Thursday, December 29, 2011

SHTF Fiction: New Fiction Stories You Have To Start Reading

As you know, I watch many of the survival themed forums, particularly the fiction sections as they are one of my favorite genres.

There are some new stories I recently started reading which I have to share with as many others as I think they will find them as exciting as I do.

The first one is on the Survivalist Boards under Books, Movies and Stories and is titled Going Home. This story follows a normal businessman from Florida caught 200 miles from home after an EMP burst takes out all modern electronics including cars. Our hero, though more prepared than most as he has a good Get Home Bag and some supplies, still has to deal with death at each turn as society comes unraveled. The author not only writes well, he posts regularly, as in an updated chapter once or twice a day! As one reader remarked, you will probably want to keep the story open on your browser and reload Going Home frequently throughout the day.

Another is the Union Creek Journal. This story is done as a series of blog postings as told by a survivor in the year 2015 after the American economy has collapsed. Our main character has gathered his family together at a farm in the middle of Nebraska and has managed to produce enough food and fuel to get by. However, as the cities empty, gangs and outlaws start to work their way out to the hinterlands in search of supplies. Unlike similarly themed stories, Union Creek Journal is well written, researched and realistic. This story is not a never ending laundry list of tools and equipment to buy and the characters, even the bad guys, are fleshed out and seemingly as normal as you and me. Please be sure to start at the bottom of the page as the chapters are in blog format and published as newest chapter on top.

I found another neat story on the WhenSHTF forum under Scenarios and Stories and entitled Boy - Story. This follows a young man making his way home, like Going Home, after an EMP burst. Unfortunately, the author has take a hiatus for the past month and no new chapters have been published. Still, the first part is very good and has some good lessons on what to do when you are faced with an emergency far from home and have no supplies to get started with.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Prepare: One of the oldest prepper stories

They loaded up into two vehicles for their bugout location. The situation had deteriorated and they had no choice but to pool all of their resources and make a deal with some of the most unsavory characters they could find for passage across a wasteland to their final destination.

Men, women and children were the core of their community. Yes, there were a few with skills which would be useful in their new home, but most had little to offer other than their faith. They were leaving behind what had once been a civilized and safe place, but now offered no refuge for them.

Shortly into the journey, one of their vehicles developed trouble. Supplies and people were hurriedly moved to the remaining vehicle, yet some things had to be left behind. The remaining trip was not uneventful. Several died en route. Sickness and poor food dogged the survivors. Then, after nearly three months, they arrived at their new home.

Their bug out location was selected based upon what the group could afford. There was clean water, good soil and plenty of timber for shelter and fuel. But the group had little experience with the elements and soon there were fewer workers than those to be take care of. And then came the locals.

Suspicion led to shooting, yet the newcomers were untrained in the proper use of the firearms they brought along in spite of the presence of at least one of their numbers who had extensive military experience. This, along with their lack of experience and inability to complete the work necessary, led to more of their number dying the following winter.

Then, when all seemed lost, they were able to work with the locals in the area and were finally able to turn a decent harvest of both grown food and game. The survivors celebrated, and enjoyed what we know call the first Thanksgiving in the United States in 1621.

The Pilgrims, for whatever history says, were nothing more than a group fleeing to their bug out location in the country. They were ill-equipped for what they had to deal with and paid for their ignorance with their lives. Without the assistance of some kind locals, they would have perished of starvation and sickness in their second year.

If planning on "bugging out", remember..

- know what to do with what you have when you get there.
- know the locals and the local terrain.
- be ready that some of your numbers won't make it in spite of all your preparations.

Happy, belated, Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SHTF: The problem with neighbors

Something has been stuck in my craw lately which comes up frequently and bugs me to know end. Read this:

"I am not to worried about my neighbors. This is a semi-rural area and most of the folks around here are good people. Lot of blue collar types, gun owners, a fair number of vets. We have never talked about it, but I am sure most have the same mindset we got if the SHTF..."

Heard that before online, maybe in the forums you frequent or even in some bit of prepper-inspired fiction?

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Never make assumptions about the people you don't know well and have never had "The Talk" with. That same good natured neighbor next store might be the same one who steals gas from your car or borrows something from your shed in the middle of the night.

Or might be the one who calls the feds and tells them about the nut next door with all the guns and buckets of rice.

Or might be the jerk who decides "those that have (you) need to share with those that don't (him)" and brings the rest of the neighborhood to inventory and redistribute your supplies.

Here's the way it works:

If you want your neighbor to back you up, find out now. If you need an excuse, use the next storm or power outage to feel them out. Do they stock food and supplies? Are they security minded? Do they have a plan if the power is out for an extended time or if the grocery trucks stop running?

In my opinion, there are more FEMA/Big Brother/handout fans out there than not. Do the math.

Nope, don't assume that anyone around you has the same plan you do. Find out or keep a very low profile.

Again, never make assumptions about the people you don't know well.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Prepare: Why Do People Like Zombie Stories/Movies?

World War Z is a new zombie movie coming out with Brad Pitt. This comes on the heels of several other zombie movies the past few years like Sean of the Dead, 28 Days, and so on.

Check out the book store and it's clear that zombies are about to replace vampires as the mythical creature du jour in Hollywood and in the publishing halls of New York City.

Why zombies? We are talking about reanimated rotting dead people who wander around hungry for human flesh and blood. How is that appealing to well, anyone? I have a few theories...

Survivalism on steroids - Survivalists love a good story. The problem with the genre is it involves something really bad happening (like a nuclear war, plague, societal breakdown) which makes day to day living difficult. It's hard to wander around examining the effects of a nuclear war, let's say, if there is fallout about making life difficult.

Zombie stories are great because survivalists in the stories are only concerned with a) staying away from zombies and becoming one and b) acquiring nasty ways to get rid of zombies who come their way. The rest of life is not so bad - no laws, stuff laying around for the taking, plenty of normal food that zombies don't want and so on.

Killing is bad, unless they are already dead - I think this is a big appeal with zombie fans. You get to shoot something without the moral implications of killing another living creature. Zombies are dead, no morals or ethics to get in the way!

Everyone's a zombie, including people I know and hate - This is another appeal that zombie fans have. Here's the boss or their worse enemy, or the girl who dumped you in high school wandering around undead, looking nasty and craving a nice arm or leg to gnaw on. What fun!

Personally, zombie stories get old for me. There are plenty of places around where there are no people (thus no zombies) and even if there were, your garden variety zombie is plenty slow enough to whack over the head with a bat or zap with a high powered rifle from a distance.  But zombie stores seem to go on and on as the characters make one stupid mistake after another and slowly get picked off one by one.

Zombie stories are fun sometimes, it's just interesting to me why some people like to read them. Your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Prepare: What If You Had To Walk Home?

I work about 20 minutes from home. That's 20 minutes, by car, without traffic or roughly 15 miles.

While stuck in traffic this morning, it occurred to me: "What if I had to walk home?". Let's say there was an EMP burst, solar flare or other event which rendered most modern transport useless? What if the roads were closed by the authorities (like how 9/11 grounded all flights) and people were told to stay put or walk at their own risk?

Fortunately for me, it's a straight shot from my office, to the main road, to my home and the weather mostly cooperates. However, what if I had to walk?

First, I try to wear well broken in shoes to work and I always keep a pair of athletic shoes in my car. So my personal transportation mode is covered.

Next, I generally dress for the season and keep some backup clothing in the car for "just in case".

So my first concern would be about what to bring with me and how to carry it. I carry my work stuff (laptop, etc) in a backpack. The first thing I would do is dump all the heavy electronic junk and leave it at work. Laptop, power cable, extra chargers, etc would all go in my desk. Next I would comb through my bag and remove any extra unneeded weight. Papers, notes, pads, envelopes, etc. would all go into the desk as well.

Then I would prioritize what I am carrying. Does every object provide for either food, water, navigation, heat, light, clothing or personal aid? If not, it stays.

Then I would take what I needed from work to augment my personal supplies, both in my bag and in my soon to be abandoned car.

There are always sodas and bottled water in the break room. Based upon my walk, I would take a minimum of six bottles of water and fill up any other containers I have in my car which can carry about a quart of water. Any more than that would weigh too much.

Next would be lightweight snacks. I carry some with me, but there's more in the break room as well. That means crackers, candy bars, etc which I can carry in my bag for the walk home.

Finally, I would want a hat, an umbrella or something else to keep the elements off me such as excess sunshine or rain if it happens.

Weapons? It depends upon the situation. Most of my route home is not through bad neighborhoods and I am a big believer in the first 24-48 hours of an emergency most are too shocked or stunned to do much of anything but wait for "SOMEONE" to come along and tell them what to do. Regardless, we all have tricks up our sleeve.

In the end, the answer is to be ready for the long walk, get prepared and start walking as soon as ready.

One more note: If at an office or school, buddy up with other walkers and go together if possible in the same direction as long as possible. It's common sense.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

SHTF Fiction: Alas Babylon

Alas Babylon by Pat Frank was written in the late 1950's and describes the effects of a massive nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Specifically, it details the life in small town, Fort Repose, Florida during the first year after the war.

