Posts Tagged ‘diet’

Doomsday Preppers: Ryan Croft

Up next is Ryan Croft, from Ashville, North Carolina.
ryancroftThis former Air Force airman is the father of five teenage boys and like most the show has featured, is concerned for worldwide financial collapse. But Ryan isn’t afraid to think outside the box that ‘prepping’ has become. Unlike other folks on the show who focus on mobility and bugging out, Ryan is ready to stand his ground with other members of his community. And unlike almost everyone else on the show, his food plan isn’t based around hoarding canned or freeze-dried food.

First off, Ryan comes across as very earnest in this segment, probably because of his Tea Party topics, but also because he talks to the camera a lot! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially given that the things he talks about are things people need—but probably don’t want—to hear. (Probably my favorite is when Ryan tells us that as a former member of the USAF, “government solutions SUCK!” As someone who just finished up a gig with the US Forest Service, I’m inclined to agree.)

So, as we’ve said, Ryan is worried about an economic collapse, which will bring about a social collapse along with it.
That’s nothing we haven’t seen on the show so far (especially this season). However, why does he think this scenario might come to pass? Because, as he says, “the value of a dollar is totally artificial.” YUP. Unpleasant truth avoided by Our Culture # 1: when your whole civilizational experiment’s system of wealth is based on shiny, inedible rocks, you’re going to be working within a framework of completely arbitrary values for everything.
Ryan continues to explain that this economic collapse has already begun with the 2008 Financial Crisis/Great Recession/Depression MkII/whatever you want to call it. (On a side note, I’m sick of hearing talking heads refer to, “this current economy”, as if our global slump is just something temporary to shake off and rebound from. Sorry guys, but it’s just the way things are, and it’s simply a result. If you drink too much, you have a hangover the next day. If your economy is designed around the idea of infinite growth and expansion (in a finite world), eventually the bubble will burst. That’s all we’re dealing with. I only wonder how long people in This culture will continue to seek solutions for this inevitability we’re living through now, instead of considering a different system altogether.)  He goes on, saying that the economy is now in a “gentle glide” downwards, and that the one thing keeping it moving forwards is consumer confidence. It makes for an interesting visual, and it makes sense to me.

So, as I’ve said, Ryan isn’t planning on bugging out or hoarding food. So what is he doing? Growing algae! Apparently, Spirulina is a healthy, easy-to-grow aquacultural food supplement. Of course, while Ryan’s telling us about how awesome the stuff is, our undercutting caption pops up to inform us that a cup of dried Spirulina contains only about 325 calories. If that’s the case, I’d lean more towards gardening/ horticulture, but keep growing the algae as a valuable supplement.

Not only is Ryan growing this nutritious green stuff, he’s also organizing folks around town to grow it, creating a network of ‘microfarms’, essentially acting as a hedge against a vulnerable monoculture. His family’s no-bug-out plan stems from a great community-based ethic (as he says, “This is our home; we love these people”—major thumbs-up, dude!), and although they don’t go into any details, he also plans not just for a network in his neighborhood, but within his region. Their goal: “Everybody lives, nobody dies”. It’s a good theory, but I actually agree with the experts, that he should keep his focus small on a microtribe-sized group (20 people or so) at first, and let it grow organically so that in a few years, maybe he will have big network for support.

I also like his notion that a prepper’s “number-one resource should be people! …and that’s not on most people’s prepper list!” Believe me, I’ve noticed. Why is this the case? First off, as I’ve written about many times, the modern idea of ‘prepping’ has less to do with preparedness and more to do with consumption as a means of keeping one’s current civilized, unsustainable way of life going for just a little bit longer, should disaster occur. Secondly, we as Americans are in love with the idea of the rugged individualist/lone wolf-types. These are the men (very rarely women) who struck off into the wilderness with a belt axe and the clothes on their back and Singlehandedly Built This Great Country, By God.
Except, that was never really the case.

