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. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Likely Targets for a Limited Nuclear Strike by Russia

An all-out nuclear war with Russia is highly unlikely. However, the possibility of a limited nuclear strike by Russia is a possibility.

I know that nuclear war is a extremely scary prospect. And I've seen those maps of all the possible targets in the United States painted red, with targets so numerous that little non-red area is left. But even the makers of those maps are NOT saying ALL those targets WILL be hit (a detail many folks seem to have missed). Rather, they are just showing all possible targets (literally thousands of possibilities), NOT likely targets. In reality, there are a number of reasons why a surprise nuclear attack on the US by Russia (or even China) will likely only feature a handful of targets.

Why All-Out Nuclear War Is Highly Unlikely

1) The aggressor nation will want to keep a significant portion of their nuclear arsenal in reserve to deter retaliation. For example, Russia would not want to exhaust its nuclear capability out of fear that China might try to take advantage of such a situation and attack Russia. Or to prevent a possible retaliation by NATO. 

2) The Russians would want to exploit the resources (land people, agriculture, energy, minerals, etc.) of the US after the war, therefore don't want to reduce all of America to a radioactive no-go zone. Conquering and demilitarizing the United States makes much more strategic long-term sense than utterly destroying the US. 

3) The Russians know, like it or not, that the United States is still the world's largest economy, accounting for nearly 25% of the world's economy. To utterly destroy the US would create massive economic problems globally, including for Russia. Again, strategically, Russia would prefer the US remain mostly intact, although thoroughly declawed, after the war.  

4) The personal weakness of Obama may have convinced Putin and Russia that the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine is no longer in effect. They may be making the calculated risk that Obama will NOT order the US to retaliate with our nuclear weapons. Instead, Obama may sue for peace (surrender), thus turning the US over to Russia (basically as a vassal state), or even to the UN to administer. 

Targets Russia Would Likely Avoid

Put emotions aside for a moment, and try to think from Russia's point-of-view. You want to take out the US as a world military power and turn it into a vassal state. You want the US to remain mostly intact so that you can exploit its resources and finances. You think its current leadership is extremely weak. You would want to AVOID hitting any major financial centers (examples: New York, Charlotte, Chicago), major industrial cities (examples: Houston, St. Louis, Dallas), major seaports (large coastal cities), and any regions where there are resources you want to exploit (major agricultural or energy regions).

Likely Targets For a Limited Nuclear Strike

So, where would Russia consider hitting with tactical nukes? Major political and military command & control centers, as well as major communications infrastructure. Obviously, I have no inside information on what Russia plans to attack, but here is a list of places I think most likely to be targets, and why? 

1) Washington, DC: Highly symbolic, as well as strategic, target. The political and governmental center of the United States. Would decimate most political and government leadership (President and some other high ranking officials would likely survive). Key military center (the Pentagon).

2) Peterson Air Force Base/Cheyenne Mountain/Colorado Springs, CO:  The headquarters of NORAD will be a certain target.

3) Various Other Military Bases. There are hundreds of military bases throughout the US of varying degrees of significance. Russia will not attack ALL of them, for the reasons given above, but may hit several of special significance,in addition to Peterson AFB listed above. I won't hazard a guess as to which ones Russia will choose to hit, and would recommend not living very near any military base.

4) Denver, CO: Big population (2.9 million in metro area), with few reasons for Russia to not target it (surprisingly, Denver is not really a major financial or industrial center). Also, Denver likely plays a major role in the US Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) and/or "Shadow Government," depending on how accurate certain conspiracy theories are. 

If Obama crumbles, as Putin may suspect, and does not order a retaliation strike, it is likely that these initial targets will be the only ones hit. At this point, I would expect a fairly quick surrender of the US. However, if Obama does try to "slug it out" with Russia with conventional warfare, Russia would likely expand targets to hit one or two large population centers f lesser financial or industrial importance (example: Atlanta) relative to other large population centers. Unfortunately, should Obama order a nuclear counter-strike, the situation would quickly escalate to and all-out nuclear war.

This article is, of course, speculation. But I believe it to be well-reasoned speculation, and have given my reasoning. You are free to do your own speculating. The main point of this article is to think about these possibilities in a rationale, rather than emotional, way.

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.

Monday, October 17, 2016

War with Russia??? Some Recommendations...

