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Coping with Challenges – Growing in Drought & Short Seasons

It can be frustrating to plant a garden and watch it fail. It can be mean life and death when it is the food your family is counting on for survival. Yet crop failures happens, to big growers and small farmers and backyard enthusiasts. There are methods that involve earth works, terra-forming or terra-sculpting, or things like hugelkultur mounds that can increase resiliency. Depending on location and if we’re saving to move, our age and finances, or if we’ve just relocated and don’t know the land well yet, those may not be a great solution for us – at least not yet.

We may also find ourselves in a special season instead of a special climate, a year that just tests us to the limits of sanity. It can happen in a lot of ways. Late, wet Springs that have what would normally be a hay cut going to seed because we can’t get in, and forget trying to till for crops. Flooding, heavy rains that wipe out our seed or sprouts. A season that just doesn’t produce the Spring rains our plants need to germinate and get established. Incredible heat and sun that has our plants growing like weeds, but then wilting off at midday – something that can wreck tomatoes and corn, especially.

It’s heartbreaking. I know a permaculture homesteader in Alberta and a nursery grower in Ottawa who both practice clean, sustainable, resilient planting methods, and they’re suffering this year, hugely, while some of the home growers around them are cheering about the incredible sales they’re finding – quart and gallon pots as little as five and ten cents, a dollar, even for fair-sized perennials. The homesteader finally just washed her hands of most of her annual garden, skipped her summer planting, and will skip a lot of her autumn planting.

Why would they put things on such deep discount, 10-20 times lower than normal sale prices, taking a loss on even perennials? Why would they walk away from gardens that usually provide 50-80% of their fruits and veggies, and almost all of their livestock crops?

Water.

minifarming

Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre

It’s more expensive to keep pumping (or buying) water than it is to fall back on their savings and stored foods.

It’s the second year in a row that weather had been screwball for the homesteader, in a part of the world where we don’t usually think of droughts forming. Yet her pond is half its normal size, her creek is dry, and she purchased water and tanks because her well level concerned her – purchased them early, and now there’s another pair near her who are on Facebook and forums begging for tanks and deliveries, trying to find them cheaper, because their well is drying and they have just enough to last their animals and households a week.

It happens. Even in deep-well rural Canada. It for-sure happens further south.

It happens with water, and it happens with heavy frosts and ice that show up late, with false springs that last two weeks and then return to winter, wrecking fruit crops as in the U.S. Northeast, and with sudden frosts that come in a month early. It happens today, with all the advantages of credit cards and technology and the difference a few phone calls can make.

What happens if we’re in a situation similar to World War II’s Victory Garden push, the Cuban oil crisis, or Argentina’s and Venezuela’s collapses, or the more sudden and more devastating and widespread disasters like EMPs, internet-shutdown viruses, and earth-shattering asteroids or eruptions that some preppers foresee? Our options may be limited to making sure we have enough food and water stored for a poor season or year, or join whatever relief community or agency we can find.

There are some other preparations, however, that can limit and avoid some of the stressors, and help us still get yields from our gardens, whether they’re small planters and beds in the city or ‘burbs, or larger acreage.

I’ll mostly deal with drought. Historically some of us have always dealt with drought during our growing seasons, but it’s increasing in prevalence, as is heat. The solutions can also be applied to losing an early “normal” harvest, getting a late start for any reason, or noticing a trend early.

I also use some in years I’m going to be traveling during the normal garden heyday period, so that I can still produce some of our groceries, or so that I can collect early harvests and then drop seed that doesn’t really much need me, or can always be harvested as livestock feed.

Generating Shade

Let’s start with the Cuba example

When the embargo went into effect, the impact was felt almost overnight at the markets. Cuba’s incredibly sunny, and there are native fruits and veggies that thrive there, but growers were too few, too far between, and too reliant on European crops that required an enormous amount of water. There are also periods in the middle of the summer where Cuban farmers wouldn’t normally grow food crops, because of the heat and water needs. With thousands clamoring for anything, they couldn’t afford to not grow.

So they hooked their plants up with parasols.

Okay, not parasols (some balcony growers sure did). They rigged opacity screens from 20% up through even 60% over greenhouse frames and row covers. That gave plants a more spring-like condition and helped keep evaporation from drying out the soil.

generatingshade

If we really want to plan ahead, we have other options for generating shade.

Shade can be generated by large-space sheets or full-sized greenhouses, or individual cloths can be draped over rows or beds. The cloths can be full coverage, or arranged just to break the heat of the worst midday sun. What works best will vary by the materials available, winds in the area, and if insects are also being combated. Access for watering, weeding, pollination, and harvest also has to be factored in.

If we really want to plan ahead, we have other options for generating shade. We can use plants themselves, both annuals and perennials.

Grapes, kiwi, and other vines – to include larger squashes and runner beans – can all be used to create arbors. Some like Chinese yard-long beans and grapes run up for a while before they start leafing out. That allows more light to penetrate from the sides during the cooler morning and evening hours.

shadecloth

Shade can be generated by large-space sheets or full-sized greenhouses, or individual cloths can be draped over rows or beds.

Full-circle shading can really help potato and tuber crops in hot-hot seasons, while corn and beans will likely do better under a flat-roof arbor of grapes or kiwi or shade cloth.

We can also arrange our tall plants to the west instead of north, and plant between rows of trees or shrubs (NOT with a till method) to let those plants shade thirstier crops from the worst of the drying sun and summer winds.

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Image: Droughts, loss of irrigation, and other climatic challenges can ravage even experienced growers.

Splitting the Season

There are already growers in Cuba, Arizona and South Florida who pretty much shake their head at standard North American growing guides. It’s so hot and so dry, a March-planted turnip bolts without making a bulb, and tomatoes will drink three gallons a day in July, even pruned to bare stalks.

So they split their seasons around summer’s worst.

We can do the same during a crisis if we know we live in a hot environment and don’t have many backup water options.

It requires a little research. We need to hunt down our monthly average rainfall totals, and see when we’re most likely to hit our droughts. Then we count backwards. Instead of ground sowing squash, we might start them in the middle of winter or early, early in spring with our tomatoes, and up-pot them once or just start with an oatmeal container instead of a toilet paper roll. Then we transfer them, possibly with plastic or a cloth row cover or into a greenhouse we can open up.

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Chart – Parts of the U.S. already flip seasons or split seasons to avoid planting in the height of summer heat and drought.

 

The goal is to get them out when the heat and sun are less savage, and when nature will handle at least some of the watering for us.

Likewise, we can lay on supplies to heat small and expanding row covers to direct-sow normally hot weather plants like corn and beans. Lower light means they’ll take longer – at least two weeks and sometimes as much as twice the time to harvest – but they’re growing sweet corn and tomatoes in Alaska with minimal heating. We can do it, too. They are sensitive to cold rains and cold mud from spring melt, so we may need to mound up a bed to 4-8” to help them or use raised beds and containers.

When it’s heating up, the plants have massive head starts or are already nearing their harvest dates. Again, that lets rain water them for most of their lives, and then we let the garden go dormant for the most brutal heat.

Then we come back in July and August in hot climates, and we have plenty of time for green beans, summer squashes, and more to grow out before our frosts close in again.

We may need to have a place to start and harden-off plants indoors for a while, or plant dwarf, bantam or compact varieties developed for short-season growers to make the system work, but it gives us harvests we might not otherwise have, not without stripping out our wells and water storage.

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Image: Dwarf corn is lower in yield than standard varieties, but since it’s shorter and takes less water and nutrients to develop its yield, it can offer a faster harvest after a late or delayed start to the season, or allow growers to avoid the driest parts of summer.

Selecting Varieties

Plant selection for desert species is a really excellent way to build some resiliency, but it can be challenging for those who live in typically cold-winter temperate zones. There are “drought tolerant” varieties available for a lot of annuals and perennials now, but most need to be well established before they’ll suffer from abuse. That can be difficult if it’s a strange spring or if a summer storm wrecked our harvests by battering away flowers or uprooting plants.

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As presented by Clemson University – Amador, M.F. 1980. Behavior of three species (corn, beans, squash) in polyculture in Chontalpa, Tabasco, Mexico. CSAT, Cardenas, Tabasco, Mexico.

As with straddling summer for gardening, it’s not a bad idea to maintain a seed stock that gives us some fast-growing options. They can help us whether the problem is a lack of rainfall, or if we’re facing a short season from a freak late snow or ice storm, or if goats got loose and ate the garden we’ve been hauling and pumping water to for three months.

Hybrids serve their purpose there more than anywhere else. Because hybrid seeds won’t breed true to a next generation, we want to be careful that they don’t cross pollinate our seed-saving crops and we have to keep fresh seed stocks going.

There are some short-season crops that can help, though, that are open-pollinated and heirloom stock.

Barley has been bred for so long, seed is now tailored to exactly when we plant it, so we need a selection if that’s our backup. There are a wealth of midget, dwarf and bantam corn, for sweet corn or for popcorn, that take as little as 55-75 days, and even more that fall in the <90-day range. Yukon chief and strawberry popcorn are two, although they have short cobs as well as short seasons. Teff can be a fast, resilient option for livestock hay and grain, although it’s pretty intensive and water-heavy to mill it for human use.

Summer squashes and bush green beans are awesome in that they can be had as OP’s in 55-65 days, and bush dry beans may take only 75-90. Even some autumn or winter squashes like Jester acorn can finish up in 85-95 days. Bush beans and squash can easily be covered to give them some protection from the first couple weeks of chill and frosts.3-sisters-lush

By tweaking our Three Sisters mounds to a set of corn, squash and beans that can be ready in 45-55-65-75 days, we can still gain some harvest off a short season. Because they don’t spend as much time and nutrients growing up and out before producing, we save days of watering. We can also get them under some plastic if the air starts cooling before they’re ready, and by planting in combination, we can get some serious benefits in yield and plant health from them, as well as maximize the efficiency of the watering that we do have to do.

There are compact peppers, Egyptian wheat, and alternative crops like oca, millet, African yams, and Jerusalem artichoke that can handle varying conditions like heat, drought, or short seasons. Desert perennials may work for us as well. “Weeds” that are edible also increase our options, although the women I mention above are both foragers and only have about 25-50% of their usual wild harvest stored due to the drought.

Turnips, radish and lettuce aren’t going to work in summer conditions for a lot of the U.S. They’ll bolt before they really produce. Still, they might be something we can start in flats, bread pans, and buckets someplace cooler, and either transfer or grow out quickly enough to merit the space they take up. They can also serve as our backups if the weather stays cold unexpectedly.

Curveballs and Challenges

Mother Nature is always going to throw us some curveballs and there will almost always be a new challenge that arises in gardening, especially if we’re trying to eat off our gardens and crop fields. Happily, history has some examples of ways we can make it work, even in the worst of seasons. We may not be able to get the full, usual yield, but with the right combination of methods and plant selection, we can still positively impact our pantries and tables.

We do need to know our trends ahead of time, so that we can recognize when we’re in trouble early enough to walk away and refocus, or switch gears. Research to keep in our garden binder includes monthly rainfall and temperatures as well as our record first and last frosts and snows.

Hybrids may not be our first pick or the bulk of our stock, but they offer some benefits that make them excellent additions to our OP and heirloom stockpiles.

Coping with Challenges – Growing in Drought & Short Seasons It can be frustrating to plant a garden and watch it fail. It can be mean life and death when it

As preppers, we not only want to stockpile food, we tend to want to grow some, too. Maybe we just want enough to augment our beans and rice. Maybe we are currently only planting enough to rotate our seeds and learn a bit. Maybe we’re going whole hog with 10-30K square feet of veggies, sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes, corn and grains for us and livestock. Maybe we’re working off of a few buckets or storage totes and a hanging basket or five (been there). Maybe we like a big square of tilled, bare earth. Maybe we like Eden-style gardening.

