Tuesday, December 26, 2017

1800s Backcountry Homesteads: Most Important Crop/Food Staple

Imagine you are living on a backcountry homestead in 1850.What would the most important food and crop staple for you and your family? The answer might surprise you. It is not wheat. It is not corn. It is not beans or peas, or even tomatoes. 

The most important staple on homesteads during the 1800s are root crops: turnips, rutabagas, beets, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, onions, etc. 

The reasons root crops are so important on the 1800s homestead:
  • Very filling (high carb, high fiber, prevents hunger)
  • Reliable crops/easy-to-grow (crop failures can mean starvation and even death to homesteaders in the 1800s)
  • Highly productive (high yield) crops
  • Excellent for available food storage methods (1800s food storage is root cellars, drying, and pickling) 
  • Can be prepared many different ways (baked, boiled, mashed, stews, soups, sliced & fried, etc.)
Black Salsify roots * More common in 1800s than today * Oyster-like taste
Squashes, particularly winter squashes with their thicker skins, are probably the second most important staple on the 1800s homestead. The thick skins of winter squashes mean that they store very well in root cellars. Summer squashes, with their thinner skins, do not store well in root cellars, but can be pickled for long-term storage.

Beans and peas are another popular 1800s homestead staple because they are a relatively reliable crop, highly productive, and easily dried for long-term storage. Seed-saving, important on the backcountry homestead, is also very easy with beans and peas (as well as squashes) which is another factor in their favor. 

Peppers are also a popular choice on the 1800s homestead. They can be dried for long-term storage, but more often are pickled. Larger-type peppers are often stuffed with cabbage, onions, and spices (similar to what we call relish today) and then pickled.

Of course, a typical 1800s homestead also grows a wide variety of other crops, such as cabbages, tomatoes, and corn. However, the most important crop, the main staple, are root vegetables. 

Of Interest:

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables

Monday, December 18, 2017

Three reasons Why All-Out Nuclear War is Highly Unlikely...

...But a Limited Nuclear Exchange is Possible. 

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

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 entire nuclear capability in an attack on the USA 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. 

But, you say, that NATO wouldn't come to the aid of the USA. Possibly not, but they may act preemptively to protect themselves from a clearly aggressive Russia in a world in which the USA has been defeated and no longer offers protection for Europe. 

2) The
aggressor nation would want to exploit the resources (land people, agriculture, energy, minerals, etc.) of the USA after the war, therefore will not want to reduce all of America to a radioactive no-go zone. Conquering and demilitarizing the USA makes much more strategic long-term sense for Russia or China than utterly destroying the USA. 

3) The Russians and Chinese both 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 and China. Again, strategically, Russia or China would prefer the US remain mostly intact, although thoroughly declawed, after the war.  

But wouldn't the USA retaliate against any limited nuclear strike with an all-out nuclear attack against the aggressor nation? Probably not. The USA would not want to reduce either Russia or China to a radioactive no-go zone for similar reasons. Instead, the USA would likely respond to a limited strike with a limited strike of its own. Both sides would then turn to conventional warfare to win the conflict. 

Targets Likely Avoided

Put emotions aside for a moment, and try to think from Russia's or China's point-of-view. You want to take out the USA as a world military power and turn it into a vassal state. You want the USA to remain mostly intact so that you can exploit its resources and finances. 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-producing regions). 

Likely Targets For a Limited Nuclear Strike

So, where would Russia or China  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 or China  plans to attack, but here is a list of places I think most likely to be targets, and why.

1) Washington, DC: A highly symbolic, as well as strategic, target. The political and governmental center of the United States. A nuclear strike would decimate most political and government leadership (the President and some other high ranking officials would likely survive). Also, a key military center (the Pentagon).

2) Peterson Air Force Base/Cheyenne Mountain/Colorado Springs, CO:  The headquarters of NORAD, probably the second most important military center after the Pentagon, will be a certain target.

3) Various Other Military Bases. There are hundreds of military bases
of varying degrees of significance throughout the US . Russia will not attack ALL of them, for the reasons given above, but may hit several of special significance,in addition to Peterson AFB. I won't hazard a guess as to which ones Russia or China will choose to hit, and would recommend not living very near any military base. How far away do you need to be? The farther away, the better, but it really depends on the size of the nuclear weapon used and the prevailing air currents.

