Going Down Easy

I really wanted to title this “How to pack for Armageddon” but that is not right, and not something I can do anyway.  There are tons of sites on that.  What to pack in the scaredy bag, what to have for “shelter in place.”

I’m not saying those won’t be needed.  As I said before, I don’t think anyone has taken into account – well, maybe someone has, but that’s not a comforting thought – that while this crew in power is playing at being “more sensitive than you” they’re giving signals to a lot of very bad actors.  The crew in power might be ill-intentioned (mostly I think they’re power-greedy and trying to cover it up by doing the things they’ve been told are “good”) but I suspect they honestly believe that if we unilaterally disarm we’ll be safe.  Don’t laugh.  A lot of my colleagues believed that all through the eighties.  It has nothing to do with intelligence, but with having lived quiet, sheltered prosperous lives where the wildest environment they knew was their kindergarten class.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen other sides of life, and I’ve studied history.

If we can do things like let all the sequester cuts fall on defense, and eventually start reducing our nuclear arsenal (more flexibility, remember?) and NOT get hit, we should just assume the USA is the Almighty’s favorite child and my made up USAians were right.  If we don’t lose a city or more to enemy attack in the next five/six years, I’ll assume this country is G-d’s personal project and that He’s zealously guarding us.

But alas, I think we’re human like other humans and our project of liberty and individual freedom is ours.

So, some regions of the country almost for sure will have to deal with Armageddon conditions to an extent or another.  Which depends who hits us and whether it’s a missile or a backpack nuke.

Yes, I feel crazy just typing that – it’s like ebooks, you know.  We expected ebooks to hit any minute now, and they didn’t, for almost twenty years.  I attended conferences in ninety four where they were talking about how ebooks were the coming thing.  But most people don’t like reading on the computer, and therefore it didn’t happen.  And then suddenly there was the second model of kindle (the first was too green and computer-like) and by that time anyone who’d been immersed in the business was SO convinced ebooks would amount to nothing, that they never, really, got their heads around the reverse.  They still haven’t.

To an extent we have the same relationship with nuclear attacks.  We expected them all through the cold war, which means most of our lives.  It never happened.  Now we tend to roll our eyes as we think of them.

But they are a heavy possibility.  There is a huge difference between attacking the US when you’re the USSR and you know you’ll get hit back, and attacking the US when you know it’s weakened and infighting, and you’re a small back water country and know if the US retaliates the world community will complain they’re picking on you.  (My brother after the Axis of Evil speech “Why is Bush picking on tiny, mad North Korea?” is what I expect to see.)

So, if you live in or near one of our major cities (unless it goes completely astray, which is possible since this is mostly “Russian Technology”, I expect it will be in one of the cities that everyone hears about on TV and shows: DC, NYC, Chicago, LA, San Francisco – with an outside chance of cities that have had TV shows set in them – Cincinnati, Dallas.  While it’s possible there will be one in Denver, for instance, that is an extremely outside chance unless there’s a sudden upswell of  documentaries about “Denver, the power of the west” that makes it abroad.) have a get away bag, just in case, and DO for the love of G-d know some funky, back-road route out of the city.  Make it a weekend project to scout those.  If you live in NYC and don’t have a car – Yes, you DO know who you are – make sure a friend-with-car includes you in his evacuation plans.

For what to put in the bag, and what to put in your basement/crawl space/armoire if you have to sit tight, there are survival blogs all over the net, and if you don’t know any, someone in this blog will link it on request.

My post – taking this long to get to the point is the hallmark of the fact I have had only one cup of tea – is about not the apocalypse, but the gentle slide into chaos and a (much) lower but still civilized lifestyle.

I’ve never been convinced by the “apocalypse” stories simply because American authors, never having experienced it, seem to think of something like a nuclear hit, or even several, crippling all our major cities and making our daily life a negotiated mess (and I want to stress that last one is – I think – highly unlikely in the situation right now.  We’re more likely to get the equivalent to “terrorism with nukes” than to get a planned, carefully carried out attack.  OTOH the attack might well unleash our own tensions and release Civil Unrest with a capital Mess – in which case, it won’t be much different from most cities taken out.)  will immediately send us back to some past age, ranging from the stone age to the nineteenth century.

Of course, most of those stories were written to convince us to unilaterally disarm, which, of course, meant exaggerating the awfulness.

Here is what is not going to happen:

Most people are not going to become looters overnight.  Yes, it will happen in some places, but let me remind you of when the lights went out in NYC for most of a day, and people just quietly walked home.  Whether you’ll have to shoot looters and keep vandals away depends on what region of the country you live in and how dangerous it is now.

You’re not going to need to grow your own wheat and mill your own flour overnight.  Yes, I know “on demand” supply, etc.  So, the local groceries will run out of ice-cream, Hersheys and the other stuff like that.  They might also – always depending on where you live.  We’re in the Khaki for vegetables out here, unless it’s summer, and even then – run out of steaks, or onions, or even (but unlikely.  I think the stuff spontaneously generates) cabbage.  BUT it’s unlikely to run completely out of flour or beans or rice.  (Of course, if you’re low carb you should be making your own preparations.)  Nor will it prevent local farmers from putting stalls by the side of the highway selling local produce ¾ of the year.

You’re not going to have to make your own clothes.  Look, I’m a writer, which means our income fluctuates, which is a polite term for “sometimes it’s non-existent.”  It always hits rock bottom at the most inconvenient times, too, like, when my husband is unemployed, (knock on wood, only happened twice in our entire married life.)  We’ve had to cut back on food, by going to the essentials and having me cook from scratch (but I do that, anyway, by preference) BUT we’ve never really had to cut back on clothes.  In fact, I think I have more than fit in my closet, and one of these days the hanging apparatus will crash.  (Partly because I treat them as disposable, since I hate aprons and all confining clothing, and so I tend to stain clothes while cleaning or cooking.)  — first, the clothes in your closet will not evaporate into the ether.  Second, and VERY important, society as a whole probably has a larger supply of clothes than we could consume (without throwing away) in a century.  I know this because we shop for our clothes at an ARC thrift store nearby.  A LOT of the clothes are brand new still with tags, usually because a store donated surplus.  And I have a rule never to pay more than $5 for a piece of clothing unless it’s designer. Then I’ll go up to $7.  If I go to $10 I get the frown of doom from my husband…

You’re not going to have to make your own furniture – see above.  We’ve gotten used to changing furniture at the drop of a hat because we stopped liking something, but if things get rough we stop throwing it away, and I bet you that what we have will last generations.  (Here I do have advice on what to choose. And what to have.)

This is not saying that things will be either comfortable or wonderful.

So – what do you watch for, and how do you prepare?

This post comes from the fact I was talking to my husband and said “the first thing is usually the post office going unreliable.”

Right now you’re looking at me like I’m a lunatic.  “But our post awful was always—”

No. There are differences.  Yes, in most countries the post office jobs are a sinecure for a politically favored majority (Or minority.  I might be wrong in this, but I have a vague idea most postal carriers in South Africa were Afrikaans speaking.)  and that they are a union shop in most countries, and that jokes about mis-delivered mail exist everywhere. That’s not what I mean.

Part of this is tricky when it comes to the post office, btw – because ours is suffering from catastrophic technological change, as well as everything else.  HOWEVER:

The slide goes like this – it begins with mail distribution twice a day six days a week, and the mail fairly reliable in the sense that yes, you do get human error and things delayed a bit.  Then it goes to once daily.  (I don’t know if the US started with twice daily.  By the time I came here, it was once daily. Part of this was tech change.  Used to be that before the telephone letters in-town were used to say “I’ll drop by tomorrow afternoon.”  Read a mystery of the early twentieth century for that.)

Then slowly the mail becomes more unreliable.  Then one day is cut out.  Then delivery is every other day.

BUT the most important thing is how unreliable it gets.  We’re already pretty unreliable, the reason they’re mostly used for spam.  (Though their tendency to misplace stuff doesn’t help.)

But along that slide comes the time when the mail is COMPLETELY unreliable.  Anything you entrust to them has a fifty/fifty chance of arriving, and anything even vaguely useful/valuable WILL get stolen, unless you’re very, very crafty.

This is a sign post on the way down.  When you start seeing outright unabashed theft by postal employees, and no attempt to track down your registered package, it’s time to have your preparations for the rest of the slide made.

Because that type of theft is a “societal strictures have broken down.”  It’s not “the neighbors will rape and pillage” but it is the “people will pilfer from strangers as a matter of course.”  A package, entrusted to strangers to carry across the country is, of course, at high risk.

This is highly unlikely and there are already signs we’re headed in that direction.  Whether and how much it will affect the private carrier companies, I don’t know.  Whether there will be Amazon Delivery vans that are more reliable, I don’t know.  I do know that the break down in trust needed to efficiently run mail in a continental-sized country is already well underway and getting markedly worse by the day.

The way to deal with the post office is to disguise the contents of whatever you’re sending.  Put an old coat over the new dress you’re sending aunt Emily.  Learn to make false bottoms on boxes.  Encase you check in several pages of blather.

Or, more likely, in this country, in the 21st century, find ways to send ecash, email and different carriers (thank heavens.)

But even if we have more options – that break down in trust is a telling sign.

The other slide is what used to be called in Portugal “a zeal strike” which I understand is the opposite of what the words mean in OZ where they mean “be over-picky over everything and delay everything.”  In Portugal it means “show up for work, but do whatever.”

This, not as a strike but as a way of life ensues.

What I mean is, you don’t realize how much we, Americans, are used to getting what we want, when we want it.

This is likely to go by the way side.  People won’t be breaking their backs to get stuff done and also, sorry, but all businesses are likely to be understaffed for the foreseeable future, because it’s right now almost impossible to keep your margins up in this country unless you’re GE and the government is feeding you dough by the bucketful.

So, things to have:

Any staple you can’t do without, even if it’s not a “survival essential” thing.  Say you’re mighty fond of a brand of coffee, have three or four bags put by in your freezer.  Before you run through them, it will be on the shelves.  Restock when it’s on the shelves and you can afford it.  That way interruptions in supply don’t affect you.

In the same vein, this coming spring, can, pickle and dehydrate veggies.  I don’t think they’ll vanish forever, but supply can/might/almost certainly will (depending on where you live) get mighty irregular.

Any parts you need to keep your car and house running, and which you know are likely to breakdown or need replacing – have by.  And either know how to replace it yourself, or establish a relationship with someone who does.  Knowing how to rewire something in the house and/or how to deal with plumbing is important.  (My husband is okay with it.  But getting one of those comprehensive books from the hardware stores, you know “how to fix anything in the house” is NOT a bad idea.)

Also not a bad idea: if you have to buy furniture and CAN afford it, buy real wood and the best construction you can.  “Furniture you can will to your grandchildren” should be your goal.  Mostly because you might have to.

Also, if you have a young family, buy the biggest house you can afford.  Look, I’ll be blunt, the one slide I saw up close and personal ended up with three and four nuclear families per house.  I.e. kids married and had grandkids, but they were still living with the parents/grandparents.  This did not change till the economy got better.  (And yes, it SORTA is cultural in Portugal, but it was not the norm since the forties, and in fact, as soon as people could afford it, they went their own way, even if children normally live NEAR parents.)

For those people with three kids in a one bedroom apartment it could get tough.

If you’re renting, try to get in a place where the rent won’t go crazy and where you can hunker down if you need to.  Establish a good relationship with your landlord.

Have a deep freezer, so you can buy meat when it’s available/relatively cheap.  (This is a good idea at any time, but it might be vital in a slide down.)

Acquire some knowledge of folk medicine and lay some supplies by.  I’ve recently found that Manuka wound honey (available from Amazon) is the awesome, and will definitely stock it.)  This is obviously part of the slide down at least for this country.  Finding a doctor might become an issue.  DO try to make friends with a doctor or a trained nurse.  It might save your life.