No matter what scale or system we’re working at the moment, our plants can benefit from crop rotation. Understanding rotational systems can also be huge when we expand during a disaster.

Why rotate your crops?

Plants use different nutrients at different amounts through their growing season. A general rule of thumb is that fruits need more phosphorous (P), leafy veggies and grasses use nitrogen (N), and Roots (and tubers) want the excessive amounts of potassium (K). Fruits will take it, but they need more balanced K and N, Mg and Ca, whereas roots love K like tomatoes love Ca. (Notice the PNK trend, as seen on bags of fertilizer?) Repeatedly planting the same thing in one space will utterly strip out not only the three primary nutrients, but the other macro and micro nutrients, among them calcium, magnesium, copper, and iron.

Plants are also share diseases and sometimes pests, especially within families. Those build up when we continuously provide habitat for them. When we break the cycle of availability, we lower the load our plants have to carry.

The “Sam doesn’t rotate” excuse

There are certain growing schemes that don’t need rotation as much. Those growers are typically top-dressing with worm castings, finished compost, and cured manure – especially from pasture-raised livestock with a wide variety in diet. They regularly use a method like companion planting, or Eden, lasagna or hugel beds. Perennials make a difference, too.

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Successful non-rotational or lowered-rotation planting tends to share a common trait: plant diversity and planting schemes that result in truly healthy, living soil that is rarely disturbed and never tilled in. That practice allows for mature microbe and micro-fauna systems with viruses, bacteria, fungi, worms and others all working in synch, the way they do in undisturbed forest and meadows and ponds. The good bugs keep bad bugs in check. Diversity and a complex web makes it harder for pests and diseases to overwhelm anything.

Plants with really good, healthy soil can fight off a lot of diseases and overcome leaf damage from pests without problems. However, even when we start with really good soil, certain practices mean we strip it out, stop the nutrient cycling, or otherwise break those systems. Rotation is one way we can prevent some of the stripping and reduce the disease load for our plants.

As with everything, there are some good rules of thumb and some exceptions to be aware of.

Common crop rotations – 3-bed or Leaf-Root-Fruit

In the leaf-root-fruit system, the order is important for best results. In beds, portions of beds, containers, or plots tallied in fractional or full acres, I hit the bed that’s going to get my leaf crops with the bulk amendments the previous autumn. The excesses and any residual “heat” won’t bother crops I’m growing for the foliage as much as it can affect others. I then tailor amend for the specific draws of my root and fruit crops by bed or plant.

The lower number of beds we use in a rotation system, the easier it would seem to be to remember. The problem is that plant families don’t follow the 3-bed divisions.3-step-crop-rotation

Brassicas produce both leaf and root crops (cabbage, kale, turnips, beets). The mustards from the brassica family are considered a slate-cleaner, but others in the family share diseases that can build up. Likewise, tomatoes and potatoes are both solanaceae (nightshades) – as are eggplant and peppers. Tomatoes and potatoes may manifest the symptoms very differently, but they all harbor pests and diseases that apply to each other.

So sometimes I have to remember to pull a fruit from a root group or vice versa, or plant my roots with my leaf crops. Otherwise, I have only one year between brassicas and brassica diseases and larvae can last 2-3 years in soil. Same goes when I plant tomato where my potato was last year.

Another issue that crops up is that a lot of the leaf veggies are cool-season crops. They tend to bolt or get very, very bitter during the warmest traditional growing months.

I could certainly use them for chickens or rabbits. However, since a 3-plot system regularly doesn’t list out grasses (corn, wheat, teff, millet), and pseudo-grains like buckwheat or amaranth/quinoa don’t share pests or diseases with our common garden crops, I can use my leaf bed for them.

One salvaging aspect of using the leaf beds for warm-season grains is that the previous year, the leaf beds were a “fruit” bed. The simple system puts legumes in that category. That means I can take a page out of Big Ag and small-cropping companion planting, mow down my peas and beans instead of pulling them, and let the precious root nodes that make N keep working undisturbed through winter. When I test my soil or judge by plant productivity and leaf color what’s going on, I may need to add less N to those plots.

Common crop rotations – 4-plot and 5-plot systems

There are myriad breakdowns for four- and five-plot systems. Some of them are essentially three-bed systems that provide for a rest year, a cover-crop year, or a year for chickens in that plot. Some of them break plants into legumes (beans and peas), brassicas, fruiting plants (melons, squash, tomatoes), and root crops. Some of them switch the root crops into fruits and call for grain grasses in a fourth bed. Some of them come up with their own tailored mixes, some of which call for companion plants in there with primary crops.

It becomes a bit of a head-scratcher. And because of the variety of systems, it’s hard to categorize them as good or bad.

4-bed-4-year-rotation-plan

One thing that becomes quickly apparent with the rotation guides available, is that they’re either built for Big Ag and one or two crops per season, or they’re built for home gardeners who may have the same amount of space designated for corn that they do their melons or lettuce.

Because even as preppers, the focuses of our growing spaces are so different, those can work, or we can use hybrid versions to account for the greater amount of livestock feed or human food we want to grow. We can adjust to reflect our focus on nutrient-laden “rainbow” fruits and veggies, the desire for more crops that can be pulled and sit in a root cellar and basement for weeks or months while we finish putting in gardens or harvesting, or a desire to grow more calorie staples, fats, or proteins with everything else a bonus.

That can get time-consuming to develop. On the other hand, asking everyone to learn family names and relationships for a 10-stage rotation is an overreach.

But there is hope.

Common crop rotation strategy – 6-stage “pie”

I found this rotation wheel. It’s a six-stage, or “pizza pie” crop rotation, named for the shape. He drew it and conceived it as a circular garden (not without merit, says the greenie). The rotation runs clockwise .However, it’s pretty quick and easy to apply to a large field of rows, 3-10 raised beds, or a dozen containers.

He was also nice enough to draw all six years, so it would be totally reasonable to print all of them as a guide when drawing plans specific to our spaces. Limited head scratching = good.

One of the things I like most about it, is that it is set up with easy tailoring possibilities.

6-stage-rotation-farmerfredrant_blogspots_com

6-stage crop rotation plan

In this, the legumes are following the corn and melons and squash, but for those interested in Three Sisters mounds or companion planting, the two wedges can easily be combined each year, with three years still between the beets (in “root crops”) and the brassica wedge.

He does combine beets and carrots, which are typically shorter and cooler season crops, with onions and garlic that can take up a full season. And as with other systems, his wedge for brassicas leaves Southern growers with an empty or bolting bed for 4-6 months. Handily, the system is plenty big and “old” enough that our first crop (tomatoes-potatoes wedge) can expand and take part of the beet-carrot wedge.

Equally handy, the brassicas and greens are right beside the compost-cover crop wedge. We can plan to plant our longer-growing cabbages and Brussel sprouts on one side or another so that we can protect them, set up a bunny cage (overturned Goodwill playpens) or chicken mesh, and let them forage and pre-till and fertilize for us (double-handily: a season ahead of hungry corn and cucurbit crops). As one area gets picked over, when we’re ready to turn from our autumn-sown spring cover or our summer biomass builder to a fall-winter cover, we can just scoot our critters around and let them work for us.

We can also, again, replant our spring lettuces with summer crops that don’t share pests with corn or legumes – teff for livestock, a fast barley for sprouted fodder, salads like Malabar spinach, less-common pseudo-grains like amaranth, or sweet potatoes that are related to morning glories, not nightshades.

The greater divisions of the 6-bed rotation allow us a lot of easy flexibility.

The season and year the wedges spend dormant or left with a cover helps keep the system super productive and allows us to apply our fertilizers to crops that really need them, saving money and labor over time.

Not a bad system. While six years is something of an investment for rotations, it passes relatively quickly once you hit thirty and own a home. Plus, we don’t have to “remember” the rotations. Since it’s drawn up in detail for us already, easy enough to mark each wedge A-B-C and annotate “Year One” with the date, then sketch our own 4-16 beds or plots, the lobes of our mandala, or our containers and mark them A-B-C as well. It doesn’t have to be round, and due to the length of time involved, it doesn’t have to divide evenly into six. After that we just flip through to the appropriate year and match letters between what should go in each bed. Easy-peasy.

Crop rotation really does matter

New gardeners, especially if they started with pretty lush soil full of organic matter or gumbo-brick clay, may be inclined to scoff off rotations. Those who have a cabinet full of either herbal or Big Ag-derived chemical treatments might scoff it off as well.

Once you’ve had just tomatoes and maybe a handful of marigolds in the same spot for a few years, you might start changing your mind, and same goes for those cabbages that were huge and booming for four years, but the four beds we’re working now have problems that lime and a floating row cloth aren’t solving.

Too, if there’s a way for plants themselves to be healing some of their woes, providing for each other, why wouldn’t we let them? Big Ag itself started going back to cover cropping and rotation not only to keep their soil in place, but to return nutrients and prevent pests.

These are lessons we can readily apply, no matter what scale we’re working or which crop rotation system we choose.

As preppers, we not only want to stockpile food, we tend to want to grow some, too. Maybe we just want enough to augment our beans and rice. Maybe we

A survival bracelet may look to some like a fashion statement, but this unique type of accessory is actually a functional item that can be used in an emergency situation. When this kind of bracelet is made from parachute cord, it is called a paracord survival bracelet.

Learning how to make such a bracelet can be a fun and useful activity. Exploring a few facts about parachute cord and survival bracelets could help you to understand the many reasons that these handy accessories are in such demand across the world. Once you have explored the reasons for owning this kind of bracelet, you can get started on learning how to make paracord survival bracelets for yourself and your loved ones.

When you assemble an emergency preparedness kit, adding a few survival bracelets is not a bad idea.

What Is Paracord?

Paracord is a shortened version of the term “parachute cord.” This type of cord is a lightweight rope that is made from nylon. Its original function was to suspend lines in the Second World War. This cord has a smooth texture; because it also lightweight and has an elastic feel, it is perfect for a broad assortment of functions today, from enabling water rescues to keeping cargo secured. It can be used as a thread for sewing gear that needs to be repaired, and it may also be utilized to create a line for fishing. It has even been used to make whips for those who ride horses or drive livestock. The rope can be utilized to secure camouflage or mosquito nets, fasten rucksacks securely, and position equipment on harnesses. This versatile cord is ideal for many outdoor activities, especially since it does not mildew as other materials might.

Survival Bracelets and Their Uses

Just as parachute cord can be a useful tool, survival bracelets made from paracord may be transformed into useful tools. By simply disassembling a survival bracelet, you may utilize the material from which it is made. You might rely on your survival bracelet to make a fire via the bow-and-drill friction technique. Another option is to use the cord from a survival bracelet to create a tourniquet or splint in an emergency medical situation. You could utilize the cord from your bracelet to make a snare trap for food. If you are hiking on an unfamiliar trail you can tie the cord around a tree limb to create an instantly recognizable marker. The uses and possibilities associated with survival bracelets are seemingly endless.

Making Your Survival Bracelet

Now that you understand how useful and essential a survival bracelet can be, you’re probably ready to make one. The first step you will need to take is to gather all of the materials necessary to make your bracelet. To make a basic survival bracelet with a release buckle, you will need:

  1. paracord that is approximately 1/8 inch in diameter – you will need about one foot of cord for every inch around your wrist (a wrist that is six inches would require about six feet of the paracord for this project)
  2. a release buckle
  3. measuring tape
  4. scissors
  5. a lighter

Once you have your materials assembled, measure your wrist in inches. Simply wrap the measuring tape around your wrist to do this. This will determine exactly how many feet of paracord you will need to create your survival bracelet.

