Archive for January, 2011

HOW TO BUILD A SNOW-HUT

BY ROALD AMUNDSEN

Community of igloos. (Illustration from Charles Francis Hall’s Arctic Researches and Life Among the Esquimaux, 1865) Wikipedia

 

In order to obtain a correct idea as to how a hut should be built in the most approved style, we will pay a visit to the master-builder, Atikleura. He is standing just below the summit of the ridge beckoning to Nalungia to intimate that he has found a suitable spot and that she is to bring him his snow-shovel. A glance at the site he has selected shows that Atikleura is a practical man as well as a man of taste. The position is well sheltered to the north, east, and west and the crest of the ridge at the back will prove a barrier to the biting north wind. Towards the south the prospect is open and will have the full benefit of the sunshine. Close by there is a small lake or pond which will supply the most delicious drinking water for the family. The country hereabouts consists mainly of spacious plains and beautiful lakes.

Meanwhile Nalungia has arrived with the snow-shovel. This is made of a wooden board which Atikleura has obtained by barter from tribes dwelling farther south, as there is no wood in Nechilli, nor does the smallest piece of driftwood ever find its way to these latitudes. The shovel is made in a very workmanlike manner, and excellently suited for its purpose as long as the snow is loose. For hard snow, of course, our iron spades would be preferable. It is strengthened at the lower end with reindeer bone.

Now, the first thing Atikleura does, is to shovel away the upper loose layer of snow, in the circumference within which he had planned to erect his hut. He does so with a true eye, as the large number of huts he has built in his lifetime has given him good practice. Then he draws out the knife which has hitherto been suspended by a loop on the bone peg at the back of his “anorak.” It is quite a monster knife, enough to frighten anyone who had not seen it before. The blade is as large as that of an ordinary good-sized butcher’s knife, and is made of iron, which has also come from the south; the handle is about a foot long, and is of wood or bone. Taking the handle with both hands he commenced to cut out his ice-blocks for building the hut. These are cut out to a size about eighteen inches wide, twenty-four inches long, and four inches thick. If cut out in this way, the building site itself will yield sufficient material for the whole construction.

It is a pleasure to see how a good builder cuts each block so that it just fits where he sets it. Atikleura is a veritable prodigy at this work. Not one of his blocks ever breaks in pieces, although he appears to cut them out without any particular care. Just a cut here and there, then a kick, and the thin neat block stands separated from the mass of snow. All the blocks from Atikleura’s hand are so exactly equal in size that they look as if they had been accurately measured. The hut is built up in spirals in the form of a haycock or beehive, so that one layer of blocks rests on the previous one and extends a little farther inward. In joining the blocks the sides must be fitted to each other so that the walls are perfectly tight. The builder’s skill can be gauged by the tightness of the hut: but even with Atikleura’s skill it is impossible to avoid some few small chinks here and there. It is Nalungia’s task to fill up these chinks. For this purpose she works the shoveled-up, loose snow until it is as fine as grated sugar, for it is only when it is in this state that it can be used for making the joints tight. It is thrown up against the blocks as soon as they are placed in position, and fills in every little hole and crevice. The walls of the hut rise quickly. As the blocks are cut out, the ground is cleared downwards; and as they are set into their places, they serve to increase the height of the walls of the cleared site. Atikleura looks as if he had been standing on his head in a flour-tub; he is covered with snow all over; his clothes, hair, and beard are white as chalk. His long gloves prevent the snow from getting into the sleeves of the “anorak.”

Building the roof of such a snow-hut is a very complicated affair to the uninitiated. Many a snow-block did I get on my head when I essayed this work. The snow blocks have to be set back gradually inward, and when the work is nearing completion, the last blocks would appear to be literally suspended in the air, without any base or support. The last block (or keystone) which closes the roof in the center is quite small, and in most cases triangular. To fix it in its position from the outside, it must first be juggled out through the hole which it is eventually to fill. This looks impossible, but the .Eskimo achieves the impossible. With one hand he raises his block to the outside, through the hole at the top, and while holding it he cuts it into the shape of a wedge with the knife he holds in the other; and when he lowers it into the hole, it fits it as if it had been molded for the purpose.

