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Sunday, February 26, 2012

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The History of the Future

I tend to
view things through the prism of history. I see events and can relate to how
those same things have happened in the past. We are so closely paralleling the
Roman Empire that I feel reviewing it is a good way to predict the future. When
asked how I view TEOTWAWKI I think of the way the Roman Empire fell. No, I do
not see use having hoards of Visigoths raiding Washington DC, but rather the
way the world economy went to hell after Rome fell.
Because of
the way the empire was structured everything became interdependent on the
other. Once the Visigoths toppled the city of Rome there was no one to make
sure the water supplies arrived, the roads were kept up, or commerce kept
going. Anything that was of value was hidden or stolen. With the influence of
Rome gone all of Europe started to fall into smaller fiefdoms and Warchiefs and
Overlords controlled large areas and would swear their allegiance to a king so
that they could keep their control. The Overlord took from the peasant farmers,
and the king took from the Overlords.
I suspect
that something similar to that will happen. Call them Gangs, Militias, private
armies, or what have you, whole sections of a state will be controlled by
powerful lords that will take what they want as a “tax”.
Without gas
to power cars and trucks we will start to have small mills and hamlets return
to the countryside. A farmer in Eaton County will likely not have to leave the
county to sell his wares. Rivers will provide the main travel arteries for
outside markets. Study how Michigan, and most of the Midwest, grew and then
play it backwards. That is what I see coming in the future.
How far
ahead, Quein Sabe? Within my lifetime, possible, my son’s lifetime probable, my
grandkids lifetime, most assuredly.
Both of my
grandfathers had self-sufficient farms. When the depression hit both were able
to carry on a fairly normal life. In fact, during the depression both
grandparents added holding to their farms. My Dad’s father came out of the
depression with four paid off farms, one for each of his kids. I still live on
the farm my Dad inherited.
I believe
the salvation for families will be returning to the old agrarian economy of the
19th century. Using guidelines like Kains’ Five Acres and
Independence and the Robinson’s Have More Plan you can set yourself up for that
type of lifestyle with around five acres.
It will not
be easy, it will be hard work. You will need the whole family committed to
having it working so that you can survive the first years of the shock to the
Am I ready
yet? Hell no. I have a long way to go and I have been working on it since the
1970s. Will I give up? Hell no. I keep plugging away at it day after day. As I
get older I worry my wife and I will not be able to do what we need to if
something does happen. Of course I also feel that whatever happens will not be
an overnight event where we wake up one morning and it is the lead story for
that news cycle. Our decline will come slowly for most of it with a few rapid
drop off cliffs along the way.
Then again,
nothing could change much over the next hundred years. All the preps and
supplies will be just so much junk for the family to deal with after grandpa
passes away. Why in the hell did he have all those bug out bags and ammo?
Prepping should be like insurance, pray you never have to use it but be
thankful you have it just in case.
Anyway, that
is what drives me and my long term plans revolve around that. Make the farm
more sustainable and set aside items that might be useful toward that
eventuality. However that is not my only thoughts and action for my future. My
wife and I still work every day and invest in our retirement accounts and plan
vacations. We still have our current day to day lives to live.
of why you prepare or what you are preparing for it is wise to have an end goal
in mind and head for that. I use the prism of history for my lens. It may be
the only way to see the history of the future.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Reply to Jim

The other day I got a note from a friend of mine
asking me about saving copper cents for the future. He also asked about buying
more gold and silver to hold. Jim moved to the south a decade or so back but we
still talk via e-mail nearly every other day or so. I am sure you can infer his
questions by my answers.

