Archive for the ‘NatGeo Doomsday Preppers Season 2’ Category

‘Doomsday Castle’ Episode 1

Well, they did it. They really did it. Throwing money and camera crews at deluded wannabe survivalists for one show wasn’t enough, so the ratings-hungry vultures at NatGeo (who really ought to be disowned by their parent entity, the eminently respectable National Geographic Society) have given Doomsday PreppersBrent Bruns his very own spin-off miniseries…‘Doomsday Castle’. Ohboy.

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
For starters, it’s really quite funny how the producers have taken the family we last saw in a 20-minute segment of DP, and totally remade them into easily-consumable, airbrushed, up-to-Eleven, caricature-personalities properly befitting the ‘reality tv’ genre. Pappy Brent still makes self-important-sounding declarations to the camera, Dawn-Marie is still fairly levelheaded, DM’s twin brother is still young and cocky, the Spray-Tan Sisters are still ‘more primpers than preppers’, and Brent Jr is still…whatever he’s supposed to be (Gary Busey-in-training??), but whereas with their DP appearance, one could assume that we were just seeing a single facet of each person’s personality on-screen, here the idea seems to be that what we see is all there is to each. Ohwell, such is the nature of this repugnant genre.

And right off the bat, we have daddy dragging a pickaxe up the red-clay hill, narrating some macho dreck about The End Of Days, to the mellifluous tune of…Inception horns?!?! C’mon, you’ve got to be kidding!
In general, if you saw the family’s profile on ’Preppers, you’ve seen ’Castle. Brent I fears some sudden and unknown disaster (he’s gunning for—as he keeps saying—‘an EMPelectromagneticpulse’) which will befall the world, and instead of just spending a few thousand dollars on an underground prefab bunkertube like everyone else, he’s sunk nearly a million dollars into an ugly cinderblock structure on top of a North Carolina hilltop.
Note: Brent and everybody on the show will continue to refer to this structure as a ‘castle’, but don’t worry, it’s not. Honestly, I’d be totally fine with the whole undertaking if Brent just announced that he really wanted to own a Medieval Times franchise.

At one point Brent refers to the need for a “massive fortress that very few people could ever storm or tear down.” Well, massive it may be, but a fortress…it ain’t. A million dollars of cinderblocks and Portland cement in the form of a half-assed, lopsided design clearly built without defense in mind (unlike, something likesay a star fort) do not equal a fortress. At another point daddy-o predicts that “someday this castle is going to be under siege”. Yeah, from a strong wind. Really, I’m surprised that all those spindly, unbuttressed, one-brick-thick walls combined with the site’s hilltop location haven’t resulted in the whole thing getting blown down in a stiff breeze. To sum up: I’m really not a fan of people forgoing research into proper designs and methods, only to whip up something half-assed and calling it the real thing.

Anyway, in describing the effects of The End of Days brought on by an EMPelectromagneticpulse, papa smurf remarks that, “There’ll be no government that could help you, no neighbors that could help you, you’d be on your own!”, and so “the whole idea is to make us self-sufficient.”
Clearly, one of the negative effects of our American myth of rugged individualism is the mistaken-but-widespread belief in the solitary, self-sufficient mountain man, a myth which Brent clearly puts much stock in, as he foolishly picked a site in the middle of the North Carolina forest, far away from other potential survival-community-network members.

Reflecting the typical gung-ho, macho Type 1 prepper, Brent informs his offspring that “if we’re to survive a cataclysmic event, we need training!” Unfortunately, aside from astronomical or geological events, most human-caused disaster-producing events (which I would almost consider more likely) are almost never isolated! Long Emergency, much?

And so, to give them some of that needed training and in order to “show how vulnerable this family and this castle really are!”, Senior hires a small army of friends to ambush the newly-arrived kiddies. He really needn’t have bothered, because they don’t need an army of airsofters and paintballers, just a pack of firecrackers and a strong wind. Meh, there’s drama-stuff as everybody runs around; Brent’s friends get a chance to posture as tacticool Survivalist Men and assault them some women. So everybody ‘fails’ his little test, disappointing Brent, who brags how he “was an infantry training officer…I know the way a person needs to be trained.” Okay, mister One Right Way. If you say so.

