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The Survival Retreat Facility: Design Planning Considerations in Theory and Practice, Part One

US Army Special Forces, like the rest of the US military, has a set of doctrine regarding the establishment, maintenance, protection, and even closure, of tactical facilities, under field conditions. In current SF doctrine, those facilities are referred to as “Special Forces Tactical Facilities.” These can range from a small, partially developed patrol base for the ODA, all the way up to an SFOB (Special Forces Operating Base), or what used to be called an “A-Camp.”

Doctrinally, the role of the SF TACFAC is “to support special operations and function as a tactical and operational base.” That is, they serve as a defensive base for the operational detachment, a base for projecting offensive force outwards, and as a center for developing, improving, and maintaining relationships with the local national populace and host-nation forces.

Over time, the TACFAC helps provide for establishment, restoration, and improvements of many local HN community and government services and systems. These essential support systems for the TACFAC and surrounding HN communities are best captured by the acronym SWEAT-MSS (security, water, electricity, administration, trash, medical, sewage, and shelter). Eventually, the SF TACFAC will be returned to the control of the HN government through a relief-in-place (RIP).

Taking our holistic, Permaculture view of preparedness, that seems an awful lot like what our retreat locations—whether you are in a rural, suburban, or urban environment—should be, doesn’t it? After all, if we’ve realized that the idea of Ma, Pa, and the kids, all by their lonesomes, with a year’s supply of beans, bullets, and band-aids, is not such a sustainable plan after all (and, seriously, if you haven’t realized it yet….it’s really not), then we know we need “community,” either in the form of a close-knit group of friends and family—kith-and-kin—or a trusted, small village or neighborhood of people with shared values.

Whether you’re looking at the kith-and-kin clan model, or the village defense model, as your solution, one of the most-often cited “problems” that preppers and survivalists face is the lack of fellow travelers on the path to preparedness. On the other hand, if you have even just four or five people—nuclear family members, best buds, or siblings/cousins, etc—who are doing their best to prepare, and you have a location that can be secured with some effort, you can begin the development of a retreat that will double as your very own UW TACFAC, when the time comes to up the security game.

In the appropriate field manuals (the Special Forces Tactical Facilities manual is a distribution restricted document, with distribution limited to US government agencies and their contractors, with distribution to JFKSWCS students from foreign countries on a case-by-case basis), the defensive purposes of the SF TACFAC are listed as:

–deter and defeat enemy attacks.

–achieve economy of force (by which they mean, require the least amount of personnel possible to defend the facility, releasing more available personnel for offensive operations).

–retain control of key terrain, including human terrain in the form of the local populace.

–protect the populace, critical assets, and infrastructure.

–develop intelligence, particularly local intelligence.

Since those same purposes are pertinent to the discussion of our survival retreat locations, we can see that, when combined with a modified version of the SWEAT-MSS acronym, this provides us a pretty solid basis for consideration of needs for the survival retreat.

After all, we need to be able to use our survival retreat to:

–deter and defeat attacks by hostile outside elements. Depending on collapse scenario, these outside elements could fit a number of different descriptions, ranging from unorganized, starving or near-starving refugees, to paramilitary bands with varying levels of organization and training, to local government forces trying to requisition materials and supplies “for the common good,” to federal or foreign regular military occupation forces.

–since we are definitely limited in manpower, both initially, and via replacements, we certainly need to ensure that we can develop a retreat defense program that will achieve economy-of-force. Growing, gathering, and otherwise harvesting food, repairing, replacing, and/or adding on to infrastructure such as buildings for housing, storage, and more will deplete our available manpower pool, as will other priorities-of-work, ranging from food production and preparation, cleaning and maintenance, medical care, and even childcare and education. Despite these competing demands for manpower effort, we cannot afford, in a post-grid environment, to ignore the demands of 24/7 360-degree security. This means we are going to require a plan and design that allows us to achieve maximum economy-of-force, in order to allow us to provide that security, from the beginning, throughout the process of expanding and strengthening the facility, and recruiting, training, and initiating additional personnel.

–by developing a secure facility, that still allows us to interact with the local populace in a positive manner, we can maintain beneficial relations with that populace. We may not need—or want—to “control” the local human terrain, but we need to, at least, maintain the ability to control that populace in regards to their ability to cause problems for us. Additionally, by selecting the location for our retreat proactively, with security at the forefront of the considerations, we can leverage the location and design of the facility to maintain control over surrounding areas, tactically and operationally, through control of key terrain features.

As an example, although there are some very definite potential shortcomings to locating our farm on top of the mountain in our area—and acknowledging the fact that, in a world with close-air support (CAS), a mountaintop is not necessarily “the key terrain feature,”–in any post-grid/collapse scenario that doesn’t involve a hostile element that possesses CAS assets, being on top of the mountain really does work as a key terrain feature, since it allows for greater observation of the surrounding areas, and makes it significantly harder for dismounted or ground vehicle mounted hostile forces to attack our location effectively.

–Our survival retreat obviously needs to help us protect the populace of our immediate community. That’s why we have a survival retreat, whether it’s a modern, isolated rural survival “doomstead,” an urban tenement building, or a subdivision in the ‘burbs. Additionally, if we design it right, and plan our operations within the retreat area properly, it can be far more effective at protecting critical infrastructure (solar power systems, water catchment systems, housing buildings, etc) and assets (water wells, stock ponds, gardens, fields, livestock, vehicles, and more).

–Finally, a well-established retreat location, with a community of people who are known and liked and trusted by the local surrounding community members, has a far better chance of successfully gathering accurate, actionable intelligence information, via neighborhood gossip and informants, than the weirdo family with the doomstead, that refers to their neighbors as “sheeple,” and weirds everyone out by walking around town open-carrying firearms, while talking about government conspiracies and how ZOG is coming to put us in underground concentration camps.

Of course, when we look at the SWEAT-MSS acronym however, there are some important missing factors, because our context is not a clone of the situation of a SFODA deploying to East Assholistan, with the knowledge and approval of the local HN government, and a supply train that enjoys air and naval superiority for the constant, regular resupply of critical support items, ranging from ammunition and ordnance, to food, water, and replacement clothing.

To really plan and develop an effective survival retreat, just like planning and developing an SF TACFAC, requires an accurate estimate of the situation, including analysis of mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time, and civil considerations (METT-TC), as well as those factors essential to security of the facility, including an accurate OAKOC assessment (Observation and Fields of Fire, Avenues of Approach, Key Terrain Features, Obstacles, and Cover and Concealment). These are, of course, integrally synergistic issues that influence and impact each other (for a thorough discussion of mission-planning, including both METT-TC and OAKOC, including how they interrelate, see Volume One of The Reluctant Partisan!).

In SF doctrine, a SF TACFAC may be developed by breaking new ground, and building up from bare dirt, or by using an existing facility that may need less improvements to be functional. The same considerations that help the detachment determine which of these is more contextually accurate for their situation, can be useful—with a couple of minor modifications—to the survival retreat:

–Is the AO permissive, uncertain, or hostile? This applies, in our context, both right now, and in the future, assuming a loss of government security force availability. There are neighborhoods—and even entire rural villages—in the USA today that are perfectly fine and safe for pretty much anyone to move into, that will be completely untenable for certain demographic groups, as soon as the police quit answering the phones. At the same time, there are environments that, right now, would be hostile to legitimate, effective preparedness planning and preparation, but because of the lack of prepared neighbors in the surrounding community, would be the very definition of permissive for anyone capable of protecting themselves, and maybe even providing protection for neighbors who need such assistance.

–Is the facility to be located in an urban, suburban, or rural location? Building from scratch is considerably more feasible on undeveloped or under-developed rural land, than in a suburban or urban environment. At the same time, while you might be having a brand-new house built in the suburbs, HOA covenants, building code enforcement, and nosy neighbors may prevent your ability—or even willingness—to incorporate much in the way of effective preparedness security options in the building plan, while purchasing an already extant structure, even in a heavily-urban neighborhood, may actually facilitate “remodeling” that allows for the addition of these options, out of sight of outside observers.

