish can be well over ten pounds.  The creek is about thirty feet wide and 5 to 6 feet deep (at a spot that would work for netting).  Personally [If I were going to net this creek which of course I am not since it is not legal], my net would be about forty to fifty feet long and ten to twelve feet tall.  One note to remember, a 4” mesh net takes ¼ as many knots as a 1” mesh.  When you multiply that out to the total size of your net you might come to the decision to make a course net first.  Maybe you should/could make just a small one to keep the deer out of your garden, before you tackle a really fine net.

One word of caution.  You will read many articles and, in fact talk to many people who will write or speak of making a ‘gill net’.  I see the word tossed about as if it were the only net to make or use. A gill net is a very sophisticated fishing tool that is sized precisely to the size fish you are going to take.  Fish too small can swim right through it.  Fish too large will run into it and go away.  Only the ‘right’ sized fish will be able to poke its head nearly through the primary netting to the extent the much smaller gill strands of the net will catch behind the fish’s gills and hold it securely until harvested.  I will not say you cannot make one.  I will say I would never invest the time and precious materials needed in making and then maintaining a gill net.

Bow Fishing

Anyone who has used a target bow, a hunting bow, or a sophisticated archery competition bow might want to consider its’ use in the area of fish harvesting, provided of course that it is legal in your area.  For many summers when I was a kid I would take my trusty long bow, attach an old spinning reel below the grip with electricians tape.  I would take an old, damaged but pretty much still straight target arrow shaft, drill a small hole through the metal tip just about as far back on the ferrule as I could and still be on the metal.  I would drill the hole so a 1½ to 2 inch finishing nail would fit loosely.  The head end of the finish nail plus about a ½ inch would be bent 90 degrees? and hammered flat enough that I could attach a small fishing swivel-snap to it through a very small hole I drilled in the flattened nail head.  I would then slide the nail point through hole in my shaft.  The pointy end would now be bent about 45 degrees?, such that the swivel-snap and the point would both be pointed up the shaft.  Attach some old about 30 lb monofilament or braided line to the swivel-snap and wind about 50 feet onto the reel.
When I went fishing I would nock the arrow, open the bail on the reel and I was ready to fish.  Carp were always in season [and legal at the time to hunt with bows].  Upon spotting a likely candidate I would draw my bow and loose the arrow.  If I struck the fish I would play it on the spinning reel.  When I landed the fish all I had to do was make certain the barb went completely through the fish.  Then a light pull on the shaft would flip the barb/swivel-snap/nail over so it was pointed down the shaft.  Then the arrow could be withdrawn with minimum damage to the flesh of the fish, and no damage to the arrow.  I could be back to fishing in under two minutes once I had landed the fish.

The tricky part is learning to compensate for the parallax that occurs when you look into water at an angle. [The natural tendency is to aim too high, so if in doubt, hold low.] All I can say is, you will get lots of fish just as soon as you figure the angle out.  The variables include 1) the angle you are looking into the water at, and 2) the depth of the fish in the water.  Each shot requires a fresh mental computation.

Trot Lining

Simply stated, a trot line is nothing more than a long line with many hooks.  However, there is a little more to it than that. 
Not having lived in the southern states where trot lining for catfish is nearly akin to a religion, I’ll just share the simple way I was taught up in the Pacific Northwest.  In the 1960s I had what I consider to be a real honor to know a gentleman in the State of Washington I will call ‘Bob Ford’.  Bob was an octopus fisherman.  He was on a scientific register back east somewhere and he supplied octopus parts for many science research projects.  Bob ran three trot lines.  As I recall two of the lines were 1,000 feet long and the big one was 1,500 feet long.  They were set in the shelter of Dungeness Spit in areas where he knew the bottoms to be sandy and free of snags.  Bob would go out every day and ‘pull’ his lines.  He would start by going to his marker buoy and hauling up the 75 to 100 feet of anchor line that anchored the trot line against the tides.  He had a roller assembly on the forward, port gunwale where he placed the line as he pulled it.  When he got to the anchor he would move it over the pulley and keep on pulling on the trot line. About every fifty feet or so was a cedar box that was about twelve inches square and four feet long.  One of the twelve by twelve inch ends was open.  Each trap was on about a five foot tag line off the main trot line.  He would pull each box up to see if it held an octopus.  Then he would pull again to the next box.  Now you might say one person pulling well over 3,500 feet of wet, soggy line festooned with a bunch of heavy anchors and water logged cedar boxes every day, and sometimes twice a day, is a little hard to believe.  Well he did it.  He did it every day for over twenty years.  I knew him when I was the Keeper of a nearby Lighthouse.  At the time Bob was in his ‘younger’ eighties as he put it.  Nobody, not even the young loggers in the area, ever challenged him to arm wrestling!!  Every Friday morning the Oriental market buyers would come over from Seattle to bid on any ‘extra’s’ Bob had caught.

So, how does this story fit in?  Well, if you want to be a successful trot liner you need to follow every one of the rules that old Bob taught me.  1) You need a bottom that is free of snags, 2) you have to attach your hooks to the trot line in such a way that the main line will not get tangled and broken, 3) you need to put each hook on the end of a short leader, and 4) fish with the right bait.  Old Bob’s ‘bait’ was the cedar box.  You see, octopi like darkness.  They feed at night, but when the sun comes up they look for a cave to hide in.  Well, in our area there must have been a real cave shortage because the octopi would crawl into the cedar ‘caves’ and defend it all the time it was being hauled to the surface.  A really large octopus would even fight him when he tried to get them out of ‘their cave’.  In your case you too have to use ‘the right bait’.  Yours will probably be something you know the local fish like to eat.  In our area I am well stocked up with many flavors of ‘Power bait™’.  It stores well and the fish around me don’t seem to care if it’s five or six years old.  My mainline is 100 pound test braided synthetic line.  Every six feet there is about a ½ to 1 inch dropper knot tied in the main line. 
For each dropper there is about an eighteen inch, 20 pound monofilament leader with a swivel-snap [see my aforemention of bow fishing] on the dropper end and a #6 or #8 2x treble hook snelled onto the business end of the leader. (You may want to use a different hook and system for your local area.)  A short study on the web will teach you the dropper knot and how to snell a hook.  I direct you there because Mr. Rawles properly frowns on pictures or drawings as some readers have trouble downloading them.

The leaders are all carried in a bucket. They are all pre-baited and placed in the bucket with a little water over them so they don’t dry out.  Each end of the mainline has an anchor on it and an anchor line that goes to the surface.  I frown on marker buoys as too many people might see them from too far away.  A small piece of driftwood three or four feet long works just fine as an anchor line float and has a much lower profile.
I put down one anchor and begin to pay out the main line.  Each time I come to a dropper knot I snap on a swivel snap with its’ leader and pre-baited hook.  When I get to the far end I set my second anchor, anchor line, and marker buoy.  You should always put a marker buoy on each end so if one marker buoy gets loose or damaged you can go to the other end and not lose your trot line.
Depending upon your situation you may need to place small weights every so far to keep the line where you want it.  Many cat fishers set their lines in the evening and pull them in the morning

As I stated earlier: You have an obligation to get food and keep your family fed.  But, you have an equally important obligation of not taking more than you can make use of at any one time.  So, I recommend you start small until you get an idea of what a ‘normal’ catch might be.  One method to do this is to only put a swivel, leader, hook and bait on every second or third dropper while you are ‘testing the waters’.
As a side issue, we like crawfish.  They supply some of the nutrients our other foods might be otherwise lacking.  We have a stash of crawdad traps picked up for peanuts at garage sales.  Anything you can open, close, and punch holes in will make a bait can.  Why not make use of the fish offal, I think that’s the word.  I call them fish guts.  Use them to bait a few crawdad traps.  If you get more ‘dads’ than you can eat at one time [a rare occurrence at our house!] they can up great with a water bath canner and a little vinegar and pickling spice.

Disclaimer: Many thoughts expressed here may not be legal in some or all jurisdictions.  Consult your state's fishing and trapping regulations! Items covered and methods discussed are strictly theoretical in nature unless otherwise stated. - CentOre
(CentOre is a loosely connected group of people in the Oregon High Desert interested in improving our existing skills, and learning new skills that will enhance our odds when it hits.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mr. Rawles,
Regarding the use of rawhide, I would recommend the short film "Lige: Portrait of a Rawhide Braider" (1985), that can be found at The film is just under half an hour in length and is fascinating for both the people portrayed and the information it contains about the traditional working of rawhide in "the region known as the Sagebrush Corner of northeastern California and northwestern Nevada".

The site contains many additional short films (free and licensed for individual viewing) that would interest readers of your blog - rural and traditional crafts, music, lifestyles are examined. Fascinating shorts that will bring back long forgotten memories for some and will educate many others. Regards, - J.F.

Friday, November 25, 2011

This time of year we have a lot of hides on hand – deer, elk, and even cow hides when we are butchering.  We’ve tanned them, traded them for gloves, given them away to others, but usually we just dispose of them.  Not anymore.  This last year we’ve been experimenting with using rawhide, and after a year, we are convinced having rawhide on-hand is one of the more valuable items for regular or emergency use.  It is quite easy to process, unlimited in its use, and readily available to most of us.  Hopefully some of our experiences get others thinking and considering how to make use of rawhide.

Tanning a hide for leather is quite a laborious activity, and while leather is very valuable and useful, its manufacture is intimidating.  Rawhide in comparison is quite easy to produce, and provides many of the values and versatility.  Rawhide is simply an untreated animal hide.  Any animal hide is useful, and I would recommend trying out rawhide from a smaller animal, preferably a road kill, as your first foray into this product.  The only tools needed are a plastic garbage can or barrel, and a good stick for stirring.  We are currently processing several hides and you can see pictures and follow the progress on our blog.

The best part of working with rawhide is that you can set it aside for long periods of time and not worry about taking care of it.  Even the unprocessed hides can sit if you keep them dry with some salt on them.  The salt will help keep bacteria down that cause rot or smell.  We made one deer hide into rawhide last year, and we used it up so quickly that we decided to keep all of our hides this year.

After pulling the hides off our deer, we trimmed off the larger pieces of fat and meat, then simply folded them and allowed them to dry out in the Wyoming air.  In wetter climates we have found the hides don’t dry very quickly or as thoroughly and recommend you salt the hide heavily before it dries to keep bacteria and smell down.  When the hide is dry we can simply fold and store it as is for up to a year.  Check on the hide periodically to make sure it doesn’t start to smell or go bad.  We sometimes dry them by the woodstove if needed.

If you prefer a cleaner hide (which we strongly recommend) and you have the time immediately after removing it from the animal, it should be scrapped to clean off all meat, fat, and membrane just as you would to tan it for leather.  If the hide has been stored for a while dried, lay it out and put some water on it, or soak it for about a day to loosen it up and make it easier for scraping.  A 4 to 6 foot long piece of 2x6 lumber is the best tool to drape the hide over, with the flesh side up for scraping.  Another recommendation is to use an 8” draw knife (two handled) for scraping with.  It makes the work more uniform and easy.

With the hide scrapped, it is ready for removing the hair.  Soaking the hide in water or solution is often sufficient to loosen the hide’s hold on the hair allowing it to pull off easily.  In the colder winter months, however, we have found it best to mix up a solution of water and hydrated lime at about 70 degrees F – about a quart of lime for every 15 gallons of water used.  Soaking the hides in this solution for a week is enough, and you can leave the hides in the solution up to 6 weeks if you need to.  Raising the pH of the hide is what we are after.  Right now we have two hides soaking outside at about 45*F and after 3 days the hair is starting to pull out.  We may let them soak more than a week because of the cold.  Be sure to regularly stir the hides to keep them in solution.  We also use a bucket of water on top of the hides to keep them from floating out of the lime. 

We use hydrated lime because we already have it on hand for gardening needs.  You can use (and many other folks do) other options such as lye, wood ash, or other alkali options.  Just be careful with protective gloves and goggles but give it a try.  Rawhide is fun because it is so basic and forgiving.  Play around with options and see what works for you – you really can’t go to wrong with rawhide.

Once the hair is slipping out remove it from the solution and when dry enough to work, we put it back on our 2x6 with the hair up and use a duller draw knife to carefully scrap off the hair.  It comes off pretty quickly, but be careful not to damage the hide – it is quite soft and can be cut or torn after soaking so long.  When the hair is removed, you will need to rinse and treat the rawhide to restore the pH back neutral.  If you have a source of running water you can put it in that for a day or two.  We have lots of rain barrels, and soaking in one of those for 2 days is typically good, followed by a few rinses in a bucket.  Next, we use a cup of vinegar for each 15 gallons of water used to neutralize the hide and get it as close to neutral [pH] as possible.  Years ago we had a swimming pool, and we still have pH test strips that are very handy for projects like this to see how we are doing with respect to the pH.

Guess what – that is really it!  The rawhide will need some stretching and scraping, but only if you want to do it, and only when you are ready to it.  At this point, we fold up the hide again and dry it out well by the woodstove to put it into storage.  Without the hair, a deer hide will fold up and fit in a shoe box, so it is nice and small.  I recommend smoking the hide outside if you can around a fire – it will dry it out very well, and the smoking gives it a nice smell and will help preserve it for later use.  If you don’t smoke it, adding a layer of salt will also be advisable.
Depending on how you plan to use the rawhide, you will stretch and scrap it more accordingly.  We have found by repeatedly stretching and scraping the hide as it dries, it becomes more translucent – enough so that it could even be used as an emergency replacement for a window pane if glass were broken and unavailable.  Stretching it less will make it thicker and more opaque.
Now is the real fun part of rawhide – using it for everything!  As an engineer, I love finding new tools or techniques that let me do the most with an item, and rawhide is one of the best I’ve found – ever.  This stuff is really nature’s 'duct tape', better than plastic, and begs for experimentation.  In the event of SHTF, I believe this stuff will be prized by all who have access and use it.
The most common use for rawhide is cordage and rope.  We’ve made a lot of plant-based cordage, and even made string with ligaments, but nothing is as strong or long-lasting as rawhide strips.  Cordage will become rough and stiff over time if not well used or kept dry, but with repeated use, working it over and over on metal or wood posts, and with some oil the cordage will be quite supple.  It can be twisted or braided and both work well.  If you plan to make a lot of cordage, I’d recommend getting a leather strap cutter – they are inexpensive and make great, uniform cuts.
Many folks on the internet have some great examples of using rawhide for knife sheaths and hard, custom formed containers.  We haven’t tried these yet but they look like fun.  With rawhide, the key is keeping it dry to keep its form.  When it dries out, it is tough, rigid, and durable.  When it gets wet, it softens and can be reformed – this can be a big advantage, too.  I also recommend oiling rawhide lightly to help make it more water repellant, but do so lightly as the oil itself can soften the hide.

Rawhide is a fantastic replacement for nails, which is how we use most of ours.  Small strips of cordage wrap easily like string when wet and then as it dries, it will shrink, tighten, and harden into a rock-solid bond.  Think of the rawhide bones that dog’s chew (another good use for your hide) and remember how hard those can be.  We use rawhide to bind arrowheads on shafts, and when covered in a protective, thin layer of pine pitch, the arrowhead becomes a solid part of the shaft.  The strength to weight ratio of rawhide is very good.  Early pioneers constructed "Red River Carts" entirely without nails, using only an axe, wood on hand, and rawhide.

I fixed a rake handle when it was stepped on and split by wrapping a s3x4 inch strip of wet rawhide tightly around the break, and tying it in place until the hide dried and shrunk.  That fix will outlast the rest of the tool.  Similarly, a loose head on a splitting maul was tightened easily with a long, 1x8 inch strip wrapped cross-wise and dried.  When roasting marshmallows, we found that a few wraps of rawhide are good enough in a pinch for a handle and insulate from heat quite well.  This led us to speculate that rawhide would be useful for any number of automotive repairs on exhaust, water, or engine related repairs, though we have yet to try them.

I have heard it is possible to boil up glue using rawhide, though I’ve never tried it.  Likewise I have never tasted rawhide, but know throughout history it was a common staple for famished travelers and pioneers.  In a situation of starvation, boiled rawhide will nourish better than boiled plastic – and let’s hope we never get to that point.

Rawhide applied around an object also is a great stiffener.  We have stiffened wooden bows with narrow strips of it wrapped or laid along the outer edge of a bow, and in some cases stiffened the bow too much with what seemed a small piece of hide.  A loose furniture piece or piece of machinery could quickly and inexpensively be helped along by that old deer skin.  A few years ago I gave a steer hide to a woman who made a beautiful set of rawhide pack saddle panyards with the hair left on it.

I’ve read of several accounts of Plains Indian shields made from buffalo rawhide stopping or deflecting bullets.  It is quite feasible, seeing the thickness and toughness of rawhide to imagine it working though I don’t think a modern rifle bullet would be stopped in such a way.  It does make you wonder about armor applications, though.  Our 12 year-old son is working a deer hide right now that he wants to experiment with to see if and how several layers of rawhide would perform against different caliber bullets.  Sounds like a great school science project in the making.  Another thought he came up with was putting a layer of rawhide on cowboy chaps or a motorcycle jacket for added protection.  Perhaps a shoe’s sole replacement or shin guards during rattlesnake season.  Our older son speculated at casting a broken arm in rawhide to protect it if plaster were unavailable – though rawhide is far from sterile and I would not recommend it on a wound, it was a good idea.  At least they are thinking of ideas and that is worthwhile in and of itself.

Even if you are not a hunter or rancher it isn’t difficult to get hides.  I’ve posted on Craigslist to give away cow hides after butchering and was overwhelmed with the volume of responses.  Posting online or asking around will put you in touch with hunters in your area, or ask at a local butcher shop or meat processor.  These are good folks to get to know for future emergency events anyway.  Another option is road kill – yes, it is gross and a little hillbilly, but the price is right, and small hides are easiest to work with.  I recommend being picky about the road kill you pick up ;-)  The price is right and there is a ready supply.

The last recommendation I have for rawhide is to avoid the larger animal hides like elk or cow in favor of a deer hide or smaller animal.  The larger animal hides are much thicker and heavier to work with and unless you have a big project needing these features the rawhide is less versatile.  Deer hides are thinner, more pliable, and more than adequate for most jobs.  For small cordage, squirrel or rabbit are actually my preference, so bigger usually isn’t better.  As we finish our latest batch of rawhide and put it into use we will post more pictures on our blog,

Rawhide has been the ‘duct tape’ of the world for centuries.  It is reasonably available, requires minimal effort, and offers great strength, versatility, and usability for so many situations it is worth considering for your preparations.  It will be a valuable barter item in the case of TEOTWAWKI.  God in His wisdom has provided us with yet another item for our needs and deserves our praise and thanks.  I hope these ideas and options are valuable or useful in your efforts.  It has been fun for us.

J.M.'s article on brain tanning mentions buildings and furniture held together with rawhide straps, and I thought I'd mention another such building. The roof of the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah is a particularly innovative design for its time, and because of the builders' lack of available metals (the few metal fasteners in the roof were made from discarded ox shoes) most
of the structure depends on wooden pegs to hold it together. The builders wrapped parts of the wooden trusses in green rawhide; as the rawhide shrank during drying, it formed tight, strong straps around the trusses, preventing splitting and holding the wooden pegs firmly in place. These trusses and their rawhide straps remained in place from the building's dedication in 1867 until the Tabernacle was renovated in 2005. - Joshua T.

Michael Z. Williamson Re: Guns for a Tight Budget Minimalist Survivalist

Dear Jim,
While I much prefer modern autos, there are many good Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers from the early part of the 20th Century, in .38 Special (an easy to find, common caliber) that retail for $100-$250.  The finishes may be well-worn and ugly, but as long as the function is sound, these are an excellent choice.  The hand fitting done at the time usually exceeds what is done on modern guns.  I am especially enamored of the Smith Model 1905 Military and Police, and the Colt Cobra.

For shotguns, the classic single shot is available for as little as $80 in some forums, used in good shape.  I also really like the Stevens Model 520 takedown.  Mine disassembles small enough to carry in the bottom of a gym bag, and cost $250. Here is a picture of one.  There are many out there, usually reasonably priced, and there are plenty of spare parts for repairs.  It's a reliable shotgun, and compact enough to be discreet for travel.

I also like the 10-22, there really isn't a better choice.  It's easily improved, I just wish the factory did most of that up front rather than leaving it to the aftermarket.  It would cost the same to put in a decent trigger and round the rear of the bolt as it does to produce now, and save buyers a lot of hassle.

As to birdshot, this has been posted before, but bears repeating: Birdshot is for birds, not people.  The physics of this is that a column of shot acts as a fluid, not as a mass.  This means it splashes on impact with heavy targets.  One ounce of shot cannot hit as hard as a one ounce slug, or a smaller number of much larger buckshot. Remember that Dick Cheney's hunting partner was shot with birdshot and suffered minimal effects.  The range was not close, but both rifles and buckshot would easily deliver stops at that range.

Also, I would like to remind readers that the "storing magazines is bad for springs" myth is from a misunderstanding of mechanics.  A spring will not suffer harm within its design range.  What wears out a spring is cycles and metal fatigue.  Constantly cycling your magazines is bad for the magazines, and bad for the ammo that is being constantly bumped around.  Load it and leave it, unless you intend to shoot it. (One exception: Some box magazines for shotguns, such as the Saiga, can deform the plastic shotshell.  But his is a different matter.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In today's world, you might wonder why working rawhide and brain tanning buckskin skill would be a benefit to anybody, when you can run to the hardware store and buy an unlimited supply of plastic, nylon, fiberglass, and what not to do your jobs. And why would anybody in their right mind want to wear anything made out of buckskin? When you have designer jeans, and all kinds of clothing to buy, in most stores like Wal-mart, K-mart, or even the used clothing stores? One question you might ask is how much of these things will be available when the fiat dollar bites the dust, or if a number of natural disasters happen? And what about a total SHTF situation, where there are no open stores selling anything? Might be worth consideration?
Working rawhide will give you a good substitute in most cases for a lot of plastics, and if you learn to brain tan buckskin, you can make clothing as soft and comfortable as velvet, but let me tell you, it isn't easy work! And right off, I'd hate to arm wrestle an Indian squaw from the 1800's that did hide scraping on a daily basis, those had to be very strong women!   And let me tell you, after scraping both sides of a bull hide, you realize that your arms aren't nearly as strong as you thought they were. Lets start with buckskin first.
The tools you'll need is a very sharp knife, a scraper, (I'll get into that a little down the line) a 2x4 stud hide rack, which is made up of  4- stud 8' long nailed or bolted into a square, bolting is better with holes so you can adjust the size of the rack to fit the hide your working on,  and it's best to mount the hide as high as possible on the rack, to save your back. 4- 25' lengths of heavy cordage, bailing twine, or parachute chord, which I find works the best, to lace the hide on the rack. a 1/8" to 1/4" leather punch, or a knife will work in a pinch to poke holes about 2" apart around the edge of the hide, A large needle made from a coat hanger, to feed the cordage through the holes, and lace on the rack.
Now for the scraper, I took a large file, heated it up on the forge, pounded out one end, and ground it out like a chisel edge, put a 90 degree bend back about 3" from the edge, when you get it done, it should look like an old well used hoe with rounded edges, no sharp edges like a new hoe would have, as this will damage your hide when scraping. When you get that done, re-temper it. This can be done by heating it up to an orange heat, then quench it in a bucket of salt water. The harder you can get the edge, the less you have to sharpen it. Now mount this in a 2' handle, an old shovel handle, or any smooth round piece of wood. You can use pine pitch to mount it in a cut out and wrap it with rawhide. Or if you have a welder, it can be welded on a piece of 1-1/2" black iron pipe, are you starting to get the picture?
Now getting back to the hide, a fresh hide is best to work with while it's still wet, and the cleaner you can skin, leaving all meat and fat on the animal, the less work you have later. Now don't get the idea that deer hide are the only thing that make good buckskin, Elk, young beef calves, dogs, coyotes, wolves, antelope, sheep, goats, most any medium sized animal hides can make good buckskin. I use to have a local dairyman save me the calves that died, and instead of taking them to the local dump, they would dump them in my front yard, and I'd skin them out, then I'd haul the calf to the dump minus the hide and brain, and sinews, leg bones and hoofs. (good knife handles and making glue)
Most of the books I've read on tanning suggest salting down the hides, but I have found it's a lot stronger buckskin if you work with a fresh hide unsalted, salted hides I've found tear easy and don't have the strength you need in long term buckskin clothing. I've got a pair of pants I made about 40 years ago that are still as good and strong as the day they were made. but I also don't wear them daily like jeans.
Okay, you now have your hide laced to the rack and ready to start scraping. Start on the flesh side (the other side from the hair) and scrape in down strokes, it's just like shaving, you slip side ways and you get cut, same with a hide. And you'll find the more careful you can skin, with no knife strokes on the hide the easier it will scrape. you have to remove all fat and membrane from the skin, get as close as possible to your lacing without cutting them. And by now you will have pains in the back of your arms. A little side note here, when you get into rawhide and Buckskinning, you take great care to get a head or neck shot on the animal your hunting, I've found that a shot right behind the ear is an instant kill with most rifles, including a .22 Long Rifle.
 Once you get that side as clean as possible, turn the rack over and start on the hair. You'll find if you can mount your rack against a tree or against anything to work in an upright position, it works better than flat on the ground. You'll notice that the hair comes off with a layer of skin (the scarf skin) under the hair, this has to be removed, to get the brain penetration. And if you let the hide dry out for an hour after you do the flesh side, your scraper will make a tearing sound as you scrape. There again scrape as close as possible to your cordage and holes, without cutting them! I suggest working in a shaded area if possible, so the hide doesn't dry out before you get it scraped.
When all hair and scarf skin is removed, cut the hide out of the rack with a knife about an inch out from the holes and lacing, take the skin and wash it in a clean bucket of water, then let it soak. Meanwhile take the brains and boil them in a kettle of water, then mash them into the water, to where it looks like a white liquid, some people take a piece of cotton cloth and put in the pan of boiling water, then put the brains in the water over the cloth, and as it cools, mash the brains by pulling the cloth up and squeezing it with your hands and keep dipping it in the kettle until all the brain is mashed into a liquid, I never tried this, as I mash them pretty good with a potatoes masher. Then take the liquid brain and water mixture, pore it into a half full, (2 to 2 1/2 gallons) 5 gallon bucket of cool water, dip the hide in the bucket, and squeeze it until it's saturated with the brain water.
I have found that a 6' rope tied loose around a tree on both ends, works good to work the hide, put the bucket under the rope, take the hide and work it back and forth over the rope to where the water drains back into the bucket. When the hide is wrung out good dip it back in the bucket, and soak it up again. by dipping and wringing it out you are forcing the solution through the hide, and removing the hide glue between the fibers, keep this process up for about a half an hour then the last wringing out and working of the hide, let it hang over the rope for a couple hours, but just before it's dried, still damp, work it over the rope stretching it from one direction then the other, until it's completely dry. Now you should have a soft stark white buckskin hide. But this isn't really tanned like chrome tanning, if you get the hide wet in this state, it will get hard when it dries out again.
To prevent this from happening, it has to be smoked. By doing this you saturate the hide fibers with wood smoke pitch. I dig a hole about 30" deep 12" diameter, and take the coals from a fire drop into the hole, and drop in damp chainsaw sawdust in over the coals, then make a small teepee framework and clamp the hide with clothes pins or clamps, but make sure there is only smoke coming up out of the hole and not much heat! Keep turning the hide so all parts on both sides are exposed to the smoke coming up out of the hole. I like the hide to come out about the color of a buckskin horse, but the longer you smoke it the darker it gets and more water resistant. Just roll it up and store in a cool dry place until you have enough hides to make something out of them!
It takes me five hides to make a shirt, with fringe, four hides to make pants, and I did make my pants out of two large elk hides. Now getting back to the circle of hide you left on the rack, unlace it, so you have a big circle of hide, and now you can cut several feet of lacing from the left over piece. Good for lacing, or buckstitching your clothes, and dozens of uses for this lacing.
Now for the rawhide-
Use the basic same process as you did for buckskin, but after both sides are scraped clean, cut it out of the rack then and not go through the braining process. Some of the old timers use to not use a rack and just stretch the hide out and put ashes on the hair side, and keeping the hide damp for several days and changing the ashes, the hair will brush off with little effort leaving the scarfskin on the hide for more strength. But really has to be rinsed good before using! Using lime does the same thing and works faster than the ashes. Depending on what you have available.
My wife's grandmother had some chairs made back about 1900 by a Navajo carpenter made with 1" and 2" willow saplings, the bark was cleaned off the wood, and his joints were made with slots cut through the wood and laces into place with rawhide, and the seat was made with woven rawhide, and the chair was just as solid as the day it was made. So much for screws, glue, and nails in the white man's furniture!

I've also seen some adobe homes built by the Spanish back in the early 1700s in southern California, where log rafters were laced into place with rawhide, then willow saplings laced on to the log rafters, and I'm not sure what was over the willow saplings, this couldn't be seen from inside the house, but it supported the half round clay tile for hundreds of years.
One trick I learned using rawhide was making foot forms. Take a 2x8 about 18 inches long, draw around your foot on two of these, left and right, then drill a hole on the line, cut around the foot pattern, take a rasp and widen the cut so the foot form drops back into the form with about 1/4" clearance around the form, shave the foot form to where its rounded. Take the rawhide from around the neck of the animal, where it's the thickest, cut two pieces out about 2" wider than your foot. soak the rawhide for a day, then put it over the hole in the form, and using a mallet, tap the foot form into the hole, over the rawhide to where it's level with the form, then trim the excess sticking up out of the form  with a knife, let it set in the form for a day or two until it dried out good, then tap it out of the form, and you should have a rawhide soul that your foot fits into. I took an old warn out pair of boots, cut around the soul, threw away the old warn out soul, punched holes about a half inch apart around the boot and the rawhide soul and sewed them together with wet rawhide lacing. The lacing when it dried swells and seals off the punched holes, and made a good pair of moccasin boots. and in the winter if you spread out a fresh rabbit or cat hide inside the boot, it's nice and warm.
I know the animal lovers will be appalled by suggesting using dog and cat hides, but just keep in mind that WTSHTF, there is going to be a big problem with feral dogs and cats, as people not having the heart to kill them when they can no longer feed them, will just turn them loose to forage for themselves, causing problems for other people trying to survive in a changed world.
A trick about rawhide lacing, when you use it, soak it, and when it's wet and flexible, run it through a rag with tallow in it, but without stretching it as you pull it through, this gives it a protective coating, and makes it water resistant. Oh yeah, the tallow is the fat you saved from the animal you skinned and rendered it out in a frying pan, and pored it into a can for later use! About every five years or so, I wipe down my buckskin pants and shirt with tallow, and let it hang in the sun for a couple hours until the tallow souls into the skins, then smoke them again, this preserves the buckskin for a very long time. I've read that some of the old Mountain men wore the same buckskins for several years in the mountains hunting and trapping. The re-smoking reduces smells, and if you hunt in buckskins, wrap them up at night with pine needles, or cedar bark, to give you that sent the next day.
Once you get into rawhiding, you'll find hundreds of used for this long forgotten material! Many of the big ranches in the west during the 1800's had a hired Mexican or Indian rawhider, that worked full time on rawhide, ropes, bridles, reigns, chaps, and saddle repairs. This might be something worthwhile to learn for an uncertain future, especially if it can make you life more comfortable in the hard times ahead.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Greeting from a long time reader in Southeast Texas. Regarding the article "Trapping Options for the Non-Trapper" by Pat in Oregon: When I was a child some 60 years ago, my neighbor had a problem with pigeons eating the chicken feed.  She solved the problem with large rat traps, which you can still get in any hardware store.
She baited the traps with the feed and placed them on the fence posts.  She also attaching about two feet of string to the trap and tied it to a nail in the post.  This kept the pigeon from taking the trap away if it wasn't
a clean kill.
The game was collected through the day, cleaned and stored in the refrigerator until she had enough to make pigeon pot pie.
Today I watch large flocks of pigeons feeding in parking lots and flying over the stores in our town, and wonder how many pot pies I am missing.
Keep up the good work, - Paul B.


On trapping skunks: According to my neighbour, an easier way to kill a skunk that has been caught in a live trap is as follows: After you recognize that there is indeed a skunk in the trap and not just a black cat, cover the trap in a blanket, or better yet, already have a blanket covering the trap. This way you can peek into the trap to see what is in there and also camouflage the cage-like look of the trap. It is either that or throw it over the trap after you see a skunk in there. Skunks will not spray themselves. Then you just carry the trap over to the back of your car, start it up and direct the exhaust from the tail pipe into a gap in the blanket. In just 10 minutes your skunk problem is over and no neighbours will have heard a gun shot. - Lee M.


Dear Brother James,
Just a slight correction to a great post by Pat in Oregon, you can indeed use foot hold traps in Oregon, it is a wonder though because Oregon is a very liberal state which prostitutes itself to the federal government all it can to the peril of its citizens. The regs are available online, here. May God grant you and yours peace through Christ. God Bless, - Paul S.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Most folks are familiar to some extent with animal trapping but have little experience.  In a TEOTWAWKI world I suggest there are several advantages that trapping will offer almost everyone.  With minimal equipment and some basic experience trapping can offer security, food, and economic opportunities.  Before taking any action please familiarize yourself with your local laws and requirements related to fur-bearing animals and trapping.
I trapped coyotes and bobcat back in my college days with a good friend.  It was a great time but required considerable equipment, preparation, effort, and skill.  Today I still do a lot of trapping, though not for profit.  Most of my trapping is for security of my livestock and preservation of my garden.
My first recommendation for everyone is to have a live trap.  These are the cages with the trap-door that locks shut when the animal enters the cage.  These are useful every day in the city, suburbs, or on the farm and very simple to use.  New they cost about $150 for large animals, but they are often found on craigslist for $30 or less.  The best part about these traps is that they are so effective and easy; yet do not injure the animal.  This is very important in a populated area where neighborhood pets are a frequent “by-catch”.
The live is effective at guarding our chicken coop.  The western Oregon woodlands are full of predators – coyotes, skunks, raccoons, and feral cats.  All of these predators love chicken, and frequent our coop.  We keep a live trap ready at the back of the coop at all times, and it never fails to catch a troublemaker.  Since deploying this security measure we have never lost a chicken to a land-based predator.  No bait is necessary; we simply leave the cage open against the back of the coop, and as the snoop travels along the coup it naturally enters.  We have regularly caught the neighbor’s cats, and it is always much appreciated when we can return the cat (still in the cage) safely to the grateful owners – no harm done to either party and stronger, friendly ties are forged between us.
A side benefit we soon realized with our live trap is a big reduction in field rats.  All of the chicken feed and eggs naturally draws rats, and they regularly are caught in the trap as well.  I recommend your first trap to be a big one – big enough for large raccoons, but if you can find a smaller one just for rats and rodents this is also a good investment.  Over the last three years we have averaged 4 skunk, 2 raccoon, 3 opossum, 5 rats, 1 squirrel, and 1 cat.

Look for a strong, sturdy construction on the trap.  Newer traps with fancy double-doors or mechanisms are less reliable.  Another great benefit of heavier wiring is that the trap is more forgiving when a trapped skunk must be dispatched by a .22 while in the trap.  We tried to get a tarp over a caged skunk to help calm it for transportation, but that did not work!  The .22 is the cleanest option for all involved with skunk work.
In the last couple of years the budget cuts to our county’s Animal Control office rendered it almost entirely useless.  Animal Control now only responds to dog control, since that still generates income for the county.  Neither Animal Control nor the Sheriff’s office is willing to respond to livestock or predator calls – including cougar threats!  Last night the Sheriff informed me personally that even if my children and I were physically attacked by wild or domestic animals, other than dogs, they would not respond unless there was a court order.  We are on our own.  Having a means to neutralize a threat to our animals (and kids!) with a live trap is simple, easy and effective.
In Oregon the use of foot hold traps is not allowed.  Too many pets were being injured, I guess.  I still have many foothold traps from my college days, and expect these could be valuable in a post TEOTWAWKI world.  Our area has been plagued over the years with “drop off” pets – people disposing of their pets they no longer want or can care for by simply driving out in the country and dropping them off.  Wild dogs and cats are often our problem to deal with, and leg hold traps could help if or when they might be permitted.  They might be quite effective against 2-legged intruders in some scenarios, too.  Just another option to consider in your planning.
Wire snares are another inexpensive option to consider –especially if your plans include livestock like sheep or cattle.  My wife’s family ranches on 3 sections of northern Wyoming range, with coyotes (and of course wolves) being a major concern.  Wire snares around the perimeter have been our most effective means of coyote control, and are inexpensive to deploy in numbers.  Take caution when using these as they are very effective on a neighbor’s dog and are deadly or at least disabling.  Because of this risk I do not recommend them for everyone unless you have some pressing need or experience.
Food opportunities are an obvious option trapping affords post TEOTWAWKI.  No, our family has not yet sampled opossum or raccoon.  While it might sound unappetizing in our current lifestyle of plenty, preparation is not about having treats, it’s about having options.  Food for your dog is also an important consideration. 
My second recommendation for every person would be to get at least one #110 Connibear style body-grip [killing] trap.  These are small, inexpensive, and fantastically effective tools for catching smaller animals – especially squirrels and weasels.  Squirrels are abundant in suburban and city settings and could become quite valuable.  A single trap can be found on eBay for about $8 and are so effective; we only allow each of our children to use them for catching one squirrel.  This gives the kids a great learning experience with the trap and the habits of a squirrel, and is also good practice skinning and sampling wild game.  It teaches them the responsibility to wisely use the life they took – a valuable lesson preparing them for hunting when they get older.  A simple Google search of the web or will provide more than adequate suggestions on using these traps.
The last trap recommendation I would offer is to get one or two mole traps.  The scissor trap is available for $5-10 and is quite valuable Pre-TEOTWAWKI in teaching skills, securing our gardens, and helping neighbors.  A wide variety of trap styles are available but we have found the old standard scissor traps to be most effective.  My younger daughters, ages 10 and 7 are my mole trappers – they wait for me to return each night from work to make our ‘rounds’ checking traps.  We have caught 15 to-dates this year, and they love it!  Our neighbors love it too, since we ran out of targets in our yard and expanded our territory.  Sure, it technically isn’t ‘trapping’ in the traditional sense, but don’t underestimate the value of quality time with children, service to neighbors, and riddance of problem animals in preparing us for a SHTF event.
In this sense trapping can be a valuable service to offer others as well.  My live trap is frequently at friend’s homes to deal with marauding raccoons or rats.  The added benefit of the body trap is its use on fur-bearing animals such as martin, mink, or fishers.  In some parts of the US they can pose a threat to livestock, and with the proper license they can be a valuable source of income.  Even the less-valuable pelts from raccoon and skunks are quite sought after by friends and the community – people love a nice raccoon pelt, and skunk pelts are beautiful and proudly displayed when we give them as gifts.  Even small ‘niche’ skills like these can have real value in any type of economy.
Two final recommendations I would offer for someone unfamiliar with trapping – a big bag of salt and a small ‘tanning kit’ of chemicals.  Salt is a critical, “stock up” item for preparations in general, and is very useful in working with animal hides.  I won’t go into skinning or tanning an animal hide, but it is quite easy and very fun – especially for teenage boys.  When the animal is skinned and the hide stretched out on a board, salt on the underside of the skin can preserve it for months until you work it for tanning.  Van Dyke’s Taxidermy supply has several ‘tanning kits’ offering complete directions and chemicals needed to tan animal furs.  They are easy to use and a $30 kit has tanned 6 or 7 different animal hides over the years.  It has offered us great experiences and fun for us to do together.   If or when you start trapping animals, making use of that animal will be the next logical step.
Fur trapping is not for most folks, but it does offer considerations and options for everyone as we are abandoned by our society and government.   There are pictures of equipment, skinning animals, and tanning hides on our family blog (  Our goal in emergency preparations is to find what opportunities afford us the greatest benefit and options.  Hopefully my ideas have generated some options for you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mr. Rawles,  
I had been planning to get a pellet gun for some squirrel problems here at my home. But after reading Will T.'s response to "How to Butcher a Squirrel" I instead bought some Connibear 110 traps.  I got the traps via mailorder and set them last night following Will's advice. I used paper towels coated with peanut butter as bait.  I came out this morning and to my surprise there was already a dead squirrel hanging in the trap.  These traps are very simple, discreet, and efficient.   Thanks! - Paul B. 

JWR Replies: A key advantage of the Connibear trap is that it is a true "killing trap" that usually kills almost instantly. Thus, unlike a traditional leg hold trap, you are less likely to attract opportunistic predators, or to the draw the ire of soft-hearted neighbors and visiting relatives.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

James Wesley:
With respect to the recent posting on squirrel processing, I suggest that anyone seeking squirrels for food, not sport, leave the guns at home.  Save the ammunition and preserve the silence.  Use of a 110 Connibear trap on the side of a tree is much more effective and surreptitious.  There are a lot of ways to set them, but the easiest is to place a couple of screws into the side of a tree about an inch apart and set the trap so that it clamps itself to the screws while remaining in the horizontal plane.  A bit of rag with peanut butter makes a great bait on the trigger whiskers.  The usual caveats regarding fingers, pets, and children apply.  Available for about $19 a trap and with a useful lifespan measured in decades, a dozen of these traps will put much more meat in the pot than a .22 rimfire ever can.  Here is a picture of a similar set.   I very much enjoy squirrel hunting, especially with dogs, but it's more of a recreation than a harvest. - Will T.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It would seem these days the world in which we live is anything but predictable. Who is to say you will always be able to run down to the corner gas station and fill your tank? Or drive thru your local fast food chain for a quick fix, when those hunger pangs kick in? In the event of an economic crash or other disaster, food and other supplies may be very hard to obtain. You may not be able to make your regular trip to the local Wal-Mart or other grocery store. Store shelves will go bare very fast, and many people will be left without the proper supplies. Even if food is available, and stores are open, the prices of everything in the store will skyrocket. As in the case of hyperinflation. Loaves of bread for $25, and $30 for a gallon of milk. How will you feed yourself and your family? Is it time to give up hope and die? No, of course not!

It is time to learn new things and strengthen your skill set. What is a skill set? Skills that will enable and ensure you and your family will survive. Skills like learning moss contains water, How to make water safe for drinking by adding a few drops of bleach per quart, or how to put snow in a water bladder or baggies and melt that snow with your body heat, by placing it inside your jacket next to your body to make drinking water. Even Boy Scouts at a young age, are taught to make lamps and candles out of old tuna cans and wax. When the time comes are you going to be prepared? All the tools and weapons in the world won't do you any good, if you don't know how to use them.    

It would also be a very good idea to purchase several different types of firearms, along with plenty of ammo. It is advisable to have at least one handgun, one shotgun (preferably 12 gauge), one large caliber rifle, and one small caliber rifle such as a .22, for taking down small game animals like rabbits and squirrel. A pellet gun would also come in handy for hunting down the smaller game animals. Perhaps you would find yourself in a situation where you needed to hunt for food, but making noise with a loud weapon might bring unwanted attention your way. A slingshot would also work, but a pellet gun would allow to have repetitive fire.     

Hopefully you have been prepping and laying back a good stock of things. Things like water, beans, rice, salt, and first aid supplies. One thing I would like to add to the list of things you might want to consider putting back, would be baby formula. Why? You say you don't have an infant? Well even if you don't have a little one to care for, the day may come in such a situation when the mother down the street knocks on your door, and how great would it be to help save a little ones life? There are many things you can do to supplement whatever food you may have. Most people know most of them, like grow your own vegetables. Seed collecting from the various items you've grown. How many people though, have thought about trapping and killing birds and mice in your own back yard? In a real survival scenario, you will do whatever it takes to survive, and if you are not prepared to do those things, then you will not survive.    

Learn how to make your own snares to trap rabbits, or maybe even something bigger. Learn how to make small traps baited with food, in order to lure birds in. Make good solid cages to house the birds you catch, and keep them alive until you are ready to harvest them. Snakes and squirrels are also very good forms of valuable protein. Protein your body must have in order to pull through, and keep on going. When you catch that bird, snake or squirrel, then what? Okay you kill it, but then how do you go about preparing it for consumption? That's what I'm about to teach you.    

I've chosen the squirrel out of the animals I have mentioned for you to learn how to skin. However much of the information can and will also apply to other animals as well. For example, you always gut the animal, and take care with the body fluids. As the bodily fluids will ruin the meat and possibly make you sick.

How to field dress and quarter a squirrel:

First off, I recommend that all of your squirrels be head shot. That way the heart, kidneys, and liver can be harvested for consumption more easily.  If you gut shoot your squirrel you will have punctured the guts, and therefore contaminated more of the meat. It is also of importance to check the color of the liver. The liver should be very dark red almost a maroon color, with no discoloration. If the liver is spotted or pale in color, this is a very good indication the animal is sick, and therefore the meat questionable. This is also true of deer and most game animals.     

Tools needed: Skinning knife, or just a good sharp pocket knife.   

Step one: Lay the squirrel out on its belly, and with your fingers pinch up the skin in the middle of the animals back. Take your knife and make about a one inch cut. Try not to cut into the meat.    

Step two: Insert your fingers into the opening you just made with your knife, and pull the skin in opposite directions. Do this until the skin rips all the way around the width of the body. You may have to use your fingers from time to time, in order to help the skin come free of the meat. Now you should be left with the skin divided into two sections, the upper and the lower.    

Step three: From here on out the squirrel will be laying on its back. Pull the upper portion of the skin up over the shoulders, then pull the arms out of the skin. It's just like pulling off a shirt. Pull the skin up to the neck, and cut off the head. Cut the hands off at the wrist, and take special note of the tufts of hair still located near the wrist. It's been said that these tufts of hair are scent glands, and if left on can make the meat have a bad taste. Cut off the tufts of hair.    

Step four: Pull the lower portion of the skin down to the ankles. Pull the skin just past the ankle bone and carefully cut off the feet. Pull the skin the rest of the way off the tail.   

Step five: Take your knife and just above one of the back legs, (where the leg meets the body) split the pelvic bone and break it open. This will cause an opening just above where the tail is.    

Step six: Very carefully take your knife and slowly split the squirrel up the full length of its body. Take the incision all the way up the body and out the neck. Be very careful not to cut the guts, or the meat will either be completely ruined or taste bad. If you do and get some nastiness on the meat, quickly rinse the meat with water. If you are careful and take your time when cutting, you will avoid cutting open the guts.    

Step seven: Make an incision on the outside of the pelvic bone (where the back leg meets the body). This will open up the tail are a little more, allowing you to get to all of the tail. Cut the tail off.    

Step eight: Take your hands and reach inside the incision you made along the belly. Start in the chest cavity and pull out the larynx, lungs, heart, and on down to the diaphragm, pull guts and all out. It all comes out clean in one pull. You are now left with a nice clean piece of meat.    

Step nine: Carefully cut off the arms behind the shoulder blade. Take your knife and cut the back legs off as well. Cut them along the pelvic bone. All you have to do here is slice the meat all the way around the leg so it loosens up a little, then just twist the leg off.    

Step ten: Cut the squirrel into two halves. Make your cut right where the ribs end. The rib section wont have much meat on it, but if put into a stew, the meat that is there will fall right off the bone and tastes really good. Take the other section of the body along with all of the legs, fry or bake and season to taste.   

How to get rid of the "gamy" taste: If you don't like a gamy taste to your meat you can place the meat in a container, add one tablespoon of salt, fill with water. Let this sit refrigerated over night to help reduce the gaminess of the meat. Seasoning the meat further while it cooks will remove even more of the gamy taste.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My father introduced me to the art of trapping when I was just 10 years old. I remember walking the edges of rivers checking the sets that he had made and seeing him bring home red and gray fox. When I was 12, I took a safety course and got my trapping license. The first year my father did most of the work setting the traps, while I did the baiting. As years went by he stopped trapping but I continued and by definition am now a professional. Whenever I had the chance to trap where someone else was setting, I studied their sets and made mental notes of what worked and what didn’t. I was offered an opportunity in my teens to trap raccoon with a neighbor who was very well known for his trapping ability. The first year I trapped with him, I caught ten raccoon. He later showed me some sets for trapping beaver. In this article I will share some knowledge with those interested in trapping furbearers. Many of these furbearers can be used as a meat source too, with proper cleaning and cooking. Before trapping make sure you have a valid trapping permit and check local laws regarding which baits are permissible to use.

We will first discuss small and easy game, the muskrat. These little critters are pretty easy to catch and offer both source of food and soft fur. The easiest way to locate muskrats is to search along muddy creek or pond banks. Muskrat make a 6” diameter hole into the bank for their den. In ponds with fallen trees or stumps they will often make a house out of dead grasses, reeds and pond scum. I have found that muskrat dens are much easier to trap than houses. If you locate a den, house, or run where you can clearly see that they are swimming, you can set a fast and easy connibear trap. Connibear traps are the fastest and most humane way to catch and dispatch animals. Connibears used underwater will grip the body of the animal and hold it, allowing the animal to drown in a short time. I try not to use connibears on land as they most generally will kill anything that gets in them, including animals not intended to be caught. As mentioned earlier I find muskrat houses difficult to trap because of deep water, difficulty in locating there entrances and the possibility of scaring them off. I will often set leg hold traps to catch these house living muskrats when they are on floating logs they use for a toilet, or under a tree they use for a feed bed. A feed bed will usually be found under an overhang, in tall grasses, or under a tree so that they will be protected from flying predators. Feed beds will be located in shallow water normally at the water’s edge and will look like mowed grasses. I find apples make great bait for muskrats and often you’ll find slides and runs under apple trees along rivers and ponds.

Muskrat are skinned in a tub fashion. Make a slit from their inner leg to the vent, then make a ring around the tail. Make another cut from the underside of the tail to the vent. You can then simply work the fur down toward the head, pulling and cutting. When skinning take care not to pull too hard on the muskrat as you may rip his stomach open. Use your knife to cut the tissue holding the skin to his body. When you get to the front legs, just pull them through, and the skin will tear, leaving little leg holes. Once to the head you will have to cut holes for the ears and eyes. Once you are done skinning, stretch the fur by placing it on a commercial metal wire stretcher or on a homemade wood stretcher. The meat from muskrat can be used like beef as they are herbivores.  I prefer to grind it and cook it.

The next water-dwelling furbearer I would like to discuss is the beaver. Many of the same principles of trapping muskrat apply to beaver. Beaver also make dens and houses. Their houses are made of mud and sticks. In my state it’s illegal to set a trap within 25 feet of a house. The connibears for beaver are much bigger, and special care should be taken when setting them. If you get caught in the trap, you will not get out on your own. Never fasten a large trap until you have finished your set, in case you get caught and need to go for help.  You can set connibears in runs (large muddy cuts in the river or pond bottom), and in front of dens (again in my state if the den has sticks on top it’s considered a house). Leg hold or pan traps can be set where beaver enter and exit the water. You can bait beaver with poplar tree branches.

To make this set drive several fresh cut 3”-4” diameter sticks in the bank where water is shallow. Put smaller branches behind the larger sticks. Using a knife peel some bark away from the sticks so the scent of the poplar sap can be picked up by the beaver. Push two sticks into the bank in a “V” shape parallel the water so to guide the beaver into the trap. I will usually place a small rock in front of my trap (beaver swim with the legs facing backward, when they bump into the ground, they place both front feet down to support themselves), by placing the rock you can be assured the beaver will bump it and place his feet in your trap. Otherwise you may just catch his chest hair and educate him.

When using flat/pan traps you need to make drowning sets, as beavers will simply chew off your stake and leave with your valuable trap. I make a wire slide using a 90 degree bent washer with a hole drilled in one side. You need to position the washer so when pulled down the wire it will slide freely but when pulled backward it will bind and not slide. Stake the wire to the bank on one end with a metal post. You can use cement blocks, a burlap bag filled with rocks or any other means for the other end but make sure the deep end of the slide is at least 3” deep and heavy enough a beaver cannot pull it out. I once walked up on a livid 55-pound beaver that had pulled my drowning set up onto the bank. Every tree, shrub and piece of grass in a 6’ diameter had been chewed, spit on and put in a pile that he was sitting on top of as if to say, "I dare you to mess with me!" To dispatch a live beaver I prefer a .22 short out of my H&R 9-shot revolver. The .22 Short bullets enter the skull but do not exit and does less damage to the pelt and in a survival situation less damage to the meat.

Beaver will often have fleas so keep them away from your body and dogs. I place mine in a contractor style garbage bag followed by a three-day deep freeze in my chest freezer before skinning them. You can also use flea and tick spray by spraying it into the bag and then sealing the bag. Beaver are skinned differently than muskrats. To skin beaver, ring their tail then lay them on their back. Make a single cut from head to tail and peal the skin around to the back side. Once you’re past the legs hang the beaver by his tail and work the skin off the back. The back has a lot of gristle and works hard. To process beaver you need to flesh them out by removing the fats and meat from the skin. Then stretch in a circular pattern on a piece of plywood. Cook beaver similar to beef, they are an herbivore as well.

Raccoon will be the final animal I'll discuss. They are a curious animal and are relatively easy to catch on land and water. I prefer to trap hillside seeps (wet springs) and river bottoms. I use natural cubbies such as uprooted trees, or stack stones to make a cubby. If trapping along a stream with a high muddy bank, I make a pocket hole cubby by digging a 10” diameter hole at a 15 degree upward angle.  Use your hand to smooth the entrance of the pocket cubby so it looks like something has been using it. For bait I use Jack Mackerel, a marshmallow and some homemade fish oil. To make the oil I place several small feeder fish chopped into 1” chunks into a old jar. Leave the jar in direct sunlight with the lid on loose (this allows for the oil to outgas, keeping it bug free). When baiting my set I place a spoonful of meat on a rock in the back of the cubby then make a small hole in the top of the marshmallow with your pinky finger. Put your fish oil in the center of the marshmallow (this keeps the oil from evaporating or running off the rock) the white marshmallow servers as a visual attractor to the raccoon. You can also use Jello powder at sets to draw in a raccoon and make him work the set more giving you increased time to catch him. I place a pan trap in the entrance of the cubby or pocket hole (preferable covered by 1” of water). If no water is available take care where you kneel and what you touch so your human scent is not left behind. Cover with leaves or a thin lay of dirt. Fasten your trap with wire to a drag so they can get away from the set without destroying it. I have used some set locations for several years allowing them to look more natural over time. I have also just placed a pan trap in shallow water with a piece of aluminum foil over the pan.

Raccoon are curious and grab for the shiny object (make that 102 uses for aluminum foil). Raccoon can also be trapped in blind sets on trails by placing the trap on one side or the other of a stick they need to step over. This assures a clean front foot catch (though you may catch any animal traveling the trail). I have had deer set traps off this way before. Skinning a raccoon is similar to skinning a muskrat with the exception that you keep the tail. Ring all four legs then make a cut from the underside of the legs to the vent. Make a triangle type cut around the vent and continue the cut up the tail. Then work the skin off the animal. To pull the bone from the tail use a clothespin or a tail puller and place around the bone and pull down. The fats on raccoon are very flammable. I have heard of people using the carcasses for heat. The oils could be used to coat boats from leaks, canvass tarps and oil for lighting. I have no idea how the smell would be from the oil light. The meat can be cooked and should be cooked thoroughly as they are omnivores and eat both meat and wild edibles. Most people I know bake raccoon and place the meat chunks on a cookie rack above a plan so the fats drip off (can be used later). If the animal appears to be mangy or have distemper, there is a possibility of rabies and I would dispatch of the creature and bury it where nothing could dig it up.

Many other animals can be trapped using the above methods and most are skinned using the tub type discussed. Snares can be used as well but 95% of the time anything caught in a snare will be dead upon arrival including domestic animals. You can feed the meat of animals to pigs as well but again rabies could be transferred so make sure the animals your trapping are healthy. For a beginner looking to get started I would recommend reading Guide to Trapping by Jim Spencer, Into The Primitive: Advanced Trapping Techniquesby Dale Martin, and Trapping North American Furbearers by S. Stanley Hawbreaker (my personal favorite and can be found at yard sales and library book sales). Also get several different size traps 110 connibears, 330 connibears, #1 ½, #2 and #4 pan traps. A couple dozen traps and a little practice will make sure you can catch and eat animals others might not have access to. As stated before many times on, knowledge is useless unless you know how to use it.

Letter Re: Let’s Talk About Trapping: North American Furbearer

As a fellow trapper I enthusiastically read the article on trapping and although I have never eaten Raccoon. I can vouch that beaver and muskrat are good meat sources. Muskrat, I do not eat regularly, but beaver is more substantial and I do regularly take the meat and the skin is durable enough to be used for hats, mittens, coats, etc. When skinning beaver take care not to cut the castor glands, first these smell awful and would taint the meat, second you can sell them, and third you can use these to make your own lure for predators. Here is a link to a nice diagram showing where the castor glands are I often harvest part of the beaver for cooking, the skin for tanning and use the remaining parts for bait for predators. It seems to be a universal bait good for lynx, fox, wolves and wolverines.

For a novice trapper, there are three basic ways to trap critters two of which are lethal and the third is not. First there are snares, which can be made with a variety of gauges of wire and can catch anything from squirrels to wolves, well, bears actually, but I haven't had the pleasure of that, yet. Then there are lethal traps such as the connibear that was mentioned in the article, and finally foot holds which leave you with a live critter, meaning, you have to dispatch it, you have to check your foot hold traps more frequently and the area disturbed by the animal once it is caught is going to probably be a bigger area. There are countless pros and cons to each method. Snares can be made in quantity and are relatively cheap, but often can not be reused. Traps are more expensive up front, but can be reused with minimal repairs for many years. I would recommend for preparedness sake to put in a stock of each of these three types in a variety of sizes.  

As far as trapping for food I would recommend snares and lots of them, they are small, inexpensive, easier to transport and can be used in quantity. In my area rabbits are easy to snare, but if you do not check them frequently you lose your catch to predators such as fox. Squirrels can also be caught in quantity with snares and bait such as peanut butter, the military teaches the making of squirrel poles for survival situations. These are poles (trees leaning at a 45 degree angle. You place bait at the top, or middle and then snares on the top and sides up and down the pole. I haven't tried this but am sure it would work and is somewhat similar to bait poles used for martin.   

My personal preference for muskrats are fish traps (Dyke traps), these can be made of netting material or chicken wire. I would recommend having some of these for catching fish, muskrats, and other small critters, here are some examples.

Anyway, this is a topic near and dear to me and an often neglected area for preparedness minded individuals. There is too much to put in a short note, but please do post more on this topic.

Mr. Rawles, it goes without saying I love your site, I check it daily as does most of my family. Thank you for all you do. - Alaska Country Girl

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Predictions are like, well, you know what, everybody has at least one.  Many or most predictions made are wrong and the content here is no exception.  I am not a modern day Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone but I have spent a few days in the woods, and hopefully after reading this you will not think I am still lost in them.  I did not fight in any war but had my share of the military experience and the same can be said for law enforcement.  I never bugged out but did backpack and still am a gym rat who tries to do his time on the treadmill although I hate cardiovascular exercise despite knowing it is good for me.

My present employment deals mostly with determining the penalty and hopefully rehabilitation of recently unemployed prescription drug addicts in Appalachia.  By the time they get to my shop most have literally lost everything, car, home, sometimes family, because they spend every cent they earn, and more, as soon as they get it – paycheck to paycheck and sadly pill to pill.  Their stories typically excuse their plight by blaming everyone else and rationalizing what they did as a “had to” by outside forces. Criminal records are not uncommon.  Here’s the point: I see what desperate people do and do not do when they are out of options. Contrary to what you may think most of them do nothing at all, they just shut down waiting for the “somebody else” to help them. Based upon these experiences, I propose that a few common predictions regarding TEOTWAWKI are misconceived.  There are doubtlessly more, who’s to say, but here are seven.

Misconception number one: You are going to bug out by vehicle using some combination of car, truck or recreational vehicle (RV).  Wrong, it takes only one careless, sleepy, drugged or drunk driver to shut down any given road.  On a normal day an overturned truck or a car or two crashing effectively closes the road for half a day.  Given some major and unexpected event motivating folks to flee for the hills the interstates and minor roads will be impassible – all of them.  There are no secret roads, if you know about them so do many others.  Many hold plans of leaving “before”. When is before, how do you know and what if you are wrong? How many “Chicken Little” events will your employer tolerate? Generally speaking the odds of a sudden catastrophic event are lower than a cascade of smaller inconspicuous events ending ultimately in the need to bug out or get home. Odds are once you are sure it is time you can count on walking or maybe biking, motorized or otherwise because the masses will be in one huge traffic jam by that point.

Misconception number two: Related to the first, that you are fit enough to walk carrying the stuff you think you need.  How far is it from the stops on your daily routine to your home or refuge?  It is reality check time; when was the last time you walked five miles?  Or even walked one mile? If it was not recent then you will be in for a rude awakening if and when that eventuality occurs.  Honestly, could you walk for days? Could you do so with a heavy Bug Out Bag (BOB)?  Most Americans are so badly out of shape the prospect of walking any distance is impossible. Get off the couch and go for a walk, and do so often. Maybe even carry your get home bag a bit?

Misconception number three:  Related to the second, your Bug Out Bag is probably too heavy.  The weight of BOB, judging by the long lists of stuff that many say they intend to carry exceeds fifty pounds.  Once you start walking with a heavy pack you will begin discarding most of those things you thought you “had to” have, the two pound stove, the three pound tent, the camp pad, the cute little folding shovel that weighs two pounds, three pound Rambo knife, large rope, extra clothes and so on.  How do we know, because that is what you see along the side of the uphill section of path at the beginning of the Appalachian Trail.  It looks like a yard sale.  What is not seen are matches, small knifes, water filters, light weight tarps, and freeze dried foods, and other things that are either essential or are both light weight and have multiple uses.  Consider seriously the weight of your BOB, or perhaps plan on using a shopping cart, if any are left, or pulling a child’s wagon if you “need” all your stuff. Are you in shape enough to do that? How do you know? Put on that pack and give it a dry run, or excuse me, dry walk.

Misconception number four:  Roving criminal hordes will come from the urban environment to your rural home or Bug Out Location (BOL).  Nope, these people do not play chess or even checkers; they do not plan ahead much at all.  Criminals, with few exceptions are lazy.  And many are on drugs.  Yes, a few will flee at the very beginning if they have a specific refuge in mind, the uncle with the farm, but most will not leave their familiar comfortable environment.  Even if they have an operational vehicle capable of the trip it is likely to be low on fuel, particularly these days.  They will burn up what little fuel they have driving around their usual haunts, to the liquor and drug stores, then to the convenience or grocery store like they did before the event until their tank is empty.  Walking or biking to save fuel will never cross their mind. No gas means no travel for this group.  There will be rare exceptions.

Misconception number five:  Needy hungry hordes will come from town.  Not likely, when local resources (read: booze and junk food), and the aid from whatever governmental response is exhausted they will do nothing.  By nothing I mean nothing that need concern you. They will sit in a refugee center or at home and pass the time playing cards, talking but essentially just waiting. Certainly the burning and looting that started seconds after the beginning of the event will increase until there is nothing left to burn or steal.  When food and clean bedding all run out they are not likely to walk out of town any more then than before. They are weaker by that time and as out of shape as most of us. They have rarely walked any distance at all in their adult lives and are unlikely to start now. The biggest reason is that they are psychologically predisposed, brainwashed, to wait for rescue and will stay in town.  It is easier to wait and thus easier to make hunger somebody else’s problem. With no gas and no desire to do any tiresome walking means you are not going to see many if any at your BOL.  Most will sit and if they move at all they will head for another urban area rumored to be better, particularly if they are being trucked there by the National Guard or other entity.  Aside from that with emergency response overwhelmed, weather conditions aside, the roads will be effectively impassible for days or weeks, long enough for the bad guys to consume any means of coming your way.   

Misconception number six: You can live off the land.  No, you will not for long.  There are tens of thousands with that plan.  Any resource will be quickly consumed, from the deer down to the neighbor’s dog and cat, just after they eat the pet food.  Ditto for fire wood, and other flammable materials.  We do not live in the land of seemingly endless resources and few people like generations ago; we actually live in a potential Easter Island like situation - one overpopulated and thus soon stripped of everything nearby. Our accustomed lifestyle is sustained by amazing logistics and high energy use.  Nearly everything comes from somewhere else, and when that elsewhere cannot ship or pipe or haul here for whatever reason the view from your window will quickly look barren.  The heirloom seeds you have will be priceless and stored food more so.

Misconception number seven:  You can defend your castle.  There are many whose survival plan is simple, get guns and murder for food.  If you have food then you are a potential victim. As noted above, there are exceptions to the general lack of planning in criminals; some dangerous few are leaders, strategic, tactically savvy, smart, determined and resourceful.  Finding a sidekick will be easy for them, there will be plenty of followers around. They only need to get lucky once; you have to be lucky every time you encounter one, or two, at a time.  Your inconspicuousness and insuring their inconvenience in finding you will serve you well. In this circumstance a fight you avoid goes in the win column.

We wrongly think exclusively in terms of the entertaining fictional scenarios in the many books with a “what if” beginning to the detriment of other and perhaps more likely possibilities.  While useful thought provoking exercises, those stories often substitute for an honest nitty-gritty evaluation of our own strategy and ability and the likely behavior of others. In one sentence it is this: In a crisis, do not plan on doing things you have never done and do not plan on other people’s behavior to change, neither one is very likely.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I have always been fascinated with history and might have become a history teacher if there had been any possibility of making substantial money at it.  Growing up in the 1950s and ‘1960s in rural Texas the lessons of the U.S. “Great Depression” were still fresh in the memories of my family, so our frequent family get gatherings produced many stories from those days, some of which were “not so good old days”. 

I want to relate some of this story for the benefit of those preparing for possible future, harder times:

There was no money.  For a few years before 1920 Grandpa Robert had been a successful cotton farmer and had put away his profits in the local First National Bank.  But after boll weevils hit Texas, the soil was depleted and cotton prices plunged, he had to move on to other pursuits.  My uncles often said the only time they ever saw Grandpa cry was when the bank went bust during the run of 1929.  He had been standing in a long line of farmers and townspeople for several hours before the announcement was made that the bank was finished.  On the other hand, I believe the bank still held a partially unpaid loan on his 87-acre farm which he and Grandma had bought in 1914 for $500.  LESSON: Be flexible, and don’t count on the bank.

It was actually Grandma who made the deal for the farm, as when they looked at it only a quarter of a mile from their rented farm, Grandpa said it was too expensive, and he would not borrow the additional money to buy it.  But Grandma knew the potential the land possessed.  So after Grandpa left for a long day in the fields, Grandma walked back to the owner’s house and cut the deal.   When Grandpa came home that night, he was surprised, but pleased at the same time.  LESSON: A woman’s intuition and business savvy is a valuable asset.

I am not sure how, but the bank did not foreclose on that farm during the lean years and Grandpa at least paid the taxes religiously.  Grandpa always said, “If you pick up all the pecans each year, you can at least pay your taxes.”  And if the money was not plentiful, what the family had went to pay their obligations. The bank president reportedly told him, “Robert, just do the best you can.”  And he did.  LESSON: Be careful to preserve and conserve every resource.

The family of 9, with 5 boys and 2 girls was flexible if anything.  When the railroad started buying coal from a small mining operation in the town 4 miles away, they found that the miners needed props and caps to keep the shafts open.  The woods in their bottomland became the source of materials for a small new industry: sturdy young willow trees, cut to order, became prop timbers, and flat sections of cottonwood trees, cut like cedar shakes were the caps.  These were delivered by wagon and mules and later with their used Model T dump truck. Unfortunate in the early 1930s the railroad converted from coal to oil fired locomotives and the prop and cap business ended.  LESSON: Find out what others need and provide it.  But don’t count on it lasting forever.

Grandpa always had two teams of mules as well a few working horses.  These were critical to plowing, cultivating, and harvesting as well as other pulling chores.  When the dirt road into town got wet, and the nearby clay hill was impossible for the automobiles to climb, the boys were always ready to give a pull with a team of mules, day or night.  LESSON: Animal power multiplies human power and sometimes is better than mechanical power.

Their bottomland held another treasure: sand and gravel.  Grandpa and his brother had a conveniently located sand pit, near a road and could dig sand and gravel by shovel.   They could deliver it to most any construction site in the county.  When one of my uncles wanted to go to college, Grandpa traded sand and gravel to the local college for tuition, instead of cash.  The college used the sand and gravel to build a rock wall around the football field so they could enforce admission fees at the games.  You see, Texas football has always been a popular sport and the college knew it was losing a lot of revenue by letting the fans stand outside and watch thru the wire fence.   LESSON: Think outside the box; when possible find ways to barter for what you really need.

Corn was always a staple crop for the family, the first among several important plantings.  Down in the fertile bottomland a harvest of the dried ears of corn were said to be able to fill a whole wagon with the produce from only one row of corn.  The corn was carefully stored away in the corn crib and used as needed all year long.  One of my uncles was often designated to periodically pull out some corn, shell it in the hand-cranked sheller, and then sack it up in two equal bags.  The bags were lashed together by rope and thrown over the rear of the mule.  Then he rode the mule into town to have the corn ground into meal at the store.  The miller kept a portion for his trouble, and my uncle rode the mule back home with the corn meal.  This corn became the basis for a week or more of meals of cornbread and beans, the main fare for the whole family.  Sweet corn could also be cooked, then cut off the cob and dehydrated in the sun in a day or two.  Stored completely dry in canning jars, when reconstituted and cooked it was a delicious treat.  LESSON:  Corn can keep you alive; it must be the first among survival grains.
Grandma must have been an efficiency genius.  She always had a pot of beans on the back of the stove.   Unlike many of their city cousins, the family seemed to always have enough food to get by.  The relatives from the bigger towns would come out to the farm on weekends to visit, eat and to stock up on the abundance.  LESSON: You can survive indefinitely on cornbread and beans, and if you have food, your relatives will want to visit often!

Christian charity was always a part of our family values, and it was particularly applicable to any extended family in need.  No passing stranger was refused a meal. And in a couple of instances young men in their teens with no family stayed on for a year or two, working, eating and sleeping like one of the brothers.  LESSON:  Alliances and charity are okay, but everybody must work.

| My uncles were good hunters always seeming to know which woods contained a few squirrels, an opossum or raccoon; additionally they always seemed to know when certain landowners were away from their property.  The family joke was that a boy would be given one cartridge for the single shot .22 caliber rifle, and the family would be disappointed if he came home with anything less than two squirrels.  My dad knew how to get a squirrel out of a hollow in a tree by climbing the tree and using a length of barbed wire stuck in the hole and rotated around and around.  The hunters from town always gave him a nickel or a dime for climbing the tree to help them get their squirrel.  LESSON:  Hunting is a skill that must be developed, but there are other ways to get game besides shooting it.

