Monday, March 31, 2014

Harsh Realities: Rape

This is one of only a few posts where I will post a trigger warning.

You will encounter rape survivors.

Men and women.

Many survivors end up with PTSD, which will be addressed in a later post.

There are five factors that determine how badly it's going to affect the person:

1) Your Mindset.  If you're the type of person who, despite odds, is always fighting back (or trying to); who keeps as much of a can-do attitude as possible; and who has not just a thick skin but a hard interior as well, it won't affect you as much. That's not to say it won't be traumatic, because it will - just not as much.. If you're the kind who cries because her boss yells at her, you're going to be even more miserable.  My advice is that  you prepare yourself before something happens. Harden The Fuck Up now, and you'll be better able to deal with something like rape later if it comes to it.

2) The level of violence with which the act was committed. Some folks are so violently raped that even years afterwards it haunts them in everything.  In other cases it wasn't that violent because fear made the victim docile and.... No. Wait. Keep in mind that it isn't up to you how violent your attacker is. You could be completely compliant and get badly beaten anyway. A man who'll use violence to rape will use violence just because he wants to. At any rate, the level of violence makes a big difference to the amount of trauma.

3) How aware you were of the act. From wide awake to passed-out drunk, your level of consciousness helps define the damage. If you don't actually experience the act, just the aftereffects, obviously it will traumatize you less than someone who was completely conscious the entire time.

4) How well the person knew their attackers. If the attacker is someone you trusted, that betrayal of trust adds a whole new level of emotional trauma completely apart from that of the rape.

5) The number of attackers. If there are more than one subhuman creatures willing to commit such a despicable act, you have to look at it as not one violation made worse by their numbers, but multiple violations, the damage of each one heaped atop the damage of the others.

These five factors end up creating a high amount of variables.  Yes, each rape will have similarities, but inevitably each woman or man's case will be unique to them.

Several things will come into play: Trust will have to rebuilt, depression will occur, and self-worth may have been reduced.  But some of the things you can do for the victim are really quite simple.

Respect them.

Respect their personal space.  Don't touch them, without asking permission.  Let them initiate contact.  Don't push them if they don't want to be touched. Don't force them to hug you, to be standing close to you, etc. They will only recoil from you in fear.  Once they take the step first, don't crush them into yourself.  Just hold them and LET GO when they want you to.

As they heal and re-find their confidence, they'll let you know when you can hug or touch without constant permission.  There will still be times you need to ask, but it won't be every time.  When will that be? Every person is different.  Some people may only need a few weeks, other may need years.  YOU must not let them see you lose patience with them. YOU must never recoil from them.

Reassure them. They may be feeling like damaged goods.  Broken, worthless individuals.  You will need to verbally re-assure that they aren't.  That they mean something to you, and that they are going to be okay.

Respect their need for not wanting lectures.  They don't need your stupid lectures on what they should have done or what they can do deal with it. When they've healed, advice may be helpful. But it can wait.

Which leads back to just reassuring them.  Tell them while it's probably going to be a hard road, they WILL be okay and that they CAN do it.

I can tell you a lot about what it's like being a survivor.  Here is a link to a post on my personal blog. I can tell you, most (80%) people, regardless of "side", are full of it regarding this topic.

And men, don't listen when someone says you can't help her heal.  They're so full of crap it's ridiculous. This guy here can attest to that.

Every person's experience is going to be different.  The PTSD that will occur in many cases is rough to handle, but again we'll cover that in a later post.

I can tell you this, though: if you, either as a survivor or as the person who is helping the survivor heal, let yourself go through the emotions - the anger, the grief, all of it - and don't repress, you come out of the experience a stronger and wiser person.  It's completely possible.  It's hard work, but don't let that stop you.

(Editor's Note:  Due to the sensitive nature of this blog post, comments will be monitored . Disagreement is fine, but if it dissolves into personal attacks or BS political correctness, I will unleash the wrath of God upon you.  You Have Been Warned.)

Sunday Slide-in

Sale Alert!!!

I just got a call from a friend that my local REI store is no longer going to rent any equipment and that my local store will be selling those rental items starting Next Saturday!!

I don't know if ALL locations are doing this, but it would be worth the call Monday, in the AM!

Sale starts Saturday in the Concord, CA store.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Your Apocalypse Arsenal (part 3)

Not actually Erin.
Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission. 
This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of meeting a blog-buddy for the first time (Hi Larry!) and taking him shooting. I seem to be infamous for owning a Mosin-Nagant that I remorselessly modify, and so of course that was one of my guns which he wanted to shoot.

It then occurred to me that I have yet to talk about one of my favorite rifles in this Apocalypse Arsenal series, and that I had better rectify this tout suite.

It has long been a tenet of conventional wisdom that every prepper should have a rifle chambered in .30 caliber for long range work, like hunting and "homestead defense"  (coughsnipingcough), and in that role I have my trusty Mosin-Nagant.

But what Apocalypse Arsenal category does it fill?   I find that hard to determine, so I'm going to have to dance around the issue and see if I can define it by my stumblings.

It's an inexpensive rifle.  I have recently seen them being sold for as little as $100, and I've never seen one for more than $300 unless you count the truly rare variants or the ones that are touted as being "sniper-grade."  That puts it within the same price range as a Ruger 10/22 or Marlin 60.  When is the last time you've seen a big-game rifle that costs roughly the same as a .22?

The ammunition is powerful.  The Mosin shoots 7.62x54R, which is the same caliber as the Dragunov sniper rifle. It's an incredibly robust round, as its operational lifespan proves -- created in 1891, it is still being manufactured and issued 123 years later. If that's not enough, it's also a very powerful round; Russian hunters frequently shoot bears with it.

The ammunition is cheap.  There are cans and cans of this stuff, each one packed with 440 cartridges and hermetically sealed. As of this moment, you can buy a can of 440 rounds for $90. Because they're sealed, the ammo is good pretty much forever, and you can stack the cans alongside your food stores.

Sadly, the cheap ammunition is corrosive.  This means that you need to clean your Mosin thoroughly after using it, especially in a humid environment, or else you're going to have an impressive rust collection in your chamber and bore.

The non-corrosive ammo isn't cheap.  Last I checked, the retail stuff sold for about $1 a round. On the up side, you can re-load that brass, because...

You can't re-load the surplus ammo, either.  I'm SO not an expert here, so hopefully another reader can chime in with an educated response, but I understand it has something to do with the primers which are used. But hey, the ammo is cheap.

It's incredibly rugged. It's a rifle designed for idiots.  No, really; if you were in the military, you know how dumb some soldiers can be, sometimes deliberately so  ("Hey, let's see if I can break this thing that I signed for and will have to replace out of my own paycheck if I do!")  Now, those were trained soldiers. The Mosin-Nagant was meant to be used by illiterate farmers who had been conscripted into the Russian army. If you're new to gun ownership, you can buy this rifle and rest assured that unless you deliberately set out to destroy it, there's nothing you can do to it to accidentally break it short of dropping it a dozen feet onto a hard surface -- and even then, I think it would still work.