Lauded as one of the best SHTF books written, Alas Babylon follows the life of Randy Bragg, a single lawyer and Army Reserve officer as he pulls together his disparate community following the events of "The Day". Bragg organizes his neighbors on River Road including a retired company president, two spinsters and the ever more useful clan of African-American neighbors, who in a time of segregation and organized prejudice, are more prepared than most of the other townspeople.

Frank accurately describes the possible scenario which leads up to the nuclear war in Alas Babylon. The Soviet Union, using the pretext and cover story of an in accidental attack on a Syrian port by the US Sixth Fleet leads them to launch a pre-emptive strike on the United States with ICBM and sub-based missiles. The US military, at the time of the book's writing, was dependent primarily upon land based bombers carrying nuclear weapons as part of their defensive strategy. The result being World War III lasts several months rather than the few minutes described in most stories.

But readers of Alas Babylon only hear snippets of the big war outside the borders of Fort Repose. The real war for residents is starvation and depredations by raiders and disease. Only a couple of characters fall victim to radiation poisoning while far more are done in by simple violence or abandonment.

Frank covers the immediate effects of a nuclear war on small town America; an out of town visitor upon learning of the destruction of New York City keels over of a heart attack, the bank president whose bank is cleaned out of cash by panic stricken residents commits suicide, vandals from the city attack the towns only medical clinic for morphine, and nearly every business in town, grocery, gas station and hardware store, are emptied of supplies in one day.

The story's hero, Bragg, is given one day's advance notice (actually about twelve hours) of the impending
attack by his brother who is a high ranking officer in the Air Force. Told to expect his sister-in-law and her children, Bragg is given a check for five thousand dollars and told to obtain supplies for the duration. In one of the most frustrating scenes in the book, Bragg manages to make only one trip to the grocery store (to pick up about three hundred dollars in food), fills up his car with gas and picks up a case and a half of liquor. All the rest of that cash becomes nothing more than toilet paper. Readers like me were screaming at Bragg wanting to know why he did not hit every store between Orlando and Fort Repose.

Further, it is not until after the day after The Day that Bragg realizes he better get some more ammunition for his guns, that he did not obtain salt, paper products, more canned meat, toothpaste and so forth. All that cash his brother gave him went to waste.

To their credit, the characters do get inventive when it comes to making do. They find a salt lick several miles upstream of their home. They make and trade moonshine from their excess corn production. They get rid of their gas guzzling 50's cars in favor of the petrol sipping Model T hidden in a barn. They make medical instruments out of steak knives and fishing line.

By the time the US government arrives, in the form of a single helicopter one year after The Day, Fort Repose is limping along but better off than most of the rest of the country. They have food, trade, law and order and some sembelence of normalcy.

Read this book if you have not yet. Before all the other SHTF fiction came along, Alas Babylon was first. It's a great and compelling read.

You can get Alas Babylon on Amazon of course. It is also available in abridged format online on some websites.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Prepare: SHTF Fiction - Surrounded by Idiots Epilogue

Rex woke up slowly, his head, no, his whole body aching like it had been run over with a steamroller. He sat up gingerly and allowed his brain to slide with a crash back into place and carefully opened his eyes.

He was on a cot. In a cell. A jail cell. A holding tank or something, probably a FEMA camp, the little voice in his head said.

"Wake up morning glory" said a voice to his left. It belonged to a uniformed guard standing outside the bars. "Well, good to have you up. Time to read you your rights and get you processed".

The guard starting reading the standard Miranda warning while everything sank into Rex's mind. He needed to get out of here. He needed to call Darla. Get her down here. Identify him, pay bail. Get him home. Home, wonderful beautiful home.

"I need to make a phone call. I get one of those don't I?" shouted Rex.

"Sure, you get one. Get up" replied the guard as he opened the cell door.

Rex looked down and noticed that his clothes were missing and he was now wearing an orange jump suit and some sort of cardboard slippers.

"You made a mess of your old stuff. After we searched you and collected all those guns, we cleaned you up at the hospital and put you in that outfit. How do you like it?" the guard smirked.

As the guard led Rex down the hallway, there were other jail cells, all full of leering and taunting voices. Rex stared at the floor and tried to block out the horrible and disgusting things the other inmates were saying to him,

The phone was in the next hallway and the guard lifted the receiver and handed it to him. "One call, three minutes max, no redo's for wrong numbers. Got it?"

Rex nodded and slowly punched his home phone number. On the fourth ring, Darla answered.

"Darla? It's me Rex. I need you to listen to me. I need you to get downtown and arrange bail for me. I am being held downtown. I don't know why. All those other people were rioting and looting. I was only trying to help. Now I know you have questions, but you listen to me. Get down here. Bring your purse 'cause it's going to cost a few bucks to get me out. You hear me?"

There was a pause and then Darla slowly spoke.

"Rex. I am leaving right now for my mothers. I have taken half of the money from the bank account and am only taking my things with me. I will leave the keys to the front door on the kitchen counter. I am taking my car, the one you allowed me to drive. but will leave it for you to come get when I am done with it. Don't call me. I don't want to speak to you again. I hope things work out for you. Good bye".

The line went dead.

"All done cowboy?" said the guard,  "Let's get you back to your cell, then"

"Wait. What happened. The riots. The announcement on TV. The looting. Gas lines. What happened?" pleaded Rex.

"Huh?" grunted the guard. "Oh downtown. They cancelled the ball game and some people started some trouble at the arena. Yeah, there was some looting and crime, but it's all under control now. Don't worry about that. You have plenty of other things to worry about. Lesse, attempted murder, discharging a weapon in public, disobeying an officer, resisting arrest, attempted armed robbery. Yep, you got a full dance card tonight cowboy".

The guard opened the cell door and guided Rex inside.

Turning away, the guard muttered under his breath, "What a world. Surrounded by idiots".

The End (What no comments yet? Tough audience!)

First Chapter

Prepare: SHTF Fiction - Surrounded by Idiots PT5

Moments later, Rex's truck came to a stop in front of Masterson's Gun and Sporting World. Masterson's was on the edge of downtown in a semi industrial area featuring contractor supply stores, pawn shops, and a few "buy here, pay here" car dealerships.

Rex did not frequent Masterson's as the prices were too high for his blood, but he assumed that the owners had probably abandoned the place knowing the rioters and mobs would be descending shortly. Rex grabbed his Mossberg from behind the truck seat and did not give the AR a second look. He had a feeling that he would not be touching that particular rifle for some time.

Rex went to the front door and expected it to be open, but was surprised to find it locked. He pulled on the door a few times before putting his face upon the barred glass door and cupping his hands over his eyes looked inside. He found himself starting, through the glass, at the barrel of a very large shotgun.

"Place is closed! Get back in your truck and go! Got nothing to sell today!" shouted the voice behind the shotgun.

"Are you the owner? Are you clearing the place out? Got anything you can't take away?" shouted back Rex. Suddenly he felt stupid. This wasn't like it was Christmas and he was trying to buy the last Nintendo thingie for his brat kids at the last minute. It was the freaking end of the world and this old toad looking man was pointing a shotgun at Rex!

Rex stepped back and racked a shell into the Mossberg and leveled it at the store window. "Stand back old man, I'm coming in!" Rex yelled.

Click. Nothing happened. Rex looked down and saw he had the safety on. By the time that dawned on him, the window of the shop blew outwards towards Rex.

Rex instinctively shielded his face with his left hand and in doing so lowered the Mossberg when a second shot came out the now missing window. It went wide, fortunately for Rex who was standing directly in front of the store, and instead took out Rex's truck windshield.

Shaking from his stupor, Rex dropped the Mossie and stumbled backwards towards his truck and promptly tripped over a low concrete parking barrier. He wasted no time and rolled over to his right and then crawled/crab walked to the drivers door as another shotgun blast struck the hood of his truck.

Climbing into the front seat, Rex struggled to get his keys out of his front pocket as tears of frustration and pain poured out. "Please don't shoot me!" he could hear his voice pleading as he pulled the keys out and fumbled with them while lying across the front seat, his fat butt hanging out the front door.

Getting the keys free, he shoved them in the ignition and turned the motor over. Pulling down the shift he managed to pull his body into the truck, get his foot on the accelerator and jerk the vehicle back into the street. Dropping into drive. Rex floored the truck as a final shot took out his rear window.

Bawling like a baby, Rex barrelled back down the street towards the interstate. It dawned on him then he had left his Mossberg in the parking lot in front of the gun store. Oh carp! They will trace it back to him and put him in jail. They are going to come for him and stick him in a cell with a bunch of murdering rapists who would do awful things to him. "I gotta get out of here!" Rex screamed out loud.

Rex pulled onto the interstate and slammed on the breaks. Two police cars were blocking the entrance from traffic and there were at least four officers standing behind the roadblock. One put a megaphone to his mouth and shouted, "You! In the truck! Shut down the engine and step out of the vehicle with your hands in the air. This area is under lockdown! Step out of the vehice!"

Rex slammed the truck in reverse and floored it back down the entrance ramp. He was lucky as there was not another car behind him, but in his haste hit the guard rail and bent the bed at a terrible angle and flattened the rear passenger tire.