Canning was an important skill practiced anytime there was excess.  The garden produced large quantities of beans, peaches, and other fruits and vegetables.  The dug storm cellar just outside the back door was always packed with jars of fruit preserves, jellies, jams, and vegetables.  When the wild plums on a nearby place became ripe, the neighbors sent word that the joint harvest could begin.  Half gallon canning jars were helpful when feeding a family of 9 or 10.  Canning a batch of 50 or more jars (quart and half gallon) of each commodity was not uncommon. Used sparingly it could last until spring. LESSON: Use all food sources available and think big if you have a lot of mouths to feed.     

Things were different back then.  When times were hard they just “made do with what you had” and or did without.  Shoes were for school and church only.  When possible barefoot was the order of the day.  After shoes were well used, they were re-heeled and re-soled.  Family members handed down clothes and shoes to younger members as a matter of course.  Without electricity kerosene lanterns had to suffice.  Fire wood had to be kept split and dry.  Kindling was critical.  A smoke house was essential for preserving pork.  Butchering hogs was almost always in November and December.   Apple butter made in the fall can last all winter in 1 gallon crock jars.   And it tastes great on bread, toast, hot cakes, buckwheat cakes, etc.  Unlike regular flour pancakes, making buckwheat cakes requires a bit of yeast. But once it is started, more buckwheat flour can be added daily and the yeast will keep multiplying.   LESSON:  Make do and work hard.

Baths were for Saturday so you would be clean for church.  Outside showers were standard as long as the weather permitted.  Well water was for drinking so a swim in the nearby stock pond or down in the creek often substituted for a real bath.  Fishing was an important skill essential for providing supplements for much needed protein and vitamins.  An outhouse was standard for the family with both white and red corn cobs being carefully conserved to use in place of toilet paper.   LESSON:  Living well does not have to mean living in convenience and luxury. 

Nobody wants to return to the challenging times of a hundred years ago, but living the survival life is a challenge that can be mastered.  To be prepared we must study, practice and preserve the knowledge used by our predecessors and be willing to innovate, working and praying constantly. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mr. Rawles,
I read the recent post on hunting for survival. The author didn't mention some of the most nourishing parts of the deer, the bone marrow! Full of fat and very tasty, it should be removed from the bone and eaten or mixed with some salt, dried berries and dried meat, pounded into a flour, made into Pemmican, it keeps well and is light to carry and very nutritious.

The tongue, head meat, kidneys, heart, liver, spleen, lungs, leg bones with their marrow are also fine to eat or added to stew. When food is short you cannot afford to waste good food. Even the brains are good eating [in regions where CWD is not found] or can be used mixed with water to tan the hide.

Deer bones can be made into arrow points and digging tools.

There are many other things out there that are edible: rodents, birds, scorpions, reptiles insects and grubs and of course, cattail roots, thistle stems and many other plants.

You have a great site that is full of good information. - Sheila from the Coast of Oregon

Recently, Conover wrote to explain why hunting for deer and large hoofed animals won’t work for the long term. I agree with him completely.

My father was a child during the Great Depression living on a farm in the then very rural Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. For some years my grandmother’s adult brothers lived with them before starting their own households. They were all legendary shots and hunters. The family saying was: "A [20 cartridge] box of .30 Remington had better well equal 20 deer." That wasn't for bragging rights. Rather, that simply was the way things were in those desperately cash-strapped days.

One summer (yes, if you wanted meat the strict rules of hunting seasons went by the wayside) my grandmother cooked 17 entire deer. She said the smell of venison started to make her sick but being of good stock she persevered. My father told me that by the middle of the Depression his father and uncles had to drive over 20 miles before they could even start hunting since all deer were gone from the local area (our county has huge areas owned as state game lands, a saving grace).

By the time I came to age in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the deer were once again plentiful. And now they are even a nuisance. But like Conover stated, that won’t last long once the hunting pressure is applied.

Far better and more stable results can be obtained from raising rabbits in outdoor hutches and maybe a few chickens in the garage. For myself, in semi-rural Virginia, I’m preparing for the possibility of joining my wife in vegetarianism since beans simmering in a pot require a lot less expendable energy and are a lot easier to hide then animal husbandry or moving about attracting the notice of others. Perhaps an occasional piece of Smithfield smoked ham (no refrigeration needed, shelf life forever?) to chase around the bean pot might have to do for as long as it takes.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

For many reasons hunting as a sport has diminished over the past thirty years in the United States.  Video games, the everyday rat race, lack of interest in the outdoors, and life in general have taken the front seat to a sport that not only brings family and friends together but instills in people a true appreciation of nature.  I consider myself part of a very small but lucky percentage of people.  Growing up I had great role models in my family, from both a religious and moral view, as well as an outdoor perspective.  My grandfather was a game warden for more than 30 years instilling in my father and his brothers the virtues of hunting and trapping.  They have passed down the love of hunting and the outdoors not only to me and my brother, but my mother and cousins (both boys and girls).  When I tell people my whole family hunts I get a lot of “You mean your mom too?”  She has shot more deer in the last three years than my father, and she’s not afraid to brag about it.  Routinely Saturday mornings in the fall are spent as a family sitting in the duck blind at a local marsh or traversing the open grasslands in search of an increasingly more elusive rooster pheasant.

I feel lucky about my upbringing. There are plenty of people who hunt on opening day.  After opening weekends the number of hunters in public areas drop considerably, which to me is both good and bad.  The selfish side of me thinks more for me, the other side is sad that people are not willing to put in the effort to shoot a selection of teal and wood ducks on a slow day.  A whole other side of me is disgusted when people simply are too lazy to clean and cook the animals that they have harvested.  My family routinely eats wild game in the fall.  From baking ducks in the oven, to making soups, and even the occasional deer loin on the grill (fawns are the best), we feast ourselves on what nature provides.  There is a feeling of pride knowing you used your skill to provide dinner.  It also is nice to know that wild game is better for you than almost anything you can buy at the store. 

Enough of the preamble.  The following tips are for times of disorder and survival.  Obviously you need to observe the bag limits and seasons wherever you are hunting.  Poaching is not cool.  Poaching and not using the animal is even worse.  From stories I’ve heard over the years, being hungry isn’t a defense for any kind of law breaking activities.  If you are reading this you will probably have the right idea as to when to use this knowledge.  One last bit of advice before we delve into the meat of the article, females produce offspring.  Leaving female animals around for mating is the only way you can sustain a population in any given area.  The males will find them, they always do.

Deer are nocturnal.  They sleep during the day and are moving very actively right at dusk and dawn.  [JWR Adds: Deer have an internal solunar activity pattern. Oddly, they are active even if the moon is obscured.] Learn where they bed up for the day and you will be able to find them coming and going.  They eat at night and generally will eat the most rapidly diminishing food source first.  They eat fruit, corn and soybeans, grass, and will nibble on leaves that are still green.  They might even eat your survival garden in the middle of the night if they feel safe.  You’ll notice this pretty quickly and can use it as an advantage if you are adept to hunting at night.  Fall is when most deer hunting seasons occur.  Their breeding period, known as the rut, begins roughly towards the end of October and runs into the middle of November.  Young bucks are extremely naïve during this period.  Deer are going crazy and not following their usually predictive routines.  During the other seasons deer become rather predictive and easy to pattern.  In winter time deer tend to gather into large herds which can be tough to get to.  The spring and summer is when the does are rearing their new fawns and can be seen during the day more often.
There are several ways to go about harvesting a deer.  They can be very elusive if not properly shot, running for miles with broken legs or gut shots.  The best option would be to use a bow and arrow as it is almost silent and won’t attract unwanted attention.   Shoot them right behind the front leg.  Lots of practice is required for this method.  A gun is the other option.  Buck shot can be effective at short range but can lead to lots of crippled and escaped deer.  Deer slugs and medium caliber bullets are very effective but can be loud and easy to track, especially if multiple shots are fired.  A simple .22 long rifle bullet placed into the brain of the deer will do the job.  .22 Long Rifle cartridges are relatively quiet.  This is an illegal caliber to use in conventional deer seasons.
At first in a survival situation the pressure on the herd will be fairly strong as people harvest them for food.  After human numbers fall back, the deer herd will start to expand pretty rapidly until nature finds a way to balance them out.  One deer will feed a small group of people for a decent amount of time.  Obviously don’t harvest more than you can reasonably store.  It’s meat and it spoils.  

An average sized deer will yield about fifty pounds of easily procurable meat.  Don’t forget the heart and liver, you’ll find these when you gut the deer which is extremely important to do if you want to salvage the deer.  To field dress a deer, cut the hide from its crotch up and over the ribcage all the way to the neck.  Split the ribcage down the middle with a hatchet or knife and open the carcass up as best as possible.  Go about removing the guts by carefully cutting the tissue that holds the insides to the frame of the deer.  Dispose of the gut pile somewhere that you don’t have to deal with it.  The gut pile is great bait for carnivores that like to scavenge.   It helps to let the deer cool down but is not necessary in order to skin it.  Hang by its back legs with them spread apart.  Cut above the knee on the back leg and pull the hide down as you go using your knife to separate the hide from the carcass.  It takes practice and the less hair you get on the meat as you go makes for less cleanup later.

 Learning how to butcher a deer is something that takes a bit of practice but is not hard to do.   The ribs are often overlooked and are great grilled or you can bone them out and have some really great stew meat.  The loins are often the first thing people go for and are incredibly lean.  This leaves you with the front and back leg sections.  Separate the leg bones from the body by finding the ball joints and popping them out of the sockets.  Use a knife to cut the muscle around the joints and the legs should come right off.  You can cut the meat of the bone anyway you want from roasts to steaks to just chunks of stew meat.  If you have access to a grinder, make some venison burger.      

Ducks and Geese
Ducks  and Geese are active at all times of the day and night.  They sleep when they want but almost always move with the flock.  They are easiest to shoot in a marsh setting at dawn and dusk.  Even a pothole of water in the middle of a field makes an attractive marsh setting to certain types of ducks.  They feel safe sleeping on the water and will often overnight in marshes.  Midmorning they will begin to travel out to harvested crop fields or open pastures to feed on what seeds they can find.  Geese are more likely to forage in fields.  They try to stay in open areas that provide them with large buffers from approaching threats.  Waterfowl are migrating birds so you have to figure out when there are moving through your area.  In the fall there are several pushes south fueled by cold weather fronts moving through.  The waterfowl ride the edge of the front south much like a surfer rides a wave.  This is also a good way to forecast when cold snowy weather is on its way in.  They tend to chose routes that include plenty of water along them when they migrate.  In the spring the move back as the weather warms up.  They are more spread out on their way back north and are stopping along the way to give birth.  It always seems like it should be easier to hunt them in the spring as they tend to want to fight to protect their young rather than run away. 

Hunting for waterfowl is done with a shotgun.  Almost any size shotgun shell can be effective, but their range can differ.  Most shotguns are effective to around 50 yards to well versed hunters.  It takes practice to shoot them out of the air, make sure to lead them.  Waterfowl sitting on water can also be surprisingly hard to kill.  With so much of their body under water they can present a small target.  Always think about how you are going to retrieve your bounty.  If you have a trained dog then that is a plus.  Some water will be too deep or too cold to enter into.  Use the wind to your advantage to push the dead fowl to shore.  This can take time so plan ahead.  Shooting waterfowl in the field makes for easy recovery.  Kill crippled fowl by wringing their necks.  Small caliber rifles could also be used to kill waterfowl [on the ground or swimming] but that is illegal under current laws. 

Waterfowl are very seasonal so take advantage of them when you can in a survival situation.  Even in the hunting community most people are not equipped to waterfowl hunt.  Using decoys and calls can be very effective.  Being able to conceal yourself is also a huge advantage in hunting ducks.  Sit in a large clump of grass and keep your face from reflecting the sunlight.  Or lay along a field terrace or some sort of depression. 

Cleaning waterfowl is pretty simple.  Their skin will usually peal off by getting your finger under it and just pulling.  You can bone the meat out then and use it as you see fit.  Stews and soups are awesome and   Another method is plucking them.  Peal all the feathers out of the skin and be the bird as bare as possible.  Cut off the legs at the joint and remove the head.  Cut off the butt of the fowl and simply pull out the guts.  Explore the body cavity and make sure you get it as clean as possible.  When you have a clean bird, roast it by your preferred method until the juices run clear.  Waterfowl is an acquired taste but is very lean and healthy.  Bigger ducks can feed two people for a meal and a goose could feed up to eight for a meal.

Upland Birds
This will cover pheasants and turkey as these are the only types where I have knowledge.  Pheasants like to populate areas with gravel around dusk and dawn.  They have to have something course in their croups to grind up their food for digestion.  During almost all other times they populate upland grasses.  During all seasons but winter they can find ample grain seeds to satisfy their food needs.  During winter they try and clear areas of snow to scratch at the ground in attempt to find food.  Baiting with grain at this time works well, but can be illegal.  Even a dark spot in the middle of a snow covered field will be enough to attract their attention.   Turkeys roost in the tree tops during the night, entering and leaving at dawn and dusk.  They tend to populate wooded areas and the grasses on the perimeter of woods.  They can also be baited like pheasants but tend to feed in bare fields on scattered grain. 

Pheasants are generally hunted with dogs that either hold them in their nest or flush them when you come close.  Without a dog getting to pheasants can be tough.  Poor weather will cause them to hold tighter in their nest.  They are also very hit or miss as to where they are going to be.  Areas of heavy grass cover provide for bettering nesting and will hold more birds.  Turkeys can be somewhat easier to pattern.  If you can find where they roost you are at an advantage.   Turkeys are very skittish and you have to be very quiet and still as not to spook them.  If you can get in by their roost in the morning you can sometimes catch them coming down to the ground.  They mate in the spring time and can be called and decoyed if one possesses the knowledge. 

Shotguns are used primarily to hunt both types of birds.  Turkeys require a more precise shot and generally a larger shot size.  Rifles can [legally] be used on pheasants in some areas, but would be effective on both types of birds in a true survival situation.  Turkeys can also be harvested with a bow and arrow, a good option for silent hunting. 

Cleaning them is very similar to cleaning waterfowl.  Get the feathers off and get the guts out and you have many options as how to cook them.  Pheasants will feed two people.  With turkeys, just think about Thanksgiving. 

Other Things
Rabbits, squirrels, and other little mammals can also be harvested using both shotguns and rifles.  You just have to be aware of where they hang out.  They don’t provide a ton of meat but are an extremely important animal to think of when hunting for your survival.  Of course most animals out there can be a source of food, you just have to decide what you can handle and harvest.   People all over the world eat song birds, pigeons, and even rats.
Make sure you take care to cook all wild game thoroughly and take care when cleaning it to avoid any unnecessary medical problems.  Use safe hunting practices and never point a weapon at anything you don’t intend to kill.  Always follow local hunting laws and observe bag limits.    


I have worked as an ungulate habitat biologist in a western state for a number of years now, and I think it’s given me a rare perspective.  There is a large hole in the plan of the casual survivalist that I want to talk about.  It lies in the animals you will be hunting when the Schumer Hits the Fan (SHTF).            

Ungulates are the large hoofed mammals that roam our continent. In the continental U.S. these include:

  • Bison
  • White Tailed Deer
  • Mule Deer
  • Pronghorn Antelope
  • Elk
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Mountain Goats

Obviously for someone with limited ammo, which is all of us on a long enough time scale, they represent the best animal to target when hunting.  You won’t be wasting shots on squirrels; you’ll be going for a deer.  Even that poor doomed fool Christopher McCandless, who died all alone in a bus in the Alaskan wilderness, knew this.  He managed to poach a moose with a .22 rifle before ultimately starving.   And if he could figure that out, so can the rest of America.  And I want to explain why that is going to be a problem for many survivalists.

By the turn of the 18th century, we had managed to drive every ungulate in the lower 48 close to extinction.  And this was when there were very few of us.  Let’s talk about today.  Let’s talk about what would happen to the many large game animals in the United States if our society broke down over night.  I’ll break the fauna down to east and western coast, for reasons that will become clear.  Let’s start with western ungulates.

Ungulates in many areas of the west have a huge weakness:  They are very predictable at certain times of year.  Mule deer can only effectively dig through 12 inches of snow to get at food, an elk 18 inches.  In other words, they cannot live up in the high mountains during winter.  You can go to many western valleys around the west and see dozens, hundreds, or thousands of elk, pronghorn, muleys, and bighorn sheep in the winter.  Here the animals are concentrated, where they are easy prey for someone who doesn’t have to worry about a Fish and Game warden.  These are the valleys where refugees will be headed to as they leave the cities.  It’s common sense.  Given the large amount of game animals and minimal snow, many people will flee to these areas.
Within a few years of TSHTF, we could be looking at a new mass extinction.  Bison will be the first to go.  They were only saved from extinction in the US because a small herd managed to hide in isolation in remote Yellowstone.  Today there are enough roads through that park and others that it will offer them no sanctuary.  They aren’t exactly difficult to kill either.  The people I know who have engaged in bison hunts have compared it to shooting a couch.  Elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn will “go the way of the buffalo” when humans start to organize drives, chasing them across a valley into a crossfire of waiting hunters.  Moose will hold out a little longer, given that they stay higher in the mountains and remain solitary during the winter. The west isn’t a good place for crops, and people will turn begin to slaughter these animals very quickly, with relative ease.  It’s something to think about if your retreat is situated in such an area.  Even if your retreat is located up in the mountains and you know how to survive there, in the winter the animals will head for lower elevations.  Every spring, fewer will come back.
In the east, there are less ungulate species.  White-tailed deer and feral hogs are about it, although obviously moose can be found in the north.  The deer will be driven out very quickly.  The first thing a sane person on the east coast is going to do, when they realize what is happening, is shoot some deer.  They will disappear from our suburbs literally over night.  Anyone living in the country, will go out and shoot as many deer as they can effectively process.  Maybe more.  Many of my country friends on the east coast tell me they aren’t worried about a societal collapse.  They have their deer rifle.  What they don’t realize is that everyone else has a deer rifle too, and the only reason the deer are there even now is because of laws and grocery stores.  That won’t always be the case.

Lastly, let’s talk about feral hogs.  They are an unusual species, possibly the only one that could really stand to thrive in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  They can be found through Texas and the south in heavy numbers.  Constantly working their way north, they have just breached the Pennsylvanian border, but are still only common further south.  They are smart, breed like rabbits, and reaching maturity very quickly, giving birth to huge litters.  They are one of the few species that try as we might, Homo sapiens has thus far been unable to drive into extinction.  I would bet on them being one the few ungulates to survive very far into TEOTWAWKI.

So what does all this mean for the survivalist?  Don’t count on hunting!  There are obviously a huge number of factors that are going to influence what the world will look like post-SHTF.  But if there is still a sizeable population of humans, we will quickly drive most of the large game animals in the Lower 48 into extinction.  There are just too many of us to live off the land, but everyone who didn’t prepare well is going to try anyway, and can you really blame them?  So in conclusion, keep some goats.  And when things fall apart, harvest and preserve as much meat as you can, it won’t be there long.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Many US military personal who serve on an isolated duty station, in effect live off grid.  For example I was in the U.S. Coast Guard and stationed at Cape Sarichef, Alaska for a year. [It is at the end of Unimak Island.]          

We had three large Caterpillar generators.  We got our water from a reservoir that was filled from mountain runoff.  I would go the reservoir when needed and start a small hand pull pump (during the winter could take almost 30 minutes to get started.) This would pump the water along a buried pipe line, with evenly spaced vents (to let the air out).  

We had a fuel farm.  Our heating was via two #2 diesel fueled boilers.  All heating equipment and almost all the vehicles ran on diesel fuel. We got our water pressure from a 5,000 gallon water tank on a hill above the station.

There was a septic tank and dispersal field.  Which seemed to work just fine in the bitterly cold winter, which surprised me.  We got most of our supplies via a Coast Guard C-130 once a month.  We had a runway constructed of volcanic ash and stone.  There was also a World War II runway about a two-hour drive away.  

If we were to have gotten stuck there with no re-supply we would have been in trouble for heat once the diesel ran out.  There are no trees on that island.  We had an incinerator and a dump for anything that could not be burned.  

The only way on or off the island was by air plane or helicopter.  Other than having some way to provide heat in the winter that would be the perfect place to live.  There were caribou, moose, whistle pigs [groundhogs], red foxes, seals, and a pack of feral Alaskan huskies. There were brown bears there, too.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I am a two-year every day reader of the SurvivalBlog, and going through most of the entries that people write I have noticed that the majority of people believe that in a post SHTF scenario we will be faced with daily battles with marauders trying to take or food and goods. This brings people to the assumption that they must only stock up on only ammunition and firearms. As we all know as readers of this blog that when SHTF we will not have grocery stores or any of the facilities that we take for granted as of today. We will be forced to live of the land and retrace our roots and enlist the skills that our forefathers had for generations.

I see many post on the importance of quality firearms and keeping them well maintained, but I rarely ever see a post on the importance of stocking up on and using good quality tools and equipment. "You're only as good as your equipment" that is something I was told by my grandfather and father for as long as I can remember. I grew up on my families farm in northern Connecticut. We mainly were a vegetable farm but started taking on livestock as a hobby some years back. Everyday we use tools to fulfill or chores and duties around our farm. Whether its to plant or fix the equipment, we use or tools every single day. In a post SHTF situation we will not have a local Tractor Supply Store or Sears & Roebuck to go and pick up a new hammer or axe every time we break the handle. What you have is what you will be forced to live with for as long as things remain the way they are or you can barter a neighbor for theirs. In my years of farming I have generally found that a well maintained older tool will out last and function ten times better than most new light weight (cheap to maintain cause plastics easier to work with than forged steel) heavy duty models. This has always been the case, until my fiance got me a new axe after my main one broke this winter. 

As odd as it may sound my father and I are lumberjack hobbyists. Once a month we pack a lunch and head to the woods looking to find the perfect tree then take it down the old fashioned way with our axes. This wood will then become fire wood or if the wood is of quality it may become a mantle piece or a coffee table. So after breaking my main axe and only having a few small axes, hatchets and mauls left I was getting antsy on finding a replacement. I went to local stores such as the Tractor Supply Store and Sears & Roebuck, and didn't find any of there tools up to my standards, this frustrated me being that our monthly date in the woods was coming up soon. Then my Fiance brings me this light weight fiber glass foreign job called the Fiskars 28" Chopping axe the day my father and I had set a date for the woods. She swore by this company being that she is a seamstress and uses there scissors everyday and also uses their Reel Mower to mow the grass around our house and barns. During the walk through the woods I got nothing but sly remarks and under the breath snickers from my father. He had his double bit Michigan style axe made by Vaughan with a beautiful hickory handle and I had this gray and orange hollow handled axe with an almost parkerized looking head. We got to the tree and my father insisted I took the first swing, and upon my fourth or fifth draw back I realized I loved it.

Now the point of my post here is not to tell you how fun filled my day with my father was cutting down trees, but for the first I have found a well quality modern tool that stands up to everything I can throw at it. When going and looking at the prices of the Fiskars brand products I have found that anybody can afford these tools even on the tightest survivalist budget. After being so surprised with the quality of the axe I finally took a look at my fiances Fiskars Reel Mower she has been begging to show me. Now being a farmer I try to get everything done in the fastest most consistent manner as possible, so when I mow I mount a 70" mowing deck to my Kubota. Until now this Reel Mower was just a tree huger novelty my newly gone-green fiance had been begging to show me. After looking at this mower I found that to the survivalist and post SHTF farmer and retreat owner this is the closest thing to a gas powered mower you can get. This Reel Mower has everything from adjustable blades to change the height and perfect spacing between the deck and the blades so sharpening the blade could quite possibly be a thing of the past with this mower.

Since receiving this axe I have gone ahead and replaced my splitting maul with the 28" and 36" Splitting axe, picked up a 14" hatchet and an axe and knife sharpener all manufactured by Fiskars. These high quality axes all have fiberglass reinforced handles advertised as indestructible. I also purchased their innovative rain barrel system that separates the leaves and debris from the water which can be linked up to numerous barrels for as much free water storage as your budget will allow. The water out of the system is almost drinkable as it is, but I have taken it a step further fitting two Brita water filters to the end of the hose where the water enters the barrel. This ensures the water is safe enough for my animals to drink from, along with my family on those hot summer days.

if you haven't heard of the company Fiskars, you may have heard of their sister company Gerber. These two companies both use the same quality materials and are both baked by a lifetime no-nonsense warranty. With all these quality features and materials whether your in a post-TEOTWAWKI situation or just want quality tools to get the job done without having to sacrifice all your money Fiskars seems to be the way to go. - Christopher R.

JWR Adds: Since I'm a Finnophile (I love everything made in the land of SAKO and Valmet), I have a weakness for Fiskars products. I not only have several pairs of their scissors, but also some of their axes, splitting mauls, and brush axes. I even have a Fiskars-made Valmet rifle bayonet. But I bought that more as an investment than anything else, since they are incredibly scarce.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hello Mr. Rawles,  
Thanks so much for your efforts, they are appreciated.  SurvivalBlog has been a great help to me preparing for inevitable events.  

Your suggestion to consider what you will be hunting is dead on.  I have hunted small game, as well as large for 35 years.  I have hunted in West Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas.  I have hunted squirrels, rabbits, turkey, grouse, ring necks, geese, ducks, Bob White, doves, quail.  #6 works well on squirrels, rabbits and small birds like grouse and quail.  I have taken several shots at turkey with #6 inside 30 yards and did not carry any of them home.  I have found with the large birds like turkey, geese, ducks, and ring necks #4 is about as small as you can go and be successful.  Here in Florida we do a lot of hog hunting on big ranches.  In the orange groves we carry rifles and big caliber pistols, .44 Magnum and .357 Magnum.  When hunting hogs in the [closed canopy] "hammocks", I carry shotgun loaded with 00 buck. My son prefers slugs.  Some of these hammocks are like hunting in jungle so you keep that shotgun mounted [to your shoulder] all the time.  In the dense foliage, the slugs and 00 works much better where as lighter shot loses a lot of steam.   

If you have never hunted small game in the area that you live, I highly suggest that you find some farmer that will let you.  You will need to learn the habitat that suits each species in your area and the tactics need to successfully fill your game bag.  

I own a several shotguns but I have three favorites, Remington 870 and 11-87, Browning BPS pump.  All three use choke tubes and I have a full set for each.  All three are high gloss "sportsman grade" with blued barrels.  I think they are beautiful guns, which causes them to be left in the safe when hunting in foul weather.  For home defense I have the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500, both are improved cylinder bore with 20" barrels and we have used these successfully to hunt hogs in the hammocks.  They are both "marine grade" stainless and work well in foul weather.  

I have had some exotic shotguns but most of the time they got left in the safe so I ended up parting with them.  Remington has built and sold a pile of 870s and about as many 11-87 shotguns, parts are plentiful and easy to come by.  I have had one 870 for about 30 years, I have put thousand of rounds through this thing and have yet to have used any of my spare parts.  I highly recommend the Remingtons, since they are relatively inexpensive, are easy to work on, and extremely durable.  The Brownings run a close second.  I know guys who say the same thing about the [even less expensive] Mossberg 500s.  

I store a lot of 00 buck, #3, and #7.5, roughly 500 shells of each type per gun.  My son stores a lot of slugs for defense.  I make him keep these segregated to avoid accidentally picking them up and shooting them in one of the guns with choke tubes.  I have seen choke tube-equipped barrels destroyed with slugs.  

This may be helpful, but it is not the right solution for everybody.  If you have never hunted small game learn now, while you still have time.  You will fail if try to learn this quickly when you are hungry.  Hunting small game is not as easy as it may seem.  If you are hunting an area that is under a lot of hunting pressure, small can be just as illusive as big game.  If you have never used a shotgun but think you may need one in TEOTWAWKI (I know I will need my shotguns) then get one know and start learning to use it.  Though shooting rifles, shotguns, and pistols are all similar, I taught my children that all three are different disciplines of the same thing. 

Shotguns work differently than rifles, they move heavier loads slower over a shorter area.  Lead times on moving game are much greater than for a rifle.  You will also need to know the effective killing range for each load of shot.  Flying geese can shrug off #7.5 shot at 45+ yards where as they drop like rocks with #2 or #3.  Shoot a turkey at 25 yards with 00 buck and you get turkey nuggets, shot the same turkey with #4 and you have a fine meal ahead.  Shoot quail or dove with #4 you may have some meat left on the bird, #7.5 leaves these smaller birds pretty well intact.  Shoot a hog with #7.5 he will probably run over and remove your leg for you, but shoot him with 00 or slug and you will put him down for good.  

My 2 cents worth, hopefully it will help someone.   Thanks again,  - C.D.P.

Monday, February 14, 2011

James: Some of your posts recommend storing 500 rounds per shotgun, but does not mention which types of shells.

How much should I stock of the following: Slugs, 00 Buckshot, #7-1/2 birdshot, #8 birdshot.

How many of each? Any other 12 gauge ammo type?  Also, what shotguns do you use?   Thanks for publishing a great blog! -  Jim B.

JWR Replies: The ratio of shells that you store all depends on where you live.  Do you live in duck country?  Quail country?  Rabbit country? Deer country?

If you live in duck country, then you should buy mostly #2 or #3 birdshot. (I used to use #4 lead shot, until steel or tungsten shot became mandatory.) In grouse country #6 birdshot should be your priority to stock. I like to keep a lot of the #6 size shot on hand because it can also be used to shoot rabbits. The #7-1/2 or #8 birdshot is preferred by most shooters for grouse, doves, ptarmigan, and pigeons, but I generally use #6 birdshot because of its greater versatility. (I've also found that my Saiga semi-auto shotguns are not reliable with smaller shot, but they cycle exceptionally well with #6 birdshot when the gas port is set to "1"--wide open.) I do have a couple of cases of #8 shot 1-ounce low base loads that I keep on hand for garden pest shooting, but that is mainly when I don't have a .22 rimfire handy.

I generally prefer #4 Buckshot for self defense--not 00 or 000 Buck. I only have about 100 rounds of 12 gauge rifled slugs, since rifles are more appropriate than shotguns for deer hunting here in The Un-named Western State. BTW, I'm planning to test the new Hexolit slugs, once I find a stocking dealer in my region. That might become my preferred self-defense load, to alternate in my magazines with buckshot.

FWIW, I do not recommend any of the exotic shotshell loads that are heavily marketed at gun shows and in gun publications. "Dragon's Breath" for example, is just an over-priced novelty item. I do have a few tear gas "Ferret" rounds, but I wonder if a situation that warrants their use will ever arise.

You asked about shotguns. I'm mainly a rifle shooter, so I don't own many shotguns. Here at the ranch, our family has:

  • A Remington Model 870 Marine (corrosion-resistant variant) 12 Gauge with a black fiberglass stock and foreend.

  • A Remington Model 1100 "Youth" 20 Gauge.

  • Several restored Winchester Model 1897 12 Gauge. All of these are 1898 production, so they are Federally-exempt antiques.

  • Several Saiga 12 semi-autos. Some of them are waiting for the forthcoming Kushnapup bullpup stocks, while one is about to be converted by Tromix Lead Delivery Systems into a folding-stock gun. (Since left-handers cannot use bullpup shotguns.) All of our Saigas will soon be fitted with Monster Brakes that I ordered from Carolina Shooter's Supply. The barrels will be cut and the brakes will be high temperature silver-soldered on by a gunsmith, yielding a 18.5-inch barrel length when completed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I grew up in South Louisiana, so seafood was a staple of the family diet. Shrimp, Crabs, Fish, and Oysters were easy to come by, or at least it seemed that way as a kid because we ate seafood two or three times a week. Fried Shrimp and Oysters, Crab Stew, Shrimp Gumbo, baked Flounder or grilled Redfish, it was all good and those meals made for many a great family memory. However, as much fun as we had watching our mothers and fathers and grandparents cooking those great Cajun dinners, as kids we had infinitely more fun catching as opposed to cooking the seafood. Those lessons are just a part of this brief tip sheet, which hopefully will enable some of you and your family to enjoy fresh filets of fish roasted over a campfire when you are ready for a change from MREs and beans.

Times have certainly changed over the past 40 years. One thing that has changed greatly is the legal means of harvesting seafood. As a kid, I helped the grownups run gill nets and drag a 210-foot saltwater seine in the surf. We also set trotlines in freshwater and saltwater, used Oyster Tongs in the bays and estuaries, and set crab traps in shallow brackish water and right off the beach. The old trusty rod and reel was fun, but to make a pure meat haul nothing beat a gill net, seine, crab traps or trotlines. While gill nets and seines are now illegal in many states (with the exception of bait seines), I have still have a functional seine net stowed away in storage for the day that might come when survival trumps game laws. I realize that most people will not have the great fortune to have inherited or otherwise still own a good gill net or seine. If you do, you are extremely lucky – guard them like gold because they are expensive. If not, then you really do need to think about taking one of several possible routes to obtain this material to supplement your family’s survival chances and pleasure quotient if that terrible day ever comes when all you have left is canned beans.

As mentioned previously, a good gill net or seine is expensive. If you afford to buy a 100-foot gill net or 150-foot seine, by all means do so. You will want the net to be made of braided nylon, not monofilament. There are many reasons for this, but the most important one is longevity of the net. You will want the mesh to be at least 2 inches stretched for a pure fishing net, or much smaller for a bait seine or shrimp seine, maybe ½ to 3/4 inches stretched. A proper seine or gill net will have lead weights on the bottom rope to which the net is attached, and wooden or Styrofoam floats on the top rope, depending on when the net was made. A gill net is used by fastening both ends of the net to sturdy poles that are anchored in the water. You always want to set a gill net in water that will be near chest-deep at high tide, and always where there will be tidal movement. A great place to set gill nets is near inlets where fresh water meets salt water. A net set overnight can easily yield enough fish to feed a hungry crowd for several days. I remember one early winter morning running a gill net with my grandfather and taking 30 big Flounder out of the net.

As far as being able to really put a mess of good fish in the cooler, nothing beats a large saltwater seine (usually deployed from the beach, as opposed to lakes or bays). It takes 3 or 4 people to manage the net, depending on the surf. You will almost always need at least 2 people on the deep end and sometimes 3 will be necessary. In rough water, it could take 5 people to handle the net, especially if you hit a school of Redfish or a large shark. The way to maximize your catch with a seine is to be methodical. The people dragging the leading (or deep) end should head out from the shore at 90 degrees until the people at the shallow end are in knee-deep water. At that point, the team should begin dragging the net parallel to the shore. The team should drag the net for at least 200 yards before angling back in to the beach, unless you get hit by a school at which point all hell will break loose and you will want to get that net on the beach as fast as you can. A good team should be able to make 3 or 4 drags in about 3 hours. I can tell you that it is possible to catch enough fish in one drag to make you put the net up. I remember many times as a kid where 3 drags yielded over 100 Speckled Trout, several Redfish, and the assorted Shark or Stingray.

Enough on gill nets and fish seines. After you have cleaned your fish, you will always want to use the heads for crab bait. 2 or 3 crab traps properly baited with fish heads and placed in brackish water with moderate tidal movement can easily bring in 2 or 3 dozen crabs per night. That’s enough for a feast, especially when used in a gumbo.

Now for my one of my favorite foods - Oysters. Oysters are a great treat when prepared properly. When eaten fresh, they are hard to beat. When cooked right, they are impossible to beat. They are a great source of protein and vital nutrients. The problem is they are difficult to gather. Oyster Tongs are essential. With a pair of Oyster Tongs and a small boat, it is possible to harvest enough Oysters to feed whole family several times. However, it is difficult work akin to digging post-holes. In fact, Oyster Tongs resemble post-hole diggers. You can gather Oysters by hand, but it is much more difficult and dangerous due to the very sharp edges of the Oyster shells and the fact that some of the best Oyster months (the “R” months) are in the fall and winter when the water will be cold. Like fishing for Crabs, your best results when looking for Oysters will be in salt water that gets influenced by fresh water inflows. Shallow bays near freshwater inlets are usually fertile Oyster grounds. In a good area, you will usually be able to see the Oyster beds at low tide. Mark the spots by throwing old fishing floats with weights attached, and return at high tide when the beds are accessible by boat and load up on Oysters. 

The main point to remember in your quest to prepare for being able to harvest seafood in difficult times is to think creatively. Man has been gathering seafood for as long as we have lived near oceans. Even Gerry-rigged saltwater trotlines fashioned from old nylon rope or clothesline and curtain hooks can be effective if deployed and baited properly.

Lastly, here are a few essential items to add to your stockpile to be able to effectively handle cleaning and preparing your saltwater catch without wasting valuable meat. These items will prove almost irreplaceable, so consider having more than one, especially since they are cheap.

  • Filet Knife – most important knife to own
  • Oyster pry-knife – you can catch all the oysters you want but without this tool, you will be limited to eating them steamed
  • Crab cleaner -especially useful to obtain lump meat when you have many dozens of crabs to clean. This one item can save hours when cleaning crabs. This item can be made from 2x6 boards and flat iron and angle iron attached to heavy duty hinges. Rather than giving a long explanation of how to build one, I will describe the one my grandfather made and that we used often. When laid fully open on a table top, the two boards lay end-to-end, connected by the hinge in the middle which was bolted to the flat iron/angle iron mounted on the end section of each board. On one board, the flat iron piece was mounted to the end section. On the other board, the angle iron was mounted so that one of the 45-degree angles came flush to the flat iron when the board with the angle iron was raised upright from the table. Crabs can be par-boiled, shelled and halved, than placed so that the iron mashes out the meat when compressed.
  • Steel-mesh fish cleaning gloves – a lifesaver, literally. If you happen to take a deep stab from a hardhead catfish barb when heading it for crab bait, you could die from the infection without proper antibiotics. These gloves can save your hands from incredible damage when cleaning or working with fresh seafood like Oysters and Crabs. 
  • Monofilament Cast Net – essential for catching small bait fish, and highly effective for catching shrimp in the right location in the fall.

If you live near saltwater or even if you don’t, consider adding these items to your arsenal of tools so you will be prepared to gather some great seafood to supplement the family diet if times get bad enough to have to rely on your stash of dried and pre-packaged foods. Your health and well-being will be greatly enhanced by being able take advantage of what God put in the oceans for us to eat.

Friday, December 24, 2010

It’s one or two years after an EMP attack and you are safely tucked away in your retreat somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  Your storage foods have mostly been used and your high tech electronics is useless.   The really bad stuff is mostly past.  Now it’s try to stay fed and alive and pray that civilization as you know it is coming back.  You’re going to have to work your environment to live.  Ever wonder what life might be like?  What would it really be like to have no running water, electricity, sewer, newspaper or Internet?  No supermarket or fire department close at hand?

I have a good imagination but I decided to talk to someone who would know first hand what it was like: my mother.  She grew up on a homestead in the middle of Montana during the 1920s and 1930s.  It was a two room Cottonwood cabin with the nearest neighbor three miles away.  She was oldest at 9, so she was in charge of her brother and sister.  This was her reality; I feel there are lessons here for the rest of us.

There was a Majestic stove that used wood and coal.  The first person up at four thirty A.M., usually her father, would start the fire for breakfast.  It was a comforting start to the day but your feet would get cold when you got out of bed. 

A crosscut saw and axe was used to cut wood for the stove and after that experience, you got pretty stingy with the firewood because you know what it takes to replace it.  The old timers say that it warms you when you cut it, when you split it, and again when you burn it.  The homes that were typical on homesteads and ranches of the era were smaller with lower ceilings than modern houses just so they could be heated easier.  The saw and axe were not tools to try hurrying with.  You set a steady pace and maintained it.  A man in a hurry with an axe may loose some toes or worse.  One side effect of the saw and axe use is that you are continuously hungry and will consume a huge amount of food.
Lights in the cabin were old fashioned kerosene lamps.  It was the kid’s job to trim the wicks, clean the chimneys and refill the reservoirs. 

The privy was downhill from the house next to the corral and there was no toilet paper.  Old newspaper, catalogs or magazines were used and in the summer a pan of barely warm water was there for hygiene.  During a dark night, blizzard, or brown out from a dust storm, you followed the corral poles-no flashlights.

There were two springs close to the house that ran clear, clean, and cold water.  The one right next to it was a “soft” water spring.  It was great for washing clothes and felt smooth, almost slick, on your skin.  If you drank from it, it would clean you out just as effectively as it cleaned clothes.  Not all clean water is equal.

The second spring was a half mile from the cabin and it was cold, clear, and tasted wonderful.  The spring itself was deep - an eight foot corral pole never hit bottom- and flowed through the year.  It was from here that the kids would fill two barrels on a heavy duty sled with water for the house and the animals.  They would lead the old white horse that was hitched to the sledge back to the buildings and distribute the water for people and animals.  In the summer, they made two trips in the morning and maybe a third in the evening.  In the winter, one trip in the morning and one in the evening.  They did this alone.

Breakfast was a big meal because they’re going to be working hard.  Usually there would be homemade sausage, eggs and either cornmeal mush or oatmeal.  More food was prepared than what was going to be eaten right then.  The extra food was left on the table under a dish towel and eaten as wanted during the day.  When evening meal was cooked, any leftovers were reheated.  The oatmeal or the mush was sliced and fried for supper.  It was served with butter, syrup, honey or molasses. 

The homemade sausage was from a quarter or half a hog.  The grinder was a small kitchen grinder that clamped on the edge of a table and everybody took turns cranking.  When all the hog had been ground, the sausage mix was added and kneaded in by hand.  Then it was immediately fried into patties.  The patties were placed, layer by layer, into a stone crock and covered with the rendered sausage grease.   The patties were reheated as needed.  The grease was used for gravies as well as re-cooking the patties.  Occasionally a fresh slice of bread would be slathered with a layer of sausage grease and a large slice of fresh onion would top it off for quick sandwich.  Nothing was wasted.
Some of their protein came from dried fish or beef.  Usually this had to be soaked to remove the excess salt or lye.  Then it was boiled.  Leftovers would go into hash, fish patties, or potato cakes.

Beans?  There was almost always a pot of beans on the stove in the winter time.
Chickens and a couple of milk cows provided needed food to balance the larder.  They could not have supported a growing family without these two resources.
The kitchen garden ran mostly to root crops.  Onion, turnip, rutabaga, potato and radishes grew under chicken wire.  Rhubarb was canned for use as a winter tonic to stave off scurvy.  Lettuce, corn, and other above ground crops suffered from deer, rats, and gumbo clay soil. Surprisingly, cabbage did well.  The winter squash didn’t do much, only 2 or 3 gourds.  Grasshoppers were controlled by the chickens and turkeys.  There was endless hoeing.

Washing clothes required heating water on the stove, pouring it into three galvanized wash tubs-one for the homemade lye soap and scrub board, the other two for rinsing.  Clothes were rinsed and wrung out by hand, then hung on a wire to dry in the air.  Your hands became red and raw, your arms and shoulders sore beyond belief by the end of the wash.  Wet clothing, especially wool, is heavy and the gray scum from the soap was hard to get out of the clothes.

Personal baths were in a galvanized wash tub screened by a sheet.  In the winter it was difficult to haul, heat and handle the water so baths weren’t done often.  Most people would do sponge baths. 

Everybody worked including the kids.  There were always more chores to be done than time in the day.  It wasn’t just this one family; it was the neighbors as well.  You were judged first and foremost by your work ethic and then your honesty.  This was critical because if you were found wanting in either department, the extra jobs that might pay cash money, a quarter of beef, hog or mutton would not be available.  Further, the cooperation with your neighbors was the only assurance that if you needed help, you would get help.  Nobody in the community could get by strictly on their own.  A few tried.  When they left, nobody missed them.
You didn’t have to like someone to cooperate and work with him or her.

Several times a year people would get together for organized activities: barn raising, butcher bee, harvest, roofing, dance, or picnics.  There were lots of picnics, usually in a creek bottom with cottonwoods for shade or sometimes at the church.  Always, the women would have tables groaning with food, full coffee pots and, if they were lucky, maybe some lemonade. (Lemons were expensive and scarce)  After the work (even for picnics, there was usually a project to be done first) came the socializing.  Many times people would bring bedding and sleep out overnight, returning home the next day.

A half dozen families would get together for a butcher bee in the cold days of late fall.  Cows were slaughtered first, then pigs, mutton, and finally chickens.  Blood from some of the animals was collected in milk pails, kept warm on a stove to halt coagulation and salt added.  Then it was canned for later use in blood dumplings, sausage or pudding.  The hides were salted for later tanning; the feathers from the fowl were held for cleaning and used in pillows or mattresses.  The skinned quarters of the animals would be dipped into cold salt brine and hung to finish cooling out so they could be taken home safely for processing.  Nothing went to waste.

The most feared occurrence in the area was fire.  If it got started, it wasn’t going out until it burned itself out.  People could and did loose everything.
The most used weapon was the .22 single shot Winchester with .22 shorts.  It was used to take the heads off pheasant, quail, rabbit and ducks.  If you held low, the low powered round didn’t tear up the meat.  The shooters, usually the kids, quickly learned sight picture and trigger control although they never heard those terms.  If you took five rounds of ammunition, you better bring back the ammunition or a critter for the pot for each round expended. It was also a lot quieter and less expensive [in those days] than the .22 Long Rifle cartridges.

If you are trying to maintain a low profile, the odor of freshly baked bread can be detected in excess of three miles on a calm day.  Especially by kids.
Twice a year the cabin was emptied of everything.  The walls, floors, and ceilings were scrubbed with lye soap and a bristle brush.  All the belongings were also cleaned before they came back into the house.  This was pest control and it was needed until DDT became available.  Bedbugs, lice, ticks and other creepy crawlies were a fact of life and were controlled by brute force.  Failure to do so left you in misery and maybe ill.

Foods were stored in bug proof containers.  The most popular was fifteen pound metal coffee cans with tight lids.  These were for day to day use in the kitchen.  (I still have one. It’s a family heirloom.)  The next were barrels to hold the bulk foods like flour, sugar, corn meal, and rice.  Everything was sealed or the vermin would get to it.  There was always at least one, preferably two, months of food on hand.  If the fall cash allowed, they would stock up for the entire winter before the first snowfall.

The closest thing to a cooler was a metal box in the kitchen floor.  It had a very tight lid and was used to store milk, eggs and butter for a day or two. Butter was heavily salted on the outside to keep it from going rancid or melting.  Buttermilk, cottage cheese and regular cheese was made from raw milk after collecting for a day or two.  The box was relatively cool in the summer and did not freeze in the winter.

Mice and rats love humanity because we keep our environment warm and tend to be sloppy with food they like.  Snakes love rats and mice so they were always around.  If the kids were going to play outside, they would police the area with a hoe and a shovel.  After killing and disposing of the rattlesnakes- there was always at least one-then they could play for a while in reasonable safety.

The mice and rats were controlled by traps, rocks from sling shots, cats and coyotes.  The cats had a hard and usually short life because of the coyotes.  The coyotes were barely controlled and seemed to be able to smell firearms at a distance.  There were people who hunted the never-ending numbers for the bounty.

After chores were done, kid’s active imagination was used in their play.  They didn’t have a lot of toys.  There were a couple of dolls for the girls, a pocket knife and some marbles for the boy, and a whole lot of empty to fill.  Their father’s beef calves were pretty gentle by the time they were sold at market - the kids rode them regularly.  (Not a much fat on those calves but a lot of muscle.)  They would look for arrow heads, lizards, and wild flowers.  Chokecherry, buffalo berry, gooseberry and currants were picked for jelly and syrups.  Sometimes the kids made chokecherry wine.

On a hot summer day in the afternoon, the shade on the east side of the house was treasured and the east wind, if it came, even more so.
Adults hated hailstorms because of the destruction, kids loved them because they could collect the hail and make ice cream.
Childbirth was usually handled at a neighbor’s house with a midwife if you were lucky.  If you got sick you were treated with ginger tea, honey, chicken soup or sulphur and molasses.  Castor oil was used regularly as well.  Wounds were cleaned with soap and disinfected with whisky.  Mustard based poultices were often used for a variety of ills.  Turpentine, mustard and lard was one that was applied to the chest for pneumonia or a hacking cough.

Contact with the outside world was an occasional trip to town for supplies using a wagon and team.  A battery operated radio was used very sparingly in the evenings.  A rechargeable car battery was used for power.  School was a six mile walk one way and you brought your own lunch.  One school teacher regularly put potatoes on the stove to bake and shared them with the kids.  She was very well thought of by the kids and the parents.

These people were used to a limited amount of social interaction.  They were used to no television, radio, or outside entertainment. They were used to having only three or four books.  A fiddler or guitar player for a picnic or a dance was a wonderful thing to be enjoyed.  Church was a social occasion as well as religious.
The church ladies and their butter and egg money allowed most rural churches to be built and to prosper.  The men were required to do the heavy work but the ladies made it come together.  The civilizing of the west sprang from these roots.  Some of those ladies had spines of steel.  They needed it.

That’s a partial story of the homestead years.  People were very independent, stubborn and strong but still needed the community and access to the technology of the outside world for salt, sugar, flour, spices, chicken feed, cloth, kerosene for the lights and of course, coffee. There are many more things I could list.  Could they have found an alternative if something was unavailable?  Maybe.  How would you get salt or nitrates in Montana without importing?  Does anyone know how to make kerosene?  Coffee would be valued like gold.  Roasted grain or chicory just didn’t cut it.

I don’t want to discourage people trying to prepare but rather to point out that generalized and practical knowledge along with a cooperative community is still needed for long term survival. Whatever shortcomings you may have, if you are part of a community, it is much more likely to be covered.  The described community in this article was at least twenty to thirty miles across and included many farms and ranches as well as the town.  Who your neighbors are, what type of people they are, and your relationship to them is one of the more important things to consider.

Were there fights, disagreements and other unpleasantness?  Absolutely.  Some of it was handled by neighbors, a minister or the sheriff.  Some bad feelings lasted a lifetime.  There were some people that were really bad by any standard and they were either the sheriff’s problem or they got sorted out by one of their prospective victims.
These homesteaders had a rough life but they felt they had a great life and their way of life was shared by everyone they knew.  They never went hungry, had great daylong picnics with the neighbors, and knew everyone personally within twenty miles.  Every bit of pleasure or joy was treasured like a jewel since it was usually found in a sea of hard work.  They worked hard, played hard and loved well.  In our cushy life, we have many more “things” and “conveniences” than they ever did, but we lack the connection they had with their environment and community. 

The biggest concern for our future: What happens if an event such as a solar flare, EMP, or a plague takes our society farther back than the early 1900s by wiping out our technology base.  Consider the relatively bucolic scene just described and then add in some true post-apocalyptic hard cases.  Some of the science fiction stories suddenly get much more realistic and scary.  A comment out of a Star Trek scene comes to mind “In the fight between good and evil, good must be very, very good.”
Consider what kind of supplies might not be available at any cost just because there is no longer a manufacturing base or because there is no supply chain.  In the 1900s they had the railroads as a lifeline from the industrial east.
How long would it take us to rebuild the tools for recovery to the early 1900 levels?

One of the greatest advantages we have is access to a huge amount of information about our world, how things work and everything in our lives. We need to be smart enough to learn/understand as much as possible and store references for all the rest.  Some of us don’t sleep well at night as we are well aware of how fragile our society and technological infrastructure is.  Trying to live the homesteader’s life would be very painful for most of us.  I would prefer not to.  I hope and pray it doesn’t ever come to that.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I have been reading SurvivalBlog for some time now, and I have seen several articles on fire protection, and some mention of chainsaw safety, as well as other notes on being sure to safely use tools.  I have not seen, however, any topics regarding fall protection. 

In the post-SHTF we will be doing more repairs ourselves.  Things like patching the roof, modifying the gutters and downspouts to collect water, maybe installing those PV panels you bought.  In addition, more folks will be hunting, which can mean using tree hunting stands or elevated hunting blinds.  These situations present prime opportunities for a fall that could cause injuries that you don’t want or need in the new world. 

Currently, OSHA requires fall protection for all personnel working more than 4 feet above the floor in industrial settings, 5 feet in maritime settings and 6 ftee in construction.  There is good reason for this, falls account for 8% of all occupational fatalities from trauma, and they can be easily prevented.

Basically, fall prevention and arrest systems are made up of three components:

Anchor Point – to stop a falling person, the anchor point must be able to withstand 5,000 pounds of force per person attached.  Many items that we may think are adequate anchor points are not.  For example, your chimney, antenna tower, or vehicle bumper on the ground may not be adequate to provide resistance to a 5,000 pound force.  That is why I recommend that preppers install adequate anchor points on their roofs, stands, blinds, towers, etc., now, so they are available when needed in the future.

Body Harness – a belt is not adequate to stop a falling person, a full harness must be worn if you want to avoid injury.  If you fall, and your fall is arrested by your lanyard, and you are wearing a belt, there is a good chance you will suffer internal injuries, (and aren’t we trying to avoid injuries here?)  These harnesses are cheap and readily available.  They can be had for as little as $60 online.  For the most part, a harness is a harness, they all will do the same job, if you pay more, you are probably paying for comfort, rather than a performance during a fall.  There are many videos online that discuss how to put the harness on to be effective during a fall, but I highly recommend training in person.

Connecting Devices – these include D-rings and snap hooks that are used to connect the lanyard to the anchor point or harness.  These components typically must be rated for 5,000 pounds of force as well.  Buy connecting devices that are rated for this force, do not skimp and try to use items from your local hardware store.

While the topic of how to use a fall arrest/prevention system is too in depth to discuss on this blog, I highly recommend that readers purchase and learn how to use a safety harness and lanyard as part of their preparation gear.  As I mentioned above, there are plenty of online resources that will give you the basics of use, however being able to put on your harness and see how it feels when properly fitted, and being able ask questions are key to learning how to use a fall prevention/arrest system.  For this reason, I recommend that preppers take fall protection training if it is offered by their employer, whether they will use it on the job or not.  If it is not offered by your employer, it is worth while to take a class at the local tech school.  It could be a valuable tool down the road, to keep you and those who rely on you safe.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Regardless of what you may or may not believe about evolution, it’s hard to argue that the organisms best able to adapt to changes in their environment are generally the ones that survive.  While organisms with less intelligence do this over generations, we humans were gifted with the ability to think and adapt on the fly.  Sometimes this is not a good thing when we are manipulating currency on the fly or making decisions that can adversely affect our survival.  But dealing with those circumstances with adaptive ability is the other edge of said sword.

After TSHTF neither I, nor anyone really can make any educated guess as to how long it would take to adapt to the new circumstances.  Some of us will do better than others.  Some will refuse to even try, giving up on the spot.  The psychological side of adaptation is speculative at best.  Some of us will, some wont and trying to ferret out how or why is a job best left to someone other than me.

The more physical side of adaptation such as adapting skills and physical objects to the circumstances is easier to talk about and outline.  But the first task is trying to determine what we take for granted that simply won’t be there in the case of TEOTWAWKI.


In a good deal of North America water is pretty easy to find.  But finding potable water may be a different matter altogether.  The usual sources are easy to get to.  Rivers, lakes and streams may provide better water after a collapse due to less pollution.  However the opposite could very well be true as proper sanitation and care is taken during this period. 

The truth is that for many days, weeks, months or even years, fresh drinking water will not be out of hand as long as human habitation occurred where you frequent. 

I don’t advocate looting but positively identified abandoned houses or industrial buildings may have water stored in the pipes in the walls and in hot water heaters.  The bad news is that you will need tools to get to the water. 

In houses the copper pipes can easily be beaten through with a hatchet, axe or even a hammer.  You would just want to be ready for the deluge once the pipe is breached.  A better idea would be a well-placed nail into a pipe, creating a small hole.  Industrial building sprinkler systems are usually iron pipes so you will need a few good wrenches in the appropriate sizes.

None of the water from these sources should be assumed to be clean.  It should be chemically treated or boiled before drinking. 


The second concern and one I think will be immensely more difficult to secure in most of the country will be food. 

There are several schools of thought as to the game population once TSHTF.  Some people think that due to lower human populations there will be more game.  Some people believe that more hunting will wipe out the forests quickly.  I’m not sure what to believe in this regard. 

Small game will provide a one or two meal situation but killing a whitetail deer, elk or other big animal will provide a good deal of meat for a while but only if you know how to properly preserve the meat. 

The same goes for a garden.  Usually certain crops ripen all at once even with good succession planting.  So again, the key is preservation.

When TSHTF many people will be prepared to can.  However, with unstable supplies of fossil fuels and very few wood cookstoves around these days, can we be sure we can do this effectively?  I submit that the answer to vegetables is drying and that the answer to meat is salting, jerking, drying and smoking.

It will be quite easy for someone to adapt a small amount of materials into a dryer or smoker quite easily.  A small box can be built easily out of scrap wood and screen material from windows can be used to keep the drying vegetables well drained.  Then a small window itself can be used to cover the box and keep the heat in.  Paint the sides black or make a reflector out of any shiny metal such as ductwork from your house (you might not be using your central air at that point anyway).

For meat you will want to use the simplest methods first and build from there.  Jerking meat is pretty simple if you have salt.  Simply slice it very thin, salt it well and put it in the solar dehydrator I described above.  In the absence of a solar dehydrator you can make biltong. 

I learned about biltong from The Survival Podcast.  Its been made in South Africa for decades.  You simply douse thick-slicked strips of meat with vinegar then salt, coriander and black pepper.  Hang the meat where it is protected from insects, moisture and light.  In a few days the meat will turn hard and essentially mummify.  Done properly and tested by consuming small amounts, there is no real limit to how long this can last. 

A smoker can be adapted very easily as well.  I think cold smoking is the best method for preservation, especially for fish.  You’d simply need to have a metal barrel half or other metal box or container open at one end and closed at the other.  Dig a hole that the container will fit in.  Remember the ductwork I talked about earlier.  Run ductwork from a hole in that container to a box at an elevation higher than the first container.  The second box can be made of wood.  Take care to close and seal any gaps or cracks in any container or the duct.  Build a fire and toss on a lot of wet deciduous wood like hickory, apple, pecan, etc.  Put the metal container over it.  Use the ducting to connect the metal container to the wooden box.  Hang thin strips of meat in the box and allow the smoke to work its magic. 

Another method of preserving fruits and even some vegetables is to make them into wine.  Alcohol is often thought of in terms of the detrimental effect that it has on our society.  However, it has so many more uses than as a mental impairment. 

Making alcohol is pretty simple.  All you really need is some sugar or honey and a fruit or vegetable and water.  If you have yeast, its better to use it, but many fruits such as grapes have yeast that grows naturally on the ripe skins.  The key to making wine is keeping the air away from it as it ferments.  If you fail to do that you may get vinegar which, when pasteurized afterward can be almost as good as wine.  After all, where are you going to get vinegar to make biltong?

You could also adapt a pressure cooker, some salt and a length of small copper pipe and create a still for stronger alcohol to use for strictly non-internal uses.

Hunting and Fishing 

I spoke above about preserving food once you get it.  Adapting certain items to obtain food to begin with will present its own challenges-none of which are insurmountable.  Many of these techniques are not legal and should only be practiced when lives depend on them.

Of course firearms will be around for a while and even a modest stock of ammunition should last for some time.  However I believe we will find more primitive ways less likely to draw attention and good ways to save ammunition.

Longbows can be built surprisingly easily out of simple board lumber or of course split wood from fell trees.  I recommend for information on how to do this step by step.  Arrows can be made from bamboo or cane or small straight saplings.  Making arrow points can be done with a glass bottle and a small nail.  Dave Canterbury’s YouTube page illustrates how. 

For those who don’t want to take the time to build a longbow or don’t have string or the aptitude an atlatl might be a better choice.  The atlatl is simply a wooden handle with a knuckle at one end and a handle at the opposite.  The dart-which is a long arrow-sets into the knuckle and the throwing action acts as a lever to propel the dart at near arrow speeds in some cases. 

While normal fishing will yield decent catches sometimes adapting an old liquid detergent or clean bleach jug into a jug line makes a lot of sense and will allow you to catch fish passively while you work on other methods of getting food or water. [JWR Adds: Of course consult you state laws before using a set line or any sort of multi-hook line.]

Though highly illegal, old crank telephones or car batteries can be used to shock fish up. 

There are also several wild plants in North America that can be adapted into a poison that will stun fish into submission where they can easily be scooped up.  If you’ve watched the show Beyond Survival with Les Stroud this should not come as any shock.  The natives he spends time with as well as the ones on our own continent had ways to use these poisons to get food.  The good news about the poisons on our continent is that many times they are not as dangerous to humans.  I do not recommend using any poison you don’t know the origin of.  Chemicals that are not safe to humans can ruin a body of water or leave you severely sick if you eat the fish that result. 

While most people think of fishing as an activity only for catching fish, there are many more edible creatures in water besides fish.  In many lakes, mussels cling to underwater rocks or wood.  When the water levels go down you can swim down and harvest.  Or if you have a boat and a good spot, simply sink a log and pull it up at timed intervals, break off the mussels and sink it again.

You can also adapt a 2-liter bottle into a crayfish trap.  Simply punch some small holes in the bottom end and sides toward the end.  Cut the top ¼ off and reverse it and wire it into place so the funnel points in.  Place a small but heavy rock in the bottom and a piece of bacon or entrails from a recent kill (might want to tie it into place).  Then sink it in a muddy flat.  The crayfish will come inside, eat the meat and when you pull it up the crayfish will be trapped. 


After TSHTF many of us will be doing activities we don’t normally do.  The desk jockey may be pounding nails and the housewife may be butchering game.  Anytime you bring untrained labor into new activities injuries will occur. 

For a while after TSHTF medical supplies such as medicine and sterile dressings may be somewhat accessible.  What to do when they run out though? 

I mentioned an antiseptic above that was used from Roman times until the 13th century.  Wine and vinegar both are not stellar antiseptics but in the absence of everything else, they could save lives.  The alcohol obviously kills germs and other nasty things that could grow on a wound. 

Finding sterile dressings will be hard but you can always boil fabric or soak it in wine or alcohol in the absence of fire to sterilize it. 


There was a line from the movie The Book of Eli that stuck with me. The protagonist said: "We threw away things people kill each other for now."  I thought that was very insightful.  After TSHTF we will have to learn that nothing is disposable.  Pants that get torn and ripped will be cut off into shorts.  When the electric grids fail we will use the wires from extension cords as rope or snare wire. 

It’s hard to do it with our modern conveniences but we have to look at everything as if it is not what it seems.  Sometimes the sum of the parts really is greater than the whole.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

All over the Internet are articles on surviving really hard times that are expected.  I note with some humor that most of these articles are talking to about 28-46 years old age groups, at least under-50 somethings.   I have seen nothing directed to the under 26 year-old or much over the 50 year-old.  Considering that we have a problem with what has been termed as an aging society retiring, what about us folks that can no longer throw on a 70 lb pack and hike 20 miles into the wilderness, or no longer have a sufficient income to prepare a TEOTWAWKI retreat?  Since we fall into the aging and retired category, I am going to focus on what we have done in preparation. 

Since I am 70 and my wife is over 60, and our sole steady money income is SS, our ability to put together a truly sustainable lifestyle is very limited.  Because of our age, planning for 20-30 years down the road is unrealistic.  As we age, our vitality for projects like we have taken on is reduced so every major project takes more time to accomplish.  We have currently taken on just about all we can handle.  Oh to be 40 again and all that energy to be put to creative endeavors and self-sufficiency.  

We did sell our house in an expensive area at the height of the housing bubble (which we had predicted would crash soon) and used the proceeds to buy the least expensive one acre plot in a working class neighborhood that we could find in another state.  Very low population density in the area, nearest large city of 85,000 is 30 miles from us.  For $62,000 we got one acre, only partially fenced, a well, a septic system, a single wide 1974 trailer, and a 1½ car garage, well house and a large lean-to wood shed.  We used up another segment of the house sale to put in another deeper well (original was 15 feet), upgrade the septic system, and fence in about 2/3 of the property.  Since the trailer would be prohibitively expensive to heat with wood due to coding requirements, we installed a wood heater in the garage for emergency-keep-warm circumstances and to make it possible to work on projects during the winter.  The trailer is heated with an electric forced air system and we have a back up propane space heater with a years worth of propane in the tank.  Because our well burps up water with large quantities of iron and sulfur, we got a relatively expensive large ceramic water filter for drinking. 

The area we live in has a multitude of mini climates and it can freeze at night anytime from June to September, and does every year.  The ground is poor, being composed of 35 feet of volcanic ash, which is okay for bitter brush and pine trees, lousy for vegetable gardens.  When we moved here, we were told by the “experts” that growing a garden and supplying food was impossible and not to bother.  In my life I have found that when experts make absolute statements, it probably isn’t true, or only partially true.  Being rather cynical in our old age, we decided to try anyway.  First year was a disaster, got a few fresh snacks for our effort.  We started composting heavily, trucked in about 20 pick up loads of horse manure and the second year was a bit better. That year we put in a small greenhouse as a supplement and to extend the growing season a bit on both ends and by the third year, we supplied almost our entire non-meat diet for the summer,  bought a freezer and put up enough to last the winter, sold, gave away and bartered food.  Not bad for a 1,500 sq ft garden area.  The second year we made a place for chickens in the lean-to wood shed and started to provide enough eggs for our use and enough to sell to pay for their feed.  The third year I constructed rabbit hutches and we started to supply some of our own meat. 

I will admit right off that growing a vegetable garden in this area is tough.  We’ve had a rather steep learning curve on how to do it because of the abysmal growing conditions.  Needless to say, the growing season is comparatively short here, so we can’t grow much that takes over 100 days to maturity nor highly temperature sensitive plants outside of a greenhouse, like winter squash, soybeans, pole beans, tomatoes etc.  But it can be done. 

Through all of this development, my wife has also contributed with cooking most meals from scratch from our own produced food whenever possible, and she has been writing a gardening column for the local paper for three years now. We both belong to the local Grange and a local political action group fighting with the county government over some of its nonsense.  She regularly gifts and barters food and we are trying to provide a lifeboat for her son if things get really bad.  We are a tad busy.  And I thought when we retired we would indulge ourselves in our hobbies and just have a good time.  Hah! 

Our food supply is not 100% self sufficient and probability never will be.  Just too much work for our aging bodies to take on.  In the last six years, we have also stockpiled enough food to last us about a year on a minimum diet.  If everything suddenly shuts down, we can make it for a year or so if we are very careful.  If the electricity is shut off for an extended time we insured at least drinking water by the purchase of an Amish water dipper for the well and found a used generator for the short term to keep the water and refrigeration going as long as I can feed it gas.

In anticipation of things getting really tough, and my conservative inclinations included, I could not bear the thought of throwing away rabbit hides.  So I dried them until I could take the time to learn to tan hides.  I also found some other folks in the area that raise rabbits in far greater amounts than we do and got their hides they saved (for the same reason) in the freezer for a very reasonable amount of money.  I now have a stack of rabbit hides worked and tanned pelts to make clothing and such for the winter projects, hopefully to barter and trade and some for our own use.  Hunter friends have promised whatever hides they can come up with for this years hunting season to convert to buckskin for clothing and other uses.  I’ve already gotten half of an antelope hide which I tanned out as a pelt.  Not sure what to do with it yet. 

Our efforts have not gone unnoticed in the area and quite a number of other retired folks have taken on some similar projects, mostly at a reduced level from ours.   We are in contact with other retired folks doing much the same as we are, scattered around the country that live where they don’t have to deal with our lousy growing conditions.  They also recognize their limitations but are doing the best they can.  We all bemoan the lack of some younger people to help out with the heavy work that needs to be done to increase viability.  Our observations are that the younger people that are interested in this kind of living are few and far between and have little interest in some kind of cooperative endeavor to keep us all alive in the event of a TEOTWAWKI situation. 

So, you might ask; why at our age are we doing this?  Good question.  If our living situations become as bad as I see it potentially happening, there is going to have to be some older folks around that have seen and understand the consequences of the massive changes in the world that have taken place in the last 50+ years and pass that on to the younger folks.   Older folks are also needed to pass down long lost skills on how to live without much outside help (and maybe without electricity and running water), like how to fix things, or make work-a-rounds for impossible to find parts or devices.  My observations say there is not much interest in this from the younger folks, so I will hopefully be around to teach the small amount of it that I know when the SHTF

Saturday, October 2, 2010

As our population continues to increase and expand, the small towns are now big towns, the rural outskirts of town are vibrant mini-metroplexes and quaint little mountain towns are growing communities. With this progression of population and expansion of where we are choosing to live, the fusing of nature and your home is becoming an everyday occurrence. Drive through your neighborhood and you will see the cute little bunny rabbits sitting in the corners of the lawns. How many bird feeders and birdbaths do you see with a songbird sitting on the edge watching you drive by? Watch for the grandpa sitting on the front porch with his granddaughter holding a few slices of white bread, rolling them into small doughy balls, and letting his granddaughter throw them to the two cute squirrels that seem to get closer and closer to eating from her hand every day. You are now passing the community pond; in the center there is a fountain launching a perfect flower shaped cascade of water into the air. Take your focus off of the fountain and see how many ducks and geese have made the small pond into their home. Wait until it cools down a little and drive by this pond again. This time as you drive by you see that same older man with his granddaughter, they are feeding those same doughy balls of white bread to the ducks and geese, but you also notice the tackle box and the fishing pole with a line in the water.

Now you are home and you are ready to go inside when your neighbor, who is outside mowing his lawn, shuts off the engine and calls your name. You respond with a “hello” as you meet him halfway. He proceeds to tell you about his morning walk with his dog. He saw a coyote and he offers up some neighborly advice. He tells you to be careful because he has heard of small dogs being taken from backyards by these coyotes. You drift off into imagination land and snicker to yourself as you think of life without your wife’s yappy little ankle-biter of a dog. Jokingly you tell your neighbor “maybe I will start letting my wife’s dog into the backyard more often.” You both laugh as you part ways.

You are now sitting reading bedtime stories to your children as you hear a familiar sound. First, you hear your trash cans crash to the ground, followed by one of them rolling down the driveway. All this commotion has the neighbor’s dog across the street barking up a storm. You know from past experience that this barking will last for a while until the owner makes his way to his screen door. A “shut up!” rings across the lawn as your neighbor tries to quiet his dog. You are cleaning up the scattered trash from the driveway and lawn because those annoying raccoons have gone after your leftovers again.

