Jul 222012
 

Our internet connection is an essential resource and information tool. Any retreat location we select must – in some form – support internet access.

It seems a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it – living ‘off the grid’ but still wishing to be connected to the biggest grid of them all – the internet.

But, contradiction or not, for many of us an internet connection is close to essential, and is the best way of keeping in touch with the rest of the world – for business, for personal, and for security reasons.  The problem comes when we find ourselves choosing a retreat location that has no internet service routed to it.

Note that your interest in the internet probably relates primarily to prior to WTSHTF.  There is little chance the internet will continue in full operation (or even in partial operation) after a major social disruption.  We discuss the reasons why the internet will almost surely fail after TSHTF here.

There are five main options for you to consider when seeking internet connectivity at a location that doesn’t have ‘normal’ cable or DSL type internet already routed to the property.  Of course, the first thing to do is to confirm that there is absolutely zero internet currently available.  Some areas have internet provided by the utility company, as well as by phone companies and cable companies.

If you truly are scoring zero for current connectivity options, find out from the cable and phone companies how close they get to your property.  Then see how many neighbors you have, both close at hand and between you and the current end of the internet service – maybe you can all group together to bring some pressure to bear, and possibly even share in some of the costs of getting internet deployed closer to you.

If none of this is feasible, then it becomes time to consider your various other ways of connecting to the internet.  Some of these are relatively trivial, and not all will be practical for everyone, but we include them all for the sake of completeness.

1.  Dial Up via Landline Phone

It is years since we’ve last used a dial-up connection to access the internet, and frankly we hope we’ll never need to again.  The internet has become so bandwidth intensive that dial-up really struggles to provide any sort of connectivity at all.  Even ‘ordinary’ email can now consume huge chunks of data due to the propensity of people to email not just short unformatted text messages, but rich text emails with huge attached images and video clips, too.  At probably 4 – 5 minutes per megabyte of data downloaded, dial-up speeds are slow, slow, slow.

With a maximum speed of 56 kbps and typical speeds appreciably lower (mid 30s – mid 40s perhaps), plus (as best we recall) moderately slow latency, dial-up is probably the least desirable means of connecting to the internet these days.  But if you have landline phone service, it probably can be pressed into service for dial-up connectivity if all else fails.

2.  T1 or Other Dedicated Data Line

There was a time when a T1 data line was the ‘gold standard’ – it was something we all dreamed of, but couldn’t afford, and frankly, it was so unimaginably fast that we didn’t need that much bandwidth either.

These days, a T1 seems slow – it offers bidirectional data flow at 1.536 Mbps, albeit happily with very short/fast latency.  Typical alternate forms of broadband internet connection are much faster, and are available at trivially inconsequential low prices.

A T1 circuit typically involves using regular phone lines.  So if you have phone service to your retreat, and if there are spare cable pairs, you should check to see how much a T1 loop would cost.  It might be expensive, but it might be something you can justify, particularly if sharing the connection with some other families too (but not too many, because it is, after all, only 1.536 Mbps!).

3.  3G or 4G Wireless Data

If you have cell phone service at your retreat, and if it provides 3G or 4G connectivity, then you could use this as your internet access path.

If the signal strength is weak or marginal, you could add a repeater and external antenna which would massively improve the quality of the signal (and probably the internet connection speed as a result).  We have used products from Wilson Electronics in the past and with good results.

You can retransmit the wireless data service as a local Wi-Fi hotspot to allow other devices in addition to your mobile phone to access and share the data, although some wireless service providers may charge extra if you do this (and, yes, these days they are able to know if you are sharing your data service between multiple devices, so you probably can’t do it unofficially).

Data rates vary, depending on how many other people are also using the same tower’s data capacity at the same time, and in our experience are never anywhere close to the promised potential maximum data rates the wireless companies claim of their services.  But you can probably expect 500kbps – 1 Mbps, and moderately slow latency.

4.  Satellite

This is an option that was once both popular and practical, but as internet bandwidth needs increased, it became less popular and less practical.

However, the latest generation of satellites have impressive bandwidth capabilities (especially the new Wild Blue satellite), and for some people, satellite based internet has become a viable choice again.

As far as we can tell, there are three primary satellite services in the US, although many other companies repackage and rebrand service from these three and sell the service under their own brand name instead.  This desire by companies to act as though they have their own satellites, even though all they are doing is repackaging and rebranding someone else’s satellite service, makes it hard to know who you are dealing with, and if you are reviewing satellite data services, you should be sure to ask them if they use their own satellites or, if not, which satellites they do use.

Note that all three services have limits on the amount of data you can download (either per day or per month) and all three are quoting ‘theoretical maximum’ data rates rather than guaranteed rates.  Actually, just about every service quotes theoretical maximums rather than guaranteed rates, but the difference is sometimes more relevant with satellite service.

The other significant thing about satellite service is you have very long latency, due to the 45,000 mile ‘bounce’ that signals have to travel from your retreat to the satellite and then back to the earth – this unavoidably adds another quarter second of latency for every data exchange.  If you are downloading a complicated webpage with maybe ten ‘dependencies’ on it – ie, things that wait for other things to download before they are then downloaded, that can present as another 2.5 seconds or more of waiting time for the page to display.

You need to have a clear view of the southern sky to be able to point your antenna at wherever the satellite is located, and the further north you get, the lower the line of sight to the satellite, making you more and more sensitive to obstructions that might block or interfere with your signal.

We’ve also heard that weather can sometimes create issues with satellite service – rain and snow in particular seem capable of weakening the signal strength.

HughesNet is well established and well regarded, offering download speeds of up to 2 Mbps.

Wild Blue/Excede launched a new satellite in October 2011 which has massively increased their bandwidth capabilities.  Depending on your location, you might get up to 5 Mbps or, if lucky, up to 12 Mbps speed on downloads.

Starband/Spacenet is the third, and offers packages similar to Hughes.

The good news is that for about $100/month, you’ve got ‘the next best thing’ to regular fast cable/fiber/DSL type internet access.

5.  Long Distance Wi-Fi to a Neighbor

Here’s an interesting option – we saved the best for last.  If a neighbor has fast internet access, and if you have line of sight between your residence and his (well, a few trees inbetween are probably okay, but no hills/mountains blocking) then you could probably set up a directional Wi-Fi repeater service and piggy-back off his internet connection.

Although you probably think of Wi-Fi as something that sometimes even struggles to go from one end of your house to the other, and which at best reaches from one or two neighbors over and to your place, and while it is true that the official design and specification for Wi-Fi anticipates it as a short-range service (to reduce congestion), it is possible to use more powerful Wi-Fi transmitters combined with extremely directional and sensitive antennas to send and receive Wi-Fi over astonishingly long distances – at least ten miles, and according to this website, as far as 125 miles.

The type of connection speed you’d experience in such a case is probably limited primarily by the speed of the internet connection your neighbor has, with a bit of extra latency added.

If you are fortunate to be able to establish a line of sight contact with a cooperative neighbor who in turn gets good fast internet at his residence, this would likely be your best solution, and it is well worth offering to generously compensate your neighbor for a share of his internet service.

Summary

Living off the grid is a great concept, but it is a very different thing to be disconnected from services such as power and water than it is to be disconnected from the news and information flow that the internet offers.

While your plan for the future should assume the internet will fail during a Level 2/3 event, you definitely need to have internet access at your retreat to keep you in the essential information and communication loop which the internet these days is, both prior to any possible future failure and of course subsequent to its eventual restoration again, too.

Jul 112012
 

Weather will have a much greater impact on our lives in a Level 2/3 situation.

In an earlier part of this article series – Weather Considerations When Choosing a Retreat – we explained how weather is probably the most important issue to consider and optimize when selecting a favorable location for your retreat.  Hopefully you’re now persuaded of that fact.

So, given that choosing a ‘good weather’ location is vitally important, perhaps now we need to consider what exactly ‘good’ weather is.

This might seem simplistic.  We know good weather when we experience it, right?  A nice sunny day, little or no wind, no rain, low humidity, and clear blue sky.

Well, this is undoubtedly a nice day for us to enjoy, but if this was the type of weather your retreat could anticipate, year-round, you’d most likely have major problems.  Sunny weather and low humidity means that soils dry out, and no rain means no water comes naturally to replenish the water being used by crops and evaporated by the sun.

Here’s a list of weather related factors to consider.

We suggest you create spreadsheets, with the various factors ranged in rows across, and different destinations in columns down, so you can tabulate the pluses and minuses of first general regions and then secondly specific locations within those regions.

No Extreme Weather

You want a place that never gets tornadoes or hurricanes.  Not just rarely – never.

Even if a tornado or hurricane doesn’t destroy your main retreat building, it might rip through your crops and other structures, destroying your year’s harvest.  And the same weather event would rip through your neighbors’ properties too, so you’d have no people to readily turn to for assistance.

No Flooding

We suggest you look at a flood plain map for your area and see the limits of any nearby 100 year flood zones, and make sure that your location is either or both a considerable distance away and/or some feet further up in elevation.

Just like the extreme weather mentioned above, flooding isn’t just bad for you.  It is bad for your crops and livestock too.  You can’t afford the risk of flooding.

Rain and Water Issues

Don’t just look at the annual rainfall for your location.  Drill down and have a look at the monthly figures – and look at the average numbers, both annually and the ten-year (or longer) highs and the ten-year (or longer) lows.

Longer period highs and lows are better than ‘only’ ten year periods, because there are some 50+ year cycles of climate that impact on rainfall, making peaks and troughs in annual rainfall cycle through 50 year and longer periods.  See our article on evaluating weather issues and vulnerabilities for more on how to assess likely annual rainfall and its variations.

