Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SHTF: Defending Suburban Home

I have been reading a SHTF fiction piece which takes place in an upscale neighborhood in a major metropolitan area.

Defending a neighborhood described in the story is near impossible. I can think of more than a few reasons why.

1) You have to depend upon your neighbors.

I don't know about you, but I don't think many of my neighbors even own a gun, at least not as far as I can tell. I have one neighbor who I know is an avid hunter and owns some sort of a "security supply company" which sells bullet proof vests, body armor, helmets and that sort of thing. Besides what he does, I don't know if anyone else has any other useful experience or supplies.

I would not want to depend upon my neighbors. How many of them are anti-gun? Or believe the "authorities" should handle the problem? Or might report my having "stuff" to the authorities? Or might feel sorry for those willing to steal or kill in our neighborhood because they were "economically distressed"? You can't count on everyone believing and acting the way you do.

I add to this the common line I hear from others about their neighborhoods "Most of my neighbors are vets/blue collar/like minded. I am sure we will stick together". My advice is to guess again unless you have a plan and pseudo-organization in place to defend the neighborhood.

2) Too much property

Most neighborhoods are spread out. They border other neighborhoods full of people you do not know. A high rise, strip mall or apartment complex might be next door to a neighborhood which changes the dynamics in multiple ways.

Are there creeks, woods, fields, or empty lots adjoining your neighborhood? Can you and a handful of other homeowners honestly patrol and effectively cover this type of territory?

Just watching the four sides of your home is enough for one home owner, now try watching all sides of your neighborhood.

3) You say no, the neighbor says yes

So you have a group of neighbors who agree to watch the neighborhood 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You and the guy next door are on sentry duty for the front of the neighborhood. A car rolls up and some young guys says he and his two friends are home from college and want to see his girlfriend. You say no, go home. Your friend wants to get along and says "we didn't discuss this happening. What say we give the kid a break?". While you two are arguing, College Boy and his homies pull 9's and fill you both full of lead.

How about this? A car load pulls up and they are friends of yours. "We know you are prepared, John. Can the family double up with you?". Other guard says "no way", we have enough to deal with. You say its my house.. blah blah blah.

And so it goes. Neighbors who have a casual nod and hello relationship while getting the morning paper are suddenly co-survivalists in an urban compound with nothing in common or plan in place. Recipe for disaster.

4) Too many liabilities

A gang of 10 or so bangers show up and try and raid a few homes. The neighborhood patrol goes out to meet them and when the bangers are surrounded one grabs a little girl as a shielf and hostage. Maybe it is your daughter or your next door neighbors.

Or maybe the bangers go out in a blaze of glory? They fire wildly into the nearby homes, all made of brick and wood, and the rounds tear into whoever and what ever is in their path.

Or maybe they just decide to start burning the close together homes until everyone comes out to get shot or captured?

Regardless, there are too many variables to go wrong in an all out defense.


The only home I would defend would be my own and maybe a few next door neighbors I know very well.

I would also follow my Suburbia Defense Strategy outlined here. It is a longshot but it is better than walking patrol with a bunch of middle aged Rambos on Wisteria Lane.

Other than that, your best bet is to get out of dodge when the time permits.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

SHTF Saturday

Its Saturday, so I can write whatever I feel like today.

Here is a short story, actually a piece of a story. Forget about the story line, instead see how many post-SHTF jobs and business opportunities you can spot.

Richard Lassiter finished loading the last box in the back of the trailer and secured it with tarp and rope. The other two trailers were ready and the families were climbing aboard the three trucks.

Richard's oldest son Luke and his nephew Jim were kicking their dirt bikes to life and pointed them out the open gate to the farm. Luke would ride out last after locking the gate down when the last truck and trailer pulled out.

It had been nearly a year since the Fall. That was what they called it around here at least. They called it the Crash in the Midwest, the Big Boom in California and simply the End in other places. The stories the Lassiter family heard on the shortwave helped them piece together some of what happened elsewhere. Nobody would ever know the full extent of how bad things had gone in the world over the past year.

Now, gasoline and diesel were in short supply, especially when running five vehicles as the Lassiters and their extended group of family and friends were doing early this particular morning. But the Lassiters were not one to miss an opportuntity for some trade and the chance to increase their bounty.

The nearby small town, which until last year was home to nearly 25,000 people, was the site of a new trading fair, bazaar,flea market, what have you. After several months of no commerce or trade, people were itching to get out of their homes and see what was available from nearby residents for trade or sale. And the Lassiters were no different.