My Reply to Jim

I am going
to try and answer your questions. It is not easy since so many things are
interconnected. The short answer is yes, gold and silver are better to hold
than paper money. I would say that the longer answer might be that it would be
better to hold things instead of gold and silver.
when we first started turning our collectibles into gold coins? We always used
to joke with people we were making gold soup for dinner. The reality is that we
cannot make gold soup and if you only hold gold and silver than you will
starve, for no amount of gold will buy food if everyone is starving. Any gold
and silver should be a way to preserve your family wealth for the next few
generations and not a plan to buy food after TSHTF.
months or a year’s supply of food, safe drinking water or the ability to make
some, seeds and equipment to grow more food and preserve it will be the first
line of defense. Make sure you can produce more than you need because you can
bet that some Overlord will make you pay “taxes” for his protection. I believe
that if we have something like an EMP or event that sends us economically
backward we will end up in a Dark Age type of situation. Guns and ammo may
replace swords and spears, but the theory will be the same. Small fiefdoms will
develop and any landowner will be taxed with payment of food and material
instead of money. Gold and silver may work to pay those taxes but my guess is
once it is known you have gold and silver tucked away the Overlord will pay you
a visit and “taxes” will be set high just for you to live. I hope I am wrong,
but history tends to put my guess in the probably category.
As for your
question about saving the copper coins, that is anybody’s guess. You know the
law, Gresham’s Law I think it is, that states good money is driven out by bad
money and you saw how quickly silver disappeared from circulation. Hell Jim, we
met fighting over a silver dime!
You also
know that you can take a metal detector out and find a bucks worth of pennies
almost any day of the week. I remember us talking about the fact that someday
finding wheat cents would be as scarce as the Indianhead cents we hunted. I
guess because we dug so many copper cents I am not that concerned about making
sure I save bags of them. I might very look back on this and wish I had later,
but for now, no I am not saving copper cents.
watching Doomsday Preppers is a good yardstick to judge your preps by, but do
not think that because you do not have a swimming pool full of fish or an
underground bunker that you are screwed. No two preppers look at things the
same way every time. Your preps for the hurricane season are way different from
my preps for getting a blizzard and snowed in for a few days. Some things are
similar like our need for a generator and easy to prepare food, but what and
how are totally different. (I for one do not have any boiled peanuts saved!) I
feel you have way too little ammo for your guns while you think I have too
much. Only time will see which of us is correct in our assessments.
I could make
a long list of stuff I wish I had here at the farm right now. Someday I will
add some of it to my supplies, but I will never have it all. I asked the
question a few posts back about trading a few gold coins for a tractor I would
like. Right now my answer would be no, but maybe having that tractor might be
better than gold coins if an Overlord wants my stash so I can stay alive. It
all comes down to making the best possible choice at the time with the
information you have available. Good luck making your choices.
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Doomsday Preppers, the 3% Solution

I, like many
of you, watched the start of the new season of Doomsday Preppers. One thing
struck me after watching the two hours’ worth of shows, the low odds that the
“experts” felt the preppers were preparing for. Hyper inflation, EMP, Madrid
fault earthquake, California earthquake, riots, terrorism, and all the others
reasons that folks prepare were listed rather low as a probability.
Ok, I
understand that some things are well within the realm of possibility, but low
in the realm of probability. Just because something can happen doesn’t mean it
will happen. Elizabeth Shue could leave her husband and become my mistress, but
really is that ain’t gonna happen. Possible but not probably.
I am going
to pick a number out of the air to use as an example. My number may be close or
way off, but for this effort we will use it anyway. Let us say that the chance
of any event happening is only 3%. Earthquake,
3%, terrorist attack, 3%, hyper inflation, 3%, and so on. That is a low number
yet still within the possible range. Now, make a list of all the things that
can happen. Add EMP, riots, peak oil, drought, global warming, super volcano,
and all the rest of the things we have ever thought about. To my line of
thinking we should now add all of those 3%’s together and we get a fairly high
odd of SOMETHING happening. It doesn’t have to be something far-fetched like a
Lake Michigan Tsunami wiping out western Michigan. (Probably a lower number
than 3% chance.) All we have to do is realize that something can happen.
fifteen, maybe twenty different things are mentioned as reasons for prepping.
If you add that 3% to each one it doesn’t take long to get to a 30%, 40% or 60%
chance that something can happen. Those are not great odds. Even if my 3%
number is off we can still be looking at a fifty-fifty change or even one in
four chance of something bad happening.
If I were
telling Nat Geo my reasons for prepping it would not be one thing alone. I have
taken the shotgun approach for my prepping and plan for a multitude of possible
events. The fortunate thing for me is that most of the preps overlap and
preparing for an earthquake on the New Madrid fault is similar to prepping for
a Michigan snowstorm. As far as me saying anything to Nat Geo I can tell you
that ain’t gonna happen either. My wife and I talked about those people having
their preps filmed and names on TV. As far as I am concerned that would be the
same as a drug dealer wearing a sandwich board with an ad stating: Crack, Meth,
Weed, your choice, $20.
I am glad
that Doomsday Preppers is out there. It shows us that we are not alone. I am
not sure what the yardstick is that the “experts” use to evaluate the preps of
the shows profiles, but it does give us a yardstick to judge our own reps on. I
noticed several of the folks profiled said they did not reveal everything to
the show. I just fear that some OPSEC is not enough and those folks have put
themselves at risk. Do not make that mistake yourself.
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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Living Off the Grid?

