Been Watching Life, Liberty & Levin

I like to end my Sundays with a new show on Fox called Life, Liberty & Levin. I found the show some weeks ago after I saw a commercial and decided to DVR it. Mr. Mark Levin has an interesting interview style that I seem to enjoy. This week's episode (April 22, 2018) had Mark interview Dr. Peter Pry. I knew the name immediately due to my near-constant reading and research on EMP and CME style events. Needless the say, this interview is a must watch for all Americans. Why? Because there are some serious deficiencies in our national defense and the fragility of the electrical grid represents a rather large gaping hole. Just sayin'.

Anyway, for those of you that don't know the name Dr. Pry, here's a little background information from a bio I found associated with the Mackenzie Institute (I'm quoting him so I don't screw it up): "[Dr. Pry is the] Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both Congressional Advisory Boards, and served on the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of the books "Blackout Wars", "Apocalypse Unknown", and "Electric Armageddon"."

In a nut shell, Dr. Pry knows his shit and he's associated with people that know even more shit than the shit he knows. Got it? Good.

I have been spending my evenings (15-30 min a night) since that show aired, taking notes so I can place a multi-part series of posts here for everyone. Sometimes it's difficult to do because Mark Levin will ask a rather short and straight forward question and Dr. Pry will provide an answer that contains so much useful knowledge and detail it becomes difficult to capture it all... but I'm trying. So look for those.

In the meantime, I did find this link that will allow you to watch a little of the interview via Fox News: Life, Liberty & Levin

 

World's Largest Standing Army

I was scrolling through my various Facebook feeds some time ago and came across a post from a friend where they shared a link to a bloggers research as it pertained to standing armies. It was dated information insofar as it was using 2014 hunting license information. Essentially, the blogger stated that the State of Wisconsin fielded over 600k hunters and thereby became the world’s 8th largest standing army in the world during hunting season that year. The writer then drew the comparison that just the hunters in that specific state represented a larger standing army than Iran. They also stipulated that it was also a larger standing army than France and Germany combined.

I’m sorry… what!?!

Needless to say, I was astounded and intrigued by the bloggers precept so, of course, I had to do a little research on this topic and try and relate it to something pertinent in today’s news cycles… Basically, to begin my research I started simply and just googled the term/phrase ‘national hunting license information’. To my surprise, it yielded some decent results. I chose a link titled National Hunting License Report FY2017 and was presented with a pdf file compiled by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

First, let me say, all I saw on my friends Facebook post was a graphic and some text (think meme) so I’m not entirely sure why the blogger chose Wisconsin. My guess would be that he/she lived there. Regardless, all things considered, Wisconsin is not even the largest ‘standing hunter army’ in the US. That honor, unsurprisingly, belongs to Texas. Here’s the top 10 (by license) in the United States:

  1. 1,148,765 – Texas
  2. 984,637 – Pennsylvania
  3. 719,850 – Michigan
  4. 717,256 – Tennessee
  5. 700,843 – Wisconsin
  6. 620,740 – Georgia
  7. 573,712 – North Carolina
  8. 572,992 – New York
  9. 564,694 – Minnesota
  10. 548,829 – Alaska

Unfortunately, the data was in PDF format and therefore unsortable (see image below). I would have been interested to see per capita data for each state as the result would have moved more rural states closer to the top of the list. C’est la vie.

2017 Hunting Licenses.png

Out of curiosity, how many states would it take to make the largest standing army in the world? Well, here’s what Wikipedia has for data on other countries (active military):

2017 Standing Armies.png

Ok, the United States is a respectable 3rd in terms of active military. Given the populations of China and India respectively, that’s a heck of a trick. I find the reserve and paramilitary numbers to be dubious, but I’m a researcher at heart so let’s carry this out to its conclusion given the data we have.

If you parse the data for reserve forces, the United States is 11th. For Paramilitary (defined as forces that are armed but not part of the nation’s formal military??), we are 62nd. If you take all three sets together (active, reserve, paramilitary), we stand as the 7th largest army in the world. The largest, interestingly enough, is an ally in South Korea with 8,134,500.