As the Lassiters made their way to the high school grounds where the trading fair was to be taking place, several others made their way as well. Most had only a few things of value to trade. Others, however, were planning on providing services they knew would be in demand by survivors of the Fall.

These would be entrepreneurs all had quite a bit in common. Each mumbled to himself after the Fall, "I'm gonna be a knife sharpener, gunsmith or 'jack of all trades'. I am sure those things will be in demand". And so, they loaded up their wagons, yard carts and bike trailers and rolled them onto the fair grounds looking for business.

Imagine the looks they received from each other as they clanged, jangled and banged their identically laden carts of tools and files into the trade area at the fair.

At the same time, the Lassiters arrived. They parked their three trucks and trailers in a row length wise. Plywood board signs were erected on top of the trailers and along the sides of the trucks announcing their services, trade items and desired products of exchange. Folding tables were erected and chairs put out behind the tables.

Two young men with shotguns took up position behind the tables to provide security while the other family members, openly armed as well, setup shop.

Peg Lassiter, 19, set up tray after tray of vegetable seedlings on the two folding tables in front of her. Each was grown from the supply of hybrid seeds her father had collected over the years. They would not germinate next year which meant that today's customer would be back next season for more.

Jane Lassiter, Richard's wife, along with her niece Hope, setup two chairs side by side and a table laden with hair clippers, scissors and manicure equipment. Hope had been to beauty school before the Fall and Jane had always trimmed her husband's and son's hair. Now they would put those services to good use.

Max McCauley, Richard's long time friend, setup a bench and table with old shoes and boots. Each had been obtained from thrift stores and second hand for years before the Fall (and some scavenged over the past few months..). Max had repaired several seams and heels over the winter, had cleaned the shoes and provided new laces where needed. Now the worn, but completely serviceable shoes were going to bring Max a handsome profit for his winter's work. The shoes were organized by size and the prices clearly labeled.

Ted Lassiter, 12, was not to be left out. Piled on the ground in front of him were nearly 100 phone books and two trash bags of old newspaper. All had been scavenged and recovered from the numerous looted houses and businesses in the Lassiters area. A simple sign in front of the pile made Ted's case "Toilet Paper".

Finally, Richard pulled something out of his bag of tricks. Written on the plywood sign above his head was his shingle "Notary, witness and provider of civil wedding ceremonies - inquire within". Richard had obtained a "ordination" online before the Fall which proclaimed he was an ordained minister. Further, he had been a lawyer at one time before the Fall which might still have some revenue generating ability.

This combined with the large selection of used tools, knives and candles he had obtained from garage sales, thrift stores and flea markets which were now displayed on the table in front of him and who knew how he would make out today.

In the meantime, our dozen or so amateur gunsmiths and knife sharpeners were having a hard time finding business. One had hastily penned a sign which read "Knifes sharpened, fair prices". Another pushed his wheel barrow in front of every person he saw with a gun or knife on their belt "Sharpen your knife for ya. Tune up that pistol too".

"No thanks" was the reply which only angered and frustrated the would be business man.

Jane and Hope had a line at their "beauty shop" by this time. Of course it helped that after nearly a year, most people had uneven shaggy haircuts or ridiculously long locks hanging in front of their faces. And business was attracted to the Lassiters as twin sisters Mary and Faith serenaded the crowd with their violin and guitar duets. Music had been a stranger now that the power was out and radios, CDs and stereos were a thing of the past.

When a young couple shyly approached Richard about a wedding ceremony, the whole family stood and cheered. A time was set for that afternoon and Richard began to make arrangements. He quickly produced a silk flower arrangement and a wedding veil from his truck "Would you like to rent these for the happy occasion?" he inquired.

Two of the knife sharpeners were in a scuffle over an elderly man's pocket knife sharpening business. In the end, both were bruised and battered and the knife owner left with a dull blade.

The Lassiters were not taking old money for their wares and services. Only trade goods which were hard to get or manufacture. In particular,the Lassiters were looking for ammunition of any kind (but not to trade away, only to take in), fuel, unopened pre-Fall food stuffs, batteries and such. They also kept an open mind for "work of equal value". Why do the work when someone else would do it for you for cheaper? Outsourcing was not a thing of the old America.

When a man approached Ted for some toilet paper and offered a five dollar bill, Ted pulled the phonebook back from and asked for proper payment. An older relative sided up to Ted in case the customer became "difficult". He did not and he shuffled off with his money and goods for trade - a grocery bag of worthless compact disks and cell phones.

That afternoon, to the strains of "Hear Comes The Bride" as played by the twins, the young couple exchanged vows and Richard signed a marriage certificate, which he produced and notarized too, by the way. The couple handed over 8 rounds of 00 buckshot and a butane lighter for the services. Richard let the bride keep the silk bouquet. She looked too pretty to take it back.