Eventually, Brent reveals his plans to upgrade the castle with a drawbridge…and a moat!? Dude, you’re on the top of a mountain, ain’t no water gonna stay in a moat! He and Younger Son head out into the woods to shoot at steel plates to decide with which thickness they should clad their ‘drawbridge’. They shoot a .22 (pistol only, for some reason), as well as a .308 rifle, and a shotgun (at an unrealistic distance). What about a .22 rifle? Or a pistol in the 9mm/.40/.45 range? Or a 5.56 or an intermediate .30 rifle? If you really want to test these things, at least be thorough!

While they’re doing that, Jr and the girls are sent into the 2,000-square foot underground bunker basement (c’mon, let’s call it what it is) to get things organized. More concrete; how attractive; ugh.

Brent2 gets impatient and believes his potential is being wasted, and so he exasperatedly exclaims, ‘Let’s go find some supplies. I’m gonna fortify this bunker!” Dude, are you trying to sound like a video game character?

We take a pointless detour into Great Recession reality tv with a American Pickers-type segment in which B2 (with DM in tow) haggle over a local’s hoarded junkyard-yard.

Meanwhile, the Spray Tan Sisters eventually get the foodbuckets organized and beds assembled, and find time to put together some kind of improvised rat trap (utilizing bleach to drown the critter for some reason…bah, save it for disinfecting water).

Daddy and Younger Son get to work adding ‘drawbridge’ ‘hinges’ to a building probably not designed from the start with them in mind; they assemble their ‘drawbridge’ (thick, heavy-ass oak planks bolted to a couple of pipes) and it’s visibly wobbly and bending. I can’t say I’m surprised given the whole idea of Brent’s ‘castle’, but just ugh…the word craftsmanship has no place in a discussion of any part of this project.

With the thing installed, there’s some edited-for-drama b.s. as they’re raising the drawbridge right before the commercial break that amounts to nothing. (By the way, isn’t it kinda gauche to show ads for a show during that show’s timeslot? Maybe it’s just me.) Anyway it’s only once the thing is installed and raised in place do they decide to see how the steel plating does against an AR-15. What a surprise, it goes right through the steel (and very nearly splinters out the wood behind). What was the point of waiting until it was assembled and installed to test that???
And the stupidity gets even worse, when we pick up our b-plot (Brent Jr just wants daddy to love him!), in which Junior attaches junk to a lawn tractor and drives it into a half-assed-propped-up door. This apparently doesn’t please him, and so he then cuts down some trees, ratchet-straps them to a slightly larger vintage tractor, and proceeds to run it into the raised drawbridge—standing the tractor up onto its back wheels and tipping him out of the seat onto the ground. I honestly expected we’d see our first casualty, but damn, no Darwin Award for B2.

The rest of the series (thankfully they only got picked up for like, a 10-episode run)—which I will be neither watching nor covering here—looks just as bad as you’d expect.
However…If you enjoy the reprehensible entity that is ‘reality tv’…
Number one: such stuff is the fast-food of entertainment (entirely artificial, addicting, and ultimately harmful); get a life, read a book (might I suggest one of these?).
Number two: you should love this show. Everything I hate about the genre (which is to say, everything) is here in spades:


With all the ramping and frame-skipping – no wonder cognitive dissonance is on the rise!
Number three (and most encouragingly): you might be outnumbered on this one. I’m really pleased to see that a much larger number of people on the interwebz seem to have come out against NatGeo for promoting this kind of stuff.

ADDENDUM: for you curious folks out there, the ‘castle’ is located at 34°58’41.23″ N  82°43’37.96″ W (plug into GoogleEarth).

Doomsday Preppers: Kevin Barber

And our last new preppers of the season are the Barber family, of Kansas.
Barber-family
Kevin sets the stage with a description of the typical, supposedly-ideal postwar American lifestyle. They live in the burbs, they work long hours at jobs they hate, they have bills for food/electricity/heating/airconditioning/TV/mobilephones/school/everything, “and that’s the problem.”

Kevin believes (probably correctly) that the national debt will continue to grow until “called” by our creditors, at which point he believes the “suburban dream will turn into a nightmare.” Pull the wool from over your eyes, folks, and wake up. The nightmare is already here – the System is just really good at covering it up and distracting you from it.

