Thursday, August 19, 2010

A dozen things you might have forgotten in your preps.

1. Sewage treatment. If you’re on a municipal sewer system, you’ll be out of luck if power goes out for an extended period of time. They rely on pumps to get the waste to treatment plants. Without the pumps, it will eventually back up and flushing your toilet will be out of the question. If you’re on a septic system, when was the last time you had it pumped? Put yourself on an accelerated schedule so that you’ll have extra capacity should TSHTF. Where is your septic drain field. If it is uphill from your tanks you have an electric sewage pump that must have power provided to it at least a few times per week.

One solution to these problems is the old fashioned outhouse. The basics of which are a 3’ x 3’ x 5’ pit. The rest is pretty obvious. Outhouses are an efficient and environmentally safe way of disposing of waste.
Another option is a composting toilet. Have any 5 gal. Buckets lying around? That, sawdust and a compost heap is another way of efficiently getting rid of your human waste. Here’s a great resource:

2. Garbage disposal. What will you do when garbage collection stops? Trash lying around can cause vermin infestation, a serious problem. Unless you plan ahead, you’ll likely be carting off your own trash. This is a wasteful use of your fuel reserves.

A solution to this is the “burn barrel”. A burn barrel is simply a 55 gallon steel barrel with an open top and air holes cut in the bottom. Throw in your trash and a match and in a few minutes it’s all but gone.
Now before you cancel you’re regular trash pickup, there are a few things you should know:
1) Burning plastic is highly toxic. Make sure your burning activities are situated well away from your residence and smoke drifts away rather than towards you.
2) Burning trash is highly illegal in most residential areas. Reserve your trash burning for desperate times only.

3. Pumps. You may have a plan to store water or obtain water, but unless you are on a private well and able to power your well pump, you will have to move that water somehow, and water is HEAVY. You’ll need buckets of the stuff to drink, cook with, wash dishes, clothes, people and possibly flush toilets with. Make sure you have plenty of 5 gallon buckets handy. Also plan for an alternative to all that carrying. Hand pumps are a cheap and easy way to empty barrels. For longer distances, a powered pump is called for. Gasoline powered pumps generally have 1” or greater inlet and outlets. You’ll need specialized hoses for these and the water will move FAST. Small electric pumps are available that use either household current or 12V DC. Many of these hook up to ordinary garden hoses and provide manageable levels of pressure. Although inexpensive, “drill pumps” are usually disappointing. Carefully read the specs on the pump you plan to purchase. Many have stated ratings on how high they can pump and how deep they can pull. Plan ahead on how you will power any of these pumps by storing plenty of fuel. Those of you with private wells should have a backup plan. Another well pump or if your well is shallow enough, an old fashioned hand cranked pitcher pump as well as a way to harvest surface water.

4. Bug repellant. The more primitive our situation becomes, the more time we will necessarily spend outdoors. Aside from the nuisance factor, bugs can create serious health problems. Ticks carry Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Mosquitoes carry West Nile Virus. Stock up on solutions containing DEET as an active ingredient. Some natural products containing Citronella and other plant extracts can work well in some climates. If you ever find yourself out of repellant, try this messy but proven solution:
Lather up with soap and let it dry on your skin. Bugs will stay far and cleaning up is as easy as rinsing yourself off!

5. Sunscreen. While we’re on the subject of the great outdoors, let’s talk about the sun and its effects. Sunburn can cause permanent skin damage including cancer. Make sure you stock away plenty of sunscreen. Sunglasses that are rated to block UV rays will help to prevent retinal damage and cataracts.

6. A bicycle. You can go far on a bicycle and expend much less caloric energy than walking the same distance. It’s fairly fast too. Fuel and auto parts may be hard to come by and it’s a mode of transportation that’s proven itself in many countries where automobiles are considered a luxury. A mountain bike will be better suited for deteriorated roads. Make sure you have a spare set of parts. The easiest way to accomplish that is to buy another bike of the same make and model.

7. Can openers. You may have one laying around in your kitchen junk drawer, but what will you do when that breaks? Buy a few manual can openers. The electric types will be good for nothing if TSHTF. You say you don’t stock cans? Well you might find yourself changing your mind when fresh food becomes hard to come by and refrigeration spotty during extended power outages. Both can openers AND cans make an excellent barter item.

