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Friday, September 16, 2016

Secret Seed Storehouse

[Article is from the Washington Post]

The secret storehouse of seeds that might save humans from the apocalypse

If you’re already familiar with the Global Seed Vault and understand the crucial role it might play in the future of humanity, you can think of Cary Fowler’s new book as a beautiful coffee-table ornament — with the bonus of lots of informative, readable text.

If you’ve never heard of the vault, “Seeds on Ice: Svalbard and the Global Seed Vault”.can be your introduction to an extraordinary, farsighted venture.

The Global Seed Vault is a vast storehouse carved out of rock and ice on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, far north of the Arctic Circle. In it are half a billion seeds from around the world.

More important, it contains the traits found within the seeds: the genes that make one crop resistant to pests or enable another survive drought. The vault is meant to safeguard humanity against losing vital food stocks to extinction, natural disaster, nuclear war or climate change.

Fowler — a native of rural Tennessee who was trained as a sociologist and has worked for decades on behalf of global biodiversity — led the initial effort to create the seed vault and clearly sees this book as a summary of his life’s work. 

Besides the science involved in selecting and preserving seeds, he gives a fascinating account of the creation of the vault itself — selecting Svalbard because it was both geologically and politically stable, and offered year-round underground permafrost that could cheaply keep the seeds frozen; and the decision to design the wedge-shaped part of the vault that protrudes above the ice sheet so that it looked sculptural, a sort of work of art.

He notes the irony of preserving the future of edible plants in a region where virtually nothing grows. The book is illustrated with hundreds of photographs of the vault and the stunning Arctic environment in which it’s located.

And that is the only way you’re likely to see the vault, except through binoculars from the airport tower at the nearby town of Longyearbyen. Security is vital to the project, and visitors (except for seed donor organizations and the occasional diplomat or benefactor) are not allowed in.

Urban Man's Comment: Everyone reading this article should have their collection of seeds. I have a robust supply of both non-hybrid and hybrid seeds. I continually buy hybrid seeds at garden and hardware stores, spending just a few bucks at a time and now I have several ammunition cans full of them.

They will be initially be what I plant at my bug in location and also used for trading material. I would continue to use hybrid seeds at other temporary locations. I am saving the non-hybrid seeds for a final location or suitable site where I can harvest the seeds from these plants - don't want to waste them don't you know.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

When the Lights Go Out

This article came from a mainstream source - The Finance Section of Yahoo.
Delta Airlines recently experienced what it called a power outage in its home base of Atlanta, Georgia, causing all the company’s computers to go offline—all of them. This seemingly minor hiccup managed to singlehandedly ground all Delta planes for six hours, stranding passengers for even longer, as Delta scrambled to reshuffle passengers after the Monday debacle.

Where Delta blamed its catastrophic systems-wide computer failure vaguely on a loss of power, Georgia Power, their power provider, placed the ball squarely in Delta’s court, saying that “other Georgia Power customers were not affected”, and that they had staff on site to assist Delta.

Whether it was a true power outage, or an outage unique to Delta is fairly insignificant. The incident was a single company without power for six measly hours, yet it wreaked much havoc. Which brings to mind (or at least it should) what happens when the lights really go out—everywhere? And just how dependent is the U.S. on single-source power?

When you hear about the possible insufficiency, unreliability, or lack of resiliency of the U.S. power grid, your mind might naturally move toward the extreme, perhaps National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers. Talks about what a U.S. power grid failure could really mean are also often likened to survivalist blogs that speak of building faraday cages and hoarding food, or possibly some riveting blockbuster movie about a well-intentioned government-sponsored genetically altered mosquito that leads to some zombie apocalypse.

But in the event of a power grid failure—and we have more than our fair share here in the U.S.—your survivalist savvy may be all for naught.

This horror story doesn’t need zombies or genetically altered mosquitos in order to be scary. Using data from the United States Department of Energy, the International Business Times reported in 2014 that the United States suffers more blackouts than any other developed country in the world.

Unfortunately, not much has been done since then to alleviate the system’s critical vulnerabilities.

