Posts Tagged ‘permaculture’

Doomsday Preppers: Mike and Grayson

The episode’s final ‘preppers’ (and we’re using that term lightly here) are Mike Umberger and Grayson Smith of Maryland.

I guess they were hoping to get some publicity for skateboarding?

Mike is apparently a former Navy MP and Grayson is a…former Zen-Buddhist monk? There’s a lot of focus on how the guys seem like ‘polar opposites’, but that’s really just the angle the producers are spinning for drama. Ignore it.
Really, just be glad we’re seeing Young People with Little Money on the show for once, instead of the usual Middle-Aged-Guys With More Money Than Sense.

The show tries to pass them off as ‘slackers’–although that really hasn’t been a valid label since about 1995.
Their supposed fear is of a Third World War, which they describe by getting creative and actually giving specifics!: they predict that “by 2017, the Chinese will have cemented their place as the world’s superpower, and will quickly blockade the US&A”—something to do with too much of our food being imported instead of grown at home? At least it’s a novel idea!

And if you’re worried about blockading Chinese cutting off your foodstuffs, the smart thing to do isn’t to drop a couple grand on one-time-only foodbuckets *coughWiseCompanycough*, but to set yourself up to grow as much of your food as possible. And that’s exactly what these guys are starting to do: one of their fathers owns 100 acres, and so they’ve moved out of the city (which is a good move in itself) and started to farm it in their own way.

Right off the bat, Grayson and Mikelet us know that they’re “not looking to be traditional farmers”. Now, normally when people say they’re into ‘traditional’ things, that’s usually code for ‘old-timey’—which often happen to translate well into self-reliance (think blacksmithing, spinning, basketweaving, butter-churning, &c.
Here, the opposite is meant: when the guys say they don’t want to be traditional farmers, what they’re really saying is that they don’t want to keep Our Culture’s oldest tradition, totalitarian agriculture!
Hmm, what a novel idea! Says the average viewer: “But why would these bright young men not want to associate themselves with the most productive agricultural paradigm ever devised?”
I dunno, maybe because that approach has never been sustainable?, and because its current iteration amounts to little more than throwing petroleum and ‘natural gas’ (which, by the way, is a bullshit greenwashed term anyway—it’s fucking methane!) onto our fields to grow three main monocrops, all resulting in everything from topsoil loss and soil compaction, to eutrophication, loss of fertility, and greatly-reduced biodiversity? All of these translate to fundamental unsustainability. Especially given the fact that global petroleum production has likely already peaked, why we continue to operate under this model is beyond me. Well, it’s not really beyond me—I know exactly why we continue to do it, but the root causes are about eight thousand years old, and most folks these days seem to have trouble comprehending anything past about 50 years ago.

The dudes admit they’re different from most farmers another way: they don’t want to be part of the grid. There they go, using their brains again! Says the average viewer, “But why would they want to remove themselves from the most glorious organization of shelter, heating, cooling, electricity, water, and sanitation, again, ever devised?”
Perhaps because such wonders of the modern age are again, completely reliant on unsustainable nonrenewable resources (coal, petrol, propane, natural gas methane) and painfully indicative of Our culture’s belief in the One Right Way to Live? If you don’t believe me, why else do we build living structures that are identical (and identically connected to the Grid) whether in Arizona or Alaska? When did we exchange regional diversity for cheap two-by-four stickframing, drywall, and vinyl siding? (answer: probably around 1492, when White people showed up on the scene and set about replicating their beloved England/Spain/France, which required extirpating all the indigs and their pesky regional adapted-to-specific-environments lifestyles).

So yeah, Grayson and Mike intend to turn the traditional farm into a self-sufficient one. Exactly!, because sustainable/self-reliant living is real preparedness! Unfortunately, we’re seeing their self-sufficient farm project in its infancy, so they’re still taking baby steps. But hey, baby steps are better than none!:

To start out, we actually get to see them put together a COLDFRAME!
For you non-green-thumb’ed folks, a coldframe is basically a mini-greenhouse—a sun-warmed, glass-topped container that usually translates into about an extra month of growing time before and after the main season. They’re handy as hell.
Better yet, Grayson declares his bias when gathering building materials—“free is better!” WORD. A society that believes everything must be ‘new’ is one destined for failure (oh hey look, here we are!).
I also like the water-filled wine bottles—for thermal mass/solar radiators—that they stick in the ground inside the coldframe. That’s a good trick; I might have to steal that idea and implement it into my coldframe.

