Archive for April, 2011

We’re all aware of the latest natural disaster to wreak havoc upon this nation, via this past week’s slew of tornados throughout some of the southern states. A still unfolding tragedy, this period of nature’s fury caused over three hundred deaths, according to news reports. There seems to be no end of sites offering terrifying video clips of one tornado after another ripping through one community after another. Peoples lives, and their livelihoods wiped out in a matter of seconds, and all we can do is sit and stare at a screen, oohing and aahing over the destruction that no Hollywood film could recreate.

Tornados are a way of life, or rather a part of life, for many people in this country. Moreover, tornados occur in other nations as well, so it is not as if Alabama has been singled out for this particular form of judgment. We even have them up here in Maine, so they can, and do occur at any time, and in any place, and with little to no warning. Remember that in your preparedness planning.

My general advice is “why do you live in a place where you know you have a large probability of being slammed?” The answer is of course that there is usually little to no option. So you do the best you can to ride out the storm, and hope that the damage is never greater than you can bear. Unfortunately, all too often that happens to be the outcome.

What are some of the things you should be doing as a prepper to prepare for a tornado? If you live in a conventional home, you should, as a first step, consider building a safe room in your home. FEMA says this about safe rooms;

Preparing a Safe Room
Extreme windstorms in many parts of the country pose a serious threat to buildings and their occupants. Your residence may be built “to code,” but that does not mean it can withstand winds from extreme events such as tornadoes and major hurricanes. The purpose of a safe room or a wind shelter is to provide a space where you and your family can seek refuge that provides a high level of protection. You can build a safe room in one of several places in your home.

  • Your basement.
  • Atop a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or garage floor.
  • An interior room on the first floor.

Safe rooms built below ground level provide the greatest protection, but a safe room built in a first-floor interior room also can provide the necessary protection. Below-ground safe rooms must be designed to avoid accumulating water during the heavy rains that often accompany severe windstorms.

  • To protect its occupants, a safe room must be built to withstand high winds and flying debris, even if the rest of the residence is severely damaged or destroyed. Consider the following when building a safe room:
  • The safe room must be adequately anchored to resist overturning and uplift.
  • The walls, ceiling, and door of the shelter must withstand wind pressure and resist penetration by windborne objects and falling debris.
  • The connections between all parts of the safe room must be strong enough to resist the wind.
  • Sections of either interior or exterior residence walls that are used as walls of the safe room, must be separated from the structure of the residence so that damage to the residence will not cause damage to the safe room.

Farming communities of old utilized root cellars when a severe storm approached, and if possible you should look into that potential source of protection as well. However, many current zoning laws in the larger population centers prohibit this sort of a shelter for many reasons.

If you are in a position to build a new home, concrete dome homes are said to be more than worthy of withstanding virtually any tornado or wind storm, even hurricanes. Building your home below ground can also eliminate much of the destruction caused by tornados. Any type of construction that eliminates the possibility of wind catching, or buffeting a structure will lessen its impact.

It is funny that many people refer to mobile home parks as disaster magnets, and the news outlets show clip after clip of the destruction seen in these types of settlements after a tornado hits, but we still fail to see why the destruction seems to be so much greater than it is elsewhere. Part of the reason lies in the construction and installation of these homes, and part lies simply in their location.

Mobile homes are poorly made to begin with, in spite of the advancement in quality over the years. Built like a box of Saltine crackers, they have absolutely zero tolerance for wind of any sort. Coupled with the fact that they are simply placed upon a concrete pad, with an air space underneath, you have a prime example of a piece of litter waiting to be blown across the parking lot in the breeze. I’m sure you’ve seen a box, bottle or bag being blown about before. Just picture a mobile home in the same place and you can see why they become prime targets for wind damage.

Not only that, mobile home parks are usually built on no longer used farmland, which means that the wind has no natural break to lessen its impact when it reached these cleared out patches of land, and also allows an unfettered opportunity for wind to increase its power.