This neighborhood is your average neighborhood. I live here and you live here. Your parents live in a similar neighborhood that you visit every Sunday afternoon. We are surrounded by Mother Nature’s little critters, the larger animals that hunt those critters and the waterfowl, like geese, that you curse every time you wash off the gifts they left in your driveway. Take a minute to think back to your childhood. You are peering from behind the rosebush as the unsuspecting squirrel scavenges the front yard for little morsels of food. You explode from behind the bush and are in hot pursuit of this squirrel. Either you got dumber or the squirrel got smarter because it became harder and harder to get the jump on him. Now that you are older you do the same thing; you are now constantly trying to rid your yard of these animals that cause you extra work.

You now have become the home engineer trying to figure out a way to keep the squirrel from eating all the birdseed and how to keep the geese from using your driveway as a porta-potty. Also you have avoided planting particular flowers and plants because you don’t want to deal with rabbits feeding on them. It is time to break these habits. Stop for a second and think about how much wildlife lives around your home. This is an opportunity for you to provide yourself with a food source in the event of “The End of the World as We Know It”. Do practical things now that will help you if you are faced with the need to provide your family with food.

Animals are creatures of habit; time and time again they will return to the places where they know there is food and water. You see it in the neighborhood pond. The geese and ducks use it as a place to stop on their way south. You have seen them year after year. The squirrel knows you have a well-stocked bird feeder, so he stops by once a day to fill up. You always see the rabbits in the same yard because that home owner happened to plant the flowers that those rabbits like to eat. And, of course you feel as if that pesky raccoon only enjoys going after your trash cans, but you have many neighbors who feel that the raccoon only comes after their leftovers. The fact of the matter is not that you have one giant glutton of a raccoon that makes his rounds to every trashcan; it’s that you have more raccoons in your neighborhood than you would have thought.

Imagine that you are actually in the situation of a huge catastrophe. You have hunkered down in your house for the long haul. However, a lot of your neighbors have vacated in the hopes to find help. You have done your best to prepare but are wondering how long you have to make your supplies last. Will it be a month? Will it be six months? Or, will it be longer? Should you start rationing the food to your family? What will you do if you run out of food or water before things turn around? Now imagine being able to substitute and supplement your stash of food with fresh meat. How much longer would your stash of food last if you were able to supplement it with other things? How much could you add to your stash if you were able to dry and preserve some of the things you were able to harvest?
How do we accomplish this?
Here are some practical tips you can do today that will help you tomorrow:

  • Install bird feeders and bird baths in your front and back yard, but more importantly than installing them is keeping them well-stocked with food and water. Birds aren’t looking for a place to hang out; they are looking for a place to eat. If you provide a consistent supply of these things you will quickly see a regular group of birds starting to visit.
  • Install platform feeders on your fences and on your trees. Keep these well-stocked with some sort of birdseed or feed, and you will start to see regular squirrel visitors to your yards and trees. They will learn that they can always come there for food.
  • Instead of throwing out that half loaf of stale bread take the time to sit on your porch and feed the geese. Also, go to the pond that is close by and feed the geese and ducks. When you make that trip to the pond take extra bread and maybe some frozen corn. Pick a spot on the pond that you have easy access to the water’s edge, and that the water is somewhat shallow. At least once a week visit this same spot and put some bread pieces, corn, or some other type of food source into the water. The fish will quickly start to frequent this area of the pond. After a while at any point you should be able to walk to this area of the pond and see a few fish hanging out looking for a quick meal. How easy would it to be to just take a net and scoop up one of these fish.
  • Buy a small pail or use an old coffee can, and when you clean up after dinner, instead of throwing your scraps into your trashcan put them into this can. When you set your trash cans out put this can near them. You will soon learn that your trash cans will not be knocked over as much. The raccoons will be happy to take the easy food source found in your small can of scraps rather than working to get into the trashcan. Doing this will provide raccoon visitors, and possibly other scavenger visitors to your home on a regular basis.
  • Take the time to ask your neighbors what plants they have had that the rabbits keep eating. Now take that knowledge and do some gardening. Within a few months you will see rabbits at your home regularly to do some feeding.

Yes, this will take some time and effort on your part, and a small bump in your weekly grocery bill. You will also have to incorporate this into your existing plans to build up a stash of survival food and water. You will need to have enough supplies of bird feed, squirrel food, food for the fish and scraps of food for the raccoons to continue to keep them coming back. This plan of action will do you no good if at the point you need to utilize it you run out of the items that you used to keep the animals coming to your home. But in the long run it could be a life saver.

In the event of a major catastrophe not only will resources for humans be depleted, but the resources that these animals rely on will become depleted as well. You can take advantage of this situation by creating a habitat in your own front and back yard that animals will know they can visit for food.

Now go back to that thought of actually being in this survival situation. You are able to turn your six month supply of food into a year supply of food because of your ability to supplement it with fresh items. Would you feel a little better about your situation if you were provided with this extra source of food?

I personally live in a urban environment, and the plans that I have laid out are specifically geared towards those of us who do live in your average urban city neighborhood. Some special considerations to this plan of action will have to be considered if you live in more of a rural region. Those of you who live in bear country surely already know that you have to be very careful in the ways that you store food and garbage as to not attract bears to the outside or inside of your home. For those of you who live on a larger piece of land you will have the ability to garden not only to grow things for your family, but you will be able to grow items specifically to attract animals to your area. You know your surroundings better than I do, so tailor your plans specifically to your own needs and your surroundings.

In closing: If you are willing to add this to your routine of chores around the house you can get the gratification of seeing a food source visit your home every day and the thought of having to survive becomes little less intimidating.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It’s one thing to prepare for an unexpected event that you can ride out in the course of a week or two; secure, defensible shelter that functions without the grid, a store of food and water, and stockpiles of essentials such as ammo and medical supplies may be more than enough to last until the disaster passes and social order is restored. But what about long-term survival in the face of TEOTWAWKI

I’ve always found it instructive to study how we lived before 20th-century innovations such as electricity and refrigeration and potable water piped right into the kitchen. It wasn’t that long ago; my dad’s folks didn’t have electricity until he was a teen and his grandparents spent most of their life in a home where going to the bathroom at night required boots and a lantern. When great-grandpa shot a mink that was threatening the chickens, his wife didn’t think twice about making gloves and a stole from the pelt. Could you produce gloves from a rabbit pelt? Or, for that matter, turn a sheaf of wheat into a loaf of bread? They had skills that we have forgotten; knowledge that we need to relearn should our technologically-enabled lifestyle be unexpectedly set back a century or two.

Mechanical Arts is an obsolete and archaic term from the European Middle Ages; it referred to the practical skills required of the lower class, as opposed to the Liberal Arts and Performing Arts mastered by the upper crust and intelligentsia. The eight mechanical arts make a good springboard for reviewing the skills that we need to re-master if we are to live – not just survive – in the face of long-term social collapse. The eight mechanical arts of medieval tradition are weaving, blacksmithing, war, navigation, agriculture, hunting, medicine, and theater.

Modern weaving encompasses everything from basic sewing skills – on a non-electric machine – to the production of thread, cloth, and yarn from basic agricultural products. The latter requires quite a long-term view, but it isn’t out of the question to make sure that your group has a functional antique sewing machine and people with the skill to use it. Knitting and crocheting are fine hobbies that might prove to be useful skills should the need arise. And basic hand-sewing is a skill everyone needs; in a crisis, cloth may not be the only thing that needs a bit of emergency stitching. I would include tanning in this category; make sure someone in your group is able to turn a deer hide into useable buckskin.

Traditional blacksmithing is also a fine hobby that becomes a useful survival skill. In the modern view, competence with cutting and welding equipment falls into this category as well. The ability to cut and shape metal – however you do it – will put your skills in constant demand. I would include basic mechanical skills as well. If you have useful, non-electric machinery (windmills and well pumps and that antique sewing machine come to mind) and animal-drawn farm tools that you can keep in good repair, you’ll be in better shape than most of your neighbors.

Much has been written about home defense in the face of chaos. Every member of your group needs to be trained in the basics. Again, this makes a fine diversion here in the real world; I am continually astounded as to how readily the girls take to occasional outings to the local shooting range. Advanced skills range from leadership training and gunsmithing to tactical surveys of your terrain. One acquaintance (and this is an example of extreme and probably illegal preparedness) has located the most likely spots where an assaulting force might take cover and has not only set up lines of fire into those locations but has run underground wires so he can quickly connect and conceal his Claymores. I’ll hail his bunker from a good safe distance should the need arise!

Navigation by the sun and stars is an art that most of us GPS-enabled survivalists have never learned. It’s probably not necessary; chances are you’re already quite familiar with the locale around your refuge and establishing north from the stars or tree moss runs a distant second to a good pocket compass. But it wouldn’t hurt for your group to master some basic wilderness trekking skills. This makes for a fun activity; take a day class, or set up a course of waypoints and instructions yourself, with a prize (or food and beer!) at the end.

Agriculture and hunting are probably among the most necessary and most varied of these skills. Your group may already include avid hunters who can not only bring down food but prepare it in the field. This may include gunsmithing and bow hunting; it does not include recreational fishing, which is fun but usually calorie-negative. Agriculture in the face of adversity is actually more difficult than hunting. If you already have a hobby farm (and you should, in conjunction with your survival compound), think about how you would get water to your plants and animals without the electric pump at the bottom of the well. Raising fruits and vegetables is one thing; can you turn your wheat and corn into flour? This is a skill that will stand you in good stead in the face of long-term separation from the local grocery store. I would place cooking and food preparation in this category as well, where the big question is: can you prepare and store food for long-term storage without electricity or refrigeration? And for those with large enough lots, keeping animals – whether they be chickens, pigs, goats, or cattle – will be a great benefit over the long run. Sadly, agriculture as a hobby is almost always a money-loser – you simply cannot produce eggs for what they cost at the store and I weep every time I see corn at five ears for a dollar – but you may find home-grown tomatoes and free-range eggs sufficiently tasty to give it a try. And, while illegal, running a home still is both educational and entertaining – and good moonshine whisky might be as valuable a trade item as gold as well as useful as antiseptic or emergency fuel. In a real emergency, you can drink it as well.

A doctor in the group is pure gold, but the problems of long-term survival without access to modern health care are numerous and difficult to overcome. Are there diabetics in your family? Insulin will be impossible to find. Do members have high blood pressure or severe allergies? Your stockpile of medication will not last long and lifestyle changes will be required. Survivalist medicine runs the gamut from medical diagnosis and emergency surgery (do you want to lose a child to something as routine as appendicitis – or mistakenly cut into a belly when the problem is merely heartburn?) to growing and processing your own medicinal plants. Willow-bark tea is a far cry from oxycodone, but it may be all you can get. But at the least every member of your group needs to be trained in basic first aid, including dressing wounds and setting broken bones in the field. And for the long term, a good class in childbirth for the potential mothers and midwives in your group.

Like it or not, you and your group will have to interact with those around you – if for no other reason than to get news and barter what you have for what you need – and good social skills are a must. Fortunately, most of us work and play in large groups and the isolated hermit is a curiosity of the past. However, it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on your negotiating skills; the day may come when your life depends on it.

One could not expect any individual to master more than a handful of these; indeed, one could argue that the advent of individual specialization was the beginning of modern civilization. But even a fairly small group can cover most with relative ease. And practice of these arts as hobbies may lead to a good deal of personal satisfaction as well as the comfort in knowing that you are prepared for the worst.     

Monday, August 23, 2010

I believe that in a severe crisis, most of the problems are going to have to be solved at the local level. State and federal government are too big and dependent on technology to survive a severe crisis once the grid drops and all services start to erode. Local governments, too, are ill prepared to assume this crushing responsibility, but they are much more resilient because their scope of control is smaller. Most of them have never even considered what they would do.

This article is a discussion piece to stimulate thought on the subject of small community recovery after TEOTWAWKI. I hope it will also be useful as a rough blueprint or checklist for local community leaders, or at least a starting point for a comprehensive plan. I wrote it from the perspective of a fictional town mayor. Most of the issues I mention apply to many levels of local government and law enforcement. I realize that A mayor never acts alone or has absolute power. They have a lot of people helping and advising them. I am hoping you will help yours make and implement the right decisions and that this paper will help in some small way.

Before I start spouting off about what I think will occur, I need to tell you who I am. I am a retired Army Electronic Warfare and Signals Intelligence Warrant Officer. I spent over a decade working on Army planning staffs at various levels, and was a professional action officer on the USAREUR DCSINT planning staff for more than four years. I got the rare opportunity to see many failed states and regional crisis and how people, communities and economies react. But I have never held any office in local government. Also, unfortunately, I am not a wizard who can see into the future. The following are my own conclusions and suggestions drawn from my own experiences. I may be wildly wrong, or overlooking factors that seem obvious to you, especially if you have a lot of experience in local government. So, take this for what it's worth. Hopefully, it will provide a basis for discussion and planning and generate a dialog. I am hoping to hear corrections and other ideas. I am never insulted by disagreement, so if you see things differently, I would be very happy to hear it.

First, we need to define what kind of crisis I am talking about. I am talking about a large scale disaster of some kind that effects a huge geographical region and forces local communities to solve their own problems and precludes getting help from outside. I am talking about an event that would cause a complete failure of basic services such as finance (banking) or the electrical grid and prevent the Government from repairing it quickly enough to prevent a general cascading breakdown of other services. I will use a major EMP event as my example because that would be just about a worst case event. Some of what I say will be applicable to regional or short term events, but some of it won't.

I believe that most communities are doomed. Many American and European communities are artificial constructs entirely dependent on modern society to keep them running. You can tell if your town cannot survive by looking at the population density, arable land, water supplies and other resources. If your community is in a desert and trucks in all their water, you can't possibly survive long term. If your whole population is suburban or urban and you have no working farms or farmable land, then you are doomed. Sorry. If you live in a doomed community, I don't know what to tell you. For this article, I am assuming a smallish town with a good water supply and a lot of working farms that don't require electric irrigation. Even a perfectly situated town will have huge problems and may not survive a major EMP event. Anything less than perfection is going to require superhuman effort, no mistakes and a large touch of luck.

Somebody has to take charge quickly:
Anarchy is the dirtiest word in the English language and should be avoided at all costs. Whenever I see some teenager wearing a T-shirt espousing anarchy, I get a strong urge to show him a little anarchy by beating him up and ripping it off his back..and then ask him if he still thinks Anarchy is "cool". I have seen chaos and virtual anarchy up close and I was frankly astonished at the depravity of mankind. Without law and order of some kind, the strong will take from the weak. The cruel will torture and kill wantonly. Rule of law is essential to any progress or recovery. I am writing this in the firm belief that when our society crashes, some communities will maintain order and some vestige of humanity. That's going to require a delicate balancing act because the two concepts are not mutually reinforcing and can be at odds with each other. Communities are going to have to make some very hard choices if they are to maintain order and survive. Lets hope they can maintain their humanity and Christian values while they are doing this.

Let's imagine that you are the mayor of a small town when this horrible event occurs. The lights go out, most cars don't work, and personal battery powered electronics malfunction. How quickly would most small town mayors realize it was EMP? I am guessing that most of them will figure it out within minutes or hours. There are enough smart folks around to advise them even if they are not knowledgeable. So what are your actions going to be?

What are your resources? The town owns some land and some buildings, some vehicles and maybe some utility equipment. But by far, your biggest asset is a limited amount of capital in the form of authority and good will. You represent a body of voters, which gives you more legal legitimacy than anyone else. You have a police force of some kind and the authority to spend money on behalf of the government...sort of. Your authority is real, but it's based on some fairly fragile cornerstones. Some of them may not exist anymore. The monetary system may be completely wrecked. You may not be able to pay anyone for anything. The Federal and State Governments are both out of communications and may not exist anymore. Any indecision or misstep on your part could destroy your authority, leaving nothing in it's place.

What, exactly is your authority? Where does it overlap with county or other governments? What gives you the authority to maintain order? Impose martial law? Appoint armed deputies, Set up roadblocks? Commandeer fuel and food stocks? The Army NCO academy teaches that there are five types of power that an individual can wield. You will need to use all of them.

a. Legal: You have limited direct "Command authority" in a military sense. Unless you have a body of laws to back you up, you can't lean on your command authority too much. Check on this, but your town is unlikely to have bylaws giving you much power in an emergency. Instead, you have to assume that you possess Delegated authority. You are the representative of both State and Federal government and have to assume their roles and responsibilities until you can re-establish a chain of command. In the absence of orders or directives, you are free to "assume" responsibility and authority. At least that's a good legal theory and may be enough. If this were ever tested in court, it might not be upheld, but by that time, the crisis will be over, right? Everything you do is "Legal" until you are overruled by a court...or ousted by a mob of your constituents. Your real authority is your mandate from the people. It rests on your ability to make sound decisions and convince others that you are doing all the right things. That buys you more authority in a crisis than all the documents ever printed.

b. Coercive: Unfortunately, brute force is always a factor. As long as you maintain control over the police force or sheriff's department, you have authority. You must gain firm control of your police and public employees first, before you try to do anything else. Without them, your authority can be dissolved by a few hot-heads with weapons. You are going to be forced to make some very unpopular decisions and part of your community is going to be extremely angry with you. Get your troops in place first or you won't keep your authority long. You must also be very careful not to abuse this authority or let your troops abuse it. A good way to do this is to immediately beef up your police force with out of work, solid citizens. You can take on a fairly large number of deputies from the community. That gives the community a sense of ownership in the police and helps prevent excesses.

c. Reward: You will initially have almost no ability to reward anyone. If the finance system is gone, you have nothing to trade for goods and services. You will need to change this immediately by setting up some kind of economy for your town. (This topic is covered below). If you don't lick this problem immediately, your police and city employees are going to stop showing up for work very quickly. They have to feed and protect their families somehow.

d. Charisma: Unfortunately, (or fortunately perhaps) personal charisma and magnetism are much more important than we like to admit. If you can sway a crowd or argue persuasively, it doesn't matter if you are right or wrong. This sword cuts both ways, of course. You are going to have to face very charismatic personalities around town and persuade them to go along with you, or at least stay neutral. You need to gain the immediate support of community and church leaders. Figure out who can cause you political trouble and approach them to get them on your side or otherwise neutralize them, or you will be facing a "minority party" that will eventually oust you.

A good tool for dealing with dissension is to trap your opponents into stating a preferred way to resolve some problem and then enlist them to oversee it. There are a lot of ways to "skin a cat". Let them try their way if it can work. Pull them into your administration. Remember, you are all on the same team at some level. Find that level and stay on it. I believe that in a crisis, everyone has a tendency to follow anyone with a firm voice and the appearance of a plan. Just be sure you have a good plan and you will keep dissension to a minimum.

e. Expert: Knowledge is power. Anyone with unique and useful knowledge has value and power. It's much easier to sway an audience if you have a degree in the topic or an acknowledged expert in your corner. You should surround yourself with experts. When a new problem arises and an expert or two are identified, pull them into your circle of advisers. Doing this not only makes you a better leader with better decisions, it gives all of your followers the sense that you are open to suggestions and good ideas from any quarter.

So, you take charge quickly and start issuing orders. What are those orders?You have a lot of things to worry about, and all of them are urgent and critically important. The following is my list of issues that you need to address immediately and some suggestions on how to address them. Local conditions, laws, resources and public opinions are variables that effect how you must react. Think it out in the context of your local conditions and try to at least have a tentative plan to put forward immediately. The venue for putting forth your agenda should be as transparent as possible, either a public meeting or a written decree or order. That way, everyone not only knows your decisions, they know the reasoning behind them. If you can get consensus from a town meeting before you put out an emergency decree, you will have less trouble,but some of these issues require immediate action.

1. Communications:
Without communications, you are powerless. You must be able to communicate with your police department and other public service folks, the people of the town, the county seat, the State, and lots of others. Unfortunately, a big EMP event will wipe out electronic communications in a blink and leave you isolated, just when you need to be at the center of activity. There are a couple of things you can do to mitigate this if you plan ahead, but you are still going to have to somehow establish some kind of communications with your neighboring towns and other polities...and hopefully higher echelons of government.

If you can store some short range radio equipment and maybe some old-school TA-312 or TA-1 type telephones in a Faraday cage, they will be worth their weight in gold. Even a few old telephones (and wire) can enable you to keep in touch with the town down the road, or your own guard posts. Another thing to add to your Faraday cage is a couple of battery-powered shortwave receivers. These will allow you to catch long range HF broadcasts from working stations possibly overseas. Shortwave may be your most reliable source of news. A ham radio rig, if it survives, might be very useful too.

If you don't have working radios, think back to a time when radio and even telephone didn't exist. Our founding fathers didn't have those luxuries and still managed. The solution is a central, easy to find headquarters, official written communications, and messengers. You will need plenty of paper, (with your office letterhead if possible), envelopes and some kind of official seal you can use. You might even consider a wax seal, like they used in the 18th century, but a notary seal (or something similar) with your signature over the top will look a lot more official than a blank paper. You will also need carbon paper or a working copier, but probably won't have them.

Small communities in the past used church bells, beacon lights, gongs, bugles, whistles, sirens and flags to communicate locally. These methods require some planning, but they still work.

Public notice boards were a major tool of government in the days before electricity. Designate a board outside city hall or somewhere convenient and section it off into five sections (or more if you wish). Post public policies and directives in one section and "good advice" such as water purification procedures in another. A third section of the notice board should contain a calendar or event log to keep people advised on upcoming events. (Also, you should somehow let people know what day it is). A fourth section of the board can contain news items picked up on the shortwave or from other communities.

The fifth [and very large] section should be made open to the public. Remember, they have no reliable communications means and may need to link up with missing relatives or communicate privately with other community members. A board is a good way to do this and can substitute for a public mail service. Set up a drop box for personal messages (controlled by someone at city hall or at the post office or whatever) and maintain a list of people with "refugee mail" on the public notice board. That way, if someone wants to send a letter or something to anyone else, they drop an envelope in the drop box and write the addressee's name (and a date) on the public board. When the addressee picks up his mail, he crosses his name off the list. Any person traveling to a nearby town can carry mail to that town.

You may need to regulate your public notice board by requiring people to date their notices and limit the time something can remain posted. Otherwise, the public board will quickly get out of hand, no matter how big it is. Try not to get too draconian. Allow people to post anything they want (subject to whatever constraints make sense to the town). Your board may be the best and only information service most people have.

You should also expect to do a lot of face to face meetings with crowds and individuals. Consider setting up a weekly town meeting where you can put out orders and public service information in person and invite discussion. Town meetings used to be a great source of entertainment and gave everyone a chance to blow off some steam about things that bothered them. When electronics fail,You will need to be able to do a lot of business face-to-face. If you move your headquarters to an easily accessible area, like downtown main-street, or near a marketplace, everything may be easier. Unfortunately, messengers and face to face conversations require working transportation of some kind (as discussed below).

2. Building an emergency economy
You are going to have to set up some kind of economy to replace the crashed finance system. You are not going to be able to rebuild the crashed economy, but will have to build an entirely new system, almost from scratch. If you get this one wrong, everything else will fall apart very quickly. This is a huge undertaking, but it must be done quickly. You simply cannot use the existing financial system or hope to rebuild it. About 4/5ths of your town will need food and most of the town's food will be owned by a very few individuals or controlled by a store manager in the case of a corporate chain store. If you allow the market to "work itself out", these few store managers or individuals will suddenly control all the wealth and be able to charge people anything they see fit...or withhold critical resources as the whim takes them. Some people will have nothing of value in the new economy [except their labor]. How will these people buy what they need? "Money" is not the fiat currency we are used to dealing with. It is something of value exchanged for something else of value. Any finance system has to be able to allow people to exchange what they need for what they have or it will fail. In this example, the likely results might be a riot and immediate looting.

Mitigation: None possible? I don't know how you can prepare your town for a total financial crash. If anyone has a suggestion, I would love to hear it.

We might as well deal with this topic right away. Are you going to try to have a strictly capitalist system? If so, a lot of people who don't currently have exactly what they need, or anything that happens to be valued in your new economy, are going to die. (More likely, they are going to revolt and try to take the resources they need.) A free market is a wonderful thing, but it requires time, security and communication to form. You won't have any of these. People who don't have food won't wait long enough for you to form a fully functional free market system, which could take months or years. Without perceived equitable distribution of "wealth" in the form of whatever your community members need, you will have violence and mayhem very quickly. A free market capitalist trade system will never get a chance to form without a precursor system to hold it up until it gets established.

In my humble opinion (after seeing many different monetary systems over the years) there is no alternative to adding a very large socialist component to a post-collapse emergency economy. If you don't strictly regulate critical resources, they will not be distributed equitably and many people will needlessly suffer and perhaps die. Even if that's okay with you, consider what you would do in their shoes. Would you watch your family starve while there was food on the shelves down at the Wal-Mart? Not very likely. You might decide to gather some like-minded folks up and storm the Wal-Mart. If the police try to stop you, what will you do? You will fight to the death because there is no valid alternative. For that matter, the police force may be leading the charge. What are you planning to pay them with? Patriotism? Whoever controls the food and other scarce resources controls the reins of power. It simply cannot be left in the hands of random individuals.

To avoid total anarchy in a societal collapse, you will need to form a centrally controlled economy in the short term, designed to equitably re-distribute and manage critical resources. You will need to slowly build a free market as you are able, but trying to do it immediately will undermine everything you must accomplish during the crisis.

In order to form a centralized economy or even pay for the services the town is going to desperately need, you need to gain control of most of the "publicly available" critical shortage resources and use them as your basis of wealth. Scarce resources are the basis for a currency system. At a very basic level, Food is cash. Once you have a warehouse of food under your tight control, you can pay for labor and other commodities and resources with that food. A better system might be to pay for labor and services with "ration cards". That ration card entitles them to eat a single meal at a community soup kitchen, or entitles them to a set amount of grain or other commodity on demand from the town warehouse. In essence anyone needing community resources "works for the community" and gets to eat at the mess hall...and earns a little surplus to use for other necessities. This arrangement will also give you a huge manpower pool to work with almost immediately. You may find that you will need most of them.

Avoid giving "handouts" to anyone. You need everyone to work as hard as they can. You need them to use their incentive. Handouts that compete with the local economy are counterproductive and destroy human dignity.

Without machinery, manpower is your biggest resource. Cherish each unemployed citizen. Make them work for their pay and use them to build capital for the future (see below), food production, military duties, messenger services, trash collection or anything else that needs doing. Remember, these are not freeloaders, they are solid citizens who want to work and feel like they are part of a larger effort. Don't worry about having so many people on "welfare". Most of them will get to be self sufficient as fast as they are able. Pay them a slight surplus and they will feel that they are working toward something and not living hand to mouth. You may find that they invest the surplus and build your free market economy for you.

If you let private citizens keep their food and fuel and other scarce resources and only confiscate and control corporate or "large retail or wholesale stocks" (explained below), any citizen with resources can also hire help at roughly the same rates you are paying, which helps the whole community and drives down demand for public stockpiles. (You have established a minimum wage of 1 ration card per hour). Everything else could be bartered using food or the town ration cards as currency. If you establish a set value for your ration cards and a safe marketplace in town (perhaps even a market day, where other communities can join in the trading), you have the beginnings of a free market with as little pain as possible and almost no stink of socialism. Since food is established as the gold standard, you also add incentive to immediately start farming, hunting, and otherwise adding to the public larder.

So where do you get the resources you are going to control? I am not talking about collecting up everyone's food and gasoline. That would be an economic disaster in the long term. People need to feel secure in their property rights or they won't be willing to invest in the future. And you need a lot of private investment to get your community through the crisis. You will need to collect taxes later, but not until there is a harvest or something to collect.

You have to be careful which resources you initially confiscate and only gather large retail or wholesale stocks meant for re-sale. Anything owned by an individual for his own use is his property and must not be touched. Any critical and scarce commodity owned strictly for resale should be confiscated for the common good and held by the community. Make sure you provide a receipt to any owners you can locate or at least keep records of what is taken. This will allow much easier accounting if someone ever tries to rebuild the old

Our free enterprise system has provided the opportunity for some families and even individuals to amass huge fortunes. It also allowed groups of individuals to "incorporate" to form legal entities that own vast resources. In normal times, this is an overall goodness that generates wealth and (at least in theory) raises everyone's standard of living. In normal times, an individual is free to own thousands of acres of land and all the minerals under it. He is allowed to farm it, bulldoze it, burn it, deny it's use to others or use it pretty much any way he wants. It's almost certain that critical resources in your community are "owned" by a corporation or private investor. In theory, a single individual can legally "own" all the arable land in a community and prevent anyone from farming it, even if they are starving.

In an emergency, I feel that this cannot and must not be allowed. Moral imperatives and common sense must prevail over law in some rare cases and this is one of those cases. Private property for use by the individual is morally different from corporate property or privately owned property that is held for the "wealth" it generates. If someone "owns" something and has no intention of ever using it himself (or even seeing it), he cannot morally control it in an emergency. I believe that corporations are legal fictions that have exactly as much validity as the rest of our complex finance system. When the dollar crashes and all the banks close, (IMHO) they cease to exist in a moral sense.

Any corporate or investment property belongs to the state in an emergency. Did that sentence scare you? It does me. But I believe it will come to pass. The state has the ultimate responsibility to answer to the people and has legal power over all corporate entities. The government's charter (by constitution and a huge jurisprudence system) is to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare. In normal times, this is best accomplished by jealously guarding a clearly documented body of property rights for individuals and corporations. But this is not a universal law of nature. If corporate interests collide with public welfare needs, the government has the right and the responsibility to negate corporate or individual rights for the common good.

As mayor of a community, you are going to have to make some hard choices and convince others that you are right. One of these choices might be to confiscate corporate property and redistribute it as needed for the common good. That specifically includes local merchants who hold stockpiles of needed resources meant for resale, such as gas station and grocery store owners. The whole retail system with it's complex accounting and "ownership" laws are part of a finance system that no longer exists after a severe EMP event. You (and your community) need to sit down and determine a whole new set of ownership rules. I urge you to think hard about this and perhaps appoint someone wise and respected to arbitrate individual cases. Farmable land owned by a absentee landlord is easy; he's not there and owns it only as an investment, therefore it now belongs to the community. Large corporate holdings, like the stock of a chain department store are easy matters. That corporation is dead and gone and the goods now belong to the community. A large Agra-business hog farm is easy, confiscate the hogs and their feed. But what about a silo of corn owned by a Co-op of local farmers? What about a local farmer with 1,000 acres of standing corn clearly meant for commercial sale? What about a rancher with 100 head of cattle? You really have to be careful where you draw the line between private ownership and "retail goods", but draw it you must. Your new government is going to need a lot of capital to survive the tribulations coming.

3. Transportation and fuel
Your police and city vehicles may not work after an EMP event. In my opinion, the testing of EMP effects on vehicles outlined in the congressional EMP report "2008 Critical National Infrastructures Report" was flawed. Their simulator was only capable of generating 50kv EMP and only generated a E1 event, not the (perhaps) more damaging E3 wave. The cars were tested only until they exhibited a fault of some kind and then the testing was halted. Many of the vehicles showed some kind of failure or "faults" at lower voltages, but were never subjected to high voltage EMP, yet the conclusion includes these cars as having survived with no permanent damage.

Also, there is no reason to assume that 50kv is the upper limit in a real world HEMP event, it was simply the limit of the test gear available. I believe the test gear used was strongly influenced by the Master's degree thesis by Louis W. Seiler, Jr., "A Calculational Model for High Altitude EMP, report ADA009208". That thesis, while brilliant, computes E1 gamma burst for the peak EMP at ground zero for a burst above the magnetic equator, where the Earth's magnetic field is far weaker than it is at high latitudes (nearer the poles). Further North or South, the magnetic field lines converge (increasing the magnetic field strength). It's generally accepted that the peak EMP is almost directly proportional to the power of the Earth's magnetic field. That means that real world voltages in real world equipment may easily exceed 50kv. In fact we have some evidence of this. The Soviet above-ground warhead test #184 produced ground zero EMP intensity estimated by Soviet scientists at 350 kV. Also, remember that the cars used in the commission's testing were older cars build between 1986 and 2002. Have cars gotten more EMP resistant since then? No. My conclusion is simple. A lot of cars may not survive a real world event.

If a lot of vehicles survive, fuel stocks may be depleted almost immediately unless you take steps to protect them. I know this sounds draconian, but the police force and emergency vehicles should have priority for fuel and the only way to assure this is to implement some kind of rationing plan immediately. Fuel stocks are a public resource owned by private citizens. Once they are gone, your community may never get any more. This is a case where you are going to have to exercise some emergency powers and appropriate property from private citizens. If possible, you should "pay" for the fuel immediately. If you cannot, at least make sure you give the rightful owner a receipt so you can pay him back later if someone manages to re-build the economy.

Keep your town's vehicles in good shape and look into storing them inside a shielded garage when off duty. Being indoors may prevent some of the damage. If you are able to afford it, buy a reserve fuel supply for the police department. I don't know how much this would cost for a specific town, or how much fuel it should hold, but if you could somehow talk the town into the merits of a municipal reserve to last even a few weeks, it might someday prove very useful. If you bought two tanks, sized to last the police department a month or less, you wouldn't have any extra expense for fuel additives. You could rotate your fuel.

As distasteful as this is to Americans, I can't see any alternative likely to work. You need to seize and ration all bulk stocks of gasoline, Diesel, propane, fuel oil, coal and other fuels used or held by the town. The town will desperately need these fuels for heating, emergency services and agriculture. You may also be forced to confiscate privately owned vehicles if yours are damaged or you need specialty vehicles (like fuel tankers, for instance). You need to work out a method of doing this without stealing. Any time you confiscate resources from any private citizen, you need to somehow reimburse them as fairly as possible. A better approach may be to exclusively hire them as the driver and let them retain ownership.

Your town may also have a stream of refugees pouring through or past it from a nearby city. This is a very bad situation that has to be dealt with immediately. If they have access to your town's fuel stocks, they will drain every drop in a day or two. This may need to be your first order in an emergency. Every hour you delay may be critical. (Refugees are discussed below).

Another distasteful, yet lucrative opportunity you may have is to confiscate fuel (and other resources) from passing highway traffic. Whether you call this piracy or taxation, If trucks are still moving on the big highways, they may contain resources your town really needs to survive. I am not suggesting that this is a moral or desirable option, but someone in your community is bound to bring it up. Think out your position in advance and be ready to argue your point. Personally, I believe that any interference in long range commerce or transportation is detrimental to all of society and also undermines the very laws that prop up your own authority. No matter what you call it, the act of a government stealing is a slippery slope.

4. Water and sewage

Modern towns are very wasteful of water, but can't survive without it for more than a few days. Most people have never thought about how to purify water or deal with waste. If you don't do something quickly, a lot of your citizens are going to start defecating outdoors and many of your citizens are going to drink unsafe water. The results will be catastrophic in terms of public health.

Your town may be in good shape, but probably not. You will want to get some expert advice on this immediately. Many towns rely on pumped water, often from towers in or near the town. If so, you have a few days until the tanks run dry. You will need to figure out a way to keep this system going if you can. You still need to add chlorine and get the water high enough to maintain water pressure. If the machinery for doing this is broken, you need to set a crew working on water immediately.

Some towns won't be able to keep their water flowing and will have to use extreme measures to provide water for their people and deal with wastes. You may have to haul water to a central point and purify it manually, or even set up public latrines and wash points. Without ready supplies of water, most private residences are going to be uninhabitable in the long run. The folks with homes you cannot supply may need to move closer to your water point.

Talk to your water providers now and get them thinking about it so they can come up with options for you. Ask them to do a formal assessment of your town's situation and resources and suggest mitigation strategies for emergencies. What do they need to manually run their system during a power outage? If they can't run manually, you might consider buying a backup generator to run pumps and machinery. (Make sure you budget for a good Faraday cage to protect this generator and keep it disconnected and keep all cables inside the cage until needed). You may need to stockpile fuel or extra chemicals or buy extra equipment that can be run manually. If your town can't afford any of this, You may need to buy some mobile water tanks for the town. Any of these preparations could be very useful during a whole range of situations and natural disasters.

These will depend on your town's system. But you need to keep your eye on the ball. You need to provide at least a gallon of water per resident every day, just to keep them alive. You will need much more than that to keep them healthy in the long run. You also need to tell the community how to get pure water and warn them against drinking or using tainted water. Is your area dependent on irrigation agriculture? You will need to figure out how to supply that water too.

5. Solid waste disposal and burial of dead.
Without fuel, trash collection and burial can be very laborious. These problems would be a lot simpler if everyone lived within easy walking distance of town, but unfortunately this is almost never the case in the US. You may need to solve this by distributing simple instructions on how to do it using old-school techniques. Old homesteaders had an outhouse to deal with sewage, a compost pile to deal with organic waste and a burn barrel (or fireplace) to get rid of burnables. Anything else, they threw in the "trash pile" out back. (The solid trash pile for non-rotting, non-burnable trash was often a used outhouse cesspool, which was then covered over with dirt). On the bright side, municipal rubbish volumes are going to diminish and be replaced mostly with compost-able plant waste. Anything that can be recycled and reused, like old cardboard boxes will be treasured and kept. Our throw-away society will be over.

Burial and funeral services used to be handled very locally at the neighborhood church or even on your own property. Embalming and cremation are modern innovations that will be too expensive to maintain. [JWR Adds: The only exceptions will be in heavily-timbered regions or in coastal communities that are in driftwood deposition zones. There, perhaps there will be plentiful firewood for use in outdoor cremation pyres.] You will need your medical people to oversee and recommend procedures for burial. Make sure they consult the church leaders or you may make problems for yourself.

Actions: Check with a local doctor and have him recommend procedures for waste disposal. Find a way to distribute them and encourage people to follow the procedures by explaining why.

6. Food. (Short term provisioning)
This is going to be a real problem. You need to provide some minimum of calories and nutrition for all your citizens until the community can grow (and the free market can distribute) all the food needed by the community. This is going to be a tall order. Most people don't store a substantial amount of food in their homes and will quickly be dependent on town stocks. Most of the food in most communities is owned by very few people or corporations.

The only way you are going to save a substantial percentage of your population over the short term is to gain control of and ration most of the food centrally. You are going to have to locate and safeguard as much food as possible. you will need to establish a warehouse of some sort and guard it well. Pre-historic villages and other primitive cultures always locate their food stocks in the center of their living space to ensure it is guarded. This might be a wise choice. You may be able to use a church, school or other public building close to the town center for this purpose. If that building also has a substantial kitchen and cafeteria that you can get working again, it will save a lot of transportation problems.

Don't be shocked if your town is forced to fight some other town to keep the food you stockpile. Historically, when food gets scarce, communities fight and take what they need. Be ready for this behavior. I would station my police force inside my granary, in the center of town if possible.

Sources of food you can confiscate or otherwise control:

a. Department stores and food stores: Large food stores are the most obvious place to look for food. They will not last long whether you confiscate the food or not. People are going to either buy or loot everything in a matter of days or even hours. Unfortunately retail stores don't maintain much stock these days. If it's not on the shelves, it's probably not in the back room either. With modern stocking practices, nobody maintains a well-stocked warehouse on site anymore. The non-refrigerated foods should all be salvageable, but if you hurry, you might be able to make use of much of the frozen foods and fresh produce or even salt some away using other preservation techniques before it goes bad.

b. Co-ops and large commercial farms: These may have livestock and large amounts of feed grain and other dried foods on hand. Whoever manages these establishments are also probably experts at food preservation, storage and a whole range of agricultural issues. Seek them out and get their input and help to secure their food. You want to avoid spoilage and loss as much as possible and these people can help. Hire them. You may need to keep the grain right where it's at (and guard it) or provide power (if possible) to dry out the grain or you may need to provide manpower to manually harvest crops. Listen to your experts.

c. Feed stores: Most animals in your community are going to have to be slaughtered during the first year. Save as much edible feed as possible for human consumption. Most feed mixes are good for humans to eat. Even the big bags of dog food should be preserved. You will probably need them. They are mostly grain and if ground into flour and thoroughly cooked, all of them are safe to eat. Alfalfa pellets and other "non-human-food" products may be used to feed livestock.

d. Pet stores. Bird seed is nothing but grain and oil seeds. Most pet foods are edible and should be saved for human consumption. The issue of what to do with pets is going to be a hard one, but logic dictates that the community refrain from using up useful food stocks on animals unless they add substantially to the local economy. However, keep in mind that people get very emotional about their pets. If you try to get people to give up their animals, they may lynch you. (Your commissary should sell the pet foods, just like they do people food. If the pet owners work hard enough to support their animals, you should not try to get heavy handed. Any other approach will put you at odds with part of your population.)

e. Regional distribution centers: If you are fortunate enough to have one or more of these in your reach, you should act immediately to secure them. These centers typically have very substantial stocks of food on hand. Unfortunately, much of this food requires refrigeration and will go bad very quickly. The centers with dried and canned goods will be in big demand very quickly, so you need to dispatch work parties (with lots of trucks) as quickly as you can organize them.

f. Standing commercial crops: Depending on the season, one of the first tasks you need to tackle may be to help farmers with their harvest or planting or other tasks. Modern farms are only manageable with the aid of heavy machinery. Without this machinery, even routine tasks are not possible. Without combines, farmers couldn't possibly complete their own harvests. Without security of some kind, their crops may never make it to maturity. Refugees would strip them bare without your help. You can strike a deal with farmers to bring in their crops and help in return for some kind of payment in kind or a cut of their crop and others in the area. (Remember, most farmers are mono-crop farmers with little use for 60 tons of corn with no market). They may be more interested in what you can provide in the form of machinery, power or labor. Talk to them, explain your situation and strike a deal that benefits both of you.

g. Lakes and rivers: Fishing resources are very limited, but important sources of food in many areas if you can protect them. You need to prevent poachers from destroying their production capacity by over-fishing (maybe with dynamite) or polluting water resources.

h. Bakeries and food processing plants: Processing plants usually have very limited stocks of food on hand, but may have quite a lot depending on what they are making. They may also have usable machinery that can be converted to use.

i. Colleges, Libraries and bookstores. These don't contain food, but they contain knowledge about foraging for wild plants. You may be able to extend your resources by sending out forage parties to collect locally growing wild resources. If you get lucky, you might be able to gather a large harvest of acorns or maple seed or some other highly prolific food species. Appoint someone (maybe a survivalist or old hippie) as "wild food forager" and cross your fingers.

Things to watch for are large grain mills and industrial cooking equipment. You may also find water pumps, power generation equipment, specialized vehicles, lathes, mills, presses and other industrial tools. If you can repair the EMP damage, power them and get them working, they can speed the recovery of your community and really enhance your economy.

Actions: Appoint a good commissary officer. Someone is going to have to oversee collection, storage and disbursement of not only food supplies but fuel, tools, fertilizers, seeds and other resources. Your commissary officer needs to be a very smart, honest person and he or she will need a fairly large staff. They are going to have broad powers, so find somebody that is morally good. Whoever you appoint needs excellent people skills and the meticulous attention to detail of a banker. This same person is really in charge of your whole economy and will probably be in charge of printing currency if you use it. A bank manager might be a good choice. If you have political opposition in the community, this is an excellent place to put them if they are up to the job. Once they are "holding the baby" they will be on your side and won't be able to accuse you of any misbehavior.

7. Heat and shelter:
When winter hits, you may be faced with a grave heating fuel shortage. People staying in private homes may not have access to heating fuel at all. The town council is probably going to have some number of refugees to care for and they require heat too. Your community may use oil, gas, wood or something else for heating and each of them pose their own problems. You will need to think this issue out in the context of your own community situation and come up with some kind of solution. The most efficient solution, of course is to co-locate everyone in a few larger buildings and heat them at 65-68 degrees. Setting up a shelter has it's own problems, but it's easier than trying to heat 500 single family shelters. The public shelter model of setting up in a big gymnasium can work, but it provides a very efficient vector for respiratory and other diseases. If you can provide each family (or multiple families) with a classroom or office room of their own, they will be much more comfortable and resistant to diseases.

Providing a warm place to sleep may be all you can manage. Some homes are going to be difficult or impossible to heat once the power grid goes down and the oil trucks stop delivery. You should make every effort to conserve liquid fuels that will be needed for spring planting and emergency machinery.

Mitigation: Location specific. You may be able to encourage your citizens to switch over to an alternate fuel source (like wood, if your community has a lot of forests nearby). Stockpiling fuel for the town may be a good idea if you can afford it, but this is a temporary solution. Look around your town for some suitable shelter buildings and food storage facilities and check out their heating and ventilation equipment. You may be able to improve your chosen buildings or buy alternate heating systems for them within your budget constraints. Laying in a large supply of cots and blankets is a good idea.

Actions: You should immediately set up a shelter and cafeteria of some kind after the emergency. Schools are probably your best choice for this. You will probably have homeless almost from the start, so you need to get this done quickly. Home fires are bound to be more common and some people who live too far from town will need to move closer to the cafeteria. The more people you can get to move into your shelter, the easier it will be to heat. (Each human radiates roughly the same heat as a 100 watt light bulb. It adds up fast.) Make things easy on yourself and appoint someone competent (a school principal for instance) to administer your lodging and cafeteria. The principal already has a staff dependent on the city payroll. You will probably have to feed your teachers and school staff anyway, so hire them to administer your shelters. Administration of a shelter is a big, frustrating job, so make sure you appoint someone level headed to oversee this effort.

8. Security and public order:
Whatever your town's current situation, you will probably need to greatly expand your security forces. In fact you will probably need an Army. During normal times, your town doesn't have it's own foreign policy or the need to defend itself. With a general society collapse, that changes. Your town will need the ability to fight off raiders or even other communities.

a. Some of your own civilian population is going to get unruly. Even a small percentage acting up can overwhelm your current police force. You need some way to punish them and bring them in line. Jails are inefficient and expensive and not very effective at curbing bad behavior. I suggest a simpler system of corporal punishment (whipping or caning) and for serious infractions or repeat offenders, expulsion from the community. Find a judge or other competent person to set up a simple system of justice that fits your circumstances, take a vote at a town meeting to get public buy-in and then appoint someone to run it. Your police force should be distanced from both judgment and punishment. Judgment and punishment should be accomplished by a different group, perhaps a randomly selected jury or something equally simple and fair.

b. You are going to have additional requirements for officers (or someone) to act as "messengers" to put out policies and community information. Without electronic communications, much more of your business has to be done in person.

c. You are almost certain to have extensive guard duty requirements. You will need to provide point security for foodstocks, livestock, roadblocks and critical resources like fuel, power generation, etc. Your uniformed police force is too valuable to bog down with these security positions. You need to hire out of work locals to augment them with a reliable guard force. (I recommend handing this responsibility over to your military...see below).

d. You may need to put a 24 hour presence at roadblocks or traffic control points to divert refugees away from your town. (see below for a discussion of refugees).

e. You may face a threat from outside polities. If so, you will need an Army or you will be destroyed. You may have to mobilize the entire population to fend off other communities. (see below for a discussion of inter-community politics.)

Your security forces are your "face" to the community. They will represent the town and embody your decisions and authority. You need to keep a tight reign on your police forces or some of them are going to be tempted to take unwarranted liberties and abuse their authority.

One of your first actions should probably be to call your security forces and emergency responders together and reaffirm your covenant with them. You need to reassure them that they are still going to be paid and their families taken care of. You need to get buy-in from them and make them feel they are part of something important and bigger than mere survival. Let them know your plans and your thoughts as clearly as possible so they can represent you well. You should also let them know that you will tolerate no misbehavior. They are your knights and have to act the part.

You should also set up some kind of "military" arm to deal with extraordinary requirements. Call it a militia or a town guard or whatever you want. In essence it's an army. If you have any doubts about the loyalty of your police chief or sheriff, the military arm should report directly to you or one of your representatives rather than falling under the police. All of your authority rests on the shoulders of your security forces, so you can't tolerate any dissension in the ranks or misbehavior. Choose someone loyal and skilled with a military background and good people skills to head up your military. Hopefully you have a retired officer or senior NCO available. Whoever it is will have to be able to effectively give orders to perhaps hundreds of people in an emergency, so choose someone charismatic and smart. He will also need an excellent grasp of tactics and the ability to plan for small scale military operations. Let your military commander hire his own personnel, arm and train them and instruct your commissary and police force to assist him in anyway possible.

Your military commander's first task will be to do some kind of terrain analysis and COA products to determine how to defend the community and try to predict future issues. His second task will be to build an effective military force. It should probably be a small offensive force backed up by a larger irregular militia comprising most of the town. He will need to set up some kind of training program and be able to pay people to participate. Military training is hard work, so don't expect anyone to take it seriously or work at it if you are not paying them. You can put your military commander in charge of all the guard duty requirements to assist the police as well as messenger duties.

9. Foreign relations and refugees:
Every community is going to face the same challenges you have. I expect most of them will fail and fragment. I also expect a huge outpouring of refugees from every city in the USA. City based communities have huge challenges that small towns won't. They have limited options and maintaining order will be desperately hard, perhaps impossible. Every community and group of people are going to face terrible, unsolvable provisioning problems. The ugly truth is, most citizens of the USA are going to starve to death after a society crash. It's simple arithmetic. There will not be enough food for everyone to live. Even if most of them last through a whole season until the first harvest, there is no chance that the first [post-collapse] harvest is going to be bountiful enough to sustain everyone.

The following is going to read like science fiction [a la Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank], but I call em like I see 'em. If anyone can find a flaw in my analysis, then please tell me about it. I believe you can expect large polities to attempt to take resources from smaller ones. If you are the mayor of a city with 100,000 or more people, you have no other choice. During normal times, the countryside (agrarian areas) produce all the food consumed by cities. Once the provisions stop arriving, your city is going to starve very quickly unless you can procure more. Your normal sources of supply are perhaps a thousand miles distant and might as well be on the moon. Your actual chances of sustaining your population long term are zero. If you are a smart leader, you will attempt to save most of your people by sending them to other communities that have more food and water. If you are not so smart, you will attempt to take what you need to keep going from the surrounding countryside and small nearby communities. The best a small community can hope for is that all the large polities (cities) nearby will fail and fragment quickly. If they don't the small communities may be forced to take in refugees or surrender food stocks to support the cities. Either way, the city people are mostly doomed, but if this occurs, so are the small communities.

A medium sized city could potentially muster an enormous army. I am not saying every city is going to manage the level of cohesion, organization and discipline needed to do this, but it's at least a possibility in some cases, especially for cities that have a military base nearby. You also need to consider smaller polities like boroughs or neighborhoods or even church congregations making demands on your community. How will you react when the mayor of a nearby town or city asks you for provisions?

Another probable development I expect to see is the "professional army". Groups may attempt to provision themselves by threatening small communities and extorting "protection" from them. This is another layer of taxation you probably can't afford, but if you choose not to pay, you must be prepared to fight. Think about it and make sure you discuss your concerns with your security leadership so they can form plans.

You can also expect to see a large stream of refugees pouring out of heavily populated areas. If they have vehicles, they will move outward from the cities along major roadways until they can't get more fuel and then stop. If the finance systems are still working, this refugee stream may burn up most of the available liquid fuel in the USA in a few days. If your community lies on a major line of drift, you can expect to have many thousands of thirsty, hungry refugees knocking at your door hoping for a handout. These are going to be US citizens, mothers and fathers, sons, daughters, and grandparents who are desperate and begging. If begging stops working, they will get hostile and dangerous. Maybe very dangerous.

I know this is a very disagreeable topic, but almost every refugee is doomed and you are powerless to change that fact. Think it out carefully and you will see that you simply cannot feed everyone. You are going to have to prevent refugees from consuming your community resources or you will perish with them. You need to stop the stream of refugees from entering your community. Once they are inside your community, they will exponentially harder to deal with. Effectively killing someone by evicting them from your town while looking them in the eye and listening to them beg is going to be hard to do. If you get soft hearted and let too many stay, you will be condemning your community to slow death by starvation. Discuss this topic with your community leaders, especially your security leadership and make them see that there are no alternatives to a strict quarantine. You need to have a plan and execute it immediately or you may be overwhelmed within hours.

One final note on turning back refugees: Do it as far from town as you can. The refugees are going to be truly pitiful and seeing this level of misery will cause your community a lot of pain and distention. You need very hard men to man your line and you need to be careful to leave the refugees another place to go. Don't block a major road. Instead, block a turn-off. It's okay to be as humane as possible and provide water at the roadblock, but you simply cannot afford to give away food or medical supplies. The only people you can let into your town are town residents. All others will have to continue down the road. The men on your roadblock are going to crack up fast, so rotate them often and watch them. This will be the most traumatic thing they have ever had to do.

10. Long term provisioning:
You need to appoint someone to oversee food production. This should probably be completely separate from your commissary department. You need someone with expertise in farming and more specifically, small scale gardening. They need to organize and assist everyone in the community with planting their own gardens and teaching such basic topics as drying, pickling and canning produce. They will also have to oversee a lot of coordination to grow and harvest grain crops and figure out the most efficient ways to store surplus.

Mitigation: Heirloom seeds and fertilizers are going to be in very short supply. If you can somehow trick (or talk) your town into stocking up on these, perhaps as part of a 4-H or school project, your town will be much better off. If you have any say in public plantings for parks or landscapes, try to plant as many food bearing plants as possible. An apple tree is just as attractive as a pine or elm and produces fruit every year.

Actions: Every piece of arable land in the community needs to be planted with something edible ASAP. Without power machinery, this is going to be a real challenge. Every lawn and every empty lot should be dug up and worked in order to build soils, even if it's not planting time. Working leaf litter and plant materials into the plots needs to begin almost immediately. The "Garden Czar" will probably take up the lion's share of the spare manpower in the town just planting city owned lots. He will need to procure hand tools by the hundreds and garden seed, both of which may be in short supply. The tools can be loaned or rented to citizens as needed for their own plots and the seed will need to be rationed out carefully until a stock of good seed can be built up.

The town's citizens may have no horticultural knowledge or gardening skills and will likely not be conditioned for long hours of manual labor. The sooner they start getting their hands dirty the better. Try to hire some skilled gardeners to assist and advise your citizens with their own plots. Building a surplus and a working economy depends directly on their success at working small private gardens.

You may need to pass some resolutions about gardening to prevent land from sitting idle. You can't afford a scrap of idle land as long as you have any seeds left to put in the ground.

11. Building a manufacturing capacity. At some point, equipment and tools will begin to break down. Before that time, you need to establish a manufacturing base that can support your community.

You will eventually need a machine shop capable of founding, forging and machining metal parts and tools. You may need this immediately to repair critical equipment for pumping water or grinding grain et cetera A simple blacksmith shop will be needed to create plows and simple hand tools like hoes and scythes that you are likely to need. You may also need a small foundry and machine shop to create replacement parts for critical machinery. Keep a lookout for likely skilled individuals and hire them to build the town a metal working capability. [JWR Adds: As science fiction writer S.M. Stirling aptly pointed out in his Dies the Fire novel series, leaf springs from abandoned cars and trucks make ideal steel stock that can be used to re-forge into crossbows, plows, small hand tools, knives, and even swords. Leaf springs should be very plentiful for at least one or two generations in a truly post-collapse society.]

You should have someone begin building hand plows and other animal and human powered agricultural tools ASAP. You will need as many as your metal shop can manufacture and I guarantee you will be able to trade surplus plows to other towns within a few months.

You will eventually need to replace or repair clothing. You will have a long grace period while you go through existing stocks from department stores, but within a few years, you will need new fabrics. Appoint someone to worry about fabric production. How do you build a loom? In less than four years, you are going to need a source of fiber and a fabric production capability, especially in cold climates.

Other manufacturing capabilities may be needed as you go along. You may wish to set up a pottery shop or produce adobe brick for building materials or set up a sawmill for lumber and firewood. Brainstorm this with your staff or at a town meeting.

12. Preserving:
A lot of irreplaceable things are going to be destroyed or lost if you don't make some kind of effort to preserve them.

a. Animals: A lot of people are going to be very hungry. Most of them are going to die. I expect most species of large animals in the USA and Europe, including livestock, to be slaughtered for food until they are scarce or even extinct. Think ahead. You are going to need draft animals desperately in a few months. You simply must preserve as many animals capable of filling this role as possible. Dogs are peerless burglar alarms. Cats keep vermin numbers down. Once all the chickens are gone, where are you going to get eggs and poultry? Saving even a small breeding stock of all the useful animals in your community is going to be hard when people are literally starving to death all around you.

Actions: You are going to have to put livestock under guard or they won't last long. Someone will poach them. Any private farmer trying to keep livestock is going to find out just how sneaky hungry humans can be. Someone also needs to start training your working animals immediately. It takes time to produce a working plow team out of average untrained cows or horses.

b. Knowledge: If you don't take steps to prevent it, people will burn most of the books in your town for fuel. I recommend keeping your library open for business. Your town or local school libraries may turn out to be very important for both entertainment and reference.

c. Records: You need to secure public and as many private records as possible. Without them, repairing our current culture will be much more difficult. Birth records, tax records, bank records etc. All of these may have
tremendous value in the future.

d. Art and historical treasures: If your town has any, you should safeguard national treasures for future generations. The very fact that you are making this effort will send a powerful message to your citizens.

13. Medical:
Your existing health-care facilities and drug supplies need to be safeguarded quickly. You will have a very limited stockpile of opiates and other painkillers and mind altering drugs that will be very attractive to some
criminal (or simply addicted) elements of society. Every pharmacy and clinic in town should be carefully confiscated and put under guard. Don't forget the pet hospitals and veterinarian clinics. Appoint a doctor or pharmacist to oversee this effort and support them with whatever resources they require (if you can). Some drugs require refrigeration and may not be salvageable if they are ever warmed.

Hire as many doctors and nurses as possible and set up a public health clinic near the town center. Have them take charge of public health and start an outreach program for self help and public sanitation. If your town has vaccines available, you will probably want to use them up quickly before they go bad. Your community may be able to avoid a lot of misery and casualties if you organize your health care.

Have someone in your manufacturing base or commissary department work with them to replace or recycle medical supplies. Something as simple as a building wood-fired autoclave might be beyond the capability of your health care folks but easy for your artisans.

Also, hire as many pharmacists, chemists and any other scientists you can find. You probably won't have too many of these once they are all accounted for. If you have a few, don't be afraid of tasking them to do some very difficult tasks for you. They are very intelligent folks and can perform miracles if you challenge them. Challenge them to set up a lab and try to synthesize antibiotics, or opiates. Or challenge them to figure out how to improve agriculture in your town or synthesize liquid fuel for your vehicles, or explosives. They may surprise you with spectacular results. These folks are valuable property, so try not to use them as unskilled farm hands or guards. The same goes for engineers. Give them challenging work and have them tackle real problems.

I recognize that most of us are not mayors. We are probably not the ones who will be called on to shoulder the numbing responsibilities of command during a crisis. I really wouldn't care for that job, even in peacetime. When the balloon goes up, it will be hardest on the leaders. Your mayor and police chief will need help. As a prepper, you are in a position to provide that help. How many of the jobs that I mentioned above could you competently fill? I implore you to help them. Having you available as adviser (and commissary officer or military leader, experienced gardener, metal smith etc) could literally make the difference between life and death. Your efforts could make a huge difference to a lot of people.

If your community has any chance at all to survive, those odds will increase exponentially if your leaders have a well thought out plan and make good decisions. Community leaders will need to make timely decisions on a host of issues they have never considered and have the conviction to act ruthlessly. You, as a prepper, have the advantage of thinking about it ahead of time and working out all the details in your mind. That and the skills you have learned can allow you to make a real difference. Will you step up to the plate and try to save your whole community? It seems like a superhuman job and daunting for a mere human. But if anyone can do it, maybe it's you.

Win or go down swinging, - J.I.R.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I read your comments on The San Juan’s and Canadian Gulf Islands with interest. We have lived in the islands for 17 years now and have a fair amount of experience with the pro and con’s involved in being separated from the mainland. I liken it to being off grid in many ways. From the residents point of view we are dependent on the Washington State Ferry System for almost all of our consumer needs. This is fine as long as they are running, which during normal times is not a problem. However from the prepper/survivalists point of view, it’s a mixed blessing. In a SHTF scenario there will be no food, fuel, medical supplies etc. available in the quantities needed to support our population, however there will also be no transportation for the “Golden Horde” either, unless they have a boat, assuming they can obtain fuel. Islanders are a self reliant and self sufficient lot. Most of us have gardens and fruit trees. Many raise chickens and small farm animals and produce food products for sale at our local Farmers Market. The surrounding waters contain Salmon, Crab, Oysters and Clams. Bottom fish are available but are endangered. Our part of the world is a wet one so there is ample water most of the time. There is a strong sense of community here and the Island credo is one of helping thy neighbor. Our shores are readily defendable and we have an air strip for emergency evacuation if it is necessary. Assuming one has laid away the necessary supply of food and other long term survival gear, I can’t think of a better place to survive whatever problems might be coming our way.

And in the event that there are no problems, it’s a great place to live either way. - Farmer Frank, The San Juan Islands, Washington

Friday, July 9, 2010

Last fall I was lucky enough to join a friend and his father on a hunting trip. It was their umpteenth trip into the woods, but my first. They had been going to the same place since my friend’s father had started hunting, almost 45 years ago.

We were hunting deer, and my friend and his father and both won in the lottery to hunt Does as well as Bucks.

(Note: they don’t use deer stands. It is more, “you cover this area and I’ll cover that area.” And while my friend and his father often just pick a spot and sit there all day long, I knew that I would be allowed to wander a fairly large area if I felt like, which I certainly intended to do).

I had asked for advice on what to bring and received plenty, so I was fairly well prepared. But like any survival situation, no kind of preparation compares to real experience. Though I’d grown up in a very rural area and had plenty of childhood experience roaming around the bush behind my parent’s house, I was ill-prepared for reality.

When you’re sitting in your cozy home, exercising on your treadmill, filling your bug-out bag in preparation for a volatile future, keep in my mind experiences as I list them here. Based on my very first hunting excursion, here we go:

  1. The forest is not your neighborhood park – Walking 100 yards through the park might take you 30 to 60 seconds. Walking 100 yards through the wilderness could take you 30 to 60 minutes. This is not a joke and I’m not exaggerating. Every step is negotiated; every branch on every bush or tree is tugging at your clothes. Every pound in your backpack is pulling you backward and downward. You’ve got a gun in your hands but you’re constantly grabbing branches to push them out of your way, or for balance. Not to mention that you’re constantly watching for movement around you, whether it’s for dangers or for food. You stop, listen, muscles aching. Trudge forward a few steps, stop again.
  2. You’re carrying too much – No, don’t argue with me. You’ve got too much in your backpack, in your pockets, in your hands, on your head. 40lbs on your back feels like 100lbs when you’re in the wilderness (See point #1 above). I know because I’ve trained in my local park with 60lbs on my back. That was easy. The wilderness is not. Pare down your backpack until you’ve got what you really need. There have been umpteen articles on backpack prep, so I won’t cover it here. Suffice to say that the 2 pellet guns I was carrying were left at base after day one.
  3. You have to be in shape – Every day of our hunting trip started with a 2km hike up a big hill with a net ascension of 120 meters. Then the real work started. If your bugout plan involves “heading to the hills”, and there’s a chance it might involve foot power, you better be ready for it. If you think you are ready, try this: grab your bugout bag and go to the nearest set of stairs that is at least 1 story high. Now go up and down 30 times. Did you make it? If you didn’t, you’re not ready. If you did, are you flat on your face trying to catch your breath? Because that’s still not good enough. Because now you have to do it another 30. Remember, just because it might be a nice straight, flat walk to your destination, doesn’t mean you will be able to take that preferred route during TEOTWAWKI. Be ready.
  4. The wilderness is not teaming with food – The neighborhood where I live is rife with wildlife. Every morning when I take my 4km walk, I see 5-6 rabbits, a dozen squirrels, umpteen birds. I often see raccoon or other small game remains on the roads. After 5 days in the wilderness, I saw perhaps 2 squirrels in all that time (and one deer). I know there are more about, especially nocturnal animals, but don’t expect to bag a dozen squirrels and rabbits a day with your .22 while you’re wandering along to your hidey hole.
  5. Getting lost is easy – I know, you’ve heard it before. It’s so easy to get turned around, you’ll do it in about 10 steps. That’s why, every 10 steps, look behind you and see where you’ve come from. Identify your land marks. Oddly, one of the easiest things to identify are animal trails. I began marking off my territory based on deer trails that crisscrossed the area. Which leads to my next point:
  6. Know your geography – I knew that if I traveled east far enough, or west far enough, I would hit water in either direction. I knew what it meant if I traveled south by either of those water ways. I knew where the highest point in the area was, and I knew what I would see if I traveled too far north. When in doubt, go up - There’s less chance of getting turned around; you’ll have a better view of your surroundings; you’ll stay out of wet areas; it’s a lot easier coming down.
  7. Be prepared for inclement weather – I have a Columbia winter coat that I’ve used for about 12 years. It was about $300 when I bought it, which seemed pretty steep at the time, but I splurged because I thought it would last, and it has. It’s also water resistant, and I’ve never had to worry about being caught in wet conditions with it.


On the first day of our hunting trip, though it had snowed heavily the night before, the weather report was for a clear sunny day, and clear sunny days for several days beyond. Temperatures were around freezing (0C/32F), so I wore my coat anyway as I wanted to be prepared for anything. About mid-morning, as the sun was rising, and I was enjoying one of the most beautiful mornings I’ve ever witnessed, with the light shining through snow-laden trees, I was beginning to think I should have left my coat at home. Because heck, my pack was heavy, what with extra pellet guns and all. But then the snow started melting. And it started raining. Yes, raining. It started slowly, just a drip-drip at a time, then it came down heavy. All that snow melted and rained on me for a solid 2 hours. Thank God I had my coat, because I would have been drenched in no time in very cold temperatures.

  1. Use quality gear – Back to the coat. Branches, bushes, sticks, all tugged on my poor coat every where I went. I even fell down a couple times, slid across the ground, scraped across rocks. I expected my coat to be in tatters by the end, but it held up great, in fact it doesn’t have a scratch on it now. The wilderness is not a forgiving environment, on you or your clothes. Don’t use garbage that won’t last the first day. I’ll mention a few other quality items I carry:

The knife – I know, I know. Another item talked about ad nauseam. But it’s just so important. I carry a Fallkniven S1, which I also used to gut my first deer. It is easily the best, sharpest knife I have ever used. After about 20 seconds of gutting, my friend said, “Holy cr** that’s a sharp knife.” (He has been hunting for 20 years).  These knives aren’t for looks (though it looks great too, imo), but it’s a quality survival knife if there ever was one.

A compass – I don’t carry a great compass. I carry 3 lesser ones. They all do a good job, or more importantly, they agree with each other. I will buy a quality compass to compliment my collection when funds permit.  When I was hiking around getting a feel for the land, I was checking a compass about every 30 seconds - way more often than I anticipated.

7-strand paracord – So many uses it’s ridiculous. I carried about 30 feet of it. Next time I will up that to 50’, maybe 100.

Boots – Wolverine Impala 600 Thinsulate.  Another item I won’t skimp on. My feet run hot, so 600 is more than enough. Waterproof, tough as tough, but nice and comfortable.  Keep your toes moving.

Leatherman Juice X – Not only is this a great survival tool, but I keep it on my hip for everyday use. And I use it, every day. My friends are so used to seeing it, they always ask to borrow it too.

And, of course, the garbage:

Backpack – I had a cheap backpack that carried a bunch of stuff. It was uncomfortable to wear, especially with a lot of weight in it. It was hard to adjust the straps, in fact a couple of them broke on day one, and threads were coming out all over.

As soon as I got back home, I ran out and purchased a Redhead Hybrid Illuminator Pack. It’s very functional, versatile, and comfortable. My shoulders thank me.

Thermos – On the first day, my two companions carried thermoses with coffee, and I was annoyed I hadn’t thought to bring my own. Mid-morning on that day, I really wished I had a couple cups of coffee to lift my spirits, because, as I mentioned above, it was raining on me pretty hard.

At the end of the 1st day I drove to the local Wal-Mart and picked up a thermos of my own. As we trudged through the woods on day 2 and I was thinking happily how much I was going to enjoy a nice cup of coffee, I accidentally bumped my pack against a tree. The sound of broken glass inside my thermos was unmistakable. As was the smell of coffee that leaked out of the thermos and drenched everything in my (cheap and non-water resistant) backpack.

Did I really need the extra weight of a thermos full of coffee, when I was already carrying a water bottle? Well, if you can put up with the extra weight, it sure is a spirit lifter. I think next time I will carry some coffee grounds and a filter and make it on the spot. Best of both worlds.

  1. Always carry a medical kit and keep your medical training up to date – I used several band-aids during my 5 days in the wilderness, which isn’t much really. But a week back from hunting, I came across a bad car accident that had happened only a couple minutes before. When I got on the scene there was an elderly lady lying in a deep ditch and a bunch of by-standers were running around clueless as to what to do. So I went and helped the lady. There wasn’t anything seriously wrong with her. Her chest and back were both sore. So after primary and secondary survey, I made sure she was warm, held her hand, and talked to her for 20 minutes until the ambulance arrived. The point of this should be obvious: not all medical emergencies happen where you expect them to. Always be ready.
  2. Plan your meeting points with specific times – Our day always started with, “I’ll see you at spot A at this such-and-such time. If I don’t see you there, I’ll see you at spot B at such-and-such-later time. If I don’t see you there, I’ll see you at  Spot C at such-and-such-later time. If I don’t see you there at that time, then stay right where you are because I’m coming to find you.” This was usually aimed at me, the new guy, but it was for the whole group. It would have reversed if I had made all the meeting times but my friend or his father didn’t. Not only is this good procedure to follow, it’s a great peace of mind for someone like myself out in an unknown wilderness for my first time.
  3. Electronic Communication – Don’t count on it. Our radios and cell phones were constantly in and out because of rugged terrain and distance. Have a backup plan for when you can’t communicate with your group. Always carry a whistle. When I had shot my first deer and was trying to guide my friend to me over the radio, for an aggravating 10 minutes, I eventually gave up and just started blowing my whistle. He found me less than a minute later. And marveled about how far he had been traveling off course based on my guidance.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The recent submission by K. in Florida left me scratching my head in disbelief. I don't know if his wife thinks shaving her legs after TEOTWAWKI will be important, but I absolutely don't intend to shave mine. Nor do I think spare car parts will be important. Folks are thinking in terms of Pre-TEOTWAWKI rather than Post-TEOTWAWKI. This way of thinking is just plain wrong, IMHO. Let's face it, we can only imagine how things will be. We don't know how things will be. But I seriously doubt that anybody will be needing replacement parts for his car -- because there won't be any place worth going. And if there was a place worth going, it might not be smart to drive there. Odds are that stores will be looted and trashed almost immediately, so a trip to town for supplies could become a ride into barbarism on a grand scale. Better to stay away. Besides, there will be plenty of abandoned cars for the taking, no replacement parts needed and nobody to respond to the car alarm..

