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31 July, 2009

Too Many Mouths, Not Enough Food

This article cites a new report released June 25 by Deutsche Bank that states the caloric needs of the planet are expected to skyrocket by 50% in the next 4 decades alone, placing much greater importance on planning and investment in global agriculture.

"'We are at a crossroads in terms of our investments in agriculture and what we will need to do to feed the world population by 2050,' said David Zaks, a co-author of the report and a researcher at the Nelson Institute’s Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment.

By 2050, world population is expected to exceed 9 billion people, up from 6.5 billion today. Already, according to the report, a gap is emerging between agricultural production and demand, and the disconnect is expected to be amplified by climate change, increasing demand for biofuels, and a growing scarcity of water.

'There will come a point in time when we will have difficulties feeding world population,' said Zaks, a graduate student whose research focuses on the patterns, trends and processes of global agriculture.

Although unchecked population growth will put severe strains on global agriculture, demand can be met by a combination of expanding agriculture to now marginal or unused land, substituting new types of crops, and technology, the report’s authors conclude."

Needless to say, I disagree with their rosy assessment. What the report’s authors fail to take into account is that we cannot currently feed the population we have as famine still ravages parts of the world right now. Expanding to growing food on "now marginal or unused land" may produce more food for a brief time, but you cannot simply grow and grow and grow on the same land forever or you will ruin it. Land must periodically be left to stand fallow for one or more seasons in order to maintain its vitality; that is why farmers often rotate fields into and out of use on yearly cycles. So, it is not a matter of just planting up all of the unused ground to solve the problem.

That also doesn't even touch on the fact that certain critical, non-renewable components in the production of man-made fertilizers are beginning to show signs that they are evidently experiencing the peak of their supply/demand curve. This is vitally important because it will most likely be impossible to maintain even our current population without man-made fertilizers, much less an additional 2.5 billion people.

And, another issue they fail to address revolves around a resource that is seemingly ubiquitous: water is already becoming an issue with our current population numbers. I can scarcely fathom the effects of adding another 50% population growth to the availability and quality of fresh water, but I'm confident it won't be good.


Energy From Urine

Yep, you read it correctly. The article states: "Urine-powered cars, homes and personal electronic devices could be available in six months with new technology developed by scientists from Ohio University.

Using a nickel-based electrode, the scientists can create large amounts of cheap hydrogen from urine that could be burned or used in fuel cells. 'One cow can provide enough energy to supply hot water for 19 houses,' said Gerardine Botte, a professor at Ohio University developing the technology. 'Soldiers in the field could carry their own fuel.'"

As many of you are already aware, the idea of using hydrogen as fuel has been fairly widely covered. Many found it to be an exciting prospect initially because it is one of the most widely-available elements in the universe, but it is also very volatile, causing it to be dangerous to store/transport.

One option under which it would theoretically be less dangerous would be just to store water (two hydrogen atoms bonded to a single atom of oxygen). Then, when the hydrogen is needed, it could be separated from the oxygen and used as a fuel. The problem is that electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen has been found to be an energy sink, meaning the process of performing the electrolysis uses more electricity than can be gleaned from the resulting hydrogen.

The process proposed in the article linked above, however, revolves around using urine instead. Interestingly, each molecule of urea, a major component of urine, contains four atoms of hydrogen bonded to two atoms of nitrogen. This differing chemical composition, they argue, means that they need only use 0.037 Volts of electricity to release the hydrogen as a gas as opposed to the 1.23 Volts needed to do the same with normal water.


I am still, however, a skeptic in that I believe we have run out of the time needed to implement the complete 'ground-up' overhaul of our national infrastructure that such a fundamental changeover would require. Even if this turns out to be a great energy source, we need to have made this breakthrough a decade ago.

Still, it is very interesting.


29 July, 2009

Hole Left In Jupiter From Recent Comet Impact Roughly The Size of Earth

Some are calling the black mark near Jupiter's south pole a crater, while others say it is the dust cloud left after the impact explosion. What most of them agree upon, however, is that it might have been caused by "a 1 km-diameter comet traveling at 135,000 mph (60 km per second)." (source)

It should go without saying that we are very lucky. This object came effectively out of nowhere, hitting unexpectedly; had it come our way instead, I can't imagine any level of preparedness, short of a deeply-buried bunker and several years supply of food, being enough to save any of us. It would, in fact, be a monumental effort just to try to make sure some few survived to ensure continuity of our very species. But, we were lucky, and we have the gas giant to thank.

Apparently, poor Jupiter is like our big brother on the playground taking hits for us and it's nothing new. "That’s Jupiter doing its cosmic job, astronomers like to say. Better it than us. Part of what makes the Earth such a nice place to live, the story goes, is that Jupiter’s overbearing gravity acts as a gravitational shield deflecting incoming space junk, mainly comets, away from the inner solar system where it could do for us what an asteroid apparently did for the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Indeed, astronomers look for similar configurations — a giant outer planet with room for smaller planets in closer to the home stars — in other planetary systems as an indication of their hospitableness to life." (source)


Project Lucifer & The Coming 2nd Sun

Okay, so I thought I had heard it all, but I guess I was wrong. Apparently, the newest in the long list of nefarious plans thought up by the evil 'them' that consistently serves as the villain in these types of conspiracy theories has been discovered by the crack team of internet investigators.

