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From the Library

Grandpappy’s Recipes for Hard Times by Robert Wayne Atkins

One of the realities I knew as a kid, eating some pretty bizarre mountain dishes, that was really made to hit home to me during various survival exercises as an adult, is that as much as we might like to think we’ve prepared for everything, in real survival situations, whether we’re simply lost in the boonies, evading hostile forces, or in a post-grid scenario, is we may often find ourselves eating things considerably far outside of our comfort zone.

This may range from foraged wild edibles to small furbearers to rodents and insects (while I know technically squirrels are rodents, anybody from the rural South, of a certain age, can tell you they are also a delicacy. I’ve eaten rats and I’ve eaten mice, and neither is anything like eating squirrel, I can assure you!).

Additionally, one of the concepts inherent to Permaculture, or at least my understanding of it, is the willingness and ability to utilize all available renewable resources to increase the resilience of your designs and work. When we approach Permaculture for Preparedness, of course, that becomes even more of an issue, since we can’t expect, post-grid, to just run down to the meat counter at the local grocer.

We raise rabbits, chickens, and hogs, and will be adding at least a few cattle within the next year or so (I’m hoping to be able to procure a couple of bred Highland cows next spring, as well as a steer or two to raise for beef the first year). Nevertheless, we also harvest deer off the farm, and while I haven’t convinced the wife to eat raccoon or possum yet, I have every intention of sneaking at least the raccoon into a pot of chili or stew this winter.

For those with less experience using foraged foods, in addition to a plethora of typical storage food recipes, this handy little book includes a number of ways to incorporate not just unusual protein sources, but also a number of common, widespread wild edible plants found in the US. In the past, my use of wild edible plants has been limited to either eating them as I found them, or mixing them together like a salad. This book offers a variety of other methods, ranging from cooking them like turnip greens to incorporating them into stews.

Our home library has probably 50-60 cookbooks on the shelves. These range from the typical ones you would expect to see on your mother or grandmother’s counter (my wife also has my late grandmother’s cardbox of recipes as well. She was horribly disappointed to discover how many of my grandmother’s recipes relied on processed, boxed bases….), to ethnic food cookbooks, Paleo specific cookbooks, and a pretty diverse collection of antique cookbooks I had collected before my wife and I met, that range from reprints of cookbooks from the 1700s to originals published and printed in the early and mid-1800s. I am very satisfied with the addition of this one to the collection.

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Campfire Chat

I am behind on emails. I know a lot of people have sent emails, and I apologize for not responding to them sooner. I am working my way through them as quickly as possible, under the circumstances. Have patience, please.

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On Permaculture

Living in the extremely arid southwest desert I can only dream if such a land….

.Research “Greening the desert” by Geoff Lawton. He did this in the DESERT in Jordan. It can be done.

There are a number of videos and reports about permaculture designs put in place, successfully in the Middle East and in Northern Africa. There are also a number of them in place in various parts of arid North America. One of the things that people in the SW USA forget is that places like Mesa Verde, and the other pueblos of old, existed there because there was adequate vegetation, due to adequate water.

The water catchment and retention methods espoused by permaculture, for use in arid climates, can actually be extremely useful in returning parts of those areas to a sustainable habitat for humans. This can range from planting hardier species of foodstuffs, that can withstand lengthy drought periods, to soil moisture retention methods, including planting of ground covers that will help absorb more water during intermittent rainfalls, helping to maintain adequate soil moisture levels for growth between rains as well.

If I lived in the SW, I’d damned sure be looking at permaculture strategies and dryland tactics, as my first-choice of sustainable food production. That’s actually a pretty significant factor that drove me to looking into permaculture in the first place, when I was living in the arid deserts of Wyoming and Idaho, actually.

I’ve been haunting the permaculture a/natural/holistic websites for years and can’t help but notice how gubmint intervention is pushing many to the side of liberty . Can’t buy or sell raw milk . Can’t butcher a chicken and sell it without FDA approval etc .

Not only do I think this is absolutely true, I also believe it is basically unavoidable. I discussed this trend a little bit in The Reluctant Partisan, Volume Two, and even more in Forging the Hero, when I discussed the urge amongst many people to return to a more tribal social structure, even if they didn’t overtly recognize it for what it is.

On the other hand, it would also be dishonest to notice that a lot of permies seem to believe that increasing government interference should be the tool to drive people towards permaculture. I absolutely believe that permaculture makes far more sense, both on the large scale, and on the small community and family scale, than “traditional” industrial agriculture. Whether they’re coming to it strictly for more resilient food production, because of concerns about food safety issues within industrial agricultural, or because they are concerned about environmental impacts of petrochemical and GMO uses in industrial agriculture is largely irrelevant. I also believe however, that people are coming to it rather holistically, rather than being forced to it, and I believe allowing this to happen will do far more for resolving all of those issues, rather than trying to force people to do so. It will also help prevent the “industrialization” of permaculture, wherein people will ignore, or bypass some of the principles, in order to get a larger market share.

Not knowing exactly where you are, I will ask, didn’t the Apache have their own permaculture system of food production? Didn’t sound like anything I’d want to eat, but…Also, although far from ideal, you can store decades of grain for far less than the cost of some mountain land.

I’m sure the Apaches, of all the different bands, had some variation of sustainable food production that could be considered “permaculture.” I’m not an expert on the Apache, by any stretch of the imagination, but it makes sense to me that they did.

Yes, you can store decades of grain for less than the cost of some mountain land….but…I probably have decades of natural life left. My kids have the better part of a century of natural life left. Their children will push well into the next century, based on natural life expectancy, even if the natural life expectancy takes a noise dive of a decade or two. I can’t store THAT much grain, and “man cannot live on bread alone.” (Yeah, I know, that’s not what that quip is referring to, but it works anyway). So, the ability to not only store grain for years or decades or even centuries, combined with the ability to raise sustainable other foods, ranging from vegetables to fruits and nuts, to various types of meat sources, seems a far more viable option to me. That’s without even considering the paleontological and archaeological records showing how detrimental grain products are to human health in the long term.

Further, I think people get wrapped around the axle about the “mountain living” aspect of things, and ignore the parts of the discussion about initiating these practices wherever they currently live. Guerrilla Gardening, especially permaculture style, doesn’t require a large plot of mountainside. It can—literally—be done in an ignored corner of a deserted urban lot. It can be done in an overgrown, untended part of a city park. Hell, it can be done in the front yard of the abandoned house down the street. I’ve actually SEEN this done, in all of these areas, in recent years, personally. What it takes is a) the willingness to “do the work,” and b) the imagination to to see the options available.

Even if a family has to abandon their house and neighborhood, for whatever reason: flooding, the city burning down, terrorism or gang conflict, lack of ability to make their mortgage payment or rent, etc, this still serves a couple of purposes, chief among them, giving you practice in a valuable skill and knowledge base that cannot be taken away from you. Hell, the seed saving alone, is valuable. My wife has spent quite a bit of money over the last decade, on heirloom seeds. This year, she finally managed to start saving seeds. We now have more seeds from some plants, than she had seeds in total, before.

People always talk about barter and how barter is going to be important in the future. Want a barter product that lasts? Heirloom seeds are lightweight, the very definition of portable, and when you garden properly, regenerating. It’s literally, a product that reproduces itself with only minimal effort from you.

I suspect permies suffer from the Rousseauian delusion that a lot of soft-hearted people tend to have, that people are naturally good and only corrupted by civilization. The same foolishness that thinks primitive people don’t engage in war, murder, and torture.

Oh, undoubtedly. It’s not strictly a permie, or even a Lefty, thing though. I talk to die-hard NeoCons and PaleoConservatives all the time that suffer from the same delusions. I also see it as more a problem of modern civilization than a political leaning. Most of the middle-class suburbanites I know believe “nobody would ever do that!” even as they watch it occur on the news. I’m not sure whether it is simple cognitive dissonance on their part, or whether it has to do with denial about their own nature. “Oh, those terrorists cutting people’s heads off, and drowning people as public spectacles” are just “evil!” “Americans would never do that!” even though Americans have done that—or similar—in the not too distant past.

It’s easy to dismiss things like “strange fruit,” and Sand Creek, and My Lai, and the host of other “atrocities” that Americans have committed in the not-so-distant past, as “aberrations,” and dismiss them, because “we don’t do that stuff anymore,” but the reality is, none of that was all too far in the past. There are people alive today, who witnessed—and participated in—these, because they perceived threats to their way of life. People talk about how we’re only a few missed meals from savagery, they’re doing the same thing—it doesn’t take even a single missed meal to drive people to savagery. All it takes is pissing them off bad enough, or scaring them bad enough.

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Sustainable Building Practices

What do you do for humidity? I too live in the southern highlands, and in my house I have a big problem with mildew caused by humidity. My construction method is split faced concrete block filled with foam, and that may be part of the problem.

Ventilation, ventilation, ventilation. One fix is, of course, lots of windows and doors that can be opened to allow for cross-breezes to push air around. Of course, most modern buildings—especially in the South—are built with the intrinsic expectation that they will be air conditioned. As such, even if they have lots of windows and doors, too often, either the windows are not designed to ever be opened, or if they are, they aren’t actually designed to created convection currents that will carry heat up and out (warm air is more humid than cool air, and humid air is warmer than drier air…warm air rises).

I actually fucked this part up, when I built our house. I was so used to being in the Northern Rockies that I was more concerned about blocking any north winds in winter, for heat retention, than I was about ensuring adequate ventilation for cooling in summer. There are zero external doors on the north wall of my house, and only two little windows above the kitchen sink. The only windows on the East and West walls are upstairs, in the gable ends, because we built with the plan of adding on to those walls, from the beginning. So, while we get pretty good ventilation, by opening the south windows (which, admittedly, I did right, by putting two foot eaves all the way around the house. Those windows are in shade, throughout the summer) on the ground floor, and the upstairs gable end windows, I have already decided to rip out one section of the north wall, and put in both a door and a window there. Hopefully, this will be happening in the next month or so. That will make a huge difference.

Another option, obviously, is the use of roof/attic fans for ventilation. There are two basic options there. On the one hand, the so-called “solar” vents, that use the rising hot air inside itself to start pushing a small circular fan, which in turn draws even more hot air up and out through itself, are the simplest, and most robust.

A somewhat more effective tool, if not quite as robust, is the use of solar-powered ventilation fans. I was actually given a couple of these by a buddy who works for a local roofing company, when the job they were bought for ended up not wanting them. These have a small solar panel, along with a small battery and motor in them, that drives the fan, even before the interior air gets too hot. I haven’t installed these yet, and I may end up foregoing them, in favor of the previous option, depending on how successful the option of installing an extra door and window turns out to be.

