Jul 152013
The sign says 'buy local' but even if these 'fresh' apples are local, they have probably still been sitting in a cool store for many months before being shipped to the supermarket.

The sign says ‘buy local’ but even if these ‘fresh’ apples are local, they have probably still been sitting in a cool store for many months before being shipped to the supermarket.

One of the issues we as preppers instinctively accept and understand but struggle to explain to non-preppers, is the huge degree of fragility and multiple dependent layers upon which today’s society is built.

Exactly like a house of cards, if a single component in any of the dependencies fails, the entire structure is at risk of colossal failure in a manner that would not have been possible 50 or 100 years ago.

The problem we have in explaining these dependencies is that many of them are obscured and not at all intuitively obvious.

Here’s an interesting example of a surprising statistic and dependency.  70% of the food we eat passes through or is dependent on the ‘cold chain’ – refrigeration is needed as part of its processing, storage, and distribution.

Some of this we know about already.  It is unsurprising to learn that the milk we drink and the meat we eat has been chilled pretty much through its entire history from the minute it was first obtained.

Some other things are less obvious, but if we think about it, we’re not very surprised.  Look in the produce section of your supermarket, and although you’ll see things like potatoes and onions in bags or loose, displayed at room temperature, we might realize that they’ve been sitting in cool stores for months between when they came out of the ground and were put on display in the supermarket.

Oh – and of the potatoes we eat (the average American eats 36 lbs a year), most are not just kept chilled/cool, but are actually hard frozen.  Astonishingly, 29 of the 36 pounds of potatoes we eat are in the form of frozen French fries.  Who’d a thought?

The same is true of fruit as well.  Apples, oranges, etc – all these things are kept in special temperature environments – indeed, not just the temperature is managed to a very exacting degree, but so too is the humidity and even the gas mix surrounding the fruit.

But how about things as unobvious as, for example, even peanuts?  Yes, they too are kept in cool storage to extend their shelf life.

Our point is simply this.  A power failure – even a power shortage – would threaten 70% of our food supplies.  Without refrigeration, we’d have two problems.  The first is that we’d no longer be able to harvest food when it was plentiful, inexpensive, and in season, then store it for future sale/consumption some months later.  This would make for a crazy situation with some months having enormous gluts of food products and other months having nothing at all.

The second is that without refrigeration, we’d no longer be able to have vast distances separating where our food is grown and where it is eaten.  At present food travels at times almost literally half way around the world to reach our supermarkets.  If we had to rely on food grown within a day or two of our homes, that would destroy the viability of many major cities because the amount of food growing area needed to support the millions of people in the urban concentrations would stretch out impossibly far.

Anyway, food for thought, as it were. 🙂

More details in this rather pompous article and this very incomplete web site.

Jun 182013
Might the government be able to legally take your food supplies from you?

Might the government be able to legally take your food supplies from you?

This is the first part of a three-part article about the risk of having everything we’ve stored taken from us – not by force by a gang of armed violent looters, but by color of law, by local or federal law enforcement agents or the National Guard or even regular Armed Forces.

This is one of the most important articles we’ve published.  Please read it carefully, because if you don’t understand these issues now, you’ll surely be sadly surprised when they become relevant in some future emergency.

In the first part, immediately below, we talk about how such ‘un-American’ acts like taking one person’s possessions and ignoring concepts of private ownership (what we used to call, with revulsion, Communism) are becoming the normal accepted situation, and we talk about how such a seemingly flagrant breach of the Constitution could in fact occur.  It is important to understand this, because too many preppers – while open to the possibility of so many different types of future disasters – are insufficiently open-minded about the type of response from the rest of society when such a disaster occurs.

The second part switches from talking about what might occur and instead focuses on what laws are already on the books.  There are already laws that empower the President to command the Armed Forces to take almost everything we have, in an apparently lawful manner.  These are laws, in effect today, that have been passed and approved by (of course) both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and which have not been constitutionally challenged.

The third part introduces you to an appallingly un-American concept, civil forfeiture.

The first part is dismaying, but the other parts are terrifying.  Please do bravely read on.

We call ourselves preppers, and we stockpile food and other essentials in case of a breakdown in the normal functioning of our society and an inability to continue to live as we normally do.  We feel this is a sensible and prudent thing to do, and something to be encouraged.

But not everyone sees things the same way we do.  Instead of what we consider to be prudently stockpiling in good times, then carefully conserving and using up our resources in a future emergency, some people will describe us as selfishly hoarding.  Of course, such accusations will never be made in the present day times, not while our consumption-driven economy benefits from people buying as much of everything as they can afford, and then some more too.

But what about in the future, when all of a sudden, things which were formerly commonplace become rare, and even the most basic essentials of life – food, water, shelter – become precious and scarce?  Will the people who sneered at us for prepping simply ‘suck it in’ and say ‘Our bad, you were right, we were wrong, so we get to starve while you get to live’?  Or will they say ‘It isn’t fair that these selfish people have more food than they need, while we are without food – it is only right they be forced to share their food fairly with us’?

Historically, America rose to greatness on the basis of the first response – people were responsible for their own success or failure.  If they worked hard and did well, they got to enjoy the fruit of their labors and the flowering of their success.  If they made bad choices, or were lazy, then they suffered the consequences.

But at some point in the last 50 years or so, that has flipped around.  Successful people are no longer praised and respected for their success, and failures no longer feel humbled and embarrassed by their failure.  Now we see successful people viewed suspiciously, while people who have failed in their lives through laziness and lack of work now are proud of their failure and demand to be supported.  Our entire ‘progressive’ tax system penalizes success right from the get-go, and we increasingly hear the mantra being chanted ‘The rich must pay their fair share’.

But how much is ‘their fair share’?  Certainly, we agree that everyone should pay tax, but is it fair that some people should pay five or ten times more tax than some other people?  Is it fair that some people should pay one hundred times more tax than the average person, and is it fair that half the country should pay no tax at all?  Increasingly, it seems that many people believe these scenarios to be true.

There has been a steady shift from the overall tax burden being broadly and equally shouldered by all, to more and more of the taxes being paid by fewer and fewer people.

Here’s a fascinating chart that shows this steady trend over the last 30 years, taken from this article.


Is it truly fair that 1% of the country pays almost as much in taxes as the other 95%?  Indeed, the people who clamor that the wealthy are not yet paying their fair share seem to think that the 1% should pay even more and more.

Furthermore, the government’s role in the nation’s economy is expanding.  Our economy is increasingly revolving around government activity rather than around private enterprise, and that’s a recipe for economic disaster – just ask any of the failed communist regimes.  What that means is that increasingly people rely on the government for their income – they either work for the government or work for a company that contracts to the government or receive benefits from the government – this is a growing mass of people who have no history of making a living in the private sector; people who have learned to view the government as the source of everything they need in their lives.

This article here has a series of charts that shows how our economy is becoming increasingly a government based economy, but it only covers the last ten to twenty years in most cases.  It still provides a terrifying read of where our economy is headed.

But to look at a longer series, look simply at this chart which shows – in inflation adjusted dollars – the growth of the annual federal budget from 1962 through until 2015.  The chart was taken from this article.


One last point on this topic.  We’ve shown you the growth in federal government.  Now match that with growth also in state government, county government, city government, and all sorts of pseudo-government organizations.  The transition of our economy from one predominantly featuring private industry to one now made up of government organizations is even more widespread than you might have thought.

So what does this commentary on our nation’s tax system and growth in government have to do with the main theme of this article – the risk of having our stockpiled supplies taken from us?

We have looked at the nation’s evolving attitude towards ‘compulsory sharing’ – another name for taxation – to show how there is a growing belief, and maybe already one held by the majority of voters, that wealthy people have an obligation to sacrifice the wealth they have created and to give it to less wealthy people.  If you agree with us at this interpretation of our changing tax collection policies and social expectations, then you understand the first point we are going to make.

US Society Now Condones Compulsory Taking From the Wealthy

Our point is simply this.  Today it is now normal and accepted to take from the ‘haves’ and distribute to the ‘have nots’, through an increasingly unbalanced tax system and via an ever larger and larger governmental process.

People say it is ‘fair’ that wealthy people should pay more and more, and people say it is also ‘fair’ that not wealthy people should pay less and indeed be actively subsidized – not only do such people not pay taxes, but they become net recipients of welfare support.

We’re the first to acknowledge that there is truly a small percentage of the country’s population that needs support and assistance through no fault of their own.  But we don’t believe that this ‘small percentage’ is actually half our entire population.  Our definition of fairness, and our view of the obligations of citizens in general, is that all people should pay taxes, albeit to a varying degree.   If only a small section of society pays taxes, our democratic process becomes perverted whereby the majority can impose whatever taxation policies they wish on the minority – all cloaked in the nebulous concept of ‘fairness’, of course.

There’s another element to compulsory taking as well.  We’re not just talking about the taking of abstract money from people who have ‘too much’ money.  We’re also talking about the increasingly aggressive use of ‘Eminent Domain’ powers for public bodies to take private property and to repurpose it for ‘public good’.  Eminent Domain is when the council takes your land to build a new road, for example, and compensates you ‘fairly’ for the taking (if it is land that has been in your family for generations which you don’t want to lose at any price, the council’s view of ‘fair’ may not coincide with your own).

But the concept of ‘public good’ has insidiously expanded – there have been examples of councils taking land for commercial developments such as shopping malls.  The most celebrated example of eminent domain abuse – Kelo vs New London – was contested all the way to the Supreme Court, which, alas, approved the taking of the land – here’s a short and easily read article on this particular case.

There are many other dubious and arguably unfair uses of eminent domain – a search for “abuse of eminent domain” on Google brings 1.28 million results.

Our point is simply that society’s respect for private ownership – whether it be money or land or pretty much anything else – is dwindling.  And that is happening during good times – imagine now, if you can, how quickly the last remaining elements of respect for private personal ownership will disappear in difficult times.

The Social and Practical Basis for Taking Our Food and Supplies From Us

There are several things to think about when it comes to considering what would happen WTSHTF.  We of course discuss these things regularly with other people, and a significant number of people refuse to accept that anyone would wish to take anything of theirs.  Much as we wish their views to be correct, we sadly disagree.  But it is interesting to see the full spectrum of opinions and denials offered to us.

Some people will acknowledge that a very small minority – unlawful gangs of ‘bad’ people – might wish to do that, but that the overall forces of law and order will prevent such things from happening.

Some people will acknowledge that there might be pressure to take our supplies from us, but that the police would never enforce an unlawful order.

But let’s look at past experiences and events to see if these two denials are founded in fact.

For the first point – the police and other agencies will protect those who ‘have’ from small groups of unlawful gangs, we have three words to offer.  Los Angeles riots.

