Archive for December, 2010

A lot of people seem to have a lack of imagination when it comes to being prepared for a lot of things. One of the quandaries that seem most perplexing is what are we going to do for fuels after the major melt down occurs and there is no more power, no more fuel deliveries, the gas stations are shut down and there are millions of cars sitting on the roadside and hundreds of thousands of homes with no heat because their generators ran out of gas, and on and on….

There is a simple solution, and it really is a rather cheap solution as well. Of course, you need to remember that doing what I am going to say here has some danger attached to it, not to mention the fact that it is technically illegal. You simply steal or more appropriately, scavenge the fuels you need from others. In the face of an ultimate meltdown and it’s you verses the rest of the world, there won’t be any law enforcement. There will be roving gangs of thugs and nasty deviants that will be causing no end of trouble, and there will quite likely be some sort of military occupation to give you problems. Don’t forget about these problems either, they will be there simmering on the back burner, waiting for enough heat for them to come to a full boil.

There exists on the market a wide assortment of oil and gas rated pumps that are used for everything from cleaning out the huge underground tanks at the filling station to a home heating oil tank in the basement. All of them are quite expensive, and even a small one can cost you several hundreds of dollars. The reason for this is that they are explosion proof and some can even be submerged into a tank of gasoline with no ill effects.

One thing you can do is to take an aftermarket submersible fuel pump designed for an automobiles gas tank and modify it for multiple uses. There are different models on the market, but what you will want to do is attach a long nylon or poly tubing that is resistant to gas and attach it to where the feed goes on the pump in place of the gas line fitting. Connect two 12 gauge wires to the electrical connector and run them along the tubing, taping them with appropriate tape every 6 to 8 inches. Remember to make the tubing and wire assembly long enough to get you away from the tank you will be draining, just in case.

Separate the wires and tubing when you have a long enough assembly for your task. Wire in a double pole single throw switch near the end of the wires, and then attach a cigarette lighter style plug to the ends of the wire. Make sure the polarity is correct for the pump you are using as you don’t want the pump to run backwards. Place the end of the tubing into a fill container, and then submerge the fuel pump into the tank you wish to drain. Making sure the switch is in the off position, plug cord into your cars cigarette lighter socket. Another option is to use gator clips and a twelve volt battery for the power source. Turn the switch on and settle back while the pump does all the work.

Bear in mind that this setup can take a long time to drain a tank as these automotive fuel pumps really aren’t designed for high volume.

That being the case, here’s what I’ve chosen for my bag of survival tricks: a cheap drill pump and some tubing, with fittings. The pump I chose runs about thirteen bucks in most hardware shops, and it pumps 3.6 gallons of fuel at five feet of head, and will pump about 90 feet before it runs out of oomph.

Attach about twenty feet of tubing via a hose fitting to the inlet side of the pump. Attach another 50 feet to the outlet side the same way. If you are pumping gasoline, use one of those old fashioned hand drills as the power source to avoid risk of sparks and explosion. A battery powered drill will safely do the job in other situations. If a battery drill isn’t available a regular drill powered off a generator will be just the ticket.

Just remember that in dire straits you may not want to run a generator as you prowl around sucking your neighbors’ oil tanks dry. Those roving gangs of thugs just may hear you and put an end to your misery of living without power. Make sure you have one of those hand drills no matter what you think your prospects will be. They may not be so fast at getting the job done, but there is no risk of stray sparks setting the vapors off, and they make little noise. And as an afterthought, attach a mesh strainer to the pickup end to keep gunk from being picked up and deposited into your fill containers.

Remember also that there is great risk of explosion if you don’t do these types of tasks carefully and take all necessary precautions to prevent calamity from paying a visit. And again, I want to stress that you will most likely face the risk of being charged with theft, unless of course we do actually suffer the ultimate meltdown, and the resulting loss of governmental control and ensuing anarchy. Be careful and use your brains to think whatever course of action you chose through to the end.

Just as an anecdotal note here, during the great New England ice storm of 98 we were without power for over two weeks. I drained the heating oil out of the tank for our boiler this way and used that fuel in our Omni top hat heater. It never got below 70 in our home and I cooked our meals on top of the heater. How’s that for survival savvy?

The ‘Peak Oil’ theory seems to be making a bit of a comeback, not surprisingly, but it still reeks of what I call Apocolypsia Nervousa. “What the heck is that” you ask? It’s simply the urge by some to become afraid of the things to come. The loss of our oil supplies and easy living they bring us is too much to bear by some people, and so they envision a worst case scenario and think it means the end of the world for us. This isn’t rightly so, and the theory behind Peak Oil has some factual problems that distort our perception of what it really means for our future.