It will work in bad conditions.  Again, this was a rifle that has seen action in the muddy trenches of World War 1 and the Siberian winters of World War 2.  The manual of arms for working the bolt when it's frozen to the receiver is, essentially, to get a piece of firewood and hammer on the bolt until it unlocks. As long as the barrel isn't clogged, the Mosin should fire.

It comes with a bayonet.  Some people don't see the utility in one, but I love a bayonet. A rifle out of ammunition is just a club, but put a bayonet on it and you have a spear. Since the most common version of the Mosin is the 48" long M91/30, putting the 18" bayonet on it gives you a  five and a half foot long melee weapon.  And if you don't put a decelerator pad on the stock, there's a steel skull-cracker plate on that end as well.

On the other hand, It kicks like a mule on steroids.  There's a reason that recoil pads and muzzle brakes are popular with Mosins.  In fact, there's a joke among Mosin shooters that the first shot dislocates your shoulder, so you shoot a second time to re-seat the joint.

It only holds five rounds at a time. This isn't a big deal when you're hunting, but if you're in a combat situation, you'll want more capacity. There is a magazine extension which I own and recommend, but that only increases the ammo capacity to 10.  It's not a quick magazine change like with an AR pattern rifle.  On the other hand, you don't have to worry about carrying enough magazines; stripper clips are lighter and easier to carry.

The trigger sucks.  And I mean suuuuuuucks.  It takes about ten pounds of force to move that beast. There are ways to lighten this, from trigger jobs to the aftermarket Timney Trigger (which I also recommend), but some folks balk at paying for accessories which cost as much, or more, than the rifle itself.

It's not as accurate as a purpose-built hunting rifle.  These were front-line issue in WW1 to soldiers whose purpose wasn't to be accurate, but to produce lots of volley fire (again, remember: illiterate conscripts).  It just so happened that the power of the 54R cartridge and the length of the barrel made it far more accurate than it had any right to be, such that the best examples were turned into sniper rifles during WW2.  Keep in mind, however, that those were hand-picked from the best of approximately 17 million manufactured from between 1891 and the end of World War 2. Unless yours is already in sniper configuration, it is not one that was selected for its accuracy.  Of course, that doesn't mean it was rejected, either; perhaps the inspectors never got to yours.  The point here is that your Mosin will likely not be as accurate as an "out of the box" Remington 700.

So while the Mosin-Nagant isn't a light, accurate rifle with ammunition you can get at any sporting goods store or Walmart, both it and the ammo are definitely affordable, so stock up. It's forgiving of new shooters  (excepting the recoil), it's damn effective, and it will work when asked.  So I guess its category is I'm new at prepping and I need a good, inexpensive gun to fulfill a variety of roles. 

And in that role, it's fantastic.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What are you prepping for?

Most people in the world are preppers, they just don't realize it yet. You might not even recognize them as preppers. They're just preparing for different things than you are, which does not make them wrong or stupid or any of the other disparaging words used to separate people. Just as there is no “one perfect gun”,  there is no one perfect way to prepare.

If someone has a fire extinguisher in their home they're prepping for a fire. He's not some sort of heretic just because he doesn't have a sprinkler system installed, and having a Halon system installed in your house is overkill.
If they have an umbrella under or on their arm, they're prepping for rain. Not having an umbrella available doesn't always mean he's unprepared for rain - soldiers in uniform are generally not allowed to carry umbrellas. Does having car insurance mean you're looking forward to an accident, or is it just a sign that you realize an accident could happen?

There are as many kinds of preppers as there are problems in life. What are you prepping for?

This is not intended to be a “doom and gloom” article, merely a list of some of the things that I see as being worthy of preparing for. Not all preparation has to be for the "End Of The World As We Know It"; if you're ready for the minor things that can go wrong, you won't have to worry as much about them if the big things go wrong. I break preps and disasters down along the lines that I laid out in "Team, Tribe, Town", and grouped by cause. Here's my list of disasters and some generic fields of damage caused by each. As much as I hate using Wikipedia as a source, they have good lists - not perfect, but good. This is a long post, and I have included a lot of links to additional information in order to keep from boring you. If you see a word or phrase in red, it is a link to more information.

Weather and Environment

Blizzard/Ice Storm
Even the folks in the southern states have to put up with the occasional ice storm or snow storm that shuts everything down between 2 days and 2 weeks. There is usually a day or two of warning before a storm. Power outages are common, travel is difficult or impossible, you may not be able to get home (or leave home) for a few days.

Surviving the actual tornado requires finding shelter and waiting it out, but the clean-up and rebuilding will be a challenge, even if you are prepared. Roads will be closed, stores will be destroyed or emptied, electricity will be unreliable for days or weeks, and the rebuilding will take months or years. Tornado warning systems are getting better but they still give less than an hour's notice. There will be a post covering the aftermath of a major tornado here within the next month or so.

More widespread destruction than a tornado, but of the same varieties. Hurricane tracking is fairly well developed, giving a few days warning before making landfall. Hurricanes hit the USA every year, some harder than others. Floods can be sudden or predicted. The only good way to survive either one is to get away from them and stay away until things are back to something close to normal. Rebuilding can take years if it is at all possible (or even allowed).

Varies from minor damage to structures to the “Big One” that could split California off from the continent. Historically one of the more unpredictable disasters, earthquakes can cause damage on a state-wide or region-wide area. Infrastructure is usually hit hard by earthquakes with major damage to roads, pipelines, bridges, gas and electrical lines. Buildings can be damaged to the point of being unsafe to re-enter, so anything inside may not be available to use.

Another of the variable disasters, the results of a volcanic eruption can be as mild as Kilauea, which has been spewing lava for decades, as violent as Mt Vesuvius when it buried Pompeii for centuries, or as cataclysmic as the eruption of the volcano in Idaho which dumped ash over most of the continental US 12 million years ago. Recent eruptions include Mt. St. Helens  in 1980, Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, and Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. etc. Very unpredictable and with the potential of massive damage, volcanic eruptions can only be run away from. The dust and ash that come afterwards can change global weather patterns by blocking sunlight, burying arable land and killing crops, and killing large numbers of animals (and people) when they inhale the dust. Relocation may be your only option if you're affected by a volcano.

War and unrest

Home invasion is a growing problem. It doesn't really matter what costume they're wearing as they kick in your door, if they were coming to help you with something they'd knock. Anyone who feels the need to break into your house is not your friend. Evelyn has covered this in her series on security.

When large groups of people gather on the street it is generally wise to try to get somewhere else. There are a variety of theories concerning Mob Psychology, but they all focus on why people will do things as part of a mob that they wouldn't do if they were alone. Hint: mobs rarely do good things. Look to the 1992 Rodney King Riots and the 1968 Chicago Riot for examples. More examples here

Local War/ Terrorists
Mumbai, India 2008: It took three days for government forces to eliminate a dozen terrorists with bombs and automatic weapons. 

Boston, MA 2013: Two brothers with home-made bombs disrupted the annual marathon and one avoided police for four days. The police response created more disruption than the initial attack, shutting down public transportation and local businesses and requiring people in a fairly large area to “shelter in place” basically under martial law.

