Saturday, August 8, 2020

Advanced Urban Survival

By Timothy Gamble (November 27, 2018)

Discussing advanced urban survival should start with an examination of the main differences between rural/small town areas and the big cities and urban centers. There are a lot of differences, but in this article, I want to discuss two in particular - Population Density and Space Availability.
Both of these categories presents urban preppers and survivalists with problems and opportunities different from those in small towns and rural areas. 

Population Density

Big cities have many more people concentrated in a relatively small area. This much greater population density means a much greater threat that city folks will have to deal with crime, violence, looting, and riots, especially after the infrastructure starts to break down after any long-term (or even short-term) grid-down situation. Pollution and sanitation will typically be bigger issues, as will the potential spread of disease. Resources such as food, water, and gasoline will quickly be depleted by the sheer numbers of people using those resources.  These facts suggest that urban survival needs to place particular emphasis on sanitation and disease prevention/treatment, security and self-dense, and stockpiling/caching supplies likely to run out quickly post-SHTF. 

On the other hand, being around more people can have its advantages. More people can mean more hands-on-deck in an emergency, as well as safety-in-numbers. More people probably means more available skill sets. More people may mean a greater opportunity to find and build relationships with like-minded people. 

In order to turn these possibilities into reality, urban survival requires you to build community now, before any SHTF crisis. Learn to get along and work with other people, particularly those with different backgrounds from yours. Befriend your neighbors. Get to know them, their attitudes and beliefs, and their skills. Form a neighborhood watch. This can official (working with your local police, posting signs, etc.) or informal (exchanging phone numbers and agreeing to keep an eye out for strangers or anything else suspicious in the neighborhood). The point is you and your neighbors will begin getting to know one another and watching out for each other. You can build from there. Perhaps you will even find some nearby good friends with which you can form a survival group or mutual aid group (MAG). 

I've written a number of articles on building community that might interest you. They are listed at the bottom of this article.

Space Availability

Limited space, both outdoor and indoor, is a major obstacle for urban preppers. Most apartment and condo dwellers have no space for gardening, raising chickens, or other homesteading activities (thus their frustration with a lot of typical prepper advice). Even home owners in the city typically have very small yards without much room for those type activities. Additionally, limited storage space inside apartments and condos creates a real limitation on how much food, water, gear, and other stuff you can store. 

However, it is possible to overcame these space limitations. My suggestions for doing so can be summed up in three words - minimalism, prioritization, and creativity

Minimalism - The minimalist lifestyle is about eliminating the unnecessary and superfluous, and doing more with less. This will ultimately free up both space and time (and probably money). Declutter you life. Hold a garage sale. Sell it on eBay. Donate stuff to the Salvation Army. Fill up the dumpster. Doing so will free up an amazing amount of storage space. But where to start? There are lots of articles on the web that you can look up, but here are some of the best suggestions I've seen: 
  • Reduce your wardrobe, shoes, belts, ties, handbags, etc. Chances are you have a lot of stuff in your closet (an your kids') that you no longer wear or need. Clean it out.
  • Reduce your collections of books, DVDs, and CDs. Decide what you really want or need, and get rid of the rest.
  • Throw out clutter, such as old magazines, catalogs, as well as all those receipts and warranties from 10 years ago.
  • Get rid of toys, games, books, puzzles, stuffed animals and other junk that your kids have outgrown, broken, or otherwise don't play with anymore. 

Prioritization - This is crucial for the urban prepper and survivalist. You can't afford to waste space or money on non-essentials. Figure out what is really important and focus your time, efforts, and money on those things. Make lists based on those priorities and stick to those lists. This will also help you in your minimization activities. Once you figure out what is important, get rid of the rest.  Prioritized lists will also help you avoid impulse buying,  saving you both space and money.

Creativity - Do container gardening on your porch or balcony. Find out if there are any community gardens in your area you can join. See if your church could start a community garden. Store stuff under the bed. Put your bed on risers to create more storage space. Use flat storage boxes to store stuff under the sofa. Create overhead storage areas. Use water bricks to store water, dry foods (beans, rice, pasta, dog food), or even small supplies (batteries, first aid supplies, ammo, etc.). They are made to stack easily, and can even be turned into tables, nightstands, and other pieces of furniture (thereby serving a dual purpose).  Another possibility is to rent a nearby storage unit. A final suggestion, watch little house videos on You Tube. They have come up with some amazingly creative ways to use space and create storage.

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Friday, August 7, 2020

How To Prepare For a Future of Resource Scarcity

This is an essay I originally published in 2008 on one of my old blogs. It was primarily intended for an audience concerned about peak oil and resource scarcity, but it is valid for most other concerns, too. I am reposting it here with a few minor changes to fix typos and update links.

 How To Prepare For a Future of Resource Scarcity

By Timothy Gamble (2008)

This is a general summary of the basic advice advice I give anyone concerned with potential disasters such as peak oil, environmental problems, or economic and political collapse.