Ideally, you want some rain just about every month, although depending on the crops you plan on growing, there might be some that need a period reasonably rain-free around harvest time.

The amount of rain you want/need depends on the type of agricultural uses you’re planning on, and also on the type of ground, and other weather issues like heat (more heat = more water evaporates), humidity (less humidity = more water evaporates) and wind (more wind = more water evaporates).

In addition there’s your own personal consumption of water too, of course, but this will be only a very small percentage of your total water needs.

Another issue is how much rainwater you plan to collect from the roofs of your various structures on your site.  Remember the rule of thumb that an inch of steady rainfall on 1000 sq ft of roof represents almost 623 gallons of water (less some which may evaporate off or remain on the roof or soak into the roofing material – the slower the rain falls, and the warmer/windier the weather, the greater your evaporative loss will be).

Ideally it would be great to have at least a couple of inches of rain every month (other than for any period of time you or your crops need to be dry).

Be careful also of how what appears to be a single rain-free month can actually be concealing almost three solidly dry months.  If you are looking only at monthly data, and you see three months with rainfall of 0.3″, 0.0″ and 0.4″, for all you know, the rainfall in the first month might occur in the first few days, leaving three weeks of that month without rain, and the rainfall in the last month might occur in the last few days, adding another 3+ weeks of dry weather at the other end of the officially dry month.

You need to get a feeling for daily rainfall patterns as well as monthly patterns to more accurately project possible rainfall.  We discuss rainfall analysis in some detail in our article on how much rainwater you can store.

Of course, anything is possible with irrigation, but irrigation can be an added layer of cost (in equipment, in time, and in energy) and complication (more things to maintain), and any way you can minimize your reliance on irrigation, the better you’ll be.  Nonetheless, if you need more water, you’ll need to be assured of being able to get it (this is more a derivative than a direct weather issue).

Sunshine

Sunshine is important for several reasons.  It provides heat and growing energy for crops.  It also can be a source of energy for you and your electrical systems, via photo voltaic (ie solar) cells.

In addition to the general rule of thumb zones the country is divided into in terms of average hours of sun a day, you want to drill down and get more specific information for your county and as close to your potential site as possible.

The sun at your exact site will of course be based on regional weather and also on any local unique modifications, either to the weather, or the presence of blocking obstacles that obscure the sun for part of the day (especially in the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky).

Some obstructions you might be able to clear (ie trees) but others you’ll have to accept (such as mountains/hills).

You can compensate, to a certain extent, for diminished sunlight by simply adding more and more PV panels, but this of course runs up your capital costs still further.  PV cells still generate current in partial sunlight, in a more or less linear fashion – half as much sun ‘brightness’ means half as much power generated, but shade compared to bright sun means a massive fall-off in power generated.

Growing Season

The ‘growing season’ is a rough rule of thumb way of getting a quick indication of how successful you’ll be at growing crops in any area.  It counts the number of days from the last frost in spring until the first frost in fall.

However, this number can be overstated, because from a point of view of when you can start growing crops, you want to have ground that is unfrozen and no longer covered in snow.  It is possible, particularly on the northern side of slopes where no direct sun reaches, for pockets of snow to sit on the ground well past the end of overnight frosts and for the ground to remain frozen for some time after the final frost.

The benefit of the Growing Season measurement is that it is fairly widely reported and tracked, so it is an easy number to obtain without needing to do a lot of calculations or research, and within certain broad tolerances, all other things being equal, a location with a measurably longer growing season will allow for more bountiful harvests than a location with a shorter growing season.

Growing season length can also indicate if you have a chance of using your garden space for two crops or only for one each spring/summer/fall.

There is another measurement that in some ways is more exact and helpful.  We discuss that in the next part of this article series.

Read More in Part 2

This is the first part of a two-part article on weather issues at your retreat location, and of course, part of the broader series on weather related issues in general.

For the second part of this article, please now click to Evaluating Likely Weather at a Retreat Location.  And please click this following link for a complete listing of weather related articles.

Jul 092012
 

The 1962 Sedan shallow underground nuclear test in NV saw a 104 kT device create a crater 1280 ft wide and 320 ft deep, displacing 12 million tons of earth, and creating two fallout plumes across the US, primarily way over in IA.

The good news is that we have had nuclear weapons for almost 70 years.  The ‘other side’ has had them for about 60 years, although only in militarily significant quantities for the last 45 or so years.

And, excepting of course Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in all that time, there’s not been a single nuclear weapon exploded other than for ‘peaceful’ testing purposes.

Does that mean we can look forward to another 45+ years of peace and safety?

Some optimists might hope that the disbanding of the Soviet Union, and the reductions in nuclear weapons by both Russia and ourselves has reduced the risk of nuclear warfare in the future.  That might be true, but we’re uncertain about that, and (this always surprises people unacquainted with military tactics) the weaker that conventional military forces become, the greater the reliance such states necessarily must have on nuclear weapons.

In addition, we have new nuclear ‘players’ these days – new nations with nuclear weapons, and more nations on the verge of adding nuclear capabilities, too.  The dynamics of the situation have changed.

In the Cold War, the doctrine of ‘mutual assured destruction’ or MAD as it was known was clearly successful.  We knew that any strike by us on the Soviet Union would see tens of thousands of nuclear weapons raining down everywhere in the US homeland.  That dissuaded us from attacking the Soviets.  And they in turn knew that an attack from them on us would see a similarly massive response.

Additionally, we both had ‘second strike’ capabilities.  Even if a first strike by the other side caught us off-guard, we had sufficient second strike capabilities from submarines, from B-52s already in the air on patrol, and from whatever land based missiles we could either launch before they were destroyed or which survived the first round of attack.

These days our second strike abilities are massively diminished.  Yes, we still have 5 or 6 Ohio class ballistic missile submarines at sea at any given time, each with up to 288 nuclear warheads on 24 missiles, but our finest ground missiles (the MX Peacekeepers) have been voluntarily retired, leaving only three fields of Minuteman III missiles (at Warren AFB, WY, Minot AFB, ND and Malmstrom AFB, MT), all of which have been voluntarily downgraded from carrying three warheads each to now only carrying one, and we no longer have B-52s in the air.

How Many Nuclear Weapons Do Potential Enemies Have?

That’s a very relevant question, of course, and not one that allows for an exact answer, unless we are to assume that everything we have been officially told by potentially opposing nations is true.

For example, while it is officially stated that Russia has about 10,000 nuclear warheads and another 4,500 awaiting dismantling (as of 2012) some sources suggest that Russia has concealed large numbers of warheads which it is not officially revealing to the US.

We can’t comment on this, of course, but while we’re pleased that Russia’s total inventory is way down from its high of about 45,000 weapons in the mid 1980s, the simple fact is that however many thousands of warheads it still has are way too many for us to feel good about.

This page is often used as a definitive summation of the world’s nuclear weapons inventory, but some of the information on the page strains one’s credibility – for example, a claim that neither Israel, Pakistan, India, or China have any operational nuclear weapons.  Both India and Pakistan are obsessed with each other and with the possibility of a sudden attack – the thought that neither nation has weapons ready to fire seems unlikely.

As for Israel, as the country knows only too well, it could be overrun by enemy forces in a week or less – it needs to have its weapons ready for instant deployment.

Most of all, to suggest that China also has no weapons in operational status seems very unlikely, as does the suggestion that in total China has no more than about 240 weapons – fewer than France (and note the footnote which says France may have lied about its total number of weapons!).

Even Wikipedia contradicts the claim that China has no operational nuclear weapons, referring to currently deployed Chinese ICBMs such as the Dong Feng 5 and 31 and 31A and possibly other models too, plus whatever China might have in the way of sub launched weapons such as the JL-2, which might be in service on up to four Chinese Type 094 SSBNs that may currently be in service, and in the future on the successor Type 096 boats.

Furthermore, while the Soviet Union understand the concept of MAD, allowing us an uneasy stand-off during the Cold War and to the present day, it is unclear but unlikely as to if the Chinese government also accepts such a concept.  With their much more distributed economic and industrial base, they are naturally more resilient to any nuclear attack, and an attack, if it were to be mounted against China, would require a huge number of warheads to be effective.

It suits the purpose of people advocating for nuclear disarmament to underestimate the count of weapons ranged against us by other countries.  It is easier for them to say we should reduce our weapon numbers based on a suggestion that the other side either doesn’t have many weapons or has already reduced their numbers.  So take the numbers you see on the FAS and other sites with a grain of salt.

Where Would an Enemy Strike?

It is anyone’s guess what and where in the US might be targeted for nuclear attack, either as part of a super-power high-intensity all out conflict, or as a suicidal type attack by a minor nuclear power, or even as a single bomb launched by renegades acting outside of state control.

However, we can make some estimates, and there are actually two very different sets of targeting criteria as between an attack by a minor power and a major power.  For clarity, let’s look at them separately.

Nuclear Attack by a Minor Power

If we have a nuclear war with a minor nuclear power, we can expect them to launch or in some other way transport only a small number of weapons towards us.  These weapons will probably be designed to ‘punish’ us, rather than to take out our nuclear response and military capabilities.

The good news is that not many countries have nuclear weapons.  The two smaller countries that seem to be biggest risks are Pakistan and North Korea.  They will doubtless be joined by Iran some time soon; indeed it is estimated Iran probably has enough nuclear material to make five bombs, even now.  It is thought Pakistan has about 90, and North Korea probably fewer than 10 nuclear weapons.

