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Friday, June 24, 2011

The Travel Trailer as a Retreat

Like so many folks did, I bought a copy of M.D. Creekmore’s book, Dirt Cheap Survival, One Man’s Solution. I read it and loaned it to Tonto to read. I had intended to write a review a few weeks ago but put it off. I really doubt that any review I do on the book would be much different then any of the others you might have already read.

I was discussing the book with a friend of mine that lives in Missouri. He is also a writer of outdoor and survival articles. I mailed my copy to him to read and also mailed my old copy of Brian Kelling’s Travel-Trailer Homesteading Under $5,000.

Both books tell how the authors converted a travel trailer into their main living quarters. They have a similar approach to wanting to live frugally and not have the monthly expenses that drag most of us down.

Creekmore’s book has a little more detail on the power system he uses to live off grid. Kelling installed his own septic system and Creekmore uses a composting toilet system. Kelling has to haul water and pump it while Creekmore has a spring for his supply, but still has to pump it. Between the two books you can get a good idea on it what it would take to make a travel trailer your permanent home as a retreat.

Tonto, Toolman, and my sons all have had numerous discussions on my place as a retreat. There are a ton of pluses for moving to the cabin if TSHTF, and a few negatives as well. We take a generator up for deer season and use it to heat the cabin but most of the time the cabin is an “electric free zone”. The big drawback to my trailer as a retreat is that without power it is very hard to heat the place. It is fine for eight months out of the year but we need power to run the furnace or we freeze during hunting season. We have looked into wood stoves and other sources of heat but the trailer just doesn’t have the room for anything other than what is there.

Kelling wrote his book based on his place in the desert while Creekmore is snug in the hills of Tennessee. You would need a little from each book to make a travel trailer retreat in Michigan. If nothing more than allowing your mind to have an academic debate about living in a trailer for survival I suggest you read either of the two books, or better yet, both.


This is the original article I did when I got my travel trailer placed up north. This was originally on Jim Dakin's Bison Survival Blog 6 April 2008

A Survival Retreat for Under $1000

Call it a survival retreat, hunting cabin, or summer cottage, a place away from the crowds and turmoil of the cities is a dream most of us share. Some folks plan out a survival retreat in such detail that long-term storage, over lapping fields of fire, and fuel supplies are worked out. Others, like myself, approach it as a vacation spot that can be readily converted if need be to an alternate living location.

Back in the late 1960s my family had a small two-room cottage on a lake in northern Michigan. The cottage had no electricity, no running water, or no heat. What it did have is nostalgically called a “bath with a path.”

This cottage did however provide what we needed. A few steps from the back door was a pump with clean, clear, cool water. All that was needed was a strong arm and a few minutes to fill the bucket. Cool summer nights were warmed by the glow of the fuel oil lantern that was hung over the dinner table. This lantern produced enough light to fill the cottage and allow card games to be played well past a normal bedtime. The heat from the lantern warmed the place and fuel was cheap. Dinners were usually planned around the nightly campfire, but the old propane stove would serve if needed.

During those periods of time that my father was laid off from work we would spend a week or two stretch of time at the cottage. Living was easy and cheap. Fish from the lake provided many meals and nuts and berries from the woods around the place were gathered and baked into pies. Fall small game season produced meat and poultry in the form of rabbits, squirrels, pheasants and grouse. My Dad and I talked often about living up at the cottage if the world went to hell in a hand basket.

After high school and moving into the world of college and working, my trips to the cottage were few and far between. Usually they were only to go up and help Dad secure the place from the last break in that occurred. Sadly, I let the cottage fall into neglect and vandals took care of the rest. Broken doors and windows let the weather in and after a few years the cottage became uninhabitable.

Mom kept the land after Dad’s passing and I started taking my sons there for a few weekend camping trips. Soon the idea of getting the cottage back in shape was talked about, but the northern winters did a good job of making the place beyond repair. With the approach of Y2K and talk of chaos renewed my thoughts of a survival treat. I discussed this with some buddies of mine and ideas of small barns to large military tents were discussed. Like the old saying about when all is said and done, there is more said than done, Y2K came and went and still nothing was done about the cottage.

One of the guys that I had discussed the ideas of a cabin in the woods with called one fall afternoon and suggested that I drive out to his campground and look at a travel trailer that they were giving away. Giving away, free for nothing, giving away? Yup, just make sure it is gone before Halloween.

My youngest son and I drove out and looked at the place. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Although it was a 1955 travel trailer, the interior was clean and bright. The wood finish on the walls was unstained and the place showed signs of good upkeep. I drove home and talked the idea over with my wife and my Mom. The wife had to agree for us to take it, and my Mom had to let us put it on the lake. Both agreed, and my sons and I started planning on getting it up north.

My wife and I agreed that a budget of $500 was all right to spend. We knew that we couldn’t build a lawn barn to use up there for that much money.