1. Educate yourself on the potential problems our society is facing. Read Patrick Moore's essay Environmentalism for the 21st Century (opens as a .pdf) to get an overview of the real environmental and resource challenges faced by our civilization. Read Richard Maybury's book Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? to gain a better understanding of our economic problems.
 
2. Reduce your home energy usage as much as possible. Turn off lights, TVs and electronics whenever you leave a room. Remember to unplug your various chargers (cell phone, I-Pod, etc.) when not in use. Set your thermostat to conserve energy. Switch from incandescent lighting to LED lighting. Replace old appliances with new, energy-efficient models. Super-insulate your house. Install energy efficient windows. Consider heating with a modern wood stove. Consider a passive solar system for your home.

You may be interested in my article  Prepare for an Unreliable Power Grid and Higher Energy Prices .

 3. Reduce your use of fuel for transportation. Make sure your vehicle’s tires are properly inflated and the engine is well-maintained (tune-ups & oil changes) to maximize mileage. Drive less by walking, car pooling, using public transportation, and planning & combining trips. Replace your old vehicle with a newer one that gets better mileage. If you have a long commute to work, consider moving closer to your job or finding a new job closer to home. 
 
4. Get out of debt.It will not be a good time to owe large amounts of money to a bank. Take a look at your situation, to what extent do you live on credit? If you have a large house could you make do with a smaller one, and reduce your repayments? Make getting out of debt a family priority and use it as an opportunity to simplify your lifestyle.” –Rob Hopkins in Permaculture Magazine.

I consider getting out of debt to  be a very important, yet often overlooked, area of preparedness and survival. My article Prepping 101: Finances - Get Back to Basics is full of tips and information on how to eliminate debt.
 
5. Raise at least some of your own food. We need a modern victory garden movement. Look up articles and books on lasagna gardening, forest gardening and container gardening for ideas on how to grow your own food. Plant fruit & nut trees and berry bushes. Urban dwellers should look into rooftop gardening or joining a community garden or food co-op. Steve Solomon's book Gardening When It Counts is a good place to start for gardening advice.
 
6. Reduce your personal consumption of everything. Adopt a simpler lifestyle. Live well within your means. Be a saver, not a consumer. If you had to, could you support yourself and your family on half your present income? You may have to some day, so start making the lifestyle changes now.
 
7. Be a life-long learner. Improve your job skills. Learn about personal finance. Study permaculture. Learn about the ecology and natural history of your region. Learn useful skills such as auto mechanics, carpentry and home repair. Learn first aid and CPR. Learn to sew, and to preserve food. Learn how to save seeds. Learn how to hunt, fish and forage for wild foods. Learn the skills your grandparents had.
 
8. Reconnect to the natural world. Spend time in nature. Take up outdoor hobbies such as gardening, hiking, fishing, camping and bird watching. Learn the names of trees, wildflowers and “weeds” native to your area. Learn what kinds of soils are in your region. Learn where your water comes from. Visit nearby parks and wildlife refuges. Visit your local natural history museum or botanical gardens. Learn the names of the birds and butterflies common to your backyard.
 
9. Be a part of your community. Join a local church or synagogue. Meet your neighbors. Participate in a community watch program. Volunteer with a local museum or environmental group. Support your local farmers’ market. Whenever possible, shop at locally-owned businesses instead of the big box stores. Attend the meetings of your city council, zoning boards and other local government organizations. Let your voice be heard!
 
10. Get healthy. If you smoke or abuse drugs or alcohol – stop! Adopt a more plant based diet such as a traditional Mediterranean diet, or even become a vegetarian. Eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Exercise will help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure & cholesterol, control blood sugar and get fit. Walking, bike riding and swimming are three cheap & easy ways to get more exercise. Getting enough deep sleep is an often overlooked yet very important ingredient to good health.
 
11. Conserve water. Install low-flow showerheads and faucets in your home. Learn about xeriscaping. Mulch your garden and flower beds to help retain moisture. Plant trees. Consider installing dry composting toilets in your home. Use rainwater catchment techniques to provide water for your garden or to wash your car. Learn how to purify rainwater for human consumption.

DON’T EVER THROW GARBAGE OR POUR CHEMICALS INTO A STREAM, RIVER OR LAKE. Report to the authorities anyone you see doing so.
 
12. Consider where you live. Most people end up living near where they or their spouse grew up, or perhaps to be near a particular job. But you might be better off relocating. Actively consider where you live: Is the community you live in really the best place for you and your family? Will it still be the best place for you in ten years? Things to consider: crime, pollution, taxes, educational opportunities, economic opportunities, economic diversity, climate, rainfall, nearby resources, cohesiveness of the community, style of the local government, availability of public transportation and farmers markets.
 