Being laid
up like I am I have had a chance to catch up on some reading. One book I
finally got to read is called Living off the Grid by Dave Black. The book put
me off the first time I tried to read it with a lot of touchy feely stuff about
saving the earth by using less energy. I got passed that this time around and
read with some interest the ideas Mr. Black put forth.
I also
started thinking long and hard about my feelings and thoughts about going off
grid. Now my wife will tell you that I would just as soon go to war with the
local Edison as not. It is a long story but they are a bunch of lying stealing
SOBs and if this were a hundred and fifty years ago I would tell them to come
armed the next time they see me for I plan to shoot ‘em on sight. But, this is
not the old west and I can’t do that so I just bite my tongue and hope they go
Anyway, I
like so many of you, have dreamed of going off grid and getting rid of that
Edison bill. I can imagine telling them to come get their poles off my land; I
don’t need them anymore. In a real good day dream, I take the poles myself and
use them to build an elevated deer blind.
Mr. Black
laid out a lot to think about when it comes to going off grid. The type of
house, direction it faces, and material it is built of all make a difference in
your cost and ability to go off grid. Common sense says an earth shelter house
in a south facing hill will heat cheaper than an old farm house sitting in the
middle of a windy field.
My farm
house is of new construction. It is not one of those McMansion with seven
different roof lines and walls that jut in and out nor does it have huge
windows. I built my house with one roof line and square walls. The builder
fought me every step of the way, he didn’t think I should build what I wanted
but rather he wanted to build something that had “style and resale value.” I
could not make him understand this farm was in the third generation of
ownership and my boys already have plans to live here after they are done with
their military careers. That notwithstanding, I did several things right
according to Mr. Black and a bunch of stuff wrong.
I did right
when I built the outside walls with 2X6s for extra insulation. I also built it
with all brick to keep it both warmer in winter and cooler in summer. I also
insulated several inside walls so we could cocoon down to one large room if we
needed to.
I did some
major things wrong too. My house has only one window on the south side, and my
house runs North/South not East/West. I get no solar gain during the winter
from southern windows and I can’t put solar panels on the roof because it
doesn’t face the south with the biggest part of the roof.
The biggest
drawback to going off grid that I see is the cost. I only did a guesstament
calculation so I could be off by a lot, but this is what I got. To start, I
need solar panel and or wind turbines, or both, enough to cover the fact that
Michigan doesn’t have all that much sun generating days. I also need stands or
towers for same, storage batteries, invertors, and of course wiring. Based on
the amount of juice I currently use (no pun intended) I would need to spend in
the neighborhood of thirty thousand dollars.
Ok, for the
sake of argument let us say I have that much. (I don’t, trust me on that.) If I
spent it on going off grid I would save a little over one thousand dollars a
year in Edison bills. Not a great return in my book.
If I put it
in the bank I could make maybe 2% or around $600 which would cut my bill down
to about half.
Or, and here
is the plan I like, I could take that money and buy about ten acres of farm
land which goes for around three grand an acre right now around here. Even if I
shared the land and stayed a “gentleman” farmer that much land would produce
about two thousand dollars a year in crops payment. Not only could I knock off
my Edison bill but pay the taxes or about half of my year’s gas bill for
heating the place. It also gives me long term investment potential if TSHTF
with the ability to raise more food crops to sell locally.
Yeah, I
would like to be off grid if we go to TEOTWAWKI, but even then sooner or later
the solar cells will need replacing as will the batteries, so eventually I will
be just like everyone else.
Mr. Black
gave me a lot to think about in his book that is for sure. He also points out
that even if you are off grid the rest of the world is not. If we have a major
event that knocks out the power grid all the items that are produced with the
grid will be lost. How will we buy new solar panels or batteries?
Yes, going off grid would be good in some
cases, but not all. Before I would take that step I would sit down and run real
accurate numbers and make sure that it was a good investment to go off the
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Price of Procrastination