8. A wind-up watch. Ah ha! Yes! That analogue clock ticking along on your kitchen wall is powered by a battery. Same thing with your wristwatch. Sure. Those batteries last for a few years at a time. But then what? The few wind-ups in production nowadays mostly come from Switzerland or Russia. The former being much more expensive. If neither of those options fit the bill, look for used wind-ups on Ebay.

9. Pest control. I’m talking about the stuff you put on your corn and potatoes. Now organic gardening is a noble cause and definitely the preferred method of survival crop production, but it can be a challenge in the best of times. If you don’t have proven experience with organic gardening you’d better have a few “chemical weapons” at your disposal. Sevin dust and liquid work great. Make sure to follow application instructions.

10. Duct tape. The veritable “do-all” of your toolbox, duct tape can be used to mend hoses, bandage wounds or hold just about anything together temporarily and sometimes permanently. Stock plenty of it.

11. Bleach. Great for general disinfecting duties. To use for water purification, add 8 drops of bleach per gallon of water. Shake and wait 20 minutes. If a bleach smell is apparent, the water is ready to drink. If not, repeat the process until it is. Be sure to filter as many solids as possible before treating. Always use the cleanest water available.

12. Entertainment. Count on video games being a thing of the past. TV and radio may not be available either. Batteries die, electronics fry. Perhaps not at first, but eventually, you may find the time for entertainment between foraging, scavenging and making due. Books. The ones made out of paper, can still be had, despite the success of Kindle et al. Find a used book store and buy by the carton. Board games, cards and dice all require no electricity and stimulate the brain cells while passing the time.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Disneyland 102 - Of Life and Energy

Disneyland 102 - Of Life and Energy

In my down time I like to explore the topic of free energy. I’m not talking about wind or solar power, but more so the fringe topics of perpetual motion, ether, magnetism etc. I definitely limit these explorations to my downtime because, to tell the truth, they are a great way to waste time. There is no free lunch and no free energy. One example I always fall back upon to prove this is the example of life on earth.

Every living being uses energy of one type or another – none of it comes from the ether or perpetual motion or magnets. I don’t think God is part of the conspiracy to keep us in the dark about such “technologies”. No, I think God would choose the best most efficient means of energy utilization. What did he choose? Solar. Solar results in the storage of energy in the form of Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats which the rest of us non-vegetative life forms consume. That’s it. Our green friends convert sunlight into food and we eat it. No hocus pocus about it.

Thinking about it that way, in it’s most primitive form, the earth can support about 1.5 billion people. That’s because you need lots of land and lots of time to produce the energy to support such a population organically. Now this begs the question: “How have we managed to support 6.5 billion people?” The simple answer is “synthetically”.
Our current food infrastructure relies heavily on providing synthetic nutrients and mechanical irrigation to cultured plants in order to produce abnormally large crop yields. Without these crop yields, life on earth would be very different from what it is today.

Now there is nothing wrong with using technology to better life on earth as we have done. There is a risk however of becoming a bit too comfortable with it. To give you an example of what I mean, let’s take deer populations. When rains are steady and forests grow lush and green, the deer population explodes. Deer become comfortable and well fed and when they are in good health, reproduce and do so with vigor. Soon the exploding deer population outpaces the forest’s ability to supply nutrients and the results are disastrous. Starvation takes hold and the deer population is decimated. By now, I’m sure that I don’t have to continue this analogy. You can easily connect the dots and see where we’re headed. It’s no wonder that the earth has gone from 4 to 6.5 billion people in little over 30 years. We have it too good.

But that’s not the only point to be made here. Let’s take a look at where the synthetic support system for our food supply comes from. Almost everything supporting modern farming is based on fossil fuels. Combines and tractors run on diesel fuel. Irrigation equipment is powered by diesel, gas, or electric, which is usually produced by natural gas or coal. Almost all fertilizer is produced from natural gas, with the exception of manure, which is surely derived from animals fed grain, which was fertilized with natural gas derivatives. But what are fossil fuels? As you learned in grammar school, they are the earth-processed remains of plant material. This plant material received its energy from – you guessed it – the sun. And it did so a long time ago. Essentially, the fossil fuels we use are a “savings bank” for energy.

Connect the dots again, and you’ll see that we’re making huge withdrawals from this savings bank and using it to live well beyond our means. Imagine a man who receives an inheritance. He’s come into more money than he ever imagined. Being a good fellow, he not only buys a larger house, and new car, but invites his 12 cousins to move in with him. Thinking the account is limitless, he continues to withdraw and support his extended family in high style, the result of Granddad’s labor.