So 8.1M is the number to beat… how many states, and which states, could turn the tide of a South Korean invasion… (logistics of crossing the Pacific notwithstanding). Well, our top 10 most heavily armed states (noted previously), brings us quickly to 7,152,318. This is roughly a million short of the S. Korean forces. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that our data is strictly limited to hunting licenses. Meaning, it doesn’t account for people that actually own a firearm but don’t hunt (we’ll get to that in a minute). OK, so we are at 7.1M with our top-ten states. If you add in the 2,227,200 actual military oriented forces we have at our disposal, we clear 9.3M. We win.

Now, as for the topic of total firearms. It is estimated that there are over 350 million guns in the United States. If you add up all of the hunting license issued in all 50 states for FY2017, you have 15,486,123. That’s roughly 22 guns per registered hunter.

Just looking over these numbers and several things are brought into sharp focus.

  • ~350,000,000 firearms in the US
  • 15,486,123 registered hunters in the US (FY2017)
  • 22.6 firearms per registered hunter
  • 42% of all US households possess a firearm
  • 2,227,200 total military forces
  • 21,800,000 military veterans

What type of situation would have to occur for these numbers to be activated? What would it take for people to pick up a weapon and defend themselves, their property, their nation?

Honestly, any nation that would willingly bring a standing army to bear against 20M, 30M, or 50M armed citizens protecting their own country would be a costly, foolish, and bloody endeavor. Second, just the logistics of trying to bring millions of foreign forces to our shores is so remote as to be comical. So that leaves domestic actors or a foreign actor with a long-range entry into the equation (EMP, nuclear).

To me, our biggest threat is/are domestic actor(s).

Don’t believe me?

They are all over the news right now trying to convince you that it’s better to revoke the Second Amendment and disarm everyone than to address mental health, poor parenting, and the avoidance of personal responsibility. These are the same folks that think socialism ‘is cool’, Che Guevara is hip, tide pods are tasty, and condoms are meant to be snorted. I wish I was joking about any of that.

Is it possible for mature adults on both sides of the gun control argument, or any topic/argument for that matter, to sit down and discuss the issues? Sure. Do I see it happening anytime soon? Nope. Not as long as the sky screaming, breath holding, foot stomping, foul mouthed, immature temper tantrum rhetoric continues.

Using Vehicles as Tools

While work on my non-fiction piece titled Preparing to Prepare continues, so does my research. As I continue to read and learn about various topics, I constantly seem to come back to vehicles. Things like; which vehicle would be best for ‘X’ situation or scenario? Do I emphasize fuel capacity and gas mileage or do I focus on off road ability or do I put more emphasis on its ability to tow and haul? Or is it a combination and a compromise of all of the above?

It’s this quandary that has led me to the conclusion that vehicles, for all intents and purpose, are tools. I mean, we all understand that you could slap a blade on the front of it and move dirt or snow and you can install a hitch and tow a decent load cross country. So, by this standard, we all already acknowledge that a vehicle is a tool. What I am referring to has more to do with the efficiency of the tool.

So, that got me to thinking… Are you using your vehicle to its maximum potential and effect?
In the opening few pages of Preparing, I pressed the reader to think about their own personal space and locality when it came to planning for a minor, moderate, or major disturbance. I asked them several questions and provided a few examples to get their mindset calibrated correctly. For example, I posited that the reader needed to think locally about their everyday needs as it pertained to following:

  • Do you know what natural disasters are prevalent in your area?
  • Do you know if there are any workplace emergency plans in place?
  • What are the school emergency plans for your kids?
  • What are your community’s evacuation routes?
  • Where are your important documents and information located?
  • What is your current family emergency plan including: communications, meeting location and contact cards?
  • What is the present condition of all of your emergency kits: home, car, evacuation?
  • When was the last time your family sat down and discussed preparedness and emergency response?

If you kept your focus on vehicles as you read that list, you will have noticed that a vehicle plays a major role in the bulk of those questions.

What’s interesting to me about efficiently using a vehicle as a tool, rather than simply using it as a conveyance to get from point A to point B, is that most vehicles are basically rolling storage units. Sure, you need to get to church, work, do chores on the farm or homestead, or take the kids to school, run errands, and what have you. However, most trunks of truck beds are littered with an assortment of crap and trash.

What if you cleaned out everything and started with a clean slate, er car?

