Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My new years resolution

My new years resolution is to buy a few acres in the boonies. I'll either buy a trailer and park it out there or just put up a small cabin. If things get really bad then I'll have a place to go. Even if things don't get bad I'll have a kickass place to hang out on the weekends when I just want to get away from it all. I already know where I'm going to buy my land. Growing a decent sized garden will be feasible. There's plenty of wood and water in the area. It's far enough out of the way that everyone and their mother won't show up if things get ugly. It's close enough that I could walk there in a few days if I had to.

I don't exactly see myself longing for a disconnect from consumerism but when the lights stop turning on when I flip the switch, the heater stops coming on when it drops below a certain temperature and walking down the street makes me a little nervous whether I'm carrying a gun or not then I'll probably be willing to drop everything and move to the country. Hopefully that day never comes and I just end up with a nice little retreat to escape my day job. If that day does come then I just hope that everything I learned in my free time will be enough to keep me and mine comfortable in the future. Unfortunately, that day seems to be getting closer and closer every day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mmmm corned beef

Several months ago I bought a couple of vacuum sealed bags of corned beef at the local supermarket. They were only a couple bucks a bag so I jumped on them. They sat and sat in the meat drawer of my refrigerator until the other day when I finally decided to cook one of them. The "expiration date" on them was July 4th. I cut the bag open half expecting a rancid, stomach turning odor that would surely force everything from my stomach that's been digesting for the last couple of days. Surprisingly enough I was greeted with the wonderful scent of "fresh" corned beef. It was a bit more ripe than usual but that only added to the appeal. I decided to cook it to see how it would turn out.

I tossed it in a stock pot, dumped in the contents of the spice package that it came with, filled the pot with water until the beef was just covered and began cooking. After letting it boil for about 10 minutes I lowered the heat to a simmer and left it alone for a few hours. It must have been the most tender, flavorful corned beef that I've ever put in my mouth. I'm not exactly the pickiest eater, though, so I decided to let my wife try it before I passed final judgement. Even she loved it and for once in her life she finished everything on her plate! At this point I could have mentioned the fact that she was eating something 6 1/2 months past the "best by" date but that would have surely spoiled her taste for it. As much as I wanted to just to prove a point I held back.

Despite the fact that it was absolutely excellent we still had a lot left over. There's only so much that two people can put down. Especially when you can feel your arteries clog with every bite. So I took the leftovers and decided to make some corned beef hash. It turned out every bit as wonderful as the original roast. My wife is going to be pissed with all of the smoke in the house because I heated up the cast iron skillet a bit too much but she'll understand once she puts that first bite in her mouth (I hope). The fan over the stove has been on for over an hour and I've had a window cracked long enough that I can feel the temperature dropping in the kitchen. At least the hash turned out really good, though!

So what's the moral of this story? Don't pay attention to "best by" dates. Use your own senses (including the common one) to decide if what you've got is safe to eat or not. These days it doesn't hurt to throw it away just to be safe but a time may come sooner than you think where you'll actually want to be able to rely on your instincts.

Monday, December 15, 2008

When to Buy and When to Sell

The economy is going nuts right now. The stock market is extremely volatile. The precious metals market is defying all reason. Gas prices are in the gutter. Property values just keep getting lower. Firearm and ammo sales are through the roof which is resulting in higher and higher prices. Then again, prices have only been going up and they never seem to go back down in the firearms market. So what do you do if you want to preserve some of your wealth?

If you've got money in the stock market then you need to start thinking about getting out of it. It's down a LOT right now but this is not a buying opportunity. It'll probably go much lower. For the most part I got out of the stock market at the beginning of the year. What I have left won't start taking a serious hit until Obama gets into office and starts trying to bankrupt the energy industry so I might as well wait until the beginning of the year so that it gets applied to '10s taxes.

Gas is a pretty good thing to invest in. If you know that you're going to need gas then getting a few gas cans and keeping them full and rotated will pay off down the road when gas prices shoot up from $1.50 to $5.00 a gallon within a few months again. Hopefully that won't happen for at least another year but I'm not so sure that the establishment can keep prices artificially low for that long.

I've been writing this blog for over a year. Since I've started I've been promoting gold and silver as a good investment. For the last several months the "spot" price on gold and silver have been ridiculously low. I even made a post about it when I first noticed it tanking. Try buying gold or silver for the "spot" price. A lot of people are taking advantage of the spot price right now and then turning around and reselling for a good percentage over spot. One interesting entrepenureal endeavor that I've been hearing about lately are people who are holding "tupperware parties" where people bring their gold and the guy holding the party makes an offer on it. Obviously, the offer is well under market value but it's still high enough that the people with the old junk jewelry that's been tangled up in the bottom of their jewelry box for years feel like they're making out like bandits. On the other extreme the big hedge funds are selling gold futures by the ton because gold is the only thing that's still worth more than it was worth a few years ago. Now is an extremely good time to be in the precious metals market in one way or another. Even if they never shoot up exponentially (which is very very likely unless the powers that be manage to pull a really big, cute, fluffy rabbit out of their asses within the next year or so) it's still pretty easy to find people willing to sell at spot. Then it's just as easy to find people willing to pay you well above spot right now. The rule right now is if you've got it, save it. If you can find someone willing to sell it then buy it and either save it until the price goes back up or sell it for a profit.

Gas prices have been going down down down. The same economic games that are keeping the "official" price of gold down are keeping the price of gas down. Gas follows completely different rules than gold, though, so low gas prices in the market actually translate to low gas prices at the pump. When the "market price" goes back up then the price at the pump is going to go up right along with it. The price is going to go back up. Most of us can't store enough to make a big difference when it does go back up but you can offset some of the future price increases by buying a few gas cans now and keeping them full. How many gas cans can you fit into a corner of your shed or garage? How hard is it to not allow your gas gauge to go under 1/2 full?

Overinflated real estate prices are obviously what got us into this mess. I don't even want to go into all of the details of this horrible mistake by the powers that be. Suffice it to say that real estate prices are nowhere near as low as they should be. As more people lose their jobs, more people default on their mortgages and salaries start to drop the price of real estate will continue to follow suit. The price of real estate (like a lot of things with value) is all about perception, though. Even with prices as volatile as they are there are still some extremely profitable deals to be had. If you educate yourself and you're smart you can still make a ton of money in this business.

Firearms are another animal altogether. They follow their own rules. Obviously new laws and the fear of possible new laws being implemented have a lot of influence. Metals prices have something to do with it as well. We saw it a couple of years ago when prices on ammo doubled or even tripled in the space of a year or so. When Regan signed the law that banned the new manufacture of automatic firearms for the civilian market prices became absolutely ridiculous. When Clinton's AWB came to pass the prices on "preban" semi autos and high cap magazines went through the roof. When the AWB sunsetted the prices dropped again. Now, with Obama about to enter the oval office, prices are skyrocketing again because people are tripping over themselves to stock up. The prices still aren't ANYWHERE NEAR as high as they'll be if Obama actually does manage to get another ban passed so if you've got the extra cash and you feel like you need something then now is as good a time as any to get them. If you're buying in anticipation of a ban then stick to "evil black rifles", semi automatic handguns and high capacity magazines. Just don't stretch yourself trying to buy that stuff. It might be a while before you ever see a return on your "investment". Personally, I don't think that it'll be at the top of Obama's priorities after he gets into office so we'll have at least a year before we've got to worry about it. I see a buying opportunity within the next 6 months or so being much more likely if you're the one with cash in hand and the people that spent all of their extra cash in anticipation of a ban start to get desperate.

We're in for a wild ride. There is very little optimistic news out there in regards to the economy. It's going to get more and more turbulent. Keep in mind that while a lot of wealth is destroyed in times like these there are people picking up the pieces and profiting greatly. We're all going to go through some hard times. All that matters is how you come out of it. Create your own opportunities and you'll be fine.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

So I splurged a little

I went out and bought a puppy a few days ago. He cost me a few hundred bucks which probably could have been used for other preps. I'm pretty well set in most areas, though. The only spot where I'm sorely lacking is the off grid retreat with fully functional bomb shelter so he didn't set me back too much from that goal.

Pets are something that I feel like everyone should have. I'm a dog person myself. Even if all you can get is a little one he'll be enough to at least warn you of trouble before it's on top of you. Some of them are even better at taking care of pests than cats are. They're cheap to take care of and, for the most part, can take care of themselves. They say that just petting a dog lowers most people's blood pressure a few points. They're definitely a good stress reliever for me. After a long day at work spending time with the dogs is probably my biggest stress reliever.
A lot of times I even prefer their company to people.

Picking a breed is important. Different breeds have different temperments and characteristics. Obviously, if you're allergic to dogs, then you've got to be much more careful about what breed you pick. Either that or you have to find a different pet. If you've got small children then you've got to pay attention as well. If you want a good guard dog that can do more than latch on to a toe and attempt to bark people to death then you don't want to get a chihuahua. the newest addition to my household is a shih tzu. They're great house dogs that are very hearty, great with kids and tough enough to be able to rough house with bigger dogs. They're not that yappy but they'll let you know when they think something's not right. I've also got a samoyed. They're a great, all around working breed. I have no illusions about mine. He's so old and spoiled that if I ever actually needed to use him as a working dog then I'd have to work with him 10x harder to have any hope of him being able to do anything useful. He's smart enough and eager enough to please that he'd try to figure out whatever I ask of him. I picked him because they tend to be intelligent, well behaved, protective without being overprotective and well tempered.