And it just keeps getting better, because HOLY SHIT, not only did the narrator actually say PERMACULTURE, but they even got a captioned definition!! This might just be a miracle—one of the most unenlightening shows on what has become a channel of regrettable, sensationalist programming actually gave its average viewers a like, 30-second glimpse of something actually worth learning about! I just wish they’d done it sooner on an earlier episode, because folks watching this might get confused and think that permaculture-in-action looks like gray, unproductive farmland.

It doesn’t.

But that land won’t be unproductive for long, because it just keeps getting even better, when they wheel out the CHICKEN TRACTOR!!! Grayson explains the genius of these moveable coops, which allow the birds to eat bugs (pest control/less feed to buy), scratch up (aerate) soil, and defecate (fertilize!) everywhere! If you move the tractor every day, pretty soon you wind up with light, fertile, bug-free soil, which is exactly what you want if you’re looking to grow all your own food.

Unfortunately, the producers apparently weren’t content with educating average visitors with three fantastic items of self-reliant living, and felt the need to remind us that we’re watching Doomsday Preppers. And so, for the mandatory producer-enforced stunt, the guys head into the woods to set up spikey booby traps to catch watermelons!

Yeah. It’s especially sad when you think about what they could have filled that time with—maybe the guys could have shown off their properly-carbon/nitrogen-balanced compost pile, or waterless humanure setup, or root cellar—who knows??

Being new transplants (gardening pun?) to the area, the guys throw a barn party, to meet their neighbors (building community is a huge part of offgrid living that we rarely hear about) and I guess maybe recruit folks, because let’s fact it—with 100 acres, these guys have all the ingredients for a kickass intentional community. There’s a Jack White-looking guy in a fur coat and derby hat at the gig, so I guess the producers told attendees to dress as outlandishly as possible?, because hey, let’s make sure nobody takes millennials seriously.

The experts give them just 51 points for five months’ initial survival. Ugh, experts: first off, these dudes aren’t even real ‘preppers’;
therefore, the form their ‘preparedness’ takes results from their operating on a completely different paradigm from the one the scoring system is designed to evaluate;
And finally: everyone has to start somewhere. If NatGeo sends a film crew back to their homestead in two or three years, I bet we’ll see some serious off-grid organic horticultural goodness. Best of luck, dudes!

How-to: Hurdles for Hobbits

Well, it’s High Summer once again, and you know what that means for we horticulturalists: gardening time! As you might expect, high-quality fencing can really come in handy—for partitioning crops, keeping unwanted critters out, or keeping wanted critters in.
Given the general state of The Mess these days, I feel it’s only appropriate to take a second look at those skill-sets that fell by the wayside in the course of our culture’s drunk-on-fossil-fuels bender of industrialization. Of course, the ‘old’ ways of doing things were—by their comparatively low-impact nature—far more sustainable than the way most do things now, and so are definitely worth checking out.
And so, we’re going to learn how to make WATTLE!

But for starters, what is wattle?

1 a : a fabrication of poles interwoven with slender branches, withes, or reeds and used especially formerly in building.

Believe it or not, ‘wattle’ is one of the oldest building materials known to man. The technique dates solidly back to Neolithic Old Europe, and conceivably could even have been used in the Upper Paleo/Mesolithic (as a very field-expedient fire-reflecting or windbreaking addition to a shelter?).
Although these days, most people’s only exposure to wattle is in a basic history class (where it is paired with ‘-and-daub’, usually in an off-hand reference to medieval peasant building techniques – in the same way that cob or adobe construction might get glossed over as ‘mud bricks’), this valuable skill is luckily still kept alive by village elders in those quaint corners of Britain where petroleum culture never fully caught on or was resisted.

Traditionally in Britain, wattle was built of coppiced hazel and willow, but since I live in the Ohio valley, and strongly believe in using materials native to one’s area, I am very fond of using river-cane (genus Arundinaria). A grasslike relative of bamboo, this wonderfully sustainable resource once choked the banks and bottoms of old Mississippia in the form of nigh-impenetrable ‘canebreaks’, providing a number of valuable materials to the locals. From this one plant can be made such a diverse list of items useful to Mississippian Hobbits like myself: atlatl darts and arrow shafts, musical instruments, drinking straws, needle-cases (and other tube-y containers), bedding, roofing thatch, and our focus today, wattle!

