Sunday, December 11, 2016

Skills Every Real Man Should Have

A War against manhood has been going on for generations now. It is part of the larger war on the traditional family unit waged by progressives in their attempt to eliminate opposition to their dreams of highly-centralized authoritarian government (controlled by them, of course). The ideal of manhood used to be one of courage, strength, integrity, leadership, responsibility, and self-reliance. That ideal has been dismissed and even actively discouraged for generations now.

Men, as husbands and fathers, are no longer seen as serving a needed role in society.  Far from the days of Father Knows Best, husbands and fathers are now shown in pop culture as inept dofusses at best (think Al Bundy or Homer Simpson), if they are shown as being around at all, while women are shown as quite capable to getting along without, or despite, men in their lives.  In our schools, boys are now treated as broken girls, needing to have their masculinity fixed. Traditional masculinity is now seen as a vice, not a virtue. The new ideal of manhood is the hyper-feminized, weak and submissive pajama boy.

This sad situation is in desperate need of correcting. As a small step in that direction, I offer a list of skills every real man should have. These are skills, in that they can be learned and developed, if you are willing to put in the necessary work to do so.

Courage - Courage isn't about not being afraid. We are willing to face danger and  the right thing even when we are afraid.

Strength - I'm not talking about physical strength, though real men should develop their health and fitness. I'm talking about strength of character, strength of will, and staying power. Real me don't run away when the going gets tough. 

Integrity - Real men are honest, are true to their word, and can be trusted to do the right thing. We keep our promises, and do what we say.

A Relationship with God - Real men have a relationship with our Heavenly Father. Worship, prayer, and Bible study are a part of our lives. We accept the Lordship of God over our lives, and accept His Will for us. 

[You may be interested in Patriot's Prayers to help jump start your prayer life.]

Love for Wife and Family - A real men is steadfast in his love for his wife and family. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25). We are to put our wife and family first - even to the point of being willing to die for them - above ourselves, our career, our friends, or our hobbies. 

[Questions: Do you pray for your wife everyday? When is the last time you lead your wife in prayer?]

Leadership - Real men are leaders, not "bosses." It is their vision and their example that makes them leaders, not their orders. They guide, protect, and serve those they lead. 

[You may be interested in my article On Leadership for some tips on what it takes to be a good leader.]

Self-Defense and Defending Others. Real men are willing and able to defend themselves, their wife, their families, and those that cannot defend themselves.

[You may be interested in my article Jesus, Self-Defense, and the Pajama Boy.]

Personal Finance - Real men are skilled at personal finance. That doesn't necessarily mean we have a lot of money. It does mean we know how to spend less than we earn (budgeting), save money (have an emergency fund), barter & haggle (get the best price), and have a good understanding of economics and finances.  

[You may be interested in my article Prepping 101: Finance - Get Back to Basics, which covers personal finance in some detail.]

Self-Reliance - Real men don't rely on others (parents, government, etc.) to take care of our needs. Instead, we rely on our own knowledge, skills, abilities, and judgment to make our way in the world. We develop the skills to do as much as we can for ourselves without outside help or assistance. 

Abilities to develop include:
  • Assuming responsibility for our own life
  • Accepting responsibility for our mistakes
  • Being informed
  • Knowing where we're going (having goals)
  • Making our own decisions
Skills to develop may include:
  • Basic Auto Mechanics
  • Small Engine Repair
  • First Aid/CPR
  • Basic Home Repair/DIY Skills
  • Grow/Produce Food
  • Shooting/Hunting/Fishing 
  • Bushcraft/Wilderness Survival
  • Knife-Sharpening/Maintaining Tools
  • Water Collecting/Purification

This list, of course, is only a partial list of manly skills to develop. There are many other important skills that could be added, but this is a good start. 

[You may be interested in my article Top 10 Skills You Really Need to Survive.]


Friday, December 2, 2016

Urban Camouflage (more than just the "Gray Man")

How is your Urban Camouflage? No, I'm not talking about a new fashion trend. Rather, I'm talking about fitting in with your surrounding community, and not drawing attention to yourself as a potential victim or as a malcontent. This is sometimes called the "gray man" disguise, but it is more than that. You don't want to draw the attention of criminals & thugs by looking like a potential target or easy prey. You also don't draw the attention of the government as a serious malcontent and potential trouble-maker. 

Every neighborhood has at least one Gladys Kravitz.
Additionally, you need to be very private and guarded with your personal information and plans. The idea is to not draw unwanted attention to yourself and your family, regardless of if that attention is from identity thieves, criminals, thugs, law enforcement, government officials, or even just nosy neighbors. 