Look at what happened during the LA riots in 1992.  During six days, large swathes of Los Angeles were in total anarchy, a known 53 people were killed, and more than 2,000 were injured.  More than 3,600 fires were set, more than 1,100 buildings were destroyed, and total damage probably came in at about $1 billion.

The Los Angeles police were supplemented by thousands of other local, state and federal law enforcement officers, and by the California National Guard and regular US Marines and other Armed Forces too.

All of this happened due to protests about the Rodney King Police Officers trial and verdict.

Now ask yourself.  If a mere court case can cause this, which takes six days to get under control, and requires the airlifting of tens of thousands of additional public safety personnel to bring the lawlessness under control, what happens when a more major event occurs, and when tens of thousands of police reinforcements are not available?

Note also our article by a police veteran, where he clearly says ‘the police won’t be able to cope and cities will collapse stunningly quickly’.

For the second point (the police would not enforce unlawful orders), we’ll again offer up three words, although one would be enough.  New Orleans Katrina.  The local police and sheriff’s offices seemed to take more pleasure than expected, and to use more zeal than is common for the Big Easy’s finest at doing anything, when it came to seizing people’s firearms – a blatantly illegal act, and carried out in an area where firearms ownership is generally positively viewed.

If that’s not enough, how about another three words.  Boston Bombing Manhunt.  Thousands of law enforcement personnel, dressed in full combat gear like they were each about to singlehandedly go to war against the entire muslim world, went door to door through Boston suburbs, carrying out house to house searches.  They had no search warrants.  They had no reasonable cause or suspicion.  And, furthermore, their searching was all to no avail – the two bombers were not detected as a result of this house to house searching.

Make no mistake.  People weren’t being politely asked if they could have their houses searched.  Their houses were being searched at gunpoint, and refusal was not an option.

Now add to this the fact that after TSHTF, police officers will be as hungry and needy as most other non-prepared people.  They will have a vested personal interest in complying with orders to search and seize food and other valuable supplies.  Maybe they’ll even get a ‘finder’s fee’ bonus based on how much food and supplies they seize.

We’ll be generous and accept that a small percentage of police officers might refuse to go along with any such orders.  But for every police officer refusing to comply, there’ll be a dozen volunteers willing to take his place.

All of the preceding has assumed that taking our food and other supplies from us would be illegal.  But that’s not necessarily a valid assumption.  Alas, quite the opposite.  Please keep reading.

Future Legal Support for Seizing our Food and Supplies

There already is probable legal support for having our supplies taken from us, but we’ll leave that for the second part of this two-part article.  Let’s assume, for the moment – as most of us naively do – that there are no laws or regulations authorizing the authorities to take our food and other supplies from us.  So let’s think – how could such laws be created, and what would we do?

Don’t get on a moral high horse and say ‘It is unconstitutional and so could never happen’.  Unconstitutional laws are enacted every day, and constitutional laws are applied in unconstitutional manners – that’s why we have the legal system, all the way up to the Supreme Courts of our state and of the entire US – to protect us from either inept or wrong-thinking law makers.  Every day, courts throughout the country find laws to be badly written and unenforceable (and also, every day, courts also choose to enforce badly written laws that should not be enforced).  So it is plenty possible that an unconstitutional law could be enacted (and far from certain that the courts would toss it out, even in good times).

And, think about it.  Politicians are not renowned for either their high moral principles, or their own foresight and preparedness, are they.  When things go bad, they’ll be among the first to be starving, and among the first to be demanding that we share our food with them.

So, there’ll be an emergency session of – you name it.  Maybe even your homeowner’s association.  Your local city council.  The county council.  And/or the state legislature.  There will be legislation drafted in double-quick time, and passed almost unanimously even quicker.

The legislation will probably have at least the semblance of fairness associated with it.  It will offer you compensation for the food and other supplies taken from you.  You’ll probably be given a check for some fair value for your food based on what it would cost in normal times, or possibly you’ll be given a voucher that can be used to get replacement food at some future time when food becomes plentiful again.

But how much value is a check, when the banking system has failed?  For that matter, how much value would cash be, when there’s no food for sale at any price?  How much value is a voucher, when you can’t redeem it for anything and will have starved long before normalcy returns?

The stark reality is that you’re likely to find yourself confronted with a properly enacted law that ostensibly empowers other people to take just about everything you have from you.

Now, as for the judicial review of this law and the takings carried out under its authority, how well do you think that is going to go for you?  Whether you are liberal or conservative, you’ll probably concede that judges no longer impartially enforce the law (always assuming that they ever did!), but rather, they selectively and actively interpret the law based on their own personal beliefs and values.

Keep in mind that the judge is being asked to decide if he, too, should be able to share in your food, or if he too will starve while you survive.  How impartial a judgment do you expect to get if/when you can get your case heard in a court?

And there’s the other problem – will the court system still be operating?  Even if it is, if you get a hearing in a month, and a judgment in two months, what will you do for the two months (or more, especially if you lose and then have to appeal) while you’re waiting, having already given up your food?  One thing’s for sure – the way this will work is ‘take first, argue about it in court later’.

Our prediction is that if society’s collapse occurs slowly enough for legislative bodies to continue to meet, there will definitely be high-minded seeming emergency laws passed to make ‘hoarding’ illegal.  But you’ll quickly discover that the definition of hoarding makes you a hoarder.

If you think that is unlikely, people were arrested and prosecuted for ‘hoarding’ when they attempted to get ‘too much’ petrol during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the New York area in 2012 – even in cases where one person was the ‘designated driver’ going to get petrol for multiple families.

All fairness, all reason, all logic – all these things will be abandoned in the panic that will follow TEOTWAWKI.

Continued in Part Two and Three

Our point in this first part of the three-part article series is that a large part of society – perhaps even the majority – condones taking from other people and transferring their wealth and even their property so that other people can benefit.  You probably consider this immoral and wrong, but the 50% of the country who pay no taxes seem to have no difficulty with their consciences while all the time demanding that the rich pay more and more, which the takers ludicrously describe as ‘paying their fair share’.

Even people who might find this an uncomfortable situation at present will get a very different perspective when they see your house as the only one with power, heat, and light, and smell the rich smell of food cooking, in a scenario where they have none of any such things.  Some people may respond by simply trying to steal food from you at gunpoint, others will throw themselves on your mercy and beg for food.  But the biggest threat will be the people who pass a new law to force you to share everything you have.

But wait.  There’s more.  Please now turn to part two (and then subsequently on to part three), where we stop considering future possible scenarios, and instead focus in on the actual laws that are already on the books, and how they give close to unlimited unrestricted power to the President to take anything he wants from anyone at all, for close on any reason.

We know that sounds impossible to believe, so we back up everything we say with links to formal proof of each statement we make.

Jun 182013
In just over ten years since it was formed, the Homeland Security Department has grown to employ 240,000+ people, including FEMA.  This massive army of people are surely all there to help us, right?

In just over ten years since it was formed, the Homeland Security Department has grown to employ 240,000+ people, including FEMA. This massive army of people are surely all there to help us, right?

This is the second part of a three-part article series on how everything we’ve saved and stored could be – lawfully – taken from us in an emergency.

If you arrived on this page from a search engine or website link, you might wish to first read the first part of the article, which talks about how our society has evolved to the point where the majority already feel no shame in taking property from people who have it and appropriating it for themselves.

Perhaps because preppers tend to be fair-minded people, they find this concept hard to accept.  Please read through the first part, and force yourself to realize just how possible this is.

These Future Scenarios Are Real, Not Hypothetical

Now for the really vital part of this two-part article series.  In the first part, we’ve been talking about hypothetical future scenarios, and like all such things, maybe we are right, and maybe we are wrong – you need to selectively pick and choose what you feel to be most likely and to base your own plans accordingly.

But what would you think and what will you do, if/when you learn that there are already laws on the books to empower the ‘authorities’ (ie everyone else) to take our carefully stockpiled food and other supplies from us?

There are indeed federal laws/regulations/orders on the books to cover exactly this type of scenario.  There may be other federal level plans as well.  In addition, there are probably state level provisions you need to be aware of as well.  Let’s start with a look at state level issues, then move on to the federal level.

This is Real, and Documented, Not Just Scare Stories to Sell You Something

We often come across sales pitches trying to sell us something that have a detailed presentation including a lot of assertions about a lot of things, but their assertions are light on the facts and heavy on the fiction.  So we’ve learned to discount and ignore much of such stuff when we encounter it.

But we’re not trying to sell you anything.  And we will give you links to everything we tell you about in this article.  See for yourself, confirm for yourself, and be prepared to be astonished and dismayed at what you find out.

State Level Emergency Provisions

You need to know what emergency powers the governor of your state has.  You might be astonished at how extensive they could be, and some of the ‘better’ states actually have some of the most unrestricted powers available for their governors – the ‘frontier days’ thinking of those states’ constitutions still flows through, and such laws have not been rewritten for a more cautious and legally constrained present day scenario.

If a governor declares an emergency – either in part of the state or all the state – he can then do all sorts of things.  You probably know about ‘martial law’ – a vague concept that means different things in different cases, but which essentially means that many of your constitutional rights are suspended during the period of martial law.  Most governors have their power to declare martial law validated by the state constitution.

Here is a useful discussion about martial law, including examples of its misuse and abuse – sometimes resulting in judicial action overturning the martial law, but not always.

Some states might have no specific provisions for declaring martial law as such, but they may have provisions for other types of emergency declarations such as a ‘Public Health Emergency’ or a generic ‘State of Emergency’.  The same can be announced at a national level by the President as well.

Governors can sometimes do things such as call people up into the state militia, at which point, you become subject of course to military command and control.  Maybe the first requirement after being drafted into the state militia will be to assemble at some make-do barracks, requiring you to leave your retreat.  What do you do – comply, or be charged with ‘desertion’?

And, guess what the next order might be?  To go around your neighborhood, requisitioning any food and other supplies you can find!

National/Federal Emergency Provisions

Did you know that we are currently in a state of emergency – indeed, for most of the time since 1950, our country has been in a state of emergency.

See this discussion for an eye-opening explanation of our current state of emergency, including the disclosure that in the 1970s, Congress discovered – to its surprise – that the county was in a state of emergency dating back to the Korean War, initiated in 1950, which people had generally forgotten about and never repealed!  Congressional oversight?  Alas, not at all!

And as for the courts applying good sense to this farcical situation, apparently not – courts have upheld sentences that were made more severe due to the existence of a state of emergency, even though there truly was no emergency present.

You probably know that the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 forbids US troops from performing law enforcement action on US soil.  So how then to reconcile events such as troops being deployed to the LA riots in 1992?  Well, it seems that there are exceptions to everything, which is a chilling thought – heaven forbid that you too should become an ‘exception’ to the normal application of justice and jurisprudence.