13. Keep stores of food, water & supplies. Today, we run out to the markets whenever we need something. We have a just-in-time supply system, so we don't need to store things for future use. But the slightest problem can lead to a system-wide disaster. We need to re-learn the art of storing necessities in case of emergencies. Things to store include food, water, medicine, vitamins and personal hygiene products, as well as other useful items such as batteries, sewing supplies, first aid supplies, duct tape, matches, candles, lamp oil, etc. If you were cut off from buying things for several weeks, or even a month or more, what would you run out of? Figure out ways to store those things.
 
14. Restore nature. Plant trees. Clean up local lakes and streams. Rebuild soils through composting and vermiculture. Participate in pollinator conservation efforts. Practice organic gardening and lawn care. Eliminate your lawn entirely. Participate in the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Wildlife Habitat program.
 

15. Don’t dwell on the negatives. Be a hopeful realist. It is important to understand the problems we face. Just don’t obsess over them. Instead, start working towards solutions. Acting to make positive changes, even small ones, will increase your confidence and encourage yourself, your family and your friends.

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Thursday, August 6, 2020

Prepping With a Chronic Illness - Impacts and Adjustments

By Timothy Gamble (December 14, 2017)

Prepping with a chronic illness has its own set of unique challenges, as I have learned the hard way over the last 2 ½ years. In 2015, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, as well as severe diabetic retinopathy (for which I have so far received 20 injections in my right eye and 17 in my left, plus three laser surgeries to seal leaking capillaries in my retinas). The purpose of this article isn't to talk about those health aspects (for that, see my 2015 article Dealing With Type II Diabetes), but rather to examine how chronic illness impacts prepping.

Impacts of Chronic Illness 


When it comes to prepping (and other aspects of my life), my chronic illness impacts me in four main ways:

1) Time:  Dealing with a chronic illness consumes a lot of time. Medical appointments, when you add in travel time and waiting room time, can easily take up half a day or more.  And, with chronic illnesses, you have a lot of appointments.  Proper time management and defining & following priorities is essential.

2) Money: Dealing with a chronic illness consumes a lot of money, even if you have insurance. And it is not just the money you shell out to the doctor or pharmacist, but you will likely have the expense of special foods, vitamins, or other supplies.  (For example, with my almost monthly eye injections, I go through about $20 worth of over-the-counter eye drops every month.) Money is an issue for most people, but with the added expenses of a chronic illness, budgeting, planning, and careful shopping (use lists, compare prices, use coupons, avoid impulse purchases, etc.) is crucial.

3) Energy/Mental Attitude: Dealing with a chronic illness is hugely distracting, and takes your focus off other aspects of your life (including your preps).  Not to mention that the illness itself is likely zapping you of the energy you used to have. It can also cause worry, anxiety, and even depression. Try to stay upbeat. Lean on your relationships with God and your family. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

4) Lifestyle Changes: Dealing with a chronic illness typically  requires making major lifestyle changes, such as changes in diet or physical activity, which must be reflected in your preps. You may also need to take into account specific medications and medical supplies related to your illness. 

Adjustments to Prepping Required

There are many types of chronic illnesses, and even the same type of illness shared by two people may effect each one differently. You'll have to  figure out for yourself how your illness effects you and what adjustments you'll need to make for yourself. To help you get started thinking through these issues in your life, here is the adjustments I have made in my life and preps. 

1) A New Emphasize on Health and Fitness: Over the last two years, I've made major changes to my diet and lifestyle aimed at rebuilding my health and improving my fitness. Health and fitness is no longer an afterthought in my preparations, but is now a major foundation of my preparedness activities. Daily exercise is a must. And eating healthy is the goal of every meal and snack. This means that I have done a lot of research on what constitutes a healthy diet and lifestyle, especially for me as a diabetic. I've kept an extensive food & health journal, recording how individual foods, food combinations, exercise, and sleep effect my blood sugar, blood pressure, weight, and energy levels. Most importantly, I've put into practice what I have learned.

2) Changes in Food Storage:  I've learned that my body cannot handle grains, even supposedly "healthy" grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal. Even a small serving of these "healthy" grains cause huge spikes in my blood sugar. Problem: Storing large quantities of grains, pasta, flour, and sugar, as part of your food supplies is a prepper mainstay. But I can't eat bread, pasta, cereal, or sweets. Potatoes are another food that plays havoc with my blood sugar, so scratch dried and instant potatoes off my list of foods to stockpile. What to do?

I have to store more of the foods I can eat. Luckily, beans have only a mild effect on my blood sugar, so I've been stocking up on those, both dried and in cans. But I have to watch the canned beans to avoid those that have a lot of added sugar! I've also been stocking up on other canned veggies, such as tomatoes, peas, carrots, spinach & other greens, and sauerkraut (fermented foods are very good for diabetics). But, again, I have to pay attention to the ingredients because many brands include lots of added sugar!

I'm also increasing the amount of my canned meats, such as chicken, turkey, tuna, and salmon. Meats have no negative impact on blood sugar, as long as there is no added sugar of course.