Finally, addressing a specific topic in your question, yes, I suspect the concrete block walls and foam are a significant factor in the humidity and mold levels in your house. One of the things I learned, in my studies leading up to building the house is that the modern approach of building what is basically an impermeable membrane around the periphery of a house, and then punching holes in it for ventilation—besides being as assinine as it sounds—is inadequate to allow adequate ventilation, especially in naturally humid climates. A far better option—and the one I elected to follow—is the historical norm of building with materials that keep water (rain) out, while simultaneously allowing water vapor/humidity to pass through the walls.

Our walls are covered in traditional lime plaster, made from hydrated lime, sand, and a fiber of some sort—traditionally horse hair, grass fibers in horse manure, or straw. There is no cement in the mix, and this traditional mix offers a number of advantages.

Number one, I can—at least in theory—produce lime locally, simply by superheating limestone (which we have in abundance, up to having a limestone quarry only a few miles from the house). So, that’s easy to acquire, in a post-industrial world, for maintenance. This is important, because, while it has more longevity than cement-based plasters, in the long-term, in the short-term, pure lime plasters do require more maintenance.

Number two is, having looked into the renovation efforts made on traditional buildings in Europe, following World War Two, I discovered that a lot of the traditional plastered buildings were “repaired” with cement-based plasters. This was unfortunate because, within 70 years, buildings that had been in constant use for centuries (like 6+ centuries), were quickly becoming unusable, because of interior rot in the walls and the posts and beams. Portland cement, it turns out, doesn’t breath, worth a shit. So, any moisture that managed to creep into the walls, couldn’t escape again. When it recondensed, inside the walls, into moisture, instead of water vapor, rot and mildew quickly set in. In buildings like mine however, with clay-slip straw (called lechtlaum in German, or “light loam”) infill in the walls, and breathable lime plaster for the cladding, even if a crack develops all the way through the plaster, and the straw actually gets wet, it can dry right back out, because of the permeability of the wall structures.

In a nutshell, it’s the difference between wearing a rubberized rain suit over your insulating layers, versus wearing a Gore-Tex shell over your insulating layers, in a static hide site. With the rubberized suit, you’re going to far colder in cold weather, and far hotter in warm weather, than in the Gore-Tex, just because the humidity from your body can escape in the Gore-Tex.

Concrete blocks, of course, have a pretty high level of Portland cement in their composition. Combined with the synthetic foam in between, you have basically three layers of rubber rain coat around the “body” of the building. Even in most modern “stick framed” houses, you end up with a vapor barrier surrounding the entire outside of the house (and often, another on the inside, covering the fiberglass insulation as well), that is pierced at various places with “ventilation” holes. This is the equivalent of putting on the rubber rain suit, and expecting the neck hole and the bottom of the jacket, along with spaces between buttons—and maybe ventilation slits under the armpits—to be adequate to allow the humidity to escape. It MIGHT work, okay, if it’s not too warm and wet, and if you’re not doing anything physical that increases the humidity inside, but as soon as you start putting people inside the house doing stuff (moving around inside your rubber rainsuit), or if you’re just dealing with high temperatures and high humidity levels (we’re dealing with 100F heat indexes today, with humidity levels about 60%), it gets really miserable, really quick. Unlike the rubber rainsuit analogy however, you can’t just change the house’s clothes to dry out…

John, about working on that 8 pitch roof. Get some foam cushion out of an old chair or couch and tie some 12” square chunks to your boots, like ice crampons. You’ll be able to spiderman your ass up there. A third piece to use for your leg/ass when you sit down is nice to have, too….

…Definitely agree with you about antifa. Came to tell you that a couple thick pieces of rubber foam, the kind you get out of an old couch cushion on the side of the road, can help you climb a pretty steep roof [satellite installing and roofing]. You move from one piece to the other and keep moving the other. I don’t know about an 8/12 roof. That’s pretty damn steep, you either get a hellacious snow load or you’re paranoid. Maybe that’s just my Texas showing. Good luck, be safe.
P.s. I’m assuming a shingle roof; if tin, I got nothing.

I’m not sure, at all, how this would work on a sheet metal roof? It seems like foam rubber would send me skiing off the roof, in a hurry.

As far as why the Hell I decided on an eight pitch roof….it was a compromise. Aesthetically, I wanted a 12-pitch, but being on top of the mountain, that would have been a sail. Typically, in our area, folks build with a 3-pitch, occasionally with a 5-pitch. My house would look “wrong” with a low-pitched roof, aesthetically, and it would have limited head space upstairs. In hindsight, from the head space angle, I could have gotten away with a 6-pitch, but it would have reduced available space upstairs, and it would have just looked “wrong” when looking at the house from the outside.

We are in a rather different technological paradigm than the Romans and Gauls. Back then numbers really did matter in every way, these days numbers have less to do with the firepower you can bring to bear.

Question about your solar setup: is your inverter coming off the load outlay from the charge controller, or off the batteries?

Off the batteries, with #4 heavy gauge wire. In hindsight, I could have gone with a smaller gauge of wire, even if I put the panel array another twenty feet from the inverter, than I did, but…well, hindsight is 20/20.

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Defense

Side note, monoculture societies have their vulnerabilities, but they also field more soldiers. This is the great downfall of tribal societies. We talk about going barbarian and collapsing early, but it didn’t work out so well for the Gauls when the Romans came to town. I say this in service to the above article in the Dunning-Kruger effect….

…We are in a rather different technological paradigm than the Romans and Gauls. Back then numbers really did matter in every way, these days numbers have less to do with the firepower you can bring to bear.

I’d say yes and no. Larger civilizations are still likely to have more complex and better weapon systems. The small arms are going to be equal, but a more organized society can field artillery and airpower, not to mention all the ECM, etc. How much that would matter, your mileage may vary….

 

 

…I don’t disagree with John in the slightest, just pointing out that there’s a reason the “barbarian” societies got eclipsed by monoculture societies. Everything exists with trade-offs is more the point I’m trying to make.

All of these are valid observations. Archaeologists point out that the rise of monocrop agriculture, with it’s ability to grow large quantities of easy-to-store grains, is what led to the development of cities, civilizations, and mass armies. This also results in a greater ability, within the civilization, for specialization, leading to the development of superior weapons, larger formations of trained troops, and the ability to move larger formations of those trained troops, further distances, because of the ability to transport stored foodstuffs.

On the other hand, the Romans/Gauls, is not an entirely valid comparison, because, despite what they were called by the Romans, the Gauls, were actually a “civilization” by that point, with relatively large, settled cities and towns, and a pretty specialized, divided society. A better example would be the Romans and Germanii, wherein, witness Teutoburgwald.

On the other hand, as we all know, Arminius ended up assassinated by an agent in the pay of the Empire, despite the victory at Teutoburgwald, and the Romans did make a couple more punitive expeditions across the Rhine, despite the fact that they never conquered Germania.

A better example, in my mind, would be “I’ve been Afghan for a hundred years. I’ve been Muslim for 1200 years. I’ve been Pashtun for 6000 years.” Or, to put it in a more palatable example, look at the Scots and the Irish, or the Basques. They’ve all been invaded, and they’ve all been “conquered” by flatlander outsiders, but through it all, they’ve all managed to maintain a relatively insular cultural identity, and there are still independence and autonomy movements in all of those cultures (and this, despite the Highland Clearances, in the case of the Scottish, which removed them from their ancestral homelands. Ever been to a Highland Games? Hell, to hear those people talk, they’ve been consistently kicking the shit out of the Crown ever since).

It’s the root philosophy of insurgency, that I’ve expressed multiple times here on the blog, as well as in both of the Reluctant Partisan books, and in Forging the Hero: you don’t have to win. You don’t even have to not lose. You just have to convince people that you’ll still be around after the invaders leave.

Hell, you can see the same thing with the Seminoles that managed to hide out in the Everglades, and even the Cherokees that managed to hide out during the Removal.

The catch of course, is that you have to be in a physical environment that counters the advantages the civilized armies have. Even today, we see that extreme mountain environments can make moving large formations of troops difficult, even with air superiority, and resupply of those troops, regardless of how much foodstuffs you have stockpiled, is just as difficult. Supply chains, even with helicopters, are long, and are always susceptible to attack themselves. You don’t even have to defeat the combat arms elements of the enemy. Planned and played out correctly, you can defeat them by ambushing and killing their resupply people.

You might “lose” the battles, and YOU might even die. On the other hand, newsflash: you’re going to die someday anyway. What matters, as I pointed out in Forging the Hero, is that your values survive.

My wife lost the ability to rack the slide on her M&P so she got a Ruger 5 shot revolver with a one piece “moon clip”. Great little piece with a very good trigger. Fits a lady’s had well.

That’s definitely a reason to consider switching to a wheel-gun. I am curious though, what “fits a lady’s hand well” means exactly? I know ladies with hands as large as mine, and I know men with hands smaller and daintier than my wife. Hell, I know grown men with hands daintier than my daughter’s.

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Miscellany

I was offered one of the most brillliantly,true responses ever, when a guy said to me he didn’t understand everything he knew about a subject-ponder that.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this, in classes. I know I say it at our weekly range days all the time, as well as any time I’m talking about building, permaculture, and more.

Question about your mastiff: how much food does a 200# dog eat?

As much as he wants!

Seriously though, I’m not even sure. Our four-year old has the chore of feeding the dog and the house cats (and don’t even get me started on how the Hell that I, of all people, ended up with house cats….), while her big sister feeds the chickens and rabbits (dad is responsible for the hogs. The kids aren’t allowed anywhere near the hogs without Mom or Dad there, and Mom and Dad don’t go near the hogs without a gun on).

All I know is, when I’m told to buy dog food, I buy good, no-grain dog food (we pay around $45/bag for 50# bags of dog food).

If you stopped trying to impress people with your gutter language tough guy persona everything would be easier and you might even be taken as a non poser.

Do you talk to your mom and kids like that?

Yaaaawwwwwnnnn. Okay.

And, yes, for the record, I do speak like that around my mother and my children. I speak like that around my mother, because my mother is an adult, and has heard those words before—and even used them. I speak like that around my children, because they will someday be adults, and will hear those words, and—judging by my eight year old, who manages to do so in the correct context every single time—even use them.

If it offends you, go elsewhere. I didn’t ask you to come read this. I’m sure as fuck not asking you to stay.

Thank you for responding to my question regarding winter patrols in your latest campfire chat.  I am amazed at your productivity given the burdens of a homestead (which I fully share and understand) as well as taking care of your Mom.  I am praying for blessings on you and your family.

You mentioned wool underwear, shirts, and sweaters – have you found a good brand?  I had been going with polyester (the ECWCS Gen 3 ‘silk weight’ stuff) because it is easier to launder – it’s a loooong way to the dry cleaners.  How do you care for your wool stuff?