More seriously, as covered in this helpful discussion, there is a possibility that the Posse Comitatus Act was quietly repealed and overturned by a provision of the 2012 National Defense Authorisation Act (section 1021).  Here’s a discussion of it here.

But if the innocuous and limited seeming provision in the 2012 Act overturns the Posse Comitatus Act, it is because much of it has already been overturned.  Prior to the 2012 Act, in the 2007 Authorization Act, section 1076 massively emasculated the Posse Comitatus Act :

The President may employ the armed forces… to… restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition… the President determines that… domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order… or [to] suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such… a condition… so hinders the execution of the laws… that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law… or opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.

We can translate that lengthy statement for you.  What it means – truly – is that the President can order the military to do pretty much anything to anyone, at any time, for any reason.

Specifically, he can order the military to ‘restore public order’ – and you might wonder what ‘public order’ is.  Truly, that’s a broad term capable of many meanings, and so too is the verb before the noun – ‘restore’.  What types of things can he order the military to do to restore the public order?  There’s no limit specified, so presumably whatever he (and he alone with no need to get approval from Congress) feels to be prudent, necessary, and appropriate.

A partial clue is gathered by looking at the examples of types of things that may cause the President to invoke these powers.  An insurrection or conspiracy (a conspiracy of course can be just talking about something, even though the ‘conspirators’ don’t actually do anything) that deprives any part or class of people (which means anyone) of a right/privilege/immunity/protection – wow, with the expanded view of what a person’s ‘rights’ are these days, to say nothing of their privileges, that covers just about anything.  If that’s not enough, it goes on to add ‘or opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the US’ which means that anyone talking about (conspiring) or actually opposing any law can be responded to by the President calling out the Army (and the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard too!).

There may be valid bona fide reasons why such powers are required, but do you really feel comfortable seeing how the entire rule of law and due process and habeas corpus and constitutional rights and protections can be annulled, by one person, at any time, for any reason?  Haven’t we just allowed our President to become our Dictator?  (Your instinct is to say ‘No, of course not’ and maybe to vaguely talk about ‘checks and balances’, but force yourself to think about this.  What checks and balances, what controls and restrictions, are placed on the ability of the President to invoke these powers, to use these powers, and to abuse these powers?)

There’s more.

Hoarding of Just About Anything Can Be Banned

There was an interesting Executive Order signed by President Obama in March 2012.  There’s a lot of legal stuff in it, and only when you get towards the end, do you suddenly realize ‘OMG!  What is this I’m reading?’.

Look at section 801 of the order, defining the things covered.

Sec. 801.  Definitions.  In addition to the definitions in section 702 of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2152, the following definitions apply throughout this order:

(a)  “Civil transportation” includes movement of persons and property by all modes of transportation in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce within the United States, its territories and possessions, and the District of Columbia, and related public storage and warehousing, ports, services, equipment and facilities, such as transportation carrier shop and repair facilities.  “Civil transportation” also shall include direction, control, and coordination of civil transportation capacity regardless of ownership.  “Civil transportation” shall not include transportation owned or controlled by the Department of Defense, use of petroleum and gas pipelines, and coal slurry pipelines used only to supply energy production facilities directly.

(b)  “Energy” means all forms of energy including petroleum, gas (both natural and manufactured), electricity, solid fuels (including all forms of coal, coke, coal chemicals, coal liquification, and coal gasification), solar, wind, other types of renewable energy, atomic energy, and the production, conservation, use, control, and distribution (including pipelines) of all of these forms of energy.

(c)  “Farm equipment” means equipment, machinery, and repair parts manufactured for use on farms in connection with the production or preparation for market use of food resources.

(d)  “Fertilizer” means any product or combination of products that contain one or more of the elements nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for use as a plant nutrient.

(e)  “Food resources” means all commodities and products, (simple, mixed, or compound), or complements to such commodities or products, that are capable of being ingested by either human beings or animals, irrespective of other uses to which such commodities or products may be put, at all stages of processing from the raw commodity to the products thereof in vendible form for human or animal consumption.  “Food resources” also means potable water packaged in commercially marketable containers, all starches, sugars, vegetable and animal or marine fats and oils, seed, cotton, hemp, and flax fiber, but does not mean any such material after it loses its identity as an agricultural commodity or agricultural product.

(f)  “Food resource facilities” means plants, machinery, vehicles (including on farm), and other facilities required for the production, processing, distribution, and storage (including cold storage) of food resources, and for the domestic distribution of farm equipment and fertilizer (excluding transportation thereof).

(g)  “Functions” include powers, duties, authority, responsibilities, and discretion.

(h)  “Head of each agency engaged in procurement for the national defense” means the heads of the Departments of State, Justice, the Interior, and Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the General Services Administration, and all other agencies with authority delegated under section 201 of this order.

(i)  “Health resources” means drugs, biological products, medical devices, materials, facilities, health supplies, services and equipment required to diagnose, mitigate or prevent the impairment of, improve, treat, cure, or restore the physical or mental health conditions of the population.

(j)  “National defense” means programs for military and energy production or construction, military or critical infrastructure assistance to any foreign nation, homeland security, stockpiling, space, and any directly related activity.  Such term includes emergency preparedness activities conducted pursuant to title VI of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 5195 et seq., and critical infrastructure protection and restoration.

(k)  “Offsets” means compensation practices required as a condition of purchase in either government to government or commercial sales of defense articles and/or defense services as defined by the Arms Export Control Act, 22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq., and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, 22 C.F.R. 120.1 130.17.

(l)  “Special priorities assistance” means action by resource departments to assist with expediting deliveries, placing rated orders, locating suppliers, resolving production or delivery conflicts between various rated orders, addressing problems that arise in the fulfillment of a rated order or other action authorized by a delegated agency, and determining the validity of rated orders.

(m)  “Strategic and critical materials” means materials (including energy) that (1) would be needed to supply the military, industrial, and essential civilian needs of the United States during a national emergency, and (2) are not found or produced in the United States in sufficient quantities to meet such need and are vulnerable to the termination or reduction of the availability of the material.

(n)  “Water resources” means all usable water, from all sources, within the jurisdiction of the United States, that can be managed, controlled, and allocated to meet emergency requirements, except “water resources” does not include usable water that qualifies as “food resources.”

These definitions are written in to the 1950 War and National Defense Defense (sic) Production Act, and so let’s see what the act itself has to say for itself.

Go directly to section 2072.  That’s the key part from our perspective.

§2072. Hoarding of designated scarce materials

In order to prevent hoarding, no person shall accumulate (1) in excess of the reasonable demands of business, personal, or home consumption, or (2) for the purpose of resale at prices in excess of prevailing market prices, materials which have been designated by the President as scarce materials or materials the supply of which would be threatened by such accumulation. The President shall order published in the Federal Register, and in such other manner as he may deem appropriate, every designation of materials the accumulation of which is unlawful and any withdrawal of such designation.

In making such designations the President may prescribe such conditions with respect to the accumulation of materials in excess of the reasonable demands of business, personal, or home consumption as he deems necessary to carry out the objectives of this Act [sections 2061 to 2170, 2171, and 2172 of this Appendix]. This section shall not be construed to limit the authority contained in sections 101 and 704 of this Act [sections 2071 and 2154 of this Appendix].

So the President can simply say that anything more than (for example) a week’s supply of food (and all the other things listed) is an amount ‘in excess of the reasonable demands of personal consumption’ and then order the Army to impound everything you have in excess of that amount.  End of story.

Well, no, not quite the end of the story.  Let’s just look at one more thing.

The Mysterious Nature of FEMA

You’ve probably heard the occasional scare stories of FEMA camps where people will be forcibly resettled, and speculation about the extraordinary level of ammunition purchases by the Department of Homeland Security (FEMA is one part of the huge new monster that the Homeland Security Department has become since it was formed in November 2002).

Maybe you’ve wondered what FEMA is doing with the mine-resistant armored vehicles it now has.  Or maybe you’ve simply dismissed FEMA as something that gets a lot of criticism whenever there’s a real emergency but not likely to be a relevant part of any extreme emergency in the future.

You might be right.  But you might be wrong.  One of the things that really has us puzzled is seeing job vacancy postings for low and mid level FEMA managers, with the requirement that such people be able to obtain a Top Secret security clearance.  We’d like to know – what is there that would require a FEMA administrator to have a Top Secret security clearance?

Our point is simply this.  In minor regional type emergencies, we certainly agree and appreciate that FEMA is there to help out as best it can.  But in a serious Level 2 or Level 3 disaster – a situation which totally overwhelms FEMA’s ability to solve the problem – might the role of FEMA then change into something darker and more sinister?

We don’t want to get into the deeper darker conspiracy theories of what FEMA and HSD might be and do in the future, but we would like to be reassured that these theories truly are as impossible as we hope them to be.

We have no answer to these questions.  But we wish we did, because we can readily see a future scenario where the government (which, of course, always ‘knows best’) decides the best thing to do is to centralize all food and other survival resources – all the stuff listed above in the Executive Order – and then distribute it ‘fairly’ as it sees fit.

And, in case you didn’t read the first part of this two-part article, distributing ‘fairly’ is a code phrase that means ‘we’ll take as much as we can from people who have the thing, and then give it to people who don’t have the thing’.  The people without the thing doubtless feel that is fair, but how do you feel, as someone more likely to be losing your preps, while seeing people who laughed at you for being a prepper now having your preps passed over to them?

This all ignores the illogic of the concept of redistributing food and other supplies.  You personally might have enough food and other supplies to see yourself safely through the emergency situation.  But if your supplies are taken and split twenty different ways, probably the only result will be that all of you will fail to survive, albeit with the 20 people now sharing your preps lasting a bit longer than they would have otherwise done.

How is the net result improved by having everyone die, rather than by allowing those who chose to prepare for an emergency enjoy the benefit of their preparations and survive?  At least, if you got to keep your materials, you would survive.  Nothing will allow for most non-prepared people to survive an extreme emergency, but having you too share in their misery and failure doesn’t make things any better or any fairer for anyone.


There’s a lot of content in this two-part article, and it paints a terrifyingly dark possible future, where we run the risk of losing everything we’ve been going to such lengths to amass.  If you’ve not already done so, we recommend you now read the first part.

If you don’t think such a thing would ever happen in the US, please read through the linked articles – articles that expose past abuses of power and of compulsory taking in our nation’s past.  Alas, rather than making such past actions less likely in the future, the social evolution of the last 50 years seems to empower and make more likely future actions of ignoring our constitutional rights.

The laws and authorizing powers are already on the books.  All it takes is a single proclamation by the President – not even an Act of Congress – and the end of the rule of law as we know and cherish it could occur.

A prudent prepper will consider these concerns very seriously, and will be careful about what they store, and where and how they store it, and – most of all – be very selective about who knows what they have.