The plan: to cause a chain reaction within the gases that comprise Saturn that results in the planet achieving nuclear fission, imploding and thereby creating a new star in our solar system. Apparently, it was due to occur in 2008, but then NASA chose to extend the mission of the Cassini spacecraft an extra 2 years until 2010. Supposedly, it is the Cassini spacecraft that will impact on Saturn with its plutonium payload to create the massive explosion that they believe will trigger fission. This is nearly identical to what is seen occurring with Jupiter in the film 2010, nevermind that physics tells us it isn't really possible. Somehow, the Silver Surfer even gets involved at one point. It's fabulous.

I include this ridiculousness here on the blog as entertainment only. And, entertaining it is! Plus, there's a nice tie-in to the article above with respect to the stuff about the black spot on Jupiter. Check it out:




27 July, 2009

The Coming Great Government Debt Default

Perhaps I was confused by the whole 'cookies in a cookie jar' analogy, but the premise of this article seems rather dubious to me. I have no disagreement with the author's assertion that the taxpayers of the future will no doubt prefer to continue the behavior of the current generation by choosing to put off paying the enormous debt as long as they can.

Where the author and I differ is on the idea that some future generation will eventually default on the debt when the time comes that their IOUs are no longer accepted. For reasons explained better in the post above than I ever could, I don't see the government ever defaulting on any debt, not even unfunded entitlements such as Social Security. The reason being that they'll just print the money, economic sanity be damned, and we will languish in a state of hyperinflation as a result.


25 July, 2009

Re: "Derivatives Doom"... It's Actually Worse Than We Thought

So, apparently the previously-held and thoroughly terrifying estimate that the ticking time-bomb we know as the derivatives market represents $592 trillion (or about 10 times the global gross domestic product) just wasn't terrifying enough for some folks, and required some recalculation.

We can now estimate it to be more like $1.4 quadrillion. Yep, you read it right. And, just what does a quadrillion+ dollars look like? Answer: "... more than one million piles of money, with a billion dollars in each pile." (source)



24 July, 2009

The UK Quickly Becoming A Police State

It appears our friends 'across the pond' are edging ever closer and closer to making sure that life truly does imitate art, as it seems the central plots of "Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)" by George Orwell, "The Wall" by Pink Floyd, and "V for Vendetta" by Alan Moore (or perhaps you prefer the film) are about to come true.

As you can see from reading the articles linked below, the people of Britain are allowing their overbearing, far-reaching government to get way out of control, and they are losing more and more of their freedoms with each passing day.

And, believe me when I tell you that our leaders are watching this nonsense with baited-breath to see just how far it can go before being challenged. Britain, one of our biggest allies and culturally similar to us in many ways, will be the blueprint for the further erosion of our rights here in the U.S. as well.

Have fun reading, comrade...

* Thought police muscle up in Britain
* Police given powers to enter homes and tear down anti-Olympics posters during 2012 Games
* Britain’s CCTV Network (Traffic Cameras) to Track, Log All Car Journeys
* Britain: Children Tracked by GPS, Encouraged to Report Anti Social Activity to Police
* Russian journalist blasts 'Big Brother Britain' and compares it to life in the old Soviet Union


23 July, 2009

The 'Significant' New Oil Discovery That Wasn't

You good folks are gonna get sick of talking about Peak Oil, but I swear if I have to beat it into your heads then so be it. What can I say? If I had to pick any one possible threat to our society's future that influences my preparedness philosophy beyond your average 'let's be ready in case of a blizzard or flood' kind of emergency readiness, it is Peak Oil (with disease pandemic as a close 2nd).

But, some folks don't see it unfolding as the same sort of catastrophe that I do, mostly because they haven't done the research I have. Still, you end up with news stories like this one, touting the newest in a long line of 'significant' oil and gas discoveries.

Of course, if you ignore the rhetoric and strip it down to the math involved, they've discovered somewhere between 150-250 million barrels of oil equivalent. Wonderful, except it suddenly loses some of its standing as 'significant' when you realize that WE USE AN ESTIMATED 21 MILLION BARRELS PER DAY IN THE U.S. ALONE.

So, congratz! Have your party! Even if we go with the higher estimate of what might be there, it means you've managed to postpone the disaster for slightly less than two weeks here in the U.S. If you share with the rest of the world, that timetable drops to the equivalent of a long weekend.

I'm sorry, but that doesn't meet the requirements for me to call it 'significant'. Not by a long shot.

The problem that keeps more people from worrying about Peak Oil is that they are unaware of usage statistics, etc. and, therefore, 250 million barrels sounds like a lot of oil. We have these news articles popping up all the time about new discoveries, but without the proper context within which to examine the numbers involved, people are led into a false sense of security about the future. They have no idea that these fields are either tiny (like the one in the article linked above) or are quite often comprised of oil shale as opposed to normal crude oil.