Nalungia, aided by Errera, has perseveringly plastered over the outside of the hut with fine snow, so that it simply looks like a snow-heap. The outlines of the blocks are now quite concealed under the snow. But the hut is perfectly tight, as the fine snow works itself in wherever there is the slightest hole or crevice. The master-builder himself is not yet visible; he is still busy in the interior of the hut, where he is now completely built in. At last his long-bladed knife protrudes from the wall of snow, and with a rapid movement he cuts a hole just large enough for him to creep through. I am surprised to see how high up the wall he cuts the hole, as in all the huts I have hitherto seen, this entrance hole was quite down to the floor. Now Nalungia creeps in through the aperture, and I follow her to see what she is going to do in the way of further internal arrangements. I am at once enlightened as to why the aperture is made so high up; Atikleura has cut it on a level with the sleeping-berth, to expedite the work of “moving in.” He has constructed the sleeping-berth as follows: He has first divided the hut by a row of snow-blocks into two compartments, of which the inner one is twice as large as the outer. He throws all the loose, refuse snow lying in the hut, into the inner compartment, until it reaches the level of the row of blocks, and there you have the “bedstead” quite ready. At the opposite end of the hut is another small erection, made of two blocks, set on edge, and a third laid across them, like a table slab.

Now commences the moving in, through the aperture above the sleeping-berth. Large quantities of skins are thrown in and slung topsy-turvy upon the sleeping place. Next comes all the furniture — a drying grid, water bucket, cooking pot, blubber lamp, provisions, blubber, meat and fish; and lastly the women’s personal belongings — which I dare not specify more fully. Now it looks as if all were over and Mrs. Nalungia casts an inquiring look at me, as much as to say: “Are you going to creep out?” I have no idea what is about to happen, but my curiosity prompts me to remain, thinking that anything much worse than I had seen before was hardly likely to occur; but I certainly was a little taken aback when the hole over the sleeping-berth was suddenly blocked up again from outside and I was alone, with one lady, in a closed-up hut. However, as Nalungia did not seem to mind it in the least, why should I trouble? Disregarding me, she set to work with a will. The heavy blubber lamp was first raised upon the little snow-table near the wall opposite the sleeping-berth. This lamp is made of a kind of stone they obtain from the Utkohikchyallik Eskimo; it is carved in the form of a crescent, and is heavy and clumsy. It is placed upon three pieces of bone inserted in the snow-slab, so that the inner edge of the crescent is turned towards the interior of the hut, while the outer edge is towards the wall.

The blubber bag is now brought out and a piece of frozen blubber taken from it; this is beaten with a specially made club of musk-ox bone until it is quite soft. Now she produces, from one of her repositories, a little tuft of moss, which she carefully soaks with seal oil — ugh, I remember with horror those mysterious “light pastilles” — and then she sets to work to get a light by rubbing pieces of wood together. The” pastille” soon sends out the most dazzling rays; the crushed blubber is put into the lamp, and a wick of moss is laid along the whole of the straight inner edge; this is sprinkled with seal-oil and ignited by means of the burning tuft of moss. The whole wick is now blazing, and a brilliant flame lights up the roomy hut. I ask myself what in the world she wants with this brilliant flame, as she has now finished arranging the hut, and I am almost on the point of upbraiding her for this waste of precious oil, but I refrain, as I remember that an Eskimo never does anything without good reason. In fact it soon becomes apparent that here, too, my judgment is premature. Gradually an oppressive heat spreads from the mighty flame, and now I understand that her object is to cause the newly built hut to settle well down at the joints. As the result of the heat thus produced, the snow blocks gradually close up till they may be said to form one single continuous wall.

This piece was excerpted from The Search for the Poles ed. by Eva Tappan ©1914. It’s an old piece, but the process of building a home from the snowpack is still in use today.

It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s bound to in the near future. Earthquakes are part of life along our southwest coastline here in the US and hardly a day goes by without several reports are posted from the region on what they consider minor events. In looking at the USGS’s California-Nevada Fault Map this morning, I see 95 reports from the last week. While this doesn’t signify a major tremblor for the area, or an indication that an 8.0 or greater will occur, there also is no way to tell that there won’t be one, either.