In theory, we all understand the wisdom about not putting all our eggs in one basket, as the old-adage goes. Yet the U.S. has done just that with our U.S. power grid. Sadly, this infrastructure is failing, and compared to many other countries, the U.S. is sauntering slowly behind many other more conscientious countries, seemingly unconcerned with its poor showing.
According to the United States Department of Energy, the American power grid is made up of three smaller grids, known as interconnections, which transport energy all over the country. The Eastern Interconnection provides electricity to states to the east of the Rocky Mountains, while the Western interconnection serves the Rocky Mountain states and those that border the Pacific Ocean.

The Texas Interconnected System is the smallest grid in the nation, and serves most of Texas, although small portions of the Lone Star state benefit from the other two grids.

And if you’re wondering why Texas gets a grid of its own, according to the Texas Tribune they have their own grid “to avoid dealing with the feds.” Now that’s true survivalist savvy—in theory.

When you look at the layout of the grid above, it’s easy to see that a single grid going offline would disrupt a huge segment of North America.

Wait—make that all of North America.

To give it to you straight, our national electrical grid works as an interdependent network. This means that the failure of any one part would trigger the borrowing of energy from other areas. Whichever grid attempts to carry the extra load would likely be overtaxed, as the grid is already taxed to near max levels during peak hot or cold seasons.

The aftermath of a single grid going down could leave millions of residents without power for days, weeks or longer depending on the scope of the failure.

So although on the surface it looks like the U.S. has wisely put its eggs into three separate baskets for safer keeping, the U.S. has in essence, lined up our baskets so that if one were to drop, or if the bottom were to fall out, the eggs from basket #1 would fall into basket #2. Which would break from the load, falling into basket #3—eventually scrambling all the eggs. Sorry, Texas.

And sorry for all you out there, likely 300 million of you, who have no idea or have no plans on how to live without power. Or how to live without trips to the local grocery store. Or how to live in a society where most people will ignore social norms and respect for law or even lives. Sorry for you but not everyone can survive the coming collapse.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Purify Water Using Chemical Treatments

Water purification tablets are a great back up form of water treatment. They are excellent Bug Out Bags and survival kits because they are light weight and inexpensive. Water purification tablets are also great to store in your vehicle or your bug out location to disinfect water on demand.  If the water supply I am drawing from is extremely shady I combine both a filter and the tablets to ensure my safety. Also, be aware that water purification tablets have a shelf life. Check the expiration dates on your tablets and replace any that are expired.

Water purification can come in tablet or droplet form. The tablet form is better because it is a lighter weight that droplets and easy to use when in a stressful situation.

Two water born pathogens that commonly found in untreated water- Cryptosporidium and Giardia.

Cryptosporidium is a genus of apicomplexan protozoans that can cause gastrointestinal illness with diarrhea in humans. According to the CDC it is one of the most frequent causes of waterborne disease among humans in the United States. In a disaster situation where government maintained services are effected, it is highly likely that this protozoa parasite will find its way into our water supply.

Giardia attached to the wall of the small intestines. Giardia is also an infectious protozoa and it is a big deal in emergency preparedness because it can have such a dramatic effect on your health. The symptoms of Giardia, may begin to appear 2 days after infection, include violent diarrhea, excess gas, stomach or abdominal cramps, upset stomach, and nausea. 

The typical infection within an individual can be slight, resolve without treatment in about 2–6 weeks, although sometimes longer and sometimes the infection is more severe requiring immediate medical attention. 

There are three main types of water purification tablets on the market (Chlorine (NaDCC), Iodine and Chlorine Dioxide) . Not all are equal as each one has its strengths and weaknesses. Choose the purification tablet that works the best with your situation and location.

Chlorine Dioxide Tablets (Potable Aqua, Katadyn and Aquamira Brands). Even though the word “chlorine” is in the name, chlorine dioxide is neither iodine nor chlorine. It uses a highly active form of oxygen to purify water so it leaves absolutely zero taste. As a nice bonus the action of chlorine dioxide causes a lot of sediment to drop out of suspension (fall to the bottom) leaving the container of water more clear and further improving flavor. Chlorine dioxide tablets are a good choice for those allergic to iodine, with thyroid problems, or on lithium. Always follow product usage instructions.