I don't use sugar anymore. I either eliminate sugar from recipes altogether, or use Stevia or small quantities of fruit or honey as a sweetener. So, I've been stocking up on Stevia and honey, instead of sugar. 


3) Stockpiling Medicine & Medical Supplies: Fortunately, I am not on insulin, but do take a pill for my diabetes twice a day. Initially, I was prescribed a 30-day supply, but I talked to my doctor and got him to change it to a 90-day supply. You can talk to your doctor about prescribing a larger quantity of your medications. I Also, I've stocked up on several extra month's worth of blood test supplies (test strips, lancets, and alcohol prep pads). I've included a separate "blood sugar test kit" in my survival pack (BOB) with an extra test meter, test strips, lancets, and alcohol pads.

4) Some Other Adjustments: My distance vision relatively normal, but I still need strong reading glasses to read. I've stocked up on reading glasses, buying a dozen over-the-self pair in the magnification I currently use,. I've also purchased a few large magnifying glasses. In addition to keeping a pair of reading glasses on me at all times (now part of my EDC), I also have extras at my desk, in my vehicles, and in my survival pack (BOB).

The treatments to restore my eyes are slowly working, but have left my eyes extremely sensitive to bright light. I cannot go outside or drive without sunglasses, and will sometimes wear sunglasses indoors if its very bright inside. So, I've stockpiled lots of extra sunglasses. I have extras at home, in my vehicles, and in my survival packs.

Although I don't need large print books, as the reading glasses work just fine, I decided to purchase a large-print Bible just-in-case I need it later on... I might look into getting large-print editions of a few other books, too, for the same reason. I've also developed a new appreciation for audio books!

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Of Interest: These are the three main books I use in dealing with my diabetes, two of which were recommended by my doctor.

http://amzn.to/2AHMv3kOf all the books I've read so far, the best and most useful is 60 Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar by Dennis Pollock. Pollock's book is an aggressive plan to control your blood sugar by bringing together the best of traditional and alternative medicine. What I appreciate about Pollock's approach is that it is based on solid science, even the "alternative" aspects, and is not some hippy-dippy book that rejects science (avoid those). Also, his ideas are easy to follow.


http://amzn.to/2jXTCKH My doctor recommended the book Life Without Bread by Dr. Christian B. Allan, and Dr. Wolfgang Lutz. This book presents a low-carbohydrate diet (but one not as severe as the Atkin's Diet) as the best healthy diet for everyone, especially people dealing with high blood sugar. Right now, based on my own experiences and everything else I've read, I think they are right about their low-carbohydrate diet. 
http://amzn.to/2jUPomU

 



My doctor also suggested I try the cookbook Paleo Comfort Foods. Since the Paleo Diet avoids both grains and potatoes, most of the recipes in this cookbook are diabetic-friendly, although you may to substitute stevia for regular sugar in a few of them. I actually use this cookbook often.  (My doctor has told me that he and his family follow a "mostly Paleo" diet.)
 



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Dealing With Type II Diabetes - Lessons Learned

By Timothy Gamble (October 20, 2015)

In early July of this year, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. This was a surprise because I lived a healthy lifestyle (or so I thought) and didn't have a family history of diabetes (or so I thought). This article is about the mistakes I made and lessons I've learned.

The bad news is that my A1C level (a measure of blood sugar over the previous 3 months) in July was extremely high, and likely had been for quite a while. The diabetes was beginning to seriously affect my vision, so much so that I had to undergo a series of injections in my eyes (as in needles piercing the wall of my eyeballs and injecting medicine directly into the liquid centers).

The good news is my blood sugar levels have come down sharply in the 3+ months since my diagnose, and the improvement to my vision is dramatic.

Diabetes Symptoms

According to the American Diabetes Association, "the following symptoms of diabetes are typical. However, some people with type 2 diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed.

Common symptoms of diabetes:
  •     Urinating often
  •     Feeling very thirsty
  •     Feeling very hungry - even though you are eating
  •     Extreme fatigue
  •     Blurry vision
  •     Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  •     Weight loss - even though you are eating more (type 1)
  •     Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)
Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing the complications of diabetes."
Why My Diabetes Wasn't Diagnosed Earlier

It was my fault. I made two mistakes.

First, I avoided doctors most of my adult life. In fact, during the 20+ years of my adult life prior to my diabetes diagnose, I went to the doctor only once. There were a number of excuses why I avoided doctors - didn't want to waste money, too busy, didn't have time, wasn't sick enough to go... Perhaps I was even too macho. After all, many of us guys think we are supposed to always be tough and never admit weakness. We tend to "walk it off" and "play through the pain" rather then actually dealing with it in a constructive fashion.

Second, I made some false assumptions about my health. I thought I was just getting older because what I now know as symptoms of diabetes actually started not long after I turned 40. Many of the symptoms I had - blurred vision (I needed reading glasses), lower energy levels, more frequent urination, especially at night - can be common as people age. In essence, I wrongly self-diagnosed my symptoms to mean I was simply becoming middle-aged. 