Don't paint yourself as a potential target. 

Bad guys look for easy prey and rich targets. They prefer someone who is both, but most will choose easy over rich every time. Avoid looking like a rich target by not wearing expensive or flashy clothes, expensive jewellery, or driving a high-priced car. Avoid looking like easy prey by wearing practical clothes & shoes, and by walking confidently, head up, while paying attention to your surroundings. Muggers, pick-pockets, and other bad folks especially look for victims who are distracted. Try to walk, shop, and travel in groups whenever possible. Groups look less like a potential target than someone walking by alone. 

Sadly, folks with obvious physical restrictions will look like easy prey to bad guys. The elderly, pregnant women, folks with mobility problems and other physical disabilities, should take extra precautions when out in public. 

For more on being the "Gray Man," please see my earlier article Results from the "Grayman" Training Exercise. 

Don't draw unwanted attention.

Don't draw negative attention from law enforcement, government officials, or local bureaucrats. Don't come across as a potential trouble-maker or serious malcontent. We have learned from a number of scandals in recent years that many government officials and bureaucrats can and do hold grudges, and are willing to abuse their power to "get even."

Never make personal threats, especially against government officials or law enforcement (not even in "jest"). Remember that nothing you say or do online is truly anonymous. Don't flout laws, even when you disagree passionately with them (speak out against them, but don't break laws just to make a point unless you are willing to pay a price). 

Stress to family members, especially school-age children, the importance of privacy. Its not just identity theft you have to worry about. Public school officials often question students about personal family information, such as parents' political and religious affiliations, the presence of guns in the household, or even whether or not the family recycles! All to "protect the children," of course. Many schools now routinely go so far as to spy on students through social media. Maje sure your children understand that "what happens in the family, stays in the family."  

Its not just schools that are invading people's privacy.  Employers now routinely spy on employees and applicants through social media. Its a great way for employers to get information that is otherwise illegal for them to ask about, such as whether or not a female applicant may have a baby in the near future. In the wake of the recent election, several employers have made national news by expressing a wish to "punish" employees that voted for Trump. Social media is a great way to identify an employees politics. For goodness sake, don't overshare on social media!!!

Finally, it is now very politically correct for government and law enforcement to consider preppers, tea party conservatives, and traditional Bible-believing Christians, to be "potential domestic terrorists." In today's environment, its quite probable that Trump supporters are now on that list of potential threats. 

We have also seen that wearing a Trump shirt or a Make America Great Again hat can make you a target for violence from the Left. I'm not saying to hide your affiliations or political support. Just to be aware of the possible consequences for doing so.

The Bottom Line

In an urban environment, whether a large city or small town, you need to be aware of how you are perceived by others, and all the possible consequences that may result. The art of Urban Camouflage is to use this awareness to attract as little attention to yourself as possible, thereby avoiding much of the potential negative consequences.  

Monday, November 28, 2016

Why Survival Requires Community

Many preppers, survivalists, and even religious folks are looking to form communities to foster their prospects for long-term survival. This may mean building an intentional community from scratch, or simply creating a community of like-minded friends and neighbors for mutual assistance. This is a great idea. However, I still find some resistance to the idea of community by those folks who seem to favor the lone-wolf or small, isolated family retreat modes of survival. In this article, I want to explain why I think forming or creating a larger community is the better path to survival.

The first reason is that humans are social creatures. We are designed (by God or evolution, depending on your worldview) to need interaction with other people. This is why solitary confinement is considered such a severe form of punishment. We suffer mentally and emotionally when we are cut off from other people. Loneliness, depression, and mental illness will result from long periods of isolation, whether as individuals or even in very small groups.

The second reason is the fact of physical limitations. We get tired. We get sleepy. We can typically only do one task at a time. Some tasks require more than one person. And there are time factors to consider. Security, for instance, will require full attention. You are not going to be able to pull security duty AND work in the garden or do other chores at the same time. You are not going to be able to pull 12-hour security shifts for any length of time. Try to do so, and you will become tired, distracted and ineffective. (I'll do a future article in which I'll posit that an absolute minimum requirement for a survival community is at least six healthy adults, probably more.)

The third reason is limited skill sets. A truly self-reliant survival group will need a large variety of skills sets. Yet, we all have a limited number of skills as individuals. Remember, there will be no outside help of any kind - no fire departments, EMTs, police departments, hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies, tailors, electricians, plumbers, mechanics, or repairmen of any kind, except for that which we have within our community. We will have to provide for all our needs ourselves. Of course, we should all work towards becoming as self-reliant as possible, but no one person, no one family, will ever be able to truly do it all.

