Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Which to fear most: atomic or debt bomb?

(Note: lots of justification, reasoning and leaping to conclusions here so I'll understand if you want to skip to the good part. Just scroll on down to where it says "Enough Backstory, what can YOU expect in the coming years?" for the shoot'em up, knock'em down and drag'em out part of this post.)

 Every organism from the lowly ameba to the smartest human does that which it PERCEIVES to be in its own best interest.
Desert Dave -- (Quotation, with attribution, permitted and encouraged.)

 Perception is reality at least insofar as we react to it
Anonymous -- (Quotation, with attribution, permitted and encouraged.)

If you agree with the above two statements you'll probably agree that in the future the greatest personal danger you and your family will face will more likely come from desperate fellow citizens in a depression rather than some nuts with nukes.

Nor will you be able to depend on direct action on your behalf from your friendly local, barely aware that you exist, government.

If the gas & lights are out and no water runs from the taps in your house does it matter to you if the cause is global thermonuclear war or depression brought on hyperinflation?

We've all seen that picture (taken during the hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic) of the
From Desert Dave's TEOTWAWKI Survival Guide
German woman burning bundles of bills in a furnace because the heat output from the bills would be more than the heat output from the wood they would buy.

As conditions worsen people don't head for the hills, they adapt.

By 1923 the backs of million mark bills, which had been printed on one side only to save time and ink, were being used as note pads.

The White House recently announced the deficit for fiscal year 2009 alone was $1.4 trillion. (Update) The U.S. is making interest payments of $500 million a day. According to a U.S. National Debt Clock our national debt stands at somewhere over $13,875,295,120,352.

That's over thirteen trillion bucks folks ! While our politicians dither like a debt-a-holic sitting on a curb trying to decide which one of 23 credit cards to cut up foreign nations are coming to the conclusion that although the US Dollar may be the best looking horse in the glue factory of international currencies that ain't sayin' much.

These developments haven't gone unnoticed: China has nearly doubled it gold reserves in the past six years and India's Reserve Bank just bought 200 metric tons of gold as the country’s finance minister warned the economies of the US and Europe had "collapsed". Other Central banks and sovereign wealth funds are following suit.

But what does all that mean to you?

During our own Great Depression cops, firemen (sorry ladies it was all men back then) and thousands of city and state civil service workers were laid off or had their pay reduced in addition to the millions of non-governmental workers we read about in history books.

What most history books don't tell us is that many of those cops got by by taking bribes and in some cases outright thievery/thugery. Back then most Americans were farmers with at least the space and know-how to grow their own food. Will it be that easy the second time around?

Mexico has a similar civil service system to what existed in America during the Great Depression i.e. cops are paid very little and expected to get by on bribes.

In the Great Depression bribed cops looked the other way while booze was smuggled into the local speakeasy. Today armed Mexican military and police escort drug shipments to the U.S. Mexican border. So far the Mexican cops and police haven't crossed over the border with the drug mules. So far as we know.
However my conversations with a senior ICE agent and others indicate there's a lot going on along our southern border that isn't released to the news media. No, it won't be easy the second time around.

In 2010 alone over 3000 people (police, soldiers, men, women, children & infants) were killed in the drug cartel wars to control ciudad Juárez. Over 30,000 people have been killed in Mexican drug wars since 2006 and there is no indication the pace of either the killings or the drug smuggling is slowing down.

Enough Backstory, what can YOU expect in the coming years?

A depression will mean the governments (federal, state & local) will be able to collect less in taxes. Governments don't shrink willingly. They will be dragged kicking and screaming (fingernails leaving furrows in the fine marble floors of capitals and city halls) to fiscal responsibility i.e. spending only what they take in. This will have repercussions you may not have considered.

Fewer shiny fire engines and ambulances to respond to 911 calls and more crime as crooks realize there are fewer cops to respond to 911 calls, fewer courts to try them in if they get caught and less room in prisons (read early release) if they are convicted. If it gets bad enough one of the guys involved in your home invasion may turn out to be the cop who comes later to take a report.

No, I'm not some whacko nut job survivalist fanaticizing gloom & doom; that is what's happening now in Mexico and other South American countries. People are afraid to report extortion, home invasions, robberies and kidnappings to the authorities because the police are often taking bribes from (or among) the criminals committing the crimes.

Bottom Line

In the future you will have to take on more of your own personal security and home protection duties because as time goes on police and fire response will become less reliable.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Argentina Nine Years After 2001

Argentina nine years after 2001; is it WTSHTF or TEOTWAWKI for Argentineans?

A friend on a web site I frequent recently posted the following as part of a longer post:

The problem with Argentina is that their government has had a complete financial (and political) breakdown, including government bond default, about a decade ago and they still have not gotten their act together.

I was trying to augment his report with a link to FerFAL's site (regular readers here have seen that link here several times. FerFAL's site is worth a look several times a month or whenever you find yourself thinking "it" couldn't happen here.) when I stumbled across this link to a report by FerFAL himself. (There's a link at the bottom so you can read the whole thing.)

Here's a report on Argentina Nine Years After 2001:

(a few short quotes, FerFAL writes:)
This week has been interesting and as I now sit here to write and put things together, it hits me how surreal it all is. You get used to all this, its parts of your daily routine to see this things, avoid roadblocks, avoid the conflict and places where protests and looting are taking place. It does wear you out though, imagine wanting to go home after a hard day’s work only to find this in your train station, closed until further notice.

Looting and Rioting
This happened in Constitucion train station yesterday after the service was canceled because of another group of protesters blocking the railroad, and therefore forcing the service to be canceled. I used to take this train to work and this happened more often than you’d think. Man, I don’t miss that train.
(video link)

We’ve also been experiencing a squatters boom. All over the country squatters are taking over land for themselves, hurrying in building brick and mortar structures to consolidate their position. The news only reported the most notorious ones that took place in the capital district, but this situation is wide spread and much worse in the suburbs and country.