Make sure that you do some research before you pick the dog that you want. Make sure that you can take care of it. Don't get a teacup poodle if you've got 6 rambunctious kids. Don't get a great dane if you live in an apartment. Don't leave a brand new puppy home alone with your jealous pit bull. Don't feed them crap food. Figure out what you want out of a dog and then find a breed that meets those criteria. Educate yourself and it'll be easy to figure out what to expect. If you bring the dog home and then realize that it's not the right breed for you and your family then it's probably already too late for the dog. That's exactly how most dogs end up at rescues, in pounds or abandoned. This post might not pertain as much to urban survival but if it helps a pooch or two survive bad owners then it'll be worth it. Then again, I doubt that you guys are the types of people that dog lovers need to worry about.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

First hand account from SHTF in Iceland

I found a blogger in Iceland who is giving firsthand insights to what he's going through as his country goes through extremely hard times. Just a few years ago they seemed to be on the fast track to become the shining example of what a socialist country with the means to become energy independent could aspire to. They were on the verge of having the means to manage all of their own affairs while being beholden to no one. Now we're seeing exactly why socialism can never work. No matter what goes on inside of your own country you still have the rest of the world to deal with. If you're not prepared to deal with the fact that someone, somewhere can find a way to take advantage of you or your leaders then you're either destined to failure or you truly have nothing that benefits anyone. It's unfortunate that this guy has to live with the horrible choices that his leaders made but at least we can perhaps glean some useful insight from him for as long as he decides (or is allowed) to post. Go check him out at this link. You can also find it under my "links to live by in "Iceland Survival".

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Home made wine

I just finished bottling my first attempt at home made wine. I've been making beer for a couple of years now (although I still buy most of what I drink at the store) but I never really bothered with wine. I'm no wine connoisseur so it wasn't a top priority. During the spring I decided to try a dandelion wine, though. I don't remember the exact recipe but it basically consisted of pouring a LOT of dandelion blossoms into some boiling water along with some raisins and orange peels. I spent all morning filling up a grocery bag full of dandelion blossoms and then that afternoon was spent picking the petals out of the stems. After all of that was finished I filtered the must into a 5 gallon carboy and let it cool overnight. The next morning I pitched the yeast and forgot about it for a while. I did rack it a few times hoping that it would clarify but after several months and transferring it into a clean carboy at least 3 times it still looked like opaque sludge. It smelled awesome, though, so it was off to the homebrew store I went to get some advice on salvaging it. I came home with a clarifier and after just a few days it was looking great. Unfortunately, I only got 4 bottles out of it. That's mostly because I kept racking it which uses 1/3-1/2 a gallon at a time.

I did pour myself a glass of what was left over and I must say that it's not bad. It's got a subtle sweetness to it and the alcohol taste is kind of strong. That should mellow out after a year or so on my wine rack. It's got a weird, sweet aftertaste that kinda tastes like dandelions with absolutely none of the bitterness. It tastes very different from any other wine that I've ever had. I've been told that dandelion wine is best after several years of aging so I probably won't even open the first bottle for a few years at the very least. I'm saving one of them for my nephew's 21st birthday. It'll be as old as he is.

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I've got 6 gallons of merlot brewing in the basement right now. That batch will yield more than 30 bottles. This spring I plan on trying a couple more wild wines but this time I'm going to go with something a little more simple. Learn how to make this stuff yourself and you'll suddenly realize how easy it is to make sure that you never have to go without no matter how hard things get. Whether you plan on drinking it yourself, using it for barter or both it's a useful skill to have. Some fruit juice and bread yeast left in a bucket for a week is enough to get you hammered but if you learn how to make it well then you can make something that anyone can appreciate. That just makes it all the more valuable.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Socialism vs capitalism

Capitalists tend to be few and far between even in a capitalist society and a lot of capitalists just want what's best for themselves. They don't care how well (or badly) everyone else is doing. Some of them will step on whoever they need to or whoever gets in their way to accomplish whatever it is that they want to accomplish. There are a lot of capitalists who recognize that they're doing well and want to help out some of the people who aren't doing so well, though. On a very basic level this is why a capitalist society works so well. Limited government involvement, through taxing everyone on things that they utilize and benefit from (gas tax which pays for our highway, sales tax that pays for most of our government workers, etc) ends up benefiting everyone. Anyone with some ambition and a halfway decent business mind can put together something that works, profit from it and hire some people to help them out. Give them enough leeway and they start giving their excess to help the less fortunate via charity.

Socialists have an entirely different philosophy. They don't believe that anyone deserves to do any better than anyone else. They think that, despite how exceptional an individual is, that everyone should benefit the same from society. The guy pushing a button in a factory should get everything that the guy who's in charge of that company gets. Why should the guy who intelligently put together a business, ran it exceptionally and employed a lot of people get to live in a bigger house than the guy who he just hired, who is sick every couple of weeks and can't make it to work on time because of all of the unfortunate circumstances that always seems to befall him?

I can think of countless examples of people who started with nothing and worked themselves up to a success (myself included although I don't really consider myself to be very successful). Had the incentive for them to be a success been taken away they would still be at the bottom of the totem pole doing only what was asked of them so that they could take home their fair share. Incentive is one of the most important things that we can implement into the economy. Why bother working harder if it doesn't do you any good?

We keep seeing more and more socialist ideals implemented into our economy. At first glance and on the surface it seems like a great idea. It's hard for someone who doesn't know the consequences to read a book on socialism and not come to the conclusion that it's a great idea. How could taking from rich people who can do whatever they want and giving to people who have "practically nothing" be a bad thing? What's so scary is that we keep inching closer and closer to full blown socialism. It seems like every inch of ground that "they" (socialists) gain "we"(capitalists) never get back. I keep hearing about this pendulum theory. I understand it completely but it's strange how every time that it swings in the socialists favor that it never seems to swing back ANYWHERE NEAR as far into the capitalists favor. I can sit here and talk about why that is all night but I'd rather just go to bed. After all, why should I work so hard to convince anyone that one way is better than the other when it's so obvious that so many people are already convinced which way is the "correct" way?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Inflation or deflation?

This is one of the big questions that I see people asking these days. Everyone knows that something really bad is going on but there's a lot of debate about what's really happening. First you have to understand how our financial system works. Credit is really the driving engine. It allows people to buy things that they can't normally afford. If you only make x amount of dollars then obviously it'll take a while to save up enough money for that house, new (or newer) car or that big screen tv. You might not be able to afford to buy it outright but if you can convince someone to loan you the money then you can get it now and make payments on it over a period of time. Someone with a huge surplus of cash can take their money that they don't need right now and get a monthly income by loaning it to someone who can afford to pay back slowly over time. By the time that loan is paid back they get a lot more money than they loaned out in the first place. You have things like credit scores and past credit records that allow people who have money to loan to feel confident that they'll actually be paid back if they loan it out. It allows people who don't have the cash on hand to get the "money" to buy things that they need or want right now. The system works great when everything is working as intended.

Unfortunately, in recent years the government has stepped in and implemented systems that take away risk from borrowers to make sure that people who probably won't be able to pay back their loans can make the biggest purchase in their lives whether they can pay back the money or not. By creating Fannie and Freddie and allowing borrowers to sell the risky loans that they made to them they essentially allowed people with the capital on hand to make loans to risky borrowers and then sell those loans to Freddie and Fannie and eliminate the risk that they'd default.

By now everyone knows that the housing crisis is what has caused the monumental mess that we're dealing with today. The government basically told everyone that it was OK to give anyone who wanted money to buy a home that they had nothing to worry about by loaning out that money. It was even OK to push that loan through by any means possible via temporary, artificially low interest rates or even outright fraud. After all, the economy was doing so well that it couldn't possibly start to get any worse. Meanwhile, while it was so easy to get a loan for hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a new house because it would assuredly be worth double that in just a few years credit card companies were seizing the opportunity to extend people thousands of dollars in credit to buy whatever they wanted to furnish those houses. Even if the person doesn't own a house what's the big deal? After all, they're still making money and even if they loan out too much they'll still get SOMETHING back when the defaulters go to bankruptcy court and all the while they'd keep getting paid by the people in houses that would assuredly keep gaining value who could just keep pulling equity out of their houses to pay their bills.

It would be one hell of a deal if it could keep working like that. It's too bad that the guarantee that the government was making by backing those bad loans is tied to our dollar that the world uses as the defacto currency. As the rest of the world watches all of these home values that our dollar is essentially backing go in the toilet they're starting to lose some confidence. Now people with money don't want to make loans to people with less than stellar credit, anymore. So the government wants to loan those people (ie banks) money at a very low interest rate so that they can take that money and loan it out again. That doesn't do much good when no one thinks that anyone will be able to pay it back, though.