Fresh-cut river-cane

Fresh-cut river-cane

The same quantity of river-cane, with the leaves removed. Stuff an old-time mattress with them!

What you’ll need:
-raw natural materials (hazel, willow, cane, basswood, &c): a big pile of long pieces (~eight foot or so) for the horizontal weaving, and a handful of thicker pieces for uprights (~four foot tall).
-a hammer or post-driver
-a suitable outdoor workspace
-a free hour or two
-an open mind

(Note: While ‘wattle’ is the general name for woven wooden material, our finished unit is known as a ‘hurdle’.)

While most traditional hurdlers will start from a mould-board (a long, slightly-curved piece of wood to hold the stakes), for my quick-and-dirty uses I found that pounding the sharpened uprights about six inches to a foot into the ground works just fine. This leaves about three or four feet above ground for the height of the hurdle. Keep about twelve to eighteen inches between the uprights, and I’ve found that mimicking the slight arc shape of a mould-board works well.
DIGITAL CAMERA
*In my examples, the uprights are either apple wood, or leftover bamboo. If you use something like apple, make sure to orient the stakes opposite to how they grew (the thinner end should be in the ground), as the nubs of pruned-off branches really helps to ‘lock’ each course of material in place.

Note: the benefit of using traditional woods like hazel and willow is that they are very bendable. This ability comes in handy every few rows, when you want to bend the excess length back upon itself to keep the outermost uprights in place. Unfortunately, cane doesn’t lend itself to this tricky maneuver very well, so if you’re doing a cane hurdle you may have to use a row of one of these more flexible materials every now and then.

Once your uprights are in place, there’s really not much to weaving wattle, and pictures are worth a thousand words:

wattle-weaveDIGITAL CAMERA
Basically, just keep alternating weaving your long pieces behind and in front of your uprights, and twisting the ends back upon themselves every few rows. In an hour or two or so, you should wind up with something like this!:

A finished hurdle of apple-wood

Or this!

A finished hurdle of river-cane, with the leaves left on.

Or this!

A finished hurdle of river-cane, with the leaves removed.

As you can see, attractive—or at the least, utilitarian!—wattle hurdles like these can be assembled quite easily with only a little time and effort, and they make great ‘primitive’/’traditional’/’rustic’ accents to a garden plot or small livestock paddock.
However, as easy as they are to make, the one thing required for building them which most folks might have trouble finding would be the raw materials themselves! For those of you in the States who don’t have access to a private woodland, you might start by asking around at your local greenhouse or nursery.

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: Kelly & John Taylor

After taking a week off, the show returns with ‘Hit the Ground Running’, which begins with a visit to the Virginia homestead of John & Kelly Taylor.
John&Kelly_TaylorThese two have years of experience as emergency responders and firefighter medics, including dealing with a rioting, looting, panicked populace in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In the years since that storm, they cashed in their pensions and moved from Florida to 41 acres of rolling land in the hills of Virginia. Apparently they paid for the land and house in cash, which means no mortgage, no debt, no bank constantly threatening to take back their property.
This is appropriate, because John and Kelly are “preparing for a total economic collapse” in probably the best way imaginable. If you’re worried about a world in which all your green paper is worthless, it’s only logical to intentionally create a way of life that doesn’t rely on that green paper, and that’s just what the Taylors have done: they’ve decided to live without money as if an economic doomsday is already here.  With no debts, and an ‘almost non-existent’ cost of living (their only bills are for phones and TV, and it sounds like they wouldn’t mind letting go of those, too), their plan to survive economic collapse by living without money looks pretty sweet.
And just in time, too. John explains his view that “you don’t have to be a genius or rocket scientist to see that our financial system is probably in its death throes.” Of course, it probably looked that way when this was filmed some months ago, but at the moment it seems that people believe what they’re being told (it’s getting better all the time!), and so consumer confidence is pushing the stock market to its highest levels in 5 years.
But don’t worry, it can’t last forever: remember, “growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

