Wednesday, 13 November 2013

New Free E-book, "The Pensioner Prepper" out!

New Free E-book, "The Pensioner Prepper" out! Follow this link to the download page. Or read the transcript right here:

Pensioner Preppers
- an ancient "new breed" of survivalist.

With the statistic that our population is tending to consist more and more of older people, it's time to put vanity aside and admit something to ourselves - we are not getting any younger. Despite claims that medical science claims to be enhancing and extending lives, they seem only to be doing one of those things. That means that we have a situation here, where we live longer, draw pension longer, and need more care for longer. We need to break out of that mold.

My spouse and I have both known the health decline, and we've both done something about it. We hope there's no "Stuff Hitting The Fan" (SHTF[Note 1]) or "The End Of The World As We Know It" (TEOTWAWKI[Note 1]) event in our lifetimes, but we intend to be in the group that survives if it ever happens. We've both faced debilitating illnesses and lost some functionality because of them, but we've also regained some health that our doctors were busy telling us we would never regain, by changing our lifestyles. They say that as we age, we'll lose mental acuity and survivability - we say that wisdom and preparedness will overcome youthful enthusiasm every time...

So allow me to present this series of e-books on doing things smarter rather than harder, healthier rather than convenient. (Yes, you read that right - making things easier, but more things to do. Variety is the spice of the PP life.) We've both learned a fair bit about that, and I'm sharing.

We're The People Our Parents Warned Us About - No, We're Our Parents Now, Actually!

The most important thing to realise is that "they" won't fix everything. "They" aren't going to be interested in you or me when there's a rich banker or some famous starlet to rescue. And "they" will for sure not care if a pensioner couple here and there just stop costing "them" a pension or gratuity... We have to be prepared to fend for ourselves, as far and as much as our resources will allow us to. And then be prepared to go farther and more, when an event happens...

One of the first things to go if there is a disaster event, is the availability of regular medical aid. With medical services stretched thin, there just won't really be time to fill out your prescription. If the event is a long one, then you're not likely to be able to refill prescriptions for weeks, maybe months. It's best to be off as many of them as possible, when you understand this, and be on minimal dosages of others where possible. Also, study herbal lore and folklore and alternative medicines. You may find that the iodine in seaweed will work almost as well as the iodine tablets you take for thyroid, or at least allow you to eke your supply out to years rather than months.

Have you thought what might happen if you have temperature-sensitive medications and then the power goes out? For a month? Six months? Everywhere? These are some of the additional problems we need to be mindful of, of having a store of medications we can't do without, and having alternatives for those that we can replace in any other way or fashion.

There's also the issue of just doing general everyday things. We're used to flicking on the light on a dim staircase where a younger person's eyes are still able to see fine. Turning on the a/c instead of jumping in the pool for a cool-off and then finding a shady tree. We'll take the car to go a quarter mile to the shops, and then wonder why we're out of breath climbing the stairs. (And this one I can definitely offer my opinion on, for reasons I'll explain later.)

Working in the garden or doing other jobs, become more taxing as we age. The alternative to either being young again, or else having done it all one's life and thus knowing every shortcut and labour-saving trick, is to have a well-tuned mind and putting it to use solving these kinds of day to day problems. A little ingenuity can go a long way.

And when something unexpected comes along, we're even more at a disadvantage. You need to be able to think, and to think fast, and solve problems. The best way to develop such skills, is to exercise them as often as you can. When you see someone doing something, work through the steps they use, understand why they do the things they do, and then try to devise a more efficient way that you'd use. Imagining these kinds of things lends you mental flexibility, so if something untoward does happen, you'll be able to work it out as you go, and save some hassle and exertion along the way.

Also, use that increased mental acuity to imagine the things that you might face, in your situation, if the lights go out one morning and stay out for several weeks. Imagine what might transpire if a storm or flood takes out everyday life for ten days. What about an earthquake?