So now we've got banks that are afraid to loan people money because they know that they probably won't be able to pay it back. At the same time they've got the federal government shoving money down their throats thinking that they'll take that money and loan it out like they've been doing. Why would they? Even with the full faith of the United States Government behind them they're still losing a ton of money because of all of the easy money that they were giving everyone. Banks are failing left and right and the big banks are just using the money that the government gave them to buy up those smaller banks. Now all of a sudden the government wants to buy up stock in those big banks that will probably end up surviving all of this mess?

The good news is that all of this money that's being "printed" is only really replacing the money that the big banks have lost. The government just thinks that it'll be a wash. This won't result in massive inflation. It'll result in massive deflation where normal people can't just buy a $1000 big screen TV, anymore. It'll mean that someone with no money down or a car that they financed 2 years ago that they're now upside down in won't be able to buy a brand new $40,000 car without taking a big hit. You already see cars that were selling for $30k a year ago selling for thousands less now (to those that can actually get the credit to buy them or who have a big enough down payment IN CASH to finance them). When any Tom, Dick or Harry could walk into a dealership a year ago and walk out with a new car with a reasonable monthly payment the economy was doing great because companies could keep making their products, charging whatever they cost with a decent profit attached and they'd get their money because some lending institution was willing to give any Tom, Dick or Harry with so so credit the money to buy it. Now all of a sudden that aint happening. The only recourse that the companies selling these high end products (from houses, to cars, to big screen TVs) have is to keep lowering their price until they can get SOMETHING for what they made and still have enough left over at the end of the day to maybe break even. This is deflation.

Here is where inflation will come into play. The only answer to this problem is to start giving money to the people. Obama has already made it perfectly clear that that's exactly what he wants to do. He wants to give "tax credits" to 95% of the "working class". That's funny, though, considering that 30% of that "working class" doesn't pay taxes in the first place. Another thing that I can see him doing is finding a way to make sure that anyone who wants a loan gets a loan. This will allow people to start making loans again. Unfortunately, in today's economic climate it will just empower people who can't pay back those loans in the first place to keep making loans that they can't afford in the first place. The government will just have to keep making money easier to get by giving handouts and by raising the minimum wage. This will destroy the middle class (honest, working class folks) who are just doing what they have to do to get by as it is because as the big "greedy" corporations who had to stretch themselves farther than they themselves could afford to be have to keep raising prices to keep up.

It's a vicious circle and a hole that keeps getting deeper the harder we try to dig it. This will be our ultimate downfall. We'll keep racing to keep up while other parts of the world who were already much worse off than we are see an opportunity to point the blame at us and earn credentials in the process. As the rest of the world loses confidence in us we'll continue on our decline and it won't be long before we have no other choice than to do things the way that other governments want us to do them.

Right now your best bet is to start to do the hard thing. Start scrimping and saving wherever you can (in tangibles). Make sure that your community is tight. Make sure that your food stash is squared away. Personally, I've been looking at foreign real estate but I don't make a whole lot of money and the good locations are relatively expensive (I REALLY like Costa Rica). Hopefully we'll pull an ace and still manage to stay on top despite all of the cards that are stacked against us right now. God knows that we have them with all of the natural resources that we still have and all of the rights that are granted to us via the constitution. I don't have a whole lot of faith in our "rights", though, since they're really just privileges that our government allows us until they decide that it's in our best interest to take them away. The only way to prove to them otherwise is with force and in that case we still actually have to beat them. If it ever comes to that then we're really screwed.

As far as our natural resources go it's not a far stretch to look at those as collateral. You know that foreign governments are looking at them that way. We're on top because we do have all of those natural resources. We've got the largest gold reserves in the world. We've got enough natural gas to power our country for generations if we make the necessary adjustments. We're still the bread basket of the world. Yep. Those things are all just collateral for all of the loans that the rest of the world has been making us via treasury bonds for years. When they decide that our dollar isn't worth enough to pay those back then they're going to come for our resources. Our government won't have any choice but to agree to those terms unless they want to incite a full scale war on our soil. When the world finally decides that they're sick of our shit and that they want what we've got then we're going to be hurting whether we try to fight them off or not.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Canning...old school style

Canning is something that I think any self respecting survivalist should be able to do. In most parts of the US it's impossible to grow crops year round. If things get so bad that the supply lines shut down then there will probably be several months out of the year where the grocery stores just don't have much produce on the shelf. The months when they DO have plenty on the shelf are the months when your gardens should be in full swing, anyway. The same goes for meat. Not everyone can raise their own meat animals thanks to ridiculous local laws and hunting ends up costing more than what it would cost to just buy the meat at the market at today's prices. With prices getting more and more expensive, canning is becoming all the more viable. A year ago you could fill up a pantry with canned meat and vegetables from the grocery store for half of what you can today. I went to Wal-Mart today and canned TUNA was $1 a can. A year ago it regularly went on sale for 3 for $1. This stuff is just going to keep getting more expensive.

So what can you do about it? Can it yourself! It costs a little bit to get things started but once you get things rolling most of the stuff is paid for and it becomes really cheap. A couple of months ago I decided that my garden was producing more than I'd be able to eat so I went ahead and invested in some canning jars and a water bath canner. My water bath canner was $20 and the jars were about $10 for a dozen. These are brand new prices. That was a pretty good start but it didn't take me long to realize that I'd need more. Luckily, the jars will last you forever as long as they don't break and new lids are only a couple of bucks for a dozen (stock up now). The biggest downside to water bath canning is that most recipes call for distilled vinegar which may be hard to come across during a major emergency. Luckily, it's ridiculously cheap and relatively easy to stock up on.

Once you realize how easy it is it becomes obvious that a pressure canner is where it's at. I lucked out and found an old canner at a thrift store that cost me $20. It uses weights instead of a pressure gauge and it doesn't use any rubber seals. Everything I've read on the internet said DON'T USE IT OR IT'LL BLOW UP AND KILL YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. Me being me I went ahead and tried it out anyway. Interestingly enough it works perfectly. I've eaten jars of chili that sat on my shelf for a month after the canning process with no issues. The good thing about canners that have a good metal on metal seal and that use weights instead of gauges is that you should never have to replace anything. Obviously, you have to be very careful if you go this route. If you want to be safe then get a newer model All American Pressure Canner. They start at about $200 and you're sure to end up with a high quality pressure canner that will last you and your family several generations. Replacing the gauges is the only thing that you'll have to worry about but if you're really concerned with safety then this is very important. If you're lucky enough to find a flex-seal canner that's in good shape with all of the weights in tact (what I was lucky enough to find) then I'd have a hard time not recommending it. If it was abused then it could potentialy explode in your kitchen and cause some serious damage but if you're diligent about testing it before you use it then you should be just fine.

Canning has practically become a lost art. That's a little ironic because a $10 Ball Canning book that's available at any Wal-Mart will tell you everything that you need to know, whether you're water bath canning or pressure canning (yes I'm telling you to buy this book). We've become so dependent on our economy to keep us fed that, as far as I'm concerned, you'd be a fool not to learn ways to preserve food on your own to make sure that you can preserve some food in case the economy does actually fail.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The ATF

Let's look at the ATF for a moment. It's the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. These are the three things in the economy that aren't affected by recession. The people that smoke are going to keep smoking as long as tobacco is available. I was at a cigarette store the other day. The guy was obviously hurting but he was going to walk out with a carton of something. I walked out with a box of 200 filtered tubes for $1.70. He walked out with a carton of cigarettes for $35. A few months ago I bought a pound of tobacco that cost about $20. It's still about the same price and I still have enough for a lot left. Eventually these smokers are going to figure it out and get on the ball.

I've been brewing my own beer for years. I also make wine when the juice becomes available. I have the diagrams for a simple still and I know how easy it would be to go that route if I decided to. I will always have alcohol as long as farmers are growing and selling grain. Anyone can make more than enough alcohol to get drunk and stay drunk if they just do a little bit of research. My favorite beer is still cheaper to buy than it is to brew, though, so it'll be a while before I have to resort to that.

Firearms are still accessible by just about anyone. If you're not a monumental fuckup then you can still walk into a gun store, fill out a form and buy a gun. Even if you're a bonofied, monumental fuckup and you've got a criminal record you can still find someone who's willing to sell you a gun via private party if you have any internet savy or you know how to open a newspaper and you live in a free state. I can honestly say that any time I go into a private party gun sale I try to measure up the guy that I'm selling or buying the gun from. Do you really think that the gang bangers can just throw on a polo shirt and khakhis and suddenly start talking like a normal person when they decide that they want to buy a "legal gun"? Do you even think that they care if the gun is legal or not when they have intentions to use the gun that they're buying for illegal purposes? The "legal gun" will probably cost them more than an illegal gun from some jackass who smuggled a truckload of guns across the border, anyway.

So now we're looking at three of the major industries that will do well in a bad economy. People will smoke whether the economy is good or not. When things start to get worse people start looking for people that know how to make some booze. When things start to get so bad that the government doesn't even matter anymore then the firearms that are already in the hands of normal citizens will start to worry everyone who are still trying to figure out how the government lost power in the first place. With all of this in mind I can understand how the ATF got so much power in the first place. They have quite the monopoly on the three parts on the economy that don't actually care about the economy in the first place.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Inflation, deflation and printing presses

A lot of people seem to be confused lately by what's going on in the economy. I am most definitely among them. When you stop and take in the big picture, though, then some of the actions of the government start to make some sense. Obviously, we have a fiat money system as does the rest of the world. There are a lot of reasons for this which I don't really feel like getting into. Basically, though, we were forced to switch to a fiat system because, at the time, the rest of the world was moving towards doing the same and if we hadn't done it then the rest of the world would have been able to purchase our gold backed dollars with their fiat money and then cashed them in, thereby stealing all of our wealth. I read somewhere that South Africa has recently stopped production of krugerands. Do you really think that most of South Africa's krugerands are still in South Africa?