Place the two ends of the cord together, and determine where the middle of the length of cord is. Then, pull the center of the cord through either end of the release buckle to create a loop. Once you do this, you will then pull the ends of the cord through the loop you’ve made. Tighten the loop until the cord is securely attached to the release buckle.

Next, disassemble the release buckle (but leave the cord where it is). Pull the ends of the cord through the other end of the buckle, and slide that part of the buckle toward the other piece. You will then measure the cord to be sure the length is the correct size for your wrist. You will measure in inches from the flat part of the pronged piece to the end of the other piece. Be sure to add one more inch than you need, so the bracelet fits comfortably on your wrist.

Once you have measured the cord length to ensure a proper fit, you will begin the process of knotting the cord. You might choose a basic knot, such as the cobra knot, for your bracelet. First, position the left side of the cord underneath the center strands of cord; then, position the cord on the right underneath the left strand, above the center strands, and through the left loop. Pull the cord to tighten it until the semi-knot is adjacent to the buckle. Repeat the entire process in reverse (starting with the right side first, and then the left). Continue alternating sides until the bracelet is complete.

Once the bracelet has reached the size you need, cut the loose ends and melt them together with the lighter. You should now have a survival bracelet that meets your needs and looks great!

A survival bracelet may look to some like a fashion statement, but this unique type of accessory is actually a functional item that can be used in an emergency situation.

What if you could design a completely independent motor home that uses solar power or grid power to charge batteries to provide engine power, a dehydration system for water and hydroponics for food? Do you think that would enhance your ability to be mobile and offset many bad effects resulting from the most common emergency scenarios you could conceivably be faced with? Dehydration systems and hydroponics are well-known so they are not discussed in this article. The purpose of this article is to describe how you can build your own solar-powered motor home.

Tesla and other electric vehicle sources are showing us how good the latest technology is in battery-powered vehicles. As you will see later in this article, Tesla’s latest powerhouse, the P90, offers over 700 horsepower and a range of nearly 300 miles using a battery that is small enough to hide in their car.

Design goals for the solar powered motorhome

  1. Range – this is determined by the battery pack. Goal is to maximize it.
  2. Power – I expect to replace the gas engine with about the same horsepower as it had.
  3. Recharge time – this is a challenge due to the limited space for solar panels.

Range

To understand the possibilities that exist one needs only to look at the latest Tesla P90. It has 762 HP and a range of 253 miles. So, In theory, if we just want 300 HP then using the same battery we should get a range of 642 miles, and at 60 MPH that should be over 10 hours! We know that this Tesla battery is small enough to hide in their luxury sedan body so with the amount of volume in a motor home our range is only limited by our pocketbook.

Powering your motorhome

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Solar panels are coming down in price and can easily be mounted out of the way on top of your motorhome.

Research shows that many motor homes have gas engines that are rated at or about 300 horsepower . It turns out that a 3 phase 460 volt AC motor  is readily available from many suppliers. An example is a simple search on EBay. RPM varies but 1800 RPM is quite common and, as you know, is nearly the same as the RPM of a gas engine at cruising speed. A valuable property of electric motors is that it is likely that the electric motor will have so much torque that the use of the motor home transmission might not be needed.

The next challenge is to cope with the power in amps needed to produce 300 horse power. Electric motors draw 750 watts per HP so the number of watts needed is ¾ times 300 or 225,000 watts. At 460 volts that will result in a current of almost exactly 490 amps. That current must be connected between the battery bank and the VFD by heavy copper bus bars.  Bus bar tables on-line show that if one wants to limit the increase in the temperature of the bar to 30 degrees C (86 F) then a bar of copper that is 3/8 thick and 1 inch wide is recommended. One source for these is invisco.com/rv.

solarpanelstarterkit

Solar Panel Starter Kit 400W

When replacing a gas engine with an electric motor it is necessary to replace the mounting hardware and the connection to the transmission shaft and the gas pedal. The frame used for 300 HP motors is technically termed a 449T and it is almost exactly 2 feet high and 2 feet long. The gas engine is larger than that and likely has 2 mounting points at the front of the engine and none at the rear because most vehicles depend on the transmission for the rear mount. It will be necessary to add a mounting brace to the front of  the transmission and then add a platform for the motor. Invisco.com/rv is a source for this hardware.

Another detail is the speed control design. 3 phase speed controllers are easy to find. They are known as VFD or variable frequency drives and they are available from many sources. One source is vfds.com and another is EBay. The challenge is to adapt the speed control input signal to a gas pedal like pedal. One source for a speed control vehicle pedal is invisco.com/rv. Then there is the issue of solar panels. As you  know,  they are becoming easier to get. All of the electronics needed to wire them to a battery bank are available. The trick is to design the high power bus bars needed to power the inverter. Another challenge is to install enough batteries to run the huge motor for a time long enough to travel a useful distance.

Next is the time needed to charge the battery.  Again, Tesla offers a glimpse into the future. If we rely only on solar power  it will take some time. More on that later. Tesla gets a full charge in the P90 in just 1 hour and 15 minutes using 440 VAC! That makes a transcontinental motor home realizable. With New York about 2500 miles from Los Angeles, one could imagine traveling 642 miles at a time, stopping for a meal and a charge, then another 642 miles, etc.

solar-panels-on-motorhome

Now, the reality of purely solar recharge is that a motor home is about 8 feet wide and 40 feet long and about 8 feet high. If we use just one side and the top for solar panels we get 640 square feet of panels. Best case if the panels were all facing the sun we would get 300 watts per panel. One panel is just about 18 square feet so we can get just over 35 panels on. That would get us 10,666 watts best case. In one hour we could expect 10.6 KWatts. We need 225 kilowatts and if we are going to use it for 10 hours we need 2250 kilowatt hours. So at 10.6 KW per hour we need to charge for about 225 hours. At 10 hours of charging per day in the summer that is less than a month. It is clear that using solar power alone for battery charging is the least efficient but it is possible.

Now a rough cut at the cost of this autonomous solar powered motorhome. First, a look at an average motorhome on the market today. A quick search for 40 foot motor homes shows there are many listed for sale at under $100,000 and some under $50,000. This is, of course, the major expense. The second largest expense is  the solar panels at about $300 each or $10,500. Then the battery pack – I cannot find a good estimate on one but we know the Tesla P90 sells for about $90,000 so I imagine the pack might be $10,000. The AC motor is advertised on EBay for around $9000. Other miscellaneous parts might add up to $5000.

camper

Combine solar power with rugged off-road capability for the best of both worlds.

In summary, here are the costs if we start with a $50,000 motor home

  • $50,000 for motor home
  • $10,500 for solar panels
  • $10,000 for battery
  •  $9,000 for the motor
  •  $8,000 variable frequency drive
  •  $5,000 misc parts
  • $92,400 Total

The single most important advance in technology that makes this all viable is the advance in battery design. Without the latest batteries made by Tesla and others we would be forced to install huge lead acid batteries and the whole design might be undesirable. For more information and to follow the progress on this project email [email protected]

What if you could design a completely independent motor home that uses solar power or grid power to charge batteries to provide engine power, a dehydration system for water and

Introduction

“When the system breaks down, we all break down.” – Sgt. Barnes – Platoon

Tactical camping is a great way to develop and sharpen many essential survival skills. But, beyond these skills there is a particular discipline that needs to be practiced; one that will improve your ability to travel through unfamiliar or potentially unfriendly territory during dangerous times if circumstances should require it. Most people don’t think about evading detection because their day to day lives don’t depend on it.

To my way of thinking, there are three issues that risk the safety and obscurity of a group in camp. These are visibility, noise, and odor. I will leave it to you to visualize the circumstances under which these risks might apply, but the general scenario is that you are on the move between points A and B of indeterminate distance. Whether you are alone or traveling in a group, on foot or caravanning with several vehicles, the issues are the same.

Importantly, I am excluding urban or other densely populated areas from this discussion. They are not in my field of expertise and frankly, I don’t spend much time thinking about cities. My presumption is that you have successfully evacuated from an urban/suburban location and are traveling through rural, less populated country.

As a Prepper, you either already have a plan or you are working on one. It should mean you have a rally point where your group will assemble, that you and everyone else know the route to the destination and that you have pre-established way-point locations where you will lay up while en route to that chosen destination. It will mean that you have taken congestion and potential roadblocks into consideration. Finally, it will mean that you have evaluated fall-back sites and alternate routes that may be needed to reach your objective.

The thrust of the title is that you need to be a ‘hole in the dark’ for all three issues. In other words, an apparently dark camp can still be exposed by excessive noise, the odor of drifting smoke or food preparation. What techniques can you employ to establish and maintain a profile that is ‘dark’ to all aspects of the human senses?

tactical_concealment

Abandoned structures can be ideal locations for concealing a tactical camp. In this photo, six vehicles are parked behind an abandoned beehive that is about 100 yards away from a 2-track road.

But first, what is the best time of day to be on the move with a group? The answer will most likely be based upon the group’s overall capabilities, the tools, and resources at your disposal. If you opt to travel only at night, but you have no night vision goggles, then your rate of travel may be exceedingly slow. It will be further hampered in rough terrain where you are required to distinguish safe from unsafe trails. My general bias is to move in daylight and camp at night, but there are conditions, such as familiar terrain, ample moonlight and an experienced team that I’m working with, where I would flip the preference.

The discussion that follows reflects my bias for laying up at night. I have practiced these disciplines under a variety of weather and terrain conditions, both singly and in groups ranging up to a dozen people.

Establishing a ‘dark’ camp:

  • Seek locations that are as secluded as possible. This means that you are consciously separating your group from the Golden Horde. Circumstances created by a SHTF situation dictate that you avoid Interstate highways and all other major routes that lead to your chosen destination.
  • Seek locations that provide the best possible concealment for the entire group, whether natural or man-made. In the case of structures, think of a vacant barn, warehouse or a walled compound. For outdoor settings, think of places where concealment is provided by terrain, dense vegetation, or structures that will obfuscate. One such example might be on the backside of an abandoned corral. Open-air campsites need to be located beyond the range of approaching headlights.
  • Strive to set your camp well before sundown so that you have enough light and time to prepare a dark camp. This means that you are establishing lay up sites that are close enough to reach in the time you have allotted for each day’s travel. It implies that these are preselected locations that you have already evaluated to some degree. The time required to set a secure camp may vary at each location along the route.

Night vision would allow you to move without external illumination and hides your location from others.

  • Have time to deploy or create necessary obfuscation, such as camouflage. The absence of sunlight is not a guarantee that your camp is safe from detection. Although there may be a low probability, consumer-grade thermal/infra-red cameras can spot exposed camps and vehicles at distances greater than one mile. If thieves are on the hunt for vulnerable groups, an exposed campsite becomes an easy target.
  • Have time to set a security perimeter that maximizes your ability to detect any approaching threat. Elevated lookout or observation posts (LP/OP) give you a decided advantage during night time hours, as well as the ability to spot traffic or groups during pre-dawn and after sunrise. If possible, locate these posts on the military crest. Time your travel to and departure from the LP/OP(s) so that you are moving in low light and shadow. Elevated security posts can be at any distance as long as you can maintain a clear line of sight of the area that you need to monitor. Obviously, communication between your camp and LP/OP(s) will require the use of two-way radios.
  • Prepare your evening meals and clean up before dark. In these circumstances, you will want your cooking fires out and cold before dark. Avoid the use of wood or charcoal fires where possible, or use devices like the Rocket Stove, which require a minimum quantity of biomass and burn hot enough to limit the output of smoke. Do not prepare your morning meals until daylight to keep fires from being visible. This is not a backyard hamburger cookout. Drifting smoke and the smell of food may alert others to your presence.
  • Stow non-essential camp items before dark to prevent accidental noise.
  • Each morning, break down your camp and stow gear as quickly as possible. This should be an assigned task. Remember, your security team members will be returning to camp. Every step they take downhill reduces their visibility to approaching vehicles or groups and progressively shrinks your security perimeter. Once they reach your camp the entire group may be effectively blind to any threat. Be prepared to move out before you have to.

tactical_obfuscation

In situations where complete concealment is not possible, your camp can be effectively obfuscated by using features that break up the profile. In this photo, corral posts and rails, an abandoned well and native brush served to mask the presence of a camp.