As part of his ‘stand your ground instead of bugging out’ strategy, Ryan does some tactical-y exercises with fellow enthusiasts, using some of his self-designed weapons. He shows off his outfit (Amendment Arms)’s new AK/AR mashup (he calls it the Joshua Mk5).
I understand the respective strengths and weaknesses of those two popular platforms, so I’ll be very interested in seeing how his new rifle works out.

Anyway, Ryan explains another reason he doesn’t hoard food is a result of his airman’s survival knowledge: “you don’t need to stockpile if you have experience with primitive techniques”. Again, we are in agreement. If you’re living off the fat of the land your people have been carefully stewarding for thousands of years, of course there’s no need to stockpile! Food is everywhere! Of course, if that land has been stolen by members of a cannibalistic death-culture who’ve done their very best to destroy the fertility and diversity of that land so that you can’t live off it…yeah, stockpiling might be a good idea.

He takes his boys out in the pasture and they set up a figure-four deadfall trap to catch fieldmice. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t bother with the bushcraft trap. I keep a couple of Victor rat traps in my survival pack for the simple fact that they’re inexpensive, efficient, easy-to-use, and lightweight. And even in a long-term disaster scenario, even when the grocery store shelves have long been empty, I’d bet these ubiquitous classic traps will still be around.

So, Ryan and his boys make a good-looking campfire and chow down on a mouse; nice to see their enculturated food preferences fall by the wayside. Speaking of which, when Ryan talks about supplementing his algae with wild protein, he eats an earthworm. Now, I’m pretty sure he’s not an animist, so I’m not going to get on his case about why he doesn’t thank the Great Spirit for the sustenance the worm will provide him. But I am going to ask the question Why Doesn’t Anyone On This Show Know How To Eat A Worm? Seriously. This is like, the second episode in a row where someone picks up a red wriggler, half-heartedly wipes some dirt off it, and just eats it. When one of Ryan’s sons eats one, he says, “Hm. Tastes like dirt.” Well, no wonder! I bet it feels like dirt, too! The trick to eating worms is simple: throw ’em in water for a few minutes first. Without that crucial step, a worm is simply an unappetizing, writhing, gritty, meat-tube full of dirt-shite. However, letting them sit in water not only gets the grit off, it also makes them purge themselves, leaving you with a tube of pure subterranean protein.

In the end, the experts give him 63 points, for ten months’ initial survival.


Doomsday Preppers: Franco & Allen

And now for something completely different, it’s a double-header prep-off!
This segment looks at a pair of prepper buddies in southwest Missouri, Franco and Allen:franco-allenThese guys have similar professions (Franco is an electrician; Allen an electrical engineer), but their prepping style is really unique.
Allen, like most of the folks this season, is worried about an economic decline of the US economy. Franco fears backlash against GMOs, resulting in rising food costs, shortages, and “corruption of food supply through big business.Ever hear of Monsanto?

Franco wisely predicts that “people will riot with food shortages in this country”. Which is funny, because there’s plenty of it out there—I’d say about 80% of the food I eat is liberated from urban trash receptacles—recent studies I’ve read estimate 25 to 50% of all food grown in this country gets thrown out!

Each of these guys has an acre-and-a-half of property, and they’re not content stockpiling freeze-dried and dehydrated astronaut food—they’ve each put together an impressive greenhouse/aquaponics setup, raising tilapia, duckweed algae, &c. The big downside I can see is their reliance on electricity to run their pumps and such, but I’d guess handy guys like these could easily rig up some solar cells to power it.
Dunno if such a thing would be possible, but what I’d really like to see would be an electricity-free aqua system (gravity-fed?), floating plots of filter plants and such.

The guys have a good-natured competition to see who has the best setup; they supplement their fish-and-algae protein with Allen’s fly larvae versus Franco’s red wriggler worms (he eats one, to his daughter’s disgust).

Allen’s daughter (in a candy-apple-red convertible) doesn’t seem to get the point of dad’s preparations—exhibiting an exemplary civilized, domesticated attitude when she declares that “unless he’s making money at it, it’s kind of pointless” (I’m sure she’ll be the first one to knock on dad’s door when something bad happens).