A wonderful day for commerce, trade and love in the new America.

As the Lassiters packed up to head home before dark, a number of seething eyes were upon them among the stragglers lingering in the fairgrounds..

More tomorrow..

Friday, December 26, 2008

SHTF: Survivalist New Years Resolutions

I hate New Years resolutions.

Most people do not keep them and it is a symbolic waste of time.

They pack the gym and buy the bikes. They put in the big order to Jenny Craig or Nutrisystem. They clean the "fat clothes" out of the closet. They make lists and stick them on the refrigerator door.

Come February, they are parked in front of the TV watching American Home Idol with the Stars and stuffing their faces with Twinkies and Diet Coke. The exercise bike holds clothes and the fridge door is covered with kid drawings and coupons.

However, with the new year staring in less than a week, it is time for all of us to take stock where we are today and what we need to be preparing for in 2009.

How about a Survivalist To Do List for 2009 rather than a bunch of silly resolutions?

1) Start building up a cash supply
Cash will be the mode of exchange for days, weeks or months before the ax finally falls on society. Even afterwards, some fool will still take a Ben Franklin for a can of beans or roll of toilet paper long after the fall.

Start cutting lunches and coffee out. Stop buying treats at the 7-11. Take your lunch to work. Quit smoking. You know, all the little ways to save $20,50 or 100.00 a week.

Put that cash in a jar or envelope in the house somewhere and don't touch it. Stick your pocket change in another jar, sort it for junk silver and roll it for more green backs. Put those back too.

2) Build that food supply
Food is king. And food is cheap. Cheaper than that rifle or truck you want. Food is readily available at the corner market or Super Wal Mart.

Start buying an extra 6 cans of something, 10 pounds of rice, a bag of sugar or flour and so forth every time you go to the market. Put everything into a five gallon bucket you can get at the hardware store. Label it, close it and stick in the back of the closet.

3) Keep your car filled
Gas runs the world despite what all the renewable blabber mouths say. Remember Katrina? All the people with a quarter tank of gas stranded on the interstate? Keep your car above three quarters of a tank. Now it is easier than ever that gasoline has dropped in price.

If you want, and this is your risk if you do, keep a five gallon can filled in the garage or car port.

For sure, get 3,4 or 5 empty gasoline containers and put them in the garage. I carry an empty five in the back of my truck for just in case.

4) Plant something you can eat
A corner of the yard, ten big containers, the flower beds out back, heck, the whole backyard. Plant some food as soon as the weather permits.

Grow tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, anything that can be eaten and is good for you.

While you are at it, plant a fruit or nut tree on your property as well if you can. Plant something now before next fall when the stores are empty.

5) Start cleaning out your house and getting rid of the clutter
Sell your surplus junk and make some extra money for preparedness supplies. Have a garage sale, Craiglist or Ebay it. FreeCycle for that pile of stuff nobody will pay you for. Someone will want it and free is good.

6) Start a real health and fitness program
Eat right - fruits, vegetables, whole grains and less red meat, fats and stupid carbohydrates (beer, cake, cookies, junk).

Go the doctor and get a full physical. Do what he says (short of loading up on prescriptions).

Start walking every day. Buy a second hand bike and ride it to work once a week if possible, and to the grocery store.

Integrate exercise into your daily life and you won't quit.

7) Get some more clothes
After the SHTF the most valuable asset after food will be clothes and shoes well fitted for the post-SHTF world. My kids love their video console, but the price of it, I could have bought 4 pairs of good jeans, or two pairs of work boots or a couple of sets of Carhardts.

Jeans, coats, work shoes, socks, underwear, etc. will be worth their weight in gold in the month after the big one. Go buy a few extra things as money permits.

8) Get a bug out bag for the car and office
Stock an old back pack or duffle with the following:
- change of clothes
- pair of sock
- walking shoes or boots
- 6 .5 liters of water
- A Camelback (1.5 liter)
- 6 protein bars
- 4 Ramen noodles
- 4 Oatmeal
- 6 tea bags
- Condiment packet including sugar, salt, pepper
- Lip balm, sunscreen and bug spray
- rain coat, folding poncho
- tarp
- matches or lighter
- flashlight
- multi tool

Keep it in your office and another in your car.

9) Buy a gun
A .22, 9mm, 12 guage shotgun, bolt action rifle, etc.
Take it to a public range and practice shooting.
Buy enough ammunition as needed - 500 or 1000 rounds or more.

While never preaching that violence is best, having the means to defend your family and home is irreplaceable.