Please see other articles in our Legal category for more thoughts and ideas on these issues.

Please Read on to Part Three

Please continue this article series in part three, which introduces you to the totally un-American and terrifying concept of ‘civil forfeiture’.

Mar 152013
The famous 'Wolf Map' purportedly shows the location of treasure buried by Jesse James.  You'll need location data for your buried cache, too.

The famous ‘Wolf Map’ purportedly shows the location of treasure buried by Jesse James. You’ll need location data for your buried cache, too.

Note this is the first part of a two-part article on how to record and locate a buried cache.  Please also visit the second part to complete your reading of this article.

There are many reasons to bury some of your prepper supplies, and to do so at a hidden location.

The main reason is usually not because you have something illegal you want to hide.  The main reason is more likely to be because you want to protect your supplies from an uncertain future, and most of all, from people seeking to steal your supplies from you – either by theft/burglary while you’re away from your store, or by violence/force while you are present.

A buried cache is probably the most resilient form of storage there is.  It is (relatively) safe from man-made threats and also from natural threats such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and fire.  It is a constant temperature cool environment.  Obviously flooding is a threat, but equally obviously you shouldn’t have your retreat location in a flood plain to start with, and as long as your cache is waterproofed (which it should be, no matter if there’s a flooding risk or not) then some surface water above it for a while shouldn’t be a problem anyway.

The process of preparing items for burial, what to bury them in, and so on are all subjects for other articles at other times; our focus today is on a very important aspect of the complete process – being able to find them again.

Depending on where you locate it, finding your hidden buried cache may not be as easy as you hope and assume it is, and so you should carefully consider where to bury your cache, and what to use to help you locate it again.

On the other hand, if you make your cache location too obvious, then you run the risk of having other people find it, too.  It is entirely possible that if people think you may have a cache, then in the future they might go looking for it with the aid of a metal detector.  But while they’ll look for it close to your retreat and close to other objects, they’ll probably not painstakingly search through every square foot of all the acres you own, so it behooves you to avoid some of the easiest cache locations, because they are probably also the most obvious.

The few minutes it takes you to read this two-part article now, and the extra time it takes you to apply the ideas and concepts we explain, may be time extremely well spent.

The main things to consider are your choice of reference points, how you describe your cache location with relation to your reference points, and how many reference points you specify.

Using Multiple Reference Points/Bearings

We urge you to use multiple points of reference that you work from to calculate your cache location, either in terms of distances and/or angles/bearings, for three reasons.

First, the tools you use to identify your cache may not be available to you at an unknown uncertain future time.  For example, if your references are all compass bearings, maybe you don’t have a compass with you when you need to dig up your cache.  If your references are all distances from known points, maybe you don’t have a measuring tape with you.  And so on.

Second, some of the reference points you are using to locate your cache may disappear or change.  It is highly possible that fence posts might fall over, trees might be cut down, and so on.  Or maybe a reference point simply gets obscured by something else being built (or naturally growing) in front of it.  It you can’t see your reference point, then that becomes essentially the same as it no longer being there if you are using visual bearings.  If you are using distances, if something is built in front of your reference point, it becomes much harder to calculate the straight line distance when your measuring now has to do a loop around the obstacle.

Third, the more bearings or measurements you have, the more accurate your location fix becomes.  Maybe the first set of two bearings ends up giving you an oval area perhaps plus or minus ten feet on one axis and five feet on the other axis – that gives you 160 sq ft of space within which you’ll hopefully find your cache, and depending on what you’re using as a reference point, this is close to a best case scenario.

If you add another bearing, maybe that gives you a 4′ radius circle instead, – about 50 sq ft of space in which to find your cache.  That’s a huge improvement.

A fourth and subsequent bearing (or measurement) won’t necessarily reduce that area much – perhaps it might make it a 3′ radius circle (ie about 30 sq ft), but it gives you backups in case of problems with some of the other reference points.

The Closer Your Reference Points, the Better

Your reference points will give you a much more accurate ‘fix’ on your cache location if they are close to it.  For example, if one reference point is ‘The cache is six feet west of this fencepost’ then how hard is it to miss the cache?  You know you can measure six feet to within a few inches, and even if your measurement of what is west is off by an enormous 30 degrees, that only shifts your measurement by 3½ feet.

On the other hand, if you are measuring from the barn in the distance – let’s say it is 500 yards away – then if you have a 1% error in your distance measurement, that adds 15 ft of error.  In addition to the distance measurement, your bearing might be off too.  Lets be kind and say that you are not off by a huge 30°, but by only a tiny 3°, but that adds 78 ft of uncertainty. giving you now a zone 15′ long and 78′ wide – a huge 1170 sq ft within which your cache might be located.

As for a bearing to the mountain peak 10 miles away, even if you were to measure the bearing to it to an extraordinary 1° of accuracy, that still gives you 950 ft of uncertainty, which is close to useless.

Far away bearings can be okay to help you locate the general area, such as which field out of a dozen fields your cache is within, but you need your ‘real’ reference points to the cache to be as close as is possible in order to secure the most accurate fix on your cache.

Choosing Your Reference Points

Of course, you need to describe your cache location in terms of where it is related to a number of reference points around it.

The first thing to appreciate is that you want to have multiple reference points (see above) and they should be spread more or less around on all sides of the cache location if at all possible.

Ideally if you have only two reference points (which is not ideal) they should be at right angles to each other, when viewed from the cache.

If you have more than two, try to get some on the opposite side of the cache to the others.

Your reference points should be things you can readily find at any time of year, and ideally that you can see from your cache.

Your reference points should be as permanent as possible, and least likely to change or become unclear or obscured in the future.

Some things are vulnerable to changing over time.  For example ‘the highest tree, which is near the middle of that row of trees to the south’ – what happens if one of the trees next to it grows higher?  Or if the highest tree dies and falls down?

Even buildings are impermanent.  They may get pulled down, or they might get altered (so, eg, a reference point like a high point on the roof line or a corner of the building changes), or other buildings might be added in front, obscuring the reference building and making distance measurements now difficult.

If there are nearby official survey pegs and/or memorial markers, these are excellent objects to work from.  They probably look inconspicuous (make sure you can be sure of always finding them!) and are normal things to find on any property.

If you are in an area with utilities, then things like fire hydrants, power pylons or lampposts, manholes, and utility boxes can also provide semi-stable reference points.

There’s no reason why you can’t create your own markers to make things very much simpler.  Maybe you build a pig sty or a cattle water trough close to your cache and use that as a marker.  Maybe you run a fence line or dig a ditch or make some other sort of appropriate landscaping change.  Maybe you have a compost bin or a trash incinerator.

Angles, Bearings, and Distances

There are many different trigonometric techniques you can use to locate your cache with reference to external markers.  Essentially, they fall into three groupings – angles relative from something to your cache, bearings from a compass, or distances from a point.

While there are reasons to like bearings (ie as taken by a magnetic compass) we prefer using angles with respect to other objects if possible.  The reason for this is due to the earth’s magnetic north moving.  In the American redoubt area, every six or so years, magnetic north has shifted, with respect to true north, by a degree (note that this rate of change may speed up or slow down in the future and possibly even reverse).  There are also some people who theorize that the earth’s magnetic field may be due to flip over entirely in the foreseeable future; and if such an act were to occur, not only would you for sure be forced to your retreat and need to access your cached supplies, but magnetic bearings would become totally invalidated.

On the other hand, being able to say ‘follow a line that goes 25 degrees to the north of the heading from here to that other place’ is a relatively fixed reference that does not rely on a slightly unreliable magnetic north.

Of the three techniques, the best to use are measured distances.  These are much more exact than angles and bearings.  When specifying a distance, you generally give the magnetic bearing the distance should be measured from the reference point to the cache, this does not need to be quite so exact.

If you inscribe a partial arc on the ground at the measured distance from the reference point, with the arc swinging around even 30 degrees relative to the approximate line of travel, this is fine because your second measurement from another point will then intersect with the arc at only one or two points.  Add a third measurement and arc, and you now are starting to create a ‘hot zone’, and more or less in the middle of that hot zone is where your cache should be.

You can also use a concept of ‘run a line between this object and that object.  The cache is located at a point x feet from the first object on that line.’  Or, ‘run a line between this object and that object.  At a point x feet from the first object, now measure another y feet at an angle of z degrees from the line to reach the cache’.

There’s another form of reference you can use as well.  Boats will use sets of markers ashore and line them up, one behind the other, to allow them to know exactly where they are at sea.  You can use the same sort of technique – if it is possible to take advantage of, or to create, two objects that are lined up so they are (inconspicuously!) pointing to your cache, that is an obvious easy visual aid as well.

Read On for Part Two

Note this is the first part of a two-part article on how to record and locate a buried cache.  Please also visit the second part to complete your reading of this article.

Mar 152013
Some type of a diagram of how to find your cache from reference points will help you make sense of your notes.

Some type of diagram showing how to find your cache from reference points will help you make sense of your notes.

Note this is the second part of a two-part article on how to record and locate a buried cache.  Please also visit the first part to complete your reading of this article.

Recording Your Reference Points

In general, there is less possibility of mistake if you express each marker both in terms of how it is calculated from the marker to the cache, and from the cache to the marker.

To start with, when you have no idea where your cache is located, you’ll want to first go to known markers and use the information expressed in terms of how to find the cache from the marker.  After using one or two of these, you’ll end up with a likely location for your cache, and you can then fine tune the calculation from the cache using the directions from the cache.

Depending on the time of instructions, it is usually easy to express them in either direction.  A distance remains the same, no matter which end you’re measuring from, of course.  A bearing from a marker to your cache becomes the bearing from your cache to the marker by simply adding (or subtracting, whichever is easier for you) 180 degrees.  For example, a 50 degree angle from the marker to the cache becomes a 230 degree angle from the cache to the marker.

Some things won’t be so readily measured both ways.  If you’re using a relatively distant point (a bad thing to do, as discussed above) then you probably will only use the direction from the cache to the distant marker, so as to cut down on the travel.

There’s another aid to assist you in locating your cache as well.  You can take photos – both of the cache site from nearby points, and of the views you see from the cache site.

If you take pictures, don’t just leave them on a memory card.  Print them out.  That way you are protected in case your memory card fails, or the system you’d use to read the pictures off the card fails.

It is very helpful if you can also make up a diagram showing the angles, bearings, distances, reference points, and everything and how all the different parts line up and result in locating your cache.

How Do You Orient Your Cache to your Ground Zero Point?

You also need to plot how your cache lies in the ground so you know the overlap between where your cache actually is, beneath you, and the invisible ‘X marks the spot’ point above it that your calculations are hopefully directing you to.