Last summer
my work partner and I stopped at a Mexican specialty market that had a small
restaurant in the back. We ordered our lunch and walked around the store
checking out all the imported items. I spotted a bottle of coconut oil for
cooking. I have heard that the US no longer allows the sale of coconut oil
because of the high fat content, but that it is really some of the best oil for
certain items to be cooked in to give them good flavor. I decided to go back to
the store and buy a bottle for my supplies.
We got our
lunch and after it was set in front of us we realized this was no Taco Bell.
This was true south of the boarder fare. It was ok, but not to our taste for a
lot of repeat business. We left and I forgot to grab the oil.
Fast forward
six months. My partner retired from work and I am off with my shoulder surgery.
I had to see the doctor today and run several errands. One of those errands
took me by the Mexican store. I went in a looked all over for the oil. I could
not find it anywhere so I finally asked a clerk. Sorry, they no longer sell
coconut oil was the answer. I screwed around and missed my chance to buy
something I know I could use with my survival supplies.
How many
times have you done that? You see a box of cheap ammo, a good set of tools, or
maybe you just keep putting off filling those gas cans for a cheaper price? We
all find it easy to delay certain things and spending money is one thing that
is easy to delay. I could make a long list of things I have delayed over the
last few years.
If we hope
to have ourselves well prepared for those possible events coming on the horizon
we need to make sure we don’t keep putting off important item acquisitions.
Make that list of items you need and carry it with you in a small notebook. If
you spot an items and cannot buy it right then write down the store and
location so you do not forget where you can find it again.
Being prepared
is an everyday chore. It doesn’t have to be drudgery, it just takes small
amounts of action on your part to stay ahead of the curve and not pay the price
of procrastination.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Old Tractor

When I was
growing up on the farm my Dad worked in the factory and farmed the acreage. He
got laid off more than he worked in the factory. It seemed like he spent a lot
of time in the fields. Dad had bought a used 1939 Allis- Chalmers WC to work
with right after he and Mom married. It was about the perfect size for our
The tractor
pulled our two bottom plow, set of disc, our drag, had a set of cultivators
that mounted to the tractor, a belt drive wheel that ran a large circular saw
and the neatest little air compressor that mounted near the hitch for blowing
up tires and such. Dad could do about anything with that tractor. He pulled
stumps and brush, hauled wagon loads of stuff around and would borrow Uncle
Bill’s combine to harvest crops. Growing up my sister and I always figured Dad
was a super hero and his super power was common sense. He had that practical
farmers approach to solving problems.
After Dad
got the millwrights job in the city and work became steady he stopped farming.
I wasn’t smart enough or ambitious enough to take over and farm so we shared
the land out. Later on Toolman and I tore apart most of the equipment and sold
it for scarp. The old tractor got sold at auction after the folks died and that
was the end of the farming for us. We still rent the land out and I became a
“gentleman” farmer.
I wish I
had kept all of it. That ’39 tractor would work even after an EMP. The
equipment would let me farm the place by myself after TEOTWAWKI and let me haul
wood up to the house and cut it with that saw. We might have to harvest by hand
and toss the corn into the wagon, but we could harvest none the less.
I have been
seeing some shows on RFD TV about old tractors and it sure makes me wish I had
been smart enough to farm this place has a kid and kept the equipment instead
of selling it. Talk about 20/20 hindsight, I sure can see clearly now.
Warrior has a nice tractor and will help me out any time I need to use one, so
it isn’t that critical right now that I acquire a tractor, but I can see how
having an older model tractor with some minimal equipment sure would be handy
for any prepper with enough land to justify owning one.
Would I
trade a couple of $20 gold pieces for one right now? No, but see me after the
balloon goes up and that might change. Until then I will use my garden tractor
for small chores around here and use other means to harvest wood, till the
garden, and do my chores. If I ever have opportunity and preparedness come
together I might pick up an old tractor. If any of you have any experiences
with them to share feel free to drop me a comment.
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Sunday, January 15, 2012

An Outrageous Charge

Last summer I stopped at a church rummage sale
and found a one man cross cut saw for sale there. They wanted ten dollars for
it which I thought was a great deal, a new saw like that would cost over $175.
The saw I bought had a broken D handle, but I figured I could make a new one or
trade it off with another handle from a saw I had.
The other
night I was going through a couple of back issues of Countryside magazine when
I spotted an ad for a company called Crosscut Saw Co. out of Seneca, New York.
I checked out the website and lo and behold I found they had D handles for
sale. The cost was $18.50, almost twice what I paid for the saw, but even at
that I figured it was a good price. I also found they had a manual on their
website on the use and sharpening of crosscut saws. The manual was only $4, so
for $22.50 I could get my saw fixed and sharpen it. I really like the idea of
having a saw I can use that will make far less noise than the chain saws I
I printed
out the order form and filled out the top part and then went to the bottom and
filled in the shipping cost part. I could not believe what I was reading. The
cost to ship my two items from New York to Michigan was going to be $24, more
than the cost of the items.
I triple
checked everything and sure enough, that is the cost. I even thought about just
ordering the manual but the $4 manual would cost just under $10 to ship. Not
only no but No #^@(& Way!
I went on
line and found several sites that explain how to set and sharpen a crosscut
saw. I am not sure the cost per page of printing out a dozen or so pages, but I
will bet it is a hell of a lot less than the $13.50 it would cost to order the
manual alone. My Survival Bible just got thicker with more information I want
to have in case we go grid down and I cannot look something up on-line.
folks, how can anyone send that kind of money for items like that? I ship large
boxes to both my sons in the service and they do not cost that much. I would
order the manual for say an extra two bucks for US mail cost and that would
more than cover it. The handle in a puffy envelope wouldn’t be more than three
or four dollars postage. Screw Crosscut Saw Co.! I will make my own handle. I
will find another way to learn to sharpen my saw. I will save myself fifty
bucks too.
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Eat Like a Wild Animal