Anybody trying to maintain cattle after the fall of Western Civilization will be greatly disappointed, I suspect. Cattle are a lot of work under the best of conditions. They don't do well if left to their own devices, and they need supplements to maintain their health. Who will have adequate time and materials to maintain a healthy herd after all hell breaks loose? Perhaps goats would be more practical. They'll eat almost anything and they don't need a lot of care. Goats can be milked, hitched to carts for transporting small loads, and they make lots of noise when danger comes around. Plus, they can be stewed, fried, baked, and barbequed. Their hides can be made into gloves, moccasins, and knapsacks. In the US, rather than raising cows (or sheep), raising native animals seems like a no-brainer. The American bison or the Rocky Mountain Elk have a better chance of living off the land, and they are far less subject to predation when fully grown. Many elk herds are already raised on mini-ranches in Idaho. Even California has a few privately owned bison ranches. These animals are being raising domestically today, so it isn't a stretch to think they can be raised by survivalists tomorrow. [JWR Adds: The fencing requirements for elk and bison are tremendous, compared to cattle, sheep, or goats. Therefore, it is not realistic for most of us to be able to afford to fence a true pasture area for these critters. And supplemental feeding with hay brings with its own large set of requirements--a hay mower, hay wagon, hay storage, tack ,harness, and trained draft animals, (or fuel)!] Think about the native fauna that inhabits your area and study their needs. Then develop a plan for raising them if commercially available today. Bobwhite quail, grouse, and turkeys can be penned and raised for food. Since they're indigenous species, they'll thrive in their own environments. They are available from breeders who will ship them anywhere it's legal to do so. Even some non-native fowl do well in the US and they make good eats -- chukar, pheasant, Guinea fowl, and pea fowl. Pea fowl are terrific as alarm animals and as Sunday supper. Guinea fowl had been a staple farmyard species as recently as the 1950s. They have regained some popularity in the past 10 years where Lyme Disease is prevalent because they eat adult ticks, among other pests. I'd think of these bird species before I'd think of chickens because they have better survival instincts.

Successful hunting and fishing forays are not sure things today. Expecting to have success at hunting and fishing when everybody else has the same idea will be even less productive tomorrow. The most numerous animals in the USA today are domestic dogs and cats. Their populations far exceed whitetail deer, black bears, and feral pigs combined. And they breed more often and more successfully than the aforementioned species. So, doesn't it seem far more logical to plan on trapping, snaring, and/or shooting feral dogs and cats for fresh meat rather than on taking wild game? As long as they weren't your family pets, it shouldn't bother you to snuff 'em and stuff 'em. A dog gone feral can be a dangerous animal. Better to eat it before it eats your child. Feral cats will decimate many native species of small game and birds if humans don't decimate them first. Keep your pet cat as a mouser for the barn, but don't hesitate to view the neighbors' cats-gone-wild as lunch.

We have been taught through PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, and other groups that eating horse meat is akin to eating something sacred or even a part of the family. Balderdash! Horse meat kept many a Native American, trailblazer, and westward pioneer alive and strong 150 years ago. A person can ride a horse, eat a horse, and use a horse for burden work. Horses need attention, but they are more versatile than cattle. Think outside the box, there is more to flesh than cows and sheep. There are goats, horses, dogs, cats, rats, snakehead fish, and even exotic animals that morons have released into the environment when they grew tired of them. Throw a reticulated python or boa constrictor on the grill and chow down.

The most difficult thing to wrap our minds around is that The End of the World As We Know It is just that - the end of the old and the beginning of the next. We must stop thinking in ways that mimic today and we must start thinking in ways that anticipate the new reality. We have to think about getting back to basics, about dropping the emotional attachments we have to things and animals, and about making do with less. We can't take it with us if it means slowing us down, jeopardizing our safety, or wearing us out trying to defend it.

In TEOTWAWKI, less may actually be more. After all, civilization began with a dull rock and a sharp rock - one for smashing and one for cutting. That's all we really need to start again, and that may be all we can salvage. Don't let our relatively comfortable lives of today control our thinking about tomorrow. We must think more like the Indians, the pioneers, and the mountain men did. In other words, Keep It Simple Survivalist (KISS). To think otherwise may be our undoing. - Wry Catcher in Northern California

Friday, May 28, 2010

So since the balance of power change in the Federal Government I thought I was sitting pretty good for my ability to survive a possible TEOTWAWKI . Man was I so wrong. I have learned in the past three months that I am so far behind that if The Collapse happens in 20 years I will still not be as prepared as I thought I was.

Yes I have some basics and am a bit off of the beaten path, but there is still so much more that I am not ready for. Let me explain. I have lived in Hurricane Alley my entire life and have always made sure I and my family could get by for up to a week on our own. But, after meeting a few survivalists and reviewing their plans, be it G.O.O.D. or hunker down, I see how woefully unprepared I am. I have bullets band aids and some beans, but not enough. So I thought I would write about where to go from here. And list the things that I know I should have when or if the Schumer Hits the Fan.

First off, I have 10 acres of land most wooded with yellow pine and some white oak. It has a pond that is fed by a small spring. Briers grow just fine so I have blackberries in the summer along with plenty of wild blueberry trees. But, no much in the way of a garden plot. Not that it matters much as I have a hard time getting ordinary grass to grow. So the first thing I need to do is learn how to grow a garden.

Hunting is not much of a hobby for me but I can do it and am able to access plenty of deer and wild boar on and near my property so I should be set there. The pond has a few catfish and bream in it so I will be able to supplement there. The current plan is to continue to stock the pond and feed the fish as time passes. I am thinking of buying a few cattle and letting them graze on unused areas of my property. I can do that with minimal cross fencing and a place for them to get shelter. This would be an easy thing to do as except for the cows I have that stuff already to take care of the shelter and fencing.  The biggest problem is keeping them in water so I would have to grant access to the pod for them after The Collapse. Now I do have a place to clean any animals that I kill and can do it so I should be fine there. I would recommend anyone reading this to learn how to do it themselves if they do not know how. This can be a skill easily learned by even the youngest of children so get on it if you have not yet done so.

I have a small stock of barter goods and am adding to them every chance I get. I have learned that the internet is a valuable resource in this respect. I posted a few well placed wanted ads on Craig’s list and got a supply chain started. Also registering with storage shed companies so I can attend their abandoned property auctions helps too. The stuff I do not want or need goes to a flea market to recoup losses or to local charities to help out there. I have further found several other auction sites that sell off surplus government items and bid there as well for items I want. I missed out on an entire pallet of MREs by just a few dollars on one site. The special thing about those ones were that they are the ones not for military use so they are quite a bit more appetizing for delicate palettes. That reminds me. If you have kids. Open up a pack of MREs. Treat it like a prize pack from a box of Cracker Jacks. My 10 year old daughter loves eating them now. When she first heard my buddy and me talking about them she was less than thrilled. Now she asks to take one for lunch at school every so often. How cool is that?

Now for vehicles. I have a diesel powered Chevy four wheel drive one ton.  The drawback there is it is a 1994 so it has the electronic injector pump. They furthermore have a reputation for snapping crankshafts. I am looking to get an extra motor to store for it and an extra fuel pump drive module. I would seriously recommend finding older vehicles as proposed in "Patriots" (by Mr. Rawles). I have a 1986 Dodge Ramcharger that was my previous [primary] vehicle and I am extremely capable of any repairs that it may need in the future. Stock pile extra belts, hoses, starters, alternators, ignition coils, voltage regulators, water pumps, antifreeze (for colder climates), oil, transmission fluid, wiper blades (you only have to see to drive so you can expand their use time) and the other such items for future repairs. This thought was with me because of my “day job.” It is important to new preppers to think of such things. Whatever vehicles you own get at least a Chilton’s Repair manual, but preferably a Factory Service Manual. No, do not get the ones on compact disc for your computer. How would you propose accessing it post Collapse? They can be found with ease on eBay for around $50 to $100 each. Tools are not an issue for me since my hobby is wrenching on cars. But, for newbies … get a good set of Craftsman, Matco, or Snap-On tool kit. You need sockets, wrenches, ratchets, Allen tools, screwdrivers, pliers, wire cutters, pipe wrenches, sand paper, emery cloth,  floor jack, jack stands, engine lifting device (a tree limb and a come along will get the job done), chains, the list is almost endless.  Duct tape, rolls of wire, electrical tape and connecters would be things to have also. I now think a different way. Just think about anything you buy. Ask yourself the following question; “What if there was no way to ever get another one of these ever again?” Get extras if you can for future bartering and charity. That goes without saying on most things we are looking to have. Want to save money on this stuff? Go to flea markets, estate sales, yard sales, auctions, etc to get them.

More on tools; now that I think about it. Edged items for one example.   You need knives, axes, razors, scissors, etc. Do you know how to sharpen them? I do. Be sure you have the equipment to do it by hand. You need files, whet stones and leather strops to do a decent job. Remember that you are wearing away the metal so you need extras of the edged items. I also have several multi-tool items. I got them at Dick’s Sporting Good Stores when they were having a clearance sale one day. Remember that certain knives are for certain jobs. A fillet knife is not a butcher knife. Try to buy knives that are multi-use items instead of specialty items. Leave out ones like paring knives for an example. Are you really going to be making display boats out of watermelons? I think most likely not after The Collapse. 

Personal hygiene stuff. I just got done shaving and realized; am I going to grow a beard after The Collapse? I have to get stuff put away. Then I thought what about my wife and daughter? Are they never going to shave their legs again? I need more stuff. Razors, shaving cream, tampons, tweezers, nail clippers, small scissors, emery boards, tissues, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, detergent (for clothes), etc. Speaking of clothes, can you sew? I mean with a needle and thread not a machine. See a new skill you might need. How are you set for clothes in the future? I know I need to buy more BDUs (even though I wear them at work I need more). There is another article on this so I will not drag into it. Except to say: are you going to wear something or nothing? Don’t forget the adults are probably going to lose weight and the kids are going to grow up. Hold onto your old stuff so they can wear it in the future.

These plans are all assuming I can defend my current position and not have to bug out. I really do not have any place to bug out to, to be honest. Not that I am complaining. The resistance has to have many fronts to be successful.  But, I have to get on it about defensive plans of my area in case the horde does come. I tend to think the biggest problem at least locally will be from groups of young gangs to start with. My neighbors and I should be able to fend that off. But if it becomes “The Road Warrior” type of hordes then we will probably have issues. So I need a good perimeter fence. I am thinking like 15 feet high with barb wire and razor wire rolls at a minimum. The fortunate thing is the few access points I have can easily become overgrown with foliage in a summer. However I do have a pair of driveways from the right of way that are difficult to manage due to the geography and mostly rolling type gates would be the only reasonable solution, until The Collapse occurs. At that point I can disable the driveways manually (i.e. Dig them up with a shovel). There is so much to do.

This is a short list of stuff I am working on now. And there are probably two more articles I could type without even trying hard. For example fresh food storage and cooking is a pair of topics that come to mind. So I strongly recommend that if you are just getting started to do all you can as quietly as you can. Because I certainly did not realize how clueless I was until I discovered others who are prepared.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I just found your blog and want to thank you and all the like minded individuals who post to it. I have never thought of myself as a "survivor" or as most on here seem to prefer, "prepper". I just always thought of myself as a collector of knowledge much to my wife’s annoyance. I can’t help it, I just like to learn different things.

For one of the most recent "hobbies" I’ve been researching and learning about Quality Deer Management (QDM). I don’t know if this has been brought up before now, I’m still going through the archives, but I see where this would be a benefit to preppers.

In QDM, the goal is to assist Whitetail deer reach their maximum potential. This involves everything from harvesting does, passing on young bucks, removing predators, planting food plots, creating watering and mineral sites, creating sanctuaries and enhancing natural food sources.

In helping the deer, you also help turkeys, quail, rabbits, hogs and many other game and non-game animals and birds. How this would help a prepper is obvious.

Removing predators increases game species plus puts meat in the pot.

Planting food plots pull more game onto the property plus some of the food plots are edible by humans.

Creating watering sites gives the prepper additional water sources and possible fishing sites.

Mineral sites pull more game onto the property.

Sanctuaries would be great places for long term caches.

Enhancing natural food sources increases the amount and quality of foraged foods.

One other benefit to the prepper is it gives them a cover story to tell the neighbors as to why all the enhancements to the property.

A great source of information on QDM is the official Quality Deer Management Association’s web site.

That’s my pre-1983 penny’s worth for now but got a question for you and your readers.

Thanks - Okie in Muskogee

Friday, May 7, 2010

I am new to SurvivalBlog and I am an amateur prepper beginning my trek to becoming self sufficient. My family and I live in the suburbs of the southwest Sonoran Desert. I am by no means an expert in this field and hope that this topic has not been covered by others.  There are so many topics and pages of fish and game that it will take me months to catch up on everything.

My family and I are planning on “buggin in” if the SHTF or the TEOTWAWKI occurs. Unless an NBC attack or exposure occurs here, we plan to ride out the Golden Horde in our home. If we need to leave our home, we will try and do so when it is less chaotic. I am not saying these plans are the best or that they are perfect. For my area, this may be the best we can do with our limited funds and resources.

In making our plans for our home and area, I began noticing the abundance of game in my neighborhood. Our house is located in a suburb several miles from the Sonoran Desert. This desert is the home to many different game animals and other resources.

Our neighborhood has quite the diversity of wild and semi-tame game. My hope is to share some of my thoughts with you on how I may be able to supplement my family’s meals and protein sources, even if only for a short time.

Within several blocks from my house are five separate man-made lakes or ponds. Throughout the year, these lakes are the home to many different species of fowl, fish, reptiles, and mammals. My front yard, although small, is also the home to several different species of game birds and small mammals.

To begin with, there is a large community of quail and dove living in refuge from hunters in the city. There are so many of them, they are seen year round in almost every yard and park. Every morning, I see two pairs of quail that live in our Bougainvillea bushes. Although they are not tame, I can approach them fairly easy before they run off. They may make an easy catch some day. I keep several boxes of bird shot in my house that may come in handy if I need to go hunting the dove and quail here. If I were to need to, I could possibly catch and raise several quail for food and/or eggs.

Several miles south of my location are ranches with farm animals. Aside from the obvious bovine and venison choices that may be left at these locations, there may also be a good supple of poultry living off the land if their owners flee the city. [JWR Adds: As previously noted in SurvivalBlog, the chances are slim that farms and ranches will be abandoned in anything short of a massive pandemic die-off. So any deer hunting on private land would have to be arranged well in advance. Otherwise, you stand a good chance of being shot, as a trespasser.] It is a bit of a hike but may turn out to be a fruitful hunt. Some of these chickens may be able to be caught and raised for meat and eggs.

One of the many birds living here and in most cities around the world is pigeons. Once again, they are fairly tame and can be approached easily before they scatter. They may make an easy target. They may not be as appetizing, but may save your life and that of your family. These birds may even be caught using traps and kept alive until a later time.

Living in the lakes I mentioned above are numerous species of waterfowl. There are at least five different species of ducks that live full time at my local lakes. They are very tame as they have been hand fed for many years by numerous families. Again, very approachable and possibly an easy target as they are accustomed to humans. They may even be able to be caught and raised for their eggs and/or meat. Their nests are made inside the numerous bushes alongside the lakes. These nests can be raided for eggs.

Several species of ducks that spend part of the year here are migratory, including Canadian Geese. As I write this, there are two Goose pairs with 3-5 goslings. These geese and ducks return here every year and lay their eggs. Their young remain here until they can fly and then return north with their parents. Goose parents are very protective. They may attack humans if they try to approach their young. You could possibly kill the parents for food and capture the young to raise for eggs and or meat. This may take more work than the tame ducks but a Canadian goose has a lot of meat. [JWR Adds: As previously noted in SurvivalBlog,consult your state Fish and Game laws before hunting or trapping.]

These lakes have several species of cranes that visit them regularly. I have never eaten a crane or thought about doing so. However, when protein sources become scarce, they may make delectable meals for a hungry family. The cranes are wilder than any other birds at the lake and a small rim fire rifle may be needed to hunt them before they flee when you arrive at the lake.

The five lakes in the green belt are full of 24-36” koi carp. These fish are semi-tame and will come to the surface and sides of the lake when you approach. They have become accustomed to being fed by the numerous visitors. A good fishing pole and bait would probably land you one of them fairly quickly. With a large enough hand net, you could probably scoop up one or two. I have not seen any other fish species in the lakes and fishing is prohibited there. That does not mean there are not any other fish there.

About a mile from my house is a city park. This park has another manmade lake. This lake is part of the “urban fishing program” and is regularly stocked with various game fish. Eventually, the levels of fish may dwindle, but until then a good fishing trip may be had with some good tackle and a pole.

I have also seen several aquatic turtles living and swimming in the waters of these lakes. They are very skittish and flee when they are spotted. Making and setting traps or snares may help to catch them.  I hear turtle meat is excellent.

I saved this part for last as many may not be able to stomach or think of eating some of the mammals I list here. However, when times get tough and meals are scarce, they may be the only thing that keeps you alive.

Some of the easier ones to think of are the many rabbits that live in my yard and neighborhood. There are so many of them, they are hit by cars daily. The cats cannot even keep their numbers down. Remember though, their meat is lacking in some vitamins so don’t make them your sole protein source. Aside from a rim fire rifle and bird shot shotgun rounds, they may be trapped, snared, and possibly kept in cages for future meals.

Because of the many green belts and parks here, there is a large community of squirrels and gophers along with other different rodent species. Some of these species may need to be sniped from a distance with a good rimfire or small centerfire rifle. However, traps, pitfalls, snares, and other means may be used to catch and/or hunt them. [JWR Adds: As previously noted in SurvivalBlog, consult your local ordinances on firearms use!]

Several of the more elusive mammals may also provide your family with some excellent proteins. Coyote and the raccoon all live inside the suburbs and are seen daily here. They tend to be more nocturnal but may be hunted using game calls, attracted to salt licks, or other food sources. Skunks, ring tail cats, and javelina also fall into this section and will make great meals if properly prepared.

Lastly, Hurricane Katrina showed us that many people leave their pets behind when they flee the city. These pets generally cannot fend for themselves and will eventually starve. It may be hard for some of us to think about, but when times get bad and we are facing a TEOTWAWKI, we may need to take advantage of these additional sources of protein. Most of these animals are very tame and may welcome a human. The SAS Survival Handbook says if your pet cannot provide for himself and is an extra mouth to feed, you may need to free him to allow him to find his own food or make him your next meal. [JWR Adds: As I've noted in my writings previously, "freeing" pets is not only cruel, but it might also turn them feral, where they will be a threat to both livestock and humans.]

These are just some of the ideas I have thought of as I drive through my area. There are some things to ponder before beginning any suburban hunt. If the area is still inhabited by other families, you may need to be careful while hunting. Know your backdrop and what’s beyond it. If there are still emergency services in your area, you may need to hunt more covertly. The local police may not be so happy about seeing you walking the streets shooting and hunting. A powerful scoped BB or pellet gun may come in handy as they may be able to kill many of these species and not give off a loud report alerting others of your activities.

Many have written that you should "make the animals come to you". Why not set up salt licks or other animal feed stations that attract these animals to your yard, for easy hunting. Work smarter not harder. As these animals live in the city and the desert, they may have different diseases that could be passed onto you and your family. Make sure you cook the meat thoroughly and use clean preparation practices. My dad always told me to check the liver of small mammals. If it is spotted, don’t eat it and bury the animal.

Eventually the area you are hunting may be thinned out and you may need to expand your hunting grounds. That may be the time our family leaves the suburbs for our retreat or other location. Your specific location will yield different sources and quantities of game and or possible protein sources for your family. I highly suggest you plan now and see where you can search out possible game. Know where they are living and where they find food. If you have migratory animals in your area, know the seasons they will be arriving and leaving.

I hope this gives you some ideas of where to look for sources of food, even in the big cities.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I am a 50-something urban homesteader, selling my house to move to a rural area.

I currently own a handgun (S&W 459 9mm) and a shotgun (Mossberg 12 gauge pump) and am researching what kind of rifle would be good for my new urban homestead.

I am a good shot, not pro and not wild, just get within the target lines. I have hunted in the past with a 30-06 but feel with my age and all this would be too much for me now. Not to mention that I am a petite female at only 5'1" tall and 120Lbs.

The areas I am looking to move to are all what I call "big snow country". The wildlife ranges from Moose to pronghorn, Grizzly to badger, with the usual cougar, bobcat, wolf, coyote and rabbits, etc.

So basically my criteria is a leaver action, short barrel (no longer than 20"), accurate rifle with the stopping power for the animals I may run across or have to hunt if the SHTF.

In short the basic functions that I would like the rifle to be good at are: animal defense, food hunting, home defense (in that order). Then tack on - readily available and inexpensive ammo.

My "friends" have many suggestions from ARs, AKs to Savage, Winchester and Marlin ranging from .22 to 30-06. Somehow I just don't picture the. 22 being good unless I was a sharp shooter and could make a brain shot without thinking, as I stated previously I think the .30-06 would be "too much" for me to be accurate enough with and the "assault" rifles just don't come across or look like hunting & animal defense rifles to me.

I have followed your blog and purchased a book or two, so I value your opinion greatly and figure that some kind of lever action 30-30 would be my best choice.

That said, what type of rifle do you (or your blog readers) suggest for me? Am I way off base, or thinking with reality? - Criss K.

JWR Replies: If moose and grizzly are commonplace where you'll be living, then you have a few conflicting criteria.

First, any ammunition that will be a stopper for moose and large bears will not be "inexpensive". For example, .45-70 ammo is current around $2 per cartridge!

Second, given your small stature, you are better off with a semi-auto chambered in something with lighter recoil, rather than a "whomper" bear-stopper such as a .45-70. Unless you are a seasoned shooter, you are likely to develop a flinch if you buy a gun that is near your tolerance for recoil.

Third, lever actions are fairly fast to shoot, but you must practice the operation of the lever while the gun is at your shoulder. Many shooters--especially smaller ones--have a tendency to lower the butt to their hip when working the action. Don't get into this bad habit! But their greatest detractor is that they are very slow to reload, once the magazine has been emptied. This makes them second-rate guns for self defense. If you are on a budget, then you are better off with a bolt action that can accept stripper clips for reloading, such as a Mauser, a Lee-Enfield, or perhaps a Schmidt-Rubin. (The latter employs a unique and quite fast "straight-pull" action. You might find a Swiss K-31 Schmidt-Rubin carbine at your local Big 5 Sporting Goods store, for under $220.)

My recommendation is that if you are on a tight budget, then buy either a Yugoslavian detachable magazine SKS, or US-made AK-47 clone. Those have fairly short stocks, which will benefit you, given your stature. If your budget is more substantial, then buy a semi-auto .308. Some options include the Saiga .308, the Winchester Model 100 (long out of production, but often found used), or the Browning BAR (not to be confused with much larger military issue full-autos with the same name!). If you have a big budget, then consider an AR-10 or a Valmet Hunter .308. OBTW, I do not recommend the often-mentioned Remington 7400 (or the older Model 742). These were aptly described by a gent over at THR as "difficult to properly clean, sensitive to ammo [variations], and d**n hard to clear when you hit a feed jam." If you opt for any .308, then be sure to have the stock shortened (or in the case of the AR-10, get a 6-position collapsible stock), and have a recoil pad installed. For many years, my late wife used a Valmet .308 with a short stock and a soft Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad. She also had the barrel shortened, and a muzzle brake installed. She considered this the best "compromise" hunting/self-defense rifle for someone of small stature. (She was 5'2", and weighed around 100 pounds.) The Valmet Hunter doesn't look like a battle rifle, but it uses the unstoppable AK action. Extra magazines are available in 5, 9, and 20 round capacity. The big drawback is that these rifles now cost around $1,100, and spare 20 round magazines cost around $250 each!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

When I think on the “Bug out Bag” I am not thinking of a basic survival kit. The survival kit is designed to be small, portable, and with you whenever you venture out into the woods. The bug out bag is a larger version of the same but designed for a totally different scenario. When you know you are going to be on your own for an undetermined amount of time.
First off it will be larger than a survival kit; usually a small backpack or duffle will suffice to carry all you will need for an extended stay away from civilization. It will also need to carry the basics in shelter, first aid, clothing, food and cooking, as well as means to procure food from natural resources. With this in mind, let’s list the things necessary to any kit and then you can tailor it to your specific needs.
Shelter:  One can do well with a tarp and some imagination. I would recommend one about 10’x 8’ as a minimum. There are also small camping tents that are very roomy and light weight that added with a tarp would make a very comfortable camp. Don’t forget a bedroll or a couple heavy wool blankets.
First Aid: In any situation one must be capable of dealing with physical injuries from minor cuts and scrapes to sprains and broken bones. A good commercial first aid kit will cover most of these as well as contain a booklet on how to treat these conditions I consider this as an essential.
Also don’t forget a supply of medications you are taking, as well as a supply of throat lozenges, pain relievers (advil or tylenol), and yes, a small bottle of whiskey or other strong spirits can come in very handy as both an anesthetic and antiseptic.
Clothing: Depending on where you live and where you plan to go the proper clothes are essential. I would recommend a set of clothes that can be layered and rely on natural fibers like wool to help retain heat in cold and cool in hot weather. ‘Nuff said.
Food and water:  First, you can’t carry enough. I would stock up on MREs . Being light weight and easy to fix carrying enough to last a week or two should not take up too much room in your pack. Water is heavy, but necessary carry as much as you can and also carry a water purification system be it tablets or a filtration system. For cooking a small Boy Scout cook kit is great it contains a pot, plate, cup, and a fry pan that nests together and takes up very little space. Also don’t forget the basics like dry flour, sugar, tea bags, salt, pepper, hot sauce, dry beans, corn meal, oil, et cetera.
And lastly we come to the means of obtaining food in the wild.
The first thing that comes to mind to me is a small telescopic spinning rod and reel with a small box filled with a few lures, hooks and sinkers. You should be able to find bait and be able to fish the local streams and rivers in your area. The next thing I would have is a book showing the edible plants growing in your area.  And lastly, choosing a firearm.  This has been covered by so many different writers that it would be an individual’s choice of the best to bring. I will stick my neck out and say that my Ruger 1022 .22 rifle, NEF .410 shotgun, and my Ruger .357 magnum Blackhawk, or a smoothbore flintlock musket and a .44 cap and ball revolver would fill most of my foraging and protection needs.
Along with a couple flashlights, matches, lighters, extra cordage, your basic survival kit and a healthy dose of common sense you should do well wherever you happen to take off for.
There is nothing wrong with being prepared.  For it is better to have something and not need it than to need and not have it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I really enjoyed the article on tracking by James K. Actually, I have enjoyed all of the articles in Survival Blog.
I try to test my tracking skill whenever I get the change and have been doing it for almost 60 years now. Besides the ones mentioned in the article another guide that I have found to be valuable is: Mammal Tracks & Sign: A Guide to North American Species, by Mark Elbroch. It was published by Stackpole Books in 2003. Unfortunately it was printed in China but of very high quality. (I prefer U. S. made products when I can get them.)

I sure wish that I had a book like this when I started tracking in the early 1950s.

Incidentally, I used my hard-earned tracking skills to great effect in Southeast Asia in the 1960s as a member of the Big Green Machine.

Thanks for a great Blog. From the end of the gravel road in very rural North Dakota, - Bob P.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

These are the opening words from the book The Tracker by Tom Brown, Jr. & William Jon Watkins: “The first track is the end of a string. At the far end, a being is moving; a mystery, dropping a hint about itself every so many feet, telling you more about itself until you can almost see it, even before you come to it. The mystery reveals itself slowly, track by track, giving its genealogy early to coax you in. Further on, it will tell you the intimate details of its life and work, until you know the maker of the track like a lifelong friend.”

Here is a coyote track walking inside an old wolf track in deep snow. We followed this for several hundred feet across a field not far from our house.

Ever since childhood I’ve been fascinated by those who could see history in the dirt. The ground was like the page of a book unraveling many mysteries for those who took the time to read it. In this essay lies the groundwork, the basics to get anyone started in a fascinating skill that has many practical applications. One of the most valuable is being able to back track your steps when you find yourself disoriented or wanting to return to camp in wilderness.

In a TEOTWAWKI scenario being able to track can be a valuable tool for being aware of what is happening around your area. Identifying game and knowing when someone has been in your neck of the woods will give you an awareness advantage.

Learning to track animals requires a lot of skill but it is a very rewarding endeavor to undertake. Tracking people is a good way to start your skill and far easier.

Dirt time is a phrase trackers use to describe time spent interpreting tracks. Like anything else the more dirt time you spend the more your skills and abilities will blossom.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s when I lived in Oregon and was part of the Search and Rescue (SAR) group there they used to hold seminars all over the state (and Washington) in various terrains. These exercises were with a certain man tracker named Joel Harding. Joel honed his skills over many years working border patrol on the US/Mexican border down around El Cajon, California. He was a master tracker. We would listen to him speak of skills learned over the years, look at slide shows of various sets of tracks each evening and spend most of the days tracking each other under his guidance.

A good way to begin is to find an undisturbed (undisturbed by recent human foot traffic) area and determine a course- say 150’ out to some prominent marker: a tree, rock, etc. Now before you start, tear up the ground and make a nice 2’-3’ diameter mound of loose soil. Take the person to be tracked and have them carefully place their feet & full weight into this mound- producing a clear set of tracks. Next have them walk in their normal pace out to the marker tree and then circle around coming back a different way.

It doesn’t hurt to take some field notes and sketch these first boot or shoe footprints in the mound. Look for any distinguishing features like tread, heel & toe shape, any wear. Now it’s time for your tracking stick.

My son Kody holding a tracking stick.

Take a ~1” thick relatively straight stick about 4’-5’ long and with your knife smooth it out. Find a natural stride area where the person being tracked is walking along and lay the stick down so the tip of the stick is on the heel of the left foot print (it really matters not right or left- but to match my photos for those who can see them- left.).

Here you have a right then left foot stride with the tracking stick laid out for measurement. The knife point is where you pivot the stick to find the next track which will lie right off the tip of the stick- in this case the left foot. The stick has two marked measurements: the length of the foot as well as the stride between the prints.

Now look behind this left foot print and mark on your stick where the right toe tip falls. This is the stride distance (tip of stick to right toe tip). You can cut a ring here on your stick, use a rubber band or marker. By pivoting the stick at this toe point while holding it over the last found track you can get a good idea where to look for sign on the next track. Now that you have the stride, next place a mark at the heel of this same right foot print. This marks the length of the foot.

As you track you will be able to tell left from right. You can mark these as you go along if you like. Knowing this you can anticipate and lay your stick down; sweeping it in such a way as to know almost precisely where the next foot will fall. In this way you can work on finding each track, marking them left or right as you go if you like. But don’t disturb the ground too much as occasionally you may have to backtrack. You will rarely find a whole print unless you have ideal conditions (like my photos). But there will always be sign for those who can see it.

It is important when first learning to find sign on every track. Pay attention to detail, forget about how long it takes. Get your face to the ground and visually check different angles. You will start to see many signs: dirt will sometimes be transferred from one area to another. Compression will cause the dirt around the track to lift, push out and crack, sometimes even explode out in compression releases. Scuff marks, partial tracks, pebbles pressed into the ground. Vegetation that is crushed, broke, bent or bruised. Flattened areas, disturbed ground. Dew, rain, dust or pollen coatings on the ground and on plants can be disturbed as the person walks by. As you acquire more dirt time many types of sign will reveal themselves.

A good way to learn what effect time has on a track and how a track ages is to find an ideal tracking area near your home and place a single footprint there. Now every day for a week or longer place another single track right alongside the last one. Keep notes on what the weather is doing. By comparing the fresh track to the older ones you can see the effect of wind, rain and temperature fluxes.

Rain is the great eraser in tracking. Many soils will give up anything obvious in the track with a heavy rain. In snow it is also important to know that with age tracks will “melt” out, that is increase in size as they decrease in detail. Old tracks on snow can sometimes fool even a seasoned tracker.

It can be easy- or very tedious to find the succession of tracks. Here are some tricks of the trade:

Work in groups of three. The point man is out front looking down intently and working his stick to find each track. The two flanks stay back a few paces so as not to disturb the ground ahead. The flanks look all around and out ahead for clues- offering them to the point man. Every 20 minutes or so rotate the point man with a flanker. This relieves tension on the point position and allows everyone experience in the point position.

Keep the track between you and the falling sunlight. This will yield the most shadow relief and contrast in the track- almost always making it easier to see. In flat light you will notice a big difference when the sun is on the other side of the tracks your looking at. A small mirror (or flashlight in dim light) will allow you to cast flat light (parallel to the ground) from a different direction.

Here is a fresh set of wolf tracks on fresh snow, the knife is 14” overall length with a 9” blade.

Don’t be in a hurry at first- that will come later. Some skilled trackers can follow their track while running, riding on the hood of a vehicle (the Masai tracker/guides are known for this) or even from a helicopter. When starting out pay a lot of attention to detail. Work slow and absorb everything the point man sees even if your in a flank position. Look at the terrain ahead and mentally put yourself in their shoes- which way would they most likely go?

Try placing your head close to the ground. This will give you a different perspective and help you see fine detail. By laying your eyes close to the ground and your vision parallel with the ground you can see things you’ll never see standing up.

Feel the tracks lightly with your fingertips. Sometimes under the debris or vegetation you can feel the heel strike or the edge of the compression. Loose soil under the surface vegetation can hold a compression of a track that you won’t see through the debris but you can feel.

A large sand box or area of loose soil near your home is a wonderful tool for studying tracks. You can see the effects of time and weather, try different techniques in laying out your tracks, and erase them easily to start over. Damp sand will offer an amazing amount of detail.

Snow, sand and soft dirt are usually easy. Grass leaves a lot of sign but one must learn through “dirt time” how to read it. Hard rocky ground will require a lot more skill. But there is always a track there- even over bare rock. Wind, sun, rain and changing temperatures will always be working over the rock. It will have some kind of film on it, grains of sand, dust and the rock itself. Wind will deposit dirt, pollen and a host of other particles. When something walks over that rock it will disturb this film and leave sign. Let me illustrate this with a story of something that happened to Joel on one of our SAR tracking seminars:

It was in the early 1980s during a tracking seminar near Walla Walla, Washington. An early Saturday morn and in a small nearby town there had been a jewelry store broken into. As Joel was conducting a seminar just outside this town and as all the law enforcement officials were well aware of his skills they came in the wee hours of the morning and got him and took him to the crime scene. There were footprints across the wet grass outside the store- through the early morning dew. Then they went down a sidewalk- transferring wet dew from the grass onto the cement. But then the tracks faded out for the officers- but not for Joel. With a flashlight in the early morning light he kept right on target, now going from the sidewalk to right down the street. About five blocks from the store, Joel and two armed officers banged on the door of a house. The man was so shocked when he came to the door in his underwear all he could say was “How did you know it was me?”

Start with the easy stuff and work your way into the more difficult. It is actually very entertaining, addicting at times. I think this is because people just don’t realize how much is there until they take the time to read the sign. Then this whole universe of knowledge starts opening up. The more dirt time, the easier it gets. And the more fun!

Just familiarizing yourself with the local fauna tracks of your area can be very rewarding. River, sea and lake shores often offer good areas to see clear animal tracks. Fall and Winter and Spring seasons in northern latitudes offer snow as a great tracking medium. Fresh snow is the perfect way to see new tracks and with clean, crisp detail. A camera can record great sign that you can share with others for years to come.

As a final note there are many good animal track books out there, and a few good human track books. I’ve listed a few below. Tom Brown Jr., in my opinion has some of the best ways to hone your tracking skills for animals. He has a whole series of field guides all of which have sound advice.

But as a Christian I must caution you to be aware of the [nativist] spirituality espoused in Tom’s books. There are good and evil spirits out there, and the only way you can discern the difference is through God’s Word (the Holy Bible), the saving Grace of Jesus Christ and His completed work on the cross. Only through a repentant heart and belief in Christ will the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the word of God keep you safe from the evil spirits that often come in the deceiving guise of "spiritual light".

Griz with hand print. Thumb to little finger is about 7”. We were hunting moose at the time and this bear followed our tracks for several hundred yards. On returning to camp and finding these tracks I was glad we brought a .45-70 along with our .308.

Now get your nose to the dirt and may your tracking be rewarding! - James K. in Alaska

References and Recommended Reading

Tom Brown’s School of Tracking web site.


Tracking: A Blueprint for Learning How by Jack Kearney, 1978, H. Paul Publishing Company

The Tracker by Tom Brown Jr. & William Jon Watkins, 1978, Prentice Hall Inc.

Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking by Tom Brown Jr., 1983, Berkley Books

Tom Brown's Science and Art of Tracking by Tom Brown Jr., 1999, Berkley Books

Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks: Third Edition by Olaus J. Murie, 1954 Houghton Mifflin Company

Stokes Guide to Animal Tracking and Behavior by Donald W. Stokes, 1986, Little, Brown and Company

The SAS Guide to Tracking, New and Revised by Bob Carss, 2000, The Lyons Press

Tracking--Signs of Man, Signs of Hope: A Systematic Approach to the Art and Science of Tracking Humans by David Diaz, 2005, The Lyons Press

Tracking and the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Sign by Paul Rezendes, 1999, Collins Reference

Friday, March 12, 2010

From the beginning of time, ownership and control of quality farm land and raw materials have been closely associated with wealth creation and prosperity. What can you grow or raise? What resources and commodities do you own and control? How much metal, stone, glass, and wood do you own? Do you have the means, knowledge, tools and skills to produce valuable items from this land and these raw materials?

As America was settled, the pioneers knew very well the fundamentals of non-electric, independence away from the city and just how critical natural resources were to survival. If a parcel did not have fresh water and tillable flat bottom farm land, it was left alone and many years later those same lands are now national parks, national forests, and BLM lands owned by the government.

The primary questions in the minds of those early settlers should also be the same questions in the minds of today’s long-term prepper families. Those questions are simply, “Will this parcel of land support our life?”, and “Do I have ownership and control over the means of production of my food and fuel on this land”?

All along the Blue Ridge mountains, the real estate agents have a phrase they use concerning land value, that phrase is, “the steeper, the cheaper”. It is well known that when you see land advertised as “good hunting land”, that the property really will not support its residents. It is too rocky and hilly, and will not support decent crop production for man and livestock. It is only the last few generations of fearful city type suburbanites and armchair survivalists that have elevated the notion that mountain land remoteness equals security and that is the number one quality to look for in a “retreat”. But mountain living leaves much to be desired in security in many important areas and ways. Never be deluded into thinking that you are safe high up in the woods and that no one will know you are there. It bears reminding everyone of the biblical verse and truth:

Matt 5:14 “A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid”.

Caves and mountains are where you go to if you are on the run, and need temporary shelter from pursuit, just read the Bible and look at history. People only lived that way out of destitute desperation, because everything [needed to support life] must be hauled in on a continual basis in order to survive. Those locations are not an assured long term sustainable solution in many cases. The primary reason is that very little livestock feed can be produced. Be careful that your homestead location does not separate you from the critical means of production, and forever tether you to others for the things you should be producing yourself. If possible then always opt for sustainable systems capabilities in your land purchase decisions as the most important criteria. I encourage forward thinking preppers to expand their retreat and homestead plans to the realities of true societal and monetary system independence. Be willing to transition to an agrarian lifestyle now, and take control over all the means of production of two things in your life: food and fuel. Get to the place where you own the finished goods and things you cannot grow or raise each year such as salt, tools, and ammo. Owning a lifetime supply of salt is something that is not too difficult. You are trying to reach the point where a yearly cycle in food and fuel production is all you have to worry about. This gives you the freedom to stay out of the cities and towns for basic supplies others will be clamoring for; for a great many years. This starts not with the question of how remote is my land from society’s "zombies", but “will my land support life, and do I own all the means of production”? The litmus test is really drawn not at the backyard 4x4 square foot garden level, but rather: can I grow feed for my livestock and my family’s fuel production on this parcel? This is really what the means of production are all about.

It is ownership and control over the means of production of food and fuel that will ensure you and your family of long term survival in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.

Be willing to ask the questions of a pioneer settler with his family in a covered wagon in 1850. “Will this land support life”?, “Can I grow feed for my poultry flocks, dairy and meat animals, aquaculture ponds, and humans”? “Is there a surface fresh water source on this land”? “What about timber and material resources”? Do I have the tools, knowledge, skills, and finished goods for these systems and processes? These are the basics of life and questions that a century ago would have been common knowledge to all, but today’s modern city sheeple prepper wanna-bes too often overlook and discard. Just like we are spoiled with instant everything, we think of every shortcut possible to “instant survival”. At some point you must get to the place where your “retreat” becomes your “mini-farm”. Otherwise, you are simply camping with a can of food.

“Can I produce all my own fuel from this land?” is the second part of the means of production mindset. There are six primary farmstead fuels that wise people should all be in the process of utilizing for their energy independence. They are: wood, charcoal, methane, ethanol, producer gas, and beeswax. Study these fuels, learn all you can and purchase now all the means of production for them on your land. Do not look to the left or to the right. Turn the television off and spend your free time developing these systems and learning the skill sets needed for their production, storage, and use.

Many today will never voluntarily choose an agrarian lifestyle or pursue the ownership and control over the means of production. Instead they will rely solely on commercial packaged food and fuel produced by others who are wise enough to own the means of production. They must haul each load to their retreat, with no hope of new supplies while they keep their city office jobs and suburban comforts till they believe they will “bug out” and be "safe". Lord, help them all is all I can say.

While having the courage to pursue the ownership and control over the means of production instead of mere temporary “preps” is essential, the real challenge for First World urbanites is the shift in practicing and mastering the skills surrounding those means. It takes work and that is a four letter word when everyone wants to be a musician, artist, writer, or celebrity. Choose the agrarian/skills-based lifestyle now even with all the learning curves and mistakes you will make, before you are a fleeing refugee of this empire collapse, and can only wish you would have chosen this path and secured these means sooner. All of the suffering and sacrifice you endure now in becoming skilled and truly prepared, is nothing compared to all of the suffering and sacrifice you would endure later if you are not already skilled and prepared.

I'll close with two more Bible verses:

“Wise men lay up knowledge.” (Prov. 10:14)

“Fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I currently do not fall in the category of the less than 1% of the population that can afford the real possibility of a "retreat" on 40+ acres, based on a Rawlesian criteria. However, I do have a solid brick house on 1.5 acres in a rural area on the southern plains. For the immediate future this will have to serve as my permanent abode. I have always had an interest in outdoor survival skills, and have lived, vacationed, and worked for extended periods of time in isolated outdoor camps while working "in the bush" with limited modern comforts. These experiences have taught me numerous self sufficient survival skills: basically camping or "roughing it" comfortably while providing clean water, safe and sanitary kitchen facilities, latrines, and other amenities. In addition to some time outdoors spent tracking, hunting and fishing, these experiences have given me an "outdoorsman" background. I also believe that I have a basic "survivalist mentality" and am sure I have a better than average knowledge of the skills and planning needed to survive a variety of chaotic situations the future may bring. However, I have not prepared in the past as I should. I have only recently begun to get organized for any serious long-term survival scenario. Part of this process has been to take stock of my situation. In doing so I have identified many of the pros and cons of my lifestyle and current living conditions (I have a young family, am not close to retiring, have some debts, and am a fairly new homeowner with a mortgage). I believe the end of the world as we know it is already happening in a slow, not so subtle slide. Plan A is to keep preparing for a self sufficient life at home and hunker down, and if TEOTWAWKI is in the form of a dramatic upheaval in society (as many describe) we may have to go to Plan B (get out of Dodge), followed by Plan C (make a last ditch effort to live off the land until order is restored within a few months) or until my family unit can join up with a like minded group. I know that Plan B or C have a less than good chance of "success" (they are for true dire straits), but at least we have a fall back plan. As described below, future preparations are still required to strengthen our plan.

The following outlines my basic situation, which I suspect is comparable to that of many citizens who are in the process of preparing better for an uncertain future, and includes a variety of skills and items I have recently taken stock of. In doing so, I will provide some profile information on my current state of readiness (Part 1) while attempting to offer advice on a few sets of skills and items I haven't seen on most of the basic “beans, bullets, and band-aid” lists (Part 2).

Part 1: My Homestead and Basic Resources

Based on Rawles' criteria, my region has a moderate retreat potential.  To start with, the main detractors are that I am less than 10 miles from a large population center (over 100,000), the region has high insurance rates and is drought prone. However, we have fairly strong gun laws in this state with the right to carry a concealed handgun and an improving Castle Doctrine. Other benefits to my immediate region are that the smaller communities nearby and the wider region in general is conservative with strong Christian family values. I have a wife and several children under 13-years old. I have a stable job and pay my bills and taxes. My wife is very frugal and is the list maker. We share the common goal of insuring our family’s future, and contribute to assisting extended family, friends and community when possible. I have not been able to convince her to store the food stocks we should need for a long term period of hunkering down, or some of the other measures suggested by Rawles and others for this scenario. However, the soils are good for gardening and farming. My house is double walled (it was a pier and beam wood frame house that was moved to the current location and then bricked over), our homestead has a deep well (with a brick well house) and septic system. We have piped natural gas for heating and hot water systems, and electricity from a co-op. I have a greenhouse with plumbing, a large garage and shop with an air compressor and well stocked with tools and various home and auto repair materials. We have a small supplemental solar kit that is expandable. We plan to go to a grid-tie with backup system soon and eventually go off-grid with a hybrid solar - wind system. We regularly make a shopping trip to the nearest Habitat for Humanity Restore (we consider this a frugal man’s "home depot"), which has numerous home repair supplies and materials. We stock up on goods such as paint, PVC pipe and fittings, lumber, hardware, solid core doors, appliances and fixtures, etc. for very cheap prices. These are usually used and donated by contractors or home remodelers, and the price we pay is minimal. The money then goes to Habitat for Humanity for their operations. I search online sources for good tools and materials and have found fencing materials, farming and gardening supplies, soil, compost, PVC pipe, steel plates and pipe, appliances, and good used tools. is one of go to sources for these materials - especially the free and barter goods. We obviously approach these transactions with a “buyer beware” attitude, however we have always had good luck and have met decent and interesting people in doing so. We are always looking for appropriate spare parts, tires, repair kits, hoses, belts, bolts, fluids, etc. on sale at big box stores or in classifieds. We also have other outbuildings and sheds which we have ongoing projects to modify for livestock housing and specialty workshops. I am in the process of designing a self sufficient chicken coop, and goat pens and barn. We are expanding our garden and rainwater catchment system. With any luck, I may in the near future have access to 15-100 additional acres of pasture and woods adjacent to my lot.

Vehicles: I drive a diesel 4x4 pickup, my wife has a fuel efficient VW with a gas engine. I am currently beginning to restore an early 1970s model Toyota Landcruiser. The skills I am learning to restore this vehicle (replace all old and worn mechanical parts, hoses, fluids etc.), and the versatility of this heavy duty wagon will be very useful in an uncertain future. It will soon be a bug out vehicle that can go anywhere, just not very fast. I am developing new “jack of all trades” skills and have always been able to tackle basic home and vehicle maintenance work, but lack experience in advanced auto mechanics or construction. I am planning some long term gas and diesel storage. Since diesel is easier to store for long term, the diesel truck will probably be the last working vehicle we will have if TSHTF.

In addition, I have a 31-foot early 1970s Airstream travel trailer. It has been fully refurbished and is basically self-sufficient with a few modifications. With additional water filters made from four tubes of PVC (gravel, charcoal, fine screen filters, and chlorine) an emergency water source can be pumped from to supplement the tanks. With an added solar trickle charger, the batteries can keep the lights and ventilation fans on. With enough propane, cooking and heating could be maintained for an extended period of time. I plan additional modifications to harden this trailer and improve its utility as our "escape pod". I do not have a private retreat, but hope to someday afford a sufficient amount of land in a good location (with Rawles' list of security details in mind) as a retreat. To keep costs down, all I need is suitable acreage with natural resources such as water and timber. We could transport the Airstream for shelter. I had a family member in the 1980s who had some land in the mountains, cut a small road in, leveled an area on the slope, dug a trench, lowered his Airstream trailer into the trench (stocked with guns, ammo and freeze dried food), and buried the whole thing as insurance against a "red army" invasion of CONUS. I never got to see this and do not know how long the stores lasted, but have recently considered a modified version of this tactic. By digging a ramped trench to back or pull a trailer into I could have concealment; using the back dirt as bunkers it would have built in mass for a ballistic barrier; natural insulation for heating and cooling; and other benefits. Mainly it is less expensive than building an underground bunker. In the mean time and until I can acquire private retreat land, with my diesel truck and “escape pod” I can bug out with the family and dogs anywhere within 400 miles on one tank of gas and be self sufficient for several weeks to months. Without additional food and supply stores or the benefit of a sustainable retreat location, this is obviously not satisfactory as a long term solution.

At present, I don't anticipate many scenarios which would require fleeing the homestead, so Plan A is really to continue to prepare and hunker down. As I mentioned, I am fairly close to a large population, but live in a rural area with dependable neighbors and open land flanking my homestead. In keeping Plan B as a working option, my wife and I plan several trips a year to educate the kids for a self sufficient lifestyle learned from camping, hiking, fishing and hunting and take these opportunities to practice outdoor survival skills. Other Benefits of preparing the homestead  as a "modified full time retreat" include the ability to pay off a few remaining debts as soon as possible. Except for the mortgage, I should be debt free in about 2 years. With a little luck and hard work, we will decrease this time and be financially independent sooner. I live close to work and can be home in 10 minutes, with little chance of running into any escaping hordes on TEOTWAWKI day. By homesteading, I feel I can meet many of the needs that Rowels and others have outlined for surviving TEOTWATKI.

I have a basic set of kits, tools and skills to feel a level of confidence that I can take care of my family in a crisis, and with some efficient planning, preparing, hard work, prayer, luck and protection from a guardian angel, we will be among the survivors if TSHTF.

Shotguns: I have owned a Remington 870 pump shotgun since I was a young teenager and am proficient in bird and small game hunting. I have studied self defense use of the "scattergun" or "streetsweeper" and feel confident I could protect my family and property if needed. I have recently purchased an 18.5” open choke cylinder barrel (riot gun barrel) and keep buckshot for home defense. I have about 300 rounds of various birdshot loads, 40 deer slugs, and several boxes of the buckshot. I would like to take some self defense training and properly engage in a long term training regimen - for all calibers and categories of guns I currently have. I also have 20 gauge, bolt action shotgun. It is solid, dependable and good for small bird and game hunting. 20 gauge shells take up slightly less storage space then 12 gauge, and we have about 120 birdshot shells in 20 gauge.

Rifles: Col. Jeff Cooper was a proponent of the Scout Rifle. (The specifications: .308 caliber, less than 1 meter in total length, less than 7.7 lbs, with a long eye relief scope (LER) and a tactical sling). I have a pseudo scout. I shoot a Remington 750 Woodsmaster chambered for a .243 Winchester. With a 22 inch barrel and OAL at 39 inches, 7.5 lbs, and full scope, it is meets most of the specs for a scout. Additionally, Col. Cooper lists this type of gun as appropriate for young or small-framed people (like myself). Also, my wife and 12 year old son will be able to shoot this rifle (my wife was formerly in the Army and is one of the only women I know who has qualified on the M16). One thing I like about the .243 is that I can shoot it a lot with no recoil pain. Since I am less proficient with the rifle (compared to the shotgun) I need to practice more often with this rifle. It is a semi-auto feed and could carry five shots. I have a regular neoprene sling and BSA 3-9 x 50 scope, best used for deer hunting. I have left the iron sights installed and could drop the scope if needed. Following Cooper's criteria for proficiency, I should be capable of shooting less than 4" in 3 shot groups at 200 yards. I need more practice. I am better with the .22 LR rifle and have two: a single shot and a bolt action. While varmint hunting with friends, I have found that a semi-auto is much more practical (rabbits are not easy to hit on the run). I plan on obtaining one soon. A dependable, basic AR-15 style rifle is also high on my list of needs; we need to protect the livestock from predators/coyotes. I bet my wife will enjoy showing me how to field strip and operate it!

Handguns: I have a Ruger P345. This semi-auto hand gun shoots the classic .45 ACP, but fits my small hand and frame, is relatively light weight (compared to a 1911, or large .357 or .44 magnum revolver). It is appropriate for concealed carry, but I carry my .380 much more comfortably. I have studied Col. Cooper's Modern Method and have been practicing a version modified to fit my gun's specifications. I currently have about 500 hundred rounds of .45 ACP ball for targets or varmints, several hundred rounds of JHPs (I prefer the CCI Lawman 200 grain JHP, aka “The Inspector”) and add a box of 50 whenever I have a chance. If I plan on shooting 50 rounds at the range or on a friend’s ranch, I buy 100 rounds. I also have a semi-auto .380 which is easy to carry concealed. It is a Bersa (Argentinean) and a clone of the classic Walther PPK. The .380 Remington JHP 88 grain bullet can penetrate well enough into a solid wood backstop I use for target practice. It is half the size of my .45 and works well in an everyday concealed carry situation. I don't shoot this weapon as much as I should, but am more accurate in short range (under 20 feet) with it. To quote Cooper: “The purpose of the pistol is to stop a fight that someone else has started, almost always at close range." He also stated that a pistol is used to help get you back to your rifle if you are separated in a fight.

I keep a few of Jeff Cooper’s quotes handy to always remind me why I have a small battery. He also states that, "the police cannot protect the citizen at this stage of our development, and they cannot even protect themselves in many cases. It is up to the private citizen to protect himself and his family, and it is not only acceptable, but mandatory." I also learned from Cooper to think strategically more than tactically and demand of myself proficiency in my gun use. In addition to shooting at targets basically in my backyard, I try to practice shooting in non-target range situations. Hunting and plinking on a friend’s ranch offer some of the few opportunities where I can practice scenarios in handling and shooting firearms in real life situations of being constantly armed with long and short guns (proper gun handling with a group of people, in and out of vehicles with weapons, hunting & target practice in different seasons and different times of day and weather).

Working Dogs
Although all of our dogs are pets and part of the family, they serve multiple purposes. I decided to mention them in my profile for others to consider the attributes of these breeds. I have a Catahoula. This is a multipurpose dog supposedly bred from the first Spanish War Dogs that the Conquistadors brought to the Americas in the 16th Century mixed with Native American dogs. The Catahoula is a ranch dog bred in Louisiana and trained for various tasks: cattle or goat herding, small varmint hunting (they can tree coons and are even known to climb trees in pursuit), hog hunting (they can be trained to pursue and kill wild hogs in specially trained teams of three dogs), and bird hunting (they can point and hold). Although a single dog cannot be trained to do all of these tasks, this is a very versatile breed or working dog that I think would make an excellent survival breed. They are very intelligent and loyal as a family protector, have a medium to large build (50-70 lbs), and are good guard dogs. They do have short coats and would not be a great choice for an outdoor only dog in a location with long cold winters. We also have two Chihuahuas (my wife's dogs), the only use I have for these little dogs is that they make great indoor alarms. If the doors open, windows rattle, or a vehicle comes near the house, we hear the Chihuahua alarm! They are bred for rodent catching and I wish I could use them for this task, but my wife is afraid that they would die from eating poison ingested rats or mice if we used them for such... In a SHTF situation, I would unleash them in the food storage area and let them earn their keep. They are very small and need minimal food and water. If allowed to do what they were originally bred for, I wouldn't doubt they would contribute to the family security by keeping the vermin out of the food storage area.

Our “need to do” list is long. It includes:

  • Food preparation and storage
  • Improved garden
  • Solar pump and new well and storage tank sufficient for several days of no sun
  • Propane tank to convert from natural gas, if necessary
  • High security fence around 1.5 acre homestead
  • Complete reloading bench & tools (have basic scales and brass)

Part 2: Primitive Survival Tools & Skills

If we have to fall back on Plan C (G.O.O.D. and live off the land - at least to supplement our diet), then I have a basic knowledge of primitive outdoor survival skills that should help me to work hard at supplying my family with some basic necessities. In addition to hunting, fishing and tracking skills, I have practiced the primitive arts of making a fire using a fire bow, making and using a hand drill, and flintknapping. I do not offer the following as a substitute for modern tools and techniques, but as an emergency supplement or replacement. We have progressed from Stone Age tools to steel and computer age materials to our own benefit, but the stone age tools and techniques helped man survive for many thousands of years and they could have a use in modern survival situations. Just as with any modern tools (firearms, chainsaws or a 4x4 diesel truck), the manufacturing/maintenance and use of the "primitive" tools is not easy to learn and one should not acquire these skills after your life depends on them. Also, just because these are referred to as "primitive" tools, doesn't mean they are not carefully and expertly made or mastered. I have a lot of practice and can manufacture (through flintknapping) a basic stone knife and set of scrappers that would be suitable for wild game and food processing. With additional practice, I continue to improve my skills in manufacturing stone dart tips for arrows or spears. I have not attempted to make a bow and need to practice this, but have assisted an old friend in the process. However, one expedient tool I can make for throwing a projectile is the atl-atl (or dart thrower).

The atl-atl is a primitive weapon which was used by our early ancestors for thousands of years before the bow and arrow was invented and copied. It is capable of launching a projectile (called a dart) very accurately and with enough velocity to penetrate and kill large game efficiently. Native Americans hunted bison and other large game with this simple tool kit. It is made by carving a shaft of wood with a handle and a spur (or cup) which the dart is seated in before launching it. The atl-atl is about 24-30 inches long, and can be carved from a tree limb (ash or many other hard but not brittle types of wood can be used) with a small hook or stub of a branch left for the spur. It is advisable to attach two finger loops on the handle end. These make it easier to keep the atl-atl in one's hand while throwing the dart. This simple tool allows the kinetic energy to be stored while the arm is in motion (a lot like a baseball pitcher’s motion using the arm and wrist). The dart can be projected 6 times farther than a hand-thrown spear with 150 times the foot-pound energy. With practice, the atl-atl can be accurate to 100 meters, but is best used at close range of around 20 meters. Its value as a survival tool is that it can be easily manufactured and operated silently. Hunting can be conducted with no noise to attract unwanted attention in any situation. One drawback with its use is that the hunter (or thrower) is basically standing and in the open while launching. With practice this can be minimized with camouflage and technique. One uses an atl-atl with minimal effort, and throws it by taking a step or two forward and launching the dart with a quick snap of the wrist. It really doesn't take much effort and is successfully done using a motion like casting a fishing line with a rod and reel. In fact, during demonstrations with 8-16 year old school kids, I have observed that the girls who are just trying to learn to do this without too much embarrassment out-throw the boys who are going for world record launches! 

The atl-atl's "ammo" consists of darts about twice the length of a standard arrow up to 5 or 6 feet. In fact, two modern aluminum arrow shafts can be screwed together with one set of fletching and one dart tip or point. Using natural stems of cane, willow shoots, bamboo, reed, or straight saplings would require a series of steps to complete a working toolkit for the atl-atl. A dart can be made in three parts: a foreshaft, a shaft, and fletching. The fletching is a row of feathers, usually short, trimmed one-sided wing feathers, glued to the base end like on an arrow. They are in three rows with a slight twist to provide steady flight and rotation. One outdoor survivalist (Alloway, 2000) also suggests using credit card strips set into the shaft, what a great way to put that plastic to use after TEOTWAWKI! Instead of a notch, like on the base of an arrow, the atl-atl dart base has a round divot for seating the shaft of the dart to the spur on the atl-atl. The foreshaft (made of a short 3-4 inch piece of shaped hard wood) is attached to the stone or metal point with glue (or tree sap) and sinew. All of the joints or areas on the shaft, foreshaft, and fletching that could spilt have to be reinforced with cordage or animal sinew. Acquiring these materials takes time and knowledge as well, but natural fiber string and "gorilla" glue or similar glue works great. Tree resin (such as pine) works as a natural glue to help hold the cordage intact. Once assembled, the foreshaft is jammed into a joint or hole on the “front” end of the shaft (opposite the fletching). This replacement technology allows for the need to make and carry only a few shafts, which are labor intensive to make, while having multiple foreshaft sections to reload with. The shaft sections also must be straightened. One way is by steaming and drying the wood or reed shaft while bending with a shaft straightening tool (a small block of wood with a round hole through it will work or a stone with a straight groove in it to run the shaft through until it dries). Use the "pool cue" or woodworker's test to eyeball it and see if it is straight. The shafts can and should be retrieved after launching. The other benefit of the foreshaft is that upon impact with the prey, it separates from the shaft leaving the sharp metal or stone point and 3 or so inches of foreshaft embedded where it causes massive internal bleeding as the prey's muscles contract and expand while running. The shaft can then be retrieved and reloaded with another foreshaft armed with a point. A blunt dart shaft or foreshaft can be used to stun or kill small birds and prey with just a fire-hardened wood tip - no need for "expensive" (labor or material cost) points. A side note on terminology: the term "point" or "projectile point" refers to the head, as in "arrow head," of the "projectile" - which is a general term for an arrow, spear or dart. The atl-atl "dart" is not a "spear" (which is a short, inflexible stabbing weapon). An atl-atl dart is a very advanced tool and took our ancestors many years of trial and error to develop as a silent, multi-component, high velocity, manual weapon. 

Fire making is another primitive art that is extremely important in an outdoor (or indoor) survival situation. A "fire bow" kit is easy to make out of natural materials found in most environments (desert, forest, mountain, plains, etc.) and is easy to master with practice. The kit contains a fireboard, socket, drill (or fire stick), and bow. The small bow (made like a toy bow and arrow) is made using a curved, stout but flexible branch or stick (about 24 inches long) with a bow string. The string can be made from a shoelace or parachute cord (natural fiber cordage can be used but tends to break from the rapid motion and friction it has to endure). The string is attached with enough slack to twist a short fire starter stick (called a drill or shaft) in it. It should be adjusted to be just tight enough - not too tight to be difficult to turn, and not too slack where it won't create the friction need to start a fire. The bow is rapidly manipulated (in a motion like a hand saw) to twirl the fire stick rapidly on a notched plank (called the fireboard). The fire stick (8-12 inches long) should be of soft wood (like willow or cottonwood) with a rounded, dull tip on one end that will help produce the ember; and a pointed tip that will seat in the socket (which is held in the non-bow hand) on the other end. The socket has to fit in the hand comfortably and is gripped to hold the twirling fire stick in place. It should be a cupped rock, but hard wood or a dish shaped piece of scrap iron can work. The notch on the fireboard, or plank, is to allow the fine saw dust (created during friction) and the important small ember to fall through on a bed of tender. Dry grass, a dry bird's nest, wasp nest, pine needles, cotton, or steel wool make good tender. The fireboard (plank) should be of dry wood, at least a half-inch in thickness, and thick bark is often the best plank. Pine is very useful in starting a fire due to its flammable resin content and can even be used when damp. Care should be taken to have all materials ready before starting to use the fire bow. This takes some effort, but preparation is most of the battle. Only a small ember is created in the process and must be handled appropriately. This is “cardio vascular” exercise and can produce a quick sweat. Use care to keep sweat from dripping onto the tender or plank and extinguishing your ember. Google these tools for pictures and other tips. One the ember is produced and lands or is placed in the tender, blow long, steady breaths to get a flame. Add this to your pre-set kindling and build up a good fire. (See other entries in the survivalblog for light security and safe methods of laying in wood.) 

One item in everyone's G.O.O.D. kit, BOB, vehicle glove box, bedside table, pocket, belt or boot should be a good steel edged knife. It is one tool that we should all hope to never leave home without. However, if separated from a good steel blade, or to supplement a small knife in a survival situation, one can manufacture a substitute tool kit from stone. Flintknapping is a skill our ancestors used for thousands of years to produce most or all of the tools needed to hunt, gather, and prepare most if not all the food and materials needed to survive in most of the climates humans have ever "survived" in. Hunting, butchering, and game processing, vegetable gathering and processing, hide scrapping and prepping, leather work, wood work, and many other tasks (including mortal combat) can be conducted with stone tools. A basic flintknapping tool kit for producing these tools includes: one or more hammerstones, soft hammer billets made from wood and/or deer, elk or moose antler, antler tines for pressure flaking, and a leather pad for protecting the palm and leg. It is not easy to do, and has a steep learning curve. I will outline the basics and suggest further research, kit assemblage, and practice be planned as part of one's overall survival strategy. There are numerous flintknapping groups across the U.S. and a variety of resources to help one get started. Besides the basic "knapping kit" described above, the main resource needed for flintknapping is a good quality "flint." There are various minerals that can be knapped (chert, obsidian, fossilized wood, quartzites, and others) and identifying useful materials is something knappers and archaeologists who study these primitive techniques do. I suggest Google research on this and a trip to visit a local geologist, rock quarry, rock shop or mountainman's rendezvous to start learning how to identify the right raw materials.

Once preparations are made, please remember that this is a potentially hazardous activity. Knapping is done by smashing a "core" (usually a fist sized cobble of a quartz material) with a "hammerstone" (a stream rolled dense stone, also usually quartz which needs to be solid and hand held). This is done usually by holding the core in or near one's lap or on the thigh. A near miss can cause pain or injury, and rock spalls are the desired result (which can fly in all directions and penetrate flesh, eyes, or bystanders. This should be done over a tarp (to help in cleanup) or in an area that is not a living space, especially one that isn't walked on barefooted, by people, pets or livestock, or used for food processing or sleeping, etc. Eye protection, leg padding, gloves or a leather pad are necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). By striking the core with the hammerstone at a controlled angle, a "flake" can be produced. In fact, one of the longest lasting technologies known to man is called "flake technology." Numerous flakes can be created in just a few minutes of knapping from one core. These are then selected for their ultimate use: arrow points, dart points or spear points; double edged or beveled knife blades; hide scrappers, etc. A core can be used multiple times and reduced to a very small fragment. A good knapper can pick up a core, visualize what he or she wants/needs to make, take a whack or two, pick up the flake, and continue the process. To make a bifacial tool (sharpened on two sides to hold an edge longer and able to penetrate flesh better) the knapper then can switch to the next tool in the kit, a soft hammer billet. These are "soft" hammer because they are softer than the stone material being shaped. In general terms, I think of knapping as whittling stone. These billets are about the size of a hammer and held and operated the same way. They are made from solid antler (deer, elk or moose) and sawn or cut to length. The base of the antler makes the working end of the billet and is ground or sanded round (a lot like the round end of a ball-peen hammer). This is then used to more accurately strike the chosen flake (held by a piece of leather in the off hand and held stable against the padded thigh or a bench) and continue to shape the flake and sharpen its edge. The billet can be used to get the basic shape of the tool set up. The final step is to use the antler tine (or a rigid copper wire with a wrapped tape handle) as a "pressure flaking" tool. The prototype tool is then held firmly (with a glove or leather pad) against the thigh or bench, and the pressure flaking tool is placed just off the edge to be sharpened/worked. It is pressed firmly with a short popping motion toward the working edge which is away from the midline of the tool (difficult to describe, but fairly easy to do with a little practice). This is done to take off very small bits at a time (called micro-flakes) and continued around the sharp edges of the tool until the final shape and sharpness is obtained. To make arrow, dart or spear points or other tools like knives (that have to be hafted to a handle or dart shaft to be usable), the base of the stone tool will be shaped to fit a handle or shaft. The hafted end will need to be dulled (so it doesn't cut through the cordage used to haft it or bind it to a shaft) by gently grinding it on a stone. Even expert knappers have relatively high failure rates doing this, but practice helps with the odds. Beginning with the basic flake produced by cracking open a core, one can expediently produce a sharp cutting implement that is sharp enough to cut deeply into flesh. A raw flake will lose its edge quickly, but with ample stone cobbles around, this technique can be repeated and improved with practice. A raw flake with a little bit of work along the edge can hold a fairly sharp edge for small cutting tasks, and be "retouched" with minimal effort to maintain its sharpness to complete a job like butchering small game, cutting edible parts of a useful plant, etc. Again, these are no substitute for a good, American made, steel knife blade, but just may be needed in a survival situation. Hopefully, none of you will have to rely on these tools and techniques to survive, but I also hope you find time to learn a little more about them and practice once or twice, just in case you do need to rely on some primitive survival tools.

Desert Survival Skills by Alloway, David. Published by University of Texas Press. Austin, Texas. 2000. 

The Art Of The Rifle

Sunday, February 14, 2010

James Wesley:
In response to the letter asking about combination guns, I do recommend having one. I have a Savage 24C .22 LR / 20 Gauge that I take hunting more than any other gun I have. Where I live in North Carolina, I can and have taken any game that is in my area. From deer using OO buck or slugs, birds, rabbits, or any small game using birdshot or the .22 rimfire barrel. I would not be afraid of using the 20 gauge barrel on black bear either, if I had too in an emergency. When hunting, I do take a sidearm in .357 Magnum just in case I do run into a black bear as a backup. Yes, I agree that it is not a defensive weapon against multiple targets, but it does serve a purpose in having one. If lost in the woods the 24C would be the gun I would want to have. - Randy in Asheville, North Carolina

Thursday, February 11, 2010

In reading your article on choosing survival guns I noticed that you have a Savage Model 24F listed. Do you have any experience or opinions on the Valmet 412 ST, with barrels for 12 gauge and .30-06? I want to buy one but did not know if it would be a good choice for putting on the list for survival guns. Thank you ,- John

JWR Replies: Combination guns are quite useful for areas where you have the opportunity to do both big game and bird hunting on the same hunt. There is many a time that I've been out on a deer or elk hunt and wished that I had a pistol or shotgun with me to hunt grouse, especially when I've been walking back to my truck, late in the morning. At lest that way I wouldn't have gone home empty -handed.

