Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Doomsday Preppers: Moffatt Family

Up next we have a profile of Brian and Sheila Moffatt, of Arizona:

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
They’re supposedly using their 15-acre plot as a ‘doomsday academy’ for their—wait for it!—seven children (with one on the way, of course). From what we’re shown, this amounts to training in a variety of activities one would associate not with disaster or lost-in-the-woods survival, but with being able to ‘take out’ as many hungry ‘fugees/marauders as possible, because surprise surprise – like everyone else, they’re preparing for economic collapse!

We open with a long lingering shot of a biblical quote pinned to the wall—something designed to instill unthinking obedience to one’s parents or something. Ugh, I knew it! Seriously, anytime I hear about or see a family with any more than three or maybe four offspring (who always seem to be creepily indistinguishable), I immediately have to ask myself which evang/fundie snakehandling sect they’re a part of.
Oh, and they homeschool the kids, too. Again, what a surprise!

So…Brian starts us out with the mandatory prepping-rationale soundbite, declaring how “the rate of inflation is absolutely unsustainable!” Yeah, dude, that’s called the end-result of six thousand years of Our culture’s compounding inherent unsustainability coming to bite us in the ass. Maybe prices keep going up because Our culture is built on a foundation of infinite growth on (what we don’t want to admit is) a finite planet, and we’re starting to hit walls as we exhaust the nonrenewable resources we’ve come to rely on to continue prolonging our little experiment?

Brian continues with some blahblah, “…people can’t put food on the table!”
Rhetorical question: has anyone ever stopped to think why people can’t put food on the table?
If (as I assume) he really means, ‘People can’t buy food at the grocery store anymore!’, could that maybe be because Our culture has come to equate ‘putting food on the table’ with ‘being an obedient cog extorted into exchanging one-third of his day in exchange for fiat pieces of green paper’?, all while the so-called ‘value’ of those green pieces of paper continues to drop? What’s the real problem here? Do we want to deal with the symptoms, or the causes?
“You say it’s money that we need/As if we were only mouths to feed”

Anyway…on to the ‘academy’ curriculum. They start the day with some full-contact pummeling (aka Krav maga), and then move onto teaching ‘camouflage’ with stock green ghillie suits. Yet another handy caption reads: ‘The US Army advises adding natural vegetation to suit to blend in locally.’ Moffatts, you live in a scrubby desert – take a tip.
Then there’s a big section where they have shooting practice, at least for the ones over ten years old. I’m sure folks are meant to be shocked about younglings armed with semi-autos, but aside from the obnoxious ‘DOUBLE-TAP IN THE HEAD!!!’ tacti-talk, I didn’t see anything that jumped out at me. I mean, they did at least cover three of the Four Rules of Gun Safety! Thumbs up!
the four rules of gun safety
However, the only thing that seemed off to me was Brian’s comment that ‘shooting skills are only to be used in a worst-case scenario’. So, he’s pretty much telling his progeny that the guns are only to come out to shoot people in a crisis? Not that shooting is simply a valuable skill, or a powerful mental/physical exercise, or a way to humanely harvest game? Mixed signals, much?

Then they do a ‘dad-is-away-from-home’ invasion drill, one of the older daughters gets all shouty and take-charge-y; whatever. I did like the low-tech perimeter alert system made of tin cans!

And to wrap it all up with a bow, Brian says something about how despite all his preparations for collapse, he really just hopes that at the end of the day, everyone can just have food in their bellies so “that we can all have more children!” OH, COME ON! REALLY??! You’re worried about the System collapsing, but you continue to procreate like it’s going outta style?! What the fuck do you think is causing the System to collapse?!?!
Brian, man: barring outside help from an external entity like a comet or whatever, when this little civilizational experiment collapses (just like they’ve all done), history has shown it will ultimately trace its roots to a single Mesopotamian tribe whose top-of-the-pyramid rulers—infatuated with backbreakingly-created agricultural surplii (and mad with the power it allowed them to wield)—began telling a myth of unlimited growth (so long as there was some other tribe next door whose lands they could take), individual competition, the virtues of patriarchy and militarism, a labor-divided production economy, the ‘middle class’, and the wickedness of ‘human nature’ (manifested symptoms which are actually just the result of living in such an abhorrent system), &c., the list goes on and on…
We’ve all inherited this culture’s legacy, and while some of us are trying to do something about it, the Moffats continue to embrace it with all their hearts.