How does it look when they take over land and start dividing the land among them? It looks like this.
(video link)

No, not pretty at all. Imagine waking up one day and seeing this in the public park in front of your house. Those orange brick buildings that can be seen in the background, some 3 levels high, they build those in a matter of HOURS. In no time you have a favela or shanty town built in your neighborhood. The price of your nice house plumbs and the neighborhood itself become no man’s land a few days later.

What happens when neighbors are fed up with squatters and take matters into their own hands because the liberal government simply wont stop them from squatting in public and private property? It looks like this:
(another video link)

This last week has been pretty hot as well. The smog and general tropical humidity aren’t helping either.

Blackouts have become widespread all over Buenos Aires.

Empty ATMs and Sudden Bank Holiday
Because of inflation we are experiencing a particular problem as well. There’s just not enough cash to go around. The government doesn’t want to print much needed 500 peso bills because they said it would be admitting an inflation “That doesn’t exist!!” . Add to the rampant inflation the fact that people don’t trust banks much and prefer to use cash instead, this only makes matters worse.

What would you do if they don’t accept plastic any more because of blackouts or some other reason? What would you do if ATMs run empty and banks close? These things happen, its just that people prefer not to think about these things.

[As a regular reader here you should know that Cash is King in any emergency!]

In terms of crime, my wife told me about a new crime she heard while in the beauty salon that I just couldn’t believe.
Because hair extensions have become popular, there’s a prime price for nice long human hair! These scum bags are cutting off women’s hair, specially if its nice and already arranged in an easy to cut pony tail. A long pony tail sells for 300 pesos.

You can read the whole thing and view the videos HERE

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More Than I Bargained For

In Better start working on Plan B I concentrated on hunting in a survival situation.

In response W wrote:
If we really had to live off our 1 acre of land, I would plant it mostly in potatoes. I’d raise chickens and small rodents (like rabbits and/or guinea pigs) for meat. Even though deer are plentiful here today (in fact, I sent out my border collie to chase one out of the garden 10 minutes ago), they would quickly disappear if people hunted them without regulation.

I wrote back:
"Good ideas (planting potatoes & raising guinea pigs). I'd always thought in terms of planting string beans & raising rabbits and stuff like that.
May I reprint your comment anonymously in my blog?"

W replied:
Sure, you can reprint my ideas.
I mentioned potatoes and guinea pigs because they are the survival basis in one of the toughest environments on earth – the Peruvian Andes. Potatoes are native to Peru. They have hundreds of varieties. Andean women and children grow guinea pigs in their homes. Small morsels of protein, easily kept on little resources. You don’t have to butcher a whole cow and possibly waste the protein. Just kill what you need that day.

When potatoes were brought to central Europe in the mid-1600s, they caused an immediate increase in the peasant population, because they are so nutrient-dense (including some Vitamin C) and loads of calories. Potatoes yield much more calories per acre than any other food that I’m aware of. I have a friend who raised 60 lb of potatoes in a 12-foot row in his garden. That’s why Irish, Russian and German peasants grew potatoes.

"When you wrote “String beans” you showed that you don’t understand the problem yet.
The issue is CALORIES for survival!!"

I think you would enjoy the book “Catching Fire” [by Richard Wrangham], about the effect of cooking on human evolution. The point is pertinent: in a survival situation, anything that increases energy absorbed from food is essential. People who live on raw and/or vegetable diets lose weight. Not good if you are about to starve!

String beans don’t have a lot of calories and they also don’t store well. Even canned, they have a risk of botulism.

If you want to grow a high-protein vegetable, grow a legume which will grow easily and produce a large bean that will dry well for preservation (e.g. kidney beans) or a South American high-protein seed, such as quinoa or amaranth. I buy quinoa but I wouldn’t grow it – the seed is too small and hard to handle. I’d stick to kidney beans.

Personally, in a survival situation, I would go for low risk and high production. That means potatoes in a northern climate. I would build fences for the beans to climb on to use the vertical dimension on the north side of the potato row (to avoid shading the potatoes). Beans, being legumes, won’t take nutrition from the potatoes. The potatoes use about 3 feet below the earth. The beans use about 6 feet over the earth. That expands a small garden into 3 dimensions. Both potatoes and dry kidney beans store well.

Animal protein would be low-risk, too – chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs. The lowest-risk, highest protein/fat source is insect grubs, but I would avoid those for cultural reasons unless truly desperate. They are widely valued in Africa and Asia and are a cinch to raise on vegetable waste that would otherwise be composted.

By the way, my neighbor (a very bright retired
[military guy] with lots of survival training) suggested an outdoor movable rabbit enclosure on the lawn with a cover to protect the rabbits from predators. He also suggested llamas as the most versatile animal for transportation, milk, meat and clothing. They are also a lot tougher than European livestock, due to their Andean origins.

In hunter-gatherer societies up to 80% of the food is obtained by gathering. That's nuts, fruits & vegetables not deer, elk & bison. As W says the issue is calories and it doesn't so much matter where you get them as that you get them.

Bottom Line
Maybe your Plan B ought to include Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Potatoes & Kidney Beans.

[In a follow up email W added:]
In cold areas, such as mine, it would be better to plant peas for drying than beans. Peas are cold-tolerant, while beans require a lot of heat to ripen.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Better start working on Plan B

Fall a thousand years ago in an area known as ohi-yo’ a man dressed in brown and tan animal skins picked up an almost straight stick with a flint arrowhead on one end and a notch at the other. Feathers were glued and tied just ahead of the notch with animal residue and sinew.