One other risk is the possibility of ‘loose nukes’.  These are most likely to originate from the former Soviet Union, and due to the confusion and corruption that surrounded the final days of the USSR and the first few years of the new countries formed out of the USSR, it is entirely possible that some weapons disappeared, notwithstanding the official assurances that this never happened.

One final (?) risk is the possibility of surreptitiously built nuclear weapons by groups of terrorists.  This is somewhere between easy and difficult – it is extremely difficult if you don’t have the appropriate materials and equipment, but if you do, it becomes acceptably simple.  If a group of terrorists were able to simply acquire the various materials, from various sources, over time, it becomes no more complicated that putting together furniture from Ikea to assemble them into an explosive device.

Although we for sure can’t read the minds of terrorists and the crazed leaders of countries that hate the US, we’d guess that a list of targets for such an attack would more or less follow a list of major US cities and best known/best-loved US icons, rather than attacking our nuclear warfare capabilities, for the simple reason that a minor power can’t hope to neutralize enough of our nuclear weapons as to have any appreciable impact on our likely response.

So, for sure, New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago would be targeted.  Other major cities that might also be targeted would probably include Houston, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Jose, and Dallas.

Note that this list ignores the huge ‘obvious’ strategy of detonating one or a series of warheads as EMP devices.  In our opinion, this is the most likely strategy that any minor power would use – see our separate article for a discussion on the effects of an EMP attack on the US.

There’s one other possibility – nuclear blackmail, which might include a demonstration of ‘good faith’ where the enemy power attacks a target (city) and threatens additional attacks if certain demands aren’t complied with.  In such a case, we’d guess the attacker would go for a secondary level city rather than a primary city; because the goal would be to coerce and cower, not to enrage.

If the attacking power had recently suffered an attack by us of a specific nature, it might choose to respond in similar manner – a submarine launched cruise missile strike might see some of our submarine bases attacked, for example.  But our guess is most of the time, the highest risk from minor power attacks will be to major civilian population centers.

Nuclear Attack by a Major Power

There are two potentially dangerous major nuclear powers – China and Russia.  The other nuclear equipped major powers – Britain and France – don’t seem to pose such a level of threat.

Russia and official western sources says it has an inventory of about 10,000 nuclear weapons, of which perhaps 1,800 are immediately deployable and operational.  China’s nuclear capabilities are less clear – probably less than Russia’s, but probably more than we officially concede they may have..  Both countries have multiple delivery methods to get nuclear weapons to pretty much anywhere on the planet.

The good news – such as it can be – is that a first strike from a major power would probably be designed more to take out our own military and nuclear capabilities rather than to ‘punish’ our citizens.  Unlike a minor country, Russia and probably China too have the weaponry necessary to credibly attempt to destroy our own nuclear response abilities as part of their first strike, and as long as they have neutered our war-making, and perhaps our industrial base, they have no further need to destroy our population as a whole.

More or less in priority, here are some of the targeting considerations that an enemy power would keep in mind – and, the same as in our discussion of minor powers, this list ignores the EMP option, which we feel to be an overwhelmingly attractive approach for any nuclear aggressor of any size.

Whether an aggressor nation decides to limit their first strike merely to targets in the first category, or how far down the category list they end up going, is impossible to guess at.  It depends on the circumstances at the time.

1.  Our nuclear strike capabilities :  The few remaining missile silos would all be targeted for high yield ground bursts – the absolutely worst type of nuclear explosion from a point of view of subsequent fallout.  Also targeted would be all Strategic Air Command bases, naval installations, military command and control facilities, and major naval assets – especially aircraft carriers and submarines – wherever in the world they were.

2.  Non-nuclear military capabilities :  Most military bases and installations.  Major airports.  Also nuclear research establishments.

3.  Industrial capabilities :  Major manufacturing facilities such as vehicle plants, aircraft plants, and any other major/heavy manufacturing facilities that could be repurposed for building military equipment.

4.  Economic capabilities :  Ports.  Major transportation hubs and bottlenecks.  High tech industries.  New York/Wall St.  Major dams.  Concentrations of industry such as refineries, power generation and pipelines.

5.  Leadership :  Washington DC, of course (if not already targeted in a preceding category).  Major cities and state capitals.  ‘Undisclosed safe locations’ that our politicians plan to retreat to – we mightn’t know their whereabouts, but the other side probably does.

6.  Civilian :  Major population concentrations.  Universities.  Iconic American locations.  Other infrastructure.  Maybe warheads at locations that may trigger volcanic eruptions or earthquakes.

A Note on Accuracy

It is thought that most modern ICBMs can deliver a warhead to a target, thousands of miles away, with an accuracy of about 0.1 miles.

It is not known what disruptive effects there may be when the first missile warheads start exploding in terms of ‘blowing’ other missiles off course.  This phenomenon, known as ‘fratricide’ may well have some impact, causing some warheads to malfunction (either in the form of failing to explode, or perhaps a limited reduced yield explosion, or detonating at an unexpected altitude and/or somewhere off course.  When you have a missile traveling 5,000 – 10,000 miles, it only takes a very small amount of error to result in tens of miles of ‘miss’ distance at the destination.

When calculating your vulnerability to nuclear strikes, you need to consider not only the effects of accurate hits on probable targets, but also the effects of moderately near misses, too.

There’s one more type of accuracy to consider – the accuracy of the target lists the other side has adopted.  There are lots of US military installations that have closed down over the last decade or two – installations that, in their heyday, would have been prime nuclear targets, but which of course, now that they have been closed and abandoned, no longer have any military target value at all.

But has the other side kept its targeting lists up to date?  And, for that matter, does it truly believe that abandoned de-activated facilities have been truly abandoned and de-activated?

Summary

Major cities are at risk of a minor power attacking us with nuclear weapons.  Military facilities are for sure at risk of a major power attacking us, as are probably industrial and economic targets too in a first strike, and more general leadership and civilian targets in any second strike.

You need to consider your retreat’s location in terms of where possible nearby nuclear targets may be, and you need to consider your travel route to your retreat based on possible targets on the way.

Jul 052012
 

Unlike modern towns, those in the ‘wild west’ were designed to be defendable and convenient for their residents.

We consistently urge you to become part of a community of fellow preppers for mutual support in all respects (or to form one if you can’t find a suitable community already out there).

Being part of a community gives you access to extra manpower when you need help with construction projects.  It represents people to buy/sell/trade with.  It offers you access to a wider range of supplies, skills and expertise.  Equally importantly, but intangibly, it gives you companionship and fellowship and moral support, helping you to remain positive and determined to succeed, even in grave adversity.

A community can also potentially provide support in another very important sense – the shared defense of your various properties, something that is of course essential for survival.

But when many preppers think of this concept (and some of us don’t at all, preferring instead a quixotic vision of a lonely battle against the entire world, all by themselves, unassisted), their vision of how a mutual defense agreement would work is sadly not practical.  They think of becoming part of a community with neighbors who will join with them in defending each other and in creating a larger outpost of safety for all the community members.

Now for the problem with this apparently sensible concept.  First, the good news – this is a realistic and viable arrangement in a town or village.

But – the bad news.  It is close to useless to have some sort of support arrangement with people who live on surrounding farms.  If your main dwelling is out of sight of the other homesteads of the other families nearby, there is both no visible sign of support/deterrence to attackers, and there is also no compelling visual urgency and obligation on the part of your neighbors when/if you are attacked.

The Problem of Mutual Support in the Countryside

The attackers see a remote dwelling, all by itself, with no other dwellings anywhere around.  A tasty, tempting, vulnerable target – their ‘best case scenario’ type of encounter.  They don’t care what sort of mutual defense agreements you might have, because if there isn’t anyone with you at the time they attack, to join you in your defense, then what difference does it make?

There’s no augmented and credible indication of you being a ‘hard’ target rather than a soft target.  There’s no upfront deterrence.  You’re still highly likely to be attacked.

Now let’s think about what happens if you are attacked.  Presumably you sound some sort of alarm – a siren or something – that is an agreed upon call for assistance.  Now try to think very carefully about what will happen next.

How many of your neighbors will instead rush inside their own dwellings and shutter their windows and hunker down defensively?  That’s sure an easier choice for them than to go out in the open, and seek out the people attacking you.  Remember, the warning you have sounded is not currently placing them personally at risk – how many wives will say to their husbands ‘Please don’t go, because if you get injured, there are no advanced medical facilities to treat you, and if you die, who will work our farm with me, who will support me and our children?’

If your house was just over the street from them, they would both feel more directly threatened and also more directly obliged.  But being some distance away, and out of sight, there is the temptation to say ‘Oh, sorry, didn’t hear the alarm.  I had my iPod headphones on and didn’t hear the siren at all’ (or ‘I was napping’ or ‘I was working on some noisy machinery’ or any other excuse they choose).

Or maybe they will ‘make haste slowly’ and very slowly travel to your dwelling, in the hope that by the time they get there, it will all be over and the bad guys safely gone.  ‘Oh, sorry, I came as quickly as I could’.  ‘Sorry, I was in the shower, and so I had to rinse the soap off, get dried, blow-dry my hair, have a fresh shave, etc before I could come’.

Let’s however be positive and assume that your neighbors do respond.  Even if they hurry, how long will it take for them to stop what they are doing, to prepare for battle and to get appropriate clothing, supplies and weapons, then more time to stealthily approach your property, and then still more time for them to meet up with other neighbors until there was a sufficient force to mount an attack from the rear on your attackers?

