Monday, May 12, 2014

Distance is overrated

Joel Skousen on the Western Relocation Zone:
The area I have outlined is what is generally referred to as the Intermountain West and includes the Great Basin---that high desert plain between the Cascade/Sierra Mountains of Washington, Oregon and California over to the middle of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and New Mexico.  These two mountain ranges converge as they get further north and merge in Canada.  They provide a pretty formidable barrier for those coming from the West Coast or the Midwest.  In addition, the Great Basin has within its boundaries hundreds of miles of trackless desert and mountain areas that provide isolation by distance and hardship for anyone entering the area without vehicles, fuel and water. 
I wrote once, in a post lost in the conflagration of the former blog, that in a severe SHTF situation* most people will die within 10 miles of their homes. Lots of prepper blogs paint pictures based on the experience of Germany at the end of WWII, when hordes of Germans fled westward, devouring everything in their path, and they'll warn that the American prepper faces the same threat swarming out of our cities.  But there's a difference that makes all the difference: the Germans were fleeing an enemy marching from the east. Lacking that kind of specific directional threat, people will not willingly leave home.

People don't naturally bug out.  Unless they have an existing plan to reach someplace safe, they are going to remain in familiar environs until absolutely forced to leave.  In the meantime, they are going to drive from station to station looking for gas until the gas is gone. When the sun goes down they'll hide in their homes, using their camp lights until the batteries are gone. The vast majority will wait in place for help to arrive, because that's what help always does. Except under a true SHTF scenario, help never arrives - all that happens is that escape routes fill up with cars that are out of gas.  But it will take time for that reality to sink in.

A true SHTF scenario is the only situation in which a massive amount of distance between you  and this situation makes any sense.  After all, if the gas stations are open a person can drive from Dallas to Thunder Bay in about 20 hours.  I've driven from Vermont to Kansas in the same time.  So long as there's fuel for vehicles available, distance avails you nothing.  There's no safety within 400 miles of Boise or Caspar if the bad guys can fill up their Suburbans-O-Death there before heading to your house.

But if there's no fuel or if the main roads are blocked with cars,** then travel options are massively reduced, pretty much to cycles (motorized or not), horses, and foot. Given the limited number of the first available, I just do not see massive numbers of refugees pedaling their way west on I-70.  The second, limited in number as well, are already outside the cities.***  That leaves walking.

A person in military shape can march about 20 miles a day - that's the distance the Roman Legions covered as a matter of course.  Your average obese American, trying to carry water and food and household treasures, with children in tow, without appropriate footwear or a way to escape the weather or itinerant "toll collectors," could not do half that after the first day, even without the bridges blocked. They're not going to walk to Bakersfield from LA. They will give up within days and go back. Whether they make it is anyone's guess.

In short, if the disaster that makes people flee the cities is accompanied by plentiful gasoline for normal vehicles, even 500 miles - 25 mpg on a 20-gallon tank - is not far enough to avoid unpleasant visitors.  If the disaster removes the gas, 100 miles distance from danger areas is plenty.

Now, obviously, those are the opposite ends of a single spectrum. It's also possible and even likely that we would face a middle situation, one in which gas remains available for some but not others, perhaps via panic pricing or even government rationing. But mid-way cases do not change the calculus.  The government's going to have whatever gas is available - if you're afraid they're coming for you, you're not far enough away.  But if you're mostly concerned about hungry hordes of zombies, there's no need to head for the mountains of Utah. The average urban pov, the one who will suffer most from the immediate cessation of government services like water and power, will be the last to receive whatever shrinking supplies of gas are available.  Lacking a motorized means to escape the concrete deathtrap that is a darkened city, he will likely die in place unless the lights come back on within weeks, and maybe within days.

* I think the subject was an EMP that took out freaking everything, a situation I find extremely unlikely as a matter of warfare but far more likely as a matter of nature.  Which means I expect, if it hits us, we will have no warning whatsoever.
** Or if the sheriff's department of Bugout County Iowa blocks a bridge over the Mighty Miss, ensuring that wandering Chicagoans remain Illinois' problem. Bet you dollars to donuts it happens almost immediately.
*** Plus, most dazzling urbanites would have no idea what to do with a horse.  They might eat it, I guess.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Potatoes in a barrel, Update II


So I've added the first layer, which worked out to about 5" all told.  I also went heavier on the mulch than soil, not for any good reason, but because I needed all the soil for another project.  I don't think the taters will complain all that much.

At 5" every two weeks or so, by mid-June we should reach the top of the barrel. HR, bush beans, and marigolds will follow immediately.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Lazy Man's Raised Beds

Comes complete with DiggingDog (R)
This is a raised garden bed, one of about half a dozen that my back yard is sporting this year. It's 6 cinder blocks long* by about 2 1/2 wide. I have others that are wider and others that are longer, but this one is just long enough and wide enough for 8 jalepeno plants once they mature. It's not a sexy raised bed; in fact, it's just a bunch a cinder blocks with dirt piled in the middle of them. As you can tell from the very non-straight sides, they are not attached to one another in any way, shape, or form.