The world has become destabilized, and the war drums are beating. Russia seems to be preparing for possible war, including the possible use of nuclear weapons, with the United States. I don't know what will happen, but I do know that the next six months or so will be one of the most dangerous times in modern history. Here are a few recommendations on what to do:

1) Bring home any family members that are overseas. Russia is doing this, and we would be wise to follow their lead. If a world war should break out, or nuclear weapons be used even in a limited way, it will be months or even years before you will be able to reunite with family members that are overseas when hostilities break out. Bring home NOW any students studying abroad, or any other family members who are overseas for whatever reasons. Cancel any overseas vacations or trips. You can always go later if nothing happens. 

2) Newbies: Start preparing now, if you haven't already. It doesn't matter if you call yourself a prepper, a survivalist, or just someone trying to be more self-reliant. Just do it. Don't know where to begin? Read my article A quick, no frills, down & dirty guide to preparing for the End, which will give you the basic outline, in less then 10 minutes, of what you need to be doing. There are numerous other articles on this website with lots of preparedness & survival inforamtion, along with book and gear reviews. Start with those articles listed in the "Solutions" section in the left hand column.

Another good resource for general preparedness and survival is James Wesley Rawles' book How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times.

3) Advanced Preppers/Survivalists: The 1987 edition of Cresson H. Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills is available for FREE download at http://www.oism.org/nwss/. I list this as being "advanced" because folks need to be doing the basics of prepping first, before trying to prepare specifically for a nuclear war.

4) Are you living in or near a likely nuclear target? For a variety of reasons, all-out nuclear war is extremely unlikely, but the limited use of nukes is a possibility. The Russians would want to exploit the resources of the US after the war, therefore don't want to reduce all of America to a radioactive no-go zone. A likely scenario is a handful of nuclear weapons are used to take out a few crucial military and command-and-control targets.

The Russians may be counting on Obama's weakness to prevent him from ordering a counter-strike, thus partially removing the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine that actually helped us survive the cold war. Carefully consider where you are living, and if there are any critical military targets nearby. Consider moving if you are near one.

5) Food and Water will be critical. You need to have plenty of stored food & water, and ideally the ability to produce even more. Our modern food distribution system is precariously balanced, and will likely collapse during and following a major world war.

6) Dealing with Radiation: Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills (link to a FREE download is given above)
goes into much more detail, and with more expertise, than I can give here, so I'll only make a couple of quick comments:

     a) The best protection against radiation is space and mass. The further way from a nuclear blast you are, the safer you'll be. The more mass you have between you and a nuclear blast, the safer you'll be. 
     b) Potassium Iodide Tablets offer some protection (not complete radiation protection), but you need to know how to use them properly. Find out now how to use them, and ONLY use them when absolutely necessary. Start with the CDC video Pharmaceutical Countermeasures for Radiation Emergencies – KI (Potassium Iodide).  
     c) Dr. Joe and Amy Alton's excellent book, The Survival Medicine Handbook, has a chapter on Radiation Sickness. I HIGHLY recommend this book, and consider it a MUST HAVE for any serious prepper or survivalist. 
     
7) Minimum Pre-Crisis Preparations for a Nuclear Event: Chapter 16 of  Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills gives a list of minimum preparations, including shelter, ventilation-cooling, water, fallout meter, food, sanitation, medicines, light, radio, and other essentials. You can read chapter 16 on my website, or preferably download the entire book for free at
http://www.oism.org/nwss/.

8) My Personal Preparations: What am I actually doing in response to the threat of war with Russia? I've been a "prepper" for well over 10 years, so have already made many preparations. My personal preps over the last 2 weeks include:
  • Closely monitoring news reports relating to the situation, form both mainstream & alternative sources, and both American & international sources.
  • Added additional food storage. Made a special trip to Sam's Club last Thursday for the express purpose of buying extra food, especially canned meats (salmon, chicken), and a few other items.
  • Purchased extra ammo last week above what I had organically planned. 
  • Ordered extra fish antibiotics (to take care of my pet fish, of course), and ordered two bottles of Potassium Iodine tablets (the first I've ever purchased). 
  • Double checked my water storage to make sure it is properly rotated (I rotate water every six-months). I plan on adding to my water storage this week. 
  • Stocked up on antioxidant vitamins I take for my eyes (I now have a six-month supply on-hand). Likewise, you should stock up on any special medications or supplements you take. 
  • Performed maintenance on my vehicles to assure that they are in excellent working condition. You don't want your bug-out vehicle to break-down in a crisis. 
You may also be interested in my article A Destabilized World & War Drums in which I discuss the what, how, and why of current events that are causing me to be seriously considering the possibility of a war with Russia.