An example of this could range from the purchase of a small apartment complex, and remodeling it for protection, before leasing the apartments to select friends and family, to the purchase of a building or complex in an industrial or light-industrial area, and turning it into a defensible outpost (while I’ve actually heard of people doing both of these, and personally know a guy who did the warehouse thing, I can’t imagine being remotely interested in this option myself, so don’t expect much commentary on that side of things, from me).

–Is the potential facility logistically sustainable? An isolated, rural retreat, in much of the vaunted “American Redoubt” is logistically sustainable…for as long as you have rice and beans stored for. There are significant portions of the Redoubt that are not particularly amenable to small-scale vegetable gardening, without extensive external inputs. Other parts of the region are amenable to it, with extensive Permaculture-type development work to prepare the location for sustainable growing. That’s not to say that retreating to the Redoubt is a bad idea…as long as you have considered the logistical sustainability of your retreat, in accordance with your concept of what the future will look like…and assuming you turn out to be correct.

At the same time, while an urban or suburban retreat location may seem untenable, it IS possible to survive a complete collapse, for multiple years and even multiple decades, in urban areas. As I discussed in Volume Two of The Reluctant Partisan, the populations of two different urban cities, that are often used as textbook examples of the the hellishness of urban areas in collapses, Mogadishu, Somalia, and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovenia, both actually increased in population during their collapse years (and, remember, Sarajevo was under siege and regular bombardment by artillery during that time frame, while Somalia was ruled by warring gangs, armed with automatic weapons, RPGs, and mortars!). Logistically, support may come from outside the urban area, either through smuggling or open trade agreements (one example of trade items in a US collapse might include stripping building materials and supplies from abandoned buildings, for trade to rural communities outside the urban area, in trade for food), or it may be internal, through the use of intensive urban gardening and permaculture practices. Utility logistics may be easier to develop in an urban area, during a collapse. Solar panels and inverters are in wide use in most urban areas on commercial buildings these days, and there are a lot more forklifts (forklift batteries are a popular choice for off-grid electrical systems) in urban warehouse districts than in the boondocks. Hell, setting your PV system up now, and getting used to it, without drawing attention to yourself, would be a hell of a lot easier in an “abandoned” warehouse in a city, than it is even on my remote rural location!

–Is the local security situation adequate? What is the local defense and protection situation? Is the local constabulary, whether municipal police department, rural sheriff’s department, or unofficial “gang” enforcement, actually adequate to prevent, or at least, reduce the chances of criminal predation now? Is the local constabulary corrupt? If they are corrupt, can they be coerced or bribed to leave you alone? Do you have the resources to achieve either of those routes?

Is there a local militia or community-defense organization that you can join, or at least coordinate with? Are there are other preparedness groups that you can coordinate mutual assistance pacts with? Do those preparedness groups, militia, or community-defense organizations demonstrate a level of training and ability that makes them worth coordinating with, or are they so apparently inept that they might as well not even exist, and you can basically ignore them as an organized potential threat?

–Is it possible for your organization to conduct Civil Affairs (CA) or Psychological Operations (PSYOP) on demographic groups in the local area to modify, change, or block threats from human terrain factors? Does your group have the knowledge, training, motivation, to plan, execute, and assess the effectiveness of these operations, if you do attempt them? Do you have access to people with those abilities? Can those people be recruited, or even temporarily hired, to conduct those operations?

In addition to the SFODs that will occupy the SF TACFAC (it may be occupied by ODAs, ODBs, or even larger elements, the SF TACFAC, may also house interpreters and other friendly force personnel on either a permanent or temporary basis, ranging from other US or multinational military, interagency, or contractor personnel, HN personnel in the form of military, constabulary, or civilian government, or irregular forces, whether local or third-nation (TN), working with the SFOD. To plan a proper TACFAC operation, the detachment must take into account both the size of these elements, how long they may need to be housed, and any cultural considerations related to those groups, when developing their TACFAC.

Similarly, when developing our retreat facilities, we need to recognize that, just because “our group” only comprises a half-dozen married couples, only half of which have teenage children, that may not be the entirety of the population of the retreat, once things get “sporting.” Elderly parents, adult cousins or siblings, and juvenile extended family members, as well as extended friends, or even bypassers who turn out to have potentially useful skills should all be considered as potential “Well, we can manage one more person, because they’re extremely dear to me!” additions.

It’s popular, and easy right now, to say, “Fuck those people! They should’ve contributed to the preps, if they wanted to show up!” But, when the rubber meets the road, if you tell your wife, “Hey, honey, sorry, but you knew your Mom and Dad, Sister, and nephews were not going to be allowed to come here when SHTF!” you’re as likely to end up with your wife and kids leaving to find their way with Grammy and Poppy, or with an 8” Chef’s knife buried in your chest one night, as you are to hear your wife say, “Yeah, you’re right, honey. Fuck my Mom and Dad!”

If you tell the wife of your best buddy that no, she can’t bring her adult sister and four nephews along, after her brother-in-law was killed in a riot, you might get your way, but you’re probably going to lose your buddy, his wife, and all the additional security they represent, as well.

This means, in a nutshell, that when planning, you need to make sure that you’ve got room, and materials, to help house and provide sustenance for, additional, unplanned personnel. The “traditional” prepper plan for that, of course, was to stockpile a couple cases of Mosin-Nagants or SKS, and some cheap surplus LBE for those people, and just tell them they better show up with a couple buckets of food, and camping gear.

I’ve always had a couple of issues with that approach, even when I was a kid, reading about it. First of all, if someone shows up without a firearm, am I really going to hand them a rifle? Do they even know how to safely handle a firearm? Sure, I can train them, but to really teach them, it’s going to take some time. That training time is going to take away from other essential tasks they need to be doing, like putting seed in the ground to grow some more food, and getting some weatherproof, environmentally appropriate shelter up.

Our farm is big enough that, with good planning and organization, we can maintain and expand our food-production capabilities, and still provide comfortable, housing, in a village format, for all of our “clan-of-choice.” We’re also surrounded by unused, and/or underused, open land. Some is cow pasture that is in use, other is forest or pasture that is not in use. My plan has long been (and I’ve discussed this with other SF veterans in the preparedness community), when the expected “unexpected” folks arrive (anyone who is family is always welcome, even if we don’t honestly believe they have the ability or wisdom to make it here, in time), without a pot to piss in, is to hand them a tarp shelter, a small bucket of seeds, a hoe, shovel, and rake, a breeding pair of rabbits, a couple of laying hens, and a marked out space of ground. For home defense, they will be handed a spear and a plywood shield. They will be shown how to fabricate a shelter out of the tarp, and then given instruction on how to use a bucket for a composting toilet, how to plant their seeds, and how to care for their new livestock. Finally, they will receive a welcome briefing: “Welcome to the farm. We (the farm, including the clan-of-choice that helped build this), get 10% of whatever you produce for five years, then 5% thereafter. You owe us two days a week for the first month for training, and then two days a month for security duties, and one day a week for community work efforts.”

If they don’t like that? Well, there’s the road. We gave them a chance. This idea though, that I’m going to hand some knucklehead that’s never even fired a gun, a rifle and ammunition, without first teaching them to use it properly, as part of a team, under stress, strikes me as preposterous, under the circumstances. Sure, as an SF guy, I might be working with local Gs, without time to “train” them up to my standards, but if they fuck up and kill one of us, it’s just the ODA. If someone in my post-grid community fucks up and kills one of us, it might very well be one of my kids….

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Doctrinally, a SF TACFAC has “three broad phases of development,” which are “initial, temporary, and permanent, whether in a rural or urban environment.” Because of this, the TACFAC can be classified by phase and by environment, such as initial/rural or temporary/urban. The transformation of the TACFAC through these phases, if it happens, is mission-driven, and it is possible—and often the case—to begin a TACFAC at a higher level than initial (bare dirt) phase. An example of this can be seen in the rent/lease of already established, walled compounds in Afghanistan, for the establishment of temporary and permanent TACFACs in an already defensible, habitable place. In these cases, some of the basic sustainment and support systems are already in place. “Therefore, development of a specific TACFAC may begin at the temporary (intermediate) or even permanent (well-developed) phase.” With the obvious exception of the above-cited Afghanistan example, this will more generally be the case in urban TACFACs than in rural ones. This was often the case in Iraq, for example, when captured Iraqi Baath Party government buildings were commandeered for the use of SF elements as TACFACs. This is because, as mentioned previously in this article, urban areas often already contain numerous suitable existing structures, and are more likely to have some forms of the requisite support infrastructure.