The experts give Franco 49 points (for four months’ survival), and Allen 77 (15 months). Seems kind of lopsided, and maybe skewed: Franco’s mechanical skills only get him 7 points, but Allen’s barter-able fish net him 17 points? I dunno, I think the guys have a good thing going between them, now they just need to recruit some of their neighbors to get a network going.

Doomsday Preppers: Robert Earl

Season two’s second episode finishes up with a look at  Robert Earl & his wife Debbie.

Like Kevin O’Brien from last season, they’ve fled from Florida to escape rising sea levels, but they attribute it to the “collapse of the Greenland ice sheet” which is pretty specific. However, while O’Brien bought land in the green hills of Tennessee, the Earls move to the high desert of Texas. So, going from too much water to not enough. I’m not sure that an especially arid-looking part of TX is the best place, but we’ll see.

Robert describes himself as a combination of Mad Max (desert remoteness), Rube Goldberg (whimsical building solutions), and Al Gore (climate warnings!). This really comes across when he starts showing off his construction project: using glass bottles, tires, and plastic boxes, Robert is building some kind of earthship, which is smart: sunny, arid locations are ideal locations for earthships and similar alternative-type buildings (see noted barefoot survival teacher Cody Lundin’s sweet offgrid, passive-solar setup in Arizona:
Bottle walls are a pillar of permaculture building practices, making use of what would normally be trash to make funky houses with lots of thermal mass for carbon-free heating. As Robert says (displaying a healthy and necessary forward-thinking attitude), when things go south, “garbage won’t be garbage, it’ll be opportunity.”

Of course, Robert has decided to put off building their actual house until he finishes the smokehouse, so he can at least make jerky…out of any invading marauders! Haha. As for other things to eat, he proudly shows off his…wait for it…“poop garden”. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m a big subscriber to the idea of ‘humanure’ (you can download a copy of the Humanure Handbook in my Reading Materials page ^). But the way he does it is just unhealthy: it seems he just pours a slurry of raw sewage into an underground pipe, and then plants his garden above it. Without balancing all that pure nitrogen with some carbon, he’s eventually going to cook his soil’s fertility, not to mention the fact he’s not doing anything about pathogens.
In a proper humanure setup, after each visit to the head, a scoop of cheap carbon-rich material (sawdust, peat moss, rice hulls &c.) is sprinkled onto the nitrogen-rich ‘human waste’ just like in a proper food-waste composting setup; the balanced carbon and nitrogen heat up—killing any microorganisms—and after six months or so break down into rich, crumbly garden food. Super easy to diy, and uses no water—an important consideration in the desert.
In fact, this couple’s water-gathering routine looks pretty unreliable—they’re shown sucking up water from what looks like an overgrown puddle. Robert needs to hook up some rain barrels to collect what little water is going to fall throughout the year. Where’s the moisture vaporator when you need it?

Because it looks like he’s relying solely on their little garden for food, Robert gets a visit from Kat Stevens, rattlesnake hunter, to teach him to catch and eat rattlers. I’m a fan of wild game, but I swear I heard the narrator say something about the Earls having 21 dogs. Robert shouldn’t worry about risking life and limb to find some scaly meat-tubes when they have that many four-legged protein sources running around. Hell, certain breeds—Chihuahuas come to mind—were designed to be eaten! They’re like, double-duty pets!

The experts give them 63 points, for 9 months’ initial survival time. Unfortunately there’s no after-filming update, which is too bad, because I would’ve liked to see how their bottle house was coming along.

Doomsday Preppers: Braxton Southwick

The episode finishes up with Braxton Southwick, a family man from SLC with six kids. Based on that alone, I’ll assume they’re Mormon.

His fear is of a biological terror attack, specifically using smallpox. As with others, the wife just kind of goes along with it to humor her hubby, like it’s just a “phase” he’ll grow out of in a year or two.

So they show off their “huge amount of food” stockpile which they claim will last them one year—again, because that’s one of their religion’s tenets: want your made-up church’s people to repopulate the earth after the End Times? Make it a commandment that Thou Shalt Hoard a Year’s Worth of Food.