Sadly, the party is almost over. Our withdrawals are becoming harder and harder to make. They’re also becoming more and more costly. The relatives will soon have to settle for Ramen Noodles and the Mercedes will remain parked in the driveway with grass growing high around it. In real terms, life is soon going to be very difficult for about 5 billion people. If you think you’re not one of them think again. The fellow in Vietnam with an ox and an acre rice paddy is better prepared than you are. As you sit there reading this from a backlit LCD screen powered by electricity made by natural gas, the result of some plant giving its life 10,000 years ago, you have a lot to ponder. Your meal card has been punched, the account is dry, now what will you do?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Breathing Room

If there’s one survival value I’d like to instill in my kids, it’s simply this: Live with Breathing Room.

Leave space in your living habits to accommodate emergencies.

In our “just in time” society most people live with absolutely no breathing room.
I never lived like that, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it came from my dad who grew up very poor. I don’t know, but I always live with a bit of margin in my life and never above my means.

I remember a long time ago I left a job to take another and took a couple of weeks off between jobs. A coworker looked at me incredulously. “What are you going to do for money?” “For two weeks?” I felt like asking, “you don’t have enough money to carry you for two weeks?” I don’t mean to criticize those in tough financial situations who simply don’t have that amount of breathing room. But regardless of your situation, you should know that not having a few weeks of savings in the bank makes your situation dire. Strive to put away a bit.

I do mean to criticize those who live right at or above their means while having the ability to save. This is true of most Americans regardless of income level. There are plenty of doctors married to lawyers who simply cannot afford to miss a week or two of work because they’ve moved into McMansions and must make payments on the McYacht.

When you get into the habit of putting a little aside, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your wealth AND preparations will build up.

How do you do it? Move into a smaller house. Sell a car or vacation property. That motorcycle that scares the hell out of you should go too. Ride a bike or carpool instead of driving everywhere. Consolidate your trips. Take a cheap vacation in the mountains instead of the islands. Quit those hobbies that you don’t have time for anyway.

Eat at home. Food is a huge waste of money for most folks. Think about what you spend each week on food. Now think about what you would eat if you were flat broke. Ramen noodles? Rice and beans? Calculate the cost of that and try to set a goal somewhere between your current budget and the flat broke one.

Once you have some breathing room, there will be some temptation to spend money on toys. A new gun? Some firearm accessories? A DVD player? Don’t do it! Spend your money on a few extra bags of rice each week and some canned soup. Put it away.

Fill up a gas can when you top off your tank. Buy a couple of flashlights.
Make these things your toys.
Take pictures of these things and gloat over them.
Life can be a whole lot more fulfilling when you forget about “keeping up with the Joneses” and focus on “outlasting the Joneses.”

Live with breathing room.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Simple Rain Barrel

This is a simple rain barrel I made from a used plastic barrel. The barrel used to contain olives. You can elaborate by creating an overflow spout as well as a exit spout to allow you to chain barrels together. I didn't bother with any of these extras for this project. Rainwater can be used for drinking but ONLY if properly purified as it will tend to absorb animal droppings from your roof. This is a great way to water your garden without killing your water bill.

Monday, April 12, 2010

DisneyLand 101

DisneyLand 101 – The House of Cards

The year is 2010. The place is the United States of America. The story is that of the most spoiled people ever to inhabit the earth, getting a glimpse of reality through the economic crisis.

If you were born after The Great Depression, you have no understanding of reality. That may seem a bit harsh, but bear with me. Even if you are 80 years old, you were a teenager during World War II and probably had little understanding of the austerity of the times you grew up in. Most of us have grown up in a society that never knew need. That is not normal. Any sophomore student of history can tell you that life on earth has never been this easy, yet most of us walk around with this as our norm. We never knew life any other way, and we don't expect it to change. This is an Disney Land.

The average life expectancy in The United States is 77.5 – 80 years old.
The average life expectancy in medieval Britain was 20 – 30 years old.
The average life expectancy in ancient Rome and Greece was 28 years old.

Disease, poverty, hunger have always been part of the human condition.
We live in a country where the major health concern among the poor is diabetes due to to obesity. Never in history have the words poverty and obesity been connected. What you see now is not the norm.

On it's surface, our high standard of living and good health may seem like progress and they are. No one in their right mind would want to go back to the way things were. Health and longevity are good things, but just because they're here today, does that make them permanent? Before you think we have our foot on the throat of misery, let's take a quick look at the house of cards that upholds our current high standard of living.