Rollin’ Storage

Just about everything you might need in an emergency situation will fit into a small or medium sized tote… provided you know what stick in there. For my book, because it’s geared more toward people that have never thought of this concept before, I suggested that their car should always have the following (depending on the season):

Get Home Bag Example.png

All things considered, I think that’s a fair list to get someone started. Plus, the manner in which the section was written in the book it was quite apparent that the list was a suggestion and customization was recommended. Now obviously, as their needs, situation, and skill set changes, they should definitely consider adding more items.

As an example of increasing one’s skill set (knowledge base), I found an article written by a former U.S. Air Force SERE instructor named JJ Johnson and published in 2011 on Creek Stewart’s Willow Haven website. In a nut shell, the author took the concept to a wholly different level that my book isn’t really geared toward. It’s a fair assertion that JJ’s list is more for the advanced mindset. The article was titled Vehicle Every Day Carry Items (VEDC).

For convenience, since I noted and gave credit to the author and publisher, here’s their list… it’s quite extensive:

Vehicle Every Day Carry Items 1.png
Vehicle Every Day Carry Items 2.png

When I reviewed what Mr. Johnson wrote, I couldn’t really come up with a valid reason to NOT have this stuff in the car. I mean, I grew up in the country so I understand the value of each and every one of the items noted. For me though, it boils down to several additional factors as to why I’d discount about a third of these items.

First and foremost, I drive almost exclusively in an urban setting except when I am leaving town for a vacation (family/hunting/fishing/camping). Therefore, the items in my tote would change based on the type of driving I was about to embark on. Secondly, I drive a four-door sedan, not a truck with a crew cab and built storage spaces… which is why I mentioned the incorporation of a small to medium sized tote earlier. I do have my eyes on a smallish 4x4 diesel for my next vehicle though. Lastly, there is the issue of cost and weight. It is partially for these reasons that my list is pared down to the bare minimum. As I noted before, I go out of my way in Preparing to heavily stress customization.

As for the tool-kit, author JJ Johnson went through great pains to document each and every tool you should have as part of that kit. However, the author is presupposing that you are mechanically inclined and could actually perform the necessary repairs (which you should be able to do a moderate amount of by the way). For a variety of budgets, Sears has a number of Mechanic’s Tool Set options that include the bulk of the above noted items plus much more. However, none of these pre-fab deals is going to contain the 2lb hammer, leather man, and/or possibly the needle-nose pliers.

If you were to have even half of this stuff in your car though, I have no doubt that you will be able to use your vehicle as a make shift shelter, survive the elements, repair moderate levels of damage, and safely make it home. Well, that is, provided you know how to use all of items appropriately.

Built in Electricity

Another topic, or concept, that I’ve been interested in, and dovetails nicely with the ‘vehicles as tools’ idea, has been the ability to turn my vehicle into its own generator. Nothing sucks more than having to heave a heavy-ass generator in and out of a trunk or truck bed when working in a remote location. Not to mention, and idling vehicle is a hell of lot quieter than any gas-powered generator.

The GMC Sierra truck series intrigued me some years ago when they started placing 110-volt outlets in the bed or near the hitch. When I spoke to the dealership about these, I was disappointed to learn that, while the outlets were indeed an optional upgrade, the wiring harnesses within the truck were not sufficiently upgraded to handle power tools.

To be honest, that answer really pissed me off. Why would you make that an option, but then tell the customer you can’t hook up an extension cord and run a table saw? What’s the damn thing for? Not much apparently.

I guess you could install a second battery and upgrade the wiring to make it work for your needs. You could also forego the manufacturer upgrade and associated costs and install a device called an inverter.

To that end, I started digging around and found a site called The Family Handyman. He details out this process in an article titled How to Turn Your Truck into as Generator. After reviewing the below diagram, it seems pretty straight forward.

Vehicle Generator.png

Now, provided you have gas in the tank, or a spare gas can in the car, should you have the need, you could build a cabin in the woods, or fire up a blender and make margarita’s. As far as charging a mobile device or a laptop, you could always get a variety of cigarette lighter adapters and converters. That would be a hell of a lot cheaper than this inverter install.

