Fire Roasted Green Chiles

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At the end of every summer, the state of New Mexico shares its bounty with the rest of the world.  The famous Hatch Green Chile is in season!  During this season, all the stores in Texas offer these peppers for a great price.  Usually they can be had for less than a dollar a pound.  Since it is a short window on Hatch season, a lot of us like to stock up for the year.  There are several ways to preserve them for year-round use.

The most popular methods are freezing, drying, and canning.  For our yearly stockpile, we bought a 25 pound case, so we have a lot of peppers to work with.  More than half will be frozen, which is a lot more work than it sounds like.  The rest will end up getting dried.  Drying these peppers will use the same process I covered a few weeks ago, so I won’t go into any detail.

Before peppers can be frozen, it helps to remove the skin.  Most peppers have a very tough skin that will not come off the flesh of the pepper without some help.  This is where the roasting comes in.  Once the peppers are roasted, the skins will slip off.  At this point, the peppers go into small freezer bags and into the freezer.  Be sure to use small, serving size bags because once thawed, the peppers will only last a week or two in the refrigerator.

I planned on roasting the whole batch over hardwood coals in the fire pit.  It works well but was very time consuming.  It also involves working directly over an open fire in August in Texas.  Needless to say, it was hot work. To roast these peppers, pierce each pepper with a fork several times.  Put them over the heat until the skin blisters.  Once it is blistered completely, remove from heat and place them in freezer bag or a bowl covered with a towel to allow them to “sweat”.  Once they are cool the skins should slip off.

About halfway through, some friends showed up to help.  They were born and raised in the Mesilla Valley in New Mexico.   We were quickly onto a different method.  We built the fire up to really increase the heat and procured a large pot.  In this pot, we poured enough vegetable oil to completely cover a few peppers.  Once this oil was hot, we started tossing peppers in and letting them blister.  As they finished, they were laid out on cardboard to drain.  This process took 2 or 3 minutes compared to the 15 to 20 minutes it took over the fire.

There is a method that uses an oven to roast the peppers, but we decided against it.  It works well but makes the house smell of chile peppers and can turn the air in the kitchen into pepper spray.  Even with 3 peppers in the oven, the odor was strong.  We will continue to do all of our roasting outside.

A few things I discovered that will help out…  When handling peppers, don’t touch your eyes or face (or private parts!).  You can wear gloves to help out with this.  When working over a fire, the longer your tongs, the better.  I lost some hair on my hands turning peppers.  The friends from New Mexico said that a gas or charcoal grill works very well.

 

Photo courtesy of Sarah’s Musical Kitchen.

One-day Suturing and Minor Surgery Workshop October 4, 2014

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Suturing and Minor Surgery – 1-Day Class
2015 Schedule TBA

This class is taken from Day 2 (Modules 3 and 4) of Survival Medicine 101

  • For a listing of what is covered, CLICK HERE or see below.

Suturing

  • Intro to suturing
  • Sterile technique
  • Wound cleansing
  • Local anesthesia
  • Hand suture ties
  • Instrument ties
  • Interrupted sutures
  • Alternate suture techniques
  • Skin stapling
  • Wound care & dressing
Minor Surgery
  • Cryosurgery
  • Hyfercation & cautery
  • Lesion excision
  • Lancing an abscess
  • Subungual hematoma evacuation
  • Digital nerve block
  • Nail excision
This class is specifically for those who cannot attend a longer workshop, or for those who want to “try out” a single class.

Additional details will be sent upon registration

Register for THIS CLASS ONLY per the form below:

Suturing & Minor Surgery
First registrant $130.00 USDSecond registrant $130.00 USD

SunJack Solar Phone Charger

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Product Spotlight: SunJack Portable Solar Charger (14W) In this review, we’ll be rating the very handy SunJack Portable Solar Phone Charger (14W). Recommended Rating: 5 Stars ★★★★★ Portable power for your communication devices is becoming a requirement for most everyone, especially preppers. How many times do you see people sitting on the floor next to outlets at airports, restaurants […]

The post SunJack Solar Phone Charger appeared first on The Home For Survival.

Book Giveaway Signup Link

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Yesterday I posted an announcement of a book giveaway for ten copies of Refuge After the Collapse (the sequel to The Pulse).  Many of you who follow this blog have signed up for the giveaway using the embedded signup form I included at the bottom of yesterday’s post.

Some other readers brought it to my attention though, that this form did not work for them if they received updates to this blog through an RSS feed or email subscription.  If you tried to sign up for the giveaway and didn’t get a confirmation notice and an email from my newsletter service verifying that you indeed wanted to be added to the list, you were not added.  I apologize for the confusion but the newsletter service (hosted by MailChimp) is new to me and I should have posted a link rather than an embedded from so that those of you who subscribe to the blog rather than visit Bug Out Survival directly would be able to enter.  So if you didn’t get a confirmation, here is a link to the signup form:

Scott B. Williams Newsletter Signup

You can also enter by visiting the signup page on my main website here:

http://scottbwilliams.com/blog/newslettersignup/

After you enter your email address and click ‘submit’, be sure and check you inbox and SPAM folders for the verification email.  If you do not respond to it to verify that you wanted to subscribe, you won’t be added to the list.  This is a good thing as it keeps you from getting unwanted junk mail.

I also want to point out that this signup is for my newsletter and is not a subscription to updates here at Bug Out Survival.  The purpose of the newsletter is to let subscribers be the first to know about the next book giveaways and releases, and will also provide me a way of contacting you directly through email if you are a winner in one of these giveaways.  As mentioned in yesterday’s post, you will only get an occasional email from me through the newsletter and your email address will never be shared.  Remember too that you can unsubscribe at anytime.

Thanks again for all the interest in my new book and good luck with winning one of those free copies.  I look forward to staying in touch with my readers through the newsletter, and will soon have some news to share regarding the next books after Refuge.  

Japanese Govt Urges Citizens to Stockpile One Month Toilet Paper Supply

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A bizarre approach to dispensing toilet paper.

A bizarre approach to dispensing toilet paper – sighted at a rest stop somewhere between SD and MN.

A little known side effect of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant problems in Japan was a shortage of toilet paper that affected the entire country.

Japan has had toilet paper shortages before, back in the oil crisis of 1973 (you never thought that expensive and scarce oil would create a toilet paper shortage, did you!) and so the nation has become particularly sensitized to the potential of future shortages.  As a result, the Japanese government is now urging the public to stockpile toilet paper, and has even arranged for a special type of toilet paper roll (without the inner cardboard sleeve) that allows more toilet paper to be stored in less space.  You can read more about their public promotional campaign here.

We see two interesting things about this.  The first is the government’s determination that it could take a month for any disruption in supply to be resolved, either due to factories returning to production or by way of importing supplies from other countries, and so they are recommending everyone keeps at least a one month supply in their homes.

Depending on your point of view, a one month supply is either a generous amount or woefully inadequate.  A lot would rest on the type of disruption to local manufacturing, of course, and if it was a broader global disruption (such as another oil shock) then even a one month supply might be exhausted long before new supplies were on hand.  Of course, this is a Level 1 type preparation only, not a Level 2 or 3.

The second interesting thing is the focus on stockpiling a month of toilet paper.  We don’t disagree with this at all, of course, but how about other things, too?  Like, ummm, water and food?  If toilet paper is liable to disruptions in supply, surely food supplies too have to be considered as being at risk of some future disruptions, and if we had to choose between no toilet paper and no food, well, that’s an easy choice, isn’t it!

Don’t get us wrong.  It is great to see a national government advocate a one month stockpile of anything, but we see this as begging the question – why do we need to maintain a one month supply of toilet paper, but not a one month supply of everything else, too?

The post Japanese Govt Urges Citizens to Stockpile One Month Toilet Paper Supply appeared first on Code Green Prep.

Laptop Reportedly Seized From ISIS Hideout Hints At Bio Weapons Attack

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A laptop reportedly recovered from an Islamic State jihadist contained a hidden trove of secret plans, including weaponizing the bubonic plague, and lessons on disguise, bomb-making and stealing cars. A man identified by ForeignPolicy.com as Abu Ali, a commander of a moderate Syrian rebel group in northern Syria, told the publication the black laptop was seized earlier […]

UK Terror Threat Level Raised

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Editor’s Note: While we and our allies have been at war with terrorists for many years, as you have heard in the news we have a new group of cowards called ISIS to deal with. While the extremism is not a new problem, the only way we will be able to combat it is to be vigilant. The resolve of the […]

Coturnix Quail for Homesteaders

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I’ve had a bit of interest over the last few weeks regarding quail as a backyard meat source. I thought I’d dust off the topic and put another article together covering the ins and outs of raising Coturnix quail, particularly in an urban setting. It is a rather long article, but still not as detailed […]

Book Giveaway: Refuge After the Collapse

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I have word from the publisher that copies of Refuge have shipped from the printer to the warehouse, so the book should be showing up for sale soon, though the official release date is still posted on Amazon and other sites as September 23.

I should have my author’s copies sometime before then, and I want to announce a giveaway of ten (10) signed copies that I will personally mail out to the winners, who will be chosen from the email entrants to the giveaway once I have books in hand.

To enter for a chance to win a copy in this giveaway, all you have to do is enter your email address and first name in the form below.  If you are selected I’ll contact you by email to get your mailing address.

The sign-up will also add you to my newsletter mailing list, so you will be the first to know about my next books (two projects currently in the works) and other giveaways, previews and occasional recommendations of other books I’ve recently read.  This newsletter list is new and will be my go-to method of keeping readers informed in lieu of social networks like Facebook and Twitter with their ever-changing policies and restrictions.  You’ll only get an occasional newsletter email, certainly less than one a month and most of the time even less, and you can be sure your email address will never be shared and that you can opt out of the list at anytime, including right after this giveaway, if you choose.

If you chose to enter, thanks for your interest in the sequel to The Pulse and good luck!

(Update Notice:  If you are reading this blog post from an email or RSS subscription feed, the signup field below will not work.  I posted an update about this after publishing this post.  Use the signup form at this link instead: Scott B. Williams Newsletter

If you are reading this on the web at www.bugoutsurvival.com, the form below should work.  Either way, you won’t be entered unless after clicking subscribe you get a notification saying that an email has been sent for verification.  You must opt-in to the list after receiving that email.)

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eBooks or Dead Trees? Maintaining a Prepper Library

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We love traditional printed books, but storing them all is becoming an ever greater and more costly problem, demanding we switch less essential titles to eBook format.

We love traditional printed books, but storing them all is becoming an ever greater and more costly problem, demanding we switch less essential titles to eBook format.

Are you building up a library of prepper resource materials?  You definitely should be.

If you’re like us, you probably already have somewhere between hundreds of thousands and literally millions of pages of resource material, spanning tens or even hundreds of gigabytes of data on your hard drives.  It is very easy to download and save material from many different sites and sources.

If you’re like us, you’ve maybe also bought some CDs or DVDs filled with prepper type content, adding still further to the vast resource of material you have.

Indeed, our biggest ‘problem’ with our data is not knowing what we have.  We’ve so much of it, indeed we just counted and we have 137,000 prepper files, including some zip files that have in turn hundreds more files within them, and we know we have sometimes downloaded things twice, and if we had to find information on a specific topic, well, that could be a time-consuming problem!

Again, if you’re like us, not much of this is printed out, and most is sitting in abstract electronic form on your hard drive(s).  It is easily to download a five hundred page manual that you might never need – it costs you almost literally nothing to download and save onto a hard drive, for a ‘just in case’ future use – maybe sometime, probably (hopefully!) never.

Now think about the future that you’re saving all this material to help you with.  What happens if we suffer an EMP and most of our electronics are fried?  Or what happens if your hard drive simply dies – how thoroughly backed up is the material you downloaded?  Or, even worse, if your computer fails.  Never mind the data backup – how many spare computers do you have, too!

Did you know that CDs and DVDs have finite lives?  Sooner or later, the data on them will start to corrupt and eventually become unreadable.

And even if the data remains secure and readable, sooner or later, your electronics will die.  Maybe they will die quickly, through an EMP or power surge or something.  Maybe they’ll just slowly fail as the natural lifespans of the electronics passes, or maybe they’ll die quickly of ‘infant mortality’ (electronic devices tend to either die quickly, or else last most/all of their expected lives before failing).  For that matter, did you also know that some electronic components age and expire whether they are being used or not – specifically, electrolytic capacitors, which have about a 20 year life and at some point subsequently, will start to become ‘leaky’ (in an electrical more than physical sense) and fail.

Our point is simple.  A printed out book is a remarkably long-lived device, and while it has some vulnerabilities (eg to water and fire, also to dogs and small children) you’ll usually find books are more reliable and guaranteed to ‘work’ in adverse situations than is the case with modern electronics.

Should you therefore be printing out everything you download and save?

The answer to this question is a modified ‘no, not really’.  We’ll wager that probably 95% of everything you download is stuff you’d never look at, no matter what happens WTSHTF.  But, and here’s the catch – can you be sure which of the many things you’ve downloaded will be in the 95% unnecessary and which will be in the 5% of necessary/essential reference resources?

But what do you print out, and what do you leave in electronic format?  Furthermore, there are more downsides to eBooks than ‘just’ the concern that the electronics will fail.

If you can only read eBooks and other electronic files on your computer, how truly convenient is that?  Your computer – even if a laptop/portable rather than desktop unit – still weighs many pounds, needs power, and is somewhat fragile.  You probably don’t want it sitting out in the field alongside you as you work out how to construct something.  If you drop a book, you pick it up again.  If you drop a computer…..

You can’t have your computer or eBook reader in more than one place at once – you can’t have someone in the kitchen using it for cooking, someone in the workshop using it to repair something, someone in the living room using it to read for relaxation, and so on.  Sure, each physical book can only be in one place too, but you can have each of your many books in a different place.

Call us old-fashioned, but we see a clear role for hard copy printed books in our retreats.

However, let’s also look at some of the upsides of eBooks, as well as their downsides.

We keep coming back to the gigabytes of downloaded ‘just in case’ reference material we have here.  We’ve no idea how many hundreds of thousands of pages of content there are in all of these, but even if we say there is ‘only’ 100,000 pages of key content, how much paper/space/cost would that require to print it all out?

You can partially answer that question with a visit to your local office supply store.  Look at the size of a box of ten reams of paper (10 x 500 sheets = 5,000 sheets).  Now look at the size of a pallet full of those boxes of paper.  That’s quite a lot of space, isn’t it, particularly if neatly laid out on bookshelves rather than stacked on pallets.  100,000 sides, (if you can print double-sided, and if you can’t, you’d probably be well advised to buy a duplex printer prior to this enormous printing project) would require 50,000 sheets, or ten of those boxes, plus extra space for covers and whatever else.

That’s an appreciable amount of space, and we’ve not started to address the question of how you’d bind the printouts together (probably either in ring-binders or, more space efficiently, by simply stapling short works and using re-usable fold-over binding posts for larger works).  Plus there’s the cost – the paper cost is minimal, and less than a couple of cents a sheet, but then add additional for the ink or toner to print onto them (get a low cost per page laser printer rather than a high cost per page inkjet printer), and all up, 100,000 sides/50,000 pages of content probably end up costing you $2,500 or more.

Now you need a way to store and index all this material, too.  So you need some shelving and space to put it, and some sort of indexing system so you can find it in the future.  That’s more time, more money, and more hassle.

If you have a million pages of material (we’re sure we have at least that much, ourselves) your $2,500 project has become a $25,000+ project, and you’ll literally need a library room in your retreat.

So, much as we love traditional physical books, it seems there is clearly a need for balance, with some content in hardcopy form and much more remaining in electronic form.

Our suggestion is to invest in some eBook readers – not just one, but several.

However, don’t necessarily rush out and buy an Amazon Kindle type dedicated eBook reader.  There’s one huge problem with all Kindles (and some smaller problems too).

Kindles have a limited degree of on-device storage, and for more than that, they need to be synched with Amazon’s cloud service.  That works well at present, but in a ‘grid down’ situation, there’ll likely be no internet and so no way to synch your Kindle with Amazon.  This is, obviously, their very big problem.

Their smaller problem is that they’re not as ‘open source’ as a regular Android tablet, and try to lock you into the Amazon ‘eco system’, making it harder for you to view other eBook formats and files.  You don’t have this problem on a generic tablet that would conveniently allow you to view all common eBook formats.

You should get tablets that can accept SD or micro SD cards, as well as being able to be connected to a computer and to be directly synched that way.  Almost unavoidably, these will probably be Android based.

Sure, you’ll be spending money for each tablet purchase to do this, and more to buy up a supply of memory cards, but that is all probably both essential and also much better than spending some thousands of dollars printing out all those slightly weird and very out-of-date manuals and scanned pdf copies of things.

You’d be astonished at how inexpensive tablets can be, these days.  While Apple still charges way over the odds for their iPads, you can now get competing products for astonishingly great values.  Amazon have tablets for sale that cost less than $100 each,.  You don’t need the most modern state of the art super-tablets when all you need them for is reading books.  Just make sure they have a version 4 or greater of Android, and a micro or full size SD card reader on them.  A rare and not really essential bonus would be a replaceable battery.

When you have your tablets, you need to load a PDF reading program onto them, and also probably Amazon’s Kindle eBook reading software.  That way you have the best of both worlds – you can directly read your own PDFs, and can also download – and store – any Kindle books you buy through Amazon as well.

We suggest you keep your electronic library resources – the tablets that are designated as primary readers, and the removable media (micro or regular SD cards with the files on them) in a Faraday cage type storage unit.  This doesn’t need to be anything fancier than a lined metal container (lined with foam or something, keeping everything inside the container away from the metal sides) with a securely fitting metal lid and a good electrical seal between the container and its lid.  That makes everything reasonably secure against both EMP type attacks and other external environmental threats (extreme weather, rain, and animals/insects) too.

You’d want to take the units out and discharge/recharge their batteries once every quarter or so, and of course from time to time you’ll update your inventory of data files on your memory cards.

If you do this, then whenever you need to be able to access your electronic library, and in a grid down situation with your normal electronics no longer available to you, it becomes an easy thing to open up your cookie tin/Faraday cage and start using your eBook readers.

We’d be sure to have two copies of everything on memory cards, and at least one hard drive full of the files too, giving you plenty of backup and options for accessing your files in the future.

Currently (ie Aug 2014) the ‘sweet spot’ for micro SD cards is to get cards holding 64 GB per card.  You probably only need a few of these.  If you were buying 128 GB cards, your cost per GB of storage goes up.  If you buy 32 GB or lower capacity cards, you’re still paying the same cost per GB, and end up with more of the cards to keep track of and not lose.

Summary

If you don’t already have a huge collection of prepper files and texts, you should work on growing it as best time allows.

While some clearly essential titles should be purchased in print form, or printed out if purchased electronically, we encourage you to get as much material in electronic form, and to keep this on micro SD cards and view the files on inexpensive (ie less than $100 each) tablets.

Oh yes.  Do we also need to say – be sure to keep backup copies of all your files!

The post eBooks or Dead Trees? Maintaining a Prepper Library appeared first on Code Green Prep.

Barriers to Critical Thinking & The 7 Essential Questions for Reflection

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By Denis Korn                          

I am sharing once again what has been one of the most read of all my posts – Barriers to Critical Thinking.  It continues to be even more timely given the issues that we face as a country and as a civilization today.  I re-post and update this article periodically and I continually receive comments on how relevant and important it is for not only students, but for adults.

This is a blog site that primarily focuses on the process of emergency preparedness planning, and it is essential that one develops an effective foundation and skill set for critical evaluation and assessment of facts and circumstances that lead to actions that are effectual, appropriate and beneficial.   My philosophical background can’t help but guide me to the two core aspects of the critical thinking process: freedom and choice.

Between stimulus and response, there is a space.

In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our happiness.

— Viktor Frankl, MD, PhD 1905 – 1997  Psychologist, Philosopher, Author and Survivor of 4 Nazi Concentration Camps

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”    

–Viktor Frankl

As an expanded Cherokee Proverb states so well:  

There Is A Battle Of Two Wolves Inside Us All

One is evil.  It is anger, envy, jealousy, greed, sorrow, regret, self-pity, guilt, false pride, resentment, lies, inferiority, elitist superiority and ego.

The other is good.  It is joy, peace, serenity, generosity, compassion, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, faith and truth.

The one who wins?  The one you feed.

What we cultivate and nurture will determine our result and experience.  This applies to building a preparedness program and to all aspects of our encounter with life and our perception of reality.  Do we choose freedom and being responsible for our choices and the rewards that follow, or are we going to thoughtlessly and recklessly react without engaging in a critical thinking process?

As an observer of the current events in our society, it is blatantly obvious that those in positions of leadership and influence – government, commerce, media and education – are suffering from “serious delusion and self-interest syndrome.”  The polarization, manipulation and deterioration of our society is so insidious and pervasive that I continue to pray and yearn for our citizens, educators and leaders to embrace and embody the skills of critical thinking, truthful evaluation, selflessness and discernment.  The lying and deception being imposed upon the people by the government, media and the self-serving has reached epidemic proportions – so many folks are reacting not thinking – fear, selfishness and confusion has robed our populace of the basic fundamentals of thoughtful reasoning.

“The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out… without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.”

— H. L. Mencken

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” 

— George Orwell

Has decades of incompetent, agenda driven and indoctrinating education finally taken its toll on common sense and judicious thinking?

The following list of the barriers to critical thinking, common sense and rational judgment is overwhelming and intimidating to many – so in your quest to be a skilled thinker you are encouraged to overcome obstacles that will appear in your path.  Be dedicated, competent and persistent – and be willing to help others to be successful and effective thinkers.