I honestly couldn’t tell you what brand I’ve been using. I’ve gone through a few, with no real complaints about any of them. Typically, when I’m looking at wool long underwear, I just make sure the label says it is at least 80% (and preferably 100%) wool, and machine-washable.

I have a number of wool sweaters, many of them located in second hand stores, like Goodwill and Deseret Industries, that I just machine wash, and hang dry. I have a couple also that I’ve received as gifts or in trade, that require dry-cleaning. One of them, a beautiful cable knit from the Aran Islands, that I purchased at an Irish store in Seattle, I negligently tossed in the washing machine. It survived just fine. It didn’t survive as well, the second time, when it was washed with hot water. It shrunk significantly, but fortunately, I was able to stretch it back out, manually, and so it is still in use. The others, I generally just don’t clean. I will wear them for a winter, then shake them and beat them out, then put them in a storage chest with cedar shavings. Invariably, they come out the next autumn, smelling fresh and clean (I would NOT recommend this with wool shirts or wool long underwear! The difference is, the sweaters are not actually up against my skin).

For wool shirts, I stick with Pendleton brand, 100% wool flannel.

Hello,
I’m not the book writing John, I’m the book reading John. I did write a History Thesis.
I’m a veteran. No I don’t have a Common access card. I don’t carry my DD-214 It is I’m my ex-wifes safe deposit box, I started with polished black boots , steel helmets, Chow balls ( not D-Facs) and we were told to not iron our BDU’s. Correction off paper was extremely effective.
I enjoy your work. We probably were in the same town or even the same Group but I’m guessing in 10-15 years older than you. You do good works. Keep it up
Not the book writing John

Thanks! I don’t carry a CAC card, and I don’t walk around with my DD214 either. In fact, most of the jobs I’ve had since I left the service, never knew what I did in the military, if they even knew I was ever in the military. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

I will say though, while I started with spitshined jungle boots and BDUs, we also had K-Pots, chow halls, and starched and pressed BDUs! “Correction off paper” was still very effective, whether it was a simple smoke session, or a wall-to-wall counseling session.

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Speaking of “Obtain a Yield,” (See the Permaculture article today), I’m still considering doing the Patreon thing, since I’m still getting emails suggesting it (and a couple have basically demanded that I allow them to give me their money…).

Other than Patreoning the whole blog, or the feature article every week, is there any other service you, as the reader, would like to see MG Blog provide, and would be willing to pay a nominal fee monthly for?

From the Library

Speed, Power, Endurance by Brian McKenzie

Crossfit, almost two decades after its founding, is still a subject of contention, amongst both athletes and non-athletes alike. In the defense of the nay-sayers, many of the original Crossfit folks can be obnoxiously polarizing people. In defense of the Crossfit supporters, however, personality conflicts don’t negate the value of the system.

One of the key principles behind Crossfit that is often overlooked, is that it was not intended to be a sport-specific conditioning program. Nobody ever claimed that a Crossfit athlete was going to be able to go out and WIN a powerlifting competition, or an ultra-marathon, without tailoring their training to sport-specific demands, before doing so. The idea was, you’d be able to lift heavy shit, like a powerlifter, and run fast, for long distances, like an ultra-marathoner (and for anyone who thinks marathoners aren’t running fast, consider this: my cousin runs a sub-2 hour marathon. That’s 13+ miles in less than one hour. At 13 miles per hour, she’d be running a 4 ½ minute mile….). It was never about, “Hey, do Crossfit, and you’ll be able to squat more than Fred Hatfield!” It was never about, “Hey, do Crossfit, and you’ll be able to run like a Kenyan!”

Crossfit found a huge following in the military, especially among SOF folks, specifically because of its generalist approach to fitness. Dudes got big and strong, so they can could carry the gear they needed to carry, and scale walls and caving ladders when they needed to. Dudes got fast and increased their stamina, so they could stay in the fight, even when scaling mountains, chasing down locals who grew up in the mountains.

There were some shortcomings to Crossfit, mostly in the coaching development area. The idea that you can go do a weekend certification course, and suddenly be ready to run your own box, and teach what are relatively complicated weightlifting and exercise skills, let alone program effective training sessions, is kind of silly, even to most Crossfit folks. This led to a number of very publicized injuries that gave Crossfit a pretty good black eye.

One of the potential shortcomings of Crossfit however, was that it’s General Physical Preparation (GPP) focus, was not always understood—let alone expressed adequately—by these weekend coaches. This led to the development of more specific areas of Crossfit, such as Crossfit Football (CFFB, now defunct) and Crossfit Strength-Bias (CFSB) for athletes that needed more of a focus on strength attributes, and Crossfit Endurance (CFE) by the author of this book, Brian McKenzie, for endurance sport athletes.

There have been a lot of claims, both for and against Brian’s program and its success, or lack thereof.

Here’s the catch: I’m not a triathlete. I’m not going to try and ride the Tour De France. I’m not going to swim the English Channel (Hell, given my druthers, I’m not going to swim across the pond on my farm!). I’m not going to run a marathon (I’m not even going to run another half-marathon, if I have my way about it). I’m damned sure not running an ultramarathon.

What I am interested in being able to do however, is maintain and continue to improve my strength, while also maintaining and improving my ability to run 5-6 miles, and hump a ruck a significant distance, if I need to do that. I also need to be able to do this, while still dealing with the increasingly busy and crowded schedule I have, between running a farm, running a business, writing blog articles and books, raising kids, taking care of my family and clan, and still doing other training. I don’t have time to go run 100+ miles per week, let alone a 20 miler once a week. The methods of CFE seem to work well enough to allow me to achieve my goals, without compromising my ability to take care of all the other tasks on my plate.

This book was McKenzie’s attempt to codify the basic methodologies of CFE, and it’s one of the better CF-related books I’ve found. In addition to pretty solid technical coaching of techniques, it includes a thorough grounding in the philosophies and theories behind the methodology. Finally, the programming included, from the six-week introductory program that focuses on bodyweight calisthenics and short intervals (which, honestly, could be a moderately long-term fitness program by itself, if repeated three or four cycles in a row), to the 12-week program, that is explicitly designed to be repeated over-and-over, is excellent. There are a number of endurance focused WODs (Workout of the Day…I explained these in The Reluctant Partisan, Volume One, in the PT chapter), as well, to change things up or to incorporate into a normal Crossfit programming schedule.

The best part of this program, in my mind, is that a person could go from sedentary, on the couch, to being reasonably fit, and able to do a lot of basic preparedness tasks, from a fitness perspective, in 6-12 weeks, and then continue improving from there.

Highly recommended.

Unbreakable Runner by TJ Murphy and Brian McKenzie

While not explicitly labeled as such, this is kind of a companion piece to the above book. Murphy is a lifelong competitive runner, and has spent most of his adult working life, as an endurance sport journalist. In the beginning of the book, he goes into excruciating detail about the injuries and damage he accrued following traditional Lydiard training methods, and the improvements he made when he decided to break down and give the heretical CFE methods a chance.

This book is also based on CFE methods, but while it does include some basic WODs, it focuses more on the interval running and time trial runs, needed to build sport-specific preparation for different race distances. It includes detailed training programs specific to 5K, 10K, half-marathons, marathons, and ultra-marathons.

I’ve used the 5K and 10K programs, and seen significant improvements in my running endurance and speed at those distances. I assume the same would be the case for the longer distances, but as I said, I just don’t have any interest in running that damned far.

Highly recommended.

Cross Training 101 by Scott James

I have a pretty good collection of these little booklets, from various authors, capitalizing on the Crossfit methodologies, without using the trademarked Crossfit name. They are all pretty similar, comprising a collection of WODs, and little else. This one, like the others, tends to categorize the WODs, into modalities. For example, this volume categorizes them into “Benchmark” Workouts. These are the so-called “Girls” and “Heroes” WODs from Crossfit. The Girls are a set of simple (not easy) set of WODs that most Crossfitters return to regularly, as metrics for performance improvement. The “Hero” WODs are named after military personnel who were Crossfit athletes who were killed in action during the GWOT (the most famous of these being the “Murph” named after SEAL Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was awarded the CMH posthumously, and which Crossfit gyms around the world perform on Memorial Day every year).

This booklet further divides WODs into “bodyweight” WODs, “regular” WODs, running WODs, and endurance WODs. Others may include kettlebell specific WODs, “Strongman” WODs, utilizing Strongman type lifts and implements, and any other variety.

Whether you’re just trying to spice up your home gym Crossfit-type conditioning, or you’re trying to utilize and expand on the programming offered in the previous two books, any one of these little “Cross Training Workouts” type books, are worth having. I don’t know that any one is better than any other. This just happened to be the one sitting on my desk at the moment.

Permaculture For Preparedness, or “It’s More than Just Gardening, Genius!”

(I’m posting Mountain Guerrilla Monday early this week. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do at work, and around the farm, and we’re expecting a break in the weather that is supposed to drop temperatures 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit starting tonight. By getting this posted today, I can take advantage of an extra day of the reduced temperatures to get some catching up done.)

 

Permaculture is famous for its ethics and principles. These are the basic guidelines along which permaculture was codified by Mollison and Holmgren. Sadly, many readers have limited themselves to second, third, and even fourth generation permaculture teachers and writers, and much has been lost in the translation, so to speak. People have learned a shallow understanding of the tactics and techniques of permaculture, without really understanding the strategy or operational capabilities.

An example of this in preparedness can be seen in a comment I received a few months ago, in which a reader lauded the discussion of alternative energy, food production, and other aspects of daily living in a post-industrial environment, but wanted me to focus on the “partisan” aspects, by which I assume they meant the cool-guy action figure gunfighter stuff. The problem with this is something that all too often, people who have never had to plan an operation, let alone write an OpOrder, overlook: you can only “operate” so long without support in the form of food, equipment, and shelter. There’s a reason, after all, that an SF ODA has engineers and medics, as well as weapons sergeants. As a mentor in SF once asked me, “What do you call an A-Team made up entirely of Bravos?” The answer? “An understrength Ranger Platoon.”

If we approach the discussion of Permaculture from the UW perspective, the focus on Permaculture begins to make considerable sense from both an operational and a strategic perspective. If we define our UW strategy as “We don’t have to win. We don’t even have to not lose. All we have to do is make sure our supporters and the unaligned populace both know that we’ll still be here when the enemy is gone,” and we define our strategic goal as “cultural and genetic survival” rather than “individual survival,” then the permaculture approach begins to make even more sense.