It doesn’t matter so much how fast the first person will arrive – he would be foolish to do anything until joined by others.  The key time measure is how long it takes the slower people to bolster the numbers to the point they jointly feel able to enter the battle.

Don’t forget to allow for the probability that your neighbors don’t have any motorized transport – or, even if they did, they’d not use it, preferring a slow stealthy sneaky surprise attack from the rear.

That points out another key issue.  Any sort of support from your neighbors would have to involve multiple neighbors all helping in a coordinated manner.  You couldn’t expect one only neighbor to come, and from an outdoors exposed position try to help you (from inside your dwelling) fight off multiple attackers.  That would be close to suicide for him.  If the attackers suddenly came under fire from someone in the open, of course they’d shift their focus from you in your dwelling (because you are in a defensive not attacking posture, and aren’t going anywhere) to the sudden new threat from the rear or side.

So there you are, on your 20+ acre lot, with neighbors also on 20+ acre lots.  How many neighbors will agree to come and help you, how many will even hear your alarm, and how long will it take?

Oh – and how long might it take your attackers, who will have ambushed you on their terms, to overwhelm you and overrun your dwelling?  You will probably be dead, your supplies all looted, and the bad guys already gone, before any support reaches you.

A Town/Village Alternative

Now think through a similar scenario, but this time in a township where a cluster of a dozen or more homes are all located close to each other.  There are signs posted on the routes in to the township advising that martial law is in effect, telling looters they’ll be shot on sight, and requiring strangers to check in with the local ‘sheriff’ if they wish to visit the town.

Any stranger approaching sees not just one isolated homestead, alone by itself, but a cluster of houses all close to each other.  They  see signs indicating an active community defense plan is in place, and they realize they can’t just single out one of the houses to attack – if they do anything to any of the houses,  the other residents from the other houses will also respond.

Most of the time, they’ll pass the town completely by, preferring to find easier pickings elsewhere – like, for example, a single homestead all by itself with no nearby neighbors (sound familiar?).

Put yourself in the shoes of your neighbors again.  This time when you sound your alarm, there’s no way they can’t hear it, and they just have to look out the window to see what is going down, and indeed, they might even be able to participate in the battle by simply shooting from their window, too.

And because they can see the bad guys, maybe no more than 50 yards away from their own front door, they feel equally threatened, because they know if the bad guys have the cojones to ride into town and openly attack one of its residences, they’ll not stop at only one.

This is not a situation where selfish self-interest would motivate your neighbors to ignore your call for help, with the distance giving them excuses for doing so.  It is not a situation where even if they did help, it would probably be too little and too late.  Instead your neighbors will be motivated to fight as desperately as you are, because they are almost at as much risk as you, and they can effectively join the fight in a minute or less, from defensive safe positions.  They’re not doing this out of any altruism – they’re doing it as much for their own good as they are to help you.

So – in the township you are less likely to be attacked in the first place, and if you are attacked, you are more likely to get almost instant and effective support from your fellow townsfolk.

Now tell us again where you plan to build your retreat?

We’re not saying you should set up a retreat in the form of a house in a small town on a typical quarter acre lot.  Sure, you can still have your 20+ acres, and indeed, sure, you should have a decent sized parcel of land.  But set your main dwelling in a cluster with other folks, even if that means you’ve got a bit of a journey to get from your front door to your land.  After all, with 20+ acres, most of it will be some distance from your front door anyway, so it’s not necessarily a big deal to have almost all of it a distance away.

And by all means have a ‘kitchen garden’ or a greenhouse on your in-town lot, too.  This will be a great convenience, particularly in the winter months.

Choose Your Community Wisely

The key part of this concept of course revolves around finding a community group where you’ll be united in a common goal of self-defense and survival.

There’s no guarantee that moving into an existing community will also instantly surround you with like-minded souls.  Indeed, some of the smaller rural towns seem to have a curious mix of people, including some ‘counter-culturalists’ and old hippies, maybe some ‘migrant workers’ (aka illegal immigrants), and some yuppies from the city who have lifestyle properties in the countryside, maybe some low-density alternate-lifestyle organic farmers, and who knows who else.

Not all of the people in these categories are people you’d immediately want to rely on watching your back in a difficult situation.  Worst of all, some of these people may even prove to be ‘part of the problem’ rather than helping you in the solution when a Level 2/3 situation occurs.

Furthermore, the layout and design of most rural towns is not necessarily optimized to create a defensive enclave.  Many people seek privacy from their neighbors and attempt to avoid sight-lines, whereas for defensive purposes, it is better to be closer together and to have nothing between properties that attackers could use as cover.  And the houses are not built to withstand rifle fire – either from attackers or from fellow townsfolk who are shooting at attackers in situations where your house is unavoidably in the background.

We’re not saying it is impossible to find a suitable township, and even a so-so township may be better that nothing.  But it does point to the benefits of joining, or at least getting close to, a custom community such as with ourselves (or developing your own) so that you know you’re together with people who share a similar approach to surviving and succeeding in a Level 2/3 situation.

Jul 042012
 

Weather changes from an optional bonus part of our choice of location at present, to a mandatory component of choosing a suitable retreat location.

We all know about weather, right?  Warm and sunny with a clear blue sky and a gentle breeze is nice.  Cold, windy, rainy or snowy – all that is nasty.

Perhaps weather has even had a moderate impact on your choice of where you live at present.  And/or maybe it is something you like to complain about.

Well, whatever you formerly felt about weather, and however important weather was to you in your choice of current location, multiply that by, oh, let’s say one hundred times, to now appreciate how important weather will be to you in your retreat.

There are several reasons for this.

Weather Will Impact Us More Directly

First, currently we massively modify the weather as we experience it personally, without even really thinking about it.  We heat or cool our homes, our cars, our offices, our shopping malls.  If the weather is too hot, we can stay out of the sun, somewhere air-conditioned to be cool.  If it is too cold, we can get out of the cold, and turn the heating up a bit more.

In a Level 2/3 situation, we won’t be able to conveniently do any of those things.  We won’t work in a nice comfortable air-conditioned office – we’ll be working outdoors, in the fields, much of the time.  If it is hot out there, we just have to suck it in, and the same if it is cold.

Heating or cooling our houses will be problematic.  Energy will be in short supply, rather than essentially limitless as it is at present, and that which might be available will be massively more expensive.  We may be able to heat our homes by way of a wood burning stove or fireplace, although even a convenient ongoing supply of firewood is far from assured (imagine if you had to hand carry every log you burn, several miles from where you felled a tree to your dwelling).

Cooling our houses will be even more difficult – a/c units use a lot of energy and are moderately complex – if they fail, they’ll probably then be out of service for the duration of the Level 2/3 event.

Snow Will Be More Serious a Challenge

Another weather impact that will become more severe is snow.  Currently, and particularly if you live in an area with regular snow falls in the winter, snow removal is more or less something you almost take for granted.  The good news part of that is that, almost certainly, your local city roads department have teams of men and machinery that keep your roads passable.  They start off by laying chemicals down on the road surface to stop ice forming, then they go through with snow plows and grit/salt spreaders, and although there may be many feet of snow on the fields, the roads are, most of the time, passable.

Little or none of that will happen in a Level 2/3 situation.  There’ll be no working machinery, and even if there was, there’d be more essential uses for any remaining diesel fuel.

If you’re in an area that gets significant snow accumulation during the winter, you need to figure on being essentially cut off from other places, other than travel by snowmobile or horse – both of which are – albeit in their differing ways, complex and expensive solutions.

So, at our retreat, our personal life experience will be massively more impacted by weather than it is at present.

Weather Impacts On Our Water and Food Supply

One key element of weather is rainfall.

If an area doesn’t have an adequate supply of rainfall through most of the year – hopefully balancing carefully between ‘too much’ and ‘too little’ than you’re either not going to be able to live there, or will need to have an absolutely certain alternate supply of water – either from a well (or wells) or spring(s) or from a river/stream (and you’ll have no end of hassle getting the rights to take water from ‘your’ river/stream if such rights don’t come already attached to the property title).

Of course you need water for yourself, and of course you will also need water for growing crops and for any animals you may be raising too.

Note also that the hotter the temperatures, the more water you’ll need (due to increasing amounts of water being baked out of the ground by the sun, and due to evaporative losses from any holding tanks you have.  Sure, you’ll drink more water too, but that is a totally trivial consideration compared to the extra hundreds/thousands of gallons of water you’ll need each day to care for your crops.

Another key element of weather is what is termed the ‘growing season’ – which in the US is a fairly arbitrary measure that simply tells you the number of days between the last frost in spring and the first frost in fall, or, even more simply, between the last day that night temperatures fall below 32° in spring and the first day in fall that they start to drop below 32° again.

As such it isn’t really telling you much about how fast your crops may grow or how bountiful they will be, but it is one of a number of quick easy measures that gives you some rules of thumb to apply to the weather and its impacts on your ability to grow crops.

Other factors that impact on crop growing range from things like soil type to average and peak temperatures to sunlight hours and intensity to elevation.  And, as already discussed, rainfall or compensatory irrigation.

A more meaningful measure to assess plant growth rates is Growing Degree Days (click the link for a definition).

In your present life, you probably don’t need to grow all the food you eat.  Indeed, more likely, you don’t grow any of it at all.  But when you’re at your retreat, you’ll either need to grow all the food you need, or alternatively have some other product or service you can trade with other local residents for their surplus food.