Calls to find a mover to haul it north for us were made. Prices ranged from $700 to over $3000. I was taken aback by this and did a total rethink. The guy that helped us find the trailer to begin with suggested I try the guy that moved his out to the campground he was at. That turned out to be a cold trail, but I did find a company in Indiana that was willing to do it for around $200, PROVIDING, I put new tires on it so that it would be pretty much guaranteed to make the trip.

They no longer make the same size tires for travel trailers that they made in 1955. After countless phone calls to any kind of a place I could think of I was referred to a place that dealt with a lot of farm equipment. They informed me that the size I wanted was no longer made but they did have a cross-reference tire that should work just fine. $135 later a pair of the tires were mine. The bad news was I needed them put on the rims and the rims were still on the trailer, 60 miles away. Several more phone calls to repair stores and a place was found that would put them on at the site, but the cost would be around $200.

Getting the tires on proved easier than anyone led me to believe. Even though they were old fashion split rims, the job took just under an hour and the cost was around $170. This put the cost of moving the retreat at the $500 level we had agreed would be reasonable for our budget. I was very pleased and at 11:30 in the morning I left the north central Ohio campground headed for northwestern Michigan.

Thankfully the trip was uneventful. Ben, the very nice driver that the transport company assigned to the job did an outstanding job of getting the trailer to the lake and spotting it where I wanted it. We had to chop out a couple of small trees to get it parked in the sheltered area I wanted, but the job went easy and we were done before darkness set in. The last act of the night was to finish putting the lock and hasp on the door of the trailer before I headed north to my friends cabin for the night. I figured it was easier to drive a little farther north and stay at a buddy’s cabin than make the long drive home.

Mediterranean, Southwestern, early American and assorted other styles of furniture are discussed in the finest design magazines. We settled on what my sister termed “early garage sale.” The propane stove came from a travel trailer that was being scraped out. The chairs for the kitchen table came from the roadside garbage pickup in the neighborhood. The table was a gift from my sister’s basement. Some pots and pans and silverware came from the local Goodwill store. Two sets of bunk beds came from a buddy in the Reserves that worked for a college that was recycling the bunks they had in dorms. The picture pump for the well came in trade for some home repairs done for a neighbor down the street. All in all the cost of the retreat was under $600. Some expenses that will be incurred soon: a new coating on the roof to insure it stays water-resistant and plywood shutters to secure the windows during our absences.

We now have a three-season retreat that allows us to fish, swim, hike, and hunt in the outdoors. We can practice our survival skills, such as fire building and outdoors cooking, and not look like we are doing much more than having a family campout.

We are away from crowds and turmoil of the city. Our friends and family think of it as our “vacation” home, but we know that in a time of crisis we have a survival retreat to go to, and under $1000 cost.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Doing No Harm

I read around a half dozen prepper blog sites every day and during the week I catch up on a little over a dozen regularly. Each offers something for me or I wouldn’t read them. Sometimes it only makes me think a little. Everyone has their own motivation for reading the blogs. Sometimes two separate postings will mesh to really make my mind work. Such is the case of a couple of recent postings by Commander Zero and Natog.

Notes from the Bunker is Commander Zero’s site. CZ asked the question about “what if…” you had all your supplies, and the world never went to hell? Thirty or forty or more years from now you can buy all the food, gas, and ammunition you want. In other words, the whole prepping thing turns out to be a bust.

Natog over at TEOTWAWKIAIFF also wrote a post about the dualaility (sp?) of prepping for the future and living in the here and now. Natog preps for the bad things he thinks are headed this way, but also has to keep up current training and certifications for his job to maintain his income. Frankly, that is a valid concern and something that needs to be addressed. Face it; your personnel survival is dependent on a steady income.

Being that I have gray hair and am long in the tooth as it were this is not the first time this subject has come up. I can not remember if it was Howard Ruff or Harry Browne that first wrote about it, and I am not going to dig through my old stuff to look it up to be sure, but back in the 1970s the answer was simple. If nothing happens then you go ahead and drink your stored water, eat the food and use the supplies. Think of the money you will save by not buying food for a year or so.

I know there are those that think only yuppies can prep correctly and there is a camp that figures anyone that has two silver rounds to rub together is an upper crust survivalist. The truth is that most of the preppers I know get up every day and go to work and hope to make enough money every week to stay ahead on the bills and add to the supplies so that if TS does indeed HTF they can protect their family. For them it is the same as making the car insurance payment or the house insurance or any of those other things we do to protect our family.

Like Natog I have to go through annual training to keep my job. Frankly, some of it is a pain in the ass. We live in the here and now. We work now, not in the future. We need to do those things that keep us employed and if that means taking a certification class or going to training then we do it. Losing your job is a personal SHTF situation as several preppers I know have experienced, Right MBitM?

My wife and I are approaching retirement. While we look forward to having more time to pursue things we have talked about for years we also have to balance that against the bills we need to cover each month and the items we will use up and we can not replace. There are no easy choices in prepping if you choose to do that as part of your lifestyle. All you can hope for is to make those choices that do no harm.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Surviving a Hostile City, a Review

Tonto and I went to a gunshow a few weeks back and ran into one of the authors of Surviving a Hostile City, Book 1. Retired SF Sergeant Major, Kent Alwood is the author, along with Lorna Dare. We talked with Mr. Alwood for a few minutes. He has several books geared solely for prepping to survive in the city. Each approaches aspects of sheltering in place while in a large town.