If you must live in a tornado prone area, please make sure you plan accordingly, and try to live in a shelter that has been specifically built to eliminate wind damage.

And after the fact, make sure you keep on keeping on, learning from the experience. FEMA has a 12-page brochure called Recovering from Disaster that you can download here.


(Adapted from an article by Joseph Henry Adams)

There are three kinds of wheels, the overshot, breast, and undershot. The overshot is the most powerful, for it is not only moved by the weight of water that it holds but also by the force of the onrushing water from the sluice arranged to feed it. The breast-wheel is the next in power and is used where the fall of water is not so great. The undershot wheel is employed in a rapidly running brook or stream where there is no dam or body of headwater. This form of wheel is the least powerful and the most unreliable, for the height of the watercourse is liable to change according to seasons and storms. While at one time it may be flushed up to the hub, at another the water may hardly touch the blades of the wheel.

These forms of old-style wheels have become almost obsolete now as the modern turbine has superseded it as a means of employing water as a motive power. Less than one-quarter of the surface of the old-time wheels would be actively engaged at any one time, and the waste of power was appalling as compared with the sluice-box and pen-stock of the modern turbine where every drop of water is lending its influence to the blades. A turbine, however, is rather beyond the ability of the average homesteader to properly construct, and so we do the best we can with the old-style wheels.

In the accompanying drawings several ideas for waterwheels are shown, and among them a boy should be able to find one that he can make from boards and sticks, at a slight cost, and which if properly rigged and adjusted will develop a considerable amount of power.

A Simple Paddle-wheel

The simple paddle-wheel, as shown at Fig. i, is made from an axle three inches square, four spokes, and four boards. For a wheel of medium size that will develop about one-eighth of a horse-power the axle should be four feet long. One end is rounded for a distance of four inches as shown at A, and with bit and chisel two mortises are cut in opposite directions as shown at A. These holes are one inch and a quarter wide and three inches long. Into them the spokes are driven and held with screws or iron pins. Another pair of holes are cut thirty inches from the first and two more spokes driven in them. The spokes are thirty inches long, thus leaving thirteen and a half inches of each one projecting beyond the axle or hub.

The paddle blades are boards thirty inches long, ten inches wide, and seven-eighths of an inch thick. They are attached to the spokes with carriage-bolts and washers.

A rounded bearing two inches wide is cut in the axle beyond the spokes so as to correspond with the other end, and beyond this the axle is left square. Bearings for this wheel are made in the edge of a stout plank notched as shown at B, and held in place by iron straps as also depicted at B. Long screws or screw-bolts, commonly known as lag screws, will hold the strap in place, and from the square end of the shaft the connection is made for power. In place of the iron strap another piece of wood may be cut and clamped down over the axle end as shown at C.

A Wagon Wheel

Another variety of water-wheel may be made from the hubs and spokes of two old wheels, preferably those from a buggy or light wagon. Fig. 2.

Remove the iron boxes from the hubs by driving them out, then cut a hole in each hub with a chisel and mallet, as shown at A, so they will be at least an inch and a half square. From hickory or other hard-wood make an axle the size of the holes and arrange the hubs on it so they will be thirty inches apart. One side of each spoke should be cut as shown at B in order that the blades may rest against a flat place instead of a rounded surface. The blades should be from thirty to thirty-six inches long and ten or twelve inches wide,and held to the spokes with carriage or tire bolts. This wheel may be swung in bearings as described in Fig. i, and from the square end of the axle the power can be taken.

Both of these wheels may be used as over or undershot but not as breast-wheels, for a breast-wheel must have pockets to hold the water, and the overshot-wheel should have them too if all the available force and weight of water is to be employed.

A Barrel-wheel

A very simple and efficient device is shown in the drawing of a barrel-wheel (Fig. 3). This consists of an old barrel having tight ends and staves, or a modern steel or blue plastic barrel, a number of blades, and some siding-boards.