Combination guns are of course not the best guns for self-defense. But if combination guns are the approach you want to take for hunting and garden pest shooting, then the Valmet 412 is the "Cadillac" choice. Just keep in mind that for the same cost of buying one Valmet you could buy two Savage 24s--providing a wider range of calibers. For example, you could have one that is chambered .22 LR over 20 gauge, and another that is .223 over 12 gauge.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My preparedness background started as a youth.  My father took us camping often and had an amazing gun collection; I’ve been able to teach my kids what he taught me – great memories both then and now!  In the 1970s, my mom and step-dad bought a little 2-acre farm in the middle of nowhere.  We kept a dozen or so chickens, had a few garden spots (that seemed to grow and multiply with each new season), homemade soap, homemade root beer (an acquired taste!) a “sewing room”, a small orchard, solar heating, our own 250-gallon fuel tank, and a year supply of food (much of it canned at home) for a blended family of 10.  In the late 80’s, I got married and had my wife encourage me to follow the counsel of a church leader “to be prepared for anything”.  I did some homework, organized my gear and ended up teaching others for the last 15+ years the basics of being prepared.   My greatest mentor has been Glenn Anderson, who I met from the Yahoo group PrepJr.  (Check out his survival notebook section in the files).  I have taught disaster education for the Red Cross and served as a police reservist in a couple of small towns.  I enjoy ham radio, beekeeping, shooting, Dutch Oven cooking, serving in my church, backpacking/camping, canoeing, and delving into the many facets of being prepared and independent.  After reading (in quick succession) Lights Out [a free e-book], "One Second After". and "Patriots", I’ve been taking it up a notch and inviting anyone who will listen to join me in a more advanced state of preparedness.  I’ve bought extra copies of the books to loan out (or sent out links to acquire the e-books).  In my church, I am responsible to help some of our local units get better prepared.  During this process, I’ve thought how other churches might want to consider the same thing, and thought I could use this format to share what I have learned over the years.  Being a “work in progress”, here are the thoughts that I’ve come up with so far to help a congregation get better prepared:

Initial goals for this year:

1.  Basic “phone tree” functioning – map out and divide the church boundaries into geographical districts.  Assign each family 2 or 3 other households within a district to do welfare checks, especially during a significant event where loss of phone service is minimal.  Help your members become their brother’s keeper.

2.  List of those with special needs – physical handicaps, mentally or emotionally challenged, critical medicines and/or durable medical equipment.  Make plans on how they can be helped.

3.  Define resources across your membership: specialized skill sets (medical, transport, security, heavy equipment & operators, “prepared”/food storage, etc.)

4.  List of homes willing and able to take in refugees (consider list from #3).  Consult the map to help determine closest options and alternate routing if needed.

5.  Emergency Communications training – locate current ham radio operators across the area and establish a scheduled net to practice traffic handling and prepare to facilitate communications in the event of an emergency.  Use their homes as focal points for the collecting of information.  (If ham operators are non-existent, skip to item #7.) Also, consider befriending local hams and arrange the use of their skills and equipment until such time as you can provide your own Emergency Communications.  Local church leadership can help coordinate assistance as information comes in from across the area.

6. Hold a “Preparedness Fair” to help motivate/kick start the basic concepts of home storage and self-reliance.  Plan to hold mini-classes as members start to see the wisdom of being prepared.

Goals for next year:

7.  Begin ham radio classes – encourage those in church leadership to at least obtain a Technicians license in order to allow “local” communications.  It’s not that hard. Invite the membership to participate.  As more members obtain their licenses, the geographical districts become more manageable and communication is simplified.  Information sharing, especially health hazards, is absolutely critical in allocating the resources available.  It is also a psychological boost to be able to share and learn about local conditions.  Contact your local ham radio club(s) for assistance or go to

8.  "Disaster Communication" tree – those who choose not to get their ham radio license, make use of what is available outside of phones/internet:  (FRS radios, CB, GMRS, car, bike, foot).  Practice communicating without normal means and check on those in each district. Set up specific hours and frequencies and see how well the equipment works.  For those who are unable to participate “electronically”, a runner will need to knock on the door.  Might encourage more to consider other options.  The goal is to be able to check on each member of your congregation.  Use local weather events to activate communications (flash floods, snow storms, ice, etc).  Encourage acquisition of NOAA weather radio with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME).

9.  Advanced prep classes (designed for those who have at least a couple of months of food storage and have a basic vision of preps):

  • Camping skills and equipment (the foundational layer of being prepared in general)
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Alternate water/lighting/cooking and fuel storage options
  • How to stay warm/freeze protection – alternative heat sources for the home
  • Real "Bug-out-bags" and optional transport
  • Pressure canning, dry-pack, dehydrating, local cannery, etc – food preservation
  • Gardening & herbs - no matter where you live you can grow something
  • Beekeeping
  • Hunting & game "preparation" – team up “novices” with experienced hunters willing to share.  Opportunity to teach many outdoor skills.
  • Home defense & security
  • Practical map & compass and GPS use
  • Raising farm animals
  • EMP preparations (grounded Faraday cages for all critical electronic devices)
  • Prep library – fiction and non-fiction, a never-ending collection. Begin discussion groups to open up the thought process of what we can do right now.  Helps keep “the eye on the ball”.

Goals for the following year:

  1. Pre-positioning & movement of gear - trucks & trailers available to haul members gear to a centralized point if personal safety becomes an issue.
  2. Rally points: Look for areas that allow for shelters/tent sites, water sources, firewood, pre-dug latrines, defense trenches, LP/OP, graves, etc dug while machinery is easily available; perhaps a members property/farm or hunting camp.
  3. Backup plans for those unable to report (see #3) due to their own challenges or needing to use there own "resources" elsewhere.  Cross train.
  4. Security detail:  Safety, Training, practice, CCW,  proper storage of guns and ammo.

Other considerations:

- Any members with large tracts of land that would be willing to “invite” the membership and like-minded individuals to gather for safety (see point #10 & #11)
- Airplane/ultra-lite for recon
- “EMP proof” vehicles (plan to have necessary spare parts on hand)
- Those with farm animals, fuel storage, solar panels, wood lot/firewood
- Potential access to a pharmacy, backup refrigeration for critical meds
- Organized responsibilities: Medical, Security, Sanitation, Burial, Water collection/treatment, Hunter/Gatherer, Construction/Home repair, Firewood collection, Mechanical, Plumbing, Electrical, Communications, etc.

I have appreciated the opportunity to organize my thoughts as I am preparing to implement the plan above.  I just recently discovered SurvivalBlog,\ and found that it is a treasure of knowledge.  Thank you for your time and efforts to help us be better prepared.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I enjoyed the article by Chris on bee keeping and fur trapping. Ever since setting my first muskrat trap in 1974, I have been an avid trapper, not missing a year since, regardless of fur market prices. The knowledge one gains with respect to any furbearer that is pursued becomes very intimate if pursued successfully with passion year after year. Its not enough to just understand the general behavior of the furbearer. To successfully trap furbearers, one must know exactly where the animal will step. Close doesn’t always count in this sport. I once read where if one wants to really learn about the outdoors, talk to a trapper.

We know that in a TEOTWAWKI situation, the local deer herd and much of the small game in any given area will be decimated relatively quick. I have trapped cliff edges overlooking several rivers in my area for years with well worn paths leading from crevice dens and transition or bottleneck areas. These areas have always been very productive with no competition to speak of. The cliff areas would be the last areas to provide food and fur in a TEOTWAWKI event in my area.

I have 45 rats, mink and several red fox going to the fur dealer this evening. I ‘m looking forward to trapping beaver in February as they will be very prime. I will have the beaver hides tanned as beaver hides are very durable and I enjoy making collars , mittens, et cetera. If you have ever tried beaver tail, you know it is quite tasty. I skin the tail, boil it, then cook it wrapped in aluminum foil with butter and some garlic. I then chill it in the frig, cut in small cubes and serve on a cheese and cracker tray. Excellent! - Ed D.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I am a dentist with approximately 20 years experience.  My hobbies are eccentric by many modern people’s standards.  After reading many of the  articles on the survivor blog I thought that I might have a unique perspective to add to the wealth of undervalued information posted on the site. 

While reading James Wesley Rawles book I was not surprised to find out that Honey maintains stability for years in storage. This did not surprise me as I am a hobby bee keeper myself.  This in and of itself makes long term storage of honey a wonderful glucose reserve.  Few people realize that Honey was found in King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.  Scholars believe that the honey was still stable and edible.  A recent article in Bee Culture magazine discussed the issues surrounding natural bacterial static properties of honey as well as  botulism  toxin and raw honey.  This might be a good time to reinforce that raw/natural honey should never be fed to infants under the age of two.  As adults we all have resistance to botulism toxin due to long term slow small quantity exposure to the toxin.  Infants, young children and immuno-compromised adults can not break down the toxin and metabolize it.  That same article discussed the fact that honey has natural immune properties that lice or kill bacteria in situ.  For that reason many homeopathic doctors utilize honey in the way that we utilize triple antibiotic ointment in today’s culture.  Obviously this antimicrobial nature associated with honey allows for its long term storage without degradation. 

Enough about the health benefits of honey…Let’s talk about the real interesting part… The bees!  Many people fear bees due to lack of understanding.  Few people understand how enjoyable beekeeping can be with great benefits.  For instance consider the value of an average years honey flow at about 90 lbs of raw honey.  In many areas of the United States wintering over of bee colonies is simple and low cost. Even in an area like Northern Michigan where it feels like we only have three months a year without snow, many bee hives winter over well to propagate stable hives year after year.   What’s in it for you besides the occasional bee sting? When one considers candle use in situations WTSHTF beeswax has many valuable considerations.  For the novice candle maker who has only dealt with paraffin and stearic acid, beeswax offers simplicity and highly superior results.  Keep in mind that both products are side effects of animal husbandry (bee keeping in this case) that many of us overlook.  Many of us urbanites take for granted the volume of sweets and deserts offered in our modern world.  Products like honey and maple syrup were obviously delicacies of times gone by. 
A single beehive offers the gentleman farmer or recreational hobbyist great enjoyment with wonderful personal return on investment. Pollination of fruit trees and garden vegetables is the real bonus.  Since I began beekeeping 10 years ago our orchard, grapes and flower gardens have produced far beyond expectation.  Growing a garden may be important but a bountiful harvest of apples, plums, grapes and pears would surely be like winning the progressive jackpot at one of our local casinos in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  While on the subject of overproduction barter and trade come to the surface.   I defy any family to utilize 90lbs of honey in a year’s time.  You won’t get rich but you might have in your possession a commodity in great demand WTSHTF. 

For the basic individual with hobby level carpenter skills building a beehive is but a weekend project with a minimal investment in lumber. Bees are very forgiving as to wood butcher carpenter skills. Minor holes, less than perfect joints will be sealed up by the busy bee attempting to make up for the carpenters shortfalls.   Purchasing wax foundation and frames is minimal in cost for a single hive.  Ordering a starter package of bees with a queen to fill the hive initially only costs about 60.00.  From there you need a veil, smoker and some form of coverall and gloves if one has great fear of bees.  A basic book on bee culture can be obtained along with supplies from great suppliers like Dadant and Rossman Apiaries. 

Enough about the bees…As I sit before my laptop typing this informational entry for SurvivalBlog,  the History Channel is airing a documentary on the mountain men of North America during the fur harvesting era of the great northwest.  As a young man with enthusiasm for the great outdoors I will agree with James Wesley Rawles when he cautions in his book to think twice about going it alone in the woods in the event of TEOTWAWKI.  Few people can begin to imagine how uncomfortable and unforgiving nature is in its average event.  The point I am trying to make is that the theory all looks good on paper  until you have broken through the ice of a beaver pond or stream in -20 degree  weather three miles from modern transportation. With this in mind few of us can begin to rationalize uncomfortable. When your feet are too numb to take another step and the matches are wet you have only begun to experience nature's wrath.  In summary, nature lacks sympathy for the unprepared.  I digress because the intent of this goat path was to direct your attention to yet another hobby.  Fur harvesting and trapping! We occupy a 200 acre parcel of land that we call home.  On an average year that parcel of property nets 15 coyote, 20 raccoons and 10-12 fox of varying species.  Muskrat and mink abound.  I realize that many people think that a meal comprised of any of the following may not seem palatable.  To the contrary, muskrat, and beaver can be prepared on the level of delicacy.  Until you have tried smoked beaver jerky and sausage I would advise reconsideration.  Few people understand that beaver meat is high in protein and sought after by sled dog races for the high quality meat it provides.  Don’t forget the value of rendered beaver fat for leather sealing and other uses.  While I have not partaken in consuming raccoon, when one applies the concept of you are what you eat, I would consider that a raccoon harvested from a Oak or Maple forest could be quite delectable in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  We recently watched the latest edition of the Terminator series, Terminator Salvation. At one point in the movie a young survivor was asked what he was eating and he responded “Two day old coyote, beats the hell out of three day old coyote”!  With all humor aside one reflects on the old statement of what will be left in the event of a major disaster: coyotes and cockroaches!  I am by no means advocating a diet rich in fox, coyote and cockroach protein. 

I advocating is considering becoming a recreational fur harvester to hone one’s skills and understand what little it takes to harvest a bounty of fur and protein.  For those of you who have never had the opportunity to wear fur in extremely cold weather, I can assure you that animals are not cold!  Fur even as a trim element attached to ordinary clothing offers great warmth from frostbite in that the hollow nature of the hair creates a thermal barrier and draws moisture away from exposed skin allowing for greater comfort.  Minnesota Trap products offers a wealth of inexpensive books for the novice woodsman to add to his library.   A minimal investment of 12 fox and coyote traps and a few connibear traps are really all that one needs for production of an additional line of protein and textiles.  Learning to use snares for catching and restraining animals could be utilized not only in a fur harvesting concept but also in a security detail.  At one time in my life I felt I had a wealth of knowledge relevant to the world of hunting and fishing.  Trapping makes one aware of how little one knows about wildlife activity and habits.  That knowledge can be transferred to human nature and predictability of ones adversary should the need arise.  While I am in no way advocating learning the concepts of how to snare white tail deer for use as a current recreational hobby, I am suggesting you put to mental record the basic understanding of the process.  Purchasing a few dozen snares of varying diameter and sizes could offer a tremendous value in ways not obviously thought of. Consider that gun shots to harvest deer in western states bring wolves to prey on hunters while dressing out the catch.  My point is that if wolves and coyotes can come to single firearm report used to harvest an animal, wouldn’t you consider that your fellow urban refugee might apply the same mental prowess?  Trapping and snaring allow for game to be quietly dealt with without attention being drawn to one’s activity. WTSHTF one would be better served to be quiet and discrete about your activities.   With that in mind I would recommend one consider researching RAM Power Snares. (also available from Minnesota Trapline Products).  Please understand that different states have different laws defining the use of snares and traps.  Notwithstanding is the use of the RAM power snare! My recommendation is ownership with use limited to TEOTWAWKI situations.  Understanding of how they are used should be limited to extrapolation from legal snaring techniques. 
Trapping is slowly becoming an art lost to the elders of our society.  However, there are still many old timers and young individuals with a wealth of knowledge that they are happy to share.  As Mr. Rawles so eloquently notes in his book, Skills are the items of the greatest value in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  Hone them as you would the edge of your best knife. 

Fur prices have dropped to unfortunate levels over the past few years, so don’t get into this hobby for any other reason than education. You will certainly not become the next John Jacob Astor or owner of the next Hudson Bay Company.   Many of the people sharing information in the community about trapping will direct the novice fur harvester to a market during the education process to sell their catch. 

I hope the information provided in this article offers those who choose to read it some perspective on subject matters that might come from a different direction.  With that in mind I would welcome an entry on the basis of producing high quality whiskey through a safe distillation process..  If I am going to be here after TSHTF I want to be sure that either Jack Daniels makes it through with me or that I have refined the formula for production of whiskey.  Good Luck and God Bless.

Monday, December 28, 2009

I was thinking about the fishing e-mails and thinking: why are we talking [about using hand-held] rods?

In a true TEOTWAWKI situation [where present-day conventions and legalities on sport fishing have gone by the wayside] I don't want to be standing there for hours trying to catch dinner just like I don't want to be sitting in a tree stand trying to shoot dinner either. Like hunting, which I tend to agree with you on (you do it all the time by carrying your rifle and being ready at all times -- or at least some firearm capable of taking big game)...the same goes for fishing.

Should I find myself near a lake or pond that has fish in it I'll rig up a trot/trout line and get it set across the lake or between to jutting trees etc. Then I'll go back to surviving and check the line later in the day, even the next day. I don't have to sit there and watch it so I can gather wood, work in my garden (should I be fortunate enough to have one) etc etc..

When I was young I remember an older native lady who used to set up multiple poles on the pier she fished from. It was up north in British Columbia and far anyone so no worries about getting in trouble with the law. The point is, she put multiple hooks in the water then went back into her little shack and waited out the day doing something else.

She always caught lots of fish and you'd never know unless you watched her pull them up or put the lines in...she often set trout lines from one wharf to another also and always caught fish on them.

How did I know? I was an enterprising young lad who spent hours with my rod and reel to catch one or two fish, while she caught 10 or 12.

So it's just lines, hooks and gear of that sort for me with one or two compact rods to use if traveling.

Otherwise, why waste the time? - Erik

While a good discussion on fishing gear please remember that post-collapse the "old" rules no longer apply.

There are two excellent methods for getting fish that have not been mentioned.
The first is courtesy of Larry Dean Olsen (primitive survival expert) and I have tried this myself and it works like a champ. Basically you trap a small rodent (ground squirrel, prairie dog, etc. that you would not eat) and hang it over a deep cut bank on a stream or lake. As flies come maggots will grow and gravity being what it is, they will drop off the carcass and into the water. This process takes three days at a minimum. But it conditions the fish to come to that spot for a "free" meal. Then using a large net or other means, the fish are relatively easy to catch.

The second is courtesy of my brother who worked doing fish surveys for the Division of Wildlife in the back country of Utah for a number of years while finishing his education. Basically you drive two copper rods into the bottom of the stream or pond and attach them to your vehicle's electrical system (I use jumper cables). The 12 volt DC current acts as a magnet for the fish and you can pick and choose which ones you want for supper. Now I've only tried this in areas that are predominately populated by trout and char (brook and lake trout) so I do not know if it works on other species. - Hugh D.

Many of your readers seem to think that hunting and fishing are going to be feasible ways to feed their families after the balloon goes up. I guess this is possible in very remote areas, but I would caution them not to count on it. Even assuming the disaster that caused the collapse doesn't destroy wildlife (radiation for instance), wild game is a very undependable food resource.

The assumption is that without game laws, a resourceful fisherman can take many times more fish from a body of water than if he were following rules. This is absolutely true. Having fished with grenades in the past, I can vouch for the effectiveness of unrestrained fishing techniques.

Unfortunately, game laws are there for a reason: to keep the resources from being over-exploited. I participated in an exercise with a Tahan Pran unit (Irregulars attached to the Royal Thai Army) in 1986 and watched a platoon fish out an entire section of a fairly large river in just a few days. By the end of a week, they stopped throwing grenades in the water because there weren't enough fish to justify the activity any more. This small group of people basically denuded several miles of river and harvested all the fish available, including minnows. We ate a lot of fish that week, but their technique was too effective for long term use.

Even a large body of water has a finite carrying capacity and I expect most of them will be exceeded after the balloon goes up. Even if nobody is fishing with dynamite, lots of people are going to have the same idea and most bodies of water are going to be exploited much more heavily than they currently are. Most lakes, rivers and ponds are stocked regularly with fish to keep anglers happy. Without constant re-stocking and feeding programs, the watershed will be dependent on native fish breeding to restock. This is a slow process at best. Add to that over fishing by lots of hungry people and I expect water resources to be quickly depleted in most areas.

Hunting is even more prone to over-exploitation. Shooting deer from a feeding station or spotlighting them is very easy, but the downside is that anyone can do it. Deer, bear, and other large game may be poached to extinction in most areas and are going to be scarce wherever there are hungry people. Even rabbits and squirrels are likely to be in short supply.

Perhaps more serious is the topic of security. After TEOTWAWKI I expect fishing to be extremely hazardous. Water courses and lake shores are lines of drift and attract people. Standing around dangling a hook in the water seems to me to be a very dangerous activity and drifting around in a boat can make you a convenient target. You are vulnerable to rifle fire from basically anywhere on the shore. Tramping around in the woods is little better. If you run into anyone, you may find yourself on the receiving end of an ambush, or at best, in a battle, far from help.

Hunting and fishing are very time consuming (with the exception of traps and trot-lines). After TEOTWAWKI, there may be better uses for your time and energy. If you are truly isolated, hunting and fishing can be valid ways to put some meat on the table, but if you are anywhere near a population center, I would forget about buying fishing gear and use the extra money to store more food. - JIR

Sunday, December 27, 2009

This is in response to the articles on fishing. Depending on where you are, I would assume that everyone and his relations will be sitting on the bank and hoping for a fish to bite. Fishing is hit or miss, unless you have a boat and have spent a great deal of time on the water, you will starve to death waiting for a fish to bite. You will be sitting exposed and probably looking over your shoulder.

I have a better solution and it is one that will work every time it is tried. Assuming you are operating in survival mode, a device my dad and, now I, have is a simple thing called a crawfish (crayfish, or freshwater lobster) rake. You make a rectangular wire basket with a long pole on the top and the end facing you open. You thrust it out into the water and let it sink. Then you rapidly pull it back in by letting it drag along the bottom. You dump it on the bank and poke through all the leaves and sticks for all the small fish (occasional big fish), crawfish, frogs, mussels etc. You not only have bait, you can also add this to a pot of stew or gumbo, it may not look good but I assure you it will be good for you. I am attaching a picture of one I've used for 25 years. You can probably describe it better than I can for your readers.

You can easily supply the protein needs of a family with what you can drag out of a ditch, or most any still body of water. The murkier the water the better.

Another devise is a minnow seine, one or more persons will have to get in the water. One end is secured on land, the other is walked out into the water and then in a wide arc as it is slowly walked until you get the other end on shore. Then you simply keep walking until the net and its contents are on shore. I recommend at least a 20 foot one.

There is also a device called a cast net, it requires practice, but is very effective at catching fish.

Webbing is very effective, this requires a boat or shallow water and is extremely effective at snaring fish, turtles, etc. I have a 100 foot one stored in a duffle that will go with us when we bug out.

A hoop net is another type of net. There is a company in Jonesville, Louisiana called Champlin Net Company. They have been making and selling nets for as long as I remember (Hoop, webbing, gill, and even baseball). [JWR Adds: OBTW, the large mesh commercial fishing netting (1.5-inch squares) is also perfect to use for the base layer for assembling ghillie camouflage ponchos.]

Although bulky, fish and crab traps are also effective. They can be hidden and out of sight, just remember where you deployed them. And don't forget the trot line and simple lines tied to tree limbs that you run at intervals during the day and night.

Everyone likes to get out the rod and reels, but ask anyone who goes fishing how many trips they make to Wal-Mart or Academy Sports for supplemental gear for every trip. There may not be a sporting goods store to go to, so keep plenty of hooks, line and sinkers. Don't just keep monofilament line, it goes bad from old age.

Hope this helps, catching a mess of fish is great and the eating is good. But using any or all the techniques I have described above will feed you every day. Thanks, - Ken G.


Mr. Editor,
No offense to W. in Atlanta - but that isn't a TEOTWAWKI fishing article, it is geared more toward "what to consider before your weekend fishing trip" article.

First, my nephews catch just as many pan fish (from shore) on their $12 SpongeBob Squarepants and Batman poles as I do with my 10x more expensive Shimano/St. Croix rods. So while it's a good idea to have some more expensive/reliable equipment, you might also consider getting a number of bubble pack rod/reel units too. More hooks in the water, lots of spare parts,
and cheap.

Regarding fly fishing - It's difficult enough to remain semi-hidden when fishing from shore, but a fly fisherman flipping a 9' rod around while wading in waist deep water can be seen from a great distance. It also puts you at a serious disadvantage tactically. Another advantage of the cheap bubble pack rods is their short length, making it easier to cast from the cover of weeds, trees, or rocks - albeit at less distance.

Some additional equipment I'd add would be:

1) Gill nets with mesh sizes appropriate for the fish species in the nearest bodies of water, and nylon rope for trot lines. Draped under the waterline after dark, these hopefully go unnoticed during the day for retrieval the next night. These also allow you to be 'fishing' while you're performing other activities.

2) Minnow nets/traps for bait (and pet food).

3) Ice fishing gear, if applicable (or again, another use for the short bubble pack poles).

4) Devices capable of producing an underwater shock wave. ('Nuff said).

Lastly, don't forget to store lots of brine ingredients, seasonings, and freezer bags/wrap, cause at TEOTWAWKI we're going catching - not fishing.

Merry Christmas, - Off-Grid Al

Friday, December 25, 2009

Much has been written in these pages and elsewhere about prepping for food: maintaining protein and caloric intake. Fish are an excellent source of protein, and will continue to be so under most post-SHTF scenarios. How does a person go about preparing to catch them, and convert them to food?

I write this as someone who has had the good luck to have fished over the last fifty plus years in every continent but Australia, and survived, and who has designed and built hundreds of rods in pursuit of every conceivable species of fish using a wide range of techniques. I prefer the anonymity that others on this blog use, but my articles on fishing have appeared in national and regional magazines over the years. I also happen to be a prepper. More correctly put, I have been a prepper for a while without realizing it, until I read Patriots and other writings by Mr. Rawles, and others!

I must qualify any recommendations I make:

  • First of all, fishing gear is the subject of exhaustive discussions on every possible media. It’s the nature of things that fishermen and women get very detailed, and opinionated, in what works and doesn’t. By making recommendations, it is not my intent to stir the pot. I have tried to keep my comments as brief and as practical as possible.
  • Secondly, name brands of gear. I happen to lean towards Penn and Abu reels with a preference for the older models, and make most of my own rods from blanks made by Calstar, Seeker, Loomis, Sage, Lamiglas, Amtak, Cabela's, Tiger, and more. However, these preferences are meaningless for the purposes of this letter. There is a lot of other gear out there that is high quality, made by these manufacturers and others such as Shimano, Daiwa, Bass Pro shops and others. Instead my recommendations are based on line capacities, which drive size, weight and to some extent drag performance, and commonly available rod lengths and lure sizes. You must pick out the outfit(s) that fit your situation.
  • Third, I am assuming in a TEOTWAWKI situation you will have no access to a boat (or if you do then you may lack a vehicle to pull it with) and will be on foot. In a boat, you can get by with a lot less casting, so the equipment recommendations may be different. What I present below is a set of opinions based on distillation of a lot of ideas and my experiences.
  • So, this is addressed to those intrepid souls who have their wits about them, even if not a lot of fishing infrastructure, as they diligently prepare for scenarios they may be confronted with. I’ll start with outfit types then move to terminal tackle, then inexpensive alternatives.

The spinning outfit. If I were limited to a single outfit for a vast majority of the situations I would encounter anywhere in the Americas it would be a spinning outfit. The technology enables a user to cast and manipulate small and large lures and baited hooks efficiently across a wide spectrum of applications, and species of fish.

The actual size outfit will vary, however, depending on where one is located:

  • For 80 percent of the applications in the Americas: that is where one may encounter fish up to, say, 20 lbs., in relatively unobstructed water, a rod in the 6 ½ - 7’ range designed to handle lures from ¼ to ½ ounce or so, with a reel having a line capacity of 200 yards of 10 lb. test line will handle things nicely.
  • If in higher altitudes and latitudes where trout, small salmon and char predominate, I would lean toward a lighter outfit; something in the 6 - 6 ½’ length designed to handle lures from 1/8 to 3/8 ounce or so, with a reel capacity of 200 yards of so of six pound line.
  • In lower altitudes and latitudes, in water full of trees and brush, as well as for light salt water use, I would go with a rod in the 7’ range designed to handle lures from 3/8-3/4 or so, sporting a reel having a capacity of around 200 yards of fifteen pound line.

A decent outfit meeting any of these descriptions can be had starting at about fifty bucks, and going upward from there (substantially upward!).

If you can, buy extra line for the reels in various line classes at, above and below the recommended ones, as these can be used as replacement lines or to quickly add a leader to the existing line of a smaller diameter to fool finicky fish, or larger diameter to prevent toothy fish such as pike (in fresh water) and mackerel (in salt water) from biting through your line.

The spin casting outfit. Also called “push button” “closed face spinning” and “under spin” reels, depending on whether they are mounted above or below the handle on a rod, these are instantly recognizable by their enclosed shroud inside which the line is stored. These are great outfits for kids to learn fishing with, but they have no place in a prepper’s set of tools, unless nothing else is available or as a backup.

I have a number of these reels, including some expensive models, and observe that drags are uniformly weak and the line pickups are poor. The line pickups for example are either a stationary – non-rolling – pin of steel or coated material, or are integral to the rotating head and have a serrated edge, not unlike like a bread knife, with a predictable impact on line wear. With these reels the line quickly twists and frays, as any dad with a fishing kid can attest. As a result, line life is very short compared to reels that have ball bearing line rollers such as spinning reels or reels where there is very little contact with the line as it is retrieved, such as bait casting reels.

Another factor: the design of these reels is utterly incompatible with saltwater because of its closed face which traps salt water, and quickly rusts the reel out unless you have the time and means to meticulously clean and air, re-lubricate and reassemble the reel after each use. So unless you have plenty of extra line and spare time to maintain the equipment, I wouldn’t bother with spin casting if prepping for a wide range of situations.

The fly outfit. These are far better suited to the gathering of fish protein than some would think, a fact which has been underlined by some well thought of outdoor writers such as HG Tapply of Tap’s Tips (Field and Stream) fame which I used to read avidly. In reality, the fly outfit is deadly at laying out not only flies and streamers, but also dangling worms from a distance, even flipping perch bellies for bass, pickerel and pike.

Once you figure out you are casting the line rather than the lure, things fall into place. Another plus is that, with a little practice, once you have made your first cast into an area it takes only a second or so to place a lure or bait into a productive fish zone if it has drifted away or if you are working a shoreline: there is no need to retrieve the line and cast it back out – you simply lift it off the water and with a flick move it to the next spot.

Simplicity is the key. For example, there is little need for a reel to do anything but hold line, so you can strip out the line you need when you start fishing, then wind it back on the reel when you are done (or need to move on to the next spot and don’t want to trail loops of line behind you on the ground). The fish is fought by stripping the line backward through your fingers. Thus, for most applications the typical “single action” fly reel is dirt simple: a spool with a 1:1 gear ratio which rotates on an axis mounted on a frame.

Some of the fancier reels for large fresh and salt water fish have serious drags so you can fight the fish “from the reel”. There are also “multiplier” reels where one turn of the handle generates more than one turn of the spool. But these are not a requirement for the vast majority of situations the prepper is planning for. The KISS principle applies here.

If I were to limit myself to a single fly rod, I would get something approximately 8 ½ - 9’ long that matches to a 7 or 8 weight line (with a preference for a “weight forward” or “bass bug” tapered line if I had either of those options over “level” or “double tapered” line) and a “single action” reel. I would attach a tapered leader to the fly line say 7 1/2 -9 feet long, and going down to as small as six pound test (10-12 lb. test for heavy situations such as farm ponds and larger fish).

For alpine lakes and rivers I would select an 8’ - 9’ rod that matches to a 4 or 5 weight line, with the shorter length rod being better suited to brushy streams, and the longer rod being for more open spaces. Leader would taper down to about 4 lb. test.

People ask, doesn’t one need an advanced degree in entomology (bug science) to be able to successfully fish a fly rod? Heck no! Here’s why: lots of bugs are “terrestrials” which is a fancy word for anything other than the genteel critters with the Latin names that “match the hatch”: Terrestrials are grasshoppers, bees, spiders, crickets and the like which occur pretty much everywhere. You can buy a pack of these flies at your local china-mart for a few bucks, and along with a few bare hooks (for garden worms, larvae, and strips of fish belly) are pretty much all you’ll need for terminal tackle for the fly rod. Tie one of those terrestrials on and the fish will hit it even if it does not match exactly their normal fare, because it will look like something that got blown into the water by the wind. By the time they taste it: too late!

You can buy a complete starter fly fishing setup including rod, line, reel and leader, with perhaps a few flies thrown in for about $80 at Wal-Mart or any reputable mail order catalog.

The bait casting outfit. This is a generic term for the revolving spool reel. This gear is most popular in the Americas in applications involving the casting of artificial lures and baits of 3/8 ounce and larger. They are by far the furthest casting reels in long distance casting competitions when a large weight of about 5 ounce is cast out three hundred yards and over (no kidding)! They are also excellent for trolling and bottom fishing, as quality models have the line capacity and the drags are able to tame very large fish. They happen to be my favorite category of reels.

For practical purposes, however, the minimum lure (or bait) size limitations will limit the usefulness of bait casting. In most fresh water applications the deadliest range of lures and baits for gathering fish protein is from about 1/16th to ½ ounce, and bait casting gear can comfortably accommodate only the upper end of that range. They are also more difficult to learn to use than, say, spinning gear.

Therefore, unless my retreat is on an ocean beach or a boat, I would not recommend this type of gear for the prepper except as a backup, especially when other choices are available.

Decent bait casting outfits can be had new for around seventy dollars and up.

Rod considerations. In the non-prepping world rod choices are generally lumped into one-piece (the best choice for most mainstream saltwater rods, and many bait casting rods), two-piece and “travel” (which may have three or more rod sections).

In the prepping world, where we are interested in addressing a wide range of applications with as little gear as possible, the choices narrow considerably (although they are still ample). First of all I would eliminate one piece rods, unless your plans call for staying in one place – they lack the portability of the multi-piece rods.

So the question becomes “am I better off with a two piece rod or a multi-piece “travel” rod?” The answer is not simple, because of a general rule that for the same amount of money, the quality generally goes down the more pieces your rod has. The best value is therefore a two-piece rod. However, if space and convenience is at a premium, a multi piece travel type rod may be the best alternative, even if more expensive. My advice would be not to scrimp, if you go the multi-piece route.

One option you may find very attractive is a combination travel fly and spin rod: one rod that can handle both fly and spinning applications. Eagle Claw and Fenwick came out with these in the sixties, and they were quite the ticket in those days, but the selection is greater now. This setup would be tailored for the lighter applications, however.

What about terminal tackle? For an extreme post-SHTF situation, you can get by with just some hooks, and perhaps an assortment of sinkers. One rule of thumb to follow is that – generally – you can catch a big fish on a small hook, but not a small fish on a big hook. Here’s a punch list since we have the luxury of shopping now. These are available from any Wal-Mart ("China mart") or outdoor mail order business:

  • Hook Assortment from about size 12 to about size 2. For saltwater, expand this hook size assortment to include hooks up to 4/0 (you’ll still want the small hooks for catching smaller fish and bait).
  • Sinker assortment from split shot to 1 ounce.
  • Bobbers or floats, from marble size through golf ball size.
  • Pre-filled “Beginner tackle box” sets loaded with hooks and sinkers, as well as some assorted lures can be had for perhaps 10 bucks.
  • Line – lots of spools in sizes ranging from 4-15 lb. test, as well as some 30-40 lb. test to use for leader material. This is inexpensive stuff. What you do not use will make excellent trading stock!
  • Some wire leaders. For most purposes single strand “piano” wire of 27 or 36 lb. test is the best of the alternatives.

Selection of artificial lures, some staples of which are:

  • Rapala floating minnows – silver in the 7 to 11 cm sizes
  • Mepps spinners – size zero through size 3. Also buy small ball bearing swivels if you use spinners.
  • Assortment of bucktail jigs.
  • Assortment of jig heads (unpainted) in sized 1/32 through ¼ oz
  • Assortment of “Curly tail” plastic lure bodies (which attach to the jig heads, above).
  • Selection of “terrestrial” flies, if you plan to fly fish.
  • A few “muddlers” “”black gnats” and “coachmen” (all purpose flies)


  • A couple fillet knives. These have a long, thin and flexible blade that allows you to separate the fish flesh from the bones.
  • A sturdy knife that can be used to sever heads from fish, or to cut bait with.
  • A simple knife sharpener. Can be a sharpening stone or steel.
  • Pliers: at a minimum a pair of needle nose pliers for removing hooks from fish. If you are in catfish country I’d add a standard set of pliers (for breaking spines and skinning)

The $5 or less solution! There are millions of folks out there (particularly outside the industrial northern countries) who fish with nothing more than a piece of line with a hook on the end. Now, their technique may not be as productive as with fancier gear, but if you are either not able or not interested in investing in this aspect of your survival preparations, you can certainly pull a kit together that will do the job, inexpensively even if not perfectly.

Line – there’s really no substitute for monofilament line. You could use cord, but you’ll still need a section of clear leader, and the cord may fall apart when wet. If I were limited to only one piece of line, and space was limited, I’d select about a 100 foot section of 30 lb. test line. For alpine lakes and rivers, I’d drop that down to 10 lb. test line. You can buy a hundred yards of line at a discount store for a couple bucks, easily.

Reel – For storage, you can store line simply by wrapping it around a piece of cardboard with a v notch at each end to hold it securely. For a reel, you can use, literally, a beer can – lots of people do. The line is wrapped around the outside and the “cast” is made by holding the can in one hand and pointing the can at your intended destination, then whirling the baited hook on circles with your other hand and letting loose with the line peeling off the end of the can. The retrieve is made by holding the can in one hand and winding the line back on with the other.

A variant on this is a cleaned out tin can with a plastic lid on it. The line is wrapped around the outside as per the beer can example, above. The can itself can be your tackle box, containing hooks sinkers, lures, etc. held in place by the removable plastic lid.

Other economical substitutes:

  • Small sinkers can be made from discarded metal nuts (as in nuts and bolts)
  • Big sinkers can be made from old spark plugs that have the electrode squeezed down to form a closed loop you can tie your line to. Clean off the smelly oil and gas sludge before using, the odor may (will!) repel fish.
  • Bobbers can be made from bottle corks. They can be attached to the line in a number of ways: a needle can thread the line through where it will be held under tension; or you can drill out a hole in the center then thread the line through, holding it in place with a match stick. Alternatively you can simply attach the line to the exterior of the cork with a rubber band, a twisty or a zip-tie.
  • The Boy Scouts tout the many uses of paperclips, including for hooks, but do yourself a favor - just buy an assortment of hooks.

The bottom line is that prepping for fishing is like lots of other categories of prepping. You can get about as detailed as you want. Just cover the basics if you have to!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This essay has been written from my personal experience and that of others. This suggested course of preparedness and action in the event of TEOTWAWKI will not be for everyone. Instead, I address those who live on the coast due to reasons such as; nearness to family, proximity to work, tight finances , or it could simply apply to those who might be caught on or near the coast should the events we prepare for take place.

Quite a few years ago while I was working for a floatplane company in S.E. Alaska, two of our float planes returned from a State Trooper charter. The first floatplane contained numerous sporting goods; coolers, firearms, lanterns, small outboard motors, sleeping bags along with other items used for camping or boating. The second aircraft had a couple troopers along with a young man, cuffed, who apparently had been living at a U.S.F.S. trailhead. This trailhead though inaccessible by road, has a float right on the saltwater that weekend fisherman and those simply wishing to get away were able to tie up to with their boats and leave unattended while they hiked up the trail. The trail itself follows a saltwater lagoon leading to a small church summer camp and a nice sized river that drains several lakes. This watershed is a popular fishing area due to a high trout population and migrating salmon. Dense forests surround the trail and few venture away from it.

This young man, as we later learned, had been living quite some time in the vicinity of the trailhead, had left a “Lower 48” state due to apprehensions over an infraction with the law and had become a fugitive. After locating himself to this secluded site, he had begun raiding the trail user’s vessels. After a number of complaints regarding stolen gear the troopers began to suspect that someone was perhaps living in the heavily wooded and stealing to survive. Troopers were able to successfully catch the young man in the act of sneaking down to a boat and he was removed from the scene and charged for his crimes of theft. Apparently he had been out there many months and possibly, by being a just a little more discreet he could have remained quite a while longer before being discovered.

I use this story to illustrate that one can, with proper preparation and the right equipment, live indefinitely on the Pacific Coastal areas many of which are rich in food resources and due to inaccessibility these same areas offer some of the most remote locations in North America.

Coastal Indian tribes, from Washington going up through British Columbia and into S.E. Alaska were known for their totems and wonderful carvings in their clan houses. These tribes, as has been noted by anthropologists, were able to spend a generous portion of their time devoted to carving because of higher food concentrations on the coasts hence lessening the need for extended travel and migration such as the plains tribes or mountain tribes were compelled to do to stay alive, while they hunted or foraged. Some of the advantages for coastal living then are still practical today for the survivalist; mobility which also offers seclusion, a maritime climate, rich food sources and plenty of fresh water availability.

Before we examine these advantages, lets first look at some geographical facts. For purposes that are obvious due to population densities we will focus on Alaska and British Columbia although Oregon and Washington will receive honorable mention and we will discuss further reasons one would consider coastal survival here, or for that matter on any seacoast. Miles of tidal shoreline in each respective state or province are can be found here: Coastal mileages by state. [JWR Adds: Because of terrain fractalization, these are rough estimates.]

Oregon: 1,410 miles. A major disadvantage to this state is lack of “protected” waters, however, these waters are very rich in seafood. My family and I spent two winters in the Gold Beach area, during which we spent every spare moment exploring the logging roads and the beaches. The incredible amount of deer, elk, wild turkeys, quail, and waterfowl that crowd that also reside there simply amazed us. This area is known to have it’s own microclimate and is considered by many to be a “banana belt” on the Oregon Coast.

Washington: 3,026 miles. I was raised in western Washington. Puget Sound alone accounts for 2,500 of these.

British Columbia (B.C.): 16,900 miles. The famed “Inside Passage” leading up to the 1898 Gold Rush port of Skagway travels of course through British Columbia. I have navigated the Inside Passage by small vessel four times. Twice on a 46’ commercial fishing troller, once in a friend’s pleasure craft live a board, and once running my own vessel up. All trips originated in Washington State and ended in S.E. Alaska. Traveling through B.C. has always been a pleasant experience for me, whether by pick-up, van, motorcycle or boat. Travel through B.C. by vessel requires checking in with Canadian Customs. Traveling with firearms through Canada is strictly regulated, although with the proper registration one may travel with some rifles and shotguns. It is fair to say that in the event of TEOTWAWKI, survival of one’s family would trump certain written laws each would have to decide for himself which risks would be taken.

S.E. Alaska: 10,000 miles. South East Alaska is comprised of a narrow strip of mainland and over 2,000 islands. The southern boundary starts at a large body of water known as Dixon Entrance and runs up to Cross Sound, continuing again along mainland coast to the remote town of Yakutat. S.E. Alaska is also referred to as the “Panhandle”. To keep things a little simpler, I am not going to discuss that portion of coastal Alaska known as South Central due primarily to geographical isolation and weather patterns which are quite simply extreme. I acknowledge that South Central Alaska including Prince William Sound and the Aleutian Islands contain much of what we might seek for a coastal survival location however.

Mobility: Coastal Indians built dugout canoes for transportation using the inlets, bays, sounds and channels as a natural highway. Explorers and traders navigated the same waterways on sailing vessels. My brother, while between schooling, spent many days kayak camping on the outside of Vancouver Island, a large island (12,079 square miles) in British Columbia. During these extended trips he carried an incredible amount of camping gear in his sea kayak including a full size axe, sleeping bag, dive gear (minus SCUBA), grill, large cook pot, fishing pole and tackle, tent and foodstuffs! His report, outer coast B.C.; saw few travelers, lots of drift available for consumable use (This should be considered a great advantage to anyone on “outside” waters. Lumber, buckets, jugs, floats, nets, rope and line, tires, shoes, wax and much more can be found at the high water mark) all of which could be very valuable should one be in a survival situation. Shellfish populations were prolific.

Not to be ignored are many other forms of travel, some of which would be of more value or maybe considered long term travel solutions versus some of which might just simply get you to where you wanted to go and then of necessity, so as not to give away a permanent position, be scuttled. Canoe, skiff (with oars or small outboard), sailboat, yacht, fishing boat you name it, all of these may be used to get to where you could set up a long term survival retreat. Other thoughts; coastal Indians in S.E. Alaska used the canoe for food gathering, many tribes were able to make long voyages for trading purposes and in one documented case, a vindictive canoe load of Kake Indians traveled the Inside Passage to exact a revenge on a customs official in Washington State…. consider that, a 1,700 nautical mile roundtrip!

Perhaps the best Coastal Survival setup has been prepared by friends of mine, a retired couple. They have a custom-built sailboat they live on full time. They have traveled the Inside Passage numerous times in this vessel. It is 45’ long with a 12’ 6” beam and draws 9’. This vessel is powered by a 236 cubic inch Perkins diesel, and it remarkably efficient with the hull design they chose. Just a note on diesel engines, naturally aspirated engines (versus turbo charged engines) turn at lower RPMs, tend to last longer between major maintenance, are quieter, and for slow hull speed boats very efficient. On this vessel they have adequate storage for the two of them, foodstuffs, medical, firearms, et cetera. In the event of TEOTWAWKI, this couple could simply slip their lines and sail into a quiet, secluded cove. With their local knowledge of waterways, weather, edible indigenous plants and simple fishing tackle they could survive indefinitely with no disturbance from marauding bands of parasites.

One more possibility for those living in or near any of the seaports along the Pacific Coast (including California) is to look into a Federal “Buy-Back” commercial fishing vessel. These vessels, many of them capable of long range trips to Alaskan fishing grounds and used as such, were decommissioned when the owners took advantage of a Federal Program designed to reduce commercial fishing pressure on certain stocks. Typically, these vessels can be reasonably purchased and with minimal changes be converted into an excellent live aboard vessel, complete with huge diesel fuel storage, freshwater storage (or even fresh water makers). One recent example of this, a 71’ steel hulled vessel sold here in S.E. Alaska for just over $100.000. The owner had converted it into a sport fishing vessel, I toured the vessel and found the engine room and all equipment to be in excellent running condition. State rooms and bunks were plentiful, the design was spacious and it was apparent that this would be a worthy idea for one perhaps trapped from traveling inland (Southern California comes to mind) instead why not have a vessel equipped and ready to “slip the lines” sailing away from trouble? To sum this section up; a vessel can be used for permanent transportation, or for just getting to where one wants to be and then using as a live aboard or as alluded to earlier if necessary, scuttled for security purposes.

Maritime Climate: Coastal areas typically receive larger rainfalls due to the clouds dropping their moisture as they stack up against coastal mountain ranges. Although the summer is wetter, the pay-off is in the winter months when the weather is much milder. Example; right now, as I am writing this the current weather in coastal Prince Rupert B.C. is 39 F. Terrace, just over the coastal range and only 90 miles away, is 32 F. Smither, again a little farther inland is 23 F. This usually holds true with all mountain ranges on the west coast, the western side is wetter, more moderate, while the eastern side is drier and has hotter summers but colder winters. One advantage to this is winter heating, less energy is required. Prevailing winds are onshore or Westerly, this allows for clean air, and in the event of nuclear fallout one would find him exempt from concern (discounting major river and stream pollution, for instance the Columbia River). From a tactical standpoint, if one is concerned about aerial surveillance, the British Columbia and S.E. Alaska coasts usually have heavy cloud cover, preventing or making aerial photography more difficult.

Food Sources As previously mentioned, coastal Indians in many cases were able to build permanent homes in specific locations because of available food supplies. Let’s consider another example. Both Brown Bear and Grizzly Bear are recognized to be the same specie, with the only difference being the Brown Bear lives on the coast and the Grizzly Bear lives inland. Compare the size between the two; Brown Bear can reach 1,500 lbs while interior Grizzly Bear, while still very large are usually less than half the body weight. This is due strictly to environmental situation. (For those who have experienced the nuances of both subspecies, Grizzly Bear are known to be less predictable and more likely to charge, lack of more plentiful food perhaps?)

To increase food availability on coastal waters, some type of a watercraft is necessary. With a boat, crab and shrimp pots can be set, “long lines” can be set for bottom fish, seals and other mammals could potentially be harvested. Without a boat however, the available food supply is still generous; migrating salmon in the rivers, many varieties of shellfish are there for the taking including mussels, clams, scallops, abalone, moon snells, all of which are a protein source whose gathering requires little energy.

Coastal areas are also known for prolific wild berry concentrations. Perhaps the very best berry growing on the coast is the salmonberry, which is high in Laetrile. Wild strawberry, blueberry, huckleberry, blackberry and many others can also be found.

Another valuable food source is seaweed, which arguably contains many minerals the body needs but also is great compost for coastal gardeners (we successfully grow each year cabbage, broccoli, brussell sprouts, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, beans and peas. What does not leave grow well, without a green house anyway, are tomatoes, corn or anything requiring extended warmth and lots of sun). Many flats along the ocean tidal beaches have fertile soil, excellent exposure to sun and along large river delta’s gardening plots abound. I would recommend anybody who has not already done so to purchase some Non-Hybrid Seeds from Survival Blog Advertiser Everlasting Seeds.

Wild vegetables, such as Goose Tongue and Wild Asparagus can supplement diet. Another recommendation is to purchase a book describing wild edible plants in the area you live.

Migrating waterfowl, seagull eggs, marine mammals, migrating smelt runs, venison, bear, elk, and moose are all other sources of food should one find himself in a survival situation on the coast. One final note on food sources, outdoorsman will learn certain areas that “hold” game, fish, edible plants and the like, as in contrast to some areas which will seem lifeless and barren. I am not referring simply to one species, but rather an area which just seems blessed with life, vs. an area which never seems to produce.

Fresh Water: I have lived on the coast all my life. To me, the thought of dying of thirst is hard to comprehend. What helped me understand the challenge of finding water in certain areas was a recent motorcycle trip with some family members down into the American South West, after miles of desert and no visible water such as a stream or lake, I can see why the concern. Here where we live, we receive approximately 13’ of precipitation a year, most of it in the form of rain. In addition to our rainfall, there are many spring fed streams, creeks, rivers and lakes. These can be found all up and down the coast. If you are unsure of your water source boil or treat it. If one is trapped on a small island with no freshwater, and has access to certain equipment, a solar still can be fabricated, or by boiling the water one can collect the steam and thereby separate the moisture from the salt, a tedious process, but possible to do if necessary.

Summary: My family and I enjoy driving and seeing other parts of the country, we have considered moving from the isolated area we live in to a sunnier part of the country. Our current situation prevents us from relocating. Frankly, I am tired of the rain, but in recent years I have come to accept I am where God has placed my family, and me and I will trust Him, and take advantage of the wonderful attributes he has instilled into this country should we be cut off from civilization. There are other disadvantages too; for instance our salt air humidity causes rapid corrosion, wounds don’t heal as fast as they could in a drier climate, and in essence we are cut off from barter or trade with those on the “outside”. However, if one wants to find a quiet spot to spend recovery time, with little interference from the outside world, in a land that is rich and plentiful there are plenty of spots along the Pacific Northwest and up into Alaska.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Going through some old gear last month, I found my food supply lists and notes from 1976-79. I thought the old list might be of interest and the lessons I learned during the first three years in the remote Alaska bush may be helpful to a few of your readers. I do not recommend Alaska for a TEOTWAWKI retreat but the lessons I learned the hard way may be helpful to any one in a cold climate.

I grew up in California listing to stories from my grandfather about Alaska and the Yukon. When I graduated from high school my grandfather gave me his remote trapping cabin in Alaska. At 18 I had a lot to learn and discovered many things the hard way. I was lucky to survive the first year.

When I got to Alaska I met my Grandfather’s old trapping partner. He told me that the cabin was fully stocked with everything including food. Enough food and supplies for at least one winter. When I started asking him questions on how to trap he told me “sonny I have not got the time to teach you and since you don’t have to build the cabin you will have time to figure it out. He added half under his breath” providing you do not fall through the ice or freeze to death. He also said something to the effect that if he had not owed my grandfather a favor he would never give his ½ of the cabin to a long haired hippy kid from California. I had to promise the old Sourdough that I would have all of his traps flown back to town at the end of the trapping season or buy the traps from him.

My first winter was a disaster.

Before this the longest I had been in the wilderness was a 23 day Outward Bound survival class that I attended the year before and I had never spent a winter in a cold environment.

To get to the trapping cabin it was at least a two week walk from the end of closest dirt road or a 1:20 hour flight in a bush plane. The cheapest way to fly to the cabin was in a Piper PA-18 Super Cub on tundra tires. The pilot told me he could carry 1 passenger and 200 lbs of supplies or a total of 400 pounds of supplies and no passenger.

When the pilot dropped me off he told me “If I am in the area I will check on you” He did not have any charters that way so he did not check on me that winter.

I got out of the plane with a full back pack of gear, a duffel bag of supplies and a 30-06 rifle. I had to walk a few miles to the cabin. I left the duffel bag in a tree to retrieve later. With a full back pack and my rifle I walked as fast as I could to the cabin. I was excited to see “My cabin” at last. What a shock I had when I saw the cabin! The old Trapper had lived many winters in the cabin and told me it was built strong. What I found was a small log shack with a dirt floor and sod roof. In the cabin a wood stove, a hand built bed frame and table. A old bed mattress suspended by wire from the rafters. There were traps, snow shoes, ax, bow saw, one man cross cut saw, files, a lantern and the other basics that are needed to survive the Alaska winter as a trapper. The trapper had not been to the cabin for four years. At least 60% of the food supply that I was counting on had been eaten by rodents or had spoiled.

First lesson learned! If you count on food to be there when you need it, You better have had your food stored in a very secure way or you may go hungry. Theft is also something to be considered in today’s society and in TEOTWAWKI losing your food cache would be disastrous

Most people think it must have been boring spending 4 ½ months alone in a cabin. The reality is I was too busy just trying to cut enough wood to stay warm and skin the marten, fox or wolf that I trapped or shot. I was cold, hungry and exhausted most of the time. I never had the time to get board. Being a green horn at trapping I only averaged 1 animal a week and it was usually shot instead of trapped.

The first winter at the cabin.

As soon as I walked into the cabin I I knew I was in trouble. I did not have the 4-to-5 month supply of food I needed. I had a topo map of the trapping area only but did not have the maps to get me back to the road or town, Second lesson! Make your Egress plans ahead of time and have at least 2 good contingency plans.

Thankfully in the cabin there were two steel drums with snap ring lids that were full of dry goods and on the shelves were some cans of dried goods that were also still good. The following list is what was still edible in the cabin as best as I can remember

  • 50 lbs Bisquick
  • 50 lbs Beans
  • 25 lbs Rice
  • 10 Lbs Lentils
  • 20 lbs Oatmeal
  • 10 lbs Coffee
  • 2 lbs black pepper
  • 10 lbs Crisco
  • 4 lbs Honey
  • 25 lbs salt

The supplies along with a young moose I shot did keep me alive but it was no fun. I had youth and enthusiasm on my side and knew the situation was temporary. I decided to just make it a challenge and kind of live some of my grandfather's stories first hand for myself. I had in my pack 1 roll of toilet paper but there was none at the cabin

Third Lesson! Birch bark, snow or small pine cones work but make a very poor substitute for toilet paper. I also learned later that winter that at -40 your butt will freeze to a wood toilet seat in the outhouse. Make a toilet seat for the outhouse out of hard blue Styrofoam for winter will make using the outhouse less of a pain in the butt.

As fall quickly turned to winter the lake next to the cabin froze and the temp continued to drop. The high quality mountaineering boots I had used in the high Sierra mountains of California and Nevada were not anywhere near warm enough and did not have removable liners so the boots were hard to dry.

Forth lesson Pac boots with 2 sets of liners or bunny boots are must have items for cold environments.

Many times during the winter I could have shot Grouse or Ptarmigan If I had a 22 pistol. That would have added much wanted variety to the menu. The other problem I learned is if you get a wolf or wolverine in one of your traps a 30-06 blows too big a hole in the hide and destroys most of the value of the fur.

Fifth Lesson! a .22 rifle or pistol is a must have item.

After 2 months my clothes were in bad shape. Most Light weight high tech clothing used for backpacking or mountaineering is not designed for day to day hard use and does not hold up to rigors outdoor work for the long haul. High quality wool clothing does a lot better over the long haul and is not susceptible to melting next to a fire like nylon is. Yes wool is heavy and takes longer to dry but in my opinion for working in the woods wool is the way to go.

Sixth lesson ! clothing made for loggers, Surveyors and commercial fisherman may be heavy but it last a lot better than sporting gear. Filson is the best.

My diet was boring and I was always hungry after two months. I started getting sick and my teeth seemed to be getting loose. It finally dawned on me that I had no intake of Vitamin C. I may have had Scurvy. Remembering something I learned from my grandfather I started eating rose hips that were dried and still hanging on a few bushes near the cabin. Thankfully we did not have deep snows that year so I could find a few rose hips. I was lucky! Seventh Lesson! make sure you have a source of Vitamin C.

Every time I took my rifle inside the warm cabin it would condensate and the rifle would get wet.

Eighth Lesson If you bring a rifle into a warm cabin from a below freezing environment it will condensate, this promotes corrosion in addition the moisture in the bolt may be frozen the next time you are outside in the cold. If you do bring a weapon in from the cold strip it down, dry it and clean it. I left my rifle outside next to the door for most of the winter and only brought it in to clean. This would not work in a TEOTWAWKI so other tactics will have to be developed.

One morning there was a small earth quake that got me to thinking of my family and the outside world. Started felling very alone. Starting thinking what if the Russians had dropped “the bomb” I would not know it.

Lesson #9! Being able to at least hear what is going on in the outside world helps your mental attitude a lot. A radio to listen to the news was smoothing I longed for.

Snow shoes are easy to use and most anyone will figure them out quickly. When you are working on snow shoes you will fall now and then. Lesson # 10 tape the muzzle of your rifle to keep snow out of the barrel when you take the invariable header into the snow. I use electrical tape or put a condom over the muzzle of all my rifles in the field to keep everything out of the barrel. It will not affect accuracy unless you are shooting over 300 yards.

The winter was full of hardship and big education. I did enjoy it but given a choice I would not want to repeat that Winter. In the spring I sold my furs in Anchorage. The fur buyer could tell I had never trapped before as the way I had prepared the pelts was poor at best. I got .20 cents on the dollar for my pelts and I think that was generous on the part of the fur buyer. 4-½ months of hard work and after paying the bush pilot along with the money I still owed the trapper I would have less than $100. The trapper met me at the fur buyer after paying him for his traps he was now very friendly and asked me many questions. He encouraged me to go back for at least one more winter. He told me to go get a bath and haircut and meet him at the White Spot cafe down the street in downtown Anchorage and he would buy me a good meal. While eating he handed me a the following list

  • 90 lbs bisquick
  • 50 lbs Beans
  • 50 lbs Rice
  • 25 lbs Salt
  • 25 lbs Lentils
  • 20 lbs oatmeal
  • 10 lbs Sugar
  • 10 lbs lard
  • 10 lbs powdered milk
  • 10 lbs split peas
  • 10 lbs Tang [freeze-dried orange juice powder]
  • 10 lbs coffee
  • 10 lbs noodles
  • 1 case tomato paste
  • 5 lbs strawberry Jam
  • 4 lbs honey
  • 2 lbs pepper
  • 5 gal White gasoline
  • 4 large boxes wood matches
  • 24 large Plumber's Candles
  • 8 rolls toilet paper
  • 6 lantern mantels
  • 7 Lbs Trapping wire
  • Gun oil
  • Trapping lures and scents

This was the list of supplies that the trapper had the pilot bring to the cabin each spring when the plane came to pick him up. This filled what would have otherwise been an empty plane. In early April the lake next to the cabin was still frozen so the plane would land on skis and taxi next to the cabin. The pilot and trapper would put the supplies into the cabin then the pilot flew the trapper back to town.

The Trapper then informed me that he had purchased the supplies for me and was having them flown to the cabin along with 2 more steel drums to safely store the supplies in.

The "Rifle and a Backpack" Myth

I often get a chuckle from people that think they can fill a back pack and head into the woods and survive long term with what is in a back pack. Until recently I spent most of my life guiding in Alaska and in Africa. I spent an average 110 days a year living out of a back pack under a tarp or in a pup tent, and another 180 days each year living in a remote cabins without electricity or running water.

In an uninhabited game rich environment with a rifle and only a back pack of gear I could survive for a period of time. How long could I survive? I do not know as there are too many variables.

What I do know is in the case of TEOTWAWKI where many people would be fleeing the cities and overcrowding the wild places looking for food I could not survive trying to live off the land with only a back pack full of gear. There will simply not be the recourses available. If a skilled person had no ethics they could take to stealing, looting, probably murder/cannibalism they might make it long term starting with only a back pack full of gear. For me and my family I believe in preparing now and stocking up while food and supplies are available and reasonably priced.

In the early 1980s I bought a lot of my supplies from a sporting goods/gun store in Anchorage. The store maintained an excellent inventory for hunters, trappers or survivalists. The store manager could talk the talk on both survival and hunting. One fall he hired me to take him on a 14-day bow hunting trip into the Alaska bush and film the adventure. He also hired a young guy that had just moved to Alaska from Georgia to help carry camera gear. I was concerned regarding the greenhorn from Georgia and even more concerned when I saw his marginal gear. The Georgia greenhorn however did fine and was a huge help on the trip. The trip however was a complete failure. The store manager had every neat gadget I had ever seen and many that I had never heard of. His pack was too full to carry any of the food or camera gear. He was out of shape and his pack was also too heavy for him to comfortably carry. After the float plane dropped us off on a high mountain lake we planned to walk for a week to my cabin hunting Dall Sheep on the way. Then at the Cabin we planned to hunt Moose and Grizzly. During the first 2 days the store manager left a lot of gadgets and some much needed gear on the trail to lighten his pack. I was stunned as I thought this guy knew his stuff but he was totally bewildered on how to apply his knowledge or gear in the field. One of the things I still clearly remember is he actually dumped all of his extra socks and his rain gear at the first nights camp. Leaving that gear behind cost him dearly. The Greenhorn from Georgia was a farm kid and was able to adapt to the Alaska bush even with his marginal gear and lack of knowledge of the Alaska bush. The store manager never made a single stalk on any animal as it became a challenge to just get the store manager to the cabin. By the time we got him to the cabin his feet were so badly blistered he could hardly walk and could not even carry his own pack or bow. This rambling story actually has a point. I had heard the store manager tell many people before our trip that with his properly equipped backpack he could easily survive in the bush indefinitely. My grandfather use to say: "Ignorance is bliss but it will not put food on the table."

My Second Winter

I still had a lot to learn but this winter was a lot better. First thing when I arrived at the cabin was to see that the supplies were all there and in fine shape. I also had topo maps and now knew 3 different routes to get back to civilization. It was at least a 2 week walk but I at least knew the routes to get there.

In a TEOTWAWKI situation if you are at your retreat in the winter you will probably also get into a routine. That could be both good and bad. Think security and mix the times up so ambush is harder for the goons to set up.

Winter set in, an in my second winter in the cabin, it did not take long to get into my routine. Every day starts the same. At approximately 6:00 A.M. The alarm clock goes off. What I mean the stove has only a few coals left and the cabin is freezing so I have to get up and stoke the fire. Then step outside into the extreme cold. Cut a log into rounds and this is done in the dark. Then go down to the lake still in the dark (batteries for the flashlight are too precious to waste and so is gas for the lantern) carefully chip the ice around each of five fishing lines with a hatchet. Pull up the hook hoping for a burbut (fresh water ling cod) reset the bait, haul water back to the cabin. If I had not caught a fish for breakfast then on the meat pole next to the cabin I used the saw and cut off a frozen chunk of caribou. Still dark and I am cold, step into the cabin warm up my frozen hands, dry my gloves and cook breakfast on the wood stove. Then put the dutch oven with beans, lentils or rice on the wood stove to rehydrate while I am gone for the day. Pack my lunch: two pancakes with a slab of cooked caribou meat in the middle, also put one tablespoon of tang into my insulated water bottle then fill it with hot water from the pot on the stove. Warm tang makes a nice mid morning warm up on the trail and is a source of Vitamin C.

As it is just starting to get light strap on the snow shoes and head out pulling the sled. If it has not snowed I can walk on top of the packed trail with the snow shoes on the sled.

The day is spent dragging the sled checking and resetting traps while constantly looking for a wolf, fox or wolverine to shoot. During each day I must also find a dry standing dead spruce tree to cut down and limb with the ax then using the sled haul it back to the cabin. Must always be on my main trail with everything tied onto the sled before it is completely dark. Days are short: the mid-winter sun is only up for 4 ½ hrs. I used my flashlight is only for emergencies.

Following a packed trail is easy in the dark just remember to get behind the sled on any downhill or the sled will hit you in the back of your legs and could break a snowshoe or your leg. Usually get back to the cabin long after dark.

Lesson # 11 Cross country skis are no substitute for snow shoes.

The snow shoes at the cabin were old and on the last legs of useful life. Instead of bringing a new set of snow shoes I had purchased a new set of back country cross country skis to the cabin. I thought I would use the snow shoes as a backup. Learned that skis are not as good to work on as snow shoes for doing chores or trapping. Skis have a place and can save time but are not a replacement for snow shoes. In snow country snow shoes are essential and skis are a nice luxury.

Each night when I finally arrive at the cabin I am tired and hungry. First thing is to start the fire then fix dinner. After dinner if I was lucky that day I can light the lantern and skin whatever I had trapped or shot after it has thawed. 9:15 PM is the highlight of the day! I get to listen to the AM radio for 45 minutes.

Lesson #8 and had brought a radio this time. Always hoping Caribou Clatters has a message for me from my family. Allow myself 45 minutes to read by lantern or candle light. 11:00 PM re-stoke the fire and collapse on the bed. The radio, dinner and sleep are the reward of a day’s hard work. Around 2:30 AM the fire has burned to just a few coals and I get cold, get up put more wood on and go back to sleep. The next thing I know it is 6:00 AM the fire has burned to just a few coals and it is freezing in the cabin and the day starts all over again.

Lesson #12 In a cold winter climate Use no oil in the bolt or trigger assembly of your rifle as it may freeze. I tried to shoot at a wolf (a wolf hide was then worth $450) when I pulled the trigger on my rifle it only went click. The firing pin would not strike the primer with enough force to set off the primer. After the second try and another click the wolf ran off and out of range. That was only an expensive lesson. In a TEOTWAWKI it could have been some one shooting at me and I would have had a useless rifle.

On my daily trips to check the fishing lines and get water I knew the ice was 28” thick and still getting thicker each week. A December day the temp was -27 F and I was crossing the outlet end of a small lake to check out some tracks. Not worrying as I thought the ice was 28” thick everywhere I fell through the ice and found myself waist deep in water. This was two miles from my cabin It was all I could do to make it to the cabin.

Lesson #13 any out let or inlet of a frozen lake may have thin ice also a warm spring or other things can cause thin ice. The fire was out in my stove and no coals were left. I had a very hard time getting a fire started and as a last resort used white gas and almost burned down the cabin.

Lesson #14 have the kindling and all the fixings of a fire ready any time you leave your cabin. You never know when someone may be at the end of their strength and need to get a fire going.

One evening in early January I returned to the cabin to find a note and care package on the table from the bush pilot. The pilot had brought me a bag of oranges, a fruit cake and a newspaper. He also left three letters from my family. It was if I had won the lottery

As the snow got deeper during the winter I started finding that many animals liked to use my packed trail. I learned never underestimate the danger of a moose particularly in the winter if they are on a packed trail they may charge you instead of going into deep snow. I had a cow moose chase me up a tree then stomp my on sled and break one of my snow shoes.

Lesson #15 Moose are dangerous, especially late winter

In early February I came across Grizzly tracks in the snow. I was shocked as I thought that bears would be in the den all winter. I followed the tracks and found the bear had made a moose kill.

Lesson # 16 Grizzly bears and black bears do not truly hibernate and may be out of the den during any month of the year. Over the years I learned if a bear is away from his den in the winter it will be hungry and grumpy.

As a kid I loved watching western movies. It seemed to me cowboys wore their handgun in a low slung fast draw holster and I thought that was cool. The western style fast draw holsters I tried in the bush were useless. I now see that some law enforcement and military teams are using a thigh mounted holster. I am not disputing the tactical points of that method but if you are working in the woods you will occasionally fall into snow or mud. That is when you want your hand gun in a full flap holster or in a normal holster worn under the last layer of clothing. Getting your hand gun into your hand fast is of no use if it will not fire when you need it.

Lesson #18 Select holsters that will allow you to comfortably carry your hand gun with you at all times and will protect the weapon from the elements. I have tried over 40 different holsters and method of carrying my handgun. I strongly suggest you experiment now on how to carry your own handgun. Find something that works for you. I presently use three different holsters:

  • A holster that I use to carry concealed when I am in a city environment.
  • A holster when I am working in the bush.
  • A holster when I am flying float planes.

In March, the bush pilot landed on the frozen lake with 400 lbs of supplies. He helped me put the food into the steel drums for the next trapping season then flew me back to town.

I had spent 160 days alone in the bush trapping. I sold my furs to the fur buyer in Anchorage. After paying the bush pilot for the supplies and flights to the cabin and back I had cleared $2,700.

I learned a lot that winter and over the years refined the old trappers list to keep me well fed and a lot happier.