The book has twenty chapters covering a lot of the normal concerns that come with sheltering in place in a big city. Alwood covers food, water, medical needs, MAGs (Mutual Assistance Groups), hunting & trapping, and Gangs to mention a few. There are a couple of chapters that may cause the faint of heart to have convulsions. One such is on animals in survival. Very few people would look at the neighbor’s poodle as a future meal. Alwood simply mentions that and others as a possibility. In other parts of the world dogs and cats are “ranch animals” to some extent. I extreme conditions you might surprise yourself on what passes for a meal.

Another chapter that will more than raise eyebrows is his chapter on cannibalism. He gives a fairly straight forward thought on the prospects of eating fellow humans to stay alive. He is not some Jeffery Dahmer or Alfred Packer that eats others for some psychotic reason but rather states that it might be the only source of food left to keep you alive. He also states that if you do resort to cannibalism you are most likely as good as dead yourself since you have to be at your lowest ebb to turn to eating another human.

I like the approach that Alwood has taken in his book. His “I live in a city and I am going to stay and survive here” approach gives you a lot of the meat you need to put together just such a survival plan. Since my preparedness plans revolve around sheltering in place at the farm I have used many of the same ideas Alwood presents in the book.

One drawback to the book is that he has broken a lot of the chapters down into other volumes he plans to bring out in the future. His book might have been a little better if he had added more to this volume and put more knowledge into one book.


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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Keeping deer from eating your garden

 Keeping deer from eating your garden
 by Hunter

Over the years I have had to deal with deer eatting my gardens and have come up with some ways of at least making it not worth their while. A few of the things that I have used are as follows.

1) Eggs and dish soap. I put three or four eggs in a blender with some dish soap once mixed I add to a watering can with the rest filled with water. Then I cover the pole beans that are growing on my fencing. If I keep up with this every week or more if heavy rains and watering I find that the deer will leave them alone. I have also used this methode in open gardens and have had simular resaults. works well on bunnies and bugs to.

2) mouse traps and peanut butter. Take a dozen or so mouse traps and drill holes to run a wire through and hand them about two feet off the ground. deer love peanut butter but are not to fond of the mouse traps hitting their nose. The same idea can be used with an electric fence by smearing the peanut butter on the wire for the deer to lick off.

3) fencing, I have used the high 6ft fence with good resaults

4) deer follow trails at least to get into your garden area, if you remove as many theings that the deer nibble on around the edges and use tactics around the boarder of your land in will help reduce the number of deer that cross your land. Trim lower limbs that deer eat on and find cover in. If you have dogs use there droppings up and down the trails the deer have been using to get onto your land. supply the deer with something they like that draws them away from your garden area. Create obsticals.

5) Motion activated lights and radio. It is nice to have the lights turn on and a radio play when you are enjoying the garden in the evening hours but with it on a motion activated system the deer will be surprised. To set this up get a two light motion activated light unit and one screw in outlet to plug in a radio ot tape player.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Fire and Water

Fire and Water

The people of Monroe have been under a boil advisory for a few days now. Apparently there are some bacteria in the water and it needs to be boiled before it can be used. I am sure that a week or so ago very few people in Monroe thought much about their water. They just walked over to the tap and drew a glass full and drank it, no fuss no muss. The same can most likely be side for the folks in the Midwest. One day they had homes and jobs and family and the next an F-5 tornado took everything. Now the survivors have to boil water to drink and they are without power and resources to do that in a lot of cases.

How about you? Have you thought about what you will do for emergency drinking water? With all the rain we have had here in Michigan the last few weeks the ditches are full and there is a lot of standing water, but it has to be treated before it is safe to use. Does your BOB have a water filter in it, or tables, or just matches for a fire? Water ranks high on the list of human needs so make sure you are putting some thought into how you will prepare you and your family for this life giving item.

I made a great find the other day. I walked in an out of the way store and happened to spot a pile of Strike Anywhere matches on the shelf. The three pack bundles were marked three dollars each. I broke out a twenty and took the whole lot. Strike Anywhere matches are harder to find now. Most everything in kitchen matches are the new Strike on the Box kind.

I transferred the boxes of matches into several large glass jars I had in the barn so they are now sealed in a dry enclosure to insure they will stay working for years to come. One other note on matches. When I hit the rummage sale where I bought the crosscut saw I also picked up a coffee can full of box matches for a dollar. I put some of those in several locations around the farm so I would have matches close at hand if needed. A dozen book matches in a jar with a lid can turn out to be very handy. I have some in the barn, the outbuildings, the garage and the basement. I feel that is one of those low cost prep items that can prove to be a life saver under the right conditions.

You need to make sure that the basics are covered in your preps, so start with two of the most important basics, fire and water.


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