10) Water
Not a specific action, but a list.
Stock water in bottles and containers.
Get a good water filter and replacement cartridges.
Find alternate sources of water where you live.. well, spring, creek, river, rain barrels.

Water is essential to life and you never have too much when you don't have any.

10.5) Start learning
Make an effort to learn new skills.
Learn to fix things yourself.
Learn to build things yourself.
Learn to do things like canning or gardening by putting practice into action.
Start reading things that will help you and your family survive and thrive in the new world.

Resolutions are a waste of time, but resolving to do better in the new year is not only smart, but may save your life.

Happy New Year

Sunday, December 21, 2008

SHTF: The Road

Unless you have been under a rock or in your bunker for the past two years, you have heard of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Forget that it is an Oprah book club book, whatever, rather that it is a masterpiece of literature.

The Road describes a world where everything, all life, people, animals, plants, are dying off after a cataclysmic event. (Although the book does not say, to me it is obvious an extinction event, such as a massive meteorite storm or comet strike has taken place. Other reviewers love to pontificate, incorrectly, that the the story describes "nuclear winter" after a man-made nuclear war).

Amongst this ruin, we have a man and his son, both unnamed, traveling across this blasted and cold land moving south where they hope there is warmer temperatures and food.

The story is about survival, but it is more about love and keeping hope in the darkest of times. Something we here understand and appreciate all too well.

Heavy handedness aside, let's get down to practicality. If you have read The Road, you probably thought what I did - "How could I have survived in that situation?"

As I read The Road, I figured out these few lessons:
- Be prepared - duh. But really prepared with food for several years, ways to grow more and preserve it in adverse conditions, to have a retreat well off the beaten path and obscure from passers by and have plenty of ammo for your weapon.

With that in mind, is there anyway anyone could survive that cold desolate world described in The Road? I'd like to think there is, after all, there were communes and survivors who had not yet degenerated into cannibalism and despicable acts.

To get started..

Don't be a refugee - Lesson one. The Man and Boy are wandering with all their worldly possessions. Around every corner is death and destruction waiting for them. Rather than walking to death, we know to have a retreat ready before the day happens.

Retreat location is everything - we don't know how the disaster took place, but we do know from The Road that pretty much everything above ground was affected. So having an underground shelter would be advantageous. Further, the shelter should not be too far north (colder), near an earthquake zone (falling asteroids could trigger a quake) or near the sea (flooding). So somewhere in the southwest or lower Plain states would be nice.

Our shelter must be over a deep aquifer for our well to go. Something with water for years and unaffected by the elements. So a well is mandatory and having the pump run on wind or another renewable power source is mandatory

Next, our shelter must be large, very large to house what we are going to stock it with.

Food,food,food - the characters in The Road are starving most of the book. We will need to stock our shelter not for a few months, but for years. That means the some sort of list of foods and schedule of consumption:

Year one, two - canned and packaged food.
Year three - long term storage food such as grain, rice, beans, powdered milk, honey, cooking oil.
Year four through seven - more long term grain, powdered milk, honey and oil. Retort foods such as Emergency Essentials, Meals-Ready-To-Eat for variety and as a treat.
Year eight and on - Underground food production garden with grow lights and hydroponics. Continued use of grains. Small scale animal production such as pygmy goats and chickens.

That was my estimate, so I went to the food calculator and entered in my data. Here is what I got..

First, I figured in seven years worth of food with four big people and one little person consuming - so that (7 x 4) + (7 x 1) x the estimated annual amounts.

That would mean
Grains - 9436lbs
Fats (oils, etc) - 413lbs
Beans - 1848lbs
Sugars - 1883lbs
Milk - 2359lbs
Plus a bunch of cooking essentials like baking powder, yeast, salt, etc.

Using this same calculator, I would increase the number of years I plan to stay in the shelter and stock accordingly.

It is a lot to consider, but think about the core food, grain. Only 10K lbs would feed five people for 7 years.

So the shelter has to be huge. I figure that I would have to buy a truckload of grain at a time, although I think a grain truck carries about 20,000 lbs so one would be enough. Just having a place to store it would be a chore.

With food and water covered for our post-The Road world, we need a few other essentials.

Power - Solar is out and the electric grid is down. The wind still blows and wind power may be are only option. We have to keep the wind mills running in all the dust and ash, and discovery will always be a problem. But if the windmills are running outside and our shelter is underground hidden from view, other refugees and bandits will pass them by hopefully and move on.

The windmills would store their power in deep cycle batteries and would power cooking, heating and lights.

The other option would be to have several thousand gallons of propane stored underground around my bunker. It could be used for cooking, heating and powering a generator.