Here are the Seven Essential Questions that must be reflected upon and honestly answered to begin the process of developing critical thinking skills:

  1. What is the truth?  Can you differentiate the difference between truth and opinion? (hint: truth is discovered – it is what is — opinion is created by people – it is opinion that is relative not truth)
  2. Who do you trust? Why?
  3. From where do you obtain the information that forms your worldview?  Why?
  4. Can you discern the truth from the lie – the real from the false?  How do you discern? – Try logic, reason, rational evaluation, reliable intuition, common sense, anecdotal evidence, nonjudgmental observation and selfless reflection.
  5. Can you recognize “what really is” from what you believe “ought to be?” – It has been said that strife and discord in life arise from the struggle between “what is” and “what ought to be.”  What do you do when you discover this conflict? 
  6. Can you formulate conclusions and judgments based upon the ability to access, evaluate and determine the relevancy and reliability of facts and evidence?
  7. Which barriers are the most prevalent in your critical thinking process, and which ones do you experience most prevalent in others?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

June 2011

I have decided to post this article on the barriers to critical thinking, which I use in teaching, as the 3rd in a series of posts dealing with the psychological, emotional and spiritual components of emergency and disaster preparedness planning.

Normalcy Bias – Why People are attached to Inaction

The Emotional and Spiritual Components of Preparedness

As I have stated before, there is more to preparing for emergencies than the physical “stuff” you surround yourself with.  Evaluating, understanding and acknowledging all aspects of the planning process is essential for a proper and complete preparedness program.

This article, which I wrote, was an important part of the college course I taught on Critical Thinking – a class I believe to be an essential part of a college experience.  I have not changed it for this post – this is what the students read, reflected upon and discussed in class.  Most struggle with its implications and accuracy.  It not only applies to preparedness planning – but to all aspects of human deliberation.

BARRIERS TO CRITICAL THINKING – from my college course on Critical Thinking

Your responsibility as a critical thinker is to be aware of the barriers, acknowledge the challenges they present, and overcome them to the best of your ability.

“If critical thinking is so important, why is it that uncritical thinking is so common?  Why is it that so many people – including many highly educated and intelligent people – find critical thinking so difficult?”[1] And I [Denis] might add – impossible!

Discovering the answers to these questions is crucial to the understanding of what is required to be a true critical thinker, and the reasons you will encounter from those who resist embodying critical thinking skills are often quite complex, and can be both subtle and blatant.  The following list of barriers to critical thinking will help guide you to recognizing the challenges that await you and was compiled from Critical Thinking: A Student’s Introduction, our text Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking, and personal observation.

  • pride
  • greed
  • egocentrism (self-centered thinking)
  • sociocentrism or ethnocentrism (group/society/cultural-centered thinking)
  • an over-reliance on feelings
  • self-deception
  • the erroneous belief of personal infallible intuition
  • unconscious reaction
  • reacting in self-defense – fear of personal attack – believing one’s ideas and beliefs are an extension of one’s self and must be defended at all costs
  • fear of change or an unwillingness to change
  • a pathological inability to evaluate, recognize, or accept an idea or point of view that differs from one’s own
  • a less than honorable agenda
  • lack of relevant background information or ignorance
  • inappropriate bias
  • prejudice
  • unwarranted assumptions
  • overpowering or addictive emotions
  • fear of being wrong or face-saving
  • selective perception and selective memory
  • peer pressure
  • conformism (mindless conformity)
  • indoctrination initiated by uncritical thinkers with malicious and selfish intent
  • provincialism (restricted and unsophisticated thinking)
  • narrow-mindedness or close-mindedness
  • lack of discernment
  • distrust in reason
  • relativism (relativistic thinking)
  • absolutism (there are no exceptions)
  • stereotyping
  • scapegoating (blaming others)
  • denial
  • wishful thinking
  • short-term thinking
  • political correctness
  • superstition
  • being influenced by drugs
  • excessive anger, hate, or bitterness
  • disturbing one’s comfort
  • lack of personal honesty
  • apathy
  • poor reading and comprehension skills
  • poor or dysfunctional communication skills
  • excessive addiction
  • a mental disorder
  • cognitive dissonance (psychological conflict resulting from incompatible beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously)
  • lack of humility
  • the effects of radiation and man-made atmospheric chemicals
  • debilitating fear and uncertainty
  • reliance on main stream television, newspapers and other media for information
  • the effects of television and electronic media on memory, cognition and brain function

In general – the older one becomes the more well-established and rooted these barriers are in the thought process, and the harder it is to overcome them – they become part of you like a scar.  It is suggested to triumph over them as soon as possible.

Questions for reflection:

 

– What is the purpose and value in gaining critical thinking skills?  – Is it really necessary?

– What are the rewards?  – What are the challenges?

– Am I willing to do what it takes?  – How important is it for me?  – Can I do it?

– Do I realize that demonstrating, sharing, and embodying wisdom and discernment requires exemplifying critical thinking skills and overcoming its barriers?  –  Are all these barriers overwhelming?

– Do I realize this is a lifelong process?  – What is the difference between intelligence and wisdom?

– What are the steps required for developing critical thinking skills?

– How do I communicate with others who are not critical thinkers and have embodied these barriers to such an extent that they are unwilling to engage in a meaningful dialogue or acknowledge any responsibility in the communication breakdown?  – Or do I bother at all?

– How am I to react or respond when I experience a lack of critical thinking in the media, among friends and family, at the work place, and in my academic courses and studies?

While many think developing critical thinking skills are for the beginning philosophy student, they are in fact vital for everyone.  Recognizing and overcoming the barriers to critical thinking listed above is essential in creating and maintaining genuine, honest, and nurturing relationships – developing leadership skills for both family and vocational choices – fulfilling the goals and missions of businesses and organizations – and discovering and achieving purpose and fulfillment in all aspects of one’s life.  Many of the barriers to critical thinking are barriers to joyfulness, selflessness, and contentment.

Do not be discouraged by the enormity of the task of reflecting upon, acknowledging, and overcoming these barriers.  Have confidence that you will recognize the hold these barriers have on your thought process, and I encourage you to be committed to achieving the obtainable rewards awaiting you when you have accomplished the goal of prevailing over these barriers one by one.

A common denominator of these barriers is that the individual has no control over their effects.  They are held captive by defective responses and impressions.   One “reacts” to a situation, idea, or challenge, whereas the critical thinker “chooses” the process of thoughtful evaluation – embracing – and embodiment.  The critical thinker has the freedom to rightly assess circumstances and concepts, and the result is to arrive at an appropriate and insightful conclusion and reasonable outcome.

Evaluating and embracing an idea, information, knowledge, guideline, doctrine or theology is a mental exercise and is the just the beginning of the process – embodiment is the goal and requires diligent and persistent action for true fulfillment and success.

In the pursuit of the embodiment of critical thinking skills always be mindful of the value and necessity of honesty, wisdom, discernment, and the need to distinguish the truth from the lie.  We live in an unprecedented time of media, institutional, educational, and political self-interest that will not hesitate to use any means possible to achieve its objectives including deceptive indoctrination techniques, propaganda, deceitfulness, fallacious argumentation, and fraud.

Life is like riding a bicycle.

To keep your balance you must keep moving.

Albert Einstein, in a letter to his son Eduard, February 5, 1930

The Problem of Egocentric Thinking[2]

Egocentric thinking results from the unfortunate fact that humans do not naturally consider the rights and needs of others.  We do not naturally appreciate the point of view of others nor the limitations in our own point of view.  We become explicitly aware or our egocentric thinking only if trained to do so.  We do not naturally recognize our egocentric assumptions, the egocentric way we use information, the egocentric way we interpret data, the source of our egocentric concepts and ideas, the implications of our egocentric thought.  We do not naturally recognize our self-serving perspective.

As humans we live with the unrealistic but confident sense that we have fundamentally figured out the way things actually are, and that we have done this objectively.  We naturally believe in our intuitive perceptions – however inaccurate [Denis – I personally believe that intuitive perceptions are vital to critical thinking – providing one possesses the required discernment skills].  Instead of using intellectual standards in thinking, we often use self-centered psychological standards to determine what to believe and what to reject.  Here are the most commonly used psychological standards in human thinking.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE I BELIEVE IT.”  Innate egocentrism: I assume that what I believe is true even though I have never questioned the basis for many of my beliefs.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE WE BELIEVE IT.”  Innate sociocentrism: I assume that the dominant beliefs of the groups to which I belong are true even though I have never questioned the basis for those beliefs.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE I WANT TO BELIEVE IT.”  Innate wish fulfillment: I belief in whatever puts me (or the groups to which I belong) in a positive light.  I believe what “feels good,” what does not require me to change my thinking in any significant way, what does not require me to admit I have been wrong.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE I HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED IT.”  Innate self-validation: I have a strong desire to maintain beliefs I have long held, even though I have not seriously considered the extent to which those beliefs are justified by the evidence.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE IT IS IN MY SELFISH INTEREST TO BELIEVE IT.”  Innate selfishness: I believe whatever justifies my getting more power, money, or personal advantage even though those beliefs are not grounded in sound reasoning or evidence.

Seriously reflect on this post!

Seriously reflect on this post!


[1] Gregory Bassham, Critical Thinking: A Student’s Introduction, 3rded., (New York, McGraw-Hill, 2008), p. 11

[2] Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder

The post Barriers to Critical Thinking & The 7 Essential Questions for Reflection appeared first on Learn To Prepare – Expert Emergency Preparedness Information.

19 Ways to Re-Use Silica Gel

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how to re-use silica gel
The packets of silica gel found in vitamin bottles, boxes of new shoes, and packages of some food are usually thrown away without a second thought.

But these desiccants that absorb moisture can actually be re-used. Mother Nature Network offers the following ways to keep silica gels out of landfills a bit longer…

  1. Put packs in your ammo cans and gun cases/safes to keep dry.
  2. Protect personal papers and important documents by putting some gel in a baggie wherever these are stored.
  3. Keep with photos to spare them from humidity. Tuck a small envelope in the back of frames to protect even the ones hanging on your walls.
  4. Store in camera bags and with film. After snapping photos in cold or wet conditions, silica gel will absorb moisture to keep your lens from fogging or streaking.
  5. Leave a couple packs in your tool box to prevent rusting.
  6. Use the material to dry flowers.
  7. Place with seeds in storage to thwart molding.
  8. Stash some in window sills to banish condensation.
  9. Dry out electronic items such as cell phones and iPods. Remember after the device has gotten wet, do not turn it back on! Pull out the battery and memory card and put the device in a container filled with several packs. Leave it in there at least overnight.
  10. Slow silver tarnishing by using the gel in jewelry boxes and with your silverware.
  11. For items in storage, such as cars or anything prone to mildew. Popular Mechanics offers a good suggestion for use in engines of sitting vehicles.
  12. Tired of buying big bags of pet food only to have it get soggy? Store your kibble in a bin and tape some silica packs to the bottom of the lid.
  13. Cut open the packs and saturate the beads with essential oils to create potpourri.
  14. Use in luggage while traveling.
  15. Tuck some in your pockets. Hide them in your closet in leather goods such as coats and shoes, and even handbags, to help them survive life in storage.
  16. Gather your razor blades and keep in a container with several silica packs to stave off oxidation.
  17. Video tape collections will last much longer with these to help keep them dry.
  18. Litter is now made with silica. With its fantastic absorption qualities, this litter requires fewer changes and sends less mess to the landfill.
  19. Squirrel some away in your car, especially on your dashboard. This will help maintain a clear windshield and leave it less foggy during times of high humidity.

While these packets are annoying and seem like a waste of resources, they can extend the life of many items. Another reason someone needs to be collecting them to recycle: they can be reactivated repeatedly. To recharge, you just need to bake the saturated beads on a cookie sheet, as detailed on ehow.com.

How Many Acres Do You Need for Your Retreat – Defense Considerations

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You need good lines of sight all around your retreat property.

You need good lines of sight all around your retreat property.

So you’re about to buy yourself a rural retreat?  Congratulations.  We hope you’ll never need it, but how wonderful it is to know it is there and available if things should go severely wrong.

In among all the other things you need to consider when choosing a retreat is its lot size.  There are a number of different factors affecting how large a lot you need, including the soil type, what sorts of crops you plan to cultivate, the animals you might also raise, and, oh yes, some defensive considerations too.

Some of these considerations vary enormously (ie, the number of people each acre of farmed land can support), but the defensive factors are fairly constant.  So let’s make this an easy read for you, and an easy write for us, and talk about them.

We’ve written at length, in past articles, about the need to design your retreat to be sturdy and able to withstand rifle fire, that’s not actually the risk that keeps us awake at night worrying the most about.  Ideally you want everywhere you’re likely to be on your retreat to be safe and not at risk of enemy attack.  Most notably, you not only want to be safe inside the strong walls of your retreat, but also while outside, exposed, and vulnerable, working in your fields, too.

The Biggest Risk of Violent Takeover/Takeout You’ll Face

We see the greatest risk as being picked off, one or two at a time, while we’re working in the fields.  It is conceivable that we might be some distance from our retreat, and we could be bent over, planting or picking some crop, when all of a sudden, a sniper’s bullet slams into our back, even before the sound of the shot reached us.  Talk about literally no warning – it doesn’t get any more sudden than that.

By the time the people around us heard the shot and started to react, a second round might already be meeting the second target.  And then, all of a sudden, nothing.  Well, nothing except a thoroughly panicked remainder of the people we were out in the fields with, all exposed in the middle of the crop, and one or two dead or nearly-dead bodies.

Even if everyone always carried weapons with them – and even if they were rifles rather than short-range pistols which would be useless at these sorts of ranges – by the time anyone had responded, grabbed their rifle (try doing some type of ongoing manual labor with a rifle slung over your shoulders – chances are everyone in the group will have their rifles set to one side rather than slung over their shoulders), chambered a round, and hunched over their sights, where would they look and what would they see?  Possibly nothing at all.  The sniper would retreat, as stealthily as he arrived, his job well done for the day.

Rinse and repeat.  Have the same event occur again a day or two later, and you’re not only now down four people (and any sniper worthy of the name will be carefully choosing the most valuable of the people in the field each time), but you’ve got a panicked group of fellow community members demanding ‘protection’.  Except that – what sort of protection can you give against a faceless guerilla enemy – someone who picks and chooses the time and location of their attacks?  Furthermore, you’re now four people down, and you have to choose what to do with your able-bodied group members – are they to be tasked for defensive patrolling duties or working your crops.  You don’t have enough people to do both!

No smart adversary will attack your retreat in a full frontal assault.  That would be a crazy thing to do.  Instead, they’ll act as we just described, picking you off, one or two at a time, taking as long as is necessary to do so.  Your retreat is no longer your refuge.  It has become the bulls-eye on the attacker’s target map, and all they have to do is observe and bide their time, taking advantage of the opportunities and situations they prepare for and select, rather than being taken advantage of by you and your tactical preparations.

Don’t think that defensive patrols will do you a great deal of good, either.  How many men would you have on each patrol?  One?  Two?  Five?  Ten?  Whatever the number, you’d need to be willing to accept casualties in any contact with the adversary, and unless your people are uniquely skilled and able to use some aspect of tactical advantage, all your enemy needs to do is observe your front and rear doors and wait/watch for patrols to sally forth from your retreat.

This scenario is similar to how the Allies ringed the German U-boat bases with anti-submarine planes and ships (and how we and our adversaries monitor each other’s subs these days too).  While a U-boat might be very hard to find and detect in the middle of the North Atlantic, they all had to leave and return to their bases through obvious unavoidable routes.  Why hunt for a U-boat in thousands of square miles of ocean when you know to within a few hundred feet where they’ll be departing from.

If you do deploy a patrol, they are at the disadvantage.  The enemy will be in a prepared position while your team will now be exposed on open ground.  The enemy will have set an ambush, and your team will find themselves in it.  Depending on the size of the enemy team, and on the respective skill levels, you just know you’re going to lose some team members (and, more likely, all of them) when the ambush slams shut around them.

One more sobering thought.  Call us cynical if you like, but we suspect an attacking force will be both more willing to risk/accept casualties among its members than you are, and will also find it easier to recruit replacement manpower.  The leader of the attackers probably has no close personal relationship with his men, whereas you’re with your friends and family.  The attackers can promise new recruits a chance at plundering stores and supplies and ensuring their own comfortable survival, and if recruits don’t join, they are probably facing extreme hardship or starvation as an alternative.

From their point of view, if things go well for them, they get something they didn’t have before, and if things go badly, they suffer the same fate they are likely to suffer anyway.  But from your point of view, the best that can happen is that you keep what you currently have (at least until the next such encounter) and the worst that can happen doesn’t bear thinking about.

Or, to put it another way, for the attackers, heads they win and tails they don’t lose.  For you, heads you don’t win and tails you do lose.

So, what does this all have to do with the size of your retreat lot?

The most effective tool you have to defend against attack is open space.  If you have a quarter-mile of open space in all directions around you, wherever you are on your lot, then it will be difficult for a sniper to sneak up on you, while being easy for you to keep a watch on the open space all about.  If the sniper does open fire from a quarter-mile away, you’re facing better odds that he might miss on the all important first shot, and much better odds that the subsequent shots will also be off-target.

Compare that to working in, say, a forest, where the bad guys might be lurking behind the tree immediately ahead of you.  At that range, they couldn’t miss and could quickly take over your entire group before you had a chance to respond.

You need to consider two things when deciding how much land you need for your retreat lot.

Topographic Challenges

The first issue is specific to the land you’re looking at.  What is the topography of the land?  Is it all flat, or are their rises and falls, a hill or valley or something else?

If there are natural sight barriers, you need to decide how to respond to them.  Some might be alterable (such as moving a barn, cutting down some trees), and others you’re stuck with (the hill rising up and cresting, not far from your retreat).  Depending on the types of sight barriers you have, you can determine how close adversaries can come to your property boundaries – and, indeed, some types of sight barriers will allow them to get into your property and potentially close to you, while probably remaining entirely undetected.

Don’t go all fanciful here and start fantasizing about patrols and observation posts and electronic monitoring.  The chances are you don’t have sufficient manpower to create an efficient effective system of patrols and OPs, and if you don’t have sufficient manpower to create a secure network of patrolling and OPs, you have to sort of wonder what value there is in a partial network.  Won’t the bad guys be clever enough to plan their movements and actions to exploit your weaknesses?

As for the electronic stuff, this is typically overrated, and provides a less comprehensive set of information than can be gathered by ‘boots on the ground’, and of course, only works until it stops working, at which point it is useless.

Our first point therefore is that some lots are just not well laid out for defending, and while everything else about them might be appealing, if you feel that you’ll need to be able to defend not just your retreat building itself, but the land around it – the land on which your crops are farmed and your animals raised – then you should walk away from the deal and not buy the lot.

What is the point of buying an ‘insurance policy’ to protect you against worst case scenarios, if your policy (your retreat and lot) only works with moderately bad rather than truly worst case scenarios?  That’s an exercise in futility and wishful thinking, and as a prepper, you’re not keen on either of these indulgences!

Lines of Sight – How Much is Enough?

Okay, so you’ve found a lot with no obvious topographic challenges, and unobstructed lines of sight out a long way in every direction.

Let’s now try to pin a value on the phrase ‘a long way’.  How far do you need to be able to see, in order to maintain a safe and secure environment all around you?

Some people might say ‘100 yards’.  Others might say ‘1000 yards’.  And so on, through pretty much any imaginable range of distances.  There’s probably no right answer, but there are some obviously wrong answers.

Let’s look at the minimum safe range first.

Is 100 yards a good safe distance?  We say no, for two reasons.  The first reason is obvious – a bullet round can travel those 100 yards in almost exactly 0.1 seconds, and even a person with limited skills can place a carefully aimed shot onto a slow-moving man-sized target at that range.  You are a sitting duck at 100 yards.

But wait – there’s more.  A bad guy can probably sprint over that 100 yards in 10 seconds.  Even if he has nothing more than a machete, he can be on top of you in ten seconds.  Consider also that he’ll wait until you’re not looking in his direction before he starts his run, and add 0.75 seconds reaction time and maybe another second of ‘what is that?’ and ‘oh no, what should I do!’ time, and by the time you’ve identified him as a threat, reached your rifle, and got it ready to fire, he is probably now at arm’s length, with his machete slashing viciously down toward you.

A 200 yard range is very much nicer.  You’ve become a smaller target, and the bullet aimed at you takes over twice as long to reach you; more important than the extra tenth of a second or so in travel time however is that it is now more like three times as affected by wind, temperature, humidity, manufacturing imperfections, and so on.  A skilled adversary can still have a high chance of first shot bulls-eyes, but regular shooters will not do so well.  The bad guy with the machete will take closer to 25 seconds to reach you, and will be out of breath when he gets there.

We’re not saying you’re completely safe if you maintain a 200 yard security zone around yourself.  But we are saying you’re very much safer than if you had ‘only’ a 100 yard security zone.

So, if 200 yards is good, 300 yards is obviously better, right?  Yes, no disagreement with that.  But at what distance does the cost of buying more land outweigh the increase in security?  Most of us will be forced to accept a smaller buffer zone than we’d ideally like, and perhaps the main point in this case is for you to be aware of how unsafe a small buffer zone truly is, and to maintain some type of sustainably increased defensive posture whenever you’re outdoors.