Minimum Pre-Crisis Preparations for a Nuclear Event

The following is Chapter 16 of the 1987 edition of Cresson H. Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills. These points are expanded upon throughout the book. The entire book is available for free download at http://www.oism.org/nwss/


Chapter 16: Minimum Pre-Crisis Preparations


Your chances of surviving a nuclear attack will be improved if you make the following low-cost preparations before a serious crisis arises. Once many Americans become convinced that a nuclear attack is a near certainty, they will rush to stores and buy all available survival supplies. If you wait to prepare until a crisis does arise, you are likely to be among the majority who will have to make-do with inadequate supplies of water containers, food, and materials. Furthermore, even if you have the necessary materials and instructions to make the most needed survival items, you and your family are not likely to have time to make all of them during a few days of tense crisis.

The following recommendations are intended primarily for the majority who live in areas likely to be subjected to blast, fire, or extremely heavy fallout. These people should plan to evacuate to a safer area. (Many citizens living outside high-risk areas, especially homeowners with yards, can and should make better pre-crisis preparations. These would include building high-protection-factor permanent shelters covered with earth.)

SHELTER

Keep on hand the tools and materials your family or group will need to build or improve a high- protection-factor expedient shelter: One or more shovels, a pick (if in a hard-soil area), a bow-saw with an extra blade, a hammer, and 4-mil polyethylene film for rainproofing your planned shelter. Also store the necessary nails, wire, etc. needed for the kind of shelter you plan to build.


Keep instructions for shelter-building and other survival essentials in a safe and convenient place.

VENTILATION-COOLING

Make a homemade shelter-ventilating pump, a KAP, of the size required for the shelter you plan to build or use.


WATER

Keep on hand water containers (including at least four 30-gallon untreated polyethylene trash bags and two sacks or pillowcases for each person), a pliable garden hose or other tube for siphoning, and a plastic bottle of sodium hypochlorite bleach (such as Clorox) for disinfecting water and utensils.


FALLOUT METER

Make one or two KFMs and learn how to use this simple instrument.


FOOD

Store at least a 2-week supply of compact, nonperishable food. The balanced ration of basic dry foods described in Chapter 9, Food, satisfies requirements for adults and larger children at minimum cost. If your family includes babies or small children, be sure to store more milk powder, vegetable oil, and sugar.


Continuing to breast-feed babies born during an impending crisis would greatly simplify their care should the crisis develop and worsen

For preparing and cooking basic foods:




° Make a 3-Pipe Grain Mill like the one described in Chapter 9, Food, or buy a small hand-cranked grain mill, which grinds more efficiently than other expedient devices. Book Page: 133
° Make a Bucket-Stove as described in Chapter 9. During evacuation, the stove can be used as a container. Store some kitchen-type wooden matches in a waterproof container.
° Keep essential containers and utensils on hand for storing and transporting food and for cooking and serving in a shelter.
SANITATION

Insect screen or mosquito netting, and fly bait. See Chapter 12.




A hose-vented 5-gallon can, with heavy plastic bags for liners, for use as a toilet. Include some smaller plastic bags and toilet paper with these supplies. Tampons.
MEDICINES




° Any special medications needed by family members.
° Potassium iodide, a 2-oz bottle, and a medicine- dropper, for prophylactic protection of the thyroid gland against radioactive iodines. (Described in the last section of Chapter 13, Survival Without Doctors.)
° A first-aid kit and a tube of antibiotic ointment.
LIGHT
° Long-burning candles (with small wicks) sufficient for at least 14 nights.
° An expedient lamp, with extra cotton-string, wicks, and cooking oil as described in Chapter 11.
° A flashlight and extra batteries.
RADIO 
A transistor radio with extra batteries and a metal box in which to protect it.

OTHER ESSENTIALS

Review the EVACUATION CHECKLIST (developed primarily for persons who make no preparations before a crisis) and add items that are special requirements of your family.

 
Book Page: 134

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Lesson Learned -- Keep Stocked Up on Batteries

Planning on making one last run to the store before the SHTF? You can cross batteries off your shopping list. They'll be sold out everywhere. 
 
Listening to various news reports as Hurricane Matthew approached the east coast of Florida, one thing struck me as unexpected - how very quickly batteries sold out across the state. I'm not surprised that batteries sold out. I am surprised by how fast they sold out.  According to the reports I heard, batteries sold out almost as quickly as gasoline, and even more quickly than bottled water. 