Water Purification

I don't know why, but I spend a lot of time thinking about water. And by 'a lot', I mean an inordinate amount of time. I'm constantly trying to learn as much as possible about new and creative ways to:

  • Collect water
  • Store collected water
  • Cost effectively (monetary, fuel, labor) purify the collected and stored water.

Interestingly, Pinterest, of all things, may have provided an answer to this last quandary of purification. The 'pin' read, 'How long do you really have to boil water before it's safe to drink?'

Well, they had me at hello... 'clicked' on that!

Eventually, I found my way to the equip2survive.com website to read their article. Needless to say, when I finished reading, I was flabbergasted! It is an excellent article and contains information and insight that I will NEVER forget... it's that good. I even verified his data against my wife's knowledge as a biology teacher. She was shocked too, and says the water temp specified to kill harmful viruses, pathogens, and microscopic waterborne pests are legit. Here's the link:

How long do you really have to boil water before it's safe to drink?

 

Starting Seeds Indoors by Date

The wife found this image on social media from homesteadspirit.com and sent it to me the other day. I give her credit... she does know her husband.

Starting Seeds Indoors Dates - Image.PNG

She can see from my behavior, and the dearth of catalogs and posts, that I'm starting to get the itch to go outside and play in the dirt. Now, I have no idea what Cold Hardiness Zone these dates pertain to, but for me in Zone 6a, the dates are actually pretty close.

You'll notice that there doesn't seem to be any logic, rhyme, or reason behind how this data was assembled... at least I couldn't discern one at any rate. So I re-typed it into Excel and then sorted the data based on Seed Starting Date. You're welcome.

Starting Seeds Indoors Dates - Excel Sorted.png

Natural Gas in a Grid Down Scenario

I’ve been working on the Preparing to Prepare non-fiction piece lately so research mania has pretty much been going full bore. One of the things that caught my attention was natural gas. Which, of course, sent me off on yet another momentum stalling tangent… c’est la vie.

Basically, I’m been compiling lists and supplying my own brand of advice with regard to life disrupting events of varying durations. Over the course of this book, I’ve been writing about ways to solve various issues given a specific set of supplies and recommendations. That being said, you can’t compile a worthwhile list when it comes to preparedness without discussing fuel. Namely, if there is a power outage, depending on the duration of said outage, you’ll quite possibly need fuel for:

  • A vehicle to go 50-100 miles (one-way, double for round-trip) to get supplies
  • A portable generator (assuming you have one)
  • A house generator (e.g. Generac, assuming you have one that is not on a city feed – long term issue)
  • Cooking meals and boiling water (propane, white, or charcoal - assuming you don’t have a natural gas burning stove/hot water heater)
  • A kerosene heater to heat a specific centralized room

As I wrote that list out in the book, I was drawn to the part about the ‘city feed’. This made me curious. If you’ve lost power for a week due to a storm, or the grid is down entirely, would you be able to use, say, your gas stove? You gas hot water heater? Your furnace?

The short answer is generally ‘yes’ to the stove and water heater and ‘no’ to the furnace. A furnace requires electricity to turn the blower after it generates the needed heat. Your pilot light will remain lit, but it’s basically a paperweight at this point.

The stove should work, but might require you to light the burner with a match. Some stoves have safety protocols in place that might prohibit this activity though. The gas hot water heater should also work without issue as well provided you don’t have an electric power blower installed for venting. If you have a power blower installed, I wouldn’t recommend doing much with the hot water heater. That blower is there because you have venting issues.

So, that little bit of research answered the primary question, but how long will the gas pipeline transmission system, and water system for that matter, maintain enough pressure to feed my house?

Unfortunately, if some form of power isn’t restored to the compressor stations, you’ll be without gas and water in less than a week.

Damn.

That wasn’t the answer I was looking for.

Here’s a well written piece that helps further this information: How Long Will Natural Gas Last Without Electricity.

As I read that article, I couldn’t help but be reminded on a line from the EMP Commission Report:

No infrastructure other than electric power has the potential for nearly complete [societal] collapse in the event of a sufficiently robust EMP attack.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Fruit Maintenance

Not to belabor the point, but I can't seem to shake the excitement of growing some berries this year. Which of course got me to thinking... what can be learned from this endeavor?