In the real world, you’ll be compromising between lot size/cost and security right from the get-go, and few of us can afford to add a 200 yard buffer around our lot, let alone a 300 or 400 yard buffer.  To demonstrate the amount of land required, here are two tables.  Both assume an impractically ‘efficient’ use of land – we are making these calculations on the basis of perfect circles, with the inner circle being your protected area and the outer circle being the total area with the added buffer zone space.  But you can never buy circular lots, so the actual real world lot sizes would be bigger than we have calculated here.

For example, where we show, below, the five acre lot with a 200 yard buffer zone as requiring a total of 54 acres if in perfect circles, if the five acre lot was rectangular, and the buffer zone also rectangular but with rounded corners, the total lot would grow to 57 acres, and when we allow for the impossibility of rounded corners, the total lot size then grows to 64 acres.

So keep in mind these are best case numbers shown primarily to simply illustrate the implications of adding a buffer zone to a base lot size, and showing how quickly any sort of buffer zone causes the total land area to balloon in size to ridiculous numbers.

If you had a one acre area in the middle of your lot, and wanted to keep a buffer zone around it, the absolute minimum lot size would be

Buffer zone in yards   Minimum total lot size in acres   Minimum perimeter in yards
100 yards   13 acres 875
150 yards   24 acres 1190
200 yards   37 acres 1505
250 yards   55 acres 1820 (1 mile)
300 yards   75 acres 2135 (1.2 miles)
350 yards    99 acres 2445 (1.4 miles)
400 yards   126 acres 2760 (1.6 miles)

 

If you have a core area of 5 acres, the numbers become

Buffer zone in yards   Minimum total lot size in acres   Minimum perimeter in yards
100 yards    23 acres 1180
150 yards    37 acres 1495
200 yards    54 acres 1810 (1 mile)
250 yards    74 acres 2120 (1.2 miles)
300 yards    98 acres 2435 (1.4 miles)
350 yards  125 acres 2750 (1.55 miles)
400 yards  155 acres 3065 (1.7 miles)

 

Clearly, it quickly becomes wildly impractical to establish the type of clear zone that you’d ideally like.

On the other hand, there’s one possible interpretation of these figures that would be wrong.  You can see that with a 1 acre core lot, you need a minimum of 37 acres in total to establish a 200 yard zone around your one acre.  If you grow your lot to 5 acres, your total lot size grows by a great deal more than five acres.  It goes from 37 acres up to 54 acres.

But – here’s the thing you should not misunderstand.  The bigger your core lot, the more efficient the ratio between protected space and total space becomes.  In the example just looked at, you had ratios of 1:37 and 5:54, with 5:54 being the same as 1:11.  This is a much better overall efficiency, even though adding the extra four acres required you to add 17 extra acres in total.

If you had ten acres of core land, then your 200 yard safety zone would require 68 acres in total, and your ratio now becomes 10:68 or 1:7.  Still extremely wasteful, but 1:7 is massively better than 1:37!

This improving efficiency for larger lot sizes hints at two strategies to improve your land utilization.

Two Strategies to Manage Your Clear Zone Risk and Requirement

Our two tables showing the amount of space you need as a safety/buffer/clear zone around your land embody a subtle assumption that perhaps can be reviewed and revised.

We are assuming that if you don’t own the land, it will be uncontrolled and uncontrollable, and will be exploited by adversaries to mount surprise attacks on you from positions of concealment and/or cover.

That is a possibility, yes.  But there’s another possibility, too.  If the land contiguous with your land is owned by friendly like-minded folk, and if they have cleared their land for cultivation too, plus have at least some awareness of risk issues and keep some degree of access restrictions to their land, then you probably don’t need as much buffer zone on the property line between you and them.

If you and your neighbor had five acre blocks adjacent to each other, then (depending on lot sizes and shapes), you would each require about 57 acres in total to have a 200 yard safety zone, but with your lots next to each other, the two of you together need only 73 acres instead of 114 acres.  You each now have a 37 acre lot instead of a 57 acre lot, and that’s a much better value.

On the other hand, call us paranoid, if you like, but we would always want some controlled space around our main retreat structure, no matter who is currently living next to us.  Neighbors can sell up or in other ways change.

This concern – that today’s ‘good’ neighbors might become tomorrow’s bad neighbors, points to the second strategy.  Why not rent out some of your land to other people.  That way you have more control over the people around you.

You could either do this by extending your core protected land and maintaining a buffer zone around both the land you farm directly and the land you rent out, or by renting out some of the buffer zone land to tenant farmers.

If you had five acres of your own core land, and if you then added another five acres to it, and also rented out the first 50 yards of your 200 yard buffer zone, then that would mean of the total 68 acre holding, there would be ten acres with 200 yards of buffer zone, and up to another 9.6 acres around it that still had a 150 yard buffer zone.  In round figures, you could use 20 of the 68 acres, with 10 offering prime security and another 10 almost as good security.  You’re now getting a reasonably efficient land utilization (20:68 or 1:3.5) and you’ve also added some adjacent friendly tenant farmers, giving your own retreat community a boost by having some like-minded folks around you.

Lines of Sight vs Crops – a Problem and a Solution

We’ve been making much about the benefit of having lines of sight stretching out a relatively safe distance so that adversaries can’t creep up on you, unawares.  The importance of this is obvious.

But, how practical is it to have unobscured lines of sight when you’re growing crops?  As an extreme example, think of a field of corn or wheat, and to a lesser extent, think of many other crops which of course have an above ground presence.  These types of crops will reduce or completely negate your line of sight visibility.

The solution is that you need to have an observation post that can look down onto the crops from a sufficient height so as to see if people are passing through them.  The higher this is, the better the visibility and ability to see down into the fields from above.

Depending on the layout of your land, the most convenient place for this would be to build it into your retreat.  You already have a (hopefully) multi-level retreat structure, why not simply add an observation post at the top of the retreat.

If that isn’t possible, another approach might be to have a tower structure somewhere that has a wind turbine generator or at least a windmill mounted on the top, giving you two benefits from the structure.

Summary

Your biggest vulnerability, in a future Level 3 type situation where you are living at your retreat and need to grow your own crops and manage your own livestock so as to maintain a viable lifestyle for some years, will be when you are out in the fields and focused on your farming duties.

Maintaining any type of effective security of your retreat would require more manpower than you could afford to spare, and even then, would remain vulnerable to a skilled and determined adversary.  A better strategy is to create a buffer zone between the land you work and the uncontrolled land adjacent to you.  This buffer zone reduces the lethality of any surprise assault and gives you time to shelter, regroup and defend.

Because a sufficient sized buffer zone requires an enormous amount of additional land, we suggest you either rent out some of your buffer zone or settle next to other like-minded folk, giving you relatively safe and more secure boundaries on at least some sides of your retreat lot.

The post How Many Acres Do You Need for Your Retreat – Defense Considerations appeared first on Code Green Prep.

Hiking to Piedra Falls

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Piedra Falls

Piedra Falls is located about 30 miles north of Pagasoa Springs, Colorado in the San Juan National Forest. It’s a leisurely hike of about 3/4 mile to get to the falls and makes a very pleasant day hike through the forest and along the middle fork of the Piedra River.
Trailhead


Start of the trail in the San Juan National Forest.


Further along the trail it gets a little rocky.
Back into the woods again.
A little shade along the way.


Trail gets rocky again.


Trail runs along the side of the Piedra River as you get closer to the falls.


There’s a narrow spot between the rocks as you approach the basin of the falls.

The basin of the falls at the end of the trail.

Got day hike?

Staying above the water line!

Riverwalker

Riverwalker’s Wildlife Pics – Chipmunks and Ground Squirrel

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Chipmunks and Ground Squirrel

Here’s a pic of a couple of chipmunks and a ground squirrel. It was brought to my attention that I had erroneously labeled a ground squirrel as a chipmunk in my previous post. As you can see in the above picture there is a noticeable difference in size and markings.

Got wildlife?

Staying above the water line!

Riverwalker

Off Grid Oven: How to Turn A Cardboard Box into an Oven

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This neat little project is about making a makeshift oven using a cardboard box, aluminum foil and other simple items. The finished product is an oven that functions just like your kitchen oven – but without the electricity.

Shared from: Safely Gathered In

You need:

  • 1 cardboard box (for this method, it needs to have a slide-on top, like a box that holds reams of paper. See pictures)
  • charcoal
  • matches (or a lighter)
  • aluminum foil
  • 1 round aluminum pie plate (or anything to place your charcoals in)
  • 3 wire hangers
  • scissors or a knife
  • pliers
  • tongs
  • whatever food you want to bake

Line the inside of your box and lid with aluminum foil. If you’d like, use a sponge and dab some Elmer’s glue around the inside and cover to hold the foil in place (this is especially useful if you plan to keep your box oven, and not just make a new one in an emergency).

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Once that’s done, use some scissors or a knife to poke three holes in a straight line on each end of the box, about halfway down from the top. You’ll see what these are for in just a minute.

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Meanwhile, straighten out your three hangers.

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Put the three straightened hangers through the holes. These will act as a shelf to place your food on.

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Next, bend your wires so that they will remain taut inside the oven. We don’t want heavy food bending the wires and sitting directly on the charcoals.

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This step might be kind of difficult, so you may want an extra pair of hands and some pliers.

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It doesn’t have to look pretty, it just has to work! Next, poke some other holes in your box so that oxygen can get in and gases can get out. Now, we actually did NOT poke extra holes in this particular oven, because by the time we finished making our wires taut, our three holes we poked in each side had become fairly large, so we figured they were enough. If your holes on the side remain small, use your knife or scissors and poke a few holes on the top of the box, and maybe one or two on each side.

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Next, let’s turn up the heat!

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Place some charcoals in your round aluminum plate. Each charcoal briquette supplies 40 degrees of heat, so 9 briquettes will give us a 360 degree oven.

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Light your briquettes with the matches or a lighter (it will probably take a few matches. Be sure that each briquette burns).

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Let the briquettes burn for a while…

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Until they look like this! Then you’re ready to go.

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With your tongs, pick up the hot plate of charcoal

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And slide it carefully between your wire shelf onto the bottom of your box.

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Carefully..

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There! Use the tongs to straighten out the charcoals and spread them out a bit.

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Meanwhile, put together whatever you want to bake. We’re making an apple spice cake that my mother-in-law had in her pantry – just add water!

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Place your food on the wire racks

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And cover with your oven top.

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Now just set the timer like normal, or watch the clock. Note: If your recipe calls for a longer baking time (more than 45 minutes to an hour), you will probably have to switch out your charcoals around the 45-minute mark.

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Do not use your oven on a wooden deck or on grass, or anything flammable. We are cooking in a concrete deck. Never use this oven indoors.

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Time’s up! Let’s see how it looks:

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And….. It’s done! Carefully life the pan out of your oven (use hot pads!) and enjoy!

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Doom and Bloom Medical Kit Review

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Last year, when the Self Reliance Expo visited north Texas, I assisted Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy of Doom and Bloom Survival Medicine with their booth.  They teach classes during the Expo and have to close their booth if they can’t find someone to cover during these class times.  I was honored to help some good friends out.  Despite my protests, Nurse Amy insisted I take one of her kits home.  In fact, she let me know that she had my address and would mail to to me if I didn’t take it right then.

The kit I was sent home with is called the Mini Deluxe Trauma Bag.  It’s a lot more Deluxe than it is Mini!  It’s a very comprehensive kit that can cover everything from minor scrapes and cuts up to serious traumatic injuries.  Nurse Amy hand packs every kit they offer with the experience gained from a career in medicine.  There are a ton of items in this kit, but each is placed where it needs to be for fast, easy access.  When there is a medical issue, the last thing you want is to search for the product you need to treat it.  That’s what really separates this kit from any competitor.  Everything is easily accessible and prioritized by an expert in trauma medicine.

I’ve generally found that the best product reviews come from actually using a product.  Luckily, I haven’t had to use this product too often.  With that said, it has been used.  With two little girls, it’s always handy to have Band-Aids on hand, even if it is for a placebo.  But there are those times when I go overboard and need to test a medical product on myself.  Most recently I used a mandolin slicer to remove a good portion of my fingertip.  Elevation and applying pressure wasn’t stopping the blood flow anywhere fast enough.  And I really hate making a mess by bleeding all over everything.  Enter the Trauma Bag.  Included in the hemorrhage control part were several options to stop bleeding quickly.  I selected Cayenne pepper powder (primarily because the commercial anti-coagulants are expensive to restock in the kit!).  Viola, bleeding under control!

Most kits you can buy off the shelf would not include a natural remedy like this.  Another benefit to a kit from Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy.  These kits are designed for practical use, and if a natural method works well, it is given a spot in the kit.  Overall, these kits are the best bang for your buck because the are packed by medical experts instead of the marketing department at Johnson & Johnson.

Rather than reinvent the wheel and post everything in this kit and other kits available, I’ll just link over to the Doom and Bloom page where you can see contents, read more about them, and even see videos.

Here’s a link to the Mini Deluxe Trauma Bag.

Here’s a link to the Doom and Bloom Survival Medicine website.

Be sure to stop by and show some love to some great folks that provide a wealth of information to our community.

 

Survival Leadership: Taking Your Group From Peacetime to Disaster Activation

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All of a sudden a major event happens that directly affects your group to the point you are forced to activate. You aren’t ready; the group has only recently started working together.  How are you going to get this Motley crew all moving as a team?Some members are highly motivated and some still appear hesitant to open up yet. Attendance has been up and down. Before the event the group was more of a volunteer organization, after the event they need to be a family. Such a situation would be a challenge for any leader who is tasked with a team but when the team is not used to operating together the job becomes that much more difficult.

In order to effectively lead other people the leader must understand how they think and what their individual motivations are. Why is this important in a survival group? I’m going to ask you to role play a little in order to see outside of today and into a post disaster scenario.

The Group Member

 

Begin by imagining yourself as a normal everyday citizen; maybe you have a couple of children in school. You go to work everyday and make the ends meet. Your schedule keeps you always on the go but you realize that the world has dramatically changed and you aren’t sure if your family is ready to go it alone when the lights go out. You’ve met a few people and formed a survival group. The group gets together once a month or so and it’s never convenient. You aren’t in a panic about the apocalypse or anything so if you miss a meeting so what, right?

The leader of the group is all into it and wants to prepare with a sense of urgency, you would like to have the luxury of time and money and be involved but it is what it is right now. You are feeling pressured to do more with the group by several members. A couple others are feeling the same way and the problem is self-perpetuating. Morale is low and you wonder if you are in the right group or if a group is even a good idea.

The Group Leader

Now place yourself in the mind of the leader. You know that time is short and the group is faltering. The usual story of 20% of the people are doing 80% of the work is holding true. What can you do to get this thing turned around? In reality, sometimes all you can do is be very organized, delegate where possible and manage people by what motivates them individually. You may even need to ask someone to leave the group if they are causing trouble. You should also look at yourself and verify if you are in fact the best choice to lead the survival group. Is there someone else better suited to the politics of leadership?

Let’s go back to the disaster event trigger. Your young group was a bit of a mess before the event but will they all snap in line now that it’s for real? Possibly but it won’t be pretty right away. There is a reason for building the group ahead of time.

Imagine if we didn’t have a standing army until war was upon us. Aside from our Constitutional intentions it wouldn’t be practical to wait for war to build an army. We would have our lunch money taken away as a nation by those who prepared and trained ahead of time.

The same goes for the survival group.

The survival group leader should make an effort to operate the group, as close to post disaster as possible so there will smaller adjustments when something does happen. There will be challenges in order to walk this line between charismatic leader and tyrant. The more the group finds ways to integrate into each other’s lives the easier it will be to transition into survival mode. So what are some group planning ideas that will integrate people better?

  • Attempt to choose members all in the same geographic area so they can get together more often
  • Consider having meetings and training centrally located
  • Plan events as far in the future as possible for scheduling
  • Training events should be fun and informative
  • Be organized in all areas so as to not waste people’s time
  • Delegate tasks to others based on their skills and schedules
  • If someone never wants to help decide if they are needed in the group
  • Don’t overwork the cheerleaders, spread the load
  • Choose the leaders who best fit the role
  • Vet your members based on your group goals and needs
  • Have some sort of food or snacks at all meetings.

If an event occurs that your group has to come together it will be important to operate as a team. This goes without saying but many times group members are not used to operating at a stressful level for long periods of time. The leader should realize this and try to strike the balance of how hard to push different personalities.

So what should the survival group leaders be doing now?

  • Learning everyone’s name and personality including their family as much as possible
  • Offer training ideas and schedule learning events based directly on group skill levels and needs
  • Delegate initiatives and research to group members to get them involved and spread the workload
  • When assigning tasks agree to a follow up date with the member or committee to keep things moving
  • Follow up on assigned tasks when you said you would
  • Monitor current events and communicate concerns as needed
  • Create an event calendar as far in advance as possible.
  • Promote the 4-Cs of highly successful relationships at all times
    • Communication
    • Cooperation
    • Coordination
    • Collaboration

The survival group is kind of like a volunteer fire department, the members don’t have to be there in the first place but when they are at a fire they have to be there in mind and body. There can be no compromise. The closer you train to the event you expect, the more effective you will be when the event happens. Members should take their affiliation seriously or bow out and leaders should have the vision, fortitude, and ability to guide the group through dark times.

The post Survival Leadership: Taking Your Group From Peacetime to Disaster Activation appeared first on P.R.E.P. Personal Readiness Education Programs.

10 Reusable Items to Stock Up On Instead of Disposables

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replace disposables

It’s a good idea to stock up on disposables like rolls of tissue paper and stacks of diapers for infants but in a long term survival scenario, having reusable alternatives to these daily items is a much better idea. Not only are washables longer lasting, they also cost lesser to include in your preps.

The following are 10 reusable items that can replace disposable items in your preps as shared by The Prepper Project.

1. Cloth Napkins– Stop throwing your money in the trash can every month, and save a bundle by replacing paper towels with cloth napkins. Make sure to buy something absorbent, not a fancy napkin meant for laps only.

2. Handkerchiefs– Do people still use these nowadays? Sure they do! We stopped buying boxes of Kleenex long ago, and have enjoyed the convenience of never running out of a hankie when you need one.

3. The “Family Cloth”– Instead of stocking up on roll after roll of toilet paper (which can be ruined by moisture, eaten by mice, and is a fire hazard), consider having a good stash of soft, washable cloths to wipe with instead. Use these along with a squirt bottle of water, and it really isn’t as bad as it sounds.

4. Cloth Diapers and Wipes– Super easy to use, and much more economical than disposables. It would stink (haha) to use up the last of baby’s diapers and have no way of getting more. Buy a pack of prefold cloth diapers and some pins, and never worry about running out.

5. BPA Free Plastic Dishes– Have a durable set of plates, bowls and cups that won’t break when dropped and can handle long term use. These can be for everyday, but can also be thrown in a Bug-Out-Bag when necessary.

6. Tattler Reusable Canning Lids– Instead of stocking up on a huge supply of one-time-use canning lids, consider buying Tattlers as your budget allows. They’ll last indefinitely, as long as you take good care of them. It’s a relief to know that I’ll never run out of canning lids with my Tattlers on hand.

7. Permanent Coffee Filter– If you plan on making a cup of Joe when the SHTF, grab a washable coffee filter instead of a stack of disposables. You can also use it for making teas, straining herbs for medicinal purposes, and straining fresh milk, among other things.

8. Washable Feminine Hygiene Products– Yes, have some tampons and pads for convenience. But for a long term situation I’d highly recommend the Diva Cup and a few packs of Glad Rags. This may be TMI… but I’ve been using these products exclusively for over a year now, and absolutely love them.

9. Straight or “Fixed Blade” Razors– You know, the kind our great-grandparents likely used. There’s a learning curve, and they’re a bit of an investment up-front to buy new, but think of the freedom of never having to buy disposable razors again! Of course, you could just grow a beard… or hairy legs. In a true survival situation grooming probably won’t be top priority.

10. Miswak Sticks– These natural sticks have been used for thousands of years for cleaning teeth naturally. They require no water and no toothpaste. Although they do eventually wear out, I’ve read where people have used the same stick for six months, up to several years (with the thicker Miswaks). You can make your own teeth cleaning sticks out of Dogwood, Walnut, Sassafras, and other tree varieties (click here for more info). A great alternative to stocking up on toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Not only will these items save you money over the long run, you’ll also have the peace of mind that you’ll never have to buy them again (well, not for a really long time, anyways), so you’ll be all set should the dollar tank and the store shelves run dry.

Water Wells and Planning for Problems

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A backup hand operated water pump is a great reassurance, but note that hand pumps can also fail.

A backup hand-operated water pump is a great reassurance, but note that hand pumps can also fail.

Many of us rely on wells for our water supply, and in such cases, we have an electric pump that lifts the water up and into a supply tank.

These pumps are usually long-lived and reliable, and draw little power (at least by present day standards where we have access to virtually unlimited electrical power at comparatively low cost).

But what happens in a future adverse scenario where first our power fails and then secondly our pump fails?  The obvious answers are backups and spares, but there are also some design issues that should be considered well before any such problems occur.

Operating Electric Pumps When Electricity is Scarce

The first problem – power failing – will hopefully be addressed by your on-site power generation needs.  One of the ‘good’ things about needing power for a water pump is that – assuming you have a reasonably sized holding tank above the well, the power your water pump needs can be time-shifted to those times of day when you have a surplus of (eg solar) power – use the power at those times to pump up water and to fill your above ground storage tank, and use the water from the storage tank at those times of day (eg night-time) when you have no free power.