  • Cover and conceal all vehicles to prevent moon glow. I cannot emphasize this enough – I know of surveillance operations that have ‘gone south’ because a subject was able to detect the glint of moonlight on a partially covered windshield.
  • Set the dimmer switches in your vehicles to the off position. This will eliminate escaping light if you need to open a door after dark.
  • Cloak any vehicle that may be used as an Op center where interior lighting may be required. To be effective, this requires using opaque blankets that shroud all possible sources of light leakage.
  • Strictly avoid the use of flashlights for signaling. In other words, restrict communication to radios with headsets, but keep your traffic to a minimum. Avoid popular GMRS/FRS frequencies that can be monitored by others within range. Use the lowest power output possible. [I use programmable dual band (VHF/UHF) two-way radios that permit me to transmit and receive over GMS/FRS/MURS frequencies, but I also have my own SHTF frequencies that would be used by the group. This helps to assure that you are ‘dark’ to the radio spectrum that is most likely to be used by others.
  • Constrain all movement to the absolute minimum at night. If I am standing a watch between 00:00 and 02:00, there are only two people that I expect to see, the person I relieve at midnight and the one who relieves me at 02:00. Don’t wander around in the dark. Otherwise, you are a safety hazard to yourself and others.

tactical_lpop

An effective security perimeter is not constrained by two dimensions. This photo shows a surveillance LP/OP that was located on a hilltop 300 feet above and 1100 feet away from the corral shown in the previous photo. Locations such as these can provide a significant tactical advantage. Communication between the LP/OP and camp were maintained via radio.

Other Contingencies

I am somewhat reluctant to open this subject, but the exposures are real enough and they are played out every night along the Southwest border with Mexico.

If you envision bug out circumstances that tend toward the extreme, such as attempting to move through an area after martial law has been declared, there will be other considerations that apply to concealment. For example, the government could enforce martial law over large areas through the use of surveillance aircraft equipped with thermal cameras, FLIR and ground surveillance radars that detect motion against a stationary background.

In case it hasn’t occurred to you, the Department of Homeland Security already uses hundreds of fixed and rotary wing aircraft, a fleet of Predator UAVs, mobile vehicles and portable manned surveillance equipment. These are used to detect and apprehend smuggling groups along the U.S./Mexico border. Under conditions of martial law, some of those assets could be redirected to the detection and apprehension of citizens. In circumstances such as these, you could be dealing with a potentially hostile and/or desperate populace as well as a government that wants to find you. Their motivation may not be particularly humanitarian.

The type of surveillance aircraft referenced above has the ability to detect heat signatures at distances of fifteen miles or more. They can differentiate between you and a warm rock. They can detect a stationary vehicle, even though the engine hasn’t been running for two or three hours. They can detect your movement, course, and speed. If that isn’t enough, their thermal cameras are capable of identifying if you are carrying a long arm.

Fixed-wing aircraft generally operate at altitudes of 8,500 to 10,000 feet, while Predator UAVs typically patrol at altitudes ranging between 19,000 and 21,000 feet. Generally speaking, all of these aircraft are quiet and they patrol without running lights. In other words, you will not see or hear a surveillance aircraft that is orbiting your position from seven miles out.

Most nighttime detections occur where groups are laid up or moving across open ground or along ridgelines.

Against these capabilities, the basic concepts of maintaining a dark camp require added precautions; particularly if you are outdoors.

  • You may need to consider setting camp in an area that provides dense overhead cover and that is in a narrow confined area, such as a ravine or draw. Your heat signature can be significantly reduced by the overhead cover. The steep angular nature of the terrain will help prevent detection from long range. Ideally, you will want to be inside an enclosed structure; one that has a roof.
  • Setting camp against a cliff, particularly if there are overhangs or shallow caves, can mask you from surveillance.
  • The heat that is radiating from a vehicle (especially the engine block) is much more problematic. One suggestion is to open the hood as soon as you’ve concealed the vehicle. This will help dissipate heat more quickly. Parking under dense tree cover will also quickly lower the overall temperature of the vehicle. Avoid covering the vehicle with heat-trapping blankets, tarps and camo netting until it has reached the ambient temperature of the air.

I have not experimented with heat cloaking devices, so I cannot make recommendations regarding the efficacy of any product or technique. If anyone has experience or suggestions on this subject, I am all ears.

The probability of surveillance aircraft being deployed during or after a major SHTF scenario (that is, one that pulls large numbers of CBP aircraft away from the border) is probably very low. I know of no situation, such as a major hurricane or earthquake, where this has ever happened. Other assets, such as the National Guard and state Department of Public Safety aircraft, are more likely to be used for search and rescue operations.

Circumstances that might lead to a declaration of martial law across a major region or the entire country are far harder to visualize to any reasonable level detail. The deployment of surveillance aircraft against citizens under martial law conditions would certainly require a functioning central government, and motivations could range from the elimination of armed bandits to the suppression of rebellion. The problem is that an aerial surveillance camera operating at 19,000 feet will not know that you are merely trying to get home. My only recommendation is “when in doubt, assume the need for maximum precaution.”

If it is any comfort, Border Patrol agents optimistically estimate that they succeed in apprehending somewhere between 35-40% of illegal aliens that cross the border. Their estimate of success for drug smugglers (the wiliest of all creatures) is even lower; in spite of the surveillance technologies that I’ve described above. For the most part, smugglers that successfully evade detection use terrain to their advantage.

Conclusion

More than anything else, being a ‘hole in the dark’ is a discipline rather than a set of tools. Certainly, tools can help, but they cannot offset poor security practices. If you don’t plan and prepare for the circumstances that require you to exercise those disciplines, you are placing yourself at risk. Any bug out destination that you have in mind is likely to require one or more lay up sites along the way. Your survival may very well depend on knowing in advance where they will be, as well as the steps needed to assure a secure camp.

I welcome your comments and questions.

Introduction “When the system breaks down, we all break down.” – Sgt. Barnes – Platoon Tactical camping is a great way to develop and sharpen many essential survival skills. But, beyond these

There is one critical question that you need to ask yourself more often but don’t: Am I ready for the next big disaster? All too often, you get so engrossed with the clamor of daily life that you forget the possibilities that may happen when a normal day suddenly takes a different turn. What if a natural disaster like flood, tsunami or earthquake strikes your city? What if a grave emergency comes up? Can you rise to the challenge when your safety is on the line? What about your family? Are they aware of the important things to prepare in case of a disaster? Are they well-informed about what to do when confronted with a life-and-death situation?

“I don’t know.” That is likely what you’ll hear when you ask the average person these important questions. “I don’t have time to think of all those things. I don’t have time to prepare.” People won’t recognize an impending hazard until it’s staring them right in the face. They believe that they can get away with anything because a special force will somehow help them. Disasters and tragedies only happen to others, they would argue. But the thing is, disasters don’t choose their victims. They recognize no power and wreck everything in their way. So, if you’re a wise and responsible adult, you will start planning ways to provide safety for your family while you still can.

There are at least three levels of disaster preparedness that you need to focus on before you can be confident about your chances of survival against disasters and natural calamities. Here is a guide to help you go through them one by one.

FIRST LEVEL: Preparing your physical resources

The most basic way to prepare for a disaster is to ready your physical stock. The three most essential resources that you need to survive are food, water, and an emergency kit. Your supplies should last for at least 72 hours.

1.    Food: The Whats and Hows of Stockpiling Food

It is important to have a sufficient supply of survival food for disasters because you just don’t know when help will arrive and when your situation will be stabilized. Make sure to have the following ready.

cannedfood

Photo courtesy of Andres Rodriguez via Flickr

What food to store – When storing emergency food, you need to consider the best survival food kits for disasters. Canned goods are ideal because they have a long storage life. Store food that can be consumed without cooking. Those that don’t need to be refrigerated are preferred. Depending on the type of disaster that may strike your neighborhood, your supply of electricity may be disconnected so consider this possibility, too. Also, don’t forget to store food for the members of your family that are on a special diet. If you have pets, include them on the count. The types of food you store are important, too. Steer clear of salty and spicy food since those can make you thirsty, and water is a precious commodity during these times.

How to store your food – When you have your pile of emergency food ready, it’s now just a matter storing them. Canned goods typically last for two years, but it’s still good practice to keep track of their expiration date just in case. Spoiled, poisonous food on critical situations is the last thing you need. All food items should be stored in boxes, paper cartons, and airtight containers to preserve their freshness. Store all food supplies in a cool and dry place away from sunlight.

2.    Water: Your Ticket to Survival

Water is the most important resource you’ll need in the event of a disaster because it is what will keep you alive. These are the two most important things you need to consider when storing water for emergencies.

bottledwater

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures via Pixabay

Potable water supply – To survive a disaster, you need to have a sufficient supply of water that will last you three days at the least. If you can store a two-week supply, then better. Just remember to regularly check the date on store-bought water because those typically last for only six months. Change your supply every now and then to keep your stock fresh. Also, keep a bottle of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach to sterilize untreated water if no supply of potent water is immediately available.

Water containers – Your water containers should be sealed tightly so that no drop of water will be wasted. Remember, water is an important commodity that you shouldn’t take for granted, especially during tight situations. The best containers to store water are unopened plastic bottles because they don’t easily break unlike glass containers. When storing water, make sure that every container is labeled. Separate potable water from bathing water.

3.    Emergency kit: What should be in the box

familytraining

Photo courtesy of Jorge Franganillo via Flickr

Disasters usually strike from out of the blue, so being prepared all the time is crucial to survival. Always have disaster supply kits ready at home and in your car. The supplies in your car should last at least three days while those in your house or apartment should sustain you for at least a week. Gas, water, electricity, and communication lines may be out of service during a catastrophe so include basic items in your emergency kit that will address potential problems like these. Make sure to have a flashlight and a set of batteries, a fully charged spare phone with load, candles and matches, an electric light, and a fuel lamp. You just don’t know when these tools will come in handy.

SECOND LEVEL: Preparing your plan of action

Create a plan of action in advance and communicate it with your family members. A carefully outlined survival strategy can go a long way when disaster hits. Although there will be unforeseen events that can hinder you from carrying out some of these plans, it’s still comforting to have a ready list of measures to take. When outlining your strategies, make sure to get your family members on board.

1.    Family: How to prep them

familytraining

Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks via Flickr

You should orient your family about the risks of certain disasters and the safety measures you can take as a family to thwart those risks when they’re preventable and to address them when they’re inevitable. Your kids, especially, should know how to prepare for disasters. Explain to them what disasters are without making them panic. Teach them how to call for help when there is an emergency, and train them to recognize danger signals. Don’t forget to always reassure them along the way.

2.    Pets: What to do with them

cat

Photo courtesy of JoeSang via Pixabay

When preparing for disasters and emergencies, don’t leave your pets behind. If you need to evacuate your home and you can’t take your pets with you, call your local veterinarian or the neighborhood kennel to take care of the pets. If these authority figures can’t be reached, prepare a list of pet-friendly places outside your neighborhood that can look after your pets while you’re away.