In a post-grid environment, here in the States however, while it is still possible to start a retreat on the bare ground of raw or reclaimed land, which would constitute the Initial phase, most often, even rural retreats are going to to begin with some buildings and infrastructure support already in place. Additionally, in the post-grid environment, the supporting infrastructure available in an urban environment may or may not be functioning (there are cities where the water and sewage utilities are gravity-fed, for example, meaning that, as long as your building facilities work, you’ll still have the ability to utilize municipal utilities, even without the power grid functioning).

Like SF units, which may operate in environments as varied as the deserts and urban megalopolises of Iraq, to the mountains of Afghanistan, or the jungles of Latin America or SE Asia, preppers may need to establish retreat locations in a variety of different environments. Because of this, a facility may be further classified by specific environmental conditions, such as rural/desert or rural/jungle. A retreat facility in the Red Desert of Wyoming will look as different from a retreat facility in urban Portland, Oregon, as a SF TACFAC in Afghanistan does from a SF TACFAC in the Phillipine jungle.

This, of course, ties into the Permaculture principles, and working within the limits of the local environment. A SF TACFAC in Iraq looks different than a SF TACFAC in the Phillipine jungle, because the environments are different, so even though they fill the same needs, function remarkably similar, and have similar support system requirements, they will still be different, driven by the differences in the surrounding environment.

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The essential support systems of the SF TACFAC, as we established at the beginning of this article, are doctrinally captured by the acronym SWEAT-MSS. These support systems are also critical to the retreat facility. Unfortunately, they alone are not adequate for support of the retreat facility, simply because the logistical chain enjoyed by the SF unit, is not something we are likely to have in the post-grid environment. Nevertheless, it makes sense to start with the SWEAT-MSS foundation, and expand on it to cover those elements not covered, but still essential to our contextual requirements.

In both the SF doctrine, and for our contextual requirements, “Security” is listed first. This is not because the typical “III%4LIFE” gun-crazy prepper in his multi-cam jammies, with his “North Idaho Sniper Rifle” SKS, with Tapco furniture, and 45x Tasco scope has the right idea. Instead, it is because, having every other logistical infrastructure support requirement dialed in, to perfection, but not being able to secure it adequately, simply means we’ve built something really nice for some roving warlord’s band to come and take from us. This is the biggest issue with the resilience/preparedness side of the typical Permaculture advocate. They’re all about building resilient, durable, sustainable facilities that could allow them to survive and thrive, and build a stronger community around them, post-grid….but they can’t wrap their head around the idea that they might need to smoke-check some fuckers if they want to keep it, and see it utilized in a manner in accordance with their principles.

While developing security requires an estimate of the situation, and the situation will change as you develop the retreat facility, you still need to start with a security plan for what you have now, and that requires having an estimate of the current situation.

While Administration, doctrinally, mostly refers to the daily administrative and logistical considerations of training HN forces, out of the SF TACFAC, for our purposes, we’re going to utilize that category to subdivide and cover many of the other essential administrative and logistical considerations of keeping ourselves and the retreat community functioning. This will include, most importantly, coverage of the Rule of 3s, and how we will maintain survivability for the populace within the retreat facility, as well as how we can begin expanding our sphere of influence outside of the retreat facility, to support infrastructure recovery and repair, development, and protection. The importance of doing this is often overlooked in preparedness circles, but cannot be overemphasized, from a preparedness perspective, if for no other reason than the goodwill it produces in the surrounding local populace will go a long way to increasing our survivability, through allowing us to build rapport, and develop mutually beneficial relationships with the surrounding populace, allowing them to provide logistical support, intelligence information support, and even security support. This development, in essence, allows us to develop the local populace surrounding the retreat facility, into our auxiliary.

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SF doctrine utilizes an analytical tool called a Critical Nodes Matrix (CNM) as a planning guide to aid the SFOD in not only establishing an SF TACFAC, but in improving an already existing one. The CNM “identifies the environment and different development phases,” and cross-references those with the SWEAT-MSS requirements. It allows the team to analyze the specific requirements across the essential support systems, to identify critical requirements throughout the phases of the facility development. Through this process, it is possible to develop a logical progression of needs betweens the different phases.

While SFOD generally require nonorganic support to properly run a TACFAC and to allow them to properly function at full operational capacity, the retreat facility may be forced to rely solely on organic support for both internal operations and external operations. In either case however, a CNM can help identify existing shortfalls and gaps in personnel, equipment, and materials needed to establish or improve a facility. By identifying these shortfalls early, during the analysis process, before shit falls apart, we can increase the chances of successfully planning for and locating those needs, while they are still available. This may range from personnel needs like vehicle or small-engine mechanics, and medical personnel—or even extra gunslingers for security—to operational and equipment needs ranging from “Hey, we’re gonna need a LOT more ammunition, and we need to put together a large-scale reloading facility on-site, with appropriate components,” to “we only have enough antibiotics to treat forecast injuries for a dozen people, but we expect to have three dozen people living and working on-site within six weeks of grid-down! We either need to source a lot more antibiotics, we need all of our medically-trained personality to start looking at local plant-based antibiotic alternatives, we need to set up a lab to produce penicillin from scratch, or we better prepare on massive casualties from stupid shit like chronic dysentery!”

Ultimately, properly used, the CNM can facilitate proper development of a retreat facility plan and development, through the development of primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency (PACE) plans. For example, if an existing critical node in the SWEAT-MSS model fails, anywhere within the matrix, the previous critical node can be used as a substitute. An example of this actually occurred on our farm recently. Our initial phase sewage management plan was the simple bucket composting toilet system. Our permanent plan is a low-water use flush composting toilet system. The temporary (intermediate) phase plan was the use of a self-contained flush containment toilet, like those available for RVs, with small internally-contained catchment that could be dumped less frequently than the bucket.

Unfortunately, about two weeks after transitioning to the temporary plan, while developing the planning, and gathering the material needs for the permanent plan, we suffered a failure of then temporary system. To whit, the wife decided it stank to high heaven, and the piston pump flush system actually didn’t produce adequate water flow to reliably flush toilet tissue and feces. About 50% of the time, you’d have to dump extra water into the toilet, via a small pitcher, to gain adequate flow to complete the flushing process. This meant either A) we could stick with the temporary, completely inadequate plan, B) we could accelerate the development of the permanent plan, which would have thrown other planning into disarray (like a rebuild of the bathroom addition that needs to occur first, and that we don’t currently have the funding to achieve anyway), or C) we could revert to the temporary plan of using the bucket composting toilet method. Pretty easy choice, and it was a no-brainer, since it was the CNM default fall-back, anyway. Additionally, because we had already used that method for well over two years, we knew it worked, well (in fact, really the only reason we are planning on the flush composting system is because I’m lazy (well, busy anyway), and don’t want to have to carry the bucket out regularly. It would be easier to just have the compost flush automatically into a vermicompost bin, and the water drain into a separate containment system for fertilizer use. By all accounts I have found, this ends up meaning you can actually utilize the humanure compost sooner, and you don’t ever have to empty the containment system unless you need the compost, or simply want to use the compost.

For the purposes of this article, we are going to discuss the development of a rural retreat facility, in the form of our farm. This works particularly well for a couple of reasons. First of all, unlike a lot of preppers, even in rural retreats, we started with raw land, in the form of reclaimed pasture that is now a mixture of second-growth hardwood forest, young scrub forest, and meadows with brambles and shrubbery developing. We did not have a single functional structure anywhere on the land when we purchased it.

Second, it works well because while it has a small unit developing the facility (my wife, myself, and our children), we do have the ability to occasionally augment our workforce through recruitment of members of the clan-of-choice, and the plan is to develop it in a manner that will allow for a much larger permanent party population. Finally, it has—literally—gone through all three phases of the development process.

Like the SF ODA initially occupying a TACFAC site, our major concerns during the initial phase were basic survival needs: security, water, sanitation, food, and electrical power (to operate tools and communications devices).