While it is possible to stockpile vast quantities of storage foodstuffs in our secure Guerrilla Base area, in accordance with DoD/USASF doctrine for the conduct of UW operations, the Guerrilla Base area is only secure until the enemy gets pissed off enough to expend resources destroying it. Related to this idea, of course, is the mantra I was taught as a young NCO, that your Escape and Evasion plan (now referred to as an EPA, for Evasion Plan of Action) should be an integral part of any operational planning. Hope for the best, but plan for just in case.

The fact that Permaculture offers us a means of diversifying our resources, by spreading the harvest across geography and the seasons of the year, allows us a “five-point contingency plan,” or elements for a PACE plan for sustenance.

Permaculture Ethics

Going back to the misinterpretation in contemporary Permaculture texts however, let us begin with the ethics of permaculture. Often, these days, these are bowdlerized as “Earth Care, People Care, Share the Surplus/Fair Share.” This simplification comes about, in large part, because of the liberalization of Permaculture, politically. In fact, the original ethics, outlined by Mollison included:

Care of the Earth, Care of People, and Setting Limits on Populations and Consumption.

While this too, to many modern readers of a conservative or even libertarian bent, will seem very “SJW” in nature, it’s really not. In fact, the foundations for those ethics can be seen as far back into human history as you care to look.

Care of the Earth
Set aside preconceived notions about “Earth Day” and Al Gore. Set aside your notions about some universal approach. Rephrase this as “Care for your piece of the Earth,” and see if this doesn’t make more sense. I cannot have any real impact on rare earth mining in China. I cannot have any real impact on plastics being dumped into the oceans, instead of being recycled. What I can have a very real impact on is the piece of Earth that I have control over.

Most Americans today have never spoken, face-to-face, with a farmer or rancher. To be clear, I’m not talking to small-scale farmers like myself that produce for family or community use alone. I’m talking about farmers that raise hundreds or even thousands of acres of crops. I’m talking about ranchers that raise a commercial herd of cattle as their primary revenue source (the studies I’ve seen have said it requires approximately a minimum of 250 breeding cows, to make a living off cattle today). If you talk to these folks, they’ll be the first to tell you, they do everything in their power to take care of their piece of Earth, because they know it is their primary revenue generating resource. As a rancher in Wyoming once told me, over beers, “I don’t ranch cows. I farm grass.”

If we accept that people need to eat, no matter how gung-ho, bad ass guerrilla gunfighter they might be, then we must—by extension—accept the logic that people need to care for the land where their food is grown. Whether you see the ongoing situation in America and the world, as a result of natural imperial decline, as a planned, protracted operation to overthrow individualism in favor of a one-world government, or a result of environmental impacts of human behavior is ultimately, irrelevant. In any of those scenarios, this isn’t going to end in a year or five years, or even a decade. Setting aside a year’s supply of stored foods, and not having a valid, functional plan for growing more food, to sustain that food supply past one year, doesn’t make much sense.

Our ancestors exercise this in their personification of nature spirits, by respecting nature and making offerings, and ensuring that their human-centric activities coincided with what they perceived to be appropriate seasons of the year.

Care for People
Once again, thanks to the usurpation of Permaculture by the political Left, this too often gets translated as “you should care for every single human being on the face of the planet. If you’re not concerned with their well-being as much as that of your children, you’re nothing but an evil, corporate capitalist individualist.” Setting aside the ridiculous impossibility of actually having genuine care for people you don’t even know, on an individual basis, this is dumb, even from the perspective of the SJW Left. After all, do they actually care about the welfare of their political opponents? Not evidenced by the attacks that have taken place, and the diatribes and screeds they have published.

On the other hand, “Care for YOUR People” makes total sense, whether from the tribal perspective that I advocate, or from a purely doctrinal UW perspective. You know why SF engineers know how to build shit as well as blow it up? Because they can take care of the local indigenous population. That builds loyalty and rapport. You know why SF medics are more than just “combat medics,” trained to patch up bullet wounds? Because they can improve the health and welfare of the local indigenous population. They allow the SF ODA to “care for the people” who are helping them.

From our perspective, this means providing healthy, wholesome, safe places for our own people—kith-and-kin—to live and survive, even as things collapse around us and them. We can see this in the development of “folk based religions” that emphasized ancestor veneration, and passing on the valuable lessons from the ancestors on to the next generations, where they would be useful.
Setting Limits and Controlling Consumption
At first glance, this appears to be very totalitarian in nature, and misapplied, it could be. On the individual tribal/family/band level though, it makes absolute, total sense. We are limited in the number of people we can actually know well enough to develop a trust-based relationship with. Dunbar’s number is a subject I’ve discussed in all of my books, to one degree or another. If you start trying to take care of people outside of that circle, or you start trying to provide resources for them, taking away resources from your own people, neither party is going to survive, are they?

At the same time, if you control consumption, to ensure there is surplus for next year, instead of accepting the modern assumption that “I can always get more at the grocery store,” you don’t have as much to worry about come winter, when less is growing. On the other hand, if you let all and sundry access to your stored provisions, without limiting and controlling the consumption of those resources, you’re going to run out, before the resupply is in place.
Permaculture Principles
In order to effectively live up to the Permaculture Ethics, a set of principles that must be adhered to, in order to be considered Permaculture, were developed. Like the ethics, they have been changed and modified, and altered. This is perfectly alright, since different principles may have different importance, in different environments. However, we’re going to stick to looking at the two founders’ principles.

Mollison’s original Permaculture Principles were five in number:

Work with Nature, Not Against It
This sounds like some tree-hugger, environmentalist bullshit, but only to residents of the modern industrial world. Absent modern petro-chemical fertilizers, and large, exorbitantly expensive farm equipment that even large-scale farmers can seldom afford without putting the family farm in hock, you have to consider the natural cycles and systems. While even small-scale farmers like myself can occasionally fuck up, and make up the differences by spending some money, in a post-industrial, or even just a grid-down environment, that’s just not an option.

If I ignore the natural environment, and, say…try and plant orange trees where I live…I’m wasting resources, and I’m still going to have to buy oranges at the grocery store. On the other hand, if I build a greenhouse, and put something like a rocket-mass heater in it to provide marginal heat during extremely cold (for this environment) winter days and nights, it IS possible for me to grow oranges here. Hell, there’s a guy in Wyoming that is growing organic bananas at 8000 feet above sea level, in a green house.

For the UW environment, this simply makes it possible to grow foodstuffs for your local indigenous populace, even when you are functioning long term in denied areas, with an inadequate or ineffective underground transportation network. You know what will turn people against the resistance, and towards the regime, in an UW environment? Watching their kids starve.

Make the Least Change for the Greatest Effect
We are all limited to the same amount of hours in a day, and days in a week, and weeks in a year. As such, we need to prioritize and budget our available time. While in a peacetime environment, we can work around that a little bit, in a denied area environment, where we have to provide security, as well as producing food, with limited manpower, we need to be efficient. By determining what the smallest changes we can make are, that will have at least the minimum required effect, we can make ourselves more efficient.

Do you need to spend the money to shoot 1000 rounds live-fire every week, or can you achieve adequate (better) results by dry-firing those rounds? Do you need to do an hour of weightlifting 3-5 times a week, plus a hour or two each of those days for cardio/running/rucking, or can you do some Crossfit type training that will get you where you need to be in less time, with fewer training sessions per week? Do you need to put in a garden with eighteen rows of corn, that requires fertilizing, weeding, and harvesting, or can you spend an hour walking around a nearby woodlot, to identify what edible, useful plants are available, and then go spend five minutes, once a week, harvesting what you need?

The Problem is the Solution
Because our house is built with rough-cut lumber, and is well-designed, but has lots of ventilation as well, one of the issues we began noticing, the first summer, was the number of wasps (red wasps and yellow jackets) we were finding in the house. Then, the following spring, we heard a strange thumping and chirping noise from inside one of the upstairs walls. At first, I was furious, thinking we somehow had mice in the walls. Then, we noticed we had birds chittering around our bedroom loft window. I went outside and looked into the situation. We realized we had a family of barn swallows nesting in the wall of the house, just below the eaves.

You know what barn swallows eat? Among other things….wasps. We have not had any wasp problem, to speak of, since.

A similar situation was noticed by a reader, regarding the Permaculture movement in general, and its trending towards individual liberties. A large number of “permies” are becoming increasingly disenchanted with government, as they realize it is the government that is limiting their abilities to do what they want, in order to live within their beliefs. As jurisdictions limit tiny houses, humanure composting, and raw dairy sales, the very “tree hugger environmentalist” Lefties in what many see as a communist plot (environmentalism is, according to some people, simply a communist plot for control), are being turned against government influence, because it is stopping them from being more environmentalist.

The Yield of a System is Theoretically Unlimited
If you went out today, and dozed a piece of ground bare, down to the dirt (let’s say you manage to leave the topsoil, although, technically, you could extend this backward and even the topsoil would eventually be replaced), and simply left it, over the next year or two, you would see grasses and other small, tenacious annual plants take root and begin spreading. Eventually, you would then see shrubs of various types take root and begin growing, then some trees would pop up (in my area, those pioneer trees will be cedars). Eventually though, in most environments, you would have a large, “old growth” forest of large trees, with some grass and possibly some shrubs, growing beneath it. That is succession.

By planting appropriately, and managing our design minimally, the same thing can happen, in a controlled fashion, in a permaculture garden or food forest. We might plant some strawberries for ground cover, with some annuals like onions, and some asparagus next to it, with a fruit tree in the middle. We could harvest strawberries this year, and onward for many years. We could harvest onions this year as well, but unless we replanted them next year, we’d be shit out of luck. By the second or third year though, we’d be getting some asparagus, that we’d be able to harvest for as much as a decade or more (and if it spread naturally, we’d be able to harvest it for a couple of decades or longer). In a few years, the fruit tree will start producing, and will produce for decades. If we planted a nut tree, instead of a fruit tree, it could be harvested for centuries (we have a couple of oaks and hickories on our farm that have been reliably estimated at being hundreds of years old, and they still produce acorns and nuts).

The same thing can be applied culturally, if our values are valid. I have three surviving children. If I teach them our cultural values, and they live virtuous, fulfilling lives, they will pass those on to their children. My grandparents had 6 children. I have over 50 first cousins in the surrounding area. Each of them has between one and five children. That’s a pretty significant produce of shared cultural values, isn’t it? Plus, if we accept that we can each have a positive impact on our friends and their families, as long as we’re not douche nozzles about it, we can increase the production exponentially.

Everything Gardens (modifies its environment)
The barn swallows in my house is an example of this. This squirrel stockpiling acorns somewhere, and then forgetting where he stashed them, or the squirrel ending up in a pot of squirrel and dumplings on my woodstove this winter, before he harvests his cache, and thus the acorns growing into another oak tree, is another example of this.