THIRD LEVEL: Preparing your family emotionally

To fully prepare for a disaster, you need to complete the last level, which involves your emotions. Ultimately, your survival won’t be determined by how much food or water you have, or by how ingenious your plan of action is. Ultimately, it’s about how you perceive your situation and how resilient you are in dealing with it. In the event of a disaster, it’s important to have the right blend of calm and panic so that you can act without over thinking. Be aware of your situation and your emotions. If you believe that you will survive and that you ought to survive, you will.

Don’t wait until it’s too late before you prepare for an emergency. You have the time now, so why not invest in the future safety of your family? I wish I had is never a great phrase. Do something now and prep your home so that you will be ready when the next catastrophe hits.

There is one critical question that you need to ask yourself more often but don’t: Am I ready for the next big disaster? All too often, you get so engrossed

A Final Prepper reader, Andrew asked the following question on our Contact form the other day:

I’m wondering if you guys could do a write up of the pros and cons of a fenced property as well as a gated driveway. It is something I have considered for some time but would be very much interested in what people more in the know think of these security options.

If anyone else has any questions, please send them in, or comment on any post. Your conversations help everyone in the Prepper community learn and if anyone has additional feedback to what I write here, please add that below.

A fence for home protection

When it comes to keeping people out or keeping them in, a fence is one of the first things considered. Naturally any secure area or building has a fence around it –  sometimes several fences. The most secure fences would additionally have a roll of razor wire at the top to detract would-be climbers from making it over unscathed or be electrified; possibly both.

In residential areas you are usually more limited in what you would even consider putting around your property. In my case, I wouldn’t be able to add that big prison fence to the sides of my yard because my wife wouldn’t allow it. Now before I get comments like I need to grow a pair, I will add that I wouldn’t want a large fence either. It isn’t like a large fence would help my falling property value and unless I am in a fortress it just doesn’t go with my landscaping.

When we first brought our survival dog home we talked about a fence to keep her enclosed in our yard. We priced out a traditional chain-link fence for our yard that would have given us some peace of mind if we ever wanted to let her go unattended. The over $5000 price list made me throw that idea out the window. I know that I could have installed a chain link fence myself, but I didn’t want to tackle that project on my own. Assuming money was no object, the question was, is a fence a good idea when the grid goes down? Will a fence protect you or keep the bad guys away? Are there any yard security measures you could take that would make a difference in a grid down world?

The Pros and Cons

Items like a chain link fence can improve your property’s value if done in a way that doesn’t detract from the appearance of your yard in most cases. Fences can keep children and pets in while keeping smaller children and pets out of your yard. There is usually a state law to have a fence if you have a pool to prevent anyone from stumbling into the water and drowning. Fences create a nice boundary line and frame your property in a way that for some is more pleasing than the openness of yards without borders. Aside from the aesthetic reasons and the property value implications (of which I really am not qualified to speak to) are fences good at realistic protection?

Assuming we are talking about traditional residential fences here, I don’t believe they offer anything on their own in the way of serious protection. Could they slow someone down? Yes, but for how long? Even the White House fence proved no match for a determined man. Fences can easily be cut with a plain pair of bolt cutters (which I recommend everyone have as part of a complete prepper supply list of items), or run over with just about any car and then the illusion of protection would be shattered pretty quickly. If you are planning on buying and installing a fence, I wouldn’t expect this alone would keep you safe from anything more than those small children and pets. They might be a better deterrent while there is no crisis going on, but if the grid goes down, do you really expect a fence to keep anyone out for long?

gate-8

Security gates may slow down vehicles, but what about people on foot?

What about a big security gate on your driveway? These are frequently more substantial than a fence, but they have their weaknesses too. Even with a gate, you are probably only going to slow down vehicles, but people can walk in or around those gates. I look at these like expensive locks on my shed. They are there to keep honest people out, not the criminals who will find a way to get around these basic security measures in a truly violent reality if they are motivated.

So should you do nothing?

I think in some situations, fences and gates can slow people down but they won’t stop anyone who is really determined for long. You can use these as your early warning system though and deploy perimeter alarms at the gates and on the fences to alert you when these obstacles have been breached. In a home invasion scenario this could give you precious seconds of advance warning to either make it to your home defense weapon or safe room and possibly call 911.

Those are my thoughts, what do you think?

A Final Prepper reader, Andrew asked the following question on our Contact form the other day: I’m wondering if you guys could do a write up of the pros and cons of

 

In a SHTF situation, proper sanitation is of utmost importance if you want to keep your family from getting seriously sick. When you add to that a lack of medical facilities due to grid-down issues, staying healthy becomes even more crucial.

When the grid goes down it doesn’t take long for serious sanitation problems to erupt. Take Auckland New Zealand for example:

In 1998, Auckland suffered a 5-week long power outage that halted water supplies, causing a large part of the city’s apartment dwellers and office workers to lose the ability to flush. Since the average person did not know how to properly deal with human waste, after only three days the resulting lack of waste-water services quickly escalated into a sanitation nightmare.

Here are two accounts of that time (please see footnotes for full articles):

Since water and sewage rely on electrically-driven pumps to get them into office blocks and towers, these services often aren’t available either. What little power is available is being used by emergency and civil services as far as possible, with other services like traffic lights being run if there’s anything to spare. Many office blocks have no power, water, or sewage services available. Combine the lack of sanitation with absence of air conditioning and you can imagine what conditions are like in parts of these buildings.

And here is an account from someone who was tasked in writing up a white paper for the New Zealand government on the effects caused by no running water:

People in general are not smart. Rather than try and conserve or make a plan once the water stopped flowing, they would flush their toilets. Without power from the force of water pressure the tank doesn’t refill. The domino effect is not only gross but staggering, what human beings that have never lived beyond modern conveniences will do is unimaginable.

What I researched and wrote about blew my own mind…when people were actually confronted with such a situation, they went where ever they could – they filled the toilet, the toilet tank, the tub, the shower, the sink – when the bathrooms became uninhabitable, they went in corners, boxes, bags, closets…most however left by the time they were using the tub. Guess how long that took? That’s right, three days!.[2]

How to Dispose of Human Waste in a Grid-Down Situation

If you’re in a situation where the grid goes down and the water stops flowing, you’ll want to be sure you’re correctly dealing with human waste.

Here’s how:

If You Have a Septic System

First off, if you have your own septic system, you’re in a better spot over others connected to a town/city sewer line. With a septic system, as long as you have availability to water (from storage or any grey water source), you’ll still be able to flush.

How to Flush without Running Water

toilet-tank-filltoilet-bowl-fill
If you are on Town/City Sewer LinesIf you’re short on water, then I recommend you follow the same procedures as those who are connected to town/city sewer lines:

If you’re connected to a town or city sewer line then the the absolute first step is:

Make sure the sewer main is not down!

If the sewer main is down, don’t flush the toilet. Not flushing will prevent your lines from mixing with neighborhood crap and backing up into your plumbing (not just the toilets but the sink and tub too).

If you’re absolutely sure there is no issue with the sewer lines, then you can follow the same method as someone on a septic system. Just be sure you have enough water for drinking, cleaning and cooking.

Non-Water Dependant Methods of Waste Disposal

Before I get into some of the non-water dependent methods of waste removal, there are three things you need to be mindful of: flies, pests and pets.
flies-poopThese guys would like nothing more than to chow down on your business and in some way come into contact with you or your living space.

Flies especially are notorious for landing on your food and plates while eating, and wouldn’t think twice about doing that after having just enjoyed a fecal feast at your expense. And what will soon follow is a fecal-borne pathogen’s ultimate fantasy — amounting to a health nightmare for you and your loved ones.

Given that, you want to do everything in your power to prevent them from coming into contact with your excrement by keeping it covered and clean (more details to follow).

Waste Disposal in a Rural Area

If you live in the boonies or a semi-rural area but are still connected to the grid, consider yourself lucky. For you guys, it’s just a matter of doing your business outside.

The Cat Hole

cat-holeIn a short-term emergency, a few cat holes is all you need. Just take a garden trowel, a small shovel, or a post digger and make a hole about 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. Do your business in the hole, wipe, throw the toilet paper (or leaves  🙂 ) in there too, and cover it up with the dirt you took out.

Although this is an easy method, here are a few rules you’ll want to abide by:

  • Place your cat-hole site is at least 200 feet from any source of water
  • Don’t dig in an area where water visibly flows (rain water run-off etc)
  • Disperse the cat holes over a wide area if possible
  • If possible, setup your cat hole in an area that gets a lot of sunlight (this will aid decomposition)
  • Again, remember water runoff. Your every thought should be on preventing feces from reaching any water source — be it underground well water, your water table, rivers, lakes, springs, and creeks.

The Trench Latrine


trenchlatrineFor a longer-term sanitation solution, you’ll want to build yourself a trench latrine.

A trench latrine is basically an over sized cat hole that is used multiple times. With the exception of dispersing it over a wide area, the same rules above apply to trench latrines as well.

The minimal recommended dimensions are around 1.5 feet (.45 m) wide x 1 foot (.3 m) deep and 2 feet (.6 m) long.

It’s also recommended that you build some type of privacy partition. An emergency situation is stressful enough. You don’t need to give anyone the added pressures of becoming a peep show. For example, a simple partition can be built with a few stakes in the ground with blankets, sheets or tarps stretched between them.

Since it is a multi-use station, you’ll also want to prevent any flies and pests from coming into contact with the exposed excrement. To do this, after each use cover your business with some wood ash, quick lime, or a few inches of the dirt that came out of the ground when making the pit.

Waste Disposal in a City

The average person produces around 2-3 pints of urine and 1 pound of poop a day. Multiply that by the number of people in your family and in a short time you can only imagine the amount of crap that would pile up in an extended grid-down situation in the city.

In most cases, city dwellers (and many suburbanites) do not have access to land where they can safely dig a trench latrine or cat holes. If you are one of these unlucky folk you’ll need to consider other options. Here are two possibilities that you could use:

Use Your Existing Toilet

Even if the sewage lines are down or if you’re short on water, it’s still possible to use your existing toilet:

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First remove as much water from the bowl as possible.

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Second, tape a doubled-up trash bag to the underside of the toilet seat and let the bag fill the cavity of the bowl.

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Have a pail of wood ash, quicklime, kitty litter or sawdust available so that after each duty is done, the offender can sprinkle a liberal amount over it. This will keep the stench down.

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Finally, when the bag is filled up 2/3 the volume of the bowl, add a good amount of quicklime, wood ash or other disinfectant. If you do not have any of these things, you can use dirt with a little bit of a chlorine solution sprayed in it.
After the addition of the disinfectant, securely tie up the bag and place it in a temporary, seal-able container (like a 5-gallon bucket or trash container). Keep it in there until you can find a good time and place to dispose of it.

Use a 5-Gallon Bucket

A 5-gallon bucket can be used in a similar way to the toilet as explained above.

Like the toilet-method above, you’ll want to line it with a double-bagged layer of trash bags (heavy duty are highly recommended). For a seat, you can either sit on the rim of the bucket directly (it’s actually not as uncomfortable as you’d think), place your existing toilet seat on it, or place a couple of 2x4s or other similar objects on the rim to fabricate a makeshift seat:

sanitation-toilet-bucket

If you feel like spending a little money you can pick up a toilet seat cover made for a 5-gallon bucket.

I’ve also seen them sell bags that are made for these 5-gallon expedient toilets as well as toilet deodorants that control the smell and are made for these types of portable toilets. I don’t have any experience with these but they seem to get good reviews in Amazon (click on an image to see the product and reviews):

toilet-cover toilet-bag toilet-deodorant

composting-toiletFor those of you with a bit more money in your pockets, they sell non-electric composting toilets that are completely off-grid, require no water, and supposedly convert human waste into usable compost without odor.

If any of you have these types of toilets, I’d love to hear from your experiences. That may be something that an apartment/city dweller could use in a SHTF situation.