Chlorine NaDCC Tablets (Potable Aqua, Oasis Plus, Aquatabsand Rothco’s Military “Chlor-Floc“ Brands). NaDCC, also known as sodium dichloroisocyanurate or sodium troclosene, is a form of chlorine used for disinfection. NaDCC tablets are different and improved over the older chlorine based (halazone) tablets. When added to water, NaDCC releases hydrochloric acid which reacts through oxidization with microorganisms and kills them. Many tablets advertise no chlorine after taste. Unopened NaDCC tablets have a shelf life of 3-5 years, if opened they should be discarded after 3 months. Always follow product usage instructions. 

Iodine Tablets (Potable Aqua,Coleman, and Coghlans brands). Iodine Tablets use iodine to purify contaminated water. Most iodine purification tablets tend to leave a funny taste to the water and some discoloration, however vitamin C or ascorbic acid can be added after the treatment time to improve the taste and remove the color. This often comes in the form of two bottles with two separate tablets. Iodine water treatment has been proven to be somewhat effective against Giardia and not effective against Crytosporidium.  Always follow product usage instructions. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Escaping the Urban Environment

I believe there are as many preppers planning a Bug In as there are survivalist planing to Bug Out to either a general area or a prepared site. Not a lot of historical content out there to provide us with lessons learned in any case - Bug In or Bug Out, however there are some good fictional stories that could provide us with trains of thought and likely decision points for either.

My favorite is the Joe Nobody series where Bishop, the main character, and his wife Terri, stay in Houston area suburbs until the security situation and food supplies force their hand and they Bug Out for a remote area in West Texas that Bishop was familiar with - but this site was not prepared, nor did Bishop have caches en-route to assist in travel and survival.

I am not here to tell people that either Buging In or Buging Out is the best course of action. However I am here to state that both need to be considered and if Bugging In you ought to have the contingency plan to Bug Out. And Bug Out plans needs to be supported,...route plans, caches em-placed en-route (both primary and alternate routes as well). You ought to consider a chart of decision points. There would be decision options based on situational factors. An obvious one would be: "Food critical - two week supply left" - Decision Point: Execute Bug Out Plan.

If you spend much time reading prepper or survivalist blogs (including this one) you’ve probably heard the standard advice to get out of any city or heavily populated areas when the SHTF.

This is for good reason and solid advice. There’s no doubt that cities will be dangerous, much more dangerous than areas outside of the city. You can look at Venezuela for proof.

The problem is over 70% of the US population lives in or close to an urban area. The second problem is not everyone has a place to go if they leave their homes.

Escaping to some homestead or rural acreage to save your butt is your best choice, but the reality is it’s simply not feasible for the majority of the population. Most people, if hardly anyone but the most serious preppers, have a second property set up as a survival location or anything resembling a self-sufficient homestead.

Heck, most people don’t have a second of anything because it takes all they make to afford what they do have!

The reality is you have to prep within your means and you can’t live in your head plans of elaborate bug out bunkers, $20,000 bug out vehicles, 20 acre farms, hundreds of lbs of food and water stored at multiple locations, and the like. Truthfully, 97% of preppers will never have any of that.

Should you remove yourself from large population of people then? Absolutely! We’re not saying stay. Get out, and get out at the beginning. But where to go and how to get there is a question and the focus of today’s article.

If you have that 20 acres of land out in the mountains that’s stockpiled to the brim or can meet up with family or friends in a remote location then do it and don’t look back….

These are all great plans…. if you have the money for that second property now or if you have family living on a farm somewhere and the means to reach them.

But what if you don’t have that luxury? What if you want a better plan…

First, let’s consider what your average SHTF city will be like by putting ourselves in one.

It’s a post collapse situation of your choosing. There may not be any food, water, or electricity depending on what scenario you’re most worried about, but for the sake of argument let’s say there are still bare bones basics such as water and electricity.

There are random blackouts, the lights rarely work and the water is generally unsanitary and needs to be boiled. Food is rare but can be bought for a very high price and usually includes a fight.