If you’re hoping to trade some other product or service for food, that requires two things – first, it requires you to have some other product or service you can create or provide on a renewable ongoing basis, and secondly, it requires people conveniently close to you who both have a need for your product/service and who are able to exchange surplus food of their own for your product service.  Unless all of these requirements are met, you’ll go hungry.  From this perspective, there are less variables outside your control if you make your first priority to be able to grow sufficient food, directly, yourself, on your own land.

Either which way, either you or your neighbors need to be able to grow food readily and in generous amounts – there’s no way you’ll be getting in regular twice weekly air freighted shipments of fresh food from South America!  If your retreat location is not in a fertile area that readily grows crops, both you and all your neighbors will suffer a depressed – or even an unsustainable – standard of living.

It is definitely a positive if the general area you choose is good for everyone in that area and their food production.  It is much better to be part of a moderately prosperous and sustaining region than it is to be surrounded by people even more desperate than you in their attempts to survive in a future adverse situation.

Choose a location with better weather.  You could potentially grow twice as much food there, and enjoy a substantially better lifestyle, than if you go somewhere with bad weather.

Weather and Energy

We mentioned before about how extreme weather can require us to consume more energy to compensate for the bad weather.  But weather can also help us with energy.  For example, if we’re somewhere with lots of clear skies and sunny days, then we can get more energy from solar cell arrays than we could from somewhere bedeviled by constant cloudy overcast days.

And if we’re somewhere that has wind that is neither too strong nor too weak, and reliably steady, day in and day out, maybe we could get some wind power too from a wind turbine.

If we had to choose between a place optimized for solar or a place optimized for wind power, we’d probably advocate choosing the better solar location.  Solar cells have no moving parts and are reasonably resilient and can be expected to last 20, 30, even 40 years and more with little or no maintenance required (other than keeping them clean).  Wind generators, on the other hand, are complex, unreliable, and maintenance intensive.

When Bad Weather Can be Good

There’s one situation when bad weather can be a good thing.  If a Level 2/3 event occurs in winter, it is reasonable to assume that most people, when evacuating the cities, will probably stream south or in whichever other direction most quickly gets them to warmer parts of the country.  They’ll hurry through the colder areas with no intention of attempting to settle there.

This would not so strongly apply if the Phase 3 and 4 stages of an event occurred during a balmy warm summer.  Some people, gifted with some foresight, would still head towards warmer climate areas, but others would live in the moment and go anywhere nearby where food and shelter were possibly present.

Weather – Very Important.  But Only One of Many Factors

Okay, so we’ve spent the last little while talking about how vitally important weather will be to you in your retreat.  All of that is true.

But it isn’t the only factor to keep in mind when determining where to locate your retreat.  Unfortunately, the parts of the US with the best overall weather are usually totally unsuited for retreating to, due to other factors that also have to be considered.

If one considered only weather, much of California would be great to retreat to, for example.  But the state laws make it close to impossible to realistically plan for a viable retreat in California (either before or after WTSHTF), and many of the other great locations are too close to major cities, too.

All the best weather locations have already been settled in – sad, but close to true.  That makes evaluating weather issues harder, not easier, because you’re going to have to decide which parts of the overall weather subject you can most and least compromise on, and to balance out the better or worse weather with other issues that relate to your retreat location as well.

But, having said that, and recognizing you will never get a ‘perfect’ location by any measure at all, while it is acceptable to allow some compromise in weather, you mustn’t go beyond the point that prevents you and your neighbors from being able to grow more than enough food to survive and have a bit left over besides.

How to Evaluate Weather Issues to Determine Suitable Retreat Locations

Please see related articles for more on this vital topic (weather) and a discussion on how to actually rate different locations on their weather suitability.  Here’s a category listing of weather related articles.

Jul 042012
 

We must plan and prepare for an uncomfortable period of extended lawlessness as part of a Level 2/3 Event.

Conventional wisdom paints an apocalyptic but not very detailed picture of social breakdown in a Level 2 or 3 situation (note – it might be helpful to refresh your understanding of what we define as Level 1, 2 and 3 events).

In the past, we’ve suggested there wouldn’t be an instant collapse of social order and there wouldn’t be an instant mass exodus out of the cities.  That’s not to say the collapse won’t happen (we’re sadly certain that it will), it just is unlikely to happen immediately and instantly.

It is helpful to understand the evolving stages of social order, disorder, and then – hopefully – order once more that will transpire during such situations.  If we understand this process, we can adapt our own responses to the changing world around us – and we can also draw some encouragement from the likely eventual resolution.

Here’s how we see things as unfolding.  We make these predictions based on broad reading of social literature, studies of past social collapses, consensus discussions on the topic, and our own best guesses.  No-one really knows for sure what will happen, but we think this is a reasonably likely overall evolution.  Some parts of the six phases might be more or less prominent, but just as how a wheel has to fully rotate 360 degrees to complete a full circle, each part of it needs to occur as part of the process to the next part and to the final phase six resolution.

The time each part of the process will take is of course conjecture on our part, particularly Phases Three and Four.  So consider this in broad outline and adapt it as you wish to make it part of your own planning.

Phase One – A False Calm

The first part of a Level 2/3 event may last anywhere from a day to two weeks.  This will be the period during which people slowly come to accept and comprehend that life as they formerly knew it has massively changed, and that there won’t be a magical ‘rescue’ by some government service.

During this time, the rule of law will probably continue more or less unchanged.  Indeed, the first steps that the civic leaders will probably undertake in response to the situation will be to declare states of emergency, call out the national guard, set curfews, limit the amount of food one can buy, and so on.

Not only will such steps be taken in an attempt to preserve the status quo, but the people tasked with implementing such orders (police, national guard, etc) will be compliant and act as directed, as will most of the civilian population.

The predominant underlying motivation in phase one will be ‘let’s all keep it together, and we will manage to survive in an orderly and civilized manner’, combined with a paralysis of belief and action in response to a situation beyond most people’s comprehension, and of course, the hope/expectation that someone, somewhere, will come to everyone’s rescue and save the day.  It will take some days before supplies start to run out and the local/regional support structures start to undeniably crumble and fail.

Phase Two – A Growing Panic

Unfortunately, people can only remain so calm for so long when they’re starving.  When people run out of food, and when the local supermarkets and distribution centers also run out of food (actually, this will occur first – panic buying will see the supermarkets empty out in a day or two), and when no more food comes in to replace the consumed food, people find themselves with two stark choices – lie down and passively die, or do whatever it takes to search out and take food for themselves and their families.

Maybe some form of community sharing will be instituted, but some people will refuse to share their own resources, while other people will realize they can get more by taking than they’d get by passively accepting their ‘fair’ share.  The community sharing concept will not prove a success as a result – and even if it were to be a success, how long can it continue?  A week?  Two?  With no new deliveries of food, the available supplies will quickly be exhausted.  You can’t share nothing.

This challenge will apply just as much to the law enforcement personnel as it will to the civilian population, and eventually, law enforcement personnel will abandon their duties and join in the growing free-for-all that is developing.

Isolated outbreaks will grow and multiply, and before too long, the ‘rule of law’ will have vanished and people will be doing whatever they need to do, either to protect the food and shelter they do have, or to seek out and take food and shelter from those who have it.

The cities will become bloodbaths with no remaining organized law enforcement.

The predominant feeling in Phase Two will be a combination of panic and anger.  ‘How could this happen to me?’ and ‘This is not fair!’ will be how much of the population perceives things, and there will come a tipping point where the former Phase One idealistic hope of ‘Everyone else is being calm and peaceful, therefore I should behave that way too’ will transition to ‘Everyone else is looting and pillaging, therefore I need to as well to get my fair share’ – a feeling made all the more essential by the clear evidence that if you don’t fend for yourself, no-one else is going to do it for you.

This phase – the breakdown of law and order, while most people remain focused on their urban/suburban residences and lifestyles – will last a short while, with Phase Three starting almost immediately and then growing more and more dominant until the cities become hollowed out.

Phase Three – Abandoning the Cities

It will quickly become apparent to people that there are no remaining sources of food in the cities, and for most people, both no way to grow their own food and also no safety in their current residences.

Again, people will have two stark choices.  Lie down and die, or roam further afield in search for food and safety.

This will inevitably drive people out of the cities.  Think of all the images you’ve seen of streams of refugees from war-ravaged areas, traveling sometimes many hundreds of miles, leaving their old world behind and heading towards a very uncertain alternate life.  That’s what will happen, except there probably won’t be any UN sponsored refugee camps or friendly countries to host people.

A lot depends on whether the situation is a regional, national, or continent-spanning event, of course.  But even if some countries remain unharmed and unaffected by whatever event it was, the numbers don’t work well in our favor.  Most refugee situations involve no more than a few million refugees, and there are wealthy nations with huge resources available to assist the refugees – most notably, the US itself.  If something occurs to destroy the resources of the US, and if there are suddenly 300 million of us all needing food urgently, how can any other nation adequately respond?

It is one thing for a nation of 300 million to assist 3 million refugees.  But how can a nation of 3 million (or 30 million) now turn around and help the US with its 300 million people, all simultaneously now needy and starving?  The sheer logistics of moving the food and distributing it are impossible to start with, and every other part of a coordinated rescue mission for the entire US also suffers from the sheer enormity of the project.

The refugees may be preyed upon by gangs of opportunists, and may also themselves be roving marauders.  They’ve got to eat, after all, so they’ll have no choice but to find food wherever it is to be found, and to take it whenever they can.

The predominant feeling at this point is ‘Every man for himself’ and ‘I’ve nowhere to go and nothing to do except fight for survival at any and all costs’.

We see this phase as lasting several weeks to several months.