Two of the officers had drawn their guns and were coming around the roadblock towards the truck. Rex opened the drivers door, hopped out and ran for his life down the ramp back towards the street.

As one of the officers shouted, Rex stumbled onto the main street just as a large group came down the street carrying something long between them. It was a door, with something red on it. A man. A man wearing red lying on the door. It was the people from the electronic store! One looked up, pointed and shouted something unintelligible at Rex.

Rex screamed and ran the other way straight past the two officers who had been behind him on the entrance ramp. For a moment the two entities converged before a handful of police officers appeared from somewhere, but Rex was already fifty yards away running the fastest he had in his life.

"Home! I gotta get home! Darla will hid me! She'll have too!" Rex wheezed. "Gotta get out of here! Where am I?"

Too late. An older model sedan blocked the road in front of him and an older man wearing spectacles stepped out of the passenger side. "Hold it right there buddy!" he said as he pointed a shotgun directly at Rex. It was the old toad from the gun store! Rex looked back and saw the police, with the mob coming behind him. The old man in front with the shotgun.

Rex wheezing from lack of breath, released his bowels in a single dump into his pants and fainted to the ground.

Final Chapter

Prepare: SHTF Fiction - Surrounded by Idiots PT4

Rex exited the interstate into downtown off the ramp which led to the retail part of town. He knew there were some high dollar jewelry and electronics stores down there which would attract the kind of people he had a high desire to put down before they made their way, as they eventually would, to where his house was.

Rex was stunned when he saw the phalanx of several dozen uniformed and armed police officers forming a skirmish line off the main avenue. "Why aren't they abandoning their posts and heading home to protect their families?" Rex wondered aloud. Something wasn't right so Rex continued driving further down the boulevard.

Persistance paid off when he spied a line of "disadvantaged youth" walking out of the broken glass doors of a big box electronic store carrying televisions and game consoles. "What a bunch of idiots." thought Rex. "All those electronics are going to be worthless in a few hours. Time to relieve the gene pool" he figured.

Rolling to a stop a few hundred yards away, Rex lifted his AR from the passenger seat and checked the magazine in the rifle. He opened the truck door and stepped out onto the pavement. His heart was beating a hundred miles an hour, his mouth was dry but his palms were sweating profusely. Rex shook his head and lifted the AR to his shoulder.

Allowing his eyes to focus on the steady line of young people streaming out of the store, Rex sighted in one particullarly large man wearing a bright red tank top. He appeared to be directing the others and encouraging them on in their looting.

Rex drew a bead on Red Shirt and squeezed the trigger. Everything happened fast after that. Red Shirt fell back onto the pavement and everyone else froze holding their boxes and loot in the middle of the street. Then one cried out and the whole mob began to flee in every direction including towards Rex.

Rex tried to draw a target but looking through the scope at so many moving people up close was too difficult, so he just pulled the trigger in their general direction. That only made things more chaotic as people ran in circles with many getting closer to him.

Panicking, Rex jumped back in his truck but momentarily forgot how to start or drive the thing. Something primordial clicked in the back of his head and he managed to turn the key and kick the engine to life just as the vanguard of the mob reached his truck. Dropping the truck in reverse, he screamed when a huge woman landed on his hood and started shouting the foulest curse words through the windshield.

Another man grabbed the drivers door and actually got it opened as Rex floored the vehicle backwards down the street. For a moment, the man got his hand on the barrel of Rex's beloved AR, but the increased speed of the truck caused him to lose his step and fall to the street and roll against the curt.

Rex turned the steering whell to the right and managed to toss the big woman off his truck hood where she too landed and rolled across the empty street. The rest of the mob by this time was picking up anything they could get their hands on and started throwing things at Rex's rapidly retreating truck. Bottles, cans and a few pieces of asphault bounced off the roof and bed of the truck as Rex peeled down the side street.

Rex looked back in the rear view mirror as the mob fell behind him, his hands shaking and barely able to keep the truck steady on the road. Rex turned back onto the main boulevard and he sped down the opposite direction from the interstate entrance which led home.

Rex felt his breakfast coming up and he did not even make it to a full stop before a half digested mess of instant coffee, Pop Tarts and scrambled eggs launched itself all over the console, his lap and the floor of the truck cab.

Rex just kept his head down as the contents of his stomach emptied into the truck and did not cease until it was done.

"Oh lord," muttered Rex, "I gotta get out of here" as he wiped his chin with the back of his hand. Rex looked down at the AR which was partially covered in vomit on the receiver and stock and pushed it with disgust to the passenger floor.

Rex looked around to make sure he was alone and then took his foot off the break and drove on. He was going to hit a gunstore and then get home. This was not the way it was supposed to go.

Next Chapter

Prepare: SHTF Fiction - Surrounded by Idiots PT3

Rex had wanted to join the military as a boy. But as high school ended and manhood approached, he had second thoughts and instead took a job at a local factory working the floor. In his mind, he rationalized that he could always join some branch of the service at a future date, and for the time being, he could earn money which would allow him to get out of the house and away from his doting, but simple minded mother. (In reality and subconsciously, the thought of basic training and undressing in front of other men mortified Rex).

As for now, Rex was barreling through his neighborhood in the direction of downtown. The Big Plan, as he called it, was downloading its way through his buzzing brain. There were looters to deal with, resources to be located and missing pieces in his master prep list to be filled. Rex was sure this would be the best day in his life.

Approaching the big intersection closest to his neighborhood, Rex was pleasantly surprised to see the long line at the gas station and the burst of activity in front of the super market. People were grabbing grabbing carts and actually yelling at each other in the parking lot. At the gasoline station, two men were fighting over the pump while a woman tried to separate them from a full blown fist fight.

Rex was giddy with excitement as the world crumbled around him. The sheeple would be strayed and lost and men like him would step up to the plate ready to take charge. Finally things would be made right and he could feel the back slaps and see the welcoming grins as men who heretofore had more possessions and stature than he had would now be forced to see him in a new adoring light. It would be magnificent.

The only drag was Darla and her worthlessness. More than once in the past hour Rex had considered inviting her along under the pretense she could load magazines or hand him weapons as he needed them. Secretly, however, he hoped that a stray bullet would take her out in all the action finally allowing him the freedom he needed to find the Perfect Mate for the strange new world coming. His fevered imagination created a woman who looked like Pamela Anderson but spoke as much as Clint Eastwood and could shoot like him too.

Putting his fantasies out his mind, Rex got on the interstate and headed towards downtown. The first order of business was some target practice on the looters running rampant. Then a side trip to a couple of gun stores to "relieve" their overstock and then a quick run through Walmart to stock up on some essentials. All told, Rex figured he had a couple of hours to kill, then would head home to get his house in order. He cursed himself for not telling Darla to fill the bathtubs as they would need the water. She was so dumb, she was probably eating bon-bons and trying to get the TV to work.

Downtown was approaching and Rex' excitement built. He would finally get to see his AR in action. For real.

Next Chapter

Prepare: SHTF Fiction - Surrounded by Idiots PT2

Rex was sitting on the foot of his bed, (well actually Darla's bed as Rex had a habit of sleeping on the couch or a fold out cot in his workshop), loading magazines for his AR15. It had been a tough decision, but he decided to go with the AR after carefully considering a number of factors.

Rex also had out his Para-Ordinance .45, his Mossberg 12 gauge and his Kel-Tec .380 for a backup piece. He was going through The Big Plan in his head, but Darla kept buzzing into the room like an annoying horsefly sharing news from the radio.

"gas lines are forming.. government says to stock up on bottled water... the ball game was cancelled tonight.. looting reported downtown.."

Looting. That word stood out to Rex like a neon sign in the desert. Looting meant looters to be dealt with and that was OK with Rex. Looting also meant "strategic reallocation" which literally made Rex's mouth water. He could not wait to get downtown.

But for now, there magazines to be loaded. Rex had six down and fourteen more to do before he could even consider heading out the door.

"Rex, I really think I need to go by the market and pick up a few things. I know you are busy and all, but if you could drive me in the truck, I could be in and out in just a few minutes..." Darla said quietly.

"First, it is not THE truck, it is MY truck. Second, your inability to plan for an emergency does not make it a priority in my schedule. YOU should have listened when I told you to purchase extra food and stuff. But NO, you dilly dallyed around the house doing NOTHING while I planned, I prepared, and I did the heavy lifting. You can thank me later for having the foresight to purchase long term storage food some time ago. We will be able to eat well, but its NO THANKS to you, you ... dimwit." Rex growled.

"What long term storage food?" asked Darla. "What are you talking about...?"

Rex sighed. "The food I purchased online. Buckets of food. Freeze dried, dehydrated, MRE's. Real food we can eat when the poop hits the ocillator and our neighbors are eating their beloved cats and dogs. You are as dense as Jupiter, woman."

"How much did you spend, Rex? Where did you get the money from?" asked Darla, her eyebrows drawing together.

"Woman, MY finances are none of your business. Now you listen to me and listen good. The thin veneer of civilization is coming off the world right now. We can sit here and have a nice little conversation or you can get out of my hair and let me get to work!" Rex roared.

Darla stood for one moment staring at Rex and then turned and left the bedroom shutting the door behind her.