Think about the best way to disguise the fact that in a world temporarily and locally gone a bit mad, you have drugs. There are addicts out there that will happily steal your prescription painkillers (and think nothing of injuring, maiming, or killing you in the process) if they have any idea that you have a stock. And if some thief does come for your supplies of whatever, do you have a sacrificial stash as well as your real stash?

The saying used to be that people don't naturally want to kill or be evil. Over the last four decades, that has slowly fallen from the popular viewpoint, and is borne out by statistics of violent crimes. People are bastards, pure and simple. Giving up one's sacrificial stash may ensure one's safety. or it may not. Make no mistake, life and death for the aged is a far more precarious proposition than that of a younger person.

So yes - we're in a far different situation than the preppers who seem to be all the rage these days. And just being aware of it makes our situation that little bit less so. So in this e-book (or blog article if you're reading this online) I'll revisit the above scenarios and add a few more that need serious thought.

The Issues.

To be honest, an older prepper faces a much steeper entry curve to survival in a SHTF event. We're behind the bell curve in fitness and health, our eyesight is generally not so wonderful any more, and let's face it, 200 years ago any one of a dozen geriatric diseases would have already taken us out. Trust me when I say that an event will definitely test us, and continue to test us for as long as that event transpires. Events morph. They change fluidly from one moment to the next. One day, everyone's still civilised and polished, the next, they're so hungry they'd kill you for the bowl of rice on your table. The day after that, they'd kill you for a long pork rump steak out of your leg...

And the issues of currency - not money, but freshest stock first. What's the use of having 50kg of fine white flour if you have to unseal it all at once, two days into the event, and by six weeks there's weevils in it? (Do people even remember flour weevils? They're yet another species we've brought almost to the brink of extinction. Makes you think...)

Generally there's only the two of you at home. You can use maybe a kilo of flour per week, if you have plenty of other sources of nutrition then maybe even just a half kilo a week between you. Caching your goods in month-sized batches makes a lot of sense. That is, wrap individual paper flour bags in plastic and store them, leave pasta in the cellophane packs, wrap those, and cache them.

So the currency issue gets resolved by doing this. If you're prepping properly, then you won't be caching things you don't use in everyday life. So storing it in small quantities makes far better sense. To go back to the example of flour: If you don't use flour, why are you caching it? Do you think that somehow, magically, you'll learn to love flour and use flour and live on flour happily? Probably it would just add to the misery of post-event life.

Store only what you generally use, then there's every chance that as you buy new stock and add it to the cache(s), then all you need to do is take the oldest package and use that rather than buying a new fresh one and using it directly. The stock gets rotated, and you can be sure the cache stays fresh and useable. As to locations, having a dozen caches spread out all over the place is better than having a dozen caches' worth in one location, unless this major cache is in a very secret and well hidden place.

I for one couldn't shinny up a tree, inch out along the branch, and then scramble into the old dead hollow tree every few weeks to get the next few weeks' worth of stores from my cache. I need a solution that keeps the cache(s) close to hand. HIPS[Note 1] is one such answer. By hiding caches in plain sight that makes it easier to access our stores. By splitting into sensible portions, we preserve currency and perhaps ensure a longer usefulness out of our stores.

That also makes certain HIPS problems less devastating. (Okay okay - I couldn't resist the pun... %) Hiding In Plain Sight is one way to conceal your stash - buckets of flour and pasta and rice on the bottom bookshelf behind the end table and reasonably out of sight. HIPS caches make good sense because often they will be overlooked by scavengers, and the cache is generally close to hand for when you need it. For us, the advantages are that our stores are to hand and not physically difficult for us to get to. And by portioning, we reduce the impact that a discovered and raided cache would have on us.

It's a bit devastating if someone does find and raid your HIPS cache. If all of your flour is in one spot, then if someone finds the cache all your flour is gone. If you'd been packaging it in smaller quantities and rotating the stock through the caches to your kitchen, you'd have only lost a month's worth or so. So why use HIPS then, aside from making it easier on ourselves? Well, if someone does find you and turn your location over, they'll find the plain sight stash and probably be satisfied that they got it all. Your better-hidden caches might survive. Plan on this happening, and you'll be ahead of the game.