With little money left, the Taylors have focused on growing just about everything they eat, or as the narrator describes it, “turning their property into a giant self-sustaining supermarket”. In other words, they’ve created yet another permaculture food-forest, but we should know by now we’ll never hear that phrase uttered on American TV.
Because they’re focused on things that have actual, intrinsic value (as opposed to arbitrary value like precious metals and paper money), their self-sustaining homestead includes 40 chickens (with that many, they could easily go Barrelhaven and just start using eggs as currency), at least six goats (milk!), and best of all, a basic apiary setup! That’s right, they keep bees! Kelly and John get some assistance from local beekeeper Sharon Hall, who does some post-money bartering with them: she helps them out with their hives, and they recharge a car battery for her, using their awesome $99,000 solar panel setup.
Of course, with all that real wealth, the Taylors are worried in the event of an actual economic downturn their crops, honey, and solar will make them seem rich to the unprepared. And y’know what? They’re right: they are rich! They have no money (how our culture defines wealth), but they’re off the grid, they eat real food they raise themselves, the power company pays them, and they don’t owe anybody anything. Throw in some nearby neighbors doing the same thing and you’d have the makings of a community of true survivors. It’s the civilized, postindustrial, willful wage-slave folks with the green paper who are truly poor.
Anyway, they’re afraid their real wealth will make them targets to the zombie hordes, so they go to the co-op and buy a conibear  trap. I guess we’re supposed to believe they eventually intend to encircle their house with them? Honestly, I think these folks have more sense than that, and probably will just put traps around the chicken coop, but the producers spun it as if they intend to defend the whole homestead with leg traps.
Should their property be compromised, they have multiple caches hidden up in the hills to which they can fall back. Of course, the cache we see is simply a big white plastic cooler, covered in camo netting, visible from the house. Unfortunately, a white dot up on a hillside makes a nice target, so I’d invest in a few cans of earth-tone spray paint and truly camouflage the stash. From these hillside retreats, John and Kelly do some practice spotting and sniping at night. While I’m not sure about shooting towards one’s home in the dark, it’s nice to see them getting familiar with their weapons’ capabilities in the circumstances they’re preparing for. Too often we see guys practice at the gun range, who then assume it will automatically carry over to a homestead-defense scenario or whatever.

In their assessment, the experts tell them to start hoarding a year’s worth of food; Kelly thinks that’s ridiculous. The experts give them 71 points, for thirteen months’ survival time. Knowing how the scoring algorithm is skewed, I’d say that barring a planet-killing, extinction-level event (rogue asteroid, nuclear war, &c), these folks are well on their way to being able to deal with anything thrown at them.
In the update, we see that the Taylors have added some draft power to their menagerie and bought a donkey! Hey, it’s better than a mule. Now they just need to find a neighbor who also has a donkey and they’ll be set.

Doomsday Preppers: Lindsay & Ray

Our next episode, ‘Prepper’s Paradise’, begins with some excellent footage of amber waves of monoculture grain. This is appropriate, as the first profile looks at Lindsay and her husband Ray, of Boise, Idaho.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentThese ‘urban homesteaders’ run the North End Organic Nursery, ‘Idaho’s only all-organic nursery and garden center’. Lindsay also has a local radio show (called ‘Talk Dirt to Me’, haha!) that deals with organic gardening, self-reliance, sustainability and all that goes along with it.

With all this talk about food, it’s only natural that their concern is for a “collapse of the world’s agricultural system”, which is a fairly reasonable fear; one only needs to take a big-picture view to see the tenuousness of our present situation. Of course, speaking of a ‘collapse’ implies a certain abruptness which I don’t think is very likely. Personally, I’d articulate it as a ‘degradation of our culture’s system of totalitarian agriculture’, but that’s just me.