The fourth reason is safety in numbers.  The idea many have is that a family in an isolated rural area will survive by hiding. But reality tells us something different. Fernando Aguirre in his book,  The Modern Survival Manual, writes about the experience during the economic collapse in Argentina during the early 2000s. Far from being safe, small isolated farms were actually hunted down and targeted by well-armed gangs. This experience has been mirrored in other historical, real world examples, such as during the Bosnia War in the 1990s.  A small retreat with only two or three adults to provide security will be an extremely tempting and easy target for large, well armed groups during a collapse in the USA. No, I wouldn't want to live in a large urban center, but small retreats aren't safe either.

This is the second in a series of articles on Community. The first article in the series is Building Community - Evaluating Potential Members. Additional articles will be posted in coming weeks.

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Looking for Christmas gift ideas for the Outdoorsmen on your list? May I suggest two books by Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty: The American Fisherman: How Our Nation's Anglers Founded, Fed, Financed, and Forever Shaped the U.S.A. and his earlier book American Hunter: How Legendary Hunters Shaped America. Purchases made through these links help finance this website. Thank You.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Survival 101: Stockpiling as a Preparedness Strategy

In my article, A quick, no frills, down & dirty guide to preparing for the End, the first step I suggest is to "stock up on food, water, cleaning & hygiene supplies, first aid supplies, medicine & medical supplies, flashlights, radios, batteries, tools, sturdy clothes & shoes, etc."

Storing food and supplies is a hedge against inflation, economic chaos, disruptions in the supply chain and the modern just-in-time inventory & distribution system. It also a safety issue, making it less likely you will have to venture to the market to buy needed goods during dangerous times (bad weather, civil unrest, violence). 

A disruption in the supply chain for food and other goods will mean the shelves at Wal-mart, Target, Lowe's, Home Depot, and your local grocery, hardware, and clothing stores will quickly be emptied. Depending on the cause of the disruption, those shelves may not be re-stocked for months, if ever. Stock up now for an extended period of time in which you will not be able to buy what you need.  

My recommendation: As soon as possible, acquire at least two weeks worth of food & supplies, then work towards building a month's stockpile, then six months, then a year, then two years worth of food and supplies.

You'll avoid the affects of hyperinflation (at least while your supplies hold out) and you will be spared any shortages that may occur.  Food, water and medicine are the obvious choices to stockpile, but just about anything can be stocked up on.


Cleaning supplies, first aid supplies, batteries, clothing and shoes, as well as personal hygiene products such as toothpaste, razors, soap, shampoo, and deodorant are other good choices to stock up on. You might even want to get your next set of tires now instead of during an environment of hyperinflation and shortages.

Wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove can be stacked up in your backyard. Don't forget matches. Composted cow manure, bone meal, hummus and other soil amendments can be stored and used to improve your soil for future use. Most non-GMO seeds have a shelf-life of 3 to 5 years (possibly longer if stored under the right conditions).
 

Basic Guidelines for Stocking Up
The following comes from an earlier article I wrote, with some minor changes.
 
1) Don’t stock up on items you won’t use. Don’t stock up on cans of tuna fish if you hate tuna fish. Stock up on cans of chunk chicken instead. If you are allergic to tomatoes, don’t stock up on tomato soup. If you don’t eat English peas, then it doesn’t make sense to buy extra cans of English peas no matter how cheap they are. Only stock up on items you actually use.


2) Decide what you actually use on a regular basis, and then buy extra. Stocking up really isn’t complicated. In fact, it can be quite simple. If you normally buy two cans of tuna every week, simply buy four cans a week instead. If you normally buy two five-pound bags of sugar a month, buy four bags next month. If you normally by a can of baked beans every week, buy two. And so forth. In a few months will have accumulated a nice extra store of food for the tough times ahead.

3) Remember: Food eventually goes bad. Most canned goods have a shelf life of anywhere from two to six years. Properly stored (kept airtight in a dark, dry, cool place), most dry foods can last even longer. Frozen foods last only two to six months in most cases (besides, you don’t won’t to stock a freezer full of food and then have the power go out for a couple of days after a bad snow storm). Refrigerated goods typically last only few days to a week or so at most. Therefore, concentrate on canned and dry foods for your long term storage. Develop a rotation method to make sure you are always eating your oldest food first (I use a black sharpie to mark the purchase month & year on the top of every can or box of food I buy).