It wasn't until earlier this year, when my symptoms became much more severe, that I began to suspect something else was going on. Eventually, my worsening vision forced me to go to the doctor, where I learned that I had diabetes, not just normal aging.

Family Medical History

Research shows that people who have a family history of diabetes are more likely to get diabetes. Many other diseases also have a genetic component. This is why it is very important to know your family medical history. In my case, it turns out that my grandfather, who died when I was much younger, had diabetes, as did an uncle (also deceased). I was unaware of this family medical history until talking to my mother after I was diagnosed with diabetes.

Healthy Diet and Lifestyle?

I thought I had a relatively healthy diet and lifestyle. I didn't smoke, do drugs, or abuse alcohol. I was fairly active physically.  I rarely ate fast food or drank sodas. I wasn't much for sweets (except ice cream). I even liked salads and vegetables. Good, huh? Well, maybe not. There is more to having a healthy diet and lifestyle, and I made a number of mistakes.

Despite not eating sweets (other than the ice cream), I had way too much sugar in my diet. Most Americans do. The food companies put huge amounts of sugar into our food. They have too in order to cover up the taste of the massive amounts of salt they add to extend shelf-life. Its not just the massive amounts of sugar in our processed foods, even basic foods such as most canned vegetables have lots of added sugar.

Starchy foods - such as potatoes, flour, bread, cereals, pasta, corn, and rice - contain carbohydrates that are easily and quickly converted into sugar by the body. Even "whole grain" foods are quickly converted into sugar by the body. (Personally, I don't agree that whole grains are healthy, as much of the current health advice advocates. Instead, I consider whole grains to be only somewhat less bad than refined grains.) Starchy foods made up a significant portion of my diet.

It also turns out that I had no real understanding of what a serving size it. A serving is not as much as you can pile onto one plate. Instead a serving size is much smaller. Before my diabetes, my typical serving of rice (one pile on my plate) was really equal to  two or three actual servings. A typical serving of oatmeal for me in the morning was one bowlful. It turns out that a serving of oatmeal is only one cup cooked, or about half my typical bowlful. Americans, including me, have supersized our food for so long we no longer have a true sense of serving size, and therefore tend to eat way too much. This taxes our body's ability to cope, and has contributed to the current epidemic of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

I will go into much more detail about a healthy diet and lifestyle in future articles, including the changes I have personally made to get positive results.

Lessons Learned

Here is a quick summary of the lessons I've learned in having to deal with my diabetes:


  • Visit your doctor regularly. Had I been getting regular checkups, even if only once every couple of years, my diabetes would have been caught much earlier (and I likely wouldn't have had to let an eye surgeon stick needles into my eyes). You are NOT wasting money or time by going to a doctor.
  • Never self-diagnose. In today's Internet world, its easy to look up symptoms on a website and decide that you have this problem or that disease. But many different diseases have very similar symptoms. In most cases, doctors are still necessary to determine what is wrong with any degree of certainty.
  • Know your family medical history. Don't assume, like I did, that you know all the important stuff in your family's medical history. You might be aware of your immediate family's history, but do you really know all the medical conditions of your grandparents, great-grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and other relatives? Probably not, unless you've actually asked people. I suggest talking  about your family's medical history with several of the elder matriarchs (women seem to be more aware of these things)  on both sides of your family tree.
  • Understand what actually constitutes a healthy diet and lifestyle. Sure, most people have some basic idea. But, like me, they have large gaps in their understanding (and perhaps an even larger gaps in what they are actually doing). I'll be writing more on this in future articles. There is also a lot of misinformation out there, and what we think we know is often wrong.  So be careful - read various sources, consider the sources and their possible biases, look for good information (not just information to fit your predetermined point of view), try to integrate the best of both conventional medicine and alternative medicine, and think! 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional, and nothing presented in this article is intended as professional medical advice. This article is only intended to relay my personal experiences and opinions in dealing with my type II diabetes. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be diabetic, PLEASE seek a diagnosis and advice from a qualified medical professional as soon as possible.  

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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

A Peek at a Survivalist's Library from 1964

By Timothy Gamble (January 15, 2019)

What books should be on a Survivalist's bookshelf? That is a question prompted by a book I recently read (Robert Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold). Its a science fiction survivalist novel about a family that survives a nuclear war. In it, the man (Hugh Farnham) who built and stocked a bomb shelter lists his "must-have" survivalist library. 

Heinlein's book was published in 1964, so all the books mentioned are from that era and before, naturally.  I'm currently working on my list of a Prepper's Library for modern times, but for now I thought it would be interesting to share the list of the books in Farnham's bomb shelter's library.

The list is a mixture of practical books (various volumes on homesteading, medicine, engineering, etc), books for entertainment value (note the inclusion of Hoyle's Book of Games for one), general knowledge (a dictionary and an encyclopedia set), and several selections obviously influenced by the Cold War (the books on guerrilla warfare, and the Russian/English dictionaries). Hugh even attempted to save some classic works (Homer, Shakespeare, etc.)