As Lindsay explains, “back in the day, everybody was prepared, because they weren’t so reliant on other people to make sure their lives worked.” She goes on to say that the vast majority of folks today are “severely detached from their food supply” (in other words, they have no connection to how or where their food is grown); this means that our largely-urban population is left to rely on a tiny number of farms to keep them alive. And those farms—though tiny in number—are quite large in size, because the crops they are growing are massive tracts of vulnerable monoculture grains—mostly maize, soya, and wheat—with the backing of multinationals like Monsanto, Syngenta, &c. Like the rest of our culture, these industrial farms operate under a paradigm which places human lives above all others, and views farmland as useful only for producing food for people, or none at all; any non-human lifeforms (or any that do not directly benefit humans) who occupy the land are viewed as vermin and generally systematically exterminated.
Factor in the just-in-time nature of our food-distribution system (witness the oft-repeated mantra of “three days of food on the supermarket shelf”), the fact that—as our helpful caption reminds us—food often travels 1,000 miles or more to reach the supermarket, and the fact that 2012 was declared the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States, and it’s easy to see how the degradation (via loss of productivity, interruption of distribution, &c.) of this system would leave a lot of people hungry. That’s not to mention the economic side of things, in which rising ‘unemployment’ would leave people with no green paper to exchange for supermarket groceries in the first place.
As I’ve said before, our culture’s civilizational experiment has formed itself into any number of shatterpoints, and should any of them break down, the consequences would be wide-reaching: nothing happens in a vacuum.

To combat this uncertainty, Lindsay and Ray have stored four years’ worth of food, which—compared to some on this show—isn’t too impressive. However, they’ve taken food security to the next level, by making it (and education about related issues) the focus of everything they do (or pretty close to it). In addition to running an organic nursery, they have an incredible garden; although they never say it outright, their backyard is totally what the permaculture folks call an ‘edible forest’, or at least, it definitely has the makings of one. In addition, they build and sell the most solid-looking rocket stoves I think I’ve ever seen. There’s a shot or two of Ray welding one together, but the footage of him showing it off wound up on the cutting room floor (as the best material seems to do, in favor of more ‘dramatic’ scenes). Blerg.

Speaking of Ray (who kind of scares me, former Marine that he is), what’s his motivating fear in all of this?
All together now!: “rioting and looting!” Maybe if our system wasn’t designed to rob people of their self-reliance (in exchange for reliance on the fragile system), an interruption of the industrial food system wouldn’t have such dramatic consequences? So to deal with this possibility, they have built a nice little bug-out location up in the mountains of Idaho. This includes at least one cordwood cabin, as well as a greenhouse and huge root cellar (which, sadly, we also don’t get to see).

They’re always looking for new folks to join their bug-out team, so Ray and the group interviews two new candidates. It seems these potentials are active-duty in the military, which somehow means we can’t see their faces or hear their real voices. So, to test their mettle, they do a mock bug-out to the rural retreat with the new guys. This involves loading up the trailer (which apparently has solar panels to run all their radios and power tools, but we don’t get to see any of that) with everything they would possibly need, which doesn’t seem much like a bug-out to me. As I’ve said before, if you have to load up, it’s not a bug-out. Bugging-out is when you believe the time has come to go, and so you grab your bag and high-tail it outta there, either on foot or with your vehicle of choice. While they’re loading up the trailer, Ray says that he “[doesn’t] want anybody to see this.” So, do it ahead of time? I’d have no problem calling it a bug-out if your trailer is already packed, ready to go in the driveway, and all you have to do is hop in and drive off.
So their convoy reaches the gravel road that leads to their bug-out location, at which point Ray sends the two recruits on ahead to scout it out (he’s prepared a surprise for them, but of course they don’t know it). This ‘surprise’ turns out to be just a guy standing around inside the cabin. They shout some army stuff, he gets down on the ground, and they zip-tie his hands. Not terribly exciting; dude didn’t even have a weapon drawn or anything. After their stellar performance in the whole scenario, the group welcomes their two new members.
I also want to mention that throughout most of the segment, Ray and his team members (but never Lindsay) are all dressed like the Seven Trumpeters from last week’s show—clad in an assortment of coyote-brown ‘tactical’ Velcro contraptions and woodland digital camouflage, with tricked-out black guns – in other words, doing their best to look like modern imperial soldiers. It just seems like a weird juxtaposition to me, considering their public front is an organic gardening center.

After the ‘expert’ assessment, Lindsay and Ray get 78 points (I understand it was originally 84 points, which would be the highest score yet), for fifteen months’ survival time.
In the end, let’s close with Lindsay’s final words which give a good summation of the state of The Mess. As she calmly and rationally explains, “People are under the illusion that we have so much food all around us, and that we live in this wonderful modern age, and all I can say is that you’re wrong. There is so much fragility in our system, and it can collapse at any time. These things are just time-bombs waiting to happen, and they will happen.” WORD.

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.