The same can be said about the above example of expanding our influence. If, instead of hiding out in their Bunkers O’ Doom, people would get out and network within their communities, even with people that don’t initially seem like-minded, they’d go a lot further in developing resilience and robustness in their preparedness. You never know who might turn out to share your antipathy to outside influence in your personal choices, whether that’s religious observances or humanure composting or home schooling.

Holmgren’s Additions
In addition to the original five principles of Mollison, his protégé, David Holmgren added some additional ones.

Observe and Interact
In addition to its importance for gardening—it doesn’t make sense to plant your garden in a spot that is in the shade of nearby trees throughout the summer growing season…unless it does—the observe and interact principle should be self-evident for preparedness.

If people would shut the fuck up, and stop talking about how awesome they are, every waking moment, and bragging on their preparedness and gun collection, they might actually realize that some of their neighbor’s are pretty prepared as well, and might make good allies.

As we teach children, we’ve got two ears, two eyes, and one mouth. That’s because we’re supposed to listen and observe twice as much as we talk….

Catch and Store Energy
While this is specific to water, solar (in the form of plants collecting sunlight and turning it into stored energy via photosynthesis), and others, its parallel is tied to the above. When you notice someone is like-minded, in any small way, catch and store that energy by cultivating the relationship with them, even if the relationship is based on something completely non-preparedness related.
Obtain a Yield
This one is particularly relevant to me currently, on both sides of the coin. We are beginning to harvest food from this year’s kitchen garden, so that tie-in is obvious. This morning, my wife prepared me a salad, with every single ingredient except the ranch dressing, having come from our garden. It was, as they say, “Deee-lish!”

On the other side of the coin, I received an email a couple weeks ago, bitching at me about charging for my books. Apparently, believers in individualism and capitalism think that making a profit—a yield—only applies to them. I’ve never asked for anything for writing the blog, in my attempts to help complete strangers be more prepared. On the other hand, I do charge quite a bit for the books. That’s because, just like I don’t plant a garden without expecting that we’re going to get vegetables out of it, and just like I don’t raise animals just for pets, but to harvest for meat, I need to get a yield, to make it worth my while to do these things.

The same applies to general preparedness. If your idea of preparedness is simply surviving, and you have done no planning on improving your situation on the downstream side of whatever you perceive is on the horizon, you’re not setting yourself up to obtain a yield. You’re wasting your efforts.

Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
While there are more, this is the last of Holmgren’s Principles that I’m going to cover in this article, simply because we’re already at six pages, and I have shit to do tonight, before going to bed.

In the garden, self-regulation and feedback is “plant what you can take care of, harvest, and use,” and “if a crop fails, repeatedly, it might be a sign that you shouldn’t be planting it, regardless of how much you like it.

Outside of the garden, self-regulation and feedback acceptance is all about having standard metrics, and sticking to them, even if it means you have to alter your planning and execution. If my PT program isn’t allowing me to meet the standards I have set for myself, I need to change my fucking PT program (this was a big driver in my initial decision to try CFE as mentioned in the From the Library article this week. I like lifting weights. I like doing WODs. I hate running any distance longer than about 50 yards. But, I need to be able to run a couple miles at least, so I had to start incorporating more running into my programming. I accepted the feedback that I wasn’t getting enough running and endurance out of my programming, and then self-regulated by changing my programming.
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One of the things that I discussed in the Reluctant Partisan books, was the concept of America, the Idea. I was raised to believe that one of the core values of America, the Idea, was self-reliance and community. I don’t expect complete strangers to do anything for me, and I don’t expect them to give me anything. At the same time, when a complete stranger starts making demands of me, especially when that demand is predicated on their own personal beliefs, and is not commensurate with my own, they are quite welcome to go fuck themselves.

I—and I’ve had discussions with others that have had the same experience—have had more than a few people that wanted to talk shit about “Why aren’t SF guys ‘liberating the oppressed’ here in America!?”

Ironically, I’ve actually gotten this question from those who self-identified as “Right,” and those who identified as “Left.” The thing is, as a lot of people seem to not know, SF is actually the largest element within the US Special Operations Community. While, as a portion of the military, and certainly as a portion of the overall US population, we are small, there are a LOT of SF qualified folks, both current and former. The religious beliefs run across a broad spectrum, as do their political beliefs. So, which of the self-identified “oppressed” populations in America are “we” supposed to support and “liberate?”

At the end of the day, I left the military well over a decade ago. I walked away with no particular sense of debt to special operations community at large, the Army, or even the people of the United States. My loyalties today, are to my people. My family, and my clan of choice.

What yield would I obtain, for their benefit, by going out and starting an insurgency to better someone else’s lot in life? Especially, as has too often been voiced by readers, if my values and their’s are rooted in different fundamental belief systems?

Am I greedy, and self-centered? Am I unpatriotic? Maybe. Hell, I don’t know. The answer to those questions is probably subjective to your belief systems. My children, my wife, and my friends don’t think I’m selfish. In fact, my wife often accuses me of being too generous.

So, if you want to talk shit about how “SF” should be overthrowing the government, or interfering with the legal electoral process in the US, simply because you don’t like the outcomes, or what those outcomes portend for the future? By all means, enlist, go to Selection and the Q-Course, spend some time on a Team, and try to convince your new peers of that. Good luck.

As for the rest of us, we’ll be applying the principles of UW—and permaculture, as it turns out—to build resilient, robust systems that will outlast us, and those groups and factions trying to subvert our way of life, so that “we” will still be here, after the opposition has gone “home.”

Why We Suck…and How to Fix That

(originally published 17APR15)

 

I’ve published this article a couple times on the blog. Every time I’ve posted it, someone has taken the time to comment, either via email, or on the page of someone who shares the post on Facebook, that “Well, he really means, “Why Everybody Except the Author Sucks!””.

To be clear, when I say, in the article that “NOONE IS IMMUNE!” I am—most assuredly—referring to myself as well. There are a number of things in my life, that I have failed dismally at, because I went into the situation thinking I knew more than I did, out of sheer, exuberant ignorance. Fortunately, so far, that ignorance on my part has not been fatal, although it’s come awful close a couple of times.

I’m reposting the article because a) it’s still timeless, and b) because I’ve slept a total of about four hours in the last week, between hospital visits and sharing responsibility with my wife for raising kids and running two farms for the time being.

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The Foole doth thinke he is wise, but the wiseman knowes himselfe to be a Foole.” –William Shakespeare

In 1999, Cornell University Department of Psychology professor, David Dunning, and a graduate student, Justin Kruger, published a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, that was titled, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.” The effect they described has subsequently come to be known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This Effect plays a vital role in the preparedness community, even though most people are completely unaware of its existence.

Incompetent people do not recognize—scratch that, cannot recognize—just how incompetent they are…” –David Dunning

There are numerous possible causes of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The most obvious is simple ego. No one wants to think of himself as a complete fucking retard, or even simply as being below-average. Thus, we tend to inflate our own self-assessments. We also tend to be judgmental pricks, so it is easier to recognize ignorance and incompetence in someone else, reinforcing the illusion that we are above average.

As Dr. Dunning pointed out in an article last year, for Pacific-Standard, “We Are All Confident Idiots,” however, the core case of the Effect is simple damned ignorance. “An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that is filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the feel of useful and accurate knowledge.”

This false “knowledge,” predicated on irrelevant—or even simply misinterpreted—experience and education, leads to confirmation bias of the worst sort. We have “life experience” so we must know what the fuck we are talking about, right? We’re professionally educated, so we must “know,” right? Well…maybe…

The problem is, too often, if one or two experiences appear to confirm our beliefs, we then rest easy in our confident knowledge, and cease to continue pushing. We’ve done “XXX” so we don’t need to keep training and pushing ourselves. This is why we see “experts” in “XYZ” set of skills in the preparedness world, despite a complete lack of credible experience or education, and demonstrably false lessons being taught as “gospel,” even in the face of contradictory evidence. This is why we see guys in the training industry teaching the same TTP they learned twenty or thirty years ago, who have refused to adapt and modify their knowledge base, despite contradictory evidence from more recent, more widespread experience.

In “gun talk,” this is the “unconscious incompetence” level of learning. We just don’t know what we don’t know. We’re so ignorant, we cannot even recognize that we are ignorant.

Before someone jumps in with, “But, John, you’re an arrogant prick yourself! You’re always talking shit about our training!” You’re right. I am—in no way, shape, or form—immune to the Dunning-Kruger Effect. NO ONE IS IMMUNE! Even Dr. Dunning admits that he is not immune to it.

However, there are ways to overcome it, assuming we are not willing to rest on our laurels, and believe we somehow have all the answers, and do not need to continue seeking. One of these methods is learning accurate self-assessment. We need to develop the ability to clearly see—and actually appreciate—what we do not know.

One of these is the establishment of standards of performance. If I set the IDPA Classifier in front of you, as a standard metric for performance with a concealed-carry pistol, and tell you, “The standard is to classify ‘Master,’” then you have a standard metric to test yourself against. If you cannot achieve that (it’s actually not particularly difficult to achieve. I did it a few weeks ago, and was fishing for my spare magazine in a cargo pocket, instead of a belt-mounted mag pouch…). If I tell you, “The standard for rifles is to be able to hit a C-Zone steel silhouette, from the standing, at 100 meters, in less than 1.5 seconds,” then you have a quantifiable standard to attain.

This leaves no room for argument, or self-delusion. You can either achieve the standard, or you cannot. It’s all very black-and-white. This is nice, because as Americans, we tend to appreciate things that are black-and-white. Grays are too nebulous for our comfort.

The problem of the Dunning-Kruger Effect still rears its ugly head though, in the establishment of those standards. What defines an acceptable performance metric? Someone who served in Iraq, was never in a gunfight outside of one of the metropolitan areas of that country, and never saw the opportunity to make a shot on a bad guy, past 100 meters, may consider 100 meters to be an acceptable standard of performance. At the same time, there are a lot of papers coming out of the Army War College, with Afghanistan veteran officers, many with competitive marksmanship backgrounds as well, who are positing that anything less than everyone being able to shoot at 500 meters, is an unacceptably low standard.

Lots of trainers in the civilian world think that anything beyond 7-10 meters, with a carbine or pistol, is unrealistic for the civilian gun owner, training in the “home defense carbine.” The very establishment of standards of performance is just as fraught with the dangers of Dunning-Kruger Effect as not having standards is.

The same applies to physical training, combatives, land navigation, and more. We have to determine a base metric for “acceptable” levels of skill, but we need to recognize that even those may be inadequate.

The solution is critical thinking. We need to be able to apply logic and empiricism, correctly, and predicate our conclusions on humility (trust me, humility is NOT one of my virtues, I get it, this is HARD!). In short, we need to be skeptical, certainly of what someone else publishes, but mostly, of ourselves and our conclusions and abilities.