If the first trial dig down to where you think the cache might be doesn’t locate it, are you best to now widen your hole to the north, south, east or west of that first point?

Our slight preference is to use more or less the center of the cache location as your reference point, but do whatever works best for you.

How to Measure Distances

This might seem simple, but the chances are that the distances you want to measure will be more than ten or twenty feet, so your choice of measuring tool starts to have an impact on the accuracy of your measurement.

On the other hand, if you have some flexibility in choosing your cache location, maybe it is prudent to locate it closer to a reference point, making it easier to return to in the future.

For longer distances, a laser rangefinder can be a great convenience, although it is obviously a high-tech product that you can not guarantee to be reliably available and functional in a future scenario.  We discuss laser rangefinders and other high-tech aids to locating caches in a separate article.

The best low-tech method of measuring longer distances is usually with a long measuring tape.  You should buy a couple of long measuring tapes – Amazon has a 400 ft tape and a 300 ft tape on convenient spools, for example – this link takes you to a selection of long tapes they offer.  These are much easier to use than a shorter tape that you have to keep ‘flipping over’ or ‘leapfrogging’ and reusing, and this makes them more accurate too.

You might want to consider buying two tapes.  That way, when figuring out your cache location, you can stretch both tapes out from different reference points simultaneously to see where they meet up.  Oh – don’t forget that with two reference points, there will be two points where the distances meet up, and sometimes a long way apart.  You need a third reference point and measurement, or accurate bearings to/from the two reference points, so as to know which of the two reference points is the correct one.

When you’ve measured out the distance from the reference point to where your cache should be located, be sure to pull the tape reasonably tight (not so tight as to stretch it, but tight enough to ensure the tape is in a direct line).  This will straighten the tape and give you a more exact measurement.

There are also measuring wheels available, but we don’t like these quite as much as tapes.  There are two possible errors introduced with a wheel that are not as prominent with a tape.

The first is that on uneven ground, the wheel may not read quite as accurately as on even ground.  This error can be minimized by using a larger diameter wheel – use a 12″ instead of a 4″ wheel, for example.

The other problem is that you need to move the wheel in a direct and straight line from the reference point to the measured distance.  If you weave about a bit rather than proceeding directly straight, then this will introduce some error, too.

These errors can be quite small, however, and you could also help minimize the error by measuring each distance twice and averaging the results.  Indeed, if the difference in measurement was significant, measure three or four times.

Identifying Cache Locations in a Forest

Much of our discussion to date has assumed that everything is in nice easy unobstructed straight lines from each other, such as in an open field.  But maybe you are instead hiding a cache somewhere in a forest.  All you can see around the cache are trees, and they all sort of look the same.

That is very much more difficult a scenario to work from, and is made harder by the fact that most forests have trees falling down from time to time such as to distort your perceptions of locations, tree counts, and so on.

There are various ways you can ‘signpost’ your way through a forest.  If there’s a clearly established trail, then that should be your reference point, and we’d probably then choose to use a wheel type distance measuring device.

We would segment the trail into lengths, each of which had a clearly recognizable tree or stump or other feature at the start/end of it.  The directions might be something like this

  • Proceed about 150 ft until finding two large trees on the right and no trees for at least 10 ft on the left of the trail.
  • From the further away of the two trees, now proceed another about 200 ft until you come to a fallen over tree parallel to the trail on the left.
  • From the base of the fallen over tree, proceed another about 180 ft until coming to a point where two trees on the right line up, one in front of the other, at a 30 degree angle.
  • At this point, head off the trail on a 75 degree angle until …..

Sure, you could simply say ‘Go 530 ft along the trail until reaching two trees lined up at a 30 degree angle’ but by splitting the path into segments, you give yourself recalibration points, and furthermore, if one of the points disappears, you still have other points to guide you.  Maybe the fallen over tree has been cut up and hauled away for firewood.  If you can’t find it, you instead know to proceed 380 ft from the two large trees on the right.

In addition, we don’t much like following trails, because other people follow trails too.  Trails are also not fixed.  They can disappear if they are not regularly used, or one lightly used trail can be superseded by a slight change in usage – a downed tree further along the trail might redirect people a new way, and so your trail now follows a different path.  In winter, snow can obscure the traces of any trails.

Probably the key consideration here is that if you’re going to hide a cache in a forest, it is best to hide it not too far into the forest, or, if further in to the forest, not too far from an obvious impossible to miss reference point.

Another technique you can use in a forest is to consider marking your trail by way of subtle signs on trees.  What is the most subtle sort of marking?  Hammer a nail or two into the tree at a specific height (say 3′ or so above the ground) and perhaps on the north side of the tree.

The nail will quickly disappear into the tree bark, but if you then go searching it out with a hand-held metal detector, it should be easy to spot if you know to focus on the north side of trees about 3′ from the ground.  Then plot a chart showing the ‘chain’ of marked trees, with bearings/distances from each to the next, and follow the ‘hidden’ trail you’ve created.

Hiding Your Instructions

Do we need to point out that you don’t want to print out your cache location data in large bold type and stick it with a magnet to your fridge door?

The first thing you want to do is keep all knowledge of you having a cache as tightly restricted as possible.  If people don’t think you have a cache, they’re less likely to search for either the cache itself or for directions to it, and they’re less likely to recognize your directions, if they should stumble across them, as being related to finding your cache.

You do need to have your instructions written down.  You can’t trust electronic devices to remain operable in the future, so you need a good old-fashioned written in ink on paper set of instructions.  We’d also recommend having multiple copies of the instructions, so if one copy gets lost or damaged, you still have others you can use.

You can secure your instructions several different ways.  You should adopt several of these strategies.  But make sure that whatever you do and however you do it, you are then sure to remember the details, so in the future you know where to find your directions and how to decode them.

  • Hide them somewhere really secure and secret and safe.
  • Write them in invisible ink so people see a ‘normal’ piece of paper somewhere in a normal (not hidden) place and think nothing of it.
  • Alter the instructions – perhaps add 5 to everything.  A 15 yard distance becomes 20 yards.  A 35 ft distance becomes 40 ft.  A 35 degree bearing becomes 40 degrees.  The 2nd tree on the left becomes the 7th tree on the left.  If there are some numbers you can’t change because they’d then look ridiculous, use a special code marker to indicate that it is a real number rather than a changed number.  Perhaps spell the number rather than write it in numerals, or have a word like ‘about’ as an indicator that the number following has not been altered.
  • Transpose digits.  Swap the ones and tens digits on any numbers.  If the number is 13, it becomes 31.  If the number is 2076, it becomes 2067.  And if you have single digit numbers, think of them as, eg, 03, so swapping that becomes 30.
  • Make notes on pages of a book on your bookshelf, with perhaps only the notes on pages where the page number is divisible by three being valid notes.  Hopefully people won’t go thumbing through the book to start with, and if they do, they won’t know what is what.
  • Split the instructions up and keep half somewhere and the other half somewhere else.
  • Hide them ‘in plain sight’ in a pile of other junk and papers.
  • Write them in code so they appear meaningless.  For example, use A, B, C, D instead of NSWE, use F for feet, I for inches, and Y for yards.  Maybe E for degrees, and X for ‘looking from the cache to the marker’ and Y for ‘looking from the marker to the cache’.  So you could encode the instruction ‘the cache can be found by following a line at an angle of 15 degrees for 50 ft from the gatepost as 15E50FYgatepost.  If this was all in a notebook with lots of other semi-random jottings and notes, they’d not stand out as directions to a cache.
  • If you have photos identifying your cache, or from your cache, maybe have a family member posing at the cache point (if a photo to the cache) or in the foreground (if a photo from the cache) so as to make the photo seem like a typical family photo rather than a cache location photo.
  • A bothersome but ultra-secure strategy is to have your directions leading to a ‘sacrificial’ cache, and your main cache being a secret distance and direction from your sacrificial cache.  This can help you two ways.  If someone finds the cache map, then when they find your cache they’ll stop looking for more caches.  Secondly, if you find yourself forced to reveal your cache, you can show them the map to your sacrificial cache and not need to disclose the second more substantial cache.  Make sure the main cache is far enough from the sacrificial cache so as not to be accidentally found when people are searching for the sacrificial cache!

If possible, have the instructions typed/printed out rather than handwritten.  If someone finds them and demands that you interpret them and lead them to the cache, you can say ‘Joe did that, and he isn’t here, so I’ll try to help you, but only Joe knows exactly what he means’.

That way, when the instructions don’t work, they’re not going to pressure you to tell the truth, because you’ve already said that the instructions are Joe’s, and relate to his cache.  You don’t know what is in the cache, where it is, or how to read/decode Joe’s instructions – clearly Joe didn’t trust you or anyone else with that information.  They are not in your handwriting, so it is hard to be contradicted on that point.

Note this is the second part of a two-part article on how to record and locate a buried cache.  Please also visit the first part to complete your reading of this article.

Mar 102013
This laser rangefinder can instantly display distances out to almost one mile, and also provides ballistic data for the long distance precision shooter.

This laser rangefinder can instantly display distances out to almost one mile, and also provides ballistic data for the long distance precision shooter.

We’ll be writing about the ‘old fashioned’ way of locating your secretly buried cache shortly, but wanted to also write, separately, about using high-tech tools when first establishing where a buried cache is, and then subsequently locating it again later.

There are three high-tech tools that some people might consider useful for locating their cache.  The first of these is a GPS unit, the second a laser range finder, and the third a metal detector.

All three devices have pluses and minuses, and in particular, we do not recommend GPS units.

The problem with such tools is simultaneously also their strength – they are high-tech gadgets.  They rely on batteries, and if they fail, you’ll almost certainly not be able to repair them.  If an EMP event occurs, they may be destroyed by the EMP effects.

We’re not saying you should totally ignore these three devices, and if they are in a suitable situation where they can work well, they’ll massively simplify your task.  But we are saying you should supplement them with lower tech calculations as well.

GPS Units

GPS units can be accurate, but usually not quite as accurate as you might think.  The accuracy which some GPS units show is not the complete calculation, it is the theoretical best case accuracy and fails to allow for some of the other fudge factors that affect GPS accuracy.  As a rule of thumb, double the imprecision it shows.

So if the device is telling you it is showing your location to within 12 feet, it is probably accurate to within 24 ft.

The most accurate units have a WAAS capability too – these are ground stations at fixed locations that provide additional reference location information in addition to the satellites in the sky above.  If your GPS is WAAS enabled, it will give very much more accurate information – sometimes locating you to within a yard or so of your actual location.

An earlier type of GPS improvement, known as DGPS, has largely been superseded by WAAS.