Other things that are probably sort of kind of less vital but that you REALLY don’t want to do without.  One thing I’ve never seen in a slide down is a country sliding into the gutter without significant, pervasive disruptions in the electrical supply.  I don’t mean electricity goes bye bye and never comes back. I don’t even mean LONG black outs.  For those you should have a generator/whole house battery (we can’t afford either) but I expect most of the time you won’t get that.  I mean brown outs and black outs become a fact of life to the point they affect your daily life/ability to work. Not enough to get you to crisis point, not even enough to spoil food in freezer, if you keep it closed.  But enough to annoy you and make things a daily slog.

First – have something you can use for light.  I used to love candles when I was a kid, but of course there are better options.  If you are using flashlights, keep your battery supply up.  I’ve also laid by some of those solar garden lights.  The light is not wonderful, but it is enough to read by.

Speaking of which, since it’s almost impossible to have extra batteries for the kindle (I don’t know about other e-readers) have a car charger, so that if your electrical crashes, you can charge the kindle enough to finish reading that novel.  Also, keep the vital stuff like “how to” manuals in paper.

In the same vein, if you get your living by using the computer, have extra batteries for your laptop.  Keep three of them or so by.

And have an alternate means of cooking, if you rely on electrical.  A grill will do, though I have an entirely coal fired hibachi as well, but that’s because I’m a nut.

Have an alternate means of heating (IF we’re going to stay in this house, I want a soapstone stove.  Sigh.  Maybe Witchfinder will buy me one.)

These things will seem frivolous.  They’re not “how to survive apocalypse” – but having lived through the slide-down, trust me, it makes your life immeasurably better to know that you can still finish that chapter, or write that report, or whatever, even if electricity just went down, and/or you can cook that dish even if the store is out of peppers.

One disruption or interruption is piddly stuff.  An unpredictable succession of them saps the soul and kills the spirit.

Now, the thing is, in the low slide down and counterintuitively, things can do very well you’d never think about.

Look, let me put it bluntly: babies are still born, birthdays still happen, girls still want to buy something pretty for a pick me up.

The people who did well in my brother’s generation (the most affected in Portugal by the slide-down) learned to do something crafty to sell.  Usually bead jewelry, which they sold (literally) on street corners, but also stuffed animals which you could sell to friends of friends of friends.  Paintings, if you were good.  That sort of thing.

Yes, we have walmart and jewelry for a song.  How long it will be cheap is something else, with the dollar plummeting, BUT

But people will pay the same/a little more for something that’s unique/looks better.  And people will still buy toys, baby clothes, (giving stuff to babies is a deeply-rooted tradition.) pretty things that make them smile, unique bits of apparel/accessories that make a tired outfit look new.

Cultivate some crafty skill – first it will keep you from going nuts while you’re worrying about jobs or what not.  Second, it might bring in enough money to survive between jobs/if permanently sidelined by this atrocious economy

Crafts to pick, if you don’t have a favorite should be things that are useful/don’t need proprietary materials.  Scrapbooking would be right out on the first count, and stamped cross-stitch on the second.

But say learning to make clothes out of scraps of material might be in, ditto with braiding rugs.  (Clue zero, but I know people in the village did it.  They bought/got rags off other people and made these gorgeous rugs.)  In a cold climate quilting is a good one.  Altering clothes is too.  Even with the surplus we have, people will grow up, grow wider, or lose weight.  If you know how to alter clothes to make them look GOOD you have something you can trade on/get money for.

I’m decent at refinishing furniture, and I’ve picked up on fillet crochet again.  I used to do this obsessively, then I hit my head and lost the ability to keep track of where I was on the pattern (wonder if that affected writing too?) which is slowly coming back.  Right now – by way of warm up – I’m working on a massive (bedspread size) curtain for our outsized front window.  But I’ve recently come across normal sized patterns for pillows and hangings (and maybe clothes inserts) from the turn of the century, which I think fall under “beautiful and unique” and would probably sell well at SF cons.  And the little ones I can do in an evening, the bigger ones in a week of evenings.

Though I expect ebooks will continue to sell and I even expect Baen to survive.  (The other houses… They’re houses of the living dead right now.  They look alive, but…)  It’s just that you might have to time your publishing/buying for the times the net is up.  And yep, I expect those will actually sell better, because if the net is down there’s less gaming, etc. available.

In that vein, don’t get rid of ALL your obsolete stuff.  Keep DVDs by, even if you have Amazon streaming.  Keep CDs by, even if you buy a lot of music electronic.  I’m clueless about game systems because I don’t use them, but if there’s a way to keep games by, and have power for the systems, do so.

CDs, DVDs and other forms of entertainment not depending on connectivity (if the electricity goes down in your area, so will the net service, most of the time) might make good trade-goods, as well.  So if you see them at the thrift store, buy and store, just in case.  Don’t spend an enormous amount and don’t fill your house with them, but having a few around to trade for others you want is not a bad idea.  Burn you MP3 to CD as backup and keep one of the old stereos around.

Also, because in the long slide down things like the over-restrictive “must cook this in a sterilized kitchen with no one else in the house” health laws tend to slide, even baking and cooking might not be a bad thing, particularly because I suspect a lot of people can’t cook beyond pre-prepared and will be looking for alternatives.  Having the house where the working couple can pick up the pot of pot roast and give you something in return because they’re that kind, might not be a bad idea if the stores are having trouble stocking tv dinners.  (In Portugal it was bread.  Very few people knew how to make bread, but the bakers’ union got bumptious and started not delivering when expected.  Suddenly the people who could bake bread were very popular.)

These are not survival skills, but they’re “keep the world spinning” skills and “make people feel they’re not living in the end times” skills.  They will stand you in good stead.

Most of them are a matter of degree from the Armagedon skills.  So if you believe Armageddon is more likely, by all means, learn to make soap.  BUT learn to make scented, interestingly shaped soap, and you have a skill in case it’s a slide-down.  Learn to make beer, but if you make it micro-brewery specialty beer you can also do well in the slide-down.  Learn to make clothes – but also learn to fix/alter clothes.  That way you’re okay either way.

The only difference is stuff like laptop batteries which are vital in a slide-down and useless in the end of the world.  BUT having them won’t cost you too much.

And it might save your sanity… and allow you to make money off ebooks or whatever it is you do.  If it’s just a slide down.

We’re already in a slide-down, even if not critical yet.  There’s a good chance of a crash, but there’s a chance, also, the slide-down will continue.

In your packing for the crash, don’t neglect preparation for the tumble down the stairs.  It’s usually just a little more effort/expense.  But it can make all the difference.

UPDATE: Welcome instapundit readers and thank you to Glenn for the link!  I was ironing, a masochistic ritual I engage in for a few hours once a month (because it makes a difference on how husband and sons look!) and came back to a ‘lanche.  Very nice. Those thinking I’m overly pessimistic might want to read today’s post!

211 responses to “Going Down Easy

  1. As I was reading this my dad walked in to tell me that our greenhouse is at 62 degrees (F) and he’s going to plant. This, in March in New Hampshire, is a big thing. We have the high-tunnel because at any given time there are 2 days worth of produce in NH. The more small farms there are, pushing the growing season out further, the less impact a loss of transport will have. And I do see that as being a problem with the cost of fuel going up up up. So we may have two feet and more of snow on the ground right now, but we will have greens to feed the family (and more, I know how Dad plants) within a week, and planting on a rotation schedule will keep that constant. As for the plans and packing, well, I’m prepared, and I grew up that way. With the upcoming move and being away from my kids I worry a bit, but they will actually be in a good place for it, should things slide faster than I anticipate. I am the last person to join the tinfoil brigade (my childhood was… interesting, and I rebel against that mindset), but I am seeing unsettling signs.

    • Exactly. I am too. And I’d love to have a hothouse because CO is poor soil and hard to grow stuff.

      Maybe I’ll write a pron novel — what worse than fifty shades of musketeer? Well… maybe the sequels — and try to make enough money to enclose the front porch and make the upper balcony into a conservatory. It would go with the house STYLE and it could work as an hothouse. (It’s CO — sunny even in deepest winter. Have heat storing tiles and glass everything — it WILL get warm.)

      • Well, to start, look into Rocket mass heating stoves, and water as mass heat storage. I was in a house with a conservatory recently that had these columns with water in them, they looked great and held a *lot* of heat. If I were staying here with Dad we’d be building a solar porch/mass heat storage on the south side of the house this summer. As it is… I don’t know what he will do. In the twenty years we’ve been here on this land, he’s built up the garden soil about 2 feet with good dirt. One of my concerns over my upcoming move is that I will be in a more urban area, and I’m accustomed to rural (very rural, even, out in the sticks). It will be an adjust ment. Vertical gardening is on my mind.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          I was also going to suggest a Rocket mass heating stove. Here’s a DIY: http://www.richsoil.com/rocket-stove-mass-heater.jsp

          They also can be purchased factory-built.

          • Could one run a rocket stove exhaust into a greenhouse and see improvements in vegetable yield?

            • Rocket mass heater is like any heat source: It’ll keep your greenhouse from freezing solid when it’s really cold, only advantage being how little you have to fuss and how little fuel it uses. FREE fuel might also be important at some point and rocket stoves burn “whatever” kind of small dry wood.

              • Actually, I talked to Dad about this. He says that it would work, but you would need to make sure the venting was really good, as you’d wind up with a lot of water as a by product, which leads to fungal problems (you don’t want those, trust me!) He also said the best thing would be to vent it into pipes under the beds, heating the soil from the bottom up. We have a passive solar system in the greenhouse that does something like this, moving hot air from the top of the greenhouse down and under the beds. We do not currently heat the greenhouse, so it is two cold to grow in for about 2 months of the year. Since our ‘frost-free’ growing season here is June 1-Sept 1, that is a significant improvement.

      • You might experiment with those “water ball” growing things, too, for window planters. Might help with indoor dust problems until/unless you can enclose the porch.

        I’m going to. My folks work on the ranch, so there’s a great source of, ahem, aged bio material to make “tea” to feed dirtless plants…..

      • Why not write a book about the subject at hand? “How to pack for a quiet Armageddon” sounds like a pretty interesting book title to me.

      • For your poor soils, try recreating the Amazon black soils, as the general soil in the amazon is also very poor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_preta Not had a chance to try this as yet myself, it’s a project for later in the year

      • William O. B'Livion

        You might want to look at http://www.resilientcommunities.com, he’s got a lot of lower-cost or “scalable cost” ideas (meaning you can do it cheap or you can do it pretty) for optomizing ones household production.

        Ultimately if we’re unsuccessful tomorrow at the state house you might want to look at pulling up stakes and moving to a state that respects the right to self defense.

        We live outside of Denver (just moved in and we’re already looking at moving to SLC), and my wife planted a bunch of stuff in the windows in preparation for spring planting. Everything is sprouting.

  2. There are a lot of resources to get you started. I would recommend looking at old books. there used to be reprintersds of told technology books, but they seem to have disapeared or gone out of business like Lindsay books or Dover. Iv’e bought a whole raft of what I call “end of the world rebuilding books from those guys over the years. I’ve also found that it pays to troll used book stores. One book I recommend as an absolute must is the Fannie Farmer cookbook.

  3. As always, I pray you’re wrong.

    That said, just two weeks ago I refused to send my husband’s computer by the USPS because valuables *are* too easily “lost.” Why not? There’s no accountability….

    Some places do have twice daily delivery/pickup. Our area does.

    • Is *that* why half the stuff you get from ebay never arrives? (Okay, that hasn’t happened to me in a while, but then I haven’t bought from ebay in a while–for that reason.)

      • It depends on the area– around military bases seems to be the worst, probably because the reward to risk is so high. My brother sent me an iPod he got as a freebie, and it arrived opened, with the item removed, then badly repacked. Mom and sister got theirs alright.

        Then there was the bracelet from some designer person back east his fiance says are all the rage, sent to my mom with another one, where ONE of the bracelets was stolen. (The one with the Virgin on it was left, for some reason.) My sister and I got both of ours.

        My girls are still missing one of the four books he sent for Christmas.

        That said, I get lots of computer equipment that makes it intact– impulse thefts that can be fairly easily concealed seem to be the thing.

        If I had to guess, I’d say that the window of theft is opened during random inspections.

