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When the SHTF and Nellie has Dementia

Dementia is not just about forgetting things. Memory loss, confusion and incontinence are some of the earlier symptoms, but definitely not the only things to face.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines dementia as: “A group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. People with dementia may not be able to think well enough to do normal activities, such as getting dressed or eating. They may lose their ability to solve problems or control their emotions. Their personalities may change. They may become agitated or see things that are not there.”

According to the American Alzheimer’s Association (2015), five million people in the USA are living with dementia – that’s one person in 64; most of them over the age of 65 (younger people can develop dementia).

For the last five years, I have been caring for my mother who is now 87 years old. She has vascular dementia. Many of the observations made in this article are drawn from my own experience and from talking to other carers. Some of this article will be of use to those living with other disabilities. Not all people with dementia will have all these needs and there will be other things I have not mentioned – it is not meant to be a primer on dementia care. Some points are more relevant to those who are bugging out, but most can be applied to any situation.

For this article, I have chosen to give a name to the person with dementia. Her name is Nellie.

Prepping for those with Dementia

Add to your stockpile: Spare parts and the tools to repair and maintain mobility aids eg. tires, pump, water dispersal spray, oil, small spanners etc. You can fit/hide more than you think in the frame of a wheelchair!

Black cloth or plastic (it must be black) – Nellie may be a compulsive wanderer. Three or four large pieces of something black strategically placed around your living space may reduce the chance of wandering (Alzheimer’s Foundation of America). Why? Nellie’s brain sees the cloth as a hole and instinct takes over to prevent her from falling in!

Melatonin pills (unless contra-indicated) – Nellie may sleep for 20 hours a day, which as long as she is happy, presents few issues. But on other days, she seems to survive on only four. Nellie’s carers (and the rest of the group) need their sleep in order to function.

“Melatonin production slows as we age and is especially compromised in Alzheimer’s disease, a factor that may contribute to disrupted sleep in dementia sufferers. Melatonin supplements may improve some sleep-related symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease.”- (Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation).

Monster spray – A few squirts from a decorated spray bottle of colored water can scare off many of the frightening things lurking in Nellie’s version of the world. In this respect, and in many others, Nellie is like a child. Some will say the monster spray is just playing to her insecurities. Maybe; but a drug-free way to a calm Nellie (leading to a calmer group!) is not to be discredited.

Incontinence supplies – Disposable diapers, pull-ups and incontinence pads are convenient but they are expensive and eventually, supplies will run out. There are washable alternatives, worn with water-resistant plastic pants (watch for irritated skin).  (absorbs up to 570ml of urine) or cloth diapers (absorbs up to 400ml of urine). Expect Nellie to use several pairs of underwear every day. Pads from a lightweight fabric bag stuffed with soft and absorbent sphagnum moss can work for mild incontinence. The moss is available from many garden centers and some hardware stores. Night time requires something much more absorbent but so far, I have not found anything I am willing to recommend.

You will also need to stockpile nappy rash cream, at least three draw sheets (puppy pads or similar are a useful back up), urinary tract infection remedies, soft wash cloths, disposable gloves (they can be washed and reused a few times) and plastic bags.

Suitable food and utensils – secure everything else out of sight – Many people with dementia, especially in the later stages, will lose interest in food; often because they are losing their sense of smell and therefore, of taste. Bitter and sweet are the last parts of taste to be lost. I prefer sweet foods to bitter ones: those with dementia are no different. Nellie may pile on the salt so she can actually ‘taste something’ and reject anything she perceives as tasteless. Are you going to anger Nellie by rationing the sweet things?

Nellie may have difficulty swallowing and will need a soft diet, or even pureed food. Do not be tempted to think that commercially available baby food is the easy option. Nellie will most likely not eat it. Have you tried the stuff? Most of it is almost tasteless to the adult palate, therefore to someone like Nellie, it is totally unappetizing!

A study done by biopsychologists at Boston University (2004) showed that people with Alzheimer’s ate up to 25% more when their meals were presented on a red plate. Why red? Red is highly visible and contrasts with many foods – if it doesn’t, use another color for Nellie’s meal. If she can see it, she just might eat it. You may need to rotate the plate during the meal as Nellie’s brain may not register the whole plate. It may be easier for Nellie to use children’s crockery (plates with a lip, cutlery with chunky or even angled handles, sipper cups or a mug with two handles) when eating her meals.

A word of caution: as the dementia progresses; compounded by the decreasing sense of smell and taste, Nellie may not realize that soap is not food and disinfectant is not safe to drink.

Extra clothing, towels and laundry supplies – You will need extra clothing because of the incontinence, especially if you are unable to wash and dry things every day. A ringer bucket will make laundry day easier. But even then, things may take two or three days to dry; longer if there is not much sunlight. In springtime, mum’s draw sheet took only 3 hours to dry when hanging on the line but a day or more inside. The incontinence pants took 4-6 hours to dry on the line and two days inside.

Lightweight microfiber towels used by hikers are surprisingly absorbent, very compact, and quick to dry. Mine takes about half an hour to dry in the sun or two hours if I hang it up inside.

Twiddle – Appreciated by professional care givers for its calming effect

If you judge it safe to do, write Nellie’s name and address/destination on her clothing in case she wanders.

Something to comfort Nellie – People with dementia can sometimes draw a great amount of comfort from a familiar soft toy to cuddle, a ‘twiddle muff’ or a ‘twiddle blanket’. A favorite piece of music helps too (another reason to include a small musical instrument in the SHTF kit).

Learn how to:

Repair mobility aids – Unfortunately, even with the best of care, wheelchairs, walking frames etc will eventually break or wear out. The ability to fashion new ones from the remains of the old (or whatever random parts you can scavenge) will be a useful skill to have.

Sing Nellie’s favorite songs – As well as providing entertainment, it may help reduce Nellie’s fear and agitation/aggression.

Live in Nellie’s world – Reality may confuse or upset Nellie. Unless it is a matter of life and death, always agree with her: it’s easier on everyone. A lie can be your friend, especially if the short-term memory has gone and they are living in the past. When she asks for the third time this morning “Where’s Johnny?” don’t tell her Johnny died last month, just say he has gone to get some bread, or whatever seems suitable.

Recognize triggers – Similar to PTSD, some things can trigger extreme distress in those with dementia. In mum’s case, a low-flying fighter plane will send her looking for an air raid shelter. In some situations, if you know what the triggers are, you can have a well-timed distraction in place.

And if the SHTF?

Nellie is going to be slower than you or me – “We have to leave NOW!” is not going to be easy, especially in darkness or low-light conditions. Nellie will pick up on the urgency and become distressed even if she doesn’t understand what’s happening. And that means it will take longer than usual to get her ready to leave.

When walking, the group can only move at the pace of its slowest member. If Nellie is mobile, she may tire easily and not be as sure-footed as you or me. Walking frames are not designed for rough terrain and most of the time, their brakes are useless for anything except a straight and level surface. Some wheelchairs are better suited for sand and rough ground than others but none will be of any use with a flat tire. Have someone scan ahead for accidentally – or deliberately – placed tire traps. And someone still has to push the chair. If you think it’s hard work pushing a toddler, try pushing a fully grown adult, even if she is underweight. Test yourself. My current limit pushing mum’s distinctly average wheelchair uphill and down and along slightly muddy ground is about 90 minutes.

Some things are not so obvious:

Nellie may have no depth perception – Shadows may be perceived as steps to avoid, or rocks to go around. And nothing will convince her otherwise. When Nellie is getting agitated and grabbing at ‘nothing’, it may be her trying to reach for something she wants 10′ away.

Nellie may be noisy and will not self-censor – Nellie may not understand the need to remain quiet. She may even make involuntary noises. This could pose a security risk. And if Nellie announces “Gee, he’s fat!” to the lout blocking your way, the rest of the group may not have a chance to smooth things over.

“I want to go home!” – Nellie and others with dementia need to feel safe in their own world (even if their world is not the same as yours). Routines help them to feel safe. In a SHTF situation, this may be impossible. Often the desire to go home is a deep-seated feeling that things are not right, not familiar in the world she suddenly finds herself in. If Nellie is mobile, she may try to get home. Home may actually be her childhood home, not the home she raised you in. This is where the ‘black holes’, the songs and the cuddly toy can really help.

But what about Nellie?

I know there are some out there who would cite their version of the Greater Good theory, saying it is too difficult and too risky to have Nellie in the group. Ultimately, like many SHTF-based decisions, it comes down to “Which decision will haunt me the least?” In other words: a matter for your conscience.

All I can say is that during the Blitz, Granny stayed behind and sheltered mum when she could not get her to the air raid shelter. Mum would never leave me behind and I will not leave her when she needs me the most.

Before you go, you may also like:

This is more than just about your guns…
How to survive any medical crisis situation with ease
10 Easy Steps to Secure your privacy
Secret Military Solution For Power Independence

DIY Unlimited water source
Why a food reserve is way better than the Federal Reserve
Lost Skills of our Ancestors that still work today

  When the SHTF and Nellie has Dementia Dementia is not just about forgetting things. Memory loss, confusion and incontinence are some of the earlier symptoms, but definitely not the only things


The phrase “guerrilla gardening” was first used in 1973 in New York City, when Liz Christie and her Green Guerrilla group transformed an empty private lot into a vegetable and flower garden for community use. While not legal it was not challenged, and eventually became part of the NYC Parks Department.

Guerrilla gardening today can be done for either personal benefit, or as a form of activism to draw attention to urban blight. In our case, I will discuss guerrilla gardening for survival.

I got the idea for a little guerrilla gardening last year, when I read this Survival Blog post and decided to give it a try in two places – my own backyard, and an abandoned farm not too far from home.