Wood and coal fire would be out as the smoke would have to be expelled and that would attract others.

Washing, toilets and personal hygiene - all I wanted to do when I was reading The Road was the desire to take a shower. Having wash facilities would be crucial as would be toilets. The waste would have to be used for fertilizer in the growth rooms for vegetables and fruit productions.

Water from the bath/shower would be reused for watering the plants. Waste from the animals would be used for earthworm production and fertilizer.

What else would we need? Clothing, including changing sizes for children as they grow. Shoes too.

Vitamins as our diet becomes progressively more limited. Medicine as the chance of minor infections spreading becomes a real issue in our closed bunker environment. Having a sun lamp or tanning bed for artificial sunlight and vitamin D production would help too.

I would want to have at least four or five families in the shelter. We would probably be down there, with very limited exposure to the outside world for 7-10 years judging from the book. At that time, most of the die off would have unfortunately happened and then we could wait for the world to hopefully heal itself.

Could you survive the world of The Road? Most likely not based upon what I read. But thinking about solutions to problems is what we should do and do often. However, some survival situations are simply too big to grasp and plan for.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SHTF: Starving Children

Here is the standard survivalist line: Provide for me, my family, my select friends who were invited to join us only. The list is closed after that.

Here is the un-standard problem. The next door neighbor comes over three weeks after the event and begs for anything to eat. You know the family; your kids and theirs played together before everything went in the handbasket.

What would you do?

For me, that means "Sure, come on in and let's get them fed". Period.

I won't let a child I know go hungry no more than I would want one of my children to go hungry. What's more is you, me and everyone else does better when we work together within our own community in this case, with our neighbors.

They will be one more set of eyes to watch my back and can do it because I helped feed them.

Now, here are some scenarios where I am not helping anyone.

- Stranger shows up at front door and says "Hey, yall got some food?" or something like that. Sorry, I don't know you and by the way, we are starving in here too. Nope, no food here.

- Dad (or mom) shows up with kids and proceeds to help himself before the children have been served and have eaten their fill. This Dad piles his plate and scarfs it down. Sorry, I take the plate (with gun in hand) and Dad waits outside for kids to get be done.

- Kids balk at eating, complain about the food and demand something different. After pausing to notice Mom's face turning whiter then death, I take the food up and show the little tikes the front door. Mom can teach manners at that point.

Which brings up a real scenario which will happen when you help the neighbors out.

My family and I have had more than a few families over for dinner. My wife cooks from scratch, serves healthy food and there is never a shortage of fresh vegetables at any meal.

Family number one comes over. Little boy says the food my wife places before him is yucky. His mother makes excuses and let's him stuff himself on bread and dessert. Little girl proceeds to drown her food in a half a bottle of ranch dressing and dumps a bowl of parmesian cheese on the whole mess. Than says she is full. Dad comments on how cute she is and let's her play on the floor while he eats three helpings of everything including the last of the pasta and meat without noticing if anyone else has eaten.

Family number two comes over. Children are home schooled by mom, incidentally and have manners which are strangers among today's coddled children. Both Little Girl and Little Boy gorge themselves on my wife's fresh cucumber salad and have two servings each of her homemade soup. Both sit at table while parents are still eating and despite their fondness for the bread my wife made, leave the last piece for my son (who is chastised to give to one of his guests).

Post SHTF you will see both kinds in your home once the stores are empty. Exhibit your Christian kindness, but be prepared to remind people of manners and behavior while eating your hard saved preps.

Ho ho ho. Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SHTF: Survivalist Movies 2009

The subject of "survivalist themed movies" is a big one on several other survivalist blogs I read or have visited. (for a list of some of my favorites, check the bottom of this page).

For 2009, there are a bunch of great survivalist themed movies coming out. By great I mean in concept. The trailer can be good, the idea of the plot can be good, but the actual product most likely will be awful. Its an odds thing that Hollywood can't seem to change.

Just a few of the great movies coming out..

I love the Terminator movies and we have a fourth installment. Good.

We have another new film with the world gone upside down - a film sure to please the Mayan calendar crowd as well as the pole shift fanatics out there.

We have a cult comic book brought to life..

And we have a tough guy cleans up the cruddy neighborhood one punk at a time..

So let's get started.

The Terminator series has been one of the most successful franchises in history. Three blockbuster movies (especially Two and One in that order), a TV series and multiple comic books.

Terminator Four: Salvation stars the new post-apocalyptic poster actor for the 21st century, Christian Bale. Bale apparently stars as slightly older John Connor in the years immediately after the machines have unleashed their fury on mankind.