A More Complete Supply List

After my experiences the first two winters, I composed the following list. This is for one man for five to six months. It was refined for my personal taste and needs in the Alaska bush. The old trapper that I got my first list from made do with a lot less than what I took. This list is tried and true and not a just theory that someone made up. I had around 200 traps and ran the line on snowshoes, foot and skis. Cut my firewood by hand (no chain saw) and hauled my water from the lake in buckets. It was hard work 12-15 hours a day 7 days a week and I burned a lot of calories. Using the following list I ate well and always had plenty of supplies left in the spring:

  • 50 lbs Flour
  • 50 lbs Bisquick
  • 25 lbs Pancake mix
  • 35 lbs Sugar
  • 50 lbs Pinto Beans
  • 25 lbs Rice
  • 40 lbs Salt pork
  • 25 lbs Salt
  • 10 lbs Dried prunes
  • 10 lbs Raisons
  • 10 lbs Dried apricots
  • 10 lbs Dried apples
  • 10 lbs Dried peaches
  • 25 lbs Oatmeal
  • 10 lbs Honey
  • 2 cases Tomato paste
  • 25 lbs powdered milk
  • 15 lbs [canned] Butter
  • 25 lbs Corn meal
  • 25 lbs [canned] Cheese
  • 20 lbs Spaghetti Noodles
  • 10 lbs Crisco
  • 15 lbs Hot cocoa mix
  • 10 lbs Dried eggs
  • 5 lbs Strawberry Jam
  • 3 lbs Apricot Jam
  • 2 boxes Pilot bread
  • 1 gal Maple Syrup
  • 180 Multi vitamins
  • 180 Vitamin C
  • 1 lb [powdered dry] Yeast
  • 180 Tea bags
  • 1 lbs Pepper
  • 1 lbs
  • Baking soda
  • 8 lbs
  • Dried onions
  • 1 lb Baking powder
  • 1 lb. Corn starch
  • 24 oz Garlic powder
  • 12 oz Vanilla
  • 2 rolls aluminum foil
  • 1/2 gal Dish soap
  • 5 bars non-scented soap
  • 36 Canning lids (to can meat if we had a winter thaw or for leftover in the spring)
  • 8 oz Hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 oz Iodine
  • 12 rolls Toilet paper
  • 2 Small sponges
  • 2 Scrub pads
  • 1 roll Duct Tape
  • 4 boxes of wooden Matches
  • 24 Plumber's candles
  • 500 rounds .22 long rifle hollow point ammo
  • 100 .308 ammo 125 grain hollow point varmint ammo
  • 20 rounds .308 ammo 180 grain (for Moose or Caribou )
  • Trapping license and regulations
  • Hunting license, moose tags and caribou tags
  • New snowshoe bindings
  • 1 truck inner tube
  • 3 New hacksaw blades
  • 2 New Ax handles
  • 8 Bow saw blades
  • 36 oz Lanolin
  • 6 Disposable lighters
  • 12 gal White gas [aka Coleman Fuel]
  • 12 Lantern mantels
  • 6 oz. Gun oil
  • Trapping Lures, urine and musk
  • 10 lbs Trap wax
  • 2 rolls Survey ["flagging"] tape
  • 1 pair Heavy Neoprene trapping gloves
  • 7 lbs Trapping wire( 50% 12 ga and 50% 14 ga)
  • 50 ft Trap Chain #2 and #3
  • 24 Links
  • 24 Swivels
  • AM Radio with 8 extra 9 volt batteries
  • 8’ New stove pipe for cabin stove
  • 4 Leather awl needles and 50’ waxed thread
  • Extra shoulder straps for pack frame
  • Extra hip belt for pack
  • New lid for fry pan 14”
  • 100’ - 3/8 nylon rope
  • 12x18” glass to replace cracked window
  • Personal items
  • 1 Wool Jacket
  • 2 Wool pants
  • 2 Work pants
  • 1 Pair insulated Carhartt coveralls
  • 4 Pair work gloves
  • 2 Pair heavy winter over mittens.
  • Winter trappers hat
  • 1 pair
  • Pack boots with 2 sets liners
  • 1 pair Bunny Boots
  • 1 Wool sweater
  • 4 pair long sleeved wool shirts
  • 3 pair Wool long john pants
  • 3 pair Wool long john shirts
  • 8 pair Wool socks
  • 8 pair Cotton socks
  • 6 pair Underpants
  • 1 Bible
  • 2 flying ground school books
  • 6 Short sleeve Cotton shirts
  • Tooth brush
  • Tooth powder
  • 2 rolls dental floss
  • Carried or in an external frame pack:
  • 1 .308 rifle
  • 1 22 pistol (Colt Woodsman)
  • Rain coat
  • Rain pants
  • Insolite sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag
  • 10x12’ and 4x8’ light nylon tarps
  • Flashlight
  • Flashlight batteries
  • Binoculars, 10x40
  • Green River skinning knife, caping knife, boning knife.
  • Small stone, small file and small diamond steel
  • Compass
  • Topo maps 1:250,000 scale
  • 2 Candles
  • Matches in waterproof container
  • Lighter
  • Small cook pot with lid
  • Water bottle
  • 100’ Parachute cord
  • Small First aid kit with Large suture needles and suture, in sealed pack
  • Mini channel locks (Snap-on) used for sutures and other things
  • Pack repair kit
  • ¾-length Hand ax. (Estwing)
  • Small shovel
  • Bow saw with extra blade
  • 1 pair wool socks
  • Wire snares
  • Fish hooks and line
  • 25’ .042” stainless wire
  • 1 lb Dried soup mix

Monday, August 17, 2009

“Everything in life is a trade-off.”  There’s wisdom in that and anyone who wants to be prepared has to make the best trade-offs for functionality and their budget. 

Most people who prepare for emergency scenarios, whether it be civil unrest, terrorist attack, EMP, or whatever, include a firearm in their plans. A firearm provides protection and a way to harvest game that is second-to-none.  But firearms require cartridges and there’s the rub.  Unless your last name is Gates, Walton, or Rockefeller, you can’t afford to have 10,000 rounds of ammunition just setting around.  If you have regular job and are working on being prepared as a contingency, you can’t spend all your money and time on ammunition.  There are too many other things that need to be bought and done.

This article assumes you know some basic nomenclature.  If you look at a centerfire cartridge, that is almost any [modern brass-cased[ cartridge except a .22 you’ll see on the bottom a circle that is the primer, which is the contact explosive which sets off the main gunpowder charge.  The cartridge case is the brass tube that holds the primer and the bullet.  The bullet is the projectile that the powder charge forces down the barrel and out to do the actual work.  Fully loaded and ready to shoot, this is called a cartridge. 

Reloading your ammunition is a way to get multiple shots from one cartridge case.  Reloading treats the bullet, primer, and powder as expendables, and recycles the brass case to be used again.  Here again, there are trade-offs.  You can easily spend over $2,000 for reloading supplies for just one cartridge and need a full-size workbench just to reload your ammunition  $2,000 buys a lot of ammunition and unless you are a competitive shooter who shoots hundreds of rounds a week, this is probably not the way you’ll want to go.  You can step down to a couple hundred dollars for a reloading press and dies that will do an excellent job, but still is bulky and hard to transport if you have to leave in a hurry.

There is a way to reload that only takes up about as much space as a paperback book and only requires a wooden stump and a small chunk of wood to completely reload ammunition if you have the consumables: the Lee Loader. This simplified reloading device was invented in 1958 by Richard Lee.  Although the center fire rifle and pistols reloading kits did not come around until a couple of years after that.  I recently purchased a couple of loaders for less than $20 each online on sale.  This will give you easily over $100 to spend on consumables.  You can stock up quite a bit of primer, powder, and bullets for the $100 (at minimum) you saved by going with a Lee Loader. 

These loaders have superb accuracy and lengthen the life of the case because they only size the neck of the case.  A regular press with dies sizes the whole body which is necessary if your brass has been fired in more than one firearm.  However, if you’re only using one firearm for that caliber, the brass will fire form to fit that chamber like a glove.  The accuracy is second to none.  For over seven years, according to the Lee web site, the Guinness World Record for accuracy was held by ammunition loaded by a Lee Loader. 

[JWR Adds: Because these small hand presses do not full-length re-size cases, they may prove unsuitable for reloading ammunition for many semi-auto rifles, but they usually work fine for single shot and bolt action rifles. ]
The small plastic case contains four or five parts that let you de-prime, size, re-prime, charge, and seat the bullet on the case.  I’ve seen a video on You Tube of a man starting with a once fired case, completing all the steps and having a round ready to go in 40 seconds.  I wouldn’t recommend going this fast.  Although, after using one to reload several hundred rounds, you’ll begin to get a rhythm that will increase your speed.

The first step is to de-prime the case.  The kit comes with a de-priming pin and de-priming chamber which basically holds the base of the cartridge but doesn’t support the spent primer.  By sliding the pin through the case neck onto the primer, a simple tap with either a non-marring hammer or a piece of wood drives the spent primer out of the case. 
Here’s where an extra not included in the kit can be very handy.  A case-specific trimmer can be used to make sure that the brass hasn't flowed forward and your case has hence become too long.  The
load card that comes with the kit gives the maximum trim length of the cartridge as well as the maximum overall length.  So another extra that would be very handy is a set of calipers. 

The second step is resizing the neck.  The largest part of the kit is the resizing chamber which is just a piece of steel machined to the size of the case.  By putting the case into the chamber and driving it home with whatever you used to de-prime the case, you size the neck to fit the new projectile. 

The third step is to re-prime the case.  With the case fully seated in the sizing die, a new primer is set on the priming chamber cup up.  Then you turn the sizing die upside down so that the base of the cartridge is pointing down and place this over the priming chamber.  They are made to fit together so that the pocket and the primer will match over each other.  Then the priming rod is fed into the case mouth just like the de-primer which was used earlier.  A couple of good solid whacks will seat the primer into the pocket.  Because of variations in pocket depth and primer sensitivity, you should make sure that your head is not above the case when doing this.  Although I’ve only had it happen a few times and never had the priming rod fly out, I’ve heard stories of this happening and the pop of the primer going is enough to startle you.

[JWR Adds: I strongly recommend setting the priority of purchasing a Hand Priming Tool. This is not only safer, but will provide far greater consistency in primer seating depth. It is also a tool that you will want to keep, if and when you graduate to a more sophisticated bench-mounted reloading press. With the "feel" provided by hand-priming tool, you will get great consistency, which helps contribute to making the most accurate and reliable ammunition.]

While priming, the base of the case will be driven a short distance out of the sizing chamber. You should put the case on the de-priming chamber because it will protect the primer from any impacts and will make it much less likely to detonate. Use the priming rod to push the case far enough out of the mouth that it will come loose from the sizing die and set on the de-priming chamber.
The next step is to put your powder into the case.  The top of the sizing chamber will now act as a funnel for inserting the powder.  The Lee kit comes with a powder scoop sized in cubic centimeters and a list of powders that will work with this cartridge and this scoop.  The best way to do this to achieve maximum repeatable accuracy is to pour the powder into a larger container, dip the scoop down below the level of the powder, bring up and rake across the top with a stiff piece of paper, like a business card.  From there, you simply dump the powder into the top of the sizing die to charge the case.
Once the case is loaded, all you’ll need to do is insert your projectile.  Use the seater that is integral to the priming chamber to set the bullet by hammering the bullet into the case mouth, creating a newly-loaded cartridge.  Here’s a place where the calipers I spoke of earlier would come in very handy again.  You could check the seating of the bullet to a factory-loaded case.  But a pair of inexpensive calipers would be very handy to make sure the bullet is seated to the proper depth. 

After this is done, you will have a fully-loaded cartridge. However, for the sake of efficient motion, if I am reloading a box of cartridges, I will go through and de-prime them all first and then load them all in batches.  Before you start, you should also wipe down the cases to make sure there is no grit that could case wear on your loader. 

Another nice thing about this way of reloading is that it doesn’t require special lubricant like most other presses.  It also doesn’t require a powder scale, although it could be useful if you want to work up a special load for your firearm. 

So here’s a way to reload a complete cartridge that only takes minimal space, weighs little, doesn’t require a bench or any special tools that don’t come in the case and can load high quality ammunition.  It also costs less than a fifth of what other reloading systems would cost, giving you more money for either consumables or other projects.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I am a retired Marine Corps officer and Naval Aviator (jets and helicopters), commercial airplane and helicopter pilot, and most recently, an aircraft operations manager for a Federal agency.

I graduated from numerous military schools, including the U.S. Army Airborne (“jump”) School, U.S. Navy Divers School, Army helicopter, and Navy advanced jet schools. In addition, I have attended military “survival” courses whose primary focus was generally short-term survival off the land, escape from capture, and recovery from remote areas.  Like most Marine officers, I attended The Basic School, an 8-month school (only five during the Vietnam era – my case), which is still designed to produce a second lieutenant who is trained and motivated to lead a 35-40 man platoon of Marines in combat.  This course covers everything from field sanitation to squad and platoon tactics, artillery and other ordnance delivery, communications, reconnaissance, intelligence, firearms training, and much more.   Later, I attended the Marine Amphibious Warfare School and the Command and Staff College, both follow-on schools and centered upon the academic study of tactics and strategy as they applied to the missions of the Marine Corps.  I flew helicopters offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and across the U.S. I found out first hand how thoroughly corrupted is the federal bureaucracy and the government, in general.  Not a pleasant experience. I’d rather have been flying. I have bachelor's and master's degrees.

As a result, my wife of forty years and I seem to have been moving endlessly from place-to-place.  Nevertheless, I have tried in each place to do what I could to maintain a level of self-sufficiency for my family that varied greatly with locations and personal finances. My intention here is to try to share some of the less-than-perfect ways that I have tried to accomplish that end. 

Only in the last few years, primarily as a result of the political and fiscal situation in the U.S., have I begun reading some of the huge amounts of literature about how one can prepare for serious long-term off-the-grid survival.  I have found that the preparation required to be ready for that contingency seems to be endless.  I do not want to talk about all of those preparations.  Others have done so very well, and besides, I’m not there, yet.  What I would like to do is to talk to those, perhaps like me, who are not true survivalists in the commonly referred-to sense, but who are genuinely concerned about the future of this country, and might desire, like me, to begin to prepare. Perhaps my elementary and simplistic efforts might be of help to someone else who is beginning to think about the subject of preparedness.  There are many scenarios that might require this, but the two that I am thinking most about are economic collapse and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. I’m building small Faraday boxes, but not doing much else for EMP.

My thinking on begins with my own estimation of the basic problems:  shelter, water, food, fuel, and security.  I view these as the most critical needs, whether living in a tent or other outdoor shelter or here in our rural home in West Virginia. Here I have and often take for granted what I have -- shelter, well water, a small stream, a pond, a rain barrel; canned, dried, frozen, and freeze-dried foods; fuel for the generator and portable stoves, kerosene heater and lanterns; factory-made and reloaded ammunition for any one of several firearms.  Edible plant books. Gardening books. Encyclopedia of Country Living-type books. Reloading books. Hunting books. Tracking books. A few novels devoted to the “what ifs” of the future, including Jim Rawles' excellent "Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse", for example.  Books to fill an entire bookcase.  The Boy Scout Field Book sits right there next to the military survival manuals, as do Tom Brown's Field Guides, the The Foxfire Book series, a canning book, field medical books, and quite a few others.

Those are the basic things about which I think. I have been thinking about them for quite a while, in fact, longer than I even realized.  Perhaps I’ve been thinking about them ever since I was a young lad.   For example, my very first “survival book” was the Boy Scout Field Book, the original of which I still have (circa late-1950s edition). It is still a great reference if one is looking for an all-in-one manual for starting fires, making simple shelters, recognizing game tracks, tying knots, and much more.  I note that it is still available on (It’s probably been scrubbed to favor the politically correct, but don’t know [JWR Adds: Yes, I can confirm that unfortunately it has been made politically correct--with the traditional woodcraft skills showing any injury to innocent and defenseless trees duly expunged. So I advise searching for pre-1970 editions!] ) One does not necessarily need the SAS Survival Handbook or the U.S. Army survival manual. I have them and have read them. They do cover security problems, but then don’t cover other topics.  Alas, there appear to be no “perfect” manuals, and the Boy Scout Field Book is no exception.  But it’s not a bad beginning. And so I was beginning the journey even before I knew that I was. 

I think that my first education in “survival” came at about fourteen. That’s when I first shot a .30-06, an old [Model 19]03 Springfield. It pretty much rattled my cage.  Mostly, my older brother and I used to track and shoot small animals in the deep woods of Missouri as youngsters.  We were “issued” ten rounds of .22 LR ammo by our father, a retired USAF pilot, to be used in a bolt action, single shot, .22 rifle with open sights.  One would be surprised what that meager handful of loose ammunition could do for one’s choice of shots, one’s ability to be patient in waiting for the shot, and for one’s great satisfaction at having brought home six or eight squirrels for the cooking pot, having used just those ten rounds – and sometimes, but not often, less.  My point is that the knowledge of firearms is, in my view, basic to the notion of preparedness and in surviving in the wild. And it need not be exotic or overly complicated in nature.  One can surely attend modern schools that will teach one to double-tap a cardboard target or silhouette at seven yards with a semi-auto pistol, as well as basic and advanced tactical rifle courses, but very basic survival skill with a rifle can be had without much cost if one is committed to learning the skill and if one disciplines oneself. Start with only one round, and work up from there.  As Col. Jeff Cooper used to say, “Only hits count.”  In a purely off-the-grid survival scenario, I can envision that .22 LR rounds would be very precious, indeed.

Consequently, and even though I own handguns and rifles that will shoot .45 ACP, .44 Magnum/.44 Special, .357 Magnum/.38 Special, .380 ACP, .223, .25-06, .270, 7mm-08, .308, .7.62x39, .30-30, .30-06, and .45-70/.457 WWG Magnum (a wildcat), I shoot a .22 rifle and pistol more than all of the others, combined, and normally at least twice a week. And I’m hoarding them, as well as shooting them.  I have the capability to reload all the calibers (except .22 LR/Magnum, of course) above, as well as shotgun ammo in 12 and 20 gauge. I wasn’t really thinking of “survival” when deciding to do this about twenty years ago, but was interested only in having the capability to shoot more, and to do it more cheaply. Yet it appears that much of that ammo could be used for barter. I had never even considered this until reading some of the recent “survival novels.”

My apologies.  I’ve wandered into the weeds here, as I could do forever on my favorite subject.  Suffice it to say that whatever firearm one chooses – and make no mistake, one is necessary in my opinion -- there are all kinds of reasons to choose one over the other, depending on the situation and the person. One must endeavor to shoot it well. Owning a firearm is of almost no consequence, at all, unless it is properly employed.  Personally, I prefer a M1911 .45 ACP pistol and a 7.62 M1A SOCOM, while my wife is comfortable with the milder .38 [S&W] revolver and 20 gauge. pump shotgun.  I won’t even begin to get into the debate over .223 vs .308 and 9mm vs. .45 ACP.  Suffice it to say that in Vietnam I had the opportunity to see the effects of all of these, and I chose for my own security the .308 and .45 ACP.

Having got my favorite subject out of the way, I’ll talk about one that is likely even more important.  Water.  It is amazing how complicated this can be, and how many choices one has to solve this problem.  I have not yet solved it.  I have put up a rain barrel, and plan to get a couple more.  It’s amazing how rapidly a 55 gallon barrel will fill in even a moderate thunderstorm.  I got mine from Aaron’s Rain Barrels. I’ve camo-painted the first one to make it recede into the bushes that surround it.  

We have a very shallow stream down the hill that I need to dam so that it keeps only about a foot-or-two deep pool for gathering some water. It flows into a large pond, of which we own half (The owner of neighboring property owns the other half.).  But that’s over a hundred-yard trek downhill with empty buckets, and the same distance uphill with full ones.  Now, while that is okay for a backup, in my thinking, because I’m going on 63 years, I prefer to have something closer.  So my next “big” purchase will be a Simple Pump that allows one to drop a pump and pipe though one’s existing well casing down to below water level and extract water by means of a hand pump or DC motor attached to a battery which, in turn, will connect to a solar panel.  This is much, much cheaper than a Solar Jack.  At $1,200 for the hand pump capability (I’ll add on the DC and solar later), it’s a bargain, for me. See:  
I’m not recommending it for anyone, yet, as I haven’t got one. It has plenty of good reviews, and I’m willing to try it.  My apologies, but I am just talking about how I, for one, intend to solve my “water problem.” 

I’ve also started collecting clear plastic soda bottles for use in Solar Disinfection (SODIS), see;  I’ve set up a rack for putting out the bottles in a sunny place.  Again, that’s a backup, but I’ll use it.

I have bought three different water filtering devices, the best of which is the Swiss-made, all-stainless Katadyn Pocket Microfilter.  It works wonders in that shallow stream and pond down the hill.. [JWR Adds: The same Katadyn filter model is available from several SurvivalBlog advertisers. They deserve your patronage first, folks!]

With the exception of the Simple Pump, these solutions are relatively cheap and effective, if not producers of great volume.  So far, they are what I’ve come up with.

I won’t go much into the food problem. It isn’t quite as complicated as the water problem.  I’ve either got to have it [stored], grow it, or kill it.  I’ve started storing all kinds of Mountain House freeze dried #10 cans (with expiration date dates in 2034), two-serving meals from Mountain House (expiration dates circa 2016), and numerous grocery store-type canned foods (expiration a couple years), in addition to dried beans, rice, Bisquick (sealed in plastic bags with desiccant inside), salt, sugar (Domino, which are sold in one-pound plastic tubs), olives, peanuts, wheat, etc.  Basically hit-or-miss, so far.  I need to get this “food problem” organized and do it right.  But it’s a start.  I think we’ve got only about a 60-day supply now, for two.

I’ve got two Coleman two-burner stoves.  One is a butane stove, and the other a dual fuel (white gas or unleaded gas), as well as several small backpacking stoves, the best of which is a MSR Whisperlite International, which uses virtually all fuel (unleaded, white gas, kerosene, diesel, and maybe even corn oil).   I was heavily into backpacking when we were stationed in Hawaii in the late 1970s, and still have all the gear.  After having one knee replacement and hedging doing another, I’ll not be backpacking if I can help it.  Nevertheless, I have two bug-out bags with essentials in them, ready to hit the trail if need be.  I’ve saved up and bought two good Wiggy's bags and a couple of his poncho liners.

Concerning backpacking stuff, I can recommend a book that I read back then called The Complete Walker, by Colin Fletcher. I haven’t read it in at least a decade, but its import is such that I remember much of it.  He emphasizes simplicity in gear.  That is to say, don’t pack a tent if you can get by with a tent fly – which you cannot in cold weather. I’ve still got my old three-season tent, but am saving up for a four-season. And he emphasizes: don’t worry about pounds – worry about ounces.  That is to say, if one is packing tea bags, remove the labels from the bags.  Ounces.  Remove all packaging material unless it is absolutely necessary (usually never). Don’t carry a “mess kit,” nor a knife, fork and spoon set.  A spoon will do (I’ve done it) along with a pocket knife. Now I have so many knives of so many types that I can’t remember them.  Personally, I’d go for a multi-tool.  But it’s heavy.  I never used to carry a weapon while backpacking.  Of course, it was (and is) illegal in Hawaii, but I think one would be remiss in not doing so today.  There was so much good advice in that book that helped me in the USMC, if nothing more than when packing my helicopter before a mission, or a car, trailer, or truck to move across the country.  “Think ounces, not pounds.”  I always think about Mr. Fletcher’s advice when I pack.

Anyway, I think I’ve got the camping stove angle covered in spades.  That is, until the fuel runs out.  Same goes for kerosene heater and lanterns (5).  My plan is to pull out our pellet stove and replace it with a free-standing wood stove.  Pellets are nice, but they must be bought, and the price is getting exorbitant, according to my pocket book.  They likely will be non-existent in a crunch. 

I connected a 12,000 Watt/50amp gasoline generator when we moved into this house nine years ago, as I have with every house in which we’ve lived for the last two decades.  I’ve got it wired through a transfer box to the circuit-breaker panel, a job that I did myself. It works, and it’s safe.  The main reasons for having this were to run the 220V[olt AC] well water pump and to run the refrigerator and our free-standing freezer during power outages.  But I’ve got it wired, anyway, to nearly every circuit in the house, except the other 220V appliances – water heater and heat pump.  It is somewhat selectable. That is to say that I can choose which circuits I want to power by engaging or disengaging the switches on the transfer box.  The problem is that it uses gasoline. So in a long-term outage it would soon become useless.  I’ve had the propane gas company come out to estimate what it would cost to get a dedicated 100 gal propane tank for the generator.  It would be about $500, but then, in addition to the 50+ gallons of gasoline, butane tanks, and white gas that I keep stored in a separate outbuilding, it would make a great explosion when hit with a tracer round.

Which brings me to the subject of security.  We live in a split-level home on about ten acres of forest.  The property is surrounded by other similar-sized properties of seemingly like-minded individuals.  I gleamed this because everyone out here shoots.  The sweet sound of gunfire can be heard at times in a full circle.  West Virginia, at least, has still got its priorities straight in this regard.  But I digress. This is a frame house with half of it below ground in front, but framed in back, which faces the forest.  The forest, itself, is a maze of downed pine trees blown over by the wind, interspersed with small saplings, vines and low brush.  Not a likely avenue of approach for anyone but the most determined.  For those who are determined, the downed trees would make excellent cover and concealment.  So I have a security problem to solve there, as well as at the front. 

I’ve started buying rolls of barbed wire and baling wire.  Unfortunately, I do not have access to dynamite, which we used to be able to buy in a hardware store in the 1960s.  We used it back then to blow stumps while clearing the land for our house.  I am thinking of buying a bunch of used railroad ties to build cover in the back; I’ve thought also of bricks and sandbags.  Problem is we’re reaching the point in all of this where the house would begin to look like a fortress, of sorts, to all but the most ignorant observers.  So there’s a line here concerning security versus “normalcy” that I must cross sooner or later.  Inasmuch as my wife is a few years older than I and is on constant medications, I’m afraid that finding a retreat (if we could even afford one) would be out of the question, as access to doctors, hospital and pharmacy are a necessity. Nevertheless I’ve got the bags packed and gear ready to throw into the pickup (Toyota 4x4 – like to have one of those older model American trucks, but I think they are getting rare, at least around here.  And what there are will likely go to the Cash for Clunkers Program….grumble, grumble. What will they think of next?).

So it looks to me as if we are here for the duration of the crisis, or sooner, if they try to take the guns from my cold, dead hands.  Speaking of, I still have to build a cache or two for guns and ammo and a few other necessities. 

And since I’ve more-or-less made that decision (here for the duration), I’ve thought of organizing the apparently gun-loving neighbors.  I’ve begun to buy walkie-talkies, if not field phones and commo wire.  I’ve got solar panels and several batteries (need to get a mega deep cell or two, however) to run the small battery chargers and the CB radio. My shortwave is up and running.

I will have to wait to talk to the neighbors, whom I rarely see, much less know.  I can just imagine the words that would come out of their mouths if I were to mention to them the notion of forming a security “company” and establishing a perimeter.  “That old retired Marine down the road is nuts!”

So that’s what I’ve got to say.  I do hope it at least stimulates some thought for those who are starting out trying to prepare, as I am.  All of this shows me that one “problem” in this “survival” business leads to several more, and they in turn lead to even more problems.  Lots to do. So I’m glad I’m retired.  I’ve got time to think about it.  If I were rich, I could do a lot more and likely in a far away place, but as it is, we do with what we have.   I have to use the lessons taught to every Marine:  Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.  

Long Live America.  Keep the Faith. - “Two Dogs”, Col. USMCR (ret.) in West Virginia

Monday, August 10, 2009

The following is based on over 25 years making a living as a licensed guide in Alaska and as a professional hunter in Africa. Between clients shooting game and cull hunts I have personally seen over 7,000 big game (250 lbs or more) animals die from gunshots. I have formed my opinions on terminal ballistics from this experience

The Biggest Myth that I hear is faster projectiles (Velocity) kills better than slow ones. As long as the projectile stays above supersonic it will kill big game effectively with a properly constructed bullet.

Second Biggest Myth is that more foot-pounds of energy = better killing/stopping power. Foot pounds of energy is just a mathematical figure and has very little to do with stopping or killing power.

Bullet diameters and bullet design has more to do with killing/stopping power than speed. The best hunting bullets are the ones that perform over the widest range of velocities, leave the largest permanent wound channel, will not brake apart when they hit heavy bone and will consistently exit the animal on a broadside shot.

On big game larger heavier bullets kill better than smaller faster ones.
At close range, a flat-nosed 540 grain bullet fired from a .45-70 at 1,550 FPS has far more stopping/ killing power than any of the .30, .338 or .375 magnum. But at the same time a projectile with a flat trajectories is easer to make good hits at longer ranges than the slow moving 540 grain slug from the .45-70.

Faster bullets do give better trajectory and extend the range we can make good hits at. A good hit with a smaller caliber is always better than a poor hit with a larger caliber

For consistent kills on big game, the larger caliber bullet the better and the heaviest bullet for a given caliber will have the best knock down power.

For the first third of my guiding career I thought that perfect bullet performance was to find the bullet in the hide on the far side. That way all the energy has been absorb by the animal. . Over the years I changed my opinion for the following reasons

1. Exit wounds leave a lot better blood trail.

2. Granted, most shots taken are broadside but if a bullet cannot punch through an animal with a broadside shot and exit the animal then it does not have enough penetration to go end to end on an animal. You do not always get broadside shots while hunting and rarely get a broadside shot on a charging or fleeing critter.

3. I want my bullets to be able to break heavy bone and continue to penetrate deeply afterwards.

4. I no longer believe that it is the energy that kills but the size of the wound channel.

There is no best bullet (or caliber) for hunting. Even the best designed bullet will occasionally fail to do the job it is intended to do, Poorly made or poorly designed bullets will conversely give spectacular killing results from time to time.

It is the trend that is important in bullets. From my point of view a half dozen cases of good or poor bullet performance is not much of a trend. Around a hundred is what I want to see. I once witnessed a Kudu (elk-sized African Antelope) shot at 40 yards with a .416 using a 400 grain swift a frame. The well placed bullet hit the Kudu broadside. It ran off and we had to track it for two days. The shot placement was good the cartridge and bullet excellent but it still failed. The same client shot a cape buff with all the same conditions/shot placement and the buff fell over dead with the one shot. The bullet exited after breaking the shoulder. Neither of these isolated cases proves anything.

All bullets are a compromise: No Spire point bullet will ever have as good of terminal ballistics as a flat meplat bullet and no flat nosed bullet has as good of arrow dynamics as a spire point.

The best killing and the best knock down bullets have a large flat nose with a sharp edge (large meplat). Elmer Keith and J.D. Jones have both promoted this concept with handgun bullets. The best example for a rifle is Randy Garrett’s 540 Grain .45-caliber bullet loaded in his .45-70+P ammo. Up close this round has more stopping power than conventional hunting bullets shot from the .458 Winchester Magnum. Now the Garrett 540 grain bullet is fantastic at close range but not what I would recommend for long range situations and it will not feed reliably in most bolt actions. Check out the Garrett ammo web site, read the data how his .45-70 ammo out-penetrates the .458 Winchester.

I have had clients make clean kills on big game using every thing from .223 to .50 but the best consistency for clean kills was with large [diameter] heavy projectiles. Most of my career I used one of three calibers: 308 Winchester, .375 H&H and .470 [Nitro Express]. For cull hunts and wolf hunting I used .308. Every 7.62mm diameter bullet can kill. Military ball [aka full metal jacket (FMJ)] was supplied for most cull hunts. Ball is the worst, but it works in a pinch. The best killing bullets I found in .308 caliber was the [Nosler] Fail Safe and Barnes X bullet. There other very good bullets but the Barnes and Fail Safe stand out in my mind.

For guiding in Alaska and for African plains game I used 375 H&H. The .375 diameter 300-grain Sierra is a wonderfully accurate bullet but at close range it comes apart and sheds it’s jacket fairly often so I do not recommend it for big Bear, Cape Buffalo, Hippo or Rhino. The Barnes, Nosler partition, Swift A-frame and Trophy Bonded are all wonderful .375 projectiles and usually hold together at close range. I would use any of the 4 and pick the one that shoots the best in your particular rifle.

I am not a fan of the .375 for Cape Buffalo, Hippo or Rhino. The .416 or .458 with the Barnes X or trophy bonded seems to be the most consistent killer at all ranges on the thick skinned game. A good .470 or .500 double rifle is best for the big stuff but not many can justify spending $10,000+ for a double rifle and at least $10 per round of ammo.

Enough of my rambling this is the bottom line. Shot Placement is the Single Most Important Factor.
For big game use the largest caliber with the heaviest bullet that you can shoot accurately. I would rather a client show up on a Grizzly hunt with a 30-06 that he can shoot well than a have him bring a .375 that he does not shoot accurately. Use premium hunting bullets--not target bullets--for big game. - Old Dog in Alaska

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I frequently stress the importance of well-balanced preparedness in my writings. All too often, I've seen people that go to extremes, to the point that these extremes actually detract from the ability to survive a disaster situation. These range from the "all the gear that I'll need to survive is in my backpack" mentality to the "a truckload of this or that" fixation. But genuine preparedness lies in comprehensive planning, strict budgeting, and moderation. Blowing your entire preparedness budget on just one category of gear is detrimental to your overall preparedness.

Another common mistake that I see among my consulting clients is an over-emphasis on either very old technologies or on the "latest and greatest" technologies. In the real world, preparedness necessitates having a bit of both. At the Rawles Ranch we have both 19th century technology (like hand-powered tools) and a few of the latest technologies like passive IR intrusion detection (Dakota Alerts), photovoltaics, and electronic night vision. My approach is to pick and choose the most appropriate technologies that I can maintain by myself, but to always have backups in the form of less exotic or earlier, albeit less-efficient technologies. For example, my main shortwave receiver is a Sony ICF-SW7600GR. But in the event of EMP, I also a have a pair of very inexpensive Kaito shortwaves and a trusty old Zenith Trans-Oceanic radio that uses vacuum tubes. Like my other spare electronics, these are all stored in a grounded galvanized steel can when not in use.

Here is my approach to preparedness gear, in a nutshell

  • Redundancy, squared. I jokingly call my basement Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR)
  • Buy durable gear. Think of it as investing for your children and grandchildren. And keep in mind that there'll be no more "quick trips to the hardware store" after TSHTF.
  • Vigilantly watch Craigslist, Freecycle, classified ads, and eBay for gear at bargain prices.
  • Strive for balanced preparedness that "covers all bases"--all scenarios.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability (Examples: shop to match a 12 VDC standard for most small electronics, truly multi-purpose equipment, multi-ball hitches, NATO slave cable connectors for 24 VDC vehicles, Anderson Power Pole connectors for small electronics--again, 12 VDC)
  • Retain the ability to revert to older, more labor-intensive technology.
  • Fuel flexibility (For example: Flex fuel vehicles (FFVs), Tri-fuel generators, and biodiesel compatible vehicles)
  • Purchase high-quality used (but not abused) gear, preferably when bargains can be found
  • If in doubt, then buy mil-spec.
  • If in doubt, then buy the larger size and the heavier thickness.
  • If in doubt, then buy two. (Our motto: "Two is one and one is none.")
  • Buy systematically, and only as your budget allows. (Avoid debt!)
  • Invest your sweat equity. Not only will you save money, but you also will learn more valuable skills.
  • Train with what you have, and learn from the experts. Tools without training are almost useless.
  • Learn to maintain and repair your gear. (Always buy spare parts and full service manuals!)
  • Buy guns in common calibers
  • Buy with long service life in mind (such as low self-discharge NiMH rechargeable batteries.)
  • Store extra for charity and barter
  • Grow your own and buy the tooling to make your own--don't just store things.
  • Rust is the enemy, and lubrication and spot painting are your allies.
  • Avoid being an "early adopter" of new technology--or you'll pay more and get lower reliability.
  • Select all of your gear with your local climate conditions in mind.
  • Recognize that there are no "style" points in survival. Don't worry about appearances--concentrate on practicality and durability.
  • As my old friend "Doug Carlton" is fond of saying: "Just cut to size, file to fit,, and paint to match."
  • Don't skimp on tools. Buy quality tools (such as Snap-on and Craftsman brands), but buy them used, to save money.
  • Skills beat gadgets and practicality beats style.
  • Use group standardization for weapons and electronics. Strive for commonality of magazines, accessories and spare parts
  • Gear up to raise livestock. It is an investment that breeds.
  • Build your fences bull strong and sheep tight.
  • Tools without the appropriate safety gear (like safety goggles, helmets, and chainsaw chaps) are just accidents waiting for a place to happen.
  • Whenever you have the option, buy things in flat, earth tone colors
  • Plan ahead for things breaking or wearing out.
  • Always have a Plan B and a Plan C

If you are serious about preparedness, then I recommend that you take a similar approach.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

In descending order of frequency, the 78 readers that responded to my latest survey recommended the following non-fiction books on preparedness, self-sufficiency, and practical skills:

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery (Far and away the most often-mentioned book. This book is an absolute "must" for every well-prepared family!)

The Foxfire Book series (in 11 volumes, but IMHO, the first five are the best)

Holy Bible

Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson

"Rawles on Retreats and Relocation"

Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens

The "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course

Crisis Preparedness Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Home Storage and Physical Survival by Jack A. Spigarelli

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon

Tappan on Survival by Mel Tappan

Boston's Gun Bible by Boston T. Party

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

Survival Guns by Mel Tappan

Boy Scouts Handbook: The First Edition, 1911 (Most readers recommend getting pre-1970 editions.)

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency by Matthew Stein 

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring

Preparedness Now!: An Emergency Survival Guide (Expanded and Revised Edition) by Aton Edwards

Putting Food By by Janet Greene

First Aid (American Red Cross Handbook) Responding To Emergencies

Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens

Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney (Available for free download.)

Cookin' with Home Storage by Vicki Tate

SAS Survival Handbookby John "Lofty" Wiseman

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables by Mike Bubel

Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen

Stocking Up: The Third Edition of America's Classic Preserving Guide by Carol Hupping

The American Boy's Handybook of Camp Lore and Woodcraft

Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton

98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive by Cody Lundin

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss

Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management by Maurice G. Kains

Essential Bushcraft by Ray Mears

The Survivor book series by Kurt Saxon. Many are out of print in hard copy, but they are all available on DVD. Here, I must issue a caveat lector ("reader beware"): Mr. Saxon has some very controversial views that I do not agree with. Among other things he is a eugenicist.

How to Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angier

The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman

Tom Brown Jr.'s series of books, especially:

Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival

Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking

Tom Brown's Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants (Field Guide)  

Total Resistance by H. von Dach

Ditch Medicine: Advanced Field Procedures For Emergencies by Hugh Coffee

Living Well on Practically Nothing by Ed Romney

The Secure Home by Joel Skousen

Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen

When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need To Survive When Disaster Strikesby Cody Lundin

The Last Hundred Yards: The NCO's Contribution to Warfareby John Poole.

Camping & Wilderness Survival: The Ultimate Outdoors Book by Paul Tawrell

Engineer Field Data (US Army FM 5-34) --Available online free of charge, with registration, but I recommend getting a hard copy. preferably with the heavy-duty plastic binding.

Great Livin' in Grubby Times by Don Paul

Just in Case by Kathy Harrison

Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney (Available for free download.)

How to Survive Anything, Anywhere: A Handbook of Survival Skills for Every Scenario and Environment by Chris McNab

Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance by John & Martha Storey

Adventure Medical Kits A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicineby Eric A. Weiss, M.D.

Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener  

Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook (superceded the very out-of-date ST 31-91B)

Wilderness Medicine, 5th Edition by Paul S. Auerbach

Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Longby Elliot Coleman

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring

Government By Emergency by Dr. Gary North

The Weed Cookbook: Naturally Nutritious - Yours Free for the Taking! by Adrienne Crowhurst

The Modern Survival Retreat by Ragnar Benson

Last of the Mountain Men by Harold Peterson

Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills: Naked into the Wilderness by John McPherson

LDS Preparedness Manual, edited by Christopher M. Parrett

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century by James H. Kunstler

Principles of Personal Defense - Revised Edition by Jeff Cooper.

Survival Poaching by Ragnar Benson

The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses by Eliot Coleman

Thursday, July 2, 2009

There is nothing more soothing to the soul then quietly enjoying a stroll through the woods, forests, and outdoor areas of this great countryside. And having a rifle or shotgun over your shoulder for the chance opportunity at a squirrel, deer, dove, or pheasant is nothing short of perfection for many of us. However, in a survival situation, a hard day of hunting with nothing to show for it is not only depressing but can be downright dangerous. A person in a survival situation must conserve their energy at all costs. Any activity that doesn't produce something towards the goal of food and water is a risk of losing all of that energy with no way to replace it.

There is only one way to maximize your effort for the return that it provides: trapping. This skill is as old as we are. And as such there has been more knowledge lost to the world than is currently written down. Of course there are still people who have a vast knowledge of what it takes to be successful as a trapper. And surprisingly this has become a fairly recent job skill. In the last 10 years the Urban Wildlife Nuisance Removal Technician has become a much more in demand career. With more and more people not able to handle things for themselves, and local Animal Control Departments being overworked on domesticated animals such as dogs and cats, this has left a large demand for men and women who can trap nuisance wildlife out of homes and commercial buildings.

I was fortunate enough to spend a few years after college working for a company that provided nuisance animal removal services to the metro area of Atlanta. While there, I was able to hone my skills in not only urban trapping but in rural areas also. Since that time I have continued trapping recreationally and occasionally for friends and neighbors who have had problems that needed help. This is not always an easy task but the rewards are many.

Trapping in its essence is time efficient. Traps work even while you are sleeping. Or working on other things. You can also add trapping to a hunting trip or vice-versa. Moving from one trap location to the next can always be used as hunting time, so you are maximizing your effort towards the main goal of surviving. Trapping is typically going to be best served in a long term situation. If your lost in the woods for a few days before rescue, or forced out of your home because of bad weather, trapping just may not be needed. But after 2-3 days it starts to become very important to look for the food sources that trapping can provide.

Let's look at a typical overview of trapping and the systems that are typically applied to its use. The first thing to understand is that trapping for food is all about numbers. The more traps you have out, the more effective they will be. Each trap placement is referred to as a "set". This describes the area you have prepared and the trap that is placed in that area. Multiple sets are described as a "line". Trap lines can have as few as two sets and as many more as you can fit in an area. Although I have found that more than 20 makes it difficult to check daily in a survival situation. And that is an important point. Do not over set an area to the point where you can't check all of your traps daily. Leaving animals suffering, or making them easy targets of predators is not only unethical it is wasteful. If coyotes, hawks, badgers, or weasels are stealing and eating your caught prey, then you don't get to. Also if you know you will not be able to check your trap lines for a few days then it is best to go and leave them unset until you have the time to regularly rechecking them.

Anything that moves can be trapped, but I will be mainly focused on the most common types of traps and the general animals that are targeted. Everyone has their own specialties and preferences when it comes to trapping. And every situation needs to be adapted to. The following information is designed as a starting point to get you some success and help improve the odds of getting that first meal when needed.

Before looking at types of traps we must begin with baits. Baits can make your set a lot more enticing to an animal. And with minimal preparation you can have a great bait ready to go. This is the recipe I have used for years with great success on everything from skunks to field mice and most everything in between. Even coyotes and other predators can be lured in with it. This should make approximately two [quart] jars about 3/4ths full. If stored in a cool dry place it will last for years. And one jar can easily be used for months worth of trapping. It does not require very much to draw an animal in and often a lesser amount will work better than big globs of bait.

Multi-Species Trap Bait Ingredients and Instructions:

1 [quart] jar peanut butter (crunchy works also)

1 handful birdseed with sunflower seeds

3 tablespoons of Vanilla Extract

3 pieces of bacon

2 pieces of white bread

2-5 tablespoons of maple syrup

To make this bait you may need to warm all wet ingredients in a pan to combine.

Fry bacon until very well done. Save grease to add and crumble bacon

Cut up bread slice into very small pieces

Mix all ingredients together and stir well.

Add maple syrup until the consistency is a very thick paste

If you do not have time to prepare a bait blend, you can use a lot of other options. Naturally available seeds, berries, and nuts can be used. Also, other animal carcasses can be used. The guts and entrails from a fish is very effective on raccoons and other scavengers. Strips of hide from a road kill or previously trapped animal can attract a host of animals as well as insects which also can draw in birds. The key to using baits is adaptability and presenting it in a way that entices your prey to investigate. And of course some types of sets require no bait, but these are difficult and can take a long time to eventually have success.

There are four main types of commercially made traps. The leg hold, conibear, box trap, and the snare. Each one has its advantages so lets examine each one and the types of sets they can be used for.

Leg hold: This trap is one of the oldest styles and in larger versions have been called bear traps. The two metal arms are opened and put under tension by a spring. The trigger is a lever or flat plate in the center of the trap. Older models use metal straps folded over as springs, and newer ones have actual springs under the levers. Both styles are effective. These traps come in several sizes but a good selection would be those with a 4-6 inch opening.This opening will then close or snap shut on an animals leg and hold it firmly. This will handle most anything short of big game animals in North America. I have found antique ones at yard sales for just a few dollars and even new ones can be had for under $10 on many web sites. I would suggest having 10-15 of this type for any long term survival situation you are preparing for.

Setting these are very simple and after a few tries you should be proficient in their use. Actually making a set to catch an animal is another story altogether. And something I will discuss at the end of this article.

Conibear: These traps are essentially two squares of heavy gauge metal wire connected to act like a scissor action. One or both sides may have coil springs to give it the strength to close on the intended animal. These also come in different sizes and small to medium will work well for food gathering. Although at least one larger one for beaver, fox, and coyote may be desirable. An important note on this style of trap is that on the larger models the springs can be very hard to depress by hand and may require a "setting tool" which acts like a pair of large pliers to compress the springs. This tool will be required if you are trying to set these larger ones by yourself. Other than that this trap is extremely adaptable as the animal crawls through it to trigger the mechanism and it will humanely kill them instantly which also prevents the animal from escaping. Anything from squirrels to beavers can be easily harvested with this style of trap.

Box trap: You will find this trap routinely used to catch and release animals such as cats, dogs, and other wildlife that does not need to be killed. Many Animal Control companies use this style because of the humane removal and relocation of the trapped animal is preferable to their customers. But they are more expensive and very bulky so for survival needs they are not as efficient as the other styles.

Snare: This is probably the easiest to carry and make or buy. Either made from scratch or purchased this trap is one of the oldest traps ever conceived. And works off of the animals own force to close around the legs or neck. Snares can be very effective in skilled hands, however for a beginner it is unwise to count on snares to be productive. If it is all you have then you better be a quick learner, have some good bait, or a lot of patience to wait for success.

Miscellaneous Traps: There are also pitfall traps, deadfalls, whipstick traps and many other styles that can be used but without practice and a true knowledge of trapping these will do nothing more than waste your time and frustrate you to no end. But I would highly recommend you research these styles and if you have the time to give them a try before you may need them.

Now that we have covered the basic traps you can use it is time to move onto sets. There is no way to give you every type or style of set in a short article and in fact many books have been written on just this subject alone. So I will attempt to give you some helpful ideas on how and where to set your traps. Your first decision is what will you be trapping for. This is the most important because just "trapping" will leave you with very little game on the table. Try to learn what animals may be around. Try checking for sign such as prints, feces, holes, fresh diggings, et cetera. When you locate fresh sign but are not sure what it may be then you can start with multiple sets from a few feet to a dozen yards apart. Try adding bait to some and some just in an open spot. You do want to avoid disturbing the area whenever possible. And multiple sets may take a few days to produce if the animal becomes wary of your presence.

For leg holds you can try to set 2 or 3 in a 2 foot area, lightly sprinkle leaves, loose dirt, or pine needles over them to hide their outline. Then hang a pinecone smeared with a good peanut butter bait about 3 feet off the ground above the traps. As the animal comes in to investigate it is looking up at the lure/bait and is less likely to see the traps until he steps in one and then the others. This set will work for many types of animals. Another bait option is a can of dog or cat food wired above the traps with a hole poked in it to allow the juice to drip out. I have seen a raccoon actually jump into the air to lick the can only to fall back onto two leg holds I had set under some leaves.

A good set for a conibear is to place over a fresh den hole. As the animal comes out it will trigger the trap and instantly kill it to prevent it from going back down. Or you can dig a hole slightly smaller then the traps opening, then leave some bait in the hole, place trap over hole, and as an animal sticks his head into the hole to smell or eat the bait the trap will be set off. This set is extremely effective for carnivores such as raccoons, coyotes, skunks, and possums, if you have guts or rotten meat to use as bait. This trap is also great for beaver. The best set I have used is to find a beaver dam and kick out a hole just big enough for the trap to sit down in. Stake both sides down through the springs and leave overnight. Beavers will always repair their dams and as they poke their noses in to the break to see what needs to be fixed the trap is waiting for them.

Box style traps are best if baited to lure an animal in. To make an effective set the cage needs to be hidden under natural materials like leaves and sticks. The best tip for this trap is to lay a nice amount of soil, moss, leaves, or sand in the bottom so as the animal walks into the trap they do not feel the metal wire of the cage on their feet. This can increase your catch rate dramatically. A good bait set in the back behind the trigger will have the best result.

Snares can be used in a lot of different ways, but essentially you are trying to get them to either step into the loop or walk into it to tighten around the animals neck. Setting along game trails, den openings, narrow gaps can eventually pay off. A great set is to either lay a log over a creek or use an existing one and set snares at both ends. These logs are high traffic areas and sooner or later an animal will use it to cross. Another good set if you have squirrels around is to use a fine wire snare and attach to a tree limb leaned up against a tree known to have squirrels. They will sometimes climb down the stick and snare themselves.

One rule for all of these traps is to securely attach them with wire, cable, or chain to something solid. A tree trunk or large rock will work. Using rope can be a hazard as the animals will try to chew through it and drag your traps off with them. And also remember that most states require your name and address to be attached to your trap using metal tags. You must study your local and state laws regarding trapping and any required licenses, tags, markings, and various trapping season dates before heading out to practice. Also there are some very well-done trapping videos on YouTube. And of course as with most outdoorsmen, if you meet a trapper they usually would be happy to help you get into the game and let you learn some tricks from them.

A final survival hint is for those of you preparing your bug out bags. Why not add 4 or 5 of the larger snap traps used for rats? They take up very little room, and with a little bit of peanut butter can catch small rodents and birds very effectively. You could set out 5 every day/night and I am willing to bet that most mornings you would have a tasty meal waiting for you in the morning.<

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


The figure [cited by "Feral Farmer"] of 100 square miles per hunter-gatherer can't be correct. North America covers an area of about 24,709,000 square kilometers (9,540,000 square miles). So, at 100 square mile per hunter gatherer, would only support 95,400 natives. Considering that large chunks of the Arctic and desert are minimal in their resources, not to mention Greenland, this figure (100 sq mi) can't be correct.

Here are a couple of online references:
Agricultural practices and policies for carbon sequestration in soil By John M. Kimble, Rattan Lal, Ronald F. Follett


Food, Energy, and Society By David Pimentel, Marcia Pimentel

These suggest about 40-200 hectares (a hectare is a 100 meter square). This would allow 12 million to 60 million people for the continent, which is much more realistic.

Clearly, though, this is not an efficient way of feeding population, and [given the current population] would quickly lead to both starvation and stripping of resources. - Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large

Mr. Rawles,
If I might add a few comments to [Feral Farmer's] letter. Living in a rural and now recreational area of Wisconsin I have noticed several things. Unemployment is becoming a very serious issue here. Many businesses are simply folding or moving away. It is mostly the small one to five person business's that simply disappear. No big headlines, just quiet and slow.

1. Locals are fishing more than ever are putting up their Friday night fish fry in the freezer for future use. Friday night fish frys are almost religion here and have been for years. So if they cannot afford to go to the local bar for it, they will have the fixin's at home. This means that City folks may not be eating so well if they come here, expecting to live off the land or lake as it were. Small game is the same thing.

2. Mr. Feral's comment about taking 10 years to really know your land is so true. It cracks me up when I hear a city person ask: "What's so tough about farming? You just dig up some dirt, dump some seeds in and get some food at the end of summer." Yes, I have actually had that said to me. I have a field that is a bit lowland, and some what shaded by large pine trees. It was a pasture for the previous owner (perhaps for good reason). I have been trying for years to get a really good crop of anything off that field. The weeds seem to love it, but corn does not. This year we had a cold April, wet May and ups and downs in June. 90 for a couple of days and 60 the next. My corn refused to germinate. I view this particular field as a challenge and am determined to find a crop that will grow. I can do it because I have other very productive fields. My point is the same as Mr. Feral's. You cannot simply expect food to grow because you think it should, because you
read a book. Thank, - Carl R.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dear Editor:
John M.'s letter was excellent, polite, and to the point.

The following are my rules for townies:

1. If your water comes out of a faucet or a bottle, and you can not safely walk to a permanent backup source in less than 10 minutes every day, then you will die.

2. If you do not raise your own food, or personally know the family that you bought it from, you will either die, or be forever controlled by someone with a clipboard and a list, and you will wish you were dead.

3. If you live in the city because your job is more important than your life, then don't bother bugging out. The only Job you are likely to get out here in the country is digging graves for people that think like you.

4. A centuries old rule of farming: It takes a minimum of 10 years of farming a piece of ground to know it. So, you're going to compress a decade of intimate knowledge into a weekend, because you read a book? We'll send the guy mentioned in Rule #3 out to your shack next spring.

5. Unless you have a fully stocked and equip 19th century-style working farm to escape to, with food for two years stored in place for humans and livestock, you are simply a well-intentioned refugee, or an unwelcome house guest.

6. [Forget "foraging".] In the 1850s, (for the purpose of sizing reservations), it was determined that a skillful Native American needed 100 square miles (10 miles x 10 miles) minimum, to live off the land, per person. There was a lot more game back then, and less afraid of humans. You're going to be competing with around 300 million hungry human bellies, every morning.

7. Ten cases of canned food fits in a 2'x2'x2' area. Around 30 cases will give you one meal a day for a year, and fits under a [tall] bed. The gear, tools, food, and clothing needed for a family of four for a year in the wild would fill one or more semi-trailers. So you think that you're going to effortlessly bug out with a truck and trailer at O-Dark-Thirty and survive? Stay home, or become breakfast for less dainty bellies.

Finally: There are two terms you hope never appear in your obituary: "unfortunate accident", or "shallow grave".

If you and your gear are not already pre-positioned on your own homestead, and your city job is just seasonal or part time for the Gov.Bux, you are probably bound to end up in one of these two categories by bugging out.

Prepare, but stay where you are, unless the emergency is a temporary natural event - Feral Farmer

JWR Replies: I concur that taking halfway measures is an invitation to becoming a statistic in a societal collapse. As I've stressed countless times, the best approach is to live at your retreat year-round. A marginal second choice is to maintain a fully-stocked retreat that is constantly under the watchful eye of a trusted friend or relative that can also keep your fruit nut trees watered and look after your livestock. But even then, you'll likely lack the requisite large-scale gardening experience in your retreat's particular climate zone. You will also lack having developed trust relationships with your neighbors--something crucial to survival. It is incredibly naive for anyone to anticipate that they can "bug out" with everything that they'll need. Even if you are fortunate enough arrive with your vehicle and trailer intact, as "Feral Farmer" points out, you will be way behind the power curve: under-equipped, and under-provisioned. And as, John M. mentioned, those that are under-prepared will probably end up in a life of thievery, rather than watch their families starve. The goal here is to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

I also concur with Feral Farmer's observations on foraging. The hunting and even the fishing pressure will be tremendous. I've heard from consulting clients in California' Coast Range that deer harvest have dropped to pitifully low numbers in the past five years, because of the depredations of Mountain Lions. (Which have been elevated to protected species status in the People's Paradise of California.) The chances of filling just one deer tag, they say, are now slim except for anyone that has the time to willing to "hunt hard" throughout California's short deer season. So, I ask: If this has happened when there were just a few thousand excess mountain lions, then what will happen when there are an extra 5-to-10 million deer hunters wandering around California, shooting at anything that moves? (The California deer population has already dropped from more than one million to an estimated 485,000. That is not a lot of deer to go around, WTSHTF. And what will happen to the freshwater fishing stocks, when there are hundreds of thousands of set lines being worked, year round?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

James -
We think along similar lines, as my wife and I relocated to Central Idaho in 1995, raising and homeschooling our four children here. We're electrically functioning off the grid, engage in animal husbandry, grow what vegetables we can, and stock up on essentials we cannot produce and always meticulously rotate the stock. And we hunt, big time.

I read the entry on your site today about the fellow who intends to travel ore than a thousand miles in a blink of an eye, and use this blur to make a life-changing decision based on distorted glances at sixty miles an hour. Though I agree with essentially every bit of advice regarding location considerations, and in particular what to avoid, perhaps you should suggest to this fellow to split his trip into two or three, perhaps even four excursions so he can really evaluate what he is looking at.

I've lived in the west my entire life, a witness to the destruction of Colorado as we finally fled the far reaches of the West Slope for here. Knowing that one simple mistake in terms of selecting a location can be fatal in and unto itself, we began looking in 1993 and through 1994 before making our selection. Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Distance from population centers was number two on our criteria list, but as you well know, the number one priority must be water.

People in the cities haven't really a clue as to its relative scarcity. Turn on the tap. Our criteria was "live, year-around creek" on the prospective dirt, or it was scrubbed from the list. At 8.37 pounds per gallon, you can't realistically haul enough any distance for survival if survival means growing food if TEOTWAWKI actually occurs. Maybe not enough to use just to satiate thirst if you are too far from the source.

Let's face it. If people have to actually "Bug Out", the "End" is happening, right there and then. Think: water, water, water, and location, location, location.

I wrote a piece about "relocation" a few years back for a Peak Oil web site that generated several thousand comments, the vast majority of them were positive. The negatives were from the Gold's Gym-type jerks who thought I was trying to come off as some kind of tough guy, which I wasn't. "Realism" offends people. You cut one cord short on firewood before winter and the snows get hip-deep, you are dead. Sometimes you have "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" with large critters equipped with teeth and claws. I killed a damned lion at six feet inside my barn who was upset that I was upset that he had killed my milk goats. A bear at thirty feet on top of one of our sheep who was none too happy with me either. The wolves are here constantly, and that's just a time bomb waiting to go off. We've had jerks from cities show up on the place acting, and to be kind here, just a little "weird". Occasionally and unfortunately what followed were "in your face" armed confrontations, required to convince them getting the hell out of here was a damn good idea.

Which leads to another situation that is always notably absent from writings about "Getting out of Dodge". Why isn't it mentioned that people are already "out there", and even if a person chooses to relocate before the fan is blowing manure that it takes a couple of years before the indigenous outlanders accept your presence. These pre-existing folks, as you well know, traded off the easy living the cities offer for a harder lifestyle that almost guarantees austere living. The F.N.G. is a newcomer, and no one knows whether her/she is a curse or a blessing. The number of drug-laden scum that has floated in and out of here over the years is pretty amazing, let alone the flood of retirees who ain' t worth knowing. A third of them want sidewalks along Forest Service Roads.

And then when things go south, some guy, regardless of what color collar he wore to work, abandons his 52" widescreen HDTV, his Budweiser and the N.F.L. Package, throws his "Git-R-Done" stuff in the 4-Runner. Off he goes, carrying just enough with him to guarantee that where he ends up, thieving and murdering is going to be happening. Why? Because he's in a panic regardless of how "cool" he thinks he is. In truth, if you don't already live "out there", you aren't prepared. City folk are waiting to run, and they are running to nowhere. For that matter, half the people who are already "out there" aren't really prepared. But City Folks simply cannot take with them what is needed long-term to survive, and even short-term if winter is upon them. So, he is going to become a thief and a murderer. Where he's headed he doesn't own dirt, has no roof over his head, and he hasn't got the food to last a month. The most moral man in the world will become the worst of sinners when facing starvation. Add a man with his woman and a passel of kids, and you've got a desperate man. "Honey, I starved the kids!" I don't think so.

So, what do you think folks around here are thinking anyway? Putting out the "Welcome Wagon" for an exodus of people who refused to sacrifice ahead of time? Those who have been living easy and going to Applebees every Friday night? The wife blowing money at the mall every Saturday with the rest of the "girls"? People who thought, "I'll stay here doing the 9-5 because the woman insists, and then we'll go if we have to." Here's another good one: "We didn't want to move and have to change schools. The kids really liked it there."

The foregoing mean that the "Old Lady" and the "kids" have been dictating his life anyway, right? You ever seen these women go through "Mall Withdrawal"? Good God, it's a terrible sight to behold even under good conditions! At least when things are "normal" they can head over the pass for a methadone-like "Mall-Fix" up in Missoula or head to Idaho Falls. Shoot, you go and "Cold Turkey" a mall-dependent woman and h**l doesn't even begin to describe the price that must be paid! It's viral too, I swear.

Seriously though, is there some assumption that such "exodus scenarios" aren't discussed by the locals down at the cafe's in Salmon, Challis, and Elk, Bend, and North Fork over morning coffee, as well as at the Sheriffs Departments around here? My understanding is that the roads in and out of here are to be closed, which is fine by me. There isn't much bounty here to begin with, and adding a bunch of instant vagabonds will simply be making meager pickings that much slimmer.

Fools rushing for the hills. There's a steep learning curve and most aren't going to make it. Best regards, and keep up the good work - John M.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The topic I will cover is one I have not seen on SurvivalBlog. Everybody is caught up in the equipment side and not concentrating on the training. I have two examples several months back our dryer started squeaking & we had to stop using it. I am a trained air conditioning technician. At first I thought about going out and purchasing a new dryer and then I had a thought: I have fixed multi thousand dollar air conditioning units, how hard could it be? After two days it was back up drying clothes and for a lot less money than a new dryer would cost.

The other example was Saturday night a week ago I killed a feral hog and with some help from the friend that owns the land where I killed the pig, we quickly had it in the chest freezer. You ask, “how do these two examples apply to TEOTWAWKI preparedness?”

I am 50 years old; things I take for granted younger people do not understand or do not have the ability to do. Can you sharpen a knife? Can you tune a small engine? How about sharpen a chainsaw? I have been trained as an equipment mechanic and then trained as a HVAC tech. I have also taken first aid training, I am not an EMT but I know the basics. I have fixed several small appliances. My father was a carpenter. He taught me the basics of construction, such as how to build a wall and how to hang sheet rock. I had a small business that repaired rental properties in Texas.

Do you hunt? And are you planning on hunting to supplement your meat supply if not how do you expect to put meat in the freezer after TSHTF? By hunting you learn where to look for game. Small game hunting can teach you where to find rabbits and squirrels are at certain times of the year. Also when you make your first kill you will have a hands-on butchering class. You can not make a mistake that can not be repaired before it gets to the table. I remember the first feral pig a friend killed I was at my parents' house when a friend called and ask if I had butchered a hog? I said no but I have sure put enough deer in the ice chest that a pig could not be that hard.
I have also gar
dened quite a bit. When I was a child some of the first memories are of working in the garden. We did not raise all of our food but we raised a significant portion. We had a cow and chickens. I helped my mother can vegetables from the garden. I have caned tomatoes I have raised in my back yard. I can make my own soap. I also know where to get the lye with out going to the store. (Wood ashes).

What do you read? Back Home, Backwoods Home, and Mother Earth News magazines--although Mother Earth News is not as good as she once was. I keep all the Back Home and Backwoods Home that I pick up. I also found several books that will be passed on once I go to my final reward. I have books on a variety of topics from engine repair to gardening and other topics.

Do you reload the ammo you practice with? You can store more powder, primers and bullets in a given space than loaded ammo. Then when you shoot some you can reload to re-supply. Shotgun ammo is very economical when you reload. I would not suggest that you use reloaded ammo to defend yourself. Use store bought. I talked about the pig I killed a couple weeks back I used a Savage model 40 in 22 Hornet. The cartridge I used was reloaded and in fact was a case that had been reloaded several times. I have reloaded a variety of calibers and presently I can keep my guns shooting for awhile. I also cast lead bullets for a number of my guns and I am planning on getting a few more molds for different calibers. Also think about this I have in my gun safe a. 22 Hornet, .223 Remington and a .22-250. They all take 223 caliber bullets. I have bought a lot of .223 caliber bullets, mostly 55 grain weight. I can use the same bullet in all three. I also I am going to purchase a shot maker and will be able to produce shot for my own use and barter. I am stocking up on primers and bullets.

What do you watch on television? I watch Discovery and the Science channel. People talk about gas powdered tractors gasoline has a shorter shelf life than say diesel or propane for that matter. I have not seen propane discussed much on the blog for a motor fuel. Propane has a "forever" shelf life. Also, you can still find Ford Model 8 or 9N tractors that were powered by propane. As long as the propane did not leak out it was good and the tractors could sit idle for a long time and did not have to have the carburetor cleaned.

The reason I mentioned television shows is this one program I watched 2 to 3 years ago had a teams on an oceanic island. The team had to do some projects, one of which was they had a diesel powered go-cart. Both teams were given some sesames seeds and a machine that could make oil out of the seeds. The first team to start their go-cart and get it to run a course distance won the event. This got me to thinking that all trucks, generators, tractors should be diesel powered. You can make your own fuel!! The inventor of the Diesel engine was Dr. Rudolf Diesel, a German who envisioned a system where German farmers were not dependant on fuel sources that came from outside Germany! Remember the pig I killed? If it had been a survival situation.  I would have rendered the fat to oil and could have used it in my truck and drove 20 or so miles or used it in a generator or plowed the garden with a tractor.

The upshot of the foregoing is that what you have in your hands is not as important as what you have between your ears. Learn all you can. Take classes at your local community college. Read all the preparedness’ magazine’s and books you can. Concentrate on survival skills. Learn to start fires without matches and to build a temporary shelters. Learn to maintain your car or truck, local community colleges are great places to learn vehicle repair and you can save money in the short run. Imagine if something broke and you needed it to survive. Could you fix it? Stockpile spare parts for the most important items. Ford 8 of 9n tractors are great and look simple. But if the clutch went out, could you replace it? I have done that and it’s not as easy as you might think. Repair manuals are not an option, in my thinking. They are a must.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Good post about Lyme Disease today. I live in Connecticut and caught Lyme in 1995. Took me years of antibiotics to get it into remission. Also, please note that on 50% of people get the classic "bulls eye" rash. I didn't, and as a result I was misdiagnosed for five months while it established itself in my neurological system.

I recently purchased some special undergarments from Rynoskin which the ticks and other bugs can't get though. Maybe some of your readers would be interested. Cabela's sells their own version, called Bugskins but I'm not as familiar with it.

Keep up the great work. I enjoy the blog out here in Blue country!
All the best, - Joe from Connecticut



I found your post on deer ticks and Lyme Disease of much benefit. I would like to share with you a brief account of a man I knew who contracted a very peculiar illness. He suffered from severe malaise (general weakness) which was misdiagnosed by the local doctors a number of times.He was diagnosed with anything ranging from influenza to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and even cancer. As it turned out, he had Lyme disease contracted via a deer tick

His symptoms were not much different from what Bill S. described in his letter but apparently at the time, it was not recognized for what it was. there was as much early suspicion of Lyme disease as there is now.
My point is that we cannot be too cautious when it comes to our health. even with competent doctors, things can get missed.
This gentlemen endured quite a long recovery, partly due to lack of early recognition and partly because Lyme disease is a nasty one. It was years before he was "right" again. - M.D.T.


Hello Mr. Rawles,
The definitive studies on ticks were concluded in Oklahoma some 30 years ago, in detailed deer habitat/population studies. (See the reference below.) The results of the studies indicated that 90% of the ticks occur only in a small portion of the outdoor habitat. Perhaps as little as 5% of the habitat. That particular habitat is the area where deer bed down regularly.

I live on five acres and in contact with the vegetation outside daily, in waist high shrubs, knee high grass and under some heavy growth of trees. Rarely do I find a tick on me, here in western Oklahoma.

Generally the potential occurrence for ticks on humans is overstated. Because people simply do not regularly pass through, work in or visit the bedding areas of deer.

This does not however belittle the fact that just one tick can pass to a human a disease condition that can impact health negatively. Fear of ticks from outside activities is generated when warnings are described to the public. If you stay away from deer bedding areas your chances of having a tick transfer to you are very low.

The other environmental condition for ticks to gravitate to is a yard with outside penned dogs. Watering tanks serviced by windmills or solar pumps for livestock will also be used by deer, bobcats, coyotes and many small mammals. Watering places frequently will have over runs of water leaving behind pools of water on the ground.
These areas may have higher concentrations of ticks.

Beat the odds:

  • Always inspect yourself for ticks after being outside.
  • If you have an outside dog in a fenced yard treat the dog's sleeping area with insecticides.
  • Stay out of deer bedding habitat.

But for the first time in more than a year yesterday I picked a crawling tick off of my neck heading for the hairline.

If in a bugout situation stay away from deer bedding areas for sleeping or rest stops. You can spot these areas. The deer will leave behind a mashed down area of vegetation [usually] in brush and/or under low trees. You can also see the imprint of where deer rest and sleep under trees where there is less vegetation.
Distinctive well-used trails will lead to these areas.

Type of habitat that is based on ecological descriptions of a community of plants have a significant effect on the ability of ticks to maintain a population of individuals.

Reference: White-Tailed Deer Utilization of Three Different Habitats and Its Influence on Lone Star Tick Populations, by Carl D. Patrick and Jakie A. Hair, The Journal of Parasitology, Vol. 64, No. 6 (Dec., 1978), pp. 1100-1106. Published by: The American Society of Parasitologists

Understanding ticks is more complex than just understanding the potential for disease transmission. Cordially,- JWC in Oklahoma

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I'd like to add an additional perspective on the letter on "Learning the Details of Self-Sufficiency" -- the conscious competence learning model. I'd like to pull back the shade a bit on why 'just buying stuff' and reading books isn't going to cut it when the balloon goes up.

Many folks are 'buying things', reading books, searching the internet with the thought that when the time comes, they will begin living the self-sufficient lifestyle in the country. The aforementioned letter points out the folly of this approach. I just want to take a step back and look at why so many people are taking an unproductive approach -- it has to do with how people assimilate new skills.

With a new skill set (like self-sufficient living in this example) a person at first is unconsciously incompetent (stage #1). Here a person doesn't even know what they don't know. They certainly don't understand the ramifications of not having mastery of the things they don't know. Most people stop right here. They feel safe. In fact, it's not until they go a bit further into consciously incompetent (stage #2) when they begin for the first time to understand some of the things at which they are incompetent; and begin to realize the impact of their incompetence on their desired outcome.

Stage 2 lasts a long time because the more a person learns, the more necessary skills they uncover, which skills they have no experience whatsoever. It's not until you actually eat the beans you've canned, which were stored in the root cellar you made; which beans grew in your garden, which garden you protected from insects, which plot you cleared from the forest, fenced from the deer, amended the soil, selected the correct variety of bean seed, planted at the correct depth,with the correct spacing, at the right time of year, with the proper sun exposure, etc. Then and only then will you have begun to have some gardening experience -- for beans. Then you can begin to appreciate that beans are not carrots. Carrots have different needs, and hey, wow, I wonder if all these different vegetables, grains and fruits have different requirements? Gee, what would happen if I grew my garden in 'compost' I bought from a local garden center and the entire crop failed, and I couldn't buy my veggies from Wal-Mart? Last example was a true story for me as a local nursery sold me 10 yards of 'compost' which [later] tested almost zero for N, P, & K. My crops bolted and died within three weeks.

Stage 3 is conscious competence. This is when you can perform a skill reliably at will. I can put up more beans this year, I know how to do it; I know how many rows of what dimension and how much seed I need. I want to put up some dilly beans, I know how to do that too. I can cook using the blanched and frozen beans I grew last year.

Stage 4 is unconscious competence. This is where you aren't even aware of the skills you are using to produce the desired result. People who reach this level of expertise often can't teach another person how to do what they are doing because so much ability (not knowledge -- big difference) is assumed. Have you ever seen a craftsman produce a beautiful result, and make it look easy? Then you tried and found, "Hey, this is harder than it looks!" That's what stage 4 is, and where you need to be before you risk your family's life on homesteading in the midst of a crisis.