I had never grown field corn before last year, but in the mid-West you see it grown everywhere for cattle feed. In a TEOTWAWKI situation, being able to grow corn for your family would be vital their survival. Why? Because it’s easy to grow, packed with calories, and lasts for several years once harvested.

Here’s how to test the technique in the backyard:

  • Select the area of lawn to be converted to corn field. Make sure it is fenced in, or otherwise kept clear of pets and toddlers for a few days.

Do you have the skills you need to be your own source of food if the grid goes down??

  • Chop holes in rows every 12-18”, plant a couple of corn kernels about 1” deep, and cover with the chopped dirt. Water in the seeds, and the next day spray the whole area with glyphosate (Roundup) prepared as directed on the label. The grass dies before the seeds sprout, and within ten days the corn sprouts should be poking out. Thin the ranks once they get a couple of inches tall.
  • When the corn stalks get about a foot tall, plant two climbing bean seeds (like dried pinto beans from the grocery store) a few inches away from the stalk; the bean plants’ roots fix nitrogen in the soil for the corn-stalk, and the corn stalks provide support for the bean plants so they get more sunlight. Beans and corn together provide an excellent nutritional base of carbohydrates and protein. Also, if you can plant another set of bean seeds a couple of weeks before bean harvest time in late July/early August, you may be able to get a second crop harvested by corn harvest time in October/November.

By the end of the growing season, the grass and weeds rotted away, and I had an established garden area. I tried this on my lawn last year (on about 100 sq ft), and I was able to harvest 16 pounds of field corn, and 6 pounds of pinto beans, for a total of about 35,000 calories. Since my family of four needs about 8000 calories a day, I would need about 85 of these plots to cover their needs and have seed corn/beans for the following year. That’s only about 0.2 acres – smaller than most subdivision lots! If you were able to get a second crop of beans, that would provide you with calories to spare, or some extra beans to trade to your neighbors.

This was lawn in the spring of 2014, before converting to corn last year.

Naturally, in a SHTF scenario, I would like to plant more to account for bad weather (like the monsoon season we are having in lieu of summer this year!), infestations, or thievery by two and four-footed critters.

This is where the true guerrilla gardening comes in.

There is an abandoned farm at the end of our subdivision street. The rumor is that it is owned by the subdivision’s developer, but he is in jail on drug charges for a long time, and so any further development is in limbo. Maybe you have seen a similar fallow field or empty lot around your neighborhood that you could control if things go to hell.

An abandoned farm in our neighborhood

Residents occasionally hike through some parts of the farm, so there are trails that wind around the edge of the field, but the tall grass and thorny bushes stop most people from going through it – all the better for me.

Around the first of June, I put a bag of field corn, a hedge trimmer, and a bulb planter into my backpack, and took a little hike. I selected a patch of field that was mostly tall grass for ease of planting, and got to work. Although I was nervous as hell about getting caught, I chopped the grass as low as I could in a 15’ x 15’ square, and threw the grass to the side. Then I got busy with the bulb planter, punching holes in the dense grass root systems, and pushing in the corn seeds. The next day, I packed in a small sprayer loaded with glyphosate, and sprayed the whole area. Within two weeks, I had little rows of corn seedlings.   Yay, it worked! When they got about a foot tall, I planted the bean seeds as described.

That’s the good news, but here is the bad news – within a week, I noticed that the grass next the plot was flattened, and the tops of my little corn plants were being nipped. Deer! Those little bastards found the seedlings a tasty change of diet, and are doing their best to commandeer the crop.

So here is what I have learned –

Deer like to snack on corn and beans in bed (rear left).

  • It would be too expensive to fence my little plot now (about $100), and fencing would draw unwanted attention.
  • If I were to guerrilla garden post-TEOTWAWKI, I would do it with whatever surviving neighbors I could trust. We would use fencing acquired after the disaster, and/or take turns patrolling the field until the seedlings matured and were less tasty. This would also provide us an opportunity to hunt deer drawn to the plot, and put some fresh meat on the table. I have also heard that human urine is a natural deer repellent, but I haven’t tried it yet.
  • I need to stock up now, to be prepared to implement this plan.
    • Fifty pounds of feed corn costs about $5 at a feed supply store, should germinate adequately, and covers about an acre and a half. You could trade or give some to your trusted neighbors that will be part of your guerrilla gardening group.
    • 50 pounds of dried will complement the corn, and is good for eating if gardening doesn’t work out.
    • A variety of other garden seeds – tomatoes, cabbage, and other foods that can be kept/canned.
    • About a gallon of glyphosate and a couple of sprayers.
    • A couple of bulb planters, trowels and/or shovels.
    • Adequate firearms and ammo for guarding the crop and hunting deer.

While it is a little late in the season to expect to harvest, why not try it anyway soon near you? Better to learn now what works than later!

  The phrase “guerrilla gardening” was first used in 1973 in New York City, when Liz Christie and her Green Guerrilla group transformed an empty private lot into a vegetable and

Imagine this scenario: It’s the dead of winter. The ground is covered in snow, the temperature is below freezing during the daylight and worse after the sun goes down. Your power goes out. You’ve got water and a decent amount of food in storage, but your heat source went with the power and the temperature inside your dwelling is rapidly dropping. What can you do?

The best option, one that people have come back to time and again throughout history, is to fire up the stove. If you have a woodstove or wood cookstove, chances are you’ve never worried about this situation. If you lose power and have to rely on yourself for heat, all you need to do is grab a couple blocks of firewood, throw them in the stove, start a fire, and in no time at all your living space will be just as warm as with any other heat source. The difference, however, is that wood heat from cutting the tree to splitting and loading the wood is entirely your responsibility.

If you’ve got the time and energy, cutting your own firewood for the winter is one of the most rewarding aspects of living in a cold climate, both mentally and economically. There’s something to be said for the satisfaction of surviving the winter on your own terms: Gas, propane, electric they all require middle-men in some way or another. With wood heat, you have the option of gathering your own fuel and maintaining sole responsibility for how it’s burned and why, all at a cost that is far lower than that incurred by other heating methods.

But we’re not talking about just ordinary woodstoves, we’re talking about cookstoves. What’s the difference? Let’s go back to that scenario:

Your only source of heat is a stove, but what about preparing food? Sure, you can get by on the standards like canned goods, freeze-dried foods, MREs, etc. But when you’re looking at an extended period of time without access to proper power, you’ll want variety in order to avoid the very real issue of appetite fatigue. Survival isn’t just about getting the proper amount of nutrients into your body, it’s also about maintaining your sanity, and being able to cook food that actually tastes good will go a long way towards helping you hunker down for the long haul.

That’s where cookstoves come in.

A cookstove has two main features: A firebox and an oven. The firebox works essentially like a standard woodstove and, depending on the stove, will heat just as effectively. However, that heat and the smoke from the fire is also routed through an adjacent oven (in ways that vary between stove manufacturers), allowing you to bring the oven to a temperature that will effectively cook anything you want.


Most cookstoves even offer independent controls for each side, as well as a universal damper system for total control over how much heat- if any- you wish to allow into the stove. If you can cook it on a normal household stove, you can cook it on a cookstove via wood heat.

The advantages of a cookstove aren’t limited to personal warmth and cooking, though: Many cookstoves also offer options for domestic hot water. With steel coils installed in the firebox and connected to a water reservoir located on the stove (or remote tank, in some cases), a cookstove will also create hot water when in use. This technology operates on the basic principle that hot water rises and cold water falls, using absolutely no additional electronics, pumps, or pressure tanks. You heat up the stove, the stove heats up the water. It’s that simple.

Cookstoves are not a new invention by any means, and chances are if you’ve heard of them or seen one before, it was collecting dust or in a state of disrepair in the household of a family member from a previous generation. Wood cookstoves have a long history in America, but fell by the wayside as social and economic forces led coal to replace wood as the main source of energy in the early 1900s. Wood still has its drawbacks as an energy source, particularly if you’re not living near a forest, but for many the benefits far outweigh any issues and always have.

The Esse Ironheart Cookstove.

Wood is reliable, and that reliability has kept cookstoves on the market and improving over the years. Today’s cookstoves aren’t your grandma’s cookstove left over from the Great Depression: They are simple but robust pieces of technology built on generations of experience, and with proper maintenance, will keep burning and cooking for decades.

That reliability and self-containment is invaluable to anyone living the prepared life. You can take all manner of precautions against society and what will happen when the grid goes down, but you can’t survive mother nature without a consistent source of heat and food. If you’re a prepper living in the north, or anywhere with temperatures that regularly dip below freezing in the winter months, you need to prepare not only for a large-scale disaster, but for a seasonal one as well. Every year winter storms regularly knock out power for tens of thousands of citizens across the country, often for weeks at a time. Being snowed in without power or a way to restock supplies is still a part of life for many Americans in the winter, and if you’re relying on a third-party to provide your heat in such a situation, you run the very real risk of freezing to death. Keeping a cookstove around will not only alleviate that risk, but allow you to do so relatively comfortably.

As mentioned earlier, a cookstove will open up a variety of options in the event of the grid going down, but that’s not limited to how you prepare your already stored food. And it’s just as well, because no matter how you ration it that food will eventually run out. If you’re to survive through self-reliance and meet all the dietary needs of the human body, you’ll need to raise or hunt your own meat, and that meat will need to be cooked. The benefit of a cookstove here is that you won’t be using multiple devices to accomplish this- your heat source will also provide you with an efficient way of preparing your meat.

A cookstove will go a long way in itself to sustain a person, but if you can also cut your own firewood and kill or grow your own food, a cookstove will provide almost everything else you need. Regardless of whether you’re a prepper or just interested in living a bit more self-sufficiently, a cookstove offers enrichment and security for your life. And on those long, cold winter days in the more out-of-the-way parts of the land, you can’t ask for more.