Water pumps vary in terms of how much power they require, depending on the lifting height they need to bring the water, and the number of gallons per minute of water desired.  Obviously, greater heights and greater gpm rates require more power.  Fortunately, assuming moderate lifting heights and gpm requirements, you can get a lot of water from a pump that uses only 1000 or 2000 watts of power.  From an energy management point of view, you would probably prefer to have a less powerful pump running for longer, than a more powerful pump running for a shorter time.

This also allows you to get good use from a well with a low replenishment rate.  When specifying your well and water needs in the first place, you should give more importance to assured continuity of water supply at a low instantaneous flow rate but with sufficient total flow each day to meet your needs, rather than limiting yourself only to wells that can support rapid draws down of water via a high-capacity pump.

Chances are you can get the better part of a gallon of water lifted up your well and into your holding tank for every watt-hour of power – 1000 gallons per kWh if you prefer to think in those terms.

We discuss the energy costs of pumping water in this article.

So the first problem – loss of utility sourced electricity – is hopefully not a huge problem (and see below for a discussion on hand pumps).

Planning for Pump Problems

However, the second problem – pump failure – quite likely may be a big problem, and so we offer several solutions to consider.

The first solution is a very simple one.  If your water pump fails, simply replace it with a spare one that you’ve kept in storage, in anticipation of just such an event occurring, as it undoubtedly will, sooner or later.

Water pumps aren’t very expensive (probably under $500) and are fairly long-lived.  You’re unlikely to need to be replacing pumps every year, indeed, assuming that the duty cycle for the pump is moderate and appropriate, it is realistic to at least 10 – 15 years of trouble-free life.  With clean water and a light cycling rate, some pumps give up to 40 years of service.

When you do have a water pump problem, it is probably something you could – at least in theory – repair rather than fix by a complete replacement, and many of the problems actually relate to the fixtures and fittings and tanks outside the well, not the pump inside the well.  But, if it is a pump problem, and to keep things really simple, obviously a total replacement should work (assuming the problem isn’t somewhere above ground, outside of the well, in particular the electrical and control wiring that goes to the pump to turn it on and off as needed).

Depending on your level of skill, your supply of spare parts, and how long you can manage with the pump system down, repair would always be preferable to replacement, of course.  It would be a good strategy to talk to whoever installed and/or maintains your pump currently to find out what the likely failure points may be and to keep those appropriate spare parts, as well as a complete second pump assembly too.

For many of us, having a complete spare water pump would be all the protection and preparing we feel we need.

Here’s a useful but slightly muddled website with a lot of information about troubleshooting and repairing well based water systems.

A Large Temporary Holding Tank

These considerations point to a related point.  You should have a larger than normal above ground temporary tank, and keep it full to half full all the time.  Your choice of above ground holding tank should be such that you can live off the remaining half of its capacity for a reasonable number of days, if the pump does fail.  That gives you the luxury of some time in which to respond to the failed pump and get it fixed, before the toilets stop flushing and the taps stop running.

There’s a related benefit to a large temporary tank.  It means your pump doesn’t cycle as frequently.  It is the starting part of the pump’s operation that is most stressful; you’ll get much more life out of the pump by reducing its frequency of cycling on and off.

It is common for the well water to be pumped to a small pressure reservoir, and then to travel from there to the taps as needed, primarily by the force of the pressure in the reservoir.  In such cases, we suggest adding a temporary holding tank between the well and the pressure reservoir (rather than creating an enormous pressure reservoir).  We also suggest locating the holding tank as high above ground as possible, so as to reduce your dependence on the pressure reservoir.  A gravity fed system from the reservoir to your taps would be much more reliable.

Typical domestic water supplies have pressures in the order of 40 – 60 psi, sometimes a little less, and sometimes going up as high as 80 psi.

Yes, there is such a thing as too much water pressure.  We’d recommend keeping the water pressure to around the 40 – 50 psi point so as to minimize stress on taps and pipes.  Each foot of water height creates 0.43 lbs/sq in of water pressure.  So even a 40 psi service would require the water level at the top of the holding tank to be 93 ft above the tap level – this is almost certainly impractical.

There are two workarounds.  The first is to have large diameter piping and high flow rate taps.  This will compensate for the lower pressure in all situations except showers.  If you want to have good showers, you’ll need to have a pressure booster of some type, either just for the shower, or perhaps for the entire house.

The problem with holding tanks appreciably above ground level is that they are insecure.  A vandal or attacker will see the tank, and almost certainly, rifle rounds will penetrate through the tank wall and while the holes might be readily repairable, the water you lose may or may not be so easily replaceable.  Without wishing to over-engineer a solution, our preference sometimes is for two holding tanks.  A large one that is mainly underground, and then a smaller ‘day tank’ type tank that is above ground at a high up point.  That way your main holding tank is relatively secure, and your vulnerability reduced; indeed, you could even have your day tank built into the attic/inside the roof of your retreat.

Adding a Hand Pump to the Well

So far, we’ve recommended adding a large temporary holding tank, set into the ground, and a smaller ‘day tank’ located in the ceiling/attic of your retreat.  We’ve also suggested keeping a complete spare pump and some replacement spares for those parts most likely to wear out.

But wait.  There’s still more!  We’d feel more comfortable if we also had some type of hand pump, so that pretty much no matter what else happens, we can always get water.  It goes without saying that if we can’t get water to our retreat, everything else becomes irrelevant and our entire retreat becomes unlivable.  Water is an essential part of any retreat, and abundant water allows our lifestyle to move massively up the scale.

Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind our water needs probably extend way beyond what we directly personally use in our retreat.  We have agricultural needs too, for our crops and livestock.  We might even have ‘industrial’ type needs if we have any sort of manufacturing processes.  You’ll probably find a hand pump, while able to provide the essential water for living, would be inadequate to provide all the other water you might need over and above your domestic and personal needs.  Perhaps better to say – the pump may be adequate, but your supply of pumping manpower may be inadequate!

Hand pumps come in many different shapes and sizes, and come with various types of claims and promises about being easy to operate and providing so many gallons per minute of water from your pumping actions.

There are, however, two main types of hand pump (and many other types of less relevant ways of raising water too, starting with a traditional well and bucket that is lowered down to the water level and then lifted up again).

Pumps that are designed to lift water only a short height are probably suction pumps (also called pitcher pumps) – their piston is above ground, directly connected to the pump’s operating handle, and simply sucks the water up the pipe and eject it out the other end of the piston.

But suction pumps quickly become less effective when the distance the water needs to be lifted increases.  A sometimes cited rule of thumb is that suction pumps are good for about 25 ft of lifting.  At that point, a totally different type of pump comes into its own, the lift or piston pump.

pumpoperationdiagThese pumps have their operating mechanism at the far end of the pipe, down where the water is.  Each stroke of the pump handle causes the cylinder to lift another measure of water up into the pipe.  Eventually, the water has been lifted all the way to the top and comes out the spout.

These pumps can lift water hundreds of feet, but the greater the lift height, the more effort is required to lift the water, and the more stress on the cylinder’s seals and the tubing in general.

Treat all the claims of gallon per minute (gpm) outputs and ease of use of hand pumps with a grain of salt.  There are unavoidable physical laws of nature which dictate how much energy is required to lift water from your well to your holding tank, and while a hand pump can operate with a greater or lesser degree of efficiency, thereby influencing how easy/hard it is to pump the water, it can never be more than 100% efficient (and more likely, never more than perhaps 70% efficient) so you’re always going to have to put some effort into the pumping.

Adding a hand pump to your current well system is probably much easier than you’d think.  Well, it is easy now while society is still functioning; it would be much harder subsequently!

The good news is that your current well comprises a pipe that is probably 6″ in diameter, and the pipe for the electrically powered pump water that comes up is probably only 1″ – 1 1/4″ in diameter.  This leaves lots of room for more pipes, so you simply lower down an extra pipe, and mount a hand pump on the well head.

Now for a clever extra idea.  You can have the output of the hand pump go to a valve, which can direct the water either to an outlet/tap or to feed into the water line from the electric pump (through a check-valve of course).  That way, if your electric pump fails for any reason, you can still feed water into your holding tank, your pressure tank, and your household water system.  This is a bit like having a distribution panel for your electricity, allowing your house wiring to be fed from utility power, a generator, batteries, or whatever other power source you wished to use.

What sort of hand pump do you need?  Our first point is one of warning.  Hand pumps are not necessarily long-lasting just because they operate by hand rather than by electricity.  We’ve heard of people having their hand pumps fail on them after less than a year of moderately light use.  In alphabetical order, we’re aware of Baker Monitor, Bison, Flojak, Simple Pump and Waterbuck Pump brands.  You might also find used Hitzer pumps out there, but after some years of struggling, the company finally liquidated a short while ago this year (2014).

There are other brands as well, but we’ve not uncovered as much information on them so hesitate to mention them.  We’ve not experimented with all the different makes and models of hand pumps, and hesitate to make a recommendation.  We suggest you speak to a couple of different well digging and maintaining companies and see what they recommend, and roam around online user forums and see what type of feedback the different makes and models of pumps are getting from bona fide users.

The Waterbuck product seems impressive, but we don’t fully understand exactly what it is or how it has the apparent advantage and extra efficiency it claims.  It seems to still be a fairly new to market product – maybe by the time you read this there is more feedback from people who have been using it for a while and who can comment accordingly.

aermotorbWindmill Powered Pumps

If you are fortunate enough to be somewhere with a reasonable amount of wind, maybe you can supplement your water supply with a windmill.

The classic American windmill can provide a reliable regular supply of water, ideally into a reasonably sized holding tank so as to buffer the differences in supply and demand as between the vagaries of wind powered pumping and the water draws for your various requirements.

Windmill powered pumps can lift water up to almost 1000 ft, and the more powerful pumps can lift up to 1000 gallons per hour (albeit more moderate heights).

Windmills can therefore work well, even as primary water supply pumps, just as long as there is a reasonable amount of wind to drive them.

Well Depth Issues

There’s no avoiding gravity.  The deeper you have to drill for water, the more hassle it becomes to then lift the water up to the surface and on into your retreat, the more energy it requires, and the more stressed every part of the pumping process becomes.

It would be time and money very well spent to explore widely around your retreat property to find the best location for the shallowest well.  A well digger can probably tell you fairly quickly, based on logs from past drilling projects in your area, what the typical well depths might be and if there’s likely to be much variation in the distance down to the water table around your property.

It is massively less costly, from an energy point of view, to run a water line horizontally across your property than it is to dig down in the first place.  Our point here is that if you had to choose between a 50 ft well, half a mile away, and a 200 ft well, right next to your retreat, we’d probably choose the 50 ft well (assuming there were no other risks or negative factors associated with then running half a mile of pipe from the well head to your retreat).

Best of all, of course, would be to do both wells, giving you another element of redundancy and assuredness of water supply.

Summary

Typical well water supplies have water feeding from a well to a relatively small and pressurized reservoir and then from there to the household plumbing.

We suggest a better design for a prepper has the well feeding to a holding tank, of sufficient size to store several days of water.  The well pump should be configured to deliver water infrequently with fewer starts and stops, making it less stressed and therefore more reliable and longer lived.  A second system then feeds from the holding tank to a pressurized reservoir and into the house.  This makes it easier to troubleshoot your water supply system and, in the event of the well pump failure, gives you some time to fix the pump before running low on pumped water on hand.

In addition to the electric well pump, you should have a second pump line going down your well tube, with a hand-operated pump at the top.  The pump should also feed into your main holding tank supply, plus have the ability to have water drawn direct from the pump itself.

Lastly, a backup system to feed water from the holding tank to your retreat would make sense also.

The post Water Wells and Planning for Problems appeared first on Code Green Prep.

Failures in Soapmaking!

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As promised, I finally attempted a batch of homemade lye soap.  I had plans for an informative how-to article.  Those hopes have been dashed for the time being.  Here’s how to NOT make soap…

The first problem I encountered was not a lack of information available, but there is too much information online about soapmaking.  And a lot of it seems to conflict.  The only standards are the amount of lye to use per weight of specific fats.  That’s the crucial part.  I used the Hot Process in a crockpot.  In theory, this allows for a soap that can be used immediately rather than curing for weeks.  Sounds cool, right?

Before I get into the failure, I’ll give some basic information on soap.  Soap is made by a process called Saponification.  This involves properly mixing a caustic (lye) with a fat (lard).  The lye is pretty constant across recipes.  The fat can be any animal fat or plant oil.  During the Saponification process, the lye and fats interact chemically to produce a product called soap.  Very specific amounts of lye are used to ensure a complete reaction so we don’t have a soap that is still caustic.  Nothing like a nice chemical burn in the shower to start the day!

That’s where it all went wrong for me.  I was using a recipe that I was a chart for an amount of lye for different fats.  It was not.  It was a recipe that actually called for all the fats listed.  My fault.  I didn’t follow the recipe, and ended up way short on the weight of fats needed for soap.   Apparently it is difficult to adjust a recipe in the middle of the process.

I measured out my lye (4.4 ounces by weight) and my lard (6.4 ounces by weight).  Any soapmakers reading this are shaking their heads at me right now.  I got the lard in the crockpot and melted it.  While it was melting, I dissolved the lye in 12 ounces of water.  Once it was dissolved, I mixed it with this woefully small amount of fat.  After stirring like crazy to mix it, I realized there wasn’t nearly enough ingredients for the volume I was expecting.  I re-read the recipe and realized my mistake.  At this point, there is a chemical reaction going on.

In a rush, I calculated how much more lard I needed to add for the amount of lye, another 26 ounces or so.  I should have used 2 pounds of lard at the beginning.  This lard gets added, but it takes a while to melt.  I don’t know the mechanisms involved, but it severely disrupted the process.  Probably like trying to add 2 cups of flour to a half baked cake.

After stirring for an hour, it never did thicken up like it was supposed to.  I went ahead and accepted defeat and turned the crockpot off and went to bed.  I awoke to find the process did work to a point.  The crockpot was full of a hard soap-like substance.  I tested it by sticking a small piece to my tongue.  Believe it or not, it’s an accepted way to test for caustics.  It tasted like a 9 volt battery.  Still caustic.

I decided to go for broke and I turned the heat back on to re-melt this failure.  After 4 hours and adding enough water to get it thinned out enough to mold, I placed it in disposable bread pan molds lined with wax paper.  It looks like lumpy mashed potatoes in a bread pan.  And it is still caustic.   The Saponification process will continue, but it will be more like the Cold Process where it will have to cure for weeks before I can test it and see if it works.

While I was washing the residue out of the crockpot, it did lather up and form bubbles.  Technically this goopy mess is soap, just not anything I planned on.  Now I’ll wait and see how it turns out.

I’ll be giving this another go in the next few days and try to get it right.  I’m still holding out hope that I can write a how-to article.  And I really want some homemade lye soap on the homestead!  Stay tuned, and remember to always follow directions!

What to do when there is no loo

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PrintBuild a homebrew port-a-potty

There’s really no delicate way to say this, so I’m just gonna say it: everybody poops.

And if a disaster results in no water to your household pipes, the sanitation issue can become pretty dire in a hurry.

Rather than wallow in pestilence or attempt to cross your legs until utilities are restored, it’s a good (nay, a FABULOUS) idea to put together a port-a-potty kit. The components are cheap and ubiquitous. One trip to your local hardware store will set you up. Use your 60 seconds to copy down this list for your next Home Depot run:

  • 5-gallon bucket with lid
  • Toilet seat
  • Heavy-duty trash bags (like you use for yard waste)
  • Kitty litter

If/When the time comes to put your kit into service, assemble it like so:

  • Open bucket
  • Line bucket with open trash bag
  • Pour in a few cups of kitty litter
  • Top with toilet seat

After use, add a few more cups of kitty litter, remove the toilet seat, and seal the bucket with its lid. You can see how after several uses, you’ll have the world’s most disgusting lasagna, but at least the human waste is contained, and the litter will keep it from reeking. When the bucket is close to full, tie up the used bag and put it in a corner of your yard away from human and pet activity. If you have a sealed trashcan for the waste storage, that’s even better.

Hey, no one said emergency preparedness was pretty…but at least this little kit can keep an emergency situation from getting downright disgusting!

Martial Law and Your Survival Group: What To Do If It Hits Your Town

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Recent events have again reminded us just how divided we can be as a population. Throughout American history we have been challenged to find common ground within a melting pot of ethnicity, socioeconomic stratification and political maneuvering. What will you do when it lands violently in your front yard?

Sometimes the big picture blurs out who are truly being affected. Hint: it’s us the individual citizens and the family next door. If you are reading this it is a safe assumption that you have begun to take your family’s safety and preparedness more seriously.  There has been a smoldering divide in our communities that seems to be flaring up more often lately, most recently, there has been a storm brewing over the militarization of the police at the local level. With the situation in Ferguson Missouri demonstrating a total distrust of police after the shooting of an unarmed black teen and the overwhelming military style projection of force by the state, has the match been lit for emotional contagion?

Emotional contagion is a condition that spreads when an event happens that gets a community upset enough to protest in the streets in a way that attracts people from other areas to join the cause. After a while there is seemingly little connection to the facts of the original case and now the street becomes the venue to air all sort of grievances.

So what does this all have to do with the survival group? Everything. This is all part of your situational awareness. In Ferguson you have seen the media coverage. What did you notice this time as opposed to other unrest events? I saw that almost every newscast was conducted in a normal middle class looking neighborhood. The cameras were literally broadcasting from the front yards of houses, not parking lots of some big city urban center or some far away avenue where corporate elite businesses were being destroyed. Sure there has been plenty of looting but the battles have moved onto the side streets right outside the bedroom windows of innocent families. Did those people expect a running street war with international media coverage? That’s not all that changed this time around, when have you ever heard of news crews being attacked with tear gas, threatened with violence from police and even arrested just for covering the news?

The biggest difference and the one thing that got my attention was the sniper sitting on top of a SWAT vehicle actively aiming his weapon at the crowd as if scanning for targets, one finger pull away from starting the next revolution. Somewhere along the way the lessons of Kent State have been lost. In today’s militarized society it seems as if we have turned the page on airing our differences. There are a lot of societal reasons that we won’t go into here that are fueling this divide. For now we are just setting the stage to discuss how we will survive and navigate the changing social terrain. Conflict is here and sides are being chosen. For those families caught in the perimeter of such conflicts it would be wise to be ready.

First we need to talk a little about martial law. As we have seen there has been an evolving cast of characters in Ferguson. Initially it was the local police department, then the SWAT team, then more SWAT teams with verified pentagon issued military surplus. The escalation only incited anger as more heavily armed troops arrived with such things as sound cannons (LRAD), flash-bang grenade volleys, clouds of tear gas and various non-lethal weapons backed up by very lethal supporting elements. This arms race has only caused a run on body armor, gas masks and gun sales. Upon seeing the failure to quell the protests the State Police were called in to replace the other forces and shortly it was obvious that wasn’t working either so the National Guard has been deployed.

Does this indicate martial law? Possibly and likely in this case, there is no precise definition of martial law. You won’t find martial law in the Constitution and there is no working definition of how to organize or implement martial law in any State Constitution. It can be inferred that when the military assumes authority to enforce the law we are experiencing a form of martial law. We can also make the assumption based on the progression of events in Ferguson that if the situation persists or emotional contagion spreads to other areas, so will the level of enforcement.

There have been a number of martial law deployments in our history and they have increased in the last fifty years. Often the deployments were in response to impending danger to a community for everything from union unrest to natural disaster to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Hawaii was under martial law for two years after the attack. Recently and notably Watertown Massachusetts could be seen as the latest recipient of martial law. In the aftermath and subsequent search for the Boston bombers the entire city was under siege by thousands of agents brought in from all over the country. Citizens were told to stay home and door-to-door searches were essentially mandatory without warrant or probable cause. To my knowledge, such a siege has not been done since the Revolutionary War.

Were there survival group members in the conflict perimeter? For this discussion we will say yes. What should you as a survival group do if this kind of scenario were to burst into your yard? I’m reminded of an old saying, “If you look out the window and 60 minutes is on your lawn, it’s going to be a bad day.”

There are a number of steps to take when this or worse comes to your house. First and foremost immediate actions must be taken to provide for the immediate safety of the family inside and possibly the timely evacuation if the situation degrades quickly.

What do I do first?