The blades are of hard-wood ten inches wide and the length of the barrel. One edge of each blade is cut to conform with the bilge of the barrel as shown at A, and with three or four long screws each blade is made fast to the barrel at the middle. The ends of the barrel are replanked so as to build their surface even with the projecting edges of the staves, and then some matched boards are nailed or screwed to the heads to bind together the ends of the blades. Screws are passed through the boards and into the ends of the blades to make them secure, and in this manner a hollow wheel is made with pockets around the outside.

A square hole should be cut in each end of the barrel and into them an axle is driven. It is provided with rounded bearings and square end. When swung in a carriage and connected a powerful wheel will be the result if the force of water is sufficient to drive it.

An Undershot-wheel

For a brook an undershot-wheel can be made with two round ends and ten or twelve blades according to the size of the wheel. For an efficient one the wheel should be thirtysix or forty-eight inches in diameter and thirty inches wide. Two ends are made from matched boards held together with battens as shown in Fig. 4 A. These are arranged on a square axle and the blades are made fast between them with long screws or steel nails. Fig. 4 B.

A Power-wheel

To utilize the power from a rapidly running brook place two tree-trunks across the brook about six feet apart as shown in Fig. 5. On top of these timbers attach two spruce beams eight or ten inches wide and two inches thick, and anchor them well with spikes and check-blocks. At the middle and on top of both timbers cut notches for the axle to fit in and provide them with metal straps to hold the axle in place. A long axle leading to the land can be supported on a short timber attached to stout stakes driven in the ground, and another bearing and strap will hold this from jumping with the rapid revolutions of the wheel. A wooden pulley may be arranged at the end of this axle, and from it the power can be taken off by means of belting or rope.

Another arrangement for this wheel will be to swing it in a cradle or frame so that one end of it may be lifted to reduce the speed or power of the wheel, the other end being securely attached to a tree-trunk with hinges.

A Wheel-race

The water from a wide, shallow brook may be directed so as to throw its full force against the blades of a wheel by digging it out at the middle and damming it at the sides as shown by the diagram of a modified brook (Fig. 6). The dams should be solidly built and if possible cribbed to prevent their washing away.

An electrical generator

From the shaft ends on each of these water wheels a pulley for a belt driven generator can be attached. These generators can be bought specifically for this purpose, or in a severe melt down situation you can adapt generators from other units as well. For instance, a generator/alternator from an automobile or truck can be attached to give you 12 volt power. You’ll need to ascertain the correct rotation of the unit to get the proper output, but you can wire in a voltage converter for low wattage AC power as well with this setup. It will allow you to charge your cell phone or run a laptop for instance, as well as allowing you to charge up any rechargeable batteries you have.

You can also pull a generator from a self standing genset when fuel is no longer available to run the generator. Make sure you ascertain the correct rotation of these generator units before attaching it to the pulley from this water wheel set up and you can have your own power company up and running in no time. Of course, it will hardly provide a commercial level or quality power supply, but it may be enough for you to power your survival homestead in the coming times.

Explore the concept, play with the possibility and you may just find yourself surprised with the potential you can find in yourself when the going gets tough.

I picked up a copy of Les Stroud’s book Survive, and found it to be a very good read, so good in fact I’ve placed it into my keeper library of prepper and survival literature. There are a couple of reasons for it, one of which is that Les doesn’t dwell on the fast paced hype that many ‘survival gurus’ want to push.

This book is divided into 15 chapters, plus author notes and some good checklists in the back. Les starts out with chapter one being on trip planning and preparation. Funny, but a lot of so called experts usually gloss over the basics of trip planning, if they even address it at all. Of course, this just falls into the ADD method for your preparedness and survival planning, so it makes sense to start from the beginning. ADD: Analyze, Develop and Deploy. Works every time provided you follow the concept in full.

