Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How to Survive a Riot

Obviously riots are one of the biggests fear that urban survivalists have that rural survivalists don't have to worry about. I saw this on Google. It has a lot of good tips and is worth the read. Check it out and tell me what you think.

How to Survive a Riot

Monday, April 28, 2008

What a Weekend

I've been busy doing some landscaping. I want to get my garden started by the end of the week. Unfortunately that means tearing up half of my yard and remodeling my dog's pen. Progress has been good. I've still got a lot of work to do, though. I've also got big plans for my truck. Then there are the camping trips that I have planned. Posts will probably be slowing down again. Sorry that I spoiled you with so many regular updates recently.

It's pretty obvious that the "rice shortage" is the big headline these days. There might be a shortage outside the US but the only problem that we've got here is panic buying and our JIT (just in time) inventory system showing it's weakness. People see that there are riots in Egypt and Haiti. They hear that other countries are discouraging or even halting their rice exports. So what do they do? They rush to the store and buy a few hundred pounds of rice that they wouldn't have eaten, anyway. The unexpected increased sales lead to empty shelves when people do this. That just feeds the panic once the media catches wind of it.

I'll admit that grain is getting expensive. Wheat has gone up a lot in the last year or two. Thanks to ethanol subsidies corn has become much more profitable which has lead to farmers planting more of that and less of other crops. The end result? Everything that farmers grow costs more. Except for meat....so far.

Sure meat costs more than it did ten years ago. The price has hardly increased at the same rate as grain, though. With grain getting more and more expensive a lot of farmers have been forced to thin their herds recently. Right now they're selling their beef and pork at fire sale prices. Screw rice. Buy beef and pork! Pork is ridiculously cheap right now. It's usually a dollar or two a pound. You can find awesome deals on beef, too. Ground beef still goes on sale for around $1 a pound. In a year when ground beef costs $8 a pound and ribeyes are going for $20 a pound you'll wish that you'd stocked up "back when it was cheap".

Fill the freezer guys. Getting a deep, chest style freezer wouldn't be a bad idea if you don't already have one. You can save a few bucks on meat in the grocery store today and you'll have a place to store all of the meat that you hunted when it's too expensive to buy later. If you've got a freezer full of meat when the grid goes down just make jerky out of it before it all goes bad. Refer to my jerky post if you don't know how to do it.

Meat is going to get expensive guys. If you've already got your other preps squared away then think about putting up some extra meat. It'll last a while if you freeze it. It'll last even longer if you dry it. No matter what you do, though, it won't last as long and it won't be as cheap as grain (even with the "ridiculous" prices that we're experiencing now). Don't lose sight of that. If you don't have a comfortable stash of beans, rice and wheat then get that before you go buying half a cow to put in your freezer.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Who Doesn't Like Jerky?

It's lightweight. It's tasty. It keeps for a long time. It's a great trail food. It's a good method of storing meat that people have been using for thousands of years. Too bad it's so expensive. It's a lot cheaper when you make it yourself but you have to leave the oven on all night or get a dehydrator, right? Wrong.

All you need is a fan and a drying rack. The fan isn't even necessary if you don't have too much humidity and you can keep the bugs away. You don't even need the drying rack if you just hang it up to dry. The fan speeds things up and if you use the drying rack you won't have to listen to your wife, parents, SO, roommates, etc complain about the strips of meat that are hanging up in the kitchen window.

First get yourself some meat. Make sure it's as lean as possible.

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Fat doesn't dry out and it'll turn rancid, spoiling the meat so trim it all off. Then cut the meat into strips.

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Next you'll want to marinade your meat. Salt is an important ingredient. Add whatever else you like or don't add anything. I use sea salt, cayenne powder, garlic powder and pepper. You can also use stuff like teriyaki sauce, soy sauce or anything else that doesn't have a lot of oil or fat in it. Mix it up and let your meat soak in it for a few hours.

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Once it's done marinading just put it on the drying rack. I like to sprinkle some pepper on both sides. Then turn the fan on and leave it for a couple of days.

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You'll know when it's done. The meat will darken and it'll become very hard and tough. Wait until there are no more squishy spots. You can also dry fruits and vegetables with this method. Just cut them into small, thin pieces. Along with the meat I dried out some mango this time.

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I hope this gives a few of you some ideas. Even if you don't eat it day to day at least try it a couple of times just in case your freezer goes down or something. In a grid down situation this will probably be one of the better ways to store large amounts of meat.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What's in YOUR pocket?

You could have five years worth of food at home. You could keep your BOB packed and ready to go at all times. You could keep a "get home bag" in the trunk of your car right next to your rifle. Unfortunately, none of that will do you much good if something happens really fast and you're stuck with what you've got on you. You never know when getting back to your vehicle or even home will be difficult if not impossible. What you can conceivably carry on you can be very limited depending on your job, the season and what you're doing. It could also be all that you have. In my case I'm stuck wearing dressy clothes every day so it's really hard to conceal anything. I also spend a lot of time with customers all over town so I can't just keep a kit in my office desk. Anything bigger than a laptop case is just too bulky.

Cash is king. Even if there is no emergency it's good to have a few bucks in your pocket. It's faster than a check. You don't have to worry about the credit card machines going down. Sometimes you can get a better deal if you have cash. Also, purchases made with cash aren't easily trackable if you're paranoid about that kind of thing.

In today's day and age a cell phone is obvious. You can call anyone, anywhere, anytime as long as you have service. They keep accurate time. Newer ones have nifty little features like internet access, cameras and video recording. It's hard to get by without a cell phone these days since so many people have them. You're just causing yourself inconvenience by not using one.