The truth is that new discoveries of any real size or utility have been down for more than four decades. And, it now appears we may be past the peak already and are beginning to begin the descent phase (I believe we've been in the plateau phase for the last few years as world oil production has remained steady).

The current lull in demand caused by the ragged state of the economy may push things back a bit, but there are signs that point toward some of the earth's major fields beginning to slow down as they are depleted. The Cantarell Oil Field in Mexico is a prime example, having declined at a staggering rate. In order to keep apace with usage and the rate of decline in existing fields, we would need to discover a new Saudi Arabia every few years just to break even and slow down the accelerating descent.


21 July, 2009

This Just In: Peak Oil Crisis Cancelled! Back To Business As Usual, Thanks To New Oil Discoveries... OR NOT... Sorry To Shatter Your Fantasies

It never fails that every so often the news will surface (usually from a decidedly right wing source) that some previously unknown oil deposit has recently been discovered somewhere within U.S. territory that contains enough oil to power us for a gozillion years, and we can now go about our business without Arab boots against our throats and without making any changes whatsoever to our happy motoring, SUV loving, resource wasting lifestyles. In fact, I've written about it previously as recently as just a few weeks ago.

Now, before you freak about me taking a little dig at the right wing, understand that I am far from a latte-sipping lefty. I am a fiscal as well as social conservative in my bones, but that doesn't mean I have to be one of the "Drill, baby, drill!" crowd; I would love it if I could be one of those people, but I have a problem that makes it impossible for me. My problem is a little thing called logic and a belief in scientific facts. You don't have to be a full-blown geologist to be able to grasp a little bit about geology, and, with minimal research, data exists that would make most of the "Drill, baby, drill!" people's heads spin if they bothered to check into it for themselves. Sadly, most don't because the issue has become so politicized that any notion of devoting even a moment to learning something that could actually have a chance at changing their minds (and, thus, upsetting the status quo and endangering their position in the tribe) is avoided at all costs. And, yes, I said tribe. I won't go into that in great detail here as it is too complicated to explain with brevity, but all political thought is modern tribalism, us against them. Right versus Left is a sociological culture war, nothing more.

Getting back on track, there was yet another news item recently that fit the description I provided in the first paragraph. First, there was the article touting the "US Government’s Secret Colorado Oil Discovery," which asserts that there's more than 2 trillion barrels of oil hidden in an untapped reserve 1000 feet under the Rocky Mountains and that it represents more oil "than all the other proven reserves on earth." WOW! That sounds great! Except for one problem: they're talking about oil shale and it isn't in any way a new discovery. We have known it was there for a long, long time.

The problem with harvesting and utilizing oil shale, in a nutshell, is that it "requires more processing to use than crude oil, which increases its cost as a crude-oil substitute both financially and in terms of its environmental impact." (from the wikipedia page) But, while the environmental issues involved are huge, the real truth is that, even if you just say environment-be-damned "Drill, baby, drill!", it won't even be worth it in the end. It is an energy sink or at the very least it is close to being one, meaning the lengthy processes required to actually get the oil shale and turn it into a viable crude oil substitute requires as much or nearly as much energy as you get out of it.

The thought processes that allow folks to believe in these fairy tales evolve from a fundamental misunderstanding of Peak Oil theory and the concept of EROEI or Energy Returned on Energy Invested. Peak Oil has nothing to do with running out of oil. There will still be oil in the earth even after mankind is long extinct and forgotten. Peak Oil "is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline." And, with that decline, comes both soaring prices as well as the inescapable fact that as the oil becomes harder to extract the process will require more and more energy, thus decreasing the EROEI or Energy Returned on Energy Invested. The normal every day "Black Gold, Texas Tea" that we all envision when we hear the word oil has to be mighty scarce and expensive before the EROEI of oil shale even approaches a point where it becomes worthwhile to exploit on a large scale. And, by that time, the price will be so exorbitant as to dictate that most petroleum-based products strictly become the toys of world governments and perhaps the uber wealthy.

You and I will have long been relegated to horse and buggy before then.


20 July, 2009

2012 is B.S.!!!

... and, apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so. Below you will find a few clips from a recent episode of Penn & Teller's rightfully named show "Bullsh*t!" as they tackle the subject. Before you watch, be advised there is some adult language. Also, I hereby acknowledge that these videos are wholly owned by Showtime and Penn & Teller themselves. I am only providing links to videos that are currently active on Youtube (uploaded by someone else, not me) for your viewing enjoyment.

If you're interested in reading more of why I believe there will be NO apocalypse on December 21, 2012, you can read the series of articles I wrote debunking some of the more prevalent theories by clicking the links below. It was actually supposed to be an ongoing series, but I got my fill pretty quick of trying to wade through website after website and book after book of bare-assed sophomoric conjecture and pseudoscience. Anyway, here you go:


Enjoy the show...