Very surprisingly, the experts give the family only 67 points for ten months’ time.

And as usual, the closing blurb ‘The Odds’ says that the USA could never fail (because that would mean we’ve been wrong!)! Thanks, status quo media mouthpiece!

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Doomsday Preppers: Jason Johns

The miniseason drags on…with the episode “Whatever It Takes”, which begins with Jason Johns of Alabama. Now, unlike the vast majority of folks profiled on this show, Jason has had actual real-world experience with a life-or-death survival adventure—at age 19 he got lost in the woods. They don’t really go into much detail about how he got out alive and didn’t freeze to death (exposure being THE number one killer in survival incidents), which would’ve been interesting to hear, seeing how he says he only had a knife and a lighter and it was freezing rain!
Anyway, now “almost 20 years later”, he and his eighteen-year-old son Jacob are determined to be “prepared for a solar flare and the civil unrest that follows.”
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentSo, after the usual brief primer on solar flares (and that big one in the 19th century that set the telegraph wires on fire), we hear Jason recite the usual ‘for all its greatness our world is so fragile, if people didn’t have the Juice, they couldn’t get food blahblah’ mantra. And then Jason comes to the part that really freaks me out: “…after two months, people like me will be left, and that’ll be our chance where we get to rebuild society”. *eyetwitch*. And I’m sure they’ll do it the same way that got us to where we are now—by being fruitful and multiplying as soon as possible, because the Earth was made for Man to abuse as he sees fit, ecology be damned!, right?
“The worst part of it is this,” I said, “that the survivors, if there are any, will immediately set about doing it all over again, exactly the same way”, replicating (“rebuilding”) the only world they’ve ever known, not recognizing its inherent unsustainability.

So…apparently Jason has 1,000 meals stored? I dunno, looks like a whole lotta ramen to me. Seriously, the cardboard it’s packaged in has more nutritional value! Ramen can be fine survival food—it helped me survive college (rimshot!)—but you can’t rely on it solely; don’t think of it as the main course. It works best as a meal supplement, something to stretch the healthy survival rations you’ve already got: make a big pot of stew, and then throw a half-brick of ramen in everybody’s bowl. Yummm!

When the narrator tells us that Jason constantly “preaches the gospel of preparedness to his son”,  that should really read, “evangelizes the gospel of his model of preparedness to his son”.

They go on a field trip to the local junkyard for lead wheel weights—because “when the solar flare goes down, with abandoned cars these’ll be everywhere.” Yeah, except that lead wheel weights already are everywhere. Travel by foot or bike instead of car for once, and you’ll see them at intersections, in the gutter, everywhere. Do a good deed and pick them up, and maybe spread less birth defects through the water system (lead is, after all, just really depleted uranium).

But I can’t really see ol’ Jason picking up environmental contaminants off the road out of the goodness of his earth-loving heart, because after melting down the weights, we see him spoon out the ‘impurities’ (which are all naturally coated with molten lead) and just throw them out on the ground. Well, that’s just lovely—sloppy and disrespectful!
*For future reference, when melting wheel weights, drop a bit of beeswax into your crucible to attract the impurities, and then skim them off for use them in something that doesn’t require perfect lead—like a round ball for a blackpowder rifle. As for the steel clips that attached the weights to the wheel’s rim, just pick them out (the lead will come off), and take them to your local recycling center.
(And one final note—while the caption informs us that one should only melt lead in a well-ventilated area, smelting outdoors can still be dangerous. The first time I melted down a batch of wheel weights outdoors, I spent the afternoon hovering over the crucible instead of sitting back and watching from a distance. Not only did I have the smell of molten heavy metals in my nose for two days, but I wound up with a killer headache that rivaled the worst hangover ever.)

Once Jason and Jacob melt down their lead, they mold some bullets for…hot damn, a muzzleloader! And not even an inline, but a percussionlock, to boot! (While I have huge love for blackpowder guns, for future reference, in a long-term collapse scenario, reliance on fulminated mercury percussion caps isn’t a sustainable solution—a flintlock, however, could be run indefinitely on naturally-occurring ingredients—just saying).