Civil War
There are a wide variety of reasons for civil wars and there are just as many ways to survive them. A lot depends on your involvement in or avoidance of hostilities, which is a personal decision. Only you can decide where you draw your lines.

From his website- “Selco survived one year in a city surrounded by the enemy army and cut off from the rest of the world. He has been through hell during the Balkan wars 1992 – 1995. Learn what it took him to stay alive.”

The “Arab Spring”, Venezuela, Ukraine, Syria, and all of the other uprisings in recent history have been covered in more ways than any that happened before the internet was invented. A smart person learns from his own mistakes, a wise person learns from the mistakes of others.

Global War
WWII was the most destructive war in history. Entire cities were demolished, millions of people were displaced from their homes, and tens of millions died. Like any other war, if you see it coming the best bet is to get out of the way. If you have any relatives still alive that lived through WWII, talk to them. Get first-hand accounts of how they made it through those tough times.

Nuclear War
Unless you are directly under a nuclear blast or in the path of the resulting fallout, a limited nuclear war would be survivable. A total exchange of every nuke on the planet, however,  would likely lead to the end of all human life. This is a very complicated subject and deserves a post of its own.


Local outbreaks
Cholera and Typhoid Fever are both spread by drinking contaminated water, so figure out how to clean your water supply. Rabies in wild animals is a problem that can spread to domestic animals. Measles has recently been reintroduced to the continental USA after being nearly wiped out by massive immunization decades ago. Mumps and "polio-like symptoms" are  also popping up in the news.

Influenza kills people every year and mutates so often that our bodies have a hard time fighting it off. There are a variety of diseases that are specific to regions due to climate and the vectors (the means of spreading the disease) available. There's not very much malaria in Alaska. If you're travelling out of your normal region it would be wise to check with your doctor for any immunizations that would prevent the diseases endemic to the area you're going.

Bubonic Plague, the Black Death, was spread by fleas on rats and killed millions. It is still present in rodent populations, so make sure pest control has a spot on your checklist of preps. A sudden breakdown of modern methods of travel may prevent the rapid spread of diseases, but it also prevents the development of immunity to those same diseases.

The Spanish Flu  was a strain of influenza that swept through Europe a century ago. American soldiers returning from WWI brought it back home to a population that had no resistance. It swept through America, killing young and old alike. The pandemic killed an estimated 50 to 100 million people worldwide, rivaling the death count of the World Wars. Be careful when making contact with other groups post-SHTF.
“Captain Trips,” from the Stephen King novel The Stand, was a genetically engineered/weaponized disease with a 90% mortality rate, a rating which is possible to create in a modern lab. Biological warfare is right up there with nuclear warfare - not much you can do to prepare for it if you're targeted.


Ever had your car towed? If it happens two days before payday and you don't have a buffer in the bank account, it's going to hurt. Do you have a fall-back method of getting to work or will your boss be understanding and give you a few days off to get things settled?

Losing a job, a major illness or injury in the family, or identity theft have a way of wiping out all of your savings. I've seen cancer wipe out the savings and assets of extended families, and there's only so much you can do to prepare for things like that. Insurance can help if you can afford it.

I'm old and live in farm country. I recall the Savings and Loan systemic failure in the early 1980's. Small towns throughout the Midwest dried up as the banks were taken over by the government and loans were called due. Families that had farmed the same ground for over a century had to sell everything and found themselves looking for jobs in town. The closing of a coal mine, steel plant, cotton mill, or other large industry will have similar effects in the towns and cities that rely upon them.

I'm not a financial expert. Go read Zero Hedge, The Big Picture, or any of the other finance sites out there for information on how things can fall apart. Be aware that things can and do fail on a national and international scale. Currency failures, hyper-inflation, bank bail-out and “bail-in” programs all have the potential to cause cascading problems and are worth watching.


EMP attack/Solar Flare
Electro-Magnetic Pulse is a phenomenon created bydetonating a nuclear warhead a specific distance above the Earth. Solar Flares are a natural eruption/ejection of  material from the surface of the Sun. When it happens to hit the Earth, the effects are similar to those of an EMP strike (as happened in 1859 and 1989). This is one of the scary ones for me. There are things you can do to prepare for local survival, but the global impact would be enormous. Basically, if it has wires in or on it, it will be fried. No electricity drops us back to circa 1830.

Asteroid Strike
If a sizable asteroid/meteor hits the Earth, there's a roughly 70% chance that it will hit water, sending massive amounts of water into the atmosphere. Since water vapor is the predominate "greenhouse gas" in our atmosphere, this would seriously effect our climate for years. If it hits land, the people in that area are screwed and the people downwind of them will have it almost as bad.

Zombie Outbreak
A "meme" in the prepper community is that if you're prepared for a zombie apocalypse, you're prepared for anything. This may be true if it is a Class one or Two outbreak, but a Class Three or Four means we're all in it deep. Definition of the different classes here: Outbreak

Don't Worry, All Is Not Lost

You'll notice that every example I've used has a historical background (except for the last few). I did that to remind you that others have survived bad times and society/civilization has eventually recovered. If they can live through it, there's no reason why you can't. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The First 72 Hours: Adding to the stores

Part 7 of a continuing series on prepping for a disaster, with an emphasis on how and where to start while on a Blue Collar budget.

Newest Additions

While talking about this series with an old friend, he mentioned some of our early hiking and camping trips into the Sierra Nevada back-country. This was when freeze-drying became popular and food items were available from most camping supply stores. He mentioned one unfortunate trip with a friend who had a very limited menu packed, lacking in bulk and fiber, with the unfortunate but predictable result: high protein, low fiber, easy to fix and cook foods may result in constipation. Add in stresses from dealing with a disaster, family injury, emergency repairs to homes or leaving in the face of an on-coming event, and a healthy gut could get ignored.

  • Dried Blueberries, Cherries, and raisins. One 14oz. package each for the first 2, and 30oz. for the raisins. This goes into the Disaster Stores. I make my own trail mix with almonds to take to work so I don't buy candy bars when I want something sweet in the afternoon. The local discount grocery has bulk bins for serve yourself and I get raisins from Sam's Club or Costco, whoever is the closest when I run out. Mark purchase dates on your items and rotate them into your regular pantry!
  • Almonds. Raw, no salt, also from Sam's or Costco in a 3 lb bag. With less natural oil than peanuts, almonds have less chance to go rancid, and if you have had packaged trail mixes with peanuts from stores or kept some in your gear too long, you know what I mean! The fruit was mixed together (with 1/2 of the almonds and most of the raisins) and split into 10 zip lock bags and put into my freezer. This keeps it fresh longer and cools my lunch all at once. 
  • Total cost for stored fruit: approximately $20.
Next to buy
  • Food Grade plastic pails. I have had no luck trying to salvage restaurant reject buckets, so ordering is next. The pails will be used for storing items that do not come in hard, rigid containers like pasta, flour, beans , rice and similar items that might be contaminated by the out-gassing from plastic pails from your local Home Improvement store. Try this: next time you're in Lowe's, Home Depot, or Menard's, stick your head in the stack of pails you see everywhere and sniff. Yeah, I don't want that on my dinner plate during a trying time either.
  • Sleeping bag and blankets. I need one more 3 season bag and several all wool blankets for my emergency stores. 
  • Spices and other flavor enhancers. Please see the post by Evelyn Hively here for ideas on what to have and how to store your items.