It’s good to see that their food isn’t just shelf-stable/freezedried/dehydrated stuff, but that they also keep chickens in the backyard coop. That’s cool. Now, go Barrelhaven and start using eggs as currency with your neighbors.
Because he’s worried about a smallpox outbreak, he thinks that the neighborhood would get evacuated if there was a case nearby. Sooo, they do another practice bugout, and yet again they forget the meaning of the term. YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE TO PACK! The whole point of bugging out is to be able to grab your bag and go, not to form a bucket brigade to empty out your larder and gun room, uproot the chicken coop, have everybody grab all their clothes and then jump in the truck; have your rural retreat already stocked with those things!

Anyway, once they finally get loaded up and out of town, they come across a roadblock set up by the local national guard or something, who are also part of the drill (wouldn’t that be something if they were stopped by a real quarantine roadblock during a practice bug out? Haha.). They get scanned by some ineffective bomb-sniffing gizmo, and then put into the decontamination shower. One of the daughters gets strapped to a gurney for some reason. And then that’s it. I guess the wife starts to come around to her husband’s way of thinking after going through all that.
B.S. scores a 71, computed out to 13 months initial survival time. Experts say he needs a water resupply plan, especially considering the fact that he chose to live next to the world’s least-drinkable lake. Honestly, for a religion with prepping at its core, why didn’t Brigham Young and those guys set down somewhere more livable? I dunno, but it would be worthwhile for Braxton to learn to make a solar desalination still.

Doomsday Preppers: Big Al

They’re back! NatGeo has renewed Doomsday Preppers for a second season, and the interweb seems to enjoy my commentaries, so let’s get started.The season premieres with a look at a fellow called ‘Big Al’ from Nashville. The show says he’s a musician (who in Nashville isn’t?), but I’m going to guess that’s code for producer or maybe songwriter. We get to hear a little bit of some modern-country guy singing a novelty song about preppin’ (you can hear the whole thing here), and then Big Al starts on about how in all his studies of Russia, he’s terrified of nuclear war. It’s a valid concern; I certainly don’t want my gross body to be intraconverted into light and energy anytime soon, but I’m not sure we should be looking at Russia in this case. Sure, Putin has the makings of a Mark II Stalin, but if you’re worried about stray nukes, be worried about semi-rogue states with something to prove (Iran, N.Korea, etc.).
Mr. Al says that in his worst-case scenario, the missiles will start a-flying right after a “run on the dollar, closing banks, and the fall of the stock market”. Apparently, he thinks that Russia will only push the button once they’re absolutely sure our economy has fatally weakened. In the event that these red flags appear, Al’s plan is to hop in his van and bug out 1,800 miles to his mountain hideout, which actually looks nice, sitting on 40 acres up in the mountains somewhere. But his “underground house without windows” is a different story. Like most of this show’s homemade underground retreats, it’s pretty ugly and Hoarders-y. Al says he “prefers not to use” the word ‘bunker’, but apparently has no problem going on and singing songs about his ‘bunker stew’. He claims to have 1,500 cans of food, 1,000 gallons of local spring water (I’m wondering how he gets it into the bunker?), and five tons of firewood stored up, because—get this—he spends three full months out of each year ‘practice living’ underground.
Right after that fascinating development, the narrator informs us that isolation can lead to “acute anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia, and uncontrollable rage or fear”. Well, that’s definitely going to color our impression of Big Al for the rest of the segment. Well-played, producers.