Will there, or won’t there be a severe earthquake in the LA area soon? I can’t tell for sure, nobody can. But I can speculate on what will occur to the area if it does happen. And by LA, I mean the area stretching from Indio on up through San Bernardino and then to Santa Monica. It’s a big area, and while there seems to be more minor tremblors in the Indio area, there isn’t much recorded around the heavier populated LA to Riverside stretch. Could it just be a long nap along the fault lines, or are the plates getting ready to crack?

We’re all still fixated on the Haitian tragedy of a year ago when Port au Prince was devastated by an earthquake, and we still see today the effects of poverty and government corruption have had on the population. It’s a year later and people are still living on handouts and living in tent villages. Will that be the outcome of a major event here in the US?

It’s unlikely we will see the magnitude of poverty that Haiti has suffered from after their quake, but I believe there will be some similarities in the aftermath of such an event. For one thing, the LA area has a greater population spread out over a larger land area, but the infrastructure is significantly greater, and in a far better state than what Haiti had at the time of their event. Simply put, LA is better built after having learned from their experiences. Whereas Haiti had little resources to commit to rebuilding, we have significantly greater resources, and less corruption to channel those resources away from rebuilding the area.

But there will be some things happen that we have never seen before in an earthquake of any sizeable magnitude in the US. I believe that FEMA will attempt to build upon the mistakes made in the Katrina aftermath and impose some of the controls on the area that many in the conspiracy theater seem to feel the government can’t wait to try.

For one, I think we will see federal agencies flock to the disaster in record time, no matter the severity of destruction. We will see federally imposed Martial Law placed upon the affected area almost from the get go. I also believe we will see forced evacuations and quickly erected tent cities used to house those evacuees. The area will in effect become a ghost town, populated by lone holdouts, looters and gangs. Evacuated persons will not be allowed to return to the area, and the military will be used to patrol the area. I see little being done to actually control the resulting looting, however. The reason for that is the Posse Comitatus act of 1878. Originally intended to prevent out federal troops from being used in local law enforcement duties, we have seen that act become basically useless over the last couple of decades or so.

As disasters have seemingly increased as federal government power and autonomy has increased, we’ve seen an increase in the militaries use in providing disaster relief. Where we once would see local volunteers and the Red Cross handing out food and blankets, we now see uniformed soldiers performing the task. In Katrina, we saw a limited engagement of military patrols in the flood ravaged community. Next time around we will see a greater presence of troops involved in that duty. However, we are still a ways off from being able to stomach the idea of an armed soldier gunning down a gang-banger looting a 52″ television. The press would have a field day with that one, both liberal and conservative.

But still, the troops will be utilized to force innocent people from their homes and evacuated to what will be considered by FEMA to be a safe haven, namely the tent cities. It will be a grand exercise to test the will of the people of this nation, as well as to further de=sensitize us to the presence of what should not be in this nation. Government intrusion at its worst.

A page from DHS’s collection of pages has a piece by Major Craig T. Trebilcock called The Myth of Posse Comitatus, written in 2000. I’ve shared his conclusions here, and this conclusion seems to be the policy of the DHS when confronted with the possibility of using the military on our own soil.

Is the Posse Comitatus Act totally without meaning today? No, it remains a deterrent to prevent the unauthorized deployment of troops at the local level in response to what is purely a civilian law enforcement matter. Although no person has ever been successfully prosecuted under the act, it is available in criminal or administrative proceedings to punish a lower-level commander who uses military forces to pursue a common felon or to conduct sobriety checkpoints off of a federal military post. Officers have had their careers abruptly brought to a close by misusing federal military assets to support a purely civilian criminal matter.

But does the act present a major barrier at the National Command Authority level to use of military forces in the battle against terrorism? The numerous exceptions and policy shifts carried out over the past 20 years strongly indicate that it does not. Could anyone seriously suggest that it is appropriate to use the military to interdict drugs and illegal aliens but preclude the military from countering terrorist threats that employ weapons of mass destruction? For two decades the military has been increasingly used as an auxiliary to civilian law enforcement when the capabilities of the police have been exceeded. Under both the statutory and constitutional exceptions that have permitted the use of the military in law enforcement since 1980, the president has ample authority to employ the military in homeland defense against the threat of weapons of mass destruction in terrorist hands.