Next Week

My EDC items and the Get Home Bag I currently have, plus the latest food finds as I close in on my 72 hour storage plan.

As always, if you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

First Aid Kits: Considerations

First aid kits are a necessity of life. It is a simple, indisputable truth. In this series, we'll detail the whats and whys of first aid kits at many levels.

Off the shelf first aid kits are... problematic. Either they're so simple and bare-bones to be useless for much more than cuts and scrapes, or they border on a field surgical kit. There's a massive gulf in between, and that gulf is where some of the best first aid kits fall, but to get there you pretty much have to build your own.

So what considerations and decision criteria do you apply when you build a kit?

Budget: With first aid supplies, the sky is the limit. You can easily spend the cost of a decent used car on a first aid kit. In this series I'll detail kit builds as low as $25, on up to ~$150. Past that, you should know gear well enough that I'm not telling you anything new.

Space: How are you carrying and storing your kit? A kit meant to fit in your pocket is a far different build than a kit for your car or house.

Intended use: What general purpose are you gearing for? Are you building a kit for a work gang on a construction site? Do you spend a lot of time camping and hiking? Are you alone a lot, with the need to treat yourself?

Level of training: How much medical background and skill do you have? You should know how to use every piece of gear you carry, and I don't advocate carrying gear you don't know how to use. As an example, I have zero training in sutures, and very minimal and passing instruction on deflating chests, so carrying kits for that (commonly found in those nigh-surgical kits) is wasted space, weight, and money for me.

Personal needs: If you or a loved one has a medical condition with specific needs, by all means, you have to plan for that.

The answers to these questions will direct how you build and store your kit. As we proceed, please make suggestions or offer substitutions, as I guarantee none of us have seen every gizmo and new first aid toy out there. If you have any questions, please comment or email.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Harsh Realities: Miscarriages

Look, they're going to happen.

Men and women alike should pay attention.  This is one of those things that you won't see a lot of folks talking about because it makes them uncomfortable.  It's not an easy subject.

Unfortunately, this topic falls under personal experiences for me. I won't go into how many I've lost; just be aware I am a woman who has experienced the loss of her babies at a month and a half, and at four months.  I've been on the receiving end of a wide range of reactions from the would-have-been fathers.

The Basics

Miscarriages are in that category called Personal SHTF.  If not handled with care, compassion, and respect, this situation can easily escalate into being a long-term emotional wound which will affect other areas of your life. They are horrible occurrences now, but will only get worse when medical options dwindle as some miscarriages may, in a worst case scenario, even claim the life of the woman.

Most women who miscarry do so when their menstruation cycle starts - the baby wasn't set fully into the lining of the uterus, perhaps, or a wide variety of other reasons.  Sometimes they don't even know they've miscarried.

And then there are times when a woman will not have the luxury of never knowing.  You miss a period, then two, and you start in with a whole range of emotions: excitement, fear, etc.   Then the questions start.  How will the father react? What are my options if he doesn't want to accept the child? Do I even tell him??

Men experience the same range of emotions though different questions, though I can only speculate as to what those are. I have been met with anger from some, and fear and denial over the others.  When I lost the babies, their reactions were, respectively, disgusted relief and painful remorse.

Mental Effects

When a woman miscarries, a lot of how it affects her is dependent on her mindset.  There is no denying the impact of a miscarriage, or the spiral into depression that follows. Honestly, women... let yourselves grieve.  DO NOT BOTTLE IT UP INSIDE.  Men, ask her what she needs.  Comfort her!  Don't be afraid to hold a weeping woman and get  your clothes soaked.  One of the most damaging things that can be done is not acknowledging the event.  Rub her back and let her cry.

Don't initiate conversation about the baby.  Let her do that, and don't be hurt when she doesn't want to talk about it.  Depending on how late in the pregnancy the miscarriage happened, what kind of mindset she kept, and her diet, she'll be almost back to normal (physically) after about 18-45 days,.  Long walks in the sunshine will help ease the depression remnants as well.

Physical Effects

Miscarriage bleeding times vary between women, but the need to replace the nutrients in the body is going to be critical.  Bleeding events, even normal ones like periods, cause feelings of brain fog and lethargy.  She's likely going to seem a bit accident-prone for a few days after as well.  Depending on how many months along it happened, you will want to cut the work she's doing.  Let her do only little things at first.  She's going to need to feel useful, to be needed.

Things that will help her body recover will be foods high in iron (like spinach and meats) and protein (whole proteins from chicken, duck, fish or combined proteins from rice and mushrooms; rice and beans).  Stay away from carbohydrates and starches, as they mess with her blood sugar horribly and will contribute to a worsening in her depression.

Medical complications (physical trauma) resulting from miscarriage are beyond the scope of this article as I am not a trained medic. If you have experience in this area then please comment.

In Conclusion

Life is a harsh reality in a post-SHTF world. There likely won't be hospitals or doctors available, and if you're very lucky, someone in your group went and learned midwifery.

Miscarriage will be something you deal with in a group of mixed sexes.  Women are going to be getting pregnant, and the stress of SHTF will be a factor in the survival of mother and child.  It's not something you can prepare for in the physical sense; you can only study for it, and be mentally and emotionally prepared of what might happen.

Friday, March 21, 2014

SHTFriday: Spring Forward, Fall Back, Prep Up

Not actually Erin.
Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission. 
I don't have the time this afternoon to give you another Apocalypse Arsenal post, so I thought I'd do a quick-but-still-kinda-relevant post on keeping your preps current.

Approximately two weeks ago, we "sprang forward" for Daylight Savings Time. Whenever that happens, we are encouraged to check or change out the batteries on our smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.  I like to go one step further and suggest that folks do a complete teardown of their stored preps to make sure they're in good order:

  • One at a time, disassemble your Every Day Carry kit, your Get Home Bag, your Car Survival Kit, your Bug-Out Bag, and whatever other bags you have. 
    • If you need to switch out seasonal gear (such as cold weather clothes for hot), now's the time. 
    • Make sure that the bag itself is in good shape and is not showing signs of wear or fatigue. Repair all holes and torn/stretched seams, and patch areas showing wear. 
    • Check your food, medical supplies, and batteries to see if any of them have expired, leaked, or dried out. Replace those which have. 
    • You aren't storing batteries IN your appliances, are you?  Regular alkaline batteries are prone to leaking and corrosion over time if left plugged in, so put electrical tape over the ends if you leave them inside a device.
    •  Lithium and rechargable batteries are less prone, but they may have slowly discharged over time. Replace and recharge if necessary. 
    • If your batteries are kept loose instead of in an insulated carrier, tape over the edges as well, just in case those rumors about accidental contact fires are true. 
    • Make sure all your gear works, and hasn't become damaged due to rust or weight of other gear on top of it. 
    • Do a complete inventory to make sure you didn't take something out and forget to put it back. A checklist for what belongs in the bag is a good idea for this specific purpose.  
  • Check your medical supplies in your bathroom. 
    • Again, expiration dates. 
    • Again, damage from mice/water/leakage/whatever. 
    • Again, checklist. 
  • Check the food in your pantry to see if anything needs to be rotated out. 
  • Check your long-term food (MREs etc) and water storage. 
    • If your water comes from a pump or a well, check that. 
  • Do you use solar power?  Climb up on the roof and check the panels for signs of damage. 
    • Do you have energy stored in deep-cycle batteries?  Check them, and check the charge. 
  • Check your guns. 
    • Are they all there? Are all of their accessories (sights, lights, etc) all there?
    • Do they all work?  Take them out to the range for a quickie. 
    • Check for signs of rust or other damage. 
    • Check whatever they're stored in. Is it still strong? If it's lockable, is it still secure?
  • Check your ammo. 
    • Make sure it hasn't been damaged by heat or moisture. 
    • After you come back from the range, do an inventory. Buy more if necessary. 
  • Check your vehicle. 
    • Make sure all the tires are inflated properly
    • Make sure the oil has been changed if necessary
    • Make sure all the fuses are working and that you have spares
    • Make sure you have at least half a tank of gas in your car. 
  • Check your body. If you haven't been to the doctor in a while, GO. 
    • Get a physical. Make sure you're as healthy as possible. 
    • Get a dental check-up. If your teeth hurt, life sucks and eating is difficult or impossible. 
    • Get your eyes checked if you wear glasses. An updated prescription and a spare pair of specs are good things to have. 
  • Check your shoes for holes. 
    • Get new ones if necessary. 
    • Make sure you have good socks as well. 
  • Check your knives for rust/dullness/etc.
  • Check your house for leaks, draft, termites, trees that could fall....

Et cetera, et cetera. These are just examples; I'm sure a few minutes more thought could come up with more examples.  The idea here is that preparedness is not a "one and done" thing where you buy the right item and forget about it;  preparedness is a state of mind where you know (and if you don't know, you make sure) that everything is working and ready to go. Even if you're not 100% up to speed on everything in this list -- and none of us are, really -- it's good to get into the habit of checking things to make sure they're still good, and functional, and present, rather than just assume everything is in place and working properly only to be disappointed (or worse, endangered) later when you discover that they are missing or broken. 

Stay safe and keep prepping!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Death and Burial- Part 3 (Spirit)

For the new readers, I tend to break personal things down into four categories- Body, Mind, Spirit, and Soul. Things other than personal I categorize by how many people they affect (Team, Tribe, Territory). That's just how I deal with things, I'm not going to demand that you follow my example.

In Part 1 I covered the "Body" side of death and burial; basically, how to dispose of a body in a respectful manner.

In Part 2 I covered some of the "Mind" side - I laid out the information on how to determine if someone is dead and went through the stages a body goes through shortly after death.

Today, in Part 3, I will be going over "Spirit". Spirit is separate from Soul in my view. The difference as I see it is that Spirit contains the mental/emotional health of a person, whereas Soul deals with the undying part of us that makes us human and leaves the body at the time of death.

Part 4 -Soul is a touchy subject that will have to cover a wide variety of faiths, as well as atheism. Look for it in the near future, but not any time real soon - I'm still doing research.

Grief and Mourning

There is a difference between grieving and mourning. Grief is what you feel inside; mourning is how you express those feelings to the rest of the world. They are both part of a journey towards acceptance of the loss and the continuance of your life, albeit without the one who has died. Each journey through grief and mourning is unique and has no road map. There is no "proper" way or path to grieving and mourning, no 10 step process to go through before you're "all better" or "over" your loss.

Grief. Grief is part of being human. It exists because we have the ability to love and we are all mortal. The combination of those two things dictates that we are going to have to deal with the death of those that we love. The depth of the felt grief will vary according to a host of factors:
  • The relationship you had with the one who is gone. Generally the closer and longer the relationship, the stronger the grief will be. This is why the death of even a distant aunt or cousin has more of an impact than the death of a dozen people you've never met on the other side of the world and the death of a true friend can hit harder than that of a family member. The death of a leader can have an extra impact because of their many roles in your life.
  • The circumstances of the loss. If the loss is sudden and unexpected, expect to feel grief more intensely than if it was after a long illness. The death of a young person is usually seen as more of a tragedy because of the unfulfilled potential they represented.
  • Your cultural background. Those of us who live closer to the production of food tend to view death differently than do those who think that meat and eggs magically appear in the grocery store.
  • Your religious views and the religious views of the one who is gone. If you believe in an afterlife and are content that the one who died has fulfilled whatever requirements their religion has for admittance to a better place, their death will be easier to accept as a transition rather than an ending.
  • The support system that is available after the loss. If you have compassionate friends and family around you to help you, the journey will be easier. Being surrounded by selfish, negative people will only make things harder to work through, but that applies to more than just grief.
  • Other stress in your life at the time of loss. Obviously if you are already under stress you will be more likely to be hit hard by a death or find it difficult to deal with.

Mourning.  The outward expression of grief will vary as much if not more than the feelings of grief themselves.
  • Cultural aspects of mourning vary greatly. Despite our inherent bias towards our own culture, we should at least try to accept that other people are going to mourn in other ways. Americans of northern European decent (especially men) tend to be stoic, trying to internalize their grief and not show any signs of "weakness" by outwardly mourning a loss. The Irish may throw a wake to celebrate and remember the life of the one who died. Women are generally allowed to grieve more openly than men.
  • Religious beliefs will also be a factor in mourning. Many religions have routines or ceremonies in place to provide "approved" methods of mourning. These may include specific time periods for different stages or rituals of mourning, clothing to be worn or not worn during mourning, and covering of mirrors in the house of the deceased.
  • Dressing in black for a period is common, but in some parts of the world widows will wear black for the rest of their lives (generally in the Greek Orthodox Christian areas). In some Asian cultures, wearing white as the color of purity is the norm for mourning.
  • Most people in mourning will withdraw from society to some extent. This is normal, but can be taken to the extreme point of cutting all contact with others. 
  • Social acceptance of the relationship you had with the deceased. There are a variety of forms of relationship that society may not approve of but that does not lessen your feeling of loss or your need to mourn. This is changing, slowly, in America with the inclusion of "special friend" as a relationship in obituaries, and "domestic partner" getting legal status in many states.

How to Help a Friend. The crew over at The Art of Manliness covered "how to help a grieving friend" quite well. To recap their article (It's a short read, go to the link for details.):
  1. Don't minimize their loss
  2. Don't try to divert them from their loss
  3. Don't be afraid to talk about the deceased
  4. Don’t be afraid of causing tears
  5. Do let them talk
  6. Do reassure them
  7. Don't isolate them
  8. Do some tangible act of kindness
  9. Don't let them drop out of life
  10. Do get them out of themselves

How to Help Yourself. Here's the hard part. I'm not a self-help guru that's here to tell you how you should grieve or mourn. I may be a Chaplain, but probably not your Chaplain. There is no right way or wrong way to mourn and the grief you'll encounter is very personally yours.