Phase Four – Nowhere is Safe

As people move out of the cities, they’ll variously stop and settle in places or convert to an extended nomadic lifestyle.  What else can they do except just plain die?  An appreciable percentage of the population will indeed die – either from exposure/lack of shelter, from disease, from hunger, or from violent encounters.

It is impossible to see how this can not occur – in the circumstance that a Level 2/3 event occurs on a national basis, it will interfere with the ongoing highly mechanized process of agriculture, and even the labor dependent parts will be disrupted by farm hands joining in the social disorder too.  The country won’t be able to make enough food to feed itself.

Whatever way you run the numbers, anywhere from perhaps a half the population to three-quarters or more of the population won’t survive through the end of the first winter – even if food were plentiful, energy will be scarce, and people will die of exposure as well as of starvation.  And that’s before we start to think about the disease that will ravage through survivor camps, killing off massive numbers of people too.

People who try to establish themselves in some form of sustainable environment for the future will find themselves being challenged by people who don’t want to invest in a future which – to them – is unsure and unlikely; these latter people will be living for the moment and will take what they can, and squander resources recklessly while living ‘high risk’ lifestyles.

A farmer who keeps a herd of dairy cattle will see his cattle taken from him and slaughtered – people would rather have the meat now than a supply of milk for years to come.  A farmer with a supply of seed potatoes for next year’s planting will see them taken by people who want to eat food now and who can’t wait many months for the seed potatoes to be planted and to bring in a full new crop.

A person who has stored sufficient food to feed himself and his family, frugally, for a year, will see a mob take that food from him, eat some of it, waste some of it, and take the rest away with them.

A person who attempts to resist (and fails) may find himself tortured or killed (or first one then the other).  A person who attempts to barricade themselves in their secure retreat may find an attacking mob will simply choose to burn his entire retreat to the ground – with him still in it, of course.

The mob mentality would rather see the person and the mob lose everything rather than the person keep anything for himself.  Win-win will be an abandoned concept.  Win-lose will be the order of the day, and lose-lose will also be an unfortunate approach that is widely adopted too.

Some people might keep a social conscience and attempt to lead a good and lawful life.  Those people will also be known by another name – ‘victims’.  It will be kill or be killed; and those who are not willing to aggressively defend themselves, their loved ones and their possessions will find themselves losing everything.

The predominant feeling at this point will be a ruthless pursuit of the need to survive short-term, never mind the longer term, and never mind the cost or casualties of what one does to survive.  There will be no law and no formal consequences to any actions.

The duration of Phase Four depends a bit on the seasons and the location – a harsh winter will impose calm (and/or an icy death) on people, as well as restricting movement, whereas an extended summer will allow for nomadic roving groups of lawless looters.  We of course can’t guess when during the year a level 2/3 situation may suddenly erupt, but we will say that Phase Four will run through until the winter, at which point – especially in places with harsher winters – it will diminish in scope, and by the next spring, conditions may be ready for Phase Five.

Phase Five – A New Form of Social Order

Out of even the direst chaos, some new structure inevitably evolves.  We see two areas of evolution that will slowly start to coalesce out of the Phase Four anarchy.

On the apparently minus side, the bad guys will start to form into organized groups.  There already are groups of bad guys in place – biker and street gangs – and they will grow enormously in size and power.  Other groups will form on an ad hoc and semi-random basis.

We say this is an apparently minus development.  The good part of this is that any type of organized group starts to get a structure, some controls, some vision, and some concept of a future.  Most of the ‘lawless’ groups on the planet, both now and in the past, have actually been bound by very strict internal codes of conduct and behavior – their lawlessness, as has been perceived by ordinary society, is more a form of culture clash between the culture and values of the group and the society in which they live, and a harsher set of consequences for people who broke their own internal rules of conduct than society imposes on people in general.

This is as true in nature as it is in human society.  The most effective parasites do not kill off their hosts; indeed some parasites create classic win-win systems with their hosts so that both benefit from the association.  We see this with organized crime too, with the classic win-win being the payment of protection money to a local gang.

We won’t debate the interesting point about the differences between paying protection money to a gang or paying taxes to fund the local police department; but if you look at it dispassionately, you’ll see that in both cases, the people making the payments do so in the hope of getting a positive consequence (protection) and in the matching hope of avoiding a negative consequence (a beating or a term of imprisonment).

So we see formal gangs setting up regional territories.  If you pay them protection money, they’ll otherwise leave you alone, and will endeavor to keep other would-be predatory groups away from you.  If you want to travel along ‘their’ road, you’ll have to pay a ‘toll’ to do so.  And so on.

We will also see groups of citizens getting together to re-constitute some sort of citizen based law enforcement, first in some sort of mutual defense agreement, and subsequently by sharing in the costs of full-time law enforcement officers, aided by citizen deputies as needed.

Some areas will be controlled by citizen groups, and others by gangsters.  The citizen groups will have no interest in attacking gangsters out of their area, while the gangsters will occasionally be tempted by the thought of expanding, with ‘border clashes’ occurring from time to time as the two groups test each other’s resolve.  An uneasy truce will lie over much of the country.

Within the alternating framework of either citizen or gangster controlled areas there will still be crime on a more individual rather than organized level.  We predict that penalties for crime will increase – a return to the earlier settler days with summary hanging being the punishment for cattle-rustling, for example.

There may also be marauding gangs who opportunistically tour through areas, whether gang or citizen controlled.  Life will be dangerous, but survivable.

Crime detection/solving will be massively less effective than previously, due to the loss of the high-tech aids the police have come to rely upon.  More crime might be unsolved, but the flipside of that will be that criminals who are caught will be subject to more severe penalties.

Any people incarcerated will have to ‘work their passage’ – society will not have spare resource to feed, shelter, and entertain criminals.  Whether as a punishment or just as a necessity, criminals will find themselves involved in hard labor and harsh conditions during their imprisonment.

The liberal ‘touchy-feely’ crowd who likes to fill prisons with better food and televisions and recreational equipment than many people have outside the prison walls will either have died off (been killed) or will have had their eyes opened and their value systems changed to the point where, like reformed smokers now being aggressively anti-smoking, they may be the first to demand more and more hangings for lesser and lesser offenses.

The key social and support elements will become family based as the smallest support unit, and then faith/congregation (or, in secular areas, block associations) based.  Formal civic government will be bare-bones and will be focused primarily on getting essential life-support services to everyone, rather than funding minority empowerment projects that benefit only narrow groups of special interests.

People will be too busy concentrating on surviving to care about topics such as gay rights (either pro or con) or women’s issues or black history.  Environmental concerns and constraints will vanish – as we see in the world today, only wealthy people enjoying comfortable safe lifestyles can afford such concerns.

The prevailing attitude in this phase will be a grim determination to survive, and a return to a social code of acceptable behavior.

The duration of Phase Five is hard to guess at.  A decade?  A generation?  It really depends on how society as a whole feels it has learned lessons from the circumstances of the Level 2/3 event, and how it might redefine itself for the future, and also on how fast or slow ‘civilization’ in terms of services and products return to something equating to normal.

Phase Five slowly starts to blend into Phase Six, and one of the tools for this will be the growth of trading and contacts between individual settlements.

Phase Six – A Return to Normalcy

As the things that took man from the stone age to the wood age to the iron age to the industrial age to the information age return, so too will society start to adapt and become more refined and nuanced.

As trading starts to spread from one settlement to the next – made possible by the restoration of safety to traveling between settlements – this will help encourage further economies and efficiencies of scale, and economies will start to become less micro-economies and more regional in nature, with improvements in overall living standards for all in the region.

People will start to have the luxury of spare time, and spare money, and will stop living lives constrained by their immediate neighborhood and this year’s crop.  Instead, they’ll again start to think of other things and the longer term.  As Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs explains, as each level of essential survival is achieved, a new set of objectives and challenges replace them, evolving to higher order issues such as esteem and, at the top, self-actualization.

The prevailing attitude will become one of confidence and assuredness.

What We Need to Do as Preppers

At the very beginning of the six phase cycle, we need to take advantage of the ‘grace period’ that is ours during Phase One. and use this to give us a head start towards getting to our retreats and preparing for the difficulties that will follow.

Ideally, of course, we want to bug out before the civilian authorities start to impose restrictive emergency/martial law controls on people and their movements.

We need to be alert to the onset of a Level 2/3 event, and as soon as we view one as underway, we need to immediately bug out.  During the Phase One ‘False Calm’ we won’t draw so much attention to ourselves driving somewhere in a vehicle, and we’ll encounter fewer threats and problems on the way.

But as soon as the situation clicks over to Phase Two and Three, life becomes much more difficult if we are still in transit on the way to our retreat location.

Hopefully we’ll miss most of Phases Two and Three, because we’ll be well away from the larger cities.  Hopefully, also, we’ll be prepared to confront Phase 4 in a way that will enhance our chances of surviving through it.

More to the point, our understanding of this process is such that – hopefully – we are already laying the seeds of establishing a Phase Five for the region our retreat is located; we want to very quickly make not just our personal retreat but the area it is part of become a haven of citizen-supported mutual cooperation and safety, with sufficient resolve and strength to fight off both uncoordinated attacks and also to stake your claim to your area as being citizen-controlled rather than a gang-controlled area.

Succeeding in creating a positive Phase Five community will help you move forward into Phase Six.

Jun 262012
 

Trees can grow in places that regular cropping or animal raising may not be so practical, and give an amazingly rich return.

A level 3 situation is a long-term scenario stretching beyond anything we could live through on the basis of stockpiled resources.  We’ll run out of whatever energy we have stored, we’ll run out of whatever food we have stored, and we need to become self-sustaining.