He was hidden behind a few leafy branches he'd carefully positioned downwind of deer approaching the waterhole from the trail.

As a deer approached the man carefully calculated the range, pulled back the bowstring and sighted along the arrow at the deer's heart.

Last fall in Ohio a man dressed in Mossy Oak Camouflage pattern picked up a nano-carbon shaft arrow with a nock at the back that would light up from the inertia of being fired from his single-cam aluminum and carbon compound bow. The arrowhead was a mechanical titanium broadhead with four razor sharp articulating blades that would expand at the instant of impact.

He was hidden in the portable folding blind he'd unfolded downwind of the waterhole. But he wasn't worried about the deer catching his scent because he'd sprayed his clothing and equipment with a scent blocking chemical. His Kestrel weather meter gave a digital readout of wind speed and temperature.

As a deer approached the man checked the digital range finder on his bow as he brought the bowstring to full draw with his wrist mechanical flight release.

The hunter lined up the middle pin of his seven pin illuminated bow sight on the deer's heart.

So what do ancient and modern bow hunters have to do with you ?

Remember that guy you knew who only thought he knew how to play the guitar? Well I found him. He's playing background music in the hunting videos on the Outdoor and Sportsman Channels.

These half hour long shows on satellite and cable TV range from 30 minute hunting gear infomercials to halfway decent shows wherein the stars go out of their way to mention the brands (sponsors) of the hunting gear they're using.

The Crush with Lee and Tiffany on the Outdoor (OTDCH) channel actually has some production values and is entertaining enough to be worth watching either on TV or their website.

Family Traditions with Haley Heath on the Sportsman (SPMAN) channel is another good one where wife and kids play a big role in the shows.

So why am I offering to reunite you with the garage band legend in his own mind guitar hero?

Despite all the modern gear I went to such great lengths to link to for you; modern bow hunters using fair chase methods often don't even see a deer within shooting range and many times miss their shots when they do. One reason experienced hunters "go bow" is that they get a third hunting seasons (besides firearm & muzzle loader) each fall.

The other reason these knowledgeable hunters choose to bow hunt is that with modern firearms, cartridges, rangefinders and scopes fair chase hunting with a gun is just too easy.

It won't be that way in another depression. To feed their families people will take whatever game they can get any way they can get it legal or otherwise.

Even before the Great Depression predation by humans wiped out some species and came close to exterminating others.

With traps, snares and iron-sighted firearms Depression Era hunters swept the land clean of wildlife:

PARKERSBURG - Many wonder how they will get by if the current economic times get worse, but for those who lived through the Great Depression, self-sufficiency was the key during the hardest of times.


"People were self-sufficient in those times. They had to be. There wasn't much money anywhere. People improvised. They raised their own food and traded for what they needed. People survived. But even before the depression, people weren't used to having much. If it gets that bad now, I don't know what people would do, they aren't used to that. It would be a completely different world for them," Stanley said.

He said most everyone had a garden to sustain their families.


When Amma resident Howard Carper Jr. was a boy in the late 1930s and early 1940s, he and his family survived on what the land would provide and little else.


Every day after school, Carper and his older brother, the late Roscoe Carper Sr., scoured the woods near the farm for whatever small game they could find. There were no deer in that area then, so they kept the family fed with small game.


Carper said the boys learned a great deal about animals. They learned how they behaved and knew where they lived.

"The groundhogs, muskrats, squirrels, rabbits, possums, skunks and raccoons sure had a hard time when me and Roscoe was boys," Carper said.

Their hunting style bears little resemblance to most hunting today. It was Depression-era hunting, hunting that the family not only relied on for sustenance, but with a maxim of shooting only when absolutely necessary.

Larger animals, such as raccoons, Roscoe dispatched with the .22 rifle. Squirrels, however, the younger Carper brother sometimes killed with his bare hands. Shells, after all, cost money. Minor injuries from bites did not.


Just as in Parkersburg, Carper said there was virtually no actual money circulating in the Roane County economy. Muskrat hides, however, were an unofficial legal tender in Roane County. He traded 13 muskrat hides for his first rifle, a .22 single-shot Winchester.


Luxuries most hunters enjoy, such as warm clothing and Thermos bottles of hot coffee, were unknown, Carper said.


Depression era remembered

Some people made a living hunting and trapping during the last depression.

Even today some people continue poaching deer and fish illegally.

U.S. population was between 121,000,000 and 133,000,000 from 1929 to 1941 with a large percentage living on farms Can you imagine what will happen to game and non-game populations if some large percentage of our present day population of over 300,000,000 Americans turns to hunting/poaching to feed their families?

If moving from a bungalow in the burbs to a bunker in the bush and living off the land was your Great Depression Survival Plan A you'd better start working on Plan B.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide Part Two

Here's the second half of my review of Sean Brodrick's The Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide. (If you're just joining us see Part one below.)

Sean correctly points out that once power is knocked out (earthquake, hurricane, tornado or downed power grid) pumped water (drinking, washing, watering & waste) goes with it.

As noted above, three days without water and you'll be out of the struggle. There are three ways to assure yourself and yours of a water supply (I say you'll need one gallon per person per day for drinking and cooking only with a minimum three day supply.):
• Store water in advance of a crisis (Easy & cheep peace of mind.)
• Store water immediately upon learning of a crisis (You'll probably need containers. Act quickly; you won't be the only one scrambling for it.)
• Garner water during and after the crisis (Oh, so you like to gamble do you?)

According to Sean you can store bottled water in a cool dry place for up to two years in advance of a short term crisis in washed out milk & juice plastic jugs or buy distilled or purified water. Sean recommends two gallons per day per person for drinking, cooking and washing.