The government has weaseled in the usage of the military of some aspects of our security; will they go all the way and turn the military into a nationalized federal police force of sorts? Hard to tell for sure, but I do know there are those in power today that would love to see this come about. But if we do soon see an 8.0 in Commiefornia, we’ll be paying close attention to the results.

 Be sure to turn to Survival 101 to hear my broadcasts on preparedness planning!

Click onto the button above to listen to episode one of Preparedness 101!

This post is a new treat for those who have been listening to my Blogtalk radio recordings. Join me in listening to my first episode of Preparedness 101. In this episode I will introduce this new series of recordings, and I’ll talk about what preparedness and survival planning is and why it is so important for us today as we get ready to survive the coming times.

Consider these episodes as a distance learning tool if you will, but the goal is to help you all learn the what, why and how of preparedness planning

Excerpted from Domestic Sanitation and Plumbing by A. Herring Shaw

Collection and storage of the rainfall from impervious surfaces such as roofs, yards, and courts is occasionally adopted in country districts for domestic services other than drinking water, and in some instances it also is used for the latter purpose.

Roof surfaces are generally chosen for the collection areas, and the water from there can be stored in a tank in the high part of the house. The various fittings throughout the premises are then supplied by gravitation.

A large portion of the organic matter which accumulates on roof surfaces is conveyed by the rain-water into the storage tank, especially at the commencement of a heavy downpour. This is an objectionable feature, for the stored water gives off an unpleasant odor, especially when heated for use in baths, lavatories, and sinks. Such water is totally unfit for drinking or potable purposes.

Fig. 28.—Rain-water Separator. (Apparently these devices are no longer being made. This Roberts Rainwater Separator was available during the latter 1800’s. Might make for an interesting venture for the mechanically inclined to develop a new device to place on the market.ds)

In many instances the rain-water is conveyed by the ordinary fall pipes to an underground tank constructed in the vicinity of the building.

It is advisable to adopt an arrangement which will either reduce the amount of organic matter conveyed by the rainwater from the roofs, or eliminate it entirely before the water passes into the distribution tank. Two methods are available for this purpose. One consists in fixing a device which will automatically divert the first portion of the rainfall, and discharge it into the foul-water drain. The roof-washings are thus prevented from mixing with the purer portion of the roof-water.

Fig. 28 shows a vertical section through Roberts’ rain-water separator. This appliance consists of a series of chambers and small balancing tanks enclosed by a movable drum which turns about a central pivot, M, attached to a stationary part of the apparatus. The water enters through the screening chamber A, and passes through E into the foul-water chamber N, whence it passes by a special pipe to waste. In the compartment C a small adjustable sluice, B, allows a stream of water to pass into the chamber F, which, when full, overflows into the canting tank J. When a certain quantity of water has accumulated in J, the centre of gravity of the drum is altered, and a movement takes place which shifts the outlet of E from the chamber N to the chamber 0. From the latter the water passes to the storage tank. When the flow from the roof ceases, the tank J is emptied by the siphon L, and the drum regains its normal position with the outlet of E over the foul-water chamber N.

Fio. 29.—Scheme for Collection of Rain-water.

Fig. 29 shows the application of the rain-water separator to a rain-water storage system. The water is led to an underground storage tank from the pure-water outlet, and is pumped as required into a distribution tank fixed in the high part of the house. Care should be taken to make the storage tank watertight, and provision for ventilation of the enclosed space should be made. The top of the access shaft should be raised about 12 ins. above the surrounding earth and be banked with concrete.

If the rain-water is required for drinking and potable purposes, it must be filtered previous to delivery into the distribution tank. To affect this, one or more sand-filters are required in addition to a large storage tank for the raw water and a smaller one for the filtered water.