To be sure, we’ll enter a level 3 scenario with hopefully some advantages.  We’ll have a year or more of time to live on our reserves, and to transition to an ongoing sustainable lifestyle for the future.  We’ll have pre-existing shelter, and a range of both high-tech and low-tech equipment and productivity aids, and also a huge knowledge base of information to help us do the right things.

Looking into the medium future, we have some obvious needs.  The ability to maintain our shelter, and the availability of ongoing supplies of drinking water, food, and renewable energy being the biggest four challenges we’ll face.  Ongoing access to Facebook is way down on the list!

There’s a product that, in at least some parts of the US, is abundant, renewable, and very low maintenance in terms of growing and collecting it.  This is a product that should be a central part of our planning.

If the heading of this article hasn’t already given away the name of this product, allow us to now dramatically introduce to you – wood.  Timber.  Lumber.  Logs.  Call it whatever you like, but wood from trees promises to be an invaluable part of our lives in many respects.

Although we can’t eat or drink wood, it can help us with maintaining our shelter, it can help us protect our lands and our crops and livestock, and it can act as a source of both heat (ie something as simple as an open fireplace) and energy (burn wood to fire boilers that drive steam-powered electricity generators).

Think back to images of the pioneering days of the US, and the earlier history of many other countries.  What do you see, wherever you look?  Things made of wood.  Indeed, even today, if you take all the wood out of your house and your life, you’ll have lots of huge gaps.

Sure, the iron age, the steel age, and the industrial revolution are all improvements on the much more primitive wooden age, but without wood, none of the other enhancements would proceed.

We said before that we will enter a level 3 scenario with some pre-existing ‘advantages’ – we use the quotes because, really, there’s nothing good about such a scenario at all, just hopefully some elements which are less bad than they could be.

There’s another advantage that you can give yourself as well, something to keep massively in mind when choosing your retreat location.  And that is having some trees on your land.  What better way of storing energy and building materials than in the form of live, living trees; a resource that continues to grow with each passing year until needed and harvested.

Of course, property that is treed will usually be more expensive than bare land, but you should be thinking not so much in terms of the present day net value of the trees (ie what you could get by selling the wood after meeting the costs of harvesting and probably reforestation) but instead, you should be thinking about the massively increased value to you these trees would represent in a level 3 situation.

Just like a gallon of gas will soar in value ten-fold and more likely one hundred-fold in a level 2+ situation, so too will the value of trees rise.  So the more treed land you can buy with your retreat, the more investment for the future you are getting at today’s bargain basement prices.

If you can afford it, buy as much forested land as possible.  There’s no real downside to this.  Worst case scenario, you have people managing your trees for you, and you get a commercial ongoing return on the land anyway, and probably more so than if you’d left the money in the bank.  Plus – unlike keeping your money in a bank – your trees are a tangible asset and form of wealth that will survive the onset of any level 2+ situation (assuming the situation isn’t initiated by a nearby atomic blast that flattens all your trees, of course – and even if that did happen, you still have the dead trees to convert to some timber and some firewood as best you can).

If you already have a retreat that is without trees, we urge you to consider quickly starting a small tree plantation – perhaps giving yourself a several year head-start by planting saplings that have already been growing in a nursery for some years.

For commercial purposes, it can take as much as 15 – 35 years for trees to mature to the point of it making good sense to harvest them (shorter time periods if you just want to burn the wood, longer time periods if you want to use the wood for construction); so if you can start your tree plantation with saplings that are already perhaps 5 years old, that is a head start for sure.

Of course, in a survival situation, you might choose to start felling trees at the point that you have no choice and urgently need the wood, even if only to use them as firewood rather than as building materials.

Here’s a very quick primer on some relevant issues to do with trees.

How Much Wood Is In Your Trees

If you are looking at some land that already has trees on it, you’ll of course want to know how much wood they comprise.

This is a difficult thing to accurately establish.  Clearly, it is impractical to have someone measuring each tree – not just its height, but its varying diameter and cross-section all the way up, plus adding in the mass in branches, too.

Instead, there are a number of standard industry accepted ‘rules of thumb’ for using some easily determined parameters such as the tree’s circumference or diameter at a particular height above the ground (usually 4.5 ft) and its total height, and then assessing the probable amount of mass in the tree.

These different rules of thumb can sometimes give very different answers.  Some of the better known are the International ¼ inch, Doyle, and Scribner rules.

Wood is also measured in different ways.  If you just want to burn it, perhaps the most relevant measurement is by weight.  If you are hoping to sell it for construction, then it is often measured in board feet – a board foot is one cubic foot of timber, usually thought of as a piece of wood one foot by one foot, and one inch thick.

You’ll also see wood measured by the cord (particularly firewood).  A cord of wood is a neatly tightly stacked pile of wood totaling 128 cu ft (typically in a form such as 4′ x 4′ x 8′).  At least in theory, solid wood takes up about 80% – 85% of the volume of corded wood.

A cord of red oak has the heating equivalent of about 108 gallons of fuel oil.

Choosing the Trees to Grow

You have a number of factors to consider in choosing the type of trees you’ll want to grow.  All other things being equal, a tree that is predisposed to grow more quickly is preferable to one that is a slower growing tree.

But there’s more to your decision than simply the theoretical rate of growth (ie accumulation of mass).

One important issue is the ability of the tree to withstand the climate in your area, and also the presence of any bugs or other bio-hazards that will reduce the viability of your tree plantings.  Water availability, aspect (ie if the land faces to the north or south), wind and of course soil quality and structure are all important issues.

Then there is the issue of what purpose you wish to use the wood for.  If you are growing wood to be used for construction purposes, you generally want to have a type of tree that grows long straight trunks.  Sometimes you might want a hard wood – these typically are much slower growing trees.  Some trees have wood that is more resilient to various types of decay once harvested and in use for construction materials or whatever than other types (for example cedar is more long-lasting outdoors than pine).  But if you’re growing wood purely to burn, these matters become less important.

There is also the matter of tree density.  If you can have more trees closer together, you’ll obviously get a better return in terms of amount of wood per acre of land.

This diversity of ‘best’ tree choice is shown, for example, with the range of species cultivated by Weyerhauser.  In the western US, they primarily grow Douglas Fir and Cedar (122 million cu m as of 31 Dec, 2011), followed by 23 million cu m of Whitewood and 9 million cu m of other types of tree).  But in the south they grow primarily Southern Yellow Pine (105 million cu m) and hardwood (30 million cu m).  In Brazil and Uruguay, they have large holdings of Eucalyptus trees.

How to Choose Trees

Your choice depends on your environment and also on the purpose for which you want to use the trees.  Energy source and construction materials will be your prime choices, whereas at present, trees for burning are very much a secondary use, and another primary use that will be less relevant to you is as a source of raw pulp for paper and cardboard products.

We suggest you consult with local agricultural and horticultural specialists to see what types of trees would be best suited for your retreat area and follow their advice.

How Long Until You Can Harvest Trees

This is one of those ‘how high is up’ type questions, because obviously even after one year you have a bit of growth, and after 100 years you may still be getting some growth.

The optimum time to harvest recognizes that it takes a certain time until the trees are big enough to have sufficient commercial value to be felled and hauled away and then the land cleared and prepared for regrowth.  When trees are young, they are too small to be useful as construction timber, and so they only have low value for firewood.  As they get into their mid 20 years and above, they start to get commercially significant amounts of useful wood that can be used for construction purposes.

It is also necessary to cut down some trees on a regular basis, whether you need to or not, so as to ‘thin’ out the trees, leaving the remaining ones with sufficient space for their leaf and root systems.  You get more overall growth if you thin the trees as needed – and also get a trickle of wood out of your forest each year prior to the major harvest.

Generally, managed pine tree plantations are harvested after something like perhaps 25 – 40 years (in the south).  Over a 35 year period, it is reasonable to expect anywhere from 67 tons to 151 tons of wood harvested (in the course of thinning operations and final harvesting) per acre, based on a planting rate of 700 trees/acre to start with.

In such a model, there will be very little yield until thinning operations commence in about the 15th year.  This article provides helpful information.

It is also possible to delay/defer the time of main tree harvesting.  Clearly you wouldn’t want to have a forest that gives you a supply of timber once every 35 years, and almost nothing in-between times.

To get a new forest development started, you can start felling some areas a bit earlier than optimum, and other areas a bit later than optimum, so as to spread the main harvest time over a decade.  Then if you repeat this for successive generations, in time you’ll end up with steady logging operations each year.

Hardwood trees can take twice as long to reach a harvesting point (ie 60 – 80 years or more).  This makes them impractical for most of our purposes.

A Couple of Lists of Trees Sorted by Growing Speed

The rate at which trees grow depends on many things.  Climate and soil are two very important variables; unfortunately, once we’ve chosen a retreat location, we no longer have much additional input on the climate issue, and soil type and chemistry may or may not be something that it is easy/practical for us to adjust substantially.

However we obviously can make the best choice possible when it comes to choosing tree type, and trying to match the best tree type to the local prevailing situations.

This webpage lists various types of trees that were grown at the Morton Arboretum near Chicago.  They started off as 10 ft tall saplings, and then after ten years, were categorized as fast growing (trees now 25′ tall or taller – ie, they had grown an extra 15 ft), moderate (18 – 25 ft) or slow (less than 18 ft).

We can’t make too many specific statements from this one set of results, but clearly, even if all other things aren’t completely equal, an American Elm is more likely to grow faster than a Yellowwood.