Conclusion

I hope you come out of this post realizing how important the safe disposal of human waste is and how you can properly take care of you and your families waste if times get bad.

In the next and final article in this series I’ll be covering how you can properly dispose of garbage in a grid-down scenario.

  In a SHTF situation, proper sanitation is of utmost importance if you want to keep your family from getting seriously sick. When you add to that a lack of medical

Preppers and Survivalists are always looking for some good ideas on how to use or re-purpose our preps that we have acquired. One of the more ubiquitous prepping supplies is the lowly five gallon bucket. I found a local salvage company who had a basement full of these for a dollar a bucket and picked up a dozen. The buckets themselves used to have icing in them from the local bakery but since they were in perfect shape and food grade, I grabbed them up thinking I would surely find a good use for them.

We usually talk about storing food in five gallon buckets but there is a whole other world of possibilities out there if you are looking for other uses for this prepper staple. Food grade buckets are a natural fit for food storage because they are tough and you can easily stack them, but if you are looking for other five gallon bucket ideas, I pulled five here to share with you. When food is taken care of these five gallon bucket ideas could help you out if the grid goes down, or you just have some spare time and are looking for a crafty way to re-purpose some buckets you have.

Five Gallon Bucket Toilet

Yes, it isn’t the most glamorous way to reuse your five gallon bucket, but it is simple and takes one element out of your Sanitation and Hygiene list and makes grid down visits to the throne room much better, cleaner and even safer than squatting in the back yard.

Using a five gallon bucket for a toilet requires just a couple of items and can provide you with alternate sanitation capacity that even the wife and kids shouldn’t complain about too much. Personally, I would much rather use a five gallon bucket inside on a cold winter’s day that walk out and squat over a hole in the snow.

5gallonbuckettoilet

Eliminate the worry of having to go #2 with this simple makeshift toilet.

Don’t want to build your own, you can buy this handy item all ready for your bum.

This toilet idea is super easy and only requires the following:

  • Five Gallon Bucket
  • Trash Bag – These don’t have to be heavy-duty yard size because you are only going to want so many poops in here before you clean it out. Also, too much poop could rip the bag and that is a mess I don’t want to clean up. Ever.
  • Toilet Paper for obvious reasons, but an old phone book works in a pinch (no pun intended).
  • Pool Noodle – Brilliant use of something that probably won’t get much use in a grid down scenario. Pipe insulation could work in the same capacity.
  • Quick Lime or even cat litter to keep the smell and flies away.

If you aren’t feeling crafty, you can purchase a pre-made Luggable Loo that is set up and ready to go. This is one survival supply you can fill with some toilet paper and maybe some Double Doodie bags and be all set for the next plumbing disaster.

Five Gallon Bucket Air Conditioner

There are two ways I have seen to use a five gallon bucket to cool you off and both require electricity but use different methods of chilling the air. There are evaporative coolers that rely on the evaporation of water to cool. These are also called swamp coolers and the video below shows how you can make one of these yourself with just a few simple supplies in the comfort of your very own living room.

The other method I have seen requires ice, but allows you to blow the cold air from the ice into your space to cool you down and an insulated cooler keeps the ice colder longer and what do you know but the same guy who made the video above shows this alternate method for a five gallon air conditioner.

Five Gallon Bucket Water Filter

Having clean water is crucial for health at any time but contaminated water is a larger problem during disasters or when there is no clean source available. Now we simply turn on our taps to get fairly clean drinking water but what if the pipes burst or you are unable to drink the tap water? Having a backup water filter that you can use to make local sources of water safe to drink is vital to your prepping plans.

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View of the Berkey filter elements installed in the bottom of the upper bucket.

Some people (myself included) purchase larger systems to filter water for many people. I have the Big Berkey Light which is an amazing water filter. It can handle 2.75 gallons of water at a time and there isn’t any work for you to do besides pour your water that needs to be treated into the top chamber and let gravity do the rest. But if you have a little time on your hands and some five gallon buckets, you can build a DIY Berkey filter and save yourself some money.

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The top bucket sits on the lid of the bottom bucket and the filtered water drains down via gravity.

The Berkey Water Filter relies on two filtration elements that you can purchase separately for about $100. The complete Berkey Light Water Filter set up is $231 so you can save yourself a good bit of money with this five gallon bucket idea. You simply drill holes for the filter elements in the bottom of one five gallon bucket. Then drill two holes to allow water to drip into the lower bucket. You drill these holes in the lid so the upper bucket has a place to sit. The only other thing you need is the plastic spigot to pour your fresh clean water out of the bottom chamber.

Five Gallon Bucket Mouse Trap

Rats and mice carry disease even during the good times. For a great mouse trap, you can check out this tutorial below for a simple five gallon bucket mouse trap idea that will quickly and easily catch all the mice you need. With the mice eliminated, you won’t have to worry so much about them spreading disease to your family.

In a worst case scenario, you have dinner.

Five Gallon Bucket Chicken Waterer

When we got chickens ourselves, one of my daily chores was to go out there and fill their water up. It had to be done daily because we had 8 chickens and they are thirsty girls. As well as needing their water refilled, it was nasty because they would scratch dirt into their water.

automaticchickenwaterer

This automatic chicken waterer keeps the water clean and the chickens happy.

Needless to say this got old fast and was really the most labor intensive daily chore as far as the chickens went. Outside of making sure they have food and water, chickens are a breeze. I set out to find a way to keep them in fresh clean water for a few days minimum and reduce the number of trips I had to make with the hose. That is when I came across this great five gallon bucket chicken waterer idea that I made myself. The bucket is really just the reservoir that feeds a tube with nipples that the chickens peck at until water comes out. It keeps their water clean and gives me several days before I need to refill any water.

The nipples are really inexpensive on Amazon and I have the instructions as well as the complete parts list on our post titled: How to Build an Automatic Watering Tube for Your Chickens.

Hopefully that gives you some ideas for your five gallon buckets but there are tons more, like emergency kits, planters, aquaponic systems and so many more. You can find a lot of other great five gallon bucket ideas at fivegallonideas.com. What other uses have you found?

Preppers and Survivalists are always looking for some good ideas on how to use or re-purpose our preps that we have acquired. One of the more ubiquitous prepping supplies is

Everyone likes to think they are unique and many people even go to great lengths to show the world just how special and creative they are. You have seen these types of people, maybe you are one yourself. Those who have tattoos all up one side and down the other (no judgement), who have multiple piercings and giant gauges in their ever expanding earlobes. They wear all manner of fashion that seems to be designed purely for shock value and their hair is carefully combed into their eyes.

Now before I get anyone upset, I am not advocating anyone dress any differently. I am a firm believer in the philosophy of if you want to let your freak flag fly, go right ahead. You aren’t bothering me at all. Except maybe the hair thing on guys today… I just want to cut that mop out of your eyes because it would drive me insane…And stop with the hair products maybe…

Seriously, I love variety and if you feel that you are expressing yourself, go right ahead. More power to you! However, in a survival situation there are times when being the only round peg in a room full of squares could be a disadvantage so today I want to talk about conforming.

The importance of the group standard to preppers

Now when I mention conforming, I am not talking about conforming to my version of society, your morals or style of dress or personal hygiene habits. I am talking about the decisions you will make regarding the survival gear and equipment that your larger mutual assistance group is going to use. It is important to formalize a group standard on several major pieces of gear if you want to function cohesively as a unit.

If each person is unique, their own purple flower with magenta ombre highlights, and does their own thing – you aren’t a group at all. You are just a bunch of individuals hanging around together and believe it or not, that could be a drawback. Let’s imagine a SHTF scenario for example. It’s bad, really bad and you are huddled together with your survival group, trying to get by and taking each challenge as it comes.

Choosing standard firearms

One of our posts that has had the most discussion back and forth has been The AK-47 vs AR-15: Which Rifle is Better? I wrote this back in March of 2014 but debates about the best firearm in a SHTF scenario have probably been raging since men were carrying around flintlock pistols. We are unlikely to find consensus as a whole prepper or survivalist movement, but your own survival group needs to come up with one choice and stick with it.

Why can’t I have my AR15 and Bob have his FN SCAR? Why can’t Julie carry her KRISS Vector while Mary rocks the tried and true AK-47?

I can give you a lot of reasons:

AR15

Standard firearms behave the same way. One you learn the mechanics of your AR15, every other AR15 behaves the same way

Magazines: Each of your battle rifles should use the same magazines so that if needed, you can grab a spare one from your buddy, lock and load and keep going. You never want to find out that you are under attack and nobody around you has the same magazine, or that two people do, but they aren’t with you at the moment. Try telling your buddy to just hold them off-while you reload a few more magazines.

Spare Parts and Accessories: Let’s say someone has a rifle that has a part malfunction that renders that rifle inoperative. You could either let that sit on the shelf or you can use the spare parts to fix other rifles that may need it. Yes, you should always have spares but it’s far less trouble to buy three of one thing as opposed to one different part three times. You won’t have to learn how to pull apart three different weapons either although knowing how would be a good skill.

You can also look at accessories the same way. I have at least 3 different sets of scope rings I got for 3 different scopes. If I were to have the same scope as my buddy and mine went bad, if needed, I could simply swap his out with mine. The alternative of strapping that nice Vortex Strike Eagle down with duct tape isn’t a good option.

Operation and features: Standard firearms behave the same way. One you learn the mechanics of your AR15, every other AR15 behaves the same way. Learn how to disassemble one, you know how to disassemble all of them. Have a misfire? You know how to quickly clear one AR…I think you get the point.

Reliability: I will also add this minor factor in there. Assuming you buy comparable quality firearms, the make of your rifle and the reliability will be comparable to the other rifles so your lifespans should work out close to the same period of time assuming proper care and maintenance. I know I had an M-16 from the 70’s when I was in the Army and it worked just fine. I did get some new hand-grips though.

Choosing standard calibers

This one should be in the same category but I wanted to break it out because we could be talking about Shotguns, Rifles and Pistols above with your standard firearms. Your ammo should be the same for all firearms as well. So if you have standardized on Glock for example for your pistol, everyone should have the same caliber. This can be .45 or .40 or .357 or .9mm but everyone should carry the same ammo. Same point as above for magazines. When you run out, someone else’s magazine and the ammo naturally will slide right back into your pistol. Which pistol caliber is the best? That is a different argument and a completely different post.

Choosing standard camouflage

REALTREE_CAMOUFLAGE_SUIT

Uh, yep! I think camouflage is very necessary in a survival situation.

Is camouflage necessary? It really depends on what you envision as being possible in your survival group. Do you see this as the end of the world as we know it? Do you imagine hostile refugees coming down your street to demand food or the use of your women? Do you expect to be fighting traitorous UN forces who are marching across town? Do you think you will need to hide? Do you think you will need to hunt?

Having the same outfit can prevent someone from easily sneaking into your perimeter unnoticed. Granted, they could be wearing the same old Woodland Camo fatigues I wore in service and if that is what I chose for my group I would be in trouble. There is a case to be made for selecting something a little more novel like German, Australian or British camo. I prefer the easy options available at any hunting store in the US made by RealTree. They match your local foliage and if you are caught in them, you can easily say you were hunting. No need to look like a paramilitary type and gain unwanted attention if you don’t have to.

Choosing standard communication equipment

Baofeng

Baofeng makes a great, affordable radio for preppers.

I am referring to shortwave radios here. Radio frequencies are the same no matter what equipment you have so why do we have to purchase the same radios? I will give you two reasons. The first is batteries and the second is operation. I have yet to see two HAM radios that were programmed the same way. I know there is software that can make this easier, but to my mind if everyone has the same radio, everyone will know how to use it the same way. Less problems, fewer mistakes. You can choose from a lot of manufacturers and spend a little or a lot of money, but radios should also be the same for your group. My personal choice is Baofeng’s BF F8HP model.