  • Secure all the doors and windows
  • Keep the noise levels low in house so you can hear anything that might happen
  • IMPORTANT: take a headcount of all personnel and family members.
    • Never, never assume everyone is accounted for
    • To do a headcount line everyone up and count off. Each person MUST say his or her number out loud.
  • Get everyone prepared to evacuate immediately, just in case
  • Get kids dressed and shoes on
    • Dress accordingly for climate and threat
  • Leash the dog
  • Arm yourselves accordingly
  • Flashlights issued
  • Grab your identification
  • Grab a paper map of your area so you can plot a safe direction later on if your routes are blocked
  • Put all cell phones in pockets
  • Grab a phone charger for later and put in your pocket
  • Issue any gas masks you may have.
    • If you don’t have any masks, wet some t-shirts and wear them as respiratory protection.
    • Also use eye protection for everyone. Swim goggles will help to keep tear gas from eyes so you can see, otherwise use safety goggles that have a face seal
  • If it is hot outside consider wetting your shirt to reduce heat injuries from running
  • If evacuating take some water to drink and rinse your eyes out.
    • Also consider carrying some milk to rinse pepper spray and tear gas from eyes, the cream in milk neutralizes pepper spray
  • Of course grab your bug-out bag but you won’t need all that primitive survival stuff this time, You will only be evacuating the protest area and going somewhere safe
  • Turn down lights to get your eyes adjusted to the dark outside
  • Keep everyone away from windows and stay near floor in case of stray bullets
  • If possible, stage a guard near all entries
  • Position fire extinguishers accordingly and designate knowledgeable users
  • Fill bathtubs and keep buckets nearby
  • Clear paths through yard for escape, move chairs and bicycles out of the way
  • Consider loading some Evac supplies in car and turn the car facing the road, keep keys in pocket
  • Wet large towels to possibly use as fire blankets and cover bodies during a hot evacuation
  • If you have bars on windows do not use that room as a retreat unless you can get out
  • If you have a deadbolt lock that uses a key to get out, place the key in the lock ahead of time
  • Make sure everyone knows where to meet outside in case of fire
    • Make them say it out loud
  • Do the same for a neighborhood meeting location. This is important if someone is not home during an emergency or you get separated
  • Activate your Commo Plan even if you don’t think it is necessary. Be sure to reach your out of area contact as well. This is important for concerned family in other areas who cannot reach you
  • If there is a lockdown on your neighborhood no one will be allowed in so your survival group may not be able to reach you
  • Do not evacuate into unknown or dangerous conditions unless your location or home becomes no longer safe to occupy
  • If you are evacuating be sure to approach the line of law enforcement carefully. You do not want to appear as a threat, consider how you might be armed and how they may respond
  • If you are caught in a crowd of rioters or looters try to blend in and not be a target to either side
  • If the crowd is moving, fall to the back or move to the edge to avoid being hit by projectiles from either side of the conflict
  • Law enforcement always leaves an exit for protesters to disburse, find it and use it
  • If you evacuate in a vehicle, be ready at any moment to ditch it and move on foot. This means any packs must be zipped up, kid’s shoes on their feet and tied, no sandals or flip-flops. Someone should be riding shotgun and there is a reason they call it that.
  • Travel light and don’t attract attention
  • Keep in mind that if there is civil unrest in the area, there will be three kinds of people outside:
    • the police,
    • armed citizens protecting their possessions and businesses and
    • protesters/looters.
      • There may also be trigger-happy people armed inside their homes. You do not want to surprise any of these people. Be careful when moving around on other people’s property.
  • When moving as a group or family, assume a patrol style configuration. This means to place all children, vulnerable people and assets in the center of the column and place adults who are able to observe, recognize and react to any threats in the front, back and sides as you move.
  • Remember your headcount and check it regularly to verify you have everyone. Always check the count after running or moving through an obstacle.
  • In a tactical or silent environment the count should be initiated from the front, passed back to the rear and back up to the front. This is done by placing a hand on the person in front of you and whispering the number back up to the front of the line or patrol. Once everyone is accounted for you can continue to move.
  • If there is a separation in the group it is the fault of the person ahead of the lost member. Make it a point to only move as fast as the slowest person and look behind you every few moments.

For a printable version of this post, click HERE

Feel free to print and post this information on your refrigerator or in your Family Contingency Binder as a reference. Hopefully you will never need it but in an emergency, panic and tunnel vision can overcome the best-prepared person. There is nothing wrong with using a cheat sheet because in true survival, all is fair.

Stay alert preppers!

For more information on survival groups and preparedness, make sure you check out The Survival Group Handbook: How To Plan, Organize and Lead People for Short or Long Term Survival, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle here: www.bit.ly/SGhandbook

Also stay in touch with Charley Hogwood and P.R.E.P. at our website, www.readygoprep.com

The post Martial Law and Your Survival Group: What To Do If It Hits Your Town appeared first on P.R.E.P. Personal Readiness Education Programs.

Polar Pure is Available Again!

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Back in January, 2010, I posted a review of one of my favorite water purification methods: Polar Pure Water Disinfectant.  You can read the article for all the details of why I like this iodine purification method so much, and how I’ve tested it in a wide variety of environments, including jungle rivers in Central America with no ill effects:

http://www.bugoutsurvival.com/2010/01/gear-review-polar-pure-water.html

But then, suddenly Polar Pure was taken off the market in 2011 by the DEA because of illegal drug manufacturers allegedly using the pure iodine crystals that come in the bottle for making crystal meth.  This put a small family business on indefinite hold and took a great product for the bug out bag off the market.

I still had some older bottles on hand when the ban went into effect, and since Polar Pure has a long shelf life I wasn’t too worried, but I could no longer recommend it for others since finding it was a challenge.  But just today I was sorting my gear for an upcoming motorcycle trip out West, where I expect to be camping in the backcountry as I explore remote forest service and BLM roads off pavement.  Looking at my old bottles of Polar Pure, I decided go online to check on the latest status and was delighted to find that it is back on the market and for sale at Amazon for the same price as before the ban.  I’ll order a couple of fresh bottles immediately, as this is one of the best water purification options I know of when you have to travel light.  Even if you own and prefer filtration systems, it doesn’t  hurt to have a bottle of Polar Pure in the bug out bag.  It’s lightweight, can last for years, and only costs $15.

Critical Documents Binder: FREE Downloads

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With the start of the school year, now is a good time to update your critical documents binder to make sure you have the most current information.

Don’t have a critical doc binder? Here’s some free downloads to get you started:

Critical Document Checklist
http://bit.ly/criticaldocchecklist

Emergency ID Cards for each family member
http://bit.ly/emergencyidcard

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Worrying Interpretation of a Rasmussen Survey

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One quarter of the entire country believes this Ferguson looter is behaving appropriately.

One quarter of the entire country believes this Ferguson looter is behaving appropriately.

One of the biggest unknowns that we as preppers face is what will happen if/when some sort of event occurs that disrupts our modern society and its smooth functioning.

To put it in more specific terms, what will happen if something means the supermarkets run out of food, water no longer comes out of the taps, the toilets no longer flush, and our power is out?  How will people respond – positively and constructively?  Or negatively and destructively?

We are concerned about what will happen not so much five minutes after these events, but more like five days after these events (possibly sooner).

In particular, what will happen when people start to realize that these outages will be longer term rather than temporary, and most of all, when people face the fact that the government won’t be coming to help them?

The massive calming concept of overarching authority has gone, and that points to the big question – what will people do when law and order breaks down?

There are two main schools of thought here.

1.  Some people believe that everyone will band together and positively work through the problems.  This would be similar to the ‘Blitz spirit’ demonstrated by determined Londoners during the German air raids in World War 2.  Or not tremendously different from many poor countries today.

People who believe this is the more probable outcome point to the rational reasons for acting this way, and point to mankind’s underlying noble spirit and caring nature.  They expect the people who have spare resources to share those resources with the people who need them, and the people who need the scarce resources to be polite and respectful, and appreciative of the assistance they are given.

We desperately hope this scenario proves to be the correct one.  Now let’s look at scenario 2.

2.  Some people believe that chaos and anarchy will rule, with gratuitous senseless violence taking over, and indeed, senseless mobs destroying some of the scarce remaining resource rather than caring for it and using it carefully.

People who believe this point to the occasional outbreaks of lawlessness and looting that sometimes bedevil parts of western society, and rather than claiming man is an evolved creature with higher moral principles, they suggest that mankind is inherently base, selfish, and if not actively evil, certainly not actively good, either.

Can we say one thing about these two outcomes.  The first type of outcome envisages a scenario where there is still enough resource for everyone to manage to survive.  Maybe no-one will live well or very comfortably, but there will still be enough basic food, water and shelter for everyone.

That’s a big weakness of the first scenario.  If there is a major failure in our society, and if the supermarkets don’t get their daily or even twice daily shipments of ‘just in time’ food deliveries, there simply won’t be enough food, and it is going to run out very quickly, rather than gradually and slowly.  The supermarkets will be empty within a couple of days.  People’s pantries will empty out a couple of days later.

Where, other than supermarkets, will an urban population of some millions get food?  Even if people had garden space, they don’t have gardens, and neither do they have seeds.  By the time any sort of basic gardening was underway, the enormous bulk of most urban populations would have starved to death.

The other big weakness of the first scenario is that in almost all cases where people do act nobly, the ‘rule of law’ has remained intact and in-place.  That was true during the London Blitz, for example.  It is largely true of normal life in poor countries – there is a social and legal structure regulating people’s activities.  Even if the local effectiveness of such things might be briefly shattered, everyone perceives it to be a short-term, temporary, and very local phenomenon.

No-one thinks that the rule of law has been fractured and broken for a long-term, and no-one thinks that other external support resources aren’t about to come in and provide alternate and additional support.  But what happens after some truly major national disaster?  What happens if a solar storm destroys our electricity grid and there’s no likelihood of its restoration for several years?  What happens when it is unavoidably obvious that there is no ‘deus ex machina’ coming to magically save the day?

We suspect in such cases, people’s restraint will be abandoned, and it will indeed become a ‘dog eat dog’ struggle for survival, with no remaining rules or constraints on how people behave.

The Rasmussen Survey

There’s another reason to fear that scenario two is the more likely.  It is easy to perceive the people who loot and riot, and those who support them, as ‘outliers’ and as tiny minorities, albeit with a disproportionate impact on our society.  If only a very small number of people ‘go rogue’ in an adverse scenario, maybe the rest of society can ‘keep it together’ and voluntarily continue to observe laws and act in a civilized manner.

But – we suggest – the perception/hope that the anarchistic element in our society is small and insignificant is sadly wrong.  It may be massively larger than we think.  A national survey by Rasmussen and just now released has now shown that 25% of the population believes the mob violence and looting in Ferguson is appropriate and justified, and another 23% are not sure.  Barely half the country view it negatively!

As for the shooting that started things, the survey finds that 23% of the country has already decided that the police officer should be tried and found guilty of murder (indeed, these people probably don’t even feel the need for the trial).  Another 51% are undecided – we guess they want the trial, but aren’t quite so insistent on the guilty verdict automatically following.  Only 26% are giving the officer the benefit of the doubt and assuming he was acting in self-defense.

Note this is a national survey, and adjusted to be representative of the country as a whole.  It is not just a survey of ‘poor black folks’ in Ferguson.  It is a survey of all of us, everywhere.

These numbers seem to clearly illustrate that WTSHTF it won’t only be a troublesome but tiny minority of people who cause problems for the vast majority of decent citizens.  It will be a quarter the population, probably more, and possibly half the population who are quick to adopt an ‘every man for himself’ approach – as well as a ‘what’s yours is now mine’ approach.

This points to an interesting additional point, one we’ve seen for ourselves in some other countries.  When a certain percentage of the population starts acting in a particular fashion, the remaining people feel compelled to join in, otherwise, they are the foolish few who are being taken advantage of by the vast majority.  The social norm has shifted.  In this case, which would you choose to be?  A taker of other people’s property, or the victim who the others are taking from?

We’re not saying that you too will be caught on a security camera, triumphantly carrying a blender or a television or something else equally useless out of the local store WTSHTF, but we are saying that most of your neighbors – probably including the least likely of them – may act in such an irrational fashion.  And, yes, when we’re all struggling to eat, and there’s no electricity, we do expect the local gangs to still be stealing DVD players and televisions!

The Bottom Line

We suggest this Rasmussen survey points to a much larger slice of the population being poised to ‘go rogue’ at the slightest provocation, and with no qualms or concerns about their behavior when they do so.

Even if we say that only some of the 25% of the US population who support the Ferguson riots would actually go out looting themselves when things first go haywire, isn’t that enough to destroy things totally?  And at that point, the balance of the 25% will surely join in, and then more and more of the 23% of ‘not sure’ people will decide they may as well help themselves too.

Then, what will happen to the remaining 52%?  How many of them are sheep – are lambs moving blindly to the slaughter?  Only a very very few are the people who will fight back to protect themselves and their families.  Quite likely, there won’t be enough of those people – of people like us – to influence the outcome.

Our best hope is to ‘Get out of Dodge’ – to bug out to our rural retreat – at the first sign of the cities degenerating into chaos, mayhem, and murder.  It seems inevitable that if our society is disrupted, the people in our society will respond negatively and in the least appropriate manner, endangering not only their own survivability but that of everyone around them too.

So, the bottom line?  We suggest that the Ferguson riots, and the Rasmussen survey, both point to there being a much larger segment of society who is poised to ‘go rogue’ at the slightest provocation, and we suggest we need to plan for a future where society turns on itself in a destructive manner.

Most of all, we suggest that the large urban population concentrations will fall into violent anarchy.  Think rioting, fires, looting, raping, senseless destruction and violence of all kinds, and also think of no police or other law enforcement presence to constrain and control these evil forces.  We suggest this will all happen more quickly than you might think, when a disruptive event occurs.

Think of bugging out early, in other words!

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Shotgun Effective Range Considerations

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This spread of shot shows the shotgun to be at the outer limit of its B zone range.

This spread of shot shows the shotgun to be approaching the outer limit of its B zone range.

A key consideration when evaluating the suitability of a shotgun for any particular purpose is to understand its range.

Unlike rifles and pistols, where range is a simple concept (closer is better, further away is worse), shotguns have three different ‘zones’ with three different sets of considerations applying.  Few people understand this.  Let’s explain these three zones and what they mean.

First, it is important to understand that the length and distance of each zone varies depending on the type of shotshell you are using, the shotgun barrel length, and its barrel profile or ‘choke’.  It is helpful to appreciate the interplay of these factors before moving on to consider the specifics of shotgun range issues.

In general terms, a shotgun’s range is a function of the likely target coverage by the pellets or shot balls that you are firing – ie, the spread of the shot.  Once the shot has spread to the point where insufficient of the individual shot balls/pellets will land on the target, then the shotgun’s range can be considered to have been exceeded.  Note that this distance is probably shorter than the range from the perspective of accuracy or from the perspective of the remaining kinetic energy and stop-power of the load you’ve just fired.

Shot Spread Issues

The spread of the shot can be influenced by three main factors.  The first relates to the specific cartridge you are firing, and what type of cupping and wadding is inside it.  Some shells are designed to maximize the spread of the shot within them, others act to hold the balls more closely together for longer.

The other two factors relate to the shotgun itself – the length of the barrel and its choke.

In general terms it is fair to say that the longer the barrel, the less spread there will be.

As for a barrel’s ‘choke’, this relates to whether there is a taper inside the barrel or not.  Some shotguns have no taper – they are the same diameter at the breech end of the barrel as at the muzzle end.  This is said to be a ‘cylinder’ bore, and is well suited if you are shooting solid slugs.  We have also read about some barrels offering ‘reverse’ or ‘negative’ chokes – where the muzzle is wider than the breech (think of a blunderbus as an extreme example).  We’ve never seen one of these, but believe they might exist.

All other tapers are of the type where the barrel diameter gets narrower from the breech to the muzzle.  This tends to slightly funnel the shot elements together and make for less dispersal of shot subsequent to it emerging out of the muzzle.

In addition to barrels with a choke built-in to them, some barrels also have a variable choke adapter at the end, so you can simply rotate the choke setting to quickly give yourself more or less choke depending on the dynamics of the target, the range, and what you are shooting at it.

There are a number of different standard chokes, all with rather non-intuitive names.  Perhaps the most complete list we’ve seen is this, in order from the least amount of choke to the most amount of choke :

 

Choke Name Constriction       Net Diameter for 12 ga  
Negative -0.005″    0.735″
Cylinder   0.000    0.730
Skeet   0.005    0.725
Improved Cylinder   0.010    0.720
Light Modified   0.015    0.715
Modified   0.020    0.710
Improved Modified   0.025    0.705
Light Full   0.030    0.700
Full   0.035    0.695
Extra Full   0.045    0.685
Super Full   0.055 +    0.675

Most shotguns with chokes are intended for sporting or bird shooting.  Self defense purposes usually sees cylinder bores only.  For that reason, our discussion of the three zones assumes a moderately shot barrel length and no choke (ie a cylinder bore).

Are Nine Shot Balls Better or Worse than a Single Rifle/Pistol Round?

This is an interesting issue, with points both for and against.

On the one hand, you’ve all seen the movies, where a single shotgun blast takes a huge solid circle out of a door or something else.  Now, of course, that is what you see in the movies rather than real life, but the concept of having nine 00 balls (the typical load of a 00 buck shot shell), each similar in size, weight, velocity (and therefore energy) to a .32 pistol round, hitting the target close to each other is obviously an exciting thought.

But a .32 cal pistol round isn’t exactly a highly lethal round.  And this energy calculation is at the shotgun muzzle.  The 00 buckshot balls quickly lose speed (and their energy drops off with the square of the speed, so a 25% reduction in speed means a 63% reduction in energy).

The lethality of the shotgun round rapidly diminishes with distance.  Furthermore, its lethality is spread over nine individual balls.  When those balls strike more or less as one, they also deliver their energy more or less than once.  But by the time you are 10 yards or less away from the shotgun, you are now delivering nine individual balls, each with their own 1/9th share of energy, and already diminished appreciably by the 10 yards of distance.

To put this in context we’re aware of one situation where a ‘low recoil’ shotshell’s load of 00 buck wasn’t even able to penetrate a bad guy’s jacket at 40 yards!  A round obviously needs to be able to penetrate through clothing, and then potentially through skin, flesh, bones, and so on if it is to have any noticeable effect on a target you are trying to stop.

Think again to movies.  We now they are a terrible source of bad information, but just think of all the movies you’ve seen where a person was shot by a shotgun, and the net result is the doctor picking out pieces of shot from the guy’s butt.  That’s probably more realistic than the sudden total destruction of the door images seen in other movies!

So quite apart from accuracy issues, there is an ‘ability to stop’ issue which is massively more limited than many people consider.

Now let’s look at the three different ‘zones’ of coverage offered by a shotgun and their tactical implications.

Zone A – Very Close In

A shotgun’s A Zone is considered to be the distance from the shotgun where the pellets or balls are all traveling together, in a bunch, with very little spread between them.

This is typically about five to seven yards.

Within this range, you need to aim your shot much as you would need to aim a rifle or pistol shot, although of course, at this distance, many people can instinctively point-shoot with acceptable accuracy, when shooting at man-sized targets.

In other words, in the A Zone, a shotgun is no more or no less accurate/easy to aim than any other type of firearm, while being at least as lethal as most rifles and much more lethal than a single pistol round.

Note that there’s no clear transition point between where the A zone ends and the B zone begins.

Zone B – Medium Close

The B Zone for a shotgun is from the vague point where the balls/pellets start to separate and out to the point where they have spread so much they will no longer all hit the target.

Clearly this zone depends to an extent on the size of the target.  But generally, it is thought to be about 20 – 25 yards.  At 20 yards, 00 buckshot  has probably spread slightly more than a one foot circle.  Think about that – this means that some of the balls will go 6″ to the left and some 6″ to the right, etc, of your aiming point.  That means you have to aim accurately to within 6″ of the ideal aiming point so as to be sure of getting at least half the balls onto the target area.

That is hardly a ‘magic’ spread of shot that avoids the need for careful aiming, is it.  Furthermore, the less accurate you are, the fewer projectiles that will land on your target.

There’s nothing wrong with having one or two of perhaps nine 00 buck shot balls miss your target.  The remaining half dozen or more may still create an effective stop, although see our comments above about if nine balls are better than one bullet.  When you combine a reduced number of balls landing on the target with the ballistic fact that shot balls lose their energy much more rapidly than pistol and rifle bullets, and as you move out in the B zone, the shotgun’s effectiveness starts to massively decline compared to a rifle, and by the end of the B zone, is probably no better than a pistol, but without a pistol’s ability to be fired rapidly and to have a magazine holding 15 or more rounds.

Zone C

The C Zone for a shotgun is from the point where the projectiles have dispersed so much that they won’t all land on the target, and from there out to a practical limit to the shotgun’s effective range, a point defined either by accuracy or ballistic effectiveness, and probably somewhere in the 50 – 100 yard range for most people and most shotguns and their loads.

But, there’s an important consideration in the C Zone.  Because you’ve now passed the point where all the individual projectiles will land on the target, it increasingly becomes sensible – and, the further out you go, essential – to switch from shotshells to solid slugs, at which point, you’re now shooting single rounds and need all the accuracy of a regular rifle.

So in the C Zone, if you’re shooting multiple projectiles from a shotshell, you’re rapidly losing effectiveness, and if you’re shooting single slugs, you need the same accuracy as a rifle, while probably lacking the same quality of aiming system.

It is possible to hit targets with a shotgun, even at 50 – 75 hard ranges, if you are sufficiently skilled and practiced with your shotgun.  But it is greatly easier to do this with a rifle, and causes us to ask you ‘why bother with a shotgun when a rifle is so much easier in this scenario’.

The Three Zones, Summarized

Now think about what we’ve analyzed for all three zones.  In the A zone, the shot dispersal is minimal, so there’s no benefit in terms of ‘not needing to aim’.  In the B zone, the shot dispersal is still fairly small and because the range is opening up and the target getting effectively ‘smaller’, you still need to aim a shotgun almost as well as you would a regular rifle or pistol.  By the time you get to the C zone (which is still actually very close range in rifle terms – only about 20-25 yards out) you should consider switching from multi-pellet shotshells to solid slugs, and unless you have something like a dual barreled Keltec KSG, you probably have the wrong load in your shotgun, while not having a tactical opportunity to empty it out and reload.

So – and without considering any of the other factors/issues associated with shotguns, let me ask you – at what particular range do you feel the shotgun to be superior to either a rifle or pistol?  It seems, to us, that there’s no clear advantage at any range.  Sure, there’s some extra stopping power in the A zone, compared to a pistol, but nowhere is there any need for less accuracy, and always a shotgun is more unwieldy, has massively greater muzzle blast and recoil, is slower to bring back on target for a second shot, and carries fewer rounds than most pistols and rifles.