Fig. 30 shows a plan and sections of a scheme for the collection, storage, and filtration of rain-water for supplying a large country house with potable water. The rain-water is collected from the various roof-surfaces and conveyed through the main channels M M to the large storage tank, K. At E a horizontal type of rain-water separator is showD, but is not always used. The bottom of the tank K slopes towards the scour-pipe, where a sump is provided to facilitate the proper cleansing of the tank. The overflow is connected to the scour-pipe at the far side of the valve N. A pipe conveys the raw water through the valves D, C, on to the pair of filters H, J. The scour-pipe P from these filters is connected to the scour-pipe from the large storage tank. The outlets from the filters are guarded by the valves E and F, and enter a Y junction which conveys the water to the filtered water-storage tank G. This tank is provided with an emptying pipe, 0, which joins the scour-pipe.

Great care is essential during the construction of the tanks and filters, to guard against the possibility of pollution of the stored water. The tank bottom can be of Portland cement concrete 6 ins. thick, and the walls of brick 14 to 18 ins. thickness, with a layer of sheet bitumen behind the inner 4£ ins. of brickwork. The bituminous sheeting must be continued over the bottom of the tank, and 3 ins. of brickwork should be placed above the sheeting. All brickwork must be set in cement mortar. Blue bricks should bo used for the interior, and hard-burnt red bricks for the outer walls.

The respective capacities of tanks and filters will be governed by local conditions and requirements, assuming (a) that the total requirements of the house per diem = 500 gallons; and (b) the collection area, i.e. the roof surface, is 140 ft. x 100 ft.; and (c) the mean annual rainfall = 50 ins.

The portion of the rainfall that can be stored will depend upon the amount which is rejected by the separator (if one be used) and the quantity lost by evaporation. The latter quantity is fairly considerable during warm and windy weather, and especially if the rainfall be intermittent and also not heavy in character.

It is usual to allow from 6 to 8 ins. depth for evaporation, and assuming a reasonable amount—\ the total rainfall—to be rejected by the separator—the total quantity available for storage is as follows:—

Requirements per annum = 500 x 365 = 182,500 galls.; leaving a surplus of 266,666 – 182,500 = 84,166 galls.

The amount to be stored varies in different districts as from 60 to 150 days. Assuming that 100 days’ supply has to be stored, then the capacity of the storage tank –

Assuming the depth of the tank to be 10 ft. and the length 25 ft., the breadth –

The two filters should each have a surface area of 9 sq. ft. This will allow them to be worked under a slight head, and will give a highly efficient filtrate. Two pipes connect the filters to the scour-pipe, and provide for running the water from the filters to waste for a period of twenty-four hours after cleansing operations.

The duplication of the filters permits of cleansing being carried out without risk of a shortage of filtered water occurring.

The storage capacity of the filtered water-tank should be equal to three days’ requirements. The capacity of the tank would then be—

which would be obtained by the following measurements: 8 ft. x 6 ft. x 5,ft.

From this tank the water requires to be lifted by means of a pump into a storage tank fixed in the high part of the house.

It should be borne in mind that rain-water collected in country districts is soft, well aerated, and usually slightly acid. These features are responsible for the solvent action which rain-water has upon lead, iron, zinc, and copper. This action may be neutralized by allowing the water to come in contact with limestone or chalk; the C02 dissolved in the water combines with the lime carbonate, and the water is rendered alkaline. If care be taken regarding the use of the limestone, the solvent character of the water can be changed, but the water is liable to become “hard “—a feature which is considered objectionable. A hardness of several degrees is, however, preferable to a solvent property.

In rare instances special rain-water collection surfaces are provided by enclosing and carefully under-draining grass land. Great care is essential to prevent the subsoil water in the surrounding earth from entering the collection channels of the prepared area.

MMMMM! TV dinners! Remember the old days when they used to come packaged in the aluminum trays and the tin foil covers? Today they’re all in microwaveable trays of course, but that may no matter in the future, especially if we are indeed running out of frozen foods.

The latest USDA Cold Storage Report just came out a few days ago, and the news doesn’t look good for those of us that rely upon the frozen foods industry to supply our larders. If I haven’t mentioned it before, frozen food should not be part of your long term planning, and if it is, it should be a very minor part.