Now it's time for another observation: An empty nest is still a nest. The chicks may have flown, but it's full of trinkets and memorabilia and things of sentimental value. Don't let it hold you back if your intuition tells you it's time to bug out. You could die holding onto a photograph that meant a lot to you. But you'd be dead. Better to leave those things, not to dig yourself in if your location is a hotspot, and hope you can come back to the treasures later. Make this accommodation with your heart now, before push comes to shove. If it never happens then that's good. But if there is an event, you'll have done all your agonising already and not let sentiment slow you down.

Note 1 -
Acronyms are a big part of the prepper folklore. I use them in this book because I'm lazy, and I want to appear savvy and smart. Also, to prepare you for the jargon you may hear if you ever find another prepper or go to their websites. Here goes...

  • SHTF = Stuff Hits The Fan. A SHTF event is one where the manure has hit the fan.
  • TEOTWAWKI = The End Of The World As We Know It. Pretty self explanatory.
  • OPSEC = a term preppers borrowed from the military and meaning OPerational SECurity. The art of hiding all the little details as well as the big plan. General security of an operation, and for preppers that means their survival plan.
  • HIPS = Hiding In Plain Sight. Just what it says. Sometimes, the most blindingly obvious hiding spots are the ones overlooked.

This document is written and published by RO (Ted) Russ and is protected under world copyright. The document is freely available, free to read, and free to distribute, provided you do not alter it in any way, and do not profit in any way from copying and redistributing it. If I find out you're down doing the wrong thing by me, I will do a Liam Neeson on you.

If this document or any of the series was useful to you, entertaining to you, or made you more aware, you can feel free to donate any sum you like at my Paypal using the donation link below or just pay to my Paypal email address - all donations cover my work and time on these books for the last seven years, using myself as the guineapig for each and every stage, and all donations will go towards my retirement farm. (Seriously, I am hoping that your response to the series will allow me to retire to my dream farm hidden away in the country. Is that any different to asking for Kickstarter funds or a Kiva loan? And this way, you get useful information, a warm fuzzy feeling, and the fact that I'll keep on writing for you... %)

Please follow this link to donate on the OFTHA website.
This ebook is part of a series which is a complete re-write of The Body Friendly Zen CookBook which I first published in 2007 as an online e-book. This reprint has been made into several smaller sections, or the whole book is also available at the site where you got this as a single e-book.

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Sunday, 3 November 2013

Aquaponics Progress Report

As some of you know by friending me on Facebook, I've now assembled three different aquaponics systems but never got the chance to put the first two into production due to moving. The third system though, that has been full of water for almost three months now, and I've managed to conduct a few studies along the way.

First of all, you'll want to know if it works. Hell yes! HERE is a Youtube video I made just recently. If you note the difference in the cos (romaine) lettuce plants in the early part of the movie you'll see the difference in size.

Here's the interesting thing:

The small size of the plants, that was after around six weeks of running the system with seaweed extract and fish emulsion in the water. You can't use harsh fertilisers because they would pollute the water for the fish. And I wanted the system to have the nitrogen bacteria before I put fish in, so I let it run for long enough to be pretty sure that the fish emulsion was rotting to ammonia, and the ammonia was being converted by bacteria.

The larger size of the plants, that's only two weeks' growth after the first few fish were introduced to the tanks...

I'm pretty sure that the fish excrement is far better for the ammonia / nitrite / nitrate cycle than anything else, and that I'd luckily built up a decent colony of bacteria that must have been just under some critical mass. But the growth has exceeded my wildest expectations.

So the history of the system has been: Two weeks of running the system with water only, to iron out plumbing kinks and peculiarities. Two more weeks with only half the grow bed full of gravel, and plants in that half. Four weeks with the grow bed totally filled and a few more plants. And then two weeks with fish in the tanks and a HUGE growth spurt of the plants.

I can now honestly say that even a tiny system such as mine is, can produce a significant amount of plant growth, and a larger system would probably provide a significant proportion of one's vegetable requirements.