Rex continued loading magazines for the next 45 minutes before carefully putting all of them in the load bearing gear he had purchased at a surplus store. Then he changed into the outfit he had laid out on the bed. A pair of 5 in 1 khakis with matching shirt, a pair of suspenders, steel toed boots and a black authentic SEAL stocking cap. He imagined he looked like an intrepid explorer or post-apocalyptic action hero, when in actuality, he looked more like an overweight janitor with a head cold.

Picking up the two long guns, Rex opened the bedroom door and went with purpose to the garage where his truck waited. He said nothing to Darla, got in the truck, punched the garage door opener and drove out in what he imagined would be the urban wastelands of America. The adventure begins!

Next Chapter

Prepare: SHTF Fiction - Surrounded by Idiots

Rex was in his workshop working on his new tool organization system when his stupid wife knocked quietly on the door.

"Dear? The president is on TV. He about to make an announcement about something.."

Rex let out his extra loud trademark sigh to indicate his lack of patience with the bag of hammers he shared marital bliss with.

"Busy. Leave me alone".

Rex went back to his project, (he was rearranging his sockets by inches rather than the New World Order metric system), but before he did, he reached over a switched on his multi band AM/FM/Shortwave/Scanner set on the shelf above.

"...clearly, this has profound implications on the security of the United States and the rest of the democratic and free world. Therefore, I have decided to impose unilateral sanctions on the Peoples Islamic Caliphate until they have demonstrated the desire and conviction to return to the civilized way of life share by the majority of peoples on this planet. Make no mistake, the United States has nothing but the up most respect for the Muslim faith and for the people of the historic and traditional region of the middle east, but their leaders have led them astray and for this, I must take action...."

Rex sighed again, muttered "twit" under his breath and switched off the radio.

A few moments later, the Box Of Rocks knocked on the door again,

"Rex, honey? The television just went out. Could you take a look at it when you are not too busy, please?"

"Leave a man alone, woman." Rex replied without turning from his work bench.

Rex did reach over to the keyboard on his PC which was also on the workbench handy in the event he had to look something important up. He opened a browser and went to the only site with real news and information, "Detonator2012" The browser timed out after 30 seconds of trying and ended up on "404 Page Not Found".

"Swell. What did that dummy do to the Internet?" thought Rex.

Hauling his butt off his Craftsman stool, Rex went to the shop door, unlocked the three locks, swept the door open, his rage growing by the moment.

"Woman! What did you do to the internet? I got work to do out here!" Rex growled as he strode from the shop into the kitchen.

Darla looked up from the cinnamon rolls she was rolling out on the kitchen counter and then quickly looked down at the floor.

"I didn't touch the internet connection, dear. I was waiting for you to come and check the TV set. I mean, when you weren't busy, darling" she quickly added.

Rex let out an extra louder than normal sigh, "Surrounded by idiots." he muttered and stomped into the family room to check the internet connection.

Family room was a misnomer as he and Darla had no children to speak of. Darla, that quack of a doctor said, was healthy as a horse and as fertile as a Kansas wheat field. It was Rex, he claimed, that had some "reproductive issues". BS thought Rex, and he refused to see another so called doctor again after that day seven years ago.

"I want a son" he demanded of his wife. "Why can't you get that through your fat head?"
Clearly it was her fault that Rex was heirless and was forced to fish and hunt alone each weekend.

Rex went to the corner next to the television and saw that the power light on the cable/internet box was lit, but everything else was dark. "What the...?" he thought.

Rex than tore back the curtains on the window and for the first time in as long as anyone could remember, was speechless.

A pall of black smoke was hanging over the area in the direction of downtown. It was then Rex noticed the sound of sirens warbling in the air. His repose was interrupted when the emergency weather siren down the street sprang to life and let out its loud deep moan.

"The Schumer has hit the fan!" Rex yelled. Excitement built in Rex's stomach much in the way a younger man would feel when he saw the woman he was going to marry for the first time or scratched off the winning number on a Lotto card.

Rex bolted for his gun safe which was in the back of the walkin closet in the bedroom "What will I take? The AR? The SKS? The WASR? What about the Mossie? Got to have some firepower, but the need for multiple man stopping rounds is too important to neglect" he mumbled to himself.

In the background, Darla was babbling something about the sirens and smoke, but Rex tuned her out as he was so adept at after many years of practice. Rex ripped open the closet door and went for the safe. His fingers were fumbling with the combination lock and he had to stop for a moment, take a deep breath before starting again.

"This was going to be great" beamed Rex inside.

Next Chapter

Friday, July 01, 2011

Prepare: Friday Parable

Once upon a time, there was a handsome and prosperous village where all who lived within worked hard and enjoyed the fruits of their land. As time came to pass, they were fortunate enough to have a fair size herd of beautiful and healthy dairy cattle.

The cattle produced milk which was used for cheese, yogurt, curds and whey. The people marveled at the production of their cattle and the dairy products were enjoyed by all.

Over time, the people became lazy and decided that hard work was beneath them. Rather, they chose to sit about in their villiage, which was naturally falling into disrepair as they were too lazy to fix things, all while eating of the bounty of the dairy cattle, which came dutifully into town each morning with their calves for milking.

One day, the people looked into the fields and gazed upon the fat dairy cattle and their calves.

"Look at them," they said. "All they do is eat grass and sleep. Meanwhile, they give us but a portion of milk, cheese and yogurt. We deserve more and something better to eat!"

One of their number stood and proclaimed, "If you elect me your leader, I will do something about this situation. I will force the dairy cattle to share more!".

"How?" said the people.

"I am a butcher, and if you elect me, I will take some of the dairy calves and slaughter them for food. The cattle have plenty and they should be made to share. After all, we deserve it" he said.

However, the man was lying. He knew nothing about cows or being a butcher, rather, he simply wanted to be in charge and have sway over the people and their village.

The people thought this was a good thing and so they elected him their Leader and Butcher.

The next morning, when the dairy cattle came to be milked, the Butcher took one of the calves, ( naturally over the protest of his mother), killed it and slaughtered if for meat. Because he knew nothing of butchering meat, the Butcher wasted much of it. Further, he held back one third of the meat for himself. "I am performing a service for the public and I deserve to be compensated for my sacrifice", the Butcher rationalized.

Afterward, the people ate of the meat he brought forward and found it new and delicious. The taste was made better in that the people did or gave nothing for this wonderful meal.

"You can remain our Leader and Butcher if you give us a calve each day to eat" said the people.

"Of course," said the Butcher, "The cattle have many calves and they should be made to share".

And so it went, day in and out. The Butcher slaughtered the meat, wasting more each day in his haste and greedily keeping a third for himself and feeding the people only what was left.

Eventually, there were no more calves to be slaughtered. The people gathered around the Butcher,

"Where is our meat?" they demanded.

"All of the calves have been slaughtered, there is none left."

"Well, where's our milk, cheese or yogurt? We are hungry and need food!" the cried.

"Without calves, the cattle have no reason to produce more milk" said the Butcher. "I cannot make them give us any if there is none to give".

"We made you our Leader. Give us food!" shouted the people.

Fearing for his life, and afraid of losing the power he enjoyed over the people, the Butcher made a hasty decision and declared,

"Let us go and slaughter one of the dairy cattle. She is fat and will feed many of us. Besides, there are many of them and they are not giving their fair share!".

The people agreed with this and the Butcher went into the fields and killed one of the dairy cattle.

The people ate the cattle and were satisfied for the time being. The next day, another was killed and then another until all the cattle were no more.

"We are hungry," said the people, "Where is our food? Where are our cattle? Where is the meat? Where is the milk and cheese? We need food!"

The Butcher replied, "You have eaten all the cattle, there is no more."

"Then why are you still our Leader? You promised us food! We should be rid of you!" the people said.

The Butcher thought quickly and then said,

"Who among you ate more than the others? Those that did should be made to share! And what about the elderly? They are old and do not need to eat but they did. They too should be made to share! And what about the children? They are small and do nothing so why should we feed them? Again, they should be made to share!"

The people turned on each other and began to tear each othet apart. Soon, none were left in the village including the Butcher who was one of the last to be killed.

In the end, there was no more food, no more cattle and no more village. Those envious people who do nothing yet want more of what is produced by others eventually and inevitably destroy all which was productive and sustainable.

The End

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Prepare: Freeze Fried or Dehydrated? Do it youself or not?

I wrote this review for another website whose audience was primarily comprised on "non-preppers".

Freeze Dried versus Dehydrated - Which is better?

Rather than look at which is better, compare instead the products sold by major long term food supply companies. Also consider the packaging and size of packaging. Finally, and most important, think about what your family will eat and enjoy.

Here are the basics about dehydrated versus freeze dried.

- Freeze dried foods generally take less time and water to prepare

- Dehydrated foods may take longer to rehydrate

- Freeze dried foods are generally pre-seasoned and may contain more sodium and other seasons than eaters may prefer.

- Also generally speaking, most dehydrated food companies sell their foods as stand alone products - dehydrated fruits in one #10 can, wheat in another, TVP in another and so on. Buyers than mix and cook from scratch meals using these products.