16 July, 2009

Peak Water Nearing Due To Climate Change/Overpopulation, Violence Erupting As People Fight Over Life-Giving Resource

The article linked here does a good job of describing the current problems being experienced in India, and it is heartbreaking. The idea of a family being massacred by a group of their own neighbors, because someone mistakenly thought they were trying to block-off the water pipe that feeds the community and keep all the water for themselves, is one that will be staying with me for some time. The reason that we here in more developed nations should sit up and take notice, however, is because we may be finding ourselves in similar situations soon enough.

The United Nations has been warning us for years that access to water would become an issue for as many as 2/3 of the world's population in the decades to come, and it appears we may now be beginning to see the start of that. In all truth, I believe we will one day (and not too far off) see wars fought over water. This isn't the first time I've written about it here on the blog. Water is, after all, a requirement for human life and must be both consumed directly as well as used for agriculture to grow food. The quality thereof is also directly tied to the quality of that life, as impurities can result in disease.

Water is the only natural resource more valuable than oil, when weighed strictly by the effect on mankind exerted by its availability or the lack thereof. Access to cheap oil is what allowed us to expand agriculture to feed more mouths, leading to the world's population exploding in numbers over the past century+. But, it could not have been accomplished without access to fresh water as well, and so we diverted rivers and drained lakes and underground aquifers. We should have known we were in trouble a long time ago when we started having to treat our water with harsh chemicals in order so we could reuse it over and over, but we just kept on expanding. And now, it seems we may be reaching the tipping point where the population has grown to such heights that nature can no longer keep up with our consumption and waste.

Whether or not you believe in the concept of "man-made" global warming, it is hard to deny that the climate is undergoing changes that have further exacerbated the problem. The snowcaps on the Himalayan Mountains, for instance, have shrunk over the years to such a great extent that the usual melt run-off in the summer months that provides drinking water for untold numbers has all but disappeared entirely.

Further, the article itself states that many of India's current issues are climate related, blaming "a late monsoon and the driest June for 83 years" for their drought. Regarding Bhopal, the city where the above-mentioned family met with violence over the meager water supply (it is perhaps dark irony that the city bills itself as the City of Lakes), it is said that the "largest lake, the 1,000-year-old, man-made Upper Lake, had reduced in size from 38 sq km to 5 sq km by the start of last week.

The population of 1.8 million has been rationed to 30 minutes of water supply every other day since October. That became one day in three as the monsoon failed to materialise."

How long can this sort of thing continue before we see mass migrations away from arid, parched areas where human beings probably should never have been living in the first place? Overpopulation has resulted in the absurdity of cities with millions of inhabitants being built in the middle of deserts with their only access to water being pipelines that carry the water from its source often hundreds of miles away. I can think of few things more stupid, and it is a mistake I think we'll see corrected through necessity before too much longer.

In the meantime, please follow my advice. Store some water for emergencies, but even the largest survivalist stockpiles will run out eventually. Please secure for you and your family the means to take whatever water you are able to scrounge up and render it safe to drink and cook with NOW. Buy my water filters.

And, if what's happening in India is too far away to worry you, try this from our very own continent: Feds document shrinking San Joaquin Valley aquifer. The area at issue in that article, by the way, is where most of the fruits and vegetables at your local grocery store were grown.


14 July, 2009

How To Make DIY Hard Apple Cider

Few skills complement rural living better than that of making your own drink. This can include everything from an endless list of varieties of wines all the way to distilled spirits such as moonshine (be sure to check your local laws, though, as distilling is tightly controlled and still outright illegal in some areas). The process is also deceptively simple, especially when it comes to wines, beers and cider that produce alcohol through fermentation as opposed to distillation. This is a natural process that can happen all on its own and so it is legal mostly everywhere, but there are limits on how much you can make and keep for personal use (never for sale) per year. Inexpensive wine making and home brewing kits are for sale all over, including the internet, and it is a fun and interesting hobby in which I myself am just beginning to get my feet wet.

This particular article will concentrate on how to make the old country favorite, hard apple cider. You can do this one of two ways: the best is to find an organic food store or an old country store and buy a gallon of real cider; the cheaper, but less desired, method is just to use grocery store apple juice. Purists will tell you that you can't, because the grocery store stuff has been pasteurized, but they're full of crap. From what I understand, the fact that it's been previously pasteurized just makes the process take longer. What you can't use is juice that's been preserved by adding funky chemicals, especially sodium benzoate, because it will kill the necessary yeast that you have to add. The cheap Wally World Great Value stuff works just fine. It only has three ingredients: juice concentrate, filtered water and ascorbic acid (Vitamin-C).