Now, what does Big Al do while he’s shut himself away underground for a season? Chops firewood and watches movies about the Motherland. I guess at some point in all this obsessive Russophilia, he learns about Ivan’s fifty-year-old hydrogen bomb, the Tsar Bomba. Well, that gets him all worried that there’s another one out there just waiting to be dropped on us, and so something something gamma radiation. Now, if you’re somehow lacking, Our Culture’s answer is almost surely going to be, ‘buy stuff to feel better!’ And sure enough, Big Al buys himself a big steel tube to be an “annex” for his bunker. Well, that apparently alleviates his worry, and he gets so excited he spraypaints the name of the bomb he’s afraid of on the side. For some reason. Of course, the producers never tell us the name of the bomb, so it just looks like he’s writing nonsense on the tank.
Anyway, this season the show has added a degree of superfluous quantitative-ness to the ‘expert’ analysis. Five categories (water, food, shelter, security, and ‘x-factor’ which I guess is just miscellaneous attributes), 0-20 in each one for a total possible score of 100. He gets a score of 69, which the experts say computes to equal one year initial survival time. What this really means is, The Points Don’t Matter.

In Al’s submitted post-filming update segment, he seems to have had an epiphany and decides that  he needs to really work on his health, and learning some skills to work with his hands to “be able to build things…instead of focusing on things that can be purchased”, which is a good lesson to be learned. Of course, if all these preppers learned that it’s mostly what’s between yer ears and not what you’ve spent on Stuff, the ‘experts’ would be out of a job.

How-to: a DIY Bug Box

Well, it’s summer now, and for many of us that means bug season! There are few better ways to instill a love and respect of the natural world in your younglin’ than letting him or her collect bugs in summer. Here are instructions for a quick and easy Bug Box you can make yourself out of recycled materials.

What you’ll need for one box:
a board (I used pine.)
¼” luan plywood.
A machine screw and a nut to fit.
Some window screen/hardware cloth
Scraps of webbing

*Various saws—you can go modern and use a chopsaw, bandsaw, and a hole saw, or go traditional and do the whole thing with hand tools (takes longer, probably more rewarding). I used power tools, because I had a couple of these to crank out and not a lot of time.
*Small nails and a hammer, or a brad-gun
*A heavy-duty stapler/staple-gun
*A rasp/file
*wood stain or oil (optional)

To begin, take your board and measure out three sections, one for the base and two for the ends of your box. My finished box is 10” long, so I cut an 8 ½” section for the base. The two smaller sections will form the ends of the box; mine were 4” long. Use a chopsaw, circular saw, chainsaw, whatever.  My chopsaw had a coarse blade in it, so the cut edges were kind of splintery at this point. Clean them all up with a file and sandpaper.

I hate squares. There’s no shape more indicative of our culture’s obsession with controlling nature, so I make my bug boxes with rounded ends. It’s a bit more work, but I think it looks much more attractive.
So, to make your end-sections round on top, you’ll have to lay out a semicircle. Get creative here—I found that the diameter of a pint tub of sour cream was the same width as the board I was using. Find something round, and trace it onto both pieces.Cut off the excess on both sections, and then (depending on how closely you followed your line) hit it with your rasp/file/belt-sander so that it looks nice and smooth. Clean up the edges with sandpaper.
Rinse and repeat for the other short section.One end is going to need an opening so you can put the bugs inside. I used a drill press with a 2-¼” holesaw. When you lay it out, remember to go up from the bottom at least the thickness of the base. Cut out the hole somehow (this is probably the hardest part for those of you doing this with hand tools), and clean up the opening with sandpaper.
Once you have your opening, you’ll want a door to keep your critters inside the box. Find something round that’s maybe ½” wider in diameter than your door-hole (I used an aerosol can), and trace it onto your ¼” luan plywood. Add a ½” hump at the top, and cut it out, cleaning up the edges with your rasp/file/sandpaper.
Now it’s time to attach it to the box. Get the door lined up where it needs to go over the door-hole, and drill a small hole into the middle of the hump, going through the thick piece; this is where your hardware will go to let the door open and close.  Put a bolt or machine screw through the hole, and thread a nut on the back. I like to keep it a little loose so the door swings freely—but don’t worry, we’ll make sure the door isn’t too easy to open in a bit.
Now it’s time to assemble. My pine board wanted to split, so I went ahead and drilled some pilot holes. Slather some wood glue on the ends, and nail the rounded sections to the base with some small brads.
Here’s the point when you can—if you choose—add some wood stain or oil or something to dress up the wood.  Once you get that out of the way, time to add some screen to keep your bugs in! I used hardware cloth which is easily cut with tin-snips. The size of your screen is determined by the size of your box, so the only tricky part should be measuring the end pieces: a flexible measuring tape used for sewing works great. Add ½” on all sides, fold that under, and staple it onto the box starting from the long sides. Don’t put a staple at the top of the round pieces just yet.