What does peak oil really mean for us today? Well, to answer that we have to look at what it really is, and not automatically buy into some of the OMG fads surrounding it. Simply put, there are really two definitions behind peak oil. One definition simply states that oil reaches its highest point of production, and then declines from that point forward. Another definition says that the peak is at its highest level of quantity. Given these two definitions are both factual, we have to look at what this means for us today.

We already are on the downward trend of supply based upon the definition that peak oil means the highest level of supply. Pretty much everyone can agree that there is no more oil being made today, and that it appears to be a byproduct of ancient carbon based life forms having been crushed and ground under tons of pressure and subjected to high temperature. I know, that’s an incredibly simplistic statement and maybe not necessarily 100% correct, but I’m not writing a book here, so go with the flow. We can manufacture carbon based fuels, and we do that today by making ethanol. And please don’t cry the carbon neutral song, there is no such thing. Carbon based fuels emit CO2 no matter how you slice the loaf. It’s still bread, just a different name for it.

What we really need to be looking at here is not peak quantity, but peak production. It’s all a matter of the supply and demand laws of economics, not the physical need and availability of the product. At some point and time, unless the Lord returns before that point, we will in fact run out of what we have come to call ‘fossil fuels.’ When that happens all we will have is what we can manufacture, i.e. ethanol etc.

It costs money to extract this oil from the ground, and those who invest in these companies expect to make a profit from their investments. As the costs to retrieve this product increase, the increase is passed along to the consumer. And unfortunately, we also have to remember that there will be speculators involved in the investments, artificially driving the costs of oil higher than they should be. Remember the price hikes in the Hurricane Katrina era? But in reality, we will see these true costs continue upward in an irreversible trend, increasing the bottom line cost of energy year after year. At some point and time, the cost will exceed our ability to pay for the oil we use. The law of supply and demand will suggest that the cost should go down, but in reality there will be no more reduction in the price. Only the wealthiest will be able to afford the treats that oil can bring us.

And that’s the point we preppers and survivalists need to be on the watch for. And I believe that point will be coming within the next few years. That point will arrive at different times depending upon your own financial situation, but why waste time waiting for the inevitable? Get ready for that time now, and avoid the pain that oil withdrawal symptoms will provide.

I’ve never been a fan of trying to survive in the big cities as it will be near impossible to do so. That’s why I urge everyone to get the heck out of Dodge today. Buy your own little piece of land in the sparsely populated ‘burbs, or even better in the rural regions of wide open farmlands or forests. With your own piece of property set up as a survival homestead you can beat the heat and prepare for your own peak oil event. Many homes are heated by oil fired furnaces and boilers. Get rid of them and either install biofuels or wood fired units, or go electric and install your own solar panels and wind turbines.

Equip your vehicles to run off of ethanol, and learn how to produce your own fuel. Learn how to produce your own alcohol based fuels. When the automobile was first invented, motors ran on alcohol fuels. Some of the world’s fastest race cars run on alcohol as a fuel. Who knows, you could wind up with a very profitable business by producing fuel for sale or barter down the road. Peak oil is going to cause some very high energy prices in the coming times, and anything you can do now to wean yourself off of these carbon based fossil fuels will only benefit you in the long run.

Heating and refrigeration, as well as transportation are the primary uses of carbon based fuels today, but we don’t necessarily have to rely on fossil fuels for these needs. We can use alternative power sources, such as solar and wind for some of our electrical needs, geothermal for heating and cooling our homes and so forth. As the availability of this technology increases the cost come down, and as the technology improves, so doesn’t the efficiency. It’s worth looking into making the switch today. And this is also based upon the supply and demand laws of economics.

As we get closer to the time of peak production the demand for these alternatives will be increasing, also increasing the costs for this technology. You can survive the coming peak oil crisis, but only if you take the steps to prepare for it now.