4) Stock up on ingredient foods. When stocking up, most people remember the main veggies and meats, such as green beans and tuna fish. But don’t forget the items you often use as ingredients in recipes – chicken or beef broths, tomato sauce, tomato paste, canned mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, herbs & spices, and so on… Go through the recipes you make on a regular basis to see what ingredient foods you need.

5) Stock up on condiments.
Catsup, mayonnaise, mustard, salad dressings, vinegar, peanut butter, jellies & jams, jars of pickles, peppers & olives, soy sauce, salt, pepper, and spices can all typically be stored (unopened) for long periods of time. Many of these are often among the first and hardest hit by inflation, so make especially useful items to stock up on.

6) Don’t forget coffee and tea. Tea, and especially coffee, are both typically hard hit by inflation, so stock up on them if you are a big coffee or tea drinker. Also, they could become scarce if the worldwide supply chain gets disrupted for any length of time.

7) Stick to the basics. Your kids might want you to stock up on pop-tarts and chocolate syrup, but they really can do without them despite their whining to the contrary. Stocking up is about surviving. Surviving means basics like tuna and beans, not luxuries like chocolate syrup and pop-tarts. Stick to the basics.

8) Stock up on non-food basics, too. Personal and hygiene items like toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, soap, feminine products, razors, shaving cream, and mouth wash can usually store indefinitely and therefore are great items to stock up on. Same goes for sanitation and cleaning supplies. You should also stock up on basic home first aid supplies (bandages, rubbing alcohol, anti-bacterial ointment, aspirin, etc.), and batteries (for flashlights, radios, smoke detectors, etc.).

9) A little at a time goes a long way. Most folks don’t have $500 that they can use to stock up all at once. But most can probably scrounge up $10 a week. At that rate, they will have accumulated over $500 worth of food & supplies in only a year.

Smart Shopping Tips for Affording Your Food Storage

  • Use coupons.
  • Shop sales.
  • Compare prices.
  • Make, and stick to, shopping lists.
  • Give generic and store brands a try.
  • Avoid impulse purchases. Think before you buy.
  • Sam's Club, Costco, and BJ's Wholesale Club aren't always the cheapest option. Often times a generic or store brand elsewhere will be just as good and less expensive than a name brand at the warehouse store.
  • Don't be a "Store Snob" - shop stores like Wal-mart, Aldi's, Ollie's, Big Lots, and even Amazon.com, in addition to your regular grocery store.
  • Don't use credit cards to stock up. Going into debt creates a host of other problems. Reduce your expenses in other areas, or make some extra money with a yard sale, if you need to come up with extra cash for your purchases. Need help with your budget? Check out my Finances - Get Back To Basics article for lots of great info and tips. 
Emergency Food Storage and Survival Handbook 

http://amzn.to/2fkJR78

A great book on this topic that I recommend is Peggy Layton's Emergency Food Storage and Survival Handbook. I wrote a review of it in 2104.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Special Needs Prepping

In our preparations, we need to make allowances for those people within our family or preparedness circle who may have special needs. Here are some ideas of who might have some special needs and how to deal with those needs.

Babies - Babies, of course, are totally dependent upon others, especially their mother. A mother of a young baby will not be able to help out much with security or other chores at the homestead or retreat. Make sure you are not counting the mother in your security or other plans. Her attention will be focused on the baby.

Babies also may need special foods, medicines, formula, bottles, diapers, etc. Don't forget to stockpile these items and to include them in the mother's bug-out bag. Because they will be growing rapidly, you will also have to take into account their future needs for different sizes of diapers, clothes, and shoes.

Young Children - Somewhat less dependent on others, young children still have special needs. Don't forget to include entertainment (non-electronic) and education in their list of needs. Once they are walking on their own, they can carry their own (light-weight) bug-out bag, which might include a bottle of water, a change of clothes, an emergency poncho, a favorite stuffed animal or other toy, coloring/activity books (don't forget crayons & pencils), and maybe a card game or flash cards. Remember and plan for the fact that young kids grow fast, so think about their future needs for larger clothes and shoes.

Children should be expected to do chores to help out around the homestead or retreat. Of course, those chores should be age & maturity appropriate. Young children can start off doing personal chores such as brushing their own teeth and picking up after themselves, then expanding those chores as they grow older.

Pregnant Women - Depending on the individual woman and the stage of her pregnancy, pregnant women may be less physically able to participate in the security of homestead/retreat, may be less mobile, and may be limited in what chores they can do. Take this into consideration when making your plans if your family or group contains a pregnant woman.

Pregnant women may also have special needs such as medicine, vitamins, special/larger clothing, etc. If you will not be able to give birth in a hospital due to a SHTF situation, be sure to plan ahead for giving birth at home, including training and special supplies.