Housing was rudimentary. We weren’t so primitive as to be living out of our rucksacks, or even in a tent like a GP Medium, but we started out with a “portable building” cabin, that we knew was temporary and short-term, so we didn’t need to do a lot of improvement on the temporary housing. Because of that fact, much of our environmental planning, even in the cabin, was “primitive.” We relied on a very small woodstove, sleeping bags, and sleep pads on the floor. We cooked on a two-burner camp stove, and our refrigerator was an ice chest. Like the initial phase of the SF TACFAC, for the initial phase of the rural retreat facilities, tends to be pretty barren and primitive.

Electric power may be provided by small commercial 5KW generators, like those assigned to many SFODs. Alternatively, as we’ve discussed in these pages, a solar generator may be a more resilient option. While a solar generator, whether manufactured or self-built may be more expensive than a cheap, big box store 5KW generator, it will also last incredibly longer, and the maintenance and operational costs very quickly even that cost out, since you don’t need to replace fuel.

Our planning for the initial phase development indicated our electrical needs were relatively limited. We needed—wanted—to be able to operate a few lights, a small television and DVD player, and charge laptops, cellphones and two-way radios. Equally critical for our needs however, was the ability to run power tools. While we were able to run the household needs on a single 210W solar panel, an inexpensive PWM inverter, and an auto parts store inverter, with three little 100amp hour deep-cycle batteries, the start-up draw alone for even the smaller power tools was too much for the inverter, and would have drawn the battery bank down too quickly as well. This required the use of a 5KW generator initially. These were quickly replaced in the temporary phase by the use of 20V battery powered power tools, although some tools still require the use of the generator. In the event the batteries for these tools are lost, or die, and are irreplaceable by a quick, albeit expensive trip to Lowe’s, the reversion to the use of the generator for power tools, and the use of manual hand tools.

Basic comforts, such as indoor plumbing and running water, typically are nonexistent.” Many rural retreat facilities have the same issue, of course. In such cases, many contemporary preppers rely on hauling potable water from town or a neighbor’s house (we actually did this for a number of years when I was a kid, because the well water was so sulfur and iron laden). The doctrinal—and better—option, is to ensure a reliable fresh water source in close proximity. Our farm has three year-round, spring-fed ponds on it. With a little filtration and/or treatment, we have a fundamentally unlimited source of fresh water. An additional source of course, that we developed very early in our initial phase development, and still utilize in the temporary (and, yes, even into the permanent phase) phase, was rainwater catchment and storage. This can range from the food-grade 55-gallon drum we used in the small cabin, to the doubled and connected 275-gallon IBC totes we currently use (and are an exceedingly common solution for off-grid living), or a more permanent solution in the use of larger plastic containment solutions, or even ferro-concrete, underground cisterns.

While the SFOD may utilize slit trenches and cat holes in the initial phase, for those of us with wives and children, the use of traditional outhouses is one, slightly more realistic option, or the even more function-stacking (there’s that Permaculture thing again….) composting toilet that can provide safe, sanitary waste disposal, as well as feed for soil and plants in the garden and orchards.

So, we’ve covered “water,” “electricity,” “sewage,” and “shelter,” of the SWEAT-MSS acronym. That, of course, leaves us with “security and protection,” “trash,” “medical,” and “administrative” issues.

Burning trash is actually legally verboten in our area, although that doesn’t stop anybody from actually doing so. The problem of course, with burning trash, is that not everything we produce as refuse, is burnable. Our system, for the initial and temporary phases, has been multifaceted. Step one is to sort household trash. What is burnable gets burned, of course, while recyclables get taken to the recycling center (the value of which is, of course, questionable at best. Between “recyclables” that cannot actually be recycled, and the preponderance of “recycling” companies to actually ship materials off-shore to other countries for recycling, where they are conveniently dumped in the ocean, the value of “recycling” is—at best—questionable.

On the other hand, if we don’t do that, we either have to send it to the landfill, or establish a landfill dump on the farm. While that may be the only practical solution in a post-grid environment, it’s not something I’m interested in doing until I cannot avoid it. The better option, of course, is to do everything you can to reduce household trash, and to make your best effort to limit what is produced to burnable items, as much as possible.

Most yard, farm, and construction debris is far easier to dispose of effectively, of course. Organic materials, such as wood and fibers, can be composted or burned, and most other materials, such as surplus or used fencing, nails, buckets, and etc, can be set aside, and stored for re-use.

In the SF TACFAC, most medical needs are, of course, going to taken care of by the ODA’s 18Ds, with the availability of an HLZ (Helicopter Landing Zone) for transport of casualties via CASEVAC helicopters, as a back-up. Of course, most of us aren’t Deltas, and even fewer of us have military CASEVAC birds on call.

For most preppers, even in rural retreat facilities, the primary medical resource for emergencies is still medical insurance and the Emergency Department (ED) of the closest hospital, with lesser medical issues taken care of by a Primary Care Provider (PCP)/Family Physician, and home care out of a first-aid kit, by Ma or Pa. The problem from a preparedness perspective, of course, is that, post-grid, that ED is not going to be much of an option, and the PCP may not even be available. Instead, we will be relying on our own medical training—or the medical training of others in the community. This could range from the ideal of an experienced MD, or a former 18D or USAF PJ (to be clear, nobody in our clan-of-choice is any of these, more’s the pity…so, if you’re an 18D and are reading this, and looking for a community…) to a RN, paramedic, EMT, former combat medic, or the local midwife, or someone like me who was nothing but a knuckle-dragging gunslinger, with an interest in trauma medicine, and took advantage of the Deltas, to keep boned up on Combat Lifesaver and TC3 skills.

In our extended group of folks, we have a MD (pediatric), a chiropractor, several nurses, a few other advanced care providers of various sorts, and lots of country moms and grannies, with decades of experience doctoring farm injuries, in lieu of an expensive hospital visit. Of course, with children in the equation, if I said, “We don’t go to the ED or Doctor, because we don’t have health insurance, and that shit is expensive.” Fortunately, I don’t have to, because, as I noted above, we have a pediatric doctor in the extended clan…

With the loss to a heart defect of our first son, of course, any and all subsequent pregnancies have been “high risk,” so my wife has gone for prenatal care, but beyond that, for she and I, all of our medical care thus far, has been at home. Much of that has been possible, because of safety practices, that have prevented any occurrence of serious injury, of course. In a post-grid environment, where the ED and our PCP (which we do also have, although we pay cash for care, when necessary), may not be available, when injuries do occur, I’m afraid our pediatrician is going to be dramatically overworked, between taking care of most serious injuries, and having to pass on her expertise to apprentices. However, the use of good safety practices around the facility will alleviate that somewhat.

A number of studies I’ve read have pretty convincingly concluded that, at least in the short-term grid down experiences we’ve witnessed in this country, and in a number of longer, failed-state, grid-down scenarios in other countries, the single most common reasons for needing medical attention are a) lack of hygiene, leading to pathogen transfer creating disease vectors, and b) injuries from working with basic equipment that people are unfamiliar with, in the performance of tasks they are not educated in the performance of. This could range from a middle-class, suburban accountant suddenly forced to chop firewood with an axe or a chainsaw, causing massive injury to himself or bystanders with the tools, to people making common mistakes, even amongst experienced practitioners, like rolling a tractor or UTV over themselves. So, for the medical planning issues of the retreat facility, perhaps the single most important medical planning we can do is good hygiene practices (Thank you, germ-theory of disease transmission! Ha! Can’t take that knowledge away from us, can you Mr. Apocalypse!?), and the use of proper education and PPE around tool-centric tasks.

Administrative, as we discussed is a very broad area, of course, ranging from food production and preparation, to the stockpiling, storage, and disbursement of equipment and tools ranging from garden tools, construction tools and materials, PPE, and temporary shelter options for newcomers.

Finally, of course, although it’s the most important, as we discussed, is the security planning issue. In the current environment, our security planning is not vastly different from what it will be post-grid, although we have less people actually on the facility to participate in that aspect. During the initial occupation of the initial phase SF TACFAC, security is larger provided via the implementation of a 24 hour security plan, just as in a patrol base, and the use of short-duration security patrols in the immediate vicinity. As the TACFAC develops, of course, security planning progresses as well, with greater protective measures being put into place. “These measures include longer patrols, listening posts (LP), observation posts (OP), and additional wire around the facility perimeter. After basic security is established initial construction projects—such as inner and outer perimeter barriers—are built. Early projects may be hampered by the limited equipment and material assets carried by the SF unit.