Seriously though, trip planning requires more effort than packing a bag and grabbing a map and compass. You have to develop your mindset, accept what you are and make sure others know where you’re going, and when you’ll be back. Preparation is one of the key elements to having a successful plan no matter what you are planning for a project.

The chapters themselves are set to examine separate needs and skills that you should be learning, if you already haven’t done so, to survive any incident that leaves you in a position that most of us would rather not be caught up in. Survival skills are best demonstrated as being the result of proper planning, and each of these chapters need to be gone through as first; separate subjects, and secondly; as an intertwined, comprehensive philosophy. Everything you need to possess by way of knowledge can only be acquired by learning and practicing what you have learned.

I won’t go into a detailed description of each chapter here. I tried, but the piece simply grew into a book of its own discussing each of these points and ideas presented by Les Stroud in this book. Suffice it to say, I paid $19.99 for the book, but you can get it cheaper by shopping around, but no matter what you eventually pay, it’s worth the cost for this extra voice in your planning regimen.

The chapters in this book are;

1;    Trip Planning and Preparation

2;    Survival Kits

3;    Psychological Aspects of Survival

4;    Signaling

5;    Water

6;    Fire

7;    Shelter

8;    Food

9;    Survival Travel and Navigation

10;    Dangers and Hazards

11;    Weather

12;    Clothing

13;    Survival First Aid

14;    Essential Survival Skills

15;    When Disaster Strikes Close to Home

One of the things I like about this volume is the way Stroud looks at an issue from varied viewpoints, such as in chapter 9, where he addresses the issue of traveling in a survival situation. Most writers have one opinion or another, they stick to it, and they fail to examine both sides of that same issue. This chapter looks at the question of “should you stay or go” and looks at the pros and cons of both aspects.

From tips on navigation, fire starting, sheltering and more, I think you’ll find the entire book a worthy read if you are really serious about learning to survive when the crap hits the fan. If you’re into the hype part of surviving the coming times, you won’t be satisfied with it. Les Stroud doesn’t discuss end time scenarios, but real world survival skills.

Les Stroud: Survive

Published by Collins

ISBN: 978-0-06-137351-0

List price $19.99

BOUND TO COME! We recently read in a daily newspaper that an Indiana company proposes to sell electricity at a reasonable rate to farmers along the lines of its electric roads.

The churn, the chopper, the thresher, the pump, the saw, the forge,—everything that makes an up-to-date farm, may be operated by electricity; and the experts contend that there will be economy in doing the farm work with a power that never stands in the stable eating its head off and doing nothing for the farmer.

The electric roller, the electric plow and electric vehicles for farm work, may come, too. In fact, there seems to be no farm problem which the electrical experts are not ready to answer.

And they feel assured that the farmer’s wife will be their greatest ally in the electrification of the farm, because it holds out great benefits for her—electric cooking, electric light, electric heat and electric washers; it may run the ice-cream freezer, the sewing machine, the sausage mill, the dough mixer! And even baby’s cradle may be worked by electric power. All of which will greatly add to the comfort of farm wives, and make rural life more attractive to them.

Speed the day!

The above piece comes from the January 1906 issue of the Farm Journal. It’s interesting that just 100 years ago that what we have come to take for granted in our everyday lives was then just a new way of doing things. Many homes, predominately rural ones, still used old fashioned labor to get things done, and the ability to flip a switch to get electrical power was a wondrous dream for most. We’ve come a long way in these 100 years, but the same chores still need to be done, no matter how we get them done.

So how is it we are now at a place where we need to examine alternative means of getting these chores accomplished on the homestead? We’ve become much too attached to the ease of life electricity can give us, and because of that we tend to panic over the loss of grid power. So what do we do to alleviate the problem? The answer is pretty simple. One way to eliminate the concern of loss of grid power is to simply delve back into the past and live without electricity. It sounds like a romantic way of living, but in reality, life without power is a hard life. A very hard life.