There is a further type of GPS improvement, probably used by your cell phone, which combines GPS information with location information from cell phone towers and possibly even known Wi-Fi locations too.  This information is primarily used to more quickly get a ‘first fix’ for where you are, but may also assist in improving accuracy too.  This is known as Assisted GPS, or A-GPS or aGPS.  Due to the reliance on many additional layers of data sources, and the expectation that you’ll be in a less dense area with fewer of these additional data sources, we expect that aGPS would be the first service to fail WTSHTF.

There are also special GPS receivers such as some surveyors use, which use additional signal processing techniques to create a more accurate position, potentially enhancing accuracy to as close as 3″ or so.  These are very expensive, of course.

The accuracy of a GPS is a ‘double whammy’ because presumably you are first making a note of your cache’s location by using the GPS receiver, and then subsequently looking for it with a GPS receiver, too.  So perhaps your initial location was 24 ft in error, with the real location being 24 ft north of you.  Then when you are attempting to return to the spot, the location error is now 24 feet in the opposite direction, so when you think you’re exactly at the location, you’re actually 48 ft away.  Even more misleading, the GPS might be showing a 12 ft accuracy in both cases, but you’ve ended up with the cache some 50 ft away.

Digging up a circle with a 50 ft radius involves 7850 sq ft of digging.  That’s a lot.

You can help improve the GPS’s accuracy by taking multiple readings, each reading an hour or two apart from the preceding one, over several days, and averaging the results.  This would give you readings from different alignments of different satellites, with different propagation delays, and would give you a more accurate average location.

This is helpful when recording the cache location in the first place, but you probably don’t have several days of spare time to leisurely plot an average position when the time comes to dig it up again.

There’s another reason to avoid relying on GPS units.  It is far from impossible that in a post-WTSHTF scenario, the constellation of GPS satellites may have been degraded or even completely destroyed.  In other words, GPS might no longer be available at all.

Even if sufficient of the GPS satellites and their signals remain, we’ll guess that the ground station corrections that are continually being fed into the satellites to update exactly their orbits and locations will cease, meaning that the accuracy of the GPS service will steadily degrade.  This degraded accuracy will not be apparent on your unit, but it will be happening; maybe only a few inches every day, but in a month, that could be another 10 ft of inaccuracy on top of all the other ever-present inaccuracies.  In three months, it might be 30 ft, and so you’re starting to reach the point where the GPS is becoming unhelpful rather than helpful.

GPS receivers also require a reasonably unobstructed view of as much of the sky as possible.  Dense foliage and tall trees will reduce their ability to accurately receive signals from as many satellites, which will degrade the accuracy of their position calculations.  A nearby hill would also block some of the satellites.

By all means take an averaged GPS fix as one of your multiple ways of recording your cache location, but consider it merely a tool to get close to where the cache is and then use other methods to exactly find it.

Laser Rangefinders

Laser rangefinders are one of three different types of range finders available – the other two being optical and ultra-sonic.  It is perhaps helpful to quickly consider these other two forms of range finder before concentrating on laser rangefinders.

Optical rangefinders can be useful, and are gloriously low-tech.  But to give any type of useful accuracy, they need their two viewing windows to be far apart, making them bulky, heavy and also very hard to find – they are not being made any more (as far as we are aware).

The way they work is such that the greater the distance they are measuring, the greater the error in their measurement.  The percentage error increases as distance increases, making the actual number of yards plus or minus become impractically large for the purposes of pinpointing a cache.  Furthermore, the units need to be regularly calibrated and all in all, a reasonable amount of skill is required to get best use from an optical rangefinder.

To given an actual example of optical rangefinder accuracy, here is the accuracy data that applies to a Wild TM-2 range-finder with a 31.5″ base (80 cm).  It’s best case accuracies are :

Accurate to within   0.05 m at 100 m (a wonderful accuracy indeed)
Accurate to within   0.5 m at 300 m (still workable)
Accurate to within   1.3 m at 500 m (starting to get a bit much)
Accurate to within   5.4m at 1000m (no longer very useful)
Accurate to within  21.5m at 2000m
Accurate to within  48.4m at 3000m
Accurate to within  86.0m at 4000m
Accurate to within 134.2m at 5000m
Accurate to within 193.6m at 6000m

This last figure has now become equivalent to a 3.2% error and of course useless for cache finding purposes.

Sometimes you might find an old ex-military range finder for sale; if you do and its price is low enough, it might be a fun thing to add to the pile of stuff you buy in the hope that one day it might come in useful for something, even if you’re not exactly sure what that use might end up as being!

Ultrasonic rangefinders are okay for indoor short distances, and typically max out at about 60 ft.  They are not so useful outdoors.

Laser rangefinders are the best solution for outdoors, and unlike optical rangefinders, their accuracy can/should stay the same, in terms of the plus or minus number of feet or yards, which means their percentage accuracy is actually improving, as the distance increases.

They are decidedly more accurate than any other type of rangefinder and also superior to most ‘normal’ GPS units, and unlike the GPS receivers, don’t rely on the reliable ongoing availability of a radio signal from somewhere/someone else.  They’ll calculate a distance, sometimes out as far as 1000 yds, between where you have the unit and a far away object that will reflect and return the laser signal from the unit.  The better the reflecting surface, the longer the range the unit is capable of, including sometimes greatly in excess of the unit’s maximum claimed range.

Military type units have even longer ranges, sometimes extending out beyond 10 miles (the distance to the horizon is only about 3 miles, so this is about as long a range as you’d ever be likely to need for most purposes not involving field artillery and other stand-off weapons delivery systems. Smile

Civilian units, usually sold for hunting or golf purposes, typically have an accuracy of within one yard; some of the new units are now getting reliably accurate to half a yard (18 “).  Sometimes the accuracy gets less exact as the range increases, although in theory that shouldn’t really be the case for most normal distances.

A laser rangefinder is certainly a very fast and easy way of taking multiple measurements for distances from objects, as long as the objects are suitably reflective.  If you’re in the middle of a field and can take measurements off fence posts on four sides, for example (perhaps with metal strips on them) you’ll quickly establish a very small zone beneath which your cache lies.

This obliquely indicates a requirement for a rangefinder to be useful.  There will need to be relevant landmark objects that you can measure distances to/from in several different directions, so as to establish the location of your cache.  If you are in an open field with nothing visible for a long way in any direction – or, for that matter, in a forest surrounded by identical trees – then any type of rangefinder would not be as useful.

On the other hand, do keep in mind that their accuracy is probably only within one yard, whereas measuring tapes, over reasonably short distances (ie one full tape length, perhaps 400 ft) are going to give you an accuracy of a few inches.  If you have some sort of probe (or metal detector – see immediately below) that you can use to quickly test if your cache is underneath you, then a yard or so is perfectly fine; but if the type of covering above your cache doesn’t allow for a thin metal probe, then you probably would appreciate greater accuracy from a tape.

The problem with laser rangefinders is they require batteries and are vulnerable to EMP effects.  They can also be weather dependent – if it is raining or foggy or snowing, their range will drop and maybe they’ll cease to function at all.

By all means, use one, but make sure you have backup tapes as well.  Expect to pay appreciably over $100 and up to $1000 for a very good ‘industrial’ grade laser range finder (with longer range, greater accuracy, more features, and stronger laser pulses that will bounce back off a wider range of objects).

Some laser rangefinders come with a sophisticated set of ballistics calculations to help you with long-range rifle shooting.  This can be invaluable if you anticipate the need for long distance precision shooting and have suitable rifles that give you that capability.

Needless to say, Amazon offer a good selection of laser rangefinders.

Metal Detectors

A metal detector can help you quickly locate your cache once you know its general location.  Depending on how much metal is buried and the type of soil it is in, a good metal detector will uncover objects as much as 15 ft – 20 ft beneath the surface.

This is both good news and bad news.  The good news is that it is tremendously helpful if you can use a metal detector to find your cache without having to dig up hundreds of square feet of ground.  The bad news is that your cache is vulnerable to discovery if other people decide to go looking for it with a metal detector too.

This page has an excellent explanation of metal detector capabilities.

If you were wishing to be really secure, and if you were anticipating organized searching for your cache, you’d probably deliberately place metal objects randomly all around likely areas that searchers might go looking for your cache, and you’d probably choose objects that looked ‘innocent’ like they could have been placed there by accident.  Of course, this would also destroy your ability to use a metal detector yourself to find your cache, so you’d have to decide which was the more important to you.

Although a good metal detector can cost over $500, it is probably a helpful tool to have – and, who knows, you might find yourself using it to, in turn, detect other people’s caches, too!


Although you shouldn’t rely on them as your only ways of locating your hidden buried cache, a laser rangefinder and a metal detector can make zeroing in on your cache a quick and easy process (assuming you have specific identifiable objects within half a mile or so on several directions that you can bounce laser beams off to triangulate your position).  Both items will cost some hundreds of dollars each, so they may not be the highest priority items on your wish list, and of course, until such time as you are about to start burying caches, you have no need for them (at least in this context).

A GPS can also help, but it is less reliable and probably less accurate than using a laser rangefinder.

Mar 092013
This shows how a side cutting can opener goes in through the side of the can/lid seam, and creates a replaceable top.

This shows how a side cutting can opener goes in through the side of the can/lid seam, and creates a replaceable top.

Here’s something you may not have thought about.  It is a small issue, but like so many other small issues, it is as easy (and sometimes easier) to ‘get it right’ and to do it in a fully optimized manner as it is to do it ‘wrong’.  So you probably should do it right.  And every small extra enhancement to your overall preparedness and ability to live better in a problem situation has to be a good thing, right.

With that as an opening, let’s now talk about can openers.  It might seem like a ridiculously trivial topic, but please do keep reading.

You of course know that can openers come in all shapes and sizes, of course.  There are the nasty primitive ones that leave a jagged edge around where they have ‘sawed’ open the can lid – these are the original types of can openers, and have only one benefit – no moving parts, and a lot of negative downsides (if you’ve used such openers and never cut yourself, you’re in a very lucky minority).

In the mid 1920s, a new design of can opener appeared, and it was further improved in the early 1930s, becoming the familiar two arm, hinged in the middle, opener with a cutting wheel (or maybe, more simply and not as satisfactorily, a stationary blade) on top and a matching pressing/turning wheel below.

We call these vertical cutters.  They cut down through the top of the lid.

More recently (we think about ten years ago) a new type of cutter started to appear.  This cuts horizontally rather than vertically, into the folded over seam between the lid and can body.  They were initially hard to find and very expensive, but over the last decade, have become more common, better made, and less expensive.

Although you doubtless have a drawer full of vertical can openers, most of which work reliably and well, we recommend you set them all aside and instead buy (and use) a horizontal type opener.  These are sometimes referred to as a ‘smooth edge’ type cutter.  They are only a little more expensive than a standard vertical opener, and they have two important advantages.