If you live in a state where you can get a concealed carry license then you should get one asap. Even if you don't think you need one today it's still a good idea to get one. You never know when you won't feel so safe walking down the street unarmed. While a concealed carry license isn't a license to kill at least you'll have some kind of protection under the law. I carry a Keltec P3AT most of the time. If things get hairy I've got a full sized 9mm with a high quality, tuckable in waistband holster. Make sure you've got a very sturdy belt if you're going to carry a gun in waist band (or on waistband). I recommend the wilderness instructor when I'm not dressed up. Don Hume also makes good belts if you prefer leather or need something more dressy.

A flashlight is another thing that I wouldn't want to live without. You can get very compact keychain LED lights but they tend to be fragile and if you actually kill the battery they're a pain to replace. I prefer pen lights that use normal batteries. The one that I use is a Rayovac that I got from Wal-Mart for $3. It uses 1 AAA battery (which it came with) and it's got a reasonably durable aluminum housing. I've had this light for months and I haven't had to replace the battery yet. It's lasted longer than the last two keychains that I've had.

A knife is another useful thing that there's no reason not to carry. You don't need a big blade. I carry a small Gerber knife that's about 2.5" folded and I've cut watermelons in half with it. It's sharp, it holds an edge and it only cost around $10. It's also unnoticable in my pocket.

There is no easier way to start a fire than with a lighter. Even though I don't smoke I still carry a small bic. I don't use it much but at least I have it if I need it.

Those are the basics in my eyes. A multi-tool would certainly be something that I could add but I haven't found one that I like that fits comfortably in my pocket. A "survival tin" with things like fishing line, hooks, basic first aid items, snare wire, cord and other little knick knacks that would be handy in a wilderness survival situation are great and all but it just wouldn't fit well with my dress code. What do YOU think I'm missing?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Making Flour With My Cheapo Grinder

When I wrote the original review of my cheap grinder I said that it's not capable of making flour that's suitable for bread making. Then when I was brewing a batch of beer the other day I noticed something after I cracked my grain. There was dust everywhere. It's pretty obvious what that dust was.....flour! Obviously I knew that it technically could make flour when I made that statement but I just assumed that it would take way too much time and effort. So I decided to see how much time and effort it would take to make enough flour to bake some bread. It was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. Here's how I did it.

The grain hopper on my grinder is pretty big. It holds about 3 cups of whole wheat so that's what I started with. As I ran the grain through the handle was fairly easy to turn and didn't take too much effort. I'm not in great shape and, after a full hopper, I was feeling the burn but it didn't tire me out. From what I hear about the more expensive grinders the handle can be really hard to turn and it gets tiring fast. This was easy enough that a kid could probably do it.

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After the first run I tried to sift the cracked grain with my flour sifter. It didn't work very well. The sifter jammed up and the pieces it was letting through were too big. I ended up using the grain bag that I use to sparge my grain while homebrewing. It's basically just a long, skinny bag made out of very fine netting. Anything like that should work. I put a cup of the cracked grain in the bag at a time, grabbed both ends and then sifted it back and forth over a mixing bowl until dust stopped falling out. After sifting I put the cracked grain in another container to be run through the grinder again. When I ran the cracked grain through I mixed in a cup or so of more wheat berries. Wheat berries are really hard. As they rub up against each other between the grinder plates they contribute just as much to the pulverizing into flour as the grinding together of the plates themselves. Here's what I ended up with after just a few runs. It turned out finer than corn meal but a little bit more coarse than store bought whole wheat flour. My flour is on the left. The store bought flour is on the right. The cracked grain that I was left with is on the bottom. I did a couple more runs after I took this pic. The whole process took about thirty minutes.

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I was making sourdough so I cheated a bit and used unbleached white flour to make my sponge. I also ended up needing a bit more flour so I went ahead and used about a cup or so of store bought whole wheat flour. I also threw in a cup of chopped craisins and used honey instead of sugar. The recipe ended up looking something like this:

my starter (originally just 1 cup unbleached white flour and 1 cup water)
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup store bought whole wheat flour
4 cups freshly ground whole wheat flour
1 cup craisins
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp honey

I mixed everything up then kneaded the dough. Then I let it rest for half an hour or so. I punched it down, rolled it out, made two loaves out of it and let it rise for several hours. After it was done rising I brushed an egg/milk mixture over it and then sprinkled on some of the leftover cracked grains.

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The finished product turned out pretty well. It didn't rise as much as I'd have liked it to but it was sufficient. It turned out a little heavy and nutty but extremely tasty. The first loaf was gone in a couple of hours. The second one will probably be gone tonight. With a little effort this grinder is definitely sufficient for making bread flour. I'd certainly prefer something that's higher quality but it makes a pretty good backup. Where there's a will there's a way and when you don't have the proper tools you improvise.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Incredible, Edible Sprout

Yellowstone blew up right after an asteroid wiped out most of Asia and the government freaked out and turned the Middle East to glass blaming it all on the terrorists. You and your TEOTWAWKI posse survived it all in your Titan missile silo that you bought for $500 at a government auction that no one else showed up for. With a few years worth of Mountain House, MREs and beans and rice you're set for a while. Unfortunately, the truckload of heirloom seeds that you've got stored away are practically worthless since you probably won't see sunlight for at least a decade thanks to the choking clouds of ash and nuclear winter. Or are they?

You might not be able to plant a garden with them for a while but you can still sprout them. Even if it's not TEOTWAWKI sprouts are nutritious, tasty, easy to grow and require little to no sunlight. Most seeds aren't very nutritious because they're hard to digest. When they're sprouted everything in the seed becomes easily digestible when the complex compounds that make up the seed are transformed into simple vitamins, minerals, amino acids and proteins among other things.

Not all sprouts are raised exactly the same. It's best to do your own research on each individual type of sprout that you'd like to learn how to grow. They might have their own little nuances as far as how often to rinse, how long to soak and how long to let them grow for but for the most part they all use the same basics. There are a lot of different methods that you can use. I'm going to tell you the cheapest and simplest way.