The city would be under martial law no doubt. What’s left of law and order is currently shoot first and ask questions later. Hospitals and jails are full, and it’s a lot easier to shoot a criminal under martial law than to deal with a situation completely out of control.

What’s left of the police, fire, and EMS are highly understaffed and ran by the National Guard. Their own families are probably missing or bad off, many have left the city or are at home protecting their families and starving with everyone else. Stress is high and never-ending.

The situation is dangerous for you. If you don’t starve to death or get killed by indirect fire the next threat is all of the local gangs that have sprang up and also the desperate people looking for essentials. They are looking for food, water, shelter, gold, jewelry and anything else of value that can be used or quickly sold. A backpack of supplies and gear is a clear signal that you should be robbed to these people.

Your Options

So how do you survive this until things improve? Head to the woods or hunker down? Hit the rooftops or live in the sewer? hmm…

Hunkering down is what most will do and if so your journey ends here. Good luck out there….you’ll have to protect your house or apartment and fight for what you have and fight for what you need. If luck is on your side the worst of it will pass you by, and if you’re unlucky it will all fall on your lap with nowhere else to go.

Some will go lone survivor and travel the city, never staying in one place for long and scavenging what they can. This could work but every day is a gamble. Will you open the wrong door today, or will someone find you while you sleep tonight? Every day you’ll roll the dice one more time. Eventually house will win. House always wins.

Like we talked about before, even if you don’t have another house out of the city or some family nearby that you can get to, you still have the woods. You can stay there once you’re set up or you can travel back and forth from your camp to the city for supplies. The woods give you options.

Why The Woods Then?

Why the woods and not some place in the city, you ask? After all, your house or just an abandoned building offers much more than the woods at first sight. Shelter, security, who wouldn’t want that?

The city has water, food, and other supplies in all these abandoned homes and businesses. You have neighbors and friends to think about after all, and sometimes food comes in and you can fight over some scraps.

So why leave this SHTF “paradise”?

One word: people. People are the real danger of a city. It’s not the buildings or lack of amenities. It’s the guy who wants what you have or the new gang that just set up on your street, or the next riot and the fire that comes with it. The list goes on and on.

A person may be sweet and kind, but people are bastards. It’s the locust mentality. A single grasshopper is harmless, but put them in a group and they transform into a plague of locusts. Groups of people who have their own plans are dangerous when they get desperate or have free run of a place.

There are far fewer people in the woods than in a city, obviously. Going to the woods then is safer. Water and food can be found if you have the most basic of wilderness skills. Shelter can be made. Fire and cooking can be had. Life can continue without the danger of mobs and riots, without people.

Traveling Through the City and Woods

The first consideration is how you’ll move around without being seen. You want to become a grey man, someone who dresses and behaves in an inconspicuous manner in order to avoid any unwanted attention from strangers or authorities.

The New Homeless

Urban travel covers the inner city and the outskirts. There will be many new homeless people living on the streets in these areas, so your best bet for long term movement is to blend in with them.


Move on foot at dusk and the early night while there is still a little light and if you have some ambient light from buildings or can risk using a flashlight you can continue to move until dawn.


Sleeping on the roof of a two-story building or on a patio cover will give you all the cover you need inside a city. You would be surprised how few predators think to look up when hunting, including us humans. If you cannot get to a roof or if the weather is bad, try to find the inside of an empty building and if all else fails blend in with the homeless but be wary because in this kind of situation everyone is dangerous.

Urban Camo (no, that isn’t a new clothing brand)

You’ll want to be prepared to travel between wooded areas and the streets at least once, and maybe many times if you have to. You’ll need to do this with without drawing attention to yourself. This will mean a unique take on urban “camo”. Wear clothes that make sense for street wear and that are practical in the woods.

Firstly, dress for the season. Nothing says “look at me” more than an over-sized hoodie in the middle of summer, except maybe full camo and high-top boots in the middle of a city.

A pair of OD green pants, a simple brown t-shirt and a black pullover with a pair of trail shoes is an outfit that works for the street and is good enough for the woods. However this is just the beginning, you really will want the ability to switch to full camo once you’re out of the city.