There will be no last minute stocking up on batteries. Therefore, make sure you have on-hand what you will need, and then some, for an extended period of time. Depending on the situation, it may be weeks, months, or even longer, before stores are able to restock. Also, batteries will likely make a great barter item, if you re willing to part with them.  

Here are a few tips:

1) Make a master list of EVERYTHING you own that requires batteries, and exactly what types of batteries they require. It will probably be a long list. Some possibilities: radios, flashlights, walkies-talkies, GPS units, watches, calculators, smoke alarms, digital cameras, various toys & games, alarm clocks, wall clocks, blood glucose meters, cell phones, lap tops, iPods, iPads, Amazon Kindles, TV remotes, wireless mouse, wireless keypad, electric toothbrush, electric pencil sharper, etc.

2) Go through your master list, and prioritize. Which of these things do you definitely want to use during and post-SHTF? Which could easily you do without? Are there battery operated items that you use now, that you could switch to non-electric types (such as toothbrushes & pencil sharpeners)? You now have a prioritized shopping list to begin stocking up. 

3) If you have rechargeable batteries, how do you plan to recharge them if the electricity goes out, and stays out? Consider portable solar charging stations. There are also several solar powered emergency radios on the market that have USB ports that allow you to recharge cell phones, tablets, and other devices. 

4) The self-life of batteries depends on the type and battery and the storage conditions, and may range from a couple of years to 10 years or more. For example, the AmazonBasics Performance Alkaline Batteries are designed for long-term storage (10 years). According to Amazon, they have "Improved anti-corrosion components and new zinc composition resulting in 10-years anti-leakage shelf life," and utilize "Unique Japanese technology that enables better performance after storage, over-discharge, and high temperatures." I use AmazonBasics myself, and am quite satisfied, though I admittedly haven't done a 10-year test! 

5) According to the Energizer website, you can "practice proper battery storage by keeping batteries in a cool, dry place at normal room temperature. It’s not necessary to store batteries in a refrigerator."

6) Amazon also has a large selection of the button batteries and lithium coin batteries used in watches and some high-end electronics & LED flashlights.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Lesson Learned - Don't Run Out of Gas

Due to a pipeline spill a few weeks ago, and aided by rumors of a resulting gas shortage in Western North Carolina, there was a run on local gas stations on a Friday (the 23rd) into Saturday morning. By late Saturday afternoon, all local gas stations were completely out of gas. No unleaded or diesel was to be had at any price in the county where I live on Saturday night, Sunday, and Monday. Most stations got unleaded back in stock on Tuesday morning, but diesel wasn't available until Wednesday at most stations. 

Fast-forward to Hurricane Matthew.  As it approached Florida last week, people started fleeing the coastal areas. With everyone suddenly filling up, gas stations began quickly running out-of-gas. This became a problem for folks needing to fill up their vehicles to escape the path of Matthew. 

In any economic or political crisis, or any natural disaster, gasoline will most likely be the first commodity to run dry. Lack of fuel for our vehicles will create major problems, and may even stop folks from bugging-out of a dangerous area. This will be particularly if the crises drags on for many days or even weeks without gas stations being able to resupply. Learn a lesson from these two examples, and be prepared for disruptions in the supply of fuel. I recommend everyone take two steps:

1)  NEVER let your gas gauge drop to even the half-way point. The rule-of-thumb I use is to fill-up my vehicles once the needle drops even slightly below the 3/4 mark. Yes, I have to fill up more often, but I won't have to face a sudden gas shortage with my tank already approaching empty. 

2)  Keep as much extra fuel on hand as you can safely store. I keep five 5-gallon gas cans of extra gasoline on hand. The cans are designed to store gas, and I keep them locked in well-ventilated deck storage box at the back of my yard, well away from the house. I keep the gas rotated every 3 months to avoid it going flat, but you can also use STA-BIL to extend the life of your gas.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Gypsy Survival - A Different Prepper Strategy



Many survival strategies involve hunkering down in place, homesteading, rural retreats and survival communities, or "bugging out" to those locations, where, through a combination of self-reliance and stockpiles of food & supplies, any future hard times can be survived. But I've long been intrigued by another possibility, which I call Gypsy Survival.

Gypsy Survival is a strategy that is loosely based on current and historical groups of highly nomadic peoples often referred to as "gypsies." This includes the Romani people, the Sinti, Irish Travellers, Scottish Tinkers, and Indigenous Norwegian Travellers, as well as other groups. In addition to these real-life examples, the concept of gypsies has been heavily fictionalized over the years. The Gypsy Survival Strategy I present here is a conglomeration of lessons and ideas from all these groups, as well as some of my own thoughts. My use of the term "gypsy" throughout this article refers to this conglomeration of ideas, not any one particular group, and is intended in a completely non-pejorative way.