To get started all you need is a glass or food grade plastic container. Old pasta sauce jars or big mouthed canning jars work great. So do sour cream or cottage cheese containers. You can put holes in the lid or you can cut out the center of it and replace it with a screen or cloth. Just make sure that the jar can breathe. Cover the bottom of the jar with seeds and then fill it 2/3 with water. Let them soak in a dark, room temperature place for 8 - 24 hours (depending on the seed). Once they're properly soaked drain the water (might want to save it since it soaked up a lot of vitamins and minerals). Rinse your seeds by filling the jar with water, swishing it around a bit and draining it. Then put the jar full of wet seeds back in your dark, room temperature spot. Depending on the type of seed and how humid your locale is you'll want to rinse them 2-4 times per day. After a few days you should have sprouts. Simple huh?

There are a few things to consider. They'll rot fast if you leave them in standing water so you'll want to make sure that the jar is completely drained every time you rinse. You can also set up some kind of screen to hold your sprouts off of the bottom of the jar. If you try a batch and your sprouts rot then rinse more often in the future and be more careful when you drain the rinse water.

Hardcore sprouters will tell you to use dedicated sprouting seeds. Some gardening seeds are sprayed with fungucides or other chemicals. After a day of soaking I would think that they would be mostly washed off. You'll end up rinsing them a couple dozen times before you eat them so I don't see how it would be that big of a deal. It can't be any worse than the crap that they spray on produce from the supermarket. They'll also tell you not to use seeds and beans that are packaged for food. My first foray into sprouting was with some lentils that I had in the cupboard so I don't buy this one, either. Some sprouts are also poisonous. Some of them are only OK once you cook them. Others aren't OK to eat at all. Once again, do your research. Now is the time to experiment with this stuff.

This is just one more simple skill that everyone could learn how to do. There really is nothing to it once you get the basics down. It's something that you can put to good use starting today. They're very good for you and you can use them to spruce up just about any meal. Find out which ones you like and store those seeds. After a few weeks of eating storage foods some fresh sprouts would be a welcome change.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Riots in the City

I keep seeing "there will be riots in the streets!" used as one of the main arguments to leave the city and set up your little homestead in the middle of nowhere. Reading some of these blogs and message boards you might start to believe that riots consist of huge, organized groups of people systematically looting, pillaging and burning everything in their paths for miles. If you prep they know it and they'll be singling you out. If you're lucky they might just let you join them. Otherwise they'll just kill you, rape your wife and children and then use your preps to further their advance. Once you get past the Hollywood and paranoia it's pretty obvious that they don't work like that.

First of all they're not very organized. Sometimes it starts out as some type of political rally. Other times something outrageous happens and people just go crazy. Maybe people are starving. Maybe a certain group of people feel like they've been severely mistreated. Whatever starts it the end result is the same. A large group of people revert to savages and start ignoring authority doing whatever they want. Not everyone will join in. Some people will be stuck in the middle of it even though they don't want to be there. Some will do everything they can to get away. Then there will be some that do whatever they can to join in.

Rioters will be hitting the places where they know the resources are. They're going to be too busy robbing supermarkets and other stores to worry about residential areas. Sure there might be some opportunistic criminals who are hitting residential areas while the authorities are trying to get the rioters under control. Be ready for them in case your house is the one that they choose to hit. Just don't worry about five hundred angry people singling you out and standing outside your door demanding that you give up your supplies. If they actually do start burning down homes nearby then it's probably time to bug out. With hundreds of thousands of homes and millions of people that won't be participating in the riots the chances are pretty good that you'll get through it.

Getting caught in a riot would be pretty scary. Pay attention to what's going on around you, though, and you should be able to get out before things escalate. Just don't get caught up in the excitement yourself. Get out and get home. If you can't get home then try to get away from the crowds. Riots don't just appear from out of nowhere. When people show up to the grocery store and the shelves are empty then there may be a problem. If there's a huge, controversial political rally going on downtown then stay away. If things get really bad and the government starts setting up bread lines then avoid them at all costs. If there's a disease outbreak and the government offers a treatment then be very leary about trying to be the first person in line. Like everything else, using some common sense and having the means to fend for yourself will get you far.

If there's a prolonged breakdown of society where law enforcement is heavily stressed or gone altogether then it won't matter where you are. When the smart gangs start to organize and take control they're going to be hitting the countryside and setting up bases out there because law enforcement will concentrate most of their efforts in the cities. These gangs will develop into different sects and factions. The people and communities nearby will be forced to serve them or die. Back in the dark ages they called these kingdoms. The warlords were called kings. At first we might see riots but the riots aren't what you need to worry about. They'll burn themselves out quickly and be easy to deal with compared to the constant warfare that will result as the fabric of society is ripped apart.

BTW: Are you afraid that your neighbors aren't very well prepared? Do you have family that look at you funny when they see that pile of rice and wheat in the corner of your basement? Just send them to 72hours.org. It's a good stepping stone. They cover all of the bases from "go bags" to how to react to different types of disasters to pets and first aid. It's maintained by the Office of Emergency Services and Homeland Security in San Francisco and there's a nice big government seal of approval on the site which may just be what it takes to get them interested and on the right track. No man is an island. The more of your neighbors, friends and family that you can get on board with the preparedness mindset the more people you'll have on your side. With most people it'll take baby steps to get them paran...err....worried enough to start prepping. Use whatever resources you have available to you to get them on board....even if some of those resources are from da ebil gubment.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Country's Great and All...

but it's certainly not a free pass to survive the apocalypse like a lot of people like to believe. There have been several instances in history where the collapse or severe strain on the system has resulted in people in the country faring much worse than the people in the cities. Do you think that if things get so bad that the government is confiscating food resources that they're going to go door to door emptying out people's cabinets in the city? That's a huge waste of resources when they can just go to the country and "compensate" farmers for their food stores. Do you think you'll be able to put up a solid defense against the military when they show up and demand you give them your latest crop for a bunch of worthless paper?