If you can't be bothered to check and rotate your stored water supply every once in a while, you can keep empty washed out food grade containers around and hope you hear about the impending water shortage soon enough to fill them before the communal water supply runs out. Military surplus five gallon plastic water cans and those big clear five gallon bottles like Culligan delivers which you can often buy at grocery stores will work well for this.

Once word gets out that they're running out of water you'll have a short time to fill up everything in the house that'll hold water while the guy on the civil defense radio station tells you to remain calm and not horde water. After that you can hope for rain (you do have rain barrels right?) or depend on your friendly local government.

Here's a helpful hint from me: When a water shortage is announced people will rush to the stores to buy bottled water. Of course the stores will run out right away. But there are ways to avoid having to rub elbows with the hoi polloi as you rush to assure your family's future hydration. Bottled teas are virtually all water and will fill your body's need for water. You can even cook with it in a pinch. Fruit juices, vitamin water & "health drinks" will all also help keep your body hydrated.

In a disaster situation, potable water may be unavailable. Therefore, always purify water for drinking, cooking, and medical use with one of the following methods.
Heat method
• Heat water to a rolling boil for 1 minute.
Water purification tablets
• Use iodine or chlorine tablets to kill waterborne pathogens. When using these tablets, follow the product directions provided.
• Use unperfumed liquid bleach. Add 8 drops of bleach for each gallon of water. Mix well and let the bleach/water solution stand for 30 minutes.
• If the solution doesn't smell or taste of bleach, add another 8 drops of bleach and let the solution stand for 15 minutes before using.
• If the water is cloudy, double the recommended dosage of bleach.

Sean devotes six pages to water storage methods and water filters. It'll be worth your time to read it.

[Here's my two cents worth: Paper plates & cups plus plastic utensils and cups will significantly extend your water supply by saving dishwashing water. They'll also help with sanitation since washing dishes and utensils in a bucket isn't nearly as efficient as washing them in a sink with running water.

I hate washing dishes so try to eat all my meals off of paper plates with plastic spoons. I find that I use about 100 plastic spoons for every plastic fork or plastic knife used. You may want to use that ratio when stocking up on plastic utensils. When a crisis hits you can't have too many paper plates, bowls & cups. Some plastic bowls & cups might come in handy too.

They come pre-wrapped in plastic bags, buy a bunch now and store them on a high shelf somewhere. As an added bonus paper plates can be burned aiding sanitation and providing heat.]

Having your own source of food during a crisis can help you Bug In (or "shelter in place" as the government calls it) thus avoiding evacuation camps, government shelters and dependence upon others to feed you and yours.

Sean does a good job of covering bulk storage, dry goods, canned goods, dehydrated foods and ready-to-eat meals.

Sean's favors bulk storage and buying foods in large lots. He also recommends storing foods you normally eat as much as possible. ("If you try to suddenly go from grazing on fast foods and frozen pizza to living on MREs, it's pretty much guaranteed that your digestive system is going to revolt, and the results will not be pretty.") With text and tables he helps you decide what to store and how to store it.

In table 7.2 he shows the potential storage life of commercially available foods which gives Honey, Salt and Sugar a shelf life greater than 20 years if stored below 70 degrees F. In my never so humble opinion if Honey, Salt and Sugar are stored in a cool dry place in airtight containers they're almost guaranteed to outlive you and your kids.

Another long term (but expensive) food storage solution commonly considered by survivalists is the military MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) which Sean covers stating "These pouches can be stored for seven years."

Er… well kind'a sort'a maybe. From personal experience I can tell you that although it's possible for a sealed MRE pouch to provide editable food after seven years it'll do so ONLY if it's been stored properly. The military base where I was stored MREs in humidity and temperature controlled warehouses to extend the ration's shelf life.

So if you've got a humidity and temperature controlled environment you can store them in, and the money to buy'em, here's a guide to buying real military MREs.

As I read this chapter it became apparent that you have choices between frugal do it yourself processing and packaging of food which will have to be rotated every year or two and expensive professionally packaged freeze dried nitrogen-packaged foods which will last up to 30 years. But Sean points out one inexpensive long lasting exception – the commercially canned food you buy at the grocery store.

Sean states: "Most canned goods sold in U.S. supermarkets are guaranteed for 10 years. However, Del Monte and other corporations have done research that shows canned goods sealed forty years or longer are just fine to eat." He goes on to state "In reality canned goods can be fit to eat unless the can bulges or rusts all the way through." Again I agree.

In fact canned foods stored in a cool dry place may last a hundred years or more. Just remember acidic foods like tomatoes may eat through the can's lining over time and, as Sean points out, don't store cans long term on concrete or in cardboard which can cause the cans to rust.

Sean also points out that sealed cans can be washed off, opened and the contents eaten even after exposure to radioactive fallout, chemical agents or biological contaminants.

Moving on to cooking without gas or electricity Sean talks about Solar Ovens. Of the many commercially manufactured ones I have used the Sun Oven and can testify to the skeptical that sun cookers work. However if you want to save money you can build your own. The site that Sean cites in the book seems to be dead or dying so try this one to get an idea of what you can make from a corrugated cardboard box and some aluminum foil or even a windshield sun shade.

Sean also mentions fire pits but remember fire safety and when cooking over a campfire you're going to need pot holders or leather gloves.

Chapter eight is about smart shopping, planning meals and clipping coupons. There are lots of ideas on saving money and whole page listing coupon web sites, good if you're into that sort of thing.

We buy the large bottles of both vitamins (A, B, C, D, E & fish oil) and "one a day" type vitamins at Costco and I try to keep a reserve bottle on the shelf as we use the oldest one up. There's no problem with expiration dates since they are all good for a year or two on the day we buy them.