Camo Layer #2

Keep a thin camo long sleeve shirt with dark gloves and a bandanna in your pack. Remember, you want neutral colors found in nature or natural camo patters only. Once you get into the wooded area take a minute to change.

The idea is to add a camo pattern over your main layer and cover any exposed skin. Of course you could go full camo here will a pullover set, or even a complete ghillie suit but those options are heavier and hotter, and if someone looked in your bag they would be a dead giveaway. The trade-off is superb camo.

Pick a camo pattern that will match the season and your area. In a wooded area you want to stay concealed as much possible. You might have caches or shelter in those areas, or you might be followed. Being seen comprises the entire area and there’s no happy ending to being found.

Site Recon and Shelter Building

Your current house or apartment may remain your primary shelter or you may decide to never go back to the city (which would be my choice because I am prepared now with the gear and supplies I need and wouldn’t need to go back).

Even if you decide to stay in your house you’ll want a backup location within a couple of hours hike, or possibly a 2-3 day hike (more on this in a minute), from the city in case your house is destroyed or attacked by looters or other threats.

This location should be within reasonable distance of your house or apartment by foot or bike. It should also have multiple exit and entry points and have a source of water nearby. On the side of high ground is preferable for security.

When I say it should be within a reasonable distance I mean that you should consider:

1.your ability to hike with a loaded pack and how far you can reasonably travel much food and water you can reasonably carry before you’ll run out far most people from the city will tromp through these same woods
4.your plans to go back to the city or not

If you’re staying in the woods permanently then push yourself and go as far as you can. You may even want to set up a few temporary camps and travel for weeks. If you plan to go back and forth you’ll have to stay closer to the outskirts of the city, but go deep enough that you can’t see the city or be seen by it.

Think about fire at night and the smells of cooking, and the sounds of gunshots and trees falling. You don’t want anyone to see or hear these.

Once you’ve selected a (nearly) perfect area and done a thorough site recon it’s time to build a shelter. There are many guides for building wilderness shelters so I won’t go into incredible detail here. If you’re lucky you packed a lightweight tent, or at least a sleeping bag and a camo/green/brown tarp.

Find a spot that has the most cover year round. Think about sight lines on the ground and above your head. Look for kudzu, vines, and thick brush that will always be there no matter the season.

Once you’ve locate this area, burrow into the ground cover and make your site a part of it. This way you’ll blend in with the terrain. Keep your clearing to a bare minimum and let the natural undergrowth fill in the dead space and sight lines around the shelter.

Find a spot that has the most cover year round. Think about sight lines on the ground and above your head. Look for kudzu, vines, and thick brush that will always be there no matter the season.

Once you’ve locate this area, burrow into the ground cover and make your site a part of it. This way you’ll blend in with the terrain. Keep your clearing to a bare minimum and let the natural undergrowth fill in the dead space and sight lines around the shelter.

Dispose of any left over materials by breaking them down into a small pile and drying them out. Burn them slowly when they are dry enough. A big pile of freshly cut materials means someone is around and will give you away.

Final Thoughts

Forget about playing Rambo in the woods or I Am Legend in the streets. Urban survival is a skill just as much as wilderness survival. They both have their own rules and if you abide by those rules you’ll be OK, but if you push against nature or man too much you’ll pay the price.

We all need to cultivate and grow our skills, and sometimes that skill is waking down a busy street like a grey man. You and only you can create a realistic survival strategy for your needs. It’s fun to imagine ourselves with backpack and prybar in hand parkouring around city rooftops like some lone survivor ninja, or busting through roadblocks in a vehicle right out of a movie, gatling gun and all…. but that’s not a plan, it’s fantasy.

Another consideration is your urban survival kit. Do you live in a city or on the outskirts of one but have a bag full of wilderness survival equipment and zero urban gear? If you’re wondering what the different is or what you should include we’ve wrote extensive posts on how to build an urban survival kit and how to create a personalized W.E.B. (Work Emergency Bag).

[Source: written by Robert Rickman titled "Escaping A City During SHTF".]