But the problem here is not how the cold storage industry affects our planning, but how it affects the entire nation and the convoluted food preparation and distribution systems. The old law of supply and demand holds true here as in every other transfer of product from one source to another. High demand and low supply means high costs involved. Low demand and high levels of supply mean lower costs.

Let me share a few of the high points of the report;

Frozen food stocks in refrigerated warehouses on December 31, 2010 were greater than year earlier levels for chicken, eggs, cheese, beef and pork.

Butter stocks were up 17 percent from last month but down 38 percent from a year ago.

Total red meat supplies in freezers were up 2 percent from both the previous month and last year. Frozen pork supplies were up 2 percent from the previous month and up 1 percent from last year. Stocks of pork bellies were up 35 percent from last month but down 10 percent from last year.

Total frozen poultry supplies on December 31, 2010 were up 4 percent from the previous month and up 9 percent from a year ago. Total stocks of chicken were up 4 percent from the previous month and up 25 percent from last year. Total pounds of turkey in freezers were up 8 percent from last month but down
28 percent from December 31, 2009.

For the most part, chicken, eggs, cheese, beef and pork were all reported to be at higher levels, but going through the fine print many of the staple foods that we rely on were down for the year over year metric. Butter, which we all use for cooking and buttering that fresh cornbread, as well as pork bellies, i.e. bacon stock etc. and turkey were all down.

Do you like apples? As of 31 Dec. 2010 there were 4,893,486,000 lbs in storage, but on 31 Dec. 2011 there were only 4,571,594,000 lbs in storage, a drop of 321,892,000 lbs. That’s a lot of apples. There were also drops in the amount of pears and nuts in cold storage as well. Total frozen fruit as a gross category dropped 163,395,000 lbs to a total of 1,165,242,000 lbs. Frozen juices dropped to 337,207,000 lbs as a category.

There were also drops in most of the vegetables categories and potatoes as well. Meats and poultry seem to be on the increase, which is a good thing, but the fact that most of our base frozen food categories that give us the nutrients and fiber we need disturbs me somewhat. All told, the frozen commodities market looks like this;



The bottom line here is that we see a drop of 1,086,698,000 lbs compared to 12 months earlier. Where did this food go, and how will it affect our preparedness and survival planning down the road?

First of all, the food didn’t actually go anywhere. It just wasn’t frozen, and/or it was sold as fresh food at market of to processors. A good portion of our crops were also destroyed by weather as well, and don’t forget that a growing percentage of our food crops such as corn, grasses, sugar beets and so forth are being gobbled up by the ethanol industry to support the Gaiaists drive to stop that old nonexistent global warming trend by making us consume more poor quality fuel.

The end result is that we have a decline in the quantity of frozen food available for consumption, but we have a growing population ready to consume that diminished supply. This means our food prices will be increasing above and beyond what they normally would increase over the coming year’s time. We have a double whammy in store for our food budgets for two reasons here. The first reason is the same one I reported to you several months ago on my radio program. The costs of production have been rising, in some cases exponentially and the wholesale prices have been rising for some months. The retail sector can no longer absorb the increased costs and are now raising prices to compensate for their loss of profits. And now we have to add into the matrix the lowered food supply thus feeding the supply and demand rule that also can drive costs upward.

You can translate that into higher long term storage foods as well. I recommended that you make your food purchases a few months ago before prices went up, and over the last few days of tracking prices at some of the supply house I see some huge increases, and many suppliers are reporting low stock and sometimes no stock on a growing numbers of products.

This is where paying attention to the markets can help you develop your long term plans. Watch the commodities prices and remember that wholesale increases precede retail prices, in some cases by several months. This will give you time to set your financial needs to right to buy before we see the retail level hikes in our needs.

To get back to the question of “are we running out of food” I think it’s fair to say probably not, even though we will see a decline in the availability of many food products over the next year or two. A good weather year in 2012 coupled with increases in plantings will eventually lead to lower costs. However, we do still need to remember that costs of production also lead to higher costs as well as the supply/demand equation.
 

Pay attention to what’s going on around you and you’ll be better prepared to survive the coming times.

(source for figures: NASS/USDA Cold Storage Report, 21 January 2011.)