I came across this volume at a local bookstore and liked it so much I just had to add it to my preparedness library. According to the publishers site, it is a basic how to add on for anyone wanting to live a simpler life. Here’s what Skyhorse publishing says about the book;

Anyone who wants to learn basic living skills—the kind employed by our forefathers—and adapt them for a better life in the twenty-first century need look no further than this eminently useful, full-color guide. Countless readers have turned to Back to Basics for inspiration and instruction, escaping to an era before power saws and fast food restaurants and rediscovering the pleasures and challenges of a healthier, greener, and more self-sufficient lifestyle. Now newly updated, the hundreds of projects, step-by-step sequences, photographs, charts, and illustrations in Back to Basics will help you dye your own wool with plant pigments, graft trees, raise chickens, craft a hutch table with hand tools, and make treats such as blueberry peach jam and cheddar cheese. The truly ambitious will find instructions on how to build a log cabin or an adobe brick homestead. More than just practical advice, this is also a book for dreamers—even if you live in a city apartment you will find your imagination sparked, and there’s no reason why you can’t, for example, make a loom and weave a rag rug. Complete with tips for old-fashioned fun (square dancing calls, homemade toys, and kayaking tips), this may be the most thorough book on voluntary simplicity available.

While the intent of the book is to fuel an interest in simpler living, or a suggestion we return to some of the slower ways, it is much more for the prepper and survivalist crowd.

Part 1 deals with the issues around finding, buying, building and setting up your homestead. There are many points dealing with the preparedness aspects of homesteading here but it still covers enough about the mystery of land buying and what to look for that it makes it worth the purchase.

Part 2 addresses the questions of power for your homestead and looks at wind power, small scale hydro power, wood burning and solar power. One of the problems we will encounter in the coming times will be a questionable source of electricity from a decaying public grid. One of the discussions deals with the somewhat taboo usage of hydropower. There are in fact in use a great many homestead sized hydropower installations around the country that produce just enough energy for personal use. We usually think of hydropower as coming from the larger commercial dams that span and entire rivers width and generate power in the mega watt range, but there are several models of smaller output turbines that can be installed with minimal impact on a streams environment while still providing you with the electricity you need to power your house.

Part 3 deals with raising your own food such as fruit, vegetables and livestock. I particularly like the points on intensive gardening and container gardening, both of which should be in your toolbox of knowledge. As land becomes more and more expensive many preppers will need to settle for smaller properties than would be ideal for long term planning needs. It is essential that we have knowledge of planting and raising our own food crops should the ultimate meltdown occur and we no longer have any traditional outlets to obtain our nourishment.

Part 4 naturally follows raising crops with discussion regarding food storage and preservation, and preparing that food for consumption. An important part of this section covers cooking with wood, an art woefully gone from today’s world of microwave cooking and takeout foods. Read this section before you make any decisions as to what kind(s) of woodstove you need to buy for your preparedness homestead.

Part 5 deals with a range of old time crafts and skills that will help you make it through the coming times. Tin-smithing and rug-making can seem pretty archaic, but if you learn to do some of the things in this section, you just may find yourself the proud owner of a marketable skill should we wake up one morning and find the world as we know it gone.

Part 6 deals with the recreational aspects of simpler living, and you may find some of these activities handy if there is no television to sit your kids in front of. I’ve seen a lot of pictures of FEMA’s disaster camps, and I haven’t seen one single person smiling in any of those pictures. Granted, it’s hard to smile when your life crashes down around you. But it seems to me that if there were some kind of entertainment to keep people occupied and busy, the time would pass with a little less pain. Perhaps some of the games and activities in this section will come in handy during an evacuation period. Additionally there are some good tips on getting out into the world of nature with some tips on living in the wilds, fishing and so forth.

The book concludes with an appendix containing some good contact information on many agencies that may be of help to you in your quest to build your survival homestead.

Edited by Abigail R. Gehring, Back to Basics, 3rd edition, is well worth the money I paid for it as an addition to my own library of survival and preparedness planning. This book covers everything from building a log cabin to tanning hides and making clothes, while at the same time guiding you through your food raising needs and preserving that food which you grew in your own container garden. How can you lose?

$24.95 ($33.95 Canada)
464 pages
Hardcover: 10 ¾ x 8 ½
Rights: World English
B&W Illustrations : 200
Color Illustrations : 2,000
Published: March 2008
ISBN: 9781602392335

From How to use cement for concrete construction for town and farm, by Henry C. Campbell:

Sometimes cisterns are built wholly or in part above ground, yet the natural place for such a structure is below ground. A cistern is nothing more or less than a tank required to keep clean water in storage without loss from leakage. It is therefore necessary that the structure be watertight. Cisterns have been built of such masonry as brick and stone but this cannot be depended upon to be watertight unless plastered, since leakage is almost certain to take place through mortar joints. For that reason concrete construction is perhaps more adaptable to the requirements than other materials. Steel tanks have been used for cisterns but from the very nature of the material it is subject to rust and cannot be regarded nearly as permanent as concrete.