Do you know all of your neighbors? Maybe you think you do. You never know who's just waiting for a time when they don't have to worry about those pesky authorities. I grew up in the country. My family on my mother's side are still farmers. The ratio of unsavory characters to law abiding good people is about the same in the country as it is in the city. Not everyone in the country prepares. Some prepare by buying lots of guns and ammo "just in case". Maybe you think you know who you'll have to watch out for but you might not know everyone as well as you think you do. Actually, you probably don't know everyone period.

The cities are going to be tightly controlled in the event of really hard times. If it's a result of some kind of massive die off then obviously law and order will completely break down. If it does get to the point where people are looting homes then your house is one in hundreds of thousands of homes to choose from for people to loot. It's unlikely that you'll get targeted. Most people don't have more than a few days worth of food. After the first few empty houses the people willing to loot to survive are going to catch on to the idea that people in the country probably have more resources. What about the desperate, destitute people that decide to leave the city once things start getting tough? I already mentioned neighbors. If law and order is still in place then the people in the country will most definitely be as much at risk, if not more so in some cases, than the people in the city.

I'm not saying that the country is necessarily a bad place to live. I'm also not saying that the city will be the best place to be if things get hairy. Striving to own a productive piece of land with a veritable fortress all paid for should be something that everyone strives for. It's just that people in the country will have just as much to worry about as the people in the city. They might not have the same things to worry about but that doesn't make their circumstances any less dire.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Few Movie Reviews

The Plague - One day every kid on the planet under 9 years old falls into a foamy mouthed coma. Every day at 10 they all go into seizures. For 10 years every kid is born with the condition. It's actually a really cool premise and I had high hopes for the movie. There was another great depression. Eventually everyone stopped caring and was losing all hope for the future. Unfortunately it gets horrible once the movie gets rolling. All at once the children wake up one day and go on a rampage and start killing everyone. They're basically zombies with some degree of intelligence. They're hard to kill and they've got some kind of hive mind thing going on. Overall it was pretty horrible. Pass on it unless you're like me and you absolutely must suffer through every zombie movie on the planet no matter how horrible it is.

Deadly Harvest - I took Rangerman's advice and picked this one up. The acting isn't great and it definitely screams "cheesy 70s B movie" but the story was really good. I would definitely recommend it to anyone. There just aren't enough SHTF themed movies out there that aren't completely outrageous or hoaky. This one fills the niche quiete nicely. If you can actually get a "normal" person to sit through this movie you might be able to convince them that there are some parallel's between it and what's going on right now in the world. My wife didn't even make it through the opening credits due to the horrible quality, though. Don't have any high hopes of getting someone that's not interested in survival type stuff into prepping by making them watch this movie. If they can make it through the first 15 minutes there might be hope for them, though. That's where it starts getting good.

Into the Wild - I liked this one a lot. Even my wife admitted that she liked it even though she was convinced that I would be gone when she woke up the next morning. This dude went out and basically did what every guy I know wishes, deep down, that he could do himself. Damn those pesky responsibilities. Yeah he was an idiot for going into the wilds of Alaska with nothing but a bag of rice and whatever else he could carry on his back. The bus was an extremely lucky find and would have been enough of a leg up for most people with some degree of survival skill to stay alive for a long time. Going out there with nothing but a .22 was obviously a bad idea but it served him well all things considered. He had some great philosophies and he wasn't afraid to go out there and do it. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this movie to anyone. It's definitely worth the rent and could probably fit quite nicely into anyone's training video library.

Night of the Comet - This is a gloriously cheesy TEOTWAWKI flick. It was made with that intention, though. The whole movie has a real comic book feel. Basically a comet passes Earth. Everyone is anxiously anticipating it. The people that are outside when it goes by are obliterated to dust. The ones that were inside, depending on how well protected they were, either become infected by a disease that drives them crazy and eventually leads to death or are completely unaffected. Between the chicks with uzis, the psycho department store stock boys and the mad scientists in gray jumpsuits this movie has it all. This is one of my favorite SHTF flicks. Everyone should have this one in their library.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Consequences to Bugging Out

A lot of people like to talk about how cities will be death traps after the ball drops. The government will be out to get you. Neighbor will turn on neighbor. Roving gangs of armed thugs will be burning down every house who's occupants don't allow them free reign to rape, steal and pillage. I'm sure that something to that effect will be happening in the bigger cities. You won't want to be in downtown LA when the civilization ending crisis occurs. Most of us are stuck in a city, though, and some of them may not end up being as bad as all that. Trying to get out might just prove to be a lot more dangerous even if you do get a jump on the golden horde.

As important as where you're headed is how you're going to get there. The freeways leading out of NOLA were pretty ugly after Katrina. Now imagine if that's what every freeway leading out of every major city looked like. If bugging out is a plan that you seriously mean to implement then you had better know a lot of routes out of town. I'm not just talking about backroads. I'm talking about dirt roads, hiking trails, railroad tracks and anything else that assures you a clear path. Be ready to ditch your car in favor of a motorcycle, bicycle or your feet. Remember that the farther you get out of town the farther ahead you'll be in front of everyone else but the fewer routes you'll have to continue your journey. It would really suck to be bottlenecked into a dead end of the unprepared masses.