Imagine this scenario: It’s the dead of winter. The ground is covered in snow, the temperature is below freezing during the daylight and worse after the sun goes down. Your


Many Prepper and survivalist web sites contain an abundance of material about the likelihood of gun confiscation in the aftermath of a major disaster. The general premise is that government agencies and/or military units will be going door to door after a declaration of martial law to forcibly deprive you of weapons and ammunition. You resist – you die, or end up in a prison cell on the back side of some undocumented FEMA camp in the middle of nowhere; or so the theory goes.

Unfortunately, the distinction between local or regional disasters, such as a hurricane or earthquake, and a wider SHTF or “end of the world as we know it” event, are rarely made. In any historic disaster that you can name, government has always continued to function at both the state and federal levels. A varied collection of mostly nameless bureaucratic agencies have always been able to respond to a recognized need. The degree to which they were timely in their response, or even effective, is not an issue. The point is that a constituted and functional government (the people who you think you elected), were responding to a recognized need because they had a political motivation or statutory obligation to do so.

Most frequently cited in Prepper articles is the warning that gun confiscation is an inevitable consequence of a declaration of martial law. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, law enforcement personnel were, in fact, going door to door to confiscate firearms. There were numerous highly qualified Search and Rescue teams that refused to go to New Orleans because they were not allowed to carry firearms for their own protection.

If the entire system were to suddenly go sideways, what is the probability of an enforceable martial law declaration, followed by gun confiscation? For example, if a solar coronal mass ejection (CME) event took out the entire national power grid could you realistically expect an army platoon to break through your front door in search of firearms, ammo and surplus food? I think not.

In order for martial law to be effective, you must first have a means of declaring it to the general populace. Second, you must have a means of enforcing it. The absence of either factor renders the declaration a moot point. Even without a means of communication, citizens will realize that a major catastrophe has happened. If there are no lights on at city hall, it won’t take a genius to figure out that civilization has gone south. Without a means of communication (TV, radio, Internet, posters on telephone poles, etc.) there is no way the general populace would know that martial law has been declared.

Second, if the command and control communications infrastructure has been disabled, government will have no ability to issue notifications or orders to law enforcement agencies (federal, state, county or local). By using the term “infrastructure,” I refer to computer based network communications, the ability to transmit communiqués via radio, the ability to contact and muster enforcement personnel, and essential coordination of resources. Stated a bit more directly, Fort Bliss will not dispatch a battalion of troops from the 1st Armored Division to Albuquerque, New Mexico (a distance of 225 air miles) to confiscate your firearms. They won’t be doing it in Humvees, M1-A1 tanks or Blackhawk helicopters. And they most assuredly won’t be on foot.

Finally, the enforcement of martial law (including gun confiscation) presupposes that county and local law enforcement personnel will be willing to carry it out on a national scale. It is one thing to suppress looters and arsonists, but requiring the military or state/county law enforcement to confiscate 350 million legally owned firearms is an entirely different proposition; especially if they are faced with determined resistance. Importantly, there are an increasing number of county sheriffs across the U.S. that have gone on record to refuse cooperation with federal initiatives that would lead to gun confiscation.

Doing house to house searches – whether vacant or occupied – is a very time-consuming and labor intensive process; not to mention the risks involved. Based on national averages, patrol officers number about 2 per 1,000 residents across the country. In rural communities, that number may be as low as one per thousand. In crime ravaged cities like Chicago, Washington DC and Baltimore, it can exceed four per thousand. When you consider housing and population density in urban areas, gun confiscation would be a daunting task to assign to any police force.

Excluding overseas deployments, the number of active duty Army and Marines in the contiguous U.S. is significantly less than 500,000. That is less than 1.5% of the entire population. The number of Army/Marine personnel that would be trained and equipped to deprive you of your personal defense weapons would actually be less than one per 10,000 population. Within a matter of days, every state-side military installation will be in the same situation that you will face: No gasoline, no diesel or jet fuel for vehicles or aircraft, no resupply for commissaries or mess halls, and no direction from the federal or state branches of government. They will be eating MREs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If the grid is down for you, it will be down for them, too. If you don’t have fuel, or if the semiconductor circuits in your vehicle have been fried, do you think the military will escape a similar fate? You can think of it as an ‘equal opportunity’ form of calamity.

A More Probable Scenario

In my view, the disintegration of government and the abandonment of Constitutional rule of law would rapidly lead to a collapse of civil order. Without a functioning government, looting, arson and home invasions would erupt within hours – if not minutes – in major population centers. Any form of effective law enforcement (civil or military) would quickly evaporate. Instead, as the realization that civilization as we know it has come to an end, local communities and individuals would institute their own versions of martial law, but in a distinctly reverse manner.

The important distinction is that communities would be relying on citizen’s firearms to prevent being overwhelmed by refugees and looters. In other words, if you are inside the compound or town limits, and have possession of a firearm, you will be a defensive asset to the community. Moreover, local law enforcement will likely be aiding your collective defense. The enemy will be on the outside of the barricade.

In a total SHTF scenario, I believe that you are far more likely to be engaged in defending your family, property or survival community from raiders than you would be from government-backed confiscators of your weapons. The more tangible danger is from a still-functioning government that has abandoned Constitutional rule of law.

  Many Prepper and survivalist web sites contain an abundance of material about the likelihood of gun confiscation in the aftermath of a major disaster. The general premise is that government


Whenever I meet preppers, I’m usually fascinated by their level of preparedness. The majority have ample supplies of food and water, weapons and the latest technological gizmos. However most seem to be failing to prepare their most indispensable asset, their body. You can have all the fancy gear money can buy but if you’re not able to run, climb a tree, jump over a fence and push that big boulder out-of-the-way, you ain’t gonna survive for long.

Why does a prepper need to be in good shape?

When the SHTF your normal routine will go bust and you’re gonna have to get that lazy ass of yours from off the sofa and start doing all sort of manual chores. From cranking that water pump to installing barricades to your house, everything takes a toll on your body. If you plan or are forced to Bug Out, the demands on your body will be even greater. You’ll have to walk for miles, usually with a heavy pack, full of your fancy equipment, and when looters get you in their targets, you’ll have to run with that pack. If they catch up with you, you have to fight your way out of it.

To me it seems obvious that a prepper should be in optimal physical shape. A prepper is a dormant soldier who has to spring into action when the need arises. So it comes as no surprise that a prepper should have similar physical capabilities as an active duty soldier.

How to make sure you are in shape?

There are several strategies you can adopt to make sure your body is at the same level of preparedness as the rest of your supplies and gear. The following is a guide to get you preppers in shape for a SHTF situation. I start from the very basics so that even the couch potato preppers amongst us can slowly but surely achieve this.

You don’t want to have your health working against you in an emergency.

If indeed you happen to be a couch potato you need to start slowly and build up gradually. Get into a routine of regular exercise (at least 3 times a week) and base your training on the principle of progression; i.e. making every workout more challenging than the previous one. Start with 30 minutes’ walk and each week add a few minutes. Once you are able to walk for more than an hour start increasing the intensity as well. You can do this by walking at a faster pace or by carrying some sort of weight such as a backpack (ideally your BOB, maybe with a reduced amount of equipment at first).

Once you feel comfortable with long walks at high intensity you can progress to incorporating short sections of running. Do not use any weight/backpack when you first start incorporating running. Each week increase the time/distance you spend running vis-à-vis the time/distance you spend walking. Once you start running relatively long sections you can start wearing your backpack. In a few months’ time you’ll be able to go for long runs with a decently sized backpack on your back. Your body is now ready to start other cardio exercises that increase stamina such as cycling, swimming, cross skiing…The options are endless.

Let’s take care of your upper and lower body strength

Now that you’ve got a good level of stamina and some lower body toning, it’s time to start putting on some muscle. You could enroll with a fitness center or set up a home gym in a room or garage. The decision simply boils down to your personal preferences, availability of space and current finances. Setting up a small home gym will require an initial investment of a few grand but there will be no annual fees to pay. You’ll also get to workout any time you want and there will never be a waiting time for using any particular piece of equipment. On the other hand a fitness club membership will only set you back a few hundred bucks but it has to be paid annually. You’re likely to have a larger variety of equipment at your disposal and there’s also the social aspect of attending a gym.

Irrespective of whichever approach you choose, here are a few of the key exercises you should be performing in order to gain overall strength and muscular endurance.

Upper body


  • Pull Ups
  • Bench Press
  • Military Press
  • EX Bar bicep curls
  • Dips on parallel bars
  • Decline sit ups


  • Lateral Pull Down
  • Chest Press
  • Seated Shoulder Press
  • Hammer Curls
  • Triceps push downs on cables
  • Crunches

Lower body


  • Weighted Squats
  • Dead-lifts
  • Weighted Seated Calf Raises


  • Air Squats
  • Leg Curls
  • Standing Calf Raises

Raising the bar- getting Rambo ready

After several months of doing cardio activity (running, cycling, etc…) and strength exercises, you can progress to more challenging activities which are very rewarding and also provide a lot of functional strength and endurance. Functional strength and endurance is a fitness concept whereby you improve your physical abilities and at the same time get your body used to doing activities that help you in your everyday life, job, or in our case in a SHTF scenario.

Such functional benefits can be achieved from exercise routines such as Cross Fit and HIIT, which apart from the normal weight training exercises also include jumping up and down from boxes, throwing and slamming medicine balls, flipping tires, climbing ropes, swinging kettle-bells, hammering with sledgehammers and several others. These exercises mimic directly or indirectly activities a prepper could be doing in a SHTF situation. Attending combat classes such as kick boxing, Muay Tai and MMA is another good alternative. These classes typically include very intense physical exercise. Apart from that, being competent in unarmed combat is another feather on your prepper’s hat.