The List: 
At one point in the book, Hugh Farnham mentions regretting not including the works of Mark Twain in his library.

So, what books would you recommend for a modern day Survivalist's Library?  Leave suggestions in the comments section below. 
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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Dystopian Survival: Know Your Locality

By Timothy Gamble (March 3, 2019)

Bushcraft and wilderness survival skills are useful, and homesteading is one path to self-reliance. But for modern dystopian survival, you really need to know your locality - the area(s) where you live. work, shop, and go to church and school. By "know your locality," I mean a lot more than just the geography of where you live, knowing the roads you drive (although that is a small part of it).

Develop Your Local Knowledge.  

Get to really know really know your locality. Start with the geography, but don't stop there. Learn your way around your city or town, particularly the areas in which you live, work, shop, worship, and go to school. Know not just one way, but several, to get to and from places you frequent.

You need to know where the bad neighborhoods and high crime areas of your town or city are, and how to avoid them. All communities, big or small, have bad areas - places where crime and vice are more common, and where the folks you're going to want to avoid typically hang out. 

You also need to know the people of your locality. Do you know an honest mechanic? A good and dependable plumber? A babysitter you can trust with your kids? Do you know your neighbors? Are there any sex offenders living near you (search online for sex offender registries). 

Do you know your local elected officials? Do you know what their plans are for your city? Do you follow the local news, or maybe listen to a local talk radio show? Get to really know your community and its people. Build a network of people you trust, and who have reason to trust you.

Know your local markets. Chances are you know where the Wal-Marts, Targets, Sam's Clubs, and Home Depots in your area are.  But what about smaller stores, and Mom-and-Pop operations. Over the years, I've found many things at these places that I couldn't find at the Big Box stores, sometimes at real bargain prices. And I've met some wonderful people.

If, like me, you are a prepper on a shoestring budget, it is a good idea to learn the locations of the various flea markets, farmers' markets, salvage stores, thrift shops, and pawn shops in your community. It may also be a good idea to find all your local antique stores, coin and stamp dealers, gun stores. used bookstores, small hardware stores, feed stores, and gardening centers. I'm putting together a notebook of all these places near me, along with notes on what I can find where, owner's names, and so forth. Should we ever experience a period of scarcity of goods, like Venezuela, it will be good to know and be friendly with these folks. 

Know local industry. Are there any factories or  industrial parks near you? Where is your local electricity generated? And how? Any mines in your area? Industry is both a source of employment, and a source of potential problems such as pollution and chemical spills. What opportunities and threats do your local industries pose?

Know several escape routes from your city should bugging-out ever become necessary or even mandatory. Have paper copies of directions and maps, in case GPS & Google Maps are down when you need them. If you are bugging-out on foot, abandoned train tracks may be your best option, rather than trying to hike along congested and dangerous roadways. Most cities and some small towns have many of these, and some have already been turned into greenways and walking/jogging trails. Learn these now. Acquire or make maps, especially of the ones leading out of town. 

Resources for learning about your community include local newspapers and local talk radio stations. Local and state road maps can often be picked up for free at visitor centers, tourism boards, or the local Chamber of Commerce. If not, you can buy them for only a couple of bucks at just about any gas station in town. Your local library should have maps of local infrastructure such as railways, greenways, waterways, sewer systems, gas lines, and power lines. If not there, your local zoning board will have them. Many local libraries also have community bulletin boards. My local library publishes a monthly newsletter which is a great source of information on local programs, events, government meetings, and so forth. However, nothing beats actually getting out in your community, exploring it for yourself, and meeting new people.  

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Sunday, July 19, 2020

12 Life Lessons for Preppers (and Everyone Else)

By Timothy Gamble (orginally published April 22, 2019)