By the way, if you're in Australia, and more specifically in Victoria, I can now build you such a small system (250 litres - 600 litres) for around $400-$600 dry, depending on how large a system you want and how expensive the pumps etc that you want. ("Dry" means without gravel.) Shipping isn't really an option for something as bulky as this, so it has to be close by. Next project will be wicking beds, and I estimate around $250 for a pallet sized wicking bed.

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The Whole Disaster Thing 4

The Whole Disaster Thing 4 - Now What?

So now it's a few days after a SHTF event, you're travelling really well, got all your supplies worked out, able to replenish much of your consumables, you have tools and materials to build or do anything. What's next?

Well, have you actually thought what might transpire? Let's see - oh yes, the looters. Those people who feel that any excuse will do for just stealing and vandalising. There's a survival advantage to the vandalising, of course. If they are experienced looters and they destroy anything left over, then you won't have the left-overs. Since they're going to be better at looting, they'll outlast you.

There are ways to stop this cycle developing but that's a bit beyond the scope of my article. If you want to see more on the subject look up any military manual on dealing with use of deadly force. I won't condone this but neither will I dismiss it.

Our aim is not to become a looter target. Are you cooking up tasty aromatic meals every day? Stop! Are you keeping your environment lit with candles by night or are you revealing it with a smoky fire by day? Stop!

That much should be obvious if you're a prepared prepper. Let on that you're (comparatively speaking) sitting on Easy Street to such looters, and you may as well just hand over your stores. And maybe your life. Just stop.

As the event unfolds, there will be progressively fewer and fewer of these opportunistic arseholes around. They'll starve. Not nice, but then neither is stealing.

Law and order. The old style L&O will be out of touch, and probably be more of a problem than the situations they will try and retain control of. Best to avoid where possible. New L&O will come from good old natural justice instincts. But it'll take time to establish, so for the first few weeks consider yourself to be on your own.

So a few weeks in, mostly the people with good survival skills will remain. These are dangerous, because they didn't get that far by being weak or stupid. Unless you're very vainglorious, also best to avoid. But it will be harder now, because any signs of survivors will draw these people. Is your garden all neat and tended and watered and green in the middle of a desolate waste? Stop that.

Does what you do make noise, or scents, or visible signs? Be damn careful, or better yet, stop. Stop anything that draws attention. This situation will not last forever, eventually the banding instinct will kick in and groups will form again.

So be prepared to live very much under the radar for a while. I favour spreading my vegetables out among other plants, so the fact that I actually have a garden isn't obvious to anyone just walking past. I also know there are around one or two dozen edible species growing wild around here, so I can supplement my food with any of those.

The main thing is not to have obvious sources of food, warmth, medicine, or tools. The second thing is to fly under the radar like that until villages and communities form again. Third is to form or join such a community, and the best way to do that is to have some skills that are useful.

People that just had food stashed and lived off that and now have no redeeming skills, are going to be a drain on a community. Don't be one of these. People that can make and use tools and weapons, that can make meals and do something no one else can, will benefit a community, and you want to be one of these.

Communities are not necessary, but they are desirable. If you kept a CB radio and some batteries, this can be of help by listening across all the channels for a few minutes every day. (With headphones on of course so you don't get heard for miles around if there's static or someone else suddenly calling...)

Weapons. Whether for hunting, defence, or offence, I think this is very much your personal choice. I believe we have the right to defend ourselves in any situation, but to me guns are not the only defensive weapon, and your mind is still the best defence you can have. We have a right to hunt, but if we do, we'd better be sure to be good hunters than to leave trails of wounded animals behind us.

On the subject of defence I'll just say that bulletproof vests are generally not able to resist spears, knives, arrows and quarrels the way they resist bullets. The way they resist bullets often makes the wearer of such a vest a bit too cocksure of themselves. Guns eventually run out of reliable ammunition and then they're just clubs.