So, after recognizing that our society’s answer for Everything is simply ‘Make a Program and Throw Money At It’ (“Every problem we try to fix with a credit card!”), Kevin’s preparation for an oncoming economic collapse isn’t simply to turn his back on suburbia and go off-grid (like Joe from last week, which would be totally adequate). Instead, he’s pulling up stakes and moving to Costa Rica.

Though really, why Costa Rica? Do they want to be as far from the US as possible without leaving the continent? I feel like pretty much any dictator-free Central American country would have a similar environment and ethic; my third dad just got back from a two-month motorcycle trip through Mexico down to Guatemala, and it sounded just like the Costa Rica Kevin describes.

Kevin explains that they’re heading south (before the economy does) because he’s realized that living at a lower standard of living (a phrase solidly rooted in our culture’s Myth of Progress)— in other words, one somewhere a few rungs below the First-World industrial daydream he lived in the ’burbs—provides more opportunities for one to be self-reliant and therefore have a greater possibility of overall survival. As he says, “the typical Costa Rican doesn’t have as far to fall—they grow their own food, make their own power, and are used to living a simple life.” This is probably true. However, while it’s inspiring to see a suburban family from the West realize that it’s alright to live like the Rest, the bigger issue is all the folks from the ‘developing’/Third world/Global South who have been told that it’s the First World lifestyle they should be aspiring towards. It won’t do much good for all the Kevin Barbers in the world to move to the Costa Ricas of the world, if all the Costa Ricans of the world have been told for the last 50 years that they should want to be Kevin Barbers. Instead, everybody needs to realize that the Kevin Barber way of life just isn’t good for anybody.

Unfortunately, while I guess his idea is okay, I’m not a big fan of how they implement it. Instead of selling off pretty much all their possessions and arriving with suitcases and not much else (making do with the necessities, like the locals), they elect to hire a shipping container to fill up “to jump-start our new life”.
At least they take some solar panels and a generator.

Thankfully, while he still hangs onto a lot of Stuff, Kevin at least realizes that “self-sufficiency isn’t about buying a lot of gear, but having skills.” WORD. I think it’s also about having a certain attitude, but that can come later. He goes on to admit that “despite living in Kansas”, they “don’t know much about growing [their] own food or butchering animals.” Yes, Kevin, because you live in the ’burbs. Joe and Wendy live in Kansas too, and do know about those things—but only because they’re unplugged. Even if you’re not living the self-reliant lifestyle, if you live in the ’burbs or anywhere else within the matrix, you really owe it to yourself to at least become familiar with such things.
Thankfully, the Barbers do just that, and take the opportunity to take some crash-courses in areas they lack.

Joe Fox of Viking Preparedness drops by to teach the kids basic Don’t Get Lost in the Woods skills, and gives them kid-friendly bug-out-bags. They also start taking Spanish lessons. Finally, they get a visit from Marjory Wildcraft (with a name like that, she was pretty much born to teach outdoor skills). She schools them in survival entomophagy (or as non-westerners calls it, eating dinner)—chowing down on mealy worms, crickets, and scorpions. And then she breaks out a live Sister Turkey to butcher. Ms. Wildcraft has Kevin dispatch it, and they skin and butcher it together. Now, from what we’re shown (or not shown, thankfully), it seems they just hold the hen down and slit its throat, which is pretty much the least humane way possible. Yes, you want to bleed the animal, but that shouldn’t be what kills it. Thankfully, when dispatching poultry, you have several methods at your disposal. Regardless of what technique you choose, it always helps to hang the bird by its feet for four or five minutes first, which basically causes the bird to pass out. That way, when you stab/whirl/knock/chop it, there’s much less flapping and screaming.