You'll need:
  • Two (2) food-grade containers (one for fermentation/one for mixing duties). For the fermentation, I use a carboy like this one with a stopper and an airlock. There are clever tricks you could use to get around using an airlock, but it's barely a dollar to buy one so just do it. For the second container, I use a 5 gallon food-grade bucket.
  • A siphoning apparatus and a length of tubing. I use an Easy Siphon with several feet of vinyl tubing.
  • Bottles to hold your finished product. You can buy bottles or save your own and just buy new caps and a capper. Go crazy! I just use empty wine bottles.
  • 4 gallons of apple juice.
  • A half-pound of brown sugar (0.5 lbs.)
  • Wine yeast. I know baker's yeast is easier to get your hands on and I suppose it will work in a pinch, but using the right stuff will leave you with a much better tasting finished product. You can also use Champagne yeast to produce a very dry cider.
  1. Sanitize everything, and I mean thoroughly. You don't want any foreign bacteria getting into the mix that could have an effect on the fermentation process. I would suggest you even wear rubber gloves, but a vigorous washing with soap will most likely suffice. Just don't touch anything you don't absolutely have to after washing, and you can probably ditch the gloves suggestion safely.
  2. The next step is to get the brown sugar thoroughly dissolved into your juice. You might be able to just add all the juice and the sugar to the carboy and stir it, but I doubt you'll be able to stir vigorously enough to get it all mixed-in without completely wearing yourself out. I suggest pouring about half the juice from one of your bottles (I'm assuming you have four one-gallon bottles) into the mixing bucket, adding about 1/4th of the sugar to the half-empty bottle, putting the cap back on, and shaking it like a wild person on meth. Once you're satisfied the brown sugar is adequately dissolved, empty the bottle into the mixing bucket and stir it together a bit with the juice already there. Then, transfer all the juice to the carboy where it will ferment.
  3. Repeat step #2 for the other 3 gallons of juice and the remaining 3/4ths of the brown sugar.
  4. Once everything is in the fermenter (the carboy), add about 4-5 grams of wine yeast.
  5. Fit the stopper and the airlock on the fermenter and place it somewhere that will be fairly temperature-stable between the high 60s and the low 70s.
  6. Leave it alone for about a month. You should see bubbles inside the carboy and in the airlock within a day or two.
  7. After about a month, the fermentation process should be complete with the yeast having settled to the bottom of the carboy.
  8. In order to get carbonated cider, you need to reintroduce some more sugar back into the mix to reactivate the yeast. Add about 5 ounces of regular granulated sugar to the fermenting carboy and stir vigorously to get it mixed-in properly.
  9. Bottle your cider however you see fit, using the Easy Siphon and the vinyl tubing.
And, that's that! You can now enjoy your own homemade hard apple cider! You can also play around with the recipe a bit to suit your personal tastes, as some folks prefer more or less sugar. Some may also prefer to leave it up longer than a month, and using real cider in the beginning will produce a better final drink than the cheap grocery store juice with the trade-off being that it is also quite a bit more expensive to make.

As stated earlier, be sure to check your local laws with respect to annual limits, and never plan on selling what you make. Learning and perfecting these skills, however, could be considered training for a lucrative home-based business in a post-crash society where today's laws are no longer applicable. And, in the meantime, you get to enjoy years of your own bounty and the pleasure of a new hobby.


EDITED 7.15.09 - Please be sure to read the comments for this post as they contain very useful information from a reader with 30 years experience with home brewing.

12 July, 2009

Travel Trailer Homesteading

Prior to even beginning the substantive portion of this article, I must inform you that I am far from the or even a definitive authority on the subject of Travel Trailer Homesteading. For that kind of insight, I refer you to either James Dakin over at Bison Survival Blog or M.D. Creekmore over at the Survivalist Blog, as both of these gentlemen are currently living the life that I will be attempting to describe to you here. My intention, with respect to this article, is to provide you with a basic understanding of the concept, as well as to throw my two cents in on how I would do it if it were me.

Travel Trailer Homesteading is exactly what it sounds like. The individual lives full-time in a RV-camper on a plot of paid-for land out in the boonies, thereby side-stepping the debt that usually comes with home ownership. They may or may not be attached to municipal utilities, depending on the situation. Many, such as both of the gentlemen listed above, choose to live completely off-grid: they haul their own water and generate their own electricity using small-scale micro-solar setups. Heating is done with a wood stove. Cooking as well as the refrigerator are run via propane. Of the two gentlemen listed above, one drives a paid-for vehicle, while the other has dumped his car outright and rides a bicycle everywhere he goes.

The biggest attraction to that kind of life, for me anyway, is that one can live comfortably on next to no income at all by avoiding our modern societies greatest trap: debt. Your land is paid-for, your home is paid-for, you have either a tiny electric bill or none whatsoever, and ditto for all the other utilities as well. A single person or even a couple, it seems to me, could make a real go of it living that way.

My greatest concern would be the feasibility of going that route with a bigger group. I, for instance, have 3 individuals in my immediate household and family in the double-digits that will be here in the event of a very serious crash. Some travel trailers may say they comfortably sleep a decent number of people, but a lot more goes into life than just having a place to sleep. It would quickly get crowded, and crowded people get cranky. The situation would be an ugly one. However, with a little ingenuity and a little more money, one could feasibly amend the travel trailer homestead concept to make it work for even a larger group.

I would simply build on to the existing trailer. Take the front door off its hinges and build a cabin around it the way some might add a deck to the front. What used to be the front door to your trailer is now just an open walkway leading into another part of your cabin, and you use the trailers facilities to act as your cabin's kitchen, bath, and one bedroom. The newly built portions could then be partitioned to make a decently-sized common area and several small but private bedrooms, so everyone in the group has their own personal space to retreat to (even a tiny 8' by 6' room is better for the sanity than just being in each other's faces all the time, and would be almost a requirement in the event there are married couples among those you might find yourself sheltering post-crash). Insulate very well and it could be really cozy. A little more work could even add a 2nd half-bath for less than $400 if you're willing to settle for the cheapest toilet, sink, fixtures, etc. that they sell at Lowe's.