      • You know I send and recieve a lot of stuff by mail, and have almost never had a problem with the mail service, the business on the other end *losing* something and requiring multiple, progressivesly louder and unfriendlier phone calls to find it; oh yeah. Where I used to live it was a joke that we all knew our neighbors because we got together every day to sort and distribute mail, since the mail lady usually managed to get your mail into a box within a couple miles of your house, but she was much better with packages; and the local mail lady here is very good. I did order a used book off Amazon one time that never arrived, I got my money back and ordered another copy, and about 9 months later I got the original that I ordered, it had been sitting somewhere in Arizona for most of a year (UK to Idaho, why it was in Arizona I have no clue).

        • *snort* I had the local post office lose a box because the bar code had been smeared. This even though the sender and destination addresses were perfectly legible. So when the replacement items came, someone at USPS said, “Gee, I wonder if these are going to the same place” and I ended up with a double order of wooly socks.

      • Same reason here plus many times the ebay items look worse than the picture and when I try to get it back — I have problems with paypal, etc, etc. I don’t use ebay anymore.

  4. A note on alternative heat sources. If you opt for gas (propane, natural gas, etc.) make sure the furnace you buy will work without electricity. An amazing number of gas furnaces these days don’t work without electricity, which makes them useless as an alternative if the power goes out. I don’t have any experience with oil furnaces, but have heard some of them are the same way. Pellet stoves and coal furnaces usually work without power, but many have augers that feed fuel into the firebox, these augers will not work and you will have to feed them manually fairly frequently, a bit of a pain but doable.

    Obviously woodstoves work well without power, but most landlords of apartment buildings would have conniptions if you tried to install one, while they make a plethora of ventless (no need to cut a hole in the wall) gas furnaces that could be installed in virtually any rented house or duplex and many apartments without even having to contact the landlord.

    • “work without electricity” might be adapted to “not needing the grid to be up”, by having a charged deep cycle battery and a solar panel to keep it charged. Scale the system to be able to handle worst-case run-all-the-time big storm, and/or have a generator + wood stove.

      Having to run a 4.0KW genset to be able to run your NG furnace is fussy and expensive. The furnace only needs a couple hundred Watts to sense/spark/blow. The advantage of powered heaters is BTU output (lots), burn efficiency (high), and thermostat/time control.

      Backup is wood. Wood is good: dry split-stacked wood is better than money in the bank. Insert will do it cheap and smokey, rocket mass heater will do it efficiently on way less wood. Good luck getting approval to build a masonry stove in a rental.

      • I use wood as my primary heat source, with gas (propane) as a backup. The backup is mainly for heat when I am not around in the winter, to keep pipes from freezing. So I made dang sure I got a furnace that will run without electricity. I did get the optional electric fan which boosts heating efficiency by 10 or 20% (it’s been to long since I did all the research before I bought it) but it functions just fine without any electricity, it just doesn’t have a fan to circulate heat as well. Oh and I got a vented one, because even though they are perfectly reliable, I have problems trusting a ventless furnace. (ridiculous since I have no problem trusting my wood stove, which is not vented outside)

      • Extended loss of power is critical since your gas furnace will not run without blower power. Also the fridge is good for at most two days, same for an upright freezer. Chest freezers, especially full ones, will last maybe four days. And they will keep acceptably cold indefinitely if run 15 minutes or so three or four times a day. To do that you need at least a 1,500 watt generator or inverter with a heavy duty battery. Refrigerators and freezers only need around 300 watts to operate, but require a much larger draw to handle the startup surge.
        We lost power for eight days a while back, line of wall tornadoes took out the TVA high tension lines serving about a quarter million people. Only serious damage to me was freezer contents. Have since added an inverter that can run just fine off the truck battery and will be upgrading to a solar panel trickle charger in the near future.

      • Snag yourself an old Warm Morning propane or NG heater. No electricity required unless it has a blower and they can be picked up reasonably cheap. At least in my part of the world. They are a “vented” heater but I had two in the old farm house I lived in and had no problems. In a super tight house I could see needing to vent it.

  5. I’ve got a solar charger for ereaders/phones/cameras and so forth on my wish list. I have four hours worth of battery backup for my computer. I’ve never needed that much, but it’s worth it just to dodge those little two second outages. If for no other reason than they can’t be good for the equipment.

    And I’m learning to garden. Arg! Double Black Thumbs. And raids by the semi-feral chickens and peacocks. (Yummy!) I’ve gotten good at tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. This year I’ll expand the garden enough for zuccinni and yellow squash. Maybe some melons. And I need to find a good place for strawberries.

    In terms of panic bags, make sure you’ve got one in your car, and even if you drive to work, you ought to have a pair of broken in walking shoes at the office and/or in your car. I remember pictures of NYC streets post 911, with all the abandoned high heels.

    • on zucchini…

      When we moved to our first not-a-rental early in our marriage, we finally had space for a garden. And it would be good for the girls, who were toddlers at the time.
      Planted seven zucchini plants. All survived. By the end of the following summer, neighbors were avoiding us, we were finding baseball bat-sized zucchini hiding deep within the jungle of their leaves, and we’d gone through just about every barely related to summer squash recipe from every single cookbook we owned, and still the squash advanced.
      Ever had an apple pie with no apple anywhere in it (well, except for some apple juice concentrate for flavoring)? Even now, 30 years later we’ll bring a mock-apple pie to potluck. Nobody yet has twigged to it, and some still don’t believe us.
      Be careful out there, or at least plant more than one type of summer squash.
      Another tip: if you can keep ‘em from freezing during the winter, you can plant swiss chard (it’s just a beet without a lump at the end), harvest the outer leaves periodically, cut the thing off an inch above the ground now and then, and have fresh greens just about year round for three years or more. (That’s when the last freeze got ours.)

      • Wayne Blackburn

        One thing I like to do with zucchini is to run it through a mandolin and use it in place of the noodles to make lasagna.

        I was surprised to find that even when they grow to baseball bat size, they still normally taste good.

        • I over did the zucchinis about 25 years ago. It’s taken me this long to decide to plant them again. That was my first ever garden–nothing else survived.

        • I put zucchini in stew, casseroles, cream it, etc. It adds consistency and sometimes if you need it flavor. ;-)

        • Zucchini bread is good, and it is edible raw, but otherwise I am not a big zucchini fan. While in Florida with a boy scout troop they ordered pizza’s made with zucchini instead of dough crusts. Absolutely on in the top 5 nastiest, most unpalatable things I have ever tried to eat. To make it worse, a couple years later my mom went on a low carb diet and some lady in her diet group brought that recipe and handed it out. She didn’t believe me when I told her how nasty it was (thinking I was just complaining because it was diet food) and made it for dinner anyways…once.

          • Can I interest you zucchini-adverse people in my wife’s zucchini quiche. It is quick, yummy – esp. straight out of the oven, reheats well and generally makes a wonderful light addition to any meal.
            Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9” square glass baking dish.
            Mix together in a large bowl:
            1 cup Bisquick
            ½ cup Parmesan Cheese
            ½ teasp. Marjoram
            1 teasp. Parsley
            ¼ teasp. Salt
            1/8 teasp. Pepper
            ½ Small round Mozzarella Cheese, diced
            (we use ½ a large round)
            Add: 3 cups Zucchini, finely diced
            1 Onion, finely diced
            (I use small grate on Vidalia Onion chopper from Bed Bath & Beyond)
            Mix until vegetables are covered with dry ingredients.
            Add: ½ cup vegetable oil
            Stir until blended
            Beat: 4 eggs When eggs are well beaten, add to above ingredients. Stir until well blended. Pour into buttered dish
            Bake for appx. 40 minutes (or more) until golden brown

          • Dorothy Grant

            My first year of gardening in the south, I tried summer squash (a relative of the zucchini.) It got aphids. I fixed that. It then molded. (Did you know plants could mold when alive?!) I fixed that. Then it got “squash beetles.” Yes, the south grows beetles just to eat your squash. That are pesticide-resistant.

            I’ll try again, try harder, with more pesticides this year. And more mulch. And peppers, for where the heat seemed to kill everything else.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              Dorothy – try using diatomaceous earth. They never get used to it, because it basically suffocates and dehydrates them by clogging and cutting their air vents. Yet it’s safe to handle, as long as you don’t breathe in too much dust. You can even eat it in relatively small amounts, and the food-grade version can be added to animal feed as a dewormer.

          • Raymond Jelli

            Zucchini Pie is quite good and easy to make. Besides it actually uses Dijon mustard which means you can get rid of Dijon mustard. Why does Dijon always stick around in a refrigerator? Its like Dijon mustard has a rent control apartment and doesn’t want to leave.

        • But wouldn’t running it through a mandolin ruin a perfectly good musical instrument?

          (running and hiding, because even if I don’t know what a mandolin is in this context, it can’t mean that.)

          On Sat, Mar 2, 2013 at 7:10 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

          > ** > Wayne Blackburn commented: “One thing I like to do with zucchini is to > run it through a mandolin and use it in place of the noodles to make > lasagna. I was surprised to find that even when they grow to baseball bat > size, they still normally taste good.” >

          • It’s a slicer that slices (mostly) vegetables very thin. I have a special one I used to use for potato chips. The first time I heard its name in the US I had the same reaction.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            Heh. Don’t worry. The first time I heard the name, I was about 40 years old, so I had a similar reaction, except I was watching a cooking show at the time, and had visual context right there in front of me, so it was more obvious.

            Specifically, it’s a thing that looks something like a board, or else a flat piece of metal, usually with ridges running down it long-ways to help guide the object you’re slicing (hopefully not your finger) down to the blade, which crosses at an angle (or makes a V-shape), and is raised from the other surface, so that it will slice a piece off as you slide the object past it. For pictures, look up “mandolin slicer” and there will be plenty of examples.

            • Carpenters will recognize the Mandoline as a simple inverted plane, with the primary difference being that the plane is stationary and the item being shaved is drawn across it.

            • I usually hear it called a “mandolin slicer,” so it makes stuff much simpler.

              (I still go mildly ballistic about folks calling their pickup a “truck.” Ever wait for hours to get your horse loaded after a long day, just to have someone show up with a little toyota pickup? “But you said get the white truck!” my sore fanny….)

            • An old timey “cabbage cutter” did the same thing only it was make out of wood with a metal blade…

      • A lady a few blocks away sells “you-pick greens” this way– I kept trying to figure out what the heck could POSSIBLY be hip-tall and look like beat greens, and your comment just enlightened me! (she takes loving care of ‘em– I don’t actually KNOW it’s a lady, but from the artwork and correct spelling on the sign I’m guessing an older lady)

    • Zucchini? Around here, what we do with zuchini is put about a dozen or two in a bag. Then we sneak to our neighbors’ house quietly, put the bag on the front porch, ring the doorbell and run.

  6. Sarah, did you ever see the TV show JERICHO?
    Same idea, although it using a nuclear disaster. The series unfolds as people learn to cope without – everything they took for granted.
    That said, there’s two types of preparation people need to be thinking of.
    First, a bug-out bag/gotohell bag/emergency pack. Call it what you will, but it’s a small portable pack you can grab and run with. Keep it in your car trunk, in the closet, or whereever is convenient and immediately accessible. In an emergency situation it can mean the difference between surviving or not.
    Second, and even more important, is long-term survival. This is where having a dc-powered well pump, DC/AC inverters and energy efficient appliances come in hady. Along with small wind turbines, solar cells and whatever power generating tools you need. Plus a nice-sized garden, either entirely enclosed and unseeable or with good neighbors who don’t mind putting in some labor for the common cause.
    And while I’m thinking of it, another good disaster book is Pat Frank’s ALAS, BABYLON. Another good source on how to pull together. Depressing, but so very informative!

    • First, a bug-out bag/gotohell bag/emergency pack.

      I call it “the minivan.”

      At 32 weeks along, with two kids, I’m not going to be able to actually pick up all the stuff that is a good idea to have– and it would duplicate the “what if we get caught in the mountains while driving to grandma’s?” pack, anyways.