Thanks to a relatively recent and massive furthering of technology our system has become increasingly globalized. With the advent of the computer, the internet, databases and information technology in general it's become easier and easier to separate the money supply from the credit supply. You can deposit your paycheck into a bank and the bank now gets to spend $10 for every $1 you deposit. Recently, you could spend $10 on a share of stock and watch with glee as the value skyrocketed in a few years. Even if the stock shot up to $500 that money was never added to the money supply until you decided to cash it in, though. When it suddenly dropped back down to $5 before you decided to cash it in then only $5 was added to the money supply.

So now we've got the MOAB (thanks Rawles) going on. Hundreds of billions of dollars are now being pumped into the economy. Where is that money going, though? It's not being printed. Physical dollar bills aren't being printed and handed to anyone. As wall street is collapsing and home values are plummeting the government is just trying to supplement the banks' balance sheets by giving them "money" that won't ever reach the hands of the average person. So while the value of your house goes from $200k to $150k the government is just trying to make up the difference so that the banks feel confident enough to loan some money to other banks. Money is the lifeblood of our economy. Once it stops flowing then the body dies. The idea is to stop the banks from losing money so that things get stimulated again and the values of homes and wall street once again start to increase. It aint working so good, though.

Inflation won't start hitting us until Obama decides to implement his stimulus packages. When every Tom, Dick and Harry on main street suddenly has a few extra grand to blow then we'll really start to see inflation rear it's ugly head. Do you really think that people are going to run out and buy a big screen TV or put a down payment down on a brand new car when they're not sure if they'll be able to feed their families in a few months? When consumer confidence is at the point that it's at now the last thing that you want to do is start handing people money. It'll only take a few stimulus packages until everyone in America has real cash that was literally printed and handed to them for us to be standing in bread lines with wheel barrows full of cash hoping that there will be enough left for us and our families when we finally get to the front. On a lighter note gold and silver are both pretty cheap right now. Spot silver is almost at the point where it was at before all of the economic turmoil started to show itself. Good luck finding someone willing to sell physical silver (or gold) at spot price right now, though. Expect to pay at least $15-$20 an ounce for silver and $1000 an ounce for gold.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A bailout rant

I don't post many rants but every once in a while I get annoyed enough with what's going on that I just can't help myself. I can't believe how lazy people are. This country is so well off and so successful that we can't imagine what we'd do if we actually had to TRY to get by. The poorest people in the country live better than the "well off" people living in third world countries. There's enough money floating around to support millions of workers who do nothing but sit on their ass all day and push buttons. Then they have the gall to bitch about how much their job sucks. They're also shocked when their job is shipped overseas or they're fired because of "budget cuts". This entitlement mentality is what's destroying this country. The politicians are certainly helping but you can't put all of the blame on them. There are most definitely some legitimate, hard workers that are swept up in all of this mess and are hurting because of what's going on but those are the people that will, 99% of the time, bounce back and recover.

My mother in law is a 60 something retiree. She skis damn near every day in the winter and hikes almost every day in the summer. She's in better shape than I am. She's got a masters degree. She owns her house outright and takes multiple vacations every year. One day we got on the subject of social security and when I suggested that we just get rid of it she looked at me like I'd just smacked her in the face and said that she'd never be able to get by without it. When my wife was growing up she remembers her taking the occasional substitute teaching job but otherwise she lived the same lifestyle. This is the mentality of the typical American. Everyone wants to live the easy life but no one wants to work for it. That's how it's been for half a century so why should we change anything now? They look to our politicians to make sure that this lifestyle is maintained.

Winston Churchill was right. The best argument against democracy is a 5 minute conversation with the average voter. Most people are retarded. Most of the people who aren't realize this and just do what they can to make sure that they and their's can live comfortably. The people who are in a position to actually make a difference and pretend to care about the average joe are already incredibly well off and will never "give till it hurts" to make sure that the people that they "care" about get a helping hand. Stop worrying about everyone else and start worrying about yourself. Educate yourself. Work hard. Make sure that YOU and YOURS are taken care of. Become exceptional at what you do. Be able to do something else if what you want to do doesn't work out for you. If everything goes to shit and your neighbor decides that he deserves what you've got more than you do then be willing and able to prove to him that he doesn't one way or another.

I say let the cards fall where they will. We'll see hard times one way or another. The question is what position do you want to be in when the cards are falling and after we start to pick up the pieces? The harder we try to prop things up the farther we'll fall when everything crashes. The last thing that I want to see is for us to stave off another crash just long enough for the politicians to make sure that honest people who are willing to protect themselves when the government can't do it for them have no means to. We need to be honest with what REALLY caused our biggest problems and have systems in place to make sure that it doesn't happen again when we start to rebuild. We need to stop relying on other people to do everything for us. Unfortunately, thanks to shit like political correctness and greedy assholes posing as philanthropists that always seem to gain a lot of steam when most of the population is well off I don't see how we can ever stay successful forever. Human nature is a bitch.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Silver and gold in SHTF

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been busy with the garden, work, etc. It took a sprained foot to get me to sit down long enough to make a post. I was walking barefoot to the car last night, stepped on a rock and my foot slipped off of the sidewalk and rolled into the grass. It's not bad. I didn't even bother going to the doctor. Why bother when I had the same stuff to treat it that the doctor would have given me (minus the expensive x-rays of course)? It's just swollen and I can't put much weight on it. If it's still bad in a few days then I'll go get it checked out but it feels a lot better even since this morning. As far as real preps go I bought a canner a few days ago and have been experimenting with that. I canned some pickles the other day and I made some cucumber relish today. I'm probably going to can some green tomatoes pretty soon since it's going to freeze before all of my tomatoes get ripe enough to pick. I wish that more than one green bean plant would have survived and started producing. I was looking forward to canning up some of those. I found a dutch oven at a thrift store the other day for $4. The lid is too big for the pot but it does sit flush on top of it so it should work. I've been taking advantage of the silver and gold dip as much as I can which leads me to the post that I had in mind.

With all of the economic turmoil in the news there's been a lot buzz about gold and silver once again. I'm still trying to figure out why it hasn't shot up through the roof. Try and buy a gold eagle right now on ebay or at a local dealer and you'll probably pay 10-20% over spot at the very least. Since I don't have the money to spend on gold I've just been sticking to silver bars and junk silver. I have been thinking hard about buying some 1 gram gold bars and 1/10 ounce gold eagles since I can see gold being much more liquid in the case of an economic collapse. As far as I'm concerned silver is just "poor man's gold". It'll pay to have some but if you want to get serious about pms then you definitely need to have a good stash of gold. If you've got a ton of silver that you've been collecting over the years then it might be wise to trade some of it up to gold.

This leads me to another point that Ryan over at TSLRF mentioned a day or two ago. How much do you need for it to be worthwhile? Like any other prep some is better than none. You could spend $50 on a 50lb bag of rice and a 25lb bag of pinto beans that you just tuck away in your pantry and forget about and you'll be better off than 90% of the population. Even if all you do is save the junk silver that you find in change it might be enough to feed your family for an extra week or so when the credit card machines get shut off, the banks start closing and you have to wait for your FDIC check. In the case of hyperinflation, where a wheelbarrow full of cash barely buys a loaf of bread, you might be able to sell that handful of silver change for enough to feed your family for a week. Meanwhile, that stash of cash that you have on hand to pay your bills for a month might not even be enough to buy anything worthwhile. Rule #1 about precious metals investing: over time PMs hold their value. They're never worth nothing and they're not necessarily great investments (unless you started buying several years ago when they were horrendously undervalued...if only I'd known what I do now). So how much is enough?

It's hard to say how much is "enough". If you've got a lot of disposable income and your preps are otherwise squared away then right now is as good a time to buy as you'll see anytime soon. If things don't get better and the government doesn't find a way to fix the mess we're in then everyone is going to wish that they had more PMs. You've just got to hedge your bets and come up with a happy medium that ensures that you're not hung out to dry if things don't go the way that you thought they would. Keep in mind that the government doesn't really have to fix anything properly. They just have to convince the majority that they did and restore confidence. Confidence and energy are the two most important aspects of our economy. We've still got enough energy to get by and if they manage to restore confidence then it'll just mean that we have more time before we run out of energy and everything really does go to shit.