Test yourself

Once you have achieved a good level of physical fitness and the required mental attitude to go with it, you could give yourself a ‘trial run’ and subscribe to an adventure / fitness race such as the Men’s Health Urbanathlon, Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest or Tough Mudder. The basis of such endurance challenges is a run of several km (usually 10km-15km) combined with numerous obstacles which range from crossing ice ponds on monkey bars to running across high voltage wires. Few activities could get you as mentally and physically prepared for a SHTF situation as these challenges.

The bottom line

Start investing on your physical fitness now and make sure that you and your family can depend on your stamina and strength if the need ever arises. Make sure you could jump over that wall to take cover from the barrage of bullets coming your way and lift that downed electricity pole to free your trapped son. Being in good physical shape will also come handy in your everyday life. So are you ready to start your journey to being the sexiest prepper in town?

  Whenever I meet preppers, I’m usually fascinated by their level of preparedness. The majority have ample supplies of food and water, weapons and the latest technological gizmos. However most seem

In this article we are going to discuss different methods of securing your home or business in areas that tend to have higher crime rates than some other areas. On our community we often spotlight areas and analyze crime statistics to try and be solution orientated as to a relevant solution.

City Life

Areas that do have high levels of crime such as burglary, theft and criminal damage are these days unfortunately commonplace and the statistics tend to increase if you live in a city. This is obviously due to the higher population but in my opinion there are many other factors to be considered when looking at this cold hard fact such as poverty, availability of work, education and housing. But alas this is not a political or economic article, it is merely meant to give advice on how to improve your home security intelligently without sticking out like a sore thumb.

Trip Wires

Protecting your home in these areas can be quite difficult and is definitely not straight forward. Aggressive technique can sometimes have a back firing effect. Simply trying to improve security in the wrong way or as mentioned above, using aggressive techniques can make you the target of criminals or thieves who simply have too much time on their hands to test out your new 12 camera CCTV system and 10 feet proximity alarm with added trip wires. This is obviously stretching out an example of a paranoid setup but the point is to try and attain a balance between security needs and having a practical solution to securing your home.

BS3621 vs 5 Lever Locks

First of all you should look at what you have mechanically first. Do you have 5 lever sash or dead locks in your main exit doors? This is a requirement for most insurance companies but sometimes people overlook the BS3621 part of this area and just go ahead and get a 5 lever lock. The problem with this is that the non BS3621 models rarely come with the required extras to make this grade such as anti drill plates, anti pick curtains, minimum bolt throws of 20mm and additional testing of the lock itself to make sure it makes the grade. This grading can be found by the BS3621 stamp found on the faceplate of the lock itself. Ensuring you adhere to the BS3621 will ensure that you are protected against these methods of entry and also a very subtle way of improving your security.


Windows come in a few different forms; the most common are sash and casement windows. One of the main forms of entry of a criminal is through the windows. Ensuring that you fit window locks is key to preventing this and also can provide some added benefits outside that. For Instance, fitting window restrictors can reduce the chance of someone opening the window from the outside but also will help if you have children around the home and need to secure a second floor window. Window stops can also achieve the same effect while stopping the window from being completely open, leaving a gap of around maximum 4 inches would be sufficient.

Having closed circuit TV camera’s on your home can alert you to intruders.


Having recorded images and video of criminal activity can be extremely useful when it comes to prosecution of criminals in court. What I would like to stress is not to overdo it. If you think this system would benefit you, time really should be spent on thinking about the area of installation, model and components you will need. We recommend checking the IP rating and Lux rating of the CCTV camera to see how it will perform in rough weather conditions and during the night time hours. Placement of the camera should be out of sight from passersby but visible when close by if possible. Adding 1 or 2 pieces of CCTV signage will work wonders as a visual deterrent but please don’t overdo it as you will certainly bring attention to your home or business for the wrong reasons.

Access Control

These types are of systems are soon becoming commonplace and will replace older style mechanical locking solutions. At the moment we are in a bit of purgatory and manufacturers have been designed models to work standalone but also to work in conjunction with mechanical systems rather than straight up replacements for front and back doors. We design a wide range of access control systems and our specialists speak to customer’s everyday regarding this interesting type of security. In areas that tend to have higher crime rates these models will unfortunately be less effective though and you are much better off relying on a high quality mechanical 5 lever lock to take care of your security unless you are looking to have them work in conjunction with each other in which case your security would be improved two fold.

In this article we are going to discuss different methods of securing your home or business in areas that tend to have higher crime rates than some other areas. On

As you begin to think about preparing your family for a survival type of scenario there are a lot of important considerations. Do you have enough food stored up to keep your family fed and healthy during the length of any disruption? Do you have adequate water stores and a plan for resupplying that water and disinfecting it? Certainly firearms are considered as well as a plan for security in your home, but what if your plans are to bug out? If you have analyzed your situation and the plan for you and your family if the SHTF is to Get out Of Dodge (G.O.O.D) then you are going to need a vehicle most likely. Today we are going to talk about all of the different options, choices and considerations for your own personal Get out Of Dodge Vehicle.

Vehicle Type Options

Most of us aren’t going to be able to swing the totally awesome Conquest Knight XV pictured above unless we win the lottery or you are independently wealthy. Actually, I don’t know how much one of these costs because the website says “Price: will be provided privately”. I assume that means the same thing as if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. There is a chance that you could stumble upon an abandoned Hummer full of weapons like Columbus and Tallahassee did in this scene below from Zombieland, but I kind of doubt that too.

For the rest of us we have to be a little more practical, so extremely expensive vehicles and found jackpots of Zombie survival booty aside, let’s look at our options.

Truck – A truck is a solid choice for a Bug Out Vehicle and offers a lot of advantages. For starters, trucks are so common you can’t help but find a truck out there and they have plenty of uses even outside of an emergency. Trucks have a bed that can be just as useful for hauling supplies to your retreat location or your survival kit as it can a new washing machine home from Lowes. An important consideration with any bug out vehicle is the best ones have 4 wheel drive so that if the need arises to go off-road, you will be prepared.

If you are considering the very real potential threat of EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) you will want to get a truck that doesn’t have an electronic ignition. 1986 and older trucks fit the bill nicely and come with a lower price tag. Of course, you will be looking at a truck that has very high mileage and mechanical issues in most cases, but the price you are going to spend for this truck is much less than a newer truck so some of your money can go to refurbishing your new Get Out Of Dodge vehicle. I would make sure to have the engine rebuilt or replaced if the mileage is really high. The transmission would be the next logical place to put your money. I wouldn’t worry about the paint job or interior trim niceties until your major mechanical systems were almost as good as new.

Along with 4 wheel drive, a quad or crew cab will give you extra room for people or storage. An older truck with a quad cab and 4 wheel drive won’t be as easy to find as an old Ford Ranger, but it is worth it to look around. Use Craigslist to find good deals and you might have to be willing to travel up to 50 miles away to find a diamond in the rough. They are out there.

SUV – SUV’s are actually easier to find used and cheaper than trucks. This is because trucks can always be used for work while SUV’s are primarily a family vehicle. Another and more obvious reason is gas mileage. With gas prices over $4 a gallon in many locations people are unloading them to downsize to more fuel efficient vehicles. SUV’s suck a lot of gas obviously, but they do have some advantages that trucks don’t without modifications.

First, the entire vehicle is already covered so there is no need to buy a camper shell. This can give you more security for your supplies; you don’t have to worry about your spare food or weapons getting stolen as easily as out of the back of a truck. You can also sleep in the back of most SUV’s if you remove the seats and have that same covering over your head. SUV’s usually have a 4 wheel drive option on the dash but their off-roading abilities are not as substantial as you might think. Your typical SUV is a lot heavier than a truck but in some cases this is an advantage. If you have to plow through a roadblock of stuck cars, an SUV would be the better option in that case.

As with trucks you want to shoot for an older model with 4 wheel drive and spend your extra money on rebuilding the engine and transmission. You may be able to get rid of any third row seating to free up storage space.

Surplus Military – This is a very interesting option but not one that your average suburbanite is going to go for. For the same amount of money you can find used military vehicles that would make excellent bug out vehicles, but would certainly be a lot more noticeable by your neighbors unless you lived in a very remote location or a military base. If OPSEC is a concern (and it should be) then a military surplus vehicle wouldn’t be the first choice but should be considered. There is a great amount of options for vehicles and other military surplus from the Government Liquidation website and you could walk away with incredible deals. Make sure you research the terms of sale first. You may win a giant tanker truck that isn’t operable yet and it would be your responsibility to take it off the lot.

There are great deals to be had if your wife is ok with you parking a 5-ton camouflaged truck in the driveway while you wait for a disaster to happen. These vehicles are already set up for off-road ability and are made to take a beating. Spare parts would be hard to come by though in a grid-down scenario. The spare parts issue alone is one strong reason to choose an older American made truck or SUV.

Motorcycle – I don’t own a motorcycle but I have ridden them before. A common thread in survival forums and literature is the horde of motorcycle gangs rolling into town and killing and raping the women. This may happen, but if I had to choose a vehicle to roll into a potentially hostile town, it would not be a motorcycle. That’s just me.

Motorcycles have advantages in that they are pretty good on gas, can be hidden easily and if equipped right, can be ridden off road. They are also able to zip between cars stopped in traffic. At least until someone opens their door. Motorcycles lack shelter though and you can’t carry a lot of people or equipment on a motorcycle. You are exposed to the elements and this means heat and cold. You are basically toast if you have a wreck and motorcycles can fall over easily in any type of snow or rain.

I will add that it may be handy to know how to ride a motorcycle though. You never know if you might need to hop on one to escape a situation. They aren’t completely useless, but as I said, they wouldn’t be my first choice.