I mentioned last post about Dick Proennke and his living in Alaska for most of his later
life. Like so many folks that spend time in nature he made a lot of
observations. I found the following quote most interesting.

“…this business of fishing can turn serious pretty quick when a man is hungry.
I have learned something from the big game animals. Their food is pretty much the
same day to day and I don’t vary my fare too much either.
Food is fuel and the best fuel I have found is oatmeal, beans, and fresh fish, and a
caribou or porcupine stew once in a while. I just season simple food with hunger and I have never felt better in my life.”

While he has a vast area to hunt and fish in that no other human hunts and fishes he
makes a good point about survival eating. Based on what he talks about we could
store a large amount of oatmeal and beans and have most of the meals he talks
about. Imagine not having to store seventeen different five gallons buckets of
food to get by on when hunger will make the two different flavors taste mighty
fine. Who needs freeze dried cobbler and potato flakes? Sounds good doesn’t it?
One minor problem. If you watch the two movies you will see him prepare numerous meals.
Shortly after he makes that observation in the second film he shows his meal,
flap jacks and blueberries with some kind of syrup. He plants a garden with
onions, carrots, and potatoes. Now I realize those are the types of veggies you
would put in a stew, but while he says simple fare he has more than just
simple. He also talked about bush pilots visiting and dropping off supplies and
cookies along with letters. Several times he shows making his sour dough
biscuits too.
Reality seems to be that we do need a bit more than just the basics for a well and
nutritious life. Add to that the rigors of a wilderness lifestyle and maybe
those seventeen different buckets of food are just the ticket.
While it sound good to run into the woods if
the balloon goes up the reality is that you need more that you can carry unless
you truly plan to eat like a wild animal.
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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Personal note. I am able to use my arm and write on
the computer a lot earlier than I figured I would be able to. I still will have
a lot of re-hab to do before I can return to normal activities, but I already
feel I am on the road to recovery

Individual or Team Work?

My son called
and told me about the second part of a movie that was going to be on so I taped
it. I got a chance to watch Alone in the Wilderness Part Two while I am home recovering.
If you are not familiar with the Alone in the Wilderness movies, they are
documentaries about Richard Proennke (1911-2003). In the late 1960s Dick
Proennke moved to an area called Twin Lakes in Alaska and started living as
many of us have dreamed of doing. He built his own 11X14 log cabin and a cache
house and lived on his own for nearly 30 years.
Dick wrote
and filmed his daily life in Alaska. He hunted meat, raised a garden, cut
firewood, made nearly everything he used in and around his cabin, and was very
self-sufficient. Unlike Henry David Thoreau, Proennke lived a very deliberate
life for many years. For any preppers that feel retreating to the woods and
living there is something they want to do I suggest that you watch the two
movies and read his book. There are a lot of good things he can teach us.
In the second movie Proennke makes the
following observation:
“I don’t think a man knows what he
actually can do until he is challenged. I do

think man has missed the deep feeling of satisfaction if he has never
created something

or at least completed something with his own two hands.
We have grown accustomed to working
on pieces and parts of things instead of taking

things to completion. The emphasis seems to be on team work.
Now I realize that man working together
can perform miracles, such as sending a man to

walk on the surface of the moon, and there is definitely a need and a
place for teamwork. I

would be the last to argue that point.
We need each other, but never the
less in a jamb the best friend you have is yourself.”
What I read
into that is that while Mutual Aid Groups and a team for support is ok, you
need to make sure that you can stand on your own as well. That is why acquiring
so many different skills is emphasized on so many of the blogs. How many times
have you seen the quote: “A human being should be able to change
a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building,
write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying,
take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new
problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight
efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” — Robert A.
Heinlein. There is something to that.
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