A Special Forces medic once told me that, although efficacy continues to decrease over time, most over the counter medications are still good long after their expirations dates. I believe that holds true for vitamins too.

I've found that a membership at Costco (you might also look into joining Sam's Club, BJ's Wholesale Club or FedMart) gives me good prices on food and gasoline. I buy canned goods by the shrink wrapped flats (usually 12, 24 or 36 cans) and mark the product's official expiration date on the outside so I know which box to use next as I rotate my stock. Yes, I know properly stored canned goods have a shelf life of over 30 years, but I want to keep adding new as I eat the "old" stock.

Chapter Nine Gardening begins by stating the obvious: unless you've got a really big back yard you won't be able to supply all of your fruit & vegetable needs, but adds a garden can supplement whatever food you're able to buy during the crisis and your stored food.

The whole chapter if chock full of useful gardening tips. Sean also recommends you use heirloom seeds so as to be able to grow next year's crop from the seeds of this year's crop. Again, I agree.

Since Sean doesn't have a chapter on hunting I'll insert some information here. "What? But this book is about SUBURBAN survival ! You can't hunt in the city ! Can you?"

Well yes and no. If you go wandering up and down city streets with a 30-30 rifle you're likely to attract some unwanted attention from your neighbors and the authorities. On the other hand spreading parts of your garbage that birds like to eat in the backyard will draw them in close enough for a nearly silent shot with a BB gun out the back window. A pellet rifle will give you a little more noise and a little more range.

Shooting firearms in the city is a no-no because of the danger it poses to others and the noise; which would give you away.

Even the smallest bird has two large breast muscles that are easily removed for cooking. The rest of the bird (plucked) can be used for soups, stews or cat bait.

Cats, rats and squirrels (rats with fluffy tails) like rabbits can be trapped in anything from a simple box balanced on a stick which is pulled by a string trap (like you used when you were a kid) or set and forget homemade traps that you check every day.

You can snare squirrels on your backyard fence (being sure that the squirrels fall inside the fence so the neighbors won't learn of (and compete for) your protein supply.

If you live in an area with enough squirrels you can eat the meat, sell the pelts and maybe even support yourself.

Chapter Ten Health, Medicine and Disease covers the medical profession's preparations for a WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan) event [Hint: y'all better stock up on the medicines you need 'cause they aren't.], why you should have a "Traveling Medicine Bag (and what to put in it) & a Survival Medicine Kit (and what to put in it), protecting yourself from Pandemics & epidemics and household & garden spices and plants you can use to treat some ailments.

I would add two items to the above mentioned kits:
Moleskin to stop blisters when they are still forming and alleviate already formed blisters. (If your motorized evacuation turns into a hike you'll need it.)
New-Skin an antiseptic liquid bandage that seals small wounds like glue. (In fact you can use Super Glue for the same purpose because it's practically the same thing.)
Both are available over the counter in the drug section of your local grocery store.

In the home remedy department Sean outlines the use of garlic and aloe vera (among dozens of others) for help if the store bought medicines run out.

"Pandemics are illnesses spread across vast geographic areas. Epidemics are when a large part of any particular population gets sick." Sean not only has the definitions down pat he's got some advice for you too.

Sean advocates a mix of common sense and hard science to combat diseases:
Keep your distance (three feet, six feet if you can)
Sanitize (wash your hands often)
Stock up on food and medicines (you don't want to have to go to the store when a plague is raging)
Stock up (with hand sanitizer and latex gloves)
(I keep Rubbing Alcohol and/or isopropyl alcohol and/or hydrogen peroxide and/or vinegar around for their cleaning and sanitizing qualities.)

Sean also has advice for when friends or relatives show up at your door during a plague: quarantine them (in the garage or whatever) until the incubation period is over. [Or you could hang a Quarantine sign on your door and decrease the chances of anyone who isn't already noticeably ill bothering you.]

Chapter eleven has an interesting story about thieves and the Pharaoh of Egypt as well as lots of tips on securing your home from burglars and home invaders. Let me break it down for you
• Iron bars on ALL windows (The window you fail to bar is the one they'll use.)
• Iron gates in front of ALL doors (So you can open the door to see who's there without them being able to force their way in.)
• Double key deadbolt locks on all doors.

You'll want the strong bars and gates here's why

Yes, you CAN miss with a shotgun !
Like most people Sean doesn't realize that at in home distances shotgun pellets don't spread out all that much so he thinks shotguns are excellent home defense weapons.

Try this real world experiment:
Unload your shotgun and order your dog to lay down in a room with a phone. To be a creditable threat you must keep your shotgun aimed at Fido while you pick up and dial the phone. If you love your dog double check that the shotgun is unloaded before trying this. Yes, it's damnably near impossible to dial a phone with one hand and cover a crook with a shotgun without pulling the trigger.

Speaking of home invaders, what are you going to take with you when you answer the knock at the door at 3 am? It's hard to hide a 12 gauge. Also, once past the muzzle your assailant is in no danger from your gun. You can pack an 870 when you take out the trash before going to bed, but I prefer a .38 stub nosed double action revolver.

And .38 stub nosed double action revolver is what I recommend for anyone who doesn't practice at least monthly. The pistol should be a stub nosed double action revolver because in a panic situation you don't need to turn off the safety before pulling the trigger on that guy leaping at you with an ax.

Then there's advice from gun pundits. Since you'll be reading his or her advice in a gun magazine, they assume you're armed with the latest armaments available to mankind. With their usual penchant for variety, they offer informed opinion on the utility of a dozen or so short and long guns in this situation. While not completely discounting the evacuation option, as a group they tend to hold a bunker mentality.