You definitely don't want to buy more than you can afford. PMs are the LAST thing that you want to concentrate on in regards to preps. Once you're reasonably comfortable with the rest of your preps then it's time to start buying PMs. Things are uncertain right now. If you save a certain amount of money every month then right now would be a good time to spend that money on silver or gold rather than putting it in the bank or investing in the stock market. I've considered taking all of my money out of the stock market and turning it into gold. The dividends on the stock that I have left are very good and the company that I'm vested in is rock solid, though. I even toyed with the idea of liquidating my 401k to buy some gold and silver. Things haven't gotten bad enough for me to consider that a wise move yet, though, because of all of the penalties involved. I could take it all out and buy a bunch of gold but what if things do turn around? I'll tell you what will happen. Gold will once again make a correction and be worth a lot less than what I spent my savings paying for and at the same time the stock that I used to have will shoot right back up. I'm not a gambling man. If things don't get fixed then you can bet that gold and silver will go through the roof. If the government does figure out a way to fix everything then they'll probably drop right back down to "normal" levels. Then I'll just wait patiently until I see another downturn coming and I'll dump my stock when it's high and buy a ton of PM while it's still low. At this point I'm just watching the market closely. I'm prepared to act fast to dump my stock and run to the coin store or ebay asap if I see something that I deem as bad enough to act happen.

So the government doesn't come through. The stock market crashes. Inflation goes through the roof. While everyone else stands in the checkout lines begging for a gallon of milk or a box of cereal that they can't afford you confidently walk the aisles picking up what you need with a pocket full of silver that everyone is obviously desperate to get since it's shot up to $200 an ounce. The cashier finishes ringing you up and tells you what you owe. You smugly reach into your pocket and count out what you owe based on the spot price of silver. When you try to hand it to the cashier she just gives you a stupid look and refuses to sell you anything. Outraged you fight with the cashier and demand to see the manager. That doesn't go any better so you angrily storm out of the store with none of the products that you need. This is probably going to be the scene if you ever try to walk into a store and buy anything with PMs no matter how bad things get. If the stores are still open then cash is still king. Before you go running to the store you'll have to take your PMs to the local dealer and get cash for them before you can expect to do business with the average person. Eventually some enterprising individuals might start accepting PMs as payment but you can't expect that to be the norm. Also, it'll get to the point where how much you get for what you're trying to sell will be based more on what you and the person buying deems it to be worth than how much the "spot price" happens to be that day.

If the stores are still open then it's not a complete collapse. If things get so bad that the country is a warzone, the stores are shut down and people are raiding their neighbors for what they need to survive then having PMs won't do you a bit of good. Eventually society will start to reestablish itself, though, and if you manage to survive that long then gold and silver will be the first store of wealth that people start accepting as payment (besides practical trade items like food, ammo or comfort items). Do you really want to lug all of those cans of coffee or bags of beans to the local trading post? Ammo might be worth a lot but you never know when the guy that you just traded it to might decide to give it back to you from the barrel of his gun because he thinks that he'll be able to get everything else that you have.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More on Loose Change

Several months ago I did an article about saving your change. You remember the one. Don't spend your pennies or nickels. Keep a lookout for silver dimes and quarters. Yeah, that one. One thing that I neglected to mention was how to easily identify silver coins. Once you've got all of your coins separated there's a quick and easy way to find the silver coins without checking each individual date. Newer coins have brown edges because the middle is made up of copper. Silver coins are all silver on the edges. Just take a bunch of them and look at the edges like so.

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The silver ones will stand out like a sore thumb. Sorry for the crappy pic but it's pretty obvious which coins are silver and it's very easy to see how dramatic the brown is on the newer coins. Every once in a while you'll get a dirty silver coin that looks like it's brown or a brand new one that looks silver. Just check the dates on the coins that seem suspect.

Ever since silver went through the roof a couple of years ago I haven't been finding silver coins in change nearly as frequently. Just a few years ago I'd go through my change pile once every couple of months and pull out at least a couple of quarters and a small stack of dimes. It's been over a year since I've even found a silver coin in change. I don't let change pile up like I used to, though. If you've got an old change jar that you've been filling up since you were a kid or a relative dies and there's a change jar sitting in their bedroom then it would definitely be worthwhile to go through it. Even with your chances of finding silver being so low this method is so quick and easy that it takes away all of the hassle.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

SHTF Recreation

Recreation is an important part of your preps that everyone should think about. It's easy to get caught up in the serious stuff like food storage and arsenal maintenance. At some point you're going to get a chance for a break and you'll want to take that opportunity to relieve some stress. These days a break from reality is right at our fingertips. We can turn on a TV and get away from everything for a few hours. We can turn on our playstations, Xboxes, Nintendos or whatever and fire up a game that can easily occupy us for hours. The internet is an infinite source of entertainment and information. One of the most obvious indicators that you are in a real SHTF scenario will be when the lights go out and you don't have constant, easy access to all of those anymore. So what do you do when the easy entertainment sources aren't always available? There are plenty of options out there.

Books are a great start. If the lights go out and nothing else is going on then it's probably going to get really quiet. What better time to crack open a book? I keep a lot of books around the house and a lot of them are books that I haven't read. I have a hard time rereading books that I've already read even when it's been years since I've read it. Once I get back into it then I recall everything that happened and I quickly lose interest. That's why I've got a lot of books that I haven't read yet. When I see an interesting one at a thrift store, the cheap rack at a normal store or a box of them at a garage sale for next to nothing then I snatch them up and put them on the shelf.

If you're not the only one that's trying to kick back and relax then you might want to think about something that everyone can participate in. A deck of cards is the age old standby. There are a lot of different games that you can play with a deck of cards and they're dirt cheap. Board games can also be interesting. A good game of chess can occupy a pair of decent players for hours. The chess board can also double as a checker board if you've got little ones or people that don't know how to play chess that you need to keep occupied. I've got a few multi game boards in my preps which gives me access to several classic board games like backgammon, chess, checkers, mai jong and some others to keep things mixed up and interesting. Darts, pool, foosball and other "bar games" like that might also be an option if you've got the space for them.

Another thing that you might consider if you've got the space are some active sports. Some type of self defense or martial arts training can be a lot of fun, build confidence, strength, stamina, coordination and, of course, hand to hand skills. The catch to this is that you need someone that knows what they're doing to teach it. Stuff like baseball, basketball, soccer and other active, team sports are another option. Soccer is the most popular sport in third world countries for a reason. It's easy to play, it's easy to learn and it's easy to find space for.

Music is another great pastime. Learn to play an instrument (preferably something that doesn't require electricity) and you can keep whole crowds entertained if you're any good. If you're not playing for a crowd then just practicing can pass the time nicely. Find some likeminded musicians that you get to know well now and you'll have just one more thing in common that strengthens the bond between you all.

Everyone needs a break. You're not going to be on patrol every minute of the day that you're not eating or sleeping. The garden won't need to be tended 24/7. Every once in a while you'll find yourself sitting around with nothing to do. Take advantage of your time off and relax. Have some fun. Teach the kids some basic skills. Get to know some other people. It'll help take the edge off.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another SHTF movie rundown

Sunshine: This isn't so much a SHTF movie but a "how Earth reacts to a global SHTF scenario". It's years in the future and the sun is dying. Somehow the human race lasted up to that point and they have a plan to kickstart it. A few years earlier they had sent a mega nuke to try to make it happen but the mission failed. The second mission was their last chance since they used the last of their resources this time around. The entire movie takes place on a space ship headed for the sun and they have to deal with several problems along the way. I thought it was good and you might like it.

Diary of the Dead: It wasn't as good as some of his other movies but it was still good nonetheless. I'd recommend this to anyone who's into the zombie genre. Once you realize the point that George A Romero is trying to get across then it becomes much easier to appreciate his movies. He's a guy that understands the human nature aspect and does his best to make that apparent in his films.

Shoot em Up: This isn't really a SHTF movie but it was still entertaining. It's got intricate government conspiracy theories, hot sex scenes and lots of gunfire. What more could you want in a movie? The carrots started to get a little silly by the end of the movie but it was still entertaining. As long as you can get past the anti gun premise.

Doomsday: This one was certainly interesting. It was visually appealing (except for some exceptionally gory parts), it had some semblance of a plot and aside from a few excessively convenient twists it was definitely entertaining. I didn't take much away from it in the way of survival ideas (except that if you're in a TEOTWAWKI quarantine zone and you see a really big fucking wall then stay as far away from it as you can) but this is one that I would certainly add to my library just because it was so much fun to watch. I would have liked to see more of the build up to the hierarchy in the quarantine zone but apparently normal people aren't into that kind of stuff.


Warriors of the Wasteland: I picked this one up off of the dollar rack at Wal-Mart. Let's just say that you get what you pay for. It's an old, low budget, extremely cheesy survival flick that tries to play off of the Mad Max hype. I watched it one night and fell asleep in the middle of it. I'd call it a waste of money but it knocked me right out when I would have otherwise been doing something equally unproductive like watching reruns on Spike or the Sci-Fi Channel. If you happen to notice this one at Wal-Mart for a buck and you're not strapped for cash then maybe someday you'll get around to watching it. If you absolutely have to have every end of the world movie that's been recorded then snatch it up. If you actually buy movies with the intention of watching, enjoying and perhaps taking something away from them then don't even waste your dollar. Then again it's just a buck. An American buck. Who knows how long it'll be before the dvd that bought with it is worth more ;).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

So I started smoking again

I quit about 5 years ago. I was doing pretty good. There was always that nagging itch in the back of my mind, though. I never really stopped wanting one. A few weeks ago I just said fuck it and bummed one off of a buddy. A few days later I bummed a couple more at a party. The next day I bought a pack. I've been rehooked again ever since. So what does this have to do with survival?