Shape and Forms.
Since the advent of the commercial silo form used by rural concrete contractors in building concrete silos, many persons have had circular cisterns built. The home-made silo forms illustrated elsewhere in this book can be adapted to circular cistern construction if required, but unless one has already built such forms for use in constructing a silo, it is easier to build forms for a rectangular cistern.

In order to illustrate the principles of constructing a rectangular concrete cistern, the accompanying sketches have been fully detailed and show a cistern 7 feet square by 6 feet deep. A very advantageous detail of this cistern is the filter built on and as a part of the cistern cover slab. Rainwater enters this filter through the 6-inch tile drain shown and goes into the settling compartment containing the screen. This screen helps to prevent refuse such as leaves and other rubbish from going immediately into the filter compartment and thus clogging the filter material. The approximate capacity of this cistern is 70 barrels.

Materials Should All Be Ready Before Starting Work.

Before commencing to build a concrete cistern all necessary materials should be on hand. It is always well to have a slight excess of materials over, and above those required, to provide for slight loss due to waste in mixing and placing or to shortage through possible miscalculation of quantities required. The first thing to do is to lay out a square on the ground 8 feet on each side. If the earth is firm enough to serve as an outside form no other form will be needed. If, however, the earth has a tendency to cave, it will be necessary to make the excavation larger so that outside forms can be erected. As the concrete floor of the cistern is 5 inches thick the excavation should be made deep enough to allow for this and for the 3 feet of earth covering shown on the cistern roof. The cistern filter is 4 feet 8 inches by 3 feet 4 inches and covered with a reinforced concrete slab.


All necessary .forms should be built before commencing the excavation so if a sudden shower comes up forms can be quickly placed to prevent the earth from caving if it becomes water soaked. One-inch boards 4 or 6 inches wide, nailed to 2 by 4 inch uprights or studs placed 2 feet apart will make suitable forms. It will be noticed that two sides of the filter compartment have 6-inch walls which correspond to the wall thickness of the cistern, thus simplifying form construction in carrying this part of the work up into the filter. One-inch boards 4 by 6 inches wide nailed to 2 by 4-inch uprights or studs placed 2 feet apart will make suitable forms. The excavation as suggested should be made deep enough to provide for the small footing extension of the side walls, which extend below the floor slab. In this work it is expected that concrete for the side walls will be placed before the concrete floor is laid. Concreting of walls should be as continuous as possible to prevent construction seams or joints.


Horizontal reinforcing consists of 3/8th inch round rods spaced 6 inches center to center. The spacing of reinforcement for the various depths inside and out is shown to the left of section A-A in the section of concrete wall. Vertical reinforcing for the side walls should consist of rods long enough to permit of ends being bent over into the concrete roof or cover slab when this is the case. A plan of reinforcing for the roof shows in position a section of filter walls and the spacing of reinforcing rods for the cover slab, these rods also being 3/8th inch in diameter. Other sketches show details of the copper filter screen, the concrete filter slab on which the screen is placed, the removable cover for the filter compartment and the reinforcement for this cover slab. Vertical reinforcement in the cistern walls consist of 54-inch round rods spaced 16 inches center to center and turned 18 inches into the roof slab.


After the concrete has been placed for the side walls up to the bottom of cover slab the work may stop until the concrete has hardened sufficiently to permit removing forms, following which the concrete floor can be laid. A ½ inch beveled strip of siding should be set all around the bottom of wall at floor level against the offset of the footing and after the concrete floor has been placed and has hardened, these strips should be removed and the space left by them filled with hot tar to form a leak-proof joint. When the floor has hardened, which will require several days, studs can be set up to support the form on which the roof or cover slab concrete is to be placed. A hole should be left in this form, located to correspond to the location of the manhole in the filter so that after the roof has been concreted, entrance can be obtained to the cistern for knocking down the studs and removing forms.

Wherever reinforcement crosses or intersects it should be tied together with small iron wire so that rods will be held in their proper position and will not be displaced. Concrete should be mixed not leaner than 1:2:3. It should be of quaky consistency so that it will settle to all parts of the form and around reinforcing with slight paddling. Make certain that the concrete is thoroughly puddled around the concrete bricks or blocks used to support the forms at the bottom, at the same time taking care not to cover up these so as to prevent removing them when taking down forms. Wedging up the forms in this way at the bottom by placing these wedges under the studs allows the form to be dropped slightly and released when time to remove it.