Many would have father (armed with laser mounted pistol) gather the kids into the master bedroom while the wife calls the cops while keeping the bedroom door covered with a flashlight mounted 12gauge shotgun. Their advice sometimes runs into trouble upon implementation i.e.

while his wife hides behind the bed with a shotgun in one hand and a phone in the other, our pistolero hero, goes down the hall to collect the kids. Returning with a bundle of joy and/or toddlers tagging along, he then has the unenviable task of convincing a frightened female with a 12 gauge shotgun that it is he, her beloved, not a rapist coming through the bedroom door.

Discounting the option of sending the kid in first, (and assuming the trailing toddlers aren't asking "Why did you wake me up, daddy? Why are the lights off daddy? Why …) we are faced with the question of how loud can you whisper through a closed bedroom door before the burglar hears you?

Assuming the kids are old enough to come quietly in the still of the night, and that both you and the Missus remember the code word/knock there's still the problem of calling the cops. And yes, the gun magazine writers also, wisely, advise calling the gendarmes.

Oh, and chapter eleven has lots of good tips on getting your home expenses down so the weeks without work in a crisis won't hurt your budget/saving so much. Lists of tools and lots of other good stuff here too.

Chapter twelve: Education and Entertainment encourages you and the family to learn new skills that'll come in handy for home repair, building a neighborhood sense of community and brewing beer.

He also has a very good list of books you should have whether WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan) turns into TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) or not. The list alone is worth the price of the book.

Chapter thirteen, Transportation mostly covers how to get around if and when gasoline becomes unavailable or hyper expensive. Hint: learn how to repair a bike and stock up on bike parts.

Chapter fourteen covers evacuation in the event of a WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan) event. Topics include:
• What to pack in your BUG (Bug Out Bag) [Minimum genuine Swiss Army knife, Leatherman Multi-tool. matches & a role of Duct tape.]
• How many BUGs should you have (Car, home, work) [You should have EDC (Every Day Carry) items too. I carry a Swiss Army knife you might opt for a Leatherman multi-tool)
• Nine signs you should "get out of Dodge" (Government curfew, Epidemic, etc.)
• Things to figure out before you leave (Where ya' goin'?
• How to use Google maps to plan your escape [See below]
• What to do if you're the one taking in refugees (Got extra ?)
• What to tell your kids [We're not in Kansas anymore or Super Secret Spy mission?]

If power and computer systems are up Costco, Sam's & other membership only stores that sell gasoline may be able to sell you gas along an evacuation route after other gas stations have run out of gas.

Walmart is a non-membership store that sells debt cards which can be used to buy gasoline at the Murphy gas stations in their parking lots, but everybody and his brother can (and probably will when gas gets short) buy the Walmart cards to get the gas so those stations would probably run out of gas right after the regular gas stations do.

Before you evacuate print out a list of Costco (or Sam's or whatever) stores with maps along your planed route so you will know where to turn off to get gas in strange cities. Sean tells you how to do that with Google Maps on pages 307 – 308 of his book.

Where ya' goin' from most to least desirable: family, friends, hotel, motel, campground, RV park, church or community shelter, storage facility, government shelter or refugee camp.

As you read the book it becomes obvious that living in a paid off house with a garden and some savings will aid your passage through tough times. Also having water & food stored at home will enable you to evade most evacuations. The lists and links in Sean's book are invaluable for accomplishing those goals.

In the Notes section at the back of the book Sean lists many of the web sites from which he got his information. That list alone is worth the price of the book.

To Comment on this article E-Mail Me Unless you specifically ask me not to, I'll post your reply here in the blog so everyone can read it. Of course I'll remove your last name, email address and any other specific information for privacy purposes.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Use Caution Buying Tru-Spec Boonie Hats

I bought a MultiCam boonie hat by Tru-Spec at Kaufman's West in Albuquerque, NM awhile ago and I've worn it exactly twice since then. The second time was on a windy day and I used the built in chin strap that came sewn onto the hat that day.

I immediately noticed that the little leather two hole holder wasn't staying put, but what I didn't notice was that the strap which LOOKED like 550 cord was fraying.

When I got home and saw the damage just one wearing would do I emailed Tru-Spec a complaint along with the two pictures you see here.

It's been a week and still no response from them.

The rest of the hat seems good so I'm going to sew a REAL 550 cord in place of the POS they sold me.

Desert (The world's greatest excuse pales in the face of mediocre performance.) Dave

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide

(My review/critique is over 12 pages long so I'm breaking it up into two parts. Here is the first part:)

I'll have to begin by apologizing for this "book review" because I frequently found that I couldn't resist the urge to chime in with trivia of my own rather than just fault Mr. Brodrick for leaving something out. Hopefully you'll be able to discern the difference between my paraphrases of his work and my own interruptions of myself.

Don't let my carping dissuade you from buying his book or checking it out from the library. The book really is packed with useful information and worth reading.

I like that each chapter closes with a boxed sidebar entitled "The Least You Can Do" which outlines steps to take with regards to that chapter's subject.

Sean Brodrick, the author of The Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide The Smartest Money moves to Prepare for Any Crisis and I got off on the wrong foot when while cataloging major disaster scenarios he listed (thereby giving credence to) the Department of Homeland Security's straw man/bugaboo "right-wing domestic anti-government groups" as something to worry about.

Everybody outside Hollywood* and DNC headquarters knows these right-wing groups, allegedly based primarily in the Pacific Northwest, are basically incompetent in any meaningful political sense and so busy squabbling for power amongst themselves as to preclude them from having any meaningful affect in a crisis beyond their local neighborhood. They shouldn't even be mentioned in any serious discussion of either TEOTWAWKI or WTSHIF which are two of the definitions Sean gets right by the way.