4) Denver, CO: Big population (2.9 million in metro area), with few reasons for Russia or China 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 the "Shadow Government," depending on how accurate certain conspiracy theories are. 

Rogue State and Non-State Actors

Both Iran and North Korea are working on nuclear weapons programs and developing ICBMs to deliver them. North Korea is farther along than Iran, and does already have the capability to hit South Korea, Japan, and Guam, and perhaps Hawaii and the west coast states. However, neither Iran or North Korea has, nor will have within the next few years, the ability to wage all-out nuclear war against the USA. Any strike by them will be limited in scope.

Likewise, a non-state actor such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda could either make a "dirty bomb" or acquire a nuclear weapon on the black market (from North Korea, Pakistan, or one of the long-rumored "missing nukes" from the old USSR). 

Any attack form a rogue state pr a non-state actor, will be limited to one or two targets, but that is enough to potentially kill hundreds of thousands. Additionally, their attack would likely be motivated by religious extremism or irrational egomania (in the case of North Korea), and will choose a target of opportunity rather than any strategic or tactical considerations listed in this article.

Final Thoughts

I submit that preppers and survivalists should consider planning for the aftermath of a limited nuclear war. I know many folks resist this idea because "if nukes are ever used, the whole world will be destroyed." However, that is emotional thinking based in fear, rather than a rational analysis of possibilities. In fact, a limited nuclear war is much more likely than an all-out nuclear war. And, as long as you are not in the blast zone or immediate fall-out area, it is survivable. 

Free Resource: The 1987 edition of Cresson H. Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills is available for free download at

Free Download

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Personal/Family Preparedness Assessment

How prepared are you and your family for a disaster? Here are some questions and considerations to think about and discuss as you assess you and your family's preparedness:

Are you informed of the possible risks you and your family may face? Have you thought through all the possible risks you and your family may face? What natural or man-made disasters are likely for your area? What are your area's chances for earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, or severe winter storms? Do you have any nearby nuclear facilities, power plants, or industrial sites that may pose special hazards? Are you near potential targets for a terrorist attack? What are your concern's for possible economic or political problems?  Do you know your local community's warning systems, emergency plans, and evacuation routes?

(Check out my article Disaster Planning: Understanding Potential Disasters for more on understanding potential risks.)

Do you have a Disaster Preparedness Plan? Are your plans written down, with specific details? Or, are your plans mostly "in your head" with few concrete details?  Have you shared your plan with everyone involved (spouse, children, other close family and friends) and gotten their feedback? A plan really isn't a plan until its been well-thought out, written down, reviewed by all concerned, adjusted, re-written, tested, and implemented.

Do you have a Family Communications Plan? Do you have an up-to-date list of family, friends, and other contacts? People move, phone numbers change, and email changes even more often - that list you put together five years ago is unlikely to still be current. Does everyone in your family have a list of important phone numbers? Do your kids know who to call next if they can't get you on the phone for some reason (perhaps Grandma, or Aunt Ida)? A disaster is unlikely to happen at a convenient and predictable time when everyone is together. Also, phones and Internet my be down during, and even after, a disaster. The situation wiull be chaotic and confused. More than just an address book or contact list with phone numbers. a communications plan let's everyone know how and when to get in touch with each other, and what to do if they cannot. 

Do you have a fully stocked first aid kit at home? I'm not talking about a few band-aids, a bottle of aspirin, and a dried up tube of triple-antibiotic ointment scattered around your house, but rather a fully-stocked and well-organized kit. You shouldn't have to search through all your bathroom and kitchen drawers to find what you need in an emergency.

(Click here for a fairly comprehensive first aid kit (326 pieces) for only $35) 

Have you taken an actual first aid course recently? Having a first aid manual that you quickly skimmed through once right after you bought it doesn't count as training. Nor does your boy scout training from 30 years ago. Everyone in your family/group needs actual first aid training with refresher courses every so often.

Do you have a fire extinguisher in your home? Is it still within its expiration date? Does everyone know how to use it? Do you have a fire extinguisher n your vehicle?

(I have several Fire Gone fire extinguishers in my home. They are easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and work on Class A, B, and C fires.) 