      So we keep several days worth of food, warm blankets, diapers, cleaning supplies, two medical kits, water, etc packed into the vehicle as a matter of course.

      Now, if we need to bug out, I can spend the “extra” time grabbing boxes of soup and getting it to the van.

      • When our children were young, this is exactly how we did it. Yours is a special issue – and congratulations!

      • So, how many bags of bargain oat Os cereal CAN you fit in a minivan? :)

        • EightIsEnough

          How many bags of oat O’s can fit in a minivan?
          Given what I find when I clean ours out – Infinite. It’s like a Tardis for children’s food and crayons.

    • I actually liked Jericho, but in EVERY DAMN EPISODE the characters did multiple stupid things, to the point I had a really hard time not annoying my wife by talking to the the TV. In fact, there were instances where a couple episodes later they revealed some skill or fact or situation that made what was done previously even stupider.

      One example that I recall – the show starts with a small town in western Kansas seeing a nuke go off in a large town further to the west in Colorado. Fallout happens and the town manages to bumble their way into shelter, then later they crawl out and wonder whats going on in the world. So they pick four guys, put them in pickup trucks, and send them off in four directions. Alone. also unarmed if I recall correctly. One of them is supposed to drive on over to the west and check out the nuked metropolis. Did I mention they were alone and unarmed?

      A few episodes later we find out that one of the guys they sent out (arguably the MC for the series, the black sheep son of the mayor) is a trained corporate pilot, and there’s a small airport nearby (this is prior to the exoatmospheric EMP attack).

      So at that point I’m sitting there annoying my wife, saying “Wait…they had an airport full of light planes, at least one trained pilot, and they decide to send out four solo scouts in PICKUP TRUCKS to determine what’s going on in the area? Are you kidding me?”

      Watching that show made me wonder whether the real issue was that the writers were just reflecting their own dubious urban Hollywood decision making skills, or was it that their opinion of the viewership was that low that they thought “oh, those rubes will never notice”.

      • Watching that show made me wonder whether the real issue was that the writers were just reflecting their own dubious urban Hollywood decision making skills, or was it that their opinion of the viewership was that low that they thought “oh, those rubes will never notice”.

        Folks just don’t think.

        They were going the sliding scale of what they would consider smart– no research required.

        • Sure, the “OK, the radioactive fallout episode is over – Now we need to harvest the corn or we’ll starve!” can be derived from a “corn comes from the produce section at West Hollywood Whole Foods” mindset, but I recall being just baffled as to how the writers thought a character deciding a particular choice was a Good Idea was consistent with what they’d already told us about that character.

          It’s like the smart-slider randomly glitched to stupid for at least one character once an episode, then bounced back to where it was previously. It completely broke my suspension of disbelief.

          • Ah, yes, the idiot ball. Wherein one character does something uncharacteristically stupid to fuel the plot, and then hands it off to another character, returning to their normal-selves in the process.

            STURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Prolonged exposure to the idiot ball can cause severely reduced intelligence, complete social ineptitude, and death.

    • Forstchen “One Second After” is more here-n-now than “Alas Babylon” , but still too optimistic! Classics are worth reading, if only to get hints on coping. Winston Smith say: stock up on razor blades and a way to re-sharpen them. Gas masks don’t work with a beard.

  7. Another place to look is at the Mennonite supply shops. For example, Lehman’s is a fascinating outfit with a great catalog and website. In addition to the sorts of things you’d expect (canning, washing, food preparation and storage, stoves) they have supplies for the Mennonite medical missionaries, who have to operate off the grid while keeping things chilled. Need a pressure canner that can double as a sterilizer? They’ve got it. Oil lamps? Check. Books about living on less? Check. Lehmans.com is their website.

    Some of the stores that cater to the LDS (Mormons) also have material about living on less, because of the church encourages people to have enough food at home to take care of their families for up to a year.

    • Lehmans is great, but… since “preppers” have become trendy, the prices have gone way up. I will still use it for ideas, but then look elsewhere for the same products at a much lower price.

  8. Sarah, I have to tell you that when the slide starts, and I don’t doubt that it will at some time and for some length of time, you can’t be relying too much on your freezer. Right now I work in an industry that brings electric power to parts of the world that are in dire need of it. When “the slide” starts here, then we can expect iffy and unreliable electric power, too. Read over your essay and re-think every mention of “freezer”. Without reliable power, you won’t have a reliable freezer.

    • My comment doesn’t seem to have gone through. if you read the essay again, you’ll see I”m taking one to two hour power losses in account (from what I read, for a large enough/full enough freezer, you’re safe if it’s kept closed.) I don’t expect longer for a LONG time if ever. The reason is that they wouldn’t dare. Even in Portugal more than three hours and the populace gets restive.
      I appreciate you’re working with just-powering up countries so your perspective is different. However, short of a nuke or large bomb NEARBY the power will continue, they’ll just play ducks and drakes with it. They wouldn’t dare risking the mess there would be if it’s more than two or three hours.
      The whole point of this essay is not to prepare for ultimate catastrophe — for that there are much better sites — but to tell you how to cope with continuous, unreliable “annoyance” break downs, which, in my experience is what the “Slide down” is.

      • And freezers if kept closed and relatively full will be fine for 3-4 DAYS of no power. While most power outages I have dealt with of that length are in cooler weather, I had a friend that lived off grid, and he would run the generator every 2-3 days for a few hours to keep the freezers cold, but as he removed stuff from them he would keep them full by placing jugs of water in them to freeze. As long as they were kept full of frozen stuff they stayed cold for a long time, if on the other hand he used down his food supply without filling the freezer with something else to hold cold, they warmed up much faster. (this also will signifigantly reduce your power bill, if you keep your freezer full at all times)

        • Look at how many calories it takes to cool water from 34 degrees F to 29 degrees F, and back. It’s huge. As long as there is any ice at all in the glacially-cold water, it’s near-32F. If you need colder than 34F, melt the ice with salt (enjoy the corrosion!).

          A combination of keeping the freezer full of ice and adding extra insulation (interior and exterior) will greatly reduce compressor run-time. Aerogels and 4″ slabs from Home Depot/Lowe’s work fine.

          Losses from briefly opening a freezer aren’t that much when it’s full, but “coffin” freezers reduce even that (and tend to be better insulated than stand-up models).

      • When the hostess’s comment is held for moderation, who moderate’s it?

      • See my earlier comment. You obviously have never lived in tornado country. Outages of anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days are not unusual. The big one of 2010 was another story entirely, observers claimed something like 200 funnels in the tornado wall that swept the north Alabama area. Shut us down for eight days. Happened in spring, so no serious heating/cooling issues. Terrible destruction in the immediate path of course, but otherwise mostly folks losing the contents of their cold chests. There are fairly simple ways to insure against that with a bit of skill and knowledge.

        • Where I grew up we had outages regularly, usually lasting several hours, with at least yearly an outage lasting over a day. The longest I recall lasted around a week (ice storm) and everything in our chest freezer was fine. We moved everything we could from the upright to the chest.
          Sarah must live in very good part of the country for power delivery. I have been very happy where I live now. Because the electricity is SO reliable, and I still expect outages every month or two, but most only last seconds to minutes, and in ten years I have never had one that lasted 24 hours.

        • I have lived in Charlotte, NC — but where I live and how I’m set up right now, I’m setting up for oh… losing power for two hours, unpredictably, four times a week or so. Not natural disaster but the government interfering with our power plant — which is a coal one — and energy prices going through the roof and people just not doing their job zealously for whatever reason.

          I know in a major disaster we’d lose the contents of our freezer. Or more likely, given how the Springs is setup, (You can have a disastrous snow fall, tornado or fire in one neighborhood, and the rest is fine.) we’d take it to our friend’s freezer across town

      • From discussions about the time of Sandy: don’t forget the idea of getting a large alternator (or at least a large battery) in your car, along with a large (e.g. 1.5KW) inverter, so you have a portable source of power you can plug your freezer, fridge, furnace into every so often. This works until you run out of gasoline, at which point if the gas station also has power problems, you may be stuck. If you have a good relationship with your local gas station and an electrician (to modify the gas station’s breaker panel in an emergency), you might be able to use the same hookup to run one of the gas pumps. long enough to get your tank (and probably a few other peoples’ tanks) refilled so you can keep this going for awhile. This covers the period of a slide-down PLUS otherwise-minor-catastrophe (e.g. a winter storm that takes down power lines, that because of the slide-down requires a couple of weeks instead of a few days to get fixed.) Still not Armageddon scenario, but a plausible Slide-PLUS.

    • But other than a smoker there’s nothing else I can recommend, and a smoker, like a soapstone stove, or a whole-house generator are beyond my means and I suspect the means of many here.

      • Dorothy Grant

        Oh, a smoker’s not hard to make at all from an old freezer… but many a neighbor might object, if the fence isn’t tall enough to block their view.

        On the other hand, if you get your hands on a fifty-five gallon drum that wasn’t filled with anything toxic, they hide in urban camoflauge a lot better than old freezers, and still make fine smokers or grills…

        http://www.instructables.com/id/Making-of-a-Drum-Smoker/

        • Yeah, I used one for several years a friend built out of a 55 gallon drum, and it worked great. I posted a couple links above on different designs for smokers at under $50, but they are awaiting moderation.

      • I’ve seen a functional smoker made from a hot plate, a cast iron skillet, wire rack, and a cardboard box. Made from used materials I think the total cost was around $10. Something a bit more durable would be easy enough by building a plywood box instead of the cardboard.
        Hardwood sawdust or chips goes in the skillet which sits on the hot plate. Meat of choice is placed on a wire rack salvaged from an oven or grill. Check every few hours and replenish the sawdust as needed. Helps to have a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
        One caution, make absolutely sure your wood chips/sawdust are from untreated wood. Pressure treating chemicals are nasty stuff.
        Above is of course for very low temp smoking and works best with fish. A true BBQ smoker would need a higher temp heat source and a metal shell instead of wood or cardboard.

        • I made an excellent jerky dehydrator out of a 20″ box fan and furnace filters. Marinate in a hydrophobic mix of tastiness, cut meat into strips, lay strips in filter corrugations, stack filters, turn on fan. dry for 8-12 hours, enduring the torture of delicious, delicious meat smells. Try not devour result, enjoy the vitamin C from the still uncooked (but thoroughly dried) meaty meats of awesome. I used Alton Brown’s jerky recipe from Good Eats. Works a treat, even in humid Hawaii.

      • Poke around online and you’ll find plans for small smokers up to small smoke houses. Lots of universities have agricultural extension offices, and what they’ve put online in terms of plans is… interesting.

  9. Just occured to me while unpacking a belated birthday present….

    Learn to cook with cast iron. It doesn’t matter so much if the power goes out a half-hour before it’s done– the iron keeps cooking. Ditto baking bread in the oven, or so I’ve heard.
    I like crockpot type casserole meals, so it’s perfect for me.

    • And, of course, you can cook over an open fire (well, coals) with cast iron more readily than with a regular pan. We have any number of dutch ovens… I should mention here that Dad is an avid Re-enactor of the French and Indian war era, and I have garb and kit to at least play along. He’s won prizes cooking in dutch ovens. Does he cook at home? Not so much…

      • We knew a lady named Anderson (first name started with a J… I feel bad not remembering!) whose twice-yearly “trick” on their big wagon-train rides was making an eleven course meal in cast iron.
        Including the cake at the end; usually pineapple upside down cake, but also double-fudge lava cake and probably some others. (They ended up hiring her when they couldn’t afford to buy a spot!!!)

        Me, I’m more the “skin it, cut off chunks, and it’s kabob time” type cooker on campfires, assuming I don’t have any aluminum wrap.

        For long term stuff, I’d MUCH rather build a cooking station, which becomes just like cooking on a wood stove. (which is still tough, but not as tough as cooking on coals!)

        • YOu can also make bannock, wrap it around a green stick, and roast it over the coals for a surprisingly tasty bread. (well, I haven’t done it since I was a kid, but it was tasty then.)