*Books will tell you to stick an icepick through the roof of the bird’s mouth, but as small as their brains are, I wouldn’t trust myself to stick it right on the first try, and nobody likes a botched lobotomy.
*Alternately, I have a friend who uses a wire loop to hold the bird’s head tight to a board, and she just holds onto the feet and yanks up, cleanly breaking the neck.
*For what it’s worth, I’ve also found that a miniature Louisville Slugger is perfect for knocking chickens on the back of the head.
*Finally, there’s always the archetypal hatchet-and-stump method, which results in lots of flopping around like, well, a chicken with its head cut off. I’ve noticed that this method always results in “postmortem contractions of posterior neck ligaments”. In other words, your decapitated chicken will quickly stiffen up and do its best to imitate a dead therapod:

When dad dispatches the bird, Kevin’s son remarks that “This is sad.” Indeed it is. Nice to see the kid—while he may not be consciously aware of it—is still undomesticated enough to sense a kinship with his sister animal. Without an reciprocal offering or thanking of the Great Spirit, however, it just feels imbalanced.

In the end, the family receives 60 points, which computes out to nine months’ survival. I’m kind of surprised they got such a relatively-high score, considering they don’t seem to be immigrating with much in the way of stored food or water (and we know what sticklers the ‘experts’ are for storing water).
And we finally get to see a post-filming update from the family, with a really funny bit where Kevin starts out all bundled up only to strip off his winter clothes as the camera zooms out to reveal they’ve arrived in the tropics! There’s a dozen different kinds of fruit just waiting to be picked off the tree, they have the chicken coop set up, and the weather is spring-like all year. I was never big on the tropics before (maybe because the last time I was there was the rainy season), but Kevin makes it look really tempting.

Doomsday Preppers: Brad and Krystal

Whoo, we finally made it to ‘Gonna Be a Big Bang’, the last episode of the season! (next week’s best-of compilation doesn’t count.)Brad&Krystal-familyOur look at this Tulsa, OK family begins with a voiceover from Brad:
“I think there’s a general misconception about what’s going on in the world, and what’s going on in America: people are somewhat naïve about the dangers that we face and the tough times ahead that we have…The signs and the signals are already there.” Well, dude, you’re on the right track, but the suburbs are just about the worst place to see what’s really going on in the world, insulating and completely artificial as they are. I don’t have time or space here to write a 12,000-word screed on that subject–that’s what this series is for.
Just remember, though, that you can’t expect to change or escape (or really survive, in the long run, for that matter) if you can’t recognize the bars of your cage.

And so, just like literally one out of every two people profiled this season, Brad is preparing for what? All together now! “Economic collapse!…which will lead to Armageddon.” Wait, what? Maybe Brad’s not up on his bible-reading, but even this practicing heathen can tell you that Armageddon (a fictional cosmic battle pitting Zombie Jeebus v. Satan and the Antichrist), would fall neatly into the category of ‘supernatural event’; the collapse of one civilized human economy would not. An economic collapse might theoretically result from Armageddon, but not the other way around.

Let me say this up front: this segment is the epitome of Type IA (Rawlesian) Prepping:
Guns? Check.
House full of hoarded, never-to-be-eaten-until-doomsday canned foods? Check.
Extraneous, expensive survivalist gear (camouflage, gasmasks, body armor, &c.)? Check. (Brad probably some two-way-radios and night-vision goggles stashed in a closet somewhere)
Overbuilt, underground steel box (bunker)? Check?
Judeo-Christian Southerners? Check.
Really, all that’s missing is a sock full of pre-1965 quarters.

So, in the year or so since Brad ‘became a prepper’, he’s spent $70,000 on gear and enough canned goods to fill his house. Literally: the house is only 2,000 square feet, yet every room seems to be full of food cans stacked to the ceiling. You know what I would do if I had a house full of food? Eat it! And then I’d buy—or maybe, just maybe, grow—some more! Huh, what a novel idea!: Food is for eating!

Sidebar: After two seasons of this show, I’ve noticed that the folks who really turn me off are the ones who seem to have, at some point in the very recent past, sat down and said, “We’re going to be preppers now!”, and then spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars catching up with the Joneses. Because that’s how we try to solve problems in this country: by throwing money at it! The folks who I really like are the ones who have just been living their life in a way that coincidentally makes them prepared, who shrug and say, “Well, I guess that makes us preppers.”