* In Tom Clancy's book The Sum of All Fears (book) the terrorists are Muslim extremists. When Hollywood got control of the movie rights they ignored the fact that the most successful attacks against the USA were carried out by Muslim extremists and the book's Arab nationalists were changed to neo-fascistsThe Sum of All Fear (film)s in the film.

Forgiving Sean for his conspiracy Faux pas I agreed with most of the rest of his proposed major disasters: Economic Depressions, Natural Disasters, Oil Crisis, Food Crisis, Climate Change, Shutdown of Large Portions of the U.S. Energy Grid, Civil Unrest (where he went astray), Pandemic and Terrorism.

Sean believes we're going to see "waves of chaos" building to a crescendo just short of TEOTWAWKI and then receding to some sort of recovery. I tend to agree with him on that point.

Sean spends too much time proving his point at the beginning of each chapter. He also covers personal disasters (your house burning down or flooding) and citing statistics to prove various disasters are likely to happen. Yeah, I know having a fire extinguisher might come in handy in a house fire, but there's a chrome coated adaptor you can buy at the hardware store that'll let you attach a garden hose to your kitchen or bathroom sink. A dry chemical fire extinguisher's discharge time is measured in seconds. A water hose stays on as long as the water is turned on and a nozzle gives you control at the business end of the hose.

Yet I guess I can't fault him too much for feeling he needs to prove his points to people just becoming aware of the self-made precarious financial positions of the world's banks or hyper indebted governments crushing us with debt or crises approaching the boiling point like the oil crisis and continuing terrorism.

These events are real and are affecting all of our lives. He also feels he needs to show WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan) disasters like hurricane Katrina [or the San Francisco earthquake] will happen again.

[Speaking of Katrina, I keep running across differing descriptions of what happened in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Some stories like John's (linked to from this blog before) found destruction and hardship generally countered by neighbors coming together for mutual aid while Sean quotes a Mr. Michael Homan who claims to have been held a virtual prisoner in the equivalent of a government concentration camp.

I guess the lesson I've learned from studying people's reactions to Katrina is that when it's a reasonable number of survivors people rush to help, however when they see the line of survivors needing help stretching to the horizon the barriers begin going up as they realize there just isn't enough to go around. We saw this with the Gretna police setting up a roadblock on the Crescent City Connection Bridge two days after the storm passed.]

I recently completed a federally sponsored CERT class which trained volunteers in light rescue, light first aid and triage. One of the messages of the class was it may take the government three days to get to you. As Sean puts it:

"That's because a real disaster knocks the government for a loop, and it's busy trying to find its feet in the first few days; saving you becomes secondary."

Speaking of threes, Sean's "Survival Rule of Threes" reads as follows
• It takes about three minutes to die without air.
• It takes about three days to die without water.
• It takes about three weeks to die without food.
• It takes about three months to die without hope.

I would add "or become seriously incapacitated" behind the word "die" in each of his first three, I don't know about the fourth.

Sean points out that the Katrina crisis in law and order lasted about two weeks and that although many of the problems caused by hurricane Katrina lasted for years, Katrina was a short-term crisis.

Pointing to an example that is definitely not short-term he devotes the better part of four and a half pages to the problems of Argentina in general and the experiences of one Fernando Aguirre (oft cited on this blog by his nom de plume; FerFAL) in particular.

Another Argentinean Sean quotes in this section is one Willy Tovar whose account is more easily read here on Google Books.

Note that Willy saw what was coming and had the courage to act on his convictions. He exchanged his Argentinean pesos to US Dollars and moved his family out of the country.

Of course you're asking, "How the heck do I get out of US Dollars?" Well, I chose to exchange a portion of my US Dollars for Canadian dollars held in a Canadian bank in Canada. A friend chose Swiss Franks and Australian dollars (yes it's legal as long as you pay taxes on the interest). Of course gold and silver are good choices too.

"A Big-Picture Look at the U.S. Economy – We're So Screwed" (Ch. 3 pg 39) Sean says the world's financial center of gravity shifted from Europe to the United States during the Panic of 1873 and he thinks it's about to shift again from the United States to Asia. Again, I agree.

We paid off the mortgage on our home years ago and I'm sure Sean would agree having a rent free place to live would be a good thing in hard times, but he has several reasons not to pay off your mortgage:
• You might need the money for other things like preparing for TEOTWAWKI.
• The value of your house may go down some more.
• You may get bailed out by the government.
• It's much more important to pay off credit card and other high-interest debts.

Personally I'd say if you're within a few months of paying off your mortgage, go for it, but remember paying two months worth of mortgage payment one month does not relieve you of the obligation of making the next months payment.

Sean suggests paying off high-interest debt like credit cards and vehicle payments. Again, I agree.

(True, credit cards are "Unsecured debt" which means you could walk away without paying and in most cases the most the credit card company would do would be to ruin your credit rating. But consider, we're expecting the USA to be rocked by waves of WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan) events. Wouldn't you want access to credit during such times?)

I think much of Sean's list of "New Careers for a Brave New World" will only be needed after a series of prolonged crises.

Bike Mechanic (Maybe, but I'm thinking bicycle tires & parts would be more in demand as people fixed their own Schwinns.)

Seamstress/Taylor (My wife regularly presides over rummage sales at the church selling hundreds of garments in a day. Right now three full 30 gallon trash bags sit by our door awaiting transport to such a sale – all from cleaning out her closets. I expect the nation's supply of surplus clothes to last for years.)

Cobbler (Sean claims our shoes are "…made to wear out in a matter of months." I don't know where he buys shoes, but most of mine have lasted for years and I now have ten pairs plus two pair of boots. I counted 42 pairs of my wife's shoes before giving up. Our clothes and shoes may not be the latest style in a WTSHTF event, but I doubt we'll be bare or barefoot for years into it.)