Without giving too much away, the only “wire emplacements” we have on our farm are perimeter and interior fencing, that we use as the inner foundation for the development of hedges. We have a gate that we do keep closed, and the property is posted. More important is the very large protection dog that, at 200# and jet black in color, scares the living fuck out of even our own people when he comes barreling up to them in the dark. Ultimately though, the dog is a “speed bump,” in the security planning. All he’s got to do is alert me to something not being “right,” and then slow down the threat long enough for me to gun up and slip out the back door to maneuver around. More important than even the dog however, in the current environment, is simply having the reputation of a guy who knows what he is about, and will not tolerate misdeeds. That can’t be gained from talking about what a bad-ass you are, of course. It has to be developed by example.

While there are probably a half-dozen neighbors who have a rough idea of what my professional background is, most don’t. The ones that do didn’t hear it from me, but from family friends who knew about it before I even moved back to the area. Those neighbors that don’t know my background however, do know that we train weekly, and I train daily. The local ne’er-do-wells, in other words, have to make a risk-benefit analysis, and it just doesn’t pencil out for them.

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So, there is a “brief” introduction to some of the SF doctrine relevant to retreat design theory, and some practical, contextually useful examples of that theory being put to use. In the next installment of this article series, which will be posted on the Patreon Page next week, we will discuss the actual planning and design process for SF TACFACs, and how that can be modified for our requirements.

Campfire Chat

Could you have some kind of service where we could pay you for advice? Specifically on fitness/combatives/existentialism/societal issues. I’ve messaged you over Facebook and I feel bad for taking up time that could be spent on helping those closer to you rather than some guy over the internet. It would be a great boon for us to bounce questions off of someone if we have no one else to go to.

My Patreon Page is now active: Mountain Guerrilla Blog
I’ll be honest, even though I already have two tiers listed, I’m not entirely sure how it’s going to work yet. My current plan is that I will continue to post the Campfire Chat and Library posts here each week. The feature article each week will be posted for Patreon subscribers. Once a month, I will pick one of the last month’s articles, and post it here as well.

Additionally, for the second tier of subscribers, my plan is to include an extra article, specific to training issues. I am also working on some smaller book(let) projects. Second tier subscribers will receive free ebook versions of those, when they are done, while first tier subscribers will be able to buy the ebook versions at a discounted price (that having been said, I don’t know when those will be done). Finally, my current plan, for second tier subscribers, is to include my weekly training log, for both shooting and PT, including the results of our weekly range sessions with my people. This should offer a pretty good reference for the kind of PT you should be considering, and give you a wealth of ideas on how to incorporate different drills into your own firearms training.

I would be more than happy to include an extra “Campfire Chat” type article, exclusively for subscribers at the first tier. Maybe we’ll call it “Around the Council Fire” or something…

If the Patreon thing is successful, it will actually force me to start treating this like an actual second job, instead of something I just do for shits-and-giggles, to help folks, in my spare time. The benefit of that, for readers, is it will allow me to actually write the longer, serialized articles, like the one I’m posting tonight, on Retreat Facility Development (the second installment, of course, will be posted to Patreon next week).

Like I said though, I don’t know how it will turn out. I am still doing the twice-a-month subscription drills, and I really haven’t sold enough of those to make it still worth my while. Fortunately for the subscribers though, I committed to continuing it. With Patreon though, since you pay as you go, monthly, if it doesn’t pay enough to make it worth continuing, with the extra work, I’ll just go back to doing the blog here.

And, to be clear, I don’t know “how much” would “make it worth the extra effort.” I just assume I’ll know when my wife starts bitching at me about taking family time away, for inadequate return. She’s a Permie too….”Obtain a Yield.” In fact, she may be more anal about that particular principle than I am. I’m still at the stage where I’m willing to risk new stuff, and roll with the punches if it fails. She gets really heated if we “waste” money or energy trying one of my hare-brained ideas, and it flops.

Regardless of whether you subscribe or not though, thanks for reading the blog all these years.

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No doubt that its not just permies and lefties that have the “good savage” delusions. Certainly neocons (in other words neolibs that prefer foreign welfare to domestic welfare) seem to suffer from a similar delusion that all people need is democracy hoisted on them in order to have good societies–as though people are all essentially good and only put upon by the tyranny of a few bad actors. When it seems that societies tend to get the governments that they deserve, and building that social base can’t be done with bombs. This is also why I am skeptical about the long term chances of the US, the social base is severely degraded and continuously so.

 

Concur. The cognitive dissonance that goes on in the heads of both sides of the voting spectrum in this country must be absolutely numbing.

Of course the flip side is the strict Hobbesian, which is no good because it invites authoritarians, utopians, and social engineers of all stripes to “save” people from themselves. Luckily the US managed to get as its original revolutionaries, men who had a more nuanced and tragic view of life that recognized that the average person tend to be fucked regardless if they are in “nature” or in states. So they designed a system that tended towards doing the doing the bare functional minimum to hopefully provide enough government to avoid the nastiness of primitive violence and promote peaceful trade but to limit the tendency of government to metastasize and concentrate power. Of course, society has greatly strayed from the 18th century, reflected in the straying from the original vision and constitution.

Either way, it seems historically that humans have had deep capacity to visit each other with extreme acts of violence, but people are so removed from it that it is easy to have naive delusions. Perhaps in addition to that is that people confuse harmlessness for being good, and it just so happens that the ease of life in modern industrialized countries makes for a lot of weak, harmless people.

 

1) This was posted under the screen name “Harmon Wolf,” which I have to say I greatly appreciated! (If you don’t get the reference, go read The Warwolf, that I recommended a couple years ago. You won’t be disappointed.)

2) I discussed this with a friend a few years ago. I think the Hyperborea myths of the ancient Greeks is a reflection of the understanding of this. My contention—which I have to admit the friend in question thought was ludicrous—was that the Hyperborea myth is a cultural memory of pre-civilized Greece, in the collective mindset of the ancient Greeks. The myths of course, reflect on it as a time of enduring peace and prosperity. Even though archaeology tells us that was nonsense, from a tribal perspective, it really wasn’t. Within the tribe, there really was, for the most part, enduring peace. That’s what allowed the tribes to stay together and grow strong enough to expand into what became the founding generations of the different city-states. Sure, they fought, but they really only clashed with those outside the tribe, which means they weren’t really “at war,” because you don’t go to war except with other people. You don’t go to war with the deer you hunt in autumn. You don’t go to war with the raccoon that is stealing your feed corn. I mean, I realize, in the modern vernacular that compares a fucking sports-ball game as “going to war,” people might think they’re at war with the raccoon, but, really? It’s not like the coon is shooting back, is he? He’s not maneuvering against you while his buddy lays down a base-of-fire. And, if you accept the anthropological norm, that the tribe is “People,” and everybody else is “Not People,” then it really was a peaceful time among the people….

Understanding that difference is, I believe, critical to understanding how to deal with the cyberpunk dystopian world we’re experiencing (to borrow a phrase I stole from my buddy, Seth Anderson….and consider that a recommendation to go to Amazon and check out his novels. They’re good! And while he’s a buddy, I don’t like him well enough to recommend his books if they sucked).

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Wesley Powell told the PTB’s back in his day that the way to save water going down river wasn’t to build one or two huge damns but rather to build lots of smaller ones as far up stream as possible. Because nobody listened, the Colorado is the most fucked up river on the planet. As to your grounding problem…..use pure copper grounding rods, set them (yeah at least two) away from the house and set lighting rods to them and well as the copper grounding cable from the house, bury that minimum 2 feet deep. the cables from the Ltng rods can actually be strung in the air if you like.

Powell was a smart dude, way ahead of his time in understanding the environmental impacts of fucking with the Colorado River. He was also the dude that tried to convince Congress to break the West into states based on watersheds, rather than the arbitrary-as-fuck boundaries they did develop. It would have made a lot more sense, and probably would have gone a long way to preventing a lot of the problems that arose in the settlement era, that are still being dealt with today.