Now, all members of Brad’s family supposedly go to the gun range every month, and we get to see the six-year-old’s first time. He seems downright excited talking about their plan for the post-collapse world: “We have to shoot bad guys with our own guns, right?” he says with a grin. At the gun range, the youngling gets some pistol training with tacticool specialist Steve Aryan. After the kid takes a shot, Steve tells him, “You’re a shooter, I can tell.” Hmm, I wonder why that is? Could it be that the kid has grown up in a terminal death-culture, exposed to more violence-for-entertainment in his six years than most people should see in their entire lives?

So, apparently, Brad spends two hours every day just inspecting his ‘preps’, and a further two to four hours daily ordering new stuff? And what kind of Stuff does he buy that he thinks will help them survive? How ‘bout a ghillie suit? Krystal puts it on while Brad tells her, “If you wanted to stay concealed, that’s what you’d wear. You’d blend in well.” Sure she’d blend in well, dude, when she’s in the jungle. Not in the ’burbs!

Then there’s some reality-show, forced-tears drama BS where they explain how the “situation has become so dire”, they’ve “had to hold off on expanding our family.” *Sigh* I’m guessing if they had it their way, Brad and Krystal would have six or seven or eight kids, but let’s pretend for a second that our culture followed a different paradigm and didn’t teach us that the Earth was made for civilized man to multiply across and abuse as he sees fit. They already have three kids who have survived past age five, so it’s reasonable to assume they’ll live to adulthood, which means Brad and Krystal have already replaced themselves plus one. If you haven’t noticed, we probably hit the planet’s carrying capacity years ago – so every new discovery made (the New World, petro fuels, any number of vaccines) is really just an artificial extension of the population cliff our culture has created.

And while Krystal already has the waterworks running, she uses the opportunity to go on about how one of her motivations in prepping is to ensure that her daughter won’t get raped and ravaged by the hordes of rioting unprepared folks when TSHTF. Apparently she’s unaware that she lives in an institutionalized Rape Culture, and one of her children will, statistically-speaking, be sexually assaulted at some point in their life, with or without the excuse of economic collapse or other disaster, as it seems our culture has been one of Men Who Hate Women for the last 6,000 years.

Anyway, like all Type I preppers, Brad has a serious Bunker Boner, so he contracts Clyde Scott of ‘Rising S Bunkers’ to build one for him, which turns into a ten-minute detour into Texan Prepper culture. I feel it’s appropriate to point out that Clyde has eight children and builds overkill bunkers that look like trash compactors, so he’s pretty much living the Taker dream.

Our introduction to Clyde consists of him talking into the camera, I guess trying to overcome the stereotype of ‘preppers’ as 1990s-militia-survivalists: “…tell folks you’re a prepper and you get mistaken for someone with a lot of guns and ammo and weapons. Well, that’s not what we try to do.”  That’s right – they also have bunkers and bugout bags!

Apparently, Clyde’s policy is to only employ identical male self-identified preppers. Seriously: every one of his workers is a good ol’ boy with a Mossy Oak hat and a goatee. We then take a further detour when Clyde watches his son try to ride a horse. I guess even though young Jagger claims ‘rodeoing’ is a hobby, he can’t tell if a horse is good for riding or not; he gets bucked off and hurts his hand. Well, that was pointless.

Next up we get all the Rising S crew discussing their prepping philosophy. They’re convinced “something’s gonna happen that’ll be the restart button for America.” Their plan is to “go underground, be the rabbit in the hole, and eat good, because [they're] preppers!” I dunno, I’ve talked about the inherent shortsightedness of bunker-based preparations before, and I really don’t feel like going over it again. In my opinion, bunker-dwellers are just about as bad as the head-in-the-sand optimist ‘ostriches’ who’ve been lulled to sleep by our Mother Culture and refuse to believe that anything bad could ever happen. While opposites on the spectrum, both groups essentially refuse to own up and really take responsibility for their own survival.