Accurate, objective self-assessment can be developed, but it requires work and humility. Instead of assuming that what we know is “Truth,” we can accept that it was “true” within a specific, limited context. Even then however, our “knowledge” and “expertise” may be grounded in false knowledge.

Using the example of the 100 meters standard in Iraq, we can see this is the case. There have been dozens of cases of shooters—and not just snipers, but common riflemen—making shots in excess of 500 meters, even in urban environments. The longest 7.62x51mm sniper shot ever, was taken at almost 1200 meters in an urban environment in Iraq. So, the “authority of experience” of someone who never even saw anyone take a shot past 100 meters there, and thus claims, “you don’t need to train for shots past 50/100/200/etc meters, in an urban environment,” is automatically suspect, isn’t it?

At the same time, the standard answer of “well, I can hit a silhouette at 500 meters, so I’m a ‘rifleman!’” is equally suspect, since a) 500 meters is considerably less than 1200 meters, and b) most fights still happen at considerably less than 500 meters, but at extremely fast speeds.

At a recent local training event, someone asked me how important the 3-5 second rush was, and if it would really hurt anything if they took a couple extra seconds getting to their next position. To answer them, we set the timer up. At 100 meters, from the standing, a couple of us managed to smoke a hit to a C-Zone steel silhouette, in less than one second. Would it have taken us longer if the target had been moving? Maybe. How much longer, though? Twice as long? Three times as long? Of course, I wouldn’t have to hit the C-Zone, either. Any hit on them would have at least slowed them down a step, allowing me a follow-up shot. So, maybe it would have taken the same amount of time—or even less—since we’d have been shooting at a larger target.

The 3-5 second rush was developed, because it was predicated on the idea that it would take some period of time for the enemy to notice you were moving, then they’d have to acquire a sight picture, before finally breaking the shot. Hopefully, by then, you would be back on the ground, behind cover, making their shot “wasted.”

So, what relevance does the Dunning-Kruger Effect have on our training for preparedness security operations?

Number One, assume that what you know is wrong, or at least, incomplete. Continue seeking new knowledge, and improving your frame-of-reference, by making it more broad.

At the same time, question the frame-of-reference of the people you’re getting your information from. Is their experience and knowledge base relevant to your needs? Do you have the support assets they have/had, when they developed their knowledge base? Do you need to modify their approach, based on these differences? Do you really, or is that your cognitive bias and/or laziness speaking?

Number Two, assume that whatever performance standard you develop will be a MINIMUM standard. You’re not the only guy out there trying to get better, and become more dangerous. Once you’ve achieved a MINIMUM standard, raise the bar of performance. DO NOT EVER SETTLE!

I’ll give you a couple examples from my personal recent experience.

I’ve long assumed I was moderately good with my carbine, and with my pistol. I mean, shit, I was an SOF soldier for the better part of a decade. I’ve been shot at, and I’ve shot people. Shit, I’m good to go. In the interest of not succumbing to Dunning-Kruger Effect and my own experiential cognitive biases however, I decided to set up some performance metrics to test myself and those with whom I train regularly. We decided to run some basic tests at the rifle range and at the pistol range.

For rifle, we looked at the 3-5 second rush. We operated off the assumption that anyone we would have to fight would a) NOT be a fucking idiot, and b) would be at least as well trained as the average US infantryman. For a minimum standard, we decided that, out to 200 meters, regardless of the firing position you needed to use, to get hits at the given range (we tested at 50, 75, 100, and 200 meters), you needed to be able—at a MINIMUM—to get a hit within 5 seconds. It didn’t matter if you were firing a single shot, or dumping half your magazine: as long as you got a hit within five seconds, we would score it a “go.”

Within two iterations, even our slowest people were scoring their hits in under three seconds. More than one were getting hits in less than two seconds, even at 200 meters. We lowered the time standard, and said, “Okay, you should be able to get a hit on steel in less than three seconds.” We didn’t settle for the easily achievable, even though that was our initial “standard.” Pretty soon, at any distance from 0-100 meters, EVERYONE was getting hits in less than two seconds. Several were scoring their first hit in less than 1.5 seconds, and three or four of us were getting hits in less than one second. Guess what?

The performance standard got lowered again. Now, we have a standard of “you need to be able to get a hit, from your rifle, on a C-Zone steel silhouette targets, in less than 1.0 seconds, at any distance from 0-100 meters.” For those that couldn’t do that yet, they have a measurable, quantifiable performance metric to try and achieve. For those that already managed it? They have a base standard to maintain, and we’ll be pushing to drop that standard below 0.75 seconds, and then 0.5 seconds, while simultaneously reducing the size of the acceptable target zone.

Obviously, that’s just one aspect of the performance standard for rifle, but it’s a challenging one. Hitting that single hit in less than one second also allowed us to get hits on two separate targets in less than two seconds, at 50 meters. How dangerous does that make you? How fast can the other guy get his weapon into the fight at 50 meters? What about his buddy? Is he training to the same “elite” standard, or is he accepting some “standard” he read on the Internet somewhere, developed twenty years ago, that says a single hit at 50 meters in two seconds, is adequate?

For pistols, we used a two-part qualification. We used the current FBI Qualification and the IDPA Classifier, both with modifications to make them more accuracy focused, while still insisting on the time standards. Here’s a newsflash for you: lots of people can pass the FBI Qualification, as written, and LOTS of people can achieve Master on the IDPA Classifier (seriously, if I can do it, ANYONE can do it!). If you’re not shooting AT LEAST, to that level, then you’re not trained, regardless of what you think.

PT is a deceased equine that I like to take a Louisville Slugger to, regularly. Is part of it that I enjoy doing PT? Sure. I like throwing heavy iron around. I like folding the heavy bag in half with punch after punch. More importantly though, I know there are guys out there who lift more than I do, and run faster than I do. There are guys out there who make my level of shooting ability look like a kid in 1992 playing Duck Hunter on Nintendo. I do PT—hard and heavy—because I need to level that playing field, as much as possible. If they can lift more than me, and/or run faster than me, then I need to be able to outshoot them. If they can outshoot me, I’d better be able to outrun them. If they are faster than me, stronger than me, and can shoot faster than me? Well, I’m fucked, but you can bet, I’m going to do my damnedest to keep trying to catch up and surpass them.

Nature doesn’t give a shit—and neither does the enemy—that I’m forty damned years old, have lots of obligations competing for my limited time, and struggle with being a lazy piece-of-shit. If I’m going to be able to protect my wife and kids, I HAVE to make time to meet the standards, and then to drive past though standards, and set tougher ones to achieve.

It doesn’t matter if I met the standards this week. All that matters is I’m better today than I was yesterday, and that I’ll be better tomorrow than I am today. Set your standards, and then blow those cocksuckers out of the water, by pushing past them.

Or, go be a pussy, but do that somewhere else.

Campfire Chat

Sorry for your loss and I hope everyone is doing okay.  I’ll start off by freely admitting that I’m a former Bravo so if you do respond, feel free to speak slowly and use lots of illustrations.  Long time reader/first time emailer but got out a few years ago and have since spent that time doing the homestead/farm thing and had a question on food preservation that I haven’t found answered other places.  My wife and I are starting to get into canning/dehydrating and I’ve noticed a heavy reliance on shit like citric and ascorbic acid. Besides planting a lemon tree, do you have any workarounds that could be made once this thing goes tits up? Working on a greenhouse so could plant a lemon tree but just wondering if you all had any thoughts since most of the canning literature assumes I can head over to Kroger and get some citric acid.  From what I’ve read, it’s certainly possible to not use some of this stuff but you are accepting an increased risk of foodborne illness.

My solution to long-term storage, sans the grocery store, is getting primitive with it. For those of us in the South, as an example, folks have been managing to dry-cure hams (“Virginia Hams”), as long as white folks have been on this continent. Additionally, there are the aboriginal solutions of jerky and pemmican (Yes, I know, jerked meat is a universal solution, not just American Indian…). For vegetables, I’m not any sort of expert canner, and I don’t pretend to be. Some stuff, like high-acid foods, can be dealt with pretty simply, while others probably can’t. Remember, modern glass jar canning is only a hundred and fifty or so years old. That having been said, in my discussions with folks who can a lot, or canned a lot in the past, while the potential risk of foodborne illness is real, I think it tends to be considerably less than is sometimes portrayed in the literature. I’ve eaten some pretty sketchy shit, from some pretty sketchy sources, both stateside and overseas, with no ill effect. The only times I’ve ever been seriously food poisoned, were in health department inspected restaurants….

So, my solution is a reliance on root crops and a root cellar for preservation, combined with lacto-fermentation (I liked sauerkraut before I made my own, at home. Now, I can’t go without it….especially with brats made from pork you raised yourself!). The first batch of dill pickles I made were, likewise, life-altering, and that’s really not any exaggeration. I can’t even eat store bought pickles anymore.

There’s also, of course, simple dehydration/drying of vegetables for storage as well.

John, I have Tendinitis,epicondylitis, and lord know what else.

I have your book Clandestine Carry Pistol and wondered if you may post or offer links to some better pics/descriptions of different ways to grip as I could really use the help.

I ended up with a pretty severe case of tendonitis in my elbow (“tennis elbow”) when I was building our house, from using a mallet and chisel all day long (10-12 hour days), every day, for months on end. It was bad enough, I could barely bend my arm at the elbow, and lifting anything with that hand resulted in 50/50 odds I was going to drop it forthwith. Shooting with my accustomed death grip on the pistol was simply not going to happen.

It turned out to be fortuitous for me, as a pistol shooter though, because it forced me to go back to the “basics.” What I found was, because I couldn’t grip the pistol tight enough to allow me to mash the fuck out of the trigger, without disrupting the sights, I was forced to go back to paying attention to what I was doing with the trigger.

It has, of course, become wildly popular with trainers, to teach that an adequate grip cures all ills when it comes to pistol shooting. They’re not wrong either. The problem, in my observation is, those of us who come out of military SOF or LE SWAT type backgrounds, even if we’ve gotten a little…shall we say… out of shape…still tend to have remarkably good grip strength (I’ve read, in numerous places, that grip strength also happens to be the last element of strength to fade when you quit training, and anyone with those backgrounds is—we can assume—experienced with fitness training in one form or another). Additionally, the “average” dude taking a tactical shooting class is probably in his late 20s or 30s, and reasonably strong, even if he’s a fat fuck.

So, the “molest the grip with your gorilla paws” technique works, and well. As soon as we’re injured however, or we start fading with age, or, for whatever reason, we’ve simply never had adequate grip strength, for whatever reason, we need to focus on that trigger control. PRESS the trigger straight to the rear. Take your time, initially, focusing on breaking the shot clean, slowly, then gradually speed it up.