Lot's off shooting, running and gunning. And shocking enough, there are actual scenes which take place in day time. The original Terminator movies always featured the fight at night, when the "Hunter Killers" could be evaded.

Regardless of how good the dialogue is, the fighting and survival scenes in the Terminator movies have always resonated well with the survival crowd. After all, who can forget the scene from the first Terminator when Reese returns to base in the crowded tunnels beneath the ruins of Los Angeles? The children staring at the fire in the television console, the boy hunting rats, the guy eating green goop in a bowl?

Good stuff..


Next we got the "world goes nuts" in the new end of the world film, 2012. The premise is pretty simple. Based upon an interpretation of a Mayan calendar which says the world will end in that calamitous fateful year.

So Hollywood puts together a bunch of cool CGI effects of big things, like the Himalayas, getting kiboshed and off to the races we go.

Here is the downside; We got John Cusack as the lead.

When I think of Cusack, I think of High Fidelity or Better Off Dead. I don't see him in a big time adventure role lead. Plus, Cusack has that whiny uber-liberal shriek to him that leaves me wondering how he can fill the survivalist role without lots of multi-cultural, blame conservatives, celebrate idiocy carp.

Add to that Danny Glover as President Wilson and you know this is going to another Day After Tomorrow "It's all America's fault the world ended!" hand wringing fest. Hey, maybe the special effects will be good?

The Watchmen

If you never read the comic book, go on Amazon and get the compilation as it is one of the best produced works in comic book land ever.

The Watchmen takes place in an alternate universe America where superheroes have helped change the course of history. Only there is one catch, with the exception of a blue super man whose genetics were altered by a nuclear accident in the 1940's, the rest of the Watchmen are regular people in costumes simply fighting crime.

When one of their own is murdered in his home, the gloves come off as retired superheroes come out of hiding to solve the murder and uncover a sinister plot to change the world.

Best Super Hero Character: Rorschach.
Best runner up: The Owl.

Now is Watchmen really an end of the world movie? If you read the book you know it is and in many ways. This movie should be either a great or a big fat mess.

Gran Torino

Finally, we have not really an end of the world movie, just a movie that we like to watch. Really tough old guys who take on young punks and kick their baggy pants wearing butts.

Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino" - nuff said.

Friday, December 12, 2008

SHTF: Survival Garden

This topic comes up frequently at Prepare and I have written about it before here.

We all know to store food and water and other consumables. But after the balloon goes up, we will go through our stored food. Knowing this, we have been told over and again to plan on growing and harvesting some of our own food.

Unless we live in a rural area surrounded by 5 of more acres, the rest of us are forced to make due with our back and front yards for food production.

Now, if you have never gardened before, you are in for a surprise. I think gardening is easy and fun myself, having been an avid vegetable gardener for more than ten years.

But, if you have never grown anything more than mold in your fridge, gardening food is not easy. Especially if you want to grow enough for a family.

There are numerous websites out there which point out the best way to get started, so I won't repeat the obvious, only the answers to questions people with our mindset want to know.

How much space do I need to have to feed a family of four?

With enough space, year round growing and good soil, a 100 x 200 can feed a family with a few big BUTS thrown in.
- This is vegetables with a few fruits thrown in. No wheat, large amounts of corn and limited potatoes. That means hardly any starches which can be converted to breads and stored.
- Where you live is a big part of it too. For most it means tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and melons in the warm months and carrots, squash, potatoes, in the cool months.
- Colder climates would do well having cold frames or a green house for longer grow times.
- Leafy vegetables can be grown but only during cooler "shoulder" months like early spring and fall - these vegetables do not do well in the hot summer. Grow mustard greens though.

How much space do I need to grow wheat?

Wheat takes a lot of space to grow enough for adequate production yields. A great article in Organic Farming I read about 10 years ago had a backyard farmer producing 75-100 pounds of flour from one acre of wheat. That is a low harvest for a manual (he harvested everything with a scythe to prove he could do it) crop.

So what carbohydrates should I grow?

Corn. Remember though it takes several rows clumped together to pollinate - i know because of my crop this summer.
Also, corn loves water - pray for rain or have a good supply on hand in the survival garden.
Also, potatoes. Plant them in a raised 3x8 bed about 12" deep at least. Have plenty of enriched (compost) soil. After they grow tall greens, bury everything in 6-12" of straw. In this situation, you can harvest as many as 100-200 potatoes (I have done this before).

What about this Mel Bartholomew book all the preppers talk about?

Here it is, All New Square Foot Gardening. Prep writers love to cite it but I don't know if they have used it.