The Mythical ‘No Need to Aim’ Claim about Shotguns

Have you picked up on something else?  One of the urban legends about shotguns is that their spread of shot is such as to make it unnecessary to aim.  Just point the shotgun in the general direction of the bad guys, pull the trigger, and try not to flinch too much while tightly closing your eyes, and according to this legend, by the time you open your eyes again, all the bad guys will be down and dead.

But carefully look at our analysis of accuracy needs in each of the three zones.  In the A zone, the shot travels in a single solid group, giving you no real benefit at all compared to a rifle or pistol.  In the C zone, you really need to switch from shot to single solid slugs, and a shotgun is harder to aim than a rifle.  As for the only zone that might bring a benefit – the B zone, the spread of shot is hardly enough to balance out the growing distance and the need to carefully aim at an ever smaller target.

These considerations are very different when you’re shooting at clay targets or at ducks.  In those cases, the C zone is still a lethal zone, because the clay or bird only needs to be hit by a very few of the perhaps 100+ pellets in order to be effectively shot down.  But when you’re defending against attacking people, you need to get most and ideally all your balls onto the target, bringing you back to an effective range closer to the end of the B zone.

The Implied Maximum Defensive Range of a Shotgun

There’s one more consideration as well, and in this case, we’re focusing on the key word ‘defensive’.

When you transition from the A zone to the B zone, you start to move out of the ‘legal self-defense’ range.  A person at 5 – 7 yards is a deadly threat, even if they ‘only’ have a knife (and possibly if they only have a hammer, or even just their bare hands).  Somewhere past that point however, unless the person is also armed and is actively shooting at you, it becomes hard to plead essential self defense if you end up shooting an adversary.

Bottom Line :  The Effective Range of a Shotgun

If we were in a defended place inside a house or somewhere else where the lines of sight and shot were very short, we’d love to have a shotgun with us.  Because we’d not be moving ourselves, we’d have no need to be concerned about weapon retention issues, and we’d love the awesome firepower of a shotgun with 00 buck shotshells.  But if we were having to sweep a building ourselves, we might prefer a pistol or maybe a rifle, especially if we were concerned about possibly multiple adversaries such that we could not be sure that a single tube full of shotshells would be enough to deal with the problem.  Having to do an emergency reload of a shotgun is no fun.

The effective range of a shotgun – considering accuracy and lethality – is very short, and probably no more than 25 – 40 yards.

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More and Updated Lessons from the St Louis Rioting

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These young gentlemen probably missed the Sunday School lesson about two wrongs not making a right.

These young gentlemen probably missed the Sunday School lesson about two wrongs not making a right.

We wrote an article, ‘Five Prepper Lessons from the St Louis Rioting and Looting‘ on Tuesday of this week, after the first two nights of unrest following the police killing of a youth in Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis.

The first night of looting was relatively uncontained, while the second night saw a massive police presence that largely kept order throughout the area.

We thought/hoped that would be the end of the uncontrolled senseless violence part of the response and reaction to the police shooting.

Based on that first night of rioting and looting, we formulated five (or perhaps six) lessons.  They are :

1.  Don’t judge and anticipate other people’s actions based on your own views and values.  Other people will act unexpectedly and irrationally, in ways that can potentially be enormously harmful to yourself, your family, and your possessions.

2.  In an adverse scenario with normal social order disrupted, other people will feel justified in taking everything from you, including definitely your dignity and quite possibly your life, even though there is no possible logic to this.  Do not expect a breakdown in society to bring out the best in everyone.  It will bring out the worst in sufficient numbers of people as to pose major problems.

3.  If you actively protect your property and yourselves, you’re likely to deter all but the most determined or desperate of looters during the early stages of any civil breakdown.  Later on, when looters are no longer motivated only by greed, but instead by fear and the need for survival, the situation will become more extreme.

4.  We never know when rioting might suddenly break out.  The trigger events and the degree of response can be unexpected and disproportionate.  But don’t underestimate the rioters.  They include organized gangs of roving opportunists who are coordinating and communicating among themselves to plan their actions.

5.  Rioting can spread through a region, and reach into unrelated communities, because the rioters aren’t only on foot.  They have cars, too.  When a metro area becomes infected by rioting somewhere, the entire metro area becomes at risk.

And, lastly, at the risk of stating the obvious, a bonus sixth point.  When things go seriously wrong, you can not count on the police being there to protect you or your belongings.  It truly will be every man for himself, and every small neighborhood watch group or strip mall business owners association for themselves.

Now that we have had four more nights of experiences, do these lessons need to be revised?

For sure, since that time, the rhetoric has escalated several notches, and what appears on the face of it to have been a totally justified police shooting is being painted as anything but.  Let’s first look at what is currently known about the initial encounter.

Tragic Accident?  Justified Shooting?  ‘Suicide by Cop’?  Or a ‘Racist Execution’?

As best we understand the circumstances, a single police officer stopped two youths who were walking down the middle of the highway and interfering with traffic.

The youths matched the description of two people who had just robbed a nearby convenience store, and one of the two youths may have had a box of (stolen) cigars in his hand.  The officer decided to arrest them and take them back to the station.  At least one of them resisted arrest, a struggle ensued with the youth trying to take the officer’s gun from him.  Fearing quite appropriately for his life, the officer shot the youth.

Much has been made of the fact that the youth was shot apparently six times.  But if you know anything about self-defense, you know that when you are struggling for the control of your weapon, when you’re outnumbered, and when the other person is coming on to you, you don’t just fire once, then stop and see what happens before carefully considering a second shot.  You also know that pistol bullets are woefully inadequate and some people have continued in a fight after being hit a dozen times.

So, you fire as quickly as you can until ‘the threat has ceased’.  Those six rounds were probably fired in little more than a second.  This wasn’t a cold-blooded execution, it was a panicked act of self-defense against a gratuitous attack, by an officer who credibly was in fear of his life.

It is important to also appreciate that the assailant was 6’4″ and 300 lbs.  Based on published photos, the officer appears to have been of average height and something under 200 lbs.  It seems he had already suffered appreciable injuries from his struggle with Brown.  He had no choice but to resort to his firearm in this scenario – but these facts are not interfering with the public outcry blaming the police officer.

Furthermore, the autopsy shows that four of the rounds hit the assailant in the arm.  They would not have stopped him.  The officer needed to continue firing.

None of this needed to happen, if the youth had simply cooperated with the police officer.  The event was as much ‘suicide by cop’ as anything else.  The youth brought the consequences completely on himself.  Even the stupidest of gangbangers knows that if you resist arrest and attack an outnumbered police officer, and particularly if you try to take his gun from him, then you’re almost guaranteeing a lethal response on the part of the police officer.  End of story.

However, our point is not about what to do when you are stopped and subsequently arrested by the police, because there’s no need to write that story.  It is dead simple – you cooperate.  By all means stand up for your rights, but don’t inflame a situation that is always tense for every police officer.

Even if the police are in the wrong, you cooperate during the interaction with the patrol officers and then you have a chance subsequently, through the legal system, to right any wrongs that occurred.  If you don’t cooperate, you will definitely have some valid additional charges added to your charge sheet by the police, and your own reciprocal complaints will be tainted by your inappropriate actions, making you a less sympathetic victim.

Oh yes, and if you really misbehave, you have a good chance of being tasered, or possibly even shot.

Back to our five lessons.

We’d like to amplify two of the points we made before.

People Become Venal and Self Serving in a Stressed Situation

Our first lesson was to be aware that people around you may act unexpectedly and irrationally, and not in ways that mirror our own views and values.

When we stated that on Tuesday, our focus was on opportunist mobs who would gratuitously attack and destroy your property.  But there’s another part to that risk which has become increasingly apparent as the week has continued.

Not only have the mobs continued their reprehensible looting, whenever they think it to be safe and they can get away with it, but their actions are being justified by other groups in society, and the initial event that started everything, rather than being a somewhat sad example of a stupid lawbreaking youth suffering the inevitable consequences of his actions in fighting with the police officer, the story is now being painted as a racist cop gratuitously ‘executing’ a harmless young lad.  The local community is up in arms (almost literally) about this, they are defending the undefendable, and they are being encouraged and joined by all the usual professional agitators and disruptors.

What does that mean for us preppers?  We’ve written before about how, in a level two or three situation, we need to fear not only gangs of lawless looters who might attack us and our retreats and try to take everything we have.  We also need to fear the ‘law abiding’ people around us.  They will also gang up, but perhaps not violently, but instead in a civilized way, and rather than attempting to attack us ‘just because’, they will send duly appointed officials to deprive us of everything we have, the same way a gang would, but under the color of law.  Court officers, bailiffs, and any/all police and other law enforcement and emergency agencies may create, validate, and then enforce mandatory sharing of ‘vital resources’.

We write about the very real danger of this in a three-part series – Preppers Beware :  Our Hoarding Can be Deemed Illegal.

Fortunately, it is possible to fight off the occasional ‘one off’ lawless band of looters who attack your retreat.  But we’re not so sure how possible it will be to attack the FEMA/HSD/etc officials who come to effectively do the same thing.

If people can delude themselves into believing that the police officer was in the wrong in this recent event, how hard will it be, when they are starving, to delude themselves that you are in the wrong by seeking to protect yourself and your fellow retreat members, and demand you share your supplies with them.

Preppers often wonder what to expect when TSHTF.  We can never know for certain, but we can look at analogous events and try to see possible parallels.  The St Louis riots, and the way large portions of the population have rationalized things, ignoring the reality and instead bending the facts to fit their self-serving viewpoints (or ignoring the facts entirely) does not encourage us to support the idea of mankind’s inner nobility and higher values asserting themselves in a high stress situation.

In Extreme Situations, the Police Will Not Come to Your Aid

The sixth ‘bonus’ lesson we offered was that you can’t rely on the police (to come to your aid, that is).

Now, possibly, it could be said, in an attempt to excuse the lack of police presence on Sunday – the first night of rioting – that the police were unprepared and didn’t know what to do.

But how about later in the week, such as on Friday?  What excuse applies then when you read about situations such as this, where store owners dialed 911 but couldn’t get any police resource of any sort to come to their aid, and where other store owners saw squad cars driving by looters who were actively in the progress of looting?

The lack of response wasn’t due to the police being overworked and with too many different emergencies all calling on them simultaneously.  It seems the police made a political decision to do nothing and instead let the riot ‘burn out’ on its own, without adding new ‘provocations’ and inciting the rioters still further.

Don’t be surprised by this.  A passive non-response, limited merely to efforts to contain the worst of the lawlessness, seems to be the standard approach adopted by police departments in most parts of the western world when rioting rages around them.  Maybe it is even the right response.

We can simultaneously understand that position, while also being outraged by it.  A passive non-response for all but the most egregious acts of violence may indeed allow for a de-escalation of tensions and a return to ‘normalcy’ (whatever that actually is).

But how do you think the individual store-owners feel about this, finding themselves being sacrificed for the hopefully greater good of the region as a whole?  Did they agree to that?  Are they not entitled to protection and for the impartial enforcement of the laws?  And what message does that send to the rioters and looters?  Doesn’t it affirm the validity of their actions, and encourage more lawlessness in the future?

Is this the new standard of law enforcement :  ‘We’ll enforce the laws, but only as long as doing so doesn’t anger the criminals’?

And what does this mean?  Do we give in to acts of domestic terrorism?  Yes, you’ve not heard the riots described that way, have you, which is in itself a telling omission.  If it were right wingers complaining about blacks, don’t you think they’d have been smeared with every racist epithet known to our left-wing press.  But because it is predominantly blacks rioting against whites, we have to ‘cut them some slack’.

If you or I threw a brick through a shop window, and a policeman saw us, we’d be in the slammer faster than we could spit.  But if 100 or more of these lawless rioters do the same thing, the police hold back.

Now ask yourself what will happen if a more lawless situation engulfs not just a couple of suburbs of St Louis, but instead, an entire county, state or region of the US, and if there is no obvious source of immediate help.  Do you think the police will come to your aid if your home and business are attacked, or will they hold back?  Especially if they know they do not have a nearly inexhaustible supply of reinforcements available at the other end of their radios.

So, we see three clear lessons from the extended St Louis situation.

  • It only takes a small spark to start a large conflagration, to cause lawlessness to break out across the board.
  • People will act in selfish self-serving manners without any rational constraint, and will readily justify to themselves everything they do, no matter how extreme it may be.
  • The police will capitulate.  They may concentrate on writing parking tickets in any remaining safe districts, while entirely abandoning lawless regions and leaving the people in them to save themselves.  Or, if things turn really grave, they may well take off their uniforms and join in the looting.

Summary

If you are a prepper, you have decided to plan and prepare for possible adverse future scenarios, in a manner so as to ensure your own continued survival.

We all have different views about what these possible adverse scenarios may be, and how best to plan and prepare for them.  We can’t know for sure how any specific circumstance may unfold.  So the best thing to do is to learn from past events, and the more recent the past event, the more valuable.

We’ve set out the lessons we’ve drawn from the St Louis situation, here and in our earlier article.  You might agree with us, or maybe not.  But don’t ignore this entirely.  Carefully consider what has happened, and what it means for possible future scenarios, then make sure that you modify your own preparations accordingly.

As for us, we’re going to double down on getting to know our neighbors, and very gently encouraging them to a point where if things become dire around us, they are more likely to stand beside us to enhance our shared best interests and mutual survival.  On the other hand, the tree-hugging aging hippies on one side?  Well, that’s a story for another day…..

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RW in Colorado – Close Encounters of the Bear Kind

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I happened to cross paths with a black bear quite by accident on a recent trip to Colorado. It was quite sudden and totally unexpected on my part as I had just left the trail head for one of the trails in Black Canyon. Apparently the bear noticed us first and had already started moving away from my area. He quickly moved into a brushy area and was gone from sight. I did manage to get a couple of quick pictures as the bear moved away.



Black bears aren’t normally aggressive and will leave your area quickly unless they are provoked, feel cornered or are protecting young. Fortunately, this bear was probably intent on his next meal of berries and only gave me a cursory glance before moving quickly out of the area. The bear went into a brushy area and disappeared from sight.

It’s a well known fact that Colorado is bear country and you should always be aware of this fact. A safe distance from predators such as bears, wolves, and cougars is normally about 100 yards (think the length of a football field). Any closer and you may be putting yourself at risk of a serious situation. You can normally approach other wildlife to within about 25 yards without any real concern. Most animals usually won’t allow you to get even that close. The exception is snakes who can normally strike from a distance equal to their length.

There is an excellent brochure in PDF format available at Colorado.gov that contains a lot of useful tips to help take adequate precautions when in bear country.

Here is a link to the brochure:

Got bears?

Staying above the water line!

Riverwalker

Little Things We Take For Granted (1)

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Sometimes the old-fashioned things are also the best and most reliable.

Sometimes the old-fashioned things – like this phone – are also the best and most reliable.

This is the first of a series of short articles about things in our lives we take for granted but which we need to consider in our preparing.

Today’s topic is the telephone.  Not that fancy smart phone you have in your pocket, and not the multi-station cordless system you have at home, either.

We’re talking about really simple and basic hard-wired phones.  You know, landline phones that are powered from the phone line itself – the type of phone we all used to have.  Phones with no caller ID or other display, no built-in answering machine, no memories, no multiple lines, no built-in intercoms; phones with nothing at all except a dial and handset.

You probably have a phone or two like that somewhere at home at present, and maybe you’ve sometimes looked at it disdainfully and thought you really must get around to junking it.  Don’t do that!  Keep it as part of your emergency ‘power out’ kit.

The value of this type of phone is that in a power outage, all our cordless phones will die.  In a severe power outage, the cell phone towers will die – maybe not immediately, because many have backup batteries or onsite generators to give them some minutes or even hours of power, but definitely later if not sooner.  Cell phone service also has a mixed record when it comes to availability.  Some severe events have seen the cell phone towers all massively overloaded, making it impossible to place or receive phone calls.

Note that in such cases, you should try sending text messages.  They use a different part of the cell towers’ bandwidth, and can usually get sent and received even when there’s no dial tone or ability to make voice calls.

In a disruptive situation, our landlines may prove to be more resilient.

A word of warning, though.  You not only need an old-fashioned phone, you need an old-fashioned ‘POTS’ (Plain Old Telephone Service) type landline too.  If you get your regular phone service through your cable or internet company, or if you get your regular phone service through a fiber optic line, then you are again relying on electricity to drive your phone service at your dwelling, and also relying on electricity through all the electronic switching and processing that goes on, invisibly to you, between the side of your dwelling and the central office where the phone signal is patched into the regular ‘old fashioned’ phone network.

If you no longer have one, we’re not necessarily saying you should spend extra to maintain a POTS type phone line at your residence.  Depending on your need to communicate, and who else you’d wish to communicate with, maybe you’re better off with radio transceivers.

But we are saying that if you do still have a regular POTS phone line into your home, be sure to have a regular ‘old fashioned’ phone to use with it, too.  Amazon of course offer several types of traditional phone, and currently a standard white color corded phone is showing as only $10.

Note that if you have a very old phone that is now your emergency phone, it is appropriate to test it out once every half year or so.  Some of the electrical components inside it (particularly electrolytic capacitors) start to fail after about 20 years, and the last thing you want is to discover your super-emergency phone has failed, unnoticed, at some time in the past.

Come to think of it, maybe spending $10 for a new phone that will be more likely to be trouble-free for the next decade or two might be a good idea!

One final comment, which lifts this out of the category of a little thing and into the category of a more appreciable investment.  We know of many corporations that have issued all their key executives and other essential personnel with satellite phones.  No matter what happens to the cell phone towers and the landlines, the satellites up in the sky are likely to remain operational, making a satellite phone probably the most fault-tolerant and guaranteed to work of all communication systems.

We’ll write about satellite phones separately, but for now, a quick heads-up is that the Iridium phones have consistently tested to be the best, the several times we’ve tested them and the other brands/services.  There’s no need to get the latest model with the most features.  A refurbished older model works just as well for most purposes and situations.

Satellite phones need a direct view of the sky.  If you’re in an apartment building with your windows facing out onto other apartment buildings, your reception may be marginal.  But if you can go outside somewhere where you can see much of the sky above you, free of obstructions, then they’ll work perfectly, everywhere.

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The Eye in the Sky is Watching You, Ever More Closely

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You can see the stripes on the ground in this very clear 20" resolution image.  New commercial satellites have four times better resolution.

You can see the stripes on the ground in this very clear 20″ resolution image. New commercial satellites have four times better resolution.

Today marked a watershed moment in our privacy.  A new commercial satellite was launched with four times better than before imaging capabilities, further reducing our privacy.

There was a time when getting privacy in our retreat was an easy and simple concept.  Choose a location away from the main roads, and you knew that as long as the parts of your retreat that you wished to keep private were not visible from any other property or public land or vantage point, you could enjoy privacy.

Ah, for the good old days!  The situation these days is enormously different, but perhaps you don’t realize just how different it has become.

Sure, we’ve known about ‘spy satellites’ in vague terms for a very long time.  The U-2 and SR-71 spy planes are now matters of public record.  But we’ve sort of assumed that these military/intelligence resources would not be deployed to snoop on what we were doing in our back yard, but would instead be solely focused on our actual and potential enemies.

For the last several decades, if you think about it, there has also been available commercial imagery and aerial mapping taken by planes that would be engaged to fly over an area and take ‘birds eye’ photos – such a harmless and appealing term.  This type of resource was expensive and, as best most of us knew, little used for ‘general purposes’ (whatever those might be!).  Our backyards were still reasonably private.

More recently, we’ve been treated to products such as Google Maps and Google Earth, and a number of other similar services, and we’ve noted with interest and excitement how we can see pictures of pretty much anywhere on the planet, typically taken sometime in the last five years or so, and of varying degrees of quality.

This has started to gently sound alarm bells, although the thought of having one’s retreat fuzzily photographed once is perhaps not a heart-stopping fear.

But have you kept track with the evolving capabilities not just of the Google products, but of all the other providers (and, even more alarming, perhaps, users) of aerial imagery?

For example, the chances are your county has a Geographic Database or Information System (GDS or GIS) that includes aerial mapping of the entire county.  Sometimes these services are ‘in-house’ only, for county employees, sometimes they are publicly published on a website for anyone, anywhere to access.

Usually these services reveal no more data that you can already see on Google, but think about the implications of this.  Many counties now have their tax assessors using the GIS and associated aerial mapping images to check the validity and completeness of their records of building structures and improvements.  If you add a new structure to your lot, they’ll see it and may come knocking on your door, enquiring where the permits are for its construction, and adjusting your property valuation to reflect the new additions.

Indeed, if you even do something relatively minor, like adding on to your deck, they’ll see this too and that may also trigger a visit and inspection.

Of course, the ‘good news’ part of this was that the overhead imagery was only taken infrequently.  If they take one picture every five years, that means there’s only one chance in 1826 that on any given day your property might be photographed.  So if you are working on a project that you’d rather not share, and if it is a five-day project, at the end of which, your site will be returned back to looking pretty much the same as always, you have one chance in 365 of being photographed during the process.  Those are reasonably favorable odds.  And even if you were photographed, the reasonably fuzzy picture and the lack of any evidence subsequently could allow for various different interpretations as to what happened and why.

That is no longer the case.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, and first look at the two – increasingly three – types of aerial photography collection systems.

Note also that this article primarily focuses on visual – photographic imagery.  There are many other types of overhead data collection such as infra-red, radar, and so on.  Some weather sites offer examples of some of these other types of capabilities.  There are also satellites that can analyze the type of vegetation in an area, satellites that can make educated guesses about what types of minerals might be underneath your ground, and satellites that can detect if the earth has been disturbed.  So, ahem, if you were hoping to grow something that might otherwise embarrass you, or hoping to dig and bury something unnoticed, or if you’ve created some sort of underground structure, all of those things too might be detected by some of the other types of overhead monitoring satellites.