Medical Issues - Chronic and long-term illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure, are commonplace these days. You might also be unaware that a member of your group has a chronic illness unless you ask. Special needs of this group might include special foods, vitamins, supplements, prescription medications, medical equipment, etc. It may also limit the kinds and amount of chores they can do. Ask everyone in your group if they have a chronic or long-term illness, and then listen to thm about what special needs and restrictions they have.

Mentally Handicapped - Depending on the type and severity of their mental handicap, some folks will have special needs and limitations, and may even be highly dependent on others, which will restrict the ability of their caregiver to fully participate in the homestead or retreat. Be aware of this as you make your plans.

Physically Handicapped - Depending on the individual and the type/severity of their handicap, physically handicapped folks may (or may not) have certain limitations or special needs. Issues of mobility or physical limitations on the type/amount of chores they can do will be of particular concern. However, don't assume that just because someone is physically handicapped, don't just assume they cannot do certain things. Talk to them about there needs and abilities, and plan according.

The Addicted & the Mentally Ill - Alcohol and drug addiction, including tobacco, will prove very problematic. Address addictions NOW, before any SHTF situation. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that you tell any folks with severe addictions that they MUST overcome their addictions or be removed from the group.  The mentally ill also will have issues, particularly if they are dependent on medication. Find out what medications they are on, and what to expect if they cannot get those medications. Plan accordingly. Those suffering from addictions or mental illness will likely NOT want to discuss these issues, but you must find out and deal with these issues before any SHTF situation.

Elderly - Depending on their age and health, the elderly may have a number of different needs and limitations, but please never discount their knowledge and experience. Talk to them about their needs, limitations, knowledge, and experience, then plan accordingly. Pay special attention to issues of mobility and endurance. Some may still be able to help with security and other physical chores. Others may serve well as advisors, educators, baby-sitters, running communications, etc.

Pets - Pets are often seen as valuable family members.  I certainly look at my dog that way, often joking referring to her as my doghter (sounds like daughter). So, don't forget to take their needs into account - food, water, toys, leashes, collars/harnesses, medications, and so forth. Pack a small bug-out bag for them. Be sure to include copies of any licenses and ownership & vaccination records, which may ease any dealings you may have with remaining authorities. Don't forget about first aid for your pets. You can get pet-centered first aid handbooks or first aid kits.

 
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Available on Amazon
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Available on Amazon


Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Future of the Second Amendment

Now that the election is over, and we know that Donald Trump will be next next President, what is the future of the Second Amendment? Is our right to self-defense secure? Are our guns safe from government's power-hungry grasp? 

The answer, with a couple of caveats, is that our guns rights are safe for the next four, maybe eight, years. However, here are those important caveats:
  • Donald Trump must keep his promise of appointing Constitutionalists to the Supreme Court, such as those on the list of possible nominees he made public before the election. The court is precariously balanced at 4 to 4, and the replacement for Justice Scalia will decide the future of the Second Amendment. 
  • The progressives have not given up their desire to disarm Americans. Not just gun control, but gun confiscation, remains one of their most important goals. Even if blocked on a national level, they will continue the fight on the local and state level.
One big concern on a state level is that progressives won three out of four gun control measures on state ballots in this year's election. Gun control measures won in California, Washington, and Nevada. In Maine, another gun control measure was only narrowly defeated by a razor-thin margin. Even if Trump holds true to his election promises, your rights as a gun-owner are still under threat, especially if you live in a blue state. 

Gun owners and other pro-Constitution folks can breathe a bit easier with the defeat of Hillary Clinton, but the fight is far from over. We must remain eternally vigilant in defending our rights. It is when we feel the safest that our enemies can make the most progress against us. 

We must watch Obama closely, and insist that he keep his campaign promises regarding his judicial appoints. We must pay close attention to our state and local governments, and fight efforts to curtail our rights on those levels. One of the best ways to do this is to join forces with others to defend the Second Amendment:

A) National Rifle Association (TwitterWebsiteYouTube)
B) Gun Owners Association (TwitterWebsite, YouTube)
C) Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (TwitterWebsiteYouTube)
D) National Association for Gun Rights (TwitterWebsiteYouTube)


If you are in Law Enforcement or the Military, please join Oath Keepers.  Even if you're not, you can support them by joining as an associate member. You can also sign up for their free email list. Website: https://www.oathkeepers.org/    
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Did you like this article? You may be interested in these:

Fight Back! -- Defending the Second Amendment

A Long-Term Way to Protect the Second Amendment

Jesus, Self-Defense, and the Pajama Boy

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Last Minute Election Preps?