Well, I've made the job a tad easier on myself by making the decision to grow them in pots with a removable cage of bird netting first off. This takes a lot of the pest and soil issues out of the equation. Secondly, it'll allow me to get my feet wet with regard to fruit plant maintenance when it comes time to have my own land. Because remember, my goal here is to have my own bit of land and install an orchard that contains fruit and nut trees as well as clusters and/or possibly rows of berries. 

To that end, I was reviewing the Stark Bros website, along with some online articles (one of which I mentioned in a previous post), and some resources I picked up at Amazon. Needless to say, there are plenty of things to be mindful of when it comes to fruit production. For example, you need to know the basics about soil prep, fertilizing, pruning, and harvesting as well as pest control for things like aphids, cane borer, and leafhopper. And then there is disease control for stuff like botrytis fruit rot, leaf curl, and orange rust.

That, obviously, isn't the complete list of issues that need to be monitored, but you get the idea. There's a lot of stuff to consider. For convenience, I download the Stark Bros growing guides from their website and placed the PDF files on the Research Downloads page. You can find all of their growing guides by visiting their website and accessing this page

Garden Assessment and Planning

Following my own advice from my most recent post regarding an end of year assessment, I started assessing my garden. To further this process, I looked at my offerings in the garden and determined what worked, and what didn’t. This year, I think it’s safe to say, I made many mistakes, some of which were largely of my own doing. The good news is that all of it can be easily corrected with minimal effort. Let’s see, there was:

  1. Too much shade in the new garden plot (rectified with a chainsaw)
  2. Too much water from the in-law’s irrigation system (rectified with controller changes)
  3. Mislabeled plants (rectified with the re-implementation of popsicle stick labels)
  4. Chipmunk and squirrel infestation destroyed anything directly sown resulting in a late replanting (rectified with bird netting until mature – approx. 2’ tall)

Item #1 was the result of setting the garden structure before foliage had returned. Several limbs and a few crap trees need to be removed for better sun exposure.

Item #2 was a foreseeable issue that wasn’t seen… if that makes sense. My father-in-law loves lush green grass and waters accordingly. That was far too much water for the garden and, thus, I had a lot of mold and disease problems. The garden is now on its own watering circuit with dedicated sprinkler heads that only I can control.

Item #3 was born out of vanity. I thought that because I’ve been growing pretty much the same things year in and year out I’d know what everything was as it sprouted. I was wrong. I didn’t bother labeling the pots as I started the seeds indoors and some serious head scratching took place as the plants matured and bore fruit. It was actually kind of funny, but needless to say I’ll be re-implementing my label practices.

Item #4 was the direct result of my in-laws and their panache for bird feeders. It seems that the chipmunks and squirrels have grown accustomed to having carte blanche on their property as they have no pets to speak of. As a result, they felt that the garden was in bounds and attacked my garden by either eating the tender sprouts or digging up all of the direct sown seeds. These were things like corn, bush beans, asparagus, Spanish onions, and potatoes. Oddly enough, they didn’t touch the carrots. This issue was resolved when I replanted and then draped those sections of the garden under bird netting. Unfortunately, these plants were re-seeded too late in the season. The corn only made it to about four feet tall by the end of the season.

As part of the assessment process, I also tend to review things I’ve previously written and/or researched looking for answers, explanations, or motivation. By looking to pieces I’ve already researched and written, it helps me stay focused on the task and reduces the amount of time it takes me to complete said assessment and planning tasks. In the case of the garden assessment and planning, I was looking at some of the research I did regarding orchards. In that white paper, which is available on the Resources/Research Downloads page, I stipulated that the Stark Bros website was my go-to resource for seedlings and general perfunctory knowledge for nut and fruit trees as well as berries. And for the record, I recommend both My Patriot Supply and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for non-GMO vegetable seeds.

Anyway, in addition to correcting the jackassery of my mistakes, I am going to try my hand at some berry bushes this coming year. This decision has me perusing the Stark Bros website once again. So far, I think I’ve decided on red raspberries and blue berries. I’d like to do blackberries, but there are several issues that need to be overcome before I can do those. Chief among them is the fact that they need to be planted > 75-100 yards away from the raspberries. Frankly speaking, I’m in an urban environment and the entirety of my lot isn’t that big. What I’m shooting for here with these berries is ease of maintenance and harvest. Thorns suck!