- In bulk, as in a six month or one year supply, both dehydrated and freeze dried foods take up a lot of space. Make sure you have the room.

- Many multi month or one year food supply packages include extras like sugar, baking powder, yeast and other products which can also be purchased at the grocery store. While some companies claim these are "fillers" to make the supply seem longer, these extras do come packed in  long term food storage containers and this might be convinient for some customers.

Do I have to buy foods from these companies if I want to build a long term food supply?

Absolutely not. You can purchase grains, rice, cooking oil, honey, dried milk and other foods and repack them yourself. You can also purchase a good food dehydrator and dry your own seasonsal fruits and vegetables. In fact, many enjoy doing this themselves and may save money if done correctly and with proper planning.

However, for those with the means and with little free time, purchasing a supply of ready packed foods from one of these companies may work best for them.

As for me, I have a combination of my own packed foods, grocery store foods (like canned and packaged products) and a retort supply from some of the companies below.

Mountain House Foods are all freeze dried foods. Rather than sell baking and cooking ingredients, Mountain sells large (#10 cans) and small (individual meal pouches) complete meals such as cheesy macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and meat balls and beef stew. Mountain House Foods are also light weight and the preferred choice of backpackers, campers and even those who are building a one year food supply.

eFoodsdirect offers both freeze dried and dehydrated foods. eFoodsdirect has both ingredients for those who wish to cook complete meals from scratch using a combination of freeze dried and dehydrated ingredients, they also carry a complete line of "Quick Meals" which can quickly be reconstituted and served for one or an entire family. They also carry a full line of emergency "on the go meal packages" for travelers or emergencies.

Shelf THRIVE foods also has a full selection of freeze dried and dehydrated foods and complete meals. What is neat about THRIVE is their organized and easy to use system of preparing meals using their colored packaging. Also, THRIVE is more designed for those who enjoy cooking meals from scratch at home and wish to have the convinience of long term store foods.

Which is best for you? Each of these companies has sample sized products containing 1-3 meals. I would try a sample and serve to your family and find which foods they prefer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Prepare: Work Bug Out Bag

I will be working at a different office next week and when I do, I plan on bringing with me a new office bug out bag. A BOB for work is different than one you can keep at home or the car for a couple of reasons.

- Places of employment generally have rules about bringing weapons (guns, knives, crossbows, etc) into the work place. So those are no-nos and can't be included.

- Most of us, in an emergency, are going to use our BOB at work to get home and not as the beginning of our new life in the wilderness or on the road. So our BOB needs to meet the demands and distances of making it home.

- Finally, most of us can't walk in the door at work with a 85 lb military grade backpack with fanny. Size and appearance matter.

First up, I chose to use a standard day type back pack. I have a couple of them I have received from different jobs, but my favorite is a heavy duty one I purchased more than ten years ago.

It has a large main compartment and two large outer compartments.

My focus will be on outerwear, food, water (and water recovery) and small tools. So I put together my basic bag after a quick trip to the market today and after puttering around the house.

Main compartment


- One pair of sneakers. I wear dress shoes or loafers at work. I prefer sneakers to walking shoes or boots for outdoor use and I can run in them if need be.

- Two pair of lightweight, moisture wicking socks. I can wear them under my normal socks or whatever.

- One spare t-shirt. Hey, you get your outer clothing wet, having just one spare dry shirt improves your outlook immensely and this type shirt takes up little room.

- Pullover waterproof jacket. I got one of these as a present and it has come in handy many times. Plus it stores in this neat little bag built into the jacket.

- One pullover stocking type hat (cold weather) and one baseball hat.

- One pair of lightweight gloves.


- Six powerbar/protein bars

- Two foil packs of tuna fish

- One big bag of trail mix

- Two bags of nuts (peanuts, almonds)

- Bag of hard candy

- Two bags of jerky

- Two ramen noodles

- Two packs instant oatmeal

- Ziplock containing four tea bags, sugar, salt and pepper packets.

- One pack chewing gum


- One large Naglene bottle with built in filter

- One small bottle of Polar Pure water tablets

- Two small (4 oz) bottles of water

Tools (some are in outer pocket, others in main)

- My Swiss army knife

- A multi tool

- Three n95 masks

- One pair goggles

- Three contractor trash bags

- One LED headlamp

- One small LED flashlight

- Multi purpose first aid kit with bandaids, neosporin, aspirin, tylonol, immodium, six multi vitamins, benadryl and one large compress type bandage

- Compass, road map of surrounding area

- Metal spoon, metal bowl

- A length of paracord

- Three pack of Big lighters

- Spare AA batteries (four)


- Portable radio (optional - I may simply bring one and put on my desk and take with me in an emergency).

- Sunblock

- Chapstick

- Toilet paper in zip lock bag

- Small bottle of antibacterial gel

- Small pack of antibaterial hand wipes

- $20-50 in small bills

I broke all of this down and repacked into three long resealable plastic bags. Some of the smaller things went into the outside pockets for quick retrieval and so they don't get lost in the main compartment.

Like I said, I can't camp out with this BOB, but it has most of what I need to get home. Since I carpool to work most days, I can't depend on having a vehicle in the parking lot to get home with.

I have to weigh this bag and will probably move some things around or leave some at the office rather than carrying with me at all times.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Prepare: From Choas Will Come Order

Check out Greece this morning. The locals are protesting the government's austerity plans for government spending. The situation is near riot level in some locations, but peaceful in many others.

How did this happen? Some bullet points:

- Greece has a limited economy dominated by tourism as its largest industry.

- One out of three workers in Greece is employed in the public sector. Most of the country is on some form of government assistance or stipend for daily survival. The government has been financing this with deficit spending.

- Unemployment is over 20% and higher for younger people. The private sector does not create enough jobs for sustainable employment to meet the demands of the available labor pool.

- Greece was "bailed out" by the European Union last year under the conditions that they reduce their government spending (fewer public workers, less government spending programs) and raise taxes to offset their deficits.

- The general population is protesting as so many work in the public sector (and austerity means layoffs, reduction in benefits, pay) or depend upon government assistance to get by (welfare programs, school assistance, unemployment).

- The EU has stated there will be no more money unless the austerity program continues.

There are no quick fixes to this problem. The same problem is also facing Ireland and Portugal.

In the USA, the federal government's ability to borrow (deficit spend) money to meet its obligations is about to hit a "debt ceiling" the amount of which is approved by Congress.

One side says to cut spending equal to the requested amount of raising the debt ceiling. The other side says the requested amount should be met with spending cuts as well as tax increases.

Again, in the USA, many are employed in the public sector or dependent upon government assistance for their daily living expenses or to meet financial obligations like university tuition.

The USA has a much more diverse and larger economy than Greece and will probably weather this crisis through some sort of compromise at the federal level. This time.

Eventually, there is no amount of money which can be borrowed, here, in Greece or the rest of the world, which can satisfy the demands of government obligations.

At that point, some societies will adjust. They will either raise taxes on their populace, reduce services or simply redo their government and force it to live within the actual revenues collected from current taxes.

My opinion is most other societies will take the alternate route. They will allow their government to continue to borrow and spend, make obligations they cannot meet and then protest any changes or cuts to government spending which affects them.

Eventualy, the system will break. No more money will come from the government and those that attempt to rule by fiat (allow people to purchase food, energy and housing with paper money based upon nothing) and force vendors and businesses to reduce their prices (price controls) to meet the new economic reality with crash, Zimbabwe style.

In the end, there will still be people. There will still be resources to feed, house and clothe people, but they will not be available due to the laws of supply (you have something) and demand (someone wants it and thus, has to come to terms with you to get it).

In some of these societies, a new system will arise. Order out of chaos. It has happened before. The result historically has been Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin/Stalin, Mao and others.

The thing to watch is whether this spreads or is isolated. If the economic conditions improve world wide soon, then Greece can be advised and restructured with the help of other more fortunate nations.

If not, well, pick up a history book and read how that turned out.

Personally, I hope a third path emerges. Responsible, yet limited government which governs from the middle and helps those truly in need yet shares the responsibility among all citizens, not just a few.

Cross your fingers.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Prepare: Shelf Life

Scenario: A global pandemic has finally ended but not before taking 99.9% of the world's population. For some reason, you were immune and with preparations in place, were able to avoid the fate of most of the human race. Now, you have the entire world as your personal grocery store and supply depot what with all the abandoned goods waiting for your to come get them.

Scenario: A nuclear war started and quickly ended. You and your family had a stocked shelter and emerge a few weeks later to learn that most of the people around you succumbed to fallout sickness and perished soon afterward. Now you must get busy preparing for a world without other people, however, you have all of the food and other supplies left in stores and in homes for your use.

While neither of these events (fortunately) have taken place, we run across these scenarios in survival fiction all the time. In Stephen King's book, "The Stand", one of the central characters remarks that with the reduced population, there is enough food in the grocery stores for 200 or more years. Another character suggests that there is plenty of gasoline in the ground to run cars for decades.

The truth of the matter is everything has a shelf life. That is, how long it is useful, edible, in working condition, safe to use or run before it is no longer viable.