The first is indeed the smooth edge.  There’s less to cut yourself on, and while that might sound like a trivial thing, remember that any type of possible infection after TEOTWAWKI can be much more serious and even life threatening than is the case at present.  So the safer final result is a plus.

Talking about infection, some people also like the fact that the smooth-edge horizontal side cutter also doesn’t have its blade come in contact with the contents of the can.  This is a very small added benefit, but – hey – any benefit of any magnitude is better than a negative factor, isn’t it!

The second advantage is that the opened can becomes reusable.  You can press fit the lid back onto the can – this won’t give you a truly air-tight or water-tight seal – it is more ‘air resistant’ and ‘water-resistant’, perhaps.  However, it will definitely keep dirt, dust, and also insects, animals and hopefully rodents out of whatever you have stored in the can.

Most of our current storage concepts seem to involve plastic containers.  Sure, they can provide excellent barriers to oxygen and moisture, but they don’t provide any protection at all against rodents in particular, who will happily chew through plastic material without any hesitation.

So being able to put the side-opened metal lid back on the emptied can is a useful feature, although you then need some way to ensure the lid isn’t dislodged.  You could possibly solder it on in a couple of places, or in any of many other ways secure it in place.  The simplest method is just to put a rubber band around the tin and lid, or better to make it two at right angles to each other.

Sure, you can buy plastic snap on lids to put on traditional top opened cans too, but they are plastic and therefore vulnerable to rodents.

You may have heard the half-joke half-truth that long after man has vanished from the earth, there will still be cockroaches thriving everywhere.  The same is true of rodents.  We expect that with the changes that will occur in a Level 2 or 3 situation, rodents will necessarily become more aggressive at searching out food, just the same as people will, and anything/everything you do in terms of how you’ll store supplies needs to be done with an eye to keeping them as rodent proof as possible.

That’s not to say that rats can’t eat through metal cans, because they can and sometimes do.  But the can is at least a partial barrier and added layer of protection.  We would recommend packing foodstuffs in sealed barrier bags first, and then placing the bagged foods into washed and cleaned cans.  Keep the smell of food away from the packaging so as not to attract rodents.

This page on Amazon lists side-opening ‘smooth edge’ type can openers, but be careful.  There are a few traditional openers that have been miscategorized and appear in the results too, but if you read the descriptions carefully, and possibly look at the photos, you can see which is which, and even if you guess wrong, Amazon has a great return policy.

Some people have reported that they prefer units which don’t cover the top of the can – they find it easier to align the opener with the can if it is located to the side of the can rather than on the top.  Some people also feel that gears at 90° to each other are better than inline/parallel gearing.

The Amazon reviews will give you more insight into which units seem to prove the best in actual use.

You’d want to get at least two hand-operated openers, plus perhaps you might optimistically get an electric one too – both for use at present and for use in situations where the grid might remain up, or you have sufficient solar or other power to run appliances such as this (which happily use very little power).

We’ve been using side cutting openers for years ourselves, and while we sometimes find it a little harder to start the can opening, we love the results and would never go back to a standard can opener.  Try it, and you’ll probably love it too.

Mar 052013
It takes time to end up with this amount of supplies set aside.  But the sooner you start, the sooner you too will have a resilient set of prepping resources for whatever the future may require.

It takes time to end up with this amount of supplies set aside. But the sooner you start, the sooner you too will have a resilient set of prepping resources for whatever the future may require.

Unless you are blessed with a major seven-figure net worth that you can immediately allocate to your prepping, you need to make choices about what prepping activities you can do and can not do.

Indeed, even if you do have millions of dollars free to invest in prepping, you still have time and resource constraints.  You can’t just snap your fingers and have an instant, fully equipped, fully self-contained retreat appear in a flash of smoke.  The question for all of us is which things do we do first, and what do we leave until later?

It can seem that the costs and complexities of prepping are overwhelming, with the result that some people throw their hands up in despair, and do nothing at all.  That’s not a good thing!

So, assuming you have finite and limited resources, what should you do first?  What can you leave until later, and what can you overlook entirely?

There are ways to evaluate such things and to semi-scientifically set priorities.

Two Factor Formula

Traditional risk analysis involves considering two things.  You assess the severity of the event you are considering, and the likelihood of it occurring.  Maybe rate each on a scale of 0 – 10.  Then multiply the two together, to give you an answer anywhere from 0 to 100.  This is the importance/priority you should give to the event.

This formula is helpful – it gives higher priority to major events than minor events, and higher priority to events that are likely to occur than events which are unlikely to ever come to pass.

Adding a Third Factor

But it is clear the two factor formula was designed by abstract theorists, because it misses out on one very obvious consideration, something we always have to think about in the real world – how affordable is the solution to the problem?  A problem that scores high on the two factor scale might have a totally unaffordable solution, whereas a lower scoring problem might be something we could prepare for with almost no out-of-pocket expense whatsoever.

Maybe we need to add a third factor – affordability, where 0 means totally unaffordable and 10 means costs nothing to implement.

So we now have a three factor score ranging from 0 to 1000.

Is that all we need to consider, or are there are other issues as well as severity of the problem, likelihood of it occurring, and the cost of preparing a solution for the problem?

Adding More Factors

With a bit of thought, you can almost certainly think of other factors.  For example, you might have a high scoring problem that has an affordable solution that goes to the top of your to do list, but there’s only one thing wrong with that calculation – the solution, while affordable, is impossible for some other reason.  Perhaps government regulation, or perhaps lifestyle constraints, or inability to get your spouse/partner to agree with you, or whatever.

So there’s a factor – the feasibility of the solution.  Add a score, from 0 meaning totally impossible through to 10 meaning can be done pretty much immediately with no hassle or problems.  Multiply that to your other three factors, and now you have a four factor score ranging from 0 to 10,000.

Another factor could be something like ‘additional benefits from adopting this thing’.  Maybe you do something which solves one problem but also goes part or all of the way to solving a second problem.  For example, perhaps you are solving a problem ‘risk of forest fire destroying my retreat’ and part of your solution is to put a metal roof on your retreat.  Perhaps the metal roof can then link into another problem/solution ‘Shortage of water’ – the roof can be used to collect rainwater much more efficiently than shakes or a composite roof.

If you hare using this as a factor, don’t use a range from 0 to 10.  If you used 0 for no additional benefits, that would zero out the entire project’s value, and that’s clearly not right.  Maybe you should instead use a range from a neutral 1 (for ‘no additional benefits’) up to a 2 or 3 for additional benefits, or maybe you simply add the score of each project that the solution can assist together to get a total that way.

Another factor is the ease and speed of implementing the solution.  Maybe an issue requires nothing more than five minutes browsing on Amazon and then ordering something from them and having it delivered.  Or maybe an issue would consume every spare minute of your time for the next three months.  Score high for an easy project that takes little of your time, and lower for a difficult project.

How to Set Values for Each Factor

For each factor you are rating, the more desirable or better the factor, the larger the value you should assign to it.

There are two things to consider when assigning values.

The first is to be very careful about assigning a zero value to anything.  Think of the zero as a veto.  Any time you use a zero, you have made your entire calculation reduce down to zero.  It doesn’t matter if every other factor is scoring max, a single zero will drop the total calculation all the way down to zero.

So unless you want to totally kill a project, you should normally consider 1 as least desirable (and 10 as most desirable).

The other thing to consider is the relative importance of different factors.  Maybe one factor is much less important than another factor.  If that is so, we recommend that after you’ve assigned it a value from 0 or 1, and up to 10, you then divide that value by two or three or whatever number you wish to reflect that it is a less important factor than the other factors you are also including in your calculation.

Which leads to the next point.

The Result is Not As Accurate as it Seems

So maybe you end up with a calculation of 4 x 5 x (2/3) x 7 = 93.33 for one possible project, and a calculation of 7 x 7 x (4/3) x 2 = 130.67 for another project.

So obviously, the second project is scoring massively higher than the first project and should be the one you do first, right?

Well, it is true that 130.67 is almost 50% higher than 93.33, but let’s also keep in mind that probably all the values in both calculations are approximate guesses – they are plus or minus at least one or two in rating scores.  Even if only +/- 1, that means that the first project could score as high as 5 x 6 x 3/3 x 8 = 240 and the second project could score as low as 6 x 6 x 3/3 x 1 = 36.

Wow, so the first project is probably about a 93.33 score, but could be as high as 240, and the second project is probably about a 130.67 score, but could be as low as 36.

In other words, the two projects are pretty similar in rating.  You would want to see a much bigger gap between them than merely a 50% differential in order for a significant different in priorities to be assigned.

Oh – one more thing.  The 93.33 score?  Just because this is how your calculator shows it, don’t be obsessive about showing all the decimal places.  We already know it could score as high as 240, and it could also score as low as 24, so it is perfectly fine to round the 93.33 to the nearest five units, and perhaps call it 95.  And the same for the 130.67 of course, which might be anywhere between 36 and 320 – call that an even 130.

Considering Other Issues Too

So – don’t get too hung up on the exact numbers you are generating from your multi-factor calculations.  You need to also apply some subjective and ‘qualitative’ tools to your analysis as well as the quantitative calculations you’ve been doing, plus a healthy measure of common sense when looking at the answers you get.

Some of these other issues are philosophical – which things ‘feel’ best and most closely seem to fit with your view of the problems you wish to prepare for and how you are creating solutions?

There’s also the value in a balanced cohesive approach to problem solving.  There’s no point in getting a brilliant totally bulletproof (and maybe quite literally so!) solution to one element of risk if that still leaves another element of the similar risk totally unaddressed.

For example, if there are (say) three different things that need to be done to make you able to live without external help for three weeks (perhaps food, water and energy) which is better – to have a complete three-week solution for one of these three factors, to have a half solution good for a week or two for the second factor, but nothing at all yet done for the third factor?  Or to have each of the three factors partially addressed so that you currently are good for a week or so on all three counts, and are continuing to step-wise improve your prepping in all three areas more or less simultaneously?

We’d probably say the second approach was the better approach.  Remember – a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and so perhaps you are best to start off with a complete but not very strong chain, then upgrade to a complete stronger chain, and then stronger again and so on, rather than to make an impregnable chain, one link at a time, but which is of no use at all until it is completed.

This brings us to a point which is so important that we list it by itself :

The Excellent is the Enemy of the Good

This is a concept you need to take to heart and keep close to you in everything you do.  We’ll explain this concept with an analogy.  One time I was managing a promotional activity that would be greatly boosted by having a sales brochure.  Think of it as something like perhaps selling new cars in the days before the internet and tablets made brochures more or less obsolete – sure, you can do it without a brochure, but with a brochure is better.