For the red raspberry, Stark Bros has a variety they are calling Bushel and Berry Raspberry Shortcake that seems like it checks all of the boxes in terms of maintenance and ease of harvest… I mean c’mon! It’s in a friggin’ pot!

red raspberry bush in pot combined.jpg

As far as the blueberries go, I figured since I was going to implement a container raspberry I might as well try and do the same for the blueberry. And wouldn’t you know it… Stark Bros had one of those too. The variety I selected is called the Northblue Blueberry, but even though they said I didn't necessarily need one, they did recommend planting a pollinator called a Northcountry Blueberry. Unfortunately, their website didn’t have a nice picture to show you, but I did find this to serve my purposes here:

Blueberry-in-pot.jpg

While I was searching for a good picture of a blueberry bush in a pot, I did come across a website called the Preparedness Mama that had a post relating to container blueberries. Here’s the link to that: 5 Tips to Grow Blueberries in Pots.

Planting, or growing, berries in general has now caused a ripple effect. Now I’ll have to deal with birds picking off my harvest as it ripens. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do something that resulted in the generation of a secondary or tertiary problem that required solving. How do you keep the birds off the berry plants once the fruit starts to ripen? Well, with bird netting of course!

At first, I drew this to try and explain my thought process as whatever I implement has to be able to be removed so I can get to the berries, but not the birds:

Berry Protection.png

Pretty crude but you get the general idea. Then I figured there had to be something online where someone has already solved my berry thief problem. Sure enough, I found something in fairly short order:

blueberry bird protection.jpg
blueberry protection.jpg

Pretty creative options I think.

At the end of the day, I’ve assessed the 2017 garden and planned for the 2018 garden. Easy peesy! Now I can check those two tasks off my task list for January…

It's Assessment Time

With my last post of 2017, I thought I’d remind you to do your yearly assessment. Right now, you should be neck deep in trying out any of your cold weather/winter related gear, clothing, equipment, and plans. While you’re doing that however, you should take time to reflect on this past year. Hopefully, you’ve taken a few notes (mental, paper, or electronic) to assist you in this endeavor. For each and every task or project you attempted or completed or failed miserably at, you should be asking yourself:

  • What worked or didn’t work?
  • Why did it work?
  • Why didn’t work?
  • What can I do to make it work better, more efficient?
  • What can you change to improve upon ‘x’?

Also, even though everything is dormant right now, it doesn’t mean you can’t take what you learned from 2017 and apply it to 2018. This is accomplished through reflection, scheduling, and the occasional list. I’m a huge proponent of scheduling, and list making for that matter. I find that a detailed and robust list keeps me on task more often than not. And we all know my propensity for Excel so I placed a Sample Task List on my Resources/Research Downloads page for you to use. I’ve also put up a Microsoft Home Maintenance template I found and downloaded.

Both files can be found at, or near, the bottom of the page as I load new files in at the bottom (oldest downloads are at the top).

 

Solar - Quick Start

As my search for land continues, so does my knowledge base for just about everything else. I've pretty much got the hunting and gardening skills down pat. That doesn't mean I'm the master of all I survey, but I don't have any concerns with regard to putting food on the table if push came to shove.

That being said, my recent hunting adventures have me itching to build blinds and hides for my friend's boats. I even found some really cool ideas on Pinterest of all things. Who knew. I'd also like to work on the use of snares and a bow (compound or cross) as these methods are far quieter than any of my shotguns or rifles. 

As for gardening, I've read about all things hydroponic and need to put that knowledge into action, but that's tough to do now that our basement is completely finished with the exception of a 12x12 mechanical room. Plus, I'm not a fan of staging that type of system at the in-laws. I want full unfettered access at all times. I need land in the worst way! There's always something else that can be learned.

Today is no exception.  

As I checked my email this morning, I found a link to an article that some off-grid folks wrote regarding everything they knew about solar. It went into sizing, purpose, cost, and they provided numerous recommendations. Having just read through what they wrote, I'm here to tell you it was one of the best written, most comprehensive articles on the subject I've read in a really long time.

Here's the article info and link. The article was posted on the Pure Living for Life website and was titled: Stupid-Easy Portable Solar Panels for RV, Off Grid, Boondocking and Camping