When the family pays a visit to Clyde’s outfit, they check out their new digs before it gets buried. Hailey, ordinary modern teenager, asks if she’ll get cell service. Funny! Then the six-year-old asks “Where’s the TV, and X-Box and stuff?” Ohboy. Parents, better start weaning them off that attention-span-destroying electronic teat before TSHTF, or you’re going to be dealing with some serious junkie-children-in-cold-turkey-withdrawal when they go underground. It also bugs me that their plan while they’re down below is just to play cards and board games. Like, do they just expect to pass the time and keep themselves entertained until they can come up for air, at which point everything will be back to normal, and they can go back to their jobs and keep going to the grocery store? Hypothetically, if I were a bunker prepper, I’d have that thing stocked with musical instruments and a big gorram library. Also, I really hope they plan on doing some decorating or something, because the plain white walls and fluorescent lights would drive me absolutely crazy in about a day.

So, because Clyde builds—like a good little Taker—using the only shape he knows (the box), instead of one actually suited to distributing weight (like a circle or parabola), Brad’s bunker weighs 19,000 pounds—enough to snap the industrial chain they use to lift it onto the truck, which whips back and hits Clyde and breaks his arm. He has a schedule to keep and he’s not going to let a little thing like a broken arm stop him, so they press on to Oklahoma, set up the crane, pick up the bunkerbox, put it in the backyard hole, and cover it in concrete! Is that really necessary? Is there a prepper rule somewhere that says it’s not enough to pay $70,000 for an overgrown tin can, it’s not a bunker unless it’s dipped in Portland cement?

While the nine-and-a-half-ton bunker is hanging 30 feet over their heads, Brad and Krystal suddenly notice all the people gawking at the scene as they drive past: “Pretty sure we’ll be the talk of the block for a while,” she says. Erm yeah, and you’ll become the talk of the block again real soon should disaster strike, now that all your neighbors know you have a bunker.

The experts tell them, as usual, to store water. And then, for some reason—despite these guys being the epitome of Type I prepping—only give the family 49 points, for four months’ survival! Wait, what?!? Why so low??? Could Practical Preppers finally have opened their eyes to see that the bunker model isn’t a real answer, but is at best a misguided stop-gap solution to bigger problems?

Doomsday Preppers: Joe and Wendy

This season’s next-to-last episode finishes up with a look at the Kansas homestead of Joe & Wendy.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentUnlike the rest of the one-name-only folks on the show (whose full names can be dug up in about five seconds), these guys have a minimal web footprint, and so while I only know their last name through personal correspondence, I’ll be maintaining their privacy in this post. If you really want to get ahold of them, the contact form at their website should get you a pretty quick reply.

I have to admit, when I found the barebones description of this profile a few weeks ago—“Joe is a nonconformist living in the backwoods of Kansas who has given up on modern life”—I was ridiculously excited. Personally, as a similar Kantuckee-backwoods-nonconformist who struggles daily with notions of integrating postpostmodern digital life and Luddite-primitivism, this down-to-earth guy is right up my alley.

Before we even see the family, our ever-dramatic narrator poses a number of very important questions with larger implications, but if I focus on those I’d never get to Joe! Best save them for a later essay in the off-season.

Joe’s purported single-issue in the segment is the “loss of the electrical grid, which will cause the breakdown of society, and change modern life as we know it”; and so we’re supposed to believe that Joe dragged his family out to the country because of a “fear of solar flares” which is some major BS. As Joe told me, “There’s any number of scenarios that could result in disaster – read the handwriting on the wall.”

The truth is, Joe had been ‘living the life’ our culture tells us we’re supposed to aspire to—house on a lake, working six days a week, with lots of ‘fancy toys’ but no time to enjoy oneself. At the same time, Joe began to take an interest in health and “what you put in your body”. This led him to learn about growing his own food and, having been inspired by the late Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living (a book which he credits with “making [an off-grid lifestyle] seem possible”), Joe used the fair chunk of change he’d made from almost seventeen years of laying fine wood floors to buy their rural property.

In order to keep their only debt their monthly land payment, they built their 1,000-square-foot strawbale home themselves for $10,000, (something which—even though it’s the first one we’ve seen on this show—NatGeo disappointedly neglected to point out).
Their home has no TV, so I’m sure most of the viewing audience is wondering what the family uses to switch off their brains and medicate themselves with mindless infotoxin every evening? Instead, they have lots of musical instruments, and spend a lot of time jamming!