The second way to eliminate the concern of losing grid power is to simply eliminate the need for grid power. It’s more expensive in the short run to develop your own electrical system, but think of the monthly bills you can avoid, along with the hassle of power outages, equipment damaging spikes, surges, and dips in the power supply. But if you plan ahead, and plan smart, you can minimize your need for power, and reduce the cost of going off grid.

What are some of the ways we can keep the costs down? Let’s take the water supply for one. Instead of an electric pump on your well, how about an old fashioned windmill? They’re purely mechanical, and as long as you have wind, they will pump water. Or, if you have a brook or stream on your homestead, why not install a ram pump. They work effortlessly 24-7, and can pump water steadily into a holding tank for your needs. Raise the tank, or install it above the level of your home and you have a never ending supply of water under pressure. You can install a self standing solar system as well if you are in a position where you have to rely upon a drilled well. Use the well pump to fill a storage tank, just as if you were using a ram pump, and you’ll have that same never ending supply of water under pressure.

Design or remodel your home to take advantage of the sun for light and warming the interior of your home. Reducing the need for artificial lighting can remove much of the need for electricity. Utilizing solar heating systems, wood stoves and other non-electric means to warm your home can substantially reduce that need for electricity. Heat and light are the two largest consumers of your electric bill, so it only makes sense to figure out ways to utilize an alternative means of providing for these two needs.

Unplugging your electronics, such as TVs microwaves and other appliances when not in use can also substantially cut your usage of electricity. It’s amazing at how much power these things consume when not being used. The disadvantage in turning them off is the loss of your programming in their memory, so you have to weigh convenience and economy, and decide which you can do without.

There are some problems inherent with whatever you decide to do, but getting off the grid makes more sense today than does being connected to a utility company and the increasing costs the monthly bills present to the homesteader. Photovoltaic’s, coupled with a battery storage system make a lot of sense, in spite of the costs involved with setting up such a system. Especially in the northern climes when adequate sunlight can be hard to find on some days. But you can supplement that photovoltaic system with a generator fueled by diesel or gas to make up the shortcomings of solar power.

The key here is to plan your needs around not the solar panel, but around the size of the battery bank needed to store the electrical needed to run your homestead. Solar power is great, and clean, but it is hardly an end all solution to your power needs.

Remember the ADD to survive formula. Analyze, Develop, and Deploy. Look into your needs, see what requirements need to be met to achieve your goals, and then make your plan to achieve those goals, and finally deploy that plan. You more than likely will have to start out on your journey to self reliant living on the grid, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay there.

Keep checking back here as I’m planning on a series dealing with setting up the power needs for your homestead later on this summer. And also check out the site where I’m migrating this blog to at

There seems to be a lot of pressure today to invest in gold and silver for the coming times. Ostensibly, this investment will tide you through the rough times a comin’ down the road. But the question begs to be asked, will gold and silver really help me survive the coming times? The answer to that question is unfortunately a two edged sword. A sword that can not only lop off an arm on the for-swing, but take your head off on the back-swing as well. We have become too accustomed to taking wealth for granted here in the United States, and the rest of the world is following suite, unfortunately.

We base all of our transactions on a dollar bill, and as long as that dollar bills value holds true, we can survive. Or so we believe. I’ve made mention time and again that the value of any currency is based upon an arbitrary figure, set by governing officials. Currency traders further drive the value of that currency being traded by creating demand for it, while the governing officials create the supply. The old adage of supply and demand exists only so long as the two entities exist. What happens when the governing officials no longer create a supply of currencies for the traders to trade in? Simply put, your currency is worthless.

Most people are aware of that fact, and preppers and survivalists are acutely aware of that fact. And because of that many are now stocking up on gold and silver bullion and coinage, or what many consider to be the currency of the future. It’s a nice picture, but it isn’t necessarily the picture that tells the truth. Precious metals dealers want you to believe that their products will indemnify you from the coming collapse of society, the coming depression, the rising tide of inflation, and on and on, ad nauseum. But will gold and silver really save you in the future?