Obviously if you're even going to consider bugging out then you'll want to have a preplanned place to go. Unfortunately, some of us just don't have the money to invest in a fully stocked retreat. We'll probably be stuck in a national park camping area or an RV park. Don't assume that the good guys are the only ones that will have this idea. If you're living out of a tent it'll be really hard to hide your preps. If you have a big, expensive RV or a nice vehicle then you might as well paint a big target on your butt. It's hard to argue that you'd be better off in an RV park than your own home unless you have a very well thought out spot that you've prepared beforehand. The key here is isolation with the potential of having room for a permanent structure and possibly a garden.

Maybe you've got close friends or family out in the boonies. Do they know you're coming? If you do show up will you be welcome? Will they be able to support you? If you have to ditch your vehicle and all that you show up with is what you're carrying on your back will it stretch them too thin? It's easy to take things like that for granted.

Even if you have a BOL you've still got some things to think about. What do you have stored there? What are the chances that someone else will be able to find it before you get there (in good times or in bad)? Do you know people in the community? How often do you go there? How far away is it? It doesn't do you much good to be an hour ahead of everyone in your city when you'll have to drive through or close to another city that's just a few hours away. Do people in your BOL's community consider you "one of them" or are you just some city slicker that stays at your cabin every now and then? Have you done anything to work the land? Have you ever tried to grow anything there? Do you have enough to get you through a bad season if things don't grow right away? There are a lot of problems that you could easily encounter. Having a well stocked BOL away from the city isn't automatically a free pass to get you through TEOTWAWKI.

Even if you live at your BOL what is your status in the community? Maybe it's so remote that there is no community to speak of (which brings up even more problems of it's own). Then again maybe the rural community where your BOL is located is more in depth than you think. When I was reading Lucifer's Hammer there was a character that really struck me. This guy lived in the valley that everyone in the book had eventually ended up in. He was accused of hording food gotten from raids and he and his family were sentenced to exile. The guy that accused him was the JBT of the valley and everyone just took his word for it because of his status. These were the good guys that were condemning this guy. I have a weird feeling that, in a true TEOTWAWKI scenario, this kind of thing would be pretty widespread in places that the government doesn't reach. After Rome collapsed dictators ran rampant in Europe. They called themselves kings and centuries that we've labeled the dark ages followed. During this time they all worked out who would take power. In the more "civilized" parts of Rome they managed to maintain their power. Maybe staying in Rome isn't such a bad idea when your survival is at stake.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pemmican

Pemmican is a survival food that the Native Americans developed. It's simple. It's easy to make. It stores extremely well (for months or even years). It's lightweight and easy to carry with you. It's very energy rich. You can live off of it for a long time (probably indefinitely). It even tastes pretty good.

So what's in it and how do you make it? It's just fat, dried meat and dried berries. I've used raisins before. I used craisins in my last batch. You can also use strawberries, blueberries or whatever other dried berries that you've got lying around. You could probably even use some other dried fruit if you wanted. The meat isn't important, either. Just make sure that it's dried sufficiently. Once again, the type of fat used doesn't matter. Just make sure you use equal parts meat, berries and fat.

Mix the dried berries and meat together. Then pour melted fat over them. Mix everything well so that the fat saturates (get it? heh heh) the meat and berries. The meat and berries should absorb the fat. Let it sit for a day or so and you'll end up with a nutritious, energy rich food that is lightweight, tastes pretty good and lasts almost indefinitely.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Doing It VS Doing It "Well"

Our society has developed to the point where everyone doesn't need to know how to do a little bit of everything, anymore. Some might argue that we're at the point where most people are afraid to do something outside of their expertise because they think it's too hard to learn how to do. After all, someone else spent their entire life learning how to do it so how can it be so easy? Or maybe it's something that professionals normally use a team of people to do so how can one person accomplish the task? Then there are the things that you just don't need to learn how to do because we've got an infrastructure in place that removes the necessity. It might not be all that hard to learn how to do but it's not worth our time.
Some things that seem like they may be too hard to do yourself aren't. On the other hand some things that seem like they'd be pretty easy to do turn out to be pretty difficult without experience.

It seems to me like when I get the idea to do something myself I end up finding instructions that make the job overly complicated or so in depth that it might not be worth the time. The people writing these instructions want so badly to convince you that they're experts or that they're capable of doing something extraordinary that they add unnecessary steps or unusual ways of doing things and it becomes hard to follow. It's even more fun when they try to remind you of "how easy it is" the whole time. Sometimes the job really is that complicated but the key is to not let how difficult it seems discourage you. Sometimes it's best to just find out for yourself how doable it is. You can always find other ways to do the same thing or even figure out how to cut a few corners yourself once you get a basic understanding of the fundamentals involved in the project. Then there are just some skills that really do take a long time to develop.

A lot of times the pros have a team of people working on a job. Most of the time they're just using groups to do the job to finish faster. Sometimes you really do need a lot of people (all the more reason to have a SHTF group) but other times, with a little bit of ingenuity, you can figure out ways to do it yourself. Then there are the jobs that are dangerous to attempt alone. Use a little bit of common sense and you should be able to differentiate between the jobs that can be done solo but that might take a while, need a team to be completed safely and outright cannot be accomplished by one person. Just make sure that if you deem a job that requires a group important that everyone else in your group knows how to do the job before the job needs to be done. Sometimes you might be able to get by with barking orders but sometimes everyone really does need to know what they're doing.

The most easily overlooked skills are the simple ones. These are also the ones that you'll wish that you'd learned how to do yourself if things really get ugly. Things like gardening, canning, baking bread, making a fire and all of the other little things that we take for granted will suddenly be pretty important if the grocery stores shelves aren't restocked. Just take a look around and try to figure out what you use every day. Do you like music? Learn to play an instrument. Do you like beer? Learn to brew your own. Spend some time learning basic outdoor skills like making one match fires, making a shelter when you don't have anything with you, what plants are safe to eat, how to catch game and other stuff like that.