Conclusion

There you have a few of my reasons and rationale for setting a group standard and in these instances at least, not trying to be a purple unicorn with sparkles. I am sure there are those out there who have different opinions so let’s hear them!

Everyone likes to think they are unique and many people even go to great lengths to show the world just how special and creative they are. You have seen these

Why does everyone talk about storing wheat?

I recognize that there is a significant number of people in the world that do not tolerate wheat well, or at all. My father-in-law has celiac disease, and one of my sons cannot have any whole grains. However, even these individuals should consider storing wheat in some measure, and I’ll be discussing the reasons why at the end of this article. Of course, those that will benefit most from this article are those who can eat wheat.

Wheat is the staple grain of the North American diet. It’s what we grow here all across the Great Plains. It’s what we’re accustomed to eating. We have the recipes for breads and other baked goods. (You do have recipes, right? Hard copies, right?) Amaranth, quinoa, spelt and such are great, but most people don’t store or use them. They don’t know how to work with them. TEOTWAWKI won’t be the time to learn. And exotic grains are expensive. At least for now, wheat is very cheap.

Because wheat is what we grow here, it’s what will be available post-TEOTWAWKI, if anything is. Even if you can’t eat wheat, consider storing it for those who can, especially those in your family or those who may be coming to you. That way you have cheaper food for them and you can keep your costlier non-wheat preps for yourself.

Nothing smells better, or tastes better, than freshly baked bread. Really good food improves morale in a crisis. And unfortunately, bread is one of those items that cannot be stored. It has to be made fresh every week. Furthermore, most people can’t make bread. It is definitely one of those skills that takes practice and should be mastered while we can still feed the loaves that flop to the chickens without feeling wasteful.

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Non-GMO Hard Red Spring Wheat

Wheat is nutritious.

Wheat combined with milk (in the same meal) will provide all the essential amino acids for building protein. Wheat is a primary source of B vitamins. Because B vitamins are water-soluble, they can’t be stored by the body. We need a constant supply of vitamin B to maintain good health. In addition, sprouted wheat berries (more on that later) are an excellent source of vitamin C and also provide some vitamins A and D.

While being able to bake bread is probably the main reason for most of us to store wheat, there is still plenty that can be done with wheat berries until you are able to obtain a grain grinder and while you learn to bake your bread. The whole grain can be boiled for cereal. Any leftover boiled berries can be mixed in with ground beef to extend it (meat loaf, meat balls, hamburger patties, etc.) without too much notice by the rest of the family. The whole berries can be used to make blender pancakes or blender waffles (full recipes and tutorials at storethisnotthat.com). The berries can be popped and eaten like popcorn.

But wait, there’s more!

WheatBerry_Salad

Wheat Berry Salad with fresh tomatoes from the garden.

Wheat can be sprouted for even greater nutritional benefits. In a nutshell, wheat berries are soaked in cool water for about twelve hours. Drain the berries and rinse and drain again. Rinse the wheat well three to four times per day. (For the specific how-to’s of sprouting wheat, click here.) The two to three-day old sprouts can be added to soups or salads. At this point they are already much higher in calcium and vitamin C and several other minerals. Or let the sprouts continue to grow and green up a little for adding to sandwiches, like alfalfa sprouts. Or dehydrate the sprouted berries and grind them into flour for sourdough baking. Or toss them into soil for growing wheat grass for juicing.

Furthermore, wheat berries can also be used to grow fodder for our animals. Basically, the wheat berries are soaked and sprouted as described above, but instead of sprouting in a jar they are spread in a plastic tray with drainage holes. The rinsing is the same—three to four times per day, and the wheat berries are allowed to grow into wheat grass. The roots develop into a thick mat, and the grass and mat are fed as fodder to livestock about ten days from the initial soaking. So even people who can’t eat wheat benefit from storing it as the fodder is fed to chickens, rabbits, goats, and sheep who turn the fodder into eggs, meat, milk, and sometimes even fiber.

While it does take a little time and effort—but just a little—to grow fodder, bear in mind all the benefits. One pound of wheat berries becomes seven pounds of highly nutritious natural fodder. Wheat has a much, much longer shelf life than commercial feeds, it is much cheaper, and takes much less space. Fodder is a great way to provide greens in winter when grasses and weeds aren’t growing.

WheatSprouts

Wheat can be sprouted for even greater nutritional benefits. In a nutshell, wheat berries are soaked in cool water for about twelve hours. Drain the berries and rinse and drain again.

What is the best type of wheat to stock up on?

As you start researching the possibilities of adding wheat to your storage program, you find that there are actually a lot of different kinds of wheat. So now what? What kind to purchase? After all, you don’t want to make any mistakes here.

Durum wheat is what is used to make pasta, and soft white wheat is used for baked goods that do not use yeast—biscuits, cookies, cakes, etc. Soft white wheat also has less protein (gluten) than hard white. Most people do not store these two grains, at least not in significant quantities.

Hard white spring wheat sprouts best, but some research shows that it doesn’t store quite as well as the hard red and hard white winter wheat’s.

Hard red wheat has very slightly more protein than hard white. However, because hard white lacks the bitterness of hard red, less sweetener is needed in baked goods. For all of its advantages—milder taste, superior baking qualities, and ease of sprouting, hard white winter wheat is what we store.

And just how does wheat need to be stored? Regardless of the variety you choose, if stored properly wheat can remain viable and edible for hundreds of years. There are a variety of storage options, each with their pros and cons. Mylar bags are easy and very portable, but rats and mice can chew through them. Grain stored in #10 cans is pest-proof, but the cans are subject to rust, especially in humid areas. And storing enough wheat in cans gets a little pricey, at least for us. Some choose to store their wheat in large plastic or metal barrels. I just don’t like them because they aren’t very portable. Our family has moved (with our food storage!) eight times in the past 25 years. I can’t imagine what a nightmare moving large barrels would have been.

StoringFoodLongTerm

You can find free food-grade buckets at local stores around town.

Storing Wheat in your home or retreat

We choose to store our grains in plastic buckets that we get free from bakeries and donut shops. They’re free, they’re food grade, they’re portable. Yes, mice or rats could eventually chew through the buckets. Admittedly, we have had some seasons with an overabundance of mice and rats (isn’t even a single critter an overabundance?), but we’ve never had any critter chew on the buckets. The cons are that the five-gallon buckets can be difficult for some people to carry. And those lids can be nearly impossible to remove. Make sure you have a few bucket wrenches for them. They’re a lifesaver.

Store your wheat in a cool, dry place—50-60 degrees is ideal. Wheat that has been stored at higher temperatures for even a short time will not sprout as well or at all and will not make good yeast breads. It will also have lost some nutritional value.

Exactly how much wheat should you store? Well, that’s going to vary from one person to the next. The LDS Church advises 400 pounds of grains per person per year as part of their food storage recommendations for a 2200 calorie per day diet. That’s what I use for my family, with about 300 pounds of wheat per person. However, in addition to that we also store 50 pounds per chicken or rabbit to grow into fodder. When it comes to wheat, I think the day will come when it will be worth its weight in gold. With all its uses, the ease of storing it, and its low-cost, you just can’t ever have too much.

Why does everyone talk about storing wheat? I recognize that there is a significant number of people in the world that do not tolerate wheat well, or at all. My father-in-law

During the great depression when the dollar collapsed, basic items became currency. Any trip to the market would be better accompanied with items such as tobacco, or alcohol to be used as barter and trade items, rather than a pocket full of dollars purely because of the fact that they were worth so much more.

Bring the clock forward 80 years and we’re still seeing the same high value placed in everyday items over physical cash in countries that have suffered economic breakdowns, or have been crippled by war. Venezuela, currently the world’s worst economic collapse of this time, has seen an extraordinary surge in the value daily items due to its crippling inflation. A pack of popular brand condoms is more than USD$70 in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas. That value, in comparison to Venezuela’s current USD$4 per month minimum wage, gives brand name condoms an almost-golden value.

But they are not the only items that have become valuable for trade and barter in economic collapse environments. In this post we take a trip through time to find what items have been used as trade items instead of hyperinflated currencies, and what, at best, we can predict will be future household items that you should consider stocking, should times start to get tough again.

Why do items become more valuable than money in tough times?

Currency resembles a nation’s economic health. In an economic collapse such as the Great Depression, or Venezuela’s economic collapse, the value of currency is damaged. Things become more expensive over time as import, trade and manufacturing sectors weaken. As time goes on, the price of things rise and daily household items become more expensive. When the price of things rise, and the dollar falls, we get inflation.

Inflation is happening to us right now, and for many economically healthy countries, there is still an inflation index. For instance, the 2018 inflation rate for the US is 2.38%. In a year a pack of chewing gum that costs $1 this year, will cost $1.02 next year. According to reports, Venezuela’s inflation rate is more than 4,000%. That means our $1 pack of chewing gum will be $41.

If you couple this, with a supply and trade industry that is ruined by economic collapse, dead markets, and widespread job loss, things start to have a lot of value. This is also interlinked with banks closing down, creditors taking their money out of businesses, and the supply of cash seemingly halting as there is no way to draw money out of that great savings account some people have. As the value of currency declines, but the demand for items that aren’t available as much as they used to be rises, trade and barter in those items starts to occur. For instance, that packet of condoms could buy your groceries for the week. Or a bottle of alcohol could represent a valued trade for a month’s supply of toilet paper.

What do you have with you right now?

For most preppers, looking at what they currently have is important. It is the basis of what we have and what we know right now, that prepares us for anything that might happen tomorrow, next week or next year. For most of us, if an economic collapse happened right now, we’d be in big trouble. A lot of us do the regular shopping every week for household supplies and food to eat, and most of our money, whether it be daily transactions or savings money, is in the bank.

The last thing you want to be left with is an empty kitchen cupboard.

So think about this: if a rapid economic collapse was to occur tomorrow, and banks and food stores were to close, would you have enough supplies to live? What daily things do you use that would you desperately should they run out?

For a lot of preppers, thinking about this circumstance warrants having enough prepper supplies to be well off in a circumstance like this. Most of you who are reading this would have already attempted some form of prepping, whether it be just enough to get you buy for a few weeks, or a whole year’s worth of survival supplies for you and your family.

No matter what size your prepper supply is, the duration of an economic collapse will determine whether you have to start considering trading and bartering for goods and essentials. That is the problem with a financial collapse, we can’t really predict how long they will last or determine their severity. All we can do is make sure that we are best prepared for the issues that they bring.

A lot of what prepping is about is being self-sufficient, so that should something happen where supplies are cut off, you can still eat, drink, wash, cook, drive and live life. It differs from survival in that survival would be the things you do during an event itself. However as preppers, we act before something happens, so that we are ready for it, should it happen.

A lot of what prepping is, and the concept of barter and trade, is done between homesteaders, both in the past and this day and age. Homesteaders live in the country and are the prime example of people able to survive in a downturn as they are able to produce their own food, have their own water solutions, and have a trade system already developed between them and their neighbors.

As a homesteader, trade can be in the shape of helping out a neighbor with certain skills you might possess (carpentry and woodworking for instance), or it could be to trade fresh eggs from your chicken pen in exchange for fresh milk from someone’s cow. In an economic downturn, having skills and assets like this not only give you the ability to diversify your income, but also as a way to offer something to trade should you be short of supplies.

How to successfully barter and trade


Let’s say you have something someone needs. There is a big risk that comes with this in a post-collapse as there are people who no doubt feel they don’t have to abide by the rules that create a formal civilization (otherwise known as a world Without Rule Of Law, or WROL).