Making beer (Takes a steady flow of ingredients from somewhere. I'm guessing in a prolonged shortage most beer drinkers will go to pot.)

Acoustic musician (Yes, non-electric music & entertainments (think Vaudeville) would be popular in a scenario where electricity was intermittent or nonexistent.)

Tool maker (I'm not sure on this one; it all depends on the scenario.)

I can hear you sneering:
"Alright, smartass, which careers do you think will prosper?"

Well, people gott'a eat and I think one of the main criteria of starting a new career in a crisis environment would be small startup costs. Although these may not support you, they're likely to augment income and help stave off starvation.

• Backyard truck gardens. (Also window & roof gardens for fruits & veggies.)

• Backyard chicken ranches. (Many municipalities already allow a small number of ducks rabbits or chickens (NO roosters!) within city limits.

• Backyard aquaculture. (Maybe ya' can't afford the pool boy any more, but tilapia will keep down mosquitoes, provide food and maybe some to sell at the farmers market.)

Farmers markets (To sell all the extra fruits, veggies & eggs.)

Flea markets (To sell shoes, clothes, bike parts, tools & what-have-you.)

Backyard marijuana farms (In desperate and forlorn hopes of raising tax revenues governments may legalize the stuff. Of course they've as much chance of collecting taxes on the pot you raise in your backyard as on the carrots you raised in your backyard.)

Trader (Buy cheap here, sells dear there. Avoid selling at wholesale (rag picker, aluminum can collector, etc.) because the real money's to be made in selling at retail IF you buy at a low enough price.)

Farmer/Rancher (If your backyard plot is large enough to produce a surplus you'll want to avoid selling veggies, eggs or fish to wholesalers or stores because, again, there's a bigger profit margin selling directly to consumers.)

Ahem! Getting back to Mr. Brodrick's book…

Sean devotes an entire chapter to a long and impassioned justification of owning and possessing gold & silver (mainly as coins because they're more fungible) and alternative currencies particularly the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian Dollars (in that order) particularly if you plan to flee to one of those countries in a crisis. (I'd emphasize having the money in an account in one of that country's banks in that country.)

He reprints one of the better "First 100 Things to Disappear in a National Emergency/Crisis/Power Outage" lists from the Internet. Here's one of them, but I notice that despite the large number of items on the list that require a flame to get started matches aren't listed. If things deteriorated to the point that y'all needed even half of that stuff I'm willing to bet matches and cigarette lighters would be at the top of that list of first things disappearing.

Matches would be a great thing to stock up on because they're free for the taking – now. Yet with the success of the anti-smoking campaign sources of free matchbooks are drying up. Bowls and boxes of free matchbooks used to sit beside cash registers at nearly every restaurant and bar, now not so much.

I'm leaving the rest of Sean's financial advice out of this review because it's much to complicated to get into here and I don't feel qualified to critique his choices. Suffice to say he thinks your investments should be diversified and probably include Exchange Traded Funds (which I eschew), gold & silver coins.

In case you're interested my own investment preferences include the above mentioned gold & silver coins, dividend paying US utilities (politicians won't let thirsty/unwashed constituents freeze in the dark), Canadian oil, gas & pipeline companies plus a few others like 3M and Clorox. Hormel (makers of Spam) should do well in the coming hard times too.

(In the Notes section at the back of the book Sean lists many of the web sites from which he got his information. That list alone is worth the price of the book.)

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6th Texas Cavalry writes:

"Thanks Dave for your comments on "The Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide"...of particular interest was the "New Careers" section....and BTW it sounds like your closets resemble ours....plenty of clothes/plenty of shoes, not to mention hats/coats/scarves/gloves ect

Several "Careers for a Brave New World" come to mind for me:

Small engine gas becomes expensive or scarce folks will switch to motorcycles/ATVs for transport....a mechanic that can keep small engines running should have lots of work.

12 Volt electrician....a person that can hook a solar panel to a 12 volt car battery then use that battery to run a LED lighting system will be in demand...not to mention hooking a car alternator to a water wheel to charge a 12 volt jump pack...or charge up a tray of rechargable flashlight a SHTF scenerio you don't want to run out of batteries....your life may depend on being able to shine a light on an intruder at night.

Diesel tractor owner/'s much more efficient to plow up a garden with a tractor than with a spade...and unless you have draft animals, a tractor w/plow and disk harrow is necessary for small grain can't till a 3 acre community wheat field with a shovel....most diesel tractors will run on home heating oil and there should be some of that around in people's furnace tanks.

Manure salesman....after the bags of commercial fertilizer run out down at the home improvement center who you gonna call?, I'm heading down to the local riding stable and buying a load rotted horse manure...or maybe over to the neighbor's pasture for some cow pies...any natural fertilizer that can boost food production will be in demand.

Woodcutter....since the beginning of time, woodcutters have always had work....whether for heat or cooking, people are eventually going to need wood...lots of people switched back to wood during the Depression...and it's already happening again in America... Google 'wood stoves' and you'll see what I mean.

Good luck to everybody,
6th Texas Cavalry
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Agent P writes:
My experience is this is very much an innate survival instinct in all of us.

I recall standing in an orderly line waiting to purchase bleacher seat tickets to the World Series back in 1968. Most of us has been sitting in line in a neat and orderly fashion all night long. The line stretched for blocks around the stadium parking lot.

Early in the morning the line broke and there was mad rush to the ticket window. Now it was just a crowd, but when tickets went on sale, people at the front of the mass got tickets. Those who were slow to respond lost out.

Its a dog eat dog competitive world out there. Chaos is very possible when law and order breaks down. And many of us need reminders that the law is nearby and ready to restore order if necessary. Without that, anything goes.
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