12 Life Lessons  for Preppers (and Everyone Else)
  1. Take responsibility for your own life. A big part of this is learning to be self-reliant, not waiting around for your parents, your teachers, your boss, your friends, or even the government to tell you what to do, or to do things for you. You are responsible for your own life. Even when bad things beyond your control happen to you, you are still in control of how you respond. Your life, your responsibility. 
  2. Be honest. In the short run, it may mean some pain, but
    honesty truly is the best policy in the long run. Lies have a way of making things worse, and usually get discovered eventually. Also, always keep your word. And never cheat people. Develop a reputation for honesty, integrity and good character.  
  3. Life is unpredictable, so be adaptable. Life is full of surprises and unexpected events, tragedies, and opportunities. Developing your adaptability is the best way to deal with the unexpected. 
  4. Get married early and stay married. This runs counter to modern advice, which says to put off marriage until you "grow up", build a career, mature and know what you want out of life. But in reality the opposite in true. Married people, especially married men, mature faster, are more responsible, work harder, and are more ambitious than their single peers. Married people tend to be happier, healthier, and live longer than single people. (see the Prager U. video "Be a Man. Get Married.)
  5. Who you know is often more important than what you know. It can be hard for modern, highly individualistic Americans to admit, but we all need people. Life is not a solo sport. Lone wolves rarely do well in the long run. Shelve your ego. Meet people. Make friends. Network. Build community. Be a part of other people's lives, and let other people be a part of your life. This will pay many, many benefits throughout your life. 
  6. Don't compare yourself to other people. Instead compare your current self with your younger self, and always try to improve on that younger self. This will be both emotionally healthier and more effective than comparing yourself to others. Always be improving over your former self.
  7. Take care of your health.Your health and fitness is immeasurably important to your life, success, happiness, well-being, and preparedness. Your physical health, along with your spiritual health, will determine your future more than anything else. 
  8. Avoid debt. Spend less than you make. Sound advice, but how many of us really follow it? Not many, apparently, since credit card debt is at an all-time high and personal bankruptcies are surging. 
  9. Be a builder, not a consumer. Modern civilization is set up to make you into a consumer. Corporations and the government need you to spend as much money as possible. This is good for them, bad for you. Be a builder instead. Build savings. Build a business. Build a homestead. Build a family and a life. Sure, you have to buy stuff along the way, but be smart about what you buy. Don't mindlessly consume, no matter what Uncle Sam  and his puppet masters in big business want you to do...
  10. Go for quality over quantity. The one with the most toys when they die, still dies. Life isn't about accumulating stuff. Preparedness isn't about accumulating stuff, either. Be more intentional about the way you live your life. Quality beats quantity. In preparedness, the temptation is to buy everything at once, but money is always a factor and many folks end up buying cheap gear they can't depend on this way. Buy a little at a time so you can afford better, more dependable gear.
  11. Take care of your stuff. Sure, it costs money to change your car's oil every three months, but it costs a lot more to replace a blown engine. Taking care of your stuff pays big dividends over the long run. 
  12. Develop your relationship with God. This should be the number one priority of your life. Not your career. Not your spouse or your children. Not your reputation or your bank account. Take care to develop this, and all else will turn out okay. Make prayer and Bible reading a daily habit. 
These are the lessons I've learned in my life, usually the hard way. Had someone given me this list when I graduated high school, and I actually followed it, I would have avoided many of my mistakes, and would be in a much better position in my life than I currently am.
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Friday, June 26, 2020

9 Steps to Secure Your Current Assets Before the Next Economic Downturn

By Timothy Gamble

Your home. Your car. Your cash. Your job. These are important assets for you and your family. Assets that are at risk in an economic crisis. Here are some ideas to help you secure your current assets before the next economic crisis:

1) Make sure the banks and insurance companies you use are financially healthy. There are rating services you can use, such as Bauer Financial and BankRate for banks and credit unions, and A.M. Best Company, Inc for insurance companies.

2) Pay off your mortgage if possible, or at least refinance into a fixed rate. For most people, their home is their largest and most important financial asset. Yet, in 2009 over 3 million families lost their homes to foreclosure.  Don't be one of those in the next economic meltdown.

3) Pay off your vehicles, and anything else that you are making payments on that you don't want to lose. Can't pay off your vehicle anytime soon? Then trade down and get out from under that car payment. That clunker you own outright may look embarrassing, but it will be of more use to you than that shiny new car that gets towed away because you missed a payment. Same goes for other things that your making payments on that might get repossessed in a crisis.


4) Pay your taxes on time and in full. The government has given itself extraordinary powers to seize your paycheck, savings, investments, and property to collect back taxes.

5) Put a portion of your savings into silver, gold and/or other hard assets. How much? Depending on which personal finance "expert" is talking, anywhere from 5% to 20%. I lean on the high side of that range. Remember, certificates that say you own X amount of gold or silver being held for you by some bank or investment company will only be worth the paper they are printed on during a severe financial crisis. Take physical possession of your gold or silver before the crisis hits.

Note: Bitcoin is NOT a hard asset, and doesn't go in this category. There is nothing wrong with investing in crypto-currencies such as bitcoin. Just keep in mind that there is some risk involved, and crypto-currencies can go down to zero.

6) Guard against identity theft. Identity theft is a $20 billion dollar a year industry, and it will only increase as the economy worsens. Be careful with whom you share your personal information. Shred or burn financial documents instead of just throwing them away. Be especially careful online, and keep your antivirus software updated daily.

7) Take steps to protect your current job. Check out the article Fifteen Commandments of Keeping Your Job. Don't give your employer a reason to fire you.

8) Get ready now to look for a new job. Don't wait until you are fired. Keep your resume constantly up-to-date. Make sure you have updated contact info for all your references. Start networking now - you will be more likely to find a new job through a friend or colleague than from the classifieds or even employment services. Building a network is essential career advice, good times or bad. 

You my also be interested in my article What To Do BEFORE Losing Your Job.