You don't have to be really good at anything. Just having tried it and knowing enough about it to have the right supplies ahead of time or knowing where to get the necessary supplies will put you far ahead of the guy that's completely clueless. You might think you know how to make a shelter out of pine needles because you watched survivorman do it but have you tried it and spent the night in one yourself? You might have read a bread recipe but have you actually baked a few loafs to see how it turns out? Do you want to rely on that book on gardening that's been collecting dust on your bookshelf for years or do you want to rely on first hand experience that you've gotten from actually gardening when it wasn't necessary? Learning how to do things and practicing them will teach you a lot of valuable lessons that you can't get from reading a book.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Got a Light?

Flashlights are an important part of everyone's preps. They come in all different shapes and sizes. There are different bulb types to choose from. They use different types of batteries. They have different housings from aircraft aluminum to cheap plastic. The brightness varies a lot depending on the type of batteries used, the lens, the reflector and the bulb. Throw (how far away it projects it's beam) and spot (how solid and uniform the projected light is) are also important factors to consider.

The type of bulb used is probably the most important factor to consider. The most common bulbs are incandescent. These are the bulbs that you find in older flashlights, the cheap little cheesy lights that you get in emergency kits or small mini-mags. They aren't very bright and the color of the light is a distinctive yellow color. The light gradually gets dimmer as the batteries lose power. The spot isn't usually very solid. They're cheap and they have good throw, though. Having a few of these around doesn't hurt since they're so easy to find.

LEDs are the next most common type of light that you'll find. They're cheap, the battery life is excellent and the bulbs will usually outlast the light. You can get them with multiple bulbs to increase the light output. A lot of them also come with lenses that magnify the beam. The light doesn't dim much until the batteries are dead. They aren't particularly bright and the throw isn't very good but they provide enough light to see by. Because they don't use much power these lights can be extremely small. They're also used in solar powered and hand crank lights. You can get LED upgrade kits for some of the more popular brands of incandescent lights which will extend the battery life and usually improve the output. The throw might suffer a bit but you won't have that ugly yellow color with the nonuniform spot. I keep a small, $3, AAA led pen light in my pocket wherever I go. I used to keep a photon light on my keychain but they wear out and fall apart too fast if you use them a lot. The batteries are also hard to change.

Xenon bulbs are another pretty common bulb type. They're extremely high output bulbs but they suck up battery power fast and they usually need special, expensive high output camera batteries (CR123). The light is solid white. The beam is usually adjustable. The throw is amazing. Most brands have great spot. They're expensive and the battery life is very low, though. The batteries needed are also pretty expensive. Like incandescents the light output gradually degrades as the batteries die. I keep a Surefire G2 on my nightstand. It's easily the best Xenon light for the price.

The newest bulbs on the market are the high output LEDs. Several companies make these but Cree and Luxeon seem to be leading the pack as far as quality goes. These lights are usually about the same price as Xenons. If you go with a cheap, Chinabrand you can find them much cheaper but the quality is always suspect. High output LEDs aren't quite as bright as Xenons but the battery life is much better. Rather than 2-3 hours the battery life can be upwards of 6-8. You can also get extremely bright LED lights that use the more common battery types because of the power regulators that they make for the LEDs. You can get Cree or Luxeon LED upgrade kits for most of the high end Xenon lights. If you use your light a lot then this is a good thing to have because of the savings on batteries.

The different types of bulbs all have their pros and cons. Obviously you'll need to decide what you need it for. How big of a light do you want? If you want to be able to use it as a weapon then you'll want a big, heavy light. You'll also want it to be bright enough to blind someone. If you want it to be small enough that you can fit it in your pocket then you'll probably be limited to a normal LED or possibly a very small incandescent. If you just want a light in each room in case of a power outage then price will probably be the most important factor. If it's going in your bugout bag then you might want to consider a light that uses the same type of batteries as all of your other electronics that you'll be taking with you. You'll also want something with a good battery life.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Road

I just picked this book up last night. I finished it tonight. It's not often that I finish a book in two days. Part of it was because it was really easy to read and pretty short. It was also very hard to put down. It's very well written with an original, different style of writing.

Without giving too much away it's a story set several years after some type of extremely devastating event that's never truly explained. A father and son is trying to get as far south as possible before winter sets in. They've got to deal with the trials and tribulations of the road in a post-apocalyptic world. I highly recommend it if you haven't already read it. You can find it under Survival Fiction if you click on my amazon store.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

If you must try homesteading on the cheap...

Don't do it on government land. You might end up like the squirrelman in Seattle. Apparently this dude built a tree house on a vacant lot in Seattle that turned out to be owned by the city. Go check it out here

Monday, April 7, 2008

The New Look

As you can see I've done a bit of remodeling. I added an Amazon store and a third column so that everything doesn't look quite so cluttered. Take a look at my Amazon store when you get the chance. If you use the search bar or any of the links on the sidebar to navigate to Amazon then I'll get a little piece of it even if you buy something that I'm not advertising and it won't cost you a cent extra. Unless I start posting every day or I feel like what I've got to say is worth anything then this will be the only "buy my stuff" blurb that you'll ever see on this site. Feel free to let me know what you think of the new look.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Travel Trailer Homesteading

I've seen this topic come up a lot lately. The idea is to get a cheap, used trailer and some junk land and moving in. What blows me away is how many people actually try to argue that it should be your ultimate goal and that you need to do it as soon as possible. You don't need things like air conditioning or running water. Why bother with a garden when you can just forage wild plants and eat out of buckets? More than a few hundred square feet is a waste of space.

I can understand buying some junk land and parking a trailer or building a cabin there. For a few grand you could have a place to call your own even if you lose everything else. Keep it stocked with supplies and you've got a place to go in an emergency. Even if all is well in the world you've got a place to go and just get away from it all.