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I can absolutely back of the recommendations of Speed, Power, Endurance by Brian McKenzie and Unbreakable Runner by TJ Murphy and Brian McKenzie. For anyone reading this, back in October I messaged Mr. Mosby over Facebook asking for advice on running programming. By following the 5k plan outlined in Unbreakable Runner, I went from a 20:30 3 mile time to hitting 18:00 for 3 miles in about 3 months.

Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade is also a great read, though you can skip up to the level he calls solitary confinement right off the back. No need to stick to one movement a day. For general weight training, I actually prefer Greyskull LP over Starting Strength, as SS just wore me out too quickly by squatting heavy 3 days a week, not to mention that I had to go up sizes of jeans far too often in order to get my legs into them, while never filling out medium sized t-shirts. T-rex mode is a real thing.

Dude, that’s awesome! Now, go do the 10K program!

I’ve recommended Convict Conditioning in the past, and concur, if a dude isn’t interested in ponying up the money for building a home gym, it’s a good introduction to strength training via calisthenics, instead of just building endurance. I am working on a project that actually combines the exercise progressions from CC with Crossfit-type conditioning WODs. I’m hoping it works on my lab rats as well as I suspect it will.

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Down in the south, building the floor off grade with a crawl space underneath helped keep the home cool.

True. Although, something I’ve discovered, since our house is built on piers, that I am slowly filling in between with laid mortar-and-stone (and, for the record, if you plan on putting stone work all the way around the crawlspace of the house….do it right, and build it before you build the house. Doing it the way I am, because I was in a hurry to get the house up and dried-in, is a major pain-in-the-ass), is that, while you’d think it would help cool the house, to have the crawlspace open for breezes to blow through, it doesn’t. It works much, much better, with the crawlspace closed in. I suspect this is because it allows the cooler earth to actually cool the air in the crawl space, which radiates into the floor level. As it is, in the heat, all the cooler air just rises out from under the house, along the edges. Of course, in the winter, it sucks too, because even the slightest breeze sucks away the warmth of the Earth underneath, and replaces it with frozen air beneath your feet.

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JM,

For everyone to read every so often to make real corrections in their training plans

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e320/9ca64cbed9a441e55568797cbd3683cf7f8c.pdf

Keep up the good work.

HHAHAHAHAHA! Awesome! I should’ve posted a link to that a long time ago. Thanks!

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About the big dog . Get a Pyrenees . Eat less than any Dobie , Shepherd , or Rott I’ve ever had and I’ve had around 10 of each . Might have to put them up to discipline the kids though . They get real attached to kids and women .

We had a Pyrennes when I was a kid, and my mother has one now, guarding her goat herd. Everything said about them is true. But….my Mastiff has the same protective instinct about my kids. When my oldest was a few years younger, and the dog was still an 80# puppy, I went to swat the kid’s ass. She started screaming, before I even smacked her butt, and that dog cleared the 50’ length of the house in less than three seconds. If my wife hadn’t been standing there, and tackled him when he went blowing by her, I have no doubt that he would have taken a big chunk out of me, even.

Last year, we got done with our weekly training session, and I had a meeting to get to, so I told our guys to go ahead and finish with what they wanted to do, and please put my gear back in the house when they were done, before they left. I neglected to tie the dog up.

I got a phone call about thirty minutes later, informing me that all of my stuff was in one of our guys’ truck, because the dog refused to let anyone near the front door. Now, these are people that are at my house at least weekly. Every one of them has been in my house, and petted that dog while they were in the house. They said though, if they’d have tried, they’d have had to shoot the dog, and they didn’t figure I would let that go without shooting them, so they just hung on to the gear.

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(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….)”

That’s an error, she’d be the fastest man in the world.

That’s because I’m a dumbass, that apparently doesn’t know shit about marathons….

So, when I read this, I immediately called my cousin, and asked her about it. After she laughed her ass off at me for about five minutes, and called me a dumbshit a half-dozen times, she corrected the facts for me. “I’ve run three sub-THREE hour marathons, but I’m normally a 3:10-3:30 finisher.”

So, I stand corrected. However, it really doesn’t change my original point (although it does admittedly change the impressiveness of it….) A 3:00 marathon is still a 6.8 minute mile average….and a seven-minute mile is neither slow nor unimpressive, especially for a female runner in her mid-30s….

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Do you think it’s a fool’s errand for younger man to pursue occupations/experiences in SF fields and the like these days in the face of all this information? Occupations that to a varying degree prevent building of a tribe and development of your own self-sufficiency?

I fully understand that being selected is being brought into another brotherhood etc.

I wouldn’t say it us a fool’s errand. I learned a lot of valuable things in the SOF world, and experienced a number of things of value.

On the other hand, I was discussing this with a fellow SF veteran, turned preparedness teacher, recently, and he and I had reached the same conclusion: We wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, but we also wouldn’t recommend a young person today enlist.

I had a kid a couple years ago that I was asked to mentor, by a family friend. He was trying to get a SOF contract, and wanted help prepping for it, especially with the physical side of things. I spent the better part of a year prepping him, but I also spent the same amount of time trying to convince him that he didn’t need to go in the military to get what he was looking for. He didn’t go the SOF route after all, but he did enlist, and has been doing exemplary since. Hopefully, he’ll find what he was looking for, and survive the experience.

My policy today is, if a young person comes to me, asking about enlisting, especially in combat arms, I will try to convince them not to enlist, but if they insist they are going to, I will do everything in my means to help them prepare to be the best they can be when they show up at Reception.

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.

Recommended

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.)

Sizing Solar

Entirely too often, when we start talking with the average “prepper” type, with their focus on some potential future singularity that will result in SHTF or TEOTWAWKI, we see an emphasis on trying to maintain the status quo as much as possible. This ranges from “I’m gonna stockpile enough fuel to run my BugOut Vehicle, because walking is for plebes” to “I need a 18.9 KWH stand-alone off-grid power system with PV panels and an automatic switchover diesel/propane/etc generator, because I want to run the same six televisions, four video game consoles, eighteen laptops and assorted other electronic devices, and I want to be able to leave the lights on all the time if I want.”

This is a ridiculous notion of course, and even though too many “preppers” unconsciously adhere to it, they still generally have the sense to at least verbalize, “Man, SHTF is gonna be rough,” even as they imagine themselves not suffering too much. The more I’ve studied and discussed things with experts in other areas, the more the concept of “Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush” has made sense to me. By reducing our supposed needs now, we enjoy two benefits: first, we begin to recognize how little we actually need, and thus, how much of our purchasing is a matter of being convinced by marketing that we “need” or “want” shit that we really don’t have any use for.

Doubt it? Look at the growth industry known as “self-storage.” The idea that you have so much shit that you don’t use daily, that you need a separate, off-site place to store it, is mind-boggling to me. I’ve rented self-storage units before, but only in the short term, while in the process of moving, or—in the case of the farm—while building the house.

Specifically today, we’re addressing the electrical demands of “off-grid” living during the decline. Typically, when I’ve looked at either installed package deals for off-grid PV/Solar, or I’ve read the descriptions in various books and magazine and web articles, there is this assumed notion that the purchaser is going to run what might be termed a “modern” household on the system. Of course, this includes not only lights, refrigeration, television and DVD, but also the requisite Amazon “Alexa” device, gaming consoles and Internet routers, food blenders and processors, microwave ovens, and a host of other things that I’m sure I’m overlooking, since don’t use any of it, let alone rely on it.

When people find out I’ve spent so little on building our PV system, they usually respond initially with “bullshit!” but then they want to know how I managed it.

There are two basic ways to determine how big of a system you need. The industry method is to determine what you typical daily usage is, factor in some marginal amount (10% for instance), and then multiply that by 3, in case of cloudy days or inclement weather, and then build your system around that demand.

In order to do this, you simply need to know the wattage of every electronic device you will use on the system. Some devices this is easy to determine, because it is listed on the packaging. Light bulbs for instance, almost invariably tell you exactly what their usage is.