      • We (me and the three kids, mom not so much) were in the fringes of 1750-1850 reenacting some years back. The kids are in their 30s now, they all know how to start a fire with flint and steel or one match, and dutch oven cooking. They’ll even do it now and then just because they miss wood smoke and “the best breakfast ever”. Wonder sometimes how much else they still remember how to do.

    • Learn to cook with cast iron? I thought that is what everybody used unless they were trying to cut weight in their cooking utensils? It cooks much better with less fluctuation in temperature. Cast iron pans do however need to be ‘seasoned’ or stuff will stick in them. If you buy used chances are they are already seasoned, if not, or you buy new, thoroughly grease them and bake them in the oven for a few hours. Repeat as necessary until they cook satisfactorily without sticking. If you get a particularly stubborn one, throw them outside, feed cats, dogs etc. in them, and throw them in brushpiles you burn, letting them set in the middle of the fire until it burns out. After a few months of this, bring them in, scrub them up and retry the grease and baking in oven method.

        • Very good, and you pointed out that you might need to reseason after cooking acidy foods. Spaghetti sauce is good at this, tomatoes are very acidic.

          Peoples most common problem is wanting to wash with soap after every use.

          • It took me *years* to break my wife of that habit.Even now she wavers.

            • Dear Husband is terrified of trying to clean my cast iron– I’m a bit picky…. (Need to drag that man out in the forest, as soon as the babies are big enough we don’t need an armed guard.)

              • They’ll all thank you for it. Eventually.

              • For those determined to “clean” iron, a trick we learned with our woks was to lightly sprinkle salt on the interior surface and, using a folded paper towel, rub briskly. Afterward a very light protective coating of cooking oil can be applied.

                • Hehe, I mean in terms of “getting the chunks out after dinner.” (I really, really like making tomato-and-meat dishes in my cast iron.)

                  He’s alright with cleaning it after bacon, but even the egg parts make him freak out a bit. Then again, his mom freaks out if meat has been thawed more than a few hours, so it’s not bad training. (Yet, they’ll eat pink pork; oy!)

                  • Just explain to him that the heat when you cook the next meal will kill any bacteria lingering in the pan. (This works great when said with a straight face to someone who ALWAYS hangs around until mealtime, in anticipation of getting fed ;) )

                  • For those who just have to wash*, a quick rinse with scalding hot water before salting works just fine.

                    *Sometimes the General Tso’s sauce gets almighty thick, IYKWIMAITYD.

        • So can anyone explain to me how the “seasoning” process works, chemically? I assume the “coat it with fat then bake it in the oven” process ends up making one end of the fat molecule bind to the iron somehow (producing a result vaguely similar to how Teflon works), but I have no idea how the process works on the chemical level. And I figure if anyone understands it well enough to explain it to me, it’d be one of Sarah’s commenters. :-)

          • I don’t know, I was always told that cast iron is porous and you have to bake the grease INTO the cast iron, and this is why it is much easier to ‘re-season’ a pan that has been washed in soap or cooked spaghetti sauce or something than to do the original seasoning on a new pan. But this was by people who cooked with cast iron, not that had any sort of scientific or chemical knowledge. They understood what worked, but for all I know their explanation of why could be pure myth.

            • You do need to fill the pores. Now this is going to be blasphemy to a lot of folks but I wash my cast iron after every use. Yep. Use soap too. But I don’t scour them and I do put them on the stove to warm up and dry. Then I wipe them down with cooking oil to finish.

              The absolute best way I have found to season cast iron is to bake a pone of corn bread in it. I put a small amount (couple of tablespoons) of oil in the pan and put it in the oven to preheat while I mix up the batter. About the time the oven reaches temp (425) the oil in the pan is just short of smoking. Pour the batter in and if it doesn’t sizzle, the pan isn’t hot enough. From what I can tell the batter holds the oil against the iron and it will come out slick as glass when you dump the pone out.

          • There’s a lot of half-baked “science” in there, but the link does a pretty good job on working out what happens.

      • I think the folks who grew up with parents that cooked do; the double-income TV dinner families, or the ones with tiny kitchens, go with the lovely light nonstick pans. (I find they’re nice for cooking eggs; mine always manage to stick in cast iron. Even in my folks’ pans!)

        I like seasoning with bacon grease, myself, but that’s because our old electric stove tends to burn the veggie oil.

        • That is the one thing I used to have stick, until I learned you have to have the pan hot before you crack the eggs into it, since then no problems.

          Besides bacon grease gives much better flavor than veggie oil :)

      • Actually (I hope this is going to Bearcat) I don’t cook with cast iron because of all the moves we have had since I became an adult. I used to cook on them in my parents home.

      • Cast iron at the location, titanium when walking.

  10. If your scenario is increasing degradation of our usual infrastructure over extended time, then consider stocking up on water purification/filtration supplies. If you think about such situations, often a disruption in water supply with “boiling orders” occurs. And that can also be an important issue in short term “disasters” depending on your locale, so there is overlap between one form of preparation and another.

    A large supply of water purification tablets may be adequate.

    • Besides, it is always entertaining to give some unsuspecting newby water treated with iodine tablets to make their instant oatmeal with ;)

    • scott2harrison

      If you can afford it, buy the good Katadyn water filter (the ceramic one) and keep it in your bug-out-bag.

      • Actually I like the taste of treated water better than filtered, but I grew up in house with iron in the water and think that water should have flavor. ;)

      • Is this filter as good as distilling water? I have to distill my drinking water for my kidneys (I have had stable kidneys now for almost seven years)– We use an electric distiller and I cook, brush my teeth, and drink this water (not grammatically correct–but okay)

        • Um… I’m no great shakes, but wouldn’t the setup for distilling be incredibly valuable if things go down hill? Make sure you can switch out parts, and you’ve got really good barter material, there.

          ….Dear Lord, I’m imagining Zucchini Vodka…..

        • It’s a mechanical filter; various types filter out particles of various sizes, on down to 0.2 micron for some, which will block at least some viruses (because of electric charge effects mostly). Dissolved salts pass on through.

          Stick with distilled for your kidneys’ sake.

          Don’t forget to let silty water settle for a while before filtering; you’ll get more water through before you have to replace/clean the filter element.

    • Calcium hypochlorite, sold as “pool shock” can treat an immense amount of water. There are instructions available online, including from FEMA, and the intermediate step in the purification gives you household bleach. For less than $60 you can get enough to treat 120,000 gallons of drinking water…

      You still need to let it settle and filter it, of course.

      • For reasons known only to the psychiatrist I don’t have I read that beginning as Calcium hypocrite and was trying to figure out what you were accusing me of…

        I’m considering establishing a subscription to the blog with the top amount having as a prize “I will devote a blog post to roasting you…” IF I do that, stuff like “You are a calcium hypocrite given how you have bones and teeth and all” might come in handy…

        • A “calcium hypocrite” is a particular type of bone head, commonly found in elected office, usually (but not always) with a “D” after their name.

  11. We had this conversation at the farm this past week, and the first thing I had to remind them was “in a hyperinflation scenario, you’re money is worthless.” That put them into a strange mindset until I reminded them that they owned 200+ acres of land, which is (and would be) far more valuable. I then proceeded to tell them about the “choke points” into the valley (only two ways in, not counting one hell of a hike across a mountain or trying to cross a fairly deep river, and one of those ways can be disrupted because it’s a bridge), possible community allocation of resources to ensure that the valley remains standing (and I did tell them about Ringo’s “The Last Centurion” example of ants versus locusts).

    Needless to say, they asked me why I hadn’t written a book about this stuff yet. *sigh* I don’t think they realized that apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novels are all the rage right now.

  12. “I have a vague idea most postal carriers in South Africa were Afrikaans speaking”

    — You would be correct. It’s one of the reasons that the apartheid Nationalist Party in South Africa had such a large following among the civil service and nationalized industries: “We won’t let Blacks take your jobs away.”

    • Kim du Toit

      Forgot to add: although South Africa back then was nominally biligual (English and Afrikaans), Afrikaans was the de facto official language.

  13. Pingback: Fine With Decline | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  14. One thing most people don’t know about Colorado Springs is that there’s coal here in abundance. It’s UNDER our part of the city (around Palmer Park). It’s also not terribly deep – maybe 200 to 400 feet. If things start to go squirrelly, those old, abandoned mines could be reopened to power the city without the need to bring in Western Slope coal by train. There’s also coal around Pueblo and Canon City, and along the Palmer Divide. Personally, I’d trade four hours of work every week for continued power, even with my bad back.

    The biggest problems will hit the “blue” areas. There’s an election map somewhere that’s broken down by county, rather than states. That’s the map to look at. The blue areas will have five to twenty times the problems the people in the red areas will have. There will be pockets of “red” even in the blue areas.

    The most valuable resource in any scenario is knowledge. The more you learn, the better able you are to survive the coming bad times.

    • I am in a pocket of blue in a red area!

    • http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/2012/ — has by-county maps of 2012 election.

      Now overlay onto this a map of the US showing where the cities are — the cities which are the most-likely targets for RIF nukes.

      Let’s see: The nukes go off. Most of the Aristos, and their Blue “useful idiots”, die in the initial strikes. The survivors flee; they either get cut to pieces by the Red zones, or better yet are forced onto plantations and made to understand just what it means to Work For No Pay. Then the next election rolls around, and there are no Blues left to stop a Red landslide. At this point, the RIFs will have it made clear to them just how badly they have f—ed up.

      And yet, despite these facts staring them in the face: Most people cannot comprehend how I can say with a straight face: “I *want* the RIFs to nuke US cities”. To quote the comedian Gallagher: “Are you *THAT* *F—IN’* *STUPID*?”

  15. Camping gear. A couple of sleeping bags, one suitable for up to -20 C, another for -10 C, and I can fit one inside the other if necessary, lots of warm clothes like wool socks etc. I live in an apartment building, winters can be very cold here, and if we lost heating this place would get cold fast, so what I have worried about a bit is something like that, especially since the infra is getting a bit old and has not been well maintained during the last couple of decades (more important to use the money for stuff like trying to lower our carbon footprint, it seems. Or building new museums, or… oh hell, you know, the usual stuff, we are supposed to be rich so there should be money, but for some reason the roads are nowadays often in bad shape and same goes for the grid).

    Well, one good point about this place is that there is a wood grill, with a roof over it, in the back yard. Plus I do also have a alcohol stove. I have about two years worth of camping experience after the Geological Survey summers, even if my winter camping experience is small I figure I should manage short periods of no electricity/no heating pretty well with the stuff I have. Most of the stuff is military surplus, there are a couple of local internet stores which sell old, mostly East European or Swedish stuff cheaply, but while the items tend to look very ugly from the little I have used them so far they seem to work just fine.

    • Military surplus is often the way to go, if weight, size, and susceptibility to dampness are concerns it is hard to beat Wiggy’s sleeping bags (and a lifetime warranty, mine is 15 years old and has been used extensively and is still like new) but they are expensive, for emergency use in a car or apartment it is hard to beat the price and functionality of military surplus, and East German/soviet bloc stuff is often some of the best for cold weather gear.

      • For hobbit folks, military surplus in Oregon has also apparently started getting loads of Republic of Korea stuff– my favorite jacket is “extra large” in Army green and is the first one I’ve found that fits perfectly– shoulders, arms and length.
        (I’m 5’3 and built very Irish. Watching the Hobbit is like a family reunion where I just can’t recognize folks for some odd reason.)

        • Oh, I got some hobbit longjohns for christmas a couple years ago (Made in China, I think but not possibly Korea). Nice warm longjohns, unfortunately I am 6′ and they fit about like those pants some women wear (can’t remember what they are called) that come halfway between their knees and their ankles.

          • hot pants. If you can afford silk longjohns, they REALLY are warmer.

            • I own a pair, and they are nice. The ones I have are very thin however, and I own two pairs of heavy polypro that are warmer, as well as a set of woollies (wool union suit) that I haven’t worn in years, but are VERY warm.

              • Your right however, nothing of comparable thickness is as warm as silk longjohns, or the comfort.

                I will now sit back and await the smarta** comments about wearing silk underwear.

                • I have BLACK silk longjohns.
                  <Preens.