There are some basics, but situations are far too variable for me to say what will help you and what won't.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat, even if you don't feel like it. Get as much sleep as your body needs. Drink plenty of water, especially if you're crying a lot. Exercise is a good way to relieve stress, so hit the gym if you can.
  • Remember the deceased. Talk to others who are mourning the person who died. Share memories of your times together. Keep something of theirs to remind you of their presence in your life.
  • Don't be afraid to cry. Tears are natural and healing. If you're not comfortable having others see you cry, find a place where you can be alone to let them flow.
  • Visit the deceased's final resting place. Talk to them as if they were still alive, it may help you settle some of the turmoil in your mind.
  • Accept help and support from others. Reject condemnation and negativity from anyone who is not sharing your grief. 
  • Offer help and support to others who are grieving.
  • Be aware that healing grief takes time and that it may pop back up after you thought you had it under control.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The First 72 Hours: Gear Review and Update

Part 6 of a continuing series on prepping for a disaster, with an emphasis on how and where to start while on a Blue Collar budget.

Gear Review and Purchase Updates

I had the opportunity to try a stove mentioned in a comment to a previous post, either here or on the Blue Collar Prepping Facebook page. If you don't belong to that group, please apply, the comments and new information available there is great!

So, on to the stove. What I tried was the JINYU Butane canister stove, available in several of the Asian food stores in my area. Retail prices were around $20 for the stove and 4(!) Butane canisters. My friends use it for camping and to fry fish and to cook on their patio other items too smelly to do indoors.

  • Very light weight- less than 2 lbs with canister installed. The stove comes in a molded plastic box with flip over catches for storage and transport.
  • Very fast cooking- less than 5 minutes to boil 1 qt. of water. Probably a lot less, but the old proverb, 'A watched pot doesn't boil' and some beer came into play and I missed the boil point. This was tested in a standard kitchen 2 1/2 qt. pot, and as hot as it got, my expectation is in my light-weight camping pot it should be equal to or faster than my old WhisperLite due to burner size.
  • Low cost fuel- 1 canister is less than $2 and can run (I am told by the owners) over 2 hours. YMMV, and all those other disclaimers! 

  • Very light weight- I can see that packing this very far or using it heavily could be an issue. The case will prevent damage to the stove but the molded-in latches are a problem I've seen before on some of my job's accessory boxes. The stove itself, while light weight, seems sturdy enough to hold larger pots within reason.
  • Fuel Supply- The compatible gas canisters have to be used. I can see this stove used in a short term disaster situation, but for longer term I personally prefer dual-fuel liquid stoves.
My vote is a YES, with very minor qualifications.


Those of you NOT on Facebook are missing out! One member questioned my inclusion of sea salt in my food stores, due to Iodine (in table salt) being a required nutrient not found in sea salt. The reason sea salt was purchased (Asian markets rule!) is that it came from the factory in a heavy duty vinyl, zip-lock bag. My planning has to expect stored items may/will be crushed in an earthquake, so packaging has to be resistant to those forces. And I do have table salt in my stored items.

Coffee and Tea
Trader Joe's has 10-count instant coffee packets (with cream and sugar included) for $1.99. I bought two.
Also at Trader Joe's I found various teas 10 for $1.99, so I bought two boxes of them as well.

And for the last item, the Trader had 1 qt. cans of olive oil for $10.99. Pricey, I know, but since they come in a very crush-resistant can, I had to buy one.

As always, if you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"May Your Knife Chip and Shatter"

Or not, if you choose a good one.  We've gone over sharpening and maintenance, but  not yet given an overview on what makes a good or useful knife.  Time to remedy that.

There are a few considerations and options in the selection of a knife: Fixed blade or folding, carbon or stainless steel, serrations, blade size & thickness, tang and handle, and blade profile and point.

Fixed blade or folding:  Folding knives are far easier to carry, and having your tools at hand is vital.  I highly recommend any person who is not prohibited from carrying a knife to do so daily, and a folder is perfect for that.  However, for the heavier tasks that a "survival knife" may be called upon to perform, the only real option is a fixed blade.

Carbon or stainless blade:  Either is entirely acceptable.  A high-carbon steel blade will be harder, and will hold an edge longer than a stainless blade.  However, a carbon blade requires more care than a stainless blade, or else it will rust (and chip and shatter.)

Serrations:  Saw-tooth areas of a blade are great for cutting ropes and other fibrous materials.  However, they're a nightmare to sharpen without special tools, and even with special tools, sharpening them can be a chore.  Were I advising, I'd say don't bother with them.

Blade Size and Thickness:  My folders are about the size of my palm.  For a hard-working fixed blade, though, you want something a fair bit bigger, preferably twice that or more.  You also want a thick spine (the back, smooth portion of the blade).  1/8" spines are a bare minimum, 3/16" or 1/4" makes for a far stronger blade, and allows for batoning (a trick I'll teach later, in another firemaking post.)  Also, many knives have scallops for thumb traction on the spine.  These are rather handy.

Tang and Handle:  The tang is the portion of the blade material that extends into the handle.  The longer the tang is, the stronger the handle attachment and the knife itself will be.  For working knives like we're discussing, 3/4 or full-length tangs are all that really should be considered.

As to handles, the scales should be tough and durable, but provide good grip, particularly when wet or sweaty.  A finger guard  hilt is also a plus for preventing cuts from slips.

Blade Profile and Point:  There are numerous options for profiles and points, ranging from traditional to radical.  Some of the more radical designs show merit, but the tried-and-true profiles are that way for a reason.  The primary profiles you're likely to encounter are as follows.

 Clip Point
 Spear Point
Tanto Point

Any of those profiles make excellent all-around blades.  The Clip Point profile can be a little more delicate, and the Tanto Point takes just a little more practice to sharpen well.  The important point (heh) is that they all have a substantial amount of cutting area, a shape that can be readily sharpened, and a piercing tip sharp enough to make holes in wood or soft material.

As just one example of what a decent knife looks like (at a decent price, too!) the SOG Aura would be a good starting point.  I know Erin has also been quite pleased with her Glock field knife, and it definitely meets all the requirements listed.

And in minor closing miscellany...  There's a reason I linked to BladeHQ for this article.  They're local to me, their service has been stellar, both online and storefront, and they're truly knife experts.

Also, some additional reading, if you want to get way too deep into blade and handle materials:

I'd really love to see everybody else's knives.  Show and Tell ain't just for the schoolkids!  Share em in the comments.


Monday, March 17, 2014

They who control the Spice...

Sorry my dears, couldn't resist the opportunity for that title.  Yes, we are going to be looking at spices and herbs again today, both for bugging in and bugging out.

Now, packing some bug-out spices may be something new to you, but for a long time I have always packed at least ground pepper, salt, garlic powder and bullion cubes of beef and chicken.  The bullion cubes are great to throw into a pot of boiling water that has your evening squirrel cooking away, and now you no longer have plain boring tree rat for dinner. Now it's tree-rat ragoût!

These days, I have taken out the bullion cubes (due to an allergy to some of the preservatives they use) and replaced them with cumin and curry powder.  The salt and garlic are combined into one bag/container, and  I also have a bottle of Tapatio (pretty much the best hot sauce ever - second to Sriracha) in the pack.  (A note on the salt: try to make sure it's iodized.  Iodine is both necessary and unlikely to be in your other food storage, even supplements.)