The idea behind square foot gardening is to create a producing garden in a limited amount of space. It is done using a grid, built and placed over a garden area. Seeds or seedlings are placed within each section of the grid and cultivated. Bartholomew's website has several examples of success stories using Square Foot Gardening.

Minimal gardening does work, people in other countries have done it for years. I remember seeing small gardens all over Europe when i was stationed there. Old and young alike worked the backyard plots and produced beautiful produce. They have to because they have so little land to work and the prices are high.
But you have to practice with this method of agriculture first.

Can I grow fruit trees?

Yes, but they take years to produce fruits. Most fruit trees require more than one tree for pollination. There are dwarf fruit trees, but read the fine print on those you purchase online. Sometimes they are 2-3 years from producing fruit. Bottom line - an orchard of producing fruit trees take years from planting to production. Also, fruit trees require lots of care and maintenance.

Try growing melons and berries in the meantime. Both can be grown in one season.

After the SHTF, where am I going to get fertilizer and chemicals to treat my plants once my stocks run out?

From the same place our forefathers did. First, build a compost heap now. Compost is a natural fertilizer that no self-respecting farmer does without. Take some chicken wire and fence off a 4X4 area. Put leaves, then soil, then kitchen waste (vegetable and fruit peelings, eggs shells, coffee grounds, etc. but no grease, meat or people/dog/cat waste) in layers. Keep somewhat moist and turn once a week or so.

If pests (rats or mice) show up in the heap, move it to a closed container. I use an old trashcan with a lid and it works great for me.

Also, google Dirt Doctor for Howard Garrett's organic methods for fertilizer and pest control. Most of the supplies can be bought now cheaply and last forever. Others can be obtained naturally long after the SHTF.

Also, many garden pests can be controlled by our egg and meat machines - chickens, goose and ducks.

What do I do in the winter?

Some edibles grow fine in the winter. Kale, garlic, onions. Also, google cold frame and put a couple together on the patio during cold months. Or bring a container garden inside and place by a window.

Don't forget to grow herbs! Sure they make food taste better, but some have medicinal properties. Herbs can be grown in containers easily.

Finally, learn how to store what you grow. Too many gardeners toss or giveaway their surplus during the summer months. Canning and drying brings the bounty of summer home in the winter. Besides, after the SHTF, you won't be tossing anything out I am guessing.

Plan on starting some gardening now in the winter with a window sill garden. During the winter, measure out and plan on garden spaces around your home. Start with a 6x6 area, build, plant in the spring and then build another. By the summer, you should have 3 or 4 of these producing beds around your home. Cover the patio with containers full of herbs, tomatoes, and peppers. Use a side yard running on the east side of your home for a 3 row spread of corn.

Whatever you decide to do, make your plans now, buy the seeds and tools and get busy. By this time next year, having a home garden may be your best bet for fresh produce and food in the troubled future.

Get your non-hybrid garden seeds here now!

Monday, December 08, 2008

SHTF: Credit Cards

When it comes to preppin', money matters. Sure, you can prep for as little as $20.00 every other week, but it will take a lot less time if you go in for $200.00 a week, right?

Having your financial house in order is job one when prepping and preparing for the end of the world. However, some people dismiss good financial planning and responsibility because they get caught up in the urgency of preparedness and forget common sense.

Y2K.. 2011.. New president.. Economic meltdown...

There is always a sense of urgency to empty the bank account and IRA, max out the cards and mortgage the house for preparedness supplies. Not a good idea..

Credit Cards

Credit is a great thing. Like beer, wine and liquor, credit makes you feel wonderful. Because of credit a person can buy a home with a price tag 4 times his or hers annual salary all because of the trust invoked with credit. Good credit takes time to build and only a month or so to destroy. But like liquor, having too much credit can leave a person with a bad hangover.

When it comes to preparing for the end, don't fall into a few of the common misconceptions which come up in the prepper world:

"Why bother paying your credit card bills if the end of the world is coming?"

- If I charged 2500.00 on a credit card while Jimmy Carter was president because everyone thought the end of the world was coming then, a) I would be up to my eyeballs in 28% interest on that charge and b) nearly 30 years later of minimum payments and I still would not have the original principal paid off. And the preps I bought in 1979 would be gone or worthless.
Pay your credit card bills on time and in full!

"Why not run up my credit card balances now getting the things I need (like guns) before they are gone or banned?"

- Although buying a few things outside of your budget for "just in case" seems like a good idea, it is not as good as it sounds. First, you have to pay off that credit card balance sooner rather than later or the value of the purchase starts to diminish. Second, with the economy in the dumper, facing possible underemployment while having 1000, 2000 or 3000 dollars in credit card debt is not a good thing.
Put on credit what you can afford to pay off at the end of the month.