At the same time, if you’re suffering from a chronic injury (like tendinitis), do your physical therapy, and then start working on universal strength, and then start working on specifically strengthening the grip. The two things that have offered me the best bang-for-buck for grip strength training? Deadlifting 400+ pounds, and doing kettlebell swings with a 100# kettlebell (Paul Sharp once said to me that he has the same experience with deadlifting 500+ pounds, but Paul is more manly than I am, so he may just not have noticed it at 400# like I did. I also haven’t deadlifted 500 since I was in my 20s…)

If I recall well, in a recent post you mentioned a past deployment to Norway.  I have been wondering about what one wears on a winter patrol, especially at night in sub zero temps. Puffy down jackets don’t integrate well with load bearing vests, so how does one keep warm and still have access to a survival load out?

The first thing to remember is, if you’re patrolling, even in an extreme cold weather climate, sweating is still the most dangerous threat you face. My current solution (and by current, I mean, the last 15 years) to extreme cold weather patrolling, or working outdoors, away from shelter and warmth, is to start with a layer of wool long underwear, followed by a wool flannel shirt, and then a wool sweater, topped with a shell jacket of some sort. If I am overheating a little, I can ditch the sweater. If I’m still too warm, I can ditch the flannel.

On my legs, I may wear a thin pair of wool long john bottoms, but unless it is -20F or colder, AND windy, I generally just use a shell garment for my legs. They’ll be working, a lot, patrolling.

If I’ve stopped, such as in a RON/ROD site, and can’t rely on my body generating adequate heat to keep me warm, a puffy jacket is an option. Generally, we put ours on OVER our LBE/PC/etc. That way, if I need to ditch it in a hurry, because a fight commences, I’m not trying to rip my LBE off, before I can pull the jacket off, but I also don’t have to worry about leaving it on, for the duration of a fight that might last hours, and then freeze to death afterwards.

For those who don’t know why Grossman is a fucktard, a brief review:
Telling people that nobody is inherently violent, and stating counterfactually that we have to program people to kill, (and then making a cottage industry out of peddling that line of twaddle) is only belied by all of recorded human history. … ”

The man may still be a fucktard, but the issue is one of efficiency. I could go out right now and kill someone who needed it, and royally fuck up the job. If anything, military training, should make one proficient at the task with little or no, “oh fuck!”.

The problem is, his method is actually NOT efficient, at all. Telling people—counter to reality—that they have a natural aversion to violence, is what causes that potential “oh fuck!” Training would be much more efficient, if we did, well, what the military does….(or, well…did?). Assume that people in meat eater jobs want to be meat eaters, and teach them how to do it more efficiently, rather than peddling them some nonsense.

I’m going to do a book on living resilient, and address…simply being more resilient in urban environments.”

This is where I’m stuck, for now, and probably the next few years as well. I was going to say something in reply to your post about “If you’re asking for more time, you’ve been lazy”, but I don’t think you’re necessarily including people who are stuck for financial reasons, nor do I think you’d shit on guys who chose to live near their clans instead of places where finances are easier.

Finding a location, within the 1-hour circle of church, family, and work, that would allow for an actual grid-down full WTFACRONYM life, is simply not within my financials for the next few years, even putting in 50+ hours a week. I mean, they exist, but not for what I can afford. So I’m stuck in the suburbs, on lot that’s not much bigger than the house.

So, instead of whining about that, I’m finding ways to improve my position, instead of saying “well, nothing can be done..”

To be clear, no, I don’t begrudge anyone who chooses to live in an urban environment, for whatever reason. Certainly not because of family/kin commitments. My point in the article was, regardless of where you are—urban or rural—you have had time to prepare. If you haven’t been preparing, in place, that’s a pretty good sign that you’re suffering from normalcy bias, and don’t actually think anything that bad is going to happen.

People forget—and I discussed this in some detail in Volume Two of The Reluctant Partisan, that history tells us, when shit falls apart, most people actually don’t flee urban areas. Instead, they do the opposite, and flee towards urban areas.

My coffee napkin suggestion to urban preppers is to do the best you can, where you are. Want livestock? Start raising some rabbits and maybe even some hens, in your backyard (I will say though, those authors who claim that you can secretly raise hens in your backyard, because they don’t make enough noise for the neighbors to hear? Those people are full of shit. My hen house is 80 yards from my front door, and I can hear our chickens at night, when I’m lying in bed.). Check out the book Possum Living, by Dorothy Freed. She talks about raising rabbits and hens in their BASEMENT! (I don’t recommend that, simply because I like rabbits and chickens, and that seems like it would be miserable for the animals). If you want a garden, but you don’t have space? Start guerrilla gardening in any abandoned lots or green spaces you can find in the neighborhood. Sure, you could plant a garden, and then two weeks later, someone has bought the lot, and starts dirt work to build something there, but that’s why you diversify, and plant them in multiple areas. Sure, you could lose some to vagrants and homeless, but honestly? My observation has been, if you get more than 10 feet off the pavement, they’re too lazy to find it anyway.

Hell, rent a garage unit with your apartment, and store shit in there, instead of parking your car in there. I genuinely believe, if someone lived in a second or third story apartment, they could still raise enough rabbits to feed their family, just on a balcony. Two does and a buck are going to produce a LOT of protein, even if you’re only feeding them shit you cut out of the shrubbery growing in a deserted lot down the street. Once a day, grab a school kid type backpack, walk down there, cut enough greenery to fill the bag. Come back, divvy it up among the bunnies, and voila! In the winter time, if there’s not enough green, do a sprouting table on your counter. Three racks stacked, might take up 3-4 square feet, and all you’re doing with that space now, probably, is sticking a television there. Added bonus to bunnies? You’ve got free pets for the kids! (the breeding stock. Don’t let them turn the butcher babies into pets….)

Thanks for thoughts on EDC rifle carry. I don’t live at the ranch, but if it isn’t hunting season, a bolt carbine in .308 Winchester is often the choice. The lever action 30-30 was often the choice of others in older times and I don’t see much reason to question their logic. My brother who usually accompanies me carries one of his 5.56 carbines. We live in the southwest and illegal alien traffic is a big reason why we always go out armed. Bad Guys don’t carry signs so you need to be prepared even when on your land. LEOs are not in the picture at all and even if summoned will take at least an hour to get there.

The difference between the old-times, when a .30-30 was adequate, and today, is that back then, the best the bad guys were going to have was also a .30-30. But, when you add a couple extra bad guys, AND give them automatic or semi-automatic weapons, that significantly changes the paradigm.

———–

(The following several questions were one question. I broke it up to answer them…)

Your “buried geothermal system” – I assume natural, not forced air, circulation; do you have temperature differential info – input and output temps? How do you protect the inlet side (I assume it’s outdoors) ?

It is natural, not forced air. I don’t have the specific differential information. I do know that last year, when the outside temperature was 120F, the inside temp was down to 95-104F. That was also, however, without all the shell plaster on the house being up, so we had inadequate insulation. I also didn’t have all the stone infill around the base of the house finished (still don’t, actually), which will also make a significant difference.

Did you examine buried water lines, and small pump and heat exchanger(s)? Do you have enough on-site grade to utilize thermal siphoning in a liquid system?

There is exactly one buried water line on my property, and it is actually the drain line for the sink, to a greywater catchment. The other stuff you mentioned, I don’t have any knowledge off.

 

Well pump – deep or shallow well? What depth? What 110V pump(s) look promising, and what’s their capacities (gpm, pressure and amp draw)? Are your storage tanks pressurized? (years ago to combat intermittent grid power I used a 240V generator to power a 8.5 gpm deep well pump and installed two pressure tanks each with 46 gal draw down; I noticed as tank pressure increased (50 PSI shutoff – higher pressure meant more water in the tanks, I finally installed a pressure regulator on the output side set at 35 PSI) amp draw increased substantially. I could pump for 12-14 minutes and with water saving appliances and careful use not have to re-pump for 6-12 hours.)

We don’t have a well. Currently, I have 2x IBC totes (about 300 gallons each, when topped all the way up) for the house, and another two at the feed shed, for watering animals out of. The storage tanks, thus, are obviously not pressurized. What I intend to do, is use a simple 110V direct pump. I was talking to a fella the other day who suggested using the pressure tank, but I haven’t had time to research that aspect yet. At the rate things are going, I’ll be lucky to find time to finish plumbing the house and installing a pump, sometime around 2073….

Food storage – did you examine 12v high efficiency freezers?

I did. I looked at a lot of 12V appliances and fixtures. They would probably work if my house were smaller, but even with a 24’x36’ footprint, I lose too much drawing from one corner of the house to the opposite. It makes more sense to lose a little bit in the conversion process to 110V, which is only a few feet from my battery bank (battery bank is outside, inverter is inside the house), and then push 110 any distances. The only thing running straight 12V at this point is the igniter on the propane refrigerator, which I’m hoping to switch out to my electric refrigerator, which is currently sitting in one of our people’s garage, in the next week or two.

Curious about charge controller and inverter recommendation and your experiences . Also the connectors used and wire size.

The only charge controller that I’ve used so far is the Sunny Sky MPPT. It is a true MPPT. My first charge controller was supposedly an MPPT, but it turned out to be PWM. It worked okay, right up until the day I smelled burning plastic, while standing in the kitchen, and I walked outside to find it on fire and melting down.

When I installed an Earth Tube, I used 4″ pipe ( the cost was hard on me and those are cheap ). Wasted effort ( and I hand dug the trench ). My neighbor told me, too late, to use sewer pipe instead. And he had a mobile home instead of an RV. And he only needed fifty feet to my 100. You need that few extra inches in diameter.

We used 4-inch also. Like you, I heard after the fact, that six inch would’ve been better. I may change it out in the future, but so far, it seems to be working alright.

As for a microwave, it isn’t necessarily a luxury. I eat “nuke bread”, which is whole wheat flour and water ( one half water to the wheat ), spread on a ceramic plate and microwaved. 1 1/2 minutes one side and 1 minute the second and done. Yeah, it tastes as bad as it sounds. But dirt cheap bread for a lot of my calories. 150 watts is a big hit for making two of those breads, but much cheaper than propane and you can eat them for breakfast instead of waiting on the solar cooker. Not a necessity, but not exactly wasteful either. I appreciate your previous mention of the sealed batteries. Info I wished I had before all those Wal-Mart marine batteries. They will be my future replacements.

That “nuke” bread is what was once upon a time referred to as ash cakes. It is gross, but, as you said, it’s cheap, easy calories. That having been said, you can toss your “dough” on a small stick fire and cook it even more efficiently than using the microwave. I’ve done it, from the start of gathering some twigs and getting the fire started, to eating the “bread,” in less than five minutes. Microwaves are an unhealthy, energy-wasting, “luxury,” that are not the time savers they were advertised to be. I stand by that.