Animals – Horses would make a good bug out “vehicle” in certain situations also. I would not want to try and get out of the city on a horse and like motorcycles; they can’t carry a lot of supplies or other people. I know two people can ride a horse, but the more you load on a horse, the slower they will go and will need more rest. Horses have to be fed also, but as long as there is grass to eat and water to drink they should be fine. The elements are another factor with the horse as with a motorcycle.

Bikes – A bike is able to carry a decent amount of weight considering what you are looking at and only requires you to power it. A touring bike with saddle bags would be able to carry you and some supplies but like motorcycles and horses you are exposed to the elements, they are unstable and aren’t recommended for heavy duty bug out scenarios. If you can get a jump on the crowd and your retreat has all of your prepping supplies, a bike with saddle bags may be a good option.

Fuel Options – The most common options are Gas and diesel. I know there are propane and hybrid technologies, but you can’t siphon propane out of anyone’s tank. Batteries aren’t good options in an end of the world scenario so between diesel and gas, which is better? It does depend on the age of the vehicle and the equipment you are running. In very general terms, in older vehicles diesel is preferred for its mileage and durability of the engine. Diesel engines typically deliver 20- to 40-percent better fuel economy than comparable gasoline engines doing the same amount of work. A diesel engine with 400000 miles is nothing odd and Diesels have extra torque and more pulling power.

Bio-diesel is another option, but must be created in a lab. OK, the lab can be your kitchen, but it isn’t as easy as the pump. The process is supposed to be simple and there are sites and plans for this as well. In a total collapse I would give this one a shot, but for now I would store up several hundred gallons of regular gas or diesel. It’s just simpler for the average bear.

Another interesting option and one I would pursue if I had a workshop, the time and a more mechanical mind would be wood gasification. Wood gasifiers can power either spark ignition engines, where 100% of the normal petrol can be replaced with little change to the carburation, or in a diesel engine, feeding the gas into the air inlet that is modified to have a throttle valve, if it didn’t have it already. All you need is wood to burn and you are all set. I have seen a lot of claims and even plans online for how to retrofit a regular engine to run on gassification. Again, this would be at the end of the world before I would try this. To simply get out of dodge I would want a simpler solution.

Post Collapse Considerations

Since we are talking about fuel we should talk about how you are going to ensure you have or can procure the fuel you need after a disaster or collapse of society. Prior to the collapse, you should have enough fuel stored at all times either in your vehicle or on your property to get you to your retreat location. I would say double this amount just to be safe because you may have to take alternate routes or be delayed in traffic. The last thing you want is to run out of gas half way between your home and your bug out location with gas stations that are either out of gas or are unable to get to the gas due to a power outage.

A simple hand pump is an easy way to recover fuel from abandoned vehicles.

One simple rule of thumb is to never let your gas gauge get below half a tank. This will ensure you are never on empty when some disaster strikes. You can focus on getting back home to your family and not waiting in line at a gas station. If you remember hurricane Sandy, they started rationing gas almost immediately and there were lines of people queued up to fill their 5 gallon cans for their generators. You don’t want to be in that line. My sister in-law was visiting from out of town and we were talking one time and the subject of keeping the tank at least half-full came up. She said “well, that wouldn’t get me home if I was at your house and I only had half a tank” to which I replied, “maybe not, but you would get 200 miles closer”. I think that made her consider things differently.

There will always be the possibility that no matter how you planned, you may still need to get gas. Siphoning from another gas tank is pretty simple. Just make sure you have several feet of garden hose or plastic tubing. I prefer clear plastic tubing that you can get at any hardware store because you can see when the gas is coming out and avoid a mouthful of nastiness.

A manual hand pump and about 15 feet of hose or tubing would allow you to tap into fuel tanks buried under gas stations in an emergency. Depending on your route this may be something you want to plan for.

Modifications and Upgrades

What is the best thing about buying a bugout vehicle? Tricking it out with all sorts of modifications of course! Once you have a vehicle that is running well, free of any mechanical defects and you are confident it will get you where you are going, its time to accessorize!

Off road tires – This is a no-brainer but the tires should match your environment. If most of your driving is on the highways, I would tone this option down a little and try to strike a good balance between functionality and common sense. Giant knobby tires are perfect for the mud bog, but if you have to drive 500 miles on the highway with a short dirt road to your retreat maybe you don’t need these.

Bumper Guard – Bumper guards pull double duty as protecting the front of your vehicle, holding additional lights and equipment like winches. If money were no object I would go with a Warn Industries package.

Winches – as mentioned above, these are normally incorporated into a reinforced bumper guard and will give you the ability to pull your vehicle or another vehicle out of a stuck situation. If your buddy sinks his old jeep in the mud, you can hook up to his bumper and pull him out from the dry safety of the river bank. Don’t forget towing straps too so even if you don’t have a winch, you can potentially pull your buddy out of a ditch.

Additional Fuel Bladders – These can be as simple as throwing some additional 5-gallon tanks in the back or as complex as augmenting your entire fuel system. For a truck, I would consider an extra fuel container that also doubles as a tool box in the back for maximum fuel capacity. This could give you almost 100 gallons of capacity and a lot of range.

Trailer – When you want to carry all of your food and shelter and supplies, the easiest way to increase your capacity is to hook a trailer up to the back but make sure you know how to back that trailer up. Used trailers can be found for a few hundred dollars and there aren’t that many moving parts to go bad. Ensure the wheel bearings are in good shape and packed with grease and your tires have plenty of tread left on them. When you aren’t hauling all of your supplies to your retreat you can help your friend get a load of mulch in the spring!

Rooftop Cargo Carriers – a lot of vehicles come with a basic luggage rack, but a more substantial cargo carrier can give you storage options on the top of your truck or SUV.

Hopefully, that gives you some inspiration and ideas about your Get Out Of Dodge Vehicle. If you have anything to add, please comment below. Happy shopping!

As you begin to think about preparing your family for a survival type of scenario there are a lot of important considerations. Do you have enough food stored up


When you own a long-range shotgun, it’s all about taking those perfect, accurate shots. But it’s not always easy, not even if you’re a seasoned shooter, but especially if you’re a novice. So mounting a scope on your rifle seems like the obvious and easy solution, but it might not actually be as easy as you thought. Unless you are zeroing your rifle scope before you count on it to help you hit the target, there’s no use if firing a single shot. So here are a few tips and tricks on how to do that, with very little effort or time involved.

Defining the process

First of all, zeroing your rifle scope simply means adjusting your sights so that you can hit with precision the target you have in mind when firing from a given distance. Speaking of distance, it varies depending on the type of shooting you’re doing, the caliber you are using, the scope adjustment unit of measurement and, last but not least, on your personal preferences.

Normally, the shorter the distance the easier it is to zero your scope, keep it that way and shoot your target with maximum accuracy. This is because on a shorter distance, the point of impact is less affected by external variables. A short-range here means approximately 100 yards. A longer one of, let’s say 300 yards, will be a lot more difficult to shoot and it will actually render your scope pointless on the long run. Which is to say that you need to zero it all over again, after each shoot, because the external variables have changed.

Setting up your scope

This is the first step you need to take in the whole process of zeroing the scope on your shotgun. First and foremost, adjust the eyepiece, which is the rear lens of the scope. This part can actually be rotated in order to focus your eye on the reticle. Don’t forget to do this, as you need a perfectly sharp reticle when it comes to long-range shooting. It will also help to look at your target solely through the reticle and not with your naked eye, or, worse, to keep shifting your gaze at it between the reticle and the naked eye, which leads to unnecessary eyestrain. When the image is crisp and clear, you will know you have gone through this step correctly.

You also need to level the cross-hair. It’s probably best if you mount the shotgun on a stand, so that it can be held in a steady position. You need its stock to be level and square to the ground. Rotate the cross-hair so that the vertical one is right in the center. If it helps, you can imagine a line running through the cross-hair that also runs directly through the center of your rifle. Certain adjustments can be made later on as well, but it’s a very important step to get it correctly aligned now, before you tighten it down.

Testing the scope

After you mounted and properly adjusted the scope on your shotgun, the best way to test it is to head out to the shooting range, where you can shoot it safely and repeatedly. It’s also easier to measure the distances and the backstops while you’re there, as opposed to being out in the open, for example.

Here are some tips and tricks for practicing at the range while testing your scope:

  • Practice on a bulls-eye custom-made for zeroing. They normally have many measurements, which will make the adjustments very accurate.
  • Study those measurements thoroughly after each shot, in order to determine how “off” you were. Only by doing this will you be able to tell what you need to do next and if you’re improving or not.
  • Always follow the rules and regulations of the range you’re shooting at. This will help you develop a correct shooting technique.
  • Mount the gun on a rest. Although you might be tempted to hold the rifle yourself, remember the ideal way of shooting with high accuracy is when the rifle is securely locked on a rest. This eliminates user-error or slight trembling of the hand.

Choosing a scope

And last, but not least, be careful when you select your scope. All the steps mentioned above will come to nothing if you have the wrong scope. There are many great rifle scopes you could go with, so here are some pointers to help you choose.

  • Don’t go over the top. Indeed, the technology used for making shotgun scopes keeps getting better and better every year, producing bigger and more accurate scopes all the time. But that doesn’t mean you have to choose those ones. Remember the simple rule of not buying a Ferrari just so you can go grocery shopping. Choose the one right for your eyes, your prey, your shotgun and the distance you’re shooting from.
  • Do your homework on technical details. This is the easiest and surest way to know which scope is best for your needs. You need to find out and learn that, in a 3-9X40 scope, 3 means three power. The image you’ll be seeing through your scope will be magnified three times. The nine means 9 power, or 9 time, 9X closer than you see it with your naked eye. You can find many articles and tutorials online with a simple search.
  • Understand a rifle scope’s anatomy and learn the terminology. Although it might look simple at a first glance, a scope is actually a complicated and delicate piece of equipment, made up of many intricate parts. Take knowledge on your side and find them out. You will want to learn about the eye piece, the ocular lens or the eye relief. If you don’t choose a proper eye relief, for example, you might get a black eye. Why? Because if the eye relief you’ve selected doesn’t allow for much space between your face and your gun, the recoil will hit you right in the eye. These are all things you should know before getting into the business.