Take food. Canned food, in ideal conditions (cool, dark, non-damp storage), can remain edible for two to five years. While some foods may last longer, after that time the vitamin content drops to nothing, the contents are nothing more than inert material, the taste might be negligible and the danger of food poisoning is higher.

What about dried foods? Same thing and some foods, like packaged dry cereal, may actually become inedible after less than a year. Sugar and salt, properly stored can last decades. But the key is proper storage.

Most grocery stores have all of the food out on the shelves. Bags containing flour, sugar and salt will quickly be compromised by insects or vermin. As the temperatures fluctuate in a grocery store with non-functioning climate controls, canned and glass bottled goods may actually crack or explode on the shelves.

In the end, after four or five years, only a few cans of spices in metal containers or coffee might still be usable. That is, if water does not get in through the roof and spoil even those things.

What about non food items? Batteries, depending upon the type, may only have a shelf life of 5-10 years with lithium batteries holding out the longest. Tires for the car and motorcycle, if kept wrapped and in a dry location, may only last five years at the longest. Many drugs, such as "cyllin" based antibiotics and tetracycline could kill you if used after their expiration date. Even aspirin after five years may lose its efficacy. Ammunition left in a cardboard box on the store shelf runs the risk of exposure to heat, air and moisture resulting in bulging, questionable cartridges.

The problem is the storage of a product, the weather conditions and if anything else, such as vermin, insects or animals have access to the product and may cause it harm. Most of the "stuff" in our world is either in a retail establishment, in a warehouse waiting for delivery or in the back of a truck somewhere. None of these conditions are ideal for storing anything for long term.

The solution?

First off, fiction aside, it is unlikely any of us will be in a situation where we are the "last man on earth" and have the world as our proverbial oyster. However, if you find yourself in a post-survival instance, here are some steps to take.

- Have climate controlled storage ready. That means a generator (more than one preferably) running on different fuel supplies, (gas, solar, wind) and lots of space (a big house or single story building) with plenty of insulation and several store rooms.

- Start collecting stuff. That means a big truck or trailer and access to grocery stores, drug stores, warehouse clubs, hardware and auto parts stores. Have a plan and a list and an amount needed to collect. There is no reason to collect and store five hundred sets of tires as you will never be able to use them all in a lifetime.

- Organize and start using the stuff. Digging around the warehouse looking for a bottle of aspirin means that something else has probably already gone bad.

- Start planning on doing without stuff. In the first month, fresh bananas, limes, pineapples and lemons will become a distant memory. Soon afterwards, chocolate and coffee will disappear forever. Best be able to getting used to a world without either.

- Start finding alternatives. Gasoline and diesel, even with preservatives, will go bad or be used up. Better find a good horse as even the bicycle will be worthless after the tires can no longer be replaced. Plant a huge garden and fields of wheat, corn and potatoes. That is where food is going to come from after the canned stuff goes rancid. Investigate and plant herbal alternatives to modern medicines. If it were me, I would be searching out and relocating chickens, goats and other small livestock before they die and before even setting foot in the local Walmart.

Eventually, you will have acquired everything locally available and will have run out of room. At that point, anyone would realize there is no way you can prepare and stockpile enough stuff to last a lifetime.

In the end, even people have a shelf life. With the world described above, our seventy five to eighty year lifespan will drop dramatically in the following generations. Enjoy the shopping while it lasts!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Prepare: Other Preparedness Sites

Besides this blog, I have several other websites on related topics I have been working on for some time. Most use this great website called Squidoo which helps writers build good looking informational sites quickly. Best of all Squidoo is free!

Check out some of my small sites. I constantly edit and add information to these sites so check back often and tell others, especially those who are not yet convinced of the trying times we are going through.

Prepare For The End Of The World

This little lens provides information about "How To" prepare for unexpected, life changing emergencies. Topics covered include food, water, power and lighting.

One Year Food Supply

More and more we are learning that having a good amount of food put back can mean the difference in life and death. This lens covers easy ways for anyone to get started building a one year food supply.

Junk Silver

Pre-1964 U.S. coins contained 90% real silver and many of these coins are still in circulation. This is my most complete site and identifies which coins to look for along with background information about them.

As always, I appreciate you taking time to visit my sites and I always enjoy feedback and comments.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Prepare: Food Shortages In The USA

Food Shortages in the USA? How could that happen? The grocery stores are full. The fast food restaurants are pumping out burgers and wings. The population is overweight and plodding around from meal to meal.

But it can still happen.

Our food production and distribution system is no longer tied to our local communities or even states. The grocery store features bread packaged in Ohio made from wheat grown in Montana and shipped by 18 wheeler 900 miles before it hits your store shelves.

Fruit and vegetables from dozens of countries fill the produce section. Apple sauce and cranberry juice comes from China. Fish originates in Vietnam. Beef from Argentina.

At the same time, farm land across the USA is being reused for retail or residential development or in some cases, allowed to revert to the wild. Watersheds and aquafiers are drying up. Federal regulations are stopping the flow of water to farmland to preserve endangered species. New environmental rules limit the use of land, fertilizers and the raising of farm animals.

Finally, transportation and fuel costs only keep rising. Many countries which produce food for the USA are moments away from instability and many do not enjoy the same rule of law or food safety rules we take for granted in the USA.

Basically, this boils down to a precipitous situation with many potentially damaging events which could jeopardize our food supply and availability.

What can you do?

First, eat local. Get used to eating foods produced near where you live right now. Go to farmers markets rather than purchase the latest and greatest "frankenfood" of another country.

Second, grow something of your own. Tomatoes, melons, and herbs can all be grown easily by the brownest of thumbs.

Third, stock long term foods like rice, oatmeal, wheat, oil and other foods which are the foundation of most meals. Don't limit your stores to one or two pounds; purchase fifty or more pounds of rice and other grains and store appropriately.

Finally, determine which foods are not readily available, but which you are used to and enjoy and store those as well (or give them up). Things like coffee, tea and chocolate. Also consider finding local alternatives.

With the rapid purchasing power of the dollar, international tensions and the unreliability of the supply chain, don't get caught with an empty pantry or being forced to depend upon the government to supply you and your family your next meal.

Don't forget to check out the new e-book about preparing for potential food shortages "Sold Out After A Crisis"!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Prepare: Falling Skies

OK, who watched Falling Skies last night? Falling Skies is a new post-apocalyptic drama about earth after aliens have invaded and the subsequent human resistance to the invasion.

The story opens with children describing the attack with crayon drawn pictures. Apparently, the aliens invaded and were able to quash all organized armed forces and killed 90% of the human population on earth. Remaining humans are focused only finding food and weapons while as they lead a resistance against the invaders.

Falling Skies follows a resistance group of militia and civilians in Massachusetts as they are constantly hunted by the aliens, multi-legged "Skitters" and large bipedal robotic "Mechs". There are also other human groups they encounter who are only concerned with theft and mayhem.

The story was slow in some parts but also very interesting to have come out of Hollywood. The central character is a history professor turned guerrilla fighter who makes continued references to historical battles against invading armies. He also, in one brief, "so quick you almost missed it" scene corrects his son on the difference between a "clip" and a "magazine". Never thought I would hear that on TeeVee.

One reviewer compared Falling Skies to "V" meets "Jericho". So far that is a fair assessment to me as well. I only hope that they are able to complete the series before it's eventual demise.

Check it out.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Prepare: Manufacturing

Warning: This is a highly inflammatory subject akin to discussing religion, guns or hockey teams. Everyone has an opinion which they are entitled to and I welcome civil discourse.

We all have this sepia toned image of thousands of blue shirted, hard hat and lunch pail in hand American men marching through the gates of large factory complete with smoke stacks and assembly lines and bringing home a pay envelope on Friday which provides for a comfortable cottage, white picket fence and Mom at home making pot roast and apple pie for hard working hubbie and children Mary and Bobby.

Ah, the transitory past.

Unfortunately, that image of America is no longer reality. More Americans work in the service or professional trades and fewer work in manufacturing than in years past. Has it negatively effected our nation? Yes and no. Our standard of living is higher, but so is our debt. Further, what we make is worth less due to the negative effects of inflation.

Many lament the fact that fewer people work in manufacturing and make statements like "We sent all of our manufacturing jobs overseas" or "we don't make anything in America anymore". Actually, these statements aren't entirely true.

The fact is we still make quite a bit of stuff here in the U.S. So much, that the U.S. manufacturers are responsible for 21% of what is built in the world, that according to the National Association of Manufacturers. How does that stack up against the Chinese or Japanese? The Chinese come in at 15% and the Japanese at 12%.

What surprises people is what is built in the U.S. versus what is no longer manufactured. For instance, we still build tractors, tanks, airplanes and cars in the U.S. Many of these products have price tags in the millions of dollars and the employees in these fields enjoy wages several thousand dollars above the annual salary of other employees in the private sector.

What we don't manufacture in the U.S. are low end, lost cost consumer products such as plastic laundry baskets. Plastic laundry baskets can be purchased at the discount store for ninety nine cents. There is no way an adult can work in a factory in the U.S. making plastic clothing baskets with a retail price of less than a dollar and survive financially. However, a person in a third world nation with a daily per capita cost of living of less than $2 a day can squeak by.