Personally, I would also think about adding more solar and converting my refrigerator off propane with a mind to the future when Peak Oil makes petroleum-derived fuels prohibitively expensive. Refrigerators are energy hogs, but my biggun in my kitchen is something like 27 cubic ft. and I could run it with about 700 watts worth of panels, so the little ones have to use quite a bit less juice. Post-crash, you can cook on the wood stove or over a campfire, but having a fridge to help preserve your food longer will be priceless.

Anyway, there is my take on the subject. I realize that the changes I'm talking about would cost more money than the extremely frugal way most are currently living that lifestyle, but it could be saved for and even done a little at a time to help absorb the cost. Heck, if it was me, the extra solar capacity alone would be worth taking a temporary job or eating out of my storage food for a month or two to pay for it.

A great source of information on this topic is the book Travel-Trailer Homesteading Under $5,000 by Brian D. Kelling


11 July, 2009

Thanks to Fellow Blogger at Bison Survival Blog

Thanks to James Dakin over at Bison Survival Blog for the recent words of encouragement sent in the form of a friendly post comment. As I said in my response, it means a lot to hear from any reader, but it is especially cool to hear from another blogger whose work I read each and every day. And, coincidentally, it gave me an idea for an article, but you'll have to wait for tomorrow to read it (today was my Mom's birthday, so I was short on time). To wet your whistle a little, the article will revolve around a concept that readers of either Dakin's blog or Creekmore over at the Survivalist Blog will be familiar with: that of "travel trailer homesteading."

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10 July, 2009

The Ghost in the Machine Must Not Dig Me...

This is my first post since the 4th of July, and I wish I could say it was by design so that I could take some time off for the holiday. Unfortunately, the truth is that it was totally out of my hands. Late that evening, as I was about to begin research toward the posts for the 5th, my computer crapped out on me and I only just got it back today. And, what's worse is that she's reportedly still on her last legs. My techie friend just propped her up so that I can get a last few months use out of her before she finally keels over for good. So, that will be one more unneeded expense in the months to come, muddying the path as I attempt to get my family properly prepared. Oh well. Murphy's Law, I suppose.

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The Household Pet's Role In A Survival Scenario

One need only look down the right-hand sidebar of this very blog to see that I am a big animal supporter. My family even adopted a dog and a cat through the ASPCA (kind of like those programs for adopting kids in Ethiopia where you get a picture of the kid you sponsored, blah blah blah) and plan to continue with that program every year for the foreseeable future. In my opinion, the ASPCA is a fine organization that does God's work when it come to animals without stepping over into crazy town the way PETA often does.

Now, does being an animal supporter mean I'm a vegetarian? No. And it truly doesn't matter to me if you think that makes me a hypocrite or not. Simply put: some animals are meant to be companions while others are meant to be groceries. I will say, however, that I despise anyone who would cause an animal pain needlessly (even one that is going to eventually end up on my plate). I support only humane methods of slaughter and I absolutely refuse to eat things like veal, because the calves are mistreated in my opinion.

Anyway, the purpose of this article is to discuss the role of your household pets in a survival or disaster scenario. First, I must admonish you, if you are preparing but your preps do not take your pet's needs into consideration, then you probably shouldn't have a pet. I say this because, if you are one of those folks who plans to just dump their animal(s) when times get tough, then you are a part of the problem, not the solution.

Like so many other instances, this is a time when Hurricane Katrina can serve as a case study for what happens to animals that are simply abandoned. My brood is probably in the minority, but we feel that our animals are members of our family, and so we could never just put them out to wander and wonder what they did wrong and why we don't love them anymore. Even putting the emotional side of the argument aside for a moment, however, people have this image in their minds that an animal will always be able to make it on their own, but this is not always the case. In short, understand that this is certain: if you simply abandon your pet, you are either condemning it to a certain and often painful death or you are creating a future predator in the event that your dog survives and goes feral as part of a pack.

So, with that said, please plan for your animal's well being when thinking about emergency preparedness. Pet food is really pretty cheap. Store it in galvanized metal trash cans to keep the rats out and dust it with some food grade diatomaceous earth to keep the insects under control. Rotate your supply, so it is always fresh. In a true TEOTWAWKI survival scenario, dogs can survive on the waste products from hunting and butchering wild game after the commercial dog food is long since gone.

In return, you get a worthy and loyal companion that provides you with security far and away more reliable than any modern electronic detection system. Obviously, one could fill a whole additional post with the discussion of which breed is best, as different breeds each have their own strengths, weaknesses and inherent skillset. But, we'll leave that for another time. Just take my advice and look for a dog that is territorial and good with kids; it's hard to go wrong if you follow those rules. Also, if you're concerned with security, I would stick with one of the larger breeds and get two at the same time as puppies. That way, they have each other to play with and two dogs will be able to protect your property better than just one.