Well, I decided that I’d create such an amazingly wonderful brochure that it would be ten times better than any of the competitors’ brochures out there.  This would be such an incredible brochure that it would just about sell the product, as soon as a prospect saw the brochure.  It would have twice as many pages.  Twice as many color pictures,  Twice as many helpful tables and feature lists.  It would be updated twice as often.  And so on and so on – everything would be better than other brochures out there.

So I worked and worked and worked at preparing this amazing brochure.  In the middle of the process, the product changed, and I thought to myself ‘good job I hadn’t sent the brochure to be printed, this way I’ve saved the cost of a wasted brochure printing run’.

The new product changes made me make some changes to the brochure.  And then a competitor came out with some interesting new features and selling strategies, so I redesigned the brochure to reflect that.  My company opened another office, so we redid the brochure to reflect our two sales and service locations – that was a great new feature to promote.

We hired a professional brochure designer to bless our project, and she made changes, and we hired a professional copywriter to write some of the advertising copy, and that required some layout changes – more space for some things, and less for others.

This story is stretching out and stretching out, isn’t it.  As did the brochure project.  It took almost five years for that brochure to first appear on a brochure rack, and while it was a great brochure, just as I’d hoped; the ugly fact was that for five long years, we’d had no brochure at all.

A better strategy would have been to urgently quickly come up with a ‘me too’ type brochure, so that at least we had something.  Then, and based on our real world experience of what was working and not working in the brochure, to come out with a second version.  And then a third, and so on.

If we’d have done that, we’d have been at a much better point than we were at when we first released our super-brochure, and probably our ‘normal’ brochure’s evolution over those five years would have moved it beyond where the first untested super-brochure was.

So – the excellent (brochure) was the enemy of the good (brochure).  Our company was harmed for five years while we obsessed over this brochure project.

Another shorter example, perhaps.  Microsoft recently launched Windows 8.  Windows 1.0 came out in November 1985.  Imaging if Microsoft hadn’t released Windows 1, or 2, or 3, or any of the preceding versions of Windows, while it kept on improving and improving the product prior to suddenly then releasing it as Windows 8.  That would clearly have been a massive mistake, wouldn’t it.

Or, at a simpler level, when any software company releases its software, it subsequently comes out with new versions and bug fixes and so on.  The graphics drivers for my computer’s graphics card are now at version 307, for example.  Imagine if nVidia waited until it had an almost perfect version of its graphics drivers before releasing its card?  Heck, the card would still be unreleased, because I’ll wager within a month or two, there’ll be a new version 308 driver out there.

You get the point, I hope.  The excellent is the enemy of the good.

It is easy to see how this could translate to a prepping situation, isn’t it.  You decide, for example, that you want state of the art ultra-high efficiency photo-voltaic panels.  They cost much more, you have to save up for longer to buy them, and a new generation of PV panels comes out, and so on, and for all the time you’re saving up for the super panels, you have no panels at all and no solar power generation capabilities.  Surely it would be better to buy a regular set of PV panels, and then to upgrade or add to them in the future, so as to get your retreat or primary residence outfitted with some solar power as soon as possible.  If you subsequent upgrade the panels, the first panels aren’t wasted.  They can be supplemental panels, or if there’s no room left to mount them, they can be spares.

Or maybe you decide you will build a retreat for 20 people, with three-foot thick exterior walls.  But while you are saving up the money to get this construction started, you have no retreat at all.  Perhaps it would be better to build a retreat for five people and with normal exterior walls, then after you’ve got that up, start adding more modules to the property, and start reinforcing the exterior walls.  Which would you prefer if you needed to bug out today – a completed retreat, albeit too small and vulnerable to cannon fire; or plans for a spacious impregnable retreat for which the first foundation had yet to be laid?

This leads us to a very important related concept.

The Tortoise and the Hare

You know the story of the tortoise and the hare, of course, and you also know which one of them crossed the finishing line first.

With prepping, don’t be dismayed at the enormity of the task you are setting yourself.

Instead, start prepping right now, and slowly but steadily build up your preparations.  Maybe the very first thing you do is get a large container to store some water.  That’s something you could probably do today – indeed, here’s a challenge :  Click this link to Amazon and buy a water storage container right now.  🙂

Maybe the second thing is the next time you go to Costco or Wal-Mart, buy a few extra cans of food and start building up a store of extra food.  And so on.  Little by little, but always steadily building up your reserves and your resources.

Even small modest investments in your prepping will massively transform your ability to comfortably survive a Level 1 event.  It is true that creating a level of resilience to withstand a Level 2 event will be more challenging, and a Level 3 event more challenging again, but don’t submit to the challenge, but confront and surmount it.

In particular this is one of the benefits of joining a community of like-minded folks (whether it be the Code Green community or anything/anyone else) – you can pool your resources and create something that is more individually affordable and simultaneously something which is more viable as a group for surviving a Level 2/3 event.

Progress is a Series of Small Steps in the Right Direction

What we are saying is that while your prepping journey may be long and may be arduous, it is feasible and possible (and necessary).  Like any journey, you simply put one foot in front of the other, and then repeat, while ensuring you are proceeding in the right direction.

Use the resources on this and other sites to ensure you are proceeding in the right direction, and move forwards as best you can.

Feb 252013
A beautiful country scene, for sure.  But is it also a viable source of water for your retreat?

A beautiful country scene, for sure. But is it also a viable source of water for your retreat?

We are writing this on Oscar night 2013, so let’s use an Oscar linked concept for this article.

Did you ever watch the Oscar-winning movie, Chinatown?  It was nominated for 11 Oscar awards in 1975 and won the best screenplay award.  The movie starred Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, and – yes, here now is the segue to this article – featured a plot to do with the struggle for water rights in California.

Access to water is a very contentious thing, both in modern times and historically.  A Google search for ‘water right disputes’ brings up 39 million pages.  Depending on where you are, your ability to use the water on your land – indeed, in states such as Oregon, even your ability to use the rainwater that falls freely from the sky – is almost certainly restricted by a mess of state and federal statutes.

While many of these restrictions may seem overly onerous and interfering, at least they provide some sort of certainty and guarantee as to what we can expect with the water that passes through our properties.

And perhaps because of the comfortable certainties we sometimes take for granted, we’ve often had people proudly tell us about their retreat, and how it has a river or stream or creek running through/alongside their property.  This, we are told, guarantees them all the water they will need, and perhaps also promises them a rich bounty of fish too.

They are more or less correct, but only in terms of today.  But what happens WTSHTF and the rule of law crumbles and disappears?  What happens when people still need water, but their other sources of water (perhaps an electrically pumped well, or city water, or whatever else) are no longer available?  They have no choice but to turn to any nearby river or stream and start taking water from it, surely.

So, depending on where you are along the flow of the river, stream, creek, or whatever you wish to call the body of water moving through your property, its normal flow of water, that is currently protected, with any offtakes and uses controlled, restricted and limited, could change drastically if people simply start taking whatever they believe they need.

That’s a problem, but it is only part of the problem.  What also happens when people lose their sewer service too?  Will they start feeding sewage into their stream?  Will they start washing their clothes in the river?  With the loss of electric pumping, will they take their herd of cattle to the river to drink, rather than having water taken up to cisterns and troughs, with the cattle defecating, urinating, and disturbing the water while there?

Maybe the person upstream from you will even throw dead animals in and generally use ‘your’ stream as ‘nature’s automatic trash removal service’?

All of a sudden, you find yourself either with no water at all, or with polluted water that’s not safe to drink.

Oh – and the fishing?  How well is that going to work when the guy upstream from you, and the guy downstream from you, both throw nets across the entire river, preventing any fish from getting to your stretch of water?

Now – don’t get us wrong.  We like water, and there’s nothing more scenically enhancing than having a ‘safe’ water flow through your property year round.  If there’s a chance to use it for hydro power generation, then so much the better – but note our careful use of the word ‘safe’.  You don’t want a river that has such a volume of water that it is changing its path, eroding its banks, and possibly prone to flooding your fields on occasion.

When evaluating any water that flows through your property as a suitable source of water and possibly fish, you need to very carefully understand what happens to every foot of that water flow from where it first starts, and all the way along its journey to where it enters your property, and some distance beyond as well.  Maybe the guy upstream might build a dam and divert the water’s flow entirely.  And if there’s any danger of someone downstream of you building a dam or in some other way blocking the water flow or causing the river to burst its banks and spill out over your land, that’s something you want to know about too.

It isn’t just your immediate neighbor upstream of you.  Each person from the water source to you can impact on the quality and quantity of water available to you.

And your problems may not only relate to ‘good’ uses of the water.  Maybe the guy upstream from you – or the guy upstream from him – wants to force you (or your neighbor, or both of you) off your land and so they will simply block the river upstream of you and suddenly what was fertile land and easily irrigated becomes neither.

Go watch some more movies.  There’s a dozen or more westerns involving disputes over water rights.  Should we also point out that, at least in the movies, the disputes were seldom peaceably resolved?

There’s another flip-side to this issue too.  If you are planning on being able to help yourself to water from the stream WTSHTF, how do you think the people downstream of you will feel if the water that they too may be relying on diminishes in flow?  Someone, somewhere, is not going to passively accept the change from a healthy flow of water to a muddy polluted trickle of effluent, and is going to start going upstream and ‘persuading’ people to ensure that he can get ‘his’ ‘fair’ ration of water, too.  Note the quotes around those two terms; water rights are truly a contentious subject and people have very different perspectives as to what is right and fair, depending on their situation and needs.

Our point is simply this :  You can’t rely on the current state of water flow on your property, with the underlying assumption being that everyone who potentially could do something to the state of the waterway will continue to abide by every one of the sometimes annoying and restrictive regulations that attach to the rivers and streams that may flow through our land.

If you are in an area which needs supplemental water, and if it is realistic to expect that people will turn to the water source flowing through your property for their water needs (which, after all, is actually exactly what you may be planning to do yourself, too!) then you need to be sure that there’ll be enough water for everyone, including the people downstream of you, because if everyone doesn’t get enough water, disputes will break out, and with people’s survival at stake, the disputes won’t merely involve writing nasty letters and filing law suits to be litigated through the courts over the course of many years and many appeals.  They will get violent.

This also points to another thing.  After TEOTWAWKI, people’s use of the land they are on will surely change.  In some cases, land will be abandoned, but in other cases, land will start to be farmed more extensively and, as best possible, more intensively too.  It is not enough to only understand what might happen to the water flowing through your property today, you also have to guess how this might change in the future.

Some of these future changes could be entirely unexpected.  What happens if someone starts some sort of factory that either consumes a significant amount of ‘your’ water, and/or discharges waste into the stream?

The more you think about that beautiful stream currently flowing through your property, the more you should come to realize that you can’t take it for granted in a Level 3 or even Level 2 situation.  In other words, even if you have what seems to be a perfectly good river/stream providing water to your property today, check out alternate sources of water so that you’re not relying on a single water source in the future.