JIT is an acronym for “Just In Time”. “Just In Time” is a business paradigm that allows manufacturers to utilize the minimum amount of storage space for their raw materials. As raw materials enter the process, they are immediately used in manufacturing without taking up warehouse space and the associated overhead. What does this have to do with society as a whole? Plenty.

Our economic infrastructure has adopted this same system in many if not all aspects of commerce.

Let's look at the supermarket for example. Often referred to as a “store”, modern day supermarkets store absolutely nothing. What you see on the shelves has oftentimes arrived a few hours to a few days earlier. Back room storage is non existent. Merchandise is moved directly from the truck to the shelves with little time in between. The result of this type of commerce is that in times of emergencies, such as hurricanes or power outages, “store” shelves are often cleaned out within hours.

The same can be said for the oil industry. Currently the US runs on only 62 days of gasoline inventory. In other words, if all oil ceased to flow, in 62 days all gasoline will be used up at our current rate of consumption. Although this does not seem like a likely scenario, reality could, in fact be much worse. An OPEC embargo or supply line disruption due to terrorism would immediately result in a price spike precisely because there is so little inventory in the system. Life would become very expensive in every aspect of the economy that employs transportation and machinery. Transportation shortages and rising costs could lead to food shortages and runaway inflation.

JIT means that there is no breathing room in the system. No contingencies, no “spare tire” if you will. As industrialization takes place, the JIT paradigm finds its way into society as a means of efficiency. Spares, redundancy and safety nets all cost money. JIT eliminates these and the entire process becomes more efficient.

The term JIT is actually related to manufacturing. To more accurately describe how the same concept affects everyday life, let's use the term “Reserve Reduction”, or RR for short. Let's look at some other areas affected by RR.

Our power grids are maxed out during the summer. In August of 2003, the entire northeastern US and parts of Ontario Canada were plunged into darkness in one of the most serious blackouts in modern history. Some areas were without power for up to 3 days. The entire fiasco was traced back to a single high voltage power line touching a tree limb in Ohio. There is no reserve in our power grid.

In 1890, farmers made up about 43% of the labor force in the United States. 43% of the population produced food for themselves and everyone else. It may seem startling that so many depend on so few. If you find that alarming, you should know that in 1990, only 2.6% of the population were farmers. 2.6% of the population produce all the nations food (and much of the world's). If you consider exports, that means that there is almost no reserve in terms of the manpower component of the food supply.

The United States has approximately 800,000 sworn law enforcement officers in active service. As of 2008, there are approximately 7.3 million people under some form of correctional supervision including probation, prison, local jails and parole. Add to this an additional 5 million convicted felons who've served their time and are now free and you have a peacekeeping system with little to no reserve.

One important thing to note about all of this is that many of these top-heavy systems are dependent on one or more top-heavy systems.
Manufacturing is dependent on power generation. Power generation is dependent on oil. Oil is dependent on a stable international political climate.
Agriculture is dependent on oil and natural gas and manpower. Manpower is dependent on a stable economy.
Law enforcement is dependent on a stable economy and the civility it provides. The economy is dependent on oil.

It should be apparent that the JIT or RR society closely resembles the old poem:
For want of a nail, a shoe was lost
For want of a shoe, a horse was lost
For want of a horse, a rider was lost
For want of a rider, a battle was lost
For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost

Sound depressing? It is, if you're depending on the system. The purpose of this post is to show you that the system is not dependable. You have another option, and that is being independent. A survivor relies on himself and those he trusts. If you're here reading this, it probably because you've seen through the thin veneer of safety. You're on your way to taking the red pill and thinking independently. Prepare and be encouraged.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Do you feel a bit sick?

So by now, if you have any brains left, you realize that something is terribly wrong. The bailouts, the Obama administration, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the healthcare takeover. Whatever it is, you realize that this ain't Kansas.

Maybe you have a sense of impending disaster. Maybe a glimmer of the future that made the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

If this sounds at all familiar, I'm here to let you know that your nightmares will soon be reality.

Click away if you'd like. It won't change a thing. The waterfall is ahead, the current is too strong, and like it or not, we're all going for a ride.

If you decide to stick with me, to take the red pill if you will, reality will be no less harsh. You might have a chance however, to come out of it alive.

NEXT..."Disney Land 101"