Smokers want cigarettes. If you're a smoker then you'll want to be able to smoke if the supply lines get cut. If you're not a smoker then you might have to deal with those edgy assholes that haven't had a smoke in a few days. Let's face it. Tobacco will be one hell of a trade item during a crisis. If you're the guy with the fix then people will rely on you for something. One cool thing about tobacco is that it's one of those things that people won't necessarily kill for. If you trade off a few boxes of ammo to some guy then there's the possibility that he'll use it to come looking for more. If you trade him some food then he might just put two and two together and realize that if you've got enough extra to trade then there's plenty more where that came from. Of course we've all heard someone say "I'd kill for a cigarette right now" but let's face it...if worse comes to worse there aren't a whole lot of people out there who will be willing to put their life on the line for a few cancer sticks.

So what are your options if you actually want to try to use cigarettes as a trade item? You could always pick up an extra pack or two every time you go to Wal-Mart. If you want to go all out you could get a carton. If you're a smoker then they'll probably just be a part of your normal preps. Just buy the cheapest ones that you can. If you already smoke then you'll probably pass on smoking up your stash until you're really desperate and if you don't smoke, I can assure you that if you ever need to use them as a barter item people won't care what brand they are.

I used to have a cigarette sitting in a drawer that I always kept around just in case I ever knew that the world was going to end. It was more of a joke to myself but I kept it anyway. Well one day a smoker friend of mine was jonesing for a smoke so I offered him that one. This thing was at least five years old but he smoked it without complaint and, besides being kinda harsh, he said that it wasn't so bad. So what's the morale of this story? Cigarettes store pretty well and when a smoker wants a cigarette they don't care how long it's been lying around. The best way to store them is to toss them in the freezer and forget about them. If you don't have the freezer space then just find a dry, cool spot for them and they should be fine.

Another option is to roll your own. Bulk bags of tobacco store just as well as cartons but they cost a LOT less. You can probably go to your local cigarette store and find it for less than $20 a pound. That's enough tobacco for 2-3 cartons (depending on how tightly you pack your smokes). There are also places that you can get it online. You can get a cigarette packing machine for about $5-$10 and the empty tubes with filters are less than $3 for 200. This is how I do it. I can make a pack of cigarettes in about 15 minutes. A carton costs around $10. If you actually plan on smoking them you can try different types of tobacco until you find the stuff that you like. Even the expensive, premium tobaccos will end up costing less than a carton of premium cigarettes. There's also the option of getting a few packs of papers and storing them with your tobacco stash. I know a lot of smokers that would pass on smoking altogether rather than smoking a filterless roll your own, though. Offer those same people ANYTHING with a filter after a few stressful days without a cigarette and they'll love you forever.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hot Tip: Silver and gold prices are WAY down

Spot silver is down to $12.70 an ounce this weekend and gold is sitting at $786. If you've got a reputable dealer nearby and you've got some extra cash sitting in the SHTF fund then now is as good a time as any to go snatch some up. It aint gonna get much cheaper. While the government keeps reassuring us and telling us how things keep looking up we continue to see home values slide even more, the unemployment rate rise every month and foreclosures and huge bank losses continue. Once something else happens that sends the price of oil skyrocketing again we'll see the price of precious metals skyrocket right along with it. Get it while it's cheap.

Friday, August 15, 2008

My first attempt at gardening

Now that I've tried my hand at gardening it's time to make some observations. I did a mix of square foot gardening and conventional gardening. I built four 4x4 planters for my square foot garden and I tilled up another section of my yard to grow some tomatoes. I also grew a few things in pots to see how they would turn out. I grew some of my plants from seed and I bought a few plants that were already started. Some of them did very well and some of them didn't. Maybe some of you with lots of experience can weigh in and correct some of my mistakes.

I planted a wide variety of plants in my square foot garden. In my planters I made sure to fill them all up with "Mel's Mix" as defined in his book. The first thing that I noticed is the only benefit that I got from dividing the boxes into square foot sections was that my dog stayed out of the three boxes that I divided up and he dug up 3/4 of the one that I didn't bother with. I don't need little white lines to be able to figure out where I should be planting my plants. Obviously, my dog needs them to know which boxes he needs to stay the hell out of, though. Also, some plants do well in square foot gardens and some don't. Next year I'll be changing a few things to maximize my harvest.

I planted a tomato plant in every planter to begin with. After I noticed that a couple of them weren't doing too hot I moved them over to my tomato patch. One never got very big and the other one got bigger than all of my other plants but has yet to produce any tomatoes. I also had a tomato plant growing in a pot but it didn't seem to be doing so well so I also moved that over to my tomato patch. It's got a few tomatoes growing on it now but it's still not doing that hot. All of the tomatoes that I transplanted to my tomato patch were heirloom varieties. In my tomato patch I also planted six hybrid, celebrity tomato plants that I bought from Wal-Mart for $1.50. They have a ton of tomatoes hanging off of them but they're all green. I've only pulled one nice, red tomato off of them so far. It's cooling off now and it's been raining a lot more often so I'm hoping that they'll start to produce before the first frost. My best producer so far has been a patio tomato plant that I grew in a pot. I've pulled off at least 6 beautiful tomatoes from it and it's still got a dozen more on it with even more popping up every day. Another good producer has been my heirloom yellow pear tomato plant. That thing is HUGE! Unfortunately, the tomatoes that it produces aren't and they're not much good for anything besides salads or sandwiches. I've also got a yellow tomato plant that's not producing much and a roma plant that has a serious case of end blossom rot. Next year only the yellow pear tomatoes are going in the square foot garden. The rest are going in the tomato patch.

I also planted several beans and peas. Every one of the peas sprouted nicely and they all came up uniformly but all of the plants died once they got to be about six inches tall. Out of all eight of my beans that I planted (blue lake) I had three plants come up. One died almost immediately, another one is still in the process of dying and the other is big, beautiful and green but it's not producing crap. Next year I'm not sure if I should try them again in the SFG and maybe water more often or try them in the conventional garden on the other side of the yard.

My radishes did awesome in the SFG. Next year I'll be planting a lot more of them. I also planted some carrots but, while they seem to be growing, they're growing slowly and they're not actually producing any carrots. I'll probably plant my carrots in the conventional garden next year and just plant a bunch of radishes in the SFG.

I planted a lot of cucumbers. My pickling cucumbers that I grew from seed are producing very nicely even though they're the smallest ones that I've got. I also have some lemon cucumbers that are doing pretty well. More and more keep popping up every day. My armenian cucumber plant is the biggest cucumber plant that I have. It's just flowering, though, and not producing any fruit. Next year I'll be growing a lot more pickles.

I grew a lot of peppers. I bought most of them already started, though, because the ones that I started myself weren't doing too hot. They sprouted nicely but they just didn't want to continue to grow on my kitchen window sill. The bells did horribly in the square foot garden but the smaller ones just keep producing. Next year I'll keep the smaller ones in the SFG and the bells in the conventional garden.

My lettuce did horribly in the SFG. It just keeps on growing but it won't produce a head like it's supposed to. I just get a stem with some leaves on it. I did some mesculin mix plants, which are just big, leafy plants, and they did great, though. I'll stick to those and leave the plants that are actually supposed to produce heads for the conventional garden.

I also tried some more unconventional stuff. I planted some basil in some plastic bowls and it was doing great until the wind knocked it over. I replanted and it's starting to come back now. I also planted some tomatoes in upside down milk jugs with one plant on top and the other coming out the spout. They did horribly. There just isn't enough soil in those milk jugs to keep a full sized tomato plant happy.

Next year I'll be expanding the conventional plot and adding different vegetables to it. I'll try to stick to the stuff that I know works in the SFG. I'm also going to experiment with growing hybrid varieties from seed and using more containers. I've also got some seed that I saved from store bought plants just because I want to see if they'll produce.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thoughts on a "BOL"

Lately I've been thinking more and more seriously about finding a little piece of heaven to call my own and building a little getaway. If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time then you'll know that I'm not in the "get ready to bug out while you can" camp. I can, however, imagine some scenarios where getting out of dodge wouldn't be such a bad idea. I keep a bug out bag packed and ready to go, a lot of my preps are stored in such a way that I can grab them and go and I know several different routes out of town that are both on and off the beaten path. The main problem right now is that I have nowhere to go. I'd end up in a national park somewhere fighting the masses to find a place to pitch a tent until things blew over or I could figure out how to make things work on a more long term basis. Needless to say I consider bugging out to be a last resort plan that I must implement in a life or death situation. If I do have to bug out then the world really has gone to hell and my chances aren't very good no matter what I decide to do.

The more that I think about it the more I realize that it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. This is where compromise comes into play. Some people want to find the perfect place, far away from concentrations of people that's not easy to get to if you don't know that it's there where they could potentially be completely self sufficient. There aren't a whole lot of places like that. There are even fewer people who are capable of pulling it off for very long. There are a few important things to consider when looking for the perfect bug out location for you. It needs to be relatively close to home. You need to have a source of clean, accessible water nearby. The capacity to grow food and raise livestock are both important things to consider. It also needs to be fairly secure unless you plan on hauling everything that you will need to live up with you during the 13th hour. Another thing to consider are rules and regulations, permits, etc. You also need to be able to get to know your neighbors.