We've only talked about beans so far; how about production quantity gardening for the 20 or so veggies, fruits, and grains you're going to need? How about producing pork? Chicken? Rabbit? Lamb? Can you breed, select, grow, cull, harvest, process, store, and prepare all of these? How about dairy operations? Retreat security? Redundant water systems in place? Redundant power systems in place and functioning? Productive relationships with neighbors? Suppliers? I'd like to give you a more complete list, but I've been doing this for years now, so I don't even know all I know!

If you aren't doing these things right now, then you won't be any good at them in a time of need. The only way to gain new skills is by doing. Take advantage of whatever time we have left before things get much worse, and go do it! - Mr. Kilo

Friday, April 24, 2009

None of us here can know the hour when 1 Thessalonians 4:16 -17, will come to be. There are Prophesies that seem to indicate that that time approaches. But we don't know. We are not Prophets ourselves. We can just know to be ready. But until that time comes, there are also many other possibilities for which to prepare. We are in the early stages of a world-wide economic meltdown. As that grows worse, it can lead to all sorts of interesting events. Unemployment will likely lead to increased crime and even food riots. That can lead to the break down of systems. And that can cause the loss of health care, electricity, sanitation, water and so on. And that will inevitably lead to epidemics.

The Sun is the "quietest" it has been in many, many years. The last time Earth experienced so little sun spot activity, hundreds of thousands died from cold and lack of food because it snowed during the summer. The Yellowstone Caldera, a super volcano, is 40,000 years overdue to blow. When it does, it will spread ash across the entire US and block sunlight for years. There is an undersea volcano off Africa that is in danger of collapse. That could cause a tidal wave that would take out the entire east coast of the US. ...And then there is the ambitions of our governments "new friends" in Venezuela and Iran, and Al Qaeda and N. Korea. An EMP attack will surely make us all take notice that being "friendly" and acting weak is no solution to bad behavior by evil people. ..Not to mention what the closing of the Hormuz Straits will cause, if certain folks decide they can get away with it.

And all that is just some of the possibilities as televised on PBS shows in the last week. Not even alarmist conspiracy theory or doom and gloom, just Public TV science and reporting.

I am of the opinion that the "first world" industrial societies are so complex, that they could collapse fairly easily. It's just like my tractor. For lack of grease, the bearing spun. For lack of a bearing, the field didn't get plowed. With no turned earth, there was no garden and no food.

In these kinds of economies, small events can have remarkable consequences. Several years ago, a tree fell against a power line in Ohio. That small outage spread. Power went off in parts of Canada and as far away as New York. A couple more trees, and there could be no power anywhere. And then who would there be to help Florida or Texas, after a hurricane.

So what are we to do? Certainly reading survivalblog everyday is a great start. Acquiring knowledge thru books is absolutely necessary. Getting training and practical experience at such schools as Front Sight and Midwest Native Skills Institute is crucial. You can also volunteer at any of many the open air museums, and learn about appropriate non-electric skills and tools. But, there is more. We really need seven day, everyday, experience.

For example, there has been a good bit of discussion lately about "city retreats". Some folks believe they can make it in a well equipped "abandoned" factory or warehouse. They will hide in plain sight. That may work for a time, but what happens when the power goes out, and your stored fuel is used up? You might have bullets and food stored to last three years, then what? In my opinion, if you are concerned enough to be reading survivalblog, you ought to be realistic enough to get where you need to be to survive. And, IMHO, that ain't the city. You simply won't learn the practical skills needed to be self-sufficient, if you live on cement

It is remarkably complex to be self-sufficient. Without daily experience, you are unlikely to make it. It can easily take three years to successfully cultivate and grow an organic garden. It can take years to really learn to save seeds or prune a fruit tree. If the electricity goes out, you'll need to be able to do that and much more. If you can't, your children will suffer. It may take you a season or two to learn to get your fences built before the deer eat your crops. (They can clear a garden in one night). It can take years to learn what you actually need to run a farm. Little things like having lots of nails and screws on hand. If the big box stores close, how are you going to build shelter for city family refugees if you don't already have the supplies? And do you know construction? Do you have the tools? Or, without lots and lots of files and hack saw blades, how will you work metal when the gas runs out? It takes more than just having an anvil and hammer. Do you know the simple things like stacking hay bales on their sides, instead of "strings up"? If the hay gets wet, the water will run through the bale if it's on its side. The hay will much more likely mold if you store it with the strings pointing up. Right now, we all have the time to make such mistakes. It's not yet life or death. But soon, it may be.

In a crisis, being efficient also becomes much more important. You'll waste all kinds of time until you learn to carry a tool box on your equipment when you go to the field. It can be pure aggravation to need a wrench, screw driver or piece of wire, and have to walk all the way back to the barn. A simple fix can easily turn into a wasted hour, if you don't have the experience and tools to know better. And an hour lost is a job undone. That can be very costly.

It's taken me quite some time to learn to consistently keep certain things lined up by the back door. If I turn on any lights at night, a raccoon or coyote going after the chickens will run. I've learned, if I hear a noise, to get up in the dark, put on my boots, which are always where they need to be, have the other necessaries in easy reach, and to get out the door, silently, to take care of business. That's not something learned easily or quickly. Just developing night vision and how to see in the dark, and how to listen to the sounds of night in the country, can take a lot of time. Not knowing that can mean losing half your chickens in one night. It happened to me.

It can also take some time to learn which neighbors are reliable and which farm equipment dealerships are best. You don't want to buy major equipment from a dealer that has poor service and inventory. And asking for help from the wrong neighbor can be worse than no help at all.

It can take many seasons to learn the weather of your farm. I know that there is always a dry week in April when I can till the gardens. If I miss it, and it rains, it may be May before the ground will again dry out enough to plow. And when snow comes from certain directions, it may mean I need to clear a roof before it falls under too much weight. ..It's happened.

It's taken me some time to learn to put a broody chicken in wire cage inside the hen house. I put as many eggs under her as will fit, put in a bit of water and food, and shut the door. I've had many a hatch of eggs go bad because the chicken got up and didn't find her way back. With this little trick of confining the chicken, I get chicks every time. That's not something you learn just bugging out from the city.

It's also taken some time to learn that its hard to read by candle light. An oil lamp is better, it can give between 2.7 to 4.4 candle power, depending on how wide the wick is. And having an oil lamp with mantle, which gives 40 candle power, (or the equivalent of a 60 watt bulb), is really important if you have any medical needs at night. I know I much more appreciate sewing myself up when I can see where to stitch, instead of kind'a poking around by candle light.

And so it goes. We all know something is coming. Most of us believe it in our cores. We wouldn't be here otherwise. So, what are you going to do? I believe the time has come to take action. It may not be comfortable to leave the city and a well paying job. But you have so much to learn, and so little time. You really need to get moving. Because the mistakes you will certainly make today, just may do you in, tomorrow. - Jim Fry, Curator, Museum of Western Reserve Farms & Equipment, Ohio

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We may soon depend on all of what we have learned over the years. Putting all of the threads of knowledge together into a tapestry of self-sufficiency, and survival capabilities, is part of the lifelong quest for our family’s security. We learn from many sources and experiences such as: family, church, friends, teachers, teammates, co-workers, reading books and SurvivalBlog, and hopefully from our mistakes.

Preparedness Skills from our Grandmas and Grandpas

The foundation for preparedness begins with my childhood in Michigan. We lived in Lansing where my great-grandmother was next door and my grandmother lived next door to her. My father was born in great-grandma’s house after the family moved to the city during the early 1900s. My sisters and I spent weekends and summers alternately at my mom’s family dairy farm, which was just outside of the city, and at my dad’s family cabin “up north”. These were the richest times of my life. We knew all of our grandparents and some of our great-grandparents very well. My great-great-grandfather still lived in the old log cabin when I was born in 1956. We have been fortunate to have had five generations alive consistently from then until now. The wealth of love and knowledge you gain from your extended family is irreplaceable.

The “old timers” told stories of hardship during the great depression and the dust bowl era (we live an area that was the largest prairie east of the Mississippi.) Memories of crop failures with tales of early and late frosts were passed down. There were also hunting and fishing stories passed down as we learned to hunt and fish with older family members. There were bigger than life lumberjack stories and stories from Prohibition and the World Wars. I learned to safely handle and accurately shoot a .22 rifle with peep sights when I was six or seven years old. I walked the roads with my grandpa squirrel hunting. We ice fished on local lakes and went to Tip-Up Town USA every year. All of this adds to ones persona and the early experience helps awaken the necessary “survivalist” traits.

On a working dairy farm you rapidly learn about life (and death). Animal husbandry and caring for the land lead to sustainability. Animals do become food and harvesting the crops sometimes seems little reward for the hard work. The milking must be done every day and chores do not wait. As a kid I learned to drive tractors and pick-ups to and from the fields. We mowed, bailed and then stacked the hay in the mow. Alfalfa, oats and corn were the field crops. Pigs, chickens, and sheep were raised along with the dairy cows and we cleaned the barns and spread manure.

Knowledge is passed down from generation to generation such as when to plant, where to plant, when to harvest, and how to raise the animals. There were many topics of conversations at the Sunday breakfast table. Many things are debated and discussed after chores and before Church. Most times the conversations continued outside the Church after the sermon. It was the only time you saw the other farmers. When you are a little guy you tended to be quiet, pay attention and learn.

Grandpa was a farmer and Grandma was a one room school teacher. Grandma also taught vacation bible school during the summer break. Us kids learned how to tend good gardens and helped preserve the food we raised. We took care of the barn animals while the uncles milked. We hauled water to the bull pen and helped milk as we got older. Survival skill sets from the farm come from being part of a close knit community with a solid work ethic. There are strong religious underpinnings with good people engaged in caring for one another as well as the animals and the land.

Preparedness from "Roughing It”

The log cabin “up north” had a well-house for getting water and an outhouse for getting rid of water. There was a wood fired cook stove for heat and kerosene lamps to play cards under. There was a red checkered oilcloth on the table with cane chairs around it. The place was originally homesteaded by my great-great-grandfather in the late 1800s (a few electric lights were added at some point.) We used to go up on Friday night after Dad or Grandpa got out of work. The next morning started with an awakening trip to the outhouse and then fetching a bucket of water from the well house and kindling for the wood stove. On a cold morning you stepped lively until the fire was going.

Once the stove was hot, Grandma would cook buttermilk pancakes on a griddle that my great-grandmother had used in the lumber camp. Eggs and bacon sizzled in a cast iron skillet. Clothes were washed on a washboard in a wash tub and then hung out to dry. You took a bath in the river. During the summer we would fish morning and evening and water ski on the nice days. The family summer vacation was spent camping in a tent along the river or at a state park. The old cabin was also used for small game hunting in the early fall and deer camp in the late fall / winter. We would take walks in the woods and look for morels and other edible things like may apples, hickory nuts or raspberries and huckleberries. Animal tracks were learned and followed with hopes of a glimpse. Life was considered sacred unless needed for food and being a part of nature became obvious. A leave no trace and waste nothing ethic was being born.

Opportunities for further wilderness and pioneering skill development were provided by Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. My mom and dad were actively involved in Scouting when I was growing up. Teamwork and sharing responsibilities for the group were learned. Outdoor cooking and keeping things sanitary were heavily emphasized. Food poisoning is no joke – we had one patrol that damn near killed us with their meal. We learned to wash our hands and boil the crap out of everything. Hiking and backpacking skills were beginning to be developed in the Scouts. We day hiked a 20 miler once a year on the Johnny Appleseed Trail - the Scouts version of the death march. You had to carry a full pack if you wanted the patch. We also hiked the Pokagon Trail in northern Indiana and learned to camp in the winter.

While living in Pennsylvania (later in life) I started winter backpacking with a few of my buddies. We went in the winter both for the solitude it offered, and to learn the special skill sets required for survival in the cold. There are beautiful views from Seven Springs and other spots along the Laurel Highlands Trail during the winter. This experience then led to the development of technical mountaineering skills. The books Basic Rockcraft, Advanced Rockcraft and Knots for Climbers were memorized along with study of the book Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills. Skills were practiced and ingrained.

My first solo backpacking / climbing trip came in the summer of 1980 in the Organ Mountains of southern New Mexico. I later solo climbed most of the 4,000 and 5,000 footers in New England (many in winter). I met a like minded climber on one of those hikes and we made a summit bid on Mt. Rainier in June of 1998. I also began the solo circumnavigation on the Wonderland Trail that year. I set the first tracks both that year and when I completed the circuit in June of 2001. Map and compass skills were required. Primitive camping while carrying everything you need to survive for two weeks is a tough proposition. It was tough in my 30s and 40s. It’s even harder now that I am in my 50s. G.O.O.D. to the deep woods is doable but it would be a hard life.

Responsibility and Teamwork

We learned to be responsible and self-sufficient during our childhood. We learned to play without other kids around and had chores to do for our allowance. I learned to gather the wood and light a fire as soon as I was old enough. You pumped the water and filled the reservoir if you wanted warm water for washing up. You learned to use guns and knives as tools while you learned hunting techniques and cleaned the game for the table. Being a responsible hunter meant taking ethical shots and using what you kill. Catching and cleaning fish, then cooking or smoking them were all part of being a good fisherman. To go along with these survival skills you also need the ability to share knowledge and work as a team.

Most of the skills you learn will help you to fend for yourself one way or another. The only problem is summed up with the statement “no man is an island”. You will need others sooner or later. My sisters and I developed basic teamwork skills while setting up camp. The girls helped mom and I helped dad. We had a “system”. This was carried further in Scouting. Some Patrols set up tents while another set up the kitchen. These valuable lessons were used later in life as I went through boot camp and during service in the military. I served on small boats as part of a search and rescue team in the USCG.
Teamwork helps to overcome the steep learning curve and high risk of being a self-sufficient survivalist. You can do things as a team exponentially quicker and safer than you can by yourself. Your bunkmate becomes your partner in boot camp and later becomes your shipmate. You learn “one hand for yourself and one hand for the boat”. As a team you can survive what would kill you alone. In a bad storm someone has to steer while someone bails out the boat. One person couldn’t do it. Avalanche in the back country is another perfect example - by yourself you are probably dead. Doing things alone is great - but it may cost you your life. Skill and knowledge can’t cover your a** like a buddy. It’s nice to have someone else on the rope with you; they are your only hope.

Teaching everyone at least something you know and learning from everyone something you don’t know can only make the group stronger. If someone gets sick or is tired someone else can step up. CPR is a good example here. In the back country one person can’t help himself. One person helping may bring back the life but it better happen quickly. Two people allow you to send someone for help while rendering aid until you are too tired to continue. Three people allow almost indefinite support. Two can alternate CPR while waiting for the one who left for help to return with the defibrillator. If help is real far away, then it’s done. There is a point of no return. Remote locations usually cross that point which is a distinct disadvantage (unless the SHTF).

Without teamwork you will usually die if something bad happens. Everyone has to be a good shot. Everyone needs to be able to render first aid. The group is only as strong as the weakest link and precious resources are spent covering someone’s a** that’s not up to speed. Teach and learn and cross train. Remember what you did as a kid and don’t sell the kid’s of today short. Teach them the skills they need and allow them to grow into the responsibility. Being part of a team or extended family that functions like a team is fun. The action of being responsible for one another is at the root of any team.

The Prepared Family

The family is the primary source of knowledge. Some survival skills to learn right along with reading, writing and arithmetic are: swimming, knot tying, fire building under all conditions, where to get water and how to make it safe to drink, safe gun handling and accurate shooting, hunting in fields and the woods, fishing in rivers and on lakes, first aid, camping, boating, gardening, making things “homemade”. You can’t start learning or teaching these things too soon.

10 years ago we moved back home to Michigan after living all over the USA. I had come home for my Grandpa’s funeral and was returning to New England. Something was wrong and I couldn’t put my finger on it. That’s when the light came on and as I drove it became apparent that I was going the wrong way – both figuratively and literally. We were chasing the so called “American Dream”. Losing my grandfather and returning to the north woods had shown me where home really is. It is with family and God and where your roots are. I had drifted away from the true values I had learned early in life.
I resigned my position, cashed out the 401(k), and bought the homestead from grandma. We planted 24 fruit trees and installed irrigation systems for the gardens. We pruned the grape vines back and tended to the asparagus beds. My wife renewed the old flower beds and I have replaced the split rail fence. We re-roofed everything. The folks put down another well up the field and had another septic system installed for their travel trailer. We had a 100 amp power drop installed and we also buried a power cable from the field to the trailer for a 12 volt system (small scale solar and wind).
I once again could use guns after living in the tyranny of Massachusetts. (I refused to get an Firearms ID card so my guns never left the house in 16 years.) I taught a niece and nephew to shoot with the same .22 that grandpa used to teach me with almost 50 years ago. My nephew, now an 8th grader, got his first deer this past year. No one believed him when he came home and told them. He did it on his own.

Things have now come full circle in our life. My grandma lives with us in her old house through the summer. My sisters are both Grandmas themselves now and they are taking care of our mom and dad. The kids have great-grandparents and a great-great grandmother. My understanding wife of thirty years and I live here on the homestead as stewards of the family heritage. The whole family gets together up here once or twice a year. We know how to provide for and take care of each other. If the SHTF my sisters and the rest of the family will head up here to the homestead and once again adopt the ways of our Great-Great Grandpa and Grandma. Everything we have learned through our lives will serve us well. Skill sets from the north woods and from the farm are derived from living simple, living manual and living with nature as part of nature.

We used to fall to sleep on a feather tick mattress while listening to rain tapping over our heads in the loft of the old log cabin. Bedtime stories were told as we drifted to sleep and the whippoorwills sang into the night. We didn’t think that the day would come that just about all of what we learned from our family and from our life would come into play. Thank God for our tight family and all of the distilled knowledge passed down to us. I now live in a home built over the site of the original log cabin and now we have 7 generations since my great-great grandparents first cleared this piece of land. It looks like we will be talking of another “Great Depression” soon and the complete cycle renews. Do we learn from our mistakes?

Preparedness Skills and Materials

We’re preparing for the future and I hope to teach what I can to as many people as I can before it’s over. We can survive well if we draw on one another’s strengths and knowledge. It starts with the family and moves out to the extended family then to the neighbors and on to town folk and into the blogosphere. Many people have grown up in similar circumstances and have similar experiences. We must practice our learned skills and trades all of the time to stay fresh and perpetuate our way of life. We must keep acquiring new skills and more materials for survival. Preparedness is a constant quest.

Survival trades that I've learned:

ASE Certified Master Auto Technician
Journeyman Machinist and Apprentice Welder.
Experience with all aspects of house construction from framing to finish work, including house wiring and plumbing for water, gas and DWV systems.
Professional ditch digger and home brewer of beer.

Survival tools, equipment, and material acquired over the years:

Comprehensive set of Snap-On hand tools, diagnostic equipment and garage.
Several redundant computers and complete wi-fi coverage with satellite internet.
All of the carpentry, plumbing and electrical tools needed to build a house.
All of the tools required to garden both manually and with gas engines.
Fence building tools and supplies.
5,500 watt gas generator.
Wood stove and saws, axes, mauls, wedges.
Stores of food, bits of gold and silver, books and manuals, and lots of lead.

Survival firearms battery:

Auto-Ordinance Model 1911A1 .45 ACP (I qualified Marksman in USCG)
Stag Arms AR-15 with 20” Bull barrel, 5.56 (I qualified Expert in USCG)
Marlin .22 WMR (squirrel / varmint gun)
Mossberg .22 LR (shot this since 1962)
Ruger M77 Mk II .270 Win. (my deer rifle)
Winchester Model 94 .32 Win. Special (got my first deer with Grandpa’s gun)
Mossberg 12 ga. 3 -1/2” Ulti-Mag in Camo (turkey / duck / goose gun)
Winchester Model 1897 12 ga. 2-3/4” (I've shot this gun since 1969)
Reloading equipment and supplies (loads for Barnes Bullets)

Survival Quest 2009 (the final pieces I'll need for grid down and "zombies"):

Ruger M77 Mk II .300 Win Mag with optics
A manual water pump (the old pump is gone)
Wind turbine and photovoltaic panels for water pumping and power generation.
Battery bank and inverter
More kerosene lamps
Night Vision for the AR-15

Monday, March 2, 2009


The need for usable skills in tough times, goes without need for embellishment. The grand question is: which skills are the most valuable? In any situation the basic needs are obvious – food, shelter, and clothing. Choosing what I would concentrate on learning, became predicated on what I could do, and what the community could provide in stressful times.

I moved some time ago from the gulf coast to Tennessee to retire and begin preparing for the coming events. I moved into a community which is pretty much self sufficient, mostly by religious choice. Livestock husbandry ranges from cattle (mostly for milk), goats to chickens, hogs and horses.

I began to raise goats several years ago, starting with Boer cross. After several discussions I have crossed them with a strain of milk goat to reduce the size (and therefore the quantity of meat to be preserved) and gain the benefit of milk products. I researched the process of cheese making and using products initially supplied from New England Cheese Makers, learned the processes. It was very interesting to discover that the rennin (for assisting in cheese making) actually comes from the stomach of ruminators, another by product of the goats.

Preserving meats became my next concern. When talking to many folks, they believe that they will just run out and kill fresh meat when needed. Not only will the game be decimated in no time, but without a method of preservation it is wasteful. Preferred methods around here are smoking, honey and salt boxes for curing and preserving. The use of honey as a preservative turns out to be one of the very best. Honey has a natural bacteria inhibitor, and curing smoked meats in honey just makes life better. This in turn has determined the need for bees – My neighbor already has a couple of hives which produces enough for now. The use of honey reduces the dependence on obtaining sources of salt. In addition they are many maple trees in the area which folks tap during the winter and early spring. Many families have ponds a raise fish, which are canned by cold packing or salting and drying.

Having fresh water is a paramount concern. Even with a spring the water quality can change with the amount of rain causing algae blooms. These can range for digestive distress to just foul taste. The stream water cannot be used without treatment, as we have otters, beavers, coyote, foxes, and a whole range of other critters, so amoeba type problems are probable. Boiling water is the surest, but is often not the most practical. Any numbers of excellent water filters are available, but the Big Berky is the most popular here. In any case the water has to be pre-filtered to remove organic matter. This can be done by straining through a clean cloth, then passing through/over a disinfecting agent such as a silver compound, or the addition of non-detergent bleach. The next best is a cistern collecting rain fall, but even this can have issues as it tends to clean smoke dust and pollen from the air on its way down.

As for the vegetable gardens the goats do help with the fertilizer which is composted and added to the garden. The area I live in is pretty much a “rock farm” so there is a constant need to remove the rocks from the garden areas and add in soil from the hills behind us. This soil is usually pretty acidic with all of the hardwood trees. Most folks use lime from the feed stores – haven’t found a good substitute yet.

Clothing is one of the details that I have struggled with. The ability to produce cloth is beyond most of us. Wool makes for great outer wear, but lousy underwear. Goat hair can be made into quite durable garments, somewhat at the expense of comfort. We have chose to use GI surplus wool socks, sweaters, BDUs (because they are very durable) and purchase and store long and regular underwear. We do have a real cobbler in the community that does make very nice shoes/boots, but I still have a back up pair. Many women here weave or quilt (using discarded clothing as well as new cloth). I do keep some “unisex” clothing on hand for whomever – mostly in the form of overalls. They are fairly cheap and commonly worn in the area, and during the cold weather are an additional layer. We have had most days at or below freezing and night down to zero. I have looked into tanning leather – it is a noxious process and can be done. I am choosing to have the hides tanned while I still can and store them against the future need as clothing.

Our cabin is solid cedar timbers, and smells great! The downside is that there is a constant need to stay on top of the chinking and calking, to reduce drafts – I’ve used 22 tubes already this winter. We thought that pellet stove would be a great idea – wrong. First it requires electricity. With the power out you have to fire up the generator which is noisy and uses expensive fuel. Second the stove can burn corn or compressed hardwood pellets. Corn is food or the animals and us, and tough enough to grow enough as is. Besides using the corn leaves the odor of burned popcorn as exhaust. Compressed wood pellets are used on an average of 80# per day at a cost of ~$9.00 / day. Pulling the stove this spring and going to a straight quality wood burning stove that can be used to cook on. To back up a wood burning stove an axe, buck saw, splitting wedges or a maul, and or chain saw are required based on how much free time you can devote to it. Setting aside wood requires a year round effort to keep from killing yourself. Although we have electricity I do have a pitcher pump ready to install in the event it is needed. And have simple kerosene lanterns for light. I prefer the straight wick models, as the mantels have become very had to come by recently.

Health concerns in rural living also means, that you have to have a working knowledge of first aid and basic medicine. The Red Cross has good courses on first aid and the older Boy Scout manuals give an acceptable knowledge as well. Around here there is a good deal of herbal medicine practiced. This is good for preventive and minor issues. I have chosen to invest in some older college texts on anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology, and a physician’s desk reference. These books help in diagnosing, but will be of minimal help if/when the main line drugs are not available. They are great for showing how to stitch and bandage wounds more severe than the first aid books cover. We keep a well stocked medicine chest with off the shelf medicines, and rotate them as needed. As we find local remedies that are effective, we also include them (i.e. willow bark tea as a substitute for aspirin).

I have learned rudimentary blacksmith skills, and collected some of the tools as well as books on the subject. I can fashion horseshoes, wheel rims, forge weld, make cut nails and a few other tasks as required. There are many better skilled in this community and it will be more time efficient to trade/buy their services.

I have a full time gunsmithing business which has been sorely needed in this area – seems like everyone has one that they need fixed. So much for a retirement business….

The acquisition of books, and how to reading material can spell the difference between existence and some degree of comfort. In addition it is my considered opinion the education of young people is severely unbalanced. The possession of text books, classics, and recreational reading allows one to educate children when contact is limited. The community has a long history of home schooling. These kids routinely pass the high school exit exams (same tests as the state requires for graduation) with higher scores, and at an earlier age. Most parents seek out folks whom are well versed to teach the children. Oh yea, one by product is that the kids are very respectful, and thoughtful.

In conclusion I thought that preparation for tougher times meant more beans, bullets, and bullion. As it turns out, the retraining of my mind and attitudes has presented the larger challenge. Understanding how you store food, is nearly as important as what you store. What you can make is as important as what you can do without (toilet paper?) Knowing that one person cannot do all that is required, only means that you learn the skills to assist your community which will supplement everyone’s survival/ quality of life. I thought that being retired would allow me to kick back and enjoy some good libations. It has turned out to be the greatest learning curve of my life – and I love it. Jim’s preparedness course is a great place to start. But the real preparedness is in the doing! - Dennis S.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Yesterday, in Part1, I discussed the "safe" and counter-cyclical occupations for the unfolding economic depression. Today, I'd like to talk about one specific approach: self-employment with a home-based business.

I posted most the following back in late 2005, but there are some important points that are worth repeating:

The majority of SurvivalBlog readers that I talk with tell me that they live in cities or suburbs, but they would like to live full time at a retreat in a rural area. Their complaint is almost always the same: "...but I'm not self-employed. I can't afford to live in the country because I can't find work there, and the nature of my work doesn't allow telecommuting." They feel stuck.

Over the years I've seen lots of people "pull the plug" and move to the boonies with the hope that they'll find local work once they get there. That usually doesn't work. Folks soon find that the most rural jobs typically pay little more than minimum wage and they are often informally reserved for folks that were born and raised in the area. (Newcomers from the big city certainly don't have hiring priority!)

My suggestion is to start a second income stream, with a home-based business. Once you have that business started, then start another one. There are numerous advantages to this approach, namely:

You can get out of debt

You can generally build the businesses up gradually, so that you don't need to quit your current occupation immediately

By working at home you will have the time to home school your children and they will learn about how to operate a business.

You can live at your retreat full time. This will contribute to your self-sufficiency, since you will be there to tend to your garden, fruit/nut trees, and livestock.

If one of your home-based businesses fails, then you can fall back on the other.

Ideally, for someone that is preparedness-minded, a home-based business should be something that is virtually recession proof, or possibly even depression proof. Ask yourself: What are you good at? What knowledge or skills do you have that you can utilize. Next, consider which businesses will flourish during bad times. Some good examples might include:

Mail order/Internet sales/eBay Auctioning of preparedness-related products.



Medical Transcription


Repair/refurbishment businesses

Freelance writing

Blogging (with paid advertising) If you have knowledge about a niche industry and there is currently no authoritative blog on the subject, then start your own!

Mail order/Internet sales of entertainment items. (When times get bad, people still set aside a sizable percentage of their income for "escape" from their troubles. For example, video rental shops have done remarkably well during recessions.)

Burglar Alarm Installation

Other home-based businesses that seem to do well only in good economic times include:

Recruiting/Temporary Placement

Fine arts, crafts, and jewelry. Creating and marketing your own designs--not "assembly" for some scammer. (See below.)

Mail order/Internet sales/eBay Auctions of luxury items, collectibles, or other "discretionary spending" items

Personalized stationary and greeting cards (Freelance artwork)


Web Design


Beware the scammers! The fine folks at have compiled a "Top 10" list of common work-at-home and home based business scams to beware of:

10. Craft Assembly
This scam encourages you to assemble toys, dolls, or other craft projects at home with the promise of high per-piece rates. All you have to do is pay a fee up-front for the starter kit... which includes instructions and parts. Sounds good? Well, once you finish assembling your first batch of crafts, you'll be told by the company that they "don't meet our specifications."
In fact, even if you were a robot and did it perfectly, it would be impossible for you to meet their specifications. The scammer company is making money selling the starter kits -- not selling the assembled product. So, you're left with a set of assembled crafts... and no one to sell them to.

9. Medical Billing
In this scam, you pay $300-$900 for everything (supposedly) you need to start your own medical billing service at home. You're promised state-of-the-art medical billing software, as well as a list of potential clients in your area.
What you're not told is that most medical clinics process their own bills, or outsource the processing to firms, not individuals. Your software may not meet their specifications, and often the lists of "potential clients" are outdated or just plain wrong.
As usual, trying to get a refund from the medical billing company is like trying to get blood from a stone.

8. Email Processing
This is a twist on the classic "envelope stuffing scam" (see #1 below). For a low price ($50?) you can become a "highly-paid" email processor working "from the comfort of your own home."
Now... what do you suppose an email processor does? If you have visions of forwarding or editing emails, forget it. What you get for your money are instructions on spamming the same ad you responded to in newsgroups and Web forums!
Think about it -- they offer to pay you $25 per e-mail processed -- would any legitimate company pay that?

7. "A List of Companies Looking for Homeworkers!"
In this one, you pay a small fee for a list of companies looking for homeworkers just like you.
The only problem is that the list is usually a generic list of companies, companies that don't take homeworkers, or companies that may have accepted homeworkers long, long ago. Don't expect to get your money back with this one.

6. "Just Call This 1-900 Number For More Information..."
No need to spend too much time (or money) on this one. 1-900 numbers cost money to call, and that's how the scammers make their profit. Save your money -- don't call a 1-900 number for more information about a supposed work-at-home job.

5. Typing At Home
If you use the Internet a lot, then odds are that you're probably a good typist. How better to capitalize on it than making money by typing at home? Here's how it works: After sending the fee to the scammer for "more information," you receive a disk and printed information that tells you to place home typist ads and sell copies of the disk to the suckers who reply to you. Like #8, this scam tries to turn you into a scammer!

4. "Turn Your Computer Into a Money-Making Machine!"
Well, this one's at least half-true. To be completely true, it should read: "Turn your computer into a money-making machine... for spammers!"
This is much the same spam as #5, above. Once you pay your money, you'll be sent instructions on how to place ads and pull in suckers to "turn their computers into money-making machines."

3. Multi-Level Marketing (MLM)
If you've heard of network marketing (like Amway), then you know that there are legitimate MLM businesses based on agents selling products or services. One big problem with MLMs, though, is when the pyramid and the ladder-climbing become more important than selling the actual product or service. If the MLM business opportunity is all about finding new recruits rather than selling products or services, beware: The Federal Trade Commission may consider it to be a pyramid scheme... and not only can you lose all your money, but you can be charged with fraud, too!
We saw an interesting MLM scam recently: one MLM company advertised the product they were selling as FREE. The fine print, however, states that it is "free in the sense that you could be earning commissions and bonuses in excess of the cost of your monthly purchase of" the product. Does that sound like free to you?

2. Chain Letters/Emails ("Make Money Fast")
If you've been on the Internet for any length of time, you've probably received or at least seen these chain emails. They promise that all you have to do is send the email along plus some money by mail to the top names on the list, then add your name to the bottom... and one day you'll be a millionaire. Actually, the only thing you might be one day is prosecuted for fraud. This is a classic pyramid scheme, and most times the names in the chain emails are manipulated to make sure only the people at the top of the list (the true scammers) make any money. This scam should be called "Lose Money Fast" -- and it's illegal.

1. Envelope Stuffing
This is the classic work-at-home scam. It's been around since the U.S. Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, and it's moved onto the Internet like a cockroach you just can't eliminate. There are several variations, but here's a sample: Much like #5 and #4 above, you are promised to be paid $1-2 for every envelope you stuff. All you have to do is send money and you're guaranteed "up to 1,000 envelopes a week that you can stuff... with postage and address already affixed!" When you send your money, you get a short manual with flyer templates you're supposed to put up around town, advertising yet another harebrained work-from-home scheme. And the pre-addressed, pre-paid envelopes? Well, when people see those flyers, all they have to do is send you $2.00 in a pre-addressed, pre-paid envelope. Then you stuff that envelope with another flyer and send it to them. Ingenious perhaps... but certainly illegal and unethical.

From all that I've heard, most franchises and multi-level marketing schemes are not profitable unless you pick a great product or service, and you already have a strong background in sales. Beware of any franchise where you wouldn't have a protected territory. My general advice is this: You will probably be better off starting your own business, making, retailing, or consulting about something where you can leverage your existing knowledge and/or experience.


In closing, I'd like to reemphasize that home security and locksmithing are likely to provide steady and profitable employment for the next few years, since hard economic times are likely to trigger a substantial crime wave. After all, someone has to keep watch on the tens of thousands of foreclosed, vacant houses. (If not watched, then crack cocaine addicts, Chicago syndicate politicians, or other undesirables might move in!)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The current economic downward spiral has prompted several SurvivalBlog readers to write me and ask: "My job is now at risk, so what are the safe jobs?" I've actually addressed this topic fairly well since I started SurvivalBlog in 2005. We ran a "best recession-proof jobs" poll, back in May of 2006. Then, in February, 2007, we ran a poll on "Best Occupations for Both Before and After TEOTWAWKI". Later, we even ran a poll on the current occupations of SurvivalBlog readers. In the past three years, we've also posted a panoply of more detailed employment-related letters and articles on subjects such as:

How to set up a home-based second business,

Bartering skills,

Home-based mail order businesses,

Small sawmills,


Handloading ammunition,

Horse breeding,

Rabbit breeding,

Small machine shops,

Selling and bartering through Freecycle,

Selling and bartering through Craig's List, and

19th Century Trades.

And those were just the ones that I found in a cursory 10-minute search of the SurvivalBlog archives. There are many more. Just type a topic into the "Search Posts on SurvivalBlog:" box at the top of the right -hand bar. (We now have nearly 6,200 archived articles, letters, and quotes!)


Which Jobs Were Safe in the 1930s?

One good insight on the near future can be found in the past. (As Mark Twain said, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.")

According to statistics published some 20 years ago by Dr.Ravi Batra, the safest businesses and industries during the worst years of the Great Depression (1929-1933) were:

Repair shops
Educational services (A lot of young men that couldn't find work borrowed money to go to trade schools and college.)
Healthcare services
Bicycle shops
Bus transportation
Gasoline service stations
Second hand stores
Legal services
Drug or proprietary stores

To bring Batra's list up to date, I would speculatively add a few more sectors and business that are likely to do well in the next depression:

Home security and locksmithing (since a higher crime rate is inevitable in bad economic times.)
Entertainment and diversions, such as DVD sales and rentals. People will undoubtedly want to escape their troubles!
Truck farming and large scale vegetable gardening (since just 2% of the population now feeds the other 98%--whereas back in the 1930s the US was still a predominantly agrarian society)
Export consumer goods. (Starting in late 2009 or early 2010, the US Dollar is likely to resume its slide versus most other currencies)

Tomorrow, I'll post Part 2 of this article, in which I will focus on home-based businesses.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Many readers of Survival Blog are either in the process of moving to a lightly populated area or actively planning to bugout to such an area when the balloon goes up. Twenty years ago I moved from the edge of a large city to a fairly remote property, and have been quietly setting up the doomstead and perfecting skills ever since. In the process, I became part of the fabric of country life here and have learned some valuable lessons which may benefit the rookie country dweller.

Most full-time country residents are descendents of frontiersmen who ventured into the wilderness with little more than a rifle, axe, team of horses, and a large supply of guts. Country people hold many of the same attributes as their forebears; competence, toughness, perseverance, and a willingness to help their neighbors, be it for common defense or a barn raising. Many of these traits are at odds with modern city life supported by a specialized full-time job. Your transition to country life will be smoother if you consider the following:

Country People are Closet Doomers:
They can do lots of useful things such as shoe a horse, grow corn, weld, back a trailer, milk a goat, make tamales, catch a wild cow, troubleshoot an electrical problem, can a tomato, and shoot lights out. And that's just the women.

People here are armed every day as a matter of course. Most have been shooting all of their lives, so the level of firearms proficiency is way above average. I see lots of casual ARs and scoped bolt actions, so if my neighbors and acquaintances are any barometer, potential rampaging MZBs are in for some exceedingly tough sledding.
On a related note, there are a few bad apples in the country, but most tend to migrate to the anonymity of the cities. The outlaws who remain are generally well known to both law enforcement and the population at large, and are easy enough to avoid once you plug into the local grapevine.

Be Scrupulously Honest:
Country people don't care that much what you think or how you wear your hair as long as they can trust you. Lie or stiff a merchant one time and in 45 minutes everyone in the county will know it, guaranteed.

On the flip side, if you've been given too much change or an error is made in your favor with a bank deposit or charge purchase at a merchant, politely point out the mistake and insist on paying the correct amount. While such a gesture will usually be met with stunned disbelief in a large city, in the country it will be acknowledged with a nod and sincere appreciation. And never doubt for an instant that the country grapevine will work in your favor as the word spreads.

When I first moved here, I was able to open an account with any business in town simply by asking if I could charge a purchase. No references, no questions, no credit check, just an address so they could send a statement at the end of the month. Such an accommodating policy would most certainly not have been the case had I been late in paying those first bills.

Money is Overrated:
Country people never forget a kindness; they also rarely forget a transgression against good manners or honesty. The most valuable commerce in the country is not conducted in dollars but in trading, gifts, being owed a favor, and goodwill.

Become Part of the Community:
Self-sufficiency is a worthy goal, but in truth perhaps the most useful survival skill is contributing to a community which has a stake in your well being. To my mind, being able to call upon neighbors for specialized assistance or trade is just as important as beans, bullets, and Band-Aids.

Schools and churches are the glue which binds a country community. If you have children in local schools or choose to attend church, tapping into country networks will be greatly accelerated.
Also, small communities run largely on volunteers, so consider volunteering at the library, as a fireman, at sports fund raisers, community cleanup, or meals on wheels. JWR Adds: If you homeschool your kids, be sure to join the local homeschooling "co-op" group. You will be sure to meet the preparedness-minded folks in your community.

The Country is a Time Warp:
Time passes slower here, as it's based more on the seasons than on a clock.
Fight the city urge to hurry everywhere. Tasks are completed when time, required supplies, and any needed help are available, and not on an arbitrary schedule. Parts are generally not readily available as they are in a city, you might have to order a particular part and wait days or weeks for it to arrive, and perhaps have to improvise in the meantime.
The two main time-related lessons you’ll learn is that weather can throw a kink into any plan, and maintaining household water supply trumps almost every other concern. You’ll soon adopt a mañana attitude about most other projects, as there is always plenty more to be done while waiting for specific parts or supplies.
Slow down enough to take time to talk about the weather, trade recipes, talk gardening, help a neighbor with a project, and to watch a sunset.

Seek Out Those with Useful Skills Now:
Country life requires a generalist rather than a specialist, so trading your particular skills – whether carpentry, electrical expertise, or knowing what’s wrong with a row of beans - with neighbors in exchange for their skills just makes sense. In fact, there is even a term here, “neighboring”, which refers to a group effort of working each landowner’s livestock in turn without hiring outside help.
I have also become acquainted with various people who have huge gardens or dairy goats or sheep or hogs or teams of horses and mules or a small band saw mill for making lumber. Such people often don’t advertise and they may be hard to find, but the search is potentially of huge benefit to the astute survivalist.

As an example, there is a man here who has an old steam-powered grain mill. Another has a tiny combine for harvesting wheat and oats in the scattered small plots where it is grown in this area. Up until now, I haven’t used their unique services, but still make it a point to give these men a quart of honey from our hives every summer.
You will choose to help many of these people in time of trouble, just as they will choose to help you, but in the meantime always exercise OPSEC about your underlying motivations and preps. Country people have a wide independent streak so your desire to be more self-sufficient will never seem out of place.

Country People are Provincial:
But largely by choice, which doesn't mean they are stupid or uninformed. The vast majority are Internet savvy and many are exceptionally well-traveled and well-read. More than a few have made the decision to leave a lucrative city existence in exchange for country life. The level of overall awareness is high, so you'll hear more commonsense over a cup of coffee than you'll ever hear from Washington.
A few recent quotes I’ve heard regarding our current economic meltdown:
“I was going to sell all of my calves last fall but held back four in case my freezers start to look empty.”
“We’re breaking some new garden ground this spring, going to plant a lot more potatoes than we usually do.”
"I bought two more cases of .223 ammo, just in case the rabbits go on the warpath.” Listen and learn.

Never Underestimate the Amount of Work Involved:
Few farms or ranches here are entirely self-supporting, with one or both spouses usually working a “regular” job. The pay scale is considerably lower than in a city, so often people work two or even three jobs in order to live well. This is in addition to farming and working livestock on their own places. People work hard, and that’s in relatively good times.

If this economy continues to unravel, more subsistence-level farming and ranching may well become the norm, and that’s when the work really begins. Growing and processing most or all of your own food requires a tremendous amount of labor and expertise, with constant effort from everyone involved. Have no illusions about some idyllic country life of sitting on the porch all day, chewing on a grass stem while contemplating the vista. The trick for making subsistence agriculture work is for everyone to always be doing something constructive, whether it’s hoeing weeds in the garden, building a chicken coop, shelling beans, cleaning a firearm, playing with a toddler, or rereading one of your how-to books.

With that said, no family or survival group can possibly be competent at all of the skills required. This is when being on good terms with neighbors becomes essential; give them half of a fresh beef now for the cheese they can provide later on; the pickles you made are a fair trade for his baskets of peaches; your stash of supplies may well allow you to trade for a rooster and five hens (along with some expert advice on getting started); if you can provide the diesel, your neighbor might plow your garden plot after your tractor has thrown a rod. - Bois d'Arc

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Situational Awareness has a number of definitions, from the rather complex to the "simple". They include:

  • The process of recognizing a threat at an early stage and taking measures to avoid it. (Being observant of one's surroundings and dangerous situations is more an attitude or mindset than it is a hard skill.)
  • The ability to maintain a constant, clear mental picture of relevant information and the tactical situation including friendly and threat situations as well as terrain.
  • Knowing what is going on so you can figure out what to do.
  • What you need to know not to be surprised.

This comes to mind because of my recent reading of your novel, "Patriots". (An excellent book. A must have for any "prepper".) The book is primarily about a group of people who joined together to survive in the "days after". The daily requirements of surviving in times of roving bands of criminals and martial law enforcers were covered rather forcefully. Many of the challenges they faced required an armed response, and situational awareness was often discussed. For the kinds of situations in which the "Patriot" folks found themselves, the extremely helpful explanations of such matters as OPSEC and LP/OPs are very helpful to anyone facing what is soon coming for many of us. As the book describes, situational awareness is absolutely vital to survival and success in our near future.

But, while situational awareness is most commonly thought of as a conflict skill, there are also other kinds of situational awareness. On Yahoo Groups, there is a discussion group about surviving in the days after. One of the most prolific writers has several times recently warned the readers to "Get out of the cities now !". He's even suggested moving to very unpopulated areas and using wood pallets to erect shacks. IMHO, this is a suggestion that will cause many people great harm. Folks, with little or no preparations, suddenly moving to the land to escape the "Golden Horde", will likely fail or die. Just reading the stories of the many pioneers who moved west, will quickly sober you up from any "can do/don't know" thinking.

I have lived nearly all my life on a farm. I have developed a deep knowledge of the land. It has come at the great expense of many missteps, failures, successes, hard work and time. I call it having situational awareness of the environment. I know what certain kinds of clouds mean when forecasting tomorrow's weather. I know that the vine-like plants with three shiny leaves aren't so good to eat or touch. I know a dead snake can still bite. People just coming to the land for the first time will have little of that knowledge.

For untold years and many generations, the knowledge of how to live on the land and be self-sufficient was passed down thru families. In farm country, school was often found at the back fence. If you or your Grandfather didn't know something, the farmer next door often did. I remember many times in my youth when I'd be out working the land and the guy next door would be out on his. Often as not, we'd stop and stand by the line fence and talk. ...And I learned lots. But, now, much of this passing on of knowledge is lost. Farmers more commonly sit 12 feet in the air, driving an air conditioned combine, following the turns suggested by the GPS receiver on the dash. Your parents most likely worked in a factory or a shop, than on a farm. What was common family knowledge just a couple generations ago, such as maple syrup making, canning, gardening, butchering, animal husbandry, etc., etc., is gone. The "chain" is broken. Without this great deal of passed on knowledge and experience, nearly any farm endeavor can, and often will, lead to unexpected disaster.

This is where Situational Awareness comes in. "The need to know, so as not to be surprised." The list is endless, but for starters:

  • Knowing the good bugs from the bad in the garden
  • Knowing fresh horse manure will kill a garden, fresh chicken m. will help
  • Knowing only 3 or 4 ounces of yew leaves--a common landscape plant in much of the US--can kill a horse
  • Knowing how to split wood so that the axe won't glance off and chop your leg
  • Knowing that burning certain kinds of wood in your wood stove means you need to clean the chimney twice a winter so you don't burn down your house [with a chimney fire]
  • Knowing the nice, fresh, clean, free flowing, mountain stream may be full of giardia.
  • Knowing that, when plowing with a horse, you should never tie the reins together and put them around behind your back so your hands are free to handle the plow. (This was the way it was done in the novel "Dies the Fire" [by S.M. Stirling). If your horse happens to shy and takes off running, you will be dragged along the ground and be seriously hurt. The proper way to plow is with the reins over one shoulder and under the other. Then, if your horse runs, you just duck your head and the reins slide off.
  • Knowing that crows in the garden are bad because they eat the new planted seeds, but crows around your chicken coop are good because they keep away the hawks that will eat your chickens.
  • Knowing that if your tractor suddenly starts making a new sound, this is not good. Stop immediately and figure out what's going on, before something breaks.
  • Learning to look around you when walking, instead of only staring at the ground for your next step, (as most people do).

And on it goes. I have lived decades on the land. There's not a day goes by that I don't learn something. But even with all my handed down knowledge and hard-fought experiences, I'm not even sure I could make a go of suddenly heading out to the "country" to build a cabin and barn, till the soil, cut fire wood, store food for man and beast, and more. It's just awful hard without lots of prep's. And I can tell you, without an extensive knowledge of what the "environment" around you is telling you, it's darn near impossible. ...(Taking a walk in the woods can hurt just as much as a walk on certain inner city streets.)

So what are you to do ? Well, having a "G.O.O.D." bag and great escape vehicle is a start. Having supplies, tools and seed already in place really helps. But once you get to your retreat site, have a plan, have some knowledge of how to do, what to do. Practice now. If you think you're going to learn while living in a wood pallet shack, you won't. You'll most likely die. If there's no more Elders to ask, get to know the other "elders"--books. Go to local farms and ask to spend time just helping, so you can learn something. Go to a school to learn skills; like tracking, orienteering and fire building without matches; (one of the best, imo, is Midwest Native Skills Institute). Never take charcoal or lighter fluid on a picnic, learn to gather what burns. Go camping in winter, instead of just when it is "pretty" outside. Find a "big animal" vet. and ask to attend and help when birthing a calf. Most especially, turn off your tv. Use your time to learn to sew, or knit, or make soap. Pick up (fresh) dead animals on the road and practice skinning them and then tan the hide. [JWR Adds: Needless to say, consult your state Fish and Game laws before doings so!] Find local crafts people and acquire a skill, such as weaving, or candle making, or tin smithing, because having a survival trade in a cashless society may keep you alive. Learn to listen. Throw away those darn ear plug music things. Learn situational awareness. What is the wind telling you about the day ? What does the sudden and not normal crowing of a rooster warn you of ? What does the setting of the moon in a certain place on the horizon tell you about the season ?

Learn what it takes to live on the land, before you have to suddenly move there. Learn what nature, the land, and new tasks are telling you, before you find yourself in a difficult situation, ...(un)aware.

- Jim Fry, Curator, Museum of Western Reserve Farms & Equipment, Ohio

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mr. Rawles,
Although being an avid reader, this is the first time I have written your site. The letters posted on your site today respecting Alaska as a retreat locale raised a few possible issues in my mind. First of all, let me say that Alaska is my favorite place in the world, and I wouldn't have it any other way. However, as a retreat locale, one may want to think twice unless the situation forces their location there. Also, it is important to remember that the conditions and terrain in Alaska are very wide ranging, depending where you are. The climate can range from arctic in the north to relatively mild in the south. I have heard the climate in the south compared to that of the mid-Atlantic states on the East coast.

Most parts of the state are totally without agriculture, but there is some in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. The growing season is usually around 100 days long, and can produce huge vegetables because of the length of the days. Some vegetables do well there, such as potatoes, carrots and cabbage.

Therefore, if one intends to do any kind of farming in Alaska, the "Mat-Su" Valley is where it is possible. However, there is a major drawback to this fact, from the perspective of retreat logistics. The Mat-Su valley is one of the most densely populated areas of the state. It has, as of late, been converting to suburban communities for workers who commute to Anchorage. As we all know, the suburbs are a bad, bad place to be WTSHTF. And even if one were to build a retreat in a section of the valley not yet suburban, there is no way to know that it would remain so for the next five years or more.

Prepping before the SHTF is made more difficult by the state's isolation. Building materials, fuel, food, guns, ammo, medical supplies and any other product must be shipped in from the [continental] US or elsewhere. This makes these products not only more expensive, but generally less available, especially outside of the urban centers. Ordering off the web makes them easier to get, but the shipping is still expensive. Fuel of any kind is the most expensive in the nation, and ammo is pretty over-priced, too.

Fuel, as one letter pointed out, is a major problem. Getting by without fossil fuels is a main goal of most preppers, and it may prove more difficult in Alaska. Solar is out, at least during the winter. Not only is there very little light, but it is less intense than elsewhere, due to the oblique angle at which it hits the state (as it is so far north). I don't know a lot about wind, so that may be a possibility. If it was, any parts would be difficult to get. As K.L.'s letter says, firewood is a possibility, but this raises three issues.

As he says, with no gas or diesel = no power tools to cut [and haul firewood]. Any broken hand tools would be irreplaceable, and even having extras is likely not enough when you plan to cut by hand and burn firewood for a very extended period of time. Hand cutting firewood is also time consuming.

Since it would need to be done in the summer, it would take up time for farming and other chores. This might not be a problem if you are part of a large retreat group, however. Also, felling trees, in any way, especially by hand, is extremely dangerous. I would strongly recommend a logger certification class for anyone planning to possibly use firewood as a retreat fuel. Although the course will focus on mechanical forestry, the safety principles are the same universally.

Third, unless one has a retreat on a very spacious lot, it is possible to run out of firewood to cut. Trees grow much slower in Alaska People who do not heat their homes in this manner would be surprised at the amount of fuel a wood stove can use in a winter. For instance, to heat the house on my family farm, it takes roughly 10 to 15 cords to get through the winter, with a little to spare for safety's sake. And that is back in New York, not Alaska. Imagine cutting that much firewood on a 25 acre lot for five years or more. One may be able to cut off of their property, but that is a bad way to meet the neighbors, especially after TSHTF.

This letter ran much longer than I planned, and I would like to go on further, but time prevents me from doing so. In short, think twice about a retreat in Alaska. It is absolutely possible, but would present much greater difficulties than other feasible places. In the lower 48, one can find the same type of isolated area, but with:

Better farming conditions
Lower prices in general
A climate not requiring huge amounts of fuel for the winter
Ability to travel through the US without crossing international borders (If they still exist after TSHTF)
And so forth...

If you think you can do it, then go for it. My wife thinks I'm trying to keep it all for myself. - J. Galt

JWR Replies: Thanks for that input. I have my doubts about the viability of the Mat-Su Valley in worst-case collapse. Its proximity to the hungry, teeming masses of Anchorage is troubling. Alaska cannot feed its population, even in today's economy, and one can only wonder what it would be like grid-down, with no fuel available.

I encourage anyone serious about living in Alaska to look at the Delta Junction area, in Alaska's interior. I haven't been there since the summer of 1980 (when I attended the U.S. Army Northern Warfare School), but it struck me as a very productive agricultural region.)

Friday, February 6, 2009


As an Alaskan survivalist I concur with everything Brad in Texas had to say. Alaska has many distinct advantages as a retreat location. However, it also has some major disadvantages. First and foremost is the amount of work involved. You must have a way to get fuel for heating. If you can't use vehicles and chain saws, most of your summer will likely be taken up getting ready for winter. The same applies to food. You would have to grow enough vegetables during the short summer to last seven or eight months. Thankfully, game is available all year, so you probably won't starve. Alaska is great for people who are able and willing to work really hard.

As for the spirit of Alaska, what Brad says is true outside the major cities. I would estimate that only 5% of Juneau and Anchorage residents and 20% of Fairbanks residents have any concept of survival in hard times. Most people in the cities essentially live in a bubble, with no real contact with nature at its harshest. Even in Alaska! Juneau is jokingly referred to as "Seattle North" and Anchorage as "Los Anchorage." If you consider Alaska as a retreat location, it would be wise to avoid the major cities. In a SHTF scenario, the helpless refugees would overwhelm the surrounding countryside just as in the lower 48.
K.L. - Alaska



We lived in Alaska for almost three years, we miss it. Here is our Wish List for our next trip:

Snow machines [called snowmobiles in some parts of the US], purchased in the Lower 48
More gear
More guns
More knowledge of the laws going in and out of the borders
Have a gun shop picked out up there ASAP for weapons you will not be able to carry into Canada or back into the US (handguns and [so-called] assault rifles)
All records for animals
Go on the ferry to avoid Canada

Some of the larger problems facing newcomers in Alaska is the lack of light in the winter, the lack of fresh fruits and veggies, activities in the winter, the isolation, the cold....
The suicides are on the average 20% higher in Alaska than anywhere else in the US. The alcohol abuse is so rampant that in some of the more desolate towns there is rationing of alcohol or there is none period.
Most go up there totally unprepared for the struggles of everyday life. We lived in Anchorage and it wasn't that bad. There are a few books that can give you a rundown on the worst (Death Stalks the Land is a good reference). The people who went there unprepared and paid for it with their lives. Even those who lived there 20 years are not immune to getting caught unaware.
Everything thing you need to get has to be shipped overseas including grain for livestock and hay, milk, tools, some building supplies and clothing. The natives do produce some things. However, most do it for the tourists that show up.
There are many tales of those that made it up there but for each one of those there is one or more that lost limb or life trying.
There is a book on the last homesteader to go to Alaska and it is a real eye opener.

The plusses: The constant daylight in some areas [in summer] makes for incredible food and if you can fruits and veggies, you'll be better for it.
The Icelandic Horses can and will eat dry or fresh fish and there is plenty of that.
You can't beat the hunting and fishing.
It is incredibly beautiful, summer or winter.

I will leave you with this - It's a very long way to go for help or to help anyone while there, if you go you will truly be on your own. - TD

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I do not consider myself an expert on However, I do cruise our local Craigslist several times a day as I am fascinated with what people are buying, looking for and selling. It helps me keep a pulse on our local economy that I don't get through the Mainstream Media. To that point, I have noticed a strong uptick, since the New Year, of people selling anything of value that they can. This tells me people are really starting to hurt from this incipient Economic Depression.

On items I have an interest in I call or e-mail to enquire. Lately, the conversation has veered towards why folks are selling stuff. "I am getting rid of my 'stuff' as I don't know what the economy is going to do." "My husband lost his job." "I have a small business but my clients are not paying me what they owe me."

What has also started happening, at least from my perspective, is more and more folks want to barter goods than simply accept cash. 120 bales of horse hay sounds better to them than $1,200. Firewood has become huge as a barter item as has quality hay and, of course, firearms. Quality reliable cars for less than $2,000 are very desirable. Items like Sterling silver tea sets and Grandma's china are falling fast.

I am not sure when I began doing this, but in the past few months I started offering folks alternatives to fiat money. 'Would you prefer payment in firewood, Sir, or some other item, or is cash what you are looking for?' I had no set protocol, I made it up as I went along, but pretty soon I started crystallizing some thoughts on bartering on Craigslist. Here they are:

1. Say what you can do and do what you say.
2. "No, thank you." is a great response. Never be afraid to say "No" if the deal does not work for you.
3. Craigslist is not a community in the sense that one seller does not (often) hear directly from another on your reputation. But still, people can tell if you are honest or are looking to skin them. Act Honorably always.
4. Get clear on what your natural assets are that you have to trade. One of mine is firewood.
5. Timing can be everything - scan Craigslist frequently in your desired categories since you want to be (to use an old Army Cav expression) 'the firstest with the mostest!'
6. When I see a particularly nice item in the 'free' category I often inquire if I might make a small charitable contribution to the charity of their choice as appreciation of their item. I do this for one primary reason - it is the right thing to do. It has had the ancillary benefit of having 'jumped me to the front of the line' on some items. I offered my desire to donate to a Craigslister for three free garage doors. He responded quickly that I was the only person to do so, and that it touched his heart. He even delivered the doors to our ranch (I can no longer drive as a Disabled Vet). I subsequently donated to the local food-bank.
7. Always say please and thank you. Honest and sincere appreciation is a scarce commodity today.
8. Never begrudge folks an honest profit. If someone makes great money from an item you swapped or sold - congratulate them!
9. I use Ronald Reagan's motto: 'Trust, but verify.' I start off assuming I can trust folks. But I always verify that what they are telling me is so.
10. Have fun! As long as you are helping others get what they want, you'll likely always get what you want. That is satisfying from a servant's heart perspective, and you meet a lot of nice people (not all though) while you are building up your supplies and stores for your retreat.

The following are not a 'bragging' example. I hope you will simply see these as examples of what is possible:

Four weeks ago I found a Mercedes 300TD wagon for sale ($3,000) or trade. I enquired to see if it was still available, and to my happy surprise, it still was. The young man (a survivalist) was moving to Belize with his wife and young son and needed 'camping gear.' I asked what he really wanted and his reply was 'a really good tent to live in while we build our house, and some nice backpacks.' I have been a Boy Scout Leader for 20+ years and have way too much camping gear. I offered him a Golite backpack (acquired from Craigslist for $40 - originally retailed at $190) and a [US Army surplus] GP Medium Tent (like the tents one would see in the old television series MASH)
I paid nothing for the tent as I had bartered, through Craigslist, for two of these GP medium tents for allowing a fellow to come hunt Elk on our property. Very nice man, very generous, two amazing high quality canvas tents with all the poles. As an aside, he never came to hunt though I wish he had.

As I type this, I am waiting for a fellow (a Senior NCO recently returned from Iraq) to come over for three cords of firewood. He is giving us two barely-used Australian saddles and two snowmobiles. The snowmobiles may need a good cleaning and rebuild, but I have 30 acres of dense woods that need to be cut back for fire safety - I suspect I can find someone to help rebuild the snowmobiles in trade for firewood.

Bear in mind, please, that I don't actually do the cutting of the firewood. My left arm is pretty weak from nerve damage and holding a chain-saw really hurts. So, again, I barter. If folks need wood I ask that they cut and split a cord for me and they, may then, cut a cord for themselves. Sadly, I used to offer firewood to folks if they'd come help me put some up. After they got their firewood I never saw them again. So, now, I get 'paid' up front.

I may be close to closing a deal, today, for a beautiful Savage shotgun that looks like a Browning A5. My cost? Giving the owner permission to come hunt on our property for Elk. We both get something we really want and would be tickled that the other loves what they get!

Reloading equipment 'grab bag' I had a gentleman over this past week looking at antiques I had in our basement that had simply been gathering dust. He mentioned, that right before he came over he had picked up a box of RCBS dies (new in the box) and three reloading presses. I swapped an antique table of my grandmother's for the box of reloading gear. . After going through it I'll have several dies I won't use (.243 Winchester, 7mm Mauser, etc.) that I can trade for items I do want (clean brass, Nosler or Barnes bullets, etc). I met the man by looking through Craigslist collectibles to see who was selling items similar to what I had to sell.

Final example: A small herd of registered purebred Longhorn Cattle. A lady listed four Longhorns for $1,300 on Craigslist. She was willing, according to her listing, to barter for items other than cash. After talking with her on the phone I offered her any combination of hay, firewood, firearms,etc. The two cows are bred and expected to calve this spring around May. So, with items I have accumulated from others by bartering, and maybe $300 in cash, God willing, I will own six purebred Longhorns.
I have helped others heat their house, hunt for meat for their family, feed their livestock hay, and house their family while they build their home.
That is pretty cool! The satisfaction I receive from helping those folks is immense.

Here is a tally of what I have received (or am about to) :

4 registered Longhorns (two due to calve)
An 1987 Mercedes 300 TD wagon
2 snowmobiles
A beautiful Savage shotgun
Reloading equipment
2 Australian saddles

Bartering is a very valuable skill to learn for a grid-down world. It is far better to learn it now when the stakes are not nearly as high. Be willing to make mistakes and have fun. And please, if there are bartering skills that you think should be mentioned to supplement those that have already been discussed in SurvivalBlog, please e-mail them to Jim.

Go out and barter now, and do well by doing good! - D.S.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Just a quick note about vacuum sealing for the folks who purchased a FoodSaver recently [during the current special $59 sale price offer.] I live in Alaska and grew up using the FoodSaver brand sealer and there are two key things to remember when using them. The first is follow the instructions and allow ample time for the sealing strip to cool down between bags and second never allow moisture into the unit as this will ruin it quickly, we have ruined many this way and when they quit working, had to throw them away and get another.

When sealing in bulk we use multiple sealing stations to allow machines time to cool both for the pump and the sealing strip. We seal mostly salmon, moose and small items we want for long term storage and hunting trips, say matches and backup batteries to keep dry. Most good hunting in Alaska will involve water from rain or a boat in a river and things get wet. I never seal everything for a hunt but having a set of cloths that you know will be dry is very comforting. We have found that a quick glaze in a freezer works best for keeping moisture out of the machine and we use an old upright freezer with racks that we place plastic trash bags on and layer the fish with bags in-between to keep them from freezing together. You can stack the fish several layers deep on each rack this way. We freeze the fish several hours or overnight some times because we can get very tired catching and cleaning fish late into the night and a sharp filet knife is dangerous and can ruin a season.

We also like to use a cutting board to lay whatever is being sealed on to keep the bag level with the machine. I am sure that there are many other good tips for these machines and I would like to here them. Note I would recommend that if the funds were available or you were in a two family situation to go ahead and get a more expensive semi commercial unit or full on commercial unit, but these will cost you around five hundred for a semi commercial and thousands for the industrial model. Cheers, - AK Man

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mr. Rawles,
I came across this today, and thought you'd be interested: Police: WIU students arrested with cache of weapons.

The key points are:
1.) They were stopped for speeding and their truck searched
2.) Both men had gun permits
3.) They were arrested for possession of firearms and ones' home searched
4.) Both are now facing legal battles - [even though] no laws [other than the speed limit] have apparently been broken

Blessings & Good Health, - Christine

JWR Replies: A few of my observations:

Did you notice the box for the FN FS2000? It looks like they had a big gun-buying budget.

If they were indeed just out hunting, then why were they wearing body armor? That seems a bit odd, but they were certainly in their rights to do so.

I have my doubts about the article's mention of a "silencer." Odds are that either a. ) It wasn't really a suppressor--just a misidentified muzzle brake, or flash hider, or b.) It was an NFA-registered suppressor. The bottom line is that they may not have been doing anything illegal, other than exceeding the posted speed limit. (Although I have no idea if it legal to carry a loaded firearm in a private automobile in Illinois like in The Unnamed Western State (TUWS), where I live. Knowing Illinois, I suspect that they've restricted that right.)

It is curious that the illinois journalist mischaracterized the four guns (one rifle and one pistol per man) as a "weapons cache". That is a pretty modest quantity for a "cache". In Texas, in fact, that would be considered traveling "lightly armed."

And on the lighter side, here is a bit of conjecture, from your friendly Editor: Can you imagine if this had happened in Wyoming instead of Illinois? The exchange probably would have gone something like this:

Deputy: "Do you know why I pulled you over?

Student: "I think it was because I was going 70 in a 55 zone.The 70 zones are so much more common, so that's what feels like a normal speed to me."

Deputy: "You boys need to slow down, especially after dark. Consider this a warning.

Student: "My apologies, officer. I'll do my best to keep a closer eye on the speedometer."

Deputy: "Whatcha boys doing out here with those NVGs?

Student: "Huntin' coyotes."

Deputy: "Had any luck? I hear the price of pelts is was up this year. Oh, you should watch for bobcats, too. I hear those pelts are fetching $800 apiece for nice ones. Now don't forget to slow down. Good luck with your hunt, boys."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Here's a beginner's list I made for my [elderly] father today:

{Brown pearl] rice does not store well. Neither does cooking oil so that needs to be fresh. No, Crisco doesn't count.
Coconut oil would be your best bet.
Wheat berries - 400 pounds - bulk order at your local health food store
Beans - 400 pounds - bulk order at your local health food store
Mylar bags
Country Living grain mill
propane tanks, small stove and hoses to connect
freeze dried fruits, vegetables, eggs and meat if you can find them.
500 gallons of water [storage capacity. Rainwater catchment is a common practice in Hawaii]
Water filter

Cast Iron Cookware

FN PS 90

10 PS 90 magazines

5.7 handgun

10 FN 5.7 handgun magazines

5.7 ammo

Training: Front Sight four day defensive handgun course. (Note: eBay sometimes has course certificates for $100!)

Body armor: Nick at

Personal medications
Augmentin antibiotic
Up to date dental work
Anti-fungal spray

$10,000 cash in small bills
100 one-ounce silver coins ( or

Gasoline in 5 gallon cans or better yet, this.
Gas stabilizer
Mountain bikes
Air pump

Rechargeable Batteries
Battery charger
Hand held walkie talkies
Topographical map of your area
Spare eyeglasses
Shortwave radio
Home generated power
12 volt battery system
Good backpack
Good knife
Good compass
Good shoes
Bar soap
Dental floss
Toilet paper
Fishing kit
Salt licks
Connibear traps

Regards, - SF in Hawaii

JWR Adds: The following is based on the assumption that SF's father also lives in Hawaii: Because of the 10 round magazine limit for handguns, I recommend that Hawaiians purchase only large bore handguns for self defense--such as .45 ACP. Both the Springfield Armory XD .45 Compact or the Glock Model 30 would both be good choices. The "high capacity" advantage of smaller caliber handguns is not available to civilians in Hawaii, so you might as well get a more potent man stopper, given the arbitrary 10 round limitation.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mr. Rawles,
I hate to bother you, but thought you might have heard if someone was ill or passed away at Buckshot's camp?
I placed an order which was billed out, and never got it. I have called several times and got the recording, and e-mailed also, but have never heard back from them. This has been since May. I was just wondering if you had heard anything about them, and thought maybe you know someone that may know them. The game trap article in today's blog, brought this up, and I'm just grasping at straws to see if someone knows them. Thanks, - Rod


Dear Mr. Rawles,
I recently ordered a snare kit and DVD on how to use it from Buckshot's Camp online at the beginning of July [2008]. I have yet to receive shipment and have had no response to e-mails or phone calls.

I checked the BBB finally and found that he has an unsatisfactory rating with them. So I wanted to let you and your readers know this since in the past you have suggested him as a supplier of traps and snares. Stay prepared, - Michael in Oklahoma

JWR Replies: Buckshot's Camp hasn't advertised with us since early 2006. I dropped them as an advertiser because of their poor customer service. (BTW, they were one of just two advertisers that I've been forced to remove in the three years that SurvivalBlog has been up and running. All of our other 80+ advertisers have sterling reputations.) I removed my links to Buckshot's Camp in my Links page at the same time.

I'm sorry to hear that you had the order fulfillment problem Bruce Hemming's ex-wife. (She owns the mail order business, as part of their divorce settlement.)

Please pray for Bruce and his ex-wife. They need to reconcile themselves to each other and to their slighted customers. And of course we all need to reconcile ourselves to God.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mr. Rawles,
In his article [Alternatives to Firearms for Defense and Hunting in a Survival Situation], Bill H. missed something very important in his segment on air rifles, the modern large bore pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) rifle. I have a Quackenbush .308 caliber. It shoots standard .308 diameter cast lead bullets into one hole at 25 yards and does about 800 to 900 feet per second. It is my first choice for killing stray/feral dogs. Filling the reservoir with a hand pump is a tiresome job and plinking with the gun is not fun due to the work it requires. However you cannot beat it for accuracy, low cost shooting or sustainability. There is no part of the gun except the barrel that cannot easily be made in my home machine shop, so who cares if it has parts that aren't common. Any machinist worthy of the name can make any part on the gun or pump that could conceivably break or wear out.

I do hope to get a spring piston rifle soon for practice and training my children to shoot, but it will never replace my PCP air rifle. Modern big bore PCP rifles are adequate for hunting deer and other large game and more than sufficient for killing varmints. With my .308 PCP I get complete penetration on [feral] dogs. What more could I ask?
- Andrew B.

It can be prudent to not quite break the 1,100 fps barrier, as the resulting sonic 'crack' would sound like shooting a .22 anyhow. That would definitely draw attention in an urban environment. - Sid, near Niagara Falls

JWR Replies: Thanks for mentioning that. The speed of sound is nearly 1,118 fps at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. (OBTW, the oft-quoted "at standard barometric pressure, at sea level" phrase is better expressed "at X degrees air temperature", since air pressure and the density of air are proportional at a given air temperature.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mr. Rawles,
I'm an avid reader of your blog, and have found it most helpful in a variety of ways. However, I have noticed a slight deficiency: there is little mention of ropes and knots.