Next, the duo decide to test out their “worst case scenario” in which “all their food is gone, so it’s time to abandon their home and live off the land.”
That sentence perfectly illustrates the truly unsurvivable nature of Doomsday Prepping, as opposed to preparedness-through-sustainable-living. In the doomsday model of preparedness, families (or perhaps more likely, individuals—because this subculture is infatuated with the idea of the ‘lone wolf’, head-for-the-hills survivorman) have their everyday pantry of food from which they eat and replenish from the grocery store, while down in the basement they have their stash of Doomsday Food, not to be touched until, you guessed it, ‘doomsday.’ (But what if the End Of The World As We Know It isn’t brought on by a single, isolated event, but instead by a prolonged, decades-long steady degradation of the systems of our civilization (which we are likely in the middle of right now)?) Once said event has gone down, only then may the family crack open their purchased foodbuckets of beans, rice, ramen noodles, and freeze-dried chili, which will be steadily depleted until they are empty, because no resupply plan has been considered. (Also loathsome to my ears is the phrase ‘live off the land’, which implies an unsustainable one-sided Taking of resources, instead of a two-way dialogue between land and individual in which the individual also gives back to the land).

Compare this to ‘lifestyle prepping’, in which most of one’s food is produced, harvested, and preserved by the individual and no differentiation is made between Food and Doomsday Food. I don’t have a separate stash of the latter, but I do have a basement larder and a couple of giant Rubbermaid boxes, full of home-canned and -dehydrated fruits and veggies respectively (a combination of homegrown and freegan foraged). When a recipe calls for something, I simply get it from a jar or I rehydrate it. And there’s never a shortage, because I have a good idea of how much I need to get through a year from one harvest to the next—it’s constantly being restocked.

Anyway…father and son go out in the woods where son will hopefully survive the night after learning all of dad’s survival tricks. Somewhere younglin’ makes a quip about how he has to carry all the heavy backpacks, because his dad is SO OLD. Ahh, the Deep South, where 40 is considered to be an ‘Old Man’. :-S
Jason’s big thing is a bugout bag organized around what he calls “the Ten C’s”: Cargo tape (duct tape), ‘Candle-ing device’ (headlamp), a Cutting tool (knife), Combustion device (firestarting kit), a Canvas needle, a Compass, a Cotton bandana, Covering (tarp), a Container (canteen), and Cordage—which he claims is “hard to recreate in nature”. HA! Plus a pistol (of course), but he can’t figure out how to make that start with a C.

Together, they put together a squirrel pole and a twitch-up snare, then build a lean-to (out of live trees??).
Supposedly they catch a rabbit (I’m not convinced it wasn’t provided by the producers), whose meat Jason seems to consider his first priority food—“if we didn’t catch this, we’d have to eat…plants” he says, as a look of disgust crosses his face, as if eating lower on the food-energy pyramid was his absolute last resort.
Dad shows son how to start a fire with flint and steel—which is cool and all, but unless you’re like, really hardcore into 18th century reenacting, just use some kind of ferro rod—the less demand on fine motor skills in a survival situation, the better.

In their score, the experts give them 19 points on water (even though they only have 300 gallons stored?) and a final score of 64 for 10 months. That’s apparently unacceptable for Jason, who instead of taking what he can get and saying ‘Well, there’s always room for improvement’, gets an attitude and talks shit like he has a big chip on his shoulder. Blech.

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: Freda

The series’ next episode (‘Let ‘Er Rip!’) opens with a visit to the Virginia homestead of Freda Stemick.
fredasHer producer-enforced single issue is “Chaos, caused by an EMP attack due to World War III.” The way she sees it, “we are setting the stages worldwide” for a nuclear shootin’ match, involving “somebody shooting a warhead in our direction”. To which I have to congratulate NatGeo on their perfect timing, seeing as how this episode comes a few days after Pyongyang decided to ratchet up their saber-rattling, abandon their armistice, and cut all ties with South Korea.

Freda is apparently descended from some of the Hatfield clan, so because she happens to still live in the woods of Virginia (instead of say, downtown Chicago), the producers rely heavily on that angle to play up the ‘backwoods’/‘folksy’ nature of the segment; if I were just a little bit more rhetorically-minded, I could probably say something about how the show’s constructed image serves to reinforce Appalachian stereotypes. Or something.