As for the containers the spices are in, I mostly use zip-lock bags.  They take up the least amount of space, but as you can guess, the bags tend to wear from frequent use.  I'm still investigating options that are just as space and weight economical but also within my very small budget.

As for our bug-in preps on spices.... my partner has to keep my spice and herb spending on a leash.  I love different spices and herbs.  We have a full shelf of oregano, thyme, cumin, curry, garlic, chili powder, cayenne powder, curry, ginger, allspice, cloves, rosemary, creole seasoning, etc.

Once we are in a bigger place (we're in a small apartment at the moment -- think roughly 475 square feet), we'll be able to switch back to the prior system of spice storage I used to use, which was buying the BIG containers of the spices I used the most like sage, garlic, salt, black pepper and cumin.  You get a much better deal that way and you are refilling smaller containers from the large ones.  The larger containers that you can find at stores like ethnic grocery stores, Krogers, and even Wal Mart or Big Lots are very conducive to being stacked.

Ideally, you want to throw the spices and herbs you use the most into your bail out bag.  A couple pinches of black pepper and garlic sprinkled onto your umpteenth package of Ramen noodles (gag!) can go a long way in lifting spirits.

Double stock up on your most used spices!  Those are going to be pieces of normalcy that will help keeping the panic everyone will be feeling down.  Plus, if you find someone willing to trade, a "dime bag" of black pepper, salt and sage may go a long way towards establishing some goodwill.

One way to make small spice packets is to use a straw.  You heat up a pair of needle nose pliers, pinch off one end, fill to desired size, and pinch off the other end. (This trick also lets you make small pockets of things like oil, antibacterial cream, aloe, etc. Very useful.)

Now, it's not possible to truly replicate your kitchen in miniature for your bail out gear.  Trust me, I've tried. The point is have something that helps you stay feeling like you're civilized -- even if it's just a few dashes of hot sauce on your roasted tree rat.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Why I do what I do, and why you should (and shouldn't) listen to me

Not actually Erin.
This lady is Rosaline Crow.
Picture by kjten 22.
I apologize in advance if this comes out as a detached torrent of word-vomit, but I have something on my mind that's been stewing for a while now and I really need to get it out.

I am not an expert on anything*.   I believe I have said this from the beginning, and if not, I'm saying it here: I'm not an expert on prepping, or on firearms, or on anything else I talk about on this blog. I do not speak for my other co-bloggers in this manner, just myself.

I am what I call a "Useful Idiot".  I don't mean this in the political sense (although I am aware of the term and use it ironically); I mean this in the sense of More often than not, I don't know what I'm doing. If I manage to succeed in what I am doing, then that means anyone with a bit of skill or training can get it to work, too. If I fail, I am an example to you of what NOT to do.  Don't use me as a role model; use me as an object lesson instead. 

Why, then, do I talk about things as if I have authority? Because I've basically reached my limit in the learning I can do through reading, and now I'm looking for experience and exchange of ideas in order to improve myself. Since I have some skill at writing, I figured I would put my limited experience (and, therefore, my unlimited ignorance) on display so that I could learn from other people.

Exchange of information and learning from others is the entire reason I started this blog.  Every time I read an article by one of the other writers, I learn something new. That's huge for me. Just by being here, I am becoming smarter because I directly benefit from the wisdom of the authors (and, indeed, the commenters) here.  I want Blue Collar Prepping to be a place of learning and exchange of ideas -- dialectic, not rhetoric, should be the order of the day here. 

However, it really chafes my butt when people start arguing matters of opinion like they are facts. Disagree with someone all you like, but unless you can prove them factually wrong, just agree to disagree. Philosophies on prepping are often matters of judgement, and we won't know who is right and who is wrong until the after-action reports have been written. The same goes for discussions on guns.

When I screw up, I admit it. As an example, until I started writing this blog I believed both that "revolvers are more reliable than semi-auto pistols" and that "an AR-15 round will over-penetrate and go through multiple walls". Since then, I've read a lot of ballistic reports on how high-velocity AR ammunition will tend to disintegrate once it hits something hard, and I've heard from many people who know their guns that while a revolver is less likely to break, when it breaks it breaks HARD.  When confronted with these facts, I do my best to swallow my pride and admit that I have been wrong. While being wrong sucks  (it's very embarrassing to me),  I would rather be proven wrong here, where I can make a correction and improve myself, than continue with a mistaken belief and learn a lesson the hard way.

In conclusion:
  • I put my ignorance on display so that I can learn and improve. This is rather like an out-of-shape person going to the gym.
  • Don't blindly believe everything I say, as I could very well be wrong. Go out, try it for yourself, and if I'm wrong, let me know. I will own up to my errors.
  • If it works for an idiot like me, then either I got very lucky or it will work for you, too. 
  • If it doesn't work for me, then learn from my mistakes (or tell me what I'm doing wrong).

 Thank you, and I hope you've all had a lovely weekend.

*Well, not unless you count role-playing games and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and even then there are people more hard-core about it than I. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saturday Shout-Out: Wester Rifle Shooters Assn.

A big "Thank You" goes out to CA at Western Rifle Shooters Association for linking to posts on our blog.

If you're a new reader here:  don't be shy, we've only been online for something like 45 days now, so some of the authors are new, too. Wander around and see if there's anything that you find interesting. We're open to (reasonable) suggestions for topics, and if you look up at the top of the page you'll see our policy on guest articles. Check out the "Our Authors" link for some background information and our schedule of posting.

P.S.  Part 3 of the Death and Burial series will be up this Thursday.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Guest Post: The Bugging-Out Myth

(Editor's Note:  I am not in 100% agreement with all of Mike's theories. I believe there are circumstances, such as natural disasters, where bugging out is exactly the right thing do and there is enough lead time to do so intelligently. 

If you do plan to bug out: Have a destination; have multiple routes and methods to get there; have contingency plans for when those routes and methods fail. 

That said, taken in context with the typical "Civilization suddenly collapses" doomsday scenario, Mike's advice is valid. Keep an eye on your situation so that you are not taken by surprise; the best advice for avoiding disaster is not being there when it happens. )

“Bugging Out”: The #1 Prepper Delusional Fantasy
by Mike SixEight

I’m not going to bother to tell you how much food you should have on hand, or how much water, how many guns or how much ammo you need,  how to poop without running water or how to entertain yourself during a crisis. I’m going talk about what we’ll see in the first few days of a catastrophic event and why you’re not going to be able to “bug out”.

There is this fantasy in some prepping circles and with some sorts of preppers that they will immediately be able to “bug-out” when “the shit hits the fan”. They’ll know exactly when society is going to collapse; tell their boss “IT’S TEOTWAWKI! I QUIT!”, head home and get all their “preps” (I've never heard anyone actual call supplies “preps” until Doomsday Preppers)and “bug-out”. The balloon goes up and you think that everyone else is just going to carry on like nothing has happened, allowing you more than ample time to make it home, grab the wife and kids, meet up with your buddies and take off to your Super-Secret Hideout in the West that you've stocked with decades full of supplies, ready to hunker down and come out and rebuild some Glorious Utopia based upon what you think the Founding Fathers actually meant when they rebelled against Britain?