Great info on an important subject. I have a couple of questions if I may.

1) Did you look into Lithium storage batteries? I’ve heard good things (deeper draw without damaging the batteries, a great many more cycles, etc.) and bad things (much more expensive, don’t live up to expectations) about them. Any thoughts?

2) I’ve heard that lead acid batteries (like the forklift batteries) need to occasionally be desulfanated. Is there any need to do that with AGM batteries?

3) For your geothermal system, is that passive? If so, do you think that putting some small fans on them to draw the air through would be worth the current draw?

1) Yes. No way I could afford them.

2) I don’t know. I do know that, at the operator maintenance level, there’s no way to do that. Thus, I’m operating under the assumption you don’t need to.

3) It is passive. I do think that adding some small fans would assist, but….

a) I think getting the base of the house sealed up better, by getting the rest of the stone infill done would help more.

b) I have a couple of solar powered rooftop ventilation fans that I was given that I think will do even better, by simply creating an active draw breeze. I just need to get up on the roof, and get them installed (and, I know the questioner has seen my roof, and knows how steep that fucker is….I didn’t even want to get on it to put the metal on….an 8-pitch is a lot steeper than it looks from the ground!).

c) I don’t know that any 110V fan, is going to be low-draw enough to make it worthwhile. Fortunately, this year, it has so far, been mild enough it hasn’t been an issue that simply turning on a couple of box fans upstairs, combined with the fact that, because I designed for passive solar benefits, the eaves of the house (2ft eaves) keep the front of the house shaded, and so, putting a fan in one of the downstairs windows means we’re constantly getting at least a moderately cooler breeze going at all times.

John Meyers texted me, as I was finishing up these posts, asking about my thoughts on the Antifa dude that tried to light up the detention facility parking lot in Seattle the other day.

Two things:

1) Dude decided he was done talking. Now, his planning may have been shit, and his execution worse, but he decided he was done talking, and started acting. I may not agree with him, but I can respect that.

2) More importantly, as Meyer’s pointed out to me, the people on “his side?” They haven’t backed away from him or disavowed him. They’ve continued to voice support for what he was trying to achieve, and even his manner of achieving it.

Again, I may not agree with them, but I can respect that. More importantly, from my perspective, is the fact that, even a group of “dumbfuck commies,” have once again managed to display more “getting shit done” motivation, and support for their compatriots, than the “Right” has….

I’ve said it before, and people pooh-poohed it, but it is still true. Talk shit all you want about Antifa and the Left. They may be a bunch of spoiled rich kids, they may be dumbasses that don’t even know which bathroom to use. They may be “pussies” who can’t even understand basic biological physiology.

At the end of the day though, the Russian Revolution was won by a bunch of pissed off, spoiled, rich, college kids whose parents and grandparents thought were dumbasses with no understanding of the real world. People who are willing to get off the couch, even with just a Louisville Slugger, and a Molotov Cocktail, are a lot more dangerous than some middle-aged dude who owns a safe full of guns but refuses to get off the couch and do something to be prepared for them.

From The Library

I get a lot of questions about why I’m so gung-ho about Permaculture, since to the newcomer, it appears to be a “society” dominated by social justice warrior liberals. While that’s not entirely inaccurate as an observation, it’s really a simplistic approach, and ignores the inherent value of the Permaculture concept to not only survival, but tribal culture.

My general, semi-humorous answer is, I’m gung-ho about Permaculture because I’m fucking lazy. The ideal behind permaculture, for those unfamiliar with it, is that it is “permanent agriculture.” To whit, it involves planning and planting, in such a way that requires minimal human interference, to maintain continued useful production for decades. This is contrary to standard agriculture that requires annual replanting, fertilization, and all the related tasks and inputs that go along. I like the idea of not having to work too much to produce food, because I’m fucking lazy.

Really though, if we’re being serious, from a preparedness perspective, this makes sense for resilience. In a post-grid environment, I suspect I’m going to be awful busy. If I can reduce my task load then, by planting a resilient, low-maintenance food production system—a food forest—now, that seems like a no-brainer to me. It’s more labor-intensive in the front end, especially if you do it like I do, without using power equipment any more than necessary, but the back end pay out is brilliant.

In an speech he did before he died, called “Liberation Permaculture” (If you do a Google Search, you can find audio files of the speech. It’s well worth listening to.), the late Toby Hemenway, author of my favorite Permaculture book to date, Gaia’s Garden, made the point that Permaculture is really the ultimate guerrilla/insurgent/survivalist form of food production, and it is incredibly anti-totalitarian.

The tax collector is used to looking at crops on flat, level, arable ground, planted in monocrops. He can look at that, and with a basic knowledge of local conditions, can say, “Okay, with that crop, in that many hectares, you can expect to harvest XXX number of bushels. The king gets 10%, so we’ll be back in three months to collect.” And, if you don’t have your 10% ready for the King when the tax man comes back, his escort of light infantrymen are going to fuck your shit up. They’re going to burn your house down, and take anything they can find of value, and probably throw you in prison as well.

At the same time, if the King’s realm is invaded, and the invading Army rolls up, they see this big, beautiful field of wheat, or oats, or corn, or whatever, they burn the crops in the fields, then they salt the ground, then they kill and rape the people (sometimes in that order, no less!).

In either case, there’s really not much you can do about it. It’s not like you can pick up your crop and move it out of the way of the invading Army. Hiding a six hectare field of wheat from the tax man is kind of tough as well.

On the other hand, when the King’s tax man marches into Kirkcudbright, Scotland, at the head of a column of redcoats, or into Cade’s Cove, TN, or some other small little mountain holding, they might see a plot of corn or wheat or oats, but it’s so small that 10% might be enough to feed one man for the march back down the mountain….it’s not even worth coming back for. The tax man thinks, “Shit, I walked up this damned mountain for nothing! Well, fuck. I’m not coming back!”

What he doesn’t see is the eight other patches spread out in random clearings in the woods, or the asparagus growing semi-feral along the roadside ditch. He doesn’t see the pine nuts and acorns that are gathered to make flour out of, or the semi-feral hogs that are harvested once a year, after fattening up on the acorns. He doesn’t see any of that, because it doesn’t fit the patterns he’s accustomed too. It’s not subject to taxation, because no dumbshit flat lander can tell that there’s anything of value there anyway.

It’s likewise resilient, because it’s hard to burn the crops and salt the fields, when you can’t even tell what is crop and what is just forest. So, the King, or his enemy, sends troops up to hunt you down? So what? They might burn down your huts and cabins, but Hell, you live in a little cabin that you built yourself, by hand, and you can damned sure build it again, when they go home, as long as you’ve got food to sustain you (and they always go home…just ask the Pashtuns…or the Overmountain Men….)

Are the 1st Fusiliers going to spend months, marching through the forest, in order to dig up every Jerusalem artichoke? Are they going to chop down every oak and pine tree in the forest? Are they going to locate and dig up every asparagus plant? Are they going to recognize the plaintain and the cattail roots, and the chicory, and yarrow and coneflower, let alone know that they are useful and edible (and medicinal?). Are they going to hunt down and exterminate every feral hog of breeding age running wild in the mountains?

Probably not.

It might get a little sketchy come late winter and early spring, with some growling bellies, but folks have always suffered in the hungry season. Mountain folks abide.

THAT’S what permaculture is. It’s simply growing food in a manner that is resilient, and doesn’t need to be coddled and babied. It’s gathering “wild” edibles, and then cultivating them in places that are more convenient for you to gather. It’s planting not just annual plants, but perennial plants that will continue to produce for decades. It’s planting fruit trees and nut trees that may produce for centuries. It’s learning to know your ground, and where you’ve cultivated different things in your food forests, and pass that knowledge on to the next generation, so they can enjoy the same bounteous existence, and still tell the King to go fuck himself.

While most Permaculture writers discuss planning and designing small food forests in backyards or on farms, it’s just as applicable—and really, more so—to plant them on abandoned lots and in green belts in urban areas. It’s a survival food production method that works anywhere that plants can be coaxed into growing, even if the plants are dandelions. It’s recognizing the usefulness of “weeds,” and cultivating those resilient little plants that nobody else wants.

That’s why I’m so gung-ho about Permaculture.

I’ve previously recommended Gaia’s Garden in this series. I stand by it. It has, so far, been the best Permaculture book I’ve found. It’s probably one of two I would recommend so far, with The Permaculture Handbook, by Peter Bane, being the other.

A couple of weeks ago though, my buddy Greg Hamilton texted me that he had started reading Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual, by the late Bill Mollison. He told me he wished he’d started with it, because it covered the same stuff that the newer, strap-hanger authors did, only better. That made sense, and Greg is a pretty smart dude, so I broke down and ordered a copy. I hadn’t previously bothered getting a copy, because it’s pretty fucking expensive, at $100 a copy that I’d been able to find it, and when I’d glanced through it, it seemed really, really dense and dry. I’d read some of Mr. Mollison’s other work, and they were dense as fuck. So, I had avoided it.

Mr. Mollison, along with his student David Holmgren, are recognized as the founders of what we now call “Permaculture.” I would argue they were the two who managed to codify, in language that modern westerner’s could understand, the traditional mountain tribal form of agriculture, but then, I’m pedantic like that.

I’m only a few chapters in so far, but I’m happy I took Greg’s advice and got it. I’ve picked up a few things I didn’t catch from Hemenway or Bane, and I think Mr Mollison’s development of the Ethics and Principles of Permaculture are a little less influenced by 21st Century cultural egoisms about what is and isn’t reality.

Recommended.

(I will add, parenthetically, that I do believe Mr. Mollison, Mr. Bane, and Mr. Hemenway, along with pretty much every other single writer I’ve read in the Permaculture world, suffers from the same affliction. That is, too much faith in the inherent intelligence of humanity. They too—obviously—believe in the supremacy of Permaculture as a means of food production, and they too believe that industrial agriculture is on a dead end path to collapse. They too agree that people are going to be very hungry, and very angry, in the very near future.

Unfortunately, they seem to believe that Permaculture will somehow magically be adopted as a universal solution, and thus somehow save all the hungry people, by “sharing the surplus.” I, of course, suspect that a solid basis of Permaculture food forests, to supply YOUR people, coupled with armaments and the will to kill people who decide to come try and take what your people need and have worked to produce, is a far more realistic expectation.

Ironically, since every single Permaculture writer I have read, and every single interview with Permaculture teachers I have listened to, discusses the tribal origins of this agricultural philosophy, none of them seem comfortable confronting the idea that every tribal group out there that has every used these types of methods, also had the means to protect their “hunting grounds.”

Go Permie, but gun the fuck up too.)