It’s probably a good sign that one of the first things out of Freda’s mouth is a declaration that her family has lived in the “mountains and valleys” of Virginia for hundreds of years. Could’ve fooled me – that doesn’t sound very Virginian. Here in Kan-tuck-kee, we call ‘em “hills an’ hollers”.
She goes on to talk about her great frontiersy forebears who “hacked their way through the wilderness” (which, remember, was only a wilderness because the indigs who’d been tending the place like a garden for thousands of years had been wiped out).

Because she’s aware of the unsustainable nature of our just-in-time distribution system, Freda’s put a big focus on making her homestead as self-sufficient as possible, starting with food. She and boyfriend Mike Davis keep a nice garden to produce fresh veg, most of which it seems they home-can. However, I noticed that their jars are—as we’ve too often seen—just out on shelves, unprotected with no shock buffers or anything to keep them from smashing to the floor. Remember, just because you’re preparing for one possible contingency doesn’t mean a different one can’t sneak up on you: a tornado or earthquake or inland hurricane could always come along and turn your larder into a pile of un-canned food and broken glass.
They also keep a number of chickens, with the intention of using eggs as a compact, versatile form of true wealth. In other words, Freda is the first person on the show to advocate a Barrelhaven-style, eggs-based barter economy! Finally!

Because she fears that having an arsenal of firearms would make her a target for a gun-grabbing government in the event of martial law, she has a bare minimum of traditional armament—twelve gauge shotgun, nine millimeter pistol, compound bow. However, her ever-crafty boyfriend has made a set of ‘throwing stars’ with which he is apparently a pretty good shot. Despite being a fan of improvised and handmade equipment, I’m always wary of single-use (weapon-only) items. Like I’ve said before, I find hatchet-throwing to be a useful skill.

While they’re supposedly in a pretty isolated area (though I saw big trucks passing through the trees several times) they’re concerned about smoke from their cooking fires attracting attention, so they decide to test out their solar oven!
Now, this is a subject with which I actually have experience, and so, some thoughts on the subject.
It should come as no surprise that I’m a big fan of solar cooking; over the years I’ve cooked or dehydrated bushels of apples, bananas, peaches, tomatoes, daylilies (even mini pizzas!), using nothing more than the free and abundant energy radiating from the nearest star.
I’m not really a fan of the design of the oven we see them use (it’s basically a wooden cold-frame with foil lining the bottom). Personally, I’ve used a folding, all-foil-covered reflector-based ‘Cook-It‘ to good effect in summer, but simplest is often better: some of my best dried peaches and daylilies were done simply with a cheesecloth-covered wooden frame, placed on a concrete slab, with a large pane of window glass over it. In fact, bugs don’t bother the food, because it’s actually too hot under the glass for them to stand it!

Now, for actual cooking like, a pot of maize and beans, I’ve never tried going solar. For that kind of meal, it’s usually recommended to use a dark-colored pot, inside a sealed, heavy-duty clear plastic bag, all placed on or in the oven for several hours.
However, for simply dehydrating food, this is hard to beat:

I don’t have a car, but I do have a solar oven that I occasionally drive.

The dashboard of a car with windows just slightly opened (to let the hot air circulate) can be an effective dehydrator from March on through October (in the northern hemisphere); hell, in high Summer it’ll get hot enough that you can do two batches per day!
Attentive viewers will note that while we see Freda put a small pig in the cooker, we never see the results of the experiment. As she explains, “we originally planned to put the pig on the campfire and bake bread in the oven but time got short for filming and the crew said “just throw the pig in the solar oven”… I took it out of there within an hour and threw it on the stove.”
However, as our caption reminds us—solar cooking really only works in areas with abundant sun: much of Africa comes to mind; the forested mountains of Appalachia—where the sun comes up about ten in the morning, and goes down about three in the day—do not.

With the food situation well under control, we learn that Freda’s homestead has not one, not two, but three sources of fresh water (a flowing creek, artesian well and pump well?). Mike puts on his diy hat again, and comes up with a turbine wheel to put in the stream to make some free hydroelectricity. I don’t know if it actually charged their batteries, but if so, it’s pretty sweet.