An intelligent person is generally able to avoid places where bullets are likely, and to be able to avoid being clubbed by a firearm owner who's suddenly desperate because they're out of magic bullets. So the best way to survive is not to be where the shooting is, and not to rely on a gun to protect you...

On the subject of bows and arrows. A lot of prepper blogs run articles about the survival value of archery versus gunfire, and most come to the surprising conclusion that archery is actually better because the bow and arrow are relatively silent, and as everyone knows guns will run out of ammunition eventually. What they're not considering is that arrows will run out eventually too, and no-one is a natural fletcher or even knows what to do once their bowstring breaks.

In fact, not everyone is a natural marksman with a rifle or a bow, and it's easier to sneak to within 100m of your prey than it is to sneak to within 40m. And I won't even go into the relative survival value of shooting three arrows into the air to attract a rescuer's attention versus firing three rifle shots...

For hunting, I know I'd like a rifle more than anything else. But we have strict gun control laws in Australia, and besides, there's nothing survivable about giving away your location shooting game. So really do give this matter a lot of thought.

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Analysis: Explosives in Western Australia, Revelations of Embassy Spying.


First, the Der Spiegel revelation that Australian embassies in Asian countries have been used for spying ops by the NSA. It's a move that seems designed to achieve several goals. Australia is collateral damage.

What does it achieve? Well, consider the timing. The States have just shown their disharmony and apparent dysfunction to the whole world. China has been watching, and apparently they are emboldened to make public their plans to nuke the States. Allegations that NSA used Aussie embassies to conduct spy ops from, just gives another reason for them to pick a fight.

Its other purpose is to slap a media manipulator where it hurts. No big secret that it was most likely only due to the support of Murdoch's media that Abbott got into power. Murdoch's "Little Tony" is a standing joke in Australia. And no matter that it was Labor in power (or even as far back as the last Liberal government) at the time these alleged spy ops took place, it's the current government that will bear the brunt and the ire.

Der Spiegel is not a Murdoch property. They have no reason to like the States, or Murdoch, or Abbott. Australia will just be collateral damage, and in fact if we wanted to be shut of the Mad Monk then they are ironically one of our best allies.

Also, in regard to Mr Hockey raising the debt ceiling. That might be to show China that we're tough and can afford to borrow high. Maybe we're playing a game of bluff to look like a less soft target.

Now the second thing, explosives found a few hundred kilometres south of Perth in Western Australia. Police initially presumed that the crystalline substance was to be used to make drugs, and drove it back to Perth to their labs, where it was discovered not to be a precursor because a careless officer got acid burns from not using gloves to handle it.

This sends up a few flags. First, the packages were found in a bay, implying that it was in the water. This is borne out by the fact that police divers then went along with dogs and men on foot to clear the area. Was this going out or coming in? Important distinction...

Secondly, there were two packages, the second one found after they wised up to what the first one was. The amount quoted in the news is 3kg but it's not clear if this was per package or in total. It's the difference between one backpack bomb and three, so it's kind of important.

Third, why was the substance not properly tested at the scene - I presume there are tests that should be carried out? If the Police went to that location expecting to find drug precursors or drugs, then it's a safe bet that there were actually also drugs moving through that area, which makes it a bit of a hotspot, and the Police a bit slapdash in the execution of their duties.

The substance was identified at TATP (also known as TCAP) and this is something you can make in a garage with a handful of chemicals and a good ice bath. It's also pretty unstable so you wouldn't want to transport it around too much.

It's a terrorist explosive of choice because it's so easy to manufacture, so it is probably connected to terrorist activities. But that creates another question - why Western Australia? The population density makes it highly unlikely that one or even three IEDs would produce as large a statement as most terrorist organisations would like. It's not newsworthy and there are few historic landmarks to blow up.

It does however make it appear as though the explosive might be related to political situation, perhaps a response to the recent actions of the government against boat people. If that's the case, I suspect that rather than civvie terrorists, these could be the actions of the military of a nation we have ties with.

It could also be in response to the embassy spy ops allegations. But actions like this will definitely hurt the current government, and perhaps picking a low-value target like that is meant to send a message.

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