That all depend upon what you want it to be used for.

Generally, most buyers of precious metals invest for one of two purposes. In the first case, gold and silver, or other precious metals are purchased simply as an investment tool. Buy low and sell high. Profit is the name of the game, and today, those who have purchased in the past, are raking in the cash by selling today. But once you’ve sold your investment, what then? You no longer have the gold and silver jingling in your pockets, so to speak. Used wisely, precious metals can be an excellent investment tool, and I encourage you to look into the market as part of your portfolio. It can pay off really well in the long run. However, just like any investment, you can lose your shirt, pants and even your undies should the market collapse.

The price of everything can go up, or it can go down.

The second common reason to invest in precious metals is for the investment to be used as a hedge, or buffer against the rising cost of living in the coming times. We buy gold and silver because we can use it when currency as we know it today no longer exists. We hold onto the thought of buying a loaf of bread with gold or silver just like we hold onto a fistful of dollars at the store. We want to buy, we have the cash, but we hate to part with it. You know the feeling.

Inflation is already here, and we feel the effects of it every time we look at the receipt for this week’s groceries. Prices are going up, but our paycheck isn’t keeping up with the rising costs. If you think things are bad now, wait until hyperinflation sets in, or worse, suppose the ultimate calamity does occur and the government has vanished, eliminating currency as we know it today.

Then we have a few problems with our scheme to survive the coming times based upon our stockpile of gold and silver bullion and coinage.

For one, what value does an ounce of gold have when there is no currency to value it against? Secondly, what mechanism will be in place to assure that this standard will be adhered to by all parties? Just because we say an ounce of gold has a value of $1400.00 today, who’s to say what it will be worth tomorrow? Nobody knows, and in fact, value will be set purely between the buyer and the seller of these commodities. And I can guarantee that the results won’t be truly satisfactory for all parties involved.

When the crap hits the fan, all bets are off, and the value of any precious metal will be set by the seller of what you wish to buy with that gold or silver coin. There will, if the crap really hits the fan, come a time when there will be things of much greater value than coin and bullion. There will come a time when a pound of silver may buy you an ounce of coffee.

As an example we can look back into the annals of history and look at an ancient time when exactly what I am suggesting occurred.

We read in 2 Kings 6:24 that; Later,
Ben-Hadad king of Aram gathered his whole army and surrounded and attacked Samaria. Samaria was surrounded, besieged, put into a place of ultimate hardship where economy had no place. The crap hit the fan, and as can be expected what happened? Verse 25 tells us that; There was a shortage of food in Samaria. Aha! That’s exactly why we need to stockpile gold and silver. We can use that to buy provisions when society as we know it collapses. This is all well and true, but the other end of 2 Kings 6:25 says that; It was so bad that a donkey’s head sold for about two pounds of silver, and half of a pint of dove’s dung sold for about two ounces of silver.

And that’s the truth of investing for the future. Those who had much wealth in gold and silver paid through the nose to barely survive with food that wasn’t fit for the hogs. We always exist in a state where the haves and have-nots battle betwixt and between each other, and the haves always win out in the end. The problem here is that we need to determine what we want to have in the future as preppers an survivalists.

History tells us one thing about wealth; those who have land always come out ahead of those who do not.

Those who can provide commodities, such as food, implements etc, to those who cannot, but have the wealth to buy those commodities, can make a huge killing by setting their own prices.

Therefore, if you wish to invest in gold and silver as an investment tool for today, go right to town with the idea. Just remember that when, and if, the crap really hits the fan, the value of that gold and silver may well plummet to near zero in value. Your better investment will be in long term storage foods, land, seeds and equipment on which to grow more food, and other skills, supplies and investments that you can trade and barter with those who haven’t the sense to prepare for the coming times today.

Value of anything is purely an arbitrary term, don’t place your future on the altar of today’s wealth and expect it to be a bed of roses in the coming times.