For other items, like fans, or televisions, this requires a little bit of math. Fortunately, that math is pretty simple. If you look at the UL label on the back or side of various electric appliances and devices, it will generally tell you what the voltage is, and what the amperage draw is. By multiplying these together, you get to figure out the wattage. As an example, our bedroom fan (we don’t have A/C in the house yet), draws 0.6 amps, at 110 volts. So, 66 watts, assuming I just did my math right… Our television, on the other hand, also uses 110 volts, but draws 5 amps, so it is running 550 watts. By adding up the wattage of all of your electrical demands, you can determine what your total daily consumption should be. Then, you multiply that by a given modifier, representing a number of days, to account for the maximum expected days you might have total cloud cover, negating the panels’ ability to recharge the battery bank. It’s really pretty simple.

The problem with this, for us, was that we didn’t have any idea what our total demands might be. I might go all week without using my laptop at all, and then be on it most of the day on Sunday, prepping my articles for the blog for Monday. At other times, I might spend 5-6 hours every single day, for several months, working on a book. My kids don’t generally watch more than 30-60 minutes per day of cartoons on the DVD, but on a shitty weather day, we might let them watch a couple of movies, adding up to 3-4 hours. My wife goes through phases where she won’t watch a movie for weeks, and then she’ll go through a phase where she stays up late, watching movies until 1 or 2 in the morning, while I lay in bed reading.

Of course, that is daily life now, rather than in a post-grid environment, where we don’t have time for recreation, right? Well, not exactly. You’ve got to remember, after all, that we live this way every day. It’s not a summer vacation for us. We take care of the animals and the gardens every day, just like we will when things get worse. I spend time in the gym and on the range every day, just like we will when things get worse (We have a pretty decent Crossfit box in the backyard, as well as cross-country sprint interval tracks cleared and measured for 200, 400, 800, 1000, and 1600 yards. Anything longer than that, I map out a cross-country route, or just run the roads). The only thing that will really change much, in our daily scheduling, as things get worse, is we can reliably expect to have more people around, as various members of the clan decide it is time for them to emigrate to the farm from their homes in town. So, there might be slightly less television time for the kids, since they can be sent to play with their friends and cousins, more often than the 2-3 days per week they currently get to spend with our people.

There will be slightly less light usage, since I’m more likely to be outside after dark, providing security efforts, but even then, that will be balanced out by the demands of recharging batteries for night vision, flashlights, and etc….

(Which, in itself, is a great example of re-thinking traditional prepper concepts. When I was growing up, the conventional preparedness wisdom was, have lots of kerosene and/or white gas Coleman lanterns to see by after dark. For Night Vision, you still have people who seem convinced that “ten minutes after the lights go out, all the battery-powered equipment will be useless. My question becomes, which do you think is going to run out quicker? The amount of kerosene and white gas you can safely store in your home/garage/outbuilding/etc, or a handful of quality rechargeable lithium batteries for aircraft aluminum flashlights and battery powered lanterns? Take your time thinking about it. It took me a good decade to realize my older conviction on the matter was inherently flawed…)

Additionally, we had limited funds when we were building (we still do, to be sure!), and a lot of the appliances we already owned were not at all appropriate for an off-grid PV system. So, rather than sit down and try to pencil in hypotheticals, I sat down and determined what our absolute minimum “must-have” was, to keep my wife and kids from mutiny. Then, I looked at what I could afford to do. I realized I could probably do the above, with three days worth of reserve, based on the needs I had listed. Those boiled down to, “low wattage demand lights in each room, the ability to charge two cell phones, and two laptops, as well as the ability to run the television and DVD player, and a chest freezer (which I will come back to…).

Once I knew the wattage demands, I needed to convert those to watt-hours. To do that, you simply multiply the watt demands by the number of hours you expect each device to be used daily. So, if my television draws a hypothetical 500 watts, and it is turned on for 6 hours a day, that is 3000 watt hours, or 3 kilowatt hours (KWH). If I keep the lamp in the living room area on from around 9PM, when I go to bed, until 7AM, when I’ve finished getting out of bed, doing PT, and eating breakfast, then it is on for 10 hours a day. If the bulb draws 9 watts (it does), then I’ve used 90 watt-hours.

So, based on my total KWH usage, I can determine both the wattage of my panels needed, and the battery bank storage I need (and, in fact, to a lesser degree of importance, the size of the inverter I need. Lesser, because I simply oversized that to a 5KW inverter, so I knew I would have ample leftover load availability).

We’re far enough South that, even in the winter, most days, we’re going to get a solid 8-10 hours of sunlight on the panels. I have a 1.5KW panel array currently that, according to my charge controller, which is a 60 amp controller, produces around 58-59 amps, for 6+ hours a day, even in winter time. That means, my panels are producing more than 9KW per day. Really, they’re producing closer to 12KW, according to my half-assed record keeping efforts. Of course, that’s on sunny days. On overcast days, they produce less. I will say though, that, unless we are socked in with rain or fog, even on completely cloudy days, we’re producing at least 40-50% of those numbers.

Our usage at night is low enough that, usually by 9AM, my batteries are back at 100%, and are in a float and equalization phase, maintaining their life span.

Our battery bank started out with 6 Everlast Marine/RV deep cycle batteries from Wal-Mart. Those batteries, that no serious off-grid solar person would look seriously at, cost me $70 each. They lasted the better part of three years (and some of them are still in use in different applications). When I replaced the battery bank, I wanted something better, but I knew I couldn’t afford to buy forklift batteries or any of the other typical high end off-grid battery choices. On the recommendation of a local acquaintance who specializes in off-grid installs, I went with Duracell AGM batteries from Sam’s Club, for $170 each. Initially, I bought six of them, each of which is a nominal 105 amp hours. Multiplied by the 12.6 volts of a fully-charged 12V battery (don’t ask, because I can’t explain why the fuck a battery is called a 12V, if a 100% charge is actually 12.6 volts….), that ends up providing just short of 8KWH of storage. Of course, if you discharge below 50%, you dramatically reduce the life cycle of the batteries, so functionally, that battery bank provided a mere 4KWH of storage. In theory, that should not have been enough, since it didn’t offer any leeway for cloudy days without sun. In practice though, we found that it did. All we had to do was, on days without clouds, the kids weren’t allowed to watch anything on DVD until after the batteries had reached 100%. Since we get some charge from the panels even on cloudy days, this really ended up not making any difference in their lives at all.

Nevertheless, in the interest of keeping the system more robust, I eventually added more batteries, as I was able. This is generally frowned on in the solar world, because if one of your older batteries is weakened, it will draw down and damage the brand new batteries. What I’ve found has worked well for me is to simply make sure I tear the whole battery bank down, and test each individual battery, before adding the new batteries to the mix. So far, this has worked well for a couple of years anyway, and I don’t foresee any sort of reason why it shouldn’t continue in the future. What I have ended up with thus far is 12 of the Duracell batteries. That’s a nominal capacity of 15.8KWH, or a practical limit of 7-8KWH. My 1.5KW array, as I mentioned previously, tops that off by 9AM, even in the winter.

For us, that means that, since the panels then maintain the battery bank at a float charge of 13.75 watts, until late in the evening (around 7:30PM this time of year, and—conveniently—because of latitude, roughly the same most of the winter as well), when the house shadow finally blocks the sun from hitting the panels, we can use all the electricity we want, with no concerns.

Assuming you paid the $1/watt for panels, the panel array could be put together for $1500. The battery bank cost me $2200 (I had to pay core charge on a couple of the batteries). My inverter was $500. My charge controller was around $300. So, for less than $5K, I’ve got a system that I barely put a dent in the maximum capacity of.

How did I do that? By reducing our demand. We collapsed now, and avoided the rush.

What do we have, in our house that runs off the electrical system?

A 54 inch flatscreen television. It’s not connected to anything except the DVD player, and occasionally my wife’s laptop when she downloads a movie to watch.

A small DVD player. Seriously. It was like $30 at Wal-Mart like 4 years ago.

7-9 watt light bulbs, throughout the house. Off the top of my head, we have 10-11 in the house. At any given time, somewhere between 2 and 5 of them will be turned on. We’ve conditioned the kids to understand that they have to turn lights off when they leave a room, and they know they are not allowed to sleep with the light on.

We have four fans in the house. Three are box fans that draw 0.6-0.8 amps. One is a small reciprocating fan in our bedroom area that draws 0.4 amps. For further air conditioning, we installed a “geothermal” system that involves 100 linear feet of 4” pipe, buried 6 feet below the surface, and coming up through the floor in two different places. It works…..meh. Between it and keeping windows open, it will keep the house 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature. That’s significant…until the outside temperature is 120F…..