Rope is an incredibly useful thing, both in everyday life and in a SHTF situation: it can be used in combination with a tarp and two trees to construct a makeshift shelter, can lift or pull objects, can secure objects to prevent them from moving, it can make snares and traps to catch food, and so on. One can even tie their shoes!

However, when tied with clumsy or inadequate knots, rope can be incredibly dangerous. The common square knot can fail if sideways (relative to the length of the rope) tension is applied to one of the working ("free") ends. Certain knots can weaken rope['s breaking strength] by more than 40%, which can be a dangerous condition in and of itself.

For light duty (tent cord, tying things down, etc.), military-style 550 [nylon parachute] cord is incredibly useful. For heavier load-bearing uses, one should use a suitable rope.

As always, the Wikipedia has useful links and information for tying different knots. Bookstores sell books describing hundreds of knots and their uses. As always, having paper books on hand is more useful in a SHTF situation than computer files. Sincerely, - Pete S.

JWR Replies: Thanks for mentioning that. I have provided a couple of links to knot tying web sites in the past --such as this site that shows you exactly how they're done (they show examples of around 75 specific knots) via clearly photographed animations.

One item that bears special mention is the rappelling carabiner. Commonly just called a "biner"--and called a "snap link" by the US military--these have umpteen uses for attaching/lifting/slinging/securing loads and acting like a pulley (or providing greater rope friction by adding multiple coils of rope, which of course relates to their originally-intended purpose for rappelling. I recommend buying a half-dozen (or more), with at least two of them with thumb screw-type locking gates.OBTW, avoid the flimsy pseudo-carbiners that are sold as key ring holders. (Thankfully, nowadays most of these are stamped "Not for Climbing Use".) We keep several carabiner in our ATV's cargo bag, along with a 150 foot coil of rope, and a pair of Jumar ascenders. When used in conjunction with our ATV's electric winch, this gear has proved immensely useful for tasks around the ranch, and particularly when packing big game uphill.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I’m finding SurvivalBlog very interesting in these troubling times. I came across it in the bibliography of a good novel, "Last Light", by Alex Scarrow, which took me to Peak Oil, and then to your blog.

I live in a small city in the most unknown part of Italy , a southern region called Basilicata . It’s always been a region bypassed by history and its inhabitants have known a modicum of well being only in the past 20 years. You might have heard of a book called "Christ Stopped at Eboli" by Carlo Levi. Well, that’s here. Though of course right now, it’s a charming place to live, with a lively music scene, great art and new restaurants opening up every day, people still remember vividly a subsistence existence.

I think having been very poor could actually be a huge advantage if and when it is The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI). There’s still a huge huge amount of knowledge in their DNA about how to make do under harsh conditions of extreme scarcity. I can’t imagine them panicking if horrible things happen because every home has a grandmother or grandfather or an uncle that tills a small field, that can make sausage and is really good at canning. They have literally thousands of years of experience in banding together in harsh conditions. My sisters in law know everything there is about storing food, canning, etc.

In many ways, the millennial poverty (now greatly alleviated) will probably prepare them well if things collapse. And maybe areas of the world that are used to living in scarcity will do better than rich urban areas. They might not collapse, just revert to a previous culture. Also, this area is very rich in water and they’ve just discovered the largest methane fields in Europe .

Anyway congratulations on your fascinating blog. Right now, there’s no food scarcity because Italians don’t have a long food chain. They are very careful to eat locally and by law food’s origins must be labelled and Italians prefer national food to imported food, because they are snobbish about the taste of imported food. Also, Italy grows most of its own rice. Best, - E.J.

JWR Replies: I wholeheartedly agree that in the event of a societal collapse, those that live close to the land will fare better than most others. It may go down in history as a Great Inversion--something analogous to France, during the Revolution, when wealthy people in desperation traded rings set with precious stones, gold necklaces, and fancy furniture for loaves of bread. Perhaps in the next collapse they'll be trading Jet Skis and big screen plasma televisions. This sort of inversion was aptly described by Pat Frank, in his early-1960s post-nuke novel "Alas, Babylon." The novel is set in rural Florida. The story describes how the erstwhile poor black residents coped much better than rich whites, simply because they were already accustomed to making do. When dollars became worthless, suddenly it was practical skills that trumped all else. Before the Schumer hit the fan, the "Po Folks" already raised gardens, kept small livestock, and were experienced subsistence fishermen. Their white neighbors had a lot of catching up to do, to reach the same level of self-sufficiency.

Could life imitate at? I think so. The most likely to prosper in a collapse will me middle class farmers and ranchers that are well-removed from urban areas . They can capitalize on their food production kills and infrastructure, yet will be isolated from most of the peril that will grip the cities and suburbs. A farmer with a pair of well-trained draft horses and old-fashioned (horse-drawn) machinery will do the best of all. These farmers with new-found wealth will of course have to quickly hire some mercenaries to protect what they have. Speaking of Italy, the days ahead may get downright Machiavellian.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

There is a fairly heated discussion going on at the FALFiles Forums about how useful a shotgun is in a Schumer Hits The Fan (SHTF) situation. I was curious, what exactly is your take on the issue?

Personally, I do not feel a shotgun can effectively replace a rifle, however, it still proves an effective tool when the extreme-close situation arises.
I suppose one can distill this argument down to only "defensive purpose" shotguns such as those built for tactical situations (3" chambers and open/cylinder choke), those you aptly refer to as "riotguns". While the effectiveness of a shotgun for hunting small game is readily apparent, where exactly would a defensive shotgun come into play using either various types of buckshot or slugs?
In what circumstances would a shotgun be a superior choice to a battle or assault rifle? Examples?

I, as well as many, value your opinion on the matter. Best Regards, -- Kyrottimus

JWR Replies: While semi-auto battle rifles are more practical for most defensive shooting (most notably because of their capability at both short and long range), riot shotguns can definitely be effective at short range. In the dense North Woods, there is seldom any shooting beyond 50 yards, so they are adequate there. (Riotguns can be effective to 40 yards with buckshot and 90+ yards with slugs.) I also generally recommend riotguns for urbanites that live in cities or states with harsh restrictions on semi-auto rifles. In a city (again, range limited, by terrain) a repeating riotgun is generally more useful than a bolt action rifle, so if those are your only options, then go for a shotgun. But with all that said, assuming that you don't live in a liberal fantasyland like New Jersey, if you only have the money to buy one rifle (and the requisite training)., or one shotgun (and the requisite training), then buy a semi-auto battle rifle!

With the addition of a spare "bird" barrel, shotguns can also be useful for foraging, since they are the only effective means of wingshooting. (And the only legal method, in many countries.)

Also, police have found that shotguns firing slugs can be more effective and safer than a rifle, in the specialized task of removing a door from its hinges. Speaking of which, building "entry" is incredibly dangerous, and frankly I can't foresee the need of the average prepper to ever do so. But you never know. There was that one chapter of "Patriots"...

A couple of provisos:

Despite popular misconceptions popularized by Hollywood, shotguns must be aimed, much like a rifle. The bead sights that are installed on most shotgun barrels are insufficient. I recommend either buying a replacement barrel with rifle sights, or having these sights retrofitted.

Be sure to do some pattern tests at various distances with your shotgun, using full-power buckshot loads. (I generally prefer #4 buckshot--not to be confused with the much smaller and and much more common #4 birdshot, which is a standard load for duck hunting.) Even if you have a shotgun with a wide open "Cylinder bore" (no choke), you may be surprised how tightly it shoots, especially inside of 10 yards. Again, you can't just vaguely point, you have to aim. If you plan to shoot slugs, again do some tests and zero your gun's iron sights.

OBTW, I highly recommend the Four Day Tactical Shotgun course taught by Front Sight. This course builds skills, builds confidence, and dispels a lot of myths.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Safe food handling is critical for a healthy life in both good and bad times. As a former restaurant manager, I can tell you food safety or customer safety was priority number one. It’s hard to make money when you’ve killed your customers, which is the alternative to safe food handling. Death or severe illness is the unforgiving consequence to food borne illness. Food borne illnesses doesn’t just happen in restaurants it happens everywhere food is handled and prepared whether it’s during decadent affluence or full scale TEOTWAWKI.

Please don’t confuse food poisoning with food borne illnesses. Chemicals, bacteria, or certain foods like wild poisonous mushrooms and berries cause food poisoning. Germs that grow in food or in our bodies cause food borne infections. Symptoms of food borne infections include headache, fever, stomachache, vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms can start showing in just a few hours or take several weeks to appear. The CDC estimates that every year 76 million Americans get sick and nearly 5,000 die each year from food borne illnesses.
Some groups of people are more susceptible to food borne illness. Health professionals recognize the following groups:

Younger than 5 years old
Older than 65 years old
Immune-compromised (due to AIDS, cancer, diabetes, certain medications, or other conditions) These "at risk: groups are described with the acronym YOPI.

These groups are highly susceptible and usually get sick more often or have more severe symptoms. Also some foods are more likely to cause food borne illness in YOPI. These foods include the following:
Unpasteurized milk or juices
Raw sprouts
Undercooked eggs
Raw oysters
Undercooked meats

Facilities that cater to YOPI such as nursing homes, hospitals, child-care centers, and adult care homes have additional food safety requirements. If you are thinking of producing foods products for sale or take care of others during hard times, then additional research in warranted for consumer safety. Right now it is illegal to sell unpasteurized dairy products but I’ve heard of some families buying fresh milk as “pig feed” for consumption. Another case of ingenuity over the nanny state.

Hazards In Food
The obvious goal of food safety is to prevent the hazards that cause food borne illness or injury. Most of the hazards in foods are things you cannot taste, see or even smell. Injury or illness can be caused by three types of food borne hazards in food and drink. They are:
Physical Hard or soft objects like glass or fingernails
Chemical Naturally occurring or added substances like cleaning agents
Biological Germs like parasites, viruses and bacteria
Physical hazards occur because of unsafe food handling practices or contamination. Physical contamination can be prevented by:

Looking closely at the foods you prepare
Washing fruits and vegetables carefully
Keeping your food prep area clear of things that can fall into the food

Chemical hazards like soaps, cleaners, sanitizers and pesticides must be stored away from food, food prep areas and utensils. If you must store chemicals in the kitchen area put them on the lowest shelf below food or food contact surfaces so nothing can drip onto food. All chemical containers should be marked and labeled.
Never use a container as a food or beverage storage container if it previously was used to store chemicals. Sometimes it helps to say the obvious.

How to avoid chemical contamination:
Store all chemicals below food and prep areas
Label all chemical containers
Use only food grade approved containers to store food
Don’t use galvanized containers, since zinc coatings can be harmful.
Make sure all your food is covered and protected when cleaning

Biological contamination is the world of germs like bacteria, parasites and viruses.
Parasites Tiny worms that live in Pork, Fish and meats that can be killed if frozen or cooked to the right temperatures. Parasites are also found I contaminated water.
Safety measures for parasites:
Cook all meat, pork and fish to proper temps
Filter or treat water before consuming or cooking
Eat sushi at your own risk
Viruses Viruses are very common-like the common cold, chicken pox or influenza and freezing don’t destroy them. The disgusting thing is that these viruses are usually transmitted by the fecal-oral route when a food handler doesn’t wash their hands correctly or at all. Hepatitis A and the Novovirus are two common viruses transmitted in this fashion.

Safety measures for viruses:
Don’t handle or prep when you have diarrhea, fever or have been vomiting
Wash your hands twice after using the toilet. Once I the bathroom and again in the food prep area. Hand washing should be hot water, soap and long enough to sing “Happy Birthday”
Use disposable gloves or utensils whenever possible-especially ready-to-eat foods

The ever present big-bad bacteria. This is the most predominant of food borne illnesses. Unlike viruses, bacteria can actually grow in foods and cause food to spoil or cause food borne illness. It is critical to focus on time, temperature and cleanliness when preparing food. Even though bacteria are everywhere they tend to prosper in certain foods. These foods are called Potentially Hazardous Foods.

Potentially Hazardous Foods
Animal Products
Meat, fish, poultry, seafood and eggs
Dairy products
Cooked Starches
Cooked Rice, beans, pasta and potatoes
Fruits and Vegetables
Cooked Vegetables
Cut melons
Sprouts (bean and alfalfa sprouts)
Garlic and Herbs bottled in oil

Safety measures for protection from bacteria:
Keep potentially hazardous foods out of the danger zone (41-140 degrees F)
Don’t work with food when you are ill (diarrhea, vomiting or fever)
Wash hands twice after using the restroom
Wash, rinse and sanitize all utensils used for food prep
Use gloves and utensils when working with ready-to-eat foods

Food Safety Rules
Rule 1: Food handlers must have good personal hygiene
Rule 2: Food must be cooked and held at correct temperatures
Rule 3: Prevent cross-contamination when preparing and storing food

Rule 1: Food handlers must have good personal hygiene from hand washing to keeping fingernails trimmed for cleanliness. The most likely time for contamination is the following:
After using the restroom
After handling garbage or dirty dishes
After handling raw meat, fish or poultry
After eating or smoking
After sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose
After handling animals or using chemicals
Note: Using hand sanitizer is not an acceptable substitute for hand washing.

Rule 2: Food must be cooked and held at correct temperatures that avoid the danger zone of 40-140 degrees F. Every kitchen should have two or more metal stem thermometers and you should know how to use it and calibrate it. Food that sits in the danger zone quickly produces harmful levels of bacteria and toxins that can make you sick.
Potentially hazardous food may be at room temperature for up to 2 Hours while you are preparing it. The basic procedure is to keep cold food cold and hot food hot while in the preparation stage.
Note: If food has been left out at room temp or you don’t know long it’s been in the danger zone—Throw it out!! When it doubt—Throw it out!!
Thermometers are an essential tool for every kitchen just like a stove or oven. There are two types of thermometers:
Metal Stem Thermometer Metal stem with dial face-can be calibrated and must stay in food for 20 seconds to get accurate reading.
Digital Thermometer Very accurate especially for thin meats like hamburger patties. Downside:: it is an electronic device.

Using a thermometer:
Calibrate by setting into glass of water with crushed ice-should read 32 degrees. If it doesn’t, then adjust nut underneath until needle hits 32
Make sure the stem is clean and sanitized before and after each use
Always take reading at the thickest part of the food which is usually in the center
Hold stem for several seconds until reading holds steady

The best way to kill germs is to cook food to the right temperature in the right amount of time. Cooking temps depend on the type of food, prep procedures and cooking time.
Cooking with a microwave deserves a special warning. Microwaves cook food unevenly so if you cook raw animal products you must cook to 165 degrees, keep it most and covered and stir it at least once to make sure all of it hits 165 degrees. This applies to re-heating food also.

Hot Holding food (140 degrees F or hotter) is the holding hot food at service temperature for extended periods of time. Cooking doesn’t kill all bacteria so cooked potentially hazardous food must be kept hot until served. If the temp falls into the danger zone bacteria can begin to multiply, thus quickly contaminating the food. Anything used to hold food at 140 degrees or higher must be warmed up to temp prior to putting food into it.

Tips for keeping hot food hot:
Never mix cold foods with cooked foods
Cover pans
Stir food often to distribute the heat
Reheating food that is cooked and properly cooled can be re-heated to any temp if served and eating immediately. Cold food that will be hot held needs to be reheated to 165 degrees in under two hours or more quickly.

Cooking Temperatures
Foods that need to be cooked to 165 degrees F (for 15 seconds):
Poultry-Chicken, Turkey, Waterfowl, all game birds
Stuffed foods and stuffing
All raw animal products cooked in a microwave
All reheated potentially hazardous foods
Foods that need to be cooked to 155 degrees F (for 15 seconds):
All ground meats
Foods that need to be cooked to 145 degrees F (for 15 seconds):
Foods that need to be cooked to 140 degrees F (for 15 seconds):
Packaged ready-to-eat foods (canned chili/hot dogs) heated for hot holding
Vegetables that will be hot held
Beef and Pork roasts require additional cooking requirements-specifically making sure internal temp of pork reaches 150 degrees F. Cooling Foods

Keeping cold foods cold is the key to food safety at the lower end of the temp spectrum. Again the danger zone is 40 degrees to 140 degrees F. Cold food must be kept at 41 degrees F or colder. If using ice make sure the ice surrounds the food to the top level of the food. Cold salads made from food at room temp must be lowered to 41 degrees F or lower within 4 hours. Try pre-chilling all ingredients before making cold salads to expedite the process.

Thawing foods need special care to prevent bacteria from growing on the outside of food while the inside remains frozen. Here are three methods for thawing:
Submerge food under cold running water-70 degrees or colder until thawed
Put frozen foods into the refrigerator for the safest method---bottom shelf
Thaw during cooking process or in the microwave—small portions only

Cooling foods is the riskiest step in food preparation because bacteria grows very quickly in cooling food. The goal is to get the food cooled through the danger zone as quickly as possible. It’s also important to take cooling seriously since certain bacteria produce poisons that won’t be destroyed during reheating.

The following three cooling methods are approved in Washington State and are very similar to requirements in corporate restaurant chains nationwide. (My experience was with Brinker International-Chili’s Grill & Bar in Washington & Alabama--great standards!)

Three Methods for cooling:
1. Shallow Pan Method (food no deeper than 2 inches)
2. Size reduction (cutting solid foods into smaller pieces)
3. Time and Temperature monitored (forcing food to cool in short amount of time)

Cooling Method 1: Shallow Pan is basically taking large quantities of food and dividing it into several smaller and shallow pans for cooling. Works best for chili, rice, refried beans, potatoes, casseroles, ground meat and meatloaf.
Steps for shallow pan method:
1. Put hot food into shallow pans no more than 2 inches deep
2. Put pans onto top shelf of refrigerator to cool and keep food from dripping into it
3. Make sure air can move around pans so don’t stack or cover
4. Only cover food when temp reaches 41 degrees F or less

Cooling Method 2: Size reduction is simply cutting large pieces into smaller pieces for
Cooling. This method works best for large whole food like roasts, turkey or ham. Not recommended for ground meats.
Steps for size reduction method:
1. Cut large meat into chunks no larger than 4 inches
2. Put onto tray for cooling. No pieces should be touching
3. Put pans onto top shelf of refrigerator to cool and keep food from dripping into it
4. Make sure air can move around pans so don’t stack or cover
5. Only cover food when temp reaches 41 degrees F or less

Cooling Method 3: Time and Temperature Monitored is a 2 step process that must be closely watched or not used.
Step 1: Food must cool down from 140 degrees F to 70 degrees F in 2 hours.
Step 2: Food must finish cooling to 41 degrees F or less within 6 hours.
For example: The ice bath method is very suitable for sauces, gravy and soups. Just drop hot pot of food into ice water bath right below the edge of the pot. Stir often to facilitate the cooling throughout the food. You will need to keep adding ice as it cools and melts ice in the water. Make sure it cools down to 70 degrees F in 2 hours and under 41 degrees F within 6 hours. Cover and put in the fridge once it cools.

Preventing Cross Contamination
Cross Contamination is the spread of bacteria from raw meat onto other foods. The main source of cross contamination is when blood or juice from raw meat gets onto the surfaces of utensils, cutting boards, countertop and hands and then gets onto ready to eat foods.
The obvious: Keep raw meat away from other food.

Tips to avoid cross contamination:
Wash and sanitize all surfaces and utensils that contact raw meat
Wash hands after touching raw meat
Prep raw meat away from other foods
Designate a separate cutting board just for raw meat
Store raw meat below all other foods in fridge and freezer
Store meats with higher cooking temp below meats with lower cooking temp
(Raw chicken juice on fish doesn’t get killed at 145 degrees F)

Wash Cycle is a four-step process to practice when cleaning and sanitizing. The 4 steps are as follows:
1. Wash Hot Water and soap to remove food particles.
2. Rinse Clean and hot
3. Sanitize soak dishes in warm water with measured amount of sanitizer
4. Air Dry Dishcloths can contaminate clean dishes.
Some folks refer to this as the 3-sink system with dish rack as step four.
Sanitizer: 1 teaspoon unscented chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of cool water
This concludes the formal food borne illness information that you can basically receive from any County Health Department. Health departments hold two-hour classes for less than $20 to review and test over this information. Those who pass receive a food handler’s permit and you receive all this info in a handy booklet, which you should keep with your cookbooks. I think the class is worth every penny just on the cool horror stories they tell from doing restaurant inspections. It will raise the hair on your neck. Yuck!

Application in Preparedness
Home is where the application of this information is vital. Putting these standards into practice is very easy. Even if you have a single sink in the kitchen you can meet these standards. My brother and I insist on a three-sink system when at hunting camp after everyone got the runs from soap residue on the utensils.
An easy three-sink bug out system looks like this:

Three plastic dish tubs from Wal-Mart ($3)
Folding camp dish rack ($3)
Small Bottle of bleach and dish soap ($3)
Scrub sponge, wash cloth and dish towel ($3)

Put all items into the first tub and stack onto other two tubs. Everything should sit inside tubs and then inside plastic bag for easy grab and carry.
I’ve taken it a step further and I have a Rubbermaid bin with all kitchen items for camp kitchen. Tubs with all items above inside and next to them are several small Rubbermaid bins. One with silverware, one with spices, one with knives, one with serving and cooking utensils and even one with small cookbooks inside. Underneath all that is flat pan, frying pan and Dutch oven. I have to keep a separate large bin for rest of Dutch oven cookware for weight distribution and 2nd priority pile for rapid relocate.

In a less than decadent world we will be preparing a lot more of our food and game. Game processing should be staged for safety also. Gut and field dress away from anything else, making sure not to perforate intestines and soil meat. Keep a bucket of sanitizer when butchering and stage process to separate cutting from rinsing and wrapping.

I try to thaw meat while it’s in a pan marinating—"two birds with one stone". Saltiness of the marinade with cold temps almost assures of zero bacterial growth while thawing.
Hunting camp can be a perilous place when guys who never do more than fire up the grill start preparing meals for several days. I’ve learned to avoid the perils of “Montezuma’s Revenge” by preparing all the meals at home first. Pre-cooking and storing in Ziploc bags makes camp cooking easy. Pasta cooked and bagged, chili opened and bagged, all veggies and fruit diced, cut and bagged. To heat up food just heat up water. For example:

Take steaks or meat out of package and put into large Ziploc with marinade for one day then freeze flat. Replaces same amount of ice and is ready to cook on day 3 or 4 when thawed.
Freeze cooked pasta with marinara and meatballs. Day 2 meal just drop bag into boiling water and dinner is ready.
Cooking in Ziploc bags means no dishes to clean except utensils and hot water is already to go. Assuming your using mostly paper plates.
Pre-cutting and bagging vegetables means less time cooking and more time with Cousin George Dickel and family hunting lies around the fire. Dump cut veggies, venison, 2 cups wine, 2 cups water and 2 packs of stew seasoning into Dutch oven and three hours later dinner is done.

All of these ideas save time, energy and avoid food borne illness. You should plan on cooking your food to well done to avoid possible danger during a true survival situation. Diarrhea in the field can be as deadly as "Mutant Zombies" or a well-intentioned bureaucrat.

In closing, I highly recommend sitting through a county health department class on food borne illness. Two hours on a weeknight could save your life or someone else’s. I hope this helps keep you and your families safer. I’ll get back to you when I figure out how to make nachos over the campfire. Straight Ahead! - B.H. in Western Washington (soon to be in north Idaho)

Monday, April 14, 2008

For those readers that have livestock they need to prepare for the day when hydrocarbon fuel may not be available for tractors. I would suggest a buck rake and a pull-behind sickle mower that a horse could pull. It beats cutting hay by hand. These items can often be picked up at farm and ranch auctions. Enough hay can be put up for a few cows, horses and sheep for the winter months when snow may cover grazing ground.

I would recommend a treadle sewing machine. Clothes will need to be mended and taken care of until society gets back on its feet and power is restored. Make sure you have extra needles, bobbins, thread and a couple of belts. In an ideal situation a family should also have an extra treadle machine that is capable of doing leather work for shoes and horse tack.

I would recommend a selection of sharpening stones and at least one black oil stone for straight razors. A selection of saw sets for properly setting teethe of regular hand saws and two man cross cut saws. A good felling saw should be picked up also.

If thing stay bad long enough, traditional hand tools will be a must. A good crosscut saw is nearly as quick as a chain saw. Axes with good steel are capable of [being sharpened for] shaving. These are just some thoughts that I have not noticed on your site. - Clyde

Saturday, March 29, 2008

My husband and I are like minded, (he realized way before I did), and he and I didn’t meet until I was in my mid-thirties. I was considered weird, called a tomboy and later, a gear head. Don’t get me wrong, I cook, sew, knit and crochet. I had many interests though and wanted to learn.

What I have seen lately and in some people we met that are like minded, is the lack of initiative on the part of some spouses. I have seen some women and men that will ridicule their spouses or will just roll their eyes and feign interest. I have seen some that their spouses have prepared and bought supplies but their other half has no clue even how to do the basics. If you are truly vested in being prepared, your spouse and children need to brush up on the basics also. This should give you some good ideas on how to learn where you are lacking.

Do you have a grain mill? Mortar and pestle? Does he/she know the basics? Can all of you bake and cook from scratch? Are your children picky or will they eat everything you put in front of them? Can they sew? Do they know the basics on edible plants? Can they hunt or fish? Can your children do what is needed? Can you do the repairs needed to your home/vehicle?

Our daughter is 16 and she is learning about cars, she can fish with the best of them and she is a good shot. Our youngest is three years old and he will be learning as we go. Both will be able to cook (one does now), sew, set traps, care for farm animals, strip and clean weapons, basic survival, fix the family relic (car) and hopefully get through anything that is thrown at them.

The first step is to start early – my husband is Creole and we eat a lot most people don’t. Turtle soup, crawfish, head cheese and some even eat tripe. My son will eat everything he is offered, he was eating crawfish when he only had 2 teeth. So our routine was this; we fix it and tell you later what it is. It works well with older kids; younger kids will eat what mom and dad eat. It is a well known fact that most really young or really old will not eat a “different” diet, unless they have been doing so all along.

When your child starts showing interest in guns, at about 6-7 years old, take them hunting. Show them what guns do. My father did that I have always had respect for what they can do. Children love doing what mom and dad do so they will take to hunting with pride. We start ours fishing at 2-3 years old for small fish and getting them used to being around the water supervised. They know how to check nets and bait hooks by the time they’re 5, that’s when we teach them how to clean the fish (mom or dad using the sharp knife).

With cars teach them as soon as they’re out of a booster seat. I have seen too many men and women who can’t even check the oil in their own cars. Your children should be a help in most situations not a hindrance, even if it’s just handing you the tools you need. Our three year old will do most simple tasks he is shown and he does them willingly, he is so happy to be a help.

If you are in the military they have a lot of classes on the base that can help with some of this. Most bases have a repair shop and you can utilize their mechanics and tools to learn about repairing your car. They offer other things so check into at the base [or post] repair/craft shop.

Work out your plans to include the jobs you expect your children to do. When things get bad, if we’re on the move our 16 year old is to keep her little brother while we move and defend if necessary. When stationary she can shoot, load and take care of first aid. She will be able to pull her own weight and then some. Our littlest one will follow suit as he grows.

Use barter to attain the skills you don’t have, watch family, use the Internet and community college. Take a vacation to Pennsylvania or Tennessee. You can learn a lot in an Amish community, I learned how to make butter and I am going back so I can learn to shear. Some teach and charge others will share what they know for free. You can also buy produce and goods from the Amish. Davy Crockett days are in August and you can watch the craftsman work and it is for the whole family. All vendors must have a "period" looking tent up and must dress in period clothing. The on site cooking is also period.

Volunteer to gain skills; veterinarian office and humane society is a good place to learn about wound care, antibiotic use and dosage, just go watch, then you will learn, most places will not turn down a volunteer. Zoos are a great place to learn about husbandry, housing and more than basic wound care, as smaller zoos take care of injuries themselves (after a vet is consulted), most of what you learn at these places about wound care can be used on humans. Colleges have book sales where you can get books on farming and some older trades/crafts very cheap (books are 1-5 dollars). Local small gun and knife shows are also a bountiful source of information [and logistics], from hard to find books to hard to find ammo.

Buy reference books! We recently went to a "Friends of the Library" book sale and spent just $12. We now have the McGraw-Hill's 20 volume set on technology ($5), doctor's desk references ("fill the box for $2"), a whole box. These included: beginner, intermediate and advanced practical chemistry, triage handbook, a nurse's reference guide, medical encyclopedias, and a diagnosis reference. We also got the EIR special report "Global Showdown Escalates", Practical Handyman from Greystone Press ($3). In many towns, you can join the Friends of the Library for $5 to $10 dollars annually, or just hit the book sales once per year. Our $12 investment filled the back seat of our car!

Even if you don’t live where your retreat is take the time to “visit” the area. Go to the local library, stop at the local shops and grab the touristy maps. In Amish communities the maps tell you about the local farms and what produce and goods they sell. They have fliers that have information on classes offered locally. The department of education has listings for adult education classes on things like welding. Introduce yourself to the locals, visit the farmers and the farmers market. Attend the church while you are there, it is the quickest way into the fold and into being welcomed by the locals. Whether you live there permanent or you will someday, you will want to be on friendly terms right away then when it all goes down.

In Tennessee when we were there, we saw newcomers (less than one year there) helping and being helped by the Amish. Neighbors coming together when they’re needed, no questions asked other than when do you need me. They all pull together and work well.

If your family isn’t ready, or is almost ready, taking these steps or some of these steps will help you get there. If you’re not “together” as a family in your preparedness then you need to find a way to be. Get the spouse interested in this even during an outing or vacation. Find a way to get your children involved. Preparing isn’t just for one person in the family, it’s for everyone. - T.D.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

To follow up on Mike Williamson's recent letter on choosing a state for relocation, the April 2008 issue of Outdoor Life magazine has a good article on the best 200 towns in the U.S. for hunters and fishermen. The towns were rated for:

Abundant Fishable Species
Abundant Huntable Species
Public Land Proximity (This may or may not be a good thing, IMHO.)
Trophy Potential
Gun Laws

From 1 to 10, the top 10 towns rated were:
Mountain Home, Arkansas
Lewsiton, Idaho
Sheridan, Wyoming
Cody, Wyoming
Pocatello, Idaho
Lewistown, Montana
Marquette, Michigan
Dillon, Montana
Page, Arizona
Bismark, North Dakota
They also list an additional 200 more towns. You may or may not agree with their ratings, but if an abundance of wild game and fish are important to you now, or during a SHTF event, this is a good list to hang on to.
Both Field and Stream, and Outdoor Life have upgraded their quality of late, and are well worth the subscription prices. Wait for the sales, you may get them for a dollar per issue. I am seeing more and more prep and survival articles in both magazines. Perhaps the editors actually "get it"? I can't say, but they're both worth a look. If you don't want to subscribe, check them out at your local library. Best Regards, - Florida Guy

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hi Jim,
I was reading Monday’s letter regarding “Sizing a Retreat AC Power Generator”, and a thought came to mind when the author mentioned super-insulating a freezer for extended cooling durations. There are basically 2 types of freezer; the upright and the box, (what we call around here, the “coffin” freezer). Given the same basic amount of insulation included with each type, to the point where both manage the loss of cooling at the same rate, the “coffin” appears to be more efficient during access.
Cold air sinks. When the door of an upright freezer is opened, the cold air inside will pour out, much like you would expect water would pour out of it in the same circumstances. The cold sinks and falls out the front, and is replaced by warmer air from above. While the contents of the freezer chill the incoming air immediately, and give the impression that things are staying cold due to that same recently-chilled air passing over your face, in reality, heat is being absorbed by everything inside the freezer.
When you open the door of a box freezer, the cold has nowhere to go. There is disturbance of the upper layer of air as the door opens, and there is also a heat exchange effect at the boundary of the two layers, the vast majority of cold air remains in the box. A box freezer thus saves on the energy needed to take the temp down to its set level after opening the door.
Here’s a tip for preserving low temps for those with upright freezers. Keep as much food as possible inside the freezer. The more frozen stuffs you have, the less space warm air has to occupy. Cold food loses temp much much slower than displaced air does, and with this practice in place, the door may remain open for longer periods as junior tries to decide on rocky road or vanilla (the only real flavor on earth…) ice-cream. The remaining low volume of air will chill much faster after the door has been closed, and the energy required to do this will be less as well. This is good for post-TEOTWAWKI as well as everyday living.
We prefer our “coffin” for bulk storage. It’s easier to keep our prey “on ice”. - Randy in Central California

JWR Replies: I agree wholeheartedly that it is important to keep a chest freezer full. Not only will it mean less cold air spilling out, but their thermal mass will also provide more of a time lag before defrosting, in the event of a power failure. Here at the ranch, we fill up any extra chest freezer space with used one-gallon plastic milk jugs that have been 3/4ths-filled with water.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dear Memsahib and Jim,
I am a daily SurvivalBlog reader and contributor, along with my husband. I am very interested in learning more how Memsahib and other retreat women manage to do all that they do. How does a day or week in your life go? How do you can, bake, cook, shear, spin, weave, knit, sew, teach, et cetera and get it all done?
We are moving to our retreat soon. I have baked, cooked, knit, learned to spin and weave, and have canned in the past, but not all at once. I forgot to mention clean, wash, take care of a garden, etc. etc.
We need a blog [post] about how to accomplish everything and remain sane. Not to mention home school and run a family, continue church life, etc.
For those of us who have been working and raising a family in a large town and are moving to a retreat life, we need some how to's!!!
The order of things is of the most importance or we will never accomplish all our tasks!!!

Memsahib, does your work every stop? Do you feel like you have no personal time?

I also work as a registered nurse and will try to continue with my specialty in teaching young mothers how to breast feed and care for their newborns.
Thank you for your input from all of us women who will try to "do it all" on our retreat sites. Thanks again, - Kathie

The Memsahib Replies: Thank you so much for your huge vote of confidence. How nice to think there is a woman out there who thinks that I do it all! :-) First let me say first, no I don't do it all. And secondly I don't worry about doing it all either.

I'm writing this reply specifically to married women with children. The most important thing is to keep your priorities right: I believe the correct order is: God, your husband, your children, and then everything else after that. Also remember it is not up to you to insure the survival of your family. God is in control of everything. And after God is your husband. I hope this will lift some if the burden that you are feeling. Don't shoulder the burden of the family's survival yourself. That is not your role. I think that is usurping your husband's role of provider and protector of the family.Your job is to be a helpmeet to your husband.

Okay, that said, I have acquired a lot of skills that could be put to use in TEOTWAWKI, but I do not try to do them all now. I think to attempt that would put me in an early grave like my pioneer great grandmothers! I think this is time for learning preparation skills, but if you tried to actually do them all there is no way you would have time to learn any new skills. For example I have a lot of food preservation skills. But at this present time most of our larder is full of mostly purchased foodstuffs. For the satisfaction of it, I have fed my family entire meals from food I personally raised including the milk that came fresh from our cow. It feels great to know I can do it. But I don't try to do it on a day to day basis.

There are some things that we do that allow for extra time in my schedule. We don't own a television. I think I get a lot more done for the lack of watching television. Also, I do not have a full time job outside the home. Not having to commute saves a lot of time. Another thing I attribute to getting more done is the fact that we are out in the middle of nowhere, so I don't shop. There is no place to shop. Every two months or so we stock up to top off our supplies. I also know the capacity of our larder well. I'm very strict with my family about sticking to the list! This saves time and money when we are out shopping. Also we only shop for clothes twice a year when we visit family in the big city. My sister knows all the great thrift stores. And, she knows which department stores have the best sale prices on shoes socks and underwear. If we didn't have growing children we probably could go several years without buying clothes! By the way. I do know how to sew clothes. And I know how to knit sweaters, hats, socks, mittens, and such. But I don't make my family's clothes because I don't particularly enjoy sewing. (For now, I go to the thrift store. I often can buy down jackets, Merino wool sweaters and nearly new blue jeans for $3 each, and shirts, slacks, blouses, skirts, dresses for less than than that.)

Another thing is that our family does which frees up quite a bit of time for me is cleaning up after themselves. Our children for example clear their places after meals, take their dishes to the sink and putt the scraps in the chicken bucket, and rinse their plates and glasses, and put them in the dishwasher. When there are clothes to be folded at our house all the children fold and put away their own clothes. Our children also have an individual chore based on their age, such as setting and clearing the table, unloading the dishwasher, keeping the wood box filled, and feeding their pets. And you may have realized by now I make use of all the modern appliances which make household chores quicker. In the past, we've lived without running water and without electricity. I know I can survive without them, and I may have to in the future. But I sure enjoy the luxury of having them now!

The "survival skills' that I do practice daily are the ones that I personally really enjoy. I practice them as recreation and relaxation. For me personally that is raising small livestock. I really enjoy going out to the barn and feeding my critters. I especially enjoy my sheep because I also enjoy the fiber arts. I also really enjoy gardening. So my hobbies dovetail nicely with my husbands desire to be well prepared. So what hobbies and interests do you have? Which ones could you cultivate as prepping? Just because I don't care for sewing doesn't mean that it wouldn't be a great dovetail for you.

You might say another one of my hobbies is acquiring "life skills". Some people have a personality that is suited for focusing on one skill and developing that skill to a master level. My personality is more suited to trying everything. I try to make the most of each situation in which we've lived to learn what I can. My motto is: when God gives you zucchini take the opportunity to experiment baking, drying, frying zucchinis! The older women of the communities we've lived in have been wonderful teachers. They have taught me how to can pickles, make grape juice, milk goats, make soap, knit socks as well as sharing the abundance of their gardens and orchards. But I in no way feel compelled to now makes all the food we eat from scratch, knit all our clothes, make all our soap, and neither should you!
I would be remiss if I did not say that I think it is very important to use this time of liberty of ideas and travel to attend Bible studies. Yes, you can and should read and study the Bible at home. But, I find that the commitment to do a study with other believers disciplines me to stay in the Word even when life gets hectic. And our pastor has many valuable insights into the Scriptures. If you have the ability to attend a good Bible study, then do it! You may not always have that opportunity because of poor health, high gas prices, lack of transportation, or lack of religious freedom. Reading the stories of prisoners of war, I am struck by how their knowledge of God's word helped them endure. As the Bible says, "make the most of time, because the days are evil".

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mr. Rawles,
In looking through your great web site I can't tell if you've ever addressed the issue of having a non-US retreat. There are some notable characteristics of the USA that make it a less then optimal location in a TEOTWAWKI type scenario. I think specifically of very heavy reliance on personal vehicles and fossil fuels, a general ignorance about growing food, preserving food, raising livestock. There is a tremendous demographic heterogeneity ("diversity") that in a crisis situation would become a very sore spot and possibly a source of violence. Also a Federal government that has shown an inclination to trample the rights of citizens when it is expedient to do so.

Having some familiarity with central Europe, I can tell you that the rural peasantry will fare very well in a crisis situation. Agriculture is still animal-powered in many areas. Self-sufficiency is the norm rather than the exception.

I would love to see you assess and evaluate various foreign sites as possible retreat locations. The analysis that you have already done on the western states is superb. Thanks much - Dr. R


Mr. Rawles,
First, I'd like to thank you for your work and dedication with SurvivalBlog. You've been a guiding light in darkening times. Second, I'd like to ask about your thoughts on relocating to a retreat abroad?
For some context information, I'm a college student at a local private university; by working two jobs, I've managed to avoid the average $30,000 in student loans my peers have accumulated, and am down to only $9,000. I pay off my interest as it accrues, and set aside about as much as I can spare for prepping every paycheck. Last year, I started talking with my family about survivalism in relation to our current times, and they're happily on board and setting things aside as much as they can, as well. We've made it our goal to purchase our retreat this year- we actually start looking at bookmarked properties the third week of March - but as that I was assigned by family vote the family task of deciding which properties we see, and where we look, I feel the express desire to weigh as many potentially good options as possible.

Recently, the grandparents of a friend retired in Mexico; I had the opportunity to meet them and discuss the venture, and was amazed to hear that, paperwork aside, they were able to purchase several acres, build and furnish their own home, as well as obtain several head of livestock, for under $80,000! In a TEOTWAWKI situation, would one even perhaps be better off in a remote location in Mexico that's already mostly self-sufficient in terms of agriculture, with the advantage of being able to afford more for the money, than in the US?
Or, for that matter, in other such places in the world of similar condition, like Romania, rural western Russia, (and etc.)? Admittedly, if there is ever a popular anti-foreigner sentiment, that could be a key worry- the biggest concern I've come across being that the foreign state could take away your property at any time... but does that worry not also apply to the US, with Eminent Domain? I understand that there's no quick or easy answer to this, but I'm hoping that I might glean some better understanding through your experience, and that of your readers.
Wishing well, - S.L.K.

JWR Replies: Becoming an expatriate retreater requires some very careful study, consideration, and prayer. Many of the highly touted offshore locales suffer either from high crime rates, or have a high population density that would be an issue in a grid-down collapse. Many of these same countries also have restrictive laws on private firearms ownership, so that makes self defense problematic. Despite these and other drawbacks, there are a few offshore destinations that rate high on my list. These include New Zealand (South Island), the Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Vanuatu, Bolivia, Chile, rural portions of the Czech Republic, and the lower elevation cantons of Switzerland. I would also recommend Finland if it were not for its harsh climate.

I generally do not recommend most of Latin America and the Caribbean because of high crime rates (most notably property crimes and murder.) Even Costa Rica, which is often touted as a "peaceful haven", has a murder rate higher than the U.S. (6.23 per 100,000, versus 5.9.) It also has a nearly four times higher robbery rate, but a surprisingly low burglary rate.) A lot of the Pacific Islands are not on my list because of either draconian gun laws or a high level of systems dependence. Many of them are now dependent on food imports. (Nauru is perhaps the worst in this regard. It could not even supply enough fresh drinking water for its residents if international shipping were to cease.)

I generally recommend moving to countries that share your language. But if you have an "in" somewhere--namely relatives or close friends that speak the native language and if they would be living on the same property or contiguous property--then the language barrier is less of an issue. But regardless, learn the local language and customs quickly. You should consider that education practically a full time job for your first few years.

The bottom line is that there is no single "perfect" retreat locale. There are advantages and drawbacks wherever you go. Climate, taxes, gun laws, population density, and crime rates are all trade-offs. Many of the locales that would be idyllic in a grid-up situation might be a nightmare if grid-down. But some countries might do very well in the absence of "the modern conveniences." You will note that I have quite a few Pacific Islands on my list. In these island nations, if grid power were interrupted, I anticipate that the locals would quickly revert to traditional fishing, gardening, gathering fruit, hunting (bats, of all things!) and raising pigs.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Start your retreat stocking effort by first composing a List of Lists, then draft prioritized lists for each subject, on separate sheets of paper. (Or in a spreadsheet if you are a techno-nerd like me. Just be sure to print out a hard copy for use when the power grid goes down!) It is important to tailor your lists to suit your particular geography, climate, and population density as well as your peculiar needs and likes/dislikes. Someone setting up a retreat in a coastal area is likely to have a far different list than someone living in the Rockies.

As I often mention in my lectures and radio interviews, a great way to create truly commonsense preparedness lists is to take a three-day weekend TEOTWAWKI Weekend Experiment” with your family. When you come home from work on Friday evening, turn off your main circuit breaker, turn off your gas main (or propane tank), and shut your main water valve (or turn off your well pump.) Spend that weekend in primitive conditions. Practice using only your storage food, preparing it on a wood stove (or camping stove.)

A “TEOTWAWKI Weekend Experiment” will surprise you. Things that you take for granted will suddenly become labor intensive. False assumptions will be shattered. Your family will grow closer and more confident. Most importantly, some of the most thorough lists that you will ever make will be those written by candlelight.

Your List of Lists should include: (Sorry that this post is in outline form, but it would take a full length book to discus all of the following in great detail)

Water List
Food Storage List
Food Preparation List
Personal List
First Aid /Minor Surgery List
Nuke Defense List
Biological Warfare Defense List
Gardening List
Hygiene List/Sanitation List
Hunting/Fishing/Trapping List
Power/Lighting/Batteries List
Fuels List
Firefighting List
Tactical Living List
Communications/Monitoring List
Tools List
Sundries List
Survival Bookshelf List
Barter and Charity List

JWR’s Specific Recommendations For Developing Your Lists:

Water List
House downspout conversion sheet metal work and barrels. (BTW, this is another good reason to upgrade your retreat to a fireproof metal roof.)
Drawing water from open sources. Buy extra containers. Don’t buy big barrels, since five gallon food grade buckets are the largest size that most people can handle without back strain.
For transporting water if and when gas is too precious to waste, buy a couple of heavy duty two wheel garden carts--convert the wheels to foam filled "no flats" tires. (BTW, you will find lots of other uses for those carts around your retreat, such as hauling hay, firewood, manure, fertilizer, et cetera.)
Treating water. Buy plain Clorox hypochlorite bleach. A little goes a long way. Buy some extra half-gallon bottles for barter and charity. If you can afford it, buy a “Big Berky” British Berkefeld ceramic water filter. (Available from Ready Made Resources and several other Internet vendors. Even if you have pure spring water at your retreat, you never know where you may end up, and a good filter could be a lifesaver.)

Food Storage List
See my post tomorrow which will be devoted to food storage. Also see the recent letter from David in Israel on this subject.

Food Preparation List

Having more people under your roof will necessitate having an oversize skillet and a huge stew pot. BTW, you will want to buy several huge kettles, because odds are you will have to heat water on your wood stove for bathing, dish washing, and clothes washing. You will also need even more kettles, barrels, and 5 or 6 gallon PVC buckets--for water hauling, rendering, soap making, and dying. They will also make great barter or charity items. (To quote my mentor Dr. Gary North: “Nails: buy a barrel of them. Barrels: Buy a barrel of them!”)
Don’t overlook skinning knives, gut-buckets, gambrels, and meat saws.

Personal List
(Make a separate personal list for each family member and individual expected to arrive at your retreat.)
Spare glasses.
Prescription and nonprescription medications.
Birth control.
Keep dentistry up to date.
Any elective surgery that you've been postponing
Work off that gut.
Stay in shape.
Back strength and health—particularly important, given the heavy manual tasks required for self-sufficiency.
Educate yourself on survival topics, and practice them. For example, even if you don’t presently live at your retreat, you should plant a vegetable garden every year. It is better to learn through experience and make mistakes now, when the loss of crop is an annoyance rather than a crucial event.
“Comfort” items to help get through high stress times. (Books, games, CDs, chocolates, etc.)

First Aid /Minor Surgery List
When tailoring this list, consider your neighborhood going for many months without power, extensive use of open flames, and sentries standing picket shifts exposed in the elements. Then consider axes, chainsaws and tractors being wielded by newbies, and a greater likelihood of gunshot wounds. With all of this, add the possibility of no access to doctors or high tech medical diagnostic equipment. Put a strong emphasis on burn treatment first aid supplies. Don’t overlook do-it-yourself dentistry! (Oil of cloves, temporary filling kit, extraction tools, et cetera.) Buy a full minor surgery outfit (inexpensive Pakistani stainless steel instruments), even if you don’t know how to use them all yet. You may have to learn, or you will have the opportunity to put them in the hands of someone experienced who needs them.) This is going to be a big list!

Chem/Nuke Defense List
Dosimeter and rate meter, and charger, radiac meter (hand held Geiger counter), rolls of sheet plastic (for isolating airflow to air filter inlets and for covering window frames in the event that windows are broken due to blast effects), duct tape, HEPA filters (ands spares) for your shelter. Potassium iodate (KI) tablets to prevent thyroid damage.(See my recent post on that subject.) Outdoor shower rig for just outside your shelter entrance.

Biological Warfare Defense List
Hand Sanitizer
Sneeze masks
Colloidal silver generator and spare supplies (distilled water and .999 fine silver rod.)
Natural antibiotics (Echinacea, Tea Tree oil, …)

Gardening List
One important item for your gardening list is the construction of a very tall deer-proof and rabbit-proof fence. Under current circumstances, a raid by deer on your garden is probably just an inconvenience. After the balloon goes up, it could mean the difference between eating well, and starvation.
Top Soil/Amendments/Fertilizers.
Tools+ spares for barter/charity
Long-term storage non hybrid (open pollinated) seed. (Non-hybrid “heirloom” seed assortments tailors to different climate zones are available from The Ark Institute
Herbs: Get started with medicinal herbs such as aloe vera (for burns), echinacea (purple cone flower), valerian, et cetera.

Hygiene/Sanitation List
Sacks of powdered lime for the outhouse. Buy plenty!
TP in quantity (Stores well if kept dry and away from vermin and it is lightweight, but it is very bulky. This is a good item to store in the attic. See my novel about stocking up on used phone books for use as TP.
Soap in quantity (hand soap, dish soap, laundry soap, cleansers, etc.)
Bottled lye for soap making.
Ladies’ supplies.
Toothpaste (or powder).
Fluoride rinse. (Unless you have health objections to the use of fluoride.)
Livestock List:
Hoof rasp, hoof nippers, hoof pick, horse brushes, hand sheep shears, styptic, carding combs, goat milking stand, teat dip, udder wash, Bag Balm, elastrator and bands, SWOT fly repellent, nail clippers (various sizes), Copper-tox, leads, leashes, collars, halters, hay hooks, hay fork, manure shovel, feed buckets, bulk grain and C-O-B sweet feed (store in galvanized trash cans with tight fitting lids to keep the mice out), various tack and saddles, tack repair tools, et cetera. If your region has selenium deficient soil (ask your local Agricultural extension office) then be sure to get selenium-fortified salt blocks rather than plain white salt blocks--at least for those that you are going to set aside strictly for your livestock.

Hunting/Fishing/Trapping List
“Buckshot” Bruce Hemming has produced an excellent series of videos on trapping and making improvised traps. (He also sells traps and scents at very reasonable prices.)
Night vision gear, spares, maintenance, and battery charging
Salt. Post-TEOTWAWKI, don’t “go hunting.” That would be a waste of effort. Have the game come to you. Buy 20 or more salt blocks. They will also make very valuable barter items.
Sell your fly fishing gear (all but perhaps a few flies) and buy practical spin casting equipment.
Extra tackle may be useful for barter, but probably only in a very long term Crunch.
Buy some frog gigs if you have bullfrogs in your area. Buy some crawfish traps if you have crawfish in your area.
Learn how to rig trot lines and make fish traps for non-labor intensive fishing WTSHTF.

Power/Lighting/Batteries List
One proviso: In the event of a “grid down” situation, if you are the only family in the area with power, it could turn your house into a “come loot me” beacon at night. At the same time, your house lighting will ruin the night vision of your LP/OP pickets. Make plans and buy materials in advance for making blackout screens or fully opaque curtains for your windows.
When possible, buy nickel metal hydride batteries. (Unlike the older nickel cadmium technology, these have no adverse charge level “memory” effect.)
If your home has propane appliances, get a “tri-fuel” generator--with a carburetor that is selectable between gasoline, propane, and natural gas. If you heat your home with home heating oil, then get a diesel-burning generator. (And plan on getting at least one diesel burning pickup and/or tractor). In a pinch, you can run your diesel generator and diesel vehicles on home heating oil.
Kerosene lamps; plenty of extra wicks, mantles, and chimneys. (These will also make great barter items.)
Greater detail on do-it-yourself power will be included in my forthcoming blog posts.

Fuels List
Buy the biggest propane, home heating oil, gas, or diesel tanks that your local ordinances permit and that you can afford. Always keep them at least two-thirds full. For privacy concerns, ballistic impact concerns, and fire concerns, underground tanks are best if you local water table allows it. In any case, do not buy an aboveground fuel tank that would visible from any public road or navigable waterway. Buy plenty of extra fuel for barter. Don’t overlook buying plenty of kerosene. (For barter, you will want some in one or two gallon cans.) Stock up on firewood or coal. (See my previous blog posts.) Get the best quality chainsaw you can afford. I prefer Stihls and Husqavarnas. If you can afford it, buy two of the same model. Buy extra chains, critical spare parts, and plenty of two-cycle oil. (Two-cycle oil will be great for barter!) Get a pair of Kevlar chainsaw safety chaps. They are expensive but they might save yourself a trip to the emergency room. Always wear gloves, goggles, and ear-muffs. Wear a logger’s helmet when felling. Have someone who is well experienced teach you how to re-sharpen chains. BTW, don’t cut up your wood into rounds near any rocks or you will destroy a chain in a hurry.

Firefighting List
Now that you have all of those flammables on hand (see the previous list) and the prospect of looters shooting tracer ammo or throwing Molotov cocktails at your house, think in terms of fire fighting from start to finish without the aid of a fire department. Even without looters to consider, you should be ready for uncontrolled brush or residential fires, as well as the greater fire risk associated with greenhorns who have just arrived at your retreat working with wood stoves and kerosene lamps!
Upgrade your retreat with a fireproof metal roof.
2” water line from your gravity-fed storage tank (to provide large water volume for firefighting)
Fire fighting rig with an adjustable stream/mist head.
Smoke and CO detectors.

Tactical Living List
Adjust your wardrobe buying toward sturdy earth-tone clothing. (Frequent your local thrift store and buy extras for retreat newcomers, charity, and barter.)
Dyes. Stock up on some boxes of green and brown cloth dye. Buy some extra for barter. With dye, you can turn most light colored clothes into semi-tactical clothing on short notice.
Two-inch wide burlap strip material in green and brown. This burlap is available in large spools from Gun Parts Corp. Even if you don’t have time now, stock up so that you can make camouflage ghillie suits post-TEOTWAWKI.
Save those wine corks! (Burned cork makes quick and cheap face camouflage.)
Cold weather and foul weather gear—buy plenty, since you will be doing more outdoor chores, hunting, and standing guard duty.
Don’t overlook ponchos and gaiters.
Mosquito repellent.
Synthetic double-bag (modular) sleeping bags for each person at the retreat, plus a couple of spares. The Wiggy’s brand Flexible Temperature Range Sleep System (FTRSS) made by Wiggy's of Grand Junction, Colorado is highly recommended.
Night vision gear + IR floodlights for your retreat house
Subdued flashlights and penlights.
Noise, light, and litter discipline. (More on this in future posts--or perhaps a reader would like to send a brief article on this subject)
Security-General: Locks, intrusion detection/alarm systems, exterior obstacles (fences, gates, 5/8” diameter (or larger) locking road cables, rosebush plantings, “decorative” ponds (moats), ballistic protection (personal and residential), anti-vehicular ditches/berms, anti-vehicular concrete “planter boxes”, razor wire, etc.)
Starlight electronic light amplification scopes are critical tools for retreat security.
A Starlight scope (or goggles, or a monocular) literally amplifies low ambient light by up to 100,000 times, turning nighttime darkness into daylight--albeit a green and fuzzy view. Starlight light amplification technology was first developed during the Vietnam War. Late issue Third Generation (also called or “Third Gen” or “Gen 3”) starlight scopes can cost up to $3,500 each. Rebuilt first gen (early 1970s technology scopes can often be had for as little as $500. Russian-made monoculars (with lousy optics) can be had for under $100. One Russian model that uses a piezoelectric generator instead of batteries is the best of this low-cost breed. These are best used as backups (in case your expensive American made scopes fail. They should not be purchased for use as your primary night vision devices unless you are on a very restrictive budget. (They are better than nothing.) Buy the best starlight scopes, goggles, and monoculars you can afford. They may be life-savers! If you can afford to buy only one, make it a weapon sight such as an AN/PVS-4, with a Gen 2 (or better) tube. Make sure to specify that that the tube is new or “low hours”, has a high “line pair” count, and minimal scintillation. It is important to buy your Starlight gear from a reputable dealer. The market is crowded with rip-off artists and scammers. One dealer that I trust, is Al Glanze (spoken “Glan-zee”) who runs STANO Components, Inc. in Silver City, Nevada. Note: In a subsequent blog posts I will discuss the relationship and implications to IR illuminators and tritium sights.
Range cards and sector sketches.
If you live in the boonies, piece together nine of the USGS 15-minute maps, with your retreat property on the center map. Mount that map on an oversize map board. Draw in the property lines and owner names of all of your surrounding neighbor’s parcels (in pencil) in at least a five mile radius. (Get boundary line and current owner name info from your County Recorder’s office.) Study and memorize both the terrain and the neighbors’ names. Make a phone number/e-mail list that corresponds to all of the names marked on the map, plus city and county office contact numbers for quick reference and tack it up right next to the map board. Cover the whole map sheet with a sheet of heavy-duty acetate, so you can mark it up just like a military commander’s map board. (This may sound a bit “over the top”, but remember, you are planning for the worst case. It will also help you get to know your neighbors: When you are introduced by name to one of them when in town, you will be able to say, “Oh, don’t you live about two miles up the road between the Jones place and the Smith’s ranch?” They will be impressed, and you will seem like an instant “old timer.”

Security-Firearms List
Guns, ammunition, web gear, eye and ear protection, cleaning equipment, carrying cases, scopes, magazines, spare parts, gunsmithing tools, targets and target frames, et cetera. Each rifle and pistol should have at least six top quality (original military contract or original manufacturer) full capacity spare magazines. Note: Considerable detail on firearms and optics selection, training, use, and logistic support are covered in the SurvivalBlog archives and FAQs.

Communications/Monitoring List
When selecting radios buy only models that will run on 12 volt DC power or rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery packs (that can be recharged from your retreat’s 12 VDC power system without having to use an inverter.)
As a secondary purchasing goal, buy spare radios of each type if you can afford them. Keep your spares in sealed metal boxes to protect them from EMP.
If you live in a far inland region, I recommend buying two or more 12 VDC marine band radios. These frequencies will probably not be monitored in your region, leaving you an essentially private band to use. (But never assume that any two-way radio communications are secure!)
Note: More detail on survival communications gear selection, training, use, security/cryptography measures, antennas, EMP protection, and logistical support will be covered in forthcoming blog posts.

Tools List
Gardening tools.
Auto mechanics tools.
Bolt cutters--the indispensable “universal key.”
Woodworking tools.
Gunsmithing tools.
Emphasis on hand powered tools.
Hand or treadle powered grinding wheel.
Don’t forget to buy plenty of extra work gloves (in earth tone colors).
Sundries List:
Systematically list the things that you use on a regular basis, or that you might need if the local hardware store were to ever disappear: wire of various gauges, duct tape, reinforced strapping tape, chain, nails, nuts and bolts, weather stripping, abrasives, twine, white glue, cyanoacrylate glue, et cetera.

Book/Reference List

You should probably have nearly every book on my Bookshelf page. For some, you will want to have two or three copies, such as Carla Emery’s "Encyclopedia of Country Living". This is because these books are so valuable and indispensable that you won’t want to risk lending out your only copy.

Barter and Charity List
For your barter list, acquire primarily items that are durable, non-perishable, and either in small packages or that are easily divisible. Concentrate on the items that other people are likely to overlook or have in short supply. Some of my favorites are ammunition. [The late] Jeff Cooper referred to it as “ballistic wampum.” WTSHTF, ammo will be worth nearly its weight in silver. Store all of your ammo in military surplus ammo cans (with seals that are still soft) and it will store for decades. Stick to common calibers, get plenty of .22 LR (most high velocity hollow points) plus at least ten boxes of the local favorite deer hunting cartridge, even if you don’t own a rifle chambered for this cartridge. (Ask your local sporting goods shop about their top selling chamberings). Also buy at least ten boxes of the local police department’s standard pistol cartridge, again even if you don’t own a pistol chambered for this cartridge.
Ladies supplies.
Salt (Buy lots of cattle blocks and 1 pound canisters of iodized table salt.)
(Stores indefinitely if kept dry.)
Two cycle engine oil (for chain saw gas mixing. Gas may still be available after a collapse, but two-cycle oil will probably be like liquid gold!)
Gas stabilizer.
Diesel antibacterial additive.
50-pound sacks of lime (for outhouses).
1 oz. bottles of military rifle bore cleaner and Break Free (or similar) lubricant.
Waterproof dufflebags in earth tone colors (whitewater rafting "dry bags").
Thermal socks.
Semi-waterproof matches (from military rations.)
Military web gear (lots of folks will suddenly need pistol belts, holsters, magazine pouches, et cetera.)
Pre-1965 silver dimes.
1-gallon cans of kerosene.
Rolls of olive drab parachute cord.
Rolls of olive-drab duct tape.
Spools of monofilament fishing line.
Rolls of 10 mil "Visqueen", sheet plastic (for replacing windows, isolating airspaces for nuke scenarios, etc.)
I also respect the opinion of one gentleman with whom I've corresponded, who recommended the following:
Strike anywhere matches. (Dip the heads in paraffin to make them waterproof.)
Playing cards.
Cooking spices. (Do a web search for reasonably priced bulk spices.)
Rope & string.
Sewing supplies.
Candle wax and wicking.
Lastly, any supplies necessary for operating a home-based business. Some that you might consider are: leather crafting, small appliance repair, gun repair, locksmithing, et cetera. Every family should have at least one home-based business (preferably two!) that they can depend on in the event of an economic collapse.
Stock up on additional items to dispense to refugees as charity.
Note: See the Barter Faire chapter in my novel "Patriots" for lengthy lists of potential barter items.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Recent comments in SurvivalBlog provided excellent advice on using the public library. You can gain lots of knowledge with no expense, then purchase only those books you want to keep on hand for personal reference. Also, many colleges and universities loan to local residents, so you can use them too, even if you aren't a student.

If your local libraries participate, a great resource is Worldcat. It lets you search for books from home, then go check them out, or get them through interlibrary loan.

What will happen to the Internet when the SHTF? There's no guarantee it will survive. Even if the World Wide Web endures in some form, most of the individual computers connected to it will not. Hopefully by then you will have already downloaded all the free info that's going to help you cope with the new world.

You may want to download a copy of information on this web site or any other web site with useful content. It would be a shame to face some disaster when all the resources of the internet are no longer at your fingertips.

 In preparation for a worst case scenario, it's a good idea to begin now to collect the knowledge that will come in handy later. You can download whole books, save them to jump drives, and keep an entire library in a very small space. All kinds of free manuals, guides, tech tips, and schematics are available on the internet; for everything from firearms to furnaces to computers to appliances.

All of the downloads listed here are in the public domain or allowable for copying. Stay away from sites that may involve copyright infringement. If you use a file-sharing site such as Limewire, Kazaa, or any site that uses bit torrents, you are not only downloading, but also uploading. Your participation involves automatically uploading to other users. If the file is illegal, you are distributing illegal material, not just downloading it. Stay away from these and stick with the legitimate sites listed below.

Keep in mind that some of this information you download might be illegal to use at the present time. You can't practice dentistry on your neighbor just because you have the book. Nevertheless, you have the right to possess this very vital information. After TEOTWAWKI, all bets are off. The information you collect today might save your life or the life of somebody you love.

Many downloads are in Portable Document Format (PDF) form, so to read them you must have a suitable program such as Adobe Reader, which is the free version of Adobe Acrobat. There are alternatives to Adobe that can read PDF files, if you prefer. Some of these files are very large. If your internet connection is slow, it's better to right click and download rather than try to read a huge file online.

Some documents you may want to print out. Others you can just leave on disc. Just be sure to store your drives safely. Not included in this list are the many web sites that are very good resources in themselves. Rather, these are the files you can download for offline viewing at a later time. Download them while you still can!

Project Gutenberg was mentioned as a good place to go for eBooks.

The Smithsonian Institution is another great resource. They have digitized many older books, maps, and documents in their collection.

Wikisource has a nice collection of free eBooks.

One way to search for books no longer in copyright is to use Google Book Search. Check "full view." If it comes up in the search, it can be downloaded as a PDF file.

A good alternative to Google is the Internet Archive which includes books, images, audio, and more. The Internet Archive also hosts the Wayback Machine, which archives copies of an incredible 85 billion pages from the internet of years past.

Over 100,000 free eBooks can be accessed through Digital Book Index

2020ok is a directory of free online books and free eBooks

The British Columbia Digital Library has an impressive Collection, including dictionaries, encyclopedias, and most importantly, the Holy Bible. It also has a Guide to other digital libraries.

Scribd is an online document library of free research articles, eBooks, and other content.

A great resource for home schoolers is the Internet's largest directory of free audio & video learning resources maintained by

Check out the postings of Home Schooling On-line Resources on the The Mental Militia Forums, as well as the "Must Have" Books/reference material topic.

More than 3,200 pages related to the U. S. Constitution can be downloaded from The Founders' Constitution

Firearms For any firearm you own or plan to own, you should have a drawing of its Exploded View, which will help identify parts and how they fit together. One of the most comprehensive collections of Exploded Views is the paper edition of the Numrich Arms Catalog, which in itself is a gold mine of information and very inexpensive for a volume of over 1200 pages.

But if you only need certain Exploded Views, there are many places on the internet where you can download them for free:

Gunuts is a good place to start with hundreds of drawings. Another source is The Okie Gunsmith Shop, which is apparently no longer operating, but you can still download drawings and parts lists from its web site.Big Bear Gun Works has another good list. For pre-WWII firearms, check out Gunsworld. For examples of specific firearms manufacturers, see Remington, Browning, and SKB Shotguns

The book, The Defensive Use Of Firearms by Shane C. Henry is available as a download from rec.guns. An enormous amount of additional gun information is available on the rec.guns web site.

There are several good sources for Military Publications: has a huge collection of Military manuals.

Try Integrated Publishing for access to millions of pages of engineering manuals and documents.

The U.S. Army Materiel Command maintains the LOGSA web site for access to thousands of Army technical manuals.

The U.S. Air Force maintains the Air Force e-Publishing web site.

As mentioned recently, The Small Wars Journal has a Reference Library of downloadable military documents.

The Brooke Clarke web site has a good guide to accessing military field manuals

Surviving War and Nuclear Attack For a basic guide, download How To Survive A Chemical Or Biological Attack.

Nuclear War Survival Skills, along with some other very interesting books, can be found on the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine web site. This book includes plans for the Kearny Fallout Radiation Meter (KFM). If you have not bought a radiation meter, you should at least download the book for future reference. You can also get the Free Plans from The Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Nuclear War Survival Skills is also available on the KI4U web site as an online book, but not as a download.

The Equipped To Survive web site has some free ebooks, as well as books for sale: Survival, Evasion, and Recovery and U.S. Army Survival Manual FM 21-76.

The Volunteer Center of Marin County, California has prepared A Guide to Organizing Neighborhoods for Preparedness, Response and Recovery which you can copy from their web site. 

Medical Resources The Disease Net has a library of downloadable manuals on survival, weapons, emergency medicine, and less serious subjects.

Virtual Naval Hospital is a digital library of naval, military, and humanitarian medicine

The very important field manual, First Aid For Soldiers FM 21-11 can be downloaded here.

One of the best medical handbooks available is the U.S. Army Special Forces Medical Handbook ST31-91B. It can be downloaded free (as well as additional essential guides) from Delta Gear, Inc.

A newer version of the Medical Handbook, plus more great material can be downloaded from NH-TEMS (New Hampshire Tactical Emergency medical support).

The American Red Cross has some of their disaster guides online for download. For most of their material, you have to go to the local office. Some of it can be copied from the Earth Changes Media Survival Tips page. 

The Red Cross Book, First Aid in Armed Conflicts and Other Situations of Violence

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency book, The Ship Captain's Medical Guide

Hesperian makes available free downloads of its books for medical treatment in primitive conditions. Two highly respected guides it publishes are Where There Is No Doctor and Where There Is No Dentist.

Here is a direct link to the must-have book Survival and Austere Medicine: An introduction. Australian Survivalist Online has several additional Files for downloading.

The Department of Agriculture has a treasure trove of information for free download. This agency maintains The National Agricultural Library, a collection of free information on Agriculture, Food and Nutrition, and other related subjects.

Another USDA web site is the Cooperative Extension Service. Click on the map to navigate to various Extension offices around the country. Don't limit your search to just your own state. Many of them have invaluable information on animals, crops, construction, food preparation and much more for free download.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) offers downloads about preventing plant and animal diseases, among other topics.

The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) offers Fact Sheets about food handling and preparation, and emergency preparedness.

Other Important Reference Resources The classic outdoor guides, The 10 Bushcraft Books by Richard Graves are available on the Chris Molloy web site. Free manuals for electronic equipment can be downloaded from Another source is For Ham Radio and Test Equipment Manuals, the KO4BB web site has Free Downloads, as well as LINKS to many other web sites with free downloads. A few examples of repair information for outdoor equipment are Penn Reel Schematics, and Mercury outboard parts.

Paid Services In the unlikely event that you can't find free information on the Net to fix that generator or whatever you need to repair, there are web sites that charge for information. As a last resort, you can check Sam's PHOTOFACT service manuals, or Hopefully, that won't be necessary.

The foregoing just begins to scratch the surface. Some of these free downloads are also available as books or CDs from eBay, Amazon or from some of the survivalist web sites. That is fine. Sometimes it is easier to just pay the money and buy the book. But nobody can afford it all, and downloading gives you access to millions of pages - much more knowledge than you could acquire through any other method.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

My wife and I saw I Am Legend last night at the local theatre. The movie house was packed. Almost every seat was filled. Of the most interest was the end. As the movie faded to black and credits rolled, there were more than several spontaneous bursts of applause throughout the audience and a few cheers. Wow! The last movie that I remember ever getting applause was the last "Star Wars" installment. Something really hit deep with many in the audience…

My wife was weird’ed out by the zombies though, as they were quite scary. So viewer beware.

As for the movie, I enjoyed it, albeit the zombies are a far stretch to the imagination, the premise is not! (a viral cancer cure with unintended consequences) The self-sufficient [aspects of] survivalism were pretty close to reality (Honda generators, large stores of supplies), although preparedness was not advocated. He just rounded up (looted) whatever he needed during the day[light hours.] The desperation of loneliness was also driven home well. And although he had a very nice AR-15 rifle (my survivalist choice, although I do own a SA-58 FAL [clone]), his hunting skills sucked: Like chasing deer through the city with a high-performance Mustang, etc. Good action, dumb logic!

Anyway, I thought you would be interested in hearing about the audience response from a liberal college town (University of Virginia at Charlottesville.). Regards, - Rmplstlskn

JWR Replies: Keep that .308 FAL. In my opinion, and as previously discussed at length in SurvivalBlog in most situations it is a much better choice than a .223 AR-15 or an M4gery.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Statistics released by the Federal government c