So there you have it; some easy ways in which you can make zeroing your shotgun’s scope fun and less time-consuming. And with hunting season in full swing, we definitely need this advice.

  When you own a long-range shotgun, it’s all about taking those perfect, accurate shots. But it’s not always easy, not even if you’re a seasoned shooter, but especially if you’re

If we want to be successful at gardening or raising crops, and most of us do, there are some things that can make us much more efficient and successful. Explaining potential ways to maintain a seed book and field/yield notes takes a lot longer than actually doing it, happily. Both tracking seeds and their results and separating seeds in storage can help limit some of the pains and aggravations of gardening. In some cases, being able to look something up or have a backup set of seeds can have major impact on our success, which in some situations might mean the difference between thriving and barely scraping by.

Tracking Seeds & Results

Notebooks are something most gardeners would benefit from. It’s not just for big growers and stock keepers. Consider a ledger your memory – because very rarely can our minds be relied on, especially if we have multiple companies’ offerings and multiple varieties of seeds.

Ideally, we also keep notes at least during key periods of the year. How many little green things popped up out of roughly how many seeds?

I like binders so that I can add a page for each successive year after I collect seeds, and so that I can add to my radish and squash/melon collection easily. Somebody with good backing-up procedures who aren’t worried about an EMP and who have a little solar charger for a tablet might be happier just making an Excel or Access chart. I know a guy who uses copier paper and the little report folders from green-sign Dollar Stores, keeping plant classes separated a little as he expands. A woman does the same, but hers are divided into ideal planting months for her climate. Lots of ways to tailor a seed book.

Regardless of what form our ledger is in, it’s there to tell us how seeds of certain cultivars and from certain companies respond to our soil, the climate and weather, and our culture practices (growing schemes).

Specifics to track in a binder

A basic seed book contains quick-reference information about our seeds, the information provided about them that tells us how to plant them and when. We do it for each variety by each supplier and each year, and ideally also have pages for our saved seeds from them, because all romaine lettuce and roma tomato seeds are not created equal.

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners

Ideally, we also keep notes at least during key periods of the year. How many little green things popped up out of roughly how many seeds? How many grew up into strong plants? What fertilizers and treatments did we put out that might be affecting them? We also track climate conditions our little darlings survived, weekly or monthly – or during an extreme event. Hot and dry? Cool? Super wet season? Lots of wind?

Include notes about biotic conditions, too. How many bees are we seeing, and compared to previous years and bumper/bummer crop years? How many vegetarian creepy crawlies? Carnivorous buggaboos? Bats? Swallows? Crows? Was there a tragedy involving a border collie and a ball (or an idiot and a truck) that *possibly* affected a variety this year?

Include our feelings after we eat the produce (which is one place a dry-erase or chalkboard in a kitchen can be huge). Did we actually like the flavor of what we grew, or are we going to stand there with our eyes clenched closed trying to remember which one of those tomatoes/squashes was soft and kind of grainy and which was the most perfect thing we’ve ever put in our mouths?

The quick-list for a seed book:

  • Seeds – cultivar, provider/manufacturer, days to harvest, spacing needs, seeding rate, planting dates, hot-cold sensitivity, drought/disease resistance
  • Germination rate
  • Plant health
  • Weather
  • Insects and animal activity
  • Amendments and treatments used
  • Yields (by cultivar and by location if micro-climates differ)
  • Taste/texture and use preferences

Ideally in a format that can be quickly and easily accessed during planning and evaluation phases before and after each year’s crop seasons.

A seed book might also contain generic information like:

It’s ideally in a format that can be quickly and easily accessed during planning and evaluation phases before and after each year’s crop seasons. Too many books and bookmarked sites, and it gets hard to have it all accessible on a kitchen table for easy consumption.

Using notes for planning & evaluation

A well-kept notebook can help us identify trends, and from that successful cultivars. It’s too easy to forget that something happened, and it’s too difficult to accurately judge productivity of peas if we’re not keeping track of harvest even just by using pint jars and baskets and colanders as our measure.

For kitchen garden and egg tracking, I find it easiest to stick a $2 Ollie’s dry erase board and a map pen by my kitchen door. That’s where stuff gets dropped, anyway. I can see it and note it immediately, while I suck down my ice water or sandwich, or when I move to dealing with it. I use a birdwatcher’s pocket notebook for large-scale crops going into drying bins, cellars, and curing sheds.

I find it easiest to stick a $2 Ollie’s dry erase board and a map pen by my kitchen door.

Then there are a few minutes then spent transferring the information to the specific seed/variety pages and to this year’s overall harvest pages later.

Seems like a lot of work?

It can be, and initial setup can take some time – a good winter or blazing-hot afternoon project. Once it becomes habit, it’s just adding tick marks on a chart of crops in rows and columns with the harvest size – individual fruit, pint, gallon, quarter-bushel – and a note that berries are getting nibbled on out there, then on with washing and sorting and processing.

Fast and easy enough, since I don’t want to waste more money on things that aren’t producing well, and I’d rather concentrate on things that we eat – especially if I’m hoping to make a dent in groceries off all this time and labor. Compared to weeding a conventional garden or suckering tomatoes, maintaining yield and field notes takes no time at all.

Our seed books also let us pre-plan our gardens without dragging all our seeds in and out of their nice, stable environment and exposing them to moisture and temperature fluctuation.

Once we have a notebook, we can also easily keep our printed/drawn garden and field plans – with notes right on them in some cases. That’s one more tool in our arsenal for future planning and identifying if and what went wrong.

If we don’t have previous years’ layouts and our yield notes, we don’t have the ability to study what went right and what went wrong, what plants followed each other and were near each other, or to act on it in the future. If we can’t identify which variety/varieties produced those bumper and bummer crops, we’re doomed to repeatedly plant the wrong one – or we might be looking for a condition that’s causing a change, rather than quickly identifying that it’s a particular seed type that’s varying plot to plot or year to year.

A good binder helps us in a lot of ways.

Segregated and Backup Seed Stocks

I separate seeds by type and season, especially if they’re being stored in a fridge or freezer. That way, when I’m frost sowing, early spring sowing, and summer sowing, I’m only exposing one set to condensation and moisture. Likewise, I separate my herbs and my longer-season carrots and rutabagas, because they’re only coming out twice, whereas my greens and radishes may come out to get planted and replanted 4-10 times a year. I don’t want to expose plants I don’t have to, and limiting their exposure to accidents can only be considered a good thing.

It’s also a time saver. I have multiple gallon Ziplocs of my “small crop” seeds and there are additional paper bags of beans, corn, some squashes, and peas. Sorting through individual packets in a box, larger bags, or bucket to grab the 5-20 packets I want for today can take longer than planting them.

Granted, inspiration can strike when a packet wings out at you, but for the most part, we want to get in and get done.

Backups are good. I also segregate by 2-3 year spans, and keep backups that are not coming out into the kitchen for pre-staging or out into the garden with me. That way grubby fingers don’t affect those backups, and if a cup of tea spills or there is a snafu involving slick, wet mud or a hose, I don’t expose every seed I have and end up needing to plant it all, now, or losing it because I can’t dry it effectively to re-store.

We backup data on our computers. We keep backups of important documents in our bags and vehicles and offsite. We keep and sometimes carry a backup firearm or an EDC kit. We have backup smoke and CO detectors. (Or we should – for all of them.) Some of us maintain studs or backup studs for livestock, or know where we can run in an emergency and secure one.

Seeds are no different. Because sometimes, seeds or whole plant strains end up wrecked.

Wrecked seeds are a bummer. Moisture or bugs get to them in storage, maybe they weren’t as dry as we thought when we bagged or jarred them and they mildewed, or they might have crossed, which we won’t know for six months or a year*.

(*The parent plant determines the shape of the fruit and the seeds inside. The pollen from a different squash variety can be hidden deep inside that seed, and it won’t show up at first. We might find out that we have weak plants early in a season, but we might not find out that we have only thin shells of “meat” or something more like a loufa or gourd until fruits grow and are harvested and cut open to consume – same deal with a lot of seeds, broccoli to corn to beans.)

We combat the chance of having seeds wrecked between harvest and planting, and the chance of a hybrid we don’t know about for a year, by keeping two or three sets of our seeds. One set we hope we’re planting out. One set we’re caching somewhere safe and holding onto for at least an extra year or two. That way if this year’s seed-saving doesn’t go so hot or if our spring planting reveals a problem with the previous autumn’s crop, we can revert back to a 2-3 year-old source that we have faith in.

Tracking and Separating Seeds

There are probably people more than capable of keeping track without a stock book or ledger for plants or livestock. Most of us can use the memory aid. Try it for a year or two, go simple with it, and if it’s not working for you, ditch it. I think a lot of gardeners will find that maintaining a seed book is helpful, even if they don’t go whole-hog with planning sheets and segregating seeds for efficiency. Maintaining backup stock to saved seeds is something I think everyone should be doing. If not for everything (I don’t backup everything) then for the best performers and severe-weather crops we count on.

If we want to be successful at gardening or raising crops, and most of us do, there are some things that can make us much more efficient and successful. Explaining

How many of you woke up to prepping before anyone else around you did? As I have shared on the pages of Final Prepper before, I started getting into Prepping back in 2008. There were no specific events that I can think of that made me start prepping, but the financial crash probably played into my overall concern. As I tried to learn as much as possible about the threats to our society that I had previously been completely ignorant of I became more and more troubled about how my family would fare if various disasters happened. I guess you could say that I started thinking about my family at that time from a different perspective.