We charge two laptops (occasionally. My laptop usually gets plugged in on Sunday morning, so I can write my articles for the week. If I’m working on a book, I do it during daylight hours, and then unplug the laptop for the night). We charge two cellphones, and most of the time, I forget to plug mine in until I get in the truck to go somewhere.

I run a Ninja blender daily. It’s actually got a pretty high draw, but it’s only on for literally seconds, so it really doesn’t even count, as far as I can tell. Beyond that, we’ve got Streamlight rechargeable batteries for flashlights, Yaesu radios on chargers, a couple of cheap Cobra handy-talky radios on chargers, and a AA/AAA charger with rechargeables that gets plugged in when I need to charge some.

The only other thing currently on our system is a 7 cubic foot chest freezer. It draws a pretty significant amount (I want to say like 500 watts?) when it is running, but it only runs a couple hours a day, even in summer, so it’s not that bad. The big issue with the chest freezer is the same issue with running power tools and refrigerators off inverters, and that is the start-up surge. Typically, we tell people to budget for 2-3x the running draw for the start-up surge. It doesn’t hurt the battery bank or the solar panels, since it only lasts for a second or two. What it is rough on though is your inverter. We weren’t able to run the freezer on our first inverter. That was a 2KW inverter, but it was purchased at the local AutoZone, and is used by plugging cords directly into it. The problem with them is that none of the outlets will actually tolerate a 2KW draw. Each is only good for 500 or so watts. My 5KW inverter was fine with the load, unless I turned on everything in the house at the same time.

The current 3KW inverter that I purchased to replace the 5KW one, after it was damaged by lightning a couple weeks ago (ground your shit!!!!!), tolerates it, even plugged in to the outlet, but just barely. It will actually chirp the overload alarm. That’s an easy fix, I just need to add another breaker and outlet for it to the household power wiring. I’ve brought in a cousin who is an electrician to do the household wiring, and we’re waiting for him to be able to come back out and finish that task.

The same issue will arise with refrigerators. We have been using a propane refrigerator, bought used from a RV dealer. It works, but it’s a pain-in-the-ass, because it goes through so much propane. Since, even used, it cost me $1300, and it blows through a 20# tank of propane a week, it would have actually been more cost-effective to have simply bought a standard electric refrigerator, on the 5KW inverter system….(I’m familiar with the idea of using a chest freezer with an external thermostat plugged into it. We tried it. It didn’t work worth a damn for us, just because of the inconvenience).

The real moral of this isn’t how inexpensive a solar PV system can be built. We’ve covered that before, not all that long ago. What it is about is determining what you HAVE TO HAVE to live comfortably, if not excessively. What do you really need?

We can look at this from the rule of 3s….

Three minutes without oxygen.

Three hours without shelter.

Three days without water.

Three weeks without food.

Unless you’re on oxygen for health reasons, the only thing you’re really going to need electricity for is possibly ventilation fans, to keep stale air flowing, if you’re dealing with airborne contaminants outside of some sort, whether from an CBRN threat or smoke from wildfires, etc….

Three hours without shelter usually makes people think of staying warm in cold weather. Running electrical heat on solar is a non-starter. The demands because of inefficiency are simply too much. I’m aware that some people are running mini-split heat pumps that serve as both A/C and heat, but I genuinely don’t know how they are doing the heating side without it being ridiculously expensive.

More practical is what I mentioned previously. The use of strategically placed fans, with a properly designed house for the environment, will provide ventilation adequate to stay alive, and moderately comfortable. To be sure, if you’re used to year round climate control, and keeping your home frigid with modern A/C, it’s going to take some getting used to, but people forget, already, that the first practical residential scale air conditioning in the South didn’t come about until well after World War Two. (Carrier built the first electrical A/C unit in 1902. The first residential installation of electric air conditioning occurred in Minneapolis, in 1914. The first window unit was developed in 1945.).

One of the big applications of electricity in the household is one I’m currently trying to get caught up on, and that is running water. I’d like to stick with a 12V system, but the pump needs to be located far enough from the battery bank, on the opposite side of the house, that it’s not practical because of line loss. Instead, I will probably be using a high efficiency 110V pump, since it won’t run for long periods of time anyway. My backup water system, pumping water from the pond to the storage tanks in dry weather, when the rain doesn’t refill the tanks fast enough, I can get away with a 12V pump.

If I was in a place where I could install a water tower for an elevated, gravity-fed system, I wouldn’t need the household pump, but I would build a water trailer, with a large tank, and a dedicated two battery bank, small charge controller, and its own panel.

Three weeks without food. The electrical application to this is obvious. Sure, we can—and should—can foods, dehydrate foods, salt and cure foods, etc, but the convenience of a freezer, for both long term and short term storage and preparation, cannot be denied. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a “prepper” that didn’t have a chest freezer. Too often, their stated plan when the power goes out, falls back on a gas or diesel emergency generator. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but its not a particularly resililent plan, is it? After all, if you’re prepping for anything beyond a short-term power outage, what do you do with all that meat and food when you run out of fuel? Even the prepper porn fiction regularly discusses some woebegone prepper’s wife suddenly forced to cook up everything in the freezer before it goes bad, and sharing it around the neighborhood.

Now, I’m the last motherfucker out there that is going to suggest that sharing food with neighbors is a bad idea, obviously, but…wouldn’t it be nice if you had a way to keep that food a little longer, and share it out in a more rationed approach? I think so…

(I’m also familiar with the argument that having solar panels will just make you a target for thieves and raiders. Meh. If raiders/bandits/outlaw bikers/cannibalistic San Franciscans are going to be a problem, they’re going to be targeting anyone who seems to have anything, not just people with solar panels….The defense for that is not a lack of preparedness, but rather, is projecting security outward, and interdicting them before they get close enough for it to matter. That, of course, is the entire point of Volume One of The Reluctant Partisan….

Of course, beyond just storing food, in the freezer, electricity also facilitates food production in the form of electric mixers and food processors that can be legitimate labor savers. Most of those devices don’t draw a particularly large load, and they’re generally not used very long (the exception would be “bread maker” machines. Those abortions of inventions are not practical, in my experience, off-grid.).

Beyond those, really, the big demands for the off-grid system, from our perspective, is just the ability to keep flashlight batteries, etc charged, and those don’t draw much at all.

Ultimately though, whether you’re planning on moving your entire house off-grid (I highly recommend it!), or you’re just thinking about building an emergency power system to power a few key systems like lights and freezers and maybe charge batteries for radios and flashlights, you need to come up with a way to size your system.

Sizing your PV array is determined by available sunlight hours daily (generally in the winter, since that will be your least sunny season), and the kilowatt hours of your battery bank, and total wattage of your load(s). Sizing your battery bank needs to be based on your expected maximum daily demand. If you’re going to draw 1000 watts, for six hours a day, then a 5KWH battery bank (nominally a 10KWH battery bank, remember!), is not going to be adequate. Really, for that 6KWH demand, you’d want at least an 18KWH storage capacity, but again, as I mentioned previously, that’s not necessarily realistic, and it may not be necessary.

On Batteries

Typically, when you talk to solar off-grid folks, the first thing you’ll hear about is not the PV panels, but the battery bank. Most battery banks are built from reused forklift batteries. These are massive—really MASSIVE—batteries, and are typically 6V, instead of 12V. In order to get to a 12V system, you’ll need to wire two of them together in series, and then each series can be wired together in parallel. The advantage of the forklift batteries is that they are so massive, they offer a lot more power available per battery. The disadvantage of forklift batteries is that they are so massive, you damned near need a forklift to install them. The other disadvantage of forklift batteries is that they are generally procured used, and when they are used in forklifts, they are used hard, and a lot of times have been overdrawn repeatedly, throughout their service life. That means they’re probably not going to last as long as you would hope.

A bank built of 12V batteries will require more batteries, but they are much more manageable. Additionally, the availability of maintenance-free, deep cycle batteries makes them damned near idiot-proof (evidenced by the fact that I’m managing to deal with them successfully….). I’m completely sold on the Duracell DTG31AGM batteries I am currently using. They’re only 105ah each, but they are holding up remarkably well, and they are maintenance free.