The election is Tuesday. Are there any last minute election preps we should make? Here are three things I will be doing on Monday:

1- Grocery shopping. I have a nice store of food for the long-term, and hopefully you do to, but I will go to the grocery store Monday to pick up a few items that I would be buying this week anyway - particularly perishable items such as bread, milk, cheese, butter, eggs, and fresh fruits & vegetables. The idea is to stock up so I can stay in my home for at least a week. think of it as last minute shopping that one might do right before an approaching winter storm hits. NOTE: You will want to make sure you have at least a week's worth of water stored at home. The general rule of thumb is at least one gallon per person per day, plus additional water for any pets.

Why? Although I don't expect a civil war to break out over the election, in the current environment there is the possibility of some demonstrations, protests, and even sporadic violence. This is especially true if Donald Trump wins, which I expect will lead to some prearranged organized demonstrations by groups like Black Lives Matter and others. These demonstrations, mostly in predictable urban areas, have the potential to turn violent with looting, arson, or worse. There is also the possibility for some "lone wolf" violence which could happen anywhere. Add to this the possibility of terrorism, and it would be nice to have the ability to hunker-down at home for a week or so.

2- Refilling prescription medications. My Mother has a prescription that she would have to get refilled next week anyway, and my diabetes medication run out early next week.  I will get both of these refilled Monday for the same reason I will do some grocery shopping. In case any civil unrest or violence does break out, I want to be able to hunker-down at home for week or so, without having to go out just to get a prescription refilled. 

3- Visit my local gun shop. I do plan on buying some more ammo on Monday. Why? Again, not because I'm expecting a civil war to break out. But, if Hillary wins, I do expect her election to trigger a run on guns and ammo from folks expecting her to try to push for more gun control (which she will do). This will likely lead to ammo shortages and spikes in prices over the short term. 

This isn't a complete preparedness & survival plan, of course. You should already be working diligently on such a plan. But these are a few good ideas to do, ASAP.
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You might be interested in checking out my Election Analysis: Trump Wins 319 To 219 for a current state polls based prediction of the election outcome. I give my methodology and assumptions below the election map, so be sure to check it out. We'll see if I'm right on Tuesday night!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Plants That Build Healthy Soils

Good, fertile soil is a must for any garden, even a forest garden. But did you know that some plants can help build healthy soils? 

Dynamic Accumulators, Nitrogen Fixers, and Hyperaccumulators

Some plants are known as dynamic accumulators, because  they grow very deep roots that bring up minerals from deep down, making them available to more shallow-rooted plants. Some plants are also nitrogen fixers, called that because their roots partner with rhizobial bacteria (this a form of mutualism in biological terms), which causes a nitrogen boost in the soil.

Dynamic accumulators and nitrogen fixers can be grown near other plants (companion planting), which is why they work so well in forest gardening,  or as a form of ground cover crop and "green manure." Your choice of specific plants to use will depend upon your particular location and climate, of course, but partial lists of both appear below.

Additionally, plants known as hyperaccumulators can be used to detoxify contaminated soils by removing certain heavy metals and other toxic elements, such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and aluminum. This is a process known as phytoremediation. A phytomediation table matching the toxic elements with their hyperaccumulator can be found on wikipedia. 

Partial List of Dynamic Accumulators (along with their use in Forest Gardening)

Black Locust - Robinia pseudoacacia - Canopy
Dogwoods - Cornus sp. - Understory
Arrowroot - Maranta arundinacea - Herbaceous Layer
Borage - Borago officinalis - Herbaceous Layer
Comfrey - Symphytum uplandicum - Herbaceous Layer
Dandelions - Taraxacum sp. - Herbaceous Layer

Indian Grass - Sorghastrum nutans - Herbaceous Layer
Lemon Balm - Melissa officinalis - Herbaceous Layer
Mint - Mentha sp. - Herbaceous Layer
Stinging Nettle - Urtica dioica - Herbaceous Layer

Switchgrass - Panicum virgatumHerbaceous Layer
Yarrow - Achillea millefolium - Herbaceous Layer
Plantains - Musa musa - Herbaceous Layer
Alfalfa - Medicago sativa - Herbaceous Layer

Partial List of Nitrogen Fixers* (along with their use in Forest Gardening)


Alder tree and shrubs - Alnus sp. - Canopy or Understory
Black Locust - Robinia pseudoacacia - Canopy
Kentucky Coffee Tree - Gymnocladus Dioicus - Canopy

Russian Olive - Elaeagnus angustifolia - Understory
Bayberry - Myrica sp. - Understory
Acacias - Acacia sp. - Canopy or Understory

Most Beans - Fabaceae family - Herbaceous Layer
Peanuts - Arachis hypogaea - Herbaceous Layer
Vetches - Vicia sp. - Herbaceous Layer
Perennial Clover - Trifolium sp. - Herbaceous Layer
False Indigo - Baptisia australis - Herbaceous Layer
Scarlet Runner Bean - Phaseolus coccineus - Vine
Wisteria - Wisteria floribunda - Vine

* Among the best known and most readily available nitrogen fixers are those in the legume family - Fabaceae. This family includes most beans, clover, alfalfa, buckwheat and peanuts.