Here’s the list

Fast

  • American Elm (Ulmus americana)
  • Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)S
  • Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Moderate

  • Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)
  • Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioica)
  • Thornless Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis)
  • Linden (Tilia platyphyllos, T. cordata, T. xeuchlora ‘Redmond’, and T. tomentosa)
  • English Oak (Quercus robur)
  • Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)
  • Sawtooth Oak (Quercus acutissima)
  • Shingle Oak (Quercus imbricaria)
  • Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
  • Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
  • Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Slow

  • European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)
  • Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra)
  • Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
  • Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
  • European Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)
  • Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana)
  • Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)
  • Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
  • Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea)

Here’s another list of trees graded as fastest, faster, and fast growing, taken from this page.

Fastest

  • Hybrid Poplar (Populus hybrid)
  • Weeping Willow (Salix niobe/babylonica)
  • Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

Faster

  • Hardy Pecan (Carya Illinoinensis)
  • Ash (Fraxinus spp.) including Green Ash, Cimmaron Ash, White Ash and Autumn Purple Ash
  • Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)
  • Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens glauca)
  • Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii syn. P. taxifola, P. douglasii)
  • Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
  • Dawn Redwood (Metsequoia glyptostroboides)

Fast

  • Scotch or Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
  • Black Walnut (Juglans Nigra)

Summary

If your retreat is located in a part of the country that is amendable to forestry, you would be very well advised to allocate some of its land to tree growing.  Better still is to buy a retreat property that already has existing stands of trees on it, so you don’t need to work through the lengthy lead times to the point where you can start harvesting the trees in appreciable quantities.

The amount of yield you get from trees varies enormously, but a reasonable range is from 67 – 151 tons per acre per year (when averaged out over a 35 year cycle, and with trees initially planted at a density of 700 trees/acre).

This translates to, extremely approximately, somewhere between the heating energy equivalent of 4,500 – 10,000 gallons of heating oil per acre of forest per year.  Or to somewhere between 40 MWhr and 100 MWhr of electricity.

To put that in daily terms which might be more meaningful, we’re talking 12 – 27 gallons of heating oil equivalent a day, or about 100 kWhr – 250 kWhr of electricity.

Clearly, even a small stand of only several acres of trees, if optimally planted and managed, can be sufficient to give you true energy independence, as well as material for the construction of everything from furniture to houses, barns and wagons, and also a possibly valuable trading good when buying/selling things with other people.

Jun 062012
 

Choosing a retreat location involves lots of variables.

So you’ve decided to take your prepping to the next level.  You’re graduating from merely having lots of dried food in the basement to deciding to now invest in a retreat; somewhere you’ll relocate to if/when society crashes and crumbles.

Congratulations.

Now let’s guess what it is you’re doing.  Our crystal ball suggests you’re doing two things.

You’re looking at a map, with your current residence more or less centered, and you’re trying to work out how far is far enough away from the city you normally live in, and also how far becomes too far away.  Are we right?

And you’re also working through your financial position, working out what you can afford to put down on a retreat, and how much a month you can afford to make in payments.  Are we right again?

Now – your turn to guess.  Can you guess the huge assumption that you’re making?

You are assuming that your ‘normal’ life will continue unchanged – indeed, you’re desperately hoping that will be the case.

And in doing so, you’ve massively reduced your options in two important areas.

First, you’ve all of a sudden made most of the country out of reach and impractical to consider as a retreat location.  You’ll probably agree that, best case scenario, you can’t plan to travel more than 500 miles from where you normally live to a retreat, and ideally, you’d not want to go even half that distance.  You probably want to be at least 50 miles from your city, and 50 miles from any other major city (ie with a population of 100,000+), so when you first draw a radius of maximum distance away from your present location, then start taking out big holes in the middle of this around other cities that might come within the maximum distance radius, all of a sudden you’ll see there’s not a whole lot of much left.

Second, although you’re hopefully doing reasonably well, financially, and are able to support your current household and living costs, you’re probably looking a bit anxiously at the new idea of now having to double up on all these costs.

Why not think outside the box.  We have two suggestions for you – a relatively easy one and a harder one.

Make Your Primary Residence Now Your Secondary Residence

Our first suggestion is the relatively easy one.

Instead of continuing to own your present home as you do, why not sell it, and rent a smaller less expensive apartment (or buy a smaller condo)?

Indeed, as part of this transition, you can also choose a more optimized location within your current city region that will be best positioned for bugging out from – it can be on the same side of town as the direction of travel towards your retreat; and far enough from the center of the city as to have a head start on things if problems start to develop.  It can also be away from local danger areas and ‘hot spots’.

If you do this, you’ve reduced your monthly outgoings for your main residence, and maybe you’ve taken some cash out of the property too, either by downgrading or converting from owning to renting.

This puts you in a much better financial position to have a greater downpayment for your retreat, and better able to afford the ongoing monthly costs of ownership for your retreat too.

Even if you swap from owning to renting a property for what was formerly your primary residence, you’re not losing out, because you’ll now have a property you own at your retreat location.  So you are still participating in the property market, just at a different location.  There’s no financial penalty associated.

We of course don’t know how long you’ve lived at your present primary residence, but maybe things have changed since you moved there.  Maybe the neighborhood (and/or neighbors) have changed, maybe you’re now empty nesters, maybe many different things have changed.  Why not use this as an opportunity to update your primary residential lifestyle.

Choosing a nice place for your retreat will also mean that it is a place you actively like visiting.  This means you’ll be more likely to evacuate sooner if things start to go wrong – there’ll be less perceived ‘pain’ in making a transition and more willingness/eagerness to go there.

It also means you can get value from your retreat as a place to stay at over long weekends, for some of the summer, and so on.  The more time you spend at your retreat, the more opportunities you have to test everything out there, and find out what works and what doesn’t work, what else would be useful, and so on.

Plus, the more you’re there, the more you can become part of whatever local community there is in the area, too.

Change Jobs and Change Cities

Now for the big one – but really, for most of us, it is only big because we seldom face such things head on, and usually when we do, it is not in a time and situation of our own choosing.  This time, however, it is on your terms.

We are suggesting you start off with a blank sheet of paper, and choose the best location in the entire US for your retreat.  Then, and only then, choose possible locations to live in and work in that are reasonably close to your retreat.

Ideally, you might be able to accept a career change – although that might involve a downgrading of income – and work somewhere close to your retreat, and make your retreat your main and only dwelling.  An ideal type of retreat job would be as a farmer/market gardener/orchardist.  Or alternatively, perhaps you set up a general store in the nearest town.  In good times, it will be a regular general store, and in hard times, it will be your survival warehouse, full of what you (and others in your community) need to survive.

If this is not practical, you might be making a poor choice of location for your retreat.  While you don’t want to have too many people too close to you, we urge you to become at least an outlying part of some small community, so you have people to turn to for occasional assistance, and people to trade with.  And you want your land-holdings to be capable of supporting and sustaining some sort of agricultural production, whether it be livestock or cropping or whatever.

One very important thing.  Don’t quit your present job until you’ve lined up a new job.  People who are currently employed are viewed as being much more desirable by potential future employers than are people who are unemployed.

If you’re asked why you are making the move, there’s no need to give a long lecture about society’s vulnerabilities, etc.  Simply say that it is a lifestyle choice, and you want to move somewhere you feel more comfortable in and where you can better merge together work and home environments, to be more productive at work and happier at home.

Most people who live anywhere feel it to be a good place to live, and so this type of answer won’t need any further explanation, and will be positively received by the person interviewing them – it affirms their own choice to live there, too.

Summary

Choosing your retreat is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life, and may have the greatest impact of any decision on your future.

Now is not the time to start making huge compromises that will reduce the effectiveness of your retreat choice.  The reality is that many parts of the country have nowhere appropriate as a retreat within a convenient traveling distance; so why not consider moving your primary residence as part of selecting a retreat location.

About 20% of the US population move every year.  You’ve probably moved in the past.  There’s no reason why you couldn’t again, and lots of reasons why you should.

May 282012
 

One of a series of maps from the CDC showing the incidence of various types of ticks.

In a Level 2/3 situation, the omnipresence of modern medical care that we have come to rely upon will be much less available.  We will be well advised to plan our lives so there will be less need to seek medical help.

One issue to consider when choosing the location for our retreat is the presence of any insect-borne diseases, any particularly dangerous animals, and other such issues.  This involves not just looking at challenges that presently exist, but also extrapolating further to new challenges that might appear.

For example, the Africanized or ‘killer’ bees that are spreading northwards up from Mexico.  It is far from clear at what point these bees will stop their advance.

Or the spread of ticks carrying various diseases, Lyme disease being the best known but far from the only such disease, some of which can be fatal.  Here’s a recent article about the increasing amount of the country being affected by such things, and here’s a useful map.

At the risk of inviting despair, here’s a series of maps showing the spread of various types of ticks and information on the diseases they can carry.  It would seem that nowhere is safe from some type of tick and disease.

As for other types of animal threats, it is hard to know if they will become more prevalent and severe, or less so, in a Level 2/3 situation.  On the one hand, there may be a reduction in human type impacts on such creatures, allowing them to thrive and increase in numbers.  On the other hand, there could be an increase in human impacts if they are the type of creature that people would choose to hunt for food – we’re just guessing that not everyone will strictly observe the current seasonal restrictions on when, where, and how game can be killed!

We’re also going to guess that not everyone will be wearing bright orange safety jackets in the woods and we’d suggest that the woods could become relatively dangerous places to be in, due to over-eager hunters shooting at anything that moves.