                  • Girls in silk underwear tends to have a much different reaction than guys in the same.

                    I can’t understand why, my dear’s silky boxers prompt TMI responses. *grin*

                • Beloved Spouse & I realized some time back that silk underwear was a superb gift for those undertaking missions trips. Light in weight, nigh-perfect thermal insulation and, because worn under clothes, free from (stupid) judgmental comments from those under the delusion that being a missionary requires forswearing creature comforts.

          • William O. B'Livion

            Capri’s. Or Clam diggers.

      • Time was when military surplus was basically the only thing used for camping. My parents have oodles. Then, they were serious campers. The Outing Club, to which my parents belonged, had winter mountaineering instruction between Christmas and New Year’s, and my father was one of the instructors.

    • Get a ECW Gore-tex sleeping bag cover (actually a “bivy bag” = very compact waterproof tent) in woodland camo for about $40 as mil-surp. It will greatly add to the temp range of whatever bag you have and keep you dry short of bedding down in a streambed.

      US Marines sleep on the ground in these. They are good.

      • I’ve used them, they are good. Unfortunately, like most Gore-tex products they are much more waterproof when new and clean, for whatever reason Gore-tex tends to leak when dirty. That being said, Gore-tex is the only way to go in a bivy sack, use a nonbreathable material and you may as well not use anything unless it is pouring rain, as far as staying dry goes.

        • Yep. Gore-Tex is not forever, but it can be for a long time if you are careful about punctures and sparks popping out of fires.

          Most recent Gore-Tex is a super-light mil-spec jacket shell without a liner. It folds up tiny and is perfect over a fleece zip-up. Wash and shake, and it’s dry-enough quick. Only the elastic really holds moisture. Friend on active duty bought it at Clothing Sales.

  16. We have a few things– plus the hubby is emergency management. I do have a go-kit. We could stay in place awhile except for cooking. But we could grill if we had to–

  17. We have a wood stove, and I know how to cook over one (taught the wife how to make toast over a wood fire – that was an experience). We don’t have a lot of wood at the moment, but I’ve got a maple in my back yard I need to have cut down. I want to keep the wood this time. My shed in the back needs to be replaced! If things go south in a hurry, especially in the wintertime, we can accommodate a few extra people.

    • When I was around ten or eleven, my father tried to teach my mother how to bake bread in a coal-wood stove. It was the one my great-grandmother had in her house. They still use it for heat in the winter. (End of story– the bread was black) ;-)

  18. I’ve been getting going on sourdo again, mostly because I want pancakes in the mornings. To make really good sourdo bread, all you really need is water, flour, and grease. The water and flour are what feeds the starter, and what you make the bread out of, and the grease keeps it from welding itself to the pan.

    I’ve been using an adapted version of this recipe:

    http://www.sourdoughhome.com/index.php?content=bakingintro3

    with 1/2-1 cup of starter replacing the yeast, and an equivalent amount of four. It calls for salt and sugar, but I invariably forgot to add them into the dough, and it came out fine. The salt is there to slow down the leavening, and the sugar is really there to promote browning of the crust.

    For the starter, I used the Sourdo International New Zealand culture:

    http://www.sourdo.com/home/cultures/new-zealand-includes-two/

    I initially ended up killing the white flour one, so I just used the rye flour culture with white flour, and it took off just fine.

    You can adjust the sourness by changing the amount of starting starter and the rise time. The larger an initial sponge you begin with, the quicker the rise, and the milder the final loaf will be.

    Now, for the flapjacks, I don’t know where we found this recipe, but this is what I do:

    The night before:
    mix 1 cup starter,
    1 cup water
    2 cup flour

    In morning mix in
    1/4 cup dry milk,
    2tsp salt,
    2tsp sugar,
    1/3 cup melted shortening/butter/oleo,
    2 eggs (optional 1tsp baking soda, which I never actually do.)

    It makes, somewhat rubbery, distinctly sour flapjacks. Because they have a strong and savory flavour of their own, they only need a little syrup to act as a counterbalance to their innate sourness, and you know you’ve had something when you’re done. The salt and sugar are not required, and you can swap the powdered milk out for regular milk, if you’re careful not to thin it out to much. It is a very flexible recipe.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      When I was reading up on sourdough a few years ago, I read that you have to keep buying new for any culture that is not native to your area, because the local yeasts will kill off and overtake whatever you have been using.

      Unfortunately, my local yeasts don’t make very good tasting bread, and no one else is particularly fond of sourdough in my house, so I just do regular yeast bread, most of the time, now.

  19. Raymond Jelli

    The art of distillery and brewing should be part of any kind of survivalist’s repertoire. If refrigeration becomes unavailable it will be necessary to use alcohol as a preservative especially if at sea for extended periods of time. This is an art requiring practice and skill. We must begin our learning now.

    • And it’s handy to know even if you aren’t. I’m finding I’m rather fond of brown ale style beers, which only exists today because home brewers brought it back from extinction.

      Industrial breweries had moved on to pale ales and stouts, which yielded better, or lagers, which were easier to control.

      • Raymond Jelli

        Homebrewing used to be my favorite hobby. I have a real respect for brewers. Except for idiots who spill good liquor into rivers…..there should be international laws against it.

        • “Except for idiots who spill good liquor into rivers…..there should be international laws against it.”

          “It takes a real man to drink from the Mississippi, cowards cut with whiskey.”

          • Raymond Jelli

            Who said that? Mark Twain? I mean I’ll gladly take the cowards way out and if real men drink from the Mississippi true daredevils drink from the East River.

            • Might have been Mark Twain, I didn’t attribute it to anyone, because I don’t remember exactly who said it. Also might have been Louis L’amour, quotes stick in my head, names to go with them… not so much.

              • A little [SEARCHENGINE]-Fu turns up:

                Now he was seeing great western lands that old Mister Dean had disparaged. He was seeing millions of geese, millions of buffalo, streams with beaver, forests of splendid trees, and the waters of the Missouri. He remembered a big, hairy-faced trapper who grinned at him and said, “Takes a man with hair on his chest to drink from the Missouri. Cowards cut it with whiskey!
                http://vatchy.host56.com/books/Louis%20L'Amour%20-%20Sitka/0451203089___5.htm

                So the source would seem to be L’Amour’s novel Sitka.

  20. Wood heating is good, and charcoal is good,, but if you are looking for an alternate cooking for emergencies, I suggests bottled propane.
    As part of my car kit (and the alternate house kit) I have a 50Cal box that fits a single burner, screw on the top of a small bottle cooker that has an auto-igniter (Century Mfg), a single mantle propane lantern that also screws on the top of a bottle (Century again) and two propane bottles. It all fits and doesn’t rattle, but it takes some fiddling to put it in. I use it mostly for making coffee in the woods when I’m cutting firewood – Oh, and preserving that warm fuzzy feeling.
    I keep a large, two burner camping propane stove that is big enough to hold two giant pots for hot water bath canning in the summer. I can in the back yard since the last thing you want in August is to turn the house into a sauna.
    Oh. and learn to can. Acid fruits and veggies are simple to do and make impressive gifts come Christmas

    • Not sure where you live at, but several of those on here live in Colorado and other high-altitude areas, propane doesn’t do well at high altitudes. Much better than butane, but not as good as white gas, another advantage of white gas stoves and lanterns is that you can burn unleaded gas in them. The stuff with ethanol doesn’t put out as much heat, and some lanterns take a couple minutes to generate properly with it, but it will work, and the supreme with less or no ethanol does as good as the expensive white gas.

      • Well, yes. I’m at 110 feet. But it is easy to pack, and I don’t like carrying gasoline around in the car…and now that I come to say that, I realize how stupid that sounds.

        I also keep one of those Swedish alcohol stoves in the car too, and I got a lot of hassle about that until the day the propane cooker stopped working.

        If you have the space and interest, go get a 4qt pressure cooker for your kit. It will bring water to boil fast at any altitude, and it will cut your cooking time by at least half.
        They are heavy, though.

  21. I always keep a few spare gallons of bleach around. Great for cleaning, but a tsp can also make 10 gallons of water safe for drinking. Nice back-up in case municipal water ever became less reliable, and bleach is really cheap. A few extra bottles, you can keep the whole neighborhood cholera-free!

  22. max (small m)

    Screws, get a big jar and start putting any odd screws you find in it (also helps to have a rivet gun, but that’s more advanced). When you have to make do with what you have instead of replacing it, the right (at least close enough) screw is important. With the decline/demise of local hardware stores and the limited selection available in the chain stores having a screw jar is a valuable resource. Also helps to have a supply of other small hardware bits – drawer pulls and such.

  23. Zimbabwe. What you get when you print money… I rather agree that the US will hit slide rather armageddon. And Zimbabwe has some valuable lessons in surviving this. Things no one has mentioned is that your sewage will stop working. Sewage systems depend on water as a carrier, and water depends on electricity these days, and that will go down. A container you can keep grey water for flushing may saving your septic tank, but honestly, bigger cities with shared sewage are going to be in teh… yeah well. Bleach is your friend. Keep a big supply. Sewage will affect the groundwater. The other thing that has happened in Zimbabwe that will happen in hard times is your roads will disintegrate into potholes and then tar islands – if you have a choice, buy tires with steel sidewall re-enforcing. Thirdly, fuel. This may not affect the US, but I would guess various states may be affected. A few gallons in a jerry can may get your kid to hospital, or keep you in a job. Finally… and this anathema to this Calvinistic half-Scot — don’t save money. Find other ways of storing value. As I see it you government is imitating il Bob – which is means a systematic looting of the assets, pensions, savings and thrift of everyone who is not very rich, and politically connected. The very rich will just get richer. The apparachniks of Zimbabwe did very well out of destroying everyone else’s wealth. Many of them now qualify for the Forbes rich list.

    • Oh, YES — the roads become horrible. If you’re buying for the long term, buy four wheel drive or off roading vehicles because of that.

      And I second bleach. Portugal, when I was growing up had cholera epidemics every summer. I’m a big proponent of bleach.

    • On saving the gas, since our oh-so-green government insists on putting ethanol in it, any gas that you are keeping for any period of time* needs to be treated, there is a product called Startron that I have had great success with. There used to be Stabil and maybe one or two other gas treatments on the shelf, now walk into Wallyworld and they practically have a whole aisle of gas treatments, I’m sure quite a few of them are effective but I just found one that works and stuck with it.

      *You still should periodically (every few months) rotate your gas and burn up the stored fuel, replacing with fresh.

  24. Back in the Edgie Eighties our group spent a LOT of time talking about ‘how the day’ would happen and what we would do after. But when we started looking into the histories surrounding recent disruptions (last 100 years), we figured out that our concept of an on/off switch type of event was ridiculous, eventually we decided that ‘the end’ just was a silly concept and we should concentrate on what seemed to us the long slide into night.

    I’ve got all kinds of things I could put in here about pessimism, optimism, and the incredible difficulty of accurately forecasting the future. But I think I’ll put it on my blog if I can find some time.

    I hope this is not mistaken as criticism, as I don’t disagree with your post, and I agree with your advice. It’s just, make sure your also working towards tomorrow. I have friend’s who are into the zombie apocalypse, friends that just chose to live off the grid, and friends who throw books at me when I broach survivalism, or the new pc term, prepper. I mean, we were trying to prepare for nuclear Armageddon, in a time where the internet was barely an idea!! I don’t think I’m saying this right so I’ll stop for now. I’m glad I saw this (thanks Instapundit) I meant to try your stuff 9 months ago, just lost track. I now have ‘Draw One Into The Dark’ on my kindle app behind Ringo’s ‘Claws That Catch’

    • Read today’s post.

      I know the difficulties of predicting the future. I work in Science Fiction.

      And my goal is always prepare for the worst, work for the best.

    • I have a friend in Mississippi who was a very serious survivalist, had months of food and equipment. His target emergency was nuclear war.

      When Katrina took out the grid from him, he was living in luxury.

      The key is not to get too focused on one emergency, but be a generalist.

      • This. Precisely this. With some thought, you can be ready for most problems, and it DOESN’T require consulting with Vault-Tec.