I'm not against buying some land with the intent to move out there eventually. Running a self sufficient homestead is a long term goal of mine. I just want to make sure that I'm not making too many compromises by moving out there. I want to make sure that I can grow food on my land. I want a well, a decent sized house and a septic system. I want an offgrid renewable energy system. I want to make sure that I have all of the tools that I need before I give up my source of income.

Selling everything and shedding the shackles of the wage slave to live a self sufficient life where you don't owe anyone anything is certainly a romantic thought. Unfortunately you'll just end up trading one set of problems for some totally different ones if you don't plan ahead and do it right. If you have to move out to your land out of necessity then by all means do what you've got to do. It's certainly several steps up from living under a bridge. If you've got a job and the means to keep improving your homestead, though, then keep improving it until you honestly feel comfortable with moving out there.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

You might be a survivalist if....

I ripped this off from one of the forums that I frequent and couldn't stop laughing as I read it. Most of you have probably seen it but to those who haven't...enjoy.

You might be a survivalist if...

- You can’t put your groceries in the trunk of the car because its already jammed full with emergency kits, first aid supplies, and fully-stocked BOBs.

- You have emergency rations for your pets, and view your pets as potential emergency rations.

- You know the news three days before it hits the mass media.

- You have back-up plans for your back-up plans.

- You’re convinced you’ve been exposed to so many chem-trails, you consider it a form of birth control.

- You’ve ever repressed the urge to bleat “BAAAAAAAAAA” as your neighbor earnestly asks, “What war? Where?”

- You’ve ever bought antibiotics for human use through a vet, or grains for human consumption through a feed store.

- You’ve got more than one grain mill.

- You’ve ever wondered how you might filter the used water from your washing machine to make it fit for human consumption.

- You have a kerosene lamp in every room

- Your living room coffee table is actually a board with pretty cloth over it to disguise your food storage underneath.

- Your box springs are Rubber Maid containers filled with rice and beans.

- You save dryer lint to make fire starters.

- Your most commonly-used fuel additive is ‘Stabil’, instead of ‘Gumout’.

- You automatically choose the heavy duty flatbed cart upon entering Sam’s or Costco.

- If you know the shelf life of tuna fish, but don’t know how long you’ve had an open jar of mayo in the frig.

- Your basement walls are insulated with crates of toilet paper, from floor to ceiling, all the way around.

- While other people are saving money for new furniture, or vacations, you are desperately saving to get solar panels put on your house.

- You were excited beyond all reason when they came out with cheddar cheese in a can.

- You’ve ever served MREs at a dinner party.

- You can engage in a spirited debate on chemical vs. sawdust toilets for hours on end.

- You’ve ever considered digging an escape tunnel from your basement to the nearest stand of trees.

- You know how to use a vacuum cleaner in reverse to filter air in your designated bio-chem attack safe room.

- You’ve ever considered buying an above-ground pool for water storage purposes.

- You know what things like ‘TSHTF’, ‘BOB’ and ‘TEOTWAWKI’ mean.

- You have different grades of BOB’s. And restock them twice a year.

- You know the names, family histories, locations, and degree of readiness of over a thousand fellow doomers on the net.... but you’ve never met your neighbors.

- The best radio in the house is a wind-up.

- You have better items in storage than you use everyday.

- When the SHTF, you would eat better than you eat now.

- Your significant other gave you a sleeping bag rated -15 degrees for Christmas.... and you were moved beyond words.

- You’ve sewn a secret mini-BOBs into the bottom of your children’s school backpacks.

- Local food pantries have come to depend on donations from your larder when you rotate stock in the spring and fall.

- You’re still using up your Y2K supplies.

- You have enough army surplus equipment to open a store.

- The local army surplus store owner knows you by your first name.

- You fill up when your gas tank is 3/4 full.

- You call Rubber Maid for wholesale prices.

- You have several cases of baby wipes and your kids are all grown.

- Bert from ‘Tremors’ is your favorite movie character.

- You carry a pocket survival kit, a sturdy folding knife, a SureFire flashlight and a small concealed handgun on you to church every Sunday.

- You start panicking when you are down to 50 rolls of toilet paper.

- You keep a small notebook to write down any edible plants you happen to see along the road.

- You shop yard sales, store sales, and markdown racks for barter goods for ATSHTF.

- You own a hand-operated clothes washer and a non-electric carpet sweeper.

- You have at least two of every size of Dutch oven (the ones with the legs on the bottom), and 20 bags of charcoal, although you have a gas grill.

- You have rain barrels at each corner of your house, although you have a city water hookup, and a Big Berkey to purify the water.

- You have sapphire lights, survival whistle, and a Swiss Army knife on every family member’s keychain.

- The people in line at Costco’s ask you if you run a store or restaraunt.

- You require a shovel to rotate all your preps properly.

- You no longer go the the doctor’s because you can either fix it yourself, make it at home, or know and understand the physicians desk reference better than he does, and can get the goods at the vets or pet store for MUCH less moolah anyway.

- You know that a ‘GPS’ has nothing to do with the economy.

- You track your preps on a computer spreadsheet for easy reordering, but have hardcopies in a 3-ring binder ‘just in case’.

- You’ve thought about where the hordes can be stopped before entering town.

- You start evaluating people according to ‘skill sets’.

- You view the nearest conservation area as a potential grocery store if TSHTF.

- You know *all* the ways out the building where you work.

- You have enough pasta stockpiled in your basement to carbo-load all the runners in the New York marathon.

- You know that you have 36 gallons of extra drinking water in the hot water tank and your 2 toilet tanks.

- You know which bugs are edible.

- You have a handpump on your well.

- You have #10 cans of ‘stuff’ that the labels fell off of, but you won’t throw it out or open it because it ‘may be needed later’, even though you haven’t a clue as to the contents.