At this point, you should have a perfectly satisfactory bug box. Congratulations! But it could probably still use some finishing touches, especially if you’re making it as a gift for a younglin’. First, something to keep the door closed. Here’s where your webbing comes into play. Cut a piece as wide as your board was, and staple it on either side so that it covers the bottom ¼” or so of the door.
Second, a young naturalist-in-training needs his hands free to swing his butterfly net or write in his notebook; naturally, what this box is missing is a shoulder strap. Cut a length of webbing a foot or two long, fold the ends under, and staple it onto the tops of the rounded end pieces (see the first picture).

Now, you have a very nice box perfect for filling with fireflies to make a lantern, or collecting grasshoppers for eating later in the summer, or just examining our six-legged brothers in the community of life. Enjoy!

Doomsday Preppers: Barry Knowles

This segment was kind of weird, because they had me thinking that here was another prepper (like Jeremy from a couple weeks back) who had the insight to not reveal his last name or location. For about ¾ of this segment he’s just referred to as Barry (and his girlfriend is named Pink?). Then, in the last few minutes they drop his last name and he talks about his location (near Puget Sound). So, so much for ‘operational security’.
After seven years in the military and reportedly losing his savings in the whole 2008 financial hoo-hah, he decides he needs a survival pod underneath his garage (which leads me to wonder how he financed the damn thing). So he clandestinely digs one. By hand, he claims. It turns out that the resulting “urban foxhole” is a 512-cubic foot (that’s 8x8x8, somehow) concrete sphere, reached by climbing down a ladder, hidden under a Hatch.
And why would he think this is necessary? Because “the world has never been more dangerous”, his “most likely catastrophe is a social/economic collapse that comes from an EMP device going off”—ooh, he’s getting creative and mixing up his buzzwords! He claims his pod will enable him to “survive almost any kind of disaster” by supporting five people for two months.
For some family bonding time, he decides to spend the night in the pod with two of his sons (aged 11 and 29), while Pink acts as lookout, guarding the house. Here’s one of many problems with the pod. He claims that it’s cleverly concealed under his garage. Well, maybe before they headed down, when the Hatch was under some cardboard boxes. But it’s not as if those boxes can be rearranged over the Hatch from the inside (I’m thinking of a scene in Schindler’s List where Jews hiding under the floorboards pull a rug back over the trapdoor with a string from the inside). Maybe the girlfriend re-covers the Hatch once they’re down there this time, but what if the whole family has to shelter-in-place down there? If you’re worried about the usual marauding gangs mucking about in your house looking for food and supplies, a big silver door in the garage floor is a dead giveaway (not to mention the GI Joe-scale model of the pod on display in the living room). Basically, I have about a thousand issues with the whole ‘button up, hunker down’ model of survival, and this guy is no exception.
Anyway, while they’re camped out in the bunker, they play cards and eat supper. And what do they eat? Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs (sealed up as they are, it’s probably a good thing they’re not eating beans!).  Revealing his civilized prejudices, Barry quips that they could be outside, eating bugs! Like those unfortunate, primitive Third World-ers, or something!

So, they only spend a few hours overnight. The kid says he thinks he’d go crazy long before 60 days was up; I probably would too, staring at bare concrete walls. And after 60 days, what then? Thankfully, Barry’s survival plan has a Stage 2. Which involves hiking 15 miles at night to their hopefully-still-seaworthy sailboat, and finding an uninhabited island in Puget Sound. Because, y’know, he thinks they’ll “stand a better chance of surviving at sea than…on land.”  Sure, maybe if you’re planning on channeling the Kwakiutl or Tlingit and becoming whale-hunters. But, really? Uninhabited islands? Are they really going to ‘rough it’ out there? I don’t see it happening.