We also don't make commodity consumer electronics. Why? A flat screen, high definition television comes to market Christmas 2010 with a retail price tag of 1499.99. In one year, that same TV will be discounted to 999.99 as newer and better models come out. Will the workers who assembled that fifteen hundred dollar retail price TV in 2010 be willing to take a commensurate pay cut which reflects the price one year later? Of course not.

Consumer electronics are a losing proposition to a working class with a high cost of living such as we have in the U.S. Consumer demand for consumer electronics is fickle and unreliable for the cost of goods and labor.

Let's consider some other factors.

Automation, consolidiation and specialization.

Automation - During the 1940's and 50's, much of the work done in factories was manual as it still is currently in much of the third world. Thousands of low skilled workers assembled and produced products from raw goods. For the past 30 years however, more and more work is being done by precision robots using computerized instructions. The result is higher quality and more productivity. So much so that American manufacturing outproduces its competitors two to one. Human operators are still needed as are quality control inspectors but fewer workers are needed for production and than means fewer jobs in manufacturing.

Consolidation - Both products and production have become consolidized. We have smart phones which have replaced a half dozen or more devices (land line phones, personal computers, personal organizers, calculators, the Rolodex, personal stereos and so on) so we buy and thus manufacture, fewer things (although it doesn't feel like it with kids!)

Further, companies which used to have multiple factories making dozens of different products are using technology and automation to consolidate manufacturing. More products are being produced "just in time" based upon real time demand from retail and industrial customers rather than being built and waiting to be purchased from a warehouse.

Specialization - Along with automation, we have a manufacturing industry with needs for specialized skills rather than general, low skill/low education like we needed a generation ago. So the need for large numbers of high school graduates to fill cavernous facilities moving goods down an assembly line tweaking one screw or part is no longer needed. Rather, the need is for employees with advanced computer and industrial engineering skills operating more and more advanced machines.

In the end, the demographic which has been hardest hit by this recession and recent recessions in the past, the adult with a high school education, cannot rely upon manufacturing employment for a stable career as his father or grandfather could in years past.

Now, there is a part of U.S. manufacturing which is a sore spot with me. Strategic disadvantage. When your nation is dependent upon foreign manufacturers for key industrial products such as generators, electrical grid transformers, digital communications components and such, than your nation is at risk. There are some industries which demand a domestic production base for its strategic needs.

In the end, manufacturing exists in the U.S. but it is not longer the panacea for long term unemployment nor is it the cause of our problems. Rather, we have to adapt to a changing landscape and plan accordingly. The successful individual (and nation) adapts, rather than regresses.

As I said, this is an inflammatory subject. Everyone has an opinion and some are not as popular as others. Feel free to leave a comment and explain your position.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Prepare: Shoes

Do you wear shoes? Sure, we all do. Still, I am amazed at the number of people who own shoes, but frequently wander to and fro shoeless. There are so many things on the ground which when stepped upon with bare feet can lead to injury, infection and even death. Shoes are your friends, wear them.

I have a habit of always wearing shoes except when I am in the house. Even then, I often wear some sort of shoe around the house because I hate stepping on things which might have fallen on the floor. Ever stepped on a little green plastic toy solider in bare feet? Those things can hurt.

Do you keep a spare pair of shoes in the car? How many of us work in business or an office and wear appropriate dress shoes? What happens if the car breaks down or traffic is gridlocked and we are forced to walk home? How many times have you seen women removing their high heels when walking because their feet are hurting? Do you keep a spare pair of sneakers or walking shoes in the car or at the office?

Here's another. Do you keep a pair of shoes, not flimsy little slippers, but real shoes next to your bed? What happens if there is a fire or a break in? What are you going to do? Run out barefooted or in an oversize pair of slippers shaped like bear's feet?

You will hear all sorts of experts telling you what sort of shoes to wear, even the brand names, Often, they never take into account the lifestyle or occupation of their readers. Not everyone works outdoors in the Pacific Northwest nor can they strut around the bank in a pair of Wolverine steel toed work boots with water proof uppers and Kevlar shoelaces.

Instead, purchase and wear the shoes which work best for you. Have your feet measured by a competent shoe salesperson so you purchase the correct size. Our feet actually change sizes through out our lives so get the right size rather than assuming you still wear a size 8 like you did in high school.

If your shoes go better with socks, then buy socks and wear them! Wearing shoes without socks or hose will wear out the inner lining faster and ruin your shoes.

Keep your shoes dry. Water combined with air will destroy a pair of shoes in a day or less.

Finally, buy new shoes regularly. Shoes wear out and a worn out shoe can do more damage to your back or feet than the wrong sized shoe.

Take care of your feet and they will take care of you!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

SHTF: Sold Out After A Crisis

I am a big fan of any available resources which can help me better prepare for my family. I frequent used book stores, Amazon and other websites trying to learn something or pick up information which I did not know of before.

I was very happy to see that our line of thinking is now going "mainstream" is that publishers are starting to pick up on the public's concern for preparedness both in short term disasters and long time emergencies.

One such book, "Sold Out After A Crisis" was released this week as an e-book and it caught my eye after seeing it advertised on many of the websites I frequent. I purchased and downloaded it this morning, so I have not read it yet but am looking forward to it and when finished, will produce a complete review.

The author has compiled a list of foods we should all be stocking up on NOW rather than waiting for an emergency when grocery stores can be cleaned out in a matter of minutes. We all know what that looks like whenever a hurricane or major winter storm hits and our local stores are emptied overnight.

Some of the points made by author Damien Campbell are no surprises to us here - purchase long term storage foods in #10 cans when possible, don't forget to store plenty of water and stock up on multi vitamins as well. But there is some new information presented that led to a "head slap moment" for me when I read them. I don't want to embarrass myself, so get the book and find out for yourself!

Further, the author points out places to get food after traditional places are out, how to collect, purify and stockpile water as well as how to inexpensively produce electricity. All to often we forget that electricity means light, but more importantly, heat, which can be used to cook food and purify water.

I am excited about "Sold Out After A Crisis" and judging by the buzz I see about it online, I am sure it contains some good information and preparedness wisdom. I added a link to this book on my site as well as I feel this sort of information needs to be available, especially to new comers to preparedness and who need immediate information.

:Let me know if you have read this book yet and if so, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

SHTF: Building A Food Supply Step By Step

Start building your emergency food supplies little by little rather than all at one time.

Read any of the survivalist themed blogs and websites and they will tell you to get busy either a) buying large (hundreds of pounds) quantities of wheat, cooking oil, powdered milk and honey or b) purchasing a stockpile of long term storage food (LTS) from one of the big name online retailers and quickly, as in NOW! NOW! NOW! have a one year or more food supply for you and the family.

If you agree with this statement and have the credit card available with lots of room, please visit any of the Mountain House links on this site and charge away - I would like to show my other half that blogging like this pays off!

But if you are like most of us, laying down a few thousand dollars for a UPS pallet of freeze dried food or a hundred or so white buckets of wheat is out of the question. Instead, our journey of a thousand meals begins with a single can, to paraphrase the famous Chinese quotation.

The conventional wisdom is easy to follow: When shopping, but two for each one. So, instead of buying one can of coffee, pick up two. Same with tuna fish, peanut butter, spaghetti, and so on.

Eat one and stock the other in a quiet out of the way spot in the house. In our home, we have one large walk in pantry for long term supplies and one small one for daily usage. You may decide to use the cabinets in the bathroom, under a bed or the hall closet for your long term foods.

Next, purchase foods to replace short term storage food supplies. For instance, we buy two gallons of milk a week. For a long term replacement, once a month I buy one big box of dried milk, repackage in a large freezer bag, and then store it in a sealed white bucket in the back of the pantry. You can do the same with other perishables like eggs (buy one bucket of powdered eggs every month) as well.

The next problem is dealing with fruit and vegetables. Canned fruit nutrionally are nothing more than fruit flavored sugar with little vitamin or mineral content. Sure, we have some on the shelf for a pinch, but they are not useful for maintaining a healthy diet.
Canned vegetables taste pretty bad out of the can, as in like the metal they are packed in and also suffer from low nutrional content.

We like to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in our home and there are two solutions for long term food storage. First, grow a garden! We have tomatoes, greens, berries, grapes, fruit trees and even a stand of corn in our yard. It's not hard and the whole family actually enjoys the results.

Second, buy fresh produce at the store and start canning (storing hot in jars with lids and rings using a canner) and drying (food dehydrator). Both retain more nutritional content than canned foods and learning to can and dehydrate are useful skills for everyone to learn.

Finally, stock up on dried foods which store well and long term. By dried foods, I mean rice, beans, sugar, salt, spices (especially hard to get ones like cinammon, nutmeg, black pepper and so on), and oatmeal. While it is nice to stock up on wheat, if you don't have a grinder or know what to do with wheat, than it won't do you much good. Before running out and buying 400 lbs of wheat for the family, go to the health food store and buy a pound or two, look up some recipes online and learn how to use the stuff.

Most of all, don't go into debt purchasing food you have never eaten or don't know what to do with. Buy what you eat, suitable alternatives and store appropriately.