Three Distinctive Features

I see three distinctive features of the gypsy lifestyle that could be adapted into a very successful survival strategy.

1) Gypsies lead a highly nomadic, very mobile lifestyle. Gypsies don't set down roots in any specific location. Home is not a place, but rather is being with family.  Where the "being with" actually takes place is irrelevant. Community, too, isn't a particular place, such as a neighborhood or town, but rather is the larger group of fellow gypsies.

Survival Advantage: Because there is nothing to hold them to a particular place, such as property owned or personal ties to local people, gypsies have the ability to quickly pack up and flee from danger. Or to quickly move to where there is more opportunity. This ability is more than just bugging out. Gypsies, because they have no roots and few possessions, can immediately leave one location and set up home in a new location, without any reluctance to leave or "stuff" holding them back.

2) Gypsies are NOT part of the worldly system, and have no desire to "fit in" or conform to the standards of modern society.  Rather than being swayed by the world around them, and the opinions of others, gypsies hold firm to their own language, culture, beliefs, and traditions. They have no need to "Get Out of Babylon," because they are already mostly out of the worldly system.

Survival Advantage: By being less dependent on the worldly system, gypsies have a considerable amount of flexibility in responding to threats and danger. They are not dependent on government or the established social order. Nor are they dependent on their employers or careers. They also make less compromises in maintaining their way of life, including religious beliefs, traditions, and other aspects of their culture that are very important to them.

3) Gypsies are loyal to the family/clan/tribe, NOT to a place (country, state, community), a government, or even to a company, career, or job. Privacy is of high importance. What happens within the gypsy community stays within their community. Disputes are handled internally, without bringing in any outside authorities. The preservation of their way of life, culture, beliefs, and traditions is of utmost importance.

Survival Advantage: Loyalty within families, and even within the larger gypsy community, means that they are there for each other. Gypsies help and protect their own. They are also better able to maintain their way of life and culture without compromising with the outside world. 

Possible Disadvantages

There are, of course, disadvantages to the gypsy lifestyle. Lack of property means that they typically cannot produce their own food. Instead, they must depend on what they can hunt, gather, and buy or trade for with outsiders. 

The gypsy refusal to assimilate into the outside world, and to conform with outside societal norms, means that they are typically the object of suspicion and distrust. This often leads to official discrimination, persecution, and even attempts at genocide against them. 


Other Hallmarks of the Gypsy Survival Strategy

Gypsies have developed the ability to vanish into the background. Did you know that there are over a million gypsies estimated to be living in the United States? Chances are that there are some living near you, and you don't even know it. This ability to go unnoticed, and to quickly vanish in the face of trouble, serves them quite well.

Gypsies prefer to avoid trouble rather than face it head on. As the saying goes, the surest way to survive a fight is to not get in a fight in the first place. They flee first, and only fight when it is unavoidable. Yes, gypsies will defend themselves when necessary, but they prefer to avoid danger if at all possible.

Gypsies typically don't own real estate. The days of living in their horse-drawn wagons (called vardos by some) are long gone, of course. Today most gypsies live in campers, trailers, or mobile homes. Occasionally, some my rent or lease apartments or houses, but even this is uncommon. This means that leaving an area is relatively a simple, and quick, driving away, with little packing up required. 

Gypsies live simple lifestyles, with relatively few possessions. This saves them time, space, and money. It also enables them to pack up and flee quickly when necessary. Unlike possessions, knowledge and skills cannot be lost, stolen, or broken

Gypsies work for themselves. Sometimes this means being self-employed (examples: artisans, craftsmen, animal trainers, entertainers, etc.)  Sometimes this means hiring themselves out to do part-time or temporary work. Gypsies can and do work in almost every career field imaginable. The point is that they don't tie themselves down to a particular company or career field.

Privacy is of utmost importance. What happens within the gypsy community stays within the gypsy community. Disputes are handled internally. They hold their language, rules, customs, and traditions closely, rarely sharing them with outsiders. Outsiders are rarely, if ever, brought into the gypsy community, and marriages with outsiders are highly discouraged. When dealing with outsiders, gypsies are notoriously vague in giving names and other bits of personal information, and never give specifics about the larger gypsy community. 


Check out the follow-up to this article, "Typical Prepper versus Gypsy Survivalist...  What the Gypsy Survival Strategy Might Actually Look Like."