Resources

Plants For A Future - Informative website and database listing over 7000 edible, medicinal, and otherwise useful plants.


Introduction to Forest Gardening - a very useful introduction to the concept of forest gardening for those unfamiliar with it.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Typical Prepper versus Gypsy Survivalist...

What the Gypsy Survival Strategy Might Actually Look Like

In my recent article, Gypsy Survival - A Different Prepper Strategy, I introduced an idea I've been thinking about for a number of years. It is a prepper strategy based on disconnecting from the system and extreme mobility, rather than stockpiling or homesteading. In  this article, I want to consider what the Gypsy Survival Strategy might actually look like by comparing it to typical prepper ideas on several points. 

Typical Prepper: Home is your physical address. Perhaps an apartment or house. Maybe a homestead or farm. Probably have a mortgage and property taxes. Costs money, time, and effort to maintain. Still, it is yours (at least until the government or bank decides otherwise). Requires furniture and other stuff, which costs money/time/effort to buy and maintain.

Gypsy Survivalist: Home is wherever you are with family and friends. Not a physical address, which would only be temporary anyway. Most likely sleep in a tent, camper, trailer, RV, or mobile home of some sort. All your stuff fits inside your vehicle and/or mobile home. Little, probably no, furniture or large other items.

Typical Prepper: Bugging-in at your current location, or bugging-out to a prearranged location, such as a retreat that would then likely become your permanent location if you could not return to the original location. 

Gypsy Survivalist: No permanent location or home. Constantly moving away from danger or towards opportunity as conditions warrant. 

Typical Prepper: Probably have "roots" where you live. Friends & family that permanently live nearby. A particular church you attend. A job/career/employer for which you feel some loyalty or responsibility. Organizations that you are a part of... Things that may make you reluctant/slow to leave a location if things suddendly go bad. 

Gypsy Survivalist: No roots in the local community, thus nothing holding you back. Your roots are with the community of like-minded family & friends you travel with... (Interestingly, Roma and other "gypsies" never marry, date, or even have strong friendships with non-Roma; all that is done within the larger Roma/Gypsy community.)

Typical Prepper: Unless they are making money homesteading, farming, or from their own small business, most preppers have regular jobs/careers working for someone else. Could be anything from blue collar workers to professionals. The need for such employment is a limiting factor for many preppers (including me).

Gypsy Survivalist: Typically self-employed or take temporary/part-time work for which they feel no loyalty towards employer. Easy to just leave whenever. Traditionally, gypsies tend to be entertainers of some sort (singers, musicians, actors, storytellers, fortune tellers, etc.). Think vaudeville. This seems to hold true today, although to a somewhat lesser extent. Other common gypsy employment is as animal trainers, artisans, craftsmen, tinkers, handymen, and similar professions. Gypsies can be professionals, and some are, but their lifestyle often makes for a difficult career path in terms of advancement, though their is always some need for temporary nurses, accountants, etc.

Typical Prepper: Stockpiling food, water,  and supplies in quantity. Lots of redundancy. This requires space to store, money to buy, time to organize/maintain. Decreases mobility.

Gypsy Survivalist: Goods and other stuff kept on-hand would have to be minimal. A few days to a couple of weeks worth of food & supplies at most. Emphasis would have to be on collecting & providing as needed, rather than storing. Example: Instead of storing lots of water in jugs or tanks, the Gypsy Survivalist would depend on their ability to collect/treat water using tools like the Lifestraw Family Water Filter or Lifestraw Go Bottles. Food is obtained by buying or trading with locals, by hunting, fishing, & collecting wild edibles, and possibly by having small gardens when camped at a suitable location for a period of time. I've also heard tale of some gypsies traveling with a few goats or chickens.

Typical Prepper: Lots of tools and other gear. Lots of redundancy. Requires money to buy, room to store, time/effort to maintain. Probably lots of big tools, especially if homesteading is part of the plan. Again, cost & need for room to store are factors.