There are two main types of overhead photo imagery.  The first is that which is collected by a satellite, and the second is that which is collected by a plane.

Spy Satellites

Spy satellites – more properly generally called ‘Earth Observation Satellites’ and indeed these days, being a mix of both military (spy) and commercial (public) satellites – are generally located somewhere from about 250 miles above the earth up to about 1,000 miles above the earth.  Higher up satellites see more of the planet at any time, and stay in orbit longer (due to less friction from the outer fringes of our atmosphere).  But lower down satellites see things more clearly, because they are closer to the ground and don’t have as much atmosphere obscuring and blurring their vision.

Spy satellites do not hover over one spot.  Satellites need to be way high, at about 22,000 miles up, to ‘hover’ over a spot and that’s clearly too far away to be able to get clear photography.

Instead, they are all the time traveling in orbits around the planet, typically taking two hours or less to do a complete orbit, and because the earth is rotating beneath them, they see a different ‘slice’ of the planet each time they go around.  By having multiple satellites in complementary orbits, it is possible to have most of the planet within view of a spy sat for much of every day.

Spy satellites have military value because they can ‘safely’ overfly anywhere on the planet to get imagery.  We use quotes around the word ‘safely’ because in theory they are vulnerable to anti-satellite weapons, but to date and with only a very few rare exceptions, no country has deliberately shot down overhead satellites that pass overhead, and instead they seem to be allowed to overfly without interference.

Although satellite orbits can be changed, doing so uses up valuable fuel, and the useful life of a satellite is in large part limited by how long its onboard fuel lasts, so the military is reluctant to reposition satellites too often.  This means that even only moderately sophisticated countries can track and anticipate when overhead satellites will be passing and plan their activities around such passes.

Indeed, with the wonders of the internet, you too can now tell when at least some of the spy satellites are overhead – there’s an iPhone app that will tell you.  But note the two limitations of this app – first, it only includes officially acknowledged satellites.  It does not report on any of the more secretive satellites, and neither does it alert you to the most detailed type of photo reconnaissance of all – that done by airplane.  Second, although it tells you when a satellite is approaching, it can’t tell you if the cameras on board are actually pointing at you or not.  The cameras on some satellites can be remotely controlled and pointed in specific areas, and also zoomed in or out.

How good a picture can a spy satellite take?  The short answer is ‘more than good enough’, at least in terms of their ability to reasonably accurately capture the private details of what we’re doing in our own backyards.

A more detailed answer has to consider a number of factors.  An obvious variable is the weather between the satellite and the ground.  On a clear day with no haze, the satellite camera can capture a better image than if there is smoke, dust, smog, or natural effects such as clouds and rain.

Assuming a best case scenario, the resolution quality of spy satellite imagery is a closely guarded secret.  Early satellites could only make out details greater than 40 feet in size.  That would not pick up people or even cars, and struggled to pick up smaller sized houses.  But a lot has progressed since then.

This webpage (and many others) claim that some current satellites can resolve details as small as 5″ – 6″ in size, and they seem to be relying on a 1998 news item to base that claim.

Rumors have long existed of satellites being able to read the number plate on a vehicle.  We don’t know if this is true or not, but it seems reasonable to assume that the state of the art in spy satellite imagery is much better than the state of the art in commercial imagery, and it also seems reasonable to assume that whatever is public knowledge is a generation or two behind the current state of the art capabilities.  One more reasonable assumption – technologies have improved from that which the military agreed to disclose in 1998 to what it is keeping secret today, 16 years later.

On the other hand, it isn’t always necessary for spy satellites to have an HDTV type resolution quality of the entire world and to not only read the registration plate on your car but also the writing on the document in your hand.  For military purposes, it is usually sufficient to be able to identify equipment, understand their locations, and get reasonable estimates of manpower and other related functionalities.  More tactical intelligence gathering however can be enormously enhanced if you can track specific vehicles (and more so again if you can track specific people).

So perhaps, after reaching a certain resolution sufficient for strategic imaging and analysis, the R&D effort backed off some.  Furthermore, there are some ‘can’t be broken’ limits on the quality that can ever be obtained from a camera moving at 20,000+ mph, 200+ miles above you.

But if we had to make a wild guess, we’d guess that the best state of the art satellite imagery currently up there is probably capable of a 2″ – 2.5″ resolution, and maybe even better, particularly when enhanced with computer enhancing, averaging of multiple images, and the use of stereoscopic pictures.  That’s probably enough for a satellite picture to tell if you have a 16″ or an 18″ barrel on your rifle, but not quite good enough to tell if it is all barrel, or part barrel and part silencer.  They’ll be able to tell if the lady of the house, if sunbathing, has had a ‘Brazilian’ or not, and so on.

This type of resolution isn’t quite good enough to read your license plate, but it is very close and quite possibly a computer enhancement could recognize that certain types of blurs were more likely to represent some characters whereas other blurs might represent other characters.

Spy satellites do a lot more than ‘just’ take photos, but the photo imagery is the part of greatest interest to us.

Commercial satellites are now launching that mimic many of the capabilities of the spy satellites, and indeed the military has started buying imagery from commercial satellites in addition to its direct capabilities.  Until June 2014, commercial satellites were not allowed to take ‘good’ quality images, but now they are allowed to take images with resolutions down to 10″.  The previous 20″ limit has been a ridiculous restriction – the ‘other side’ almost certainly has imagery abilities comparable to our own, so the only people being restricted from access to good quality satellite imagery was ourselves – US civilians.  Why restrict our access when potential enemies already has good access through their own resources?

The first of this new generation of high quality commercial imaging satellites launched today, successfully, from Vandenberg AFB in California.

Now for a key point.  If the restriction is now set at 10″ (actually, 25 cm), then the very fact that there is a restriction limiting commercial providers from capturing better quality imagery clearly shows that there is a readily deployed technology to do so.  How long will it be before the commercial providers get approval to start doing 5″ imagery, or maybe even still higher quality?

Spy Planes

Of course, just as how the reference to spy satellites these days has to be widened to also encompass a growing number of commercial satellites, the same is true of ‘spy planes’.  Commercial aerial photography has been around for a long time; the main distinction between it and spy plane based photography is that the latter tends to be done over territory where the plane shouldn’t be, and so is generally done higher and faster than is the case with civil/commercial planes and photography.

Commercial aerial photography can be done from as low as 1,000 ft or, (at least in the days of the SR-71), as high as probably about 100,000 ft (a comment at the bottom of this article claims 120,000 ft).  The U-2 has a maximum altitude somewhere in excess of 70,000 ft.  100,000 ft is the same as 19 miles and 70,000 ft the same as 13 miles, so clearly spy planes, even when at maximum altitude, are much closer down to the ground than satellites, and so are capable of taking much more detailed pictures.

Because commercial flights are at the lowest altitudes, they can offer the best resolution of all, but only when overflying authorized areas.  This makes them great for regular purposes but not so good for military reconnaissance.

However, from our perspective, any and every type of overhead imagery may reveal more details of what we have on our land than we would wish to be public knowledge.  There’s no such thing as a better or worse type of aerial photography.  It is all equally intrusive.

Drones Too

It seems you can’t open a newspaper these days without reading another story about someone and their drone.  The original drones – the large-sized bomb toting remote piloted aircraft used by the military – are of course enormously expensive and require very specialized support resources.

We have seen the military transition from large-sized expensive drones to now having tiny ‘personal’ type drones which individual squads can deploy for immediate tactical information on the battlefield around them.  You launch them by simply throwing them into the wind by hand.  They are small, affordable, and easy to operate.

The same is true of civilian drone technology.  These days you can buy a ‘drone’ yourself, typically a multi-element helicopter type unit with maybe four, six or eight sets of rotating helicopter blades.  These units come complete with a high quality gimbal/gyro-stabilized HD video camera and realtime video downlink, are priced at about $1000 – and some models are available for half that price.  They are usually battery-powered and have an operating range, standard, of about half a mile or so.

Their operating ability is limited by their battery life and the radio reception between them and the control unit.  If you boosted the remote controller and the onboard receiver’s radios, you could increase the distance they’d operate from you and the controller substantially, but their ‘loiter time’ – the total time they can be aloft on a single charge – seems to presently be limited to about 20 – 30 minutes.

These wonderfully low-cost and very sophisticated devices can take high quality high-resolution aerial photograph pretty much anywhere you wish.  They can be used for ongoing surveillance and aerial mapping type projects, and can also be used, the same as the new small military drones, for tactical intelligence when confronting an opposing force.

You not only have to be aware of the potential presence of drones in your skies, you should also consider buying one (or several) for your own present and future use.  They can help you manage your crops, they can help you see into forests to understand their tree cover and density, and in the future, if you find yourself challenged by unwanted visitors, they can help you safely scout out their location and numbers and capabilities.

While there is a morass of legal issues surrounding drone use, that doesn’t seem to be slowing down anyone from rushing to buy and use these devices.

The Evolving Capabilities of Google and its Competitors

Google keeps getting ‘better’ in terms of the vast store of information it compiles, collates, and publishes.  The first version of its Maps and Earth products had limited and low resolution aerial imagery.  But now, the imagery has become much better quality, can be manipulated (for example, you can look at objects from four different angles), is updated more regularly, and you can even see a historical time series of data.

The historical data series can be very revelatory.  Rather than just seeing a single image, you see a time series of images which helps you understand if an area is being increasingly developed, or increasingly abandoned, and you can spot the shifts of things from one image to the next.  Sometimes simply seeing no change is also a significant data point.

This historical time series is about to become extraordinarily more detailed.  Google has bought a satellite company (Skybox Imaging) and intends to launch 24 of its own satellites, which between them all will be able to photograph everywhere on earth, three times every day.

The satellites also have video capabilities as well as capturing traditional still images.

That’s not to say that just because the satellites could take three pictures of your property every day, that it will be done, and that’s not to say that historical timelines will now have up to 1000 images per year.  But you can be sure that pretty much the entire US will be re-photographed several times each year, and the entire country will now be captured in best quality resolution rather than selectively in standard or low resolution as has been the case at present.  It sort of makes sense to have summer and winter pictures, and maybe spring and fall too.

So, within a few years, anyone will be able to see highly detailed time series of pictures of practically anywhere on the planet.  That will not only allow them to see the changes to your property, but it will also enable them to see how much cropping you are doing, how many animals you have in your pastures, and even how much washing you are hanging on the line to dry.  It will be obvious if a place is occupied or not, and possible to make some reasonable guesses as to how many people are living there.

Summary

These days it is necessary to accept that we have no privacy.  Sure, we might be obscured from the nearest road and neighbor, but aerial photography will reveal pretty much everything about our land and retreat that can be seen from the sky.

Opsec?  We never thought it was possible to start with (for example, see our article written back in May 2012, before the latest profusion of satellite technologies, ‘Is it realistic to expect your retreat will not be found‘).  Nowadays, hoping to conceal your retreat is impossible.

You need to plan your future based on the expectation that everyone who you’d wish not know anything about you will sadly know everything about you.

The post The Eye in the Sky is Watching You, Ever More Closely appeared first on Code Green Prep.

Does Your Retreat Need Two – or Even Three – Root Cellars?

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This lovely large root cellar dates back to the mid 1800s and is underneath a farmhouse in Lancaster, PA.

This lovely large root cellar dates back to the mid 1800s and is underneath a farmhouse in Lancaster, PA.

Many people add a root cellar to their retreat.  This is good, but if you are not careful with what you store in your root cellar, the gases (notably ethylene) given off by some stored fruit and vegetables may interfere with the longevity of other stored fruit and vegetable items.

In addition, some items give off strong odors which could contaminate other stored produce.  And some produce prefers warmer or cooler temperatures, and greater or lesser amounts of humidity, than others.

So maybe you potentially need multiple root cellars – or at least some barriers or partitions across your single root cellar.

Let’s first consider root cellars in general, then look at why you should have more than one – and/or how to avoid needing to have multiple cellars.

What is a Root Cellar

Root cellars have been used in the US pretty much from the days of the first settlers, and are thought to date back to the 1600s in Britain (in the ‘modern’ form of being a walk in cellar).  They are not experimental or innovative – they have truly withstood the test of time over many centuries.

A root cellar doesn’t actually need to be underground.   Many are actually above ground.  And the term ‘root’ doesn’t necessarily mean either something down among the tree roots (that would be a mistake, keep well away from tree roots) nor does it mean a cellar only intended for root vegetables.  So it is a bit of a misnomer.

If we had to come up with the absolute essence of what a root cellar is, the answer would probably be ‘a naturally cooled dark space with stable low temperature and high humidity for storing food in an optimum environment to enhance its storage life’.

More specifically, root cellars aim for a temperature range ideally between 32º and 40º F, and a humidity in the range of 85% – 95%.  The cool temperature and high humidity greatly reduces the moisture loss from stored food items, and the low temperature also slows down the rate of micro-organism growth and related decomposition processes.  Not all root cellars manage to get down to these temperatures (or up to these humidities), nor maintain them for much of the year, but that doesn’t completely matter.  The cooler the better, and even if you are ‘only’ in the low 50s, you are still getting longer life than if you had your produce in your main retreat at room temperature.

Root cellars went out of fashion when at-home refrigerators became widely used, and as part of a general trend to city living with nearby supermarkets that carried fresh food year-round.  In that context, there’s little need for a root cellar any more, but if the assumptions of convenient home refrigeration and ever-present fresh food in a nearby supermarket start to fail, then a low-tech way to store food becomes helpful once more.

Note that while most people associate root cellars with the storage of fruit and vegetables, there is no reason not to use your cellar to store anything else that likes a cool dark environment.  Cured meats, cheeses, fresh milk, and beverages in general could also be kept in a root cellar if space allowed, as can dried goods such as grains and nuts.

Three Types of Root Cellar

There are basically three ways to build a root cellar.  The first is the most obvious.  Dig.  Start in the basement of your current house or retreat, and just dig down and out until you’ve created sufficient cellar space.  Note that the classic size for a root cellar seems to be about 8′ x 8′ x 8′, but there’s no reason not to make a cellar larger or smaller, but note that the larger you make a cellar, the more the ratio between the volume of the cellar and the surface area of its sides will change, affecting the cellar’s ability to naturally heat/cool the cellar contents.

So, perhaps, it is best not to build a huge cavernous cellar, although the chances are you weren’t planning to do that anyway!

The second approach can sometimes be easier.  Instead of digging down vertically, you dig ‘in’ horizontally, going into the side of a hill.  The net result is the same, while the excavation process might be simpler.

The third approach involves some lateral thinking.  Instead of going down into the ground, bring the ground up to you.  Create an above ground structure, or perhaps a slightly sunken structure, then layer sod over the top of it.

If you are building an external above ground cellar, you want to have it as much as possible in the shade – ie with little direct southerly exposure, and in particular, you don’t want the doorway (which is probably the least insulated part of the structure) to be in direct view of the sun.

How to Create and Maintain the Cellar Environment Needed

Depending on where you live, you’ll probably need your cellar to do two opposite things.  In the summer, you want it to be cooler than the warm/hot outside temperatures, but in the winter, you want it to be warmer than the below-freezing temperatures outside.

The best way to do this is by either digging deep into the ground, or covering an above ground structure with a lot of sod.  Even a foot of dirt provides substantial insulation and will allow for as much as a 20º temperature differential between the cellar and the outside, but the chances are you’ll want more than this, so you need both more dirt ‘insulation’ and also the ability to ‘suck heat’ out of the cellar if too hot, and ‘pour heat’ into the cellar if too cold.  This requires a lot more dirt, and the dirt changes from merely being insulation to becoming a ‘heat sink’.

The first few feet of soil tend to seasonally vary a bit in temperature, but by the time you get down 10 ft or so (or ‘in’ a similar distance if digging into a hillside) you are then in a region where the soil temperature remains more or less unchanging, year-round and there’s no point in going any deeper.  As long as you don’t stress the soil around your cellar by introducing too much heat or cold – more than the soil can absorb/conduct away – the walls, floor and even ceiling of your cellar will all act as ‘automatic’ heat sinks, helping maintain a reasonably steady temperature inside the cellar.

Having said that, although the walls will stay much the same in temperature, it is probable there will be some variations in temperature inside the cellar itself, because the ability of the walls to soak up or give off heat is not very great, and outside factors such as the air temperature coming in can overwhelm the natural heat stabilizing of the walls.  A good cellar will keep temperatures above freezing in the winter, and perhaps 40º below outside temperatures in the summer.

The air flow in the summer will obviously have much warmer air coming in from outside than in winter.  You can moderate this a bit by having a ‘solar heater’ that you can attach to the air intake during the winter (nothing fancier than simply using a black painted inlet that the sun can shine on and warm up) and take off during the summer.  During the winter, have most of your airflow when the sun is shining on the inlet, and least during the cold of the night.  The opposite would apply for the summer, with little air flow in the hottest times of the day and more airflow in the coolest times of the evening.

You can also use evaporative cooling in the summer, with the air flow into the cellar passing over a wet cloth.  This helps to cool the air down and also increase its humidity at the same time.

In an ’emergency’ some people provide some gentle heating by simply leaving an incandescent light on in the cellar, while making sure that its light doesn’t harm any of the stored produce.  An incandescent light converts nearly all its rated power to heat, so if you wanted a mild 60 – 100 watt heating element, a light bulb would be the easiest approach.

One more thing about temperature.  By the time midsummer and the hottest temperatures come along, you’ll probably have emptied your root cellar from the last season’s stored foods, and so it won’t matter so much if it warms up a bit then, although you want to always keep temperatures as close to optimum as possible so as not to cause a gradual build-up of heat in the dirt walls.

You also want to have a high humidity.  Again, the ‘magic’ of a root cellar is that the water contained within the dirt walls and floor and ceiling will ‘automatically’ release moisture to keep a high humidity – assuming you don’t overload the ability of the cellar to maintain its humidity by creating too many air changes and therefore removals of moisture/humidity as part of that.

If you need to increase the humidity, you can simply spray water onto the walls, floor and perhaps ceiling of your cellar.  If you need to decrease the humidity, the usual solution is to increase the air flow, but that may cause other problems if the outside air is very hot or very cold, so don’t get too carried away with spraying extra water.

So as to get the most direct impact from the dirt, it is best not to line your cellar any more than might be essential, although it seems that most of the cellars we see these days are at least partially lined – perhaps because it looks ‘cleaner’ and ‘nicer’, even if it harms the cellar’s functionality!  If you are lining the cellar at all, make sure to use materials that won’t be harmed by the moisture – the moisture in the soil and the moisture within the cellar.

Shelving in the cellar is traditionally made of wood rather than metal.  The wood itself changes temperature slowly, adding further to the thermal inertia.  If you are using wood, we recommend you do not use treated wood (due to the poisonous chemicals in it) but rather choose wood that is least likely to rot in moist conditions (such as cedar).  Bricks and concrete blocks can also be used for part of your shelf construction – these are odorless and last a long time in damp conditions.

Shelving should be as open as possible, and set back from the walls, so as to allow for air flow everywhere.  This will keep down the growth of mold.  Be careful also when stacking produce so as to allow air to flow through the produce, and generally it is best not to store anything directly on the ground.

One other aspect of your cellar – you want it to be normally dark.  Light is an energy source which variously activates the sprouting of some produce and encourages the growth of undesirable organisms.  Keep the cellar dark except for when you visit it.

The cellar does need some fresh air flow, however.  There’s a trick to this to create a natural air flow without needing as much machinery.  You should have an air entry on one side of the cellar and an air exit on the other side, so air flows between them.

Now for the clever part.  Your air entry inlet should come in from outside and open at close to the floor level.  The air exit outlet should start at a point close to the ceiling.  This means the hotter air in the cellar will naturally rise up and out the exit, sucking in replacement fresh air from outside, where it will land in the cooler lower parts of the cellar, before gradually warming and then exiting again.

Of course, both the inlet and outlet need to have dampers on them so you can regulate the flow of air.  They also need screens so that rodents can’t enter your cellar through the air vents.

There is always a temperature gradient within your cellar, perhaps of 5º, maybe even 10º, as between its floor and ceiling.  You should keep that in mind when deciding where in the cellar to locate the various different produce items you’ll be storing.  Onions, garlic and shallots are probably the most temperature tolerant things you might be storing, so put them on upper shelves.

Visiting Your Cellar

We suggest you limit your visits to your cellar to no more than one a day.  If you’re struggling to keep the temperature optimized, you might even cut back on your visits to once every two or three days.  The less you stress your cellar with unwanted adverse changes of air and introduction/escape of heat and moisture, then of course the better it will perform.

This should not be a problem if you accept the discipline and requirement of moving things in/out of the cellar no more than once a day.  Surely it is easy to transfer produce from the cellar to a convenient at-hand storage facility elsewhere in your retreat on an occasional basis, and then whenever needed, take from the at-hand facility.  And, when replenishing, you can build up a pile of new produce immediately outside the cellar, and at the end of a day’s harvesting, then move everything in to the cellar all together.

If this is a problem, and if you’re struggling with maintaining a suitable cellar temperature, you might want to consider making the entrance into an ‘airlock’ type double door arrangement so as to cut down further on the environmental impact in the cellar every time you open the door.