"I am behind in my credit card bills but I am not worried. The government will bail us out to save the economy or a depression will happen and nobody will be able to pay their bills."

- What a mistake to think this way. Come bad economy or good, the lender will get their money. Either they will take you to court, have collections agents hound you or figure out a way to get your home as payment. You will lose and still have to pay back what you owe. Get your credit card bills paid and get out of debt.

"My credit card company is offering me a settlement to pay off my debt or a company called and offered to settle my credit card debt for half what I owe. Is that a good idea"

- No. The settlement will be a seven year black mark on your credit as a closed account/settled. This means the lender received half or less then what you owed. That makes you a bad credit risk to anyone in the future. Second, the difference between what you paid and what you owed is considered income to the IRS. So if you owed 7500.00 and paid 3300.00, you gained 4200.00. That is taxable income according to the IRS which you have to pay.
Instead of settling the account, ask the credit card company for a way to pay back the principal on a monthly payment plan without incurring any more late charges or additional interest. All credit card companies will do this and will work with you. Call and find out.

For preparedness, credit cards can be a good thing.

A clear credit card should be with your personal preparedness supplies.
A credit card can secure a hotel room or rent car when away from home or after leaving home. This can mean life or death in an emergency situation.
A credit card can be used to purchase hard to get things online.
A credit card can be used in lieu of cash for emergency purchases in order to save cash but only in a temporary situation.
A credit card can be used to make a big emergency purchase such as a car repair or hospital visit when waiting may put you or your loved ones in danger.
A credit card can be the ticket to putting yourself out of danger, such as purchasing a first class seat on an oversold flight when the poop is about to hit the fan.

Having good, clean credit is worth its weight in gold. Good credit can help secure that piece of get away property, make improvements to your home and lower your interest payments - which means more money in your pocket for preps!.

Friday, December 05, 2008

SHTF: Guns

Oregon - here

Chicago - here

Nationally - here

So what does it all mean and what are the effects not covered anywhere else but here?

1) More guns in the hands of more people. Sellers are reporting loads of first time buyers. It is estimated that there are some 300 million guns in private hands in the U.S. and those are owned by roughly 80 million Americans. That number has obviously grown. Those buyers will also be purchasing more ammo definitely. And a fair number will also sign up for concealed carry classes and licenses. And going to gun ranges to practice. There is an economic bubble to this nobody has noted yet. I think the effect will be in the billions of dollars.

2) Aftershock in the gun market. Supplies of many types of firearms are down to all time lows, some are two years out for restock to dealers. Ammunition, especially from overseas vendors, is nearly exhausted.

Here is a scary scenario to consider. Right now, firearms manufacturers cannot be sued if someone uses one of their products to commit a crime. Also, a lot of surplus ammunition and firearms come from overseas.

If the next Congress changes the laws and allows firearms manufacturers to be sued again AND bans the importation of foreign ammunition and firearms (both possibilities), then the guns and ammo which stock has been depleted by record sales may never return to the levels we have been used to. Ever. What you have now may be all you will ever have.

3) However, on the other hand, let's think what may happen with next years firearms market. With the economy taking the hits it has been this year, many of today's gun buyers will be tomorrow's desperate gun sellers. There is a real possibility of a fantastic buyers market for AR, AK, SKS and WASR as soon as next summer as cash strapped gun owners unload, at bargain basement prices, their recently purchased AR or AK rifle. Of course, these deals will only be available for buyers with cash and very likely under the table.

4) Gun dealers are reporting empty shelves and racks. For the past month, we have seen and expected the run on AR and AK type rifles, certain ammunition stocks like .223 and .308 and handguns. However, some gun shops are reporting low stocks on common shotguns, rifles and handguns including .22!

Turns out, buyer unable to purchase a AR15 are instead buying something, anything else to take its place. A 30.06 bolt gun, a .22 semi or a 12 gauge home defense pump for instance.

There may be time shortly after Christmas where any gun is hard to find.

Which brings us to my final points.

Remember the book Lucifers Hammer by Niven and Pournelle?

One of the central characters realizes almost too late that he has not stocked up for the big comet landing. When he went out to the gun store, the only thing left was a silly .22. bolt action target pistol.

Don't let this happen to you next spring.

Any gun is better than no gun the day after, but having the best and right gun is better.

And having enough ammunition, while a box of 50 is good, having 500, 1000 or 2000 rounds is better.

And getting your rifle, pistol or shotgun should be done responsibly in regards to your finances, having that purchase covered now is better.

Good luck,

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