        The serious “preppers” also point out that a “disaster” doesn’t have to be anything more than becoming unemployed. If you have a reserve of food, then your unemployment or savings goes that much further.

  25. Sarah, you mentioned furniture. One of my (many) frustrations with contemporary design is the generally lame-arse nature of furniture. It seems like most people don’t want to be able to have the same bedframe, couch/sofa/loveseat, tables and chairs for a couple-few generations. Are there some directions you’d suggest for woodwork, construction, finishing, etc? Please?

    • I don’t do construction — but I’d advise if you’re going to do it, get a book on how to reproduce antiques (or a course in your local community college.)

      For finishing/refinishing “The furniture doctor” (funny name author I can’t remember.) That’s what started me.

      If you live/move to the South East or can drive there, haunt the garage sales. You can find stuff from anywhere in the eighteenth century to the mid twentieth. Look for real wood, which is MUCH lighter than plywood with veneer. (“It’s real wood, it’s heavy” is one of the most pathetic things people say.) It also lasts longer, particularly in bookcases.

      I can do a post on it, if anyone else is interested.

      • Yep, when the “wood” is really sawdust and glue, its actually denser.

      • Yep, you said something in a post a while back about veneer becoming a thing of the past (I think you were talking about in society or politics, not furniture) and my first thought was you haven’t been to Home Depot/Walmart/generic chain store that sells furniture lately, everything is pressboard with veneer on it (very heavy) the ‘good stuff’ is made with plywood these days, and hard to find.

      • Wayne Blackburn

        I’m sorry, but you’re mistaken in the meaning of that phrase. When someone says, “It’s real wood, it’s heavy,” they mean that it’s made of a hardwood, such as Oak, Walnut, Mahogany, or the like, which is much denser than various pine and related woods. At least, that’s what it means where I live.

        • Wayne,

          NO. I buy a ton of used furniture — it’s practically all we buy. When people say “it’s real wood, it’s real heavy” it’s ALWAYS pressboard and half the time with a “Plastic” veneer, not even real wood laminate.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            Weird – never met any pressboard furniture.Well, OK, my hide-a-bed sofa, but I don’t count that kind of furniture as wood anyway. In my opinion, if it’s “wood”, then it had better show wood surfaces on more than just the feet.

            OK., so I’m weird. My father grew up a mostly subsistence farmer during the depression, and probably most of his furniture then was made at home. I sort of absorbed his belief that things should generally be built to last at least 100 years, so sofa and loveseat are pretty much the only things I don’t see solid wood surfaces on.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              I seriously think my family may feud when my father finally goes, fighting over who gets the Waterfall Bedroom Set that’s over 60 years old.

        • Half the house is mahogany — mahogany is heavier than pine, but it’s light compared to pressboard.

      • … get a book on how to reproduce antiques …

        Ummmm … you get a boy chair and a girl chair and put them together in a dimly lit room, put on some soft jazz and pour them a couple glasses of furniture polish …

        • RES
          You are a bad man. (I haven’t told you that this week, have I?)

          • Sorry – it has been an unusually busy week and I fear I let standards slip.

            There will be a brief pause to allow regular readers to exclaim: “Standards? RES has standards! Who knew?”

      • The Furniture Doctor – George Grotz – a basic, old-fashioned, New England approach, well worth getting & reading. http://www.amazon.com/Furniture-Practical-Information-Everybody-Refinishing/dp/B003BHPD7Y/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1362430430&sr=8-2&keywords=the+furniture+doctor

  26. William O. B'Livion

    Regarding a nuclear incident:

    People who build functioning bombs aren’t stupid. They can’t be to survive long enough with what they are working with.

    Simple atomic bombs are relatively easy. Conventional delivery systems (missiles) are difficult.

    I strongly suspect that the first *serious* nuclear attack in the US will not be a missile. It will be an explosion at the deep water port in Oakland or Stockton. This will put a plume of radioactive muck into the air and drop it on a large part of California’s central valley.

    Do you have any idea how much food comes out of the central valley?

    But you know what? It’s not the terrorists that are doing the most damage to our country. It’s the Progressives.

    The American Experiment is over, and it failed. People don’t want to be free. They want their lords to tell them what to do, to control them.

    The slide is what we’re on, and if we’re *lucky* we’ll wind up looking like Portugal.

    • We’re not Portuguese. Not even me. We’re Americans. NEVER count us out.

      • William O. B'Livion

        I’ve lived in the US 42 of my 45 years. I just got back from 2 years Down Under, and I spent a year in Baghdad doing schtuff for the DoD.

        Look around, we’re NOT American’s any more.

        I live near Denver, over 1000 miles from Ciudad Juárez. There’s more burrito joints near me than Pizza.

        We don’t assimilate immigrants any more.

        Over a decade ago my wife did HR for a firm in Chicago. She had a young lady come in for a job that spoke heavily accented english–she sounded like a Mexican immigrant. My wife indicated that a passport would be a acceptable proof of ID. The woman was *offended* because she’d *never been out of Chicago*.

        No, we’re not Americans any more. We’re Latinos and African-Americans and several varieties of Asians and such.

        And no, we’re not Portuguese. Which is why we’ll be LUCKY if we wind up like them.

        When times are good we can all get along. When times are bad we tribe up.

        My tribe is on hard times. Your tribe is full of lazy thieves. Look what Mr. Du Toit said above:
        “””
        It’s one of the reasons that the apartheid Nationalist Party in South Africa had such a large following among the civil service and nationalized industries: “We won’t let Blacks take your jobs away.”
        “””

        Finland, Sweden, Switzerland they can operate–barely–on a socialist model because (relative to the US) they are incredibly homogenous culturally. They aren’t fighting on how to divvy up the spoils along racial or religious lines because there aren’t enough “others” to matter.

        In the US today we’re *ALL* others. We have more single and double digit percent *distinct* religions (aka Jewish, Islam, Christian, Wiccan) than they have Christian sects (Protestant, Lutheran, etc.). We have serious quantities of every race, creed and color. There are between 2.5 and 4.5 million Muslims in this country. That’s 1/4 to 1/2 the population of Sweden. There’s roughly 6.5 million Jews (depending on how you count them.) That’s more than the TOTAL population of Denmark (and yes, we’re a lot bigger than either Sweden or Denmark).

        Contrast the limited looting in New Orleans and LA during the Rodney King riots. Or maybe you only know the relatively sanitized CNN version.

        But the point is that under stress the Apples will side with the Apples, the Oranges will side with the Oranges, and if you’re not part of a tribe it is, to reference a rather awful joke, your turn in the barrel.

        Another friend of mine puts it this way, “Today elections are between those promising candy, and those promising homework. Candy always wins until it’s too late”.

        We have trouble getting kids to go into STEM classes because it’s hard work for an upper middle class living. They all want to be artists, rappers and x-game athletes–candy, not homework (and they usually fail at art and x-games because those don’t LOOK like homework, but they ARE.)

        In the 1970s picking vegetables was were the jobs Americans Won’t Do. Today it’s plumbing and the building trades.

        We don’t outsource IT stuff to India because it’s cheaper (it isn’t on a volume/quality scale, or at least not much). We outsource IT stuff to India because finding someone to sit in front of a computer and do Java instead of facebook is almost impossible–you don’t find these guys out of work long, you’re poaching from another company.

        America isn’t coming out of this. I don’t know what will come out, but it won’t be a country based on the notions of freedom and equality under the law. It won’t be a country that believes that by work and creativity you can grow the pie and get yourself a comfortable piece.

        Sorry for the rant, but I’ve spent my whole life following (most of) the rules, paying my bills and saving money. I paid off 30k of *art student* loan debt. in the 1990s. In 2003-2008 we did NOT buy a house in Silicon Valley because the numbers had NO sense. Now we’re talking about bailing out people WHO SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER, and they feel ENTITLED TO IT.

        And tomorrow I’ve got to go down to Broadway and Colfax and argue with a bunch of idiot f*ing legislators who want to take my guns away.

        • Look around, we’re NOT American’s any more.

          I live near Denver, over 1000 miles from Ciudad Juárez. There’s more burrito joints near me than Pizza.

          We don’t assimilate immigrants any more.

          Don’t be fooled– this is different from area to area. I don’t know exactly why, but Denver is a REALLY BIG place for not just Mexican illegals, but all the various “refugees” that the state department and various “social justice” groups love to import.

          Yes, it’s bad, but it’s not as bad as it looks. You’re a decade or three in the future, assuming no change. (So are a some rural areas– I grew up next to one, for example.) That “no change” is a really big freaking assumption, though.

          About picking veggies in the 70s– Americans WERE doing it, until we effectively outlawed it (various laws about what picker’s cabins had to have, until some of them are nicer than rental homes by law; employment laws, some of which require a permanent home to put on the paperwork; etc); my mom taught a lot of migrant workers, many of whom were from families that had pulled up roots during the dust bowl and just did circles, hadn’t had a mailing address in decades.

          She didn’t like what changing schools every few months did to the kids, but then she’s really not liking what schools are doing for kids now.

          • “About picking veggies in the 70s– Americans WERE doing it, until we effectively outlawed it (various laws about what picker’s cabins had to have, until some of them are nicer than rental homes by law”

            I recall pickers cabins on a farm down the road in the 80’s, a bunch of 8×10 one room cabins. Not a nice place to live, but a real nice place to camp, which is essentially what the pickers were doing. I also recall the G-men coming in and shutting them down and hauling everything off, including the cabins, for a variety of reasons, the main two being the employees staying in the pickers cabins (not legal residences, not up to code, etc.) and many of the pickers being illegals.

            By the way, I picked veggies on a truck farm in the early 90’s and yes I was working with all Mexicans, many I’m sure illegal, and most who didn’t speak English. But not all Americans won’t pick veggies, a lot more of them would if they couldn’t make twice the money by going on the dole however.

            • Oh, gad, you reminded me of the summer job she had… we never ate asparagus growing up if mom was cooking, because she got a great job “picking” it. It doesn’t really have a season, it grows fast enough that a day later, you’re cutting the same area.

              The knives are kind of like machetes made of razors, and mom probably wouldn’t have taken the job if she hadn’t already made good with the local Mexican “kids.”

              She quit the day after two of the guys got in a fight with the harvesting knives… *green*

              (I can’t remember if she was in college or teaching at the time– in the former case, she was tutoring a kid, got invited to a big party, and impressed folks by finding a way to give the “honor” of the goat head to the oldest guy there instead of the guest; in the later, she got pissed when a kid pulled a knife on her, disarmed him, and chewed him a new one…without calling any other authority. Anybody messed with her, it’d make him look bad. Yay, male hormones!)

              Can you tell my folks have the best stories?

          • Which is why a “slide-down” could be a semi-Good Thing – reduces the immigrant rate sufficiently for assimilation to happen. Not that such will put it back to ‘the way we were’ – too much cultural drift has already happened and the assimilated cultural memes will have too much permanent effect, but at least the divisiveness of large unassimilated groups will be reduced.

            • Actually, there is reason to suspect the current immigration rate is negative. When it starts again perhaps a saner policy will make people WANT to assimilate. Meanwhile the bad times WILL make people want to assimilate. NO ONE wants to be “different” when things are tight. Trust me on this.

        • Even here in Silicon Valley, there’s a huge American cultural underground. Check out the recent Wired article on the AR-15-style rifles for one datum – just because we’re tech geeks does not mean we’re all bought into the antiAmerican victimhood socialist meme.

          And just because someone escaped from Mexico or Guatemala or India or the Philippines or Vietnam or Algeria (or Portugal!) to make there way here does NOT mean they are not Americans – I know folks born elsewhere who are so enthusiastically full-immersion assimilative that I’m just in awe.

          And I like burritos and curry and pho: Cuisine != Culture.

  27. I am 59 years old, and obviously grew up in a different time. But I’m very uneasy about the direction the US is taking, especially the long slide. I am so glad I was raised by a mother who grew up on a farm in Ohio and taught me to sew and cook, including making bread, and how to can vegetables and put up fruit preserves. You folks who grow all that zucchini don’t need more recipies, you need to stagger your crop so it doesn’t come in all at once. And you can freeze and pickle your zucchini. Don’t harass your neighbors!