Monday, June 06, 2011

SHTF: Top Down Collapse While Rome Burns

Weiner admits he sent Tweets of lewd pictures... Another woman admits she had affair with Schwarzenegger.. Taylor Lautner and Rob Pattinson lock lips on MTV Awards... Justin Beiber has new haircut and two new tattoos..  Former IMF chief denies molestation charges.. 

Ever get the feeling we are living in the movie "Metropolis" sometimes? You know, the 1920's silent movie masterpiece which explores the eventual collapse of a wealthy, yet derelict society completely propped up and supported by a hidden, faceless and nameless underclass which slaves beneath the streets?

While most of us are not slaves per se, we still spend our days toiling away, struggling to pay our bills and taxes to keep a roof over our head a while some unelected celebrity elite party their idle lives away. Most of us scarcely have time for a conversation with our spouses yet are subjected to a daily barrage of flagrant delictos (sic) of a minority who appear to have the time and money to burn on all sorts of sordid diversions.

Some, like politicians, who are paid with tax dollars (to the tune of four times the average American annual income) to solve the pressing problems they created, yet find the time to tweet pics to strange women or have liaisons with their staff member's spouses.

Or how about the singers and actors, many of whom have not created a single sustainable job or product, yet who are worth millions and require our uninterrupted attention to their hair style, body piercings or latest opinion on sexual identity all while ignoring the plight of millions who would simply like to have a decent job in the private sector and to finally get off public assistance?

Why do these people believe their bodily functions and contortions are so needed by the invisible majority and further, why can't they simply leave everyone else alone? Why must they wander forth out of their hives, dens and bubbles and terrorize in person  (and remotely) college coeds, housekeepers, bartenders and other service personnel whose only mistake was ending up on some degenerate's radar?

In the end, I believe we are witnessing the death throws before the collapse. No, not a harbinger to a Mad Max world but rather, the Apocalypse of the Celebrity. Where upon after decades of continually recurring and worsening behavior, the majority finally tunes out, drops out and turns off. The demand to find steady work, to stay current on bills and satisfy the tax man means there will be casualties. I hope it is the attention we pay to these losers.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Prepare: Bicycle Bug Out

Everything I have read online has different people preparing for getting out of dodge by using a variety of means; vehicle, motorbike, boat, plane and eventually foot or bike. Bikes figure prominently in many evacuation plans.

Here's the deal, unless you ride currently and ride often, picking up a bike and counting on it for a quick and simple evacuation plan is harder than you think. Here's an exercise you can try and which I did this past weekend.

We decided to go for a day long ride this weekend. We had three adult riders with one hauling a bike trailer containing a thirty five pound child, which would be similar to the amount of weight we might carry in gear and supplies.

Each rider had two large bottles of water on their bike frame and there were several backups in the trailer along with an air pump, one towel and a couple of other odds and ends. Basically, not a heavy load out.

Each of the riders considered themselves in decent shape and none had any major health problems such as asthma, heart, circulation or respiratory problems.  

The day was warm, as in the upper 80's low 90's. The terrain was not particularly rough, but suburban streets, alleys and a bike paths. There was one decent upward incline we tackled early in the ride.

The results:

The hill killed us. The rider with the trailer had to dismount halfway up and push the bike on foot.
We went through water due to the heat faster than we thought originally. The water got warm as well.
We were forced to take two breaks in the first hour.
Our legs went out after an hour or so requiring us to go slower.
One rider lagged constantly behind the other two.
We were able to communicate and decided at the onset that one person would lead with the route, but he did not share it with the others from the beginning of the ride.

Now imagine if the three of us (+child) had to carry at minimum a 72 hour BOB as well as personal gear like firearms? Imagine if we had to go 40-50 mules in a day? Imagine if we had a time limit such as X number of hours to get Y distance? Imagine if the weather was really bad, or hotter or colder?

If you plan on having a bike as part of your evacuation plans, better start riding now and regularly. Also, make sure others in your group know what is expected for physical performance on the bike. It is more difficult than you think.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Prepare: Bug Out Bag Spices

First, have a 72 hour (minimum) Bug Out Bag (BOB) and keep it handy at all times.

Second, have the right food packed inside. Sure, Mainstay or Lifeboat ration bars are handy, but I prefer to have those as retort food only. My bag has plenty of regular protein bars, trail mix, dried fruit and chocolate as short term "go to" food for times when movement matters and cooking is out.

However, I also keep plenty of cooking food in my BOB as well. Rice, packets of tuna, noodles, and so on are lightweight, last long and pack plenty of energy and protein.

At some point, the food in my BOB is going to be gone or run low and I will have to find more which includes hunting, fishing, and foraging. When that happens, taste is going to matter big time.

For that reason, I also include a variety of spices and condiments in my BOB all of which are cheap and easy to obtain now. Here's a quick list:

- Packets of catchup, soy sauce, salt, pepper and pepper flakes all of which come with meals at fast food and other restaurants. Put these in a zip lock bag and avoid crushing the catchup packets!

- Salt. I prefer kosher salt and have a small zip lock bag with about 5 or 6 ounces.

- Garlic powder. Can make anything, even a gamey old squirrel, taste better.

- Tony Cachere's Original Seasoning. Makes anything edible.

- Tabasco sauce. They have it in small bottles which can fit in any pocket or pouch.

- Dried onion and garlic. Add to the pot.

- Bullion cubes. They make a base for soup or can be eaten alone with hot water for a short term fix.

Remember to repackage everything into zip lock bags as the original containers might break or get wet. Also, most of these spices and condiments will last months without rotation as long as they are kept dry.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

SHTF: Matching caliber rifle and handgun

I have to admit, I am not the complete firearms expert, but I do see the value of having a rifle and handgun chambered in the same caliber. Having a setup like this, especially in a bug out situation, would be ideal.

In the old US West, cowhands would carry a single action pistol and rifle in the same caliber. It made sense as brass ammunition was heavy and carrying to many loads would be a pain. A popular shooting sport, Cowboy Action Shooting, has the standing rule that all participants must use a rifle in a pistol caliber and generally, the same as their competitive handguns.

Having same calibers makes sense in a bug out situation. Having two 50 round boxes of ammunition in a bugout bag (BOB) weighs less than having two boxes of shotguns shells or multiple magazines for two different caliber weapons.

There are some good combinations out there. For instance, a .357 lever action carbine along with a six shot revolver can also chamber .38 ammo making this a fierce combination. A .357 cartridge from a carbine is effective for short distance game hunting and both weapons are effective against two legged predators as well. There are similar combos in .44 caliber which many are quite pleased with.

I have a couple of caveats about my choices. I prefer a rifle and handgun which do no require magazines. I also prefer weapons which do not attract attention from LEO such as military style rifles might. Further, I intend on avoiding as many confrontations as possible as part of my "lay low" strategy so a lever action or revolver fit into my plans.

 The other attraction to the pistol caliber carbine is weight (less) and size. Having a rifle that can fit, unbroken, into a backpack has it's advantages. Lugging a 10lb + FAL along with ammo has its disadvantages especially when travelling on foot in rough country.

Now some will mention the advantages of having the rifle/pistol combo in .22 which is true and it lends to carrying much more ammo than any other situation. I agree, however, I prefer to have a heavier caliber for greater diversity in targets and effectiveness in results. YMMV.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Prepare: Tornado Preparedness

We live in the area effected by this week's storms and had to put our own tornado preparedness plans into action last night.

If you have a basement or storm shelter outside, you are in good shape to ride out a tornado. However, many don't have a basement or the outside storm shelter may be too far away when seconds count. If you don't have an outside shelter, than having a makeshift tornado plan is mandatory.

We have an inside hallway with a full bathroom in the center of the house. Why a bathroom? The walls contain pipes which can provide extra protection from wind borne debris. The bathroom is where we sheltered late last night when the tornado sirens sounded. I stocked it ahead of time with the following:

- A portable transistor radio, pre-set to a local news station. The radio was plugged into the wall, but can run on batteries and had a fresh set inside.

- A portable weather radio. This set cost less than $10 at Radio Shack and every family should have one. 24 a day instant weather information with a built in alarm for emergency alerts. This too runs on batteries and always has a fresh set.

- Shoes. There is a pair for everyone in the family in the cabinet. Even inexpensive flip flops will work and they are needed after a tornado hits and the ground is littered with glass, splinters and other objects dangerous to bare feet.

- Helmets. Sounds silly, right? A boy in the Joplin tornado was saved when he took refuge in the bathtub with his bike helmet on. A flying piece of debris hit his head, but the helmet prevented him from injury. We have a ski, bike or baseball batting helmet for each family member in the saferoom.

- Padding. A futon mattress, pillows, blankets. Anything that can be put over people while they lay on the floor or in  the bathroom and which will protect them from debris.

- Flashlights. Tornadoes and big storms mean power outages. We have several flashlights with fresh batteries on hand. Make sure you have more than one flashlight. One person may need to leave the shelter area to check the house or turn off the gas and it's not good to leave everyone else in the dark. Don't count on candles! They are a fire hazard!

Unlike some of our neighboring states, we were fortunate and made it through last night without any problem. But as always, it is better to be prepared for tornadoes than be a statistic later.

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