For the most part, I feel like bartering in a SHTF situation will only be amongst friends, neighbors and people in your circle. Unless there is a formal marketing in a popular street set up where you can run a stall, or barter for foods with your own goods, I don’t think there will be many barter or trade situations with strangers.

That’s good because if word got around that you have stockpiles of supplies lying around, you could be in a real risk of being the target of hungry, desperate scavengers, or just plain old greedy gangs or groups of people. This is the problem with being a prepper, it can be dangerous if you are the one with all of the food in a city or town of starving residents.

While this could be a likely risk in a worst-case collapse, the more realistic risks are those of getting ripped off by someone that is ultimately better at bartering than you are or coming across thieves. How can you avoid the risks of bartering in a post-collapse world? I think there are a couple of things, which might seem obvious to most, that you should ensure you do in any transaction where trade isn’t done with money and where sales are governed by laws of misrepresentation and fraud.

To avoid the risks associated with bartering, one of the most important things you can do is make sure it is in a public environment, or have others with you. Any thieves or just basic intimidators are likely to only try their tactics if there is no-one else around. Having that backup would just reinforce the fact that you are there to trade by a fair set of rules.

Know how much you need, and how much you are willing to give before you even think about bartering.

Second, know the value of the things you are trading for. If there is something you don’t know the value of, or to see if it is quality or not, take a specialist with you that knows about it. For instance, if you know nothing about motorbikes, you wouldn’t just buy a motorbike on your own without conducting a load of research or taking someone that knows what is right and what is not. The same applies to bartering, ensure you know the value of the things you are trading for. This is an important factor if you are considering trade as a way to survive in a SHTF situation, as the price of things will inevitably change, and you need to be up-to-date with those prices, otherwise, someone is going to buy things from you, and sell it elsewhere for twice the price.

When you are negotiating a trade, make sure you have an idea of what you are willing to pay and accept for yours and their items. Make sure you are clear on what it is you need by looking at your current supplies and making a list of what is necessary. No doubt any good trader will try to barter useless items they might say you need or will find useful, scrap them. You are trading for what you need, not what you enjoy.

If you are trading a service, or even just basic items, be clear on the terms of the trade, what you are trading for and the quantity of each item. Having a very clear set of terms is easy when trading items, but when you are doing a service or skill, such as fixing someone’s car, there are a lot of variables that can go wrong, such as if the car stops working a few days after you fix it, if new parts are needed who will pay for them, if it works, but not to your customer’s satisfaction what happens?

When it comes to agreements about services, there is an entire field of contractual disputes and laws. For the most part, having your own set of terms and being clear about them is the best way to be sure of an easy agreement, if it is available, one of the best things you can do is write down the terms, so that should any dispute occur once the agreement has commenced, you can refer to your contract in writing.

The difference between investment items and trade items

A lot of prepper blogs recommend investing in precious metals such as silver and gold. This is primarily because prepping is about investing. You invest time, invest research and invest in a supply that you hope will pay off for you and your family should a natural disaster, economic collapse or any other SHTF situation ever occur.

For precious metals, I don’t think there will be much worth for them during one of these situations. As a trade item, it bears no useable feature, unlike bullets, diapers, condoms, food and water, which are items that are traded as valued items in collapsed economies. But don’t get me wrong, gold is an important item for preppers. Why? Because while gold and silver is not very useful during a SHTF situation, it becomes very useful as society starts to rebuild itself. Seeing gold as an investment to sell is a much stronger and practical preparedness strategy that seeing it as a barter item during the event.

The reason why I use gold as an investment item rather than silver, is that out of the past eight significant biggest economic declines, six of them had significant increases in the value of gold, whereas the value of silver fell. The price of gold correlates with the value of currency. Gold benefits when there is an economic downturn. When stock markets fall, investors buy gold, in turn, driving the price up.

Trade items, however, are different to investment strategies such as gold, as they are survival items used during an event, as a means of exchange, and are a method of investment to ensure that you are able to trade efficiently, should an economic system crumble. There are, however, different investments you can make, rather than just in a stock of supplies.

As a way of bartering, you might be able to trade a service or skill you have, which might be in plumbing, electrical work, woodwork, or some other specific skill you have. Not only can this be done for food and supplies, but you can also trade that skill for cash-in-hand work, which gives the skill the benefit of being able to be used if you were to lose your job in an economic downturn.

So while you are preparing for rough days ahead and checking up on your prepper supply of non-perishables, water, and supplies, it might be worth stocking up on something can actually be free, which is to learn a new skill. There are a lot of valuable skills out there, from gardening, material work, animal husbandry skills, nursing skills, repairs or even defense. Whatever your hobbies might be at the moment could also become a formidable skill, should society change to the point where that skill comes in demand.

What are good bartering items to be used in a SHTF situation?

Cigarettes are a must-have trade item in a post-collapse. They were also a much-needed during the Great Depression and in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War.

I have a lot of things in my prepper supply that would be very valuable should everyday supplies start to run out. But the issue is, do I want to part with them? Probably not, especially if they are something I need.

So it puts me in a hard place where I would have to balance need over the value of trade. But we can prepare for that circumstance by preparing a seperate section in our supplies for trade. This might be a small collection of things you use every day, which can be added upon as time goes on and you find new goods to add to the list.

There are a lot of preppers that keep an excess amount of everything, adequate to what they need, rather than stockpiling a separate pile of tradeable items. However, separating those supplies ensures that you don’t dip into your trade items should the SHTF, and that you can identify how much value you might have in your trader’s wallet, for the lack of a better term.

If you are just starting out in your collection of trade items, or you are looking to add to that supply, I have compiled a list below of 30 items that I have found have found will become valuable commodity items in economic collapse and SHTF environments, and why they would be useful. Many of these items have been used as trade and barter in historical post-collapse events for instance, during the Great Depression, in Venezuela’s economic collapse, or in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War.

30 Best Valuable Items For Trade

In an economic collapse or SHTF scenario

Medicine: This covers things such as antibiotics, pain-killers, and allergy medications.Venezuela’s financial collapse has seen the value of medicine soar, with hospitals having to purchase medication from black market importers just to treat patients. Foods Even in a disaster, food is one of the first things to run off the shelves as most people won’t have a pre-stocked food supply. Things such as non-perishable foods will be the most valuable.

Alcohol: During the Great Depression, alcohol was in prime demand with people distilling rum and gin  themselves. As a commodity, alcohol can also have medicinal and hygienic purposes.

Fuel:  As fuel supply lines shut down and stations close, fuel comes in limited supply in SHTF situations. It is important for those using generators and vehicles.

Propane Gas: Many homes rely on gas for hot water and cooking. One small bottle can last for a month with a gas cooker system to boil (purify) water and cook foods.

Batteries: Rechargeable and normal batteries are useful for a number of things, but as the power starts to go out there will be a reliance on flashlights increasing the need for batteries.

Condoms and Contraceptives: As mentioned in the beginning of this post, condoms in Venezuela are going for USD$70 a pack. People are still active when the SHTF

Baby Supplies: Baby food, diapers, baby asprin and ointments. All baby supplies are a commodity that is used every day and needs a constant use supply. While reusable diapers exist, things such as nappy rash ointments and baby aspirin is a much-needed item.

Chickens: Chickens are egg producers and live off scraps. If you can manage to feed and water them, the eggs they produce will be worth their weight in gold. In 2016, a dozen eggs cost USD$150. If you have a rooster you can produce excess chickens to sell to others.

Feminine Hygiene Products: These are must-have items for personal hygiene that are needed every day in stores. Tampons in Venezuela are the cost of three months minimum wage.

Toilet Paper: Life’s luxury in fine white sheets. Toilet paper is hard to replicate with magazines, newspaper or tissues and is something that most people will run out of very quickly.

Vitamins: The change in diet as people start to eat less, or a void of fresh foods will leave many without access to the right nutrients and vitamins in a healthy diet

First-Aid Supplies: Bandages are not so important in this as any piece of clothing can be used. First-aid supplies needed will be things such as antiseptic wipes, band-aids, antibacterial creams, suture kits and specialist first-aid treatment equipment.

Tobacco: For some, this is obviously going to be a much more necessary item. I am a non-smoker, however I can see how, if in limited supply, tobacco would be a great item to have for those in need.

Soap and Shampoo: Personal hygiene is another commodity that we use every day, and as supply routes slow or stop, stuff that we use to clean our hands and bodies every day will quickly run out.

Seeds Seeds: are a trade-able item that work well for those that now how to cultivate good gardens in order to grow their own foods. Give the right person seeds and they can grow a farm and tap a sustainable food supply.

Can Openers: When the SHTF the last thing that’s left after fresh foods run off the shelves or expire are canned foods. For those that don’t have them, cans are a key to food.

Powdered Gravy: Freeze-dried food, non-perishable food and basic grown foods can taste very bland, but gravy adds a much better taste to things that wouldn’t generally taste great.

Lighters and Matches: Sure, there are a number of ways to light a fire, but in the home, lighting a gas cooker is a lot easier with lighters than two sticks.

Candles: An easy way to provide light at night when the power grid crumbles and a considerable item for SHTF environments.

Powdered Milk: Powdered milk is so scarce in Venezuela that it is sold by black market vendors at 100 times its normal shelf price.

Pasta Pasta: in packets can be kept for quite some time and in Venezuela’s economy, is sold by black market vendors at 200 times the original price.

Shoes: I wouldn’t say it is a good idea to start stocking every pair of shoes, but if you have old ones, it might be worth keeping them. The cost of shoes in Venezuela ranges from 300% to 900% higher than the same brand in The US.

Water Filters: If the grid goes bust and you are caught without a water filter you might be in trouble. There are going to be a lot of people out there without a clean water supply and no way purify water (without cooking it), so a few cheap water filters will no doubt be worth some money.

Coffee Coffee: is a world trade commodity already. Just like smokers will pay for cigarettes and tobacco, coffee is equally an item that can be used to trade and will be rarely available given the lack of country imports in an economic collapse.

Flashlights: At the moment, high-quality flashlights are cheap to pick up (less than $10). But when the grid goes down, everyone is going to be needing them, and it is highly likely not everyone will have one.

Duct Tape: Duct tape is one of those items that is well-known throughout the survival world for its endless amount of uses. Whether it be patching up clothes, fixing leaks, or taping wounds, duct tape is a good bartering item.

Generators (solar and fuel): If you have recently bought a back-up generator, keep the old one for now. When the SHTF everyone is going to want secondary power methods and will be willing to pay a lot for it.

Construction and Repair Tools: As an economic downturn sets in people are going to start doing more of their own projects to increase the self-sufficiency, fix the home, or for car repairs and other odd jobs. You might have the tools they need. But you might want to use these as a way to provide a service.

Solar Lights: Solar lights are a great commodity to stock because they are cheap (at the moment) they are sustainable (no power needed) and they provide what we need at night in a sustainable manner.

I have made this list based on research on what items have become valuable in past economic collapse and SHTF situations where supply lines shut off and resources become limited. I am sure that a lot of advanced preppers out there that have a good stockpile of food, water, and supplies will no doubt have many of these items in their stockpiles already. I also have many of these items not only in my own stockpile, but in a separate section designed to be a backup, to be used either as trade, or to help out others should they need it. I feel as though a ‘help others’ stockpile is a good way to make a community and build a team of people you can work with to regain existence as a self-sufficient community.

While these items have been seen as valued items in the past, or they are currently highly valued items in SHTF places in the world (such as Venezuela), I would not call this list definitive by any means. There are a lot of other items that have had, and will have equal value to these in a SHTF scenario. If you do know of any other items for trade and barter that you have identified, or you believe will become useful in a SHTF situation, please leave a comment below to inform the community.

There are a lot of preppers that keep an excess amount of everything, adequate to what they need, rather than stockpiling a separate pile of tradeable items. However, separating those