It was for me an awakening to a world that posed far more threats than I had thought about ever in my life. I was happy to go along as are most people thinking that sure bad things do happen but never to me. I started to look at my family and how simple disruptions in supplies could leave them without food. Realizing the number of things that I had taken for granted hit me like a ton of bricks so I started researching everything prepping or survival related I could get my hands on.

In the beginning of my journey to becoming a prepper, I focused mainly on internet sites. That led me to books and my first book was John Lofty Wiseman’s “SAS Survival Handbook”. I purchased this book because at the time my vision of survival was being stranded in the wilderness. Since that time my thoughts and perspective have changed, but the information in this book was invaluable and led my mind in other directions as well.

All of my research was filling my head with ideas and potential scenarios to plan and prepare for but my wife was almost completely unaware of what I was thinking. By the time I got the nerve to talk to her about everything I was worried about, and what I planned to do about it, I was pretty worked up. Instead of subtly trying to convince her or making a compelling and rational case for doing anything I blurted out a whole list of problems and conspiracies at bedtime when she was settling in for the night. Needless to say it didn’t go over well and my wife thought I had lost my mind.

At this point I had ruined one opportunity to get my wife on board with prepping but I was not deterred. I planned to keep working on her but it would take some time. Meanwhile, driven by my new belief and compelled to action I began to prep without her knowing.

Cater to their intellect

My wife is a smart woman so if I was going to spend any money it had to be on things she saw value in. I had to figure out how to prepare without giving her my deep down reasoning behind the need. We pretty much agree on just about any purchases we make although I get an allowance and she gets her own allowance so a lot of my prepping supplies were purchased through my monthly stipend. There were some items that I was able to prep by convincing her of their necessity for a very common and real event; power outages.

Some of the purchases I was able to make like a Kerosene heater and candles and lanterns were directly related to a winter storm. We had experienced lots of people we knew who had gone without power for weeks after winter storms and our children were much smaller back then. I was prepping for power outages, but I never mention prepping. I was stocking up with supplies that would see us through a disaster but my wife was only thinking about keeping our young children from freezing. I removed the psychological barrier to the word prepping or survival and just let her consider how best to keep her children warm in the middle of winter without any power. This didn’t have anything to do with government conspiracies, it was simple common sense and allowed me to kill two birds with one stone. I was prepping and she knew about these purchases I was making but in her mind it was different or at least perfectly logical.

Almost any prepping supply has dual use

A lot of my prepping supplies were purchased with the stated reason of a camping trip. I told my wife that I wanted to take the family backpacking and she thought that would be fun. She didn’t know that I was getting bug out bags, sleeping gear, food preparation tools, water filtration and cold weather gear. Of course I was, but I wasn’t prepping again, I was purchasing items for the family vacation! No problem!!

Majorities of prepping items have dual use and if you can frame why you are purchasing them in a way that has nothing on the surface anyway to do with prepping you might get less push back. My water filter for camping would also work in a bug out bag or grid down scenario. Our sleeping bags could keep us warm if we lost power or were forced to leave home but were purchased to keep us comfortable in the woods on our trip. Speaking of leaving home, the tents provided our shelter too that would keep us sheltered on the trip and additionally when we bugged out.

Food has a single use, but stocking up on extra food is almost uniquely a prepper identified trait. The way I got around this was by framing bulk purchases as saving money on our food budget. This doesn’t work on everything but I got a Sam’s membership several years back and started buying food we routinely use in bulk. This way I was able to save money (on most items) and I could tell my wife that I was just taking advantage of the awesome savings on 10 can rolled tubes of chunk tuna. I bought 25 pound bags of sugar, big bags of flour, bottles of honey and salt because these were all staples that we use daily. I could do the same thing with ketchup and pasta and even aluminum foil. My wife went along with the purchases because she thought they were a bargain, but I was building up stores of food we could eat off of for much longer than a normal trip to the grocery store.

Use the news

Was my wife really falling for my arguments? Probably not entirely, but I gave her plausible excuses to buy the rationale for my purchases. At the same time all of this was going on I would mention current disasters that were happening anywhere in the world and casually say things like “that would be horrible to go through that and not have any food, wouldn’t it?” when watching the latest disaster somewhere in the world.  At the same time on our backpacking trips I was letting my family experience bugging out and they didn’t even know it. They were learning to carry bug out bags through the woods, make fires with our Swedish fire steel, filter drinking water and cooking over a fire.

Often I think that people only object to prepping (assuming money is not a problem) when they believe that the prepping supplies only have a use in the highly rare event of a disaster. Most people don’t like thinking a disaster can happen in the first place, much less want to potentially waste money on something they believe is unlikely at best and crazy at worst. I still maintain that as someone who is interested in Prepping you have a duty to prepare and provide for your family or the people you plan to be responsible for in a disaster scenario. I hope the advice above doesn’t come across as dishonest and I wouldn’t be combative about anything you are trying to convince your wife or husband that is important to you. You can still prepare without the reason being zombies. You can still take steps to be ready for emergencies if you go about this in a little more stealthy way.

Hopefully this will give some ideas. I’d love to hear how you prepped if your spouse or significant other was against it.

How many of you woke up to prepping before anyone else around you did? As I have shared on the pages of Final Prepper before, I started getting into Prepping back


There may be situations if you are trained and armed when you will have to take aggressive action and counter-attack those who are attacking you.  For example, an ambush that does not kill all those in the kill zone or just disables your vehicles, to get out of the kill zone you may have to attack the ambush party. An attack on a residence where access has been gained by the attackers, the residents or security team must clear any attackers from the residence.  An attack on a shopping mall or hotel where you may be visiting or staying and aggressive action would be required to evacuate the location.

This is very basic information and can help you establish your own procedures if you are in a situation where you have the capabilities for counter-attack options. This is based on basic procedures for close protection teams and can be adapted to most situations.

Note: You cannot learn the skills required for this by reading a book or this document, you have to learn to shoot and train tactically for these tasks. This section can help you establish your procedures; you won’t become a Ninja by reading this!

There are three fundamental elements to aggressive actions:

  • Speed
  • Surprise
  • Aggression

For your action to be successful you must have at least two of the above elements

Mobile counter-attack

The conventional military response to an ambush is to attack the ambush.  In most cases an individual or small security team would not be able to attack an ambush, for to do so would leave a client or family members without close protection when the need is greatest. Also an individual or two-man security team would not usually have the weapons or ammunition to do so to perform and assault.

The best means of attacking an ambush is to use a separate security team not responsible for the client’s immediate protection. The counter attack team should consist of people who have received training in small unit tactics and have sufficient firepower to deal with all threats.  It should consist of not less than two people, in one vehicle. The counter attack team follows the client’s vehicle at a distance so that it will not become caught in an ambush on the client’s vehicle but close enough to be able to an attack the ambush quickly.  The distances the team will have to be from the client will vary due to terrain, traffic etc.  The protective surveillance team/personnel can be trained and used as the counter attack team.

Actions on a terrorist ambush by immediate close protection personnel:

  • Return fire
  • Drop smoke
  • Cover Client’s vehicle and attempt to break out.
  • Send contact report

When counter attack begins:

  • Give covering fire.
  • Remove Client from the killing zone to a safe location.

If the opportunity arises to escape before counter attack team takes action and never endanger the client because of your concern for the counter attack team.

Actions on a terrorist ambush by Counter Attack Team:

  • Move to killing zone at best speed
  • Use lights and siren for distractions
  • Debus and attack ambush or drive at ambush.
  • Do not hesitate. Fast, aggressive action is vital.
  • If Client has been extricated, do not attack ambush but cover move to safe house.
  • Weapons. Maximum use must be made of automatic weapons, grenades and CS gas etc.

Counter-attack on buildings

A counter attack on a building must be mounted quickly; the longer the delay, the more time the attackers will have to fortify their positions. A counter attack plan must be made and, if possible, practiced.

The counter attack team should consist of at least two people, but not more than five; i.e. a team leader and two pairs. The team leader needs as much information as possible on the situation in the building.  This could be obtained from civilians, locations security team, staff by the use of radios or cell/mobile phones or social media.

The information required includes:

  • The number “of attackers.
  • The description of the attackers.
  • Method of entry
  • Types of weapons and equipment used by the attackers
  • Location of the client
  • Physical state of the client
  • Location of any family or household staff
  • Overall casualties

Methods of Entry

  • If restricted by protective measures use same entry point as attackers but only as a last resort
  • Enter by stealth whenever possible.
  • Enter at the roof or top floor whenever possible.
  • Early contingency planning to identify possible means of entry.
  • Secure the entry point.

Room Clearing

  • Work in pairs.
  • Clear the door.
  • On entering the room IDENTIFY targets before engaging with fire.
  • Check all hiding places.
  • When room is clear, secure and lock the door if possible.


  • Control will be difficult.
  • Clear the building progressively; room by room, floor by floor.
  • Stairs.  Once taken, stairs must be held.
  • Use fire and Maneuver
  • Avoid confrontation with other team members.
  • Avoid being silhouetted or illuminated
  • Use natural and locations lights to your own advantage.
  • Use sound to disorientate the attackers: 1) Alarms. 2) Sirens. 3) Concussion Grenades.
  • Use of vehicles for approach and escape. 1) Must not spoil surprise. 2) Must remain secure. 3) Must not be put to unnecessary risk,

Action when building is clear

  • Ensure that the Client is safe.  Do not, however, remove them from a safe room.
  • Check that all attackers are dead or secured as prisoners.
  • Ensure that the perimeter of the building is secure.  Secure the entry point(s).
  • Decide whether to hold or escape
  • Co-ordinate external agencies on their arrival.