- You know where the best defensive positions and lines of fire are on your property.

- You’ve made a range card for your neighborhood.

- Your toenail clipper is a K-BAR.

- The Ranger Handbook is your favorite ‘self help’ book.

- You’ve numbered the deer romping in the yard by their order of consumption.

- You must move 50 cases of food for the plumber to get to that leaky pipe, but you have your own hand truck in the basement to do it.

- You own more pairs of hiking boots than casual and dress shoes combined.

- You have more 55gal blue water drums than family members.

- Your UPS system has more than 6 Deep cycle batteries.

- You have a backup generator for your backup generator, which is a backup for your solar system.

- You go to McDonalds and ask for one order of fries with 25 packs of ketchup and mustard.

- You have ever given SPAM as a serious gift.

- You’ve had your eye out for a good deal for a stainless steel handgun to conceal in the bottom of the magazine rack next to the toliet.

- You are single male over 40, but you still have an emergency childbirth kit, just in case you have to deal with that possibility.

- You have two water heaters installed in your basement, but one is a dummy that’s been converted to hideaway safe.

- You’ve made bugout cargo packs for your dogs.

- You have a walking stick with all sorts of gadgets hidden inside.

- Your koi pond is stocked with catfish.

- As a stand-in scoutmaster, you taught your son’s troop to set mantraps and punji pits, and haven’t been asked to stand in since.

- You’re on your fifth vaccum sealer, but you keep at least one of the worn out ones because you can still seal up plastic bags with it.

- You haven’t bought dried fruit in years, but you buy fresh bananas, apples, peaches and pears by the case and have three dehydrators.

- Your UPS man hates you because of all the cases of ammo he’s had to lug from his truck to your front door.

- You have duplicates of all your electronics gear, solar panels and generator parts in your EMP-shielded fallout shelter.

- You have set aside space for your live chickens in the fallout shelter.

- When the power goes out in your neighborhood, all the neighbor’s kids come over to your place to watch TV on generator power.

- You must open the door to your pantry *very* carefully for fear of a canned goods avalanche.

- You have a ‘Volcano’, you know you can cook anything, and you cast evil glances at your neighbor’s annoying, yappy poodle, muttering “your day will come, hotdog” under your breath.

- You’ve learned to knap flint, make twine from plant fibers for snares and use an atlatl, because you fear that all of your preps and hard work will be confiscated by FEMA troops or destroyed by earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear blasts, ravening hordes of feral sheeple or reptiloids from ‘Planet X’ ATSHTF. *

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How much is too much?

Food, water and shelter are what you need to get by. Being able to protect yourself is also important.

Guns are fun but too many people go too far with them. I firmly believe that every American household should have at least one firearm. I don't think that it should be law. I just wish that people would accept the fact that the threat of armed private citizens has helped dissuade several would be attackers throughout our history. If you don't already own a gun but you want to get prepared don't run out and buy a safe full of guns along with thousands of rounds of ammo before you do anything else. Just get a cheap handgun, a milsurp bolt gun or a shotgun in a relatively common caliber and buy a few hundred to a thousand rounds for it. A CZ-52 and a 1200 round sealed case of ammo will set you back less than $300 and it's enough gun to handle just about anything. That's just one option out of several. The key here is to not go crazy with your "arsenal" until you have everything else squared away. Once you're good on food, water and shelter then go as crazy as you want on your gun cabinet. Just remember that if you actually survive long enough to use a thousand rounds of ammo then you'll probably end up with plenty more ammo and guns.

Food is, in my opinion, the most important prep item. When people start to tighten their belts and things start to get scary food is going to be the first thing to get scarce. Just look at the bread line riots going on in the middle east right now. These people are living in a desert and they're more worried about food than they are water. Luckily food is still plentiful and cheap in the US. If you learn how to garden it costs next to nothing and being able to can your produce just adds to the value. There aren't too many areas in the US that can't support a garden on some level if you know what you're doing. Grain is cheap. If you've got a feed store near you you can find wheat for next to nothing. Costco sells bulk beans and rice for ridiculously low prices. Grain lasts almost indefinitely if stored correctly. Get a good grinder and you expand your options even more. Canned food can often be found on sale. If you find it cheap enough you'll be hard pressed to find a better storage option for certain food items. For a couple hundred dollars you can easily have enough food for a person for a year. If you buy a 50 lb bag of rice here and a 25 lb bag of beans there with spare cash you won't even notice how much it cost you to get a big stash. No amount of food is too much as long as you don't have more than you'll ever be able to use. It doesn't do any good to buy 500 pounds of apples if you won't be able to eat more than 10 pounds of them before the rest go bad.

You can't live without water. Luckily it's pretty easy to find. The important thing is knowing how to make it drinkable and having the means to do it. Because of how bulky and heavy it is it's not really an option to store a huge amount of fresh, drinkable water. A decent, portable filter can be had for under $100 and that'll be enough to get you through most disasters. Get a couple of berkley candle filters and a couple of buckets and you can easily filter 5 gallons at a time of nasty water as needed. A rain catchment system is also a great idea. Naturally it's a good idea to have several gallons of fresh water on hand as well but don't go overboard with your water storage unless you actively use it.

If you're not homeless then you've got your shelter covered. If things get really bad in the world but you don't have to leave your home for anything because you've already got your preps covered then you'll be better off than 90% of the other people around you. While everyone else is fighting over the last few cans of food at Wal-Mart or looking for a victim to rob so that they can feed their family you can just stay home and try not to draw attention to yourself until everything blows over. If things last long enough where you actually have to worry about your preps running out then a big enough portion of the population will probably have been killed off which will make it even easier to get by. If the golden horde starts roving the countryside then the people that think they're in the middle of nowhere might just be in as much danger as the guy with a house in the burbs if not more because they'll be easier to single out.