With gas prices where they're at it would be extremely difficult to go too far from home and expect to be able to visit very often. The "150 miles from any major city" rule plays hell for us city slickers who can barely get out of town for the occasional overnight camping trip. In most areas, finding a few acres not too far from the city for a reasonable price isn't too difficult. You just have to make sure that it's not so far away that you'll never have time to go out there while being far enough away that if the golden horde ever does rear it's ugly head (if things are bad enough that YOU'RE bugging out how many other people will have the same idea) that you won't have to worry about more than the occasional group of refugees passing by. Make sure that your retreat is far enough away that you feel like you're getting away but close enough that you can get there on a regular basis.

Water is obviously important. You don't necessarily need indoor plumbing or a fresh mountain spring that you can drink from without fear but you'll need some type of nearby water source. If you have a reliable source of water that flows nearby then a good Berkley filter with a few extra ceramic elements will serve you well until you can build a more permanent gravity fed filtering system. You might also consider drilling a well with a hand pump. It will only increase the value of your land and it will make life a lot easier for you. If there isn't some other reliable water source in the vicinity then you need to find out how much it will cost you to get a well drilled before you commit to any land purchases. A little google fu will also turn up a few ways to drill/dig your own well.

If something so terrible happens that I feel the need to bug out then I'll be doing it with no intention of ever returning. What I leave behind will be gone for good. Whatever food and gear I can take with me will be all that I have. If I had a place then I could store things ahead of time but even then I could only store so much food. Whether you keep your BOL stocked or not you had better have a plan for some type of food production. When you're shopping for a piece of land make sure that you can find a decent sized plot that would be sufficient for gardening. If you can test the soil then do it (a kit costs around $10). Otherwise you could end up spending a lot of money adding amendments until it's suitable to grow food. If you're not at your BOL on a regular basis then raising livestock isn't feasible. If it's close enough to home that you can make it out there regularly and you choose the right breeds then maybe you can make it work. The other option is, of course, hunting and trapping. I don't know anyone that's particularly good at either. I can put them down when I see them but tracking them is another story. If game gets scarce due to everyone hunting it in desperation then I'll probably be eating a lot of beans and rice if I don't have some livestock. I suppose that I could always resort to eating rats (thanks Rangerman).

Security is obviously important. The first line of defense is being out of sight. If people can't even see your little retreat then they won't bother it. Unfortunately, if someone notices you coming or going and they have less than noble intentions then they'll probably end up finding it. The ones that you have to worry about won't be looking for it when they know you're around. As secure as you make your retreat it's not going to discourage someone that REALLY WANTS to get in and who has a rough idea of your schedule. Burying caches is a great way to make sure that people don't find your important stuff. I've also seen some other cool ideas for retreat security like setting up motion lights so that if someone trips them off a light comes on inside. That's a great way to ward off the occasional nosy kid but there are still the aholes that you have to worry about that just want to break stuff or grab anything that they consider remotely valuable. If you're a little tech savy then setting up a security system with cheapo cameras that are just good enough to catch the hoodlums on tape and record the incidents to an off site source (like your laptop at home) wouldn't be that difficult. You're better off finding out who they are when things aren't so bad so that you can report them to the proper authorities and possibly get something done about it, anyway. Security will obviously be much more important when you actually have to use your retreat. That's been written about so much on other sites that I'm not going to bother with it unless people want me to, though.

Getting to know your neighbors is no less important at your BOL as it is at home. If it turns out that your neighbors are jackasses then you might want to consider selling out and looking in another area. One cool thing about cheap land that's not too far from town is that it tends to be populated by middle class people that are looking for the same thing that you are (peace and quiet on the weekends) or people who work in the city and don't mind the commute. Get to know the off grid hippy down the road and you might just have a better security system than anything else that you can come up with on your own. If the guy on the plot next to you lives in the city, too, then maybe he'll be willing to check on your retreat on the weekends when you can't make it and vice versa.

In some areas of my state you can practically do anything that you want without asking for permission. You want a well? Go ahead and drill. You want to build a house? If it collapses on you then it's your own damn fault. This is the type of philosophy that I love. If you can find a retreat with regulations that follow along this line of thinking then you have done well. Just remember that, in this case, it's YOUR responsibility to make sure that your home is safe to live in, your water is safe to drink and you're not breaking any of the rules that might actually be in place.

The most important thing to consider when looking at buying and building a retreat, in my opinion, is whether or not you'll actually use it. I plan on buying a big enough piece of land that I'll be able to build a few decently sized structures with room to spare for a good sized garden and possibly some livestock. Any close friends and relatives that actually help me build it will have an open invitation whether they just want to go kick their feet up for the weekend or the world is ending and their homes are no longer safe. It will be well stocked and having fresh water won't be a major worry. It'll be close enough that I can go spend a weekend anytime I want or even just spend the night there during the week if I get the inclination. If I have to walk there from home then I'll be able to get there in a few days of leisurely hiking rather than a week or two of hard marching.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Blog Spotlight: The Archdruid Report

Thanks to Bison for mentioning The Archdruid Report a few months ago. I've been reading it ever since. The link is in my "links to live by" section on the left hand side of my blog. To put it lightly the guy knows his stuff. He lays out exactly what's going on now, what he sees happening in the future (which I, for the most part, agree with) and he backs it all up with historical evidence. While I don't agree with everything that he writes, he's so close that I can read what he's written and say that there's no one else that comes closer to explaining my vision of the future. He's just a lot more articulate than I am and he spends a lot more time on his posts so I'll leave it up to him. His posts are a bit long but he only posts once a week and he keeps you interested. If you're just as interested in the how and why as you are the when and where then this is the blog that you should keep tabs on. He's not exactly a doom and gloomer but he doesn't have a sunshiny, happy, optimistic view of things to come, either.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Roasting Green Coffee Beans

This is something that I've wanted to do for a while now. I'm a big coffee drinker. I can appreciate the good stuff but I'm not so hot on the cost of it. You won't see my car parked in front of Starbucks. The idea of roasting my own beans came up not so much because I want to be able to drink fresh, delicious coffee whenever I feel like it (although that's a great benefit) but because green coffee beans store better and last longer. If stored properly the shelf life is practically unlimited. Once you roast the beans the flavors will start to deteriorate even after a few weeks. Ground, store bought coffee will get stale just as quickly once you break that seal. The price of green coffee beans is ultimately what was discouraging me. A local store has their own industrial sized roaster so after making friends with the guy that does the roasting I'm getting green coffee beans for just over his cost.

My first attempt went very well. I roasted about half a pound in a cast iron skillet. I just set my stovetop to about half and stirred the beans continuously until they were black. The temperature affects how dark they'll end up. Roasting coffee beans creates a lot of smoke. Even with my oven hood on full blast it didn't make a difference. Luckily the smoke just smells like coffee so it's not so bad once you open a window and get it cleared out. Once you're finished roasting them you'll want to cool them fast. Just dump them into a colander and shake them around until they're cool. If you have two metal colanders then just pour them back and forth until cool. This also helps get rid of the chaff (the outside skin that burns up and mostly falls off during the roasting process).

Before

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After

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I was very happy with the results. I could even taste the difference between these and the beans that I bought preroasted a few months ago that I've been grinding fresh every morning. It's a HUGE improvement over the store bought stuff in a can. At $4 a pound they're still a bit expensive to buy green but I'm sure that he'll give me a better price break if I buy a 100 lb sack. Then I'll never have to buy coffee again :D.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Details Magazine Interview

I was interviewed by Details magazine today. I guess that the whole "survivalist" mentality really is hitting the main stream pop culture. Maybe if enough people catch on it'll soften the blow a bit if the ball really does drop. The article should appear in the November issue. That might actually be a good enough excuse to buy a copy...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The bug bit me hard

I found a guy with a 71 Honda CL-175 that he's had in his barn for years. He sold it to me cheap and even delivered it. This is probably going to be a rat project. These things get around 70-80 mpg and they're pretty easy to work on yourself so I figure that this will make a good scoot to putt around town in. It also looks a lot cooler than a scooter. It's going to take some work to get it running again but I don't expect it to cost more than a few hundred bucks. If I can get it running good and reliable for under a grand then I will be ecstatic.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Motorcycles for SHTF

With a new bike purchase comes a sorry attempt to justify it. Everyone knows that they're dangerous. Cargo space is at a premium and if you've got a whole family to worry about then you won't be packing them up on the back and hauling them anywhere. They do have several advantages over other forms of transportation, though.

Improved gas mileage is the most obvious advantage over cars and trucks. The biggest, baddest, most gas guzzling bikes get gas mileage that's on par with "economy cars". With the price of gas on the rise and the likelihood of it getting much more expensive the economics of riding a motorcycle is only getting more appealing.

Motorcycles can go places that your car can't. As long as you're not riding an 800 pound cruiser you'll have plenty of maneuverability. If there's a real emergency then one of the worst possible situations could be getting stuck in traffic. In an emergency getting around a traffic jam is a lot easier on a bike. If you're on a dual sport you could even just take it off road. Taking railroad tracks and people's yards to get out of town isn't out of the question on some motorcycles.