Gypsy Survivalist: Minimal tools and gear with little redundancy. Would have to emphasize quality, usefulness, and practicality, over quantity. Would require a certain amount of ingenuity and creative thinking. Get the most "bang for your buck," so to speak. No need to have yard or garden tools (other than maybe a shovel). No need for power tools (maybe a gas-powered chain saw?). Would have at least a good set of basic tools and skill to use them, and a few tools of the trade for tinkers/metalworkers, handymen types.

Typical Prepper: Large library of books on prepping, homesteading, gardening, country skills, survival medicine, and a variety of other potentially useful topics. I've seen preppers/survivalists brag about their libraries of thousands of books. My own is in the hundreds. Again, cost and room to store are issues. Besides, in reality most of those books will go unread.

Gypsy Survivalist: No room for a large library. Maybe one or two 3-foot shelves worth of books. Will force you to be choosy about what books you keep on-hand. Only the most important, useful, and often-used will make the cut. Again, quality over quantity. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Forest Gardening - Not Just Layers

In my previous forest gardening posts, I discussed in some detail the many different layers of a forest garden, and gave lots of examples of plants that could be included in each layer. Click here to find all my forest gardening posts.  But there are other considerations, as you will read:

Not Just Layers

What makes a forest garden is not just architecture of the layers. There are other aspects that make up a forest garden. For example, vegetation patterns and density should be considered. In designing your forest garden, you will probably want to strive for a "lumpy" texture. In other words, create a lot of variation in how the plants are arranged and especially in the density of the plantings. Scientific research has shown that areas with great variation in plant density are more attractive to bird and insect species, thus increasing your forest gardens biodiversity (a very good thing). It also helps to promote a better balance between harmful and beneficial insects.

Plant diversity is also important. One of the chief differences between a traditional orchard and a forest garden is that orchards primarily feature a single species laid out in neat rows. A forest garden has a much greater diversity, and is not nearly as orderly. In designing your forest garden, you will want to pack as much diversity into your site as possible given the area you have to work with.

In addition to the physical structure of your forest garden, you will want to pay attention to its social structure. Your forest garden will be made up of the trees and other plants you intentionally include. But it will also be made up of trees and plants already present or that show up later as volunteers. Insects, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, birds, reptiles and small mammals will also take up residence. If you are lucky enough to have acres of forest garden, you might also get large mammals. All this biodiversity will interact with each other. This interaction - the food chain, pollination, decomposition, predator/prey relationships, symbiotic relationships, parasitism and so forth - is the social structure. Some thought should be given to that social structure.

For example, if you want to have a healthy population of pollinators (and you should want that), then you will need to plant a variety of flowering plants to attract them. By variety, I am talking about various sizes, shapes and colors of the blooms, as well as a variety of bloom times through the year. If all your plants bloom during only one part of the year, this will be a very inconsistent food source for the pollinators and will discourage a healthy population from forming.

You might also want to allow for some dead wood, such as dead branches and fallen tree trunks, to be a part of your forest garden. This dead wood will be used as food, nesting sites and protective cover for a variety of insects, birds and other animals, as well as fungi.

Much of the sun's energy captured by the forest garden will eventually turn to rot. This will improve the soil, but we can also capture some of this energy for our own use by growing edible and medicinal mushrooms, many of which actually prefer damp and shady conditions.

Soil structure is another aspect of your forest garden you should give a thought towards. There is a great deal more going on under your forest garden than just those tubers you planted. The roots of all trees, shrubs and plants are down there. Some are deep, some shallow; some will spread out greatly and some won't. Many fruit trees, such as apples and pears, have fairly shallow root systems. Many nut trees, such as pecans and hickories, have very deep taproots.

Within the soil, many small mammals, insects, worms, fungi and microbes live, eat and die. They too will have an effect on soil structure. Some of these organisms will decompose plant matter turning it into nutrient rich soil. Others, such as burrowing animals like moles and voles, will aerate the soil, and will carry the nutrient rich topsoil deeper into the ground.

Another aspect of the forest garden that should be taken into account is succession. The trees and other plants you include in your forest garden will grow up over time, and eventually die (I've already mentioned that it is a good idea to leave some dead wood in the forest garden). New trees and plants will take their place. You might need to prepare yourself for the dynamic and constantly changing nature of your forest garden. People like to control nature, but you cannot control your forest garden. At best, you can only hope to guide it.

It is common today for many people to look on well-manicured lawns and very neat & orderly gardens as highly desirable. But a forest is anything but well-manicured, neat and orderly. Your forest garden shouldn't be either.