Also, you should get yourself a couple of cats to control rodents on your property. Believe me, mice are prodigious little critters and they are everywhere when you're out in the boonies. And, what's worse is that your little rural homestead out in the middle of nowhere is like an oasis in the desert to them. Your place is dry when it rains, warm when it's cold, and they survive off human discards, so you do the math. Make sure especially that the cats can get into your pantry and food storage areas so that they can keep your viddles safe and uninfested, as this will be a prime target for the invading host. Mine kill tons of creepy crawlies too.

Personally, I advocate storing food for the cats as well, but after it runs out they can typically fend for themselves if they aren't too pampered and are used to hunting and you haven't done something retarded like having them declawed. Just be advised, they may not stay at your house if you stop feeding them, thus allowing you to become overrun with rodents. Essentially, in that situation, you are bribing the animal to stay on your property and be a good ratter.

On a side note, we have a little Yorky that is a heck of a ratter as well, so don't discount the usefulness of little lap dogs either. We also had a little Pomeranian when I was a kid and I'll never forget this one time watching that little fluffy dog kill a huge creek rat that rivaled him in size without getting a single scratch on him, so it is not an isolated thing.


04 July, 2009

The Coming Insurrection

It seems an odd coincidence to be writing this article on the 4th of July when we in the United States celebrate the anniversary of our hard fought and dearly won independence from the greedy hands of a distant, lecherous, overreaching and overly intrusive government. It is odd because today, two-hundred and thirty some odd years after that final musket fired, I sit and watch the news and more and more I am beginning to feel a change in the air.

It began subtly enough in the form of a particularly heated Presidential election cycle, beginning early and with a wider selection of candidates on both sides than at any other time in recent memory and ending-- as expected-- in the issuance, by the populace, of a decisive cry for change. It seems now, though, that after nearly half a year "change" is an elusive mistress. She teases, but when you try to have her she is nowhere to be found. And, that causes the frustration that is so easy to feel these days.  The atmosphere is changing, little by little. I imagine that is how it was for them as well, our forefathers those centuries ago. I imagine that, like people today, they were pushed little by little, day by day, getting steadily angrier and more disenfranchised, until finally one day the repeated injuries to their liberty grew to be too much to bear. And, that is the point I fear we are approaching in this country yet again. This time, however, we will not be fighting an insurrection against an oppressor half a world away, but instead, I fear, it will be a war fought amongst our own that could bring tragedy to our very doorsteps.

Feel the way the air is almost electric, like it is just before a storm...

It was announced recently that the unemployment rate here in the U.S. has risen to a back-breaking 9.5%, the worst it has been since 1983. And, what many people fail to realize is that the true number is actually much higher. The reason I say this is because many of the jobs lost over the past many months came with multi-month severance packages for the downsized worker, but the unemployment rate statistics don't reflect these people until that severance runs out and they show up seeking unemployment benefits. Look for these statistics to spike soon. These numbers also do not reflect the many workers who lost jobs, but have since found and accepted new ones at a much lower rate of pay, thereby generating much less fuel for the economy, much less tax revenue for the government, and severely affecting the quality of life for the worker and their family.

And yes, I understand that 1983 was bad also. The difference is that in 1983 the economy had virtually unlimited access to cheap, abundant fossil fuels (which are now beginning to run out and becoming more expensive as a result), a strong manufacturing base (almost all of which we have since shipped overseas), and in 1983 they didn't have to look forward to a continuing disaster in the housing market (many more ARM-resets are expected to hit later in 2009 and 2010 and the market isn't expected to hit the real bottom until sometime in 2011). Therefore, I refuse to recognize the argument that we shouldn't worry; we'll get by just like we did back then, because they didn't have some of the obstacles we are up against now. I would also wager that we are a weaker society, less accustomed to living with hardships than we were in 1983; certainly, there were more people alive then who could remember what it was like to live through the "Great Depression."

But, economics is the only area where we are experiencing hardships. Culturally, we are tearing each other apart as well. Having a black man elected President Of The United States has, as one could have expected, brought out the nutjobs in full-force. Government sources will confirm that hate speech is on the rise in America and we've already seen some of these despicable people take action, but they aren't the only ones to blame for the divisiveness in America.

When tons of citizens attended Tea Party rallies around the country around tax time to protest the irresponsible way their money was being spent to bail out big business and Wall Street, they were denounced as crazies by virtually the entire Left. Looking back, I don't know which instance made me more angry: when a CNN reporter instigated an argument with a protester, insinuating that he was a bad father for having his kids with him at what she obviously considered a place full of scary, questionable people, and actually interrupting him once to say something to the effect of "But, sir, don't you understand you could get some of this money!"; or, if it was when Janeane Garofalo said on MSNBC that the people who went to those rallies were only there because of their hatred that a black man was now their president.