In general, Joe and his family seek a happy medium between primitive and modern.
Despite their home being super-insulated, the summers in Kansas can still be pretty unbearable, so the house utilizes the ambient ground temperature for cooling, with a neat system I’d never seen before, in which pipes are buried several feet underground, running at a slight angle up to the house. This allows air to cool before small fans pull it inside the house. These fans—and their other handful of small appliances—are all powered by a 480-watt photovoltaic solar array.

Joe and the girls take a bath outdoors, which, if you haven’t tried it, is just about the only way. I’ve never done a cast-iron-tub-with-fire-underneath bath like they do—mostly because of the fine line between taking a bath, and being simmered. However, in the summer I do bathe almost exclusively outdoors. I lay a large piece of plexiglass or a whole windowpane over a tin tub in the north yard, and in a sunny hour or two the water is hot! Laying a full, coiled garden hose in the sun is perfect for rinsing. A 50-gallon plastic drum (what folks normally use for rain barrels) painted flat black on a raised platform makes a dandy shower-tower.

While their bathtub fire is burning, a caption reminds us that wood ash can be also be used as a soil additive, which is true. Also, if you pour water through hardwood ashes, you can make some very potent homemade lye! This comes in handy for making oldtime soap (as Joe and Wendy do), leather, lutefisk, hominy, &c.

As proper homesteaders, the family does its’ best to grow as much of their food as possible—in fact, Joe expects they will be able to produce 100% of their grains this year with their two-acre garden plot of rich, black riverbottom soil. In addition to growing most of their vegetables, they also have an orchard of young trees and berry bushes that will ensure a harvest of fresh fruits. All of this can be stored in the awesome rootcellar (unseen on the broadcast, of course; as he put it, “All the footage they actually used was the worst stuff!”).
In fact, about the only foodstuffs they still buy are things they can’t grow in their climate: bananas, sugar, and coffee. They also keep a nice variety of livestock, including a Jersey cow for milk, fourteen dairy goats (the ultimate survival animal), plus a number of chickens. Between all those critters and meat donations from hunting relatives, the family hasn’t had to buy meat in years (“and we probably wouldn’t eat what’s in the supermarket, anyway,” Joe said).

What the show tries to spin as a ‘bugout drill with no supplies’ is just a nature walk; as Joe explained it, “We’re already bugged out!” If they ever had to ‘bug out’, you can bet things were really bad everywhere. In other words, “It’s beyond prepping once you’re actually living it.”

The idea of a lifestyle that ensures that should a disaster go down, you wouldn’t notice much of a change is one with which I’m fully on-board. Of course, as we see, it requires a radical amount of lifestyle change, more than most fully-domesticated folks are probably willing to try. However, the rewards are infinite; physical and mental health are only the beginning. For what it’s worth, Joe and Wendy’s decision to home-school their girls in their environment is only natural, and probably comes pretty close to the way humans evolved to learn.
Personally, I’d suggest first cultivating ‘off-grid’ as a mindset first, and then as a lifestyle. But for any folks interested in shifting towards this kind of life, Joe suggests the best thing to do (besides taking a workshop with him, of course!) is to jump right in and “just start Doing.”

In their assessment, Practical Preppers point out that Joe has apparently made no preparations for security/defense, which—instead of meaning something like, ‘think about growing a living fence around your land’—as always, really means ‘think about acquiring the skills and tools to facilitate the easy elimination of life’. Although he doesn’t brag and show them off (like all the Type I preppers do), as a self-respecting homesteader Joes does have firearms. However, he explains that they “don’t want to make killing people our life’s focus; we want to be different.”
Right-on/Word./Fucking A, man.

The experts give them 70 points for twelve months’ survival—although Joe told me they were told their score was 78 points during filming. Furthermore, while they did submit a post-filming update, for some reason NatGeo didn’t air it, either. Hey guys, what gives?

Doomsday Preppers: Mike Adams

Up next we have Mike and Jessica Adams from Salem, Oregon, whose family runs a barbecue restaurant, Adams’ Rib (I’m not sure if that’s intended to be a biblical pun?, but if so, ha!).
jessica-mike-adamsAdam’s doomsday scenario is a “terrorist occupation”, which he seems to think will be a good excuse to smear ketchup on his face, Rambo-mascara-style. Why not yell Wolverines! while you’re at it?