You should carefully monitor your cellar’s temperature and humidity, and you will need to adjust the ventilation going in/out of the cellar to keep the temperature optimized.  We suggest you either have thermometers and hygrometers visible through an inspection window, or alternatively, if using electronic sensors, of course these can display remotely, anywhere in your retreat you wish.

The vent adjusters should either be routed mechanically to a point outside the cellar where you can open/close them, or else be operated by remote-controlled servo-motors.

Oh yes, please also remember to keep the light switched off in the cellar when you’re not present.

Do You Need Multiple Cellars?

There are two major concerns that some people feel can justify either the creation of multiple cellars or at least partitioning off one single cellar.

The first of these is that some things – apples, peaches, pears, plums, cabbage and tomatoes in particular – emit ethylene gas while stored.  Unfortunately, the released ethylene harms produce – even the produce that releases the ethylene in the first place!  So you need to keep the ethylene releasing produce as separate as possible from other produce, especially the root veges, and well ventilated to protect it from itself.

That’s the hint that can suggest how you could manage with one cellar instead of two.  Put the ethylene emitting items close to the exit vent so the ethylene mainly gets swept up and exhausted out of the cellar, while keeping the root vegetables in the other corner, and closer to the air inlet.  This keeps the ethylene away from other produce, and also vents it away from the emitting produce too.

The other main issue is odor control.  Some things – turnips, for example, or cabbage – give off odors that would get absorbed into other items if stored close to each other.  One solution is not to grow and store turnips and cabbage!

Another solution is again to put the smelly stuff closer to the air exhaust outlet, and to keep the more sensitive produce far away.

So you are probably correctly now sensing that managing ventilation is an essential part of having a successful root cellar.

There is another consideration as well that might influence whether you have one or two root cellars.  Different produce items are best stored at different temperatures, and if you had sufficient fine control over your root cellar temperature as to be able to ensure one cellar was (say) 10º different to the other, and if you had a range of produce items that could benefit from this temperature differential, then having multiple cellars might make sense.

But unless you’re going to be supplementing your natural heating/cooling with artificial heating/cooling, you’d probably find that two root cellars would have very close to the same temperature.  The better approach to temperature management is simply to stratify the location of your produce, keeping in mind that the higher up in your cellar, the warmer it will be.

So, for most of us, we can probably get by with ‘just’ a single root cellar, but keep these issues in mind when deciding where to locate the produce within it.

For Further Information

This article, although spanning over 3000 words, only lightly touches on the topic of root cellars.

Unless there is a reason why a root cellar would be impossible (ie, you are an apartment dweller with no plans to have any sort of land or rural retreat) you should definitely add a root cellar to your retreat and so it is an important topic to understand and get right.  A root cellar is a wonderful and energy-efficient way to store many different types of produce, giving you well-preserved food long out of season, without any need for the hassle and energy costs of boiling, blanching, bottling, canning or freezing.

To learn more, you can certainly roam via Google to other articles on root cellars, but can we modestly say that you’re not likely to find much more than you’ve already read here.  The best thing to do is to get a copy of the definitive book on the subject – Root Cellaring :  Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables, by Mike and Nancy Bubel.  This 320 page book not only covers cellar design and construction, it also guides you in the choice of produce to store in your root cellar, and even tells you when to harvest and store the items you grow.

Amazon sells the book both as a Kindle eBook and in regular print.  It is better, if buying the regular print edition, to ensure you are getting the latest edition – not the original 1979, but the second 1991 edition.  For about $10, this is an excellent investment.

The post Does Your Retreat Need Two – or Even Three – Root Cellars? appeared first on Code Green Prep.

How To Make Caffeine Drinks From Regular Plants Grown At Home

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How To Make Caffeine Drinks From Regular Plants Grown At Home While it may not rate very highly on the “must have” or “survival” lists, caffeine is something many of us consider completely normal and may even rely on. Withdrawal aside, caffeine has been recorded as a stimulant since man figured out how to leave […]

The post How To Make Caffeine Drinks From Regular Plants Grown At Home appeared first on SHTF DAD.

Be Strategic!

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strategy

Writing a social media strategy does not have to be long and complicated.

I am always surprised when people tell me that they have no strategy. And while it seems comfortable to a fair number of businesses to “wing it” and see what “comes naturally,” that rarely works for long.

Initially, people will have ideas for their social media posts, but after a while, they grow tired or become unsure about what types of messages to post on their social accounts.

A simple exercise can step you through the basic questions that all leadership teams should consider as they draft their social strategy.

These questions are:

  • Who Are Your Target Audiences?
  • What Are Your Communication Goals?
  • What Types of Messages Further Your Communication Goals?
  • Which Social Platforms will Help You Reach both your Target Audience With Your Message Types?
  • How Do You Plan to Archive Your Social Footprint? (If you are not a public agency, you can skip this step)
  • What Are the Next Steps that You Need to Do to Accomplish Your Social Strategy?

I spent some time recently writing a social media strategy for my current agency, so here is a sample of how easy this can be.

Who Are Your Target Audiences? 

  • Residents of my county
  • Public Safety Agencies within my county
  • My agency employees
  • Other 9-1-1 Agencies

What Are Your Communication Goals?

  • Become the public’s trusted voice on issues pertaining to 9-1-1 here in my county
  • Educate the public & dispel rumors/myths relating to services, technologies and public education messages provided by this agency
  • Engage in conversations to enhance understanding of 9-1-1 services within my county through presence, answering questions and being a public face to our local community
  • Human Resources & Employment Opportunities at my agency (i.e. providing a look “behind the curtain” of what it’s like to be a 9-1-1 dispatcher)
  • Provide factual information to residents on ballot-related items that affect agency services to our community
  • Provide a social presence that showcases staff talent and earns the respect of my employees & user agencies
  • Enhance relationship with the news media
  • Amplify messages of public safety agencies with my county
  • Amplify messaging, as appropriate & relative to our target audience, from our professional associations and state-level committees

What Types of Messages Further Your Communication Goals?

  • Status updates about 911 service disruptions & telephone outages,
  • Technology upgrades (and what they mean to residents),
  • Public Education Outreach (events, photos & key messages),
  • Emergency Alert Messages,
  • Employment opportunities,
  • Agency awards, accreditation, honors or best practices (w/congratulations to partner agencies as well),
  • Factual Information about ballot measure issues,
  • Reshares of local public safety agencies & emergency management agencies in our jurisdiction,

Which Social Platforms will Help You Reach both your Target Audience With Your Message Types?

  • Facebook Fan Page
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • YouTube

How Do You Plan to Archive Your Social Footprint? (If you are not a public agency, you can skip this step)

  • See what my county uses at an enterprise level (through our IT services or PIO office),
  • If no existing enterprise solution, implement Social Safe.

What Are the Next Steps that You Need to Do to Accomplish Your Social Strategy?

  • Secure social media accounts to set placeholder locations,
  • Establish placeholder content on both site,
  • Obtain input from leadership team on social media strategy,
  • Determine site-access privileges,
  • Set Target “Go-Live” date,
  • Determine archive recommendation
  • Establish Agency Social Media Policy,
  • Train employees on Social Media Policy to include:
  1. Social Media Strategy & Purpose
  2. General Facebook Privacy Considerations
  3. Admin Access
  4. Archiving Basics
  5. “Informational Lanes” of other closely affiliated agencies
  6. Gathering/Sharing Ideas to accomplish agency goals

See?  You can do this…..simple questions with answers tailored to what your agency mission and values are.  Make it happen!

In The Weeds

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There is a slang term used by waiters/waitresses across the country when for what ever reason they find themselves almost hopelessly behind and no clear way to catch up fast enough.  When it happens (and it does) You call it being “In the weeds”.  It sucks. You can’t just give up but there are only a few ways to get out of the situation. Say you just got three tables seated at the same time. You work through it and try to get as many things done at the same time as possible. Make as few trips as possible with maximum results. Or you ask for help. Maybe find someone to get your drink orders for you, for example.

Why am I bringing this up right now?  Well I’ll be honest.  I’m seriously in “the weeds” right now.  It happens.  It sucks.  I’ve got so many things going on right now with the garden and food preservation I can’t seem to catch up.  Or even come close. It happens every year it seems but this year is really bad. With almost 10 gallons of hot peppers to process, spaghetti squash to cook and dry, 3 hundred feet of beans to pick and process, bell peppers to dry, tomatoes for salsa and rotel to do, melons to pick, yellow squash to dry (yay for squash) okra to pick and dry, blackeyed peas to pick and shell…. you get the idea. And of course there is always weeding to be done. Add to this that it’s time (almost past time) to get fall veggies planted and several other things I can’t think of at the moment.  Overwhelmed to say the least.  The thing is though that this isn’t a BAD thing.  I’m happy the garden’s been kicking butt this year. I just need to clone myself I guess.

 I’m having a hard time with priorities for some reason. I just need to keep pushing on and eventually I’ll get caught up and probably be really happy with the results.  I’ve got a ton of post ideas but no real time to actually sit down and write.  By the time I can sit down and relax and watch our nightly movie I find myself dozing off.  I’m not trying to make excuses for not having written anything lately.  I just thought I’d give you a heads up on why I’ve not been.  I’ll try to keep you all updated but right now I’m  “in the weeds”.

WHO Declares Ebola An International Health Emergency

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The world’s worst outbreak of Ebola that has killed nearly 1,000 people in West Africa represents an international health emergency and could continue spreading for months, the World Health Organization said on Friday. Nigeria became the third African nation, after Sierra Leone and Liberia, to declare a national emergency on Friday as the region’s healthcare […]

Official Berkey Response to Toledo Ohio Algae Bloom

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ALGAE BLOOM – FAQ

 

Algae Bloom

 

 

 

 

 

Below is some information that might be helpful, with respect to the recent Algae Bloom and resulting contamination of the water supply to Toledo, Ohio: “…Cyanobacterial cells range in size from 0.5-1 μm to 40 μm in diameter…” In other words, it’s a long skinny bacteria.
Reference:http://huey.colorado.edu/cyanobacteria/about/cyanobacteria.php

Internet research seems to indicate that cyanobacteria are even larger, typically on the scale of 150 micrometers in size.   While we have not tested the specific microbes associated with Algae Blooms, we have tested other pathogenic bacteria and two viruses, which are a small fraction of the size of these microbes.

To understand the difference between the size of pathogenic bacteria and viruses, we suggest the following web link as it will give you a great visual of the The University of Utah Cell Size and Scale Chart: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/cells/scale/

Slide the scale at the bottom to see the size of virus vs bacteria vs other potential contaminates and magnify to greater levels. Black Berkey™ purification elements have been tested to remove both pathogenic bacteria and viruses to greater than the EPA purification standards. This suggests that larger bacteria, such as cyanobacteria, should also be effectively removed. Without test data on that specific microbe however, NMCL does not make that specific claim. The MS-2 virus is 24-26 nm in size. The Fr Coliphage virus is 25nm in size

In other words, they are over 1,000 times smaller than Cyanobateria. Additionally Microcystins, which are the chemical contaminates resulting from cyanobacteria are an organic chemical. Testing of Black Berkey™ elements has demonstrated they are extremely efficient at removing organic chemicals.

The EPA defines Microcystins as: “…toxins produced by cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria are also known as blue-green algae and are ubiquitous in surface water when conditions are favorable for growth and formation of algal blooms. Cyanobacteria release toxins upon cell death or lysis. When released, toxins may persist for weeks to months.

Toxins of most concern are microcystins. Microcystins take their name from the genera Microcystis. Most microcystins are hepatotoxins (liver toxins). Hepatotoxins are produced by species of the genera Microcystis, Anabena, Nodularia, Oscillatoria among others. Most microcystins are associated with Microcystis aeruginosa. While the liver is the primary target of microcystins, it is also a skin, eye and throat irritant…” Reference: http://iaspub.epa.gov/tdb/pages/contaminant/contaminantOverview.do?contaminantId=-1336577584

Further, the EPA states that: “…The following processes are considered effective for the removal/oxidation of microcystin:…. powdered activated carbon (up to 100% for some microcystins but less so for others), granular activated carbon (time-dependent from 100% near start up to 38 to 73% at 3.5 months…” Reference: http://iaspub.epa.gov/tdb/pages/contaminant/contaminantOverview.do?contaminantId=-1336577584

Finally, the EPA states that: “…Removal of total microcystins, M-LR, and M-LA, in water by granular activated carbon (GAC) can be very effective where the effectiveness is based on the empty bed contact time, the carbon’s age, and possible biodegradation of the toxin. Time-dependent monitoring in a full-scale plant ranged 43 to 60 percent removal for M-LR. Time-dependent monitoring in pilot-scale studies ranged from greater than 99 percent at one month to 73 percent at 3.5 months for M-LR, and from greater than 99 percent at one month to 38 percent at 3.5 months for M-LA…” Reference: http://iaspub.epa.gov/tdb/pages/contaminant/contaminantOverview.do?contaminantId=-1336577584

Based upon the above Internet research, Black Berkey™ element microbe and organic chemical removal test data and the information provided by the EPA in their reference material cited above; these all suggest that Berkey® water purification systems should be extremely effective at removing and reducing contaminates resulting from the current algae bloom. NMCL also highly recommends that whenever possible, the cleanest source water available should always be utilized.

The post Official Berkey Response to Toledo Ohio Algae Bloom appeared first on LPC Survival.

Messages for D.C.

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This past week was pretty incredible.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know already that I was in Washington D.C. with a host of other friends and folks for the White House Innovation Day.  You should read my friend, Kevin Sur’s post about this rather incredible experience.  Another post from Kyle Richardson is available at this link.

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@maryjofly & @cherylble

 

Rather than recount similarly, I thought I’d blog today on the messages both shared and observed throughout this trip of a lifetime.

The purpose of our visit was clear:  To identify and evaluate the existing challenges surround the use of collaborative technologies and big data in emergency response.

Simply?  Why aren’t every day first responders using social media and data to inform key decisions?

And, over the course of 36 hours, I was able to sit in meetings at the White House, FEMA, Senate, House of Representatives and at our #DC Tweetup that was attended by #SMEM friends, contractors and tech agencies who were discussing these same issues in-depth, resulting in these key messages:

“Whole Community” Needs Refinement:  

While I’ll be the first to tell you that I firmly believe in the notion of “whole community” because I believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to engage in emergency response, public agencies still struggle with how to incorporate the voice of its residents and digital technology providers.  We still see many technology providers aiming to fit their products into the disaster services sphere without the direct involvement of emergency service providers.  And, while often, we can see some decent applications of technology, it occurs more by happenstance and not by direct intentional engagement.  In order to be effective, the idea of “whole community” needs to be defined such that it provides quality roles for public safety agencies, other government entities, students, volunteers, private sector, and NGO’s.

Rather than Creating Technology Solutions, Government Should Develop Trust & Meaningful Engagement with Tech Developers

Emergency responders should not be making technology and conversely, technology providers should not be leading the emergency response.  For years, we have seen public agencies recreate the technical wheels of ideas that were often first birthed in the private sector.  For example, government has attempted versions of social networks and damage reporting tools that look similar to both Facebook and Instagram, but few of the public apps have ever caught on in the public sphere like the ones more widely accepted.  We have to develop trust and meaningful engagement between both groups so that people can lend their expert perspective into the development of technology and so that we are truly solving problems in a meaningful way.

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Resistance to Social Media is Primarily Cultural & Resource-Based  

While we still encounter people who are simply opposed to social media, the primary reluctance is often a deficit in the time & space to learn how to use collaborative technologies.  And while those of us who use social media know that it allows us to become situationally aware more quickly, to the emergency manager who doesn’t yet use social media, the perception still exists that it is “one more thing to learn or manage.”  And, perceptually, this remains a barrier.

Sidenote:  I’m not sure how that perception is helped when we highlight 20 new applications that could be used for emergency response.  Frankly, there needs to be a vetting service or ability for the community to highlight the apps that work well during emergency response.  The presence of so many options can, in turn, become cumbersome to someone who just doesn’t yet know where to begin.

There is More Than One Way to Achieve Situational Awareness: Help Is Available

As I sat near Emergency Managers who were feeling overwhelmed by social media, I found myself sharing very openly about the use of virtual teams.  If you are an Emergency Manager who isn’t sure how to harness social media, you don’t have to do it by yourself.  There are many groups using people to monitor social media and provide key information directly to emergency management organizations.  Most notably, Virtual Operation Support Teams (VOST) have been working in many states and countries to develop trusted relationships with emergency management organizations.  Other groups like the Red Cross Digital Volunteers and Humanity Road have also been working in this sphere over the past several years.

“Virtual” Teams Are Not Synonymous with “Volunteer” Teams

While many of the virtual teams that exist today are staffed by volunteers, it is important to note that this model does not provide long-term sustainability.  Many virtual teams may provide solid assistance for 3-5 days; however, in nearly every after-action report, team leaders report that the sustainability of their service can be problematic or reliant on 1-2 individuals.  It is important to recognize that social media monitoring does take time and effort and that pulling people away from day jobs to accomplish this can only be done long-term if you are able to reassign members of your own organizations to accomplish these goals.  Otherwise, it will be important to evaluate how we can build this capacity to support longer duration events.

Virtual Teams Should Be Resource-Typed and Credentialed

If you followed me around, you heard me say this more than once. Many federal organizations are still wrestling with where virtual teams should reside in the emergency response framework.  While staffed by volunteers, it is easy to say “let’s make them another Citizen Corp team” along with our Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) folks.  But I strongly disagree.  Virtual Teams are providing key information into the emergency response directly to emergency response entities.  As such, they need to be credentialed and given credibility like any other communication-team or communications-based asset.

We currently use our community volunteer teams differently. Often, they are taking on tasks that emergency responders don’t have time for or are distracting emergency responders from completing their life-safety missions.  While important, volunteer teams are usually at different levels of the emergency response with different types of missions.  Virtual Teams that are providing situational awareness are not operating independently of emergency responders, and in fact, may be engaging with them very directly.  As such, like a COM-L or COM-T, we need to give some thought to what resource-typing these task forces looks like to enhance the delivery of consistent service across emergency response.

I’m sure there were many more talking points that I missed, but needless to say, it was a true honor and privilege to be invited to attend this event and all of the surrounding events that were a part of my trip back to Washington D.C.

Special thanks to Martha Braddock (@msbraddock) of IAEM who coordinated many of the meetings on my first day in town.  And, another word of thanks to Doc Lumpkins (@find_doc) of FEMA who invited us in for some fun early morning conversation as well.

Preserving Peppers!

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This year my pepper plants aren’t doing well.  I’m not sure if it was the weird spring weather that stayed cold longer than normal or something I’m doing wrong.  Whatever it is, the plants are stunted.  They look healthy, but small.  I’ve managed to harvest a couple of Jalapenos and a handful of small Cayenne peppers.

Luckily, my dad’s pepper plants are doing great this season, so he sent me home with a ton of peppers this weekend.  I ended up with a dining room table full of Jalapeno, Cayenne, and Banana peppers.  Now it’s time to move to get them preserved before they can go bad.

Dehydrating is the easiest way of preserving peppers, but it limits their uses later.  They can be used for cooking or as a seasoning, but not really enjoyed by themselves.  I always like to keep a good stock on hand for uses in chili and stew recipes, so several pounds of this batch are getting dried.   Dehydrating peppers is a pretty simple and straightforward process.

Peppers have a pretty tough skin that seals moisture in, so each pepper needs to be pierced or sliced so they can dry evenly.  For thin peppers like the Cayennes I make a slit along the length of each pepper.  For thicker peppers like the Jalapenos, I simply slice them in half along the length.   Once all the peppers are sliced, they get loaded on the trays of the dehydrator.  Unless you have a very well ventilated spot inside, I recommend running the dehydrator outside.  As peppers heat up and start to dry, they turn the area around them into a pepper spray gas chamber.  Usually in 10 to 12 hours, everything is dried out well and ready to store.  I use Mason jars to keep them moisture free.  That allows them to keep for years.

Some basic tips for dehydrating:

1. Thin items dry much faster than thick pieces.

2. Peppers, onions, and other foods can put off very strong odors while drying.

3. If you dehydrate outside, make sure the dehydrator is protected from animals and birds.

4. Some items can impart their flavor to others if dehydrated at the same time.  Don’t dry onions or peppers with your apple chips!

5. Check your food every couple of hours.  You can’t really over dry most items, but no sense in running a dehydrator longer than needed.

 

Refuge (Book II of The Pulse Series)

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Just a quick update on the expected availability of Refuge which I finished up in June.  My publisher has shipped the finalized files to the printer and I got word yesterday that copies will ship from the printer on August 21, which should put them in the warehouses of Amazon and other distributors and retailers about a week later.  So hopefully the book will be available to buy around the 1st of September instead of the 9th as posted on Amazon now.

Here’s a view of the back cover, which I did not have at the time of my last update here:

As with all these books done through my publisher, the printed price on the cover is the list price only.  The selling price on Amazon and other online retailers will be significantly lower.  It’s currently listed on Amazon for $11.26, but I expect that price to go lower upon release, but final selling price is up to Amazon.  The Kindle Edition will also be available at the time of the print release and should be under $10.

I want to thank all the readers of this blog and especially those of you who have purchased and enjoyed The Pulse and The Darkness After, making it possible for me to continue exploring the concepts presented here on Bug Out Survival through works of fiction.  I think fiction can in many ways be more thought-provoking than nonfiction when it comes to considering just what one might do in the event of a catastrophic disaster like the solar flare scenario explored in these novels.  I try to make the stories as realistic as possible, but at the same time, the goal is to entertain more so than to teach.  I look forward to continuing these stories as well as beginning new ones.  More to come soon with the announcement of the next project…