How quickly would you run out of water, if your water was unexpectedly cut-off for some reason? If you have your own well, assume the pump breaks for some reason and cannot be quickly replaced. Do you have enough stored water to last a week? Two weeks? Do you know how and where to collect water and how to purify water? 

(The Lifestraw Family Water Filter can purify over 4,700 gallons of water, without the need for chemicals, for under $75.)

If you should not purchase any food at a store or restaurant for one week, would you have enough food stored at home to eat during that week? Expand that period to two weeks, then one month, then six-months. What holes do yu have in your food storage plan? 

(My favorite food storage book: Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton.)

Gasoline can quickly disappear during a crisis. Check your vehicles' gas tanks at the moment. Are they full or near-full (good)? Or have you let them get down to near empty (bad)? Do you have any extra fuel safely stored for emergency use? How much? If you have a bug-out location, could you get there today without having to buy gas?

Do you have an alternative ( bug-out) location picked out if you must leave your home location for any reason during an emergency? Do you know how to get there without using GPS, google maps, or other internet-based resource? Do you know at least one alternative route to that location should the main route be blacked for some reason? Have you ore-positioned any supplies at your alternative location? 

If your plans include producing your own food, are you already doing so? Did you grow a garden, raise chickens, go hunting, or go fishing, last year? Do you plan on doing so in 2017? Do you already have seeds for this coming year? Do you already have the tools you need? What if a collapse happens before you get your garden planted this year, and you cannot buy what you need? 

Are your finances currently "in order?" How much credit card debt do you have? Do you have any auto-loans? Student loans? Other debt? Is your mortgage paid off? Are you spending less than you earn (are a saver), or more than you get (still in a debtor mentality)? Do you have an emergency fund? How many months worth of expenses is in your emergency savings account? Do you have any cash safely stored at home in case ATMs aren't working or their is a bank holiday declared? Do you have any savings in the form of tangibles (such as gold or silver)? Do you have possession of them (good), or are they stored for you by someone else (such as in  a bank safe-deposit box, or with a broker)? In a full collapse scenario, do you really think you can get a second-party to turn your gold or silver back over to you even if you have a certificate saying that you own it (answer: no)? 

(Please see my article Prepping 101: Finances - Get Back to Basics.)

Are you and your spouse in agreement on your preparedness plans? Do you agree on what to do, where to go, when to go, how to get there, in an emergency?

(Having trouble getting your spouse on board with prepping? Please see may article How To Talk To Non-Preppers Without Turning Them Off to Prepping.)

Do you have any "special needs" folks in your family/group? Special needs individuals include many more than just the physically or mentally handicapped, and includes babies, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, folks with chronic illnesses (high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, MS, MD, cancer, etc.), and folks with mental illness and addictions (including tobacco or alcohol). 

(Please see my article Special Needs Prepping.) 

Have you planned for your pets and any livestock in an emergency? Do you have food, water, medical supplies stored for them?If you have to "bug out," what happens to your animals? Will you take them with you? How?

What is your current state of health and physical fitness? What is the current health and physical fitness of all the other members of your family/group? When was the last time you had a health exam? A dental exam? An eye exam? Do you have any issues that need to be addressed at the moment, such as dental issues or new glasses, that you have been putting off? How far can you walk, carrying your bug-out-bag (BOB) or survival kit? Is that just a guess, or have you actually tried walking that distance recently? 

Have you made a list of the various skills of individual members of your family/group? What skills do you have covered by at least two members? What useful skills are missing from your group? Some of the many possible skills include leadership, advanced first aid, nursing, dental, and other medical, veterinary, auto mechanics, small engine repair, home repair/DIY skills, hunting, trapping, fishing, gardening, canning, sewing, animal husbandry, plumbing, woodworking, electrical work, carpentry, butchering (game & livestock), security/defense, ham radio operator, tinker (repair, sharpen, maintain knives & tools), and so forth...  Make a list of the skills you want your group to have, make an (honest) assessment of the current skills within the group, then start filling in holes by seeking training or additional group members.

These are just a few of many, many possible questions you can ask yourself and your family/group to assess your true state of preparedness for whatever difficult times that may be ahead. I hope this list helps you get started an a through assessment of your plans.