Concrete should be placed as continuously as possible in courses not exceeding 6 or 8 inches entirely around and in the space between forms and should be well spaded next to faces so as to force back the coarse materials in the concrete and bring a film of mortar against the forms, thus resulting in a dense, smooth and consequently impervious surface.

If outside forms are not required, use care when placing concrete so as not to knock down dirt into it. If this happens porous pockets will be formed and probably leaks will result. Continuous concreting is desirable because in this way all concrete will be placed against fresh concrete, that is not hardened, and thus leaky construction seams will be avoided.

If an overflow opening is desired, arrange this at the proper level and connect it to a suitable outlet. The inlet pipe from the house drains should be placed as much below ground as depth of the structure will permit so as to prevent freezing. Two weeks after the last concrete has been placed it should be safe under usual summer weather conditions to remove the cistern roof forms.

Material used in the filter compartment for filtering the water consists of a layer of granular charcoal about 18 inches deep, on top of which is a 6 or 8 inch layer of clean well graded sand and gravel. A screen of ¼ inch mesh copper wire is placed over the pipe opening into the cistern in what has been already referred to as the settling compartment. This screen is held in position by the baffle boards as shown. It would be well to thoroughly wash out the cistern before filling with water for the first time although this will not be necessary unless the water is to be used for domestic purposes other than laundry work.




The course of history hasn’t changed much when it comes to our drinking water supplies. We either get it from standing water, such as a pond or cistern, or we get it from a hole in the ground. One thing that has changed is how we make that hole in the ground. Nowadays we usually hire a well drilling company to do the job, but sometimes the situation calls for an old fashioned hand dug well. One key factor in any well is protecting it from contamination, and hand dug wells are especially prone to problems if you do not take steps to prevent problems from occurring. There are many ways to do that today, from using corrugated culvert to precast concrete caissons to line the well. But to some extent you can also pour in place your own concrete well lining.

Here’s a piece from the old days that tells you one way to line your well;


One of the most necessary appointments of the farm is a well to furnish a supply of good, pure drinking water, and a well should be so located and lined that the water will be protected against all possibility of contamination from outside sources.

The old wooden well lining and cover not only permits particles of soil and vegetable matter to drop into the water but soon reaches a state of decay when it becomes a source of danger to life and to limb from contamination and possibility of accidents. The top covering becomes loose, boards are pushed into or dropped down the well and the opening is a serious menace to farm animals and children about the place.

A concrete well lining and platform will overcome and for all time prevent these dangers. The concrete well lining should extend down into the well from 6 to 8 feet or sufficient depth to prevent burrowing of animals and seepage through the upper layers of soil.

In localities where an underground water stratum of undesirable quality is found at greater depth than this, the lining should be extended down far enough to exclude such water. In lining a well with concrete first remove the top cover as well as the old lining down to the desired depth. At that depth a platform must be built to form a stage on which to work. This platform may rest on the old lining or else be supported against the soil within the well. With this platform in place and all of the old lining thoroughly removed, forms for the new lining may be built. These should consist of 1 by 4 inch strips beveled at the edge to permit their being placed around in a circle with tight joints facing the concrete.

One of the accompanying illustrations shows this in the sectional plan of forms. These boards should be braced by 2 by 4’s at sufficient intervals to insure that they will not bulge or give way under the pressure of the fresh concrete. These forms are 4 feet long as shown in the sketch of the vertical section and are so bolted together that they are easily collapsible when necessary to take them down. As a rule only interior forms will be needed if they are braced and blocked sufficient distance from the earth wall when concreting. After the form section has been filled with concrete the forms should be left in place until the concrete has thoroughly hardened. Then they may be removed and a support or platform built for casting the concrete cover slab or if this is not too large to be handled in place by three or four men, it may be cast separately in a form made for that purpose and when it is hardened be moved to its position over the well curb.

A platform not less than 4 inches thick and reinforced with 1/4 inch round rods 8 or 10 inches center to center should be made. An opening must be provided for inserting the pump and another one to serve as a manhole which may be necessary if the well has to be cleaned out at some time.

A tight fitting concrete cover should be made for this manhole, provision being made for it when the cover slab or platform is cast. The edges of the manhole opening should be beveled and the cover for the manhole opening correspondingly beveled to fit into this opening.

Plan of concrete pavement on ground around well lining or curb.

Concrete for a well lining platform should be mixed not leaner than 1:2:4 although a 1:2:3 mixture is preferable. The pebbles or broken stones used should not exceed 1 inch in largest dimension.