It is unlikely that plans proposed before the event will be put into effect as envisaged. The plan must be carefully thought out and rehearsed by all members of the team.

  There may be situations if you are trained and armed when you will have to take aggressive action and counter-attack those who are attacking you.  For example, an ambush that


People who are interested in preparedness routinely end up looking further into the future than an event and the aftermath, and eventually end up looking at sustainability and self-sufficiency. Whether we want to augment an affordable beans and rice diet or we want to never need a supermarket again, growing food rears its head. There are lots of factors that go into gardening and crop raising. It starts with the very seeds we plant, so I’d like to look at two of the seed sources we see in the preparedness fold, and how to test seeds to find out if stored seeds are still viable.

How to Procure seeds

Seed kits and especially the long-storage seed vaults can be had good and bad, like any other one-size-fits-all gear or a multi-tool. There are some charts available that tell you how long regular ol’ seeds last, in a fridge or at a constant temperature in a closet. Various vaults and long-storage kits will provide their own estimates.

I tend to think there are a lot of people making a lot of money off fear purchases. I dislike the claims of feeding a family for one year without specifying the calorie contents possible (veggies are diet food). I feel a little better about the “Plants an Acre!” claims, although method affects that, too. I think a lot of the packaging of those kits are window dressing with little effect – and it should be noted that with a lot of kits, their “use by” date is derived from the longest lasting seeds inside. They may boost storage time some, but it may not be enough of an expansion to warrant paying for a “vault” or Mylar instead of a Ziploc freezer bag.

Nobody agrees about seed shelf life across the board, but that’s pretty common in both life and gardening specifically, and there are always exceptions. Maybe freezer, fridge, 65-75-degree shelves make a difference to other people’s spinach, but mine and a lot of my brassicas tend to hit 50% germination at 3-5 years no matter what storage location I go with, fancy kit or saved seed in a junk-mail paper packet.

There’s also the factor of climate.

Very few seed kits or vaults are tailored to Arizona, Alabama, Alaska, or the Adirondacks (some have regional planning). There are some tried and true varieties that will thrive almost anywhere if you have good garden soil – if; not intended for tilling a clay or sand yard for the first time without serious amendments – and some that are a little more lenient toward poor soils. Few kits, however, account for both the short growing season of North Dakota and the sweltering heat and humidity of South Carolina. There’s likely to be something in there that anybody can plant, but you may not be able to use everything in the kit.

Crunch numbers to see what applies to your region, what you’re growing seasons allow for, and figure out how much of the cost is seeds you can’t or are unlikely to use.

Crunch the numbers on the types of seeds you’re getting, too, and be aware that most seed kits provide way more tomatoes than I could keep up with and very, very few calorie and protein crops, so you still need additional seed stocks (deer corn and pigeon peas not crazy talk). Something like a third or half of those “More than 20K seeds!!!” may be leafy greens of some kind – not only near-nils in calories, but also with seeding rates of 3-5 seeds at 2-3” and then thinning to 6+ inches. In other words, not a lot of food value for a lot of seeds, but they go far toward ballooning numbers for advertising purposes.

I’m sure there’s a ton of examples for when buying more expensive kits meant for long-storage would be worth it. I can actually think of a couple. I can also think of a couple of little kits or bucket kits that are just nice, handy, fairly economical ways to get a start. I just want people to be aware of the limitations so those can be considered as well. It may end up that you’re better off buying the seeds you specifically want instead of a kit or vault.

I’d also like people to consider whether they can survive to the next planting, growing and harvest seasons in their regions before they delve on a long-storage seed kit – and from that, decide if they’d be better off applying their budget elsewhere.

Sale seeds may or may not be a great alternative. Grandma and great grandpa didn’t need fancy packages to keep seeds for a couple of years, but they did typically keep them cool.

Early on in the season, seeds have come right from growers and packaging plants, where they were somewhat cared for. By the end of the season and the start of next spring, seeds have spent months or a year going from blazing hot to cold on a daily basis in a lot of storefronts, or at least hitting 30-40-degree swings, with exposure to high humidity in a lot of the garden centers. Like coffee that goes in and out of a freezer, this degrades the seeds. The more extreme the conditions and fluctuations, the more at-risk the germination rate is.

I do buy the 10/$1, 4/$1 and $1 seed packs at the beginning and end of seasons, but I limit myself to $5-10. I am more likely to take advantage of end-of-season seed sales from an internet provider (that I already trust) where there is some expectation that my seeds have been stored properly over the spring and summer than I am a brick-and-mortar shop, especially the ones with seed racks right by doors where they’re getting the greatest temperature fluctuations for 6-8 months. I do buy my field-plot seeds at the end of the seasons from bulk distributors, and so far they’ve been fine for next-year planting.

If it works for you, great. If you’re buying them without doing germination tests, maybe check that out before you go whole-hog with a garden or really depend on producing food.

Use germination to test seeds

Germination testing isn’t difficult. It’s highly valuable in determining how viable your seeds are – and for how long. I will understand if somebody doesn’t want to pop a $200-$300 seed vault or set of #10 cans, but if it’s already several years old – and as good as some claim – go for it anyway. General commercial seed packets will be fine after opening as long as they stay dry. There’s no change in storage life opened or unopened for them.

To do the test, snag some plastic storage bags or bowls, paper towels or smooth dish cloths/hankies or some fast food napkins, and a dry erase marker for “good” dishes, a Sharpie for disposables or Ziploc bags. If your seeds need scarification or stratification, do it. A lot of seeds benefit from a pre-soak for 4-24 hours, even if it’s not a requirement. For a germination test, I have no problem giving everything the best chance, even if I don’t plant them as soaked seeds in real life.

For a plastic bag, mark it so you know which variety and intended planting year it’s from (or the year you saved it) as well as the date you’re starting the test and the days it should take to germinate. Dampen your napkin or paper towel, toss in your seeds, stick them somewhere warm, and cover them in dark cloth (or stick a bunch of bags in a stock pot with a good lid).

For “good” bowls, use the dry erase marker on the container or snag a disposable plastic container like a milk jug or old blinds to cut up and mark with the same information. If you’re sure it’s not going to get rattled and your seeds will stay segregated, you can line a baking sheet with a smooth towel, put a drying rack on top of it, and cover that with an additional damp towel. For bowls, damp hanky- or bandana-like cloth or paper towels go in the bottom and you cover them with another damp towel. These dry out faster than Ziplocs, so they’ll need checked twice a day or more frequently.

Keep an eye on the seeds for mildew and so that you can update your notebook with how many have sprouted and the age of the seeds tested. Eventually, you’ll develop an average for seed shelf life in your storage conditions even within general classes and types like spinach, squash, buckwheat, crowder peas, and grass grains.

Running the numbers

Sets of ten are easiest to reach a rate for without doing any math at all – add a zero, that’s your percent (8 of 10 sprout – 80% germination). Multiples of ten give a better baseline, and it’s simple conversions for them. The “real” way to figure out the rate is to divide and then multiple by 100. Say 32 of 50 sprout, then…

32/50 = 0.64, then 0.64 x 100 = 64; a 64% germination rate.

If you’re good with eyeballing estimating and relationships, just go with that. 32 of 50 is 3 of 5, 6 of 10, so 60%. It’s close enough. This is to make your life easier, not harder.

Applying the results

There are some seeds that are just finicky and some that may germinate but the survival to transplant or harvest size is a little low. If you’re hitting a 50-75% germination rate routinely, get some help to make sure there are no test problems. Mold under 7-14 days means you need to find a slightly less-warm spot and possibly reduce some of the moisture.

If the test’s fine and those are your germination rates for a specific package, you need new seed for storage. Whether it’s age, manufacturer, or storage conditions, yours don’t have too much life left to give. In most cases, it’s going to be a combination of these factors that degrades seed shelf life.

When you plant and start seeds with those germination rates, you may want to double the seeding rate, because you know half aren’t going to even sprout.

Germination testing isn’t a one-off. Doing it once and never again doesn’t work. If these are your storage seeds, you need to be testing batches every 1-2 years, because viability drops off. That said, unless they’re saved seed (which I test at harvest time) you don’t really need to do a germination test on anything intended for planting this year or last year. Unless they got soaked or baked sometime or have had a really hard life, they should be fine.

Local help helps more – generally

Two of the greatest assets for growers is the nearest county, university, or state extension office, and the local Master Gardener’s association. They’re right there. A lot of our states have a whole handful of regional variables, but most have somebody who’s familiar with them – and might have somebody right there in your backyard.

Use them. The more local the advice, especially about pests and growing season and crop varieties that thrive, the better the advice is going to be.

Do, however, beware of five monkeys in a cage – the “we’ve always” syndrome; we no longer use leaches as healers or wipe only with our left hands, and those kinds of advances apply elsewhere as well. We now have all kinds of growing methods that do not involve tilling in lime, but that remains fallback advice north, south, east and west. (If any amendment is part of your gardening plan, you’re going to want to stock up on that, too.)

Advice should be taken with a grain of salt and additional information sources should be sought out, for anything, but if you’re strolling around or looking at pictures of a highly productive garden, and you’re growing using the same methods in the same place, these people might be worth listening to – from where they get their seeds and baby trees, to how they handle them.

Additional seed tips

There’s another round of seed tips coming up, specifically dealing with tracking seed varieties and their yields, and storing seeds for convenience, efficiency and contingencies. With any luck, some of the points raised in this one will help you decide for or against certain seed sources and you’ll be able to rest more comfortably knowing the results of germination tests, as well as be able to find somebody to help if you’re having garden problems.

  People who are interested in preparedness routinely end up looking further into the future than an event and the aftermath, and eventually end up looking at sustainability and self-sufficiency. Whether