Then they show off their ultimate “perimeter defense weapon”, which as it turns out, is Mike’s homemade catapult…of sorts.
It’s counterweighted like a trebuchet, but the counterweight isn’t articulated, which gives it an arc of swing more like a mangonel. Either of those designs can be solid when they’re followed (back in high school, I built an eleven-foot oak treb that could throw big rocks about 200 feet), but unfortunately this design borrows from both types and doesn’t perform particularly well. Or maybe it would, if they’d thrown something with some weight (like one of the many pumpkins we see lying around?), instead of the negligible-mass ‘throwing stars’.
Actually, I think the best solution in this case might be for Mike to trade his “catapult” to Brent (to go with his “castle”!) in exchange for some long guns to properly defend their wooded homestead.

The experts say her food plan is great, now she should stock up on medical supplies. They give her 56 points, for seven months’ initial survival. I don’t know why, but that seems low to me. Anyway, it’s always nice to see self-reliant country folks instead of the gung-ho beans-n-bunkers types.

Doomsday Preppers: Doug the Rock Man

Our next episode (‘Solutions, Not Problems’) is another of the two-uneven-profiles variety; we begin with a short look at Doug Eaves, aka ‘Rock Man’.
doug-the-rock-manAs his name suggests, Doug is all about rocks. Not surprising, as he owns and operates his own rock quarry in the mountains of Tennessee. And since he’s all about rocks, it’s also unsurprising that many of his prepping strategies also rely on rocks. It’s nice to see someone who is so familiar with one material that he can make his living from it and integrate it into his life.
And what does Doug fear that drives him to prepare? All together now!: “an economic collapse that will change the world forever!”
Really? Seriously, for this season, a full 30 percent of the folks profiled have been economic collapse-ers, which while only two points up from season one, just seems so uneven. C’mon, just for shits and giggles, couldn’t the producers switch ‘em up, so we don’t get like, three in a row?

Anyway, Doug worries that “our economy is in distress” and he “don’t see it getting better.” Like I’ve said before, this was probably filmed some months ago before the stock-market bump of the last few weeks. However, I’m not sure about one of his strategies for dealing with this contingency. Every week, it seems Doug takes his profits to the bank and exchanges his paper money for rolls of fifty-cent pieces. He then spends an evening on a ‘treasure hunt’, searching for any pre-1971 or pre-1965 coins. If you didn’t already know, the rising cost of silver caused the US Mint to eliminate that element in dimes and quarters, and reduce its content in half-dollars from 90 to 40 percent in 1965; by 1971 they followed suit and began minting silver-free half-dollars.
The current price of silver means that should you actually find one of these coins, it’s worth far more than its face value: as Doug suggests, what appears to be a 50-cent piece could be worth 20 dollars. Of course, as in all concepts of ‘value’ and ‘wealth’ in civilized society, it’s entirely reliant on the consent of its participants to function. The only reason our system of backed-by-gold green paper notes is allowed to continue—even though there hasn’t been enough gold (or silver, for that matter) to back the money for years—is because we continue to go along with it, pretending that these rectangles of green cotton-paper are equal to 100 of these little coppery discs, or 20, ten, four, or two of these silvery discs. Isn’t it funny how—with the exception of the all-but-forgotten Sacagawea gold dollar—all of our monies are inscribed with pictures of dead white men? Personally, I like to deal with root problems instead of symptoms, so if you’re worried about an economy that’s in danger of collapsing, recognize what’s causing that economy to collapse, and then get as far away from it as possible. Hell, read up on uncivilized economies (generally based around person-to-person support as true wealth) and implement one with your neighbors. Or something. Just an idea.
If you want to continue to buy into the ‘green paper = value’ game, that’s fine, but realize how inherently unstable that system is, and don’t rely on it. Better yet, take a page from Kelly and John Taylors’ playbook: convert that paper into useful purchases ASAP and get used to life without it. Bah, precious metals as wealth are inherently bullshit. /soapbox.

So, because so much of this show is just folks tying to make themselves feel good about being ‘prepared’, we get to see Doug’s family’s $45,000 shipping-container bunker. Which doesn’t seem like a lot of room, especially when they reveal that in an emergency, Doug’s best friend Inez and his family will be coming to stay as well. So, seven people in a shipping container? Sounds crowded to me. Regardless, thumbs-up for having a buddy to help you out.
And with all those people packing in there, Doug has implemented strict water-rationing—and this is probably the scariest thing to most folks watching the show: only two gallons per person per day. Eek! That’s right, no more ten-minute Hollywood shower for you! According to our narrator, the average American somehow uses 100 gallons or water per day? I really hope that’s wrong.
But as soon as they showed the septic tank getting lowered into the pit, I knew we weren’t looking at a long-term problem solver. So yeah, septic tanks. AKA ‘big concrete box that you fill up with raw shit and now-contaminated drinking water, requiring a vacuum truck to come and suck it out every so often.” Someone please remind me how this is a reliable way of dealing with human waste in an uncertain future? I’ll say it one more time…HUMANURE. No water, no smell, awesome compost at the end. What’s not to love?

Now, should the rampaging hordes of unprepared city-dwellers come swarming out of the nearest metropolis, what is Doug’s plan for dealing with them? This is the Rock Man we’re talking about, so naturally all solutions involve Really Big Stones. His first line of defense is apparently a one-time-only trick, because he plans to create a rockslide to block the road. Wow. Next step is to create some stone pillbox firing positions around the bunker. And finally, break out the bobcat and barricade the driveway with an improvised rock wall. Like I said, I like that he uses what he knows. And Doug knows rocks! I also really like that they wrap up their night of rock-wall-building with pizza! Because as we all know, “There is no aspect, no facet, no moment of life that can’t be improved with pizza.”

The experts give him 69 points, for twelve months’ survival; Doug seems pretty pleased with that assessment. Not bad.

Doomsday Preppers: Brian Brawdy

Up next we have Brian Brawdy, with a wonderful approach to life and survival.
brian brawdyA former police investigator, Brian is a sort of mental-self-help guru/explorer/lecturer/jack-of-many-trades who hosts a podcast from his souped-up RV (which he considers to be the ultimate bug-out vehicle), out of which he lives with his dog Brash. And I do mean live—Brian apparently has no home base and is a fully mobile, bona-fide rubbertramp. Brian has no interest in being held down defending a single piece of land (a la the Type I ‘bunker model’ to which most folks on this show cling)— “What kind of life is that?” he asks—and so for him and his dog, life is a 24/7 bug-out.
With this strategy, Brawdy believes he will be able to survive his fear of ‘any terrorist attack’ by maintaining complete mobility. Like the last couple, I honestly think he’s in a position to cope with just about any foreseeable contingency.
And why do I think he’s sufficiently prepared? Because his driving impetus is to “imitate Nature!” YES! Why does it feel like Brian is the very first person on the show to suggest such a concept?


Unlike Jim D.’s big miliscary rig, Brian’s looks pretty much like a regular consumer RV, with the addition of some solar panels, deployable wind turbines, and satellite dishes (and a bunch of sponsor logos).
Unlike ‘the Behemoth’ (which could somehow run on regular fuel and propane), Brian’s vehicle is just a standard diesel. In true Road Warrior-style, this means he is always driven (pun intended?) by the search for more Juice. To help him with this, he enlists the help of a wishes-to-remain-anonymous friend to show him how to siphon fuel from other vehicles. That’s fine, but personally my next step would be to convert the RV to run on biodiesel/cooking oil. If there’s one upside to our culture’s cancerous Sprawl, it’s that fast food restaurants (and their greasepits) will be ubiquitous features on a postapocalyptic landscape.

Because space is at a premium (leading him to have some ingenious storage space) Brian apparently doesn’t store ridiculous amounts of water. As such, he has to find and filter water wherever he’s camped for the night, so it’s nice to see the Katadyn Pocket getting some use. For a long-term bugout, it’s probably the best mechanical water filter around, what with the solid Swiss machining and the 13,000 gallon capacity. They’re a bit heavy and relatively pricey, but definitely worth it; I put three weeks’ worth of water through mine when I was in Guyana some years ago, and never once got sick. For what it’s worth, however, I recommend carrying (and practicing) a variety of purification methods; chlorine bleach, iodine tincture, potassium permanganate, a mechanical filter, charcoal for flavour, &c. It’s always a good idea to have backups for your backups!

We see Brian shooting a crossbow, but never get much more than a glimpse. I’d be interested to know if he travels with any firearms, or if he’s focused on mostly-silently eliminating intruders.

The experts give him 63 points (nine months); personally I’m surprised he got that high of a score, as his approach is so far removed from the Type I Prepping (to which the scoring system clearly skews) practiced by most on this show.