    Imagine being 18 years old today, graduating from high school wearing a home made white dress that fit like a glove, made with a pattern and fabric you picked out yourself. And the dress cost less than $15, not because we couldn’t afford a dress, but because I asked my mom to make it because it would be a great “together” project in my senior year before I went to college.

    My father, who was a shooting instructor in WWII, taught me about guns and to use a shotgun and a rifle. He also taught me to appreciate a good scotch.

    My (ex) husband and I lived for almost 20 years heating exclusively with wood with a Vermont Castings stove with a catalytic converter–very efficient, no electricity needed. Not because we couldn’t afford central heat, but because we secured access to free fuel (wood), and used it. It was hard, tiring, work. We dropped a couple of dead trees each summer, limbed them, and split the wood. We heated a 2200 sq. ft. house with 5-6 cords of wood/year. And we learned how to cook on the stove during numerous blackouts and snowstorms. And we banked thousands of dollars.

    I now live alone in a small town on the Chesapeake Bay, and most of my close friends are either watermen (they catch crabs, and dredge for oysters), hunters (deer, ducks and geese), and recreational fisherman with boats (rockfish, perch, bluefish). A third of my friends have freezers and large generators. All of them can get water from their wells without electricity.

    I didn’t really think about all that I know how to do until I read this post. But now that I think about it, I am certain that, barring becoming disabled, I can survive everything, except the betrayal by the government of the US Constitution. And that is what is now on the line.

    Sorry. If you have read this far, accept my apology for being verbose.

    Liz953

  28. This article talks quite a bit about ebooks, ereaders and such. One thing I have found incredible valuable for all kinds of emergencies where you want to keep the electronics going (cell phone to keep in touch, internet data to keep up with current events, ereader to keep your sanity) is my Biolite stove. Have a cup of tea, soup or whatever and recharge you device with any kind of biomass. We live in an area the wavers between ice storms and tornadoes, lots of opportunity not to have power. My mom gave me this and I love it. Check it out: http://www.biolitestove.com/

  29. As a youngster (in my second year of college) it perpetually amazes me how few of my peers know how to do anything useful. Half of the people I know can’t cook, almost no one can fix their own clothes, and I know a few who can’t change a tire on their car. It seems to me that a big problem in our country is that no one is seeking out this kind of common sense stuff, or maybe that it just isn’t being passed on and shared.

    That’s part of the reason that I’m so thankful for my church youth group. It’s a tradition for us to go up every year to the Colorado Traditional Archers Society’s High Country Shoot (up in the San Juans) to help them set up and work the target ranges. On those trips we all learned how to make fires, cook camp meals, set up tents/hammocks/shelters, and basic wilderness safety. We even threw in some leather working, arrow making, and tracking practice for good measure. On winter retreats (which split up by gender) we do sewing and knitting projects and cook while the guys learn carpentry. Over the summers, we volunteer to build houses on the reservation in Arizona. Over the years I’ve learned a wide variety of skills, from roofing to cooking for groups of thirty, that not many of peers have ever encountered.

    That kind of training is almost non-existent in today’s society – even over here in outdoorsy Western Colorado – and its why a support system is so critical when you try and prepare for coming difficulties. As wonderful as the internet is, there is no substitute for having someone come by to teach you and your friends how to can raspberry jam one afternoon, or having one of the Deacons come and show you how to change the oil on your new car. Communities like that are going to be the greatest resource in a slide or collapse.

  30. Bruce Kennedy

    Interesting comments.
    I thinnk the collapse will begin as a slow slide but that it will gather momentum. Ultimately I a complete political breakdown will occur inthe USA and around the world. Dysfunction will be the order of the day. Urban areas will be the hardest hit. Perhaps wars, rebellions and revolutions will eventually occur.

    All of the above comments are helpful. My goal is to move to a rural area not near major city but within 2-3 hours of a a mid-size city. I think these times call for being far enough away froma major urban area that you are unlikely to see roving urban bands of thugs searching for your property.

    I urge you to observe the Amish and theMenonite communities and notic ehow they are spread across the country. Their territories west of YPA are expanding into the upper mid-west and into the far west.
    You might find them useful neighbors to have access to for help and training.

    BTW, Colmans Military.com offers useful army surplus items. You may want to check it out.
    I agree on the sewage issue discussion and the importance of good reliable water supply systems. Don’t overlook wells and natural springs in your search for water supplies at your ‘redoubt’ location.

    Another thing to think about is using AEROGEL (SiO2)as an insulator. Stronger than steel and lighter than styrofoam. It has these useful prpoperties:
    Thermal insulator upto 1250 degrees F.
    Hydro-phobic
    Electro-magnetic insulator
    Sound insulator
    Non-reactive to acids
    Light weight
    Kinnect energy insulator ( one inch thick plate of Aerogel can stop a 0.38 round fired from 25 ft away)
    Comes in blankets cut from rolls or 8×4 ft sheets.
    Mfg is done by Cabot Corp of Boston. It makes a superior building insulator. I think the R value is R-45 for a one inch thick plate or blanket.
    Cabot’s version is flexible and it can be wrapped around a buildings exterior and sealed with fastners or glue.

    A more potent form of Aerogel has been made in the laboratory but it has not entered the market just as yet. This newer version is 4 times as powerful as standard Aerogel.
    You may want to use it for insulating your home, bunker, water pipes, stoves, refrigeration / freezer locations.

    Lastly, you need to think of using DX technology & systems so tha tyou may communicate in a post -internet world.

    Also, I see no mention of weapons or self defense. During a slow slide, local law enforcement will become more problematic as municipalities and states grapple with the cost of providing law and order in a time of governmental bankruptcy. Police/fire and EMS will first decline and then disappear. Crime will soar. Home invasions will be common. Kidnapping will be a growth industry. Rustling will be popular. Disputes will be settled by vioence with no ‘witnesses’.

    How are your going ot defend yourself, your family and your property? Yes, weapons and training plays a role. But even if you have say an AR15, a Mossberg 500 pump shot gun, a Berrete 92 auto pistol and a 357 revolver you’re still well-armed one person or one family. True defense depends on numbers and organization. You will need to form a militia type organization that can function as a community defense force and law enforcement entity. I suggest that you may create such a force by creating a military re-enactment organization. It can be the scffolding upon which you establish authority, training, organization and re-supply. I suggest that you gear your activities to the WWII or Korean War era or the Vietnam era. Much of the military surplus equipment available online is of that era. Banding together with your neighbors may allow you to build a platoon sized unit which would provide safety and security for 50 to 100 families. You can build larger formations later.

    Lastly, this time around women are going ot play a major role in maintaining order, safety and defense. It is, after all, the American way.

  31. I was raised on a small farm in Ga by parents that witnessed the great depression, as we toiled away at what I thought was unnecessary labor to plant and tend and harvest and put up food for the hard times I said would never return I still listened to my parents warnings that you never want to be caught by surprise, I am in my 60’s now, The house I built is energy efficient, I have a large masonry fireplace that will heat 1/3 of the house, I have a bored well so I will always have water, I am an experienced in construction and do my own repairs, I have 6 acres of land 3 in woods 3 in garden plots and fruit trees, I keep chickens for eggs and my neighbor raises rabbits and we trade stuff, I have a shop full of tools , generator included, I’ve always kept kerosene lamps, I save seed’s from yr to yr and have some that date back 30 yrs, I have hunting and trapping skills but I sure would hate to start eating squirrels and pigeons again, there are a lot of stuff growing in the woods and swamps that can be eaten, would like to have a wind up radio that can also charge a cell phone or laptop, I may sound like I’m ready for the fall to come but it scares the hell out of me, some of my family will not handle it very well, Really not looking forward to the retirement yr’s that for sure.

  32. What may seem obvious to many still bears repeating: Without sufficient arms your well prepared home is just a free supply warehouse/brothel open for business on a first come first serve basis.

    I’m a 65 year old Viet Nam vet living alone in the burbs. A lone person cannot defend – you have to sleep sometime. So when the slide dictates, my armory will pay my rent at a younger sibling’s place. At that point the most common, least bulky ammo will be the best currency. Stock up on .22, 9mm and 5.56. Pretty easy to barter for food with a handful of shells. Just try getting change for your Kruggerands!

  33. I spent my entire adult life as a rational paranoid desperately seeking optimism. Searching for answers using scientific methodologies. to life long medical problems (what those head injuries as a kid have something to do with all this maulk?) meant I couldn’t give up, there is always one more study, one more avenue to explore, and pessimism just doesn’t work for the long haul.
    My political views are shaped by the works of Robert Heinlein, and various other liberty loving authors, I identified quite strongly with Professor de la Paz (one of the bigger suckages of a preachers kid growing up with a college reading level by the 3rd grade is that your peers don’t understand what the heck your talking about, and most adults don’t take you seriously). For over a decade I met complaints about the latest political insanity with the phrase ‘and people wonder that I’m a rational anarchist’, until I understood that no one knew what that meant. There was a time there when I might have become a bomb throwing anarchist, fortunately I found many reasons to doubt the whole positive social change achieved by by high explosives ‘memes’. I highly recommend To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter by Vladimir Bukovski and of course annual reading Heinlein, (I don’t think the Grandmaster would approve of terrorism) before I got to invested in the idea. But yes, things are always sliding downhill, it used to be so much better in the past, and the American Experiment is a complete and total failure. Any day now the whole country is going to shrivel up and blow away.

    Except, wait there is an actual medical explanation for some of this dysfunction? I’m not insane, demon possessed, or lazy? What do you mean that your SUPPOSED to get sleepy at bedtime? So THAT’S why calendars are useful!!

    So on a personal level, I start making some progress in my life, and then Heller. That government officials would actually come out and not only admit, but assert that our Constitution means what it says… you could have knocked me over with a feather!
    I think that what really sealed the deal for me, the frosting on the cake, is researching the math behind defensive carry. I came across a couple of images, colored maps of the United States. The first showed our country’s attitude about defensive carry, 25-30 years ago. There were only a couple of ‘green’ states where carry was allowed, most states discouraged it, yellow, and 13, including my home State outright banned it, red.
    The color coded map for 2011/2012? The whole country, except for Illinois, is green.
    Think about that for a minute. In the age of insanely hyped Pre-Internet Media coverage, where accidents and tragedies involving fire-arms are kept in the national news cycle for days and weeks, and defensive gun use gets mentioned once. The ‘reality’ the PIM’s are pushing, exists mostly in their shared mythology. And sure there are regional differences and outrageous actions committed by state actors. American’s who choose to, have more protection from ‘punishment’ for defensive gun use, than we’ve seen in the last 30 years.

    Hey did you know that assault and battery of a spouse is treated as assault and battery, pretty much nation-wide? That may not mean much to you, but to someone who worked security, Section 8 Housing mostly, for much of the 90’s who got tired of hearing the cops over and over again, the abused family member won’t press charges so there is nothing we can do…
    And then there is this whole ‘Internet Thingy’

    One of the prompt commentators to your post asserted that what ever the scenario, the most valuable thing, is knowledge. I don’t disagree, the corollary to ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’, is ‘what you don’t know WILL kill you.
    I think you and he raised a valid point, that possessing useful knowledge and skills is a life enhancer. But I’m beginning to suspect that the most useful thing, in any scenario, is not knowledge, it is networking.

  34. My trivial contribution: the post title puts me in mind of this song:

  35. Pingback: Down Range Radio #305: A Modular Concept of Gun Ownership | Down Range TV

  36. Clark E Myers

    Nice link from Michael Bane with a lot of enthusiam in his voice when he praises this very post on his podcast. Folks reading this seriously might like Mr. Bane’s Trail Safe book or firearms related material.

  37. Pingback: Facinating Reading | DEAD MAN DANCE

  38. Look, not for long. I still trust the US more than any other country. I’m just afraid of the short, sharp correction.

  39. I have been in Panama for seven years– it is NOT free and pretty dangerous.