When you're on a bike you tend to be more aware of everything that's going on around you. Something about being in the cab of a comfortable car or truck takes a toll on your attention span. When you put yourself on the back of a two wheeler that's completely exposed you tend to be a bit more careful and paranoid. Go figure. You'd be surprised how many things you suddenly realize that you've been taking for granted when you go from a car to a bike. After riding on the street for just a week I've already noticed some improvements that I can make to my driving.

Being more in the open also makes it easier to see what's going on on the road. You need to bug out? Let your wife drive the truck/car and just follow her on your bike. If someone messes with her then you will SURELY be the first to know and you'll be in an excellent position to react. If you get stuck and her vehicle can't go any further then throw her on the back of your bike, grab the bare necessities and keep going.

Bikes can go just as fast or faster than cars. Obviously, you can't carry as much on the back of a bike as you can in a car but a decent set of sadle bags and a good touring bag will go a long way. If you need to go offroad you can. If paying for gas starts to become impossible then you've got a toy to fall back on that will get you home if it's really necesary

Thursday, June 12, 2008

AK Chest Rig Update

Back in February I made a post about the AK chest rig that I use. A reader just emailed me a link to some mods that you can do. I knew that it would be easy to make some mods and I intended to do something like this myself eventually but just in case I never get around to it myself I figured I'd post the link. Check it out here. He shows how he added some clips to make it easier to adjust and take it on and off. He also provides a link to find some shoulder pads for it. I'll be doing something similar as soon as I get around to buying myself a sewing machine.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The new BOV

As if my garden wasn't keeping me busy enough I just bought a new bike. Don't expect too many updates as long as it's nice outside :). Here is a pic of the garden. I also broke ground in another corner of the yard and planted a few more tomato plants. I'll probably put up a more detailed post later.

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Here's the new BOV. It's a Virago 750 with less than 8k miles. It runs like a champ and didn't break the bank. Hopefully it won't break me anytime soon.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Hot Tip:

Target has some emergency preparedness knick knacks in their $1 bin. Some of the things that I saw were mini first aid kits, light sticks, emergency blankets, inflatable pillows, Cutter bug spray, cheapo swiss army knives, flashlights, splinter removal kits, a 5 in 1 emergency whistle and some small lexan bottles. There were probably a few other things that I can't remember. I got this tip from Arfcom so I'm assuming that it's the same at Targets everywhere.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

So This is What Peak Oil Looks Like

The price of oil has been getting a lot of media attention in the last couple of days. $10-$14 a gallon gas is just over the horizon! People will starve because they're pouring all of their money into their gas tanks! American Airlines wants to charge $15 for carry on luggage to help offset fuel costs! It's all big oil's fault! The speculator's are driving up prices! This is probably just a bubble that we have to figure out how to pop! There has to be an answer! We've all seen this coming for a while but now that it's getting to the general public they're demanding action. Realistically, there's only one answer. I'll get to that later, though.

Whether or not we've hit peak oil there are a few things that we've got to realize. Production isn't going up. Whether or not OPEC can pump more oil they're not doing it. They've demonstrated that they're perfectly happy keeping production at the current level or even a bit under that as long as people keep paying more and more for it. The longer they can keep that up the better for them. I guess they're not as dumb as we thought?

Oil is a commodity. The market dictates the price. It wouldn't be this expensive if people weren't willing to pay for it. The price is certainly extremely volatile right now but it's not going to settle down until we hit a price that's more than people are willing to pay or can afford.

We aren't the only ones in the mix, though. The demand in India and China just keeps going up and up and up. If we decide that we don't want to pay anymore then OPEC will just start selling to them. Then what do we do? We can start using our own reserves but first our government has to let us drill. Even if we could start drilling tomorrow it would take time and money to get to the point where we could extract a meaningful amount. Even if things went perfectly and we started production tomorrow our supplies wouldn't hold out for long. Eventually we'd end up right back where we're at now.

It's obvious to me that we're living through peak oil. There are still plenty of reserves out there. We'll continue to discover new wells with a few billion barrels of it here and there. We might even start drilling in old wells that we'd previously closed because it wasn't cost effective to keep them open. There may be plenty of oil left but ol' Jeb aint gonna become a millionaire while he's shootin up some food ever again.

The cheap, easy to get to oil is gone. The oil wells that we've been "discovering" recently are extremely expensive and difficult to get to. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if the oil companies have known about them for years. Why bother even acknowledging them if they weren't cost effective? What's left is just so expensive and difficult to extract that the price of oil has nowhere to go but up. That's why it's becoming expensive. If we keep using it then it will eventually become prohibitively expensive. It won't go away until we find a better energy source, though. It might cost $12 a gallon to fill up your tank but if you've got the money you'll be able to fill up if you can find a gas station with inventory.

Everyone is looking for an answer that allows us to maintain our standard of living. It aint happening folks. The economy is going to suffer. Businesses will have to cut jobs. People won't be able to afford to drive 50 miles one way to work every day. We'll have to trade in our SUVs for rice burners. America is going to suffer. There's just nothing else that can replace oil right now and when it becomes too expensive we're all going to notice it. The end of cheap oil isn't going to bring civilization to it's knees. It's just going to shake things up for a while. Then again that's probably what the smart Romans were saying during the transition to the Dark Ages.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Don't Get Too Excited

The end is inevitable! The writing is on the wall! We're watching it all unfold as we speak! I've been seeing this type of stuff pop up more and more lately because of things like the natural disasters that have been occurring, gas prices and the economy. Part of the problem is the ready availability and ease of distribution of information. This is a new phenomenon. We don't have to rely on the mainstream media to tell us what's going on on the other side of the world, anymore. It's a lot harder to let things go unreported. When a disaster happens we know the details almost immediately after the fact no matter where it happened in the world. Instead of reading about it in the morning paper or waiting until the 6 o'clock news to find out about it we get it all shoved down our throats 24/7 on the internet and on 24 hour news channels. Basically in the last decade or so we've been hit with doom and gloom overload.

Another problem is the fact that the earth's human population is spreading out and growing rapidly. A lot of the places where people are settling are already known to be prone to natural disasters. Then one hits and people are shocked when it kills a lot of people. For decades we knew that Katrina was a disaster waiting to happen. We know that the New Madrid fault will decimate the midwest when it goes. We know that when the San Andreas fault goes it could turn California into an island and Arizona into ocean front property. We know that Yellowstone could blow up and when it does it will likely wipe out a huge chunk of the US and send the rest of the world into another ice age. Then there are the tornadoes and the hurricanes...

These are all potentially devastating disasters that could happen just in the US. When you put things into perspective it's pretty easy to see how fragile we are and how destructive nature can be. Of course when these things happen people will be pointing to Revelations and calling for the end of civilization like they always have. When these things that we've already decided are inevitable finally happen people will act surprised or try to find some type of pattern. It's pretty simple really. The more people there are the more likely that people will be affected by natural disasters. Of course when a huge hurricane travels harmlessly over the Gulf of Mexico we hear almost nothing about it.

Of course this applies to things like news on the economy or virus outbreaks in Asia as well. In a lot of ways information like that is even more scary. That type of crisis could potentially affect every one of us no matter where we are. There are also so many variables involved that we can't really understand the scope of how bad they are. Then there's the fact that a lot of times we just don't understand what's going on (no matter how well we think we do). It's also almost impossible to predict the results.

Obviously this is the kind of stuff that we're preparing for. If you live in Florida then you're bound to get hit by a hurricane eventually. If you live in California then you're going to have to deal with a few earthquakes. Our economy relies on periods of recession where the market corrects itself. There's only so much oil in the ground. Eventually we're going to run out. Big government is getting more and more intrusive in our lives.

You can take steps to avoid some of these things. You can move to an area that's not prone to disasters. You can pay off your debt. You can store a few years worth of food in your basement. You can buy a fortress that's a hundred miles from anyone. Just don't get too carried away with your preps. Do what's best for you. Don't do what might be best for you if the world happens to end someday. Odds are that it won't. You could divorce your sheeple wife, sell your house, buy a trailer, park it on a piece of junk land and live out your life with no stress and no debt.....and no comforts. How happy will you be with your decision after twenty years when society is still chugging along, though? Do you want to buy that farm in the country because you think that it's the only way that you'll survive the "inevitable" collapse or are you really so sick of modern life that that's honestly the life that you want for you and your family?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Another Busy Weekend

I've been hitting it hard in the yard again. I finished my dog's pen and I got most of the work done on my garden. When I'm finished I'll have 5 or 6 4x4 square foot garden planters in the back yard. I plan on concentrating more on obscure cash crops. Heirloom tomatoes sell for around $5-$10 a pound around here. Exotic peppers are pretty close. It's amazing how much people will pay for stuff that they can just grow in their back yard. I'm also going to plant some hops vines (the "how to homebrew with your preps" post is coming once I finish my all grain setup). I'll be eating a lot of what I produce but I want to use it for supplemental income as well. "Normal" produce is so cheap that I just can't justify doing all that work to get stuff that I can buy for a couple of bucks. Even with most food prices going through the roof fresh fruits and vegetables are still really cheap.