I don’t have much to say on this segment itself—there’s just not enough ‘material’ there for me. The fact that he openly admits his concern originates from a jingoistic artifact of 1980s Hollywood should give you a good indication of what to expect. Really, a lot of this segment is flavored with the kind of naïve adolescent speculation I remember from similar ‘what-if?’ discussions, back in high school or whatever. Y’know, we’d be hanging out down at the river and my friend would say, ‘If a zodiac boat full of Bad Guys came around the bend right now, how would you defend this position?’ And I’d make up something about holding the high ground with a belt-fed machinegun with help from my camouflaged sniper buddies.

In his imaginary scenario, Mike imagines that the terrorists will coordinate a series of dirty-bomb attacks across the country…and then close all the grocery stores so nobody can eat. Of course, because his family owns a restaurant, he thinks they’ll get special treatment…because you know how much terrorists love barbecue! ???
However, I would guess that unless his restaurant uses all fresh, local ingredients, that wouldn’t last long because they’d be just as subject to the just-in-time, three-day supply chain as everybody else.

And besides, I think Mike is fundamentally confused regarding how terrorism works:

To the US&A occupiers in Afghanistan today (or the Soviet occupiers 30 years ago), the Taliban, Mujahideen, and their lot are terrorists.

Terrorists.

To the German war machine 70 years ago, the partizaners of occupied eastern Europe were terrorists.

Terrorists.

To the white expansionist settlers in pre-1890 America, the indigs playing erratic retaliator were terrorists.

Terrorists.

To the English lobsterback officers 230-odd years ago, those pesky colonial squirrel hunters shooting them from behind trees were terrorists.

Terrorist.

Really, I could do this all day.

In other words, sudden out-of-the-blue attacks (often directed against the empire du jour) fall nicely under the umbrella of terrorism… …Occupation, however, does not. That’s definitely an actual standing army-type deal. The whole point of hit-and-fade attacking is ‘if you stick around, you’ll be a target’. Had the Cuban/Nicaraguan/Soviets of Red Dawn parachuted in, assassinated a bunch of government officials, and then had gone to ground, they’d be terrorists. But as soon as they started rounding up citizens for reeducation and patrolling the streets, they became occupiers, and thereby easy targets for a gang of high school terrorists.

Remember: one’s definition of terrorist depends entirely on which ‘side’ one is on.

Mike shows his brother how to install filters on their home’s rain barrels—hey, it’s Oregon, makes sense. This gives us yet another scene of preppers clinking glasses and drinking something.

Apparently Mike’s stockpile of doomsday food is skimmed off the top from the restaurant? So it’s all smoked and jar-canned meat? That’s fine, I guess. Personally, I’ll stick with my homemade jerky (ham, venison, beef, take your choice). Aside from pemmican or a properly-cured country ham, it’s about the only long-term survival meat I’ll stick with. And why not?: no mess (I’ve worked my fair share of barbecue festivals; smoked meat is greasy and has no part in a discussion of long-term survival); no glass jars; keeps forever.

About this point, we come to the standard “not everyone takes prepping seriously” part of the segment. And oh, what a surprise, enter the girly sister. Jennifer even gets her own bugoutbag from Mike…and it’s even pink! And so is the duct tape inside! Her rationale for not thinking about issues of survival is apparently, “If something happened I don’t see us surviving, so what’s the point?” Ohboy.

Thankfully, Mike’s wife is on-board with his prepping…but she has the serious kind of epilepsy. That’s all I’m gonna say on that topic, because the association of certain movements with certain 20th century political movements effectively make it impossible to ever talk about improving genetic health without being branded a monster by most folks.

While Mike grows St. John’s Wort in the garden as a maybe-backup to her month’s supply of medications, in Mike’s ‘occupying terrorists’ scenario the terrorists have also occupied the pharmacies! Mike and Jessica then go exploring Salem’s storm sewers with map in hand, hopefully coming up near one of these ‘occupied’ pharmacies (they don’t). I mean, it’s fun to explore sewers and such, but in this case because it’s as part of such a weird hypothetical situation…I dunno. Meh.

The experts give them 52 points for five month’s initial survival time.

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