I hate to burst your bubble, but: no, you won’t. Because you’re not even going to make it out of the city. You’ll be lucky to make it out of the suburbs. How do I know this? History. Recent history. Not just in this country, but in others. Remember those blocked roadways leading out of New Orleans? Something catastrophic happens and you think that the roadways will be clear? People are animals. When they get scared, they tend to run. Most of them don’t even know where they’re running to, they’re just trying to get away from whatever is scaring them. And they clog up the roads in their panic. So much for the “bugging out to my Secret Squirrel Tree Fort” idea (this doesn't even include the possibility “What if you’re wrong?” How many times can one pull this stunt and keep coming back to their boss a few days later and saying “Uh, I was wrong. Can I have my job back?” I’m guessing once, if you’re utterly awesome at your profession and your boss is absolutely in love with you).

When something bad happens, and by bad I mean horrific natural disaster (typhoon in the Philippines) or the complete collapse of a country (Zimbabwe, Rhodesia, the USSR), people tend to revert to more base instincts. Primary needs are to be settled first: shelter, water, food, fire, and defense. The instant that those needs, all of them, cannot be met, people will turn on each other.

In the Philippines and Kosovo, it was common to see roadblocks preventing people from passing through certain city blocks or other areas. If you wanted through, you gave up whatever those manning the roadblocks wanted - assuming they didn't just kill you and take whatever you had anyways. Does anyone in their right mind assume that we would not see the same here? I’m sure many people would assume that everyone will just band together, help their neighbors and “love one another”, as that old peacenik song said. Sorry, hippies. Humans are animals. We just run better software than the others.

The conflict in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina is a prime example of societal collapse and how people respond to such an event. Kosovo is still a mess. Rapes, looting, arson and murders were common. Men didn't go out in groups of less than three because there were always larger groups of bandits on the roadways. To say nothing of the snipers that would simply shoot you down, wait a bit to see if anyone else was coming along, then climb down out of their perch and loot your body. Expect that to happen here after a catastrophic event, because people are people, regardless of where they live, where they’re from, what color they are, what gender or lack thereof they are, or how much they love puppies. And people will be people. This is to say, like animals with opposable thumbs.

Perhaps if you have a significant amount of resources and time, you can build a Super-Secret Doomsday Bunker made out of an old missile silo to live in, feel good about yourself for taking something designed to house a weapon that could obliterate a city and turning it into a place that will save lives, stock it full of patchouli, incense, your favorite Buddhist monk and spiritual healer and be all set for the End of the World As We Know It (and feel fine).

The rest of us, however, will have to shelter in place. That means keeping a low profile. If you walk around decked out like an extra in a video game, you’re not saying “I’m ready! I’m a badass! Don’t mess with me!” You’re saying “I’m an idiot. Shoot me in the back from behind that dumpster and take my shiny stuff.” Low profile is just that: low profile. The I-don’t-have-anything-worth-taking look. Hunker down; stay indoors as much as possible.

Light security is a must. And by that I mean only use the lights that you absolutely need. Got curtains? Good. Close them, and hang dark colored sheets behind them. Be as quiet as possible. Roll up towels or other thick cloth and put them at the base of your outside doors to muffle inside sounds and light. If at all possible, take old clothes, books, CDs, video games, whatever, and throw them out on your lawn or walkway. Do everything that you can to make it appear like your home has already been looted. If this camouflage stops one group from kicking in the door, then that’s one less potentially lethal problem that you’ll have to face.

It is, of course, good to be friends with your neighbors. That’s a subject for another post, but for this instance, it’s nice to know that Jim next door won’t be the person kicking in your door and trying to take your last nine cans of ravioli (“I mean, nobody wants to admit they ate nine cans of ravioli, but I did and I’m ashamed of myself.”) Stay low. Stay quiet. Stay dark.

For those that are insistent that they will “Bug out and live off the land” (or whatever), I have one final thought to consider: When you put on your camo, strap that bag to your back, grab your rifle and hit the road, do you know what you are? A survivor? A prepper? A tough-as-nails individualist who will survive while others perish?

Wrong. The instant you strap on that bag and leave your home without a specific place to end up, you are a refugee.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Team, Tribe, Town

One of the words that you'll see used in a lot of prepper blogs is Tribe. There are variations of what the word means, but most writers use it to describe the group that you associate with during a time of crisis.

I will lay out my thoughts on groups, their pros and cons, and some examples. My libertarian leanings are going to be quite evident. If you're on your own, then you're not part of a group and that is an entirely different situation.


A team is two to five people who are working toward a common goal. Trust is paramount to a team; they are not very effective at reaching goals if there is no trust between the members. Teams are limited in the scope of what they can accomplish by the fact that they are rarely self-sustaining. Teams are the lowest level of group that offers security to its members. Examples include a work group, search team, or small family.


A tribe is a collection of people (or teams), usually numbering between ten and twenty-five, who have something in common and who work together to support each other. A tribe can be an extended family, a collection of small families, or other group of like-minded people who are willing to work, and probably live, together. A sufficiently large tribe can be self sustaining, providing for the needs of the tribe by itself. History is full of different examples of tribal structures; the length of time that they existed is a good gauge of how effective they were at dealing with the problems inherent in groups of people.

Some writers place an emphasis on race or religion when describing a tribe. I don't concur with the racial separatists. There is only one race of humans: homo sapiens. The phenotypes that separate us into Caucasoid, Negroid, and Mongoloid are often used to divide us as are religious difference, sexual orientation, language, and ancestry. "Divide and conquer" is an old tactic that you have to watch for, because if someone is trying to split you apart from others, it is often so they can have more control over you.

"There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."   --  Daniel Webster

Town or Township

A town is a collection of families and/or tribes in a small area that have gathered to facilitate trade and/or manufacturing. Most towns are formed around routes of transportation, resources, or water. Towns are easier to secure than a township, but the concentration of resources and people make them more susceptible to damage from disaster and more likely to be seen as a target in times of conflict.

A township is more rural - a collection of families and/or tribes in a disperse area that trade and communicate with each other. Usually agriculturally based, townships provide less security than a town but offset this with greater freedom and resilience. A tornado or fire can wipe out an entire town, but a township will likely have some surviving resources to help with rebuilding.

City-state or territory

A territory is a collection of towns and townships that identify with each other for one reason or the other. Geography, language, religion, and politics are common reasons for their formation. See above under Tribe for my feelings about these. The city-state is the beginning of "politics" as we commonly know it. I am still searching for examples of  good outcomes of politics in history - they're rare. Cities have a lot to offer but they also have a lot to be wary of. A certain percentage of people are idiots (of one type or the other) and when you concentrate population, you also concentrate the idiots.


Once you gather a group of territories or regional governments together, you have a nation. Sometimes they occur naturally, and other times they are brought into existence by outside powers (maps get redrawn after wars, often times creating new nations out of the losers). Nations are notable because they have internal politics as well as political ties to other nations.  National governments generally have an identity separate from the people who live in the areas they control.

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