And, it gets even worse. When a deranged old biggot shot up the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., there were articles in the New York Times blaming Fox News hosts Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly, of all people, for drudging up all the hate and discontent with their stances against the policies and positions adopted by the current Presidential Administration. What really struck me, though, was the number of left-leaning people who expressed vindication with regard to the much-decried report published a few months back by Homeland Security that essentially identified every ex-military serviceman, libertarian or other third political party supporter, Ron Paul supporter and gun owner in the United States as a possible terrorist.

Because this old whackjob was an ex-military serviceman and a gun owner who had expressed displeasure with the government in the past and then he ended up doing this terrible thing at the Holocaust Museum, in their minds they were vindicated in their shameless "profiling." Nevermind that he was also an ex-con who had been caught carrying a deadly weapon in a government building years ago, a member of several white supremacist groups, and he had written extensively for many years about the myriad plots of the blacks and the Jews and whoever else he could vent his pathetic, hate-filled mind upon. None of that mattered. All that mattered to these people was that it gave them another opportunity to get the words right-wing and extremist in the same sentence. My answer to their charges has been simple (and I'm yet to have a single person even attempt a comeback). I simply ask: if profiling is okay now because right-wing extremist groups often recruit members from among ex-military servicemen, then why is it not okay for the police to pull-over every black person driving a nice car, considering that the Crips and the Bloods are known to recruit among the black community? Invariably, I am answered by angry silence.

And now this brings me to the outside influence that will soon be tearing at the American spirit. The title of this article "The Coming Insurrection" is likewise the title of a book that comes our way from France. It was written by an anonymous group calling themselves "The Invisible Committee" around the time of the 2005 riots in the suburbs of Paris and calls for no less than the violent overthrow of government and the western way of life. And that was before the economies of the world really started getting bad. Since then, it has spread to and become popular in Greece and many other places where people are out of work and times are tough, and now it's here, folks.

My great fear is, essentially, that I'll be proven right. I have always believed that the "thin veneer of polite society" that we've all heard of would hold up only so long as the average citizen could get beer and chips from the local Wally World and find something mindless to fall asleep drooling in front of on the TV he/she purchased with their recently maxed-out credit card. Remove that easy access to the "stuff" they can get with very little effort and at a moments notice to satisfy their instant need for gratification, and see how "polite" they remain. One need look no further than the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to see what happens when the Entitlement Society doesn't get what it believes it has coming to it.

What I see now when I look around is a world ripe for something to set it off. People have lost their jobs, their homes, their retirements and they are understandably disgruntled. What that gives us, however, is a powder keg awaiting a spark. What will that spark be? Your guess is as good as mine, but it's coming. Hopefully, when it gets here, we'll be able to extinguish it before it's too late.


03 July, 2009

Re: "Respected Journalist Files Bioterrorism Charges, Alleges A(H1N1) Swine Flu Engineered As A Conspiracy to Sell Vaccine"

Regarding yesterday's article about charges filed against a veritable "Who's Who" kind of list of big names and organizations (the United Nations, the World Health Organization, Baxter and Co. from Big Pharma, etc.) on charges that they conspired to start a worldwide flu pandemic in order to get rich selling vaccines, the proverbial jury is still out.

On one hand, it appears that the claims are mostly based on an odd hodge-podge of comments (some possibly misquotes) made by a collection of "experts" and other wholly circumstantial evidence. But, what no one can seem to offer an explanation for is, if the case really does turn out to be a load of BS, then why would a seemingly respected journalist ruin her career by having herself attached to the case?

For now, I'm keeping my tinfoil hat on, but that question continues to vex me.


02 July, 2009

Respected Journalist Files Bioterrorism Charges, Alleges A(H1N1) Swine Flu Engineered As A Conspiracy to Sell Vaccine

Information regarding this topic is still not 100% clear, so I'm personally still of the mind that it should be regarded with a measure of healthy skepticism. It is, however, very intriguing for several reasons.

First, she had previously filed charges in Austria against Baxter AG and Avir Green Hills Biotechnology back in April. Also, there was apparently a separate filing against the WHO and Baxter that revolved around a case of exploding "swine flu" vials that were on their way to a research lab via train in Switzerland. She is alleging, as best I can understand it, that this was done on purpose to try to get a pandemic started.

Second, upon initial research it appeared that the Journalist responsible for the charges was not just some fringe kook. Her name is Jane Burgermeister and she is a dual citizen of both Austria and Ireland. She is a bonafide journalist, having written for Nature, the British Medical Journal, the Guardian, American Prospect, etc. in the past.

However, there has since been some discussion of comments that may have originated from her in which the overall plot is blamed on the Illuminati (the reclusive stars of oh, so many conspiracy theories over the years). If she did make such comments, then there will invariably be two camps of people following this story: those who believe what she's alleging simply because of reading the word Illuminati; and those who write her off as a complete wingbat because of it. Before you pick a side, just remember we don't know if she actually said it or not.

Anyway, she has now "filed criminal charges with the FBI against the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and high ranking U.S. officials and business executives. She alleges that officials conspired to use a virus – the H1N1 “swine flu” – that was engineered in a lab to create a flu pandemic in order to sell vaccines." (source)

So, basically, either this lady has just broken the story of the Century or she's just ruined a perfectly respectful career in journalism.