9) Learn new skills. Realize you may have to find a new job in a different field from your current job. Or you may have to go into business for yourself. Prepare by learning new skills. Take some classes at a local community college. Take a marketing and/or public relations class (surprisingly useful to most jobs/careers). Learn to sell (read the book SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham - considered a business classic). Brush up on your computer skills. Learn coding. Learn bookkeeping & accounting. Learn Spanish for the workplace. Consider learning a trade (electrician, plumber, welder, HVAC repair, etc.) as a back-up to your current career. The more you know, the more employable you will be. 

Don't wait until the next financial crisis hits to protect your assets. Start preparing now.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

THE Number-One, Top Long-Term Priority For Survival

By Timothy Gamble

Remember the near empty shelves at American grocery stores just weeks ago? Even the big-box stores like Wal-mart, with all their money and clout, were nearly out of food.  The stores are still not fully restocked.

The biggest long-term threat to our survival is hunger & starvation. It doesn't matter what event or events lead to disruptions in our food supply - pandemic, war, economic or political chaos, or whatever. The fact is our modern agricultural and just-in-time food distribution systems are precariously balanced, and the most  Americans are not prepared for wide-spread or long-lasting disruptions. What if the empty shelves don't start filling up again after only a few weeks? What if they go empty, and stay empty, for months next time?

The long-term answer really isn't food storage, though that does help in the short-term. Few people will realistically be able to store all the food they, their household, and their extended circle of family & friends, will need for the several years it may take for society to completely rebuild the agricultural system & food distribution infrastructure after a major SHTF event. You MUST be able to provide at least some food for yourself - gardening, horticulture, fruit & nut orchards, chickens for eggs & meat, goats for milk, cheese, butter & meat...

Your most important long-term goal is food production. Yes, even if you live in the city, there are things you can do. Here are some ideas:

Learn small plot gardening techniques. For city folks and suburbanites lucky enough to have a small yard, the good news is that you don't need a huge garden to grow a lot of food. If you have even a little bit of land, you can have gardening success. Check out my articles Small Plot Gardening Tips and Lasagna Gardening on this website.

I also recommend the books Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre and The Mini Farming Bible: The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency on ¼ Acre, both by Brett Markham. You'll be surprised how much you can grow on a small plot of land, even if its less than a quarter acre!

Do you live in an apartment or condo, and literally have no yard for even a tiny garden? No worries. There are still ways you can produce some of your own food. Consider container gardening indoors, and on windowsills, porches, and balconies. A lot food can be grown in containers, including all herbs, all lettuce varieties, all greens (spinach, collards, turnip, mustard, Swiss chard, etc.), tomatoes (both regular size and the mini ones), carrots, beets, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, squash, and zucchini. In fact, almost everything can be grown in containers. The only drawbacks are that container gardens need more frequent watering than regular gardens, and plant size is limited by the size of the containers you are using.

For some ideas and inspiration, watch these two You Tube videos

There are a number of books available on container gardening. One that I think is particularly good is The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible: How to Grow a Bounty of Food in Pots, Tubs, and Other Containers. 

Another idea is to consider joining, or starting, a community garden. This is a good option for people who live where the communists running their home owners' association won't let them have a garden. Community gardens are plots of land that are gardened collectively by a group of people. Each person or family may be assigned a particular plot within the larger piece of land, or the whole garden may be worked collectively. Rules vary. You can find more information and locations of community gardens in your area on the American Community Gardening Association website. If there is not a community garden in your area, that would make a perfect project for your church, synagogue, YMCA, or other civic organization.

Try Rooftop Gardening. Like its name sounds, rooftop gardening is simply gardening on rooftops, using containers (which can be quite large if the structure can support the weight). Rooftop gardening has become quite popular in recent years. You can find out more by searching "Rooftop Gardening" in your favorite search engine (I like Duck-Duck-Go, which respects your privacy, unlike Google or Bing).

Need to improve the soil in your yard or community garden? Having healthy soil is critical to productive gardening and raising crops. An excellent article, Build Better Garden Soil, by Harvey Ussery, is available for free on Mother Earth News website. You may also be interested in my article, Plants That Build Healthy Soils. which is available on this website.

I recently watched, and was quite impressed by, the Back to Eden documentary. Here's the blurb from their website: "Back to Eden Film shares the story of one man’s lifelong journey, walking with God and learning how to get back to the simple, productive organic gardening methods of sustainable provision that were given to man in the garden of Eden. The food growing system that has resulted from Paul Gautschi’s incredible experiences has garnered the interest of visitors from around the world. Never, until now, have Paul’s organic gardening methods been documented and shared like this!" You can watch it on their website.
 
Another good gardening resource is Sunset Vegetable Gardening Illustrated.  Only 128 pages, this 1987 book is not currently in print, but you may be able to find one at a used book store. Heavily illustrated and easy-to-read, it covers all the basics, and then some. Beginners, especially, will find this book very useful. It also covers herbs and berries.

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