While on these internets one can find plenty of nice-looking, solid, wooden-or-plastic, permanent raised beds for gardening, I prefer the "Just stack cinder blocks in a rectangle" method for the following reasons:

1. It's not permanent.  With lots of other raised beds, once you mark out your territory, you'll have raised beds in those very spots forever. Their installation is just too painful to repeat.  But with cinder blocks, not only can I move them, which I occasionally do, but I could make an outhouse, a wall, or a boat anchor from them. When I'm done with that, I can re-build my beds with those blocks or others.

2. It's flexible.  You don't have to make rectangles, although it's a challenge to make circles and triangles. You can join rectangles, you can separate and divide them and you just have to move a little dirt. You can make them one block tall or two or even more and change from crop to crop. You are never stuck with an original design that may not work out the way you intended.

3. It's capital. While cinder blocks are probably more expensive than building something from wood, they don't rot, wear out, or get nail holes. My dog doesn't chew them. Termites and worms leave them alone.  That means that they are capital that I will always have. I never mind spending money on capital. The beds may be temporary, but the blocks are as close to permanent as one is likely to get.

4.  I can plant lots of little gardens all around it.**  On this bed, for example, I have 30 holes in which I can plant chives, marigolds, parsley, whatever I'd like. I can choose companion plants for support of the center crop, or for looks, or simply to keep a spreading herb like mint contained.*** Some of the larger beds have 50 or more potential planters attached, giving plenty of room to experiment.

5.  It's easy.  It doesn't take a lot of work or time or even a lot of skill to make a usable raised bed. That appeals to me not just in gardening, but in a lot of preps. Plus I can water lots and lots of plants without hauling jugs all over the place.

In many areas prep-related, there are a plethora of ways to accomplish a given task.  Each has tradeoffs, like look versus function, like cost, like flexibility.  When you're designing your preps, don't just ask, "How can I best accomplish this task?" Realize that every solution will someday wear out or become redundant and be replaced. Complete your planning with that replacement task in mind as well.

* not to be confused with city blocks, which are slightly larger.
** It actually took until this year to pull it off, however, as the lovely and gracious Rogue long considered the idea 'too redneck.' That's why the only plants you might see are chives. The other future residents, all newly planted, are still in the house but should make their way outside this week.
***  Of course, planting perennials around the edge tends to negate point #1.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Where to Live IX - Catastrophic Threats

In Soviet Russia, Yellowstone visits you

Russian academic Andrei Fursov turned a few heads this week with a cryptic insertion into the middle of an insightful talk on the troubles in Ukraine:
Of course, there is this Yellowstone threat - I mean the super-volcano. That could completely change the rules of play at any time. The super-volcano could solve for the Western elite the very problems which they've been trying to solve for the last 50-60 years and have been unable to. An eruption of the volcano could solve those problems. But that's another subject.
There actually is a monstrously enormous volcano beneath Yellowstone that I guess could completely change any rules at any time, especially should it dump 10' of ash on the American Midwest.  It would be catastrophic not just to the United States, but could conceivably drop the global temperature about 20 degrees on average and pretty much end the human project, not to mention AlGore's Global Warming Traveling Circus. It's a good thing scientists recently denied Yellowstone's eruption is imminent.*

But the Yellowstone caldera is a perfect example of the kind of threat that the prepper is wise to ignore. Not just push to the back of the line, but completely and utterly dismiss from the mind. The reasons for this are several:

1.  The caldera  explodes seemingly every 800,000 years, give or take.  Since we have 160,000 years until that number, the odds are pretty decent** that it will not happen before Christmas, even Christmas of 3000ad.  A threat with odds that low is not really a threat.

2. If the consequence of a threat is so large as to wipe out everyone, there is no point in prepping for it. Earth falling into the sun, moon falling into the earth, Scarlett Johansson falling for PeeWee Herman - if it's going to kill us all, then it's going to kill us all.  Make peace with God now and stop worrying.

3.  The miniscule odds of something catastrophic must give way before the decent odds of something very bad.  Yes, an eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera is sexier than a 7.5 on the New Madrid Fault or a human-to-human avian flu or even peak cheap oil.  But sexy should not direct our preparations; odds and offsets must.

4.  Yes, the Russians might nuke it or something.  Since no one knows what that would do, it cannot be prepared for and should be ignored.  The worse the result of the Russians nuking it, the more you should ignore it.

There's an old*** adage that goes something like, "If there's no solution, there's no problem."  The Yellowstone Caldera is the kind of threat that one cannot avoid, cannot negate, cannot offset, and will most likely not happen in 10,000 or possibly even 100,000 years.   Yes, it is potentially catastrophic, but not even Russian academics can make it relevant.

* Never believe anything until it is officially denied.
** I'll let Huck work them out. Maybe he'